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"Ask Vic" will publish on Mondays and Thursdays through the offseason.
Adam from Chicago, IL
I guess that's all she wrote for Spriggs. The draft really is a crystal ball business. What are your thoughts on his time in Green Bay?
I remember Tony Pauline telling me Spriggs' production didn't equal his physical appearance and potential. The Packers looked into their crystal ball and saw another kind of player, but what they got was the player on tape. It happens. In this case, it's especially troubling because they traded up for him.
Billy from Farmingdale, NY
Jaire Alexander over Jalen Ramsey? Alexander had a good rookie year, but Ramsey is an All-Pro and made the Pro Bowl in all but his rookie season. Ramsey took Antonio Brown out of a game for two picks. Alexander allowed Adam Theilen and Stefon Diggs to go for 12 catches, 130 yards, two TDs and eight catches, 128 yards and one TD respectively; in the second matchup he allowed Theilen eight catches for 125 yards and a TD, and Diggs eight grabs for 77 yards and a score. I can count on one hand the amount of times Ramsey allowed such production. While I'm sure this isn't all on Alexander, it's asinine to consider him better than Ramsey at this point. Does he have potential? Sure, but until he proves on the field he's better than Ramsey, he's not. To be the best you gotta beat the best. Right now, Ramsey is the best and the benchmark for being elite. The off-the-field antics for Ramsey aren't enough for Jaire to close the gap to what he's shown on the field. Obviously, time will tell but I think this is a dishonest take.
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Vic, how are voidable years legal? This whole voidable year stuff feels cheap and credit card worthy.
We discussed this a few weeks ago. I said I thought voidables were a violation of the spirit of the cap, but the CBA provides for them and, therefore, are permissible for a team to use. The players love voidables because it helps them get the money.
Bob from Valley Springs, SD
Do you have any Jordy Nelson stories from your time with the Packers? He seems to be a quiet, unassuming guy who doesn't fit the wide receiver prototype.
That's probably why I don't have any stories about him to tell you. He was a player who did his job.
Brett from Peoria, IL
Can you explain how Tom Brady’s new contract works? I’ve read it will help the Patriots manage their cap, but I don’t quite understand how that’s being accomplished.
The Patriots gave Brady a two-year contract extension that gives Brady a whole lot of money and the Patriots two dummy years to help spread out that money and the money left from his previous contract. The result is about $5.5 million in additional cap space for the Patriots this year. In reality, the extension doesn't exist because Brady's contract voids at the end of this season. It's a ploy, it's a trick, but it's available for every team to use. It comes at a cost: dead money. The Patriots were winding down Brady's dead money in anticipation of his retirement; this dummy deal winds it back up. If Brady has a good season and the Patriots want to retain him as their quarterback, they'll probably do the same thing next year, and the dead money will increase. How do you wish to die?
Mitch from Winston, GA
You have mentioned the amount of time a draft pick has to "get good or get gone." Do coaches and personnel managers take the same approach with chronically injured players?
In the salary cap era, a lot of players have made the club in the tub.
Bill from Sheboygan, WI
What are your thoughts on the combined practice with the Texans and the Lonnie Johnson thing?
I like combined practices. They give teams additional opportunity to evaluate personnel, and in controlled circumstances. They also bring some spice to the monotony of training camp. As for Johnson, there's no place for that kind of show-off stuff, but I think the Packers doth protest too much. It came off as a little whiny, especially after Johnson was held out of the second practice. Benched because he might hurt somebody? That doesn't feel good. Also, I was surprised to read Aaron Rodgers' comments about his disdain for combined practices, especially following LaFleur's comments about how much he likes them and values the experience. Maybe LaFleur could give Rodgers the day off and sneak in an Oklahoma drill. It's good for the soul.
Jim from Brooklyn, NY
Football is a microcosm of life in many ways. Here's one way: "When they say it's not about the money, that's when it really is about the money." Another version is when a significant other says, "I don't like to make a big deal about my birthday," that's when you know they really want to make a big deal about their birthday.
And when they say it's the principle of the thing, it's really not the principle of the thing.
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So now Aaron is outright publicly criticizing Coach LaFleur's stance on joint practices, and also indicating the NFLPA should look at how Coach LaFleur structured the practice (live kickoff drills)? Is that how you interpreted this? What do you make of this?
I think the question about combined practices caught Rodgers in a mood, and my guess is he regrets what he said. It's important for leaders, especially one of the franchise's iconic players, as Rodgers is, to send the message to everyone on the team: No one is above this. No one is above competing. No one is above getting hit. Especially in this training camp, as a young rookie coach attempts to put his stamp on the Packers roster, it's of critical importance for a player of Rodgers' esteem to put his stamp of approval on the coach. Mike McCarthy didn't schedule combined practices. It appears this coach will. The comparison reminds me of the differences that separated Chuck Noll from Bill Cowher. Chuck didn't believe in whistles or horns at practice. Air horns echoed in the hills surrounding St. Vincent College in Bill's first training camp. Chuck didn't believe in pep talks; Bill was great at them. Every coach has a style and a belief system, and their success depends on the players' support. I'll always respect Rod Woodson, Carnell Lake, Gregg Lloyd and the holdovers from the Noll years in how they quickly shifted their support to Cowher.
