The PFT Week Four mailbag

The weekly PFT routine ends with the mailbag, banged out on Saturday night from a hotel at an undisclosed location in New York.  (One of these weekends, they’re actually going to disclose the location to me.)  And then the weekly PFT routine begins with game day on Sunday.

But before we begin to load up the page with Sunday posts, read the mailbag.  You may actually learn something.

Not from the answers.  Maybe from the questions.

On some of the injury reports you complain that too many players were
listed as questionable, but it looks like there is way too much gray area
in the terminology for the league to make a fuss or penalize a team for
its reporting.  When “probable” means there is a virtual certainty the
player will be available for normal duties and “questionable” means
there is a 50-percent chance they will play, what is a team supposed to
put on the injury report if a player will play but might be limited?  What if the player has a 75 percent chance to play?  Is this
something the NFL would consider changing or do you think a change is
needed?  K. L.

Currently, a huge gap exists between the
designations of “probable” and “questionable.”  Though many incorrectly
believe that “probable” means “75 percent chance of playing,” the label
(as K. L. pointed out) actually means that there is a “virtual certainty” the players will be
available for normal duty.  To us, that sounds like something between 95
and 99.9 percent.

So what if the player falls in the gap between
94.9 to 99.8 percent and 50 percent?

That’s the point the
Redskins may try to be making this year by using the “questionable”
designation extensively and by not (through the first four weeks of the
season) using “probable” at all.

Really, unless a team is virtually
certain that the player is virtually certain to play, nothing good
comes from listing him as probable.  Several years ago, the league made
it clear to the teams that, if a player listed as probable doesn’t play,
the team had better have a pretty good explanation for it.

a result, the league should drop “probable” to 75 percent (like the UFL
has done), or the NFL should install a new category between probable
and questionable that reflects a 75-percent chance that the player will be available.

call it something radical and creative, like “75 percent.”  (Or we’d
call it “probable” and change the probable designation to something like
“virtual certainty.”)

As to requiring teams to disclose whether a player will play but may be limited, we can’t imagine the NFL ever mandating such specificity.  The injury-reporting system focuses on whether a player will play, not whether he will be able to play well — or whether the injury may be aggravated.

With the passing of Kenny McKinley of the
Broncos after being placed on IR for the second year in a row should
the league look into mandatory psychological counseling for players placed on IR
during the season? Or is there one in place?  Will S

The league office tells us that counseling
generally is available to all players through the NFL Players
Assistance Program.  There’s no mandatory requirement that players on
injured reserve participate.

The McKinley situation should
prompt the NFL to consider whether, at a minimum, an evaluation should
be conducted of players who have suffered serious injuries and/or who
have been placed on injured reserve.

At a time when the NFL and
the NFL Players Association can agree on few issues, there should be an
immediate accord on this point.

What do you think will
happen if, after Big Ben gets back, the Steelers manage to lose the
first two games or three of their next four?  Do you think that they
would bench him?  Would they think about trading him or releasing him
after the season?  It would definitely be one of the bigger story lines
of the offseason if they fail to make the playoffs or lose their first
game in the playoffs.  Dan O.

Even if the Steelers struggle
after Roethlisberger’s return, he’ll continue to play, barring a
complete meltdown.  They have succeeded in his absence, and no other
quarterback on the roster has performed at a level that would justify sitting down the
two-time Super Bowl winner.

One thing would result in
Roethlisberger losing his job, short of a Steve Blass-style
disappearance of his skills.  If he gets into trouble again off the
field, the Rooneys most likely would move on.

And Big Ben would move out.

Redskins running back Clinton Portis and coach Mike Shanahan are saying that Portis went down on his own to protect the ball last week,
but the video suggests otherwise.  Portis also took a dive to avoid contact
in the Dallas game.  Is it time to start Ryan Torain?  Zach,
Chestertown, Maryland.

Portis already would be gone but for the fact
that he’s receiving $6.5 million in guaranteed base salary this year.
It was believed in some circles that the Redskins brought in Larry
Johnson and Willie Parker in the offseason to light a fire under
Portis.  Now that they both are gone, the Redskins need someone else to
help ensure that Portis plays hard and doesn’t do things like, you know,
take a dive in the open field.

Torain isn’t necessarily the
answer, but he’s currently the only other in-house option.

With defensive
tackle Albert Haynesworth still on the roster, the Redskins have two
weeks and two days to consider cobbling together a trade that would
yield a package including another running back.

Given the
Eagles’ success in the red zone this season, do you think that much of the
problem over the past few seasons in Philly has been McNabb’s doing and
not Andy Reid’s play-calling as it’s been suggested in the past, or is
Mike Vick just better suited for a West Coast offense?  McNabb has
struggled again in the red zone in Washington this season and has been
throwing others under the bus as usual, so I tend to believe the latter.  Tim A.

