Daniel from Beloit, WI
I'm always curious to how one becomes a life-long fan of the Packers, even football in general. I was influenced by my foster parents at the age of nine when religiously we sat all together watching the games every Sunday, however, with much joy and celebration. Win or lose, I felt much emotion in the air. What was it that brought you to your commitment/love of football?
Vic: As a little boy, I watched games with my father and developed an interest. Then, one day, I wandered to the local high school when the football team was practicing and that was the day I fell in love with football for the rest of my life. I was at that age when little boys stop playing with toys and graduate to games and all it took was one look at those players in those uniforms and hearing the thump of their pads and I was hooked for life. I can still remember the names of some of the players on that team. I came back every day and eventually asked the coach if I could be a water boy and he smiled, asked me my name, what grade I was in and then directed me to the trainer, to whom I was to offer my services, which I did. I remember filling metal buckets with water from a hose, and then pouring salt into the water and, finally, the stainless steel water dippers that were made by the fathers at the local steel mill and from which all of the players drank. Some kids dream of playing for the Packers; all I wanted to do was play for my high school.
Dane from Gainesville, FL
While keeping an eye on this CBA negotiations, I have tried to analyze it with a “what would Vic say?” approach. While it is certainly about the money for both sides, I think it is also safe to say the majority of owners genuinely care about the players they employ, and for their well-being.
Vic: There is no doubt in my mind they care about their players. I can cite example after example. I can tell you about a defensive back from a school in Texas who came to the team I was covering legally blind in one eye. His career was not successful but prior to releasing him the team directed him to an eye-and-ear hospital that performed a procedure that restored his sight in that eye. When he was released, he had perfect vision. I can also tell you that some years ago, when I was doing the Jaguars team newspaper, I received a handwritten letter from Kansas City Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt, who had read a feature story I did on linebacker Lonnie Marts. Hunt cared enough to share his thoughts with me on Marts. These are warm-hearted men in what can often be a cold-hearted business.
Dana from Washougal, WA
If so many kickoffs are of the “beer-can” type, then what will happen to the special teams players? It'll get pretty boring running down the field just to see a knee on the turf.
Vic: That’s what we’re gonna find out. Coaches always have a knack for finding creative ways to shape the rules in their favor. I’m viewing this as an experiment. I don’t need to know the answer to everything. Sometimes I just like to watch.
Cindy from Oshkosh, WI
Do teams ever draft players for a special teams need or do they just find a spot for players that don't make the first team?
Vic: Those days are over. Special teams require players with special talents and, yes, teams do draft for those types of players. That’s especially true when teams get into the late rounds. That’s when they’ll come off their board and look for a return man or a gunner, kicker, punter, snapper.
Garrett from New Knoxville, OH
What's the difference between bump-and-run coverage vs. giving a receiver a five-yard bump and running with him in man?
Vic: It’s the difference between running free or having someone bump you as you run. Under the old rules, defenders were allowed to make contact with a receiver until the ball was in the air. Defenders weren’t permitted to hold the receiver, but they were permitted to bump him. Lions cornerback Lem Barney invented the bump-and-run technique and it gave birth to a legion of cornerbacks that were big and physical enough to come up and support against the run, and athletic and fast enough to run with wide receivers and jam them as the two ran side by side. Shortly after the five-yard chuck rule was instituted, the face of the cornerback position underwent dramatic change. Small, quick types popped up everywhere; cornerbacks such as the Browns’ Hanford Dixon and Frank Minniefield. They were exempt from supporting against the run; just mirror the receiver and defend against the pass. The face of the quarterback position changed, too. Against bump and run, quarterbacks couldn’t throw to a spot because they didn’t know where that spot would be or when the receiver would get there. Against bump and run, you had to have a quarterback with an arm strong enough to get the ball there now, which is to say as soon as he saw the receiver had gained the slightest separation from the defensive back. The big, strong-armed quarterbacks of today could’ve played in that game, but the finesse quarterbacks of today, the Drew Brees types, would’ve struggled.
Joe from Melbourne, FL
With all the injuries over the past few years, wouldn't it make sense for the league and teams to require specific equipment to protect the players? I would have a problem paying a player on injured reserve if he is not wearing the recommended equipment during every game; that should cost them their pay, if they modify their equipment.
Vic: Yes, I think it’s time to expand the mandatory standards for use of equipment. It only makes sense that the more you pad the body, the more you protect the body. The problem is that there’s a law of diminishing returns that goes with padding the body because the more you pad the body, the more ability you give it to strike with greater force without getting hurt. That’s when things start to break on the inside. The whole pad to protect vs. pad to strike debate has to come to an agreement that will satisfy both sides equally.
