Ask Vic will publish three times a week, beginning on Monday, Sept. 3.
Jim from Maple Grove, MN
Vic, the deal is done. What does the Packers' cap look like now? Would GM Vic have made this deal?
What does the Packers' cap look like now? Are you serious? The contract is said to include $102.5 million guaranteed? What would your checkbook look like if you bought a boat, make that a yacht? If you love the Packers, and I know you do, now is the time to drop to your knees and pray to the god of collarbones. Would GM Vic have made this deal? GM Vic's father was a frugal man. GM Vic doesn't understand the sense of urgency to do this new deal with two years remaining on Rodgers' previous contract. What was the rush?
John from Fox Crossing, WI
How does Rodgers' new contract compare to what the Patriots have done with Brady's contract?
The difference is the Patriots have restructured Tom Brady's contract annually by converting salary to signing bonus and pushing the money out. In other words, Brady got his new money in annual extensions, while the Packers resisted restructuring Rodgers, opting to go with the big sting at the end. The Patriots are now in the process of unwinding Brady's dead money to prepare for his retirement. His dead money topped out at $40 million in 2016 and is now down to $24 million. Rodgers' dead money is $57.5 million. What's the difference in how the two teams have managed their star quarterbacks' contracts? I'll compare it to colonoscopy prep. The Patriots have done it in several small swallows; the Packers downed the bottle in one big gulp.
Randy from Medicine Hat, AB
Who is the best two-way player you have ever seen?
It's Chuck Bednarik, who was a three-way player.
Jerry from Savannah, GA
Vic, why haven’t you shared your opinion about the Urban Meyer issue? Everyone else has.
Ohio State soiled its name.
Mike from North Hudson, WI
The Packers are going to go through the process of reducing their roster to 53 and developing their practice squad under a first-year GM. What will you be most interested in analyzing?
I'm always most interested in analyzing a team's commitment to youth.
John from Sioux Falls, SD
Did the NY Giants just have a huge case of wide receiver fever? Will it be fatal?
The Giants spent the second pick of the draft on a running back and have agreed to pay quarterback money to a wide receiver. Yeah, that'll work.
David from Liliput, WI
I recently saw Kyle Shanahan’s wonderful explanation to a reporter about the importance of players being able to overcome coaching. In his explanation, he mentioned a player running the same route a different way against different coverages, an example being against cloud coverage. What is cloud coverage?
It's a version of cover three, which is a kind of bend-but-don't-break zone coverage scheme intended to deny completions in the deep third of the field but is vulnerable to completions underneath the coverage. In cover three cloud, a cornerback is employed in the flat area.
Dan from Jacksonville, FL
The Colts from the early 2000's had Hall of Fame players across both sides of the of the ball at multiple positions, yet, they only won one Super Bowl. What happened?
They choked in the postseason, and if it wasn't for that terrible pass interference penalty against Ellis Hobbs in the AFC title game, the Colts of that time wouldn't have won any Super Bowls and Tom Brady and the Patriots would have one more title to their credit.
David from Madison, WI
What’s the next big thing?
The next big thing is the elite quarterbacks that'll emerge from the current crop of young passers. Who will they be and will they be good enough to replace the greats of the last two decades: Brady, Rodgers, Brees, Roethlisberger, etc.?
Wayne from Eau Claire, WI
Vic, you often measure players by how they perform in big games. Bart Starr's postseason record was 9-1 with a passer rating of 104.8. What made him so good in the postseason, or was he just on some very good teams?
He knew how to win. In my mind, that means knowing how to play to the strength of the team around you and how to get it done at crunch time. Starr is not the best quarterback in Packers history, but he is the Packers' greatest player. I'd rather be the greatest than the best.
Phillip from Bradenton, FL
If the Packers start chopping wood, I hope they don’t lose their punter.
I can still see the blood stain on the carpet in the locker room where the tree stump and axe had been positioned. It was gruesome.
Bruce from Las Vegas, NV
How would Vince Lombardi handle preseason games if he were coaching today? He used to put great emphasis on winning those games back when there were six of them.
Everything about Lombardi would be different if he were coaching in today's game. First of all, he wouldn't be running the Packer sweep. It just wouldn't work against gap control defenses because you can't get a seal here and a seal here against a penetrate and disrupt scheme. Also, Lombardi had a strong acumen for football finance and he would know the salary cap importance of limiting his players' exposure to injury. I doubt he would play his regulars more than a few quarters in the preseason.
Rudy from Milwaukee, WI
What was the rationale behind the Steelers trading for Jerome Bettis? Did the Steelers view him as the missing piece, or was the value just too good to pass up?
The Steelers have always liked to pound the ball with big backs. Bam Morris and Barry Foster preceded Bettis. The Steelers needed a big back, Bettis was perfect for the way the Steelers liked to play, and he was affordable. If the Rams had demanded a first-round pick, I doubt the trade would've been made.
Craig from Cedarburg, WI
Given the Patriots’ success, would you risk getting run over by the salary cap train by pushing out Brady’s cap hit?
As I've written above, the Patriots are in the process of unwinding Brady's dead money. They're not pushing out large amounts anymore. His salary has gone from $764,000 in 2016 to $4 million this year, which is an example of how the team is preparing for his retirement; salary is capped in full in the year it's paid, whereas signing bonus is divided evenly over the life of the contract. The Patriots have done a solid job of managing Brady's cap number; they played it perfectly. I suspect the Packers plan to do the same with Rodgers at a similar stage in his career. What needs to happen between now and then is for Rodgers to stay healthy and remain one of the league's elite quarterbacks. If that happens, all will end well.
Ben from El Paso, TX
Any words for Jacksonville?
What I would say to Jacksonville is I'm sad the stigma of violence will fall on you for a crime you didn't commit. This was the action of a sick person, not a healthy community. I loved the time I spent in Jacksonville and I came to call it my home. It is a good and decent place.
Bret from Hertel, WI
Vic, If you were the Packers, would you trade for a back up tackle, look for a waived player at the roster cut down or keep the struggling tackles?
Always I would look for ways to acquire more talent, but if there's one tree out back that's picked clean, it's the tackle tree. You gotta get the big guys early, because it's not often you're going to find one in the fourth round, as the Packers did when they drafted David Bakhtiari, and you almost never find one on the waiver wire. At this point, I don't think the Packers have much choice but to keep chopping wood.
Don from Weaverville, CA
This year, Brian Urlacher was voted into the Hall of Fame. Prior to Urlacher, the last middle linebacker voted into the Hall of Fame was Mike Singletary. Has the legend of the middle linebacker disappeared?
Yeah, it has because it's become a two-down position. Why? Because football is no longer first and foremost a running game. It's a passing game.
Joe from Bloomington, IN
Do you have air conditioning?
For three days after Irma blew through here last September, we were without power. I can't remember feeling as uncomfortable without being sick, injured or recovering from surgery. I drove 25 miles to eat breakfast just to be in a place that had power and air-conditioning. It was impossible to sleep in my bedroom because it's upstairs where the temperature was near 90 degrees, and that doesn't include the humidity. I suspect the heat index in my bedroom was near 100 degrees. One night I slept on the porch, but that was nearly as bad. Adding to my woes, I had no water, since I'm on an RO system that doesn't function without power. Hot and stinky is a bad combination. You can't live where I do without air-conditioning. It's that way from April to November. There is no such thing as a summer cold front. It's seven months of intense heat and humidity, which doesn't bother me as long as I can step into my outdoor shower at the end of the day and enjoy the reinvigorating coolness of my air-conditioned home.
Jared from Rigby, ID
Vic, the Morrison trade is confusing to me. The stats and experience seem to be in the Packers' favor. Why would the Colts give up their team leading tackler for a low-experience Pipkins?
They see something they like and need. It's likely the Colts GM liked Lenzy Pipkins coming out of college; it's common for teams to turn to such players when they come free. I agree, Antonio Morrison's stats favor the Packers in the trade, but Pipkins has nice size and speed for the cornerback position, and I suspect that's what's driving the trade for the Colts. Morrison plays above his 5.1 40 time.
Craig from Cedarburg, WI
If you were a coach, how much would you play your starters during the preseason?