Given that McNabb doesn’t have the weapons in
Washington that he enjoyed last year in Philadelphia, it’s difficult to
draw any conclusions based on McNabb’s performance through only three
games with a new team.

Reid routinely abandoned the running game in recent years,
possibly because he had too much confidence in the passing game.

could be that his confidence was misplaced.  And that could be the
biggest reason McNabb now plays for a different team.

seems to be a lot of speculation that Marshawn Lynch is on the trading
block. I have heard a trade from Green Bay (A.J. Hawk for Lynch straight
up) is possible or that Lynch to New England for a fourth-round pick is possible (I
doubt it personally). The Lynch to Green Bay trade seems the most logical and
plausible.  What say you?  VT, Atlanta.

Several teams would like
to trade for Lynch, and it’s our understanding that the Bills are
listening.  However, the Bills haven’t decided whether to keep him or to
trade him.

Now that the Bills are fading behind the Jets,
Patriots, and Dolphins, the Bills should stockpile future draft picks by moving Lynch, especially since Lynch will never (we’re told) sign a long-term deal with the team.
Though it makes sense to keep Lynch in the event that C.J. Spiller
and/or Fred Jackson suffer significant injuries, the Bills could plug in a veteran free agent or a practice-squadder from another franchise
if they get desperate,

The Packers should be making the strongest
play for Lynch; Brandon Jackson isn’t getting it done and the Pack need some balance for their potent passing attack.

If the
NFL “enhances” the regular system, should the NFL consider an expanded
IR system, similar to the DL system major league baseball uses? I’d like
to see a 4-week IR, 8-week IR, and season-ending IR system, where that
player doesn’t count towards the team’s roster count.  David M.

added games, the league will need more flexibility when it comes to
rosters.  Balanced against that flexibility is the reality that teams
may try to stash players, especially young ones, by putting them on
short-term versions of injured reserve even when they’re not really

At a minimum, the league should consider bringing back
an injured reserve protocol that allows the player to be shelved for
only six weeks, if he’s placed on injured reserve before the season

You’ve talked about what will happen to owners and
players if a work stoppage occurs, but what about the TV networks?
Won’t they be crushed by doling out huge money to the owners while not
receiving the ad revenue that broadcasting football games generates?
Won’t they also be harmed if a lockout leads to fans leaving football?  Jim G.

Though the networks theoretically would recover the
money they continue to pay to the league during a work stoppage, the
union believes that the reimbursement will be lost in the shuffle of the
next wave of broadcast-rights deals.  Thus, the networks likely would
come out of such a transaction on the short end.

The reality is
that, even if the networks had been inclined to balk about providing
what the NFLPA calls “lockout insurance” to the NFL, the networks were as willing to continue
to pay hundreds of millions for the right to not televise games as they
were to pay that much money in the first place.

With every round
of broadcast contracts, we’ll all continue to be amazed by the amount of
cash that the networks surrender.  And they’ll thereafter complain about the amount
of cash they’re spending for NFL football.  And then they’ll find
another new high-water mark in the next set of TV deals that will amaze us
all over again.

How long will it take to determine if
Carson Palmer is ever going to be the old quarterback he once was or
the new woulda-coulda-shoulda quarterback that is wasting Mr. Brown’s
investment in more talent in Ohio since the Big Red Machine of the 70’s?  I think he has until Week Eight.  By then he would have had a bye week and played
the Steelers for first place of the AFC North.  Lawrence M

Bengals appear to be in denial regarding Palmer’s decline, just as the
Panthers were last year regarding Jake Delhomme.  But they can’t continue to
ignore indefinitely the possibility that Palmer has lost it, and that he
won’t be getting it back.

It’s doubtful that the Bengals would
bench Palmer during the 2010 campaign.  After the season, however, the
Bengals will have to determine whether to pay him $11.5 million in base
salary next year.

Absent a solid fallback
option, it could be hard for the Bengals not to give Palmer another

As a Dolphins fan, I cringe whenever Chad Henne leaves
the game for a Wildcat play. What are your thoughts of what the Wildcat
does to Chad Henne’s confidence and development, as well as what do you
think the overall perception is league-wide of the Wildcat?  Robert C.

Dolphins devised the “Wildcat” (which is, as a practical matter, the
single-wing offense, an attacked based on misdirection and confusion) after the team struggled through the early stages of the 2008
season.  Quarterbacks coach David Lee, who had used the formation with
Darren McFadden at Arkansas, helped install the system in advance of a
Week Three game against the Patriots.  A 38-13 outcome later, and the
Wildcat had been reborn.

The periodic use of the Wildcat should
have no impact on Henne, unless he believes that leaving the game for a
play or two each drive affects his focus and rhythm.  Regardless, the
Dolphins benefit from the approach because opposing defenses must be
prepared for the base offense and the Wildcat alternative.

the base offense improves, there will be no need for the Wildcat.
Also, opponents (especially those in the division that see the Wildcat
twice per year) eventually will be able to fully prepare for both

Regardless of the future use of the Wildcat in Miami, look for the single-wing attack to continue to be used.  In the book Blood, Sweat & Chalk, Bills coach Chan Gailey tells Tim Layden that the Wildcat “is going to become more the norm in the future,” in part because college programs are producing quarterbacks with the athleticism to run the offense.

