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Running game would make passing game unstoppable


James from Pottstown, PA

How good do you think our running game will be this year? We already know our passing game will be unstoppable.

It won't be unstoppable unless the Packers develop the kind of running game, which is to say enough of a threat to make defenses play the run, that they did late last season and through the postseason. Trust me on this one, folks. Every team on the Packers' schedule is going to be focused on stopping Aaron Rodgers. Unless the Packers develop a respectable running game, opposing defenses will be able to load up against the pass and tee off on the quarterback, and that's not a formula for an unstoppable passing game. I think the return of Ryan Grant and James Starks having a year under his belt give the Packers the potential for having a strong running game and, should that occur, then the passing game will be unstoppable.

Joe from Virginia Beach, VA

First off, I'm glad football is back. There is one thing troubling me and that is the lack of padded practices. You perform well when you practice well (it was quoted many times by Coach McCarthy). Maybe I'm just confused with the new agreement, but it seemed like they were cutting practices during the offseason and regular season. Could you shed some light on this for me and let us know what you think?

I agree with you. I have the same concerns and I'll bet a lot of coaches also share those concerns. We're going to find out what impact a reduction of practices and practice intensity will have on the game. Stay tuned.

Kary from Sheboygan, WI

Interesting that the first game of the year will feature the team that supposedly did the most training together (Saints) vs. the team that did the least (Packers). Thoughts?

Coaches coach, players play.

Josh from Genoa, IL

With the lockout over and the preseason two weeks away, what are your predictions for the NFC North? Will the Lions be as formidable as they say, or are the Bears our toughest opponent, with Minnesota in rebuild mode?

That's the way the division is being characterized. The Packers and Bears share the top rung, the Lions are on the rise and the Vikings are thought to be starting over. OK, so when in recent years has the season gone as expected? The only thing I think we know for sure is that there will be a surprise. A few teams will jump up and a few teams will fall down. The Lions clearly are a swing team; I think everybody agrees on that. They're on the verge; so when does it kick in? What if the Vikings sign a veteran quarterback? What about those Donovan McNabb rumors? Does McNabb have something left in his tank? The Vikings have their quarterback of the future. What they need now is a bridge to the future at that position. McNabb might be more than a bridge. Hey, the Vikings have talent to put around McNabb, beginning with Adrian Peterson. Hmmm. Wouldn't that make the division interesting?

Paul from Waukesha, WI

When you watch Aaron's footwork, timing, ball velocity and accuracy, who else playing right now comes to mind?

There aren't many quarterbacks in the game today that share Aaron Rodgers' combination of classic drop-back passer and out-of-the-pocket mobility. Ben Roethlisberger possesses that same combination, but Roethlisberger's mobility is triggered by power, whereas Rodgers' is based on nimbleness. Accuracy is Rodgers' greatest strength, in my opinion, and if you want your quarterback to be anything, you want him to be an accurate passer. As I've said, I compare Rodgers favorably to Bert Jones. That's the comparison I see.

Steve from Charlotte, NC

How is the new CBA better for both owners and players than the old CBA was?

The owners got cost concessions in creating revenue, which will allow them to be even more aggressive in growing the game, which will be good for the owners and the players. The players got new safety measures and practice guidelines that should help extend careers. That's the compromise, as I see it: cost concessions for player safety.

Andrew from Jacksonville, FL

I know you've covered both baseball and football, so I thought you'd be the perfect man for this question. Why are the player strategies in both sports completely different? In football, it's take care of your future to take care of your present, but in baseball the philosophy seems to be win now, with teams trading away their top prospects for a player that will only help them for half a season or so. What gives?

It's because baseball has a farm system stocked with prospects. When baseball trades a young prospect for an old arm that can help them now, it knows exactly what it's trading. Football's farm system is the draft picks they own, but football doesn't know who the players will be that are acquired with those picks, so there's an uncertainty that causes football to guard those picks, even horde them. If you trade a pick, you don't know who you're trading. That's the uncertainty. What if that pick you've traded is used to select Tom Brady? What if it's used to select Clay Matthews?

Kale from London, Ontario

"I don't wanna hear about building friendships; show me the results." I love that. What do you think is the most important factor to a team's success on the field?

Talent. It always begins with talent. Before you start looking at a player's intangibles, you gotta know if he got the tangibles to even be worthy of examining his character. I'll overlook a slight character flaw, but I will not overlook a lack of talent. You gotta have the goods to play in this league. I don't think the average fan understands how athletically gifted these players are. I keep hearing about team chemistry, as though you can hug your way to a championship. That's laughable. Yeah, you have to have a locker room full of guys pulling in the same direction, but team chemistry didn't thread that third-down pass in the Super Bowl; Rodgers' incredible talent for throwing a football completed that pass.

Jacob from St. Joseph, MO

I like your reporting and candor. I was wondering about the Packers' potential visit to the White House. Is there any word on this?

Mark Murphy recently mentioned the potential for it happening, so I guess it's not off the table. Obviously, it would have to happen soon. Even at that, I'm a little skeptical about this kind of thing. I know the fans want this to happen, but I'm a big believer in closing the book on last season and concentrating fully on the season at hand. I thought the ring ceremony was a perfect ending to the Packers' Super Bowl celebration. If the Packers are going to do the White House thing, then state of mind becomes big. It can't be allowed to become a distraction. It would be a challenge for Mike McCarthy.

Marco from London, UK

Surprised the cap stayed?

No, because it became apparent the driving forces in negotiations favored a return to the salary cap system. Here's the funny thing about the cap: It was instituted to protect the small-market, low-revenue teams, but as the cap floor exploded upward, the cap became a threat to drive those small-market, low-revenue teams into red ink because it forced them to spend to a level to which they wouldn't have elected to spend had it been optional. The cap system actually became a friend of the high-revenue teams because they could pass on their player costs to their competition without sharing much of their revenue that was driving the floor upward. In 1995, the cap was in the mid-30s. Soon, it's going to push $200 million. That's not, in my opinion, favorable to small-market, low-revenue franchises. If you're low-revenue, you better get high-revenue fast or Los Angeles is gonna come callin'. Local revenue is the category that pertains to teams' individual revenue generation. Ticket sales, broadcast rights, sponsorships and the like are going to distinguish the haves from the have-nots in this league.

Michael from Rapid City, SD

How do the Packers stand relative to the new spending cap, max and min? Are they going to need to spend more?

They're right where they belong. They can make room rather easily, if they need to do that. Don't worry about the Packers' cap. They are vigilant about their cap and making sure they retain maneuverability within it.

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