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.
Anthony from Milwaukee, WI
Vic, you offered the Packers' success will come at the heels of their addiction to Aaron Rodgers. Is Joe Philbin the guy to do that? From 2007-2010, the offense was known to have a late-season running game surge.
Generally speaking, cold-weather (outdoor stadium) teams turn harder to their running game late in the season. The 2014 Packers, the best Packers team I covered, had a dominant running game late in the season. It's what Mike McCarthy wants. Focus on Coach McCarthy. It's his team. He calls the shots.
Adam from Ft. Lauderdale, FL
Vic, what are your thoughts on the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling on sports gambling?
Gambling is an opioids-like threat to our culture. If allowed to operate without regulation, gambling will collapse wagerable athletics and create a devastating subculture. The Supreme Court got this one wrong.
Isaac from Nashville, TN
Vic, one thing you didn't mention in your assessment of Capers' tenure: inside linebackers. When I think of really successful 3-4 units from the last few years, they always had one or two top-flight ILBs. I think Capers had some decent players at that position in Green Bay, but never better than decent. Am I reading that right?
I think you are. Most pundits would tell you inside linebacker is a two-down, grunt position -- the outside linebackers are the true stars of the 3-4 defense -- but here are some of the names of inside linebackers I've covered: Levon Kirkland, Chad Brown and Hardy Nickerson. Ryan Shazier played inside linebacker in a 3-4; so did Ray Lewis. The Packers' inside linebackers have been the two-down type. They couldn't rush or cover and, frankly, I didn't think they were all that good against the run, either. The team didn't value that position enough to address it -- other than A.J. Hawk -- which I thought was a mistake because low in the draft order is where you find the good inside guys. You can even find them affordably in free agency. James Farrior was a free agency bargain. In my mind, if you're going to play a two-gapping, 3-4 defense, you can't stop the run without top inside linebackers, as the Steelers proved late last season after Shazier was lost to injury. And if you can't stop the run against the Vikings, you won't have to worry about stopping the pass because Mike Zimmer won't stop running it. The Packers need to get better inside.
John from Peoria, IL
Vic, I need some help. A restaurant in my burg offers southern cuisine with which I'm not too familiar. I see they sell shrimp and grits. Got any advice on how I should order that particular plate?
It's simple. You get shrimp, and you get grits underneath it. The only thing I would suggest is ask if you have to peel the shrimp. If they come peeled, don't order it.
Bob from Mystic (wherever that is)
"Ask Vic" is the most credible news site of any I follow. Thank you for this gift.
"Ask Vic's" greatness is great.
David from Hilliard, OH
Vic, love your takes on the Packers' upcoming season and the Rodgers addiction analogy. My question is about the recent passing of Chuck Knox. He was always one of my favorite head coaches in the league. Did you ever have any contact with him? Any stories to share?
Coach Knox is from Sewickley, Pa., a town just outside Pittsburgh. He'd chastise his players with "That's sixth-grade Sewickley." Coach Knox liked to run the ball, and I like coaches who like to run the ball. What I came to find out is Coach Knox also liked a little gamesmanship. It goes back to training camp 1978, when Coach Knox traded a tight end named Paul Seymour to the Steelers for wide receiver Frank Lewis. Seymour flunked his Steelers physical -- fallen arches -- and the Steelers tried to return Seymour to Buffalo and nix the trade, but Coach Knox claimed the trade was not contingent on Seymour passing his physical -- Coach Noll claimed it was an unwritten rule all players had to pass a physical to finalize a trade -- so Coach Knox refused to return Lewis to the Steelers. It was good writing. A little gamesmanship is always appreciated. The two teams opened the season against each other in Buffalo. Thank you for the memory, Coach Knox.
Omar from Morelia, Mexico
During your time in Jacksonville, did you ever have any exotic visitors in your yard, like gigantic alligators?
I owned a house in Jacksonville Beach that included a retention pond on the property. I got a phone call in the press box from my wife, who said we had an alligator in the pond next to the house. We were in the process of selling the house and closing on another one, and I told her to call Bubba (the licensed alligator hunter) and get him to get that alligator out of the pond. The house closing was a few days later and Bubba had yet to arrive. When the deal was done, I asked the closing attorney, "Is this over?" He assured me it was and the house now belonged to the new owner. I said to the new owner, "Soon, a man with a gun, a rope, a large hook and a chicken will be coming into your yard." The guy gave me a puzzled look. "Congratulations! You are the proud owner of a 10-foot alligator."
Kevin from Stillwater, MN
I read as much Packers coverage as I have time to. I've noticed there's much antipathy towards Bob McGinn. I don't understand it. His reporting on the hire of Gutenkunst seemed right on to me, and I've enjoyed many other articles written by him. What's the deal?
Bob is as good as they come. If you don't like reading Bob, you're looking for a friend, not the truth.
Dave from Jacksonville, FL
Vic, recently you answered a question about the Jaguars that you never understood the fascination with the goofy Duval County reference to Jacksonville and that only Jags fans get it. Well the rest of us think the same thing of the Steelers fans and their silly yellow towels. We don’t get it if we’re not from Pittsburgh. By the way, Steelers fans get the Duuuval chant! At least the few thousand that stayed for the end of the game at Heinz Field last season. My brother, sister in-law, nephew, nieces and sons in law can attest to it! They stayed and confirmed that I did hear Duuuval in the television in the fourth quarter.
