Paul from Farnborough, UK

Vic, so back when you were a kid watching football, was the schedule determined more by a team’s proximity to one another to limit travel costs and create local rivalry?

When I was a kid, let’s say 1960 when the Cowboys came into the league and the AFL was born, there were two conferences (East and West) and 13 teams. The geography of the league was tilted decidedly toward the northeast. The Redskins literally owned the rights to the entire South. We really didn’t take note of the schedule until training camp began. The NFL was a low-profile league. Baseball dominated. I couldn’t even listen to the Steelers on radio until the Pirates’ season ended. Yeah, KDKA was contracted to broadcast Pirates games and until the Pirates’ season ended, Steelers games were broadcast on KDKA FM. We didn’t even know what FM radio was back then. I didn’t know anybody who had an FM radio. We just took what we got and were happy to have it. We got road games on TV and that was a treat. All home games, of course, were blacked out to local TV. The big game of every season was the Saturday nighter in Cleveland. It was the hottest ticket of every season. That’s right, Saturday night. In those days, teams kind of did as they pleased. All of that was before Pete Rozelle put his stamp on the NFL. He gave it uniformity and standardization. He gave it leaguethink. That’s when the change began, and that’s why I consider Rozelle to be the father of the modern-day NFL. He’s the greatest commissioner in pro sports history.

Patrick from Montello, WI

Vic, we attended the Packers vs. Cardinals playoff game in Arizona. The guy on the Jumbotron was like WWF. Vitriol. Obnoxious to us. Not like NFL football should be. Our opinion. Yours?

It’s not a “Roll Out The Barrel” kind of place. I love the way Packers games are presented, but the color rush game will be good for us.

Nate from Plover, WI

Vic, as you have stated in previous columns, most premier pass rushers line up on the quarterback’s blindside. If most of these defenders aren’t built to stop the run, why don’t most teams run to the left and bull them over with the run?

Some teams do. The old Raiders loved to run left. Art Shell could run block like a right tackle. Most teams, however, are right-handed. They like to run to the right. Left tackles are premier pass blockers, but I dare say not premier run blockers. We need to call time out on this subject. We’re beginning to obsess on it. Matchups determine what teams do. Apply that logic to this and any other scheme question you have and, in most cases, you’ll have your answer.

Mike from Jacksonville, FL

Vic, with over 20 coaches per team, do you think the game is over-coached? Running players on and off the field seems counter-productive.

Over-specialization has long been a league concern. It’s one of the reasons all 53 players aren’t permitted to be active on game day. If they were, the coaches would use them, which would mean more players running onto and off the field, which would mean more loss of identity. The game needs stars, not chess pieces. The game needs star players on the field making big plays. Yes, I think the game is getting too big.

Matt from Appleton, WI

I recently finished James Andrew Miller’s book about ESPN. The odds those guys were up against, particularly in the early days, were fascinating. Do you remember when ESPN first came on the air? Did you ever think we’d have a 24-hour sports network, let alone multiples?

ESPN might be the greatest success story in sports history. Ask yourself, what if my TV didn’t receive the ESPN channels? I’m almost ashamed to admit what my answer would be.

Jim from Ithaca, NY

Vic, I love your push back on forward tees. I love making golf a passion. At 66, I take lessons, have a new grip, hit it longer and do not want to move up. Keep hitting it.

Golf is an old man’s game.

Josh from Saint Cloud, MN

Finish the sentence: The 2016 Packers win the Super Bowl if …

They get hot late.

Rick from Wenatchee, WA

What are the criteria for getting a question answered? It appears you only field questions from the local seventh graders. I’ll give it a shot. Why does the QB identify the defensive player wearing the “Mike”?

I’m not sure what you mean. Identify the defensive player wearing the helmet communicator, or identify the defensive player who is the middle linebacker? Maybe the “local seventh graders” in the comments section can figure it out and answer your question.

Sean from Chicago, IL

Vic, are there any players you’ve covered you didn’t think had a real chance to make the 53, but did? Any particularly memorable examples?

Montell Owens. No chance. Training camp fodder. Pack your bags. Get on 95 and head north. Yeah, sure. A few years later, he made the first of consecutive Pro Bowl appearances.

