Mark from Madison, WI
Where do you stand on centers?
An accomplished center is of critical importance to the running game and success against 3-4 defenses. If you're playing in a division with a butt-kicking nose tackle, you better have a butt-kicking center or you've got a big problem.
Bill from West Chester, PA
Vic, Green Bay has had many busts on first-round picks the past 10 years. I think the Packers should identify the top 50 players in the league, excluding QB, and go to the teams those players play for and offer the first-round pick they got from New Orleans for that player. To me, a proven, top-quality NFL player is worth more than a first-round crapshoot. Your thoughts?
Players, not plays, and picks, not players.
Rich from York, PA
Vic, do you think Kordell Stewart could have been taught to be a more proficient passer?
I think Stewart and the Steelers made a big mistake in changing his role from a "Slash" to an every-down quarterback. Stewart should've never insisted on being a quarterback. He was unique. He was the first of a kind and nobody was as good at it. He might've become the greatest big-play receiver in Steelers history. He also might've become the greatest big-play rusher in Steelers history. His combined run, pass, catch ability is the greatest of any player I've ever seen. It was Bill Cowher's greatest display of coaching genius to make Stewart a "Slash" in his rookie season. If he had been retained in that role, the Steelers could've patched in an ordinary every-down quarterback and made Stewart the centerpiece of what would've been the most unique and intriguing offense in the league. I fault the Steelers for not persuading Stewart to accept that role.
Jimmy from Vero Beach, FL
Would a pitch clock (similar to a basketball shot clock) help speed up the game of baseball? Watching the pitcher hold the ball for long stretches is the epitome of boring.
I'd like to see what would happen if one ball was eliminated from the game: Three balls and you walk. How would that speed up the game? Might that force pitchers to nibble at the corners and waste pitches up and in less often, and might that create more action in the game? What if baseball experimented with three balls you walk in spring training, or in a minor league? Why does baseball have to be so stubborn to change? Vic to baseball: Do something. You're dying!
David from Boise, ID
Vic, did the Packers' less-than-satisfactory performance last year warrant the organizational changes?
Time demands change. It was time for the Packers to be new. They had gotten old on many fronts.
Dave from Rochester, MN
Vic, what are your thoughts on the Packers' structure for management? Murphy is the clear head of the organization, with Gutekunst, McCarthy and Ball in a triumvirate beneath Murphy.
In my opinion, football had created a cozy, self-protective fiefdom that needed to be penetrated by management. In other words, the walls needed to come down. I think that's happened and if Mark Murphy is the leader of this movement, the Packers' future is in good hands. Murphy is one of the most impressive football men I've ever known.
Ben from El Paso, TX
What were the results of the survey?
Five days a week is the clear winner, but there is strong sentiment for three days a week during the offseason. I'm thinking of this: Three days a week until about midseason, then go to five until after the season is over, and then go back to three a week in the offseason.
David from San Francisco, CA
Vic, how can we evolve this site to take questions from fans of every team and not so heavily tilted towards the Packers? I love my team but I want to recommend your site to my friends.
The survey confirmed most of my readers are Packers fans, but I was surprised by how many "NFL in general" results I received. How does the column evolve? That's up to the readers. I don't ask the questions, I just answer them. That's why I say the readers write the column.
Nathan from San Diego, CA
Vic, I recently read an interview with Coach McCarthy in which he was echoing your opinion about the decline in the quality of the first few regular season games. He said he was trying to address this by giving younger players more opportunities, which he is doing by excusing vets from mini-camps. Do you think this is an effective approach?
I think McCarthy was using the decline-in-quality issue to tell you what he's going to do in the preseason: Rest his starters. In other words, the decline in the quality of play in the first few games of the regular season is just something we have to accept because risking injury to frontline players is something McCarthy won't accept.
Todd from Milwaukee, WI
Where does free agency fit on the scale of what's depersonalized football? It's about the money, as you say. If it's not personal for the players, why should the fans feel a personal loyalty to the individual and their confrontation, rather than to the team? It's all gotten to be so mercenary, it's discouraging.
It's always been about the money. Why did Jim Taylor finish his career with the Saints? Any fans who think money isn't the driving force of professional football are either naive or intentionally deceiving themselves. Frankly, I think pro football's mercenary quality is its charm. It's play for pay. It's a cold and harsh philosophy, and something about it warms me.
Cindy from Los Angeles, CA
Vic, as football has grown in popularity, how would you characterize the change in the fan base? When it was a niche sport, was there more of a connect between fans and the reality of the game? I dislike fantasy because there are no points given for things that matter in the game of football (blocking and winning), and the focus on stats over the game really distracts fans from the essence of football.
Fantasy football, video games, jersey sales, etc., are all part of a leaguewide marketing approach that has transformed football from a regional to a national sport. TV, of course, has played the biggest part in this. I think the creation of Monday Night Football is a perfect example of the movement toward creating fans across team lines; the entire country watching one game. When I was a kid, I saw the Steelers and the Colts; that's all we saw in the two-team network that was Pittsburgh-Baltimore. Pete Rozelle negotiated a leaguewide deal with CBS and the national movement was on. That's the major change in the fan base. We are as familiar with other teams' players as we are with those of the team in our own market. It's all part of Rozelle's leaguethink approach, and fantasy football has taken it to levels not even Rozelle could envision.
Josh from Tucson, AZ
What are your thoughts on the crowds at the U.S. Open? It is to the point where I have to mute the TV because the constant "get in the hole" after every drive, amongst other stupid phrases, gets tiresome after the first half hour. Give me tinny music and azaleas in the spring; at least the Masters will boot folks who insist on acting foolish for the benefit of being heard on camera.
TV created this problem and I think TV has an obligation to fix it.
Matt from Iowa
If you could build an offense/defense with players from the Steelers, Packers and Jags from the years you covered those teams, who would be the starters?
Tackles--Tony Boselli and Leon Searcy; guards--T.J. Lang and Gerry Mullins; center--Mike Webster; receivers--John Stallworth, Lynn Swann and Jimmie Smith/Keenan McCardell (tie); quarterback--Aaron Rodgers; running backs--Franco Harris and Fred Taylor.
Defensive linemen--Joe Greene, Ernie Holmes, L.C. Greenwood and Tony Brackens; linebackers--Jack Lambert, Jack Ham and Clay Matthews; cornerbacks--Mel Blount and Rod Woodson; safeties--Charles Woodson and Donnie Shell.
Mike from Dacula, GA
I went to college in Charleston and have vacationed every summer in Hilton Head, while growing up in the Green Bay Area. Just got back from a week down at the beach with my wife and daughters. After many trips over the years, I am still in awe at the serenity, charm and natural beauty of the SC low country. My favorite (and the kids, too) is spotting alligators around the many lagoons and ponds. The primitive look of them has captivated me since I was a kid. I’m curious as to what attracts you the most to the sea islands of the SC low country?
People like you.
Dave from Savage, MN
You have written you don't plan to ever write a book, fiction or non-fiction. If you wrote a novel, do you have a theme or a premise or a setting or a character or a style you would start with?
If I wrote a book, it would be about me, not because I want others to read it, but because I'd want to read it. I think it's important for everyone to read about themselves, which is a way of saying examine ourselves. Football would be the biggest part of what I'd write about myself. It's dominated my life, and maybe that's not such a good thing.
John from Vacaville, CA
Vic, I’m curious about your take on the Phil Mickelson putting drama on the 13th hole Saturday. His comments immediately afterward indicated he intentionally broke the rule because in his mind the two-stroke penalty was a better outcome than the likely result if the ball rolled off the green. The commentators seemed particularly distressed about Phil’s reputation and the integrity of the game, however, I don’t see his actions any differently than a cornerback grabbing a receiver when he knows he has been beaten for a touchdown. Your thoughts?
I'm not buying his explanation. I think he just lost his cool. I think he tried to embarrass a course that was embarrassing him. He made himself look foolish. That's his penalty.
Dave from Madison, WI
Vic, do you feel optimistic for the future of football?
I love football and I worry about its future. I think the CTE thing is real and I don't think football as I've known the game can survive. I think it has to undergo radical change, and I'm not sure its popularity can endure much more softening. What worries me most about the future of football is the potential for it to become the sport of gambling. It would be a perfect fit and the money would flow like water. Gambling could save football, and that's what worries me most, because gambling would surely destroy whatever remained of the most meaningful game I've ever known.
Matt from Eau Claire, WI
Vic, what are your thoughts on Blake Martinez? Opinions on his play seem to vary considerably.
Martinez and Jake Ryan are the same guy. They need to play next to a thumper. They need a big guy next to them who would jam the inside running lanes and allow them to chase the ball.
Nathan from Prague, Czech Republic
If a team from this decade played a team from the '70s that was of equal standing in the league, which team would win?
If the game was played according to today's rules, the team from this decade would win by a lopsided margin. If the game was played according to pre-1978 rules changes, the team of the '70s would win, 10-7, or something like that. The big corners of that decade would get up on the receivers, jam them, force the quarterback to hold the ball and take deep drops, which would allow the rush to take the quarterback down and take the quarterback down hard. Neither team is built to play in an era other than the one they're in.
