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Starks can be special


L.J. from Chicago, IL

Is there a limit of how many guys a team can put on IR?

The rule is that you can't have more than 80 players on a roster that includes your 53-man roster, your eight-man practice squad and your injured reserve list. So, if you maintain a 53-man roster and an eight-man practice squad, you can't have more than 19 players on injured reserve. If it goes beyond that, you'd have to start cutting from somewhere; either cut from the 53-man roster, practice squad or injured reserve list. You can waive a player injured from IR, but he comes back to you if he's not claimed. At that point, you'd have to do an injury settlement with him and release him again.

Steve from Chicago, IL

Is Graham Harrell eligible to go back on the practice squad? If so, why not keep him there and only activate him if Rodgers gets injured? I couldn't imagine another team signing him off waivers.

Are you sure another team wouldn't sign him? He still has practice squad eligibility, but there's a lot of tape on him now and some of that tape, such as the last two preseason games, is impressive.

Mark from Fort Wayne, IN

Vic, you said in your last column that if the extra point was moved back to the 20, you would eliminate the two-point conversion option. Why in the world would you do that? I've always thought two-point conversions were very exciting and an important part of down-to-the-wire football.

I like the two-point conversion rule, but I don't like the idea of putting the ball at one place for kicks and at another place for two-point tries. We lived without the two-point rule for a long time in this league, so it's not as though we don't have precedent. The reason I would eliminate the two-point conversion along with moving the ball back to the 20 for kicks – I truly love that idea – is because the missed kicks, in my opinion, would be many and would take a lot of games out of the tie category. That's one reason. The other reason is that I don't like the idea of the two-point conversion being used to make up for points lost on missed kicks. A missed kick must be a point irretrievably lost; that's how you make the extra-point kick truly important, and that would be the whole idea of moving it back to the 20. I like the kicking game. I think kicks from placement are very dramatic; I think they're great theater. I like the idea of a kicker having to make a 37-yard extra-point kick to win the game or even send it into overtime.

Anthony from Lancaster, PA

With all the talk about the wealth of talent the Packers have at tight end when it comes to receiving, how talented are guys like Finley, Williams or Quarless as blockers?

Jermichael Finley is a difference-making receiver. I've never heard anyone talk about him as a blocker. Andrew Quarless is a blocker that can catch, and D.J. Williams is a tight end that can be used in several capacities and seems to offer the potential to block in space, whereas most tight ends are most effective as in-line blocker.

William from Savannah, GA

Vic, I'm happy the NFL is planning on testing for HGH. I hope the NFL implements it sooner than later, since they seem to have been the most proactive of all of the professional leagues. Steve Courson came to mind; he seemed to be one of the poster boys for steroids use. Any thoughts or stories about him that stand out with you?

Steve played in the league when the use of steroids was legal. That's what people forget. Back then, steroids were considered to be a wonder drug that facilitated healing. Then, somebody figured out they could be used to gain a competitive advantage. Of course, that was before the danger of steroids use was known. After he was done playing, when the dangers became known, Steve went on a campaign against steroids use. I first laid eyes on Steve in 1977, his rookie year. He was so muscle-bound it was almost comical-looking. In those days, Chuck Noll began every training camp with an Oklahoma drill, and he would match the highest-drafted offensive lineman against Joe Greene, who would then summarily kick the guy's butt, which would provide the kid with an idea of what it was like to play in the NFL and what he had to do to reach that level. Joe didn't kick Courson's butt. I remember Joe telling me a few years later that it was his Oklahoma matchup against Steve that convinced Joe he had to get serious about lifting weights. Courson is a defining player in my career as a sportswriter. He defined the start of the steroids era.

Brendon from Austin, TX

A well-known football news website posted salary cap numbers for each team this week. One of the first things that jumped out at me was that 10 teams are running numbers below what the salary cap floor would allow, were it not currently under exemption. Provided these numbers are accurate, what are your thoughts on certain teams taking such healthy advantage of the current cap floor exemption?

