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Why not wear throwback numbers, too?


Kerry from Belfast, Ireland

I watched only my second college game and San Jose State blocked an attempted extra point and ran it back for a score but not the score that I was expecting. Am I right in thinking that he would have gotten six points in the pros?

He would've gotten no points because post-touchdown tries are untimed downs that are blown dead as soon as the offense is deemed to have succeeded or failed in its attempt to score. In other words, only the offense is permitted to score on a try.

Joseph from Wessington, SD

The Packers just won by three touchdowns and held the other team out of the end zone. All that matters is that the Packers are winning the football games. What else do they want? Please explain that to all of us who enjoy the win for what it is.

A significant portion of today's fans want stats. They want records. We're in an era of lists and everybody wants their team to be at the top of the lists: most points scored, fewest points allowed, highest-rated quarterback, etc. It's a mania not so much created by the media and the NFL, as much as identified and acknowledged by the media and the NFL. If that's the fad and if that's what fans want, then the media and the NFL are gonna give it to them. Here's the rub: When coaches are hired, they aren't told to get stats, they're told to get wins. They keep their jobs by winning. That's their sole objective and winning often clashes with the pursuit of lists. Sometimes it's a better game plan to play it soft on defense; give the yards and deny the big plays. Sometimes it's smart to shut it down on offense; play the clock, shorten the game and avoid injury. That's when the people who love lists complain.

Greg from Bellevue, WA

During the season, will coaches ever look at game tape of teams they won't play? For example, since the Patriots and 49ers are having success this year, would Mike McCarthy ever look at their film for insight, ideas, etc.?

You are describing the role of quality control coaches. They are often assigned the job of looking at a particular trend in the league and provide data, or look at tape of a particular formation or technique a team is using with a lot of success. I remember how the "Slash" craze in 1995 caused coaches to have their quality control guys look into it and report on what they found. Yeah, it's a copycat league and coaches wanna be in the know on everything that's going on in the league but, during the season, their time is dominated by preparation for their next opponent. That's where the quality control guys come into play.

Tom from Fairbanks, AK

There seems to be a separation, a division if you will, between teams. We expect our Packers to win each time our team takes the field, even in years when we have struggled. Same with the Steelers, the Patriots and other teams of that consistent caliber that you could name. Other teams seem not to be of the same mindset for some reason. All of the teams in the NFL have the same goal each year, the Super Bowl, but so many of them have not even made the playoffs year after year. What makes the difference in the mindset of the organizations?

Winning is the difference. Teams that win expect to win. Teams that lose hope to win. I don't think mindset, however, is the issue. I think what the teams that win do to win is what's important. They don't win because of attitude, they win because they have better players and coaches, and usually that is the result of having better personnel departments. That's where it all starts. You gotta know who to hire and who to pick. Sometimes the answer is as simple as knowing which quarterback to pick. You can have all of the right coaches and all of the right players at the other positions, but if you don't have the right guy under center, you're shootin' straight up. Look at the teams you've mentioned: Packers, Steelers, Patriots. Now look at their quarterbacks.

Dennis from Sheboygan, WI

Do many players watch other pro football games when they can?

Some do. Some players are big football fans and they can't wait to sit down and watch Monday Night Football. Others wouldn't watch a football game if you held their head to the TV. They prefer to spend their leisure time avoiding football, to avoid burnout on the game. I've known both types. A lot of guys think that watching football on TV distracts them from their job. They want to focus solely on what they have to do to be the best they can be, and not concern themselves with playoff races or who's hot, who's not. It's always amazed me that a lot of players don't wanna know anything about the tiebreaker scenarios late in the season; they just wanna focus on winning the next game. I've covered games when a team won big on a day they were eliminated from playoff contention, and the mood in the locker room was upbeat. Why? Because it's about winning. That's how focused players can be on their jobs. They know that if they just do their job, they'll be fine. Then, of course, there are the guys that know every twist in the tiebreakers, and they watch the scoreboard closely late in the season to see if what they need to happen is, indeed, happening. Whatever it takes.

Jason from Austin, TX

How much do you think Capers' play-calling will change if Ponder starts over McNabb?

There's an old saying: Rush a rookie.

Jeremy from Birnamwood, WI

How important is it for a player to study and know the opposing player's style of play before a game against them?

It's of critical importance to know the nuances of your opponent's game. If you're a cornerback, you better know if the guy you're about to face likes to use double moves and, if he does, how does he set them up? Does he raise his head as he goes into his cuts? When does he look back for the ball? If you're a defensive end, you need to notice whether the tackle you're going to face tends to overset. Can he be influenced to overset and is he then vulnerable back to the inside? Is he a knee-bender or a waist-bender? Players spend hour upon hour looking at tape to know the nuances of the man they're about to face and how they might take advantage of the stress points in his game. Meanwhile, he's doing the same about them.

Bianca from Fenton, MO

I have been looking at the pictures from the recent games in the 2011 season. I noticed that in every captain team photo, Aaron has decided to make a cameo. Do you know why he does this? I think it is absolutely hilarious and shows he has a sense of humor.

On the wall outside Mike McCarthy's office hang the captains' pictures to which you are referring and, yes, Aaron Rodgers appears in the background of every picture. In some, he's looking away. In others, he's dragged Matt Flynn into the photo, too. Rodgers has a glib sense of humor, which I've always thought meshes well with the quarterback position. You'd rather your quarterback have a sense for understatement, not overstatement.