Ben from El Paso, TX
Why do you enjoy golf?
I like hitting a ball with a stick. I especially enjoy being able to do it at my age. Golf is a game played in beautiful surroundings. I enjoy its rules and its code of honor. I enjoy its rub-of-the-green mentality. As a spectator, I enjoy its travelogue quality.
David from Hilliard, OH
Is it fair to say if the Rodgers era ends with only one Super Bowl trophy in Green Bay, it indicates Mike McCarthy was overrated as a head coach?
Only someone who lacks a feel for the game and whose sensitivity to it has been dulled by the mania to be No. 1 would make such a ridiculous claim. McCarthy is a great coach. In my opinion, he's one Super Bowl win away from the Hall of Fame.
Jeremy from Lethbridge, Canada
Vic, I'm a viewer who largely missed the Marino era. Given his stats and highlight reels, it seems he should have had more playoff success. What happened to him and the Dolphins during his run to hold him back?
The Dolphins lacked defense and a running game. They were a one-trick pony. Sound familiar? I guess Don Shula is an overrated coach.
Greg from Cuenca, Ecuador
Vic, I agree division games in September don't sit right. Still, here we are. So isn't it incumbent on the coaching staffs to change their preseason routines? I would think the veterans would be required to take more snaps in the preseason. This, of course, would come at the expense of giving the new guys more opportunities.
Coach McCarthy will find ways to get his team ready to open the regular season, but I don't think increasing play time in the preseason for his frontline players will be one of those ways. The risk of injury is too great. Coaches just aren't willing to accept that risk.
David from Jacksonville, FL
Vic, how are you feeling about the situation between Rob Rogers and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette?
The newspaper is shifting its editorial position to the right. Rogers' cartoons have been critical of the current POTUS. Cartoons are editorials. Rogers and the newspaper are a bad fit. This isn't something new.
Kal from Redondo Beach, CA
Do many South Carolinians identify with the Carolina Panthers as their team?
South Carolina is college football country. Frankly, there's not much identity left beyond Clemson and South Carolina.
Mike from McFarland, WI
If the players saluted a North Korean soldier instead of kneeling, would the NFL fine them?
The outrage would know no bounds. Left and right would finally agree on something. I'm sad for Otto Warmbier’s parents.
Steve from New Britain, CT
An op ed writer thinks fantasy football has hurt NFL team loyalty since it promotes viewing players as individuals rather than as team members. He also claimed this leads many fans to not really appreciate watching a football game as intended, since it was meant to be a team sport. Does fantasy football rub you the wrong way?
I think fantasy football has desensitized fans to what football is, which is to say a human confrontation. Fantasy football has turned the game into love of stats. Similarly, video football has turned football into love of strategy. It's turned football for video game lovers into plays, not players. I think it ultimately hurts the game because it depersonalizes it.
John from Philadelphia, PA
Have you ever seen the movie The Program?
Yes, it's the worst football movie ever made. About halfway through the movie, I was hoping James Caan was going to get gunned down, again, at the New Jersey Turnpike entrance.
Matt from Madison, WI
I recently read an article about Big Daddy Lipscomb. It made it sound like some details of his death were very sketchy. Did you ever hear anything about him possibly being murdered? It sounds like some of his teammates thought that was the case.
There was a feeling Big Daddy was murdered. Here's what I believe to be true: He was one of the three or four best defensive linemen I've ever seen; he might be the best ever. He could take over a game like no player I had seen until Joe Greene came along. Reggie White possessed that same quality. Now, we're seeing Aaron Donald do it.
Scott from Milwaukee, WI
Vic, reading that you are considering having more content on your site made my week. I don't ask a lot of questions, but I read everything you write because I appreciate your honesty and factuality. Will writing more cramp your style during your retirement?
I don't think it would because writing this column is an early-morning activity for me, and that's what I enjoy most about this column. I like getting up early and feeling my fingers on the keyboard as a fresh cup of coffee sits comfortably to my right. I like having done something before the rest of the world wakes up.
Matt from Oshkosh, WI
Vic, do you ever spend time upstate? I loved road tripping to the Atlantic as a kid (Savannah and Tybee Island being my favorites, by far), but the Greenville/Asheville area is easily one of the most beautiful slices of the country, with a great mix of hip and history.
I'm vacationing at Lake Lure, NC, this week. I live in the low country and I love spending time in the high country. It's the best of both worlds.
Dave from Chippewa Falls, WI
If you were growing up today, what would your first tattoo be?
I don't like tattoos. I think they're ugly and I don't understand the concept of using one's skin to make a statement. What if your opinion or taste changes? There would be no first tattoo.
Mike from Somerset, WI
Vic, Terrell Owens is taking a knee to speak out against the writers. I am OK with it. The writers rarely take into account the background of these men that take the field. They are quick to shame athletes that have had to overcome far more than most. Many of these men will never overcome their early informative years. Where is the compassion?
Wait, I'll get my violin.
Greg from Cuenca, Ecuador
Vic, if it's not whom you play, but when you play them, I'm glad the Packers are playing the Bears first.
Because the Packers will be getting the Bears before they become a contender? OK, but the site of the game, Lambeau Field, makes it a must win for the Packers, in my opinion. I'm not a fan of playing division games in the first few weeks of the season. In my mind, the league is still in preseason mode in the first couple of weeks, and division games are too important to be wasted on teams that aren't in regular season shape.
Clark from Boise, ID
Vic, just watched "A Football Life," featuring Charles Woodson. Amazing athlete and person. How does he stack up with the Deion Sanders?
Sanders did two things exceptionally well: cover receivers and return punts. Woodson was a more complete football player. He was a good enough cover man to play cornerback, and a good enough tackler to play safety. I acknowledge Sanders' greatness as a cover corner, but his unwillingness to tackle was a big turnoff for me. I have greater respect for Woodson as a football player.
Chase from Sunnyvale, CA
Is it safe to say when expectation becomes hope, you're in need of a new coach?
Usually, that means you need new players, but the team usually fires the coach because to admit it needs new players means it doesn't even have hope. Teams fire coaches for the purpose of resurrecting hope.
Eric from Green Bay, WI
Vic, Cowboy fans booed the team when they drafted Zach Martin instead of Johnny Manzel. Martin is now the highest paid guard in NFL history, healthy and dominant. Manzel is a backup in the CFL. What lessons should fans derive from this story?
The lesson is: Get the big guys early.
Bill from Sheboygan, WI
What are your plans for the dead zone?
I'm going to vacation a little, and I'm also going to make some decisions about the future of "Ask Vic." I've gotten a lot of emails from readers wanting the column to publish more often. A survey will appear in the column, asking readers to chime in on the subject. The column's numbers are strong enough to warrant an increase in publishing volume. I'll look at the survey results and then announce my plans.
Dave from North Potomac, MD
"The Packers want to run the ball, but they always seem to fall back on the pass." Vic, is this due to a lack of commitment in play-calling, lack of execution of the runs called, or a quarterback going to a pass audible too often?
It's the result of poor defense. You can't run the ball if you can't play defense. The best Packers running game I covered was in 2014, which just so happened to be the best Packers defense I covered. A good defense breeds patience on offense.
Omar from 998 Oaks, CA
Deion Sanders and Terrell Owens were the NFL prima donnas of the '90’s and 2000’s. The football era when you were covering the Steelers, there seemed to be none. Why is that? And why is there an explosion of them now?
In the '70's, look-at-me behavior got you cut in half. The star running backs from that era -- O.J. Simpson, Franco Harris, Larry Csonka, Earl Campbell -- were very humble. Lynn Swann was targeted by the Raiders' Jack Tatum and George Atkinson, and I think one of the reasons for it was Swann had some swagger that rubbed the tough guys on defense the wrong way. I remember Swann appearing on Mister Rogers; it's one of the all-time great Mister Rogers episodes. Swann performed ballet. The message to kids was: Tough guys don't have to be bullies, or something like that. Well, Swann's appearance on Mister Rogers rubbed some people in pro football the wrong way. Pro football was a tough-guy game when Swann played, and it didn't like one of its Super Bowl MVPs making pro football look soft. Quarterbacks had to be especially careful of their behavior. They were live to the ground back then. As Joe Namath said, "We're the trophy." Let me put it this way: Aaron Rodgers would not have done "The Belt" back then.
Lori from Brookfield, WI
Vic, what was the greatest story you never wrote?
I got a call one day from a man in a town where I worked for a newspaper. His wife had died, he had lost his job and he and his son we're packing up the house and moving because he couldn't pay the mortgage anymore. In the process of cleaning out the attic, he found a baseball card his grandfather had given him years ago. "Hold onto this card. It'll be worth a lot of money some day," the man said his grandfather had told him. "Who's the player on the card," I asked him? "Honus Wagner," he said. Oh, my, I thought. At the time, I was writing freelance stories for Beckett Football Card Magazine. I knew the people at Beckett and I knew their baseball magazine was the baseball card bible. I told the man who to call. I said he might have something of great value and somebody at Beckett would immediately know if that was true. The man thanked me and I asked him to call me back and let me know what happened. Hey, I wanted to be the first to write this story if, in fact, he had the Holy Grail of all baseball cards. I didn't get a call, so I called him. He told me a guy from Beckett was on his way to Pittsburgh to look at the card. In the meantime, he was told to take the card to the nearest bank and put it in a safe deposit box. He said he was also told not to talk to anyone about the card, which especially included me. I knew what that meant. He had THE card. I was never able to find out what happened, but I have a feeling it's the greatest story I never wrote: Laid off steel worker forced to sell his home strikes it rich.