Sam from Sussex, NJ
What are your feelings toward regret? Do you have anything you currently regret but would like to remedy before your time is up? Do you have anything you regret but the time to remedy it has passed? I very much appreciate your opinions on both football and life, so thank you.
We all have regrets. I regret not having spent more time with my family. The Packers regret having blown a 19-7 lead with 3:52 to play in the 2014 NFC title game. Some regrets can't be fixed. You live with them.
Jim from Maple Grove, MN
Vic, the most extraordinary thing about the 2010 season I remember is the Packers never lost a game by more than one score, and I want to say they never trailed by more than one score. How extraordinary is that, especially on this side of the 1978 rules change? How did this team compare to the 2005 Steelers?
Neither one was great. They just got hot when it counted.
John from Jefferson, WI
Vic, you mentioned the owners traded away the game in return for the money. Was it worth it?
We'll find out the next time they have to negotiate a CBA. What's left to give?
Brian from Jacksonville, FL
Vic, in your newspaper days, when the NFL had an offseason, what other things did you cover? What were your favorites besides football?
When the season ended, I covered basketball. I covered a St. Johns-Pitt basketball game (the Chris Mullins team) the night my youngest son was born. In the spring, I covered the Pirates. I covered some U.S. Open golf tournaments and I was in the press tent at Oakmont the night O.J. went for a ride in the white Bronco. "Why are they showing a white Bronco on TV?" I said to reporters parked in front of the press tent TV. I had just come in off the course, where the heat was so stifling Colin Montgomery nearly died. "O.J. is in it," came the answer. "Why is TV showing a white Bronco with O.J. in it?" I tried again. "Because O.J. is a fugitive from the law," came the answer. I sat down and watched the white Bronco on TV until they made us leave the tent. One year I was covering the PGA at Oakmont when they announced in the press tent Pope Paul had died. Myron Cope struggled with his hearing and he was shocked by the news. "He was just a young man," Cope said. "Huh," came the reply. "Boog Powell. They just said Boog Powell died." Being a sportswriter means I never had to work a day.
David from Madison, WI
What do you think about James Franklin's comments about exiting the Pitt-PSU rivalry game to ostensibly better his team's strength of schedule rating for the CFP? Has he no shame?
It is also Joe Paterno's shame he cost the state of Pennsylvania its most intense and treasured rivalry. Shame on Penn State for what it's done! The "Grand Experiment" is garbage. One day, I hope they meet again in a meaningful game, and I hope Pitt nails Penn State to the cross on which it belongs.
Kabir from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL
A recent article cited Ben Roethlisberger's evolution from game manager to field general. What are the distinctive characteristics of one versus the other? How does one recognize when a quarterback has made that transition?
Roethlisberger's time as a game manager was short-lived. In year three of his career, he went from 2,385 yards passing the previous season to 3,513 yards passing. From that point on, he was "The Man."
Jason from Loganville, WI
Vic, what would you say was the best advice someone has given you in your lifetime?
Joe Greene told me, "Take the high road."
Mark from New London, WI
If forced to choose, would you rather watch World Cup soccer or the royal wedding?
How about watching Webb Simpson play 18 holes of golf without anyone challenging him?
Ben from El Paso, TX
Not a question but a sincere thank you. The response to the fact/fiction question I asked was fantastic. It reminded me that during the weeks leading up to the 2013 game in Chicago was when I discovered your column. I have been reading it ever since. In my opinion, you got it right.
We live for the drama.
Fed from Jacksonville, FL
Vic, when will fans get a clue. I remember hearing you on the radio in one of your last seasons in Jax. Someone asked you about Torry Holt (who had signed with the Jags at the end of his career), if he would help the young receivers. His answer was, "I'll help mentor them, all right. I'll mentor them right to the bench." Isn't this Big Ben's mentality? Shouldn't it be?
It's absolutely the right attitude.
Pat from Seneca, SC
Do you have any favorites among college football stadiums?
Old Mountaineer Field at West Virginia is my favorite.
Todd from Milwaukee, WI
Vic, if the Packers make the playoffs, NFC championship game, Super Bowl, win the Super Bowl (one of these scenarios), do the readers get to admonish you for your prediction this year is a Packers rebuilding year? Or is the ego too damaged?
Do as you please -- I think my ego can handle it -- but first let's get the facts straight. I've gone on record as saying this is not a rebuilding year. That's too strong a word. No team with Aaron Rodgers as its quarterback is rebuilding. My expectation, for lack of a better word, is for the Packers to be a playoff contender. To go beyond that at this stage, in my opinion, would be foolish. This is from the book What Happy People Know: "Happiness depends to a significant degree upon expectations. If you inflate your expectations, you're begging to be unhappy. Happy people keep their expectations under constraint." I consider myself to be a happy person. Why do you choose to be unhappy?
Jonathan from St. Joseph, MO
Who's to blame more for the disconnect between players and media? Coaches or the Internet?