I wouldn't play them much, unless I needed to evaluate them. I just don't think there's much to be gained by the way preseason games are played these days. They're terrible. They lack purpose and flow. It's just a series of disconnected plays that somehow manage to expire the clock without much bad having happened. Neither the players nor the coaches want these games, and I suspect the personnel people don't have much need for them either. The fans don't want them and the media has difficulty finding a credible storyline in them. There's only one reason to play them: The owners won't sacrifice the money they make from them. I could say something needs to be done about these terrible games, but the fans' willingness to attend them justifies their existence. I feel sorry for the loyal, ticket-buying fans. They're the backbone of the NFL's success, but they're powerless to do anything about this atrocity.
Nate from Minneapolis, MN
In relation to the Favre/Rodgers question, I don't think Rodgers has ever lost a game for the Packers (by making a reckless play or bad choice), whereas I can remember many games Favre made some pretty bad decisions. Can you remember a time Rodgers made a mistake that cost the team a win?
His last game was one of his worst. He threw three interceptions and posted a 71.5 passer rating. I guess you have to break his collarbone, surgically install 13 screws and cause him to miss several weeks of action for him to play so poorly.
Dustin from Orlando, FL
Vic, a lot of NFL players have come from difficult backgrounds. What player have you met you felt had to overcome the most hurdles in life to make it to the pros?
I covered a wide receiver named Charles Johnson, a first-round pick, who spent time in high school living in a cardboard box. Deon Figures grew up in Compton, Calif., where in a six-month period he lost six family members and friends to gunfire. I remember a player from the '70s who was found to still be living in the dormitory at training camp after having been cut because he had nowhere to go.
Jacob from Chippewa Falls, WI
Vic, you’ve always said Brady has never taken a discount. Can you shed some light on how the Patriots have been able to structure his contracts to allow them to still pay other key players over the years? Also, I don’t think Brady has ever been the highest paid player in the league. How have the Patriots avoided that?
Usually, highest-paid players are regarded to be the highest-salaried players, and that's not going to be Brady because his contracts have consistently been restructured to convert salary into signing bonus and push the money out into future years. For example, Brady has a $4 million salary this year but he's a $22 million cap hit. Hey, $22 million isn't lightweight stuff. That's a pretty nice bite out of any team's cap and restructuring is a big part of the amount. Brady's at the year-to-year stage of his career. He's due to be a $27 million cap hit in 2019, so I suspect he'll be restructured next offseason if he decides to play another season. At this point, the restructurings have him as a $24 million dead money hit. That figure could increase with further restructuring. In 2016, Brady had a salary of $764,705, but so much money had been pushed out he would've been over $40 million in dead money. The Patriots see the end coming and they've begun unwinding his cap liability be eating more room now and pushing less money out. That's one of the reasons I'm not big on the Patriots this year. It should have a damaging effect on their roster. The Patriots have done a wonderful job of capping Brady, and he's been agreeable to the process, but the notion he's been underpaid is ridiculous. Every time he's restructured, he's gotten a little something for the effort, and I'm not talking about the promise of total consciousness when he dies.
Jeff from Alexandria, VA
Is Larry Fitzgerald a Hall of Famer?
He has the body of work and at least two defining postseason moments. Everything about his career says first ballot Hall of Fame selection. He should be a Heisman Trophy winner, too, but the idiots who vote for that award selected a player who wasn't even good enough to be drafted into the NFL.
Ramiro from Mira Loma, CA
Vic, I just (right now) found your blog after months of missing out on it. My girlfriend and I are headed up to Oakland for the Packers at Raiders preseason game. After hearing her best friend's personal horror stories of the Raiders at Rams game, she now refuses to wear anything Packers (jersey, shirt, sweater) to the game. I, of course, can't force her. Should I proudly wear my Clay Matthews jersey to the game or also dress cautiously in neutral colors? Thank you. I'll write you back about our experience (if I'm still alive).
This stuff is no joking matter anymore. Fans who wear team jerseys in hostile environments are inviting trouble. They run the risk of infuriating some sick-minded person, such as the monster who opened fire in Jacksonville on Sunday. There is a low order of fans who view team jerseys to be the equivalent of gang colors. In my opinion, wearing a team jersey in a hostile environment can be construed as being confrontational. Don't try to play the game in the stands. Just watch and enjoy.
Paul from Beaver Dam, WI
Vic, thank you for doing this website. What's the furthest down the depth chart you have seen a team go at QB during a game/season.
I saw a safety, Tony Dungy, forced to play quarterback in a game in 1977. In a season, the Packers were decimated at the position in 2013.
Nate from Sioux City, IA
I know I should have more reasonable expectations for Jimmy Graham this season, but it's hard not to get excited for that big target in the middle of the field drawing all sorts of attention. Is it reasonable to think Jimmy's presence alone will improve the whole offense?
Alone? No, but his presence is expected to make the Packers a better team. If it doesn't, it was a bad signing.
Christopher from Maryland
I understand there is an over-emphasis on penalty calls in the preseason. I understand the devastating effects on the human body the game of football results in. I understand both sides of the kneeling debate. I understand I'm getting older and old school doesn't fly. What I don't understand is how I'm gonna get excited anymore. I'm just a little bummed, Vic.
It's called sanitization. The NFL has sanitized its game to the point it's becoming sterile. It's losing flavor.
Josh from Tucson, AZ
Interesting news about a Fowler/Bridgewater swap between the Jags and Jets. I can't see it from a Jaguars perspective, though. Why introduce controversy? He improved last year and has looked pretty fair so far this preseason. It stands out to me that against last year's No. 1 defense, after he threw an admittedly bad interception, he bounced back and led a touchdown drive instead of compounding mistakes, like in years past. What is the level of success he will have to achieve to change the narrative about him?
I'm going to assume you're referring to Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles. He needs to become a quarterback in whom the Jaguars are confident he'll make the game-winning plays at crunch time. I respect Doug Marrone for not taking umbrage to Doug Pederson's comments about not playing it safe at quarterback. The Eagles are the reigning Super Bowl champions because Pederson didn't play it safe with Nick Foles in the big game and at the big moments. I think Marrone knows Pederson's comments are accurate, and I think Marrone knows Bortles has to take the next step this year or the Jaguars will be looking for a new quarterback in the offseason. Controversy? If the Jaguars don't get better play at the quarterback position, the howl of the wolves will demand immediate action and force the Jaguars to function in a contentious environment.
Lori from Brookfield, WI
Vic, a list was recently published naming the best all-time QB for every NFL team. Brett Favre was chosen for Green Bay. How would you assess that selection?
Pick one: Favre or Aaron Rodgers. Either one works. I favor Rodgers because I covered him for five years and I can't imagine any quarterback being better than him. Rodgers is the best quarterback I've ever covered.
Greg from Cuenca, Ecuador
A week ago you mentioned the pre-Noll Steelers had a reputation for playing tough football, but also seemed to have bad luck. Is there a team today that fits that category?
I could make a case for the Bengals. I think they had an emerging franchise quarterback in Carson Palmer when Palmer suffered a career-damaging knee injury in the playoff loss to the Steelers. You could make a point for stupid play costing the Bengals the playoff loss to the Steelers a few years ago, but the circumstances that decided that game are so bizarre I almost feel as though the Bengals are being punished by the gods. Is it the curse of Bill Walsh? Are the Bengals being punished for Paul Brown's decision not to name Walsh, his de facto offensive coordinator, Brown's successor? The Bengals lost two Super Bowl games, in heartbreaking fashion, to Walsh's 49ers. It seems as though the Bengals just can't catch a break.
David from Madison, WI
What perceived weaknesses in Hines Ward’s game existed as he was drafted?
Ward was a slash at Georgia. He played wide receiver, running back and quarterback in college. He was largely regarded as a utility player heading into his draft, and even though no one doubted his athletic ability, he would have to become a full-time wide receiver and he lacked the body type and the speed associated with the position. What he didn't lack was toughness. I think he's the toughest wide receiver who's ever played the game. He turned the hunter into the hunted. He instilled fear in defensive backs. He knocked out so many defenders (mostly Ed Reed) they had to change the rules on peel-back blocks. He's got the body of work, a defining postseason moment as a Super Bowl MVP, and you can't tell the story of the NFL without mentioning Ward's impact on the rules of the game. Ward was also the consummate team player. The Hall of Fame committee will lose my respect if it doesn't elect Ward, especially after electing Terrell Owens.