Beau from Lancaster, PA
Vic, who is your U.S. Open pick?
Jim from Maple Grove, MN
What do you think about the Packers playing one-third of their most critical games in the first two weeks of the season? Would the NFL ever consider scheduling inter-conference games for every team in the first four weeks of the season?
I don't think the Packers can win the NFC North Division title if they don't win both of those games (Bears, Vikings). You have to win your home games. I favor scheduling as many inter-conference games as possible in September, as they count the least toward playoff tiebreakers. I think it can be done and still give TV feature attractions.
Matt from Oshkosh, WI
Vic, someone is reading your site. It looks like the Ravens are experimenting with two-QB sets. How long until this becomes more than just a gadget package?
As college football dumps more "New Age" quarterbacks onto the NFL, the obvious reaction is to feature those players at what they do best, which is to say play in space. Two-QB sets create space. In my mind, it's going to happen, and I think it'll happen sooner than later.
Dan from Utah
Vic, your picture has you looking like you're really enjoying retirement. What brings you the most joy at this point in your journey?
Freedom! Freedom from the pressure of deadlines and expectations. No more reviews. No more writing around the feelings of the people in my stories. Retirement is freedom as I've never known it. It's total, and that's the reward for having endured 45 years of managing freedom to fit the need to earn a living. It's amazing what happens to a person's soul when money is taken out of the equation. First, however, you have to GET the money, so you no longer NEED the money. Then get yourself an LLC and write anything you want.
Tom from Elkport, IA
Vic, I'm not a fan of Lombardi's statue in front of Lambeau Field. To me it looks like a sullen, brooding precursor to Bill Belichick, instead of the fiery, inspiring, emotional taskmaster that has become lore. Why not cast art of Lombardi and Jerry Kramer eye-locked in the thrill of victory as Kramer and Forrest Gregg carry Lombardi off the field after Super Bowl II? What am I missing about the brooding-coach statue?
I think I agree with you. The current statue lacks animation. At least Curly is pointing. Plus, the Lombardi statue makes me feel cold.
Anthony from Milwaukee, WI
I would support fan decisions to kneel during the anthem as their right, however, I would be afraid as a fan to do it. I have a feeling security will need to be extra vigilant come game day.
This issue has the potential to become confrontational. My hope is the POTUS will do something to calm the waters.
Brett from Marietta, GA
I've been intrigued over the years by your contention facemasks are the root cause of the dilemma pro football finds itself wrestling with today. Going back to the future, employing the single-bar facemask, might be the perfect compromise in the "helmet as a weapon/no facemask" debate. Enough to protect, not enough to encourage.
I agree. I recently saw a picture of John Henry Johnson in action. He was a big, punishing running back in the early '60s, and he was an upright runner whose eyes were always surveying the field. Nobody took more hits in a game than Johnson, who played in the run-the-ball, Jim Brown era, when every defense's focus was on stopping the run and middle linebackers were the defensive stars of the game because they were the run-stuffers. Johnson wore a single-bar facemask.
Barry from Hayward, WI
Vic, is it still a "run to set up the pass" league, or is it a "throw to set up the run" league now, and what team will buck the common wisdom this year?
The Eagles were No. 3 in rushing and No. 1 against the run. Clearly, the run is still important. The Packers want to run the ball, but they always seem to fall back on the pass.
Logan from Lino Lakes, MN
Vic, us hockey fans love no teeth and bloody faces. We love the grit. I think it also helps us humanize the game and really appreciate what these guys do. Why not a hockey style helmet with no facemasks for football?
If a sport that arms its players with sticks can do it, football can.
Kirsten from Madison, WI
"I have a feeling we're going to see some fans take a knee this coming season, in support of the players." My siblings and I plan to kneel during the anthem during any games we attend this year, including the season opener, in support of the players' First Amendment rights. My question for you: If (a fair number of) fans kneel, do you think the TV broadcasts will cover or ignore it?
TV would show it because it's news, big news. If it gets to that, all hell is going to break loose. At that point, concerns for fan safety would replace those for player safety.
Johan from Pembroke, ON
Vic, you frequently mention this is "a tough game for tough guys." Even though it is a very small sample size to compare with, based on several comments and interactions made by players and media members, do you think Mike Pettine brings toughness to a defense that Capers didn't have anymore?
Dom Capers' problem was he didn't have the talent to run the sexy schemes that are his hallmark. I think Pettine is confirming that fact with the streamlining and simplifying of the Packers' defensive playbook. Capers' scheme has always focused on disguising rushes and coverages, and that means having athletes with the speed, athletic ability and instincts to cover a lot of ground. The Packers haven't had that kind of speed or those kinds of athletes on their defense in recent years. I think Pettine has identified that deficiency. I think Pettine's scheme will also be aided by the addition of two rookie cornerbacks and a big-time defensive lineman. Coach Noll said, "Some coaches pray for wisdom. I pray for 260-pound tackles. They'll give me plenty of wisdom."
Scott from Alaska
I have profound respect for you as a journalist. You take obvious care about seeing and telling the truth. Public perception of your profession has declined precipitously in recent years. Journalists are not seen as they once were, as truth-seekers, as brave, articulate voices speaking truth to power. Across the spectrum of bias, it seems most see journalists and newscasters as mouthpieces of ideologies, as people that use whatever facts they can get to tell the stories they already wanted to tell for political reasons, not necessarily the stories that are actually unfolding. Vic, are you watching your former profession as attentively as you watch the NFL? Can you tell me what you see?
I see examples of great reporting. I see reporting of Watergate quality. The challenge is knowing it when you see it, and that requires the reader deny his own prejudices. Niche media exists because readers prefer regurgitative reporting. Readers want their thoughts and opinions to be regurgitated to them, so they identify outlets that'll accommodate, and they block out those that won't. Who's to blame, the media or the reader? I know responsible reporting when I see it. I won't read or watch the other.
Lori from Brookfield, WI
Vic, what is the best article you ever wrote?
There's one story for which I have greater recollection than I do for the others. It was from a Steelers-49ers game in 1984. It would be the only game the 49ers would lose that season, which gives the story bite, but there's much more. The return flight to Pittsburgh was delayed a few hours, which began an all-night odyssey that heightened my sensitivity to the game I would spend my adult life covering. It was a big upset win that culminated with the winning touchdown being the result of a play drawn up in the dirt, so to speak, but the big play in the game was a long pass completion to a rookie tight end named Chris Kolodziejski, who suffered a knee injury on the play. It would be the final play of his football career. Kolo, as he was known, was in terrible pain after the game. First came the flight delay, and then the cross-country flight, and then the announcement fog would prevent us from landing in Pittsburgh, so we had to land in Cleveland and bus in. When we arrived in Cleveland, we discovered the Bills had faced the same fate on a return from Los Angeles and had commandeered one of the Steelers' buses. We all crowded into the buses that were left and sneaked out of Cleveland in the middle of the night, Kolo's injured leg stretched out across the aisle. A long stretch of railroad tracks coming out of Cleveland Hopkins Airport was too much for the kid. He moaned and the Steelers trainer ordered the bus driver to pull over. "Dr. Steele," the trainer called out. From the back of the bus the doctor came, holding a needle in the air as he walked past us. There was a deafening silence as the needle fell onto Kolo's knee, and the kid followed with a deep and chilling sigh of relief. That night, on the other side of the railroad tracks at Cleveland Hopkins Airport, I became one with the game I covered. That night, I got it. I can remember liking the story I wrote.
Eric from Silver Lake, WI
I think hockey has proven guys can get a messed up face through sport and still get money and girls. I'm with you on this no facemask idea.
I like the soft, form-fitting headgear they're using in the college recruiting/evaluation camps. If the goal is to change the culture, it has to start at the high school level.
Vincent from Seattle, WA
Vic, what did you think of Terry Hanratty the quarterback and locker room teammate?
I first saw him play in high school. He was the quarterback of a powerful Butler (Pa.) High School team. I'll remember his career at Notre Dame for getting injured and having to leave the Michigan State game early. In my opinion, the Irish would've blown out the Spartans if Hanratty hadn't been forced out of the game. He was a talented guy. As late as for a game in Cleveland in the middle of November in 1974, the Steelers' first Super Bowl season, Hanratty was the starting quarterback, not Terry Bradshaw. It would suggest Chuck Noll was still undecided. It would also suggest he made his decision to reinstate Bradshaw as the starter based on that game. Hanratty was liked by his teammates. A lot of players thought he was a better option than Bradshaw. That opinion changed when Bradshaw began winning Super Bowls.
Mike from Des Moines, IA
Vic, in your professional opinion, what should be the consequences for a journalist who pairs an out-of-context picture with a story in an apparent attempt to mislead?
