Nick from New York, NY
The NFLPA decertified on Friday and 10 players filed a class-action suit against the owners. Does your coverage of the NFL during the 1989 decertification and subsequent litigation give you any insight into the current situation?
Vic: Yeah, it’s starting to come back to me. I remember that it was about then that I saw Judge David Doty’s name for the first time; I sure didn’t appreciate what an important and long-lasting figure he would become in NFL labor matters. I also remember that the players union reorganized in 1993, which was the same year the NFL achieved a collective bargaining agreement with the players union and the two sides authored the league’s first-ever salary cap. I’m not a lawyer and I don’t know much about the law, but that sure appears to me as though decertification was a strategy for gaining leverage in negotiations. Is there anyone that doubts that the players union will recertify once the players get what they want? This is 1989 all over again.
Peter from Rockford, MI
Do you think Ted Thompson is doing any contingency planning? Do you think he is expanding his list of (non-union or ex-union) players that might be available for a replacement-player scenario? Thanks. I hope this stupidity gets resolved.
Vic: There are no union players now. The union has decertified; all players are non-union or ex-union players. That’s why this is a lockout. Most of the players have individual contracts with their teams. If teams attempted to play replacement-player games, the players they have under contract would simply show up for work. The NFL wants a collective bargaining agreement with its players. It needs a CBA because a CBA protects certain functions of the league, such as the draft. A CBA insulates the league from antitrust suits. That’s why the union has decertified and filed an antitrust suit against the league. Without a CBA, it would be a lose-lose situation for the league if it didn’t lock out the players. The players would get their money, while simultaneously conducting an antitrust lawsuit against the league.
Scott from Jacksonville, FL
What happens if a player loses his playbook?
Vic: It’s a bad thing. Coaching becomes frantic to find it. It’s akin to having the key to your house stolen. You gotta change the lock.
John from Weatherford, TX
Have you ever heard of “doubling up?” I'm a 69-year-old Packers fan who grew up in Green Bay. In the early 1950s, when the NFL started televising games on CBS, there was concern that Green Bay would look like a hick town if the stadium wasn't full. At the time, City Stadium held 25,000 fans, more than the population of Green Bay. The Packers were a mediocre team and fans didn't fill the stadium. So the decision was made to let kids in free if they could find a ticket-holding adult. We'd approach adults and say, “Mister, can I double up with you?” If the ticket-holder would let us do it, we'd be allowed to squeeze into the turnstile with the ticket-holder and we were instructed to sit in any empty seat. If a ticket-holder showed up with our seat's ticket, we were told to move to another empty seat. That way, when the TV cameras panned the stadium, it looked full. There is an army of people my age that became Packers fans for life because of “doubling up.” Just a little Packers history for you.
Vic: That’s a great story. It’s the kind of story that defines the history and tradition of the NFL’s heritage franchises. Thanks for sharing that story with us.
Steve from Chicago, IL
How would you feel about the Packers taking Jonathan Baldwin with their first pick? He could be a number four receiver to start and if he starts to blow up, all the better.
Vic: Baldwin is one of the true boom-bust players in this year’s draft class. His last two seasons at Pitt were boom-bust. We’re talking about a guy who really passes the eye test. He’s 6-5, 230, and ran a 4.45 at the combine, which is eye-popping speed for a man his size. This guy makes a lot of tight ends look small. So which player will he be in the NFL? Will he be the one in 2009 that made big catch after big catch, nearly jumped out of Heinz Field to make a big catch against Notre Dame? Or will he be the player who appeared disinterested and often disappeared in 2010, in an offense that struggled with a new quarterback. Picking Baldwin would be what I like to call “trying to catch lightning in a bottle.” This guy is truly lightning. If you can put him in a bottle, you’re gonna strike some people with him.
Mike from Little Chute, WI
Where do you think Mike McCarthy currently ranks among the best NFL head coaches of the present?
