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Which teams, quarterbacks are on the rise?


Evan from Baltimore, MD

How do teams prevent players from getting heat stroke or other heat-related sickness in training camp? It's 95 here in Baltimore and I can't even imagine what it must be like for a 340-pound nose tackle trying to do suicide drills.

That's the No. 1 way to avoid heat stroke: You don't make players do punishing drills in dangerous heat. I covered the Jaguars for 16 years and heat was always the No. 1 issue for them in training camp. It was such an issue that the team's first-ever training camp was in Stevens Point, Wis. The Jaguars have trained in Jacksonville ever since their second season; they figured if they had to play in it, they might as well train in it. It's a philosophy that makes complete sense to me. They learned to cope with the heat. They erected a shelter on the practice field where they take the players to get them out of the sun and into the air-conditioning to cool them down. They constantly hydrate. Their training staff is vigilant at keeping an eye on the big guys; the staff is ultra sensitive to any complaint about feeling the effects of the heat. From what I understand, the body literally has to be conditioned to the heat. It becomes more efficient in how it uses water and cools itself by perspiring. I watched teams come into Jacksonville early in the season and go limp in the heat. I saw Dallas do it in the first half of the 2006 season-opener. I saw Seattle do it in the '05 opener; the Seahawks played well in the first half and then nearly couldn't answer the bell for the second half, and that was a year in which they went to the Super Bowl. I saw Chad Brown, when he played for the Steelers, fall over in the huddle during a game in October. Heat is a real thing and it's something with which the Packers might have to deal in week two in Carolina.

Ian from Mentone, CA

What is going on in the draft vs. no-draft debate? How can this affect the modern game?

I assume you're talking about the players' threat to challenge the draft in the courts. Why do we have to ruin something that has produced the most successful sports league in the world? Haven't we learned what an unregulated system produces? I don't wanna turn this into a political debate, but take a look at the housing market, folks. That's what happens when greed goes nuts. How do you feel about turning on the TV and always having to watch the Yankees and Red Sox? When was the last time you saw the Pirates or the Royals? I like the NFL I've covered for 40 years. I like the league Bert Bell and Pete Rozelle built. I don't see anything wrong with it. I've seen a lot of players get rich playing in it and I've seen a lot of small markets win in it and I've seen a lot of fans delight in it. We need to change this? Why? That's not a rhetorical question. Why does it need to be changed?

Brad from Lake Mills, WI

Vic, love the articles and videos. Does the NFL have an explanation of why certain rules were created? For example, I know you have to have each of the offensive tackles "covered" by a TE or WR, but why? Why did they put this rule in place? Wouldn't allowing five wide receivers on one side promote offensive creativity? Another one is illegal formation by not having seven guys on the line of scrimmage. Why did they create this rule? Why prevent having all of your WRs two steps behind the line of scrimmage?

We live in a society that requires rules to maintain order, and games are no different. Answer your own questions by asking yourself what would the game look like if those rules didn't exist? Do you really want the center hiking the ball and then running out for a pass?

Eric from Gurnee, IL

I agree with your position about the helmet being used as a protective element rather than a hitting tool; however, do you think helmet-to-helmet contact or even tackling by leading with the head would have become as common if the NFL did not approve the use of plastic helmets, and players used something akin to modern rugby scrum caps? These offer less impact protection, sure, but they would force the player not to violently hit people with his head.

Here's the bigger question: Would football have achieved the popularity it has without the use and evolution of the helmet, or would football be rugby without it? I've always believed and still do believe that contact is the charm of the game and I'm concerned that if that contact is diminished, the game will suffer. Are we legislating against the very thing that made the game what it is? I'm keeping an open mind on this and I am fully understanding of the need to promote player safety, but I have concern about softening the game too much. By the way, did the gas really give out in Gurnee?

Tom from Plymouth, MN

On your statement of teams that will develop with a young QB, I can think of three besides the Packers: the Lions, Falcons and Jets come to mind. Do you agree?