If it was intentional, the reporter's loss of credibility and esteem is punishment enough. FOX has suffered a terrible loss of credibility and esteem. The fair and balanced thing is beyond laughable. FOX is niche media. You go there with a preconceived idea of what you'll see, and they never disappoint. I seldom watch TV news anymore. I get my news from the news app on my phone. It gives me a full digest of news outlets, from FOX to CNN, and I know how to pick and choose. For example, I read a fascinating story recently about a scientific breakthrough that allows carbon dioxide to be taken from the atmosphere and converted into gasoline, affordably. The next day, a story from a niche media explained how the breakthrough supported a certain political opinion on global warming. That's the kind of story I try to avoid.
Andrew from Minneapolis, MN
I've sometimes wondered if Lombardi had any political aspirations. Are you aware if he did and if his move to Washington was related?
Lombardi was a Democrat and the Democratic party was in desperate need of a strong presence coming out of the McGovern loss in 1972. I think Lombardi could've been persuaded to run for office.
Marge from Kenosha, WI
Morning sexy! Should the visit to the White House be about the (POTUS), or about the White House? What other events are included with the visit?
I don't know, but I like being called sexy.
Mark from Yucaipa, CA
Vic, where does your trip to the White House rank among your memories?
It was OK; nothing more. I'll remember it for the banter between Charles Woodson and President Obama. It was a ceremonial event of little news value, therefore, it's not at the top of my list of memories. A reporter enjoys covering real news. For example, I have vivid memories of the 1987 players strike and the replacement players whose stories I found to be so intriguing and entertaining to write. Most fans have forgotten and don't want to remember those players because they represent a bitter memory, but it's not like that for a reporter. The '87 strike was a seminal event in pro football history. It was a game-changer and that made it memorable to cover. The White House visit is a non-story, and I've tired of the whole Trump feud with the NFL/anthem thing. It's fake news.
Mitch from Winston, GA
Thanks for continuing your attempt to bring perspective to the Rodgers contract. Rodgers may want the Packers to show him the money, but the team has every right to see if he can still make all the throws and take hits in a game. Opt out? Rodgers is very intelligent. Do you agree this is merely an example of positioning?
He should do everything in his power to squeeze every dollar he can out of his great career, and the team should do everything in its power to protect its financial future. That's the player vs. team confrontation that makes professional football the cold and calculating business it is. It's the charm of a game that's about the money, and if that bothers you, either pro football isn't for you or you need to ignore the business side of it.
Blaine from Menomonie, WI
Vic, the rumors of your demise on packers.com are greatly premature. It has been explained all of the archives beyond last year are being moved with a lot of old content. It will just take some time to get it all moved and placed properly on the new site. Wes and Mike verified the "Ask Vic" archives will be there, as well.
Memories make us rich.
Lori from Brookfield, WI
Vic, Clay Matthews recently took off the mask, the ball was launched in the air and he landed in the emergency room with a broken nose. OK, so he was playing charity softball. If the NFL removes the masks, won't there be more broken noses?
Yes, but people don't die of a broken nose. Lori, with all due respect to your desire to protect the players from getting boo boos, football is not a game you play if you don't want to get hurt. If you play football, you will get hurt. It's not if, it's when and how often? Some years ago, when I was in Jacksonville, Jack Del Rio concluded a practice with a kicker's challenge. If the kicker made the long field goal try, the coaches would run sprints. If he missed, the players would run. The kicker made the try and what I witnessed is something I'll never forget. The coaches, all of whom are former players and some not so old, limped, hobbled and wobbled across the field. It was painful to watch. It's the price they are paying for having played the game. I think most players are willing to accept that cost. What they're not willing to accept is dementia and suicide, the ravages of CTE and repeated blows to the head. Please, let's not put broken teeth and noses into the same category as CTE.
Ben from Chicago, IL
With the dearth of real football news, I clicked on an article regarding the 2015 draft. I noticed the raves the Vikings received for drafting Eric Kendricks and Danielle Hunter. Did the Packers leave better players for their rivals to pick?
In retrospect, yes, they did. Kendricks and Hunter are better players than Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins. The crystal ball didn't work. It often happens that way.
Chris from Portland, CT
Vic, I have to think the league doesn’t want to remove the facemask because of blood. They’re probably afraid if we, the viewing public, see blood on the field, we will be turned off by it. For the record, I think they should remove it.
Are you kidding? Blood sells. Blood rings the cash register. I lived for the final two minutes of every game, when Bobby Layne's nose would begin bleeding as he was moving the ball down the field against the clock. I loved the arm-length bloodstain down the right sleeve of his white jersey -- all home games were blacked out back then -- from wiping it across his face. The league's popularity was built on blood. The bloodstains on Jack Lambert's pants from resting his bleeding elbows on his legs help define his toughness. How about Y.A. Tittle's bloody, cracked-egg bald head? It's an iconic picture. A bloody nose is good. Internal bleeding is bad.
Richard from Clearwater, MN
The Eagles being uninvited to the White House: In your mind, big issue, little issue or no issue at all.
The POTUS made himself look silly on this one, and I have a feeling it has the league regretting its most recent position switch on the anthem issue. This issue isn't going away. It's big and it's going to get bigger. I have a feeling we're going to see some fans take a knee this coming season, in support of the players.
Kabir from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL
How did the events of May 4, 1970, shape your view of the importance of free speech and peaceful protest?
They were singing a song, and then they were shot. Yeah, it shaped my view. So did the old man in the barber shop who said they should've shot more.
Jerry from Savannah, GA
Vic, have you lost any respect for Aaron Rodgers?
Absolutely not. He's the best quarterback I ever covered and he should do everything possible to get a new contract.
Dave from Madison, WI
Vic, any stories about Tony Dorsett? What made him a great running back?
I knew about him, as he was coming out of high school. He would've been the five star of all five stars, but they didn't have that stuff back then. At the Pitt media day, I sought him out to see what kind of talker he was. He barely spoke. He looked frightened. I didn't get the sense he was ready to be a college star. Then he spoke with his legs. I've never seen a running back burst through a hole with his speed. Every time he broke the line of scrimmage cleanly, I would think to myself, "He's gone." He's the fastest back I've ever seen. He had a bent-at-the-waist lean and quiet upper body that made his style unique. It made him appear as though he was sitting on a legs machine. What he did to Notre Dame in four seasons just didn't happen back then. The first play in the 1976 season opener at South Bend wasn't to be believed, except it happened. In the national title game against Georgia, he couldn't be stopped. I remember Keith Jackson saying, "And he's gone again." He's the only back, and I am a running backs connoisseur, who ever made me feel as though he could take it the distance on every touch.
John from Sioux Falls, SD
Vic, sports are the ultimate meritocracy. You earn your keep. But sometimes I wish the fates were more fair. For example, wouldn’t it have been great for the Earl Campbell Oilers to have gotten by the Steelers just once and won a Super Bowl? If that had happened, I think “Luv ya blue” and those cool helmets would still be a part of our present and not our past.
I'm glad there are teams in Nashville and Houston, but I don't like the cost. Bud Adams said build me a stadium. Houston said no, so Adams took the Oilers to Tennessee. Then Houston built a stadium and got a new team. What was lost? The Oilers' glorious history, which includes the George Blanda years as well as the "Luv ya blue" years. Oh, the history is still there, but it's not celebrated the way it should be because the old Oilers aren't the Texans and they didn't play in Nashville. Yeah, it's a shame.
Braden from Milwaukee, WI
Has money ruined football?
Money eventually ruins everything, because it's the currency of greed.
Shaun from Milwaukee, WI
Is "Johnny Football" good for the CFL? Will he draw more interest?
I doubt it. His story of misconduct has gotten old and his talent doesn't warrant tolerance or special interest. As I wrote back when he was a rising draft prospect, Manziel was a bubble screen college quarterback. He was Tim Tebow light.
Steve from Eau Claire, WI
What offensive opportunities does putting Graham and Lewis on the field at the same time provide to the Packers?
The answer is the Packers should be able to run and pass with equal effectiveness, but I have a feeling you're hung up on the two tight end thing, and I don't think that's the issue here. Defenses will cover Jimmy Graham as a wide receiver. They will not view him as a tight end. He'll likely cause the defense to be lighter up front -- and more vulnerable to the run -- because it'll cover him with a defensive back, but that would be the case with any wide receiver on the field. Mike McCarthy will find ways -- I'm sure he already knows how he'll do it -- to create mismatches with Graham, but it won't be because Graham will be perceived as a tight end, it'll be because Graham is a big, tall receiver who can play higher than most defensive backs and can outmaneuver most linebackers. Don't get hung up on the position name. It's not about position, it's about function, and Graham's function is to catch passes. He does it with atypically soft hands and speed for a man his size. Players, not plays. The defense has plays, too.
Brent from Dubuque, IA
Vic, don't get me wrong. I'm grateful Green Bay has the talent they have at quarterback. But an opt out clause if someone ends up making more money? Does Vic the GM agree to this?
What's the rush?
Nick from Chicago, IL
Vic, your idea of removing the facemask intrigues me. But if we remove the facemask, then will we see more facial injuries when one player's helmet impacts another player's face? Do we also have to go back to softer helmets? Or no helmets?