Dave from Chippewa Falls, WI
I was just thinking about Plan B free agency. There were some good players that changed teams. What do you remember about it?
It was the first crack in the armor.
Enrique from Jacksonville, FL
Vic, any idea how people around the Jags office reacted when the players made their Super Bowl rap song in 1999? I imagine Coughlin was not pleased.
The name of the song was "Uh oh, Jaguars." When the Titans upset the Jaguars, I was struggling to think of a headline for the cover of Jaguars Inside Report, and I settled on "Uh oh, Titans." I don't think Tom Coughlin will ever forgive me.
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What is your opinion on scripting the first bunch of offensive plays? What is the strength and weakness to this approach?
Coaches had, in effect, been doing it long before someone popularized the concept. You pick plays that represent your game plan and might influence and expose your opponent's tendencies, and then you practice them in an order that focuses your offense for what you hope will be a fast start in the game. There's no downside. If you get a down and distance you weren't expecting, you change the script.
Cody from Turlock, CA
Vic, I was watching a replay of the Super Bowl and noticed the Patriots sideline seemed very disciplined and focused, down to positional coaches. Do you think the head coach has an affect on the personality of their sideline? Does it matter in your opinion?
The personality of a team's sideline is the personality of the team's coach.
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You wrote earlier about locker room interviews. How did you deal with someone tight-lipped, like Marshawn Lynch?
I avoided him.
Joe from Bloomington, IN
Za'Darius Smith says he works the sled each and every day. What does that tell you?
He plays with leverage.
Darren from Burlington, Canada
I read the column because I'm an old-fashioned mind in a young man's body, and I love your romantic writing of tough tales from a world gone by. This coddled, sensitive society ain't the one for me. Thanks.
An old mind in a young body spends a lifetime in loneliness. Try to be new.
Eric from Lansing, MI
I never knew why I would have wanted my dad to take me to a Packers game in the sixties. Now I do.
New memories begin today. It's never too late to create them.
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"Ask Vic" will publish on Mondays and Thursdays through the offseason.
Fred from Florida
Vic, I just read about the passing of Cliff Branch. What are your memories of him? I remember watching a TV show with Al Davis, who said Mel Blount had trouble with Branch. Was that true?
Davis was probably referring to Branch beating Blount deep in the 1974 AFC title game, which the Steelers won. Defensive Coordinator Bud Carson benched Blount for allowing Branch to get deep, and that began a bit of a feud between Bud and Mel that resulted in the Steelers selecting Dave Brown in the first round of the 1975 draft. Brown was picked to move Mel out, but it didn't happen because Blount's career blossomed in '75. Brown was left unprotected in the expansion draft and he went on to have a great career in Seattle. What I remember most about Blount and Branch is Blount picking Branch up, turning him upside down and driving his head into the turf. It was retaliation for the Raiders targeting Lynn Swann. It was also prominent in the criminal element trial, causing Coach Noll, under oath on the witness stand, to include Blount in the "criminal element." Mel countered by holding out of training camp for more money, but Noll's testimony did not drive a wedge between Noll and Blount, as Davis had hoped. Mel always spoke fondly of Coach Noll. Bud? Not so much.
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If Kevin King and Jaire Alexander are healthy this year, will they be the best cornerback tandem in the league?
Alexander is on his way toward becoming one of the best, maybe the best, cornerback in the league. Given a choice between Alexander and Jalen Ramsey, I'd take Alexander. King has played well when he's been healthy, which hasn't been often. If King can stay healthy — he’s out again — they could rank among the best cornerback tandems in the league.
Lori from Brookfield, WI
What was your perspective on "Family Night?"
When I covered the Packers, it reminded me of a school picnic.
John from Gladstone, MI
Twenty inductees to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2020?
It's becoming the Hall of Names.
Lonny from Aberdeen, SD
Why do I read this column? For you.
I write this column for you and for everyone who exploded my inbox with their responses following Thursday's "Ask Vic." I read every response. They give me a feel for what my readers want and expect from this column. I'll try to deliver on those expectations.
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Vic, Gil Brandt is being inducted into the Hall of Fame for his extensive work on player scouting. He helped us embrace the use of predictive analytics for forecasting a player's career trajectory. Prior to the emergence of analytics, how in the world were players' future abilities predicted?
They were predicted with a crystal ball by legendary scouts such as Fido Murphy, guys who crowded their homes into their cars and traveled the country in search of football talent. Identifying the prospects has never been a problem. Fitting them to the teams has always been the issue. Some teams are going to get the good ones and some teams are going to get the busts. What's changed?
Kirsten from Madison, WI
I've been watching the Packers for 30 years and know the overall game (offsides, pass interference, etc.). But I'd really like to better understand who's doing what, when and why. It's hard to pick it all apart, though, on the fly. So, do you have any tips? What are five things to focus on to start being able to break the game down?
1) Where are the safeties? 2) Where is the true tight end? 3) How wide are the offensive line splits? 4) Are the cornerbacks playing up or off? 5) What is the offense trying to accomplish by formation and motion? Kirsten, those are five questions I try to answer while watching a game. The answers give me an indication of the teams' game plans. I've got something a little more to the point for you to watch: What are the Packers going to do with all of those pass rushers they acquired? Are they going to load up at the line of scrimmage and bring the house, so to speak? They've rebuilt their secondary with high picks and a free agent safety. Go light in the back and crowd the line of scrimmage? Try to answer that question.
