NFC North weekend mailbag

I'm guessing most of you quickly grew tired of last year's lyric-inspired introductions to the weekend mailbag, so we'll try something a little more topical this spring. In honor of the Lombardi Trophy returning to Green Bay, let's see if we can find a relevant Vince Lombardi quote to get us in the appropriate mood.

Two weeks ago, we were awaiting kickoff for Super Bowl XLV. Next weekend, we'll be in Indianapolis for the annual scouting combine. This weekend, we rest and reflect.

Lombardi: After all the cheers have died down and the stadium is empty, after the headlines have been written, and after you are back in the quiet of your room and the championship ring has been placed on the dresser and after all the pomp and fanfare have faded, the enduring thing that is left is the dedication to doing with our lives the very best we can to make the world a better place in which to live.

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Ben of Missoula, Montana, writes: My buddy and I were discussing the lockout situation and the issue of the NFL substance abuse program came up. If the NFL and NFLPA don't reach a new deal by March 3, on March 4 can the NFL enforce any sort of substance abuse program on the players? Essentially if a new deal is stalled, can players start taking steroids because they will no longer be subject to NFL oversight on drug tests?

Kevin Seifert: It's an interesting thought, Ben. My friend Alex Marvez of FoxSports.com asked an NFL spokesman a related question this week on the personal conduct policy. The spokesman declined comment, indicating, at the very least, that the answer is complicated and will probably be part of the eventual collective bargaining agreement (CBA).

Whether a player arrested during the lockout can be disciplined is one thing. But there is much more gray area involved with a player who might use banned substances during a lockout. Players who are banned from work might not be subject to tests during that period, but any player who takes steroids would run the risk of testing positive after the lockout ends. You're punished for testing positive, not for taking the substances. The difference is subtle but important.

No one could predict the exact date a lockout would end, nor the rules that would apply at that point. Trying to time a "cycle" would be awfully risky.

Travis of Kalamazoo, Mich., writes: Being both a diehard Packer fan as well as an Ohio State football fan, one of my favorite players is A.J. Hawk. I remember A.J. saying back in his Ohio State days that he was growing out his hair until they won a championship. I was wondering if A.J. has any plans to shave the head now that he is a champion.

Kevin Seifert: I participated in one of Hawk's interview sessions at the Super Bowl, and he said his long hair has become a tribute to the late Pat Tillman. I can't profess to have intimate knowledge of his long-term hair style plans, but it is definitely about more than winning a championship.

During our SportsNation chat, Jon of Washington, D.C., asked if the Bears would keep both Chester Taylor and Matt Forte in 2011. I thought the question was worth bringing to the mailbag as well.

Kevin Seifert: From a production standpoint, Taylor was a disappointment in 2010. As we've noted, he was the first running back in post-merger history to average less than 2.5 yards per carry in a season that included at least 100 attempts. But after earning nearly $7 million in salary and guaranteed bonuses last season, Taylor has a pretty reasonable salary next season of about $1.5 million. At that figure, the Bears might as well bring him back and see what they can get out of him in 2011.

Forte is hoping the Bears extend his rookie contract, which expires after next season, and nothing that happened last season should compel the Bears to do anything but comply. They obviously aren't required to do anything for him, but Forte was clearly their best runner last season and is a good fit for Mike Martz's offense.

Via Twitter, @vikings1998 asked if the Minnesota Vikings might pursue safety Bob Sanders, whom the Indianapolis Colts released Friday. @bobbyg640 wondered if the Detroit Lions might do the same.

Kevin Seifert: Both teams could have an opening for at least one starting safety, pushing us into a 2011 version of the O.J. Atogwe debate we had for most of last offseason.

It would be surprising if the Vikings bring back free safety Madieu Williams, and we're only making an educated guess by assuming that Husain Abdullah is a lock to start at strong safety. Sanders would easily be the most skilled safety on the Vikings roster if they signed him today.

The Lions are set with Louis Delmas at free safety, but they finished the season with converted cornerback Amari Spievey on the strong side. There is certainly some interest in seeing what Spievey could do at the position with a full offseason and training camp to work on it, but Sanders would certainly be a short-term upgrade.

At this time of year, however, we have to temper our excitement about so-called "name" players. The fact of the matter is Sanders will turn 30 later this month and has missed literally scores of games in his career because of injuries. In fact, let's look at his annual games-played totals since his career began:

2004: 6

2005: 14

2006: 4

2007: 15

2008: 6

2009: 2

2010: 1

Vikings coach Leslie Frazier worked with the Colts' defensive backs coach during two of Sanders' seasons and thus has some familiarity with him. But realistically, Sanders is a player you take a flyer on -- not one you build your 2011 defense around or even one that you can count on for an upgrade.