Nobody dies of a bad smile, but CTE is a killer.
Cindy from Los Angeles, CA
Vic, what are your thoughts about cheerleaders in the NFL? It seems to me the NFL should either discontinue the practice or enforce some type of standards for pay and working conditions. This perennial scandal is long past embarrassing.
I had a cheerleader moment in Jacksonville during the Eagles-Patriots Super Bowl. My office was in the hallway that leads to the two locker room tunnels. I opened my office door to go into the hallway just as the Eagles cheerleaders were passing single file past my doorway. I stood there and smiled and nodded at each girl as they passed by, and they smiled and nodded back. I thought to myself, "Are they doing this just for me?" Those are the only thoughts I have on the subject.
Abhi from Rockville, MD
Vic, FIFA World Cup is starting soon. Since the U.S. did not qualify for this World Cup, do you think there will be any interest this time? Was it just a fad during the last World Cup?
I don't know.
Loftur from Columbus, OH
The World Cup starts on June 14. Are you going to be new and watch some games?
No. Thanks for the alert.
Aaron from Wausau, WI
Why is NFL tight end such a hard position for players to transition to from college?
It's not, other than the competition is significantly better. A high draft pick at tight end should be expected to make an immediate impact, or you picked the wrong guy.
Nick from Seattle, WA
Vic, not much of a question, but something you may be interested in. ESPN ran an article asking all of the ESPN team reporters to state whether the team they cover will get more or fewer wins than what the predictive system gave them. Only three team writers predicted they would win less than the estimate. I guess the offseason truly is the time for optimism.
I think most beat writers favor the team they cover, especially during the offseason hype period. I think media has an obligation to treat the team it covers in a fair and friendly manner, and raining on the team's hype is mean-spirited. My attitude was I'll help fans see the positives, as long as they're realistic expectations. I'll caution when I believe necessary, but I won't do anything to dull the suspense and excitement for a new season.
John from Peoria, IL
Vic, just today, packers.com took down the "Ask Vic" pages as part of their web refresh. You left no shadows.
That must've been that little stabbing pain in the back I felt while I was kayaking.
Steve from North Hudson, WI
The season of hope is upon me, Vic. Every change to the Packers is spun as an improvement. Can you give me a little perspective to keep my hopes in check?
About three months from now, the kicker will begin his run up to the ball in the season opener, and we'll say to ourselves, "The baloney stops now," except we won't say baloney. Until then, it's just baloney.
Neil from Dallas, TX
Vic, when did the facemask get implemented in the NFL and why?
Paul Brown created the facemask to protect a gash on Otto Graham's face. It changed the game and now it's threatening to destroy the game.
Nick from Toronto, Canada
Further to your observation about empty ballparks, ESPN recently published a list of the 100 most famous athletes for 2018. It's based on endorsement deals, Twitter followers and Google searches. Seven NFL players made the list, although Tom Brady was the highest at just 38. No MLB player made the list. How has baseball been so bad at marketing its players, and is this the reason it appears to be struggling?
If baseball is struggling, it has nothing to do with social media and everything to do with baseball continuing to be a slow, dull game that plays way too many games for any of them to have true meaning. Baseball just doesn't fit the modern sports eye. There are too many pitches that don't result in action. I'd love to see a test game in which three balls you walk and two strikes you're out. I want to see less dead time in a game.
Jamie from Brooklyn, NY
Vic, have you ever thought of writing a sports story again and posting it to your blog?
Maybe I'll do that next season, if I go to the Steelers at Jacksonville game, as I intend to do.
Greg from Cuenca, Ecuador
Vic, here are the stats regarding the length of baseball games: 2014 -- 3:09, 2004 -- 2:51, 1994 -- 2:58, 1984 -- 2:40, 1974 -- 2:29, 1964 -- 2:35, 1954 -- 2:31, 1950 -- 2:23. I'll let you and your intrepid readers draw their own conclusions whether this is a major factor affecting baseball's popularity.
I don't think time of game is the issue. I think action is the issue. There's just too many gaps between action moments.
Jim from Maple Grove, MN
I attended a Twins game a week ago. To my surprise, I found myself getting restless at the breaks in the action and the generally slow pace of the game. I don't blame baseball, but myself. Could it be that we have become a frenetic people and we can no longer enjoy slowing down?
Yes, but there's more. We're spoiled. A trip to the ballpark isn't a big deal anymore. When I was a kid, I filled the dead spots in the game with wonderment as I absorbed the sights, sounds and smells of Forbes Field. It was a magical place for me. It was awash with color, and I especially liked going to night games and watching the daylight fade as the big lights blacked out what lay beyond the outfield wall and made this the only place on earth. I couldn't imagine anything more beautiful. Do we still feel that way today? We see so many games on TV I have to believe our senses have been dulled.
Isaac from Nashville, TN
Vic, how did the Steelers maintain such a consistent identity for so many years?
It wasn't by accident. They hired coaches who believed in a physical approach to the game. A scout told me Bill Cowher said, during a lean-years period in the middle of his career, "When did we stop drafting tough guys?" They then started drafting tough guys again and they began to play Steeler football and won a couple of more Super Bowls. I think we're going to see Mike Tomlin get back to playing Steeler football this coming season. I think the franchise is embarrassed by its inability to stop the run on defense last season. That's not Steeler football and it must be corrected.
Mike from North Hudson, WI
Vic, take us back in time involving your favorite team, stadium, players in what you felt was the greatest game ever.
Every team I covered was my favorite team, and I covered great games with all of them. The first game I covered in my time covering the Packers, the 2011 season opener, was amazing. I'll always remember it as a walk-off defensive win. The Jaguars gave me several great games, and they so often were in games against the Steelers. I'll never forget the 1997, walk-off-blocked-field-goal-attempt game, and the sight of Chris Hudson running down the sideline and Bill Cowher playfully taking a step onto the field and feigning a punch. If there's one game that goes deeper than any other, it's the 1975 AFC title game. It's the most vicious football game I ever covered. It was the real thing, no hype. The Raiders and Steelers truly hated each other, and they played that game with more than winning in mind. They played to inflict pain. I'll never forget the sight of Lynn Swann being wheeled past me on a stretcher as I stood in the hallway waiting for the Steelers' locker room door to be opened after the game. Swann was knocked cold in the first half and he was still in a semi-conscious state two hours later. Two weeks later he'd be the Super Bowl MVP. How's that for toughness? I'll also never forget the sight of Joe Greene going out onto the field, picking Swann up and carrying him like a baby to the sideline as Joe glowered at the Raiders, letting them know there would be payback for this. Game? No, that one was a lot more than a game. What I felt that day I never felt again. I'm glad.
Lance from Lincoln, NE
Vic, I've heard all kinds of ideas, including removing the facemask to avoid injury. You have stated removing the facemask would prevent the helmet to helmet hits. Wouldn't removing the facemask be a better idea than making some convoluted rule that will be subject to constant misinterpretation?
The league has done exhaustive research on this subject, led by experts, such as Mark Murphy and Rich McKay, and I respect their attempts to make the game safer, but I can't help but think one act, removing the facemask, would solve the whole problem and would allow the game to evolve naturally without this constant changing-the-rules interference. Nobody uses their face to deliver a blow. It's that simple. If the league were to outlaw the facemask, I think fan interest would explode with curiosity. I think fans would revel in seeing the new Bobby Laynes and Tommy McDonalds play football the old-fashioned way. I believe the facemask is the whole problem and removing it is the fix-all.
Barry from Hayward, WI
Vic, was the acquisition of Jimmy Graham to help an aging and injury-prone Rodgers get the football out of his hands faster a means to address the inability of Packer receivers to get separation from defensive backs, or merely a shrewd pick up in the salary cap era?
Graham was signed to give Mike McCarthy the big receiver in the middle of the field he hasn't really had since Jermichael Finley got hurt. Packers fans lament the loss of Nick Collins, but losing Finley might've been bigger. All these years later, they're still trying to replace him.
Adam from Wausau, WI
I'm looking to improve my business writing skills. Do you have any tips?
Write short sentences. It worked for Steinbeck.
Milan from New York
Vic, I know you've been waiting for my opinion on the anthem thing, since I am 73 years old, a Vietnam vet with 100 percent VA disability and in full get off my lawn mode. I feel the same way about a player kneeling as I do about all the guys hanging by the concession stands knocking down beers so as to avoid having to stand for the anthem, and the ones looking at their cell phones while the anthem is being played. Nothing. Couldn't care less either way. I fly in from New York to see my beloved Packers play and hopefully win. That's all I care about. What does (anger) me is the fake military stuff: fly overs, some fake surprise meeting (baloney). Having been drafted and sent to Nam to be sprayed by agent orange, I know all the military guys on the field as well as every member of the joint chiefs of staff have never been in a war America has won! Talk about losers!
Congratulations, you are the first inductee into the "New Ask Vic" Hall of Fame.
Sean-Luc from Oceanside, CA
Vic, the NFL had a chance to get younger and they botched it. They should have sided with the players and their right to protest. The issue with ratings doesn’t lie, with a bunch of old fuddy duddies that forgot what this country was founded on. It has to do with the medium through which they sell their product. My generation doesn’t own TVs. Why would they when we can stream everything on any device with a WiFi signal?