Alex from Orlando, FL
Vic, what are your thoughts on Fred Taylor’s public display of frustration about not being voted No. 1 former Jaguar?
I think it goes back to his "Fragile Fred" days. He was deeply hurt by that cut, especially in 2001 when he suffered a devastating injury in which he tore the groin muscle off the bone. He was angry at being listed as questionable each week, a ploy by Tom Coughlin to deceive opponents but which Fred felt fueled "Fragile Fred" criticism. All these years later, I think Fred is voicing his hurt and frustration. I voted for Fred as No. 1 and Tony Boselli as No. 2. My reasoning is Fred's big plays are just too many and too important in the team's history to ignore, plus, he had the longer career. Fred's career spanned two eras of Jaguars football, the franchise's early rise and its post-Coughlin reconstruction. If I was making a case for Tony as No. 1, it would be for a few years in his all-too-short career, Tony was the best player in the league at his position. I'm hoping this 25th anniversary celebration will give Fred the closure he needs. He was a great player, the most talented running back I've ever covered, and arguably the greatest player in Jaguars history.
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You've talked before about how you think it's a little too easy to get into the Hall of Fame. I looked up how many people are members, and the count currently stands at 326. What's your gut reaction to that number? Too many? Just right? In 100 years of NFL football, do you think there have been 326 men worthy of the honor?
The Pro Football Hall of Fame didn't open its doors until 1963, which means it had a lot of induction catching up to do if it was going to attract visitors. I think it's caught up and it's time to slow down the induction train.
Matt from San Luis Obispo, CA
Vic, when you started out in the '70’s, were fans as interested in what we would call the soap opera side of football as they seem to be today? I can do without it.
The soap opera side, yes, but not as much with crime and punishment. The league and its fans were content to allow the police and the courts to enforce justice. My opinion has always been if a guy's not in jail, put on the pads. I think the league, especially in the Roger Goodell years, has become way too concerned with punishing players who've become embroiled in flaps with the law. In some cases, players were punished by the league without even having been charged with a crime. I want the league to rule on football matters, such as deflated balls and bounties, and leave the big stuff to the police.
Dan from Westboro, WI
Did you catch your fish? How did you cook it?
I caught two spot tail, four croakers and something with a blue spot near its gill. I released them all; the spot tail were just shy of the 15-inch limit. When I bought the shrimp (bait), I thought to myself, "I'm either going to have fish or shrimp for dinner tonight." As it turned out, I had shrimp and it might've been the best shrimp I've ever eaten. I have a feeling the shrimpers are having a great season.
Travis from Oshawa, Canada
It seems like Matt LaFleur's word is "urgency," whereas Bill Belichick is known for the phrase "Do your job." What word or phrase do you remember being emphasized in practice by Noll, Coughlin and McCarthy?
Coach Noll was big on leverage. He spoke often of that word. "Play with leverage," he would say. "Under and up; strike the rising blow." When I think of Tom Coughlin's practices, I think of precision. Coughlin possesses a military-like discipline. I can remember his travel itinerary including the words "secure lunches." During practice, a horn would blow, an intern would hold up a huge card with "Period 2" on it and a voice would boom, "Period 2, Period 2." Tom was fond of the words "crystal clear," and everything about his practice regimen was precise and crystal clear. Mike McCarthy's buzz word was tempo. He was vigilant about maintaining a fast tempo. He would count reps and it was a good practice if his team squeezed extra reps into the timed periods. Coach McCarthy's teams were good in the heat and in shape to begin the season, despite his starters having played little in the preseason, and I think it was the tempo of practices that were the reason for their conditioning.
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Vic, Baker Mayfield said the biggest lesson he learned in college was “don’t run from the cops." Is he the type of edgy player you would have enjoyed covering?
I haven't formed an opinion about him, yet. He's certainly confrontational, and that's good, but he's also disruptive, and that can become problematic. I'll judge him by how he plays in big games. When you win the big ones, everything you say and do is right.
Nick from Goose Lake, IA
What do you remember about McKay and the 0-26 Bucs?
I remember Coach Noll avoiding questions about the Bucs the week they were to play the Steelers in 1976. Chuck adhered to his mantra "this is the most important game we'll play this season because it's the next game we'll play," and he would refrain from discussing subjects that would dull his team's focus, but not that week. He was more than willing to talk about anything but the Bucs. Why? Because there was nothing good to say about them. They were horrible. Final score, 42-0. I'm not sure it was a good move for McKay to leave USC. He would've won more national titles. His legend would've grown. He was a sensational coach.
Craig from Cedarburg, WI
With Mike Daniels signing with Detroit for what I understand he was going to make with Green Bay, why didn't the Packers trade him? I understand not wanting to trade him within the division, but look where he ended up.
Picks, not players.
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What was the biggest advantage you had writing about the NFL that you would have lost if you were mainly covering a different sport?
