Shannon from North Little Rock, AR

A line that has sustained me through many a football debate: “Go back to your video game. You have no feel for real football.”

Who’s the idiot that said that?

Keith from Spring, TX

Why doesn't Dom Capers work along the sidelines with his players during a game, like other defensive coaches, instead of staying up in a booth?

I don’t know what the official breakdown is, but my guess is that half of the coordinators in the league prefer to be up in the press box and the other half down on the sideline. It’s all in what you prefer. Some coaches want to be down on the sideline so they can look their players in the eye and use that to get a feel for the action; other coaches want to be up in the press box, where they can get a decidedly better view of the personnel the opponent is sending onto the field and a better view of the personnel the opponent is preparing to send into the game from their sideline. The next time you watch a game, watch for the players that are standing next to the coach that sends them into the game. Those players give you an idea of the personnel packages that will be employed and you’ll see those players champ at the bit as they anticipate being sent into the game. None of that is visible from the sideline. Coach Capers apparently wants the better view.

Mike from Hellertown, PA

Do you think the expanded fan base and extra revenue for the NFL generated by games like Madden was worth the influx of stats-minded fans and people that want to quantify the game?

Absolutely, it is. Madden drives revenue and has spiked interest in the game.

William from Savannah, GA

For those franchises that are having trouble filling their stadiums today, what happens if the blackout rule is lifted? Even lower attendance, which then results in lower revenue until the business economics dictate a change is in order, a change of venue to a bigger market. Is it possible that a move by some franchise to the LA market and the resulting increase in TV revenue offsets the loss of ticket revenue for most franchises?

You’re asking the right questions. I don’t have the answers for you, but I’m inclined to believe that if it plays out as you’ve suggested, and if termination of the blackout rule results in a decline in ticket sales in markets of limited revenue streams, then markets such as Los Angeles will become more viable. Miami is the perfect example. It struggles to sell tickets but there’s no chance of the NFL leaving Miami; it has too many people and too many revenue streams for the league to abandon it. Remember this: People are value. The more people in a market, the more disposable income that market has to spend. My concern, should the blackout rule be terminated, is that it might create a league in which success will be restricted to big-market teams and heritage franchises.

Sara from Davis, CA

What's the purpose of a contract when it seems to mean nothing and is so easily broken? Is it just to prevent a player from moving or being taken?

Essentially, you’re right, but I think we’re losing sight of something here. Contracts include signing bonuses, which are guaranteed money. In the case of star players, those signing bonuses are huge; they represent far more than a year’s worth of salary. When a team signs a player to a big contract, the team is taking a big leap of faith, too, because it has guaranteed a sizable sum of money to that player without any guarantee of performance. What if the player performs poorly? Is he going to refund the money? I don’t think so. This is why professional sports is a unique business. It’s a spin-the-wheel business that produces winners and losers, and that’s why we watch it, to find out who those winners and losers are.

Steve from Larsen, WI

You are probably telling your friends from other states that the weather here isn't bad. Just so you know, this is a once in a century warm and snow-free winter and payback often happens the next year. Question: What breed is the dog that likes you?

He doesn’t know.

Gerald from Karlsruhe, Germany

Vic, smart idea of reshaping the facemask. Maybe a less strong material or construction would do the job better: If the mask or its holder moves back against a spring or gel while being pressured, that will have a passive security effect as a crash device in a car, absorbing energy by deforming, not reflecting the force and giving it back to the hitting object. Just a small idea of a German materials engineer to secure his favorite sportsmen.

How about including an air bag that inflates upon impact?

Aaron from Seattle, WA

Is it possible that lifting all blackouts may actually help the NFL in the long run? Without blackouts, weaker markets would sell fewer tickets, potentially prompting relocation to a market that would buy tickets with or without the blackout threat. Short-term sacrifice for long-term gain. What say you?

I don’t like what you’re suggesting. I think it’s cold-hearted. What if the NFL had taken that same approach toward small-market franchises years ago. You know, the Packers didn’t always play in front of sellouts. The NFL committed to Green Bay and Green Bay committed to the NFL and the result is a Packers franchise that is a source of pride for the town and the league. Is it a coincidence that Green Bay grew its franchise during a time when ALL home games were blacked out? There are a lot of good, small-market towns and teams in this league that only need time and help to grow into the same kind of powerhouse franchise the Packers are. Those small markets that you want to abandon are tomorrow’s big markets. They are the next Atlantas and Houstons and Denvers.

Hayden from Palmerston North, New Zealand

I was just interested if you could explain to me what a three-technique/five-technique defensive lineman does; what’s the difference? Have been reading about the draft and have heard it a lot from scouts in terms of a need for the Packers.