The popularity of the game is to blame. Pro football has become so popular it no longer needs the media to help promote it. Once upon a time, baseball was the national pastime and football was the college game. Back then, the media was treated lovingly, for the obvious reason. "Write anything you want; just spell the name right," was the NFL's PR mantra. These days, the media is treated as an intruder, regardless of what it writes. Football has its own kingdom. It walks through a different door than everybody else. Once upon a time, we all walked through the same door.
Nathan from San Diego, CA
What’s your early take on the talent on Green Bay’s defense this year vs. last year?
It's decidedly better. The Packers spent their first three picks in this year's draft on defensive players, and they added a big-time defensive lineman in free agency. The big difference, in my opinion, is the Packers' first two picks this year were picks 18 and 45; last year they were picks 33 and 61.
Paula from Minneapolis, MN
I found an article about George Atkinson's defamation suit against Chuck Noll. It said calling it a three ring circus would be charitable. Did you cover the Steelers then? Any thoughts you would like to share?
Yeah, I covered the Steelers then and I'll never forget the Monday press conference when I heard Coach Noll utter the immortal words, "criminal element." For the record, Atkinson was just a tool in the legal process. Al Davis was the driving force in the lawsuit. He used he lawsuit to drive a wedge between Noll and at least one of his players, Mel Blount. The league was concerned about the appearance of one team suing another team. It didn't bode well for Pete Rozelle's leaguethink philosophy. My concern was for the No. 1 law of the mass media: Public figures are subject to public criticism (New York Times vs. Sullivan). If the Raiders had won that lawsuit, the precedent could've become crippling for the American free press. Fortunately, justice prevailed.
Nick from Oswego, NY
Just bought my first house, and now I need to buy my first mower? Any suggestions?
Don't buy one with a bag attachment.
Aaron from Wausau, WI
I became a football fan after the 2011 CBA came into effect. You've mentioned it several times, so I'm curious. How have you seen it change the game and the league?
The players gave the owners the money concessions they wanted. The owners gave the players the game.
Mike from North Hudson, WI
Vic, in regards to the Packers, what will you be watching for the most in training camp and through the first three preseason games?
All eyes will be on the defense. I suspect Defensive Coordinator Mike Pettine will test his young cornerbacks with man coverage and in challenging matchups, to see how much they can handle. We should get a pretty good read on the young guys (King, Alexander and Jackson). They hold the key to improvement on defense.
Mike from Somerset, WI
Vic, there have been comments Green Bay's best offseason acquisition has been Mike Pettine. This implies it's Dom Capers' fault for the defensive failure. Did Capers' scheme become outdated?
It was "outdated" long before he came to Green Bay. The zone blitz was fresh in 1994, during its Blitzburgh days. NFL coaches don't need 23 years to figure out how to attack a scheme. When Coach Capers came to Green Bay, Charles Woodson was at the top of his game, Nick Collins was a playmaking safety and Clay Matthews was a new star on fresh legs. That's why Coach Capers' scheme was successful early in his time as Packers defensive coordinator. Why did it begin to fail? In my opinion, there was a sharp decline in talent. Look at the cornerbacks he was given: an undrafted guy with concussion problems, a baseball player who played safety in college, and a basketball player with one year of football experience. Two of his high-pick defensive linemen -- Jerrell Worthy and Datone Jones -- were busts, and the Packers have struggled to find a pass rusher to complement Matthews.
Tim from Sun Prairie, WI
Do you agree with McCarthy that DeShone Kizer would have been a 2018 first-round pick if he had stayed in school last year?
I don't. Lamar Jackson was the last pick of the first round of this year's draft, and I consider Jackson to have been a much better prospect than Kizer.
Kristian from Denmark
Vic, when you say "restorative year," what do you think needs to be done/ added to the team for it to be less dependent on catching breaks, to more reliably move into championship territory?
It needs to get off its Aaron Rodgers dependency addiction. Since the Packers won the Super Bowl in 2010, everything has revolved around Rodgers. The Packers have been a one-man team, but if you look back at the 2010 season, you'll see the Packers held opponents to seven or fewer points six times. Yeah, they won with defense back then, not just with Rodgers. The Packers need to win games with something more than Rodgers' right arm. The Packers need to win with defense and the running game. That's what I mean by restorative. They need to restore the overall strength of their roster.
Chris from Lexington, KY
Yahoo Sports recently released offensive tweets posted by Josh Allen back in 2012 and 2013, when he was in high school. The tweets aren't even on his account any longer. In your opinion, is this fair news, or unethical reporting?
It's mean spirited, but the truth is the pure defense. This falls under the category of "some mistakes we never stop paying for." It also just happened to a young reporter covering the Carolina Panthers.
Mike from Bridgeport, CT
Jags vs. Pats at 4:25 is going to be CBS and Chatty's featured game. It's as good as prime time and will be nationally televised. A fun, challenging schedule for the boys from Duval.
"Boys from Duval" is a reference to the Jaguars and Duval County. I've never understood the fascination with the reference to Duval County. It's kind of goofy. Nobody outside of Duval County knows what it means. You're right about the schedule.