I covered a lot of baseball, especially before training camp would open in July. I loved baseball, but the players just weren't as cooperative with the media. I couldn't wait for training camp to begin because that's where the stories were. The competition was open for all to see, writers were encouraged to write about it and the players and coaches were eager to discuss it. The access was wonderful. It wasn't like that during my last few years covering the NFL. In the beginning, I felt welcome. In the end, I felt unnecessary.
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I love football, but somehow I want the offseason to last a little longer this year. Maybe there is too much bluster for me nowadays. Did you ever not look forward to the football season?
Our involvement in football was/is different. For me, there was no offseason. If you're dreading the start of another season, it might be because football has become too important in your life and it's beginning to wear on you. That's why I advocate fans adopting a more even perspective. There's no reason for fans to feel angst. If the game or the performance of the team is making you unhappy, find something else to do. You'll come back to football and it'll be waiting for your return. Saints fans need to find something else to do. They've lost control of their emotions and more hurt is on the way.
Nate from Sioux City, IA
Branching off the idea of socialism working in the NFL: Isn’t something like this exactly what college football needs; revenue sharing and a draft similar to the NFL?
College football needs standardization and a central ruling body with the teeth to govern, instead of five separate ruling bodies afraid to bite the hand that feeds them.
Aaron from White Hall, AR
Aaron Rodgers on his relationship with Matt LaFleur: "What I can say is that (we) are friends." We won't know how this plays out until the season goes along, but to me a coach and any player shouldn't be viewed as friends. Hearing that just didn't sit right with me, but maybe I see things differently. I'm a Jaguars fan, so it really doesn't affect me. Just wanted your thoughts.
Times have changed. Mike Singletary tried to be Vince Lombardi; it didn't work.
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What do you think of Jalen Ramsey showing up in a Brinks truck for training camp? Would the old Tom Coughlin have tolerated such antics?
Coach Coughlin put up with more than you might think, it's just it wasn't as openly dramatic as Ramsey's training camp arrival. The better you are, the more you're tolerated; it's always been that way. Ernie Holmes tried to shoot down a police helicopter. Ramsey can be overly dramatic. So can Antonio Brown. He arrived at training camp in a balloon. It's kind of the way things are with today's players. The truth is on the tape. When the tape says Ramsey isn't worth an armored truck, or if and when he becomes a distraction with which the team can no longer live, Tom Coughlin's tolerance will have expired.
Sam from Olathe, KS
Maybe letting each team negotiate its own TV deal might not be so bad. Living in Kansas, I might actually see the Packers play on TV more often. Why is it good to have the league be in control of TV?
If the Bears were permitted to cut their own TV deal, I would expect them to slowly pull away from the rest of the NFC North. Since fan followings are built on winning, theirs would grow and their competition's would decline. I think you know the rest.
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If you were still covering the Packers, what would you be watching the first few practices of training camp to get a feel for where the team was heading under a rookie head coach?
I don't think today's training camps offer much in the way of feel for a team. They're too watered down. September is the new preseason.
Steve from Phoenix, AZ
Personally, I suspect this Rodgers play-calling thing is largely a media driven issue rather than a real controversy, from the coach's and the QB's perspective. As a reporter, with access to players and coaches, how would you seek to get at the truth. Who would you talk to and what questions would you ask?
A good reporter has sources he trusts. There are always leaks, but their identity is never revealed.
Samuel from Jacksonville, FL
Do you still have the same hunger to consume football, or has that diminished with time?
I have the same old hunger on game day, but not on the other days. The hype bores me. The Steelers and Raiders were no hype. They truly hated each other.
Chad from Kansas City, MO
If you could change only one play, or outcome thereof, which would it be? I would have liked to see Julius Peppers not tell Morgan Burnett to get down when he had an open field in Seattle.
The two obvious plays are the Starr sneak and the "Immaculate Reception." How would the Packers and Steelers franchises be different today had Starr been stopped and Franco Harris not caught that deflection? The Lombardi legend? Would Lambeau Field still possess the same allure? Would the Steelers still have gone on their magical run?
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My favorite part of your column is dropping names of the old guys and reading about them. Not much on Sidney Thornton other than being a second-round pick and playing six years in the NFL. There must be another story about someone who would ice their good ankle.
Sidney was acting on the advice of a witch doctor from his native Louisiana. Sid was a funny guy. He was infamous for being late to practice and he was taxing Coach Noll's patience when Sid fumbled four times in a season opener, the final fumble having been returned for the game-losing touchdown when the Steelers were in kill-the-clock mode. After the game, Coach Noll was asked about Sid's performance. "Sidney has many problems and they are great," Noll deadpanned, causing reporters to giggle. Noll was then asked what he was going to do about Sidney's fumbling. "What are they doing in Iran?" Noll said as he made a chopping motion on his hand. The room exploded with laughter. Thank you, Sidney, for one of the memorable moments in my sports writing career.
Cindy from Los Angeles, CA
Your descriptions of attending live games are so visceral they make me want to go, but nosebleed tickets these days are upwards of $200 or more, depending on the stadium. I'm not convinced that from that high up I would be able to see anyone's bloody nose or get the color pop of the uniforms. Sitting closer runs over $600 per ticket. Do you think it's worth the cost to experience the game like that?
No. The NFL's greatest failure is its inability to control ticket prices. The league has betrayed the largest segment of its fan base.