Yeah, I agree, but there are more than those three. For all the concern about the lack of pro-style quarterbacks coming out of college football these days, there sure are a lot of intriguing prospects at the position leaguewide. What will Cam Newton do for the Panthers, Blaine Gabbert for the Jaguars, Jake Locker for the Titans? A lot of the established quarterbacks are still young guys: Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger and Matt Ryan immediately come to mind. It's a quarterback-driven league and you better always have one ready to go. What will happen to the Colts if they can't replace Peyton Manning? We saw the Patriots pick Ryan Mallett this year; that pick, no doubt, is with Tom Brady's age in mind. You gotta have "The Man." This isn't something new, but it's never been more important.

Larry from Missoula, MT

I listen to Jon Gruden do color commentary and break down tapes with college quarterbacks, and it seems to me he knows more about football than most of us fans put together. Is he really a genius and are all coaches that smart and passionate about football?

Yes, all coaches are that smart and passionate about football. Gruden has a special talent for expressing his acumen for the game. I think he's an outstanding broadcast talent; I think Ron Jaworski is, too, but the two of them are kind of the same guy and I'm not crazy about the two of them in the booth together. Gruden needs a straight man, in my opinion, because he has a wonderfully playful personality. Every time I get into deep discussion with a coach about scheme, I realize very quickly how little I know about the game. These guys are the best there is at what they do.

Michael from Buenos Aires, Argentina

I have played soccer all my life and never once played competitive football in my life but have grown fascinated in the tactics and strategy that goes into it. Before I thought it was just a bunch of huge brutes trying to kill each other and now I have really begun to appreciate the intricacies of the game. Tactics-wise, I would say it trumps most every other sport out there. Is it possible to start coaching football at some level, even though you have never played a down of competitive football in your life? And how would one go about that?

Kansas City Coach Todd Haley doesn't have a football-playing background; it can be done. Haley's father, of course, was a personnel director and that allowed for a lot of knowledge to be absorbed without playing the game. Becoming a coach without having played the game is a tough thing to do, but it can be done. Al Davis did it.

Zach from Woodstock, IL

One team I'll be interested in watching in the next couple of seasons is the Buccaneers. Josh Freeman, in one of his first games in the NFL, absolutely tore the Packers defense apart and won the game. If they can continue to improve and put good pieces around him, watch out.

One of the time-honored ways of building a championship football team is by building around a quarterback and a defensive tackle, and that's what the Bucs are doing. Freeman and 2010 first-round pick Gerald McCoy are the building blocks to what appears to be a team on the rise. This year, the Bucs added Adrian Clayborn in the first round and Da'Quan Bowers in the second round and if Bowers should make a full recovery from knee surgery, look out. Once you get the quarterback you need, you're ready to start thinking about the future and the Bucs' future looks real bright. This is a team with which the Packers and every other team in the NFC will have to reckon.

Mike from Bridgeport, CT

I think the Atlanta Falcons would have been a great candidate to dominate the decade, until they traded everything except the Georgia Dome to get Julio Jones. They clearly are not "one player away" after last year's playoff performance and I understand their GM is strict on drafting for need, but they really should have saved the picks to keep their roster foundation strong. The Texans, Bucs and Jets are also teams on the rise with good young quarterbacks that could be sleeper candidates to dominate this decade.

A couple of days before the draft, I did an editorial on five things not to do in the draft. One of those things not to do is to draft as though you're one player away. That's what it appears the Falcons have done and that puts me in a tough spot because Mike Smith is one of my best friends. He is a sensational coach that has taken that team from some dark days to Super Bowl contention and he's done it in a very short time. I'll try to keep an open mind about the trade to draft Jones. Clearly, the Falcons think Jones can be a difference-maker. It's not a trade I would've made, but I won't dismiss the possibility that maybe I'm wrong.

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