Nolan from La Crosse, WI

Does every player in the NFL have an agent? What about undrafted players and the players that are on practice squads? Are there agents always working to get these guys signed or do they just hope some team has them pegged and in their back pocket?

I don’t know of a player that isn’t represented by an agent. Once upon a time, a few players did their own negotiations, and I think there are guys in today’s game that have enough business sense to be able to do that, but the need for agents goes beyond negotiating contracts, and that’s especially true for the bottom-of-the-roster guys. The teams need for the players to have agents because the agents provide a ready link to the players they represent. The teams need to be able to contact street free agents to work them out in a pinch, sign them to replace an injured player, and those players’ agents provide an immediate link to their clients. Agents are part of the process. In a way, they’re also part of the league machinery. They understand the salary cap and how to work with teams in structuring contracts. Agents aren’t the “bad guys” that was once their image. When they represent marginal players, they help promote and advance that player’s career, and in many cases their relationship with teams help provide that team with a player they need to fill a specific role.

Jack from Corrales, NM

Based on the Packers’ draft and what you’ve seen of them this offseason, how do you think they will do in their season opener against San Francisco? What about Washington?

Vacation allowed me an opportunity to step back and look at the big picture, and I like what I saw. This is a good team with a top roster. That’s as far as I can go right now. When you’re writing a column such as this every day, there’s a tendency to get so close to the “action” that you start “playing” the games before training camp even begins. That’s just not realistic. What is realistic is the promise this Packers team offers. It is loaded with talent, young talent that has to be fit into a grand scheme. If and when that comes together, look out. That’s the best I can do, Jack.

Will from Phoenix, AZ

In many cases you seem to bypass good questions for those fluff questions that inspire your ego or ire, so here you are. That smile’s a little too perfect and appears to be thanks to false teeth.

Ain’t they purty?

Mark from Stewartville, MN

Vic, is it necessary to put the word “read” in read option? Isn’t it a given that the quarterback reads the defense as he’s deciding whether to hand the ball off or run with it himself?

It’s just a name; what’s in a name? I’ll give you an example of how schemes get named. A couple of days after the Steelers began their run to the Super Bowl IX title by stuffing O.J. Simpson in the playoffs with a strange defensive scheme that turned Joe Greene sideways over the guard and center, we asked Chuck Noll what he called that defense. He said, “Talk to George.” So we went to defensive line coach George Perles and asked him what he called that defense. It was actually a creative form of a defensive technique known as “cross hands.” George paused when we asked him the question, and then said, “Stunt 4-3.” Years later, he told me he didn’t have a name for it and hadn’t even considered a name for it until we asked him. See what I mean? The only thing that’s important to know about the read option is that the quarterback is a runner.

Kevin from Westwood, MA

Vic, I just woke up from a dream where they began playing the first week of the NFL season in shorts and t-shirts, no helmets and two-hand touch. The Packers lost. Please tell me I’m awake and everything will be okay.

Let me know when you have a dream about OTAs.

Dan from Ocala, FL

Vic, a good friend of mine, who’s a USAF Intel officer with a background in behavioral science has come up with the idea of every pro sports franchise having someone like him on staff that might be able to diagnose potential problem players off the field before the team actually drafts them.

Every team already has that. Every team has a security director and player programs people skilled in the art of psychological analysis, or access to psychologists, that can uncover all of the history of trouble and a prospect’s danger signs. That’s not the issue. The issue is whether or not a team elects to ignore those danger signs. Talent can make believers out of skeptics, and I’ll admit that I’m one of those people that would tend to take a chance on a guy with a checkered past, if his talent was worthy of it. Why? Because I’ve seen players grow. I’ve seen troubled young players develop into model pros. This is about football, not charm school. It’s all about where you draw the line and believing in a guy when he tells you he’s changed.

Chris from Greeley, CO

Just want to give my opinion on an 18-game season. It’s greedy and ignorant. Football is great because there aren’t a lot of games so every game is more important. Preseason is necessary for evaluation and preparation. Eighteen games do nothing but devalue the urgency of each game.

They said the same thing in 1978 when the league went from six preseason games and 14 regular season games to four and 16. I didn’t agree then and I don’t agree now. Eighteen is doable, in my opinion, but it would mean more players would have to be trained in the art of professional football. That’s the part I like the most. I like a fresh and ample supply of young talent. I like jars on the shelf. Nothing is better for the league and its teams than a reservoir of young talent.

Chris from Veghel, the Netherlands

Is there a certain jersey number that has been worn enough times, by the best of the best, that makes it stand out more than others?

The number 12 immediately comes to mind: Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Jim Kelly, Terry Bradshaw, Roger Staubach, Joe Namath and a lot of other great quarterbacks.

Travis from Eau Claire, WI

I don’t fully understand conference pride. When the Bears went to the Super Bowl in 2006, people said it would be nice for the title to be brought back to the division. What does that mean? You’re cheering for the Bears?