Aaron from St. Paul, MN
The Packers cut Daniels, while the Vikings worked hard to keep Rudolph. Do the Packers still have their sights on the future or is this not comparable?
It's not comparable. The Vikings wanted to keep Rudolph; the Packers wanted to replace Daniels. I've long felt Daniels was playing out of position with the Packers. I don't think he's a natural 3-4 end; I think he's a pure 4-3 tackle. It's one of the reasons I really respect what Mike did with the Packers. I think he played out of position and still played well. I think he could flourish in the Lions' scheme.
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"Ask Vic" will publish on Mondays and Thursdays through the offseason.
Steve from Montclair, NJ
Vic, what is your take on Mike Daniels being cut?
It surprised me, but I think the answer to your question is obvious: Brian Gutekunst and Mike Pettine are rebuilding the defense according to their vision and Pettine's scheme. Mike didn't fit into either.
Nick from Waukesha, WI
Vic, might you consider an official “Ask Vic” Instagram account? It would offer an opportunity to share with your fans photos from throughout your career as well as those from present-day kayak trips, walks around the marina, or even trips to the outhouse of your favorite restaurant. It would provide a visual complement to the pictures you paint with words and give fans a chance to see the island of misfit toys that fits your eye so well.
Sounds like work. I like "Ask Vic" the way it is. It's understated and relaxed. It's a place for words.
Ben from Alameda, CA
What would have happened in the '60's if home games weren't blacked out on television? My more recent experience with Raiders blackouts hasn't increased my desire to buy game tickets. I just find something else to watch or do.
If home games in the '60's were shown on TV, I probably would've watched the games with my father at home on our black and white Admiral TV. I wouldn't have watched my father buy tickets for $3 each from a guy standing outside Forbes Field. I wouldn't have had to console my father when he discovered the tickets were behind the home plate screen. I wouldn't have learned how to control my lust for ballpark hot dogs as their aroma from inside the vendor's metal box filled my nostrils. "Your mother will have dinner waiting for us," my father would say. I wouldn't have had to sit near people I didn't know and would never see again, and listen to them cheer and boo and share in each other's joy and disappointment. I would've never asked my father "What's that?" as I pointed to a structure he said was the press box. Little did I know, huh? I would've never seen Bobby Layne's bloody nose in real life, or how beautiful the Giants' blood red numbers and stripes were on their white jerseys. As I write these words, a framed picture of Forbes Field hangs from the wall directly in front of me. It's an aerial view from behind home plate. I can see exactly where my father bought the tickets, and I can see the White Tower on the other side of the street, where my father bought a coffee and a hot chocolate because once we walked across the street and into the ballpark the prices jumped. "We're here to see a football game, not eat," he would say. Life was good. I'm glad I can relive it.
Lori from Brookfield, WI
Vic, Kirk Cousins has said he uses a hyperbaric chamber to help himself recuperate from football injuries. What is the most interesting healing technique you have encountered?
A running back named Sidney Thornton treated his sprained ankle by soaking his good ankle in a bucket of ice water.
Alan from Albuquerque, NM
Vic, now that the Packers have spent themselves into the red, what does their cap look like?
In terms of real money, the worst is over. As for the cap, the worst is ahead.
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If you could go back and fix realignment, what would you do?
The league did it the right way. My interest in 2002 was purely selfish. I wanted to see the Jaguars stay with the Steelers, Browns and Ravens because that was good for me professionally and, in my opinion, good for the team I covered. What the league did was create three divisions in each conference that played to traditional and geographical rivalries. That meant there would have to be one division of leftovers in each conference: AFC South and NFC West. That plan caused the least amount of disruption. My plan in the AFC was to put the Bengals in with the Colts and Titans, which created the potential for strong geographic rivalry, and include the expansion Texans, who had the obvious Oilers tie to the Titans. All these years later, I think the Jaguars have evolved nicely in the AFC South, but you saw what happened last year when they played the Steelers. It was another show-stopper. The place was full and the winning touchdown was scored with five seconds to play in the game.
Scott from Lincoln City, OR
How do you think "your" Steelers are going to do this year without Antonio Brown and Le'Veon Bell?
I think it's time to be new, and that usually means taking a step back.
Bruce from New Canaan, CT
Borrowing liberally from "The Boss," I think the following lyrics sum up the whole Rodgers play-calling kerfuffle: "Poor man wanna be rich, rich man wanna be king, Rodgers ain't satisfied til he calls everything."
What if Matt LaFleur said Aaron Rodgers will have complete freedom to change the play on any and all downs? Hmmm, all of a sudden Rodgers is the offensive coordinator. All of a sudden, he owns it. Good luck with that.
Curt from Locust Grove, GA
I know socialism is a buzz word in politics so I completely understand why you wouldn't want to open this can of worms on here and I'm not advocating for socialism in society, but isn't what the NFL does in redistribution of the wealth from the rich teams to the poorer teams kind of a form of socialism with the government in this case being the league?
Yes. Does it disturb you it works?
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Vic, what are the top three storylines of the season for your three teams?
