Roland from Glen Cove, NY
Vic, what are the biggest challenges facing the Packers heading into this week's game against Arizona?
I think the No. 1 challenge is to protect Aaron Rodgers, and that not only means blocking for him, it also means running the ball effectively enough to limit Arizona’s blitzes, and it means reading the blitz and getting the ball out quickly. Darnell Dockett is not a gentle person. The quarterback must not go down, and the quarterback must not go down hard.
Blaine from Madison, WI
Vic, if you and Mike Spofford were put into a space capsule and shot into space, would you both come back?
When they opened the capsule door, we’d be sitting in there arguing about the Packers.
Pat from Port Washington, WI
Were you with the Steelers at the last College All-Star Game in 1976? I was in the Navy and was a staff member at Great Lakes. I attended with a lot of recruits and trainees. A downpour delayed the game in the second half and a lot of goofballs from the crowd charged the field and tore down at least the goal post closest to us. The rest of the game was called. Didn't know at the time that would be the last one. Even though the Steelers were clobbering the All-Stars, I was enjoying the experience because when I was growing up, I always thought of the game as the unofficial start of the football season.
Yeah, I was there, and I remember one of my sportswriter friends saying to me as we made our way down to the locker room, “That’s a dash 30 dash for the College All-Star Game,” which is old newspaper jargon for “the end.” A ferocious storm descended on Soldier Field in the third quarter. Both teams ran for their locker rooms and I think everyone knew that was the end of it. A lack of competitiveness – yeah, Coach Spurrier, your boys were getting hammered again – had seen attendance for the game decline from a peak of 105,000 during the “Monsters of the Midway” days, to half that for the final game. The College All-Stars were sitting on another goose egg when the final “storm” arrived.
James from Madison, WI
Do you think the NFL will ever reorganize their divisions to put geographically close teams together in the same division? I bet the fans would love seeing the Jets, Giants, Pats and Eagles grouped together, playing each other twice a year. I know we'd lose that historical context of AFL versus NFL, but look at all the new rivalries we could gain (Dallas vs. Houston, SF vs. Oakland, Kansas City vs. St. Louis).
History and tradition are too important to the game’s popularity to make geography the sole factor in division alignment. There are those divisions where history, tradition and geography are all satisfied, as in the NFC North and AFC North, but the teams in the AFC East and AFC West are old AFL teams that have taken a blood oath to remain together, and Dallas and Washington are never going to be separated. That rivalry was born at about the time of the Kennedy assassination; it would be a terrible mistake to trash historical rivalries. There are two divisions in the league I refer to as the “Leftovers Division.” The AFC South is a union of teams the other three AFC divisions didn’t want, and the same is largely true of the NFC West. Already, however, rivalries are forming within those divisions, which I think proves that history is more important than geography.
Mike from Moorpark, CA
Vic, Rodgers has been on the injury report for three weeks now and is obviously 100 percent. How long must a player remain on the injury list before the team may remove them and clean up the list a bit? It seems like half the Packers are on there.
It’s mostly about the team protecting itself from accusations that it hid an injury. As long as Aaron Rodgers’ calf injury is a concern, he’ll appear on the injury report. If there’s one major difference between covering a team today vs. covering a team 30 years ago, it’s the current obsession for reporting about injuries. Obviously, that’s driven by fantasy football. Mike McCarthy’s press conferences are two parts medical report and one part football analysis.
Paul from Austin, TX
You said you wouldn't mind if field goals were banned. Why is that? I'm just curious, because I always thought the opposite.
The most exciting play in football is the touchdown. Even when a walk-off field goal is made, the crowd reaction is not the equal of the cheers following a touchdown. I wouldn’t mind seeing more touchdowns and fewer field goals. How about this? The number of field goals a team might kick in a game is capped at, say, two. You can use your two kicks any time you’d like, but you can only attempt two of them in regulation. Obviously, coaches would save their kicks for the end of the first half and the end of the game, but they can save them both for the end of the game, if they’d like. If the game goes to overtime, each team will be limited to one attempt, whether it’s used its regulation-time two or not. I think I kind of like that idea.
Koti from Vijayawada, India
I absolutely love the criteria behind what teams a club plays in the playoffs and how teams are selected for the playoffs. It seems logical as it mostly explains why. Is there anything you would change about it?
You’re talking about the tiebreakers and seeding system, and I would agree that it’s really a logical way of doing things, and I would also say I am a staunch supporter of division champions getting home games because I strongly believe that a little regional pride is a good thing in a very national league that might be on the verge of becoming international. Years ago, two teams from the same division couldn’t face each other until the conference title game, and I kind of liked that idea because I think every attempt should be made to avoid two teams facing each other three times in the same season.
