David from London, England
Please explain how the silent count works. The raised knee I get – well, I think I get – but how does it work from there?
The raised heel or leg is usually a signal for a wide receiver or tight end to go into motion. It's not necessarily part of a silent count. Silent count is more of a quarterback-center communication. When the quarterback is ready to receive the snap, he signals the center by raising his hands slightly or tapping the center's leg. The center can then snap the ball when he's ready. Everybody else watches for movement. The offensive linemen watch out of the corner of their eye for the ball to move. The wide receivers and backs watch for a lineman to move. That's all it is.
Gary from Chippewa Falls, WI
Are stadiums built with the goal posts going the same direction, for example north-south?
Do fields all run north and south? No, not all of them. Most fields run north and south, but there are some that have a more east-west layout. Cleveland Browns Stadium and M&T Bank Stadium run mostly east-west. So do Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, the Georgia Dome, Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, Cowboys Stadium and Ford Field.
Will from Fresno, CA
I recently watched a Kentucky highlight reel on Randall Cobb and was impressed with his intensity on the field and that fierce look that resonated from his eyes. How much of this intensity and desire to win determines the success of a player? After all, many have talent but the greatest have heart.
It begins with talent but that's not enough. Find a talented guy with that fierce look in his eyes and you've got something. Find a guy who has a fierce look in his eyes but lacks talent and you've got a guy with a fierce look in his eyes and nothing else. Don't be fooled by the look. Find the talent first. I think Cobb has both.
Rob from Oshkosh, WI
There have been teams that have won a Super Bowl with a great defense and a poor offense, the Ravens and the Buccaneers, but have any teams won a Super Bowl with great offense and an absolutely awful defense?
Right away, everyone will point to the 2006 Colts, which had an absolutely awful defense, until the postseason began. That's when the Colts got Bob Sanders back from injury and Sanders was a difference-maker in the postseason. I watched the Jaguars run for 375 yards against the Colts late in that season. It was the worst defensive performance I have ever seen. Every running play seemed to result in a long-gainer. At that point, you would've thought any chance the Colts had of winning the Super Bowl rested with Peyton Manning lighting it up, but that's not what carried the Colts to the championship. Their defense got hot in the playoffs and played as you would expect of a championship defense, and their running game came to life. Frankly, I think Dominic Rhodes should've been the MVP of that Super Bowl. You make a great point. You don't win championships with an awful defense.
Paul from Spencerville, IN
As we near the end of this labor dispute (hopefully), I was interested to know the history of labor disputes in the NFL. Do you recall anything of this magnitude in the 1960s and '70s?
We had one in 1974 that has been forgotten but it went a long way toward shaping the players union and its strategies for strikes in 1982 and '87. In the summer of '74, the players went on strike for the start of training camp. They picketed at the entrances to the league's various training camps, as the rookies drove by the veterans and into camp. Roster sizes for training camp then were unlimited and a lot of jobs and roster spots were lost as the veterans picketed. I can think of one Pro Bowl middle linebacker, a guy named Henry Davis, who lost his job that summer and retired; he didn't even report when the strike ended. Slowly but surely the veterans began reporting to camp and the strike lost its momentum. The owners won without even having to fight. Going on strike for the start of training camp was a colossal mistake the players would not repeat. The next time they went on strike, 1982, they did so after the regular season had started.
Mike from New York, NY
I'm sure this is a question many Madden fans would love answered. Is there any way one can learn actual football strategy by playing it all the time?
Yeah, I think you can learn football strategy from playing video football games, especially if you're playing with or against someone who really knows the game. What you can't learn or acquire from video games, however, is a feel for the game. I think you have to play it to fully understand it and appreciate it.
Stein from Fairmont, NC
Regarding it's not just a division, it's a region, I love that all the NFC North teams are just that, north. Why doesn't the NFL realign some of the other divisions to make it more regional?
When you look at the eight divisions in the NFL, six of them make sense, either from a geographic or tradition aspect. The NFC North has both going for it; so does the AFC North and NFC South. The AFC East and West teams have a sort of blood oath to stay together; they're all teams that built rivalries in the old AFL days. The NFC East has old-guard NFL teams, with the exception of the Cowboys, which remain in the NFC East because of the rivalries they built from having played against those teams from the inception of the Cowboys franchise. Two divisions, the AFC South and NFC West, house the left-overs. They were sort of lumped together and now they're developing their own rivalries and traditions. I like the idea of divisions being aligned according to geography, but not at the cost of breaking up teams that have a strong history of games against each other.
Brad from Sheboygan, WI
I hear all this talk about Terrelle Pryor entering the supplemental draft. When, where, what is the supplemental draft?
