Vance from Hartland, WI
I’m a big Graham Harrell fan; love the ball he throws; good throwing motion, etc. Last year, while apparently being overwhelmed with information, I recall he made a couple of plays last preseason with the third-teamers while running for his life; still looked downfield and hit the target; loved it. If he keeps improving like it sounds, like he's doing, making coverage calls, know all the routes, etc., and really looks good in the preseason, do you think Ted Thompson would cut Flynn loose before the season is over for a first-round pick and he becomes a free agent?
My inclination is to believe that wouldn’t happen and for a couple of reasons: 1.) The preseason isn’t the regular season. 2.) Defending a Super Bowl title is too important to risk on a preseason read. Vance, what you’re suggesting is smart personnel decision-making. Always consider the potential for acquiring value, but sometimes you just have to be willing to bite the bullet, which is what the Packers might have to do with Matt Flynn to have the luxury of the security he offers for another season.
David from Maineville, OH
What do you focus on during the games? How do you decide on individual stories to write?
I have a number of keys I use in watching a game. In pre-snap, I look at the offensive and defensive formations. Is the defense in cover two? Are they walking the eighth man up into the box and leaving a safety single-high? On early run downs, I’ll watch the tight end, the in-line one if there are two, to see if he blocks down or releases. That’ll immediately tell me if it’s run or pass. If it’s run, I’ll find the ball. If it’s pass, I’ll glance at the quarterback to watch for play-action or a draw, then I’ll shoot my glance at the receivers to see if anyone is getting separation, and then I’ll come back to the quarterback who, by then, is either ready to throw, scramble or get sacked. You can’t see everything, so replay helps me know what I missed. On obvious run downs, such as short yardage, I watch the interior three linemen (center and two guards). Do they come off the ball in unison, hard and low? Do they move the line of scrimmage? If they do, then I don’t need to know where the ball is because I know where it’s going. As far as identifying story angles, that’s just reporter’s instinct stuff. The stories jump out at you. I have always relied on developing relationships with my sources, to the point that I know them well enough to know what they’re thinking and feeling. When you begin covering a new team, you’ve got to build those relationships all over again. It doesn’t happen overnight. I’ve got a long way to go here. I hope readers will be patient with me. A couple of guys have jumped out at me: B.J. Raji and Clay Matthews. You don’t interview Raji as much as you talk with him, and that’s the best possible kind of relationship. He’s a reporter’s dream. I think I already have a feel for him. Matthews is a guy I thought would be a struggle, but I’m changing my mind. He’s a football player with a football player’s pride, and I like that a lot. In the few interviews I’ve had with him, he’s looked me in the eye and answered the question. I covered his dad and his uncle in the old AFC Central; I think that’s kind of cool. Then there’s Donald Driver. He’s a pro. I was fortunate to have had a year with Torry Holt two years ago. Driver reminds me of Holt, from an interview standpoint. This is the part that’s exciting to me.
Evan from Columbia, SC
How has Tori Gurley looked so far? Do you think he has a chance to make the team?
He’s starting to make a move. He needs to continue that move into the preseason. He’ll have a chance, I’m sure, in Cleveland on Saturday.
Jonathan from Tampa, FL
“It means taking on blocks instead of running around them.” I've never understood why a player would want to take on the block. It seems like they are taking themselves out of the play. That's how it works in Madden, anyway.
I think I’m getting sick.
Greg from Carlsbad, CA
What's the over-and-under on your first asterisk?
Oh, no, I ain’t doin’ no more asterisks. The last time I did that, I got in big trouble. I was just tryin’ to have some fun and then everybody went nuts.
Thiago from Sao Paulo, Brazil
I think your column gives what a column should give: an analysis. Not always the exact truth, but always an opinion, which is more important than the truth, because it gives us an opportunity to think for ourselves, create arguments to stimulate our opinions, or defend our contrasting points of views.
Never let the facts stand in the way of a good story. Sportswriters learn that very early in their careers.
John from Appleton, WI
With the amazing load of offensive talent in camp and with the signing of James Jones, some talented rookies are going to be cut. What is more valuable for the 53-man roster, an extra young receiver, an extra young tight end, an extra young offensive lineman, or a third quarterback?
The answer, of course, is the best available player among that group, but I’ll play along because there are some other concerns. First of all, if you want that player to be a wide receiver, he almost has to be a guy you’d use on special teams or he’s a waste of roster space because he’ll always be inactive. It’s just not likely that a fifth wide receiver is going to catch many passes, so why keep him if he can’t play special teams? Last year, Brett Swain was the Packers’ fifth wide receiver and he only caught six passes, but he was a big-time contributor on special teams. I think a team needs a third quarterback, but the practice squad is a good place for him until you really need him. An extra tight end is a strong candidate for roster consideration because tight ends are usually good special teams guys in a variety of “teams” roles, and coaches are always looking for more muscle in short-yardage situations. My choice, however, would be an extra offensive lineman. You can never go wrong by finding ways to go heavy with offensive lineman. There’s no way I would ever let a young offensive lineman get away if there was any way I could keep him around. I’d fill my practice squad with them before I’d let them get away. They are the very symbol of the developmental theme that is supposed to be the purpose of the practice squad. No players develop more slowly, yet, more fully than offensive linemen do. You can find wide receivers any time you need them, but not offensive linemen that know your system.
Benny from Glendale, WI
In your opinion, what Super Bowl championship team (from any year) was the most dominant and explosive?
In my opinion, the Cowboys and 49ers teams that dominated in the late ’80s and into the ’90s represented the greatest gap between a championship team and the rest of the league I have ever seen. They blew out good teams. Then came the salary cap and that was the end of that.
Herb from Palm Desert, CA
Do you see a possibility that the Packers let Finley sign elsewhere in order to keep Wells and Sitton?
The specter of the franchise tag, which can be applied rather cheaply to a tight end, might be all the motivation Jermichael Finley needs to do a long-term deal with the Packers.
Ted from San Francisco, CA
Here's a challenge for you, Vic, but you may want to wait until the offseason to take it on. We have all these all-time lists but a number of great players get forgotten because their careers were cut short by injury or other circumstances. Gale Sayers, Bo Jackson and Sterling Sharpe come to mind, but who would you put on your all-time short career team?
I’m going to the White House this morning, so I don’t have time to put together a whole team of short-career players, but I’ll give you some names you might want to look up and read on. Start with Bengals quarterback Greg Cook. An arm injury ruined his career. Then there’s Bengals defensive tackle Mike Reid. He was the second-best defensive tackle in the game when he elected to cut his career short and become a concert pianist. The Bears’ Willie Gallimore is a tragic story. Would the Bears have drafted Sayers had Gallimore not been killed in a car accident? How about Joe Delaney? What a sad story that is. Ernie Davis never even got started. “Big Daddy” Lipscomb was one of the most dominant defensive players in the history of the game. Then there’s one I covered. His name is Gabe Rivera and he was going to be the Steelers’ next Joe Greene, but halfway through his rookie season he was involved in a car accident that left him paralyzed.
With that, folks, I’ll end today’s column by inviting you to read packers.com’s coverage of the Packers’ visit to the White House. I’ll be blogging the trip, beginning at Austin Straubel Airport in Green Bay to Dulles in Washington, and from Dulles to the White House and back to Dulles. I’ll be blogging from the plane and the bus, and I invite you to follow me and the Packers every mile of the way. If you want, get a map and make it a travelogue. Thanks for reading.