Vincent from Seattle, WA
Vic, it is clear you are against the Packers signing Mack. With the Steelers in need of an impact LB, do you see any positives if they go after him?
They could lift the franchise tender from Le'Veon Bell, which would free up $14.5 million to spend on Khalil Mack, but the cost goes much deeper. I just don't think Mack is worth what it would cost in the way of draft picks and distraction. I think a team trading for Mack runs the risk of him being perceived as a savior, and that can be an attitude killer as a team heads into the start of the regular season.
Samuel from Jacksonville, FL
Who's the best bootleg passer you've ever seen?
College football has been a bootleg game and the bootleg play was all the rage in the '60s. Gary Beban is my answer. In the NFL, Joe Theismann might be the guy.
Dave from Madison, WI
Vic, I'm thinking of buying a kayak. I'm in my late 40s and I want smooth and slow for lake kayaking. A good cup holder is a must and I like to stay dry. What's your recommendation?
If the water is calm, I recommend a sit-in kayak. It gives you the feeling of being in the water. I don't like sit-on kayaks because they're wide and wobbly. Sit-ins are sleek and maneuverable. My sit-in kayak has a cup holder. The big negative to sit-ins is it's difficult to get out of them. If you find one with a hydraulic seat, let me know.
Scott from Lincoln City, OR
Vic, Mike said he thought you were nuts years ago for your idea about just letting the QB spike the ball at any time. Now he thinks you may have had this one right. Doesn't this just warm your heart and make you smile?
I just didn't understand why they were making the quarterback go through all these meaningless gyrations to be able to ground the ball. Why make him leave the pocket? That's exactly what you don't want him to do because that's where he's unprotected. Just let him spike it within the pocket. It saves time on the clock, which means more plays in the game.
Dave from Savage, MN
The mornings are getting crisper and there is moisture on the car windows when I go to work. What do you see, hear or feel in South Carolina to tell you football season is coming?
The kind of weather you're experiencing won't arrive here until late October, at the earliest. It's getting hotter and more humid these days, as we head into the heart of hurricane season. It's the sound of the cicadas that lets me know football season is on the way. We had them in Pennsylvania when I lived there, and we have them in South Carolina. I don't remember hearing them in Jacksonville or Green Bay. The closer we get to the start of football season, the louder the cicadas sing. It's as though they're saying, "The baloney stops soon," but they don't say baloney.
Dave from Jacksonville, FL
Vic, why did the NFL change the way they are cutting players this season? Previously it was done gradually from 90 to 53 players. But this season the turk is gonna be busy after that last preseason game going from 90-53 in one fell swoop! What gives?
This isn't something new and I like the change because the previous cutdown had become anti-climactic with a lot of moves to injured reserve and non-news cuts. The bottom line is the whole cutdown process has become something less than shocking. Look at it this way: Rosters are at 53, 10 will be signed to the practice squad, four or five will be moved to injured reserve and of the players cut, many will come back to the team during the season as injuries occur and more will be signed by the team following the season. Frankly, it'll be the end of the road for only a few players; most of the players released will find a way to stay in football for a while longer. The big cutdown drama for the Packers is at quarterback. Do they keep DeShone Kizer and Brett Hundley, trade one or cut one? The Steelers have four quarterbacks, but Josh Dobbs has practice squad eligibility, the Steelers aren't going to cut Mason Rudolph after trading up to draft him, and Landry Jones appears to be unchallenged as Ben Roethlisberger's backup. The Labor Day weekend anxiety just isn't what it once was.
Craig from Cedarburg, WI
What modern-day player you covered is most like the old guys in regards to telling the story?
I wish I had been able to spend more time with James Jones. I came to really like him. He had respect for the media and enjoyed telling his story. I'm not surprised he found his way into the media and I think he's done a great job in his studio role during the preseason.
Bill from Staten Island, NY
Do you think Tiger will win more major tournaments?
I think he'll win another major, but his putter could best answer your question. Tiger Woods is not the lights-out putter he was during his prime, and that's the reason he's come up short in this golf season. He's not making the big putts anymore. The days of Woods burying the competition with his power are over. More than ever, he needs to sink putts. Arnold Palmer and Tom Watson faced the same challenge late in their careers. They were bold putters known for making bombs in the prime of their careers. All of a sudden, the putts stopped falling. It's the same for Woods.
Derek from Eau Claire, WI
Do the Packers handle the preseason differently knowing that arguably the two most important games of the season will be played right out of the chute?
I'm sure this training camp and preseason has included an extra sense of urgency for Mike McCarthy and his staff, knowing the need to be at their best on opening day. I'm also sure they've included some game preparation for the Bears in the Packers' routine. Knock on wood, the Packers have done a good job avoiding major injury.
Chase from Madisonville, KY
Do you agree with Jalen Ramsay's QB assessment?
I think Ramsey is full of more than just himself.
Jack from Jacksonville, FL
Shad Khan recently put a dog park/pools in the Jaguars stadium. He's also mentioned the possibility of putting in a shade structure for those fans in danger of melting. When did the game not become enough?
Whatever it takes, right? This is going to be a telling season in Jacksonville. The Jaguars have a top contender and the fan base is excited for another run to the playoffs. The Jaguars are a hot ticket, and it might be for the first time in franchise history. It's what I always wanted to happen. I longed for the day the Jaguars would become a hot ticket. Now, the question is: Can they sustain it? This season will answer that question.
Pete from Los Angeles, CA
After two solid preseason showings, is Kizer permanent?
I expect DeShone Kizer to win the backup quarterback job. I don't think the Packers would've traded for him if they didn't expect the same. My hope is Brett Hundley will finish the preseason strong, increase his trade value and give the Packers reason to keep a third quarterback. The value of backup quarterbacks increases sharply as starting quarterbacks are injured. All of a sudden, you have a guy for whom another team is willing to trade. The Bills might be in the market for a quarterback with some legitimate regular season experience, which Hundley has.
Randy from Billings, MT
Vic, the drafted wide receivers seem to have some issues catching contested passes. The QBs are getting the ball to them but they are having trouble winning the battle. What type of drill would help here?
Packers fans have wide receiver fever. Let it go. Depth receivers are a dime a dozen. Pick a guy you think has a chance to develop and put him on the practice squad. The rest is up to him.
Craig from Cedarburg, WI
Is your view on trading for Mack driven by how you view his game, the contract situation or just the "one player away" mentality?
My view is driven by an instinct that tells me a trade for Khalil Mack would result in deep regret.
Bill from Chicago, IL
I think you mentioned you grew up going to Catholic school. Was the awful report that just came out regarding Pennsylvania's Catholic dioceses something you were aware of growing up, or was it a shock to you?
It was a shock. I attended a Catholic elementary school. At no time in those eight years -- some of which were spent as an altar boy -- was I treated inappropriately by a nun or a priest. I have nothing but fond memories of my years in the Catholic school system. Be that as it may, last week's news revelation embarrassed and disgusted me. Joe Paterno was crucified for his cover up. I await a credible response from the Pope.
Joe from Waukesha, WI
I’m not sure the Vikings have improved their quarterback situation and they are $84 million in the hole. Bet the Jags are glad they didn’t make a move on Cousins!
The Vikings are betting on Kirk Cousins. The Jaguars are betting on Blake Bortles. I think both teams are counting on their defenses.
Isaac from Abiquiu (wherever that is)
Vic, what, if anything, have you seen in preseason this year that has surprised you?
It appears the fans are buying into and accepting of the preseason being a time for evaluating talent and developing reserves. The fans are beginning to act like coaches. The NFL's popularity is amazing. The league might even be able to pull off this helmet rule thing.
Tim from Sun Prairie, WI
Vic, is it more concerning if a rookie WR has trouble catching the ball or has trouble separating from coverage?
