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Wisconsin is a draft-and-develop state

It's time to go to the combine


Mauricio from Chicago, IL

I don't like the combine; I think it's pretty useless. It doesn't account for the pads players wear, for any other gear they wear, for the different kinds of turf or grass they'll play on. It doesn't measure heart, toughness, football IQ, mental strength and, most importantly, it doesn't measure what you've said time after time as the most important thing in football, the ability to win one-on-one battles with the opposition. I'm not arguing for it to be done away with, but I think its importance should be very minimal. Give me a smart, tough football player over a track star any day.

Most teams consider combine performance secondary to game performance, but we should also remember that Joe Flacco and Jason Pierre-Paul were combine stars. It's not useless. When used in conjunction with the evaluation of game performance, the combine is a useful tool. Flacco and Pierre-Paul were also pretty good in the games, too. By the way, I'll be at the combine starting today. Please look for combine news on packers.com through the weekend.

Larry from Davenport, IA

I understand the need for a strong left tackle to protect the quarterback, but what if the quarterback is left handed. Would the right tackle then be the premier position? Also, has there ever been an ambidextrous quarterback?

If the right defensive end is moved to the left side, and if he's as capable a rusher from that side as he is from the right side, then the right tackle becomes a left-handed passer's No. 1 protector. Most premier pass rushers come from the defense's right edge. I think the rusher is a more important consideration than whether or not the quarterback has eyes in the back of his head. As for throwing with either hand, I remember George Mira have some talent along those lines.

Jim from Racine, WI

Vic, what determines draft value when trading? Is there a value on the 51st pick overall that determines how many picks to give away for a move up?

Teams ascribe to a numerical table that assigns points value to every pick. If you're moving up, you try to keep the points damage to a minimum; if you're moving down, you try to rob the team that wants to come up. Be that as it may, the Ravens let the Jaguars off lightly when they came up for Derrick Harvey, and the Ravens moved down for Flacco.

Scott from Greensburg, IN

Vic, my favorite baseball team is the woeful Pittsburgh Pirates. What is your favorite Pirate memory growing up?

Oct. 13, 1960, 3:36 p.m. I was nine years old. If I could relive one minute of my life, that would be it. Yogi Berra said, "We made too many wrong mistakes." Sports can be so beautiful.

Jeff from Athens, WI

Vic, does the salary cap apply only to the regular season? I am wondering because every year teams sign a lot of their practice squad players to the regular roster as well as undrafted free agents and the like. Do those players affect the cap?

That's an intuitive question, and the answer is that the salary cap is in force 365 days a year, but it's enforced differently in the offseason. Only a team's top 51 contracts count against its cap.

Shalom from Austin, TX

What happens if a team doesn't have enough revenue to pay the player? I'm very confused on revenue made by the team and the cap money that keeps on getting bounced around.

A team's cap figure is a number that, according to cap-rules calculations, is what the team spent on player compensation during the current year. The money in the players' pockets is the real stuff, and not all of it will appear on a team's current-year cap because some of it has come to the player in the form of signing bonus, and signing bonus is amortized evenly over the life of the contract. If a team runs out of cap room, it has to find ways to get more room; it can often do that by cutting players whose release represents a savings on the cap. If a team ran out of real money, it would probably have to move to Los Angeles.

John from Austin, TX

I thought you would hammer Nikki for the naive statement, "These players put it all out there for the craft and fans." Isn't it really about the potential for multi-million dollar contracts and lucrative endorsement deals, you know, fame and fortune? Am I too cynical?

If you don't watch it, you'll end up becoming a sportswriter.

Jeff from Washington, DC

What is the biggest transition a running back has to make going from college to the NFL? I think I have a good grasp on what the other positions have to do, but not really running backs.

In most cases, they have to understand that this is a one-cut-and-go league. The days of making 500 moves in the hole are over. Fred Taylor struggled with that in his first training camp. When he figured it out and stepped on the gas, it was beep, beep.

Kyle from Chicago, IL

Vic, if a player has LTBEs that are not earned, is that savings added onto the following year's cap?

Excellent, excellent.

Jonathan from Colorado Springs, CO

I move around a lot, being military and all, so I know the cost of living is different from state to state. Do players take that into consideration during contract talks?

Mostly, they concern themselves with tax ramifications. For example, Florida doesn't have a state income tax, but Wisconsin does. Apply Wisconsin's state income tax rate to a $10 million salary and see what you get. It not only helps teams in Florida attract free agents, it helps those teams acquire players at a lesser number. Wisconsin is a draft-and-develop state.

Matthew from Maffra, Australia

Top players at each position are always getting the new record amount of money for their position. Is the amount of money teams have in their caps going up at the same pace as the money being paid to players?

I don't have statistics on this, but I would say player compensation is growing at a rate greater than the salary cap. Why? Because a lot of teams push money out with signing bonus, with the idea that they'll take a run at a title, and when they get capped out, they'll gut the roster and start over. What that approach does is push player compensation up for everyone. It's not a very responsible or leaguethink approach. A hard cap would not have permitted that strategy.

Ben from Chippewa Falls, WI

Are the concerns about the offensive line a little overblown? After all, our two first-round draft picks, Bulaga and Sherrod, were hurt all year. Shouldn't their return improve things, even if the Packers stand pat on the offensive line?

That's sound thinking, but 51 sacks, in my opinion, is too startling a number to ignore. Something has to be done. I don't know what that is, but I don't think standing pat is the answer.

Dave from Lake Zurich, IL

Vic, you refer to Chuck Noll now and then. Do you know why he retired at a relatively young age? It's evident you have a great deal of respect for him.

He retired following the 1991 season. The league was embroiled with Judge Doty and Chuck provided testimony as a witness and he saw what was coming, which is to say the days of unfettered free agency, and it didn't appeal to him. Some years later he let it be known he wasn't interested in coaching in a system that had a graduation class every year. None of the players on his last Super Bowl team had ever played for another team. That's the way he liked it. He wanted to work with players from the beginning of their careers to the end.

Tim from Greensboro, NC

Vic, Clowney would not be eligible for the draft until next year, regardless if he went to prep school. Correct?

Yes, that's correct. Let's get this straight and move on: The only point I was trying to make is that had Clowney gone to prep school, or even red-shirted, this coming year would be last year and he wouldn't be facing this year of waiting now. I think it's something star recruits should consider as they leave high school: What's the rush?

Harrison from Pittsburgh, PA

Vic, is your wife a Packers fan?

My wife seldom knew who the team I was covering was even playing. I'd come back from a road trip and she'd ask if my team won. That's why I was so surprised last season in Seattle when I got a text message from her: "Jennings caught that ball. That's bull." I texted back, "Yeah."

Gene from Apple Valley, MN

If a player retires, like Jeff Saturday, why do you also release him?

Retired, the team retains the rights to that player. Released, that player is free to sign with another team.

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