You make an interesting point. I hadn't considered how the NFL's shift on the anthem position might be received by young fans.
Todd from Milwaukee, WI
Of your departure into retirement you say, "Coach Noll said 'cast no shadows.'" Would you tell us more about what you think this means?
It means when you retire, leave and don't come back. When I knew I was retiring, I knew I would have to be new.
Vicbow from St. Johns, FL
Even in retirement you remain informative, entertaining, provocative and steadfast in your beliefs. Thanks for your years of service to us as readers. Now, I think this topic of freedom of speech/expression is a cherished treasure passed down to us and protected by each generation and strongly held onto by the majority of us. The tricky part is when this privilege comes into conflict with our self-interest. Most reasonable folks can resolve these issues without the spewing of hatred, name-calling and the like, but those with the biggest egos cannot do this unless they find a cause greater than themselves. Will we?
I have a feeling the Supreme Court might settle this issue for us. I'm OK with that.
Dustin from Orlando, FL
Major League Baseball appears to be in trouble. Attendance is trending toward its worst numbers in 15 years. Do you think MLB is dying? What do you think caused it and how can it recover?
I was watching the White Sox at Indians game the other day, and I was stunned by how empty the ballpark was. It was a beautiful day and the sun was glistening off the empty seats. What's this all about, I thought to myself? I guess I'm asking the same questions you are.
Karl from Albuquerque, NM
Vic, "Ask Vic" removed one of my posts from the comments section. I have no idea why and don't know of any way to find out other than through this e-mail. It's your site and you and your surrogates can do with it as you so choose. I'm just wondering why my comment was removed so I can keep from making the same mistake again in the future. Thanks, Karl.
"Ask Vic" has a very small payroll: nobody. I control everything, and I have no idea why your post was removed. I didn't do it and I have no surrogates. Here's my advice: Don't worry about it, especially if it was another one of those mind-numbing anthem posts. I really doubt one of those stupid liberals or conservatives -- take your pick -- found a way to kill your post in an attempt to advance their anti-America agenda. Stuff happens. Maybe the Russians did it.
Zach from Virginia Beach, VA
Vic, about Lewis being a better blocker than receiver, how much of that perception is due to the poor QB play in Jacksonville? How much better might Lewis do with Rodgers at QB?
Your point is valid, but Marcedes wasn't signed to be an impact pass receiver. Graham was signed to be that player. Pro football is a game of specialization. Graham specializes in catching passes and Lewis specializes in blocking. When you think of it in those terms, Graham and Lewis might give the Packers their best one-two punch at tight end in the years since I began covering them.
Tristan from Durham, NC
Your comments on the steel industry made me wonder what advice you would give the people of West Virginia? They were once the heart of the nation's labor movement. Now, they're so desperate for their livelihoods they've given up everything to the coal industry. How can they be new?
Tell them to call Pittsburgh and ask them what they did when big steel left. I can tell you this, buying into campaign baloney about coal making a comeback won't work. Coal is dead and opting out of global warming legislation isn't going to save it.
Jeremy from Lethbridge, Canada
Peter King shared an interesting anecdote last week about Favre’s uncanny memory. I’ve often heard similar things said about Rodgers. Is it a normal quality for elite quarterbacks? Have many succeeded without it?
Every quarterback I've ever covered could tell you where every receiver and defender on the field was positioned during a play. Mark Malone and Byron Leftwich would do it in fine detail, and neither Malone nor Leftwich was an elite quarterback. Terry Bradshaw was so good at it he could tell one reporter one thing and then tell another reporter something completely different. Everybody got a scoop. I loved the Aaron Rodgers postgame interviews because he had perfect recall of the game's events. It amazed me how he would talk about putting the ball in a particular spot because he saw an off defender closing on the play. Rodgers sees everything and, in my mind, that's all about courage. He never drops his eyes. The point is this: You can't play quarterback in the NFL if your eyes aren't pinned downfield. If you look at the rush, you're done.
Ray from Jacksonville, FL
Vic, who was better, Jerome Bettis or Fred Taylor?
If Fred had played for the Steelers, which is to say in an offense that was steadfastly committed to running the ball, he'd be headed to the Hall of Fame. Fred was the more talented player, but Bettis was perfect for the Steelers' pounding, run-the-ball attack. Longtime Steelers running back coach Dick Hoak is a friend of mine, and I remember Dick gushing about Fred during a round of golf.
Russ from Clay City, IN
Why not accept that the league embittered the correct half? I've always enjoyed reading your writing through the years. It took a difference of opinion to submit a question. Openmindedness should be a two-way street.
With its recent shift in position, the league has successfully embittered both halves, and now the players, too. I think this could turn out to be the dumbest thing the league has ever done.
Jerry from Savannah, GA
Vic, do you have any good David Garrard stories?
I think his talent was underrated and the Jaguars might've made a mistake not committing to him earlier in his career. He had a big season in 2007, but the following year the Jaguars began their decline and a few years later it was time to draft a new quarterback and restart the process. David reminded me of Steve McNair. He had that same powerful, heavy-footed scrambling ability. David had a strong arm and he threw a heavy ball that was good in the wind and the cold. I would've liked to have seen what he could've accomplished had a commitment been made to him, as it was to Leftwich.
Roger from Houston, TX
What do you remember about the Dave Meggyesy incident?
I remember reading his book, Out of Their League. I loved it.
Derek from Eau Claire, WI
What is your take on the new kickoff rules? Will they make the play safer? I'm glad we will still get to say the baloney stops now, but we won't say baloney.
The league isn't thinking clearly on the kickoff issue. The fix is easy: Touchbacks result in the offense starting at its 10-yard line. It would leave teams desperate to kick the ball out of the end zone, which would eliminate dangerous kickoff returns but preserve the ceremonial aspect. It might even put some intrigue into the kickoff, since the perceived penalty on the offense would make the play worth watching. In reality, the effect on offenses would be minimal. They'd be out beyond the 20 in two plays.
Jerry from Savannah, GA
Vic, have the Packers truly upgraded at the tight end position?
From a con man? Yeah, I think they have.
Ross from Newmarket, Ontario
Vic, could you tell us a bit about what Marcedes Lewis was like in the first couple years of his career? Any notable memories from your time covering him with the Jaguars?
In the 2006 draft, Marcedes was known as the athletic tight end from UCLA. Several scouts described him that way to me, so when the Jaguars drafted Marcedes, I expected him to be the next Kellen Winslow, senior not junior. Two years into his career, however, Marcedes was less than I expected as a receiver and a lot more than I expected as a blocker. I remember Jack Del Rio gushing to me about Marcedes' run-blocking. The Packers are getting a strong side edge blocker for their running game. The Green Bay animal rescue community is getting a kind-hearted man who has given his time and money to aid the rescue services. Marcedes is a big, lovable football player who'll block for the running game on Sunday, and then clear a path to safety for abandoned animals on Monday.
Bob from Titusville, FL
Marcedes Lewis was cut by Jacksonville, a running offense, but signed by the Packers to improve their run-blocking line? What am I missing in this story?
The Jaguars signed Austin Seferian-Jenkins in free agency. He's a more explosive receiver than Lewis, and the Jaguars certainly need more pop in their passing game. They couldn't keep both players. The cap is king.
Thomas from Williamsburg, VA
So what do you make of the English Football Association director coming out publicly and saying the Jaguars have made no secret of their ambition to bring the franchise to London? This is the guy who is in charge of the group that is selling the stadium to Shad Khan. Why would he say that if the Jaguars hadn't spoken to them about it? This is contrary to everything the Jaguars have said publicly about the matter.
Jaguars fans deserve better than this. I don't like the Jaguars' flirtation with London. It bothers me, too.
Brandon from Williamstown, NJ
Vic, I disagree with your take on freedom of speech. The NFL is not the government, therefore, the right to free speech doesn’t exist for the players while in uniform on the field. As an employee, I understand I can say what I want and do what I want while at work, but my speech and actions can very well get me in trouble. I couldn’t imagine how hostile some work places would be if there was unfettered and protected speech.
I would agree business is within its rights to deny political statements by its employees while in the workplace, but does business have the right to force its employees to make a political statement of the company's choice? I never worked for a company that began every work day with the national anthem.
Bryant from Shiocton, WI
You had every right to report free agent signings. What you didn't have was the right to a paycheck. Everyone has the right to say and do as they please. What they don't have is the right to say and do with no consequence. I don't see a first amendment issue here, I see an entitlement issue.
Ben from Alameda, CA
Does the new helmet rule hurt the two-gap defensive lineman more than a one-gap rusher?
We don't know, but we're going to find out. The only preconceived notion I have about the new helmet rule, if it's applied and enforced as broadly as the NFL is suggesting, is it will likely change the game. Application and enforcement are the issues. Is the NFL really serious about this new rule, or is this just bluster, as the rule about running backs using their helmets to deliver a blow has been?
Jim from Brooklyn, NY
What a sad week for the NFL. In a matter of a week they took away freedom of speech and with the helmet rule changed what football is forever. Will you be watching on Sundays?
