Nick from Conneaut, OH
Vic, last week you had the thing about paying $12 to go to the first Super Bowl, and I think without a doubt anyone would do that, but do you think we’re going to be getting to the point where we are going to have to pay $10-$12 dollars or even more just to watch the game at home? I know the NFL is a money-driven business, and as much as I would hate that, as a sports fan you know people would pay that amount to watch the big game.
It’s already happening and it’s not for the big games, it’s for the little games. College football has gone hard into pay per view, for non-marquee games that fans can access on cable pay-per-view channels. In my mind, free TV ended the day TV antennas were replaced by cable. I don’t see the day when the Super Bowl is pay per view. I don’t think that’ll ever happen, but games on NFL Network haven’t been on some basic cable packages, which has required an extra charge, and if this TV technology boom continues and it gets to the point that it hurts attendance across the league, then we’re likely to see more games set aside for pay per view. The ticket-buying fans have been putting games on free TV for the rest of the game’s fans since 1973. If that ends, then it’s likely the fan on the couch will have to buy a “ticket.”
Scott from Palos Park, IL
High School camps are becoming less like boot camp and more like NFL practices. Do you believe this is where the real loss of tackling technique is coming from?
There is less emphasis on tackling and that’s why players aren’t as adept at it as they were, and I have no doubt that it starts in high school football. In the “old” days, when the game wasn’t as wide open, blocking and tackling were practiced ad nauseum. High school practices were loaded with blocking and tackling drills, some of which were applied as punishment for a poor performance on Friday night. It was a source of pride to be considered a good tackler, and reason for shame to be a poor tackler. How you tackled literally determined your esteem on the team. We’ve lost that in our attempts to soften the practice regimen, for the purpose of protecting against injury. It’s just a natural fact that a person’s skills will erode if they don’t practice them. My question is: Have we really protected against injury?
Raymond from Winter Park, FL
I'm doing a speech on why I think taking the NFL international would be a failure. I touch base on how the equipment, like the facemask, is taboo, the scheduling would be a nightmare due to the time zones, and that the fan base overseas wouldn't be interested because they wouldn't have any familiar faces on the team. Your thoughts?
Are you going to mention that there are nearly 14 million people in the London metropolitan market?
Joe from Virginia Beach, VA
Why is Jim Brown so great to you? Because he ran over and away from a field of players less talented and physically gifted than him? Backs in those days had it easy. You might have faced an athlete of your caliber once or twice a year on defense. I'm not saying today's running backs are better, but a player like Walter Payton played in an era where you actually had top-tier athletes to go up against. The competition was easy for Jim Brown and has increased ever since the early 1980’s, in my opinion.
I decided to watch a Jim Brown highlights video, to see if I remembered him correctly. I did not. I underrated him. He is not only the best running back of all time, he is the best running back of all time by a wide margin. In the video, I saw him run through Doug Atkins. You probably don’t know who Atkins is. He was 6-8, 275. Had he played today, he might be the best defensive lineman in the game. I saw Brown run away from Mel Renfro and Cornell Green; he made them look like parked cars. Green was 6-3, 205, which means he’d be one of the biggest cornerbacks in the game today; there goes the bigger, stronger argument, and Green and Renfro could really run. This top tier you’re talking about, does it not include Ray Nitschke, Herb Adderley, Willie Davis and Dave Robinson? Is that your message to Packers fans? Does it not include Bob Lilly, Deacon Jones, Merlin Olsen, Dick Butkus, Sam Huff, Chuck Bednarik? The game had more great middle linebackers back then than it’s ever had. It was the premier position on defense, and there wasn’t a one of them that didn’t fear Brown’s talent. I don’t understand this disregard of Brown by the young fans, other than simple generational hubris, but I think if you watch some highlight videos of Brown, take note of his numbers (104 yards rushing per game, 5.2 yards per carry and no games missed) and the plethora of ratings stories that put him at the top of the list, you might find his talent and his accomplishments to have been undeniably grand.
Dan from Houston, TX
Vic, for us fans who would like to purchase “NFL Rewind” to view the “All 22,” what are some things we should initially look for to gain a basic understanding of what we are looking at?
Start with the safeties. Are there two in the middle of the field or is the defense in a single-high look? If it’s single-high, expect the quarterback to attack deep. Notice how the receivers are aligned. Is the tight end tight to the formation or split? Is there a fullback or is it a one-back set. Apply all of that to down and distance and try to develop a feel for what the offenses and the defenses like to do according to down and distance and the deployment of their critical formation personnel. It’s long been held that safeties tip the defense’s hand and the tight end tips the offense’s.
Bruce from New Canaan, CT
I agree with you about Jim Brown being the best of all time. He was often bigger than the linebackers trying to tackle him. For those who love Barry Sanders, and he was indeed great, please look at film clips of Gale Sayers before he tore up his knee. I don't think there has ever been a more exciting player to play that position. I can't begin to imagine what his full-speed cuts would have looked like on artificial turf.
I saw Sayers return the opening kickoff of the 1967 season opener for a touchdown; he ran right toward me. His speed and elusiveness were eye-popping. Had he played on better teams and not in an era that didn’t know how to treat knee injuries, there’s no telling what he might’ve accomplished. I always include him in my top five backs, based solely on his undeniable talent. He could do it all.
Nathan from Bismarck, ND
With the Packers having so many good receivers, have you heard of any rumors or talk that they might look to trade away somebody?
It would only make sense that a team with an overload of talent at a position would attempt to recoup some of that talent’s value in a trade, but finding trade partners is a difficult thing to do because teams treat draft picks as pieces of gold. That’s one thing about this league that hasn’t changed in the years I’ve covered it; it’s picks, not players.
