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We need greater awareness of the old-timers


Mike from Spencer, NY

Vic, at what point do all rookies become future picks? Do they stay with the same teams?

Those are two great questions and, in my opinion, the more time that's lost, the more prominent those two questions become. At what point? At the point that a full training camp would not be possible. At that point, I don't think there can be any kind of reasonable expectation for a rookie to be a contributor in 2011; maybe late in the season, but it's not likely to happen before then, if at all. If we reach the point that a full training camp is not possible, then I think it becomes an issue the league has to address. The veterans are putting the rookies in a non-compete situation. The longer an agreement is delayed, the more secure the veterans' jobs are. Interesting, huh? At what point does the league institute a special exemption for rookies; an extra roster, so to speak, for teams to use to make up for the development time those rookies lost, through no fault of their own?

Jeff from Wyoming, MI

I was intrigued about how you say high-income teams are basically shifting player cost to low-income teams due to the cap being decided by revenue and I had not thought about that. The only issue I have with that is there are teams not even trying to maximize income (Cincinnati comes to mind). If the low-income teams do not even try, that brings the whole league and the players down, don't you think?

It's one of the complaints of the high-revenue teams that some of the low-revenue teams aren't as aggressive in pursuit of revenue. The Bengals have been criticized for not selling the naming rights to Paul Brown Stadium. I think a franchise should have the right to present itself in the image of its choice; it shouldn't be required to sell its soul for the sake of revenue. That's why I think that for the salary cap system to survive, it has to be reinvented.

William from Jacksonville, FL

If I recall correctly, there has not been an NFL labor dispute that the Rooney family has not played a significant role in bringing the two sides to an agreement. When is this gonna get done?

I keep expecting to read that Dan Rooney has been called back from Ireland. The way I figure, until that happens, we haven't reached the point of desperation.

Skyler from Albuquerque, NM

I saw a story on Sportscenter the other day that was bashing on the Packers, and specifically Aaron Rodgers, for not organizing some sort of team practices or get-togethers. I personally don't think the Packers need to conform to what all the other good teams are doing. I believe we have enough natural chemistry as a team to overcome a month or two lost. Do you agree?

I agree. I think I've made my opinion very clear on player-organized practices. I'm OK with them, provided they are low-key. If I was a coach, I wouldn't want my players in high-intensity workouts without a training and medical staff on hand. I like the idea of players getting together, talking football and maintaining their sense of camaraderie, but I think we're so desperate for news during this lockout that we're giving way too much play to these player-only workouts. When you start criticizing teams for not organizing them, that's over the top.

Jim from Jacksonville, FL

What's the advantage to deferring, as opposed to electing to kick? Possession is the same, so I'm guessing that deferring somehow allows you to choose the field direction as well.

I'm not sure I completely understand your question, but there are a lot of misconceptions about the coin toss process. One of the misconceptions is that the team that didn't get the ball to start the game automatically gets it to start the second half. That's not true. You have to make it happen with your elections. It's this simple: When you win the coin toss, you are given first choice and your choices are receive, kick or defend a goal, or you may defer your choice to the second half. You may not say, "We'll receive at this end," or, "We'll kick that way." Once you make your choice, it is your opponent's turn to select. If you elect to receive, then he'll elect to defend a goal. To understand the process, do a search on the words: "We'll kick to the clock." That's how you screw it up. You have to be very careful of the words you use.

Scott from Las Vegas, NV

Anyone who thinks Emmitt Smith was better than Barry Sanders needs their head examined.

Johnny Miller likes Emmitt better, too.

Kurt from Springfield, MO

Do players get paid for being on the 53-man or the active 45 or both?

A player on the 53-man roster who has been deactivated on game day receives his full salary for that game.

Mike from Toronto, ON

Barry Sanders was a superior running back to Emmitt Smith. Just dropping the pads and running probably would have gotten Sanders killed. It's moronic that a player who absolutely terrorized Green Bay over a 10-year span gets so little respect from you. I wish Reggie White were still here to weigh in. Want to talk postseason? Sure, 12 carries, 11 carries, 27 carries, 13 carries, 10 carries, 18 carries. One time Sanders carried it 20-plus times in a postseason game (against Green Bay, no less) and if it weren't for a 101-yard interception return for a touchdown, the Lions would have won that game. Every other game, Sanders was under 20 pops per contest. Face it, compared to Smith, Sanders' supporting cast was not as good, yet, Sanders' numbers are still comparable to Smith's. Put two and two together, guy. It's not about penalizing Smith for having better blocking and a better team. It's about using something called common sense when assessing two players with similar numbers but far different team situations. BTW, the great Walter Payton was also a superior RB to Smith (by a landslide) but I don't hear you going on and on about his postseason woes.