The fastest receiver I've ever covered is a guy named Dwight Stone. He was converted from running back to wide receiver and passes literally bounced off him, but you don't cut the kind of speed Stone had. He was so fast he once lost control of his feet and they ran out of bounds on a long completion. We called him "Hands of Stone," and he was such a good guy he laughed about it. In time, his hands softened and he became a legitimate receiving threat. It was his speed that bought him the time to grow. Stone played in the league for 14 years. Speed is valued above all.
Adam from Chicago, IL
If I'm the Steelers I would tell Bell to take a hike. James Conner looks like the real deal. What did you see?
He's a big, powerful runner. The interesting thing about Conner is he's a high-cut runner; he's not a drop-the-head kind of back. Not too long ago, that would've been a negative. These days, it's a positive. Conner runs through people with his legs and upper body. Eric Dickerson did that. The mistake the Steelers made was not having developed Conner's role deeply enough last year. They never really found out what he could do, therefore, they were hesitant in casting their lot with him when it was time to decide whether to franchise Le'Veon Bell. Had they believed Conner was the answer, they could've allowed Bell to leave in free agency and use his $14.5 million to address other needs, such as the need to replace Ryan Shazier. I'm still waiting to see how they're going to do that. Maybe they have a plan for bringing Terrell Edmunds or Morgan Burnett down into the box. I don't think lifting the tag on Bell serves any purpose now. Bell and Conner could make for an interesting backfield combination.
Enrique from New York, NY
What are your thoughts on Gus Bradley's time as head coach of the Jags? Did you roll your eyes at his "Mr. Positivity" and high energy persona? I remember I liked it at first, but in hindsight it seems ridiculous.
I covered a Senior Bowl at which he and his staff were coaches. I didn't like their practice regimen. It was too choreographed. Everything moved too quickly. It was a lot of clapping and chatter but not much in the way of valuable evaluation action. They'd move quickly from one drill to another, but didn't stay in any of them long enough to learn anything, and the drills seemed kind of weak. Doug Marrone is a no baloney kind of guy. He's more my type of coach.
Matt from Verona, WI
What do teams learn from giving a lot of third- and fourth-quarter preseason reps to guys who look like they’ll never make an NFL roster or practice squad?
A lot of those guys are playing for next year's training camp. You'll see many of them signed when the season ends and the rosters go back to offseason size.
Steve from Minocqua, WI
Vic, I’m currently re-reading Jerry Kramer’s “Instant Replay.” I loved it as a kid when I played football but, now, 40 years later, I am pleasantly surprised at how well it's written. I love its timing of being a diary of what is arguably the Packers’ most legendary season. Have you read it? What are your thoughts about it?
It's one of the standards of sports journalism. It was hailed when it was written for what it revealed about a sport whose popularity was beginning to emerge; "Instant Replay" helped promote professional football. All these years later, I enjoy the book for what it represents: a collaboration of player and reporter to provide information and entertainment for football fans. That's the way it was when I began my career. We were all in this together -- coaches, players and media -- to help promote the game we love. Anyone who reads my column knows of the love and reverence I have for the old guys. It's because they were so cooperative and helpful in assisting me in my career. I genuinely believe they did it because they loved doing it. We all knew we were growing the game, and it felt wonderful. Somewhere along the line, that's been lost, and it's not all the media's fault. Somewhere along the line we lost sight of our mutual purpose: inform and entertain football fans. I've always tried to make that my mission statement.
Dave from Chippewa Falls, WI
Do they have to celebrate after every play?
Yes, they must celebrate after every play because it's now part of the fabric of their culture. Sometimes I get the feeling they're celebrating to let everyone know, including the coach, they really do love football. Sometimes I feel they don't even want to celebrate, they just know it's expected of them. Sometimes it looks so foolish, so contrived, it makes me laugh.
Pat from Seneca, SC
Can you share any interesting stories of the guys you’ve known who’ve served as the turk?
My favorite turk and turk story is of legendary scout Bill Nunn and a scene involving kicker Roy Gerela. Nunn was the Steelers' training camp office manager. He was also widely known as the team's turk. It was a cutdown day and I was interviewing Tony Dungy outside his dorm room about having been traded to the 49ers. As I was interviewing Dungy, I noticed Nunn knock on Gerela's door and I heard Nunn say, "Roy, Coach Noll wants to see you, and bring your playbook." Tony saw my eyes get big, and he smiled. I said, "They really do say that, don't they?" Tony nodded. The words "bring your playbook" are code for you've been cut. It helps the player accept his fate before he meets with the coach. I'm very grateful to a game that allowed me to get that close to its charm. I'm also very fortunate to have begun my career when I did. I would not have been privy to that scene today.
Gil from Galt, CA
Vic, in the past you would let us know what games you had circled for the upcoming season you were looking forward to. What games do you have circled this year for Green Bay, Pittsburgh and the Jaguars and why?
Circle Vikings at Packers (the Vikings are the team to beat in the NFC North) in Week 2 and the Steelers at Jaguars (there's been a lot of tough talk) on Nov. 18.
David from Madison, WI
I read an article stating Jackson broke for an interception "as soon as Dobbs' hands split." I wasn't able to watch the majority of the game. What does this bifurcation refer to?
It means Josh Jackson jumped the route. He saw something that alerted him to where the ball was going. Maybe it was the formation. Maybe the receiver tipped the route or Josh Dobbs stared him down. Whatever it was, it tells us something about Jackson's instincts for the game.
Scott from Hamlin, NY
What should the Bills do? They spent a lot on Josh Allen but word is he isn't ready to start.
He's "The Man." Give him the ball.
Josh (by gosh) from Oshkosh, WI
Vic, I can't help but see the Steelers headed towards a funk. It seems they should have more invested in quarterback than they do with Ben at the age he is and comments about retiring already. There's the Bell situation and an uncharacteristically soft defense. Where is their arrow pointing?
More invested in quarterback? They just traded up to draft a guy. They have four. The Steelers' problem is they didn't address replacing Ryan Shazier; he was their best defensive player. Maybe they plan to get creative with Terrell Edmunds. All we can do is wait to see because they're not going to tip their hand in the preseason. As for Le'Veon Bell, I think they got lucky he didn't sign the tender. You can't pay a running back quarterback money. In the preseason, you can make a point for every team's arrow pointing up and down. I'm not sure we can determine where that arrow is pointing much before November.
Nick from Oswego, NY
Is it worth trying to get Mack for a year as rental before letting him walk in free agency and getting a good comp pick?
In my opinion, it would be more trouble than it's worth. The Packers have yet to sign Aaron Rodgers to a new contract. What message would it send should the team spend big on Khalil Mack but drag its feet on a new deal for Rodgers? I think it would be an unsettling message that could become a distraction. The Packers aren't one player away. I think it would be in their best interest to remain committed to their current roster and whatever strategy they have for developing it.
Jerry from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL
Does the fact players today consider themselves to be their own brand make them more sensitive to reporters comments or observations?
The best way for a player to build his brand is by using a willing media to do it. The media loved Joe Greene. What do you think that did for his brand and the Coke commercial that became one of the great creations in advertising history?
Mikey from Tallahassee, FL
Who's the greatest preseason player you've covered that couldn't translate the same success to the regular season?
A running back named Jack Deloplaine.
Kevin from New Orleans, LA
Vic, would you be opposed to or in favor of the playoffs changing to an eight-team format with no first-round bye? If it were that way last year, the Patriots would have hosted the red-hot Chargers in the wild card round. That's a game I would have liked to see.
I'm strongly in favor of an eight-team, no-byes playoff format. Be that as it may, the Chargers were on a three-game winning streak last season when they played at New England and lost, 21-13.
Richard from St. Augustine, FL
Do you miss having the immediate access to players and coaches? Do you miss the camaraderie of the NFL and your fellow sports writers?
Yeah, I miss it, especially on game day. I miss the press box. I miss seeing people I've known for a long time but would only see once or twice a year. I miss the postgame interviews. I always felt that was when telling the truth couldn't be avoided. I miss Mike McCarthy's and Aaron Rodgers' postgame interviews. They were good copy. At Jack Lambert's Hall of Fame induction ceremony, he said if he could do it all over again, he'd be a professional football player, and you damn well better believe he'd be a Pittsburgh Steeler. Well, if I could do it all over again, I'd be a sports writer, and you damn well better believe I'd cover the Steelers, the Jaguars and the Packers.