I get this question every day; I wish the draftniks would stop throwing these terms around without explaining what they mean. It’s such a simple thing. We’ve talked about this before so I apologize to those that don’t want to read it again, but I think it bears repeating. Hayden, the number refers to positions along the line. Start on the nose of the center and make that zero. Now, add one number as you move right and left. Between the guard and center is the one spot, on the nose of the guard is two, between the guard and tackle is three, on the nose of the tackle is four and on the tackle’s outside shoulder is five. A three-technique tackle plays in the gap between the guard and the tackle. I call him the “chase tackle” because his role, in a 4-3, is to penetrate the gap and disrupt the flow of the play. His companion tackle in a 4-3 is a zero-technique or one-technique tackle. He plays over the center or shades the center’s outside shoulder, and his job is to not be moved. I call him the “plug tackle.” A five-technique defensive end plays on the outside shoulder of the tackle and he is merely a pass-rushing end, usually in a 4-3. Neither the three-technique tackle nor the five-technique end pertains especially to the Packers’ needs. The Packers run a 3-4 which employs a zero-technique nose tackle and defensive ends that are more plug than rusher. Linebackers in a 3-4 are the chase and rush guys.

Tou from Fresno, CA

So what are the advantages of using the franchise tag?

It buys time. It allows a team to retain the rights to a player, and often results in the player and team negotiating a long-term contract. I think it’s a great invention because it benefits both sides. The team gets more time to negotiate with the player, and the player gets the guarantee of a big salary should negotiations be unsuccessful. The only negative for the player is that it doesn’t include a signing bonus, but his salary for the season becomes guaranteed the moment he signs the tender. Today begins the tagging season. From now until March 5, teams may tag players. The use of these tags shape free agency. We’re going to begin seeing players disappear from the free-agent ranks. Players will be tagged and others will be signed.

Paul from De Pere, WI

Isn't every year a good year for the 3-4 because there are always more tweeners?

That’s why I like the 3-4. The talent pool is deeper and tweeners are cheaper and represent far less risk and much more versatility than pass-rushing ends in a 4-3. Those guys come at a premium and they don’t offer much in the way of utility value. If they don’t get to the quarterback, you’ve wasted your money. The tweeners are often a team’s best special teams players.

Hansen from Waukesha, WI

Should the Packers draft a quarterback in this draft to replace Matt Flynn?

It would make sense to me. The Packers are a quarterback-driven team. Mike McCarthy speaks often about featuring the quarterback and needing him to be successful. In that kind of a system, you better never run dry at the position.

Ryan from London, England

How good would Don Hutson be today if he had Aaron Rodgers throwing to him? Still be as dominant?

The great players from past eras would be great players today, and vice versa.

Ted from Amherst, NY

If we want to protect players from concussions, why not just put the padding on the outside of the helmet? Sure you can still hit with it, but the impact would get spread out so that concussions should be cut drastically. I would love to see better equipment lead to fewer penalties.

It was attempted in the 1960s; the old Ohio State helmet with the red pad down the center of the helmet. It created a sickening thud that sounded like a watermelon being dropped onto the ground. Players talked about that old helmet producing ice-cream headaches; apparently it was not successful. It was replaced by the revolutionary Riddell suspension helmet, which served the game well for a long time. It was light and protective. The charm of the suspension helmet was that it minimized the amount of helmet that came in contact with the head; it was just a thin band. In terms of size, comfort, etc., the suspension helmet was just right, but the game outgrew it. I don’t know what the answer in helmet protection is, but I think it has more to do with the facemask than with the helmet. I think the challenge is to invent a facemask that only provides protection; it can’t be used to strike. The guy that invents such a facemask would be a hero to the sport.

Franklin from Birch Run, MI

You always hear talk about a young player, such as Sherrod, that missing parts or all of OTAs or training camp is costly to him. Why is that? Is the NFL game so complicated that you need every bit of practice time available?

Yeah, it is. OTAs are a great time for a player to work on technique. You mentioned Derek Sherrod. Well, OTAs are a great time for a young offensive tackle to work on his drop step and punch. It’s critical to pass protection. Players aren’t chess pieces; they are moving parts that must win their one-on-one confrontations or the opponent will move more freely about the board.

Bill from Madison, WI

Some teams, like New England, seem to make their draft picks play right away. For the most part, Green Bay prefers to develop their draft picks for two or three years. I think an impact needs to be made in the second year. What's your opinion?

I’d have to see proof of that; I haven’t noticed one team playing its rookies any faster than other teams do. Every team wants to advance its young players as quickly as possible, for the obvious reason that they’re being paid to play, not sit. In most cases, however, young players need seasoning. My rule of thumb is this: You wanna see an impact from them in year two; you better see it by year three.

Thomas from Palm Coast, FL

What are your feelings on putting games on costly cable networks that deprive a less wealthy family from enjoying it on TV?

My thoughts are that I hope the FCC and Congress really think this one out. I hope they look far into the future and consider what the result of terminating the blackout rule might be. Might it mean more games on pay-per-view type networks? America has enjoyed the NFL on free TV for a long time. I think it’s been a very good system. I think it’s offered protection for small markets that might otherwise have difficulty selling tickets, which would threaten the future of football in those markets. I don’t understand the logic behind abandoning that system.

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