Michael from Winnipeg, Manitoba
Can you please enlighten us who are not familiar with the asterisk what it’s all about? If Obama knows about it, it must have been big.
Yeah, and very embarrassing. It’s something I don’t like to talk about.
Kevin from Greenville, SC
I'm big on the defensive line. I'm not a fan of run-stuffer. To me it means a fat, lazy guy who can't make it to the quarterback in time.
Linebackers are the stars of the 3-4 and the job of defensive linemen is to keep the blockers off the linebackers so they can run free to the ball. That’s the design. You can’t have 11 guys running to the ball because that produces chaos. “Run-stuffer” is a term that defines a defensive lineman that takes on blocks and holds the point of attack. He strips the interference and all good linebackers have linemen in front of them that unselfishly perform that task. Ray Lewis had Tony Siragusa and Sam Adams and now he has Haloti Ngata. Jack Lambert had Joe Greene, who was turned sideways over the center in the “Stunt 4-3” so he took out the center with his head and took out the guard with the bottom half of his body. Clay Matthews has Ryan Pickett who, in doing his job unselfishly in the Super Bowl, directed the ball toward Matthews and allowed Matthews to make the play of the game. Sacks don’t tell the whole story. It’s important to know what made the sack possible.
Connor from Cary, IL
You said Vick could make a strong case for the Hall of Fame, but would his past off-the-field activities hurt his chance? People in the Hall of Fame are not only great players and people who changed the game, but they are players people should be able to look up to.
Then we need to start throwing some guys out of the Hall of Fame. Is that some kind of new standard?
Cole from Oshkosh, WI
What do you think of the Bears intentionally disobeying the kickoff rules? I understand why they would with Devin Hester. Will there be any consequences?
It was a protest of the rule change, the intent of which I have to believe was harmless, but Corey Wootton was injured on a kickoff from the 30-yard line and that’s potentially problematic in more than one way. I understand the Bears’ disappointment about the rule change compromising a major weapon on their special teams, but the NFL is in a major player-safety push and the league will not be deterred; ask the Steelers. It’s best to just play the game the way the league wants it to be played.
Zach from Rockton, IL
What happened with the coin toss at the Raiders/Cards game? Why did Oakland kick off both halves?
Before I knew what happened, I already knew what had to have happened. It was an Abner Haynes moment; somebody wanted to “kick to the clock.” Here’s what I mean: The Raiders coach told his captains that should the Raiders win the coin toss, he wanted to defer his choice to the second half. Either the coach used the “K” word somewhere in his explanation, or one of his captains instinctively knew his coach wanted to kick off to start the game. The mistake occurred when the “K” word was spoken for the referee to hear. At that moment, the Raiders had exercised their option. They had elected to kick off to start the game, which meant the Cardinals would exercise their option to start the second half and, of course, they elected to receive. Some years ago we had some lively discourse in “Ask Vic” about the coin toss rules. One of the readers was sure that whatever you did to start the game, the opposite would occur to start the second half. He explained that it was that way with “Madden.” When I explained the coin toss rules the way it is in real football, I was besieged by an avalanche of disbelievers.
Robert from Henderson, NV
Who is the most underrated player you ever covered?
Bill from Sandy, UT
I have a hard time following your comments, having been a Packers fan for 55 years and you maybe a Packers fan for a lot less. What makes you the expert?
I don’t know. I just get up every morning and do the best I can. This will be my 40th season covering the NFL and I’m very fortunate to have been able to earn a living for all those years without doing heavy lifting. Along the way, I’ve accumulated a lot of memories and stories and I enjoy sharing them with readers. I hope people enjoy the column but, if they don’t, I understand and I’m not offended.
Lora from De Pere, WI
How different do you think the White House meeting would have been if the Steelers had won the Super Bowl and the President was a huge Ravens fan? Based on your knowledge of their rivalry, do you think the same courtesy would have been given by each side?
I think the Ravens would’ve been allowed through the gates during the ceremony and a huge brawl would’ve ensued on the White House lawn. That would be a fun ceremony to cover.
Gary from Puyallup, WA
Quarterback Josh Portis was impressive. You were right.
He’s a major talent, but his college career was terribly troubled. This is his chance to fix it all. I love the desperation of the undrafted free agent. It defines the drama of training camp.
Ryan from New Orleans, LA
Do you think they made the change on kickoff distance for more than just player safety?