Mark from Sioux City, IA

We've heard a lot about the bend-but-don't-break style of defense lately. Is this really a reliable, long-term strategy? Is it something coaches actually aim for?

What's the alternative, don't bend but break? Bend and break? Those won't work. Given a choice, coaches will always choose don't bend, don't break. You see where I'm going with this? Mark, it's 2011, everybody is bending. Look at the yardage totals. The No. 1 defense in the league is allowing 279.6 yards per game. I can remember years when I covered the Steelers that they didn't allow 279.6 yards in three games. This is a different game. Today's game is about offense. Denying yards is next to impossible. Denying points is the goal and the Packers defense hasn't allowed a touchdown in six quarters. Is it a reliable, long-term strategy? No, that's why you better have an offense that can score a lot of points because there will be days when that's what you'll need to do to win. Obviously, the Packers have that kind of offense.

Mike from South Bend, IN

In Rodgers' postgame press conference, he recalled the throw he made to Rod Gardner in his second season in training camp. Does he have a semi-videographic memory and how helpful is that as a QB to be able to recall specific information from the past?

Every quarterback I've covered has had that kind of recall. I've never covered a quarterback that couldn't tell you where every guy in coverage was on the field and why he threw to the guy he did, and they can tell you about it years after it happened. If ever there was an example of that, Bart Starr is it.

Jon from Anaheim, CA

Lots of discussion recently about whether to pass or run when you're sitting on a lead. Statistically speaking, which is more probable, an interception or a fumble?

Through Sunday's games, there were 91 lost fumbles and 153 interceptions in the league this year.

Terry from Junction City, WI

Regarding Harbaugh/Schwartz: Since Goodell has made it his legacy to make the game safer and clamp down on things that put the NFL in less than stellar light, do you think he should fine or suspend Harbaugh and Schwartz like he does players? I think a one-game suspension will send a clear message to everyone: You will behave like gentlemen. What say you?

I agree with the decision not to fine or suspend the two coaches. Coaches' esteem is very important in leading their players. If they're scolded publicly, it could cost them a degree of respect among their players. I'm not saying I wouldn't have called the two guys and scolded them privately for what they did, but I think you have to be sensitive to the delicate positions they're in. The coach must be sacrosanct, and it's just as important that he treat himself and his position with that same reverence. If they demean themselves, then so be it, but I don't think you go out of your way to help them do it. There is, of course, a line in the sand, and they were standing right on it, but I don't think they crossed it.

Doug from Los Angeles, CA

Why don't the Packers use the classic throwback uniforms from the mid-1960s glory years? That was the best, most classic uniform in football history.

Originally, the thought was probably that the current uniform isn't much different than the 1960s version, but the Saints did a throwback to their original uniform, which is from the mid-1960s, and I think enough time has expired and enough change in style has occurred that their throwback looked good. The Packers wore stripes on their socks back then; that would be different. The cut of the uniform is important, too, in my opinion. The problem with wearing throwback uniforms with a contemporary cut is that the throwback look gets lost. Here's what I'd like to see: For one game a season, wear the exact uniform, and that includes the cut of it, that was worn from a particular time in team history. Come on, they can hide the "guns" for one game. One more thing: Wear the numbers the key players from that era wore at the corresponding positions. The league would have to approve, of course, but why not? Imagine Rodgers wearing 15. Imagine Ryan Grant wearing 31 and James Starks wearing five, A.J. Hawk wearing 66, Charles Woodson wearing 26, etc. Yeah, I know, it's a wild idea, but it would just be for one game. Please, tell me, how cool would that be?

Mark from Seattle, WA

Have the Packers ever won 12 straight games?

I went right away to 1961-62, when the Packers won the last two games of the '61 season and the first 10 of the '62 season.

Art from Radcliff, KY

Do you think that in Sunday's game against the Rams Green Bay pulled punches in the second half to be more sportsmanlike?

No, I just think football is a game that requires a very sharp edge and it's difficult to keep that edge when you head to the locker room at halftime knowing, in your heart, that you've got this one under control.

Neil from South Range, WI

I find it interesting that the two teams that have the best scoring offenses and passing games are also among the worst in pass-defense in terms of yards, that being the Patriots at 31 and the Packers at 30. I don't know about the Patriots, but could this be because the Packers score so much?

Of course it is. When you score a lot, you force your opponent to score a lot. When you set a fast pace, you increase the number of plays in a game and that immediately increases the yardage in the game. The Packers are a team of pressure offense. That puts a tremendous strain on its defense and I think it speaks volumes about what they're doing on the defensive side of the ball that the Packers are 11th in the league in points allowed per game. If you're building a team to win the defensive rankings, you don't go up-tempo on offense. You run the ball, dominate time of possession and shorten the game. That's the offensive philosophy that plays to defense. The Packers' offensive philosophy is the exact opposite.

Rob from Oshkosh, WI

Do college players have to apply for the draft to get into the NFL?

Everybody is eligible for the NFL draft in one year of their life. Prior to that year, anyone wishing to enter the NFL draft must apply for eligibility. After that year of routine eligibility, we're all free agents.

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