Gadi from Jerusalem, Israel

Everyone expected the offenses in the league to come out a little disoriented with timing and cues being off due to the lockout and shortened offseason. To me, it seemed as though the side of the ball that suffered league-wide was defense, specifically the secondaries. What do you think the reason is that defenses were affected?

Playing defense is about intensity and toughness, and it’s difficult to acquire those ingredients in practices that aren’t intense and tough. Simply put, to be intense and tough you have to practice being intense and tough, and defenses have long established those ingredients in the heat and grind of two-a-days in training camp. That’s when you find out who’s tough. Those players become the leaders of your defense and they demand toughness from those around them. For every action, there is a reaction. An easing of the practice regimen, in my opinion, resulted in an explosion of yards in the season-openers; the league, I’m sure, likes that. The league also wants to protect its quarterbacks – has changed the rules dramatically to protect the quarterback – but the quarterback went down an alarming 89 times in Week 1. Did easing of the regimen have a detrimental effect on pass-blocking? That’s not good for the quarterback. You gotta be careful in how you interfere with the natural evolution of the game. You can get unintended results.

Cesar from Santa Fe Springs, CA

To every negative comment, there is always someone defending your name (almost religiously). You should feel proud to have created such a fan base.

All comments are welcome, provided they are not vulgar. Football is a game. It’s supposed to be about fun and we want fans that come to this site to use our forums for enhancing their enjoyment of the game. Express yourself. Interact. Make new friends.

Rich from Nashville, TN

Your love for smash-mouth football is a recurring topic. Do you think the style of play that people prefer is due to their personality or just what they grew up with?

I think tastes are acquired and I acquired mine for football during an era when the tackle box was king. I come from an era when coaches spoke of “keep your legs moving” and “get your knees up.” Those words have been replaced by “maintain leverage” and “come to balance.” The game has evolved and I’ve evolved with it, but I think it’s unfair to ask someone to divorce themselves from their past and the principles that have guided them through 40 years of writing about the game and a lifetime of having watched it. You pick and choose what fits. I acknowledge that football is no longer first and foremost a running game, but there are still tenets from the Lombardi era that fit in the modern game, and I embrace them. What I’ve found is that a lot of young fans don’t want to acknowledge what they didn’t experience and don’t understand. That’s unfortunate because you can’t appreciate the game fully without knowing its history and the fundamental philosophies on which it is built.

Scott from Marquette, MI

Regarding the punting team touching but not possessing the ball, it seems to me that's a valuable advantage and coaches should have a play or scheme drawn up exactly for that occurrence.

Most fans don’t realize that it is illegal for the punting team to touch the ball first. The penalty the punting team incurs for having illegally touched the ball first is that the receiving team may advance the ball without risk of a turnover, and the receiving team may elect to take the ball where first-touching occurred. Hey, after the ball has been touched by the punting team, let it rip, right?

Jeremy from Waukesha, WI

When I was a kid, I remember the Cowboys offensive linemen doing some strange jump-up before the snap. Would that now be considered illegal, as in a false start?

No, it wouldn’t, because the Cowboys offensive line raised from a two-point stance, not from a three-point stance. It’s funny you should bring this up because I was surfing on the TV last night and I came across the movie “North Dallas Forty.” It’s not a favorite of mine but I stopped and watched a little because I enjoy how the Cowboys and Tom Landry were clearly the models for the fictitious North Dallas team. In the movie, the North Dallas offensive line raised in unison and dropped into a three-point stance, just as the Cowboys of the Landry era did. It was a trademark of Landry’s teams. Why did they do it? Because that was during an era when offensive lines were judged on their ability to come off the ball as one, in a low, sudden, five-man surge. The intent was to move the line of scrimmage back. It was beautiful football to watch. Nowadays, the left tackle is in a two-point stance, leaning back to make sure he doesn’t get beat to the edge by the defensive end. It’s just a different game. That up-and-down move by the Cowboys offensive line was just a way of getting them all on the same page and reminding them to come off the ball as one.

Mike from Rapid City, SD

Saw a lot of slipping by both teams on the field last week. What's up?

I don’t know, but I don’t wanna hear any complaints about the turf. I’ve never seen a more beautiful field of grass. It couldn’t have looked any better had the ground crew personally polished each blade of grass.

Mike from Bridgeport, CT

Mark Sanchez is a player I've heard you speak highly of, but I just don't see it. He's still young, didn't play much in college and has won four road playoff games already, but Sunday night I watched another game in which his defense and special teams bailed him out.

A lot of fans wanna downgrade quarterbacks that play on teams with strong defenses because they play on teams with strong defenses. If Sanchez played on a team with a bad defense, more would be required of him and his yardage and touchdown totals would be higher and those same fans would be singing his praises. You do what it takes to win. Sanchez wins. He’s my kind of quarterback.

Lewk from Davenport, IA

What stands out to you about Greg Jennings?

