Luke from Appleton, WI
I heard the Packers offensive line is gathering to work out in Tennessee. What do you think about that?
I’m fine with it. Gatherings such as that keep the home fires burning, so to speak. Beyond that, I don’t know why so many fans and media are gaga about these players-only workouts, but I think it’s good that you have teammates that want to be with each other at this time of year. It means they’re thinking about football, and that’s a good thing.
Tom from Eagan, MN
I recall hearing Mike McCarthy speaking about running plays being “body punches” to the defense; that is, it's not necessarily about grinding out the hard yardage as it is allowing the offensive linemen to “rush” the defensive linemen for a change. It's interesting to think that, with the advent of the passing era, the offensive linemen are more often acting defensively, i.e. protecting the quarterback.
I’m not sure that’s what Coach McCarthy meant by body punches, but I agree with what you’re saying. Offensive linemen need to be able to impose their will on the defense, instead of constantly having to absorb and deflect the defense’s will. When I think of running plays being body punches, I think of them softening the defense’s middle. They’re not knockout blows, as a punch to the head is intended to be. Running plays, or body punches, cause the defense to lower its guard and defend its middle, the line of scrimmage, thus exposing the defense a little more to the deep pass, the knockout punch. Having to defend against body punches, the defense can’t tee off on the quarterback or load up in the secondary by leaving the eighth man deep. All of a sudden, the offense starts to see a lot of single-high safety because the eighth man, the strong safety, has been forced up into the box to defend against the run. These repeated body blows cause a defense to concentrate more of its effort and attention on defending against the run and then, all of a sudden, the ball goes in, the ball comes out and it’s thrown over the top. The trick is being able to do that out of a spread-type philosophy, which is how the Packers beat the Steelers. They spread them out.
Jon from Norman, OK
How does Deion Sanders not end up on the all-time team? This might be a case of age-related myopia, but I think he is the greatest combination of playmaker and shutdown corner ever, or at least in my lifetime (26 years).
He was a playmaker; there’s no question about that. The reason he’s not on my all-time team – the operative word is “my” – is because the players on my all-time defense have to be able to tackle, and I honestly can’t remember Sanders ever having tackled anybody. I’m sure he did, but there isn’t one I can remember, plus, I think everybody would agree that he did everything to avoid tackling. Maybe that’s OK on your all-time team, but not on mine. It was a tossup between Sanders and Gale Sayers for kick-returner; maybe I was showing my age-related myopia. Lots of great players aren’t on that team. It’s the nature of the beast and the debate is what makes them fun.
Lora from DePere, WI
Often after a win, the players get a “Victory Monday.” What exactly does it mean and how does this affect their typical schedule you described? I'm guessing the players don't get the day completely off from football.
They do. It’s an extra off day. Tuesday is the players’ official off day. Late in the season, when players’ bodies require more rest than work, coaches will reward their players with an extra day off following a victory. The more I move around, the more I’m amazed at how routines are the same. The same routines are carried out by coaches everywhere in the league. Jack Del Rio is big on “Victory Mondays.” Here’s what the coaches don’t tell you about “Victory Mondays:” Not having the players in the building on Monday gives the coaches an extra day to game plan. The coaches’ bodies are beginning to wear out, too, and having an extra day to game plan might get them home at a more decent hour on Tuesday. Late in the season, there’s more tape to break down. There are more formations and tendencies to examine and strategize against. Nothing beats winning. It helps you keep winning when you don’t have to spend time on corrections and you can move on to the next opponent a day earlier than he might be doing.
Brian from Rockaway, NJ
Ndamukong Suh was the Lions’ back-up kicker last season and was forced to attempt an extra point in the third quarter of a game against the Jets when Jason Hanson got hurt. He missed the point after, which made the score 13-10, rather than 14-10. Without that point, the Jets were able to come back and eventually tie the game at 20-20 and win in overtime 23-20.
That’s great commentary. Thanks, Brian, for bringing that to our attention. What if the Jets hadn’t won that game? Would it have changed the postseason picture? This is what I envision for this column: I want it to evolve into a conversation. I want it to be an exchange of information. Thanks.
Gary from Chippewa Falls, WI
Is there any consideration for energy consumption when new stadiums are built? Dallas’ new stadium must have to pump in tons of cold air to keep the stadium comfortable.
They didn’t have to pump cold air into it the last time I was there. They were having to shovel snow off the roof. I’ll tell you this: Jerry Jones didn’t have a lockout in mind when he built that place.
Mike from White Plains, GA
Digging the lists, Vic. They all have pretty solid reasoning. If winning is everything (and I agree that it should be), which are the worst/weakest Super Bowl-winning teams?
Super Bowl XXXVII might be the weakest of the 45. It lacked a defining quarterback. I think the 2002 season was weak overall. Neither the Colts (Peyton Manning) nor the defending champions, the Patriots and Tom Brady, qualified for the postseason. The league was at the end of a recycled quarterbacks era; Brad Johnson, Rich Gannon, Tommy Maddox, Kerry Collins, Elvis Grbac, etc., and the next wave of young quarterbacks – Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger – had yet to reach the league.
Brian from Little Rock, AR
After watching Terrelle Pryor and Cam Newton last season, I noticed many similarities. Newton was the first overall pick in the draft but Pryor is projected as only a mid- to late-round selection. Are Newton's skills that much superior to Pryor's?
I think Newton is a much more natural passer of the football. Newton can make all of the throws; I don’t think Pryor can. Pryor’s got the tools, but he hasn’t developed his passing skills as I would’ve hoped. He just never seems to set himself in the pocket and cut it loose. Otherwise, Pryor is a sensationally gifted athlete. With the problems at Ohio State, Pryor might declare for the supplemental draft. I’d spend a pick on him. He’s a talent, but I don’t think his future is at the quarterback position.
Larry from Conifer, CO
I happen to agree with you concerning Chuck Bednarik. He almost singlehandedly beat the Packers in that 1960 championship game. I can see it like it was yesterday.
It’s amazing how the pages of history yellow with time. When I hear young fans and reporters speak with such certainty about how today’s players are so much bigger, stronger and faster, and I agree that they are, I think to myself: I wonder if they’d look Bednarik in the eye and tell him that. There’s a perception that Bednarik was a try-hard guy; that he really wasn’t that talented, he was just tough. Well, try-hard guys aren’t first overall picks, not even back then. Bednarik was the first overall pick of the 1949 draft. He was an amazingly gifted athlete and he had the heart of a lion; he still does. Bednarik was an eight-time All-Pro. He played center and linebacker, seldom left the field, and he missed three games in 14 seasons. Oh, and he was a decorated waist gunner in World War II. What if he hadn’t lost years of his career to military service? Would he be the greatest player in the history of the game? From what I’ve been told, Bednarik was the one player Jim Brown feared.
Joe from Virginia Beach, VA
Loved the “Christmas Vacation” quote; made me lol. I've been keeping up with the “Top 100” and it seems like Tramon Williams isn't on the list. The remaining three I assume are Rodgers, Matthews and Woodson. It amazes me that a player with coverage ability rivaling Revis’ and the speed of Hester is not on the list. He became the Packers’ shutdown corner last year, which let Woodson do what he does best. I think there's a conspiracy against Packers players; don't even get me started on Jennings at 74 with Miles Austin ahead of him.
Easy, Joe, easy.