Noah from Griswold, CT

I would remind the writer at “Ask Vic” that these young people are people and the time and money spent scouting them is immaterial compared to their well-being.

The writer at “Ask Vic” completely agrees.

Dave from Nags Head, NC

“I would remind the coach at Arkansas there’s an investment of time and money that was spent scouting those players he’s now taking back to college football.” So? I’m sure the scouts were paid and I’m sure the Jerry Joneses of the NFL’s bank accounts will be just fine and essentially unaffected. A player’s chance to finish a degree and/or get another year of experience is more important than a few bucks lost to a billion-dollar enterprise. It’s not always about the money, Vic.

OK, let me tell you what would happen. The kid’s agent would tell the team that wants to sign the kid he’s considering going back to college. If the kid was a good enough player, the team would likely increase its offer to the kid. The team might even incentivize the deal to up the payout should he make it onto the team’s practice squad. The kid would then decide his well-being would best be served by signing that contract and delaying his pursuit of a college degree until after his pro football career is complete. It’s not about the money? Coach, it’s about the money.

Matt from Cambridge, WI

Vic, I have worked in colleges for over 25 years and I agree football is an important part of the fabric of higher education. I have always thought colleges should be giving athletes vouchers for education that can be cashed in if and when they are ready to attend. In that way, the college gives back to the player who represented it, without forcing education on anyone. Is that a compromise you would support?

I like the vouchers idea, but I think players need to be enrolled as students at the university during their years of eligibility, lest they become football mercenaries. Hey, let’s stop playing Goldilocks on this subject. The kind of player-friendly curriculums to which I’m referring already exist in the power programs. If the “public Ivy” schools want to compete with the big boys on a consistent basis, they need to create the same kinds of player-friendly programs or they will forever be playing for an invitation to the nobodycares.com bowl.

Rick from Fall River, MA

Vic, I’ve been keeping up with the construction of the new Vikings stadium with their live cams. They’re currently installing the turf and it had me concerned. There’s like 6-8 inches of asphalt, then the turf is only an inch or two thick. Is that the norm? It makes me think such a hard surface is going to cause a lot of injuries.

It’s the norm, but don’t forget the crumb rubber. Nothing beats a fresh field of cuddly crumb rubber. I love the smell of old tires on a hot summer day.

Jeff from Miami, FL

My vote for OTAs MVP on name alone is Alstevis Squirewell. He was a defensive lineman, now listed as a fullback at 265 pounds. He comes from Great Falls, South Carolina, where they have a “Flopeye Fish Festival.” What’s not to love?

I expect Spofford to provide daily reports on Squirewell’s progress. Seriously, though, one of the things about football that attracted me when I was young is the geography lesson it provides. It’s a way of traveling across America without leaving home. Football has taken me to places such as Toad Suck, Ark., Grand Island, Neb., and, most recently, to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. I love geography, and football took me to Wisconsin, where I’ve learned about a part of the country of which I knew little. Geography helps us connect the dots, and so do these players. Squirewell is from Newberry College. Brandon Bostick was from Newberry College.

Tony from Bronxville, NY

Vic, a while back I heard Ernie Accorsi talk about his early days in the league with the Browns. He told of Art Modell negotiating the first TV contract. The owners wanted him to get $1 million for the league. Modell came back and announced he got the $1 million and all the owners went nuts. Then he said he got $1 million for each team. That’s when they knew they had something. I wish we could hear more stories like this one. Thanks for your column.

I was standing along the sideline at training camp on the day it was announced the NFL had signed a TV deal that would pay each team something like $15 million. It was an earth-shattering announcement. Art Rooney walked up to our group of media and we all congratulated him on the new TV contract. Art paused, took the cigar out of mouth, and then said: “Now we’re nothing more than a money transfer house. TV will give us the money, and then will give it to the players.” I didn’t know what he meant. I do now.

Herb from Palm Desert, CA

Vic, I loved your story about the soft side of Tom Coughlin. Do you have any other stories that reveal the humanity behind an athlete’s tough facade?

Marcedes Lewis is an animal lover. He works closely with the Jacksonville Humane Society, and his “Camp Kindness” promotes kindness to animals. When I learned of this, I began forgiving him for dropped passes.


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