It's a portal to the league for those players that missed the regular spring draft and have since become ineligible to play college football or have another qualifying reason for entering the NFL. The interesting thing about this year's supplemental draft is the date on which it will be conducted. It was called to my attention recently that the rules state that the supplemental draft must be conducted no fewer than 15 days prior to the start of training camp. That likely won't be possible this year. The league will have to afford special treatment to this year's supplemental draft, just as it will to free agency.
Lynn from Manitowoc, WI
Is it true the Packers locker room is a lot nicer than the visitors' locker room?
All home teams' locker rooms are bigger and more luxurious than the locker rooms for the visitors. In facilities where teams also practice, the locker room is a place where the team lives every day; the visitors are in and out. The visitors' locker room at Lambeau Field is very spacious. I've covered teams that used that locker room a few times since the renovation and it includes a big, postgame press conference room, a big training room and ample locker space. The all-time worst visitors' locker room was in old Cleveland Stadium. It was so bad it was good. You had to go up a steep staircase from the tunnel to get to it. Inside, there was barely room to stand and the showers were something out of "All the Right Moves." Postgame press conference room? You had to go out a door and into the concourse where fans were exiting the stadium, and then step into a trailer that was parked there. The fans would beat on the side of the trailer as we interviewed the visiting coach.
Lee from Niland, CA
My neighbor just moved in and he asked me if I would like to hold for some field goal practice. He plays for a semi-pro team in Yuma, AZ. He was kicking 65-yard field goals with the wind at his back and 60-yard field goals into the wind. How would he try out for a pro team? This guy has a great leg.
If he can kick, they'll find him.
Dylan from Auckland, New Zealand
I feel like everyone is saying the Packers are the last team that is going to make a splash in free agency. I have a feeling Ted Thompson likes to keep people guessing. What do you think the Packers will do in free agency, especially if Cullen Jenkins leaves?
They've done their work. They're ready to go. I'm sure they've got their targets. This is a free agency that'll likely be very frisky. I see teams with big needs and a big pool of players will attract them and cause them to spend a lot of money. This is also a free agency period that would frighten me, if I was a personnel director. Normally, you're signing these guys a couple of months after the season ended. What you saw in film is going to be close to what you get when you sign a guy. In this case, however, you're going to be signing players that are seven months removed from their tapes. Did he stay in shape during the lockout? Did he have any medical events during the lockout? You can't know and he's not gonna tell you. Here's what I think is especially scary: A normal free agency period is about 90 days long, so a team has all of that time to make a logical decision on a guy. I don't like signing guys right away because, as I've always said, there are no bargains in the first week of free agency. Charles Woodson, for example, was signed by the Packers toward the end of free agency and he was clearly a quality signing. Well, this free agency period is going to be very rushed, and that rush could create a panic buying spree that could cause teams to overspend and do irrational things. In my opinion, this is a good year not to be too active in free agency.
Mike from Butte, MT
The NCAA, in my opinion, is going a little overboard with all the punishment being given out to teams that allegedly committed some sort of crime. The punishments are ridiculous. Say Reggie Bush did receive improper benefits. I don't understand why they stripped him of the Heisman Trophy. He received it for being the best player. If he did receive improper benefits, that wouldn't enhance his performance.
Don't you have to stand for something? That's why we have rules. They're meant to enforce the integrity of our code. If our institutions of higher learning don't guard their integrity, then what can we expect of the young people they produce?
Bruce from Abbott, IA
I don't believe any number should be retired. It should be an honor to wear it; only deserving players get it.
Every time I see a picture of Al Harris wearing number 31, I think of Jim Taylor. Is that a bad thing?
Caleb from Arlington Heights, IL
So, as we saw that there were 16 players on the injured reserve in the midst of the final run in the season, there were players that stepped in to fill the roles that needed to be filled, and obviously succeeded at that. Where do these players now sit on the team?
We'll find out when training camp begins. It's a king-of-the-hill game.
Ted from Wheaton, IL
How do you think Aaron Rodgers would fare calling plays, like Bart Starr?
I think Rodgers would do very well calling his own plays. He clearly has a feel for the game, which is what makes good play-callers. The question is this: How would that duty impact his performance? Would he sleep better the night before games, or would he stay up all night running plays through his head? That's what the old-timers would say about calling plays. They talked about going crazy all week about what play to call in this situation and what play to call in that situation. Rodgers plays very relaxed. Would he still be as relaxed if he were calling his own plays? I don't know the answers to those questions, but I do know that quarterbacks from the Starr era tended to be game managers, because they had to be. Would quarterbacks of today be as improvisational if they had to call their own plays? I doubt it. Terry Bradshaw once told me he would often be thinking about the next play he would call before he ran the play he had just called.