Dave from Seattle, WA
“Defense was also a problem during the Favre era." Uhhh, no, Vic, it wasn’t! At least not at the beginning. From 1995-1999, the Packers had a top five defense each year. Reggie White and company supplied Favre with a defense to win at least two Super Bowls, yet, Favre only made it one Super Bowl. The way the Packers won the Super Bowl was with the defense and Desmond Howards’ returns. I need to remind you, Favre is easily the leading interception leader in NFL history.
The Packers defense was horrible in Super Bowl XXXII. The only thing it did right was intentionally allow the Broncos to score, or did they?
Justin from Richmond, VA
As I become older, I find myself becoming far less passionate about sports. Why is that?
You're overexposed to sports. You've seen too many games to get excited about the current one. After a while, the seasons begin to run together. We begin to draw comparisons of one season to a previous season. It's as though we're reliving history. Frankly, I like it.
Mike from Fort Wayne, IN
Vic, I've been reading some history on Jim Thorpe. Do you have any thoughts or stories to share about him? Do you think he would be the type of player that would be able to play in today's game, considering how great an athlete he was?
LOL, no player from the past could possibly be as good as today's players. Don't you know? Today's players are bigger, stronger, faster, better. Can't you tell by what great blockers and tacklers they are? I mean, what would Jim Thorpe have been without those sticky gloves he wore? And that story about him running down and catching his own punt is just an urban legend, even though it was reported by credible newspapers. And what about that story about Thorpe getting tackled hard on a play and then going back to the huddle and asking the same play be called again so he could punish the guy who tackled him? He probably dropped his head and hit him, and that's a violation of the current player safety movement. Hmmm, it makes me wonder what Thorpe would've been like with a facemask on those ear muffs they called a helmet.
Cindy from Los Angeles, CA
Vic, one of the articles about the new AAF contained a quote from a coach saying essentially they have plenty of skill players but, like the NFL, are having trouble finding big men. Do you think the relative lack of elite, 300-pound athletes contributes to football's evolution toward basketball on grass? Players have gotten bigger and stronger over the years; perhaps we've reached a tipping point?
You gotta get the big guys early. They'll find them, or they'll manufacture them.
Anthony from Milwaukee, WI
Vic, why change preseason? Speaking specifically as a Packers fan, it's a chance for fans to go to a game and celebrate with one another. Maybe that's where football gets it wrong. Every game has to mean something. Not every game is important in baseball. Football, everything is important.
Here's the difference: In baseball, you hit a ball. In football, you hit each other.
Craig from Cedarburg, WI
Given the solid play of Hundley and Kizer, and without being able to stash them on the practice squad, should the Packers consider keeping three QBs on the roster?
I think they should. The position is so valuable I wouldn't cut one of them and give him away for free. Hold onto both of them. I guarantee, some team will get injured at the position and be willing to trade for one of the two guys.
Alice from Philadelphia, PA
Vic, if players, not plays is true, why did the Saints struggle so much in 2012 when Sean Payton was suspended, but returned to 2011 form in 2013 when Payton came back?
The plays didn't change; the coaching staff remained largely the same. What changed was the Saints lost their leader. Payton's replacement was a lame duck, and that almost never works.
Todd from Brookfield, WI
You indicated we are strong at QB this year, but how can we trust what we've seen in preseason after what happened with Hundley last year? Do you think the backup really will be better prepared?
Never trust the preseason. It is proof of nothing. Trust what you saw last season. Hundley had his moments of promise. So did Kizer. Yes, I think the Packers will be better prepared this year to deal with an injury to Rodgers.
Max from Milwaukee, WI
Vic, what storylines intrigue you going into the 2018 season? I'd be curious to see what you'll be following beyond the Steelers, Jaguars and Packers.
What does Tom Brady have left in the tank? Can Andrew Luck make a comeback? Is Jon Gruden as good a coach as he is a TV analyst? What rookie quarterback will become a star? What losing team will make the step up to playoff team?
Travis from Sobieski, WI
Saw Vito Stellino tweet “Steelers had zero playoff wins from 1933 until the Immaculate Reception in 1972.” Now they lead the NFL in total playoff wins. That’s pretty remarkable. Nowadays, the Steelers are a team revered in football lore, but what was their reputation before the Immaculate Reception?
Their reputation was for being a physically punishing team that usually won the battle but lost the war. They always seemed to have bad luck. Art Rooney found the coach, Jock Sutherland, who would reverse the team's fortunes, but then Sutherland died. Buddy Parker once said the Steelers would one day find good luck and it would last 10 years. That's almost exactly what happened when Chuck Noll became the team's coach. The league's most dysfunctional franchise became the league's most stable franchise.
Mike from Las Vegas, NV
So the one player away mentality is dangerous. I guess I get that, but what one player past or present would give the Packers the best chance at getting to the Super Bowl this year?
The Packers need a dominant force on defense. They need an Aaron Donald. Khalil Mack isn't Aaron Donald.
Tom from Bismarck, ND
Vic, you certainly know Tom Coughlin better than probably any reporter in the field. Exactly how long will he put up with what seems to be an over-abundance of immature lip flapping. They have a real nice defense, a good coach and a decent offense, but they seem to be falling into the trap so many young teams on the rise often do. They seem caught up in a hype their own players and fan base have created. In simple terms, they haven't really done anything, yet. They're drawing a big target on their backs with all the premature and immature talk.
I don't want Coughlin to gag his players. If Jalen Ramsey wants to shoot off his mouth, let him do it. It makes for good theater.
Dustin from Ashwaubenon, WI
What did your eyes tell you after the first round of preseason games?
My eyes told me every team is trying to do the same thing: Get through the preseason with a minimum of effort and risk. I don't think the games are any more important in talent evaluation than practices are. There's no reason to play more than two preseason games, other than for the lost revenue and because the players won't agree to 18 regular-season games.
Craig from Cedarburg, WI
When would you trade a draft pick for a proven veteran?
If the veteran addresses immediate need, his price doesn't significantly weaken the team's draft position and the player's contract is favorable to the team's cap and the potential for re-signing him, I say go for it. Those trades are available from time to time. Mark Brunell (though unproven) was a great get for the Jaguars and Jerome Bettis (proven) was the same for the Steelers but, by and large, I think the majority of trades favor the team that got the pick.
Bertha from Canton, OH
You saw both QBs for the Packers. What did you like?
They both moved the ball. They both have the distinct appearance of a quality backup quarterback. In my opinion, the Packers are strong at quarterback.
Kier from Gagetown, NB
Vic, I liked Pettine's first game. Young guys trying to win their one-on-ones. Nothing fancy, just go beat your guy.
It's no different than any other preseason. Frankly, I didn't see much that jumped out at me. I'll be looking for stronger individual performance on defense in the next preseason game.
Matt from Winfield (wherever that is)
Vic, is it safe to be excited about Reggie Gilbert and Montravius Adams?
If it makes you feel good, go ahead, but what's the gain in it? Make them prove it to you. Put the burden on the defense to perform. Tony Pauline loved Adams at the Senior Bowl. OK, show me what you got. That's the tack I'm taking this season in regards to the defense. No more blaming its failures on the coordinator. It's time for the players to be accountable for the performance of the defense.
Karl from Albuquerque, NM
Vic, I was fortunate to watch Urlacher his whole college career. During it and in the times as a pro I watched him and in his highlight reels it seems he tackled with the shoulder, not the head. Do you suppose he was just taught differently in his early years?
That's not it. All players are taught proper technique, and "hit what you see but see what you hit" is a philosophy that goes back to my high school days. It's been my experience that bigger, stronger players tend to tackle with their head up, whereas smaller, less powerful players tend to duck their head so they can get more force and protection into their strike. Brian Urlacher is a big man and he played that way.
Scott from Milwaukee, WI
Vic, I was hoping to see three columns from you this week. Are you still planning to expand your offerings to us readers?