It’s the NATIONAL Football League. Regionality has always been a big part of college football, largely because conferences represented regions and the teams largely recruited their players from that region, but even that’s gone now. Even college football has become national in scope. Teams are recruiting players from all over the country and conferences have moved their footprint across time zones: Penn State, Rutgers and Maryland are in the Big Ten, West Virginia is in the Big 12, Missouri and Texas A&M are in the SEC. As it stands right now, the Packers’ most intense rivals of the past few years are the Giants and 49ers. The Seahawks might be next to join those teams. I’m not trying to be disrespectful of the Bears, it’s just that the Packers have kind of owned that series in recent years. Regionality isn’t dead, but it’s not what it once was, even in college football.

Chan from Jacksonville, FL

I asked Mike which new coach will do well this year. He said Chip Kelly. What’s your opinion? I didn’t want to include Andy Reid because he’s a proven coach in the NFL.

It’s entirely possible that Kelly’s “Quack Attack” offense could take the NFL by surprise, but the road of college coaches that were going to take the NFL by storm has produced a lot of U turns: Lou Holtz, Steve Spurrier, Nick Saban, to name a few. Pro football is a very different game from college football.

Jerry from Wilmington, NC

Vic, early on you stated you were high on Franklin, but recently you say Lacy. What changed your mind?

What I said about Eddie Lacy, during the combine season, was that he might be a straight-line runner. At Alabama, that’s all he had to do, run a straight line. He didn’t work out at the combine and we didn’t get much pre-draft information on him due to his hamstring injury. Based on what I saw in OTAs, I think I can say that Lacy is much more than a straight-line runner. I saw him make an inside-out run on a goal-line play in OTAs that let me know his hips aren’t stiff. I understand that it was only OTAs, but if a guy can run like that in noncontact drills, he can run like that when the action is live. Obviously, I like Lacy. I like big backs. He can be a game-changer for this team. We’ll see.

Al from Superior, WI

Those of us in this north country thank the weather for keeping the rift raft out. Sometimes it doesn’t work.

I think that’s a shot.

Paul from De Pere, WI

Teams don’t differ from one another. Wow, I have been looking at this all wrong then. Titletown is simply a product of good fortune? No tension going into the season now. It’s luck.

I think you’re being overly dramatic about what I wrote. It’s a fine line between winning and losing. The line can be as fine as one player, the quarterback. Switch quarterbacks with one of the bottom teams in the league. What happens to each team? That reserve you sense in Ted Thompson is the poise of a veteran football man who understands how fine the line is. If you don’t have “The Man,” you don’t win. The Packers have “The Man.” Call it anything you want but, yes, it’s luck that he was still available when it was the Packers’ turn to pick.

Thomas from Milwaukee, WI

I remember asking a while back about the strength of the NFC North. You perfectly answered, “It has one playoff win in two years.” Told me everything I needed to hear.

Show me the money, not the rankings.

Bill from Stillwater, MN

I’m trying to figure out what seems to be a warm and fuzzy connection between Green Bay and Pittsburgh. Does it go back to the days when Packers great Johnny Blood McNally coached there? I mean, you’re from there, Mike McCarthy’s from there, Dan Rooney was really the only NFL owner who went to bat for the Packers when they were trying to expand the stadium a few years ago. All this just a coincidence?

You don’t think I’m proud to have been from there and to work here? I’m a football guy and those are legendary football towns.

George from Santa Cruz, CA

Vic, are you planning to attend the 2013 Hall of Fame ceremony to feel the love of another Lombardi era inductee?

I’ll be in Canton to help chronicle and honor the career of a man I have long considered to be possibly the most underrated player in NFL history.

Monica from Green Bay, WI

The Packers rookies and veterans both report on July 25. Why is there such a divergence of reporting dates between the different teams and within teams for rookies and vets?

Count back 15 days from a team’s first preseason game, and that’s the earliest you can require veterans to report to camp. Rookies can report earlier.

Adam from Wausau, WI

I read an article on Dave Robinson and how he thinks the problem with today’s concussion issues is directly related to poor tackling. Do you think the techniques taught in the ’60s and ’70s would work in today’s NFL?

They practiced tackling back then. One of the highlights of training camp for me was covering the Oklahoma drills. The fans loved them. They knew the Oklahoma would be run on the first day of rookie week and the first day veterans practiced, and the fans packed the hillside above where the Oklahoma would be run. They knew where it would be. It was a wonderful event but it fell victim to the fear of injuries and how they might devastate a team’s payroll. Teams now attempt to practice tackling by practicing its proper technique in subdued drills, but I just don’t think you can really practice tackling without tackling. The mania for “stay on your feet,” in my opinion, is the cause of poor tackling, but how can you blame it on the coaches when their main concern in training camp is coming out of it injury free? It’s a slippery slope. We just have to accept it as part of the new game.

Neil from Milwaukee, WI

Who on the roster do you think could make big, unexpected contributions?

I’m hoping the Mike Neal experiment at linebacker works. I think it’s a cutting-edge attempt by Coach Capers to keep pace with a changing game. This is an attempt at creating a new kind of slash, a defensive lineman/linebacker. I’m interested to see where this leads. If the game was to one day eliminate three and four-point stances, this could become the wave of the future.



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