Tyler from Pierre, SD

Does the fact that Barclay is practicing at center indicate he might not be a front-runner for the right tackle job? I thought he might have had a step up on everyone else because of how he stepped up last year and was viewed as a good run blocker.

Marshall Newhouse is the front-runner for the starting right tackle job. Don Barclay is practicing at center because the Packers are trying to find as many ways as possible to provide playing time for players who possess talent. The more things you can do, the more likely it is you’ll play.

Mike from Des Moines, IA

Your optimistic appraisal of the Packers’ current talent level is why I prefer a journalist who will tell me the truth over a pundit who tells me what I want to hear. I know you are truthful in your optimism here when it makes me happy, because I’ve seen you be truthful in realism or pessimism when it wasn’t what I wanted to hear.

An artist must show darkness to be able to show light. An all-white canvas is blank. Truth paints the picture.

Mark from Nottingham, UK

If as Commissioner Ketchman you’re forcing the Rams to change their uniforms back, can you also put the Chargers back in powder blue, the Bucs in orange and resurrect Pat the Patriot in New England?

I love all four of the old forms of those teams’ uniforms, but the pirate on the Bucs’ helmet has to go. I don’t know who signed off on that guy as representing the Bucs’ brand, but it had to have been a joke.

Isaac from Appleton, WI

I know you can’t tell much from OTAs, but which rookie right now is looking the most promising, or the one you’re most excited about?

You’re right, it’s OTAs and you not only can’t tell much from OTAs, you almost can’t tell anything from OTAs. Be that as it may, the player who has my eye, and this is for obviously biased reasons, is Eddie Lacy. I want a pounder, and he has given me strong reason to believe he can pound. I really like what I see. Now, will I like what I see when the pads go on? The pads are always the great equalizer. My guess is that having been coached by Nick Saban, I’ll like what I see when the pads go on.

Bart from Grants Pass, OR

I read your column for the wit, sarcasm and insights. The game of football no longer exists in the form I found compelling; however, when you write about past football glories, I really feel the twinge of nostalgia for the physical game that era represented. I have now become the casual fan the NFL wants.

You’re making a big mistake; don’t do that. What you loved is still there; you just have to look a little more closely for it. I’ll try harder to find it for you. I know what you want. I want it, too.

Carlos from Mexico City, Mexico

Vic, maybe I’m just paranoid, but do you think the league is secretly hoping for horrible weather in New Jersey during the Super Bowl? What I mean is, remember that game between the Dolphins and Steelers a couple of years ago when the weather was so bad the game was scoreless into the fourth quarter (I think)? The ratings for that game were some of the highest ever, and got higher as the game went on and the weather got worse!

The Super Bowl doesn’t need bad weather to deliver TV ratings. That’s the answer to what you’re suggesting, and I guarantee the league doesn’t want a winter storm to blow into New York the weekend of the Super Bowl. You’re right, however, about bad weather and TV ratings. Nothing turns on TVs like a snow game. People in Florida stare at the TV as though they’re looking into a snow globe. One of the enduring images from the game you mentioned was of the punt falling from the sky and then sticking in the mud without as much as a wiggle of movement. We don’t get those games much anymore. I miss them.

Dan from Kelso, WA

Considering the depth at cornerback and how thin the Packers are at safety, do you see them moving Jarrett Bush to safety?

I think that’s a move Dom Capers knows he can make in a pinch. I also think the Packers are committed to the development of their young safeties, Jerron McMillian and M.D. Jennings.

Nick from Milwaukee, WI

You said you didn’t like the Steelers-Raiders rivalry back in the day because it got too violent/disturbing. The stories you’ve told sound exactly like the kind of thing I would have paid to see. What was so inappropriate that it crossed the proverbial line?

I didn’t say I didn’t like it. The problem was I liked it too much and that disturbed me. As Pete Rozelle said in his letter to both teams, the rivalry between the two had become “pure violence.” In a letter of admonishment to George Atkinson, Rozelle wrote, “In 16 years in this office I do not recall a more flagrant foul than your clubbing the back of Swann’s head totally away from the play.” Sometimes things get too intense and you need to step away to regain your balance. That’s why I was glad the Steelers and Raiders kind of stopped playing each other. For the first six years of my career, I felt as though every story I wrote was about them. I was constantly writing stories about violence. I needed a break. I needed to return to football.

Andrew from Jacksonville, FL

Can you tell us what the “212” stands for on the back of the Packers’ shirts during the dodgeball game?

The boiling point for water is 212 degrees Fahrenheit. The Packers want to push themselves to the boiling point.

Miguel from Kamuela, HI

In your opinion, which quarterbacks had the most courage in the pocket?