I'm going into this with an open mind. Maybe the new helmet rule will save the game from the litigation that would surely destroy it, without causing the game to suffer a loss of popularity.
Jim from Oakland, CA
Vic, in the discussion over his new contract, you've expressed some concern Rodgers may not be fully recovered from his recent collarbone injury. However, in a recent blog on packers.com, Wes Hodkiewicz asserts he saw Rodgers zing the ball with his usual velocity. As a Packers fan, should I be reassured by this testimony or do you feel this is a question that can only be answered in an NFL game?
I'd prefer to see Aaron Rodgers in game action. Again, what's the rush?
Jack from Chicago, IL
Vic, do you think the league is taking their stance on the whole anthem fiasco in order to secure a bargaining chip in the next CBA? To a common folk such as myself, their decision to take such a stance on this topic looks incredibly stupid, and I can't rationally justify it without the thought process of building ammunition for the next CBA.
It's about fear; that's all. The league is terrified of fan backlash. It's afraid of you and to where you'll direct your eyes on Sunday. It's so afraid of the fans it allowed itself to be bullied into an unnecessary action that's re-stirred the pot and is certain to cause problems the league otherwise wouldn't have to endure. The league could've taken the high road on this one -- we support our players' first amendment rights -- and suffered no more damage than embittering half the country's population. On this issue, we are divided; there is no right way to do it.
Jim from Maple Grove, MN
Vic, I read up a little on the Baltimore Colts relocation after I read Thursday's blog. Though I agree Irsay wasn't getting what he wanted, and that is at the root of everything that transpired, ultimately he was being threatened with eminent domain by the city and he left town before they could enact legislation that would have taken his football team from him. Was that vengeance or self-preservation? Do you think the city was justified in trying to employ eminent domain to keep the team from moving?
It was a bargaining chip but Irsay wouldn't negotiate. He was heavy-handed and money hungry. He brokered a better deal in Indianapolis, which rolled over and gave him anything he wanted. As far as I'm concerned, he stole the Colts from Baltimore. I believe in people, not businesses. I know what businesses do. They destroy a town's land and air with filthy steel making, and then when the town has come to depend completely on the company for the town's survival, the company leaves town for a new location that guarantees greater profits.
Marty from Grafton, WI
Vic, if the game hadn't changed so drastically, do you think you would still be writing for a team or was it time to leave anyway?
I had set 65 as the age at which I would retire. Hey, I had already overcome cancer and my first heart attack. Did I have to die in the press box? The changes in the game and the way it was being covered made it a clean break. The game had become largely uncooperative with the media and I didn't like it, so I asked my financial guy if I had enough money saved to retire. He said I did. Done.
Tom from Bismarck, ND
Vic, there sure seems to be a lot of handwringing over the release of Jordy Nelson. I think anyone who has been watching him over the past couple of seasons has seen a drop in explosiveness and, maybe more troubling, a slight reluctance to go over the middle without his head being on a swivel. I don't blame him. The new GM has shown with this one move he is not going to hang on to high-salaried players past their prime. That's refreshing.
Packers fans wring their hands too much over the release of older players. It's the salary cap era; it's what teams must do to protect their caps. It's a game of replacement.
Morgan from Kaukauna, WI
I'm starting to feel like football died a long time ago. I am seeing that games are not as entertaining as they were when I was growing up. Every year they change so many rules. When will they eliminate linemen?
I think it's a good idea. Why have all those linemen if you don't want football to be a power game? Wanna protect the head? Get rid of four linemen, two on offense and two on defense. It would reduce the number of head injuries, as well as player costs. It would also open the field for offenses, which would mean more yards and points, and fans have always favored offense.
Dave from Chippewa Falls, WI
Who had the strangest running style you've seen? I suggest Benny Malone.
Karl from St. Augustine, FL
Vic, I get the feeling part of the reason you are so solidly pushing this as a free speech issue as opposed to a "rules of the work force" issue is you're still angry with Wayne Weaver for telling you to remove the asterisk and, therefore, with yourself for not taking a stand on your right to speak freely in your power poll. Other than the topic being addressed, how was that situation different?
It was his website; free speech is my belief. A reader asked if I would be taking the same stance in my column if I was still working for packers.com. My answer is yes. Whether the Packers would've published it or not would've been up to them, but I change my beliefs for no one. I think I explained the asterisk situation fully and honestly. It was Wayne's call, not mine.
Nick from Owego, NY
Since it's most important on defense to have a pass rush, which team do you think will have the best pass rush next season?
I think sacks are going to reach record levels leaguewide. The new helmet rule will cause more pass attempts and, therefore, more sacks. Offensive linemen's pad level will get higher, which will result in defensive linemen gaining leverage and, therefore, more sacks. The Rams will have the best pass rush because the new helmet rule is perfect for Aaron Donald's game.
Tyler from Greenfield, WI
What are your thoughts on the 2012 Packers? Going into the San Fran playoff game, how did you think the Packers would fair? Seemed to me like they were evenly matched but were incapable of stopping the read option.
It was the weakest of the five Packers teams I covered. It didn't even have a 500-yard rusher.
Adam from Wausau, WI
Did you have a fairy tale ending to your career?
Yes, I did. I completed the 2015 season and one week later I drove off in the early morning darkness. Coach Noll said "cast no shadows."
Dan from Houston, TX
Are you still predicting the next CBA will be easy to negotiate? I can't imagine the players are supportive of this action or how it was accomplished.
What I wrote is the league gave the players the game in the last CBA, what are they going to give in the next negotiations? Maybe we just found out: The right to free speech.
Blaine from Menomonie, WI
Vic, I was thrilled when I happened upon your (blog) in December, and quickly read the entire archives. Thanks for this labor of love. It is appreciated. Do you think the NFL's announcement of imposing fines on teams who have players not standing during the anthem, but leaving it up to teams and players whether players leave the locker rooms, settles this issue?
Settled? This is just beginning. Now the NFL has a problem with its players as well as with its fans, and I think the teams are going to balk at being the whipping boy for this issue. The NFL wimped out. It needed to stand for something other than for appeasing the fans and ringing the cash register. The correct stand, in my opinion, is for our right to dissent. It's the big picture in this issue. After all of the petty opinions and bitterness have been voiced, the bottom line is our most precious freedom has been denied. If the right to free speech is punishable, we no longer have the right to speak freely. It now comes at a cost.
Christine from Rocky Mount, NC
At my office, I'm not allowed to put up any political signs whatsoever. Doesn't matter if it's Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. It's against the company's policy and if I refused to follow my employer's rules, I would be fired. Plain and simple. I have no problem with the NFL incorporating a similar rule at their place of business, with regard to their employees. Do you agree, Vic?
No, and here's why: Your company doesn't conduct its business in front of 70,000 spectators and televise its employees as they're working to millions of people across the country. No one is sitting in a press box writing stories about your company's employees as they work. Christine, the NFL is high profile, and what happens in the NFL has a huge impact on the social consciousness of this country. It says much about our culture. The world will now know we are no longer free. This is going to please a lot of countries that don't like us.
Jason from Menomonee Falls, WI
As we gain some clarity around how the helmet rule will be implemented, did we just witness the death of three and four-point stances?
I've been predicting it for a long time. It's happening.
Mark from Eau Claire, WI
What was the closest to a great team you have seen in the salary cap era?
The salary cap era began in 1993 with an eight-player draft, but teams weren't forced to comply with a dollar-amount cap until the following season. The Cowboys of the first couple of cap seasons were a great team, but they were built in the pre-cap era and quickly began to lose players in free agency and weaken in the cap era. The 2004 Patriots would be my next choice. I think it was the best of all the Patriots' cap-era teams.
Matt from Verona, WI
So the NFL wants to fix the anthem problem by forcing teams to alienate a bunch of fans, alienate their players, or take a penalty. Cool.
I think the POTUS is still stinging from that one dollar damages award he and the USFL "won" against the NFL. I think he still sees the NFL's executives laughing as they left the courthouse. Well, he got his revenge.
Bob from St. Charles, IL
Please tell me you don't kayak down the Edisto River, where rattlesnakes fall out of trees and bite people. At least the cold in Green Bay has no venom.
It's all part of the experience, Bob.
Lori from Brookfield, WI
Vic, who had a fairy tale ending to his career?
John Elway certainly did. How about Jerome Bettis winning a Super Bowl in his hometown in his last game?
Jim from Maple Grove, MN
Vic, the 2011 Packers team doesn't get a lot of accolades from you. Was it a flawed group hiding behind a stellar record, or were they possibly one injured player away from going deep in the playoffs? Nick Collins vs. Ryan Shazier?
A healthy Collins would've made a difference on defense, for sure, but the lack of a running game is what betrayed the Packers in the playoff loss to the Giants. The Giants were able to drop seven into the passing lanes and put their four down linemen into rush mode without any fear of getting gashed by the run. The 2011 team was a one-trick pony. That was its fatal flaw.
Ryan from Noblesville, IN
Holy cow! I've been reading your (column) for seven years, and I never read your disdain for Penn State vs. Pitt! Such fire! Tell me more.