Jaguars -- Is Foles the answer? Will Ramsey continue to be a distraction? Is Fournette going to make a comeback? Packers -- Who's calling the plays? How will Pettine use his pass rushers? Is Aaron Jones who we think he is? Steelers -- Was it Ben or was it Brown? Will the defense begin protecting leads? Rebuild or reload?
Eric from Lansing, MI
Vic, I just saw an NFL legends film of Deion Sanders' career highlights. As a showboater, he was ahead of his time (in an ugly way). But as someone who played offense, defense and special teams, he was right out of the old NFL. Any Sanders stories you have to tell?
Old NFL? He was a bad and unwilling tackler. He couldn't have played for Lombardi.
Jim from Maple Grove, MN
In the alternate universe in which Pete Rozelle couldn't sell leaguethink, what does professional football look like today?
It would like college football. The Cowboys would have their own TV deal (Notre Dame), and the conferences or maybe even the divisions would negotiate TV rights much as college football's Power Five have.
Vincent from Seattle, WA
Vic, If you were king for a day in the NFL realm, in the interest of lessening brain injury, what type of helmet would you decree?
One without a facemask.
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If you could relive one season as a reporter, what year would you choose?
The 1978 and '96 seasons were special to me, but I think I'd like to relive my last season, 2015. I knew it was going to be my last, so it was a kind of victory tour for me. I was flooded with memories with each stop I made. It gave me a chance to say goodbye to people I had known for years but would probably never see again. It brought all of the seasons back to life. When the Packers reached the playoffs, I knew the possibility existed the next game would be the last game, which it was in Arizona. I used my phone to video my walk into the stadium that day; no words, just the walk, the last walk. It's the only press pass I ever saved.
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Ben from Hilo, HI
Which game had a greater and more lasting impact on college football, the 2006 Rose Bowl or the 2007 Fiesta Bowl?
It was the 1987 Fiesta Bowl. It began the fall. Google "The Night College Football Went To Hell." It's a great read.
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Which team do you think is overrated and heading for a fall?
I think it's the Rams. They ate up too much cap space too quickly, their star running back has a knee injury that might be threatening his career, their quarterback may be overrated, I think the coach is kind of weird, and the stigma of coming off a Super Bowl loss has ruined many a team.
Richard from St. Augustine, FL
How did you decide to live where you live considering your possible emergent health need?
None of us are getting out of this alive.
Geert from Old Windsor (wherever that is)
The NFL is not punishing Tyreek Hill. Why does this league perpetually fail to remove men of bad character?
Because it's not a game for the well-adjusted. That's not an attempt at humor. It's the truth.
Nate from Minneapolis, MN
Who is the most important player on the Packers defense right now?
With all due respect to Jaire Alexander, who I believe is the best player on the Packers defense, the most important player on the Packers defense will be the pass-rusher that plays up to the investment that was made in acquiring him.
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Vic, how did Pete Rozelle convince owners of large-market teams to do an even-revenue split? It's amazing he was able to pull that off.
Pete oozed intelligence and engendered confidence. He persuaded the owners to believe in his leaguethink approach, and the key owner was Wellington Mara. Without Mara agreeing to pool the revenue, the Packers franchise likely wouldn't be in Green Bay today. Before Rozelle negotiated the leaguewide TV deal with CBS in 1962, teams negotiated their own TV rights. For example, the Steelers and Colts had a combined TV deal. Back then, all home games were blacked out. So, if the Steelers were playing at home, we saw the Colts. If the Colts were at home, Baltimore saw the Steelers. The LA Rams had a deal with Admiral TV. In the book "The League," author David Harris paints a scene following negotiation of the '62 CBS deal in which Dan Rooney tells Rams owner Dan Reeves not to bring his TV cameras when he comes to Pittsburgh to play. It was all new stuff, and not all of the owners liked it, but when Mara agreed to it, everybody else had to do the same.
Robert from Rotterdam, The Netherlands
I've been enjoying the 25 seasons, 25 games feature on your old home turf, jaguars.com. Out of the 25-most memorable games in Jaguars history, eight are against the Steelers. Since you moved from covering the Steelers to covering the Jaguars, what was it like for you to experience a new franchise developing such a rivalry with one of the most storied franchises in the NFL?
It was wonderful. The games between the two teams in 1997 represent the only single-season, two-game series I ever covered in which each game ended on a touchdown. When the league was realigning the divisions in 2002, I tried to persuade Wayne Weaver to pursue moving into the AFC North with Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Baltimore. Dan Rooney told me he was in favor of it; he liked the idea of Jacksonville being to the AFC North what Miami was to the AFC East. Unfortunately, Wayne Huizenga was filling Weaver's head with baloney about moving into the AFC East with the Dolphins, Jets and Patriots, and Weaver wanted badly to be with the big-market teams. I knew it wasn't going to happen because those three teams and the Bills had a blood oath from their days in the AFL. That's exactly what happened and, when realignment was finalized, the AFC South became a dumping ground for leftovers. I think it hurt the Jaguars.
Nate from Plymouth, MN
I can't watch the news anymore. I feel like I'm having a children's book read to me.
Last week, a judge in Louisiana ruled a damage suit against the NFL involving the controversial no-call in last season's NFC title game may proceed. I've grown tired of the Saints. I hope they tank this year.