Tom from Albuquerque, NM
Last year, a group of statisticians grabbed their stopwatches and measured each play from the moment the center snapped the ball to the instant the referee blew his whistle (ending the play). During a standard, 60-minute NFL game, the average amount of actual game action was only 11 minutes. Were you as shocked as I was to learn about this report?
Vic: Last year? They were doing those studies in the 1970’s, when teams ran the ball twice as often as they passed it, and I think at one point the actual game action had dipped to near the six-minute mark. The league has always watched that figure closely. When it dipped to dangerous levels in the ’70s, that’s when Pete Rozelle initiated the rules changes of 1978 that, by and large, gave us the game that’s played today. As an example of what the game had become prior to those rules changes, Miami quarterback Bob Griese was six of seven for 73 yards and no touchdowns in Super Bowl VIII, and the Dolphins won easily, 24-7.
Eddy from Rio Rancho, NM
As fans, most of us have a few mementos or personal treasures of our favorite teams. How about you?
Vic: I have lots of them. I have mementos of all of the teams I’ve covered. During the last game at Three Rivers Stadium, my reporter friends in Pittsburgh scraped off the number placard at my old press box seat and sent it to me. I have a piece of turf from there, too. I have a framed picture of the stadium in Jacksonville from the Jaguars’ inaugural game and a lot of other memorabilia from my years in Jacksonville. I have one such memento so far from my short time in Green Bay: a ticket from Super Bowl XLV, which was, so to speak, my first day with the Packers. This is what I do for a living, but my heart is in it, too. The idea is that one day I can shut it down, surround myself with these mementos and make it all about the heart. Isn’t that what we’re all trying to do?
Benedikt from Munich, Germany
Could you describe what exactly the job of an offensive/defensive quality-control coach is? Do you think it’s really necessary to have those kinds of people?
Vic: A quality-control coach is a young guy on the way up. He’s learning the ins and outs of the game, which means he’s being prepared for his life’s work; it’s a school for coaches, you might say. Mike McCarthy was a volunteer assistant at Pitt and it catapulted his career. Quality-control coaches work on special assignments. His coordinator might assign the quality-control coach on that side of the ball to do a study of the tendencies of cold-weather teams on second-and-long; I doubt that it would be that but you never know because they get some weird assignments. Coach Capers is the first coach I’ve ever known that used a quality-control type of coach. The young coach did Coach Capers’ stat work and eventually the young coach became a defensive coordinator. When I was in Jacksonville, Lane Kiffin was a quality-control coach.
Dennis from Brook Park, MN
Is it true that Cecil Isbell and Don Hutson invented the timing pattern?
Vic: I have this wonderful book, “Total Football,” one of the authors of which is a guy named Bob Carroll of a wonderful organization, “Pro Football Researchers Association.” I met Bob back in the 1970s when I worked at a newspaper in Bob’s hometown and he came to me wanting to write a history column for the newspaper. Bob has passed away but his work lives on. He is one of the pioneers of pro football history and the sport desperately needed his efforts because if there’s one thing at which the NFL hasn’t done a great job, it’s in recording its history from the pioneer years. Anyhow, there’s a section of the book “Total Football” that highlights the careers of “The 300 Greatest Players.” Hutson and Isbell are among those 300 players and Carroll makes no mention of the two players having invented the timing pattern, but Carroll does credit Hutson for being the first receiver in pro football history to get double and triple coverage. One of my favorite parts of the book is its dedication: “Dedicated to Pete Rozelle, who lifted the NFL to the top of the sports mountain.” No sports commissioner has ever been more loved than Pete is.
Bob from Green Cove Springs, FL
I think Jim Thorpe would look like and play like a blend of Earl Campbell and Fred Taylor, and I think he might have been the only running back that might have been better than Jim Brown.
Vic: I never saw him play and, sadly, there are almost no stats available on Thorpe’s great career, but I have read extensively on him and I think it’s possible he may be the greatest football player of all-time.
Andi from West Chicago, IL
I am a diehard fan and want to know if I don’t buy my Packers items from the “Packers Pro Shop,” does any of the money I spend on Packers gear still get to the team? I want my dollars spent supporting the team.
Vic: If you buy a Packers jersey at the mall, so to speak, the licensing fee is split evenly among the teams in the league and the store at which you bought the jersey keeps the retail profit. If you buy that jersey in the “Packers Pro Shop,” the licensing fee is still split 32 ways, but the Packers retain the retail profit from the sale of that jersey. So, when you buy from the “Packers Pro Shop,” you are supporting the team because the profit goes back to supporting the team’s operations.