Robert from Beloit, WI

How are Nick Perry and Jerel Worthy looking in camp?

Perry looks like a guy who’s nearing the day when his talent will explode on the field. He flashes, then goes away for a few plays, and I consider that to be the characteristic of a talented young player in the process of learning his craft. Worthy is undergoing a transformation of sorts. He’s learning how to be a two-gapper. In other words, he’s learning how to play the run the 3-4 way, which is to say head up on the man across from him, defeat the block, shed and make the tackle. It’s old-school football, as pure as it gets on defense, and it’s not what he did at Michigan State. He was a three-technique, beat-the-count defensive tackle, and that style of gap-control defense promotes a run-around-the-block mentality, and that’s not how an Okie end plays. Defensive Line Coach Mike Trgovac told me Worthy is making significant progress as a two-gapper. We need to give Worthy the time he needs. What he’s attempting is not an easy transition.

Tom from Holden Beach, NC

Football is evolving all the time. In your opinion, do the Packers still employ any outdated methods just because it has always been done that way?

The Packers are a team of tradition, but there’s nothing stodgy about the way they train or play. Lombardi did grass drills. McCarthy does ball drills. Lombardi practiced the Packer sweep over and over. McCarthy’s signature is the back-shoulder pass. Everything about the way the Packers practice is cutting edge and high tech, right down to the 19 periods of practice, which proceed seamlessly, giving practice a kind of Radio City Music Hall feel to it. McCarthy’s practices are eerily similar to Tom Coughlin’s in pace and efficiency. I had never seen those kinds of choreographed practices when I first started covering Coughlin’s teams. They seemed weird to me after years of watching the Steelers settle into long, physical periods of nine-on-seven drills. What I didn’t realize is that Coughlin was introducing me to the new way to practice, and McCarthy’s practices are even faster-paced, more regimented and transition more efficiently from one period to the next.

Don from Torrington, CT

If the Packers win another Super Bowl in the next few years, McCarthy will have as many as Lombardi. Coach McCarthy is on the cusp of being a heritage coach for the NFL's premiere franchise. What have you seen that you would say is his biggest strength?

It starts with leadership for every great coach. Beyond that, McCarthy has a rare football aptitude. He sees both the big picture and the little picture and that’s a special trait. I’m intrigued by McCarthy’s ability to mix his love for old-school football with his fascination for and commitment to innovation. If you spent some time in a one-on-one conversation with him, you would never think he was a high-tech passing-game guy. He’s neither the mad scientist Don Coryell was nor the wine-and-cheese guy Bill Walsh was. At first glance, McCarthy comes off as a run-the-ball, stop-the-run guy. After all, he coached under Marty Schottenheimer, which only goes to prove that the same tree doesn’t have to bear the same fruit, because McCarthy is a coach who embraces all of Schottenheimer’s fundamental football values, yet, rejects Schottenheimer’s lack of modernization. McCarthy truly is, in my opinion, the best of both worlds.

Bryce from Iron Mountain, MI

As someone who's starting to become more interested in the X's and O's of the game, what things should I be looking for at the Packer Family Night scrimmage?

Look for the one-on-one battles. That’s how you evaluate talent. Look for the players that win the one-on-one matchups.

Ryan from Westfield, WI

I thought of you, Vic, as I was scrolling through the pictures of Wednesday's practice posted on packers.com. There is one of a sled being used as a helmet shelf and then the next one shows Anthony Hargrove doing a drill with a big red exercise ball similar to the one my mother-in-law uses.

A blocking sled? What’s that? Oh, wait, I remember. That’s something offensive linemen used to push up and down the field. It was a mechanism for teaching linemen to come off the ball together. If they didn’t, then one side of the sled would get out ahead of the other, causing the coach to yell, “Do it again.” It also taught them to sink their hips and use their legs to drive their opponent off the line of scrimmage. The last time I saw a blocking sled on a football field was a tearful event for me. It was a few years ago, when I was covering the Jaguars. The offensive line had played so dreadfully in a preseason game that Jack Del Rio decided to use a blocking sled – I can’t imagine where he found it – to send a message. When I walked onto the field for the start of practice, a blocking sled was parked menacingly in the middle of the field. Del Rio had put it there for special effect. A tear rolled down my cheek and I thanked Coach Del Rio. He understood. Yeah, they pushed that sled, up and down the field. They played much better in the next game.