No, it’s about player safety and nothing else. I think all of the kickoffs in Saturday night’s game sailed into the end zone; most of them went deep into the end zone. This rule may all but eliminate kickoff returns, which are violent events. Injuries are expected to decline significantly. We’ll see. At what cost to the product? That’s the question. Has something dramatic and important to the game’s excitement been eliminated from the game? My instinct says it has.
Sean from Leeds, UT
What does it mean to be a slot receiver?
A slot receiver lines up inside another receiver. Picture a three-wide receiver formation with a receiver split wide to each side and a third receiver lined up between a receiver split wide and either the tight end or tackle to that side of the field. That receiver is in the slot. From that position, he can get lost in a lot of traffic or trash, as they call it. Trash, in my opinion, is another word for blockers. Slot receivers are guys that play along the ground; they’re good run-after-the-catch guys because they have running back instincts for following their blockers and running to daylight. That is a perfect description of Randall Cobb’s talents.
Joe from Milford, OH
There were many rookie quarterbacks playing in the first preseason games. To me it is hard to evaluate the skill level of some rookies because they’re playing with the second and third-string guys. Do you think that is a factor?
Coaches put players in one-on-one situations because that’s how you evaluate talent. You wanna see if they can win the one-on-one battles. Preseason games aren’t about scheme and you don’t judge players individually according to what they did collectively. Each guy gets graded on his performance according to his assignment. If it’s a defensive lineman, then did he engage the block and hold the point? If he ran around the block or got moved out of the way, he failed, regardless of the outcome of the play.
Pete from Hudson, WI
When a player gets cut, how do NFL teams ensure that the playbook doesn't fall into the wrong hands? Since the “Coach wants to see you, and bring your playbook” days are over, do teams worry about that kind of security? What's to stop a recently cut player from selling a copy of his playbook to another team?
Who said those days are over? The code lives on. The “Turk” still uses those words. It’s the “Turk’s” way of letting the player know what he’ll be walking into when he goes to see the coach, so the player can prepare himself emotionally. When a player is cut, his immediate thought turns to finding a new team. He needs to exit his old team in a good way, so good words will be spoken of him. Plus, he’s a candidate to return some day to the team that’s cutting him, so blowing up in the coach’s office will accomplish nothing. Neither will selling your playbook. Nobody wants a Benedict Arnold on their team. Word will spread quickly and that player’s days in the league will be over. Everybody understands that these playbooks are sacrosanct. This is also a game of retribution, if you know what I mean. You don’t want 31 teams angry at you.
Thad from Ooltewah, TN
Do you think the Packers will use Burnett much like the Steelers use Polamalu? He seems to have the skill set for it.
Clay Matthews is the Packers’ Polamalu. Matthews is the star of the show. He’s the player who’s directed to the ball. After seeing him in practice, I understand why. He’s an impressive physical specimen and his instincts are as you would expect from a player with his bloodlines. Simply put, his father is probably the greatest defensive player in Browns history.
Adam from Sun Prairie, WI
How do the players look at a win or loss in the preseason? I would assume the Browns got a confidence boost with the win, but does the opposite apply with the Packers players? Is it different for players like Rodgers, who played well and isn't competing for a roster spot?
There’s only one thing that matters to players about preseason games: How do I look on tape? That’s it. Period. Forget about all of that confidence boost stuff. Until jobs are won and the roster is cut, it’s about the tape. Players such as Aaron Rodgers and Matthews are just knocking the rust off their games so they’re ready for the start of the regular season. The drama in the preseason is for the jobs that are on the line and the desperation of those players on the bubble to somehow, some way realize their dream to become an NFL player. I’ve never regarded the preseason with the disdain most do, because I have sensitivity for the kids that are trying to make it. Through the years, they’ve allowed me inside their lives and told me of their desperation. It’s palpable and I can remember their names, even though some of them never played a down in the league.
Steve from Ithaca, NY
Last year the Packers were slightly unconventional by keeping three fullbacks and five tight ends on the roster. Are there any positions that are particularly deep (or weak) this year where we could see an atypical number on the roster after cutdowns?
There are three typical reasons a coach will go heavy at a position: scheme, talent, necessity. If there’s a run on injuries at a position, then a coach will go heavy at that position to start the season, with the idea that he’ll modify the numbers as players become healthy. In other words, he’ll carry a guy that might have to miss a game or two, and keep a guy at that position he otherwise would’ve cut. Right now, running back is such a position. James Starks is nursing an ankle sprain, Ryan Grant is in a comeback from a season lost to an ankle injury, and rookie Alex Green has been unable to practice. If the roster had to be cut to 53 today, the Packers would probably have to go heavy at running back. Keep that in mind. The “Final 53” really isn’t final.