Don from Oak Creek, WI
What was the biggest change in the way you covered stories and/or approached your role as a journalist covering a team from your first years in the business to your final years in the business?
The creation of the Internet allowed me greater freedom in framing a story because I wasn't faced with newspaper space and tense constraints. With the Internet, I could write and post a story now and then replace it with a new, updated version an hour later. During my newspaper days, I had to write in the future perfect tense because stories had to be written for, at the least, a 24-hour shelf life, and I never knew how circumstances might change before I wrote my next story. Sometimes circumstances changed as the newspaper was being printed.
John from Sioux Falls, SD
We've got some time to kill until things get interesting again, so let's go back in time a little bit. What did you think of the book Paper Lion by George Plimpton, when it came out? Great inside look at the pro game of the '60s? Or did you see it as a gimmick? Many thanks.
It didn't interest me a whole lot because it was clearly contrived and wasn't an accurate representation of whatever it was the book was trying to portray. I read it as a kid, but even then I knew the book lacked believability. It was good for people who didn't know the book was baloney. The book reached out to the casual fan, and the NFL needed more casual fans for the league to become competitive with baseball and college football, so I'll give the book credit for helping to drive pro football's surge in popularity.
Jeremy from Jacksonville, FL
While it's been continually upgraded, the stadium in Jacksonville is approaching 30 years old (half of it is even older than that). This was briefly touched on during the state of the franchise presentation and it piqued my interest then, and even more so after the Wembley deal was announced. Do you think the team and the town will start planning a rebuild, or is the Jags' time in Jax limited to the remaining life of the "Gator Bowl?"
Eventually, a new stadium will be built in Jacksonville, but I don't think that time is near at hand. First of all, Everbank Field offers competitive revenue streams, including suites, clubs, the Bud Zone, etc. The facility also offers a large footprint, which has allowed it to upgrade the grounds adjacent to it to accommodate the team's training needs. The locker rooms and signage have been updated, so I don't see a deficiency other than the stadium's original problem, that it yawns too much side to side, which causes its upper decks to be distant from the field and giving the stadium a less-than-intimate feel. Everbank has served Jacksonville well. It's housed the Jaguars for 23 years, hosted a Super Bowl and continues to be the site of the Florida-Georgia game. It also possesses something else: a big piece of my heart. I have fond memories of the 16 years I worked in that stadium, and I look forward to visiting it next November.
Jerry from Savannah, GA
Vic, what’s the story behind the picture of you on the airplane? Who took it?
I'm on the bus on the way to the airport following a game in my final season covering the Packers, which would've been 2015. A co-worker took the picture and sent it to me. I know it's my final season -- it might even be my final game -- because I'm not wearing a tie. In the last few games of my career, I decided not to wear a tie. Hey, what are they gonna do, fire me? I quit, right? My goal was always to have my game story and column written and posted before the wheels were up on the plane. As this picture is of me on the bus, I can confirm I was writing my game story. I always saved my column for last, as writing the game story helped me achieve perspective.
Beau from Lancaster, PA
Vic, fans often use "we" when referring to their favorite team. Did you use "we" when you were employed by your three teams?
I was employed by the Packers and the Jaguars. I covered the Steelers for a newspaper. I have never, ever referred to a team I was covering as we or us. To do so would be an embarrassment to me and an insult to my profession and my colleagues, and it would be a betrayal of my readers' trust. The teams I've covered wouldn't have liked it, either. I always believed they wanted me to be a credible link to their fans, and I don't know how a media member can achieve credibility with the fans by surrendering his or her objectivity. In my opinion, any fan who wants a media person to refer to his or her favorite team as we or us is looking for a friend, not the truth.
Dave from Chippewa Falls, WI
Would you have gone for two against the Cardinals?
No. I consider that to be an act of desperation and it's just not in my personality to let it all ride on one play. That's not to say I don't understand why a coach would go for two in that situation, because I can make a strong case for doing it. I just don't like the desperate quality of it. I think it sends a bad message to your team that could have a lingering effect on its performance.
Anthony from Chicago, IL
Vic, I don't quite have a question, just a quick story I think you'll find pretty cool. I work for a family-owned company in the Lincoln Park area of Chicago as a mattress salesman, and every once in awhile I have an athlete stop in to buy something. A couple of days ago, I had a gentleman walk in to buy a couple of pillows. While writing up the order, he mentioned his name was Taylor Gabriel, the receiver that was just signed by the Bears. While we were chatting in the store, I had another guest who was looking to purchase a bed for her daughter, who is blind. As we were going over pricing, the guest was visibly upset, saying she couldn't afford the mattress she wanted. Overhearing this, Mr. Gabriel stepped in and decided to buy the mattress for her. Both of us were stunned, and my other guest was so happy she was brought to tears. Needless to say, even as a Packers fan, I will be rooting for Mr. Gabriel to make a Pro Bowl this year. Also, thank you, Vic, for enlightening me to some of the more subtle nuances of this beautiful game.
Ben from Chicago, IL
What football topics interest you these days now that the draft has occurred?