Eric from Denver, CO
Hey, Vic, we should be just fine on Sunday. I just played Madden and beat the Cardinals 68-10.
Plays, not players.
John from Grayslake, IL
If Aaron Rodgers keeps playing how he is and he stays healthy for the rest of his career, do you think he will be regarded as one of the best quarterbacks to play the game?
He’s already there. When a guy has won a Super Bowl MVP and a league MVP, I don’t think you can write the story of the NFL without mentioning him. To use Mike McCarthy’s words, the next step for Aaron Rodgers is “stacking success.” He’s already got a pretty good stack going.
Thomas from New York, NY
Vic, I found out a few hours ago that I failed the NY Bar Exam, and that means six more months of winter (of my discontent). What is your favorite story from your time as a reporter in which someone (you, a player or a coach) was able to bounce back from failure?
I got millions of them. I’ve only been here two years but I can point to a lot of players on the Packers roster that have overcome obstacles in their careers. I wrote a story earlier this season about Evan Dietrich-Smith and his travails. He was cut and went back home, where he worried about his future in the game and how he was going to support a family that had just grown by one. Then the phone rang and he began the long, hard road back to football. Now he’s a valuable swingman on the Packers’ offensive line and possibly the Packers’ center of the future. I can tell you about a sportswriter – not me – that went home from training camp and found his wife and all of the furniture gone, and about the coach that handed that sportswriter an envelope that might help him rebuild. Yeah, we take care of our own and without compromising our professionalism; it can be done. Rocky Bleier left his speed and seemingly his football career in a rice paddy in Vietnam, then won four Super Bowl rings. One of my all-time favorite players, a too-slow, too-tough running back named Frank Pollard, was en route to training camp for a battle that would largely determine the shape of his football career, when he stopped for gas, called home and found out his father had been killed in a work accident. He buried his father then went to camp and buried the competition. This column doesn’t allow the space for me to tell all of the stories. What’s most important is that you find those stories. All you have to do is read.
Ryan from Algonquin, IL
Is it possible for a back to hit the hole too soon?
If it’s a stretch play, the answer is yes. Patience is key in making the stretch play work. Once the back finds that running lane, however, he needs to explode into it. One cut and go; the best backs have always been one-cut-and-go runners, and that’s still true today.
Charlie from Morgan Hill, CA
Starr, Favre and Rodgers get shot up in a space capsule. Who comes back?
Starr and Rodgers.
Joe from Clio, MI
Quit bashing the field goal. It’s one of the roots of the game and kicking the ball is something every kid tries to do with a football from the time you’re old enough to try. If you were forced to try to score TDs only, it becomes a game of turnover on downs and punts from the opponents’ 30. Why stop there? Get rid of the extra point, the safety, and why not punts, while we're at it.
Imagine there’s no kicking, no punting, too. OK, I’ll stop singing, but imagine they’re all gone. So what do we do now? Here’s an idea. The game begins with one team taking possession at the 50. Talk about field position being important. In that kind of game, moving the football becomes the equivalent of a great punter. The importance of offense would be at an all-time high. What do you think?
Dave from Goodman, WI
I'd like to thank you for providing such a funny, informational and lighthearted forum every day. It’s something I look forward to between games and it has certainly made me appreciate the game more. I am an elementary school teacher and I have noticed in your column that you place a lot of emphasis in the next generation of football fans. If you could give one piece of advice to young football fans, what would it be?
Feel the game. Don’t call the plays, feel the plays that are called. Imagine yourself in the huddle when the quarterback calls your number on the goal line. How fast is your heart beating? Do you want the ball or would you rather the quarterback call somebody else’s number? Imagine you’re Bart Starr and you’re going to the sideline to persuade Vince Lombardi to put it all on your back in one of the most important games in football history. The play’s not important. The moment is. Feel the moment. Feel the challenge. Feel the hurt and the exhilaration. You don’t have to play the game to feel the game.
Justin from Tampa, FL
I think once again, like last year, we won't make it far in the playoffs without a decent run game. Thoughts?
You might be right, and that’s why it’s so important that the Packers work very hard to improve their running game. Help would not appear to be on the way.
Daniel from Fond du Lac, WI
Do you feel success in the NFL is more about talent or right place, right time? For example: If Brett Favre doesn't get traded to Green Bay, does he stay a backup in Atlanta?
Opportunity is a must. In Favre’s case, I have to believe a talent as distinct as his would’ve been discovered and utilized by somebody. A great arm is undeniable and eventually it’ll have its day.
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