Matthew from Maffra, Australia

In the talent vs. chemistry debate, I like that McCarthy prefers chemistry. Finding talent should be left to the GM.

Absolutely.

Eric from Madison, WI

Do you see Casey Hayward starting at corner in time?

I see him becoming a starting-caliber cornerback. His ball skills were immediately noticeable. What I saw on Tuesday was a guy with closing speed. That’s the big one for cornerbacks. Do they have a higher gear into which they can shift when the ball is in the air?

Derrick from Owatonna, MN

Vic, I hear a lot of sports critics saying how they don't believe the Packers will be as good as they were last season. With the offense getting one more year to mature and the defense having quality additions and tons of competition, my question is, why can't the Packers make another run at 15-1 or 14-2?

The record is meaningless; just get into the postseason. If last season taught us anything, it taught us that. Coach McCarthy said it best at the start of camp when he said the postseason is what counts. Based on recent history, I’m not even sure home field advantage is meaningful. Just get into the postseason and be hot when you get there. I think the Packers can do that.

Tom from Suwanee, GA

If this year the Packers only hold 21 training camp practices, and they held 60 under Mike Holmgren, how much of the CBA vote to limit practices was about player safety and how much was about veteran players trying to protect their job from more talented rookies and free agents?

It’s about the players trying to lessen their workload. Don’t we all want to do that?

Mike from Schertz, TX

How much development comes from the coaching staff and how much comes from our veteran players? Do our veterans play a key role in making the Packers who they are?

I acknowledge that fans desperately want to believe players teach players, and there’s no question that’s the case because players learn to play the game from competing against each other, but I’m not big on mentoring. I think it’s an unfair expectation. I think the greatest expectation should be for players to compete against each other. The foundation of the game is built on competition. Yes, older players share information with younger players; it’s human nature to want to help. The players that are best at sharing information are also the best candidates to become coaches when they’re done playing, because those are guys that have communication skills. I’m fine with acknowledging all of that, but I strongly believe that coaches coach and players play, and if an older player withholds information from a younger player for the purpose of the older player winning a roster battle over the younger player, I’m fine with that. I don’t watch football to see men get along. I watch football to see men compete.

David from Honolulu, HI

I heard the NY Jets coach say he won't say again he's going to the Super Bowl, that it's unfair for the team and too much pressure on them. Our whole organization says we expect to win championships. What's the difference? Do other teams not expect to win?

The difference is that one creates a distraction, the other one doesn’t. Good coaches know where to draw the line.

Matt from Indianapolis, IN

Of the 53 spots available, how many are really up for grabs?

My guess is that 20 would be an average rate of roster attrition in the league from year to year. It would vary, of course, according to each team. A team in rebuilding would be higher, a team such as the Packers would be lower. Change in this league is constant. This is not a game of maintenance, it’s a game of replacement. Even on a team such as the Packers, there will be change. As Ted Thompson says, the final roster is never final.

George from Scranton, PA

Your article about the defense hitting hard has me ready for football to start. You usually refrain from making bold predictions, but let’s hear one.

Refrain from making bold predictions? When did that happen? Bold predictions are what makes this fun for media and fans. Here’s one: I think the defense will be greatly improved this season, but I think it’ll be more difficult for the offense to duplicate what it did last season for the simple reason that the competition spent a lot of its offseason focus on stopping Aaron Rodgers and company. Mike McCarthy knows that to be the case and that’s why he, no doubt, spent much of his offseason adding newness to what the Packers do on offense. The performance of Rodgers and the offense last season was so stunning – I’ve never covered a team that made it look that easy to move the ball – that it would be unrealistic to have the same expectation for this season. In my opinion, the Packers will need to be a more well-rounded team in 2012, and I think they will be.

 

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