Sunday's Pro Bowl was on the minds of many AFC North readers this week. So let's get to some questions.
Rich Yampell from Bellevue, Wash., wants to know if the earlier date for the Pro Bowl is causing more players not to participate.
James Walker: Yes, Rich, it is a factor. Many Pro Bowl players come from playoff teams, and a two-week difference definitely helps the body recuperate. Also, players from the two Super Bowl teams aren't guaranteed to back out in its old slot. I think this year's Pro Bowl is an experiment to see the pros and cons, and the league will evaluate the situation once it is complete.
Tim from Toronto is curious if withdrawals and alternates still receive bonuses for making the Pro Bowl.
Walker: For the players who have Pro Bowl incentives in their contracts, yes. They all collect bonuses for making the team. The incentive is meant to award players for having a Pro Bowl-caliber season, not for playing in the actual game.
Brandon from Charlotte, N.C., writes: What do you think about making the Pro Bowl what it was first designed for: The champs taking on a team of all-stars?
Walker: Well, you can't have that if the Pro Bowl is a week before the Super Bowl, because you won't know who the champions are. That's the way the game is currently set up. As for making the Super Bowl team play again, there are too many injury risks in football. The champions just played 19 or 20 games, not including the preseason, and by now everybody is beat up. So I think it's a bad idea.
RJ from Virginia Beach, Va., wants to know if Pittsburgh Steelers nose tackle Casey Hampton feels the same way about the franchise tag as counterpart Vince Wilfork of the New England Patriots.
Walker: Hampton is in the same boat with Wilfork and most Pro Bowl-caliber players: They do not want the franchise tag. The primary reason is the lack of long-term security. Hampton is 32, and he can make more money now in a long-term deal than he would as a 33-year-old nose tackle next offseason. He also could get injured next season, which would drastically hurt his value. But I expect the Steelers to franchise Hampton anyway, even if he's not happy about it.
Zach Schutz from Alexandria, Va., wants to know if there is a chance the Baltimore Ravens trade up in the draft to get Oklahoma receiver Dez Bryant.
Walker: Right now I would say no, Zach, because the Ravens would have to trade up pretty high. Bryant is the clear-cut No. 1 receiver in the draft this year and should go in the top 15. The Ravens sit at No. 25, so they would have to give up a huge bounty to move up 10 or more spots. Unless Bryant's stock falls in the next few months, he will be out of reach for Baltimore.
Becky from Galloway, Ohio, writes: Is Carson Palmer on the "hot seat" for the 2010 season? How much is he responsible for the fall off at the end of the season?
Walker: Becky, Palmer already is being grilled in the Queen City. So, yes, 2010 is big for him. The bar is naturally high for Palmer because he's one of the NFL's few $100 million quarterbacks. He really needed to get his first win in the playoffs to silence the critics, but he didn't play well in the game. As the quarterback and leader, there's always some blame in Palmer's lap for the team's 1-4 finish. But I believe with better receivers and improved pass protection, Palmer will have a better 2010.
Matt from El Paso, Texas, wants to know the chances of Brady Quinn remaining a starting quarterback for the Cleveland Browns in 2010.
Walker: Browns president Mike Holmgren isn't committing to any quarterback right now, which is status quo when new leadership enters the building. But I think it is Cleveland's utmost priority for Holmgren and new general manager Tom Heckert to figure out this position sooner than later. If Quinn is their guy, go with him and start building around his strengths in the offseason so the team can move forward. If not, build around someone else. I don't feel another quarterback competition is best for this franchise. I’ve seen so many in Cleveland over the years and it never seems to work for the Browns.