He plays along the ground. That’s my way of saying he keeps his feet moving through the catch, instead of having to turn and jump to make every catch, which is a kind of sissy way of playing, in my opinion. All big-play receivers play along the ground. They’re not catch-and-fall-down guys, they’re catch-and-run guys. When they’re running free and they can time their receptions, they’ll do so in a manner that allows them to run through the catch. That’s what a fearless receiver does. Jennings is a fearless receiver.

Randall from Hugo, OK

As someone who works with the public, I think you do a good job of responding to the difficult fans.

This is an easy job. You just answer the question. The truth is the pure defense and everyone is allowed to express their opinion. It’s what I think makes America great.

Dennis from Cornelius, NC

Do you think the Packers would be more successful at running the ball to finish a game in their three- or four-wide receiver sets, compared to what they currently use, two tight ends and a fullback? I think running out of the spread would keep the defense honest with the possibility of a pass or run.

You might be right, but doing that would be to invite the very thing you’re attempting to avoid: turnover. When you spread the field, you engrave an invitation for a defense desperate to create a turnover to run-blitz, the intent of which is to penetrate into the backfield and disrupt the play. Now you’re risking a defender interfering with the handoff or getting to the runner before he has time to tuck the ball away, etc. When you’re leading, there comes a point in the game when the intent shifts from scoring to expiring the time on the clock. That’s when you pack it in up front, deny any chance of disruption, and play power football. You’re not trying to move the ball long distances; you’re trying to kill the clock. You know, the defense is allowed to stop the other team. It’s not an offense-only game.

Jim from Waverly, NY

What resources are available that would allow us to learn more about football strategy, formations and general knowledge that is common knowledge for coaches or players?

“Total Football” is my encyclopedia for the history of the game. It was a labor of love by a couple of good men that dedicated their lives to the advancement of the awareness of pro football’s history. “Total Football” includes a section on the evolution of formations. Recently, Pat Kirwan sent me his publication, “Take Your Eye Off The Ball.” At first glance, it appears to be a very comprehensive guide to modern day offense and defense.

Dennis from Brook Park, MN

There is currently a void in what I call the “football folk hero.” I miss the humor of Art Donovan, the singing and folksy stories of “Dandy Don,” and the enthusiasm of John Madden. Do you see any former coach or player emerging to take that role?

No, and I wish I did because I really miss it, too. We’re stuck in an era of cover one, cover two, cover three, wheel routes, nine routes and an overload on football terminology, as presented by a litany of ex-players that speak a language the “Madden” era wants to hear. Because I cover games, I don’t have the opportunity to watch a lot of games on TV. I watched games on Sunday but I found myself getting irritable, so I muted the TV and then everything was OK. I don’t want every play to be so important. I don’t want to know why every play succeeded or failed. Frankly, I think the same reason they give for one play succeeding is the same reason they give for the next play failing; all the analysis starts to look the same to me. Gruden blends in some entertainment; I like that. Actually, I’d like more of that; a lot more of that.

Hans from Front Royal, VA

I know you keep saying pass early, then run to protect a lead, but I think you're missing what some fans are concerned about. Up by two scores with six minutes left, New England threw from their one-yard line. If they had run, run, run and then punted, who knows?

Didn’t New England throw, throw, throw, even on fourth down in their own territory, with the lead late in a game against the Colts a few years ago? How did that turn out? When you can’t run the ball to kill the clock at the end of the game, the game continues. Do it any way you want. Just win, baby.

William from Jacksonville, FL

Why didn't Notre Dame consult you before those green things went on their helmets? That's football blasphemy. Could you imagine Paterno signing off on a gimmick like?

I can remember from when I was a kid seeing Notre Dame end Oklahoma’s winning streak, and I think they were wearing the shamrock on their helmets back then.

Scott from Palos Park, IL

The kickoffs this weekend created a lot more touchbacks (thus limiting injuries), but they also produced a lot of long returns because guys were out-kicking their coverage trying to get the ball out of the end zone. Do you think this will continue or will teams adjust coverages or kickoff strategies?

I couldn’t help but consider the possibility that the new kickoff rule will deliver the same kind of unintended result that moving the hashes toward the middle of the field did in 1972. The hashes were moved to stimulate the passing game; what resulted was an explosion of thousand-yard rushers. If teams start pooch-kicking, collisions could become more intense. We could go back to the frightening days of Orpheus Roye and wedge-busting.

Kenton from Rochester, MN

Green Bay being the smallest city in the NFL, do you think that smallness is a plus for the Packers, particularly with the younger (single) guys, keeping them out of trouble and making it easier for them to concentrate on just football?

You can find trouble in Green Bay if you’re looking for it. The Packers have been successful is establishing the right culture on its teams, and it’s not by accident. Behavior patterns are part of the scouting process. When players arrive here, they are quickly made to understand what the expectations of them are for their involvement in the community. Ted Thompson is vigilant about this process. He truly loves his players and I was captivated by the interview I did with him on the subject of releasing players.

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