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Ask Vic

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Bryan Bulaga is stoning everybody

Posted Jul 31, 2014

Cobb in catches, Rodgers in rating?

Packers.com Editor Vic Ketchman invites fans to participate in an in-practice, “Family Night” chat, beginning at 7:45 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 2.

Josh from Milwaukee, WI

Haven’t heard much about Bulaga. Is he progressing well in his rehab? I know linemen take more time to come back from leg injuries.

He’s stoning everybody. He must’ve gotten the Adrian Peterson ACL surgery.

Pat from Altoona, WI

Vic, what are you seeing thus far from Davon House? Could this be his breakout year? He looks so good every year in OTAs, and then the injury bug slows him down. I really like what he’s done when he’s gotten on the field.

I’m seeing the same things I saw in the 2012 OTAs and training camp. House is talented. He reminds me of Lester Hayes in size and style of play. Hayes was 6-0, 200; House is 6-0, 195. Also, Hayes began his career as a special teams star; I remember covering a game in which he blocked a punt. House has done the same. It didn’t happen right away for Hayes, either. Once he hit his stride, however, he was as good as there was in the league. If you’re going to be about draft and develop, you also have to be about patience.

Andrew from Appleton, WI

“Physical confrontation will always be at the heart of the game for me. It’s what first attracted me to football and it’s what continues to attract me to it. When it’s gone, so am I.” How close is that?

It won’t happen. The owners and the commissioner are too intelligent to make the mistake of softening this game too much. There’s a line in the sand that must never be crossed, but nobody’s quite sure where it is. We’re looking for it.

William from Dallas, TX

Is it true the tradition of the players riding kids’ bikes to practice stems from the soccer tradition of kids escorting the players onto the field for games?

No one’s quite sure how it began, but I have a theory. I think Ray Nitschke was a little late coming out for practice one day and was worried about getting fined. He saw a kid on a bike and said, “Gimme your bike, kid.” A tradition was born.

Clark from Kansas City, KS

Vic, love the column. I just want to know: How are you doing?

Fine, thank you.

Keith from Greendale, WI

Vic, you’ve mentioned how the game has changed since the 1970s because of culture and rules changes. How would you say the fans have changed in that time frame?

They’ve become more demanding and less patient, but it’s not entirely their fault. Free agency has caused much of it. Prior to true free agency, fans had no choice but to be patient as their favorite teams built their rosters. Why? Because the draft was the only viable source of talent acquisition and it demanded patience as talent was accumulated and developed over a three, four-year period. You couldn’t fix it all in one year. It took time. Rebuild today? Fans will allow a year, but that’s about it. Coaches taking over teams that have to cut and gut don’t have the grace period Chuck Noll had when he began his head coaching career with records of 1-13, 5-9 and 6-8. He was heading into year four without a winning season and there wasn’t as much as a ripple of fan dissent. It’s not because they were better fans back then, it’s because the game was different; it demanded patience. Everything about today’s game demands immediacy.

Ryan from Sycamore, IL

The Ted Thompson extension is as big, in my opinion, as any player signing. He has the right idea about the team’s direction and I feel this team is going to stay competitive for a very long time. Thoughts?

The Packers couldn’t be positioned more perfectly than they are. They have a roster of young, ascending players, led by a quarterback in his prime. They have a general manager and a coach who work in coordination with each other; no power plays there. The Packers have one of the league’s healthiest salary caps and a front office led by Mark Murphy that is providing the revenue required to stay competitive with the big-market, high-revenue teams. None of that is by accident.

Nick from Water Mill, NY

What do you fear more, the big leave or the really big leave?

Let’s see, the big leave means I can’t write football stories anymore, but I can still watch football. The really big leave means I can’t write football stories and I can’t watch football, either. I’ll take the big leave.

Doug from Sheboygan, WI

I’ve noticed something about Packers fans I’ve never seen in another team. Rather than fight in the comments section of your column, there seems to be a silent competition to see who can type the wittiest comment.

They’re winsome. Look at other comments sections and compare them to the ones at the bottom of packers.com stories. Ours are clean and decent. They add to the content. The comments sections at the bottom of our stories might be my greatest source of pride for this website.

Jeff from Victorville, CA

Yesterday, you said Raji looked like a stud. My question is during scrimmages or practice when one person dominates, how can you tell if he’s really doing great or if the player he’s up against is just flat out unimpressive?

You can’t, or at least I can’t. I remember covering a training camp in which the top two picks were a defensive lineman (Darryl Sims) and an offensive lineman (Mark Behning). They went head to head against each other through the whole camp. Sims would win and then Behning would win. They kept going back and forth. Somebody said, “Either both of them are going to be All-Pro, or both of them are going to be busts.” They were busts. All I can tell you is what I see.

Jacob from Madison, WI

Vic, I just received a copy of Jerry Kramer’s diary, “Instant Replay,” and randomly opening it for the first time I came across an entry for Aug. 23 in the chapter “Mock Warfare,” in which he mentions the rookies. “‘I’d love to be a Packer. I worked, I sweat, I died.’ You could tell that the simple words meant something to all of them, that all of them desperately hope to become a part of this club. And you knew that no more than half a dozen of them could possibly succeed.” Sometimes we forget the human side of football, that at this time of year dozens of young men are fighting in “Mock Warfare” to seize their dreams. Can you tell me of someone who embodied this fight?