I plan to begin publishing three columns a week (M-W-F) during the first week of the regular season. The news coming out of training camps is pretty dry.
Terry from Jasper, IN
With Bulaga and Bakhtiari out, Murphy and Bell are the starting offensive tackles. It seems Jason Spriggs is about as low as you can go on the depth chart. Vic, can you comment on his play and what is holding him back?
Based on what I saw last season, Spriggs needs to get stronger at the point of attack. Apparently, improvement in that regard hasn't been dramatic enough, yet, in this camp.
Richard from Clearwater, MN
You have mentioned Marcus Mariota favorably in a few answers in recent articles. His stats aren't bad but not eye-popping, either. What is it about Mariota and his game that intrigues you?
No. 1, he moves with grace and ease; he's an impressive physical specimen. Additionally, I think he's an accurate passer, he moves the pocket and forces defenses to respect his running ability, and I love the grit he showed in the Kansas City playoff game. I think he needs to get stronger in the pocket, make decisions more quickly and throw with more decisiveness from the pocket, and I think all of that will come with experience. I'm inclined to forgive his unimpressive stats from last season and blame them on a nagging, season-long injury. This could be a defining year for Mariota.
Lori from Brookfield, WI
Vic, do you think Green Bay has failed to surround Aaron Rodgers with the high-caliber players needed to win a Super Bowl? If so, did they have a similar issue when Favre was QB?
Let's not forget, the Packers have won a Super Bowl with Rodgers as their quarterback. I believe they also surrounded him with the players needed to win a Super Bowl in 2014. Defensively, they've struggled with personnel, but I think we need to remember they were drafting from the bottom of the order during their Rodgers-era playoff run. Defense was also a problem during the Brett Favre years. It's almost as though it's in the Packers' DNA to play great offense but soft defense. I only know of one way to change that: Draft better players. Maybe that's starting to happen. We'll see.
Beau from Lancaster, PA
Vic, did you enjoy the final round of the PGA?
Tiger's birdie on 18 to not win the tournament was thrilling. It's the highlight of the majors season.
Bob from Beaver Dam, WI
What does Tiger mean to golf's popularity?
The 2018 PGA won't be remembered for Brooks Koepka's second majors win of the year. It won't be remembered for Koepka becoming possibly the best player on the planet. The tournament will be remembered for being another leg in Tiger Woods' comeback. I'll remember it for the throngs of fans that cheered his every swing. It made me wonder what it is about the nefarious that excites and attracts the human spirit. Whatever it is, he's back. He played a lot of good golf this year. He'll go into the 2019 season as a majors favorite. His pursuit of Jack Nicklaus will be the No. 1 story of the '19 season. In terms of attracting fans and the lens of the TV camera, he's still the game's most dominant figure.
David from Madison, WI
Would you tell us something interesting about Neil Graff?
I covered one game in which he was the quarterback of record. It was the week after Terry Bradshaw broke his wrist in a game and the Steelers found themselves having to finish that game with Tony Dungy, a safety, playing quarterback. Graff was an emergency signing. I remember him handing the ball off to Franco Harris and Rocky Bleier in a play-not-to-lose offensive scheme that relied on the Steelers defense to beat the Bengals, which the Steelers did. I remember Graff throwing a handful of passes for a meaningless few yards in a really boring game to watch. I wish I could see it again. It was a beautiful game because I was young and just beginning a career that would be full of thrills and memories. What do I remember about Neil Graff? I remember I'll never forget him.
Nick from Seattle, WA
Vic, you mentioned the expansion draft in 2002. How did the expansion teams get their players? Does the process leave them at a disadvantage or an advantage?
It's a simple system: The other teams in the league are required to leave a designated number of players on their roster unprotected, from which the expansion team or teams may select. In 1995, the Jaguars picked first and the Panthers picked second. In the '02 expansion draft, the Texans bailed the Jaguars out of a salary cap mess by assuming the remaining amortization of the Jaguars players they selected, the star of which was Tony Boselli and his huge cap proration. The Jaguars' cap situation was such they couldn't have gotten under the cap without the Texans' help. Boselli didn't recover from his shoulder surgery and never played a down for the Texans.
Mikey from Tallahassee, FL
As preseason officially gets underway, are you watching any particular stories among the three teams you've covered?
The big story with the Packers is the development of a new defensive system and personnel. We begin to get a look at the early results tonight. The Steelers have two big issues: running back and defense. All eyes with be on James Conner at running back, where Le'Veon Bell's absence has become a troubling distraction. Defensively, the Steelers were soft most of last season and then embarrassingly ineffective late in the year following Ryan Shazier's season-ending injury. The Steelers drafted for defense. Will those picks give the Steelers what they need? The Jaguars only have one big issue, quarterback, and we're not likely to get the information we need on Blake Bortles until the regular season begins.
Grant from Wauwautosa, WI
Vic, what would Jermichael Finley have meant to the 2014 Packers?
Maybe he would've caught that third-down pass in Seattle in the 2014 NFC title game. Game over! I think Finley was the perfect big receiver in the middle of the field Mike McCarthy covets, and then he went over the middle against the Browns and his career was over. It was a big loss for the Packers.
Nick from Oswego, NY
Are the Browns finally ready to start winning some games?
Yes, they're ready to begin winning some games, but that's not the issue confronting them. When do they pull the plug on Tyrod Taylor and plug in Baker Mayfield? That's the real story in Cleveland and there's no avoiding it.
Carl from Blue Mounds, WI
Vic, you always say players, not plays. I believe this to be true but wonder what makes great players? Pure athletic talent? Intelligence to process a NFL playbook? Unrelenting work ethic? Luck to stay healthy? If you had to rank what makes an NFL player great, how would you rank those attributes?
Ability is No. 1. Toughness is No. 2. Then you can stir in all of those other ingredients, in any order you'd like.
Steve from Minocqua, WI
Vic, it’s been 10 years since the Packers traded Brett Favre. As a reporter looking at the drama from the outside back then, what were your thoughts and opinions about the matter?
It was a soap opera and an embarrassing distraction. The Packers did the right thing, they just did it the wrong way. They vacillated. They allowed Favre and the media to make the franchise look as though it was groveling. It was time to move on. They had their man and it was time to step into his future. I admire them for that awareness, and I remember writing as much in an in-game blog during a preseason game in 2007. Yeah, I was a year too soon with that remark, or was I?
Kris from Stockbridge, WI
Was Jim Caldwell fired too soon?
I believe he was. I think he had the Lions on the rise.
Rodney from Zillah, WA
Vic, If you were the Packers GM, would you trade their first-round pick next year for Khalil Mack? They would still have the Saints' first pick.
I don't subscribe to the one player away philosophy. I think it's a dangerous flirt with fate. First-round picks are gold, and two of them in one draft give a team maneuverability that can change the future. Picks, not players.
Ted from Bronkers, MS
Eric Weddle said run-pass options are a fad. He ended with this statement: "Teams that run the ball and take shots are usually the hard teams to beat." I liked the sound of that, Vic. How about you?
Pound and bomb is the best. It's the style of offense defenses fear the most because you have to bring a safety down to stop the pound, and when you do that you get the bomb.
Vincent from Seattle, WA
Vic, with Jerry Kramer finally in the Hall of Fame, do you have any Steelers from the past you feel should be selected?
I think Donnie Shell had a Hall of Fame career.
David from Madison, WI
What are your thoughts on executives getting enshrined?
The Hall of Fame is a marketing tool. That's why it was created and that's why I say the men who are selected to it need to be famous. Great players and coaches become household names. Front office executives? Not so much. There aren't many front office types whose selection to the Hall of Fame is going to excite fans or promote the game. I think the Pro Football Hall of Fame inducts too many members in its annual classes. When the average fan asks "who's that?" you've got a problem.
Adam from Chicago, IL
Which AFC South quarterback will have the best year in 2018?
Steve from Montclair, NJ
What would happen if football revenue decreased and, therefore, the salary cap decreased? If the contracted players' salaries exceed the new salary cap, what would the teams need to do?