The league is going to make up the difference, so this is an opportunity for teams that had positioned themselves for the possibility that the cap wouldn't come back to use this year to re-position themselves. I don't think it's alarming; it's difficult to just up and spend, say, $70 million, to get to the cap floor.

Matt from Halifax, NS

You mentioned that communication between the quarterback and the sideline is shut off with 15 seconds left on the play clock. If the offense is in the no-huddle (as has been the case for the Packers this preseason) and the play-clock is above 15 seconds, can the coach communicate with the QB while he is at the line of scrimmage?

Yes, but the quarterback has a lot of pre-snap stuff to do and communicating with him up to the snap of the ball would just give him one more thing to do: listen. Once he gets the play, he's got to get into his pre-snap reads and adjustments. If he needs a coach's assistance to execute those pre-snap reads and adjustments, he shouldn't be playing.

Diana from Three Rivers, MI

How is Greg Jennings? Saw that he didn't play Friday.

He had a strong practice on Monday.

William from Jacksonville, FL

I heard an analyst say that if a quarterback can't make all of the throws, NFL defenses will try to seal off his good side of the field from passes and scrambles and flood the remaining zone. I get the flooded zone, but how do they seal one side consistently?

Let's say a quarterback doesn't have the arm strength to live outside the numbers. Let's say he has to throw the slants and curls because he can't throw the deep outs. OK, you play the inside shoulder of the wide receivers; that's how you seal off the inside. Let's say he doesn't have the arm strength to hit the "honey hole." OK, you play cover two against him. That's what you don't see in the preseason; you don't see teams scheming according to personnel, and that's why guys will look good in the preseason and fail in the regular season.

Mike from Bridgeport, CT

It seems to me a lot of end-arounds and reverses result in negative yardage or a lot of running just to get back to the line of scrimmage; however, when they work for big yardage, it's a thing of beauty. When are they most effective and when is the perfect time for offensive coordinators to try these types of pencil-whipping plays?

End-arounds and reverses fall into the category of misdirection plays. The flow goes one way and then the ball goes back the other. They are most effective when you get a defense running hard to the ball. That's called over-pursuing the play, meaning the backside of the defense isn't staying home. Aggressive defenses are vulnerable to misdirection plays. The negative to misdirection plays is that the guy with the ball is running into the face of the pursuit and he better buckle up cause it can get a little rocky.

Thomas from Pensacola, FL

Why don't head coaches or coordinators who have excelled at college football not produce in the NFL? If you look for a coordinator or head coach from college today to bring to the NFL, what would you be looking for?

You can pencil-whip your opponents in college football because the talent disparity between offense and defense is significant, and it's often even greater between teams. I'd be looking for a guy who recognizes mismatches and schemes personnel instead of scheming schemes. Football is a game of people, not plays. Steve Spurrier failed in the NFL because he tried to scheme schemes. He thought he'd just throw his "Fun and Gun" plays out there and they'd work like they did in college. He didn't appreciate how small the talent gap is and how hard you have to work to identify it and scheme to take advantage of it.

Randall from Wichita, KS

What do you think of the term "sports entertainer?" I contend that pro athletes get paid not just for playing a game at a high level, but for playing and being organized in a way that provides entertainment for many. Your thoughts?

I don't require players to entertain me beyond the execution of their craft. The game is my source of entertainment. Just do your job. I view football as an athletic competition, not a Hollywood production.

Randy from Denver, CO

Is James Starks the Packers No. 1 running back on the depth chart and will he likely start the season as such?

Starks is officially No. 2 on the depth chart, but unless something dramatic happens between now and next week, I expect him to become No. 1 on the depth chart. I really like what I see in him. I think he has a chance to be special, if he can stay healthy. That appears to be his challenge.

Dustin from Jacksonville, FL

Just wanted to say I support having a ladies day. When you tried it in Jacksonville, I remember reading some very astute observations and they seemed to be able to do it without the anger.

OK, let's make tomorrow ladies day. Ready, ladies?

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