I remember an undrafted rookie linebacker named Jim Rosecrans in the training camp of 1976. He came to camp to make the team, even though he virtually had no chance. During rookie week, he hit everything that moved. In the first practice after veterans reported, which always began with an Oklahoma drill that included a lot of spicy matchups, Rosecrans was pitted against center Ray Mansfield, who was in what would be the final year of his career. Rosecrans knew what he was doing. He picked a fight with Mansfield that turned out to be one of the best training camp fights I’ve ever covered. Rosecrans and Mansfield got after each other in a very real way. I can still see the smile on Coach Noll’s face. Afterward, I remember us all interviewing Rosecrans and then running to Mansfield’s room and interviewing him. It was the kind of training camp story you lived to write. Rosecrans didn’t make the team. His career would consist of one game with the New York Jets in the ’76 season. So, nearly 40 years later, why do I remember him so fondly? That’s why the line in the sand must never be crossed.

Andy from Elkhart, IN

Vic, just curious as to what made the 1996 season one of your favorite seasons? Obviously, for us Packers fans it was a top season.

It almost ended with the team I was covering playing the Packers in the Super Bowl. I’m not so sure the best team was representing the AFC in that Super Bowl. I remember the Jaguars coming back from Pittsburgh 4-7 and in complete turmoil. When I walked through their locker room the next day, which began with Andre Rison being cut, I didn’t think the Jaguars would win another game. They would then win their next seven, which would take them to the AFC title game in New England. I still can’t explain why that happened. They were dead team walking. Their Cinderella run peaked in a dramatic upset of the Broncos at Mile High Stadium, and a middle-of-the-night pep rally in which 40,000 fans sat in the Jacksonville stadium and waited for the team to return home. Before the team landed, it executed a fly by that was so low that when the pilot dipped his wing, I think I saw a fan’s eyes bulge. Memories make us rich.

Alex from Wilson, WI

I would like to start off by saying I love your column and I read it every day. I also commend you for standing by your team and being the Steelers fan you are. I’ll take a true diehard fan, Packers fan or not, over a fair-weather fan any day.

You’re my kind of guy, Alex.

Gary from Marshalltown, IA

Vic, if you’re not too busy answering the questions of Brett from Green Bay, can you tell me who sets the preseason schedule and does a team have any say in who they play in the preseason?

Brett does it. He helps the league make the schedule. He tries to schedule intra-conference opponents from within the same time zone or at least geographically near to each other. Brett also tries to accommodate requests.

Keith from Lombard, IL

Do you think the new approach to eating snacks during practice will help the overall health of the team? Have you ever seen anything like it in the past with other teams?

There was a kid on my high school team that tucked miniature Tootsie Rolls inside the lining of his helmet so he could pull them out and eat them during the game. I guess he was ahead of his time.

Andy from Craigmont, ID

Vic, I’m attending the Seattle game with my wife. If Lacy gets 100 yards rushing we win the game. True or false?

True.

Reid from Milwaukee, WI

Vic, I think the following stats will hold true this season: Nelson will lead the NFL in yards receiving, Cobb will lead the NFL in receptions, Lacy will lead the NFL in rushing touchdowns, Rodgers will lead the NFL in every QB category. What do you think? Look out.

I think Randall Cobb has a chance to lead the league in catches and Aaron Rodgers in passer rating. I think the Packers will be too balanced between run and pass for all of that stuff you mention to happen.

Jeremy from Milwaukee, WI

I think, in part, Jordy Nelson earned his contract by routinely making great catches on the perimeter. Cobb mentioned that he has yet to perform enough to earn a big contract. What do you think Cobb’s routine greatness will look like that will set him up for a long tenure with the Packers?

Jordy Nelson is one of the best boundary receivers I’ve ever covered. Cobb is at his best in the middle of the field, where he has room to run after the catch. Doc Blanchard and Glenn Davis were Mr. Inside and Mr. Outside. I think Cobb and Nelson could become the Packers’ Mr. Inside and Mr. Outside.

Jason from Syracuse, NY

Vic, I’m in Houston on business and I’ve been hearing talk about demolishing the old Astrodome. What memories do you have of the stadium?

If you ask Ted Thompson that same question, I wouldn’t be surprised if our answers are the same: Dec. 3, 1978, Luv Ya Blue, 13-3, Earl Campbell and Donnie Shell. I can still hear that music and those pom poms swishing to the beat. It was one of the most physical football games I have ever covered in one of the most charged atmospheres of any game I have ever covered. The Astrodome’s prime was short-lived, but it’ll live in my memory bank forever.

Aric from Attica, NY

Vic, why do you post the rude comments by fans that just don’t seem to understand your humor? I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, I find it quite entertaining sometimes. But other times I get mad at them for lashing out at you for trying to keep this column fun. Maybe we should ban them?

I would never ban somebody for being critical of me. I need to feel the sting. I need to see if I can still take it. The more you hit me, the stronger I get. This is not a game for thin-skinned people.


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Vic Ketchman

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