Even if the cap decreased, I doubt it would decrease so dramatically teams couldn't achieve compliance without a few cuts or re-structures. I think you're curious as to how the league would handle a situation in which a team couldn't achieve cap compliance, which would've been the Jaguars' situation had it not been for the Texans expansion draft in 2002, and the Redskins were saved from that same circumstance by a new CBA. So, what happens when a team can't get under the cap? The league would void contracts in chronologically reverse order until the team is under the cap, and then it would likely forgive the dead money acceleration by slapping the team with a harsh fine and penalty in the form of lost draft picks.
Beth from Edisto Island, SC
Sponge or dish cloth?
Dish cloth, because the sponge is loaded with bacteria.
Rocco from Green Bay, WI
What are your favorite current rivalries?
Packers-Vikings and Steelers-Bengals. I like angry football.
Sean-Luc from Oceanside, CA
What did you make of the comments Rodgers made regarding the rookie WRs? Poor leadership skills or a clever form of motivation?
Aaron Rodgers has reached a level of esteem that allows him to make that kind of remark, but it's still dangerous to call out teammates. It can cause enmity. I don't think teams need to hug, but they must not bite.
Isaac from Nashville, TN
Vic, I watched the Hall of Fame game and, after those two helmet calls, I found myself wondering if it's now actually impossible to play defense. I know it's unlikely the NFL would give an advantage to defensive players, but could you imagine a rule change that might even the field at least a little bit?
The last thing the game needs is another rule. Too many rules and interpretations have been added to the rulebook and, maybe even more devastatingly, to the lexicon of explanation. I've made pro football the focus of my entire adult life and the game has become somewhat unfamiliar to me. What I know to be true is the best thing about football has become the worst thing about football. What made football popular is now threatening to destroy it. The game was not built on safe. I'm going to avoid passing judgment on this issue until after the preseason has passed and the NFL will have used these games to drive home a message, but I won't hesitate to express my opinion once the regular season begins. My fear is the competition committee, encouraged by the commissioner and the owners that support him, has gone too far. There's a line in the player safety sand. Has the league crossed it? We'll see.
Eric from Colorado Springs, CO
What do you think about tying player contract increases to the increase in the salary cap. "We make money, you make money."It's a very successful corporate strategy. Is something like that even allowed?
It's what the cap does. The more football revenue increases, the more the cap and salaries increase. The amount of that increase (or decrease, should that ever occur) is adjusted annually.
Pat from Seneca, SC
What, if anything, do you prefer about college football in comparison to the NFL?
I've always enjoyed college football's regionality. I think it's always been the charm of its game, the pride that goes with each region's quality of play and the clash of that pride in intersectional battles. The problem is college football has lost a large measure of that regionality. Penn State plays in the Midwest. Texas A&M plays in the Southeast. Schools are playing where they don't live, and I think we're going to see more and more of that as conferences are expanded. It's not about region anymore, it's about money.
Aaron from White Hall, AR
Vic, I respect and value your opinion and I was wondering what your thoughts are on the Urban Meyer situation? To me, if he is guilty of knowing the details and doing nothing about it, we will have found out if Ohio State is about winning or integrity.
I think I can end the suspense: It's about winning.
Lori from Brookfield, WI
Vic, when Terry Bradshaw told you "his arm was dead and he couldn't throw," what struggle did you have between reporting a major scoop and being loyal to the team?
I didn't struggle with a decision. I went to practice, Bradshaw didn't raise his arm above his shoulder to throw a football, as he predicted, and I reported what I saw.
Karl from Albuquerque, NM
Vic, when I was in junior high I struggled with reading and writing. In essence, I was illiterate. My parents' concern actually led them to actually have me professionally tested to see what was wrong. It turns out nothing was wrong, I just wasn't interested in reading or writing, until ninth grade and Jerry Kramer's book, "Instant Replay." I just needed something I was interested in reading. As such, "Instant Replay" taught me to read. I'm now an attorney who has argued in front of and drafted briefs for the New Mexico Supreme Court, with no small thanks to Jerry Kramer's book.
I sincerely hope Kramer will somehow find this column. I have no doubt he'd love reading your tribute to him.
Derek from Las Vegas, NV
"Are you a football man or are you a soccer man? You can't be both." Vic, my Madden 19 and FIFA 19 pre-orders say otherwise!
Video games define the man? That's funny.
Jack from Chicago, IL
Vic, the Hall of Fame game made me really sad. I am not sure I can continue watching what the NFL is becoming. I am hoping the calls in the preseason are a little more extreme than what will be called during the regular season to emphasize the point. Maybe I am just being hopeful, as I cling to my fond memories of football. I planned on raising my family around the Packers, just like I was brought up. Thursday night broke my heart.
The NFL's marketing research says you'll continue to raise your family around the Packers as you accumulate new memories. I'm not so sure. A long time ago, a wise man who covered the game when pro football was struggling to find a foothold, gestured through the press box glass at the packed stadium and said to me, "It doesn't have to be like this." I can't help but think the NFL has become smug, and that includes the players. If the product gets soft, will the fans go away? I think that's the question that interests me most about today's game.
Dan from Waupun, WI
We sure hear a lot about Aaron Rodgers' contract. Did they talk a lot about contracts in the '70s?
Yeah, but there was no salary cap so contracts weren't the issue they are today. The Packers have to be careful to avoid Rodgers' pursuit of a new contract from becoming a distraction. If they're not going to get it done before the season begins, I think they need to suspend negotiations until after the season is over.
Nathan from San Diego, CA
What has covering football taught you about life?
In some ways, it's taught me everything. It taught me how to be accountable for my words. I think that's No. 1.
Nick from Seattle, WA
Vic, sounds like you would get along with Pettine. "Mindset over scheme, that it doesn't really matter what we're playing, it's more how we play it."
That's players, not plays, and I've never known a coach who believed otherwise. The fans are counting on Mike Pettine's plays. Pettine is counting on his players. In my opinion, it's the Packers' new players on defense that give them hope for improvement. If they lined up this year with the same defensive personnel they used last season, the results would be the same.
Patrick from Ashland, WI
Help me with my obviously poor offensive line observation skills. The Packers certainly have had some troubles on short to go. Maybe all teams have. Do you think zone blocking isn't effective on short? If it isn't, can an offensive line just switch to drive blocking all of a sudden?
Zone blocking is about moving laterally. In my opinion, zone blocking lines play too high to be effective drive blockers. They don't know how to drop their pads, sink their hips and drive. Height is an aid to the walling up technique in the zone-blocking scheme, but height is the enemy of low pad level. I find it interesting that as offensive lines have gotten taller, defensive lines have gotten shorter. Aaron Donald is a shade over six foot and he's the best defensive lineman in the game. Mike Daniels is six foot and he's the Packers' best defensive lineman. Zone blocking is an effective scheme for finding a way to run the ball and still concentrate on pass blocking, but it is not an effective means for moving the line of scrimmage and converting third and one. If I was the coach of a zone blocking team, I'd be looking for a Sam Cunningham back to go up over the top on third and one.
Min Shik from Seoul, South Korea
Does 4-3, 3-4 distinction even matter much anymore?
It matters as each pertains to the style of defense it plays, gap control or two gap. It's not about formation, it's about function. If you're going to commit to a 3-4 defense and a two-gap system, you need to find guys who can play the Okie end. Datone Jones couldn't do it; neither could Jerrell Worthy. They were miscast. You can draw up all the plays you want, but you have to find guys who can execute them.
Braden from Milwaukee, WI
Thursday night, Packers vs. Titans. With a new defensive coordinator, can I take anything out of the defensive formations I see? Or is it vanilla and not showing the competition anything.
Watch the one-on-ones. Keep a one-on-one scoreboard. The team that wins the one-on-one scoreboard wins the game. Nothing else matters.
Joe from Rhinelander, WI
Vic, in the old days of two-a-day practices, what were the pros and cons of being a beat reporter for the morning newspaper versus the beat reporter for the afternoon paper?
The morning guy almost always got the scoop, which forced the afternoon guy to do a better job of framing his stories and finding fresh story angles and information. I viewed the difference as morning guys being reporters and afternoon guys being writers.
