Kabir from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL
Should Le'Veon Bell send a present to Todd Gurley? The Rams extending Gurley's contract resets running back compensation. Is this a fleeting moment, or the new reality?
The Rams are full of themselves and behaving recklessly. Running back will remain a largely undervalued position because its supply is plentiful.
Patrick from Ashland (wherever that is)
My dad was a Brooklyn Dodgers fan from way up here because he wanted them to beat the Yankees in the '40s and '50s. He loved the Packers before I was born. Care to share any dad stories?
My father took me to the first pro sports game I ever attended, a Phillies-Pirates game. As we walked into Forbes Field, I noticed the game had already begun. Moments after sitting down, Ted Kluszewski hit a home run for the Pirates, the game was over and the teams left the field. I was immediately upset at my father for arriving so late to the game. "The game is over, dad," I said. He then explained what I had just seen was the continuation of a suspended game, and the full game would begin shortly. I felt wonderful.
Scott from Mt. Lebanon, PA
Did you have a ritual for the first day of camp with each of the teams you covered?
No, but Chuck Noll had a first-day ritual that became a routine I eagerly anticipated every year. Chuck began each training camp with a spirited Oklahoma drill he used as a tone-setter for camp. He would create matchups that got everyone's blood pumping, including the fans'. It was great writing because the drill almost always included a fight. The fans knew where the drill would be conducted because they would see the blocking bags strategically placed on the ground, and the fans would gather around that area well in advance of the start of practice. It was the No. 1 event of training camp every year and it included such headline events as Mike Webster vs. Jack Lambert and Joe Greene vs. Steve Courson. One of the most memorable was Ray Mansfield vs. an undrafted linebacker named Jim Rosecrans. Rosecrans initiated a two-bout fight with the always willing Mansfield. It was a beauty and so were the interviews with each player following practice. Rosecrans was an unknown rookie trying to make the team; Mansfield was an aging veteran trying to hang on. It was the kind of classic confrontation Coach Noll was adept at creating. It was proof Coach Noll had a reporter's feel for good storylines. In Jacksonville, I waxed nostalgic with Jack Del Rio about the Oklahoma drill, for which Jack had a similar fondness. We made a deal: He'd do it and I'd promote it. I hyped it for weeks in advance of training camp. Jack allowed me to pick a couple of the matchups, and I'd survey "Ask Vic" readers as to what matchups, within reason, they'd like to see. It became the No. 1 event of Jaguars training camp. Crowds were huge. One year, a fire truck pulled up outside the fence and raised its ladder so the firemen could sit on it and watch the action. Nobody does the Oklahoma anymore. We're above such mundane pursuits as blocking and tackling. We need to practice our plays.
Matt from Madison, WI
Do you think Casey Hampton or Haloti Ngata make the Hall of Fame? Is the lack of nose tackles in the HOF because they don't produce numbers? Whose the best nose tackle you ever saw?
Nose tackles don't sack the quarterback. That's why there's a prejudice against them. They are largely viewed as chopping blocks or obstacles. Their skill at defeating blocks is unappreciated. Curley Culp, Elvin Bethea and Joel Steed are the best nose tackles I've seen.
Mike from Missoula, MT
Vic, are you aware of any sports writers who transitioned into the operations side of a team?
Ernie Accorsi immediately comes to mind. Ernie has a degree in journalism and worked for three major newspapers before beginning his career in sports. My favorite sports-writer-turned-football-executive story belongs to legendary scout Bill Nunn. Bill had been the sports editor of the Pittsburgh Courier, the country's first African-American newspaper. One of his duties as sports editor was to pick an All-HBCU football team every year, which made Bill a man of great influence in black college football. When Bill went to Grambling, for example, Eddie Robinson rolled out the red carpet. The Steelers made Nunn a part-time scout in 1967, and then Coach Noll wisely made Nunn full time two years later, when Noll became coach. With his vast knowledge of HBCU football, Nunn opened the door for the Steelers to draft Mel Blount, Frank Lewis, Ron Shanklin, Glen Edwards, Ernie Holmes, L.C. Greenwood, Dwight White, Joe Gilliam and John Stallworth, to name a few. Former NFL GM Dick Haley told me he thought sports writers with a feel for football talent made good scouts because of their ability to write reports that accurately expressed their opinions.
Adam from Stevens Point, WI
Vic, in your opinion, how difficult is it to transition to a zone blocking scheme, and how well have teams done in the past afterwards?
Zone blocking is an effective scheme that requires little in the way of talent to execute. Any big body can do it. Just wall up and move laterally. You don't even have to push anybody because the defensive linemen will move with you. The onus is on the back for identifying when and where to cut behind the wall and run to daylight. Teams with cutback runners do well with that scheme, and cutback runners are a dime a dozen. The charm of the zone blocking scheme is it allows teams to focus solely on a lineman's ability to pass block. Find five left tackles and teach one of them to snap a football. That's how you draft linemen for a zone blocking scheme.