One man's vendetta should not have been allowed to end something of such historical and social importance; the Penn State fight song once included the words, "Beat Pitt." Joe Paterno used his and Penn State's powerful position to drop Pitt from the schedule because Pitt wouldn't agree to join Paterno's East Coast conference idea. Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. I think we're seeing an example of that in the anthem issue.
Nate from New Berlin, WI
Vic, I respect your love for a power running game, but you're talking about one of the top three running backs in the game in Le'Veon Bell. Yards are yards, no matter how you get them, and he gets more than almost anyone. Teams simply aren't going to fear James Conner.
When asked about Franco Harris when Harris held out, Chuck Noll said, "Franco who?" Coach Noll's point was he would only concern himself with players who were in training camp. The next time Mike Tomlin is asked about Bell's absence, I think Tomlin should answer, "Le'Veon who?" I liked the Steelers a lot more when they were tough.
Brian from Kingston, NY
Is there a hierarchy among football beat writers, and those that write for team websites? Would covering the Packers be considered a step up from a team like the Browns, for example?
Covering a team that plays in big games provides a stage for writers to be recognized for their work. One of the reasons I came to Green Bay was to be able to cover big games again in what I knew would be the final few years of my career. Be that as it may, the team doesn't write your story for you. The good writers distinguish themselves with their words and their ability to interview.
Nic from Milwaukee, WI
Vic, would you expand on what you meant about working under guidelines during your time with the Packers?
I wasn't permitted to release the names of new signings until the deal was done, which meant the contract had to be signed and the player had to have passed his physical. I thought it was a ridiculous policy that denied information to fans and compromised the site's credibility and appeal. I suggested we write the player and team had reached agreement on a contract, contingent on the player's signature and passing a physical. That idea was rejected. I remember the Sam Shields deal being reported by media on a Saturday, but we didn't run the story until Tuesday. I was embarrassed. The undrafted free agents list was held back for a week. What I came to understand is this was the new NFL. Football was in charge and providing information was of no benefit to them. The days of the owners wanting to get the information out quickly and with fanfare were over because the game was so popular it didn't need the publicity anymore. The owners had turned the game over to their football fiefdoms. That's what I came to appreciate, that it was no longer the game I grew up covering. It was time for me to go.
Dave from Savage, MN
Do you think the smaller shoulder pads and (overall) less padding has an impact on the quality of tackling?
Without question. It's become an excuse, along with the rules that have caused the game to be played more with the hands and feet, instead of with the hips and shoulders.
Eric from Greenville, WI
Declining youth participation, worried parents, concussion, issues to tackle, but very surmountable. Gambling, corruption and eroding the integrity of the game in the fans' eyes? I think we just saw the door swing wide open and in 30 years or fewer, we'll look back to this time as the decision that killed the NFL. Some guys will get rich, and America will have lost its sport.
States with budget shortfalls are going to see an opportunity to balance those budgets, hold the line on taxes and curry political favor. Look out!
James from Columbia, MD
What was the NFL community's reaction when the Colts left Baltimore? What was your take on it and why did it happen?
It happened because one man didn't get what he wanted, causing him to act with vengeance that ended something of great historical and social importance. Sound familiar? The Baltimore Colts were one of the NFL flagship franchises. There was outrage within the old-guard community. My reaction? I covered a Steelers at Indianapolis Colts game the year after the Colts left Baltimore. The week of the game, I received an invitation from the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce to a night-before-the-game reception that welcomed visiting media to the NFL's newest city. I did not attend.
Kamen from Bethel, CT
Vic, to be clear, the Supreme Court doesn't design the law, just interprets it. Whether or not sports gambling is moral or ethical is inconsequential to the question of the federal ban's constitutionality.
The Supreme Court is the conscience and ultimate authority with final say on all legal matters in this country. They passed the buck on this one.
Martin from Tisovec, Slovakia
Vic, I was thinking about last season. To piggyback on the discussion from last year's draft, how would you compare Kevin King and T.J. Watt?
Watt was the better player last season. That was obvious. King will have a chance to become the better player this season.
Tom from Vista, CA
Vic, how does a young reporter gauge the line between overly intrusive and letting readers know something important? When does a young reporter become seasoned?
Young reporters need to pay their dues, just as young players do. Paying their dues for young reporters means standing by their stories, regardless of how unpopular they are.
Tom from Appleton, WI
In evaluating a draft prospect, what's more important, technique or raw talent?
In my opinion, a first-round pick should look good in the shower. In other words, he should have the physical ability to improve his play. Often, guys with great technique have maxed out; they don't get any better. Scouts tend to favor physical upside; coaches tend to favor great technique. That's always been the rub between scouts and coaches, and I favor the scouts' view when it comes to prospect evaluation.
Jim from Maple Grove, MN
Vic, did you ever cover a great Packers team while you were in Green Bay? If so, what made the team great? If not, what was missing for greatness?
I don't think it's possible for a salary cap era team to be considered great, relative to the great teams of the pre-cap era. Simply put, teams in the salary cap era can't employ as many great players on their rosters as the great teams of the pre-cap era did. As I've written, in the salary cap era it would be Taylor or Hornung, not both; it would be Gregg or Ringo, not both; it would be Nitschke or Robinson, not both. The 2014 Packers were a complete football team. They had it all, relative to the salary cap era in which they played. Oh, but for those last four minutes.
Joshua from Philadelphia, PA
Vic, you've encountered and interacted with an incredible amount of people. You tell stories of these interactions and the lasting impressions they've had on you. Do you still maintain strong relationships with any of these people?
I was in Jacksonville this past weekend for a member-guest golf tournament at Sawgrass Country Club. I was fortunate to have a surprise meeting with Tony Boselli in the grill room. It felt wonderful to see an old friend whose words filled so many of my stories. I love the old guys.
Dave from Jacksonville, FL
Vic, old Mountaineer Field in Morgantown is my favorite Stadium of all time, too! So many great memories for me as a Mountaineer fan. It was the ultimate small, old-bowl stadium. Tony Dorsett called it a “Snake Pit.” Were you at the 1975 Pitt vs. WVU game when West Virginia kicker Bill McKenzie beat Pitt with a 38-yard field goal with four seconds on the clock? That is my fondest memory of that grand old stadium.
I remember it well. Bobby Bowden said it might've been the biggest win of his career because without that win he doubts he would've gotten the Florida State job.
Lori from Brookfield, WI
Vic, will Aaron Rodgers get his fairy tale ending with the Packers?
Those kinds of endings are few and far between. I covered Dan Marino's last game, a 62-7 loss in the playoffs. Terry Bradshaw's fairy tale ending was an elbow injury that left him to wobble two touchdown passes before leaving the field forever. Peyton Manning won the Super Bowl in his final game, but his performance was so poor it was difficult to watch and hardly fairy tale like. Brett Favre's fairy tale ending was a trade and controversy that left half of the fan base that loved him angry at him. Joe Namath finished on creaky knees in Los Angeles, across the country from where his fairy tale began. The worst final act, however, belongs to Johnny Unitas. I covered it in 1973 when, back in his hometown, where his fairy tale began on a Pittsburgh sandlot, he was benched at halftime in a blowout. It was painful to watch Unitas stumble into retirement wearing lightning bolts on his helmet instead of the Colts horseshoes he made famous.
Mark from New London, WI
Is the value of the pass rusher on the verge of declining? With the short passes, mobile quarterbacks and offensive linemen rules, it seems like the ability to mitigate a premium pass rusher is easier than beating a shutdown cover corner.
Rushing the passer has never been more important, because the sooner the quarterback is forced to throw the ball, the less likely it is he'll throw the ball deep and make a big play. Pass defense begins with rushing the passer. First you rush, then you cover.
Leif from Frederic, WI
Vic, with the draft behind the Steelers and not committing an early pick to the running back position, what do you think the Steelers do about Le'Veon Bell? Do you think the lack of a high draft pick gives him leverage?
The Steelers need to turn to James Conner and the power running game. The Steelers need to become the Steelers again.
Chad from Troy, MI
Vic, with all states now permitted to allow sports gambling, will this be good or bad for the sport, and why?
Gambling would destroy football, just as it once destroyed college basketball. Why? Because gambling corrupts.
David from Danville, CA
Which book gave the most compelling insiders portrayal of its respective sport, Ball Four by Jim Bouton or Instant Replay by Jerry Kramer?
Bouton's description of Yogi Berra scratching himself over a table of cold cuts is the most realistic portrayal of a postgame locker room in sportswriting history.
Bill from Sheboygan, WI
What did you like most about the three teams you covered?
I liked the Steelers' toughness. They played football their way. They imposed their will on their opponents and it made for great writing because the players believed in it, reveled in it and loved to talk about it. The Steelers teams I covered had a personality like no other teams I've covered. The Jaguars were new and searching for an identity. They quickly found it. They were the anti-Steelers, and I liked that about my new team because it created a great contrast between the two stages of my sportswriting career and made for writing I enjoyed. The Packers were new in a completely different way. The team from the smallest market in the NFL was in no way mom and pop. The Packers are the epitome of corporate efficiency. Covering them involved formal guidelines and I came to appreciate the manner in which the Packers operated. It helped me get a feel for the new NFL, which is to say a more antiseptic approach to covering the league.