This is speculation time, and any and all versions of speculation are permitted and justified. Free agency is over, the draft has been concluded and we have a pretty good idea of what each team will be taking to training camp. Opinions are what interest me from now until kickoff on opening day, at which point the baloney stops, except I won't say baloney.
Leif from Frederic, WI
Vic, best and worst pick from the Steelers draft.
I think Mason Rudolph will become the Steelers' best pick. I think he immediately upgrades the backup quarterback position and I think there's a strong possibility he can become "The Man" when Ben Roethlisberger retires. Terrell Edmunds, the Steelers' first pick, might be their worst, but only because the feeling is they reached for him. The Edmunds situation is interesting. The Steelers obviously fell in love with him and have a particular role in mind for him. I suspect he's going to be used as a "box safety," which means the Steelers would go light at linebacker. The other safety the Steelers drafted, Marcus Allen, is a similar type of big, heavy hitter. Still, Kevin Colbert wouldn't have reached for Edmunds if he didn't have reason to do so. I suspect he had information that another team was hot on Edmunds for the same reason the Steelers were, and would've "reached" for Edmunds, too.
Ben from El Paso, TX
For a sports journalist, where is the line between covering drama and creating it? How has it changed since you started your career?
If you're referring to the difference between fact and fiction, the truth has always been the line that separates the two. The truth is the pure defense. Otherwise, I know of no such line because I've never created drama, only found it in circumstances that otherwise would've gone unnoticed. As a reporter allowed to get close to the team and cover it on a daily basis, I consider it to be my obligation to find the drama and present it to my readers so they might more fully appreciate the game we love. I've written about a journeyman receiver named Johnnie Dirden, and how he described to me his attempts to hide from "The Turk" on cutdown days. Dirden was acting out a somewhat daily drama. His story gave my readers a feel for the intensity of training camp. The Aaron Rodgers saga in 2013 is an example of drama. I didn't create it, but I made sure I heightened it and sensitized my readers to it. Why? Because it was real. My reporter's instincts told me, "Vic, get this right because we are heading for something dramatic and defining." Would you agree the game-winning touchdown pass against the Bears was such a moment? I saw the lights explode!
Jake from Knoxville, TN
In terms of roster-building, offenses and defenses are both placing ever greater emphasis on versatility. What do you think is going to be the next step in the strategic progression of the game?
I think we're headed for multiple quarterbacks in the game at the same time, the result of college football producing so many run-pass types. It would be a scheme nightmare for defenses to face a two-quarterback set, since one of them would be the equivalent of a running back, or even a receiver. If I was a head coach, it would be one of my offseason projects. I'd ask my offensive coordinator to create a two-quarterback series of plays. I don't think the Steelers went far enough with the "Slash" stuff. I think there's a lot more left in that concept, especially if you have two quarterbacks with that kind of run-pass ability. In time, I think that will become the norm.
Jeff from Sun Prairie, WI
What do you think the NFL would be if players could sign anywhere they want coming out of college but there was still a salary cap?
The rich, glitzy teams would grab the headlines and slowly destroy their caps. The meek would inherit the earth.
Dave from Jacksonville, FL
Vic, you’ve covered some terrific wide receiver tandems, including the great Steelers Hall of Famers Swann and Stallworth and the Jaguars' Jimmy Smith and Keenan McCardell. I saw the former play on television and the latter play every home game live in Jax from 1996-01. What are your thoughts on these two dynamic receiving duos?
I had this conversation with Keenan several times. I would tell him the big difference was Swann and Stallworth won four titles. Swann and Stallworth were each big-play, long-touchdown-pass receivers, whereas Keenan was the consummate possession receiver, but I also saw Keenan make a lot of big plays with possession receptions. Keenan and Jimmy got the stats, Swann and Stallworth got the rings. That's the big difference.
Aaron from Wausau, WI
What were some memorable Joe Greene quotes?
"Don't you understand? There's some honest to God human confrontation going on out there."
Eric from Lansing, MI
Tell us a memory about the NFL you don't write about.
It's from 1977. I was a young reporter sitting at a table in a San Diego restaurant with some big names in my profession. Through the door walks Pete Rozelle, who sees our table and walks over to say hello. He begins going around the table and shaking each guy's hand, acknowledging them by name. I'm thinking to myself, "This is going to be embarrassing; he's not going to know my name." When Pete gets to me, he says, "Hi, Vic, how are you?" I never felt better in my life.
Justin from Canton, NC
Vic, I couldn't agree more on players having an edge. When did it change? When did fans start wanting their players coddled more than coached and pushed? Imagine if our bosses all kept our feelings at the forefront of their minds and not the profit margins. I loved your quote from Poslunszny from his childhood. A lot of us that played had a moment like that at some point.
Fans want to believe the players feel what the fans feel, but they don't and they shouldn't. Fans feel love. Love doesn't win football games. Tom Coughlin once fined a player (Ben Coleman) for walking down the hallway with me and laughing. Coughlin said it was "out of media time." Seeing it angered me, he added, "Hey, I don't want guys walking around here with smiles on their faces."
Dan from Golden, CO
"If Mayfield isn't the Browns' starting quarterback by midseason (I think it'll be earlier), the Browns will have made a terrible mistake." Couldn't disagree more. The Rams waited on Goff, who was way more groomed and ready to start than Mayfield, and that seemed to have been a huge benefit to him.