Dave from Jacksonville, FL
Vic, I grew up a Miami Dolphins fan. I’ve always been bothered that (Jake Scott) is not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He played in three consecutive Super Bowls, contributing to winning two of them while being named MVP in one of them. He had 49 interceptions during his nine-year NFL career from the safety position. He was a very good punt returner and special teams player. Why isn’t he in the HOF?
For the same reason Donnie Shell isn't in the Hall of Fame: He was a safety. It wasn't the premier position back then that it' s becoming in today's game. Safeties were last-line-of-defense players. They were centerfielders who provided support to the real stars of pass coverage, the bump-and-run cornerbacks.
Daniel from Altoona, WI
Vic, I was watching some old footage of college games. I noticed how close to the line of scrimmage the running backs were. What was the advantage/disadvantage of this? What is the advantage/disadvantage in today's game?
In the old days, so to speak, offensive lines were taught and schemed to come off the ball low, hard and in unison. They were fashioned for their ability to drive, trap and pull. Everything up front back then was about speed and quickness. In that sense, the game was much faster than it is today. A back's job was to hit the hole quickly, with speed, lean and fury. Everything happened in a flash, as the hole would open and close in the bat of an eye. I covered a Pitt-Penn State game in 1976 that turned on a halftime adjustment by Johnny Majors, who moved Tony Dorsett closer to the line of scrimmage, to take advantage of holes that were opening quickly. That kind of tactic wouldn't work today because today's lines don't drive block. Heck, they can't even move the pile to gain a yard on third and one. Today's schemes favor pick-and-poke runners. They hide behind linemen that stand up at the snap of the ball and dance around as though they're Lipizzan Stallions. The day of the drive blocker is gone forever. The rules won't allow it.
Craig from Cedarburg, WI
Perhaps premature to ask, but what Week 1 matchup are you most looking forward to watching?
Falcons-Eagles, 49ers-Vikings, Steelers-Browns and Texans-Patriots all interest me, as do several other games, but I don't think you have to look any farther than Bears-Packers. It's oozing intrigue. Is Aaron Rodgers back? Is Mitch Trubisky ready? Are the Bears for real? No opener is a must-win game, but try to convince yourself of that fact if you're a Packers fan.
Isaac from Abiquiu, NM
Vic, what, if any, storylines are you looking at during training camp season?
Have the Packers satisfied their need at cornerback? Can James Conner and rookie running back Jaylen Samuels replace Le'Veon Bell? Can Blake Bortles take his game to a higher level? Those are some of the storylines confronting the Packers, Steelers and Jaguars but, frankly, I don't think today's training camp regimens are intense enough to provide answers to any substantive questions.
Dylan from Morgantown, WV
What's your favorite non-football book?
The Moon Is Down, by John Steinbeck.
Bill from Jenkinsville, ID
Where do you think the next Packers Hall of Fame quarterback is: 1) a gleam in his daddy's eye; 2) elementary school; 3) high school; 4) college.
Pat from Seneca, SC
What uniform numbers do you associate with a single player?
Johnny Unitas -- 19, Jim Brown -- 32.
Patrick from New Smyrna Beach, FL
Looking back to the 2000-2010 seasons, I'm amazed at the depth of elite running backs. In that decade, 1,500 yards and 15 touchdowns often didn't get you to All-Pro or even to the Pro Bowl. Was there a rule change that helped accomplish that or was there just a perfect storm of generational talent at the position that was able to rack up stats the likes of which hadn't been common before or since? Is that era the golden age of the feature back?
Offense in general exploded in that decade. The major point of emphasis on the chuck rule caused it and the emphasis defenses had to assign to pass coverage and rushing the passer helped open the running lanes. The '60s and '70s are the decades that represent the golden age of the feature back: Jim Brown, Jim Taylor, O.J. Simpson, Franco Harris, Larry Csonka, Tony Dorsett, Walter Payton, Earl Campbell, and on and on. Every team had one because they had to have one. Teams were defined by their running back, and running backs were often the first overall pick of the draft.
Rick from El Cerrito, CA
What did you think of the British Open?
My No. 1 thought is it was a delight to watch NBC's coverage of the event. It was vastly superior to FOX's coverage of the U.S. Open. I hope the money was worth the switch because, otherwise, the USGA made a big mistake in dumping NBC for FOX.
Randy from Aurora, CA
Vic, in all your years of reporting, what was it you enjoyed most about training camp?
I enjoyed covering the plight of the desperate dreamer. It was his chance to reach out and grab his dream. I saw Donnie Shell do it. I saw Frank Pollard do it. I saw Montell Owens do it. I don't think today's desperate dreamers have the same opportunity to realize their dream. How can you out-hit the competition if you're not allowed to hit?
Brian from Pleasant Prairie, WI
I agree on your Mt. Rushmore of QBs. I also think Brady deserves the spot over Manning. My question is what would Aaron Rodgers need to accomplish to supplant Brady on your mountain?
This is a question that needs to go away. It can't happen. Brady is the best from this era. He's got the rings and the Super Bowl MVPs to go with them. Brady defines the era in which he's played.