George from Hutchinson, MN
I haven't seen enough of Alex Green to know if, when he's back to 100 percent, he’ll be an effective one-cut back who can block and catch the ball. Were these skills evident back in his college days?
He’s a classic one-cut-and-go running back. We’re talking about a big guy, 6-0, 225. Green isn’t a wiggle back. He’s going to stick his foot in the ground and drop his pads on defenders. There was a fumbling issue in college, but the Packers obviously believe they can make that go away or they wouldn’t have drafted him. He’s shown he can catch the ball and he’s built like a guy who can hold his ground in pass protection. I think it’s obvious the Packers are really counting on Green to make an impact this season. Green is going to be one of the stories of training camp, one way or another, because he’ll be an important figure in camp.
Brett from Saint Cloud, MN
Do you think Bulaga could get moved back to left tackle?
There’s no doubt in my mind Bryan Bulaga can play left tackle. I don’t know why his feet got a bad rap in his rookie season, but I’ve watched him closely and I would have no qualms at all with putting him at left tackle. Do I think he’ll be moved back to left tackle? No, I don’t, because I think Marshall Newhouse is a lot better than for which people give him credit, and then there’s Derek Sherrod, who’s a natural left tackle. Bulaga is fine where he is. He’s established himself as one of the top right tackles in the game, and I see no reason to disturb that success, but I’m also absolutely sure he could move to the other side and play effectively.
Conor from Glen Mills, PA
What's your earliest memory of anything football related?
I can remember lying across my parents’ lap at a high school football game, being cold and my mother wrapping a blanket around me. I don’t remember anything about that game except being cold, but Cookie Gilchrist was the star player in the game.
Colbie from Castle Rock, WA
There's a reason why our generation plays the bigger, faster, stronger card; because it's true. The average weight of a defensive tackle in 1970 was 256 pounds. Of course Brown dominated. He was nearly as big as the big men. Love Don Hutson and guys like that, but let's be honest, Don Hutson wasn't 6-3, 210, running a sub-4.3 40. You always say football is a tough game for tough guys. I would say it was. Now it’s a fast game for big, fast guys.
If the lineman of yesterday played today, they’d be bigger, faster, stronger because they wouldn’t spend the offseason selling insurance, they’d spend the offseason making themselves bigger, faster, stronger. If the lineman of today played back then, they’d be smaller, slower, weaker because instead of spending the offseason making themselves bigger, faster, stronger, they’d be selling insurance so they’d have food to eat. It’s all relative. As for Hutson, he was 6-1, 183. Wes Welker led the league in receiving last season and he’s 5-9, 190, and I don’t think he runs a sub-4.3 40. Here’s my advice to young fans, and I say this constructively: Put down the video game and pick up the history book. Read and learn about the great players in this game’s history. Get the facts, instead of forming opinions based on whims. Let go of the bigger, faster, stronger stuff for a minute and ask yourself questions from the old players’ perspective. Hutson played without a facemask; would today’s receivers have been as sure-handed without the protection of a facemask? This is a Packers Hall of Fame induction week, which means this is a week when we turn our attention backward and honor the men who’ve warmed the hearts of Packers fans and helped make this game what it is. Do yourself a favor and let go of the present for a few days and embrace the past. It’s a good place to spend some time.
Ryan from Austin, TX
So you say Jim Brown is one of the two best players ever. Who would the others be?
Johnny Unitas, Joe Montana and Jerry Rice, along with Brown, are the players I see most often in the first or second spots.
Patrick from New Smyrna Beach, FL
In this era of missed tackles, would Barry Sanders have been even greater had the prime of his career been now?
Sanders would’ve been great in any era. He’s a highlight-reel back and I greatly admire his talent, his achievements and the dignity with which he played the game. My only knock on him is that he wasn’t the short-yardage pounder you need on the goal line, which means he had to come out of the game. Brown never came out of the game.
Eric from Chicago, IL
I feel I'm in the minority in that I often find myself defending the Packers’ running backs. I think there's more talent there than most people acknowledge, although clearly much of it has yet to be realized. When Starks is healthy, I think he's a pretty fierce runner, and I expect Green to be solid, or possibly even very good, if there aren't long-lasting effects from the knee. Any other thoughts?
I think you’re representing the Packers’ position perfectly. They obviously like their backs. Starks and Green are intriguing. They have undeniable talent. The Packers, of course, are a draft-and-develop team.
Tom from West Bend, WI
I played defensive back on a relatively unsuccessful high school team. On a poor defense like ours, the defensive backs made a lot of tackles. I speared on nearly every tackle I ever made. Occasionally a ref would say, “Careful with the helmet, 27,” but I was never penalized. How come I never got hurt?
Do you have ringing in your ears or do you hear a click in your ears when you swallow? When you get a sinus infection, do your ears stay clogged for weeks? Do you sometimes feel a burn in your neck? Do your shoulders ache? If you can answer yes to any or all of those questions, you should’ve listened to the ref.
Debbie from Charlotte, NC
Often, when an interior offensive lineman is drafted, we will hear them described as nasty or having a nasty streak. Specifically what does this mean? I have pictures in my head of them blocking the other guy, knocking him to the ground, shoving his facemask into the dirt and then spitting on him as he walks away. Is that pretty much it?
That’s amateur hour. A real pro is more subtle with his shots. The best nasty tactic for an offensive lineman is the old-fashioned leg whip. So, you wanna give me a little face wash? Well ask your legs how they like this.
James from Chicago, IL
I find football fans who are devastated over a loss very bizarre. I'm as big of a Packers fan as anyone out there, but win or lose, on Monday morning I get up and go to work. A person shouldn't let it alter their life.
That’s what the players and coaches do, too. Players aren’t allowed to be so devastated by a loss that they can’t go to work. Getting hurt’s easy. Playing hurt isn’t. I don’t like whining and crying.
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