Coach, the Browns didn't win a game! The Rams were competitive. How about the Eagles and Carson Wentz? If the first overall pick of the draft can't play on a team that didn't win a game, worry will quickly replace optimism.
Rich from Grand Rapids, MI
Pettine coached under Rex Ryan, whose dad (Buddy) created the "46 Defense" because, in his words, his team was not good enough to get pressure with a three or four-man rush and "if we have to send eight, we'll send eight, but we're not going to let you sit back there and pick us apart." I'm not suggesting the "46" is in the Pack's future, but it sure is easier to send more than four (or even five) if you have the cover guys behind it. If you can't rush, then cover. I am hopeful for a sea-change in the Pack's pass defense fortunes.
Back in the Buddy Ryan days, the league still permitted defensive backs to cover, so you could hold your coverage long enough to sell out to the blitz and not get burned. I don't know if it's possible to cover receivers that way in today's game. Look at the Jaguars. They had the top cover corners in the playoffs and they got clobbered by Roethlisberger and Brady. The "46" the Bears played was the equivalent of "Cover Zero," and you can't play that in today's don't-touch-the-receiver game. In my mind, disguising coverages and blitzes is the key to pass defense in today's game. Show blitz and drop, show coverage and blitz. The quarterback must be confused, and the quarterback must be confused badly.
Tom Elk Port, IA
Vic, perhaps you’ve answered this question before, but when and why did the draft get whittled down to seven rounds. Is seven the right number?
The seven-round draft is a product of the salary cap era. It's the number of rounds to which the players and owners agreed. Yeah, I think it's the right number. Undrafted free agents are the equivalent of extra rounds of the draft.
Ben from El Paso, TX
Who was the most memorable rookie you covered or interviewed?
Tony Boselli was a rookie who played and talked as though he was a five-year veteran. In his first-ever game, he stoned Sean Jones. Boselli was immediately one of the best pass-blockers in the league. In the locker room, he was a sensational interview. He loved to talk about football and his grasp of the game was the equal of his talent for playing it. He immediately became a go-to player for me. Tom Coughlin nailed it with his selection of Boselli as the second pick of the 1995 draft.
Paul from Cumming, GA
I'm surprised by Big Ben's indignance at the Steelers' decision to draft a quarterback. Does Ben need a spelling lesson from Hollywood Henderson?
Roethlisberger is showing his insecurity. It's what drives him and I don't think the Steelers are surprised or upset one bit their quarterback has acquired an edge about the selection of Mason Rudolph. Why do fans think it's the team's duty to pacify the quarterback? A chip on the shoulder has always served Aaron Rodgers well. It's an edge game. Every player needs one.
Tom Bismarck, ND
A positive spin on our backup QB situation has come from Cleveland's head coach. This year's No. 1 draft pick, Baker Mayfield, will not be starting for the Browns. Instead, Hue Jackson will be going with Tyrod Taylor, presumably because Mayfield isn't quite ready for the NFL. That would lead most to believe he thought Kizer was ready coming out of college. Any true Packers fan should then recognize the Cleveland QB guru thinks our backup QB was more NFL ready than this year's top draft choice. Neat. Please explain why I'm wrong?
Your logic is a little twisted. Would Kizer have started over Taylor? The real error in your theory is you're buying into Jackson's baloney. If Mayfield isn't the Browns' starting quarterback by midseason (I think it'll be earlier), the Browns will have made a terrible mistake.
Jerry from Savannah, GA
Vic, who’s a past or present QB who equals Big Ben’s drama level?
That's easy: Terry Bradshaw. Brad rose from the dead better than any quarterback I've ever covered or seen play. He left a playoff game against the Colts in the first half with an injury everyone thought was game-ending. When the two teams came back out onto the field for the second half, no Brad. A few minutes later, he came sprinting out of the tunnel and didn't miss a down the rest of that game or in the postseason until Larry Cole knocked him unconscious on a long, game-clinching touchdown pass to Lynn Swann in Super Bowl X. With Brad, everything was dramatic, including his final game in 1983. The day before the game, on the way to practice, he told me he couldn't throw at all. He said he wouldn't raise his arm above his shoulder at practice, and he didn't. The next day, in the final NFL game ever played at Shea Stadium, he drove the Steelers 80 yards and threw a touchdown pass, and then drove them 79 yards and threw a weak and wobbly touchdown pass, and as he left the field he said to Chuck Noll, "I'm done, Chuck." He never played again. The thing about Brad is he was so tough you never knew where reality began and ended. His flare for the dramatic was exceeded only by his toughness. One week after breaking his left wrist, he was under center wearing a cast. I remember him rising from the dead in St. Louis in 1979, much as he did against the Colts in the '75 playoffs. Roethlisberger has that same flare for the dramatic, but his toughness is without question so we never know where the real Roethlisberger begins and ends. I'll never forget Cincinnati fans showering him with debris as he was carted off the field (I think he was being carted) in that infamous playoff game a few years ago, following a pile-driving tackle by Vontaze Burfict. Everyone figured Roethlisberger was done, but he rose from the dead and led the Steelers on that wacky game-winning field goal drive. He's every bit as quirky as Bradshaw and I love it. The game needs flavorful characters.