Braden from Milwaukee, WI
I'll try to ask the question in a better way, since it's been so long since we've had such change in Green Bay. Should we anticipate the Packers to make a deep playoff push? Or does change need time to be competitive in the NFL?
You won't stop, will you? Braden, the Packers have nearly spent themselves into the red. I have no expectations because I don't play that game, however, given what the Packers spent over the last fiscal year, I have to believe anything but a playoff berth will be a huge disappointment. Maybe my first answer to you wasn't so ridiculous. That's all. No more of this!
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With training camp opening up soon, what storylines are you excited to follow?
There's no avoiding the audible controversy. It'll be the No. 1 story of training camp. Reporters will be providing percentages of the number of times Aaron Rodgers changes the play in practice. Pro Football Talk made it their No. 6 storyline in the league, which means it's a national story. PFT believes Rodgers will win. If he does, I think it could damage the team's perception of their new coach. Matt LaFleur is in a tough spot. How he handles this situation, and it may have already gotten out of control, could define his first season as coach. Other storylines? I think the Packers' No. 1 storyline should be their plan for using the three pass rushers they invested so much in acquiring.
Michael from Jackson, MI
Vic, do you have any memories or thoughts of Desmond Howard? I was watching highlights from the Packers' 1996 season and wish the organization had a better relationship with him.
He was a member of the inaugural Jaguars in 1995. They played in that year's Hall of Fame Game, in which Howard returned a punt for a touchdown, which was the first touchdown scored by a Jaguars player in any game. He wasn't real popular in the locker room and not especially good with media, so it really surprised me when he joined the media for the college TV hype. Tom Coughlin featured Howard in the playbook and Howard scored the winning touchdown in the Jaguars' first-ever regular season win, but his playing time and contributions declined. Expectations for him were too high. I vaguely remember some kind of flap about him leaving the team (briefly) to join the "Million Man March" in Washington. It became obvious his days in Jacksonville were numbered.
Colin from Lansdale, PA
Is College Gameday the best thing college football has going for it?
It might be. College football is all hype.
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Vic, I understand your point, of course, that the future of a franchise is just as important as the present. However, do you really think it's only the fans that have a win-now mentality?
A good franchise is layered. The coach and the players concern themselves with winning now, while the GM and/or president and owner see the future of the franchise in the decisions they make. Mark Murphy has constantly referred to his responsibility for stewardship of the franchise.
Mikey from Tallahassee, FL
Do you have any stories about Mike Maser? I only learned about him as news of his passing posted last week. Sounds like he was a heck of a coach, and very successful during his career.
I got a text message early last Monday morning Mike had passed. He'll always be one of my favorites. He was an old-school offensive line coach: False start in practice, you sit out a play. He once said to me, "How good do I have to be? I coach Tony Boselli." Well, Mike was good enough to coach in the league for a long time. He also coached some pretty good lines at the Carolina Panthers. Mike loved drive blocking, but was forced to embrace the zone blocking concept that became all the rage. Good coaches adapt.
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Vic, you and I are on death row for being two awesome dudes. We are allowed to watch one football game before we die. I allow you to choose. Which game would you pick and is it a game you have seen before?
I wanna be in the Astrodome on Dec. 3, 1978, again, and I wanna hear those "Love Ya Blue" pom poms swishing to the beat of that tinny, silly song. I wanna see Earl Campbell break the line of scrimmage and Donnie Shell crash into Campbell's ribs, again, except this time Campbell's ribs don't break and one of the most physical games I've ever seen goes down to the wire. I've never felt more energy in a stadium than I did that day. I can still see Jack Lambert stretched out along the sideline at the end of the game, exhausted. It was a beautiful football game. It was the kind of game about which I could write forever.
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I saw a feature by NFL Films on the late Bill Brown of the Vikings and it was terrific. What sort of impact did NFL Films have on the promotion of the league?
Ed Sabol had as much to do with creating Vince Lombardi's image as Lombardi's players did.
Dan from Stockbridge, WI
What was it like experiencing the Apollo program as it unfolded? I feel like we could benefit from something similar in this generation.
The nuns would provide us with updates, going back to the Mercury and Gemini days, and we'd say a prayer for the astronaut's or astronauts' safe return. It was terrific drama. Every kid was in love with the race for the moon. When I lived in Jacksonville, the local TV stations would show launches in the bottom corner of the TV screen. We'd run out into the front yard and watch for the ball of light race past in the sky and listen for the roar. All those years later, I got the same tingle I did as a kid. My generation is the space race generation. We've come a long way since Captain Video.
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Jason from Austin, TX
Is the Hall of Fame going to need a Hall of Fame?
We have a place where we separate Johnny Unitas and Jim Brown from the not so famous. Our heart is that place. It knows the difference between elected and immortal.
Michael from Sanford, FL
Vic, I was eight when the Jags played their first game, meaning I've been a Jags fan as long as I've known what football was. However, I don't have clear memories of specific players. Can you please share your thoughts on Kevin Hardy? How good was he? What were his strengths, weaknesses and can you think of a modern player whose style you could compare him to?
Kevin could rush a little and cover and tackle a lot. He was more Sean Lee than Khalil Mack, as comparisons go. Dom Capers helped Kevin become a Pro Bowler in 1999, and Kevin was on his way to a long and productive career when a knee injury required him to undergo microfracture surgery. His career declined from that point and he was out of football a few years later.
