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Landscape changes in NE

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

Ryan from Jacksonville:
Couldn't Mike Nolan purposely break the rules regarding what can and can't be worn, like Clinton Portis does, and just pay the fine each week? How much would that fine be?

Vic: Clinton Portis' situation is rather comical. He was fined $10,000 for willfully violating the NFL dress code last year. Portis was cited for wearing red socks instead of white socks. Portis said he knew he would be fined but "I had to change my outfit. The white socks had been killing me. If you're not looking sweet, you really can't play too sweet." Wow! Ten grand, huh? I really don't know what to say about something like that. That seems like a lot of money to pay for red socks. The Mike Nolan situation, however, is about a lot more than red socks. Should Nolan decide to wear a coat and tie – I'm sure that won't be his decision – instead of NFL-certified coaching garb, he would incur a heavy fine. The NFL has already warned him that he can't do it, so it would be in willful violation. Most importantly, it would be seen as a decision that would potentially threaten a major sponsorship deal, which would force the NFL to treat the violation very sternly. This is a very interesting issue. I've always said professional football is about the money, and this issue is clearly about the money, but it also introduces another major issue: personal freedoms. I can see both sides of the coin on this one. It has major debate potential.

Tyler from Des Moines, IA:
Who do you think was the better rookie kicker last year, Kaeding or Scobee? I'm split on this one because both of the kickers are great.

Vic: Nate Kaeding had a better field goal percentage than Josh Scobee. Kaeding was 20 of 25; Scobee was 24 of 31. Both guys had long field goals of 53 yards. Scobee was 21 of 21 in PAT kicks; Kaeding was 54 of 55. Where Scobee had a significant edge over Kaeding was in kickoffs. Scobee had 11 touchbacks and Kaeding had two. Both kickers were in warm climates, so, the comparison is credible. Looking at those numbers, I would surmise that Scobee has a stronger leg and more upside.

Keath from Orlando, FL:
I was just wondering if you would go over the existing contracts of Tom Brady and Peyton Manning and tell us how that will relate over the next 3-4 years. These are hefty sums of money for teams on the way down, eh?

Vic: Tom Brady's new deal changes the landscape of the Patriots' salary cap structure for the next several years. Brady had two years left on his contract when he recently got a four-year extension. The new deal includes a $14.5 million signing bonus and a $12 million option bonus to be paid in March of 2006. The total deal would pay Brady $60 million. What it boils down to are these salary cap numbers: $8.4 million in '05, $14.4 million in '06, $11.9 million in '07, $13.9 million in '08, $13.9 million in '09 and $6.5 million in 2010. That $6.5 million figure is minus Brady's proration because money can't be prorated more than three years beyond the current CBA, which expires after the '06 season. What you can see from those cap numbers is that Brady, all of a sudden, has become a major cap hit, which a player of his accomplishments should be. Two years ago, Brady was a mere $3.1 million hit when the Patriots won the Super Bowl. See what I mean? Winning is going to get a lot tougher for the Pats. Even still, Brady is a bargain compared to what the Colts are paying Peyton Manning. Manning got a $34.5 million signing bonus in the seven-year deal he signed last spring. Look at his cap numbers: $8.4 million in '05, $17.8 million in '06, $14.7 million in '07, $15.2 million in '08, $17.7 million in '09 and $15.8 million in 2010. That last figure is without his proration. Whoa! The Colts will have to begin re-structuring Manning when he hits that $17.8 million figure in '06, and that's only going to make the situation worse.

Ken from Jacksonville:
I enjoyed your response about Joe Ferguson, but my favorite player from that era was Patriots QB Steve Grogan. To me, he epitomized the QB position; tough, gritty, unquestionable leadership, a great arm and the ability to scramble and run. He also called his own plays in an era when that was increasingly rare. Do you have a favorite Steve Grogan story, or can you give us some insight on the player from your own perspective?

Vic: It was not rare for quarterbacks of that period to call their own plays. Most of them did. Grogan was the guy who pushed Jim Plunkett out of New England. Grogan was a fifth-round pick in 1975 who became a much better quarterback than anybody had obviously thought possible. He had all of the tools; 6-4, good arm, mobile, etc. He played for 16 years and threw for 26,886 yards and 182 touchdowns, and most of that was on bad teams. He rushed for 539 yards and five touchdowns in 1978; he rushed for 12 touchdowns in '76. My most distinct memory of Grogan is from the '76 playoffs. He and the Patriots were robbed by poor officiating in a loss at Oakland. It was one of the worst-officiated games I have ever seen. The officials allowed the Raiders' George Atkinson to literally punch Pats star tight end Russ Francis in the nose, breaking Francis' nose. The punch was so flagrant that it was easily captured by television. The Patriots out-played the Raiders in that game and would've won if it weren't for several horrible calls. It was a travesty of justice in a season in which the Raiders were repeatedly rewarded for such acts.

John from Jacksonville Beach, FL:
: I would like to know what you think of Toefield. Is he a career backup or could he be a quality starter?

Vic: LaBrandon Toefield had a sensational rookie season. In a limited role, he rushed for 212 yards, a 4.0 yards-per-carry average and two touchdowns. He also caught 14 passes for 105 yards and a touchdown. He was so impressive last spring that I thought he would become the first true third-down back this team has had since Tavian Banks was injured. I was expecting a major surge from Toefield last year, but it didn't happen. He rushed for 169 yards, a 3.3 average and no touchdowns. He caught more passes – 28 for 151 yards and one touchdown – but he just didn't seem to make the impact most of us expected. This year will be the litmus test. Which player is he? We'll find out.

Chris from Pass Christian, MS:
I have heard that on young teams a guy like Jerry Rice with impeccable work habits is a good thing to have around to tutor the young guys. I don't know if Jimmy Smith has the same habits as Rice, but since he's lasted so long I'm assuming he does. How much do guys like Smith and Rice influence the young guys and how much of this chemistry is overlooked?

Vic: Chemistry is important and hard-working veterans are a positive influence on young players, but I'm not into this mentoring stuff. Players play and coaches coach.

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