Randy from Medicine Hat, AB
I like a game that is played conservatively, in which the coaches give up yards and points grudgingly. I liked the "Martyball" era, but very few games are played like that these days. Can those days return, or are they gone like the Dodo bird?
You might see that type of game from time to time, but that era of football is gone forever. The league doesn't want it and won't permit it. It bothers me to say that because I believe the league has interfered too much and too often with the rules in an attempt to manipulate the game. The game isn't being allowed to evolve, it's being forced to change.
Matt from Winfield, IL
When you were working, what did July Fourth mean for you professionally. How has your view changed in retirement?
For much of my career, the Fourth of July meant the end of summer. Training camps would start shortly after, as rookies would report a week ahead of the veterans. Retirement changes everything. I've never smelled so many roses and they've never smelled better. Yesterday, I spent the afternoon at the beach, during which I was treated to the annual South Carolina coastal fly-by. It's a really cool tradition that included two F-15s thundering down the South Carolina coast at low altitude, followed by a succession of vintage planes. An old-fashioned chicken and baked beans cookout was punctuated by the most delicious watermelon I've ever eaten, and the night concluded with a fireworks display on Big Bay Creek. The best part is summer is just beginning for me. I love retirement!
Craig from Cedarburg, WI
There are always stories of players we want to see make it. Have you ever come across such a despicable player you rooted against their success?
If there was such a player, Jack Tatum was that guy. I thought he was a fraud. He was an ambush hitter. He loved to hit you when you couldn't hit back, but I watched him turn his back on Franco Harris when Harris tore through the middle of the line, his knees up around his eyeballs as he charged toward the goal line in the play that capped the drive that changed the game in the 1974 AFC Championship. Tatum called himself "Assassin." I had other names for him, especially after what he did to Darryl Stingley in a preseason game, and refusing to express remorse for it.
Chris from Norway
You say patience requires a strong defense, and that it's difficult to stick with the run game when your defense is average at best. To me that sounds like saying the passing game is better than the running game, because the running game is more likely to end the drive. What am I not getting?
What you're not getting is the mentality that believes you throw to score, you run to win. Think on it.
John from Peoria, IL
What pass rush will become more important, inside or outside?
An inside rush has always been the preferred path to the quarterback because it's the shortest path to the quarterback and it collapses the pocket by making him step out of it instead of up into it. Getting penetration up the middle is also the most difficult path to the quarterback because there are three blockers in the middle of the line and the congestion is greatest. Nobody's on an island in the middle. What Aaron Donald is doing is extraordinary. You don't scheme what he's doing. He's just whipping his man, which is to say nearly every man against whom he plays. Donald might be the greatest pass-rushing defensive tackle I've ever seen.
Kelm from Wisconsin
In retrospect, was there anything in particular you noticed that jumped out at you in the camps of the teams that went on to win Super Bowls that uniquely made you sit up and take note they might have something special going on?
There have been several of those moments in my time covering football, but they didn't always coincide with winning a Super Bowl. It was obvious the Steelers had something going in 1974 when they drafted Lynn Swann, Jack Lambert, John Stallworth and Mike Webster. I remember the early Bill Cowher years and seeing a collection of talent emerging on defense: Levon Kirkland, Joel Steed and Chad Brown joined Rod Woodson, Greg Lloyd and Carnell Lake. I could see the speed increase on that defense and I knew good years were ahead for it. I saw it happen on the offensive side of the ball in Jacksonville under Tom Coughlin; the addition of Fred Taylor was the exclamation point. Then I saw it happen on the defensive side of the ball under Jack Del Rio. He inherited Marcus Stroud and John Henderson, and then added Mike Peterson, Rashean Mathis and others, and it was obvious the Jags were going to be a force on defense. The 2014 Packers had that kind of feel to them in training camp. Eddie Lacy was a dominant back in that camp and the Packers offense had that take-what-we-want look to it all great offenses have. The addition of Julius Peppers made the defense look formidable. That was a championship team betrayed by four minutes of mindless collapse.
Jacob from Port Huron, MI
Who was one person, not in sports, you wished you would have had a conversation with?
Nicola from St. Helen's, UK
How do I enter the NFL draft as a woman from England?