You play fantasy football, don't you? Stats, baby, stats. Who needs championships when you can have stats, huh? By the way, Smith is the NFL's all-time leading rusher. That's a pretty good stat.

Dennis from Vancouver, WA

Is there any truth to the story of Halas loaning the Packers money, just so the Bears would have competition? I believe it was in the 1920s or '30s.

You have the story backwards. Halas borrowed $1,500 from the Packers to make payroll during the Great Depression. Teams helping other teams was common in the formative years of the league's existence. Halas, Lambeau, Mara, Rooney and the founding fathers of this league struggled for a long time to keep their heads above water. Football back then was the college game. Halas had the league's dominant franchise in the early years of the NFL and he helped a lot of teams stay afloat. What was good for one was good for all. Those are the roots of leaguethink. Halas "loaned" players to other teams. When I was a kid, the Steelers had an outstanding punter named Bobby Joe Green. The next year, he was with the Bears. Why? Because he was on loan from Halas to the Steelers and as soon as Halas needed Green, he took him back. The same is true of a quarterback named Rudy Bukich. That's the way it was back then. The goal was to make the league successful. They did the same things in the AFL. Ralph Wilson once loaned money to the Oakland Raiders to help keep them afloat. This is a business. Never lose sight of that or you will have lost sight of the true meaning of professional football. The league's struggle to survive and its subsequent growth is its charm.

Patrick from Hopkins, MN

I think it would be interesting to watch in the long-term to see if the game becomes run-focused again. If the pass-heavy game came around possibly because defenses loaded up on run-stoppers, could there be a move back toward the run as teams stack their pass-defenses?

The league would never allow it. It wants a passing game because that's what attracts the casual fan; it's what drives the TV ratings.

Brent from Cedar Grove, WI

I like the idea of letting fans vote for the best Packers at certain numbers. I don't think it is fair, though, to the players before the Lombardi era (except for Don Hutson). How do you feel having fans vote for the best when most of the fans don't know who some of the candidates are?

So whose responsibility is it to know about those old-timers? Mike Michalske is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He's the first guard ever inducted. He invented the position, for Pete's sake. Shouldn't fans know that? We didn't ask who the fans' favorite player is. The question is who's the best player? Maybe this series will stimulate some interest in and respect for the great players of the past, instead of hiding behind this bigger, stronger, faster stuff. Yeah, I know that, but what would those old-timers have been like given the training advantages of today? Dietary supplements? They were just trying to find food.

Konor from Winona, MN

In your answer to John's question about the salary cap, you said that it has to cap spending without it being attached to revenue, and that's going to be a difficult system to create. Why couldn't the league just institute a straight up cap, like 150 million dollars for that year, and just move it up in small increments each year?

You're talking about an arbitrary figure that would have to be negotiated with the players, and the players aren't going to agree to a figure without knowing what percentage of the gross it would represent. You're not seeing the cap for what it really is: a means for distributing money to the players. You're seeing it solely as a governor on salaries. From where I sit, for the cap to truly work, it not only has to cap spending, it has to cap revenue, and that's not logical. I don't have the solution. Maybe revenue-sharing is the answer. We'll see what they devise.

Dan from Charlotte, NC

I see that Eliot Wolf has been promoted. From everything I have read, he is an excellent scout and a hard-worker and has truly earned this position. Is there a way of tracing which scout is responsible for each draft pick or acquisition?

You can trace a player to the area scout that did the initial homework on him, but after that the cross-checkers get involved and the director of college scouting gets involved and then the GM gets involved and he asks the coaches to take a look, and on and on. It's a process that begins with the area scouts. They're the guys that are out in the field doing the initial leg work. I have a special fondness for the work they do. Area scouts are the game's true link to old-time football.

For a look at the story on Eliot Wolf, click here.

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