Josh from El Paso, TX
I heard Matt Forte wanted to do his best in the Pro Bowl. The rest of the players seemed to be working, but they were all smiles. I noticed some tackles that were pretty much touch and fall. My question is: Would a defensive player get legitimately upset if a running back like Forte tried to lay out a lineman during a run while they are all just trying to have a good time?
The players all understand the Pro Bowl isn’t a “blood” game. I think the fans need to understand that, too. The Pro Bowl is an OTA practice. Mike Spofford and I will debate the Pro Bowl in a “point, counterpoint” installment today. I’m going to bounce an idea off readers and I’ll be interested to see what they think of it.
Mike from Marinette, WI
What does it mean when they say a player is All-Pro, and who makes that decision?
A Pro Bowl player is best in his conference; an All-Pro player is best in the league. Pro Football Weekly and the Professional Football Writers of America combine to select an All-Pro team, as does the Associated Press. The AP, PFW and the PFWA then join forces to select an All-NFL team, which is essentially the same thing, just renamed to distinguish that the team is a combined effort by the authors of the two All-Pro teams.
Sal from Philadelphia, PA
Vic, it seems the Senior Bowl provides a great opportunity to see players in controlled practices and drills against comparable competition. How does this added info for a participating player in the Senior Bowl compare to that of players that don't participate? Do scouts and coaches feel they know players who participated in the Senior Bowl better than those that didn't?
If you’re Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III, you don’t need to play in the Senior Bowl. You’re already at the top of the draft and nothing is going to change that. If you’re Brandon Weeden and you’re 28 and teams wanna know if you can play NOW, you need to play in the Senior Bowl. If you’re Russell Wilson and you’re 5-11 and teams wanna know if you can see over the line of scrimmage, you need to play in the Senior Bowl. In my opinion, the Senior Bowl is the very best of the postseason events for scouting and player evaluation. The practices I witnessed were more intense and included more live one-on-one work and contact drills than I’ve seen in an NFL practice since I can’t remember when. I came away from the Senior Bowl with some very strong opinions about the guys there. If I’m a scout, I would feel more comfortable drafting a player I saw at the Senior Bowl than I would be drafting a player to whom my only postseason exposure was the combine.
Mark from Bettendorf, IA
Vic, I know they have not played the Super Bowl champions vs. College All-Stars game since the monsoon, but do you recall if these games were anything like the Pro Bowl, where there is a lack of intensity, or were these games highly competitive?
They were intense and the hitting was real, but I wouldn’t use the word competitive to describe those games because the College All-Stars were unable to compete with the Super Bowl champion, and even had trouble scoring, which always struck me as odd because the Super Bowl champion’s starters were out of the game after the first drive and their rookies played the whole second half. In many cases, the Super Bowl champion’s first-round pick was playing for the College All-Stars and he was getting stopped for no gain by a defense full of undrafted rookies. The game said everything about the step up pro coaching created in just a few weeks of training camp.
Chad from Dayton, OH
Vic, what is the difference between a restricted free agent and an unrestricted free agent?
An unrestricted free agent has accrued four credited seasons and may sign with any team in the league without that team having to compensate the team with which the UFA has signed. A restricted free agent has accrued three credited seasons and may sign with any team in the league, but the team signing the RFA may or may not be required to compensate the team the RFA is leaving. Compensation for an RFA depends on the level of the tender offered to the RFA by his original team.
Henry from Milan, MI
Do you think the extra time off made the Packers rusty or do you think they just did not play good for other reasons?
That question was on the lips of just about every friend I met at the Senior Bowl. They all wanted to know if I thought the Packers were rusty against the Giants, because they rested key starters in the regular-season finale against the Lions. A lot of my friends do believe rust was a factor. Here’s my opinion on the matter: I think the chances are very strong the Packers would’ve met with the same result in the Giants game, had Aaron Rodgers and all of the starters played against the Lions. I think the Giants came into the playoffs as the hot team in the NFC and I think they have some of that team-of-destiny feel to them, just as the Packers did the previous year. I think the Giants were a bad matchup for the Packers and that’s something I expressed well in advance of the game. I also think there is a very strong possibility that I’m wrong about all of this, but I’m not gonna worry about it because it is what it is and life goes on. In my opinion, Mike McCarthy’s challenge was to put a rested, ready and healthy team on the field in the divisional round of the playoffs. He did.
Mark from Stewartville, MN
Vic, the NFL draft has changed so much over the years, to the point where it is now almost an event unto itself. Could you share some of your memories from drafts 30-40 years ago that highlight the differences between the draft then and the draft now? Thanks for your column. I really enjoy it.