Joe from Bloomington, IN
Seriously. We're talking about women's soccer. Anything more than a curtsy is an abomination.
Justin from Canton, NC
Vic, more moms and dads these days need to let their boys get hurt, get mad, get physical, find out who they really are. One of the most humbling things is getting your bell rung or knocked on your back. How do you know if you'll get up if you never experience it?
A lot of boys feel a need to experience a "Red Badge of Courage" moment. A father instinctively understands that, but I'm not sure a mother can. Her instinct is overwhelmingly to protect.
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Vic, I really almost never disagree with anything you write because it's always thought-provoking and positively impactful, but I'm very confused with why you wouldn't want a mother to weigh in on her son's decision to play football. I love the sport of football as much as anybody else in the world. Fall Sundays are my favorite Sundays, because of the NFL. I can't imagine living in a country where injury and the fear of injury take away this sport, but I also believe if I had a son who wanted to play football, I wouldn't be able to live with myself if I excluded my wife from the conversation. She carried that baby for nine months and shares a bond with that child I can't even comprehend. Making an informed decision about football should be a family decision. Then, again, I never played the sport. I was never a big, athletic kid. I was a musician. I played an instrument, so I didn't have to play a game where I might get hurt. I'm also a self-proclaimed "mama's boy" whose mother raised him while his father was constantly on the road for work. My mom made me who I am; her opinion always meant the world to me.
Playing football isn't for everyone.
Andrew from Madison, WI
Did you ever see Gale Sayers play? I've only seen film, and he's fast and all that, but he also seems to be psychic or have 360-degree vision or something.
I was at Pitt Stadium, sitting next to my father, when Sayers returned the opening kickoff of the 1967 season for a touchdown; he ran right toward me. I think of him as the greatest combination running back/kick returner in pro football history.
Jamie from Brooklyn, NY
I have a different view on the roles of parents in a child's life (to me, a family decision is a family decision). But even if I would allow the idea playing football is a father/son matter, if that child eventually suffers brain trauma and becomes cognitively impaired, whose job will it be to take care of him? If the parenting decision to play football is 100 percent the father's, should the after-injury care be the responsibility of the father?
Don't you think this question is a little nuts?
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The fact your coach spoke to your dad instead of your mom says more about your coach than your mom's "proper role," social mores of the day notwithstanding. I withhold judgement on your dad out of respect, but mostly because I'm not privy to his conversations with your mom in what was best for young Vic. I love your column and I respect you, Vic. Gotta say, though, you whiffed on this one.
I have no doubt my mother and father discussed the subject, and her opinion was valued and weighed. What you're missing is my mother allowed my father to be the voice of the family on this matter, out of respect for his "proper role" and the father/son bond. It was the right thing to do, social mores of the day notwithstanding.
Darren from Australia
"If you've lived well, the past is a great place to visit." Did you know as you were living you were living well? If so, how did you know in the present moment?
When you're watching a football game and you're being paid to do it, you know you're living well.
Craig from Cedarburg, WI
I've heard radio talking heads complain about the location of the Hall of Fame. Do you ever see it moving from the birthplace of football?
Southwestern Pa. is the birthplace of professional football. It means more to us because we invented the game. As for Canton, it's a good place for the Hall of Fame, but the location of the facility is terrible. It's pushed up against an interstate highway and jammed in between a high school and a housing plan. There is absolutely nothing charming about the Pro Football Hall of Fame facility. It was created on the cheap and, frankly, it's one of the few mistakes from Pete Rozelle's time as commissioner. It lacked vision.
Justin from Madison, WI
Context can be crucial when judging behavior. Take a few minutes to look into the long history of disrespect, mistreatment and unfair compensation of U.S. women's soccer players and I think you'll better understand why they play with such a huge chip on their shoulders. It only furthers the point a celebration far more innocuous than you see on any given Sunday is getting more press and attention than the fact U.S. women are going to, yet, another World Cup final.
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Not a question, just a quote I liked from Cliff Christl's recent story on Fuzzy Thurston: “He’s not quite as good a pulling guard as Jerry Kramer,” Lombardi said of Thurston, “but he’s a good short-trap blocker and he’s got enough quickness, size, strength and determination so that, when he and Jerry come swinging around that corner together like a pair of matched Percherons, you can see the defensive man’s eyeballs pop.”
That's absolutely beautiful. It warms me to think of coaches describing the power and grace of run blocking, as they did in the Lombardi days, when they spoke of "coming off the ball as one" and "getting under your man." That kind of talk is gone and it saddens me. The blocking sled is gone and, so with it, something as basic to the art of blocking as leg drive. Line play in today's game is almost solely about size. Get out in front of the ball and lead the runner downfield has been replaced by wall up and slide. Nobody talks anymore about moving the line of scrimmage. Nobody can convert short yardage regularly because nobody can drive block, despite being allowed to use their hands to move their man. I love reading Cliff's Lombardi quotes and stories when they pertain specifically to technical football and the evaluation of personnel. Lombardi was a football genius. I don't think he gets enough credit for his technical expertise. Cliff brings Lombardi and the Lombardi era to life better than any writer in Packers literary history.
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