Brian from Fond du Lac, WI

“You mean, trying to get off to a fast start? Yeah, I wondered about that, too. If it means the starters are going to play through the first half on Sunday, they better be ready for it because it’s supposed to be hot in Pittsburgh on Sunday.” I see I’m not the only one suspecting this. The preseason is for preparation.

I think you hit the mark with this one, Brian. It’s the Steelers’ third preseason game. The Packers will be on more than a week of rest. I think we’re gonna see a football game on Sunday.

Lukas from Greven, Germany

Vic, do you have any concerns about Matthews being constantly injured?

I don’t. His father and uncle each played 19 seasons in the NFL. He comes from hearty stock.

Christopher from Los Angeles, CA

Who is the bigger perennial disappointment, KC, Cleveland, Oakland or Buffalo?

The Cubs.

Michael from N. Richland Hills, TX

Do you think the two-point conversion will influence a team’s personnel? It would seem a very tall tight end or a very large running back could be a 2-yard specialist.

I’m not seeing evidence of that, but I think in time the answer to your question will be yes. In time, I think we’re going to see spread-type formations that are going to create open space for a two-point offense to out-athlete the defense, and that’s where the abundance of college run-around quarterbacks will find their way into the NFL.

Bill from Manitowoc, WI

Is it too early to have a camp standout player? Previously, you have crowned a training camp MVP. Anybody in that category, yet?

It’s too early, but if I was going to crown one now, it would be Scott Tolzien. He’s had a strong camp and was impressive in last week’s win over New England. Ty Montgomery would certainly be a candidate. There are others.

Tim from Clear Lake, WI

Football is the only thing I miss from high school. As the scout team running back, I took a beating and I enjoyed every minute of it. Also, I got a lot of respect from my classmates.

Participation is not meaningless. It can be an achievement. Look what it did for Rudy.

Kevin from Whitehall, WI

Vic, the Packers just released their plans for the “Titletown District.” This is obviously to generate long-term revenue to keep the Packers franchise financially viable. How will the Packers make money on this deal?

The Packers’ gain will be in the rent they collect from the tenants, such as Kohler Co., Bellin Health and Hinterland. I asked this question of a team official yesterday and I was told the rent will be a responsible figure. The Packers’ real gain in this project is what it’s going to do for the community and the impact it’ll have in continuing to make Lambeau Field a destination. In terms of what the project will yield directly, I have a feeling it’ll take a long time to recover the $65 million the team has already invested in the project. That was over a seven-year period and there are still two years to go before the team will get a return on that investment. I’m not saying this project isn’t about the money, but I can safely say this is about more than the money. This project is about the obsession this team has for glorifying Lambeau Field, and for deepening the connection between the league’s only publicly owned franchise and the fans and residents of Green Bay that saved this franchise when it was near extinction. This is a wholesome endeavor. If it was just about making money, I’m sure there are simpler ways to have invested that $65 million. Investing it in “Titletown District” will benefit a lot of people, not just the Packers.

Patrick from Minneapolis, MN

You use the term “young lion” frequently, especially when referring to defensive linemen and linebackers. Is this an original Vicism or did you pick this up from someone during your years in the league?

Joe Greene coined the words. He used them to describe what the Steelers needed when Joe was near the end of his career and the “Steel Curtain” was beginning to show signs of rust.

Dave from Glenview, IL

Vic, I’m having a hard time with this joint practice concept. Wouldn’t practicing with another team unnecessarily expose schemes, plays, etc.? I understand it provides a different level of competition, but it otherwise would seem to have a negative impact. What am I missing?

Joint practices are mostly about one-on-one work. Defensive linemen pass-rushing against offensive linemen is a feature attraction, except now you have two of those drills going on simultaneously. Receivers working against defensive backs and running backs in blitz pickup can also be feature attractions. The field is full of these kinds of one-on-one confrontations, and I consider them to be at the heart of football. The joint practices aren’t about schemes, they’re about talent evaluation. They remind me of what happens at the Senior Bowl.

Jim from Hayward, WI

A trophy is a reward for a specific achievement and serves as recognition or evidence of merit. That’s the definition. So, showing up deserves a trophy? You are dead wrong! Admit it and stop walking the tight wire.

I’m really disappointed by the insensitivity in my inbox on this subject. Why are you threatened by a simple recognition that might give a young boy or girl joy and esteem? For the athletically challenged boy or girl, electing to participate is a courageous act. The ball is likely to fall out of their glove and the winning run is going to score. For them, participation is more likely to produce defeat than victory, but they accept that risk because they want to belong. We have all-star teams and big trophies for the gifted. Participation trophies aren’t for those kids. They’re for the ones for whom merely showing up is an act worthy of applause. Those are the kids that keep these youth associations viable. That’s why the associations recognize them. It’s a way of saying thanks to those kids. Why do you want to deny them that joy?

Dave from Madison, WI

In your years of covering the NFL, what preseason injury to a player had the most impact on a team?

It would be the knee injury Mark Brunell sustained in the 1997 preseason. He was coming off a Cinderella season in which he led the Jaguars to the AFC title game. He was the new Steve Young, but the knee injury robbed Brunell of his trademark mobility. He played well for several more years, but he was never the same again. He lost his suddenness.

Ben from Buffalo, MN

To what extent do you feel football has influenced American culture?

Football has had a profoundly positive impact on our culture, especially in the game’s formative years, which is to say before it became more about entertainment than about athletic competition. It was a microcosm of life, which meant we could all identify with it, and we drew experience from the game to help us make decisions in life. I’m not sure it’s the wholesome game it once was, and we’re to blame. We find too much entertainment in the nefarious. Deflategate is a major disappointment. I want it to go away.

Nick from Long Beach, CA

Vic, which phase of the game takes the longest to get into its true form and why?

The running game was always the answer. There was always a coordination between the pulling and trapping guards and the backs that took time to develop, but zone blocking has eliminated that timing element. The line walls up and moves laterally, and the back simply finds a lane and cuts back into it. Zone blocking is probably the most significant scheme creation I’ve witnessed over the last 20 years. It’s changed how the game is played up front.

Dan from Waupun, WI

Does Pittsburg have a professional football team? I know they don’t have any professional sportswriters!

That is absolutely hilarious. You know what Pittsburgh does have? An H at the end of it. How funny is that? I love this game. Let’s play some more.

Kelly from Cottage Grove, WI

My eight-year-old son, who is a good athlete, put his soccer participation trophy with all the hardware he has from placing in youth wrestling tournaments. He likes them all.

My heart is warmed.

 

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