Adam from Chicago, IL
What do the Wisconsin Badgers have to do to take that next step this year?
I think all Wisconsin fans know the answer to that question: The Badgers need to win the Big 10 title. Weak schedules demand big wins when the opportunities present themselves.
Chris from Cazenovia, WI
Vic, what makes an excellent boiled peanut experience?
It begins with a clean peel. A good football season ends with one.
Aric from Oshkosh, WI
Vic, I love hearing your stories about the grit and character of the players you've met during your career. Without asking for a name, is there a moment you can point to where a player said something that made you realize they did not have that quality and would have to find their calling outside of football?
There have been times I've interviewed players who've given me the feeling they were above being grateful for the opportunity to play professional football. Some guys never leave college. They come into pro football with a cavalier attitude. When I size up a young player, I want to know if he can be a pro. Does he want to measure himself against the best? Before a player's body can make the jump from college football to the NFL, his heart and mind has to make that leap. He must want to be a professional football player.
Steve from Omaha, NE
Vic, Mike Spofford mentioned half-line drills have not been a part of training camp thus far. He mentioned full-line drills are being used and speculated it was due to running backs cutting back rather than hitting the hole. You called it, one step closer to a kinder, gentler league.
The Packers are a zone-blocking front and its signature run is the "stretch play," which demands the back cut back behind his blockers as they move laterally. Half-line drills aren't a "stretch play" kind of drill. Half-line drills are a telephone booth-sized exercise about winning the point of attack. I think half-lines are more about defense than they are about offense. What's wrong with that? I like the thump. Thumps are good.
Eddie from Glasgow, Scotland
Vic, do you think the Jags are on the brink of a Super Bowl?
I think you could make a point for the Jaguars being an on the brink kind of team. If they had a Marcus Mariota or a Deshaun Watson at quarterback, I'd definitely put the Jaguars in the on the brink category. I need to see the Jaguars stop playing around Blake Bortles, as they did in the overtime against the Jets and in the fourth quarter of the AFC title game. Championship teams have to be able to put the game in their quarterback's hands at crunch time. The Titans did that with Mariota in the playoff win over the Chiefs.
Lori from Brookfield, WI
Vic, which of your franchise quarterbacks was the most fun to cover and interview?
It was Terry Bradshaw, by far. He was an entertainer and the media was a willing audience. I'll always be indebted to him for being an enthusiastic and cooperative interview. He gave me a lot of good stories, the best of which was the day before his final game. He told me his arm was dead and he couldn't throw, and he wasn't lying. Where is a reporter going to get that kind of honesty today?
Stephen from Jacksonville, FL
Of the Steelers, Jaguars and Packers, how would you rank those teams entering the 2018 season from most to least likely to win their respective conference championship? What is the greatest obstacle each individual team will have to overcome to give themselves the best chance to play in Super Bowl LIII?
The Jaguars are No. 1. They earned that distinction by beating the Steelers twice last year. The Jaguars' No. 1 challenge, in my opinion, is being able to match up at the quarterback position, which could become especially true within their own division. The Steelers have stars on offense, but their defense was horribly soft last season. They'll have to prove to me they've improved on defense before I consider them to be an AFC title game contender. The Packers are re-tooling on defense. If they hit a home run with the two top-pick cornerbacks, the Packers can be contenders. The Packers' greatest obstacle is the Vikings. There would appear to be a significant talent gap between the two teams. Aaron Rodgers will be expected to close the gap.
Kaleb from Corvallis, OR
So, if you had to list training camp teams that are on the verge, in their prime, and holding on, who would they be?
I think the Vikings are on the verge, the Falcons are in their prime and the Patriots are hanging on. Those are what I consider to be the best examples.
Matt from San Diego, CA
If a young Vic had the opportunity to ask Bobby Layne one question, what do you think it would have been?
I would've asked him why he didn't wear a facemask.
Dustin from Orlando, FL
I saw a video clip of the Jaguars camp featuring defensive linemen vs. offensive linemen in one-on-one drills. It looked an awful lot like an Oklahoma drill without the running back and cones. Maybe there is hope.
It's an Oklahoma without the ball. It works for me, but I prefer the drama that accompanies the Oklahoma. Let's get the whole team involved in the drill. I like the hooting and hollering. The Oklahoma drill is a tone setter. It sets the edge.
David from Madison, WI
A writer referred to "underneath speed." What was he referring to?
He was probably referring to a defensive back or linebacker who didn't have the speed to cover in the open or deep third of the field.
Matthew from Oshkosh, WI
Vic, it's looking like the Packers and Rodgers won't get a deal done this year and I keep reading reports Aaron has thrown seven interceptions already in practice. Maybe the front office knows something us fans haven't realized. Rodgers' arm might not be the same after that injury.
Why the rush to judgment? Let's just wait. Frankly, I think it's best for both parties to take their time on a new deal. Getting it right is more important than getting it done.
Omar from Morelia, Mexico
Vic, here is a quote from Jerry Kramer's “Instant Replay” that may help Packers fans understand it’s all about the money: “Vince talked today about the third straight championship, talked about how no team has ever won three NFL playoffs in a row, and he said that if we could do it we’d earn lasting recognition through the years." Nitschke called out, “Let’s get the money. Let’s get my car paid for.”
Motivation comes in many forms. One of my favorite pep talk stories goes back to the Lou Saban days in Buffalo. In the locker room at halftime of an AFL title game against the Chargers, Saban was about to speak to his team when he was pushed aside by bruising running back Cookie Gilchrist. Gilchrist looked his teammates in the eye and said: "If we lose this game, I'm gonna kick the (expletive) out of every (expletive) in this room." The Bills won the game. Whatever it takes.
Pat from Seneca, SC
Did you know about the tuck rule prior to the Patriots-Raiders playoff game? What was your reaction when it was called?
I knew about the rule. It was one of those rules in the rulebook that didn't get called, as was the "around the world" rule. The surprise was the tuck rule was being enforced.
Adam from Wausau, WI
What are five talents you have accumulated over your professional career that made you successful.
How about two? I wrote quickly and I cared about the game and the players and the coaches on whom I was reporting.
Ryan from Bloomer, WI
Vic, one can't help but notice how much more often you reference Coach Noll quotes compared to other coaches you covered (McCarthy, Coughlin, Cowher). I love the perspective and the truth I get from these; it helps me to understand him and that era of football much better. But it leaves me wanting to hear more from the modern-era coaches you covered. Other than the difference in era and accessibility from Noll to the modern-era coaches, is there any reason Coach Noll is so much more in your column?
Ryan, Coach Noll is a modern-era coach. So is Coach Lombardi. The modern era of professional football is considered to have begun with the 1958 NFL title game. I reference Coach Noll because I respect him as a coach and as a man of vision, intelligence and poise more than any person I have ever known. His was a voice of truth, and his words live within my football soul. Questions about play-calling? "What you're really asking is why didn't we win?" he would say. That's the kind of big-picture clarity that caused me to love my time covering Coach Noll.
Brian from Pleasant Prairie, WI
You've expressed in the past your appreciation for the coaches you've covered and their leadership abilities. Your comment regarding the half-line drills made me wonder what one thing would you say each of the coaches you've covered were most innovative at or dedicated to?
One thing? Coach Noll was dedicated to running the traps, but when they changed the rules in 1978, he turned to the passing game. I'll remember Coach Noll for being dedicated to a quiet kind of genius. I'll remember Bill Cowher for his dedication to goal line drills in training camp. He loved to end practice with a killer goal line drill. That's how he created the mind set he wanted. Look at his record when he began the fourth quarter with a 10-point lead. His teams knew how to hold firm and finish. Tom Coughlin was all about precision offense. His practices were a down-and-out drill. Jack Del Rio said, "We will the stop the run," and his teams did. Mike McCarthy is about up-tempo offense. His practices are about volume of plays. That's how I'll remember the coaches I covered. I'll also remember they won eight Super Bowls.
Anthony from Milwaukee, WI
The problem with the zone-blocking scheme comes on third-and-one. Better off just passing. Ask Aaron Rodgers.
Teams that have to pass on third-and-one are will of the wisp. They're soft and cheesy. That's my opinion.