All great quarterbacks are fearless in the pocket. You can’t play quarterback in this league with any kind of success and fear the rush. It just can’t be done. Aaron Rodgers is blessed with sensaround, meaning he can sense everything around him without having to look at it. I’ll bet that if I asked Rodgers, he could tell me where every rusher was when he released a pass, and I’ve watched his eyes closely and they don’t leave downfield. The same is true of Terry Bradshaw; it’s true of any of them. One quarterback I covered, however, sticks out as having been especially fearless. I’m talking about Byron Leftwich. He’s a tall guy with long and thin legs, and he took some fearful shots to those legs that caused him to crumple in ugly and awkward shapes, but he never took his eyes off downfield. Byron always had this big windup delivery that was an engraved invitation for pass rushers, but they never made him flinch. If you wanna know how courageous a quarterback is, watch his eyes after he throws the pass. Are they still downfield, or has he started to look for the late hit? The good ones never take their eyes off downfield. Why? Because they’re fearless.

Mark from Bellevue, WI

Since you pick the questions to which you choose to reply, is there an effort to choose questions from as many different geographical locations as possible?

I don’t look at the name of the person or the place until after all of the questions have been selected and I start answering them.

Matt from Rochester, NY

I was watching highlights from Super Bowl II and saw the Packers didn’t have their last names on their jerseys. When did they start putting them on there?

Names on the backs of jerseys was an AFL invention. It became an NFL practice following the merger of the two leagues, 1970. That’s when the Packers put the names on the backs of their jerseys, as it became a league mandate for every team to do so.

Adam from Wausau, WI

What do you like most about this new age of football?

I like running quarterbacks because I like to see men run with the football. The most boring play in the game, for me, is catch and fall down. I appreciate the art of precision passing, but it doesn’t excite me. There’s something about it that makes me wrinkle my nose and want to cry out, “Come on, play football.” I like to see a man running through a defense, breaking tackles, taking on all comers. I like to see him drop his pads on a guy and run right through him, or vice versa. For me, the confrontation between runner and tackler has always been the embodiment of the game of football. Watching a Peyton Manning precision drive isn’t my thing. I’ll take Adrian Peterson turning a defensive back into road kill any day. What the new-age quarterback is bringing back to the game is running, and I like it. I have my doubts that it can last and that’s why I don’t think it’s a viable long-term scheme, but I’m enjoying it for now. I like the action.

Randy from Lakewood Ranch, FL

Were the rules different for punts in Jim Thorpe’s time? How could he field a punt and go in for a touchdown?

The rule was changed. I think it’s called the “Thorpe rule.”

Mike from Shoreview, MN

When was the last time you bought a ticket, sat in the stands and went to a football game as a fan?

It was a college game back in the late ’80s. I took my son to see it. I prefer being a sports writer, but my biggest regret for the years I’ve spent as a sports writer is that I didn’t allow my sons to be a fan, as my father did for me.

Greg from Waterloo, Ontario

I am going to have to argue and say the best coaching tree would have to be the 1995 Cleveland Browns. With Belichick as the head coach, he had on his staff Ozzie Newsome, Scott Pioli, Mike Tannenbaum, Thomas Dimitroff, Jim Schwartz, Nick Saban, Kirk Ferentz and Eric Mangini.

That’s not a tree, that’s a staff. Coaching trees refer to coaches that got their starts under a particular head coach and then went on to be successful somewhere else, and then they grew new branches on the tree. Every coach comes from a tree. Bill Belichick has a big tree, but a lot of the branches haven’t born fruit on the NFL level: Al Groh, Romeo Crennel, Eric Mangini, Josh McDaniels and Saban. Schwartz has probably been the most successful in the NFL. Here’s Paul Brown’s tree: Don Shula, Blanton Collier, Weeb Ewbank, Bill Walsh, Chuck Noll, Bill Arnsparger, Chuck Knox, Ray Perkins, Buddy Ryan, Mike Holmgren, John Fox, Tony Dungy, Marty Schottenheimer, Bill Parcells, Jeff Fisher, Jon Gruden, Andy Reid, Lovie Smith, Mike Tomlin, Bill Cowher, Tom Coughlin and Belichick. Shula, Collier, Ewbank, Walsh and Noll were main branches right off the Brown trunk. Including Brown, those five coaches won 16 NFL titles.

Travis from Chicago, IL

Looks like Favre is finally showing some maturity about the 2008 debacle. He made a comment yesterday about the Colts and Manning that I completely agree with. “I think the situation with Peyton and the Colts almost looked like our situation, but then maybe they thought twice about it and maybe they learned from our situation and they handled it correctly.” Your thoughts?

Just give it time. Everything will be fine.


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