Rey from Milwaukee, WI
Vic, do you miss asking questions to the players? Did you have a signature question and, if you did, who answered it best?
I don't miss interviewing today's players; they've been gagged by their teams and don't have much to say. "I just want to contribute" doesn't work for me. My signature question was: "What are your thoughts on (today's game or whatever the subject is)?" If a player wouldn't or couldn't answer that question, then I moved on to another player. Why waste time interviewing a player who has no thoughts? Lots of guys were good at answering the question. Joe Greene was probably the best. Joe always had thoughts and they were always quote worthy.
Brad from Basalt, CO
Vic, in an era when average time from snap to release is in the 2.3-second range and looking to get quicker, can an edge rusher even get to the quarterback in time? Is pressure up the middle becoming more important?
Pass rushers get their sacks on the few times the ball doesn't come out quickly. Pressure up the middle has always been important because you don't want the quarterback stepping up in the pocket, you want him stepping out of the pocket.
Alden from Jacksonville, FL
You always mention, "Get 'em good or get 'em gone." You should check out an article called "Age Played A Bigger Role In The NFL Draft. It’s About Time." It's about how draft prospects are getting younger due to the rookie wage scale instituted by the NFL. What do you think about this?
The article suggests younger is better, though in a somewhat twisted way. What I would say is teams are relying more on the draft than ever before because it's the most effective means for keeping your roster young and your salary cap manageable. Since the 2011 CBA, it's not only a young man's game, it's an affordably priced young man's game.
Dan from Waupun, WI
Will the Jacksonville tax payers have to pay more tax to help Khan buy a new stadium? Will American tax payer money be used? We see it with companies like McDonalds. Sports is cashing in on more free (tax) money. I hope Trump closes the hole.
Kal from Redondo Beach, CA
I've read more than once that CB Josh Jackson is primarily a zone coverage guy. He squats. What are your thoughts on that assertion, and what type of coverage does Coach Pettine favor?
Most good defenses have a shutdown corner and a squat corner. The shutdown guy is in man coverage -- Revis Island is a good way of saying it -- and the zone corner squats or stops at 10 yards and gets help over the top from the safety. Having used three high picks on corners in the last two years, I have to believe the Packers will find a shutdown type among the three, which will allow them to squat on the other side. The irony of that system is the squat guy is usually the one that makes most of the interceptions and touchdown returns because he's in position to jump routes.
Curt from Grants Pass, OR
I'm a little surprised at the Saints' first-round maneuvering. Did they stumble on a player whose value was much more than 14th, or is this the sound of the train warming up to leave the station?
When a team trades away a first-round pick in the next year's draft to move up in this year's draft, it's for one reason: They believe the player they've targeted is a difference-maker. Clearly, the Saints are in love with Marcus Davenport. Hey, the Saints drafted pretty well in 2017. Maybe they know what they're doing.
Alex from Arvada, CO
Your expectation of this upcoming season being restorative was quite shocking. The way I see it, the defense is much stronger (on paper) with a new, young and proven coach, better front line, better corners and two new pass rushers (Biegel and Gilbert). On offense, they get Aaron back (who was 4-1 before the injury) with his two new running back weapons, and swap an old and slow wide receiver with a still fast and athletic nightmare to cover tight end. And you can't underestimate getting Philbin back; you know how well that offense played when he was coaching. What am I missing here?
James from Fleming Island, FL
I had the opportunity to watch a replay of the Jaguars/Steelers divisional playoff game again. It's strange Big Ben didn't received much attention for the great game he played.
He might be the most underrated quarterback in NFL history.
Steve from North Hudson, WI
Which of your three teams had the best overall draft?
I think Tony Pauline would say the Packers had the best draft, and I would agree due to the first-round pick the Packers acquired in the trade with the Saints. Be that as it may, the Steelers picked a quarterback, Mason Rudolph, and because of the importance of that position, the Steelers' draft has strong upside potential. I applaud the Steelers' decision to begin preparing for life after Roethlisberger. It may require several picks before they find their next quarterback, but you're not going to find him without trying.
Thierry from Paris, France
Vic, I keep reading Jaire Alexander is playing bigger than his size. I like the two cornerbacks drafted by the Packers, however, you used to say to be cautious of this type of player, as the game already is physical enough for big guys. Should we be concerned or just enjoy his other skills?
Prior to the rules changes of 1978, cornerbacks were measured for their physical toughness because they were integral in run support and pass coverage was all about jamming receivers in the bump-and-run technique. These days, cornerbacks are judged by their ability to mirror receivers. Today's cornerbacks are basketball defenders. They have to be able to move with their man and have the quickness to go for the steal. I don't see playing big as a requirement or a danger at the position. Now, if you're equating playing big with playing high, that's a different story. Cornerbacks in today's game need to go up and make a play on the ball.
Derek from Eau Claire, WI
How many NFL teams do you think fall into this category: "If we stay healthy and catch a few breaks when we need them, we can win the Super Bowl."