Vic: He’s at the top of his profession; he’s the coach of the Super Bowl champions. I became interested in Coach McCarthy while covering a game between the Packers and Jaguars in 2008. I liked his offense. I liked the way he and his coaches remained calm and in control along the sideline. I saw a guy who could coach; all he needed was some players on defense. They got those players and they got a defensive coordinator who brought it all together. Look at the staff McCarthy has assembled. That’s the true measure of a coach’s effectiveness. As I interview and get to know these coaches, I become even more impressed.
Mitch from Big Lake, TX
I know it's against the code for you as a writer to cheer for a team, but wouldn't you rather see your current employer win in order to give you more work? Unless, of course, you’re salaried and, therefore, wouldn't want them to make the playoffs in order to avoid more work?
Vic: That’s pretty cold, Mitch. I have always wanted the teams I’ve covered to win. You’d have to be a rat to root against the guys you go to every day to help you write your stories. That’s not me. I like the guys I cover and I want them to win, but I’m not going to cheer for them in the press box. How about we do it like this: You do the cheering and I’ll do the writing, OK?
Dave from Calumet, MI
What is a team's obligation concerning injury reporting during the week before a game? Is there some trickery going on by under-reporting or over-reporting?
Vic: Of course there is; no team wants to provide accurate information to its opponent. What they’re trying to do is not tell a lie; that’s all. In other words, make as many guys as you can “questionable” because that’s a 50-50 deal and you can’t be called a liar or be accused of trying to mislead anybody if you make a guy 50-50, which is the same as saying, “I don’t know,” and often that’s the truth.
Dan from Bruce, WI
Vic, your big board looks like something you picked off a draft board six months ago (or more). Very outdated. A lot of the players you have listed have dropped out of first-round consideration. Others you have rated lower have risen dramatically on other boards. Why is your board so different from almost everyone else’s?
Vic: Because it’s mine. I didn’t know they had already conducted the draft. I thought it was still open to debate. By the way, my value board isn’t a mock draft, it’s my evaluation of how the talent should be ranked. You don’t judge it by how it matches with how the players are picked, you judge it according to how they perform. In other words, it can’t accurately be judged until a few years from now.
Len from Baraboo, WI
Why do most teams have corners and safeties that are only 5-11 or 6-foot? Most receivers are getting into the 6-3, 6-5 range.
Vic: Receivers don’t have to backpedal; defensive backs, especially corners, do. They have to be able to backpedal and then turn their hips and run. They have to be quick and fluid. In all the years I’ve covered the NFL, I’ve only covered one defensive back in the 6-3, 6-5 range that could backpedal and turn his hips well enough to play the position and that was Mel Blount.
Andy from Minneapolis, MN
I've been living behind enemy lines for decades but have never wavered in my support for the Packers. What are your thoughts about a team playing in an outdoor stadium compared to the comfortable confines of a domed stadium? I'm a firm believer that playing outdoors in December builds character and mental toughness. Am I delusional?
Vic: Playing outdoors in Dec. helps you deal with playing outdoors in Jan., and that’s the important thing because unless you have homefield advantage throughout the playoffs, you’re probably going to have to play in the Midwest or in the Northeast in Jan. and you better be able to deal with the cold. The Packers had to win in Philadelphia and in Chicago. In recent years, the road to the Super Bowl has been passing through places such as New England, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Baltimore, New York and Green Bay, and you pretty much know what you’re going to have to do in those places in Jan.: protect the ball, play field position and take advantage of your opportunities. You have to be able to play all-out for 60 minutes. You can’t allow your spirit to be weakened by the cold.
Fred from Appleton, WI
Vic, doesn't the coaching staff have a lot to do with the development of a player as much or more than the athletic ability of the player himself? For example, if Aaron Rodgers was drafted by the 49ers instead of Green Bay, would he be as good a quarterback? I feel the coaches had a lot to do with developing his ability to play at his current level.
Vic: Coaching is important; I agree that Rodgers has benefited from some very good coaching in Green Bay, but he’s pretty good, too. I think the Packers’ coaches would tell you that they’ve had a lot to work with.
Johnny from Waukesha, WI
Which team do you think will have the strongest turnaround next year? My money would be on the Lions; they were way better than their record indicated.
Vic: The Lions are a strong candidate. I’ll give you another one: Buffalo.