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Will overconfidence be a problem?


Spencer from Merrill, WI

So what happens when a player such as Brett Goode, Tim Masthay or Mason Crosby is injured? I mean, it's not typical for those positions to receive injuries, but it could happen and without a backup at that position. Wouldn't the Packers be down on their luck?

Personnel departments are divided into a college scouting division and a pro personnel division. The pro personnel side is responsible for the evaluation of all players after they've gone through the draft. These are generally players who've been in an NFL camp or on a pro roster somewhere, and now they're what's called "on the street," meaning they're available to be signed. The Packers' pro personnel department will have at the ready at all times a ranking of long-snappers, kickers and punters that are available and can be brought in quickly, worked out and signed to a contract. The careers of some of the greatest kickers and punters began that way. Gary Anderson's career began that way. Tim Masthay was waived by the Colts and he appears to be on his way to becoming one of the top punters in the league.

Gabe from Bloomer, WI

Do you believe overconfidence was the downfall of great teams that in the end couldn't win the big game, such as the '86 Bears, '98 Vikings, '99 Jaguars and '07 Patriots, or do you think they just weren't as good as they seemed on paper? Do you see overconfidence becoming an issue in Green Bay?

The '86 Bears lost their starting quarterback, the '98 Vikings missed a field goal attempt, the '99 Jaguars lost their composure at halftime of the AFC title game, and the '07 Patriots dropped what should've been two interceptions that would've cancelled the circus catch the Giants made in their game-winning drive in the Super Bowl. That's how I see it, and you don't have to worry one bit about the Packers being overconfident this season. Mike McCarthy is similar to two other Super Bowl-winning coaches I covered, Chuck Noll and Tom Coughlin, in that McCarthy is extremely grounded. Teams take on the personality of their coaches and that's why the Packers won't become complacent. McCarthy's stamp is all over the Packers.

Ed from Des Plaines, IL

Can you explain what existed before the free agency era of football? Once a player was drafted, they were forced to play for the same team at whatever salary the team would give him until the team cut him or he retired?

That's not true in theory, but that's how it often turned out. A player could play out his contract and become a free agent, but signing such a player required the signing team to pay heavy draft-pick compensation to the team losing the player. I think I can remember Walter Payton becoming a free agent in the prime of his career and not getting so much as a ripple of interest, and it was because a team signing Payton would've had to return, if I remember correctly, two first-round picks to the Bears. The advent of the "free agency era" gave players with four or more accrued seasons absolute freedom to sign with any team in the league, without that team having to compensate the team the player was leaving, unless the player was "wearing" one of the tags, such as franchise or transition tag.

Matt from Vernon Hills, IL

From your personal experience, what kind of indicator does a preseason reflect onto the regular season?

I think you can use the preseason to get a feel for what kind of season lies ahead, but you have to use the preseason in a discriminating manner to accomplish that perspective. I'll use the 2008 Jaguars as an example. We thought they were headed for a big year. They were largely considered to be a Super Bowl contender, but a Miami team in rebuilding came to Jacksonville for a preseason game and physically whipped the Jaguars up front and alarm bells sounded everywhere, and they were accurate in their warning. The Jaguars had gotten old up front, right before our eyes. It can happen, usually happens, seamlessly. They finished 5-11 in '08 and that kick-started a massive rebuilding phase. That's why I say that when you evaluate a preseason game, eliminate scheme and look hard at the one-on-one matchups. Are you winning the personnel battles? That's all that matters in the preseason. If you're winning the one-on-ones, the coaches will know how to apply scheme to win the games. If you're not winning the one-on-ones, it's probably not going to be a good year, regardless of the scheme.

Ryan from London, England

You said a compensatory draft pick is what you get when you've been judged to have sustained a net loss in free agency. Does this mean we should expect to receive a compensatory pick for the loss of Jenkins?

That would be my expectation; for losing Cullen Jenkins and for losing other players, too, such as Daryn Colledge.

Mike from Huntsville, AL

How much football can you take on a daily basis? I could probably talk football all day long and never get sick of it.

I like to leave it behind when I go home and, to that end, I'm fortunate to have a wife that doesn't know if the ball is pumped up or stuffed up. When I get home from a road trip, she'll ask, "Did they win?" If I say no, she'll say, "I'm sorry," and that'll end the football conversation. She's a special education teacher. When I go home at night, I'll ask her how her day was and she'll give me a long and detailed account of what she did, and I'll quickly realize, again, how insignificant I am.

Hans from Front Royal, VA

How different is the life of the practice squad player in terms of their interaction/involvement with the "53?" I've heard they have a different locker room, separate from the regular squad, is this true? Are they allowed into the main locker room? Do they interact with the rest of the team?

They have a locker area adjacent to the main clubhouse. They use all of the same facilities as the other players do and, yes, they interact with the other players. It's important to remember, however, that practice squad players are free agents, free to sign with any team in the league at any time, which means the guy in your locker room on Monday could be a guy you're playing against on Sunday. They are not on the team. That distinction must be understood.

Daniel from Quebec City, Quebec

After a play is completed, what determines on which hash the ball will be placed.

If the ball is outside the left hash when the play is blown dead, the ball is spotted on the left hash to begin the next play. The same is true for plays that finish outside the right hash mark.

Benjamin from Saint Marys, GA

Who would you rather have calling plays for your team, Mike Holmgren or Mike McCarthy?

I'll take McCarthy because I'm a balance guy and I think he is, too. I firmly believe in balance between run and pass. Holmgren has a reputation for having been a great play-caller, but I always thought he had a tendency to get too one-sided toward pass. I think his decision to write Shaun Alexander out of the game plan for Super Bowl XL was a terrible miscalculation.

Dana from Eau Claire, WI

I can't wait until the regular season gets started. What do you think we'll see in the early part of the season? Any impact from short training camps, no mini-camps, etc.?

The execution I'm seeing right now is pretty good, all things considered. I think the players are making a pretty good argument for reducing OTAs, which will be the case next spring. I think the players are also making a very strong case for the value of offseason conditioning because, frankly, I don't think they're nearly as well-conditioned this summer as they would be following a team-supervised offseason conditioning regimen. The injury lists in NFL training camps are staggering. As expected, it's mostly the result of little strains and sprains, and I think they're the result of a spring without a strong conditioning program. I expect to see a continuation of this trend in the early season. I think we're going to see long injury reports, loaded with guys nursing sprains and strains.

Roy from Honolulu, HI

I was wondering what your opinion is of linebacker Vic So'oto. He appears to have the kind potential to be an impact player down the road. With his athletic ability, it seems he could be a terrific pass-rusher. Do you see him making the team?

There's always one undrafted guy that catches my eye. So'oto is that guy in this camp. I don't wanna get a speeding ticket on him, but I think he has a shot.

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