That would describe all of the teams that have an elite quarterback. The Packers have an elite quarterback, and if they can keep him and their key players healthy, and catch a few breaks when they need them, it's not outlandish to think they can win a championship. That is not, however, my expectation for this season at this time. I see the Packers in a restorative year, and my hope is they'll be able to compete for a playoff spot.
Ben from Chicago, IL
Vic, is it safe to assume that in picking at 14 the Packers made out much better than they would have at their typical position in recent drafts?
If they were picking at their usual spot at the bottom of the order, I doubt they'd have that extra first-round pick in 2019. Picking high is a huge reward for losing. Anybody who thinks otherwise either doesn't get it or elects to kid themselves.
Zach from Chicago, IL
Which team do you currently believe has set themselves up best for a Super Bowl run this year, or a continued run of success?
The Rams would be the consensus answer to the first part of your question, but I'm more interested in the second part. The five teams (Browns, Jets, Bills, Cardinals and Ravens) that picked quarterbacks in the first round interest me. Which of those teams will have changed the course of their franchise's history as a result of their quarterback choice?
Eric from Lansing, MI
Coach McCarthy has no weaknesses, you say. That is high praise, except he has to be judged by special strengths if he is going to win. Apart from your often repeated "McCarthy is a leader of men," what is his greatest strength?
He has the best offensive mind of any coach I've covered. I love what he does by formation. He's a master at creating mismatches. Coach McCarthy uses schemes to scheme personnel, which leaves defenses to scheme schemes.
Nate from Pueblo, CO
One position, Vic. One position! How many teams wish they only had one position to upgrade?
No team is one player or one position away. That fact has been confirmed to me over and over during the years I've covered football. Dedicate all of your attention to one position, and a rash of injuries will decimate another position. You take what the draft gives you, and then you patch at what the draft couldn't give you. That's life in the seven-round, salary cap era.
Stephen from Chicago, IL
Josh Jackson seems like a steal. Did the Packers get two first-round talents? Or did he land where he should have been picked?
I like the Jackson pick as much or more as the Jaire Alexander pick. Give me Jackson and Marcus Davenport and my expectations for the Packers this season might not be as guarded as they are, but I sure like that extra first-round pick.
Craig from Subiaco, AR
Vic, in your last column you stated the Packers fixed their cornerback problem with this draft. Did you think the same thing when they drafted Randall and Rollins? If not, what's different in your mind?
Randall and Rollins were attempts to catch lightning in a bottle; they were projection picks in what was a weak NFL draft class. There's no such wildness with the Alexander and Jackson picks. They're groomed and ready to go.
Blake from Normal, IL
Vic, we talked about arrows on Monday. On that same theme, what direction is the arrow pointing for the Bears?
Mitchell Trubisky will determine the direction. I think it's pointing straight up. I think Roquan Smith can make the Bears defense a force. The rest of their draft? Mezza mezza.
Derrick from Rockaway, NJ
Who was the most successful "Mr. Irrelevant?"
My favorite is a short, stout guard named Tyrone McGriff. He had a nice career, but it's his "Mr. Irrelevant" story I like; it was fun to write. He was the last pick of the 1980 draft. The Steelers had defeated the Los Angeles Rams in the previous season's Super Bowl, which meant the Rams picked next to last in the '80 draft. Newport Beach, Calif., is the home of the "Mr. Irrelevant" event, and the Rams liked the PR benefits they could've enjoyed by drafting "Mr. Irrelevant." They passed on their pick, hoping the Steelers would pick and the Rams could then follow with the final pick of the draft, but the Steelers wanted the free trip to Calif. for their pick, so they passed on their pick. The Rams then picked and the Steelers followed by selecting McGriff. The kicker to the story is McGriff is the only "Mr. Irrelevant" who elected not to attend the event.
Dave from Savage, MN
The new Packers punter says his plant foot doesn't leave the ground when he punts, and when you look at the video, it doesn't. It looks very different. The only other guy I can remember like that is Reggie Roby. Am I missing anyone? Any good punting style stories?
I covered a punter named Craig Colquitt. He was a two-step punter whose style was stiff looking. It's possible his plant leg didn't leave the ground. The charm of the two-step technique is it's so difficult to block a two-stepper's punt, defenses don't even try.
Brad from Jacksonville, FL
Vic, what are your overall thoughts of the Jaguars draft? I feel this is a true BAP draft. There may be no starters this year, but quite a few jars on the shelf. It made it very clear this is first and foremost a young man's game.
I love the Taven Bryan and Ronnie Harrison picks. The Jaguars' strong defense got stronger.
Adam from Wausau, WI
You said the Packers needed to get faster at wide receiver. It appears they got bigger and faster at wide receiver in this draft. What's your take?
They used the shotgun approach at wide receiver. They drafted the same guy three times. It's similar to what they did at running back last season. The theory is one of the three will address the need at the position.
Nancy from Pluffer, MA
The term "country strong" is meant to describe someone who has a natural strength, not necessarily developed in the weight room. What player throughout your career would you say was the best example of "country strong?"
It's Carlton Haselrig. He's the most naturally powerful player I've ever covered.