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An appetite for contact

Join Senior Editor Vic Ketchman as he tackles the fans' tough questions.

Eric from Norfolk, VA:
What's the rule on unsigned rookies being able to be attend camp? Are they allowed to at least be in camp but not participate?

Vic: The rule is they cannot join the team in any capacity until they are under contract. They can't eat with the team, sleep with the team, shower with the team or use any of the team's facilities, which I suspect would include the team toilet. They can come to camp and sit in the stands, if they'd like, and I think they can get autographs, too, but that's as close as they can get to the team until they sign a contract and become a member of the team.

Mike from Indianapolis, IN:
Spoken like a perennial loser.

Vic: Third and two.

Dale from Hampton, VA:
In a nine-on-seven drill, who is left out on either side?

Vic: It's an inside running drill pitting nine offensive players (everybody but the two wide receivers), against seven defensive players (four defensive linemen and three linebackers, or vice versa).

Kevin from Jacksonville:
Cameron Stephenson looked fairly impressive during the Oklahoma drill. Did he win each of his attempts? Also, Tim Shaw certainly thumped Zach Miller really good both times during their matchup, but Miller seemed to hold the block and allow the runner through both times. Which is better, a good thump or a block that allows the runner a hole to pass through?

Vic: The Oklahoma is a thump drill. It's about what happens at the point of attack and which player strikes the dominant blow. It's my judgment that Shaw struck the dominant blow in both falls. Miller gets credit for withstanding the impact, keeping his feet and maintaining his block, but when a play is run right at a defender, his job is to hold the point and make the back veer, which Shaw did. In contrast, Thomas Williams failed to hold the point against Brad Meester, which allowed the back to burst through the hole and not have to veer into traffic. In the first fall of Shaw-Miller, Shaw got the thump and then moved into the running back's path. You can't expect more from a linebacker who is three yards off the line of scrimmage. On the second one, Shaw struck the blow and was in the process of moving into the running back's path when a possible hold may have occurred. I'm not trying to get down on Miller. He's a small-college quarterback making the transition to NFL tight end. I loved the way he hung in there after having his helmet knocked off, which is usually a pretty good indication of impact. Shaw's not a sack-you, strip-you linebacker. No one is going to confuse him with James Harrison, but you have to respect his fundamentals. He sunk his hips, kept his head up, his shoulders square to the line of scrimmage and struck the rising blow. That's great tape for a kid to watch who wants to learn how to take on and defeat a block. In terms of old-school football, it was a thing of beauty. As far as Miller is concerned, he's gonna get better and better. He has dramatic upside as a receiver and as a blocker. Stephenson has been outstanding. He is really developing into a guard/center of the future. He's a jar on the shelf that bears watching. Yeah, I had him for three wins. He did a good job of mauling, but they weren't clean wins. I need to hear a thump to crown a guy.

Bill from Jacksonville:
Recently I've heard of a drill called "Bull in the Ring." I've heard no one uses it because it's very high risk of injury, but I have no idea how the drill was run. Can you elaborate?

Vic: It's a junior high/high school drill commonly used to introduce an element of toughness to a team, or to find out who has an appetite for contact. A group of players form a circle and one of the players is positioned inside the circle. The players in the circle may be assigned numbers, say 1-10 or so. A coach calls out a number and that player charges out of the circle at the player in the middle. The charging player may come from behind the player in the middle, so he has to turn and find the charging player and then ready himself for the one-shot contact, and then ready himself again for the next charging player. There's a similar drilled called "machine gun." It's all macho, old-school stuff to condition players to contact. I remember it having been used as a weeding-out drill, too. Having grown up in the peak of the baby boom, the competition for everything from roster spots to matinee tickets was intense. If a coach needed to get rid of some kids, "bull in the ring" and "machine gun" were good drills for it. The coach would routinely find that a few kids didn't show up for the next practice. We did a version of Oklahoma that was unique. There was no blocker or quarterback, just a ball-carrier and a defender. The defender was positioned on his back between two tight bags. The ball-carrier was in a three-point stance three yards from the defender. At the sound of the whistle, the back charged straight at the defender, who had to come up off his back and make the tackle. A defender slow to his feet would get run over. Again, it was just one of those drills that conditioned players to contact. They were also used as punishment. Those days are kind of gone, I think.

Jeff from Okpo, Korea:
Can the commissioner step in and declare that all rookies receive the league minimum salary on a one-year contract, automatically after being drafted? That way, there are no holdouts and they have to prove themselves worthy of a fat contract in the future, or will the player's union squash this?

Vic: The player's union would most definitely squash that. The union would have to agree to those terms in its Collective Bargaining Agreement with the league.

Brian from Alabaster, AL:
I saw where Michael Crabtree's advisor has told the media that he is ready to sit the entire season and wait for the draft again. Do you think Crabtree is this stupid or does he have an idiot for an advisor?

Vic: I don't know, but if I was the 49ers, I'd be willing to find out. I am a very patient person.

Ross from Jacksonville:
The Kenny Chesney concert is sold out. Doesn't that entitle me to see it for free on TV?

Vic: Only if Chesney is performing at a facility built by taxpayer money.

Olly from Oxford, England:
Thanks to you and the IT team for the Oklahoma coverage.

Vic: The IT guys have just done a fantastic job this week. I can't tell you how proud I am of Ryan Robinson's contribution has been a difference-maker. We have a group of people who share a vision and a want-to for and it's the kind of thing that makes it fun to go to work, kind of.

Dustin from Indianapolis, IN:
In reference to your Aug. 5 comment to Vince, are you suggesting that Warner and Brady, too, are chokers?

Vic: How could you ask that? Look at the last two Super Bowls. When Tom Brady got the ball late in the game, needing a score to win, he moved the Patriots right down the field. Kurt Warner did the same. The problem for Brady and Warner is that they left enough time on the clock for Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger to do the same thing. Those four quarterbacks were outstanding at crunch time. You're trying to confuse the issue, which is what you people always try to do by using stats and convoluting the facts. Just accept it.

Mark from Yulee, FL:
To preface this, I fully understand the ramifications of not buying tickets. I feel bad that I am not able to afford tickets for my family. Here is my question: I believe the Jaguars have a contract with a local TV station. When the blackout occurs, is the TV station still required to pay their full share of the contract?

Vic: The Jaguars do not have a contract with a local TV station to televise their games. The NFL has a contract with several networks to televise the league's games. Whether the Jaguars' home games are shown or blacked out, every team in the league, including the Jaguars, gets a full share of the NFL's TV contract revenue. It's become clear to me Jaguars fans have been laboring under terrible misconceptions about blackouts, TV revenue, ticket revenue, etc., and I apologize for not having gotten the correct information to you earlier.

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