Let’s start with what hasn’t changed: Whether it was then or now, every team was and is looking for players that will make their teams better. That’s the one thing that hasn’t changed. Here are some of the things that have changed: I can remember that the draft began on a Monday morning. Writing for a p.m. newspaper back then, we held for the first-round pick and I was manic to write something quick and get it back to the office. Boy, has that changed. There was no ESPN and no Mel Kiper. Reporters sat in a media room with a flow chart in front of us, and every 15 minutes the PR guy would walk into the room and fill in a line next to a team’s name with a player’s name. That’s how we found out who the picks were. We had a time and player pool and, like idiots, we let the coaches in both pools and they always won them. Of course they did? They knew the pick and they controlled the time the pick was made. I also remember the phone interviews we did with the drafted players, especially the low-round guys; in many cases, they were real characters. I remember a linebacker named Wonder Monds. I asked him, “What’s your real name?” He said, “Wonderful,” and it was his real name. It’s the best name I ever heard, but there’s no St. Wonderful so I couldn’t use it for my sons. We once got a drafted player’s mother on the phone – he wasn’t home at the time – and she told us all about her son. The draft really was fun back then. These days, it’s like a CIA event; everything is so hush-hush. The room had no windows and was thick with smoke, but nobody complained; there was no “smoke police” back then. The draft was 17 rounds, then it was reduced to 12, where it stayed until 1993, when it fell to eight rounds and then to seven a year later. In the 17- and 12-round days, it would go into the wee hours of the morning on the second day. I especially remember the explosion of laughter in the room when ESPN announced it was going to televise the draft all day. How would they fill the time, we laughed?
Kevin from Peoria, IL
Are there any teams that don't claim to take the best player available in the draft?
Atlanta is an admitted needs-specific drafter. When Tom Coughlin was the coach and general manager of the Jaguars, he once said to me, “The draft is all about needs.” I stared at him and he said, “Don’t give me that best available player stuff.” I did. I told him that he didn’t draft Jonathan Ogden because he had drafted Tony Boselli the previous year and had signed Leon Searcy in free agency, and then I asked him, “Who doesn’t need Jonathan Ogden?”
Jake from Appleton, WI
Aaron Rodgers will be 29 in December. Brandon Weeden will be 29 in October. How is it that Weeden is just finishing his college career while Rodgers just finished his seventh NFL season? Is there an age limit for college football?
Weeden was a high draft pick of the New York Yankees and spent time in professional baseball before returning to football. One scout with whom I spoke last week liked that about Weeden, that he’s already spent time in professional sports. He said he has no problem with Weeden’s age, but I think most teams will have a problem with it and I think it’ll drop Weeden into the second round, where somebody is going to get a steal.
Patrick from Edgewater, FL
I noticed Torry Holt was at the Senior Bowl. I was wondering if in his future you see him more as a coach or as a scout? I think it’s pretty obvious he wants to stick around and truly loves the game.
Torry is media all the way. He has way too much to say to get stuck in coaching or scouting. I really, really hope he pursues a media career because he has great thoughts about the game and I think his analysis is not only on the mark, but he presents it in a manner fans can understand. I only covered him for a year but he was a true go-to guy for me. Someone came up to me at the Senior Bowl and said, “When you’re done, come on over, someone wants to talk to you.” It was Torry. We had a wonderful visit. I wish every player in the league had Torry’s acumen for communicating with the media.
Jason from Siren, WI
If you were to collect football trading cards, name three players you would collect?
Clarence Peaks, Clarence Peaks and Clarence Peaks. Back when I did collect football trading cards, I can remember getting stuck in a Clarence Peaks rut. I’d find a couple of pop bottles, return them for the deposit, use the money to buy a pack of football cards, and then I’d open the pack to find another Clarence Peaks card. I think I cornered the market on Clarence Peaks cards. At some point, I stopped buying cards. Clarence Peaks turned me away from collecting cards forever.
Drew from Rockford, MI
We need a scat back. I've been saying this for a while now. The guy we're truly missing in our offense is a guy Rodgers can dump it to, who turns a 3-, 4-yard gain into a 10-, 15-yard gain on a consistent basis. Brady has Welker and company. Brees has Sproles. The Packers could use one, a guy with great burst and wiggle. Agree?
You’re describing LeSean McCoy, a guy that can run between the tackles and catch the ball in the flat and do something with it. Arian Foster is also that kind of back. They are new-age running backs and the Packers run a new-age offense. Yeah, I agree.
Jeremy from Jacksonville, FL
One more question about the punt return non-fumble rule. How long does that rule extend? Example: The punt returner picks up the ball after it is touched by the punt team, he then races 70 yards and is headed to the end zone when he egregiously starts high-stepping and has the ball knocked out before he makes it, and the punt team recovers the ball. Is this still a fumble?
I don’t know what you call it, but it’s the return team’s ball at the point of first touching by the punt team. We’ve talked about this a lot but apparently there are a lot of fans, and media, too, that don’t know this rule. It surprises me. The rule has been in the books forever.
Tommy from Milwaukee, WI
Do you think there is ever going to be a comeback of the lost art of a ball-carrying fullback?
Don’t think in terms of terminology, think in terms of concepts. Jim Brown was a fullback and Ernie Green, Brown’s blocking back, was a halfback. That was in pro set or split backs formation. In today’s game, Green would be the fullback and Brown would be the running back. Same game, same roles, just different terminology.
Tom from New York, NY
To return to the Super Bowl next season, the Packers need to acquire an outside linebacker and a defensive lineman that can pressure the quarterback. It is unlikely they will be able to address both needs via the draft.
I don’t agree. I liked what I saw at the Senior Bowl at those two positions. I think both can be addressed in the draft.
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