My question concerns the players being claimed on
waivers, of which it is often said that it is done in order to get to
know an opponent’s playbook (i.e., Danny Woodhead from the Jets to the
Pats and Trent Edwards to Jacksonville, while the Jets also put a claim on him).
Will a former player actually ‘betray’ his team by telling his new
employer everything he knows so he might stay with the team a little
longer, or would he have some decency and not tell everything?  Jurjen, Netherlands

“Betrayal” becomes a fuzzy concept in this
context.  Arguably, the team already “betrayed” the player by cutting
him.  Once he finds a new home, the notion of “all’s fair” quickly takes

Players want to be useful to their teams; they believe
that, if they’re regarded as useful, they’ll be employed longer.  And
the quickest way to be useful is to share any and all information
necessary to help beat the player’s former team.

It’s one of the
basic realities of life in a league with a hard limit on the number of
players who may be on the team.  Some may claim that no real benefit
arises from picking the brain of a guy who recently played for an
opponent.  If that was the case, however, no one would try.

line?  Every time a team cuts a player, the team must accept the risk
that the player will show up again, on the other sideline.

are player fines particular dollar amounts instead of particular
percentage of player salaries? You don’t have to be a genius to realize a
$10,000 fine hurts a guy making $500,000 a lot more than a guy making
$2,000,000.  Jon, Charlottesville, VA.

That’s a great question,
and it’s one of the major flaws in the system for fining players.  Some
fines (such as those imposed under the substance-abuse policy) result in
the forfeiture of a game check.  If the overriding goal is to send a
message to players in the hopes of deterring specific types of behavior,
the message will be diluted if a fixed fine applies to a man making
multiple millions.

All fines should be based on salary.  Better
yet, the fines should be based on cap number, since previously-paid
signing bonuses represent a portion of the current year’s compensation, too.

this same concept should apply to the NFLPA.   The union charges dues
on a flat basis per player.  Players instead should be required to
surrender to the union a fixed percentage of their gross compensation.

10 responses to “The PFT Week Four mailbag

  1. Regarding a trade of Marshawn Lynch, it is certainly possible, but not to the Patriots for a fourth round pick. The only way the Bills would ever trade Lynch to the Patriots would be if they offered by far the best deal. For example, a player that the Bills could use (e.g., TE Gronkowski) or at least a second round pick (and this might not be enough for the Patriots).
    A trade to Green Bay is certainly possible, but it will only involve A.J. Hawk if he agrees to take significantly less money. The Bills are very cheap and according to posts by some Green Bay fans Hawk is due something like $ 10 million next year in salary and roster bonus. The Bills would not pay this much to their two time Pro Bowl left tackle Jason Peters, so they certainly will not pay this to Hawk.

  2. I thought the “wildcat” was first used in 2007 when Carolina did it to beat Atlanta? That was on one of your post before!!

  3. Another column with research and facts, good job.
    Anyone who thinks Ben Roethlisberger will lose his first two or three games back due to his performance is a moron. If anything he’ll have a chip on his shoulder and do great.
    Your dead on that Ben’s gone with any more off field crap, but I’m convinced that is history. Great for the Steelers and bad for the rest of the league.
    Superbowl number seven is coming baby!

  4. Good stuff.
    I bet you piss a lot of people off when they see you do your segments with Peter King, Rodney Harrison or when Al Michaels tells us to check out PFT.
    Seemed like filler at first, but looks like it’s a Sunday night fixture. Hope they at least give you a nice room, even an office in the basement at 30 Rock with a sofa in it would be something to brag about.
    I don’t see games going to PPV as long as the networks are throwing money the NFL. With games continuing to set rating highs that is not changing soon.

  5. The single wing is based on having more blockers than tacklers. In it’s purest form it’s power football.
    It’s not based on misdirection and/or confusion. That’s just a by-product of most NFL players and coaches not seeing it since high school. But even that’s changing since the ‘Phins unveiled 2 years ago.
    More b.s. from Mike ‘I never played the game’ Florio…

  6. I’ve got to think that putting a percentage on a players availability is just as troublesome as “probable”
    so what happens when all four of your 75% available guys don’t play?

  7. Lynch for Hawk is not worth it for the Bills. Lynch is a much better player with more potential. Hawk is on a downhill slide. As for the Patriots, I don’t think Buffalo would take anything less than a third round pick. Last, Gailey has featured Marshawn as the main back in the past two games, so I’m not too sure chan is ready to give him up. Don’t count out Lynch signing a long term deal as long as he is playing more than CJ and Freddy.

  8. wait wait ……………. Favre is think of a way to get some “attention ” right now stay tuned.

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