Everybody is automatically eligible for the NFL draft once in their life. If you're older than 22, your year of eligibility has probably passed and you are a free agent to sign with any team in the league.
Michael from Buffalo, NY
If you could've worked for any other team in the NFL, which would it have been?
It would've been a team that would've paid me more money and offered me more career opportunity and advancement than the team for which I was working.
Adam from Winterpark, FL
I’ve always been fascinated at the level of talent and physicality the Steelers have maintained at the linebacker position. Growing up in the '90s, I absolutely loved Greg Lloyd. Was he as cheery off the field as he seemed on it? Any good stories?
Cheery? He was a brooding, largely anti-social man, but I was OK with that because football isn't a happy game. I remember he wore a t-shirt that said something on it like "They don't pay me for my disposition." My favorite memory of Lloyd is from a training camp media day. At that point in his career, Lloyd had largely become non-conversive with the media, but he was a star player and that made it necessary to get some kind of representative quote from him. In a group of reporters, I asked him: "Greg, what are your thoughts, if any, on the upcoming season?" It might be both the best and worst question I ever asked a pro athlete. I think the "if any" part angered Lloyd. His response was, "Just to get the hell away from you guys." I used the quote.
Anthony from Milwaukee, WI
Vic, do teams constantly need to change the playbook from year to year, or is it a fine tuning that's required?
Good teams don't change the playbook. They add wrinkles to stay fresh and keep opponents honest, but their base philosophy and bread-and-butter plays remain the same. They win with identity and execution. Everybody knew the Lombardi Packers were going to run the Packer sweep, but nobody could stop it. Everybody knew the "Steel Curtain" Steelers were going to run the inside traps, but nobody could stop it. With the '80s 49ers, it was "sprint right option." The '90s Cowboys ran the lead draw with Emmitt over and over. The best teams in history have been the most predictable teams in history.
David from Madison, WI
When did quarterbacks start looking off defensive backs?
I'm sure it's a tactic that goes back to Otto Graham and beyond, but Johnny Unitas took it to a higher level. Unitas invented the game that's played today. He is the father of modern quarterbacking. Watching Tom Brady play always reminds me of Unitas.
Steve from Montclair, NJ
Was there ever a record set you thought you would never see broken?
I'm not a records kind of guy. I just don't delight in them as others do. There's one, however, that intrigues me. Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak continues to be unapproachable. I'm stunned.
Shane from York, NE
Vic, I attended the same high school as Mike Webster. Do you have any Webster stories?
I've told it before but I think it bears repeating. At Super Bowl XIII, platforms were built for the players to conduct postgame interviews. I was standing at the rear of a crowd of reporters assembled at the platform bearing Webster's name. When Webster came to his platform, he hooked his arm under mine and lifted me toward the front of the crowd. Memories make us rich.
Jason from Honolulu, HI
You shared some of your favorite quotes from coaches you covered. Here are some of my favorite quotes from you. “It’s about the money.” “Players not plays.” “It’s a game of replacement.” “It’s a young man’s game.” These quotes provide the answers to many football questions about why a team or player decided this or that. However, my favorite Vic quote is not about football: “Memories make us rich.” When I’m sitting around with old pals, our stories are always about the experiences we shared with each other. “Remember that time when…” So to you, Vic, I say thank you for the memories: guy wires, fighting crows, 998 Oaks…
This column is one of my greatest treasures, and I owe it to the readers.
Eric from Hudson, WI
Vic, did you catch the stunning match between Russia and Spain this weekend? The game ended with a score of 1-1 and was ultimately decided on penalties.
I think you know the answer to your question. Please don't ask me questions about soccer, folks. I hate soccer intensely and there's no chance I would ever watch one second of it. I was at breakfast this week and in walked a boobish-looking man wearing blue athletic shoes and bright-green checkered socks. My mood immediately deteriorated. "Ask Vic" is not a place for soccer. "Ask Vic" hates soccer and would steal the ball and poke a hole in it if they were playing the World Cup in "Ask Vic's" backyard. If "As Vic" was the POTUS, the first thing "Ask Vic" would do is outlaw soccer and imprison anyone found playing it.