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Ask Vic

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Forget the culture; change the helmet

Posted Aug 27, 2014

Matt Flynn is proven backup; Scott Tolzien is QB on the rise

Tom from Erie, PA

Vic, what’s your take on the ESPN poll of 82 current NFL players? Green Bay was the fifth team they would not play for if their salary was doubled. Maybe it’s a lack of big city night life. Just wondering.

I covered this during free agency. It’s bad weather and high taxes. Why wouldn’t every player want to play for the Packers? There’s no franchise or fan base in professional sports that treats its players as well or with as much reverence and love as the Packers and its fans treat Packers players. Weather and taxes are the answers, and that’s why the Packers have to be draft and develop. It’s more than a choice, it’s a necessity. Reggie White was a long time ago, when free agency was just beginning and no one understood it or how to use it. Those days are over. Charles Woodson was a fluke; you don’t find players that good in the extended weeks of free agency anymore because teams are much more adept at using the tags. Packers fans have such a burning love for this team they can’t imagine every player not feeling the same, but that’s not the way it is in professional football.

Robert from Savannah, GA

I don’t know who the backup quarterback is going to be but if you had to pick one, which one would it be?

I think Matt Flynn has proven himself when it counts: in critical late-season games. Competition is wonderful, but nothing speaks louder than getting it done at crunch time, as Flynn did in Dallas last season. Scott Tolzien has shown so much growth in the year that I’ve observed him that I believe he has a long-term future in this game and I don’t want to limit him to strictly a backup role. He’s got a lot of talent and game, and he’s one of only two quarterbacks I’ve covered that successfully altered their throwing motion. Tolzien’s arrow is pointing straight up. The more he learns, the better he gets. A coach never wants to quit on someone like that. I heartily support keeping three quarterbacks.

Lukas from Greven, Germany

Vic, when is a player called a veteran? Is it after the first season, no matter if he played a snap or not?

A player is a veteran when he is credited with an accrued season. In other words, when his experience is listed as “2.” You can only be a rookie once, but you can be a “1” for multiple years. Until he gets to “2,” he’s a first-year player.

Susan from Saratoga, CA

My husband just walked into the room, and I moaned, “I keep asking him questions, but he never answers.” “You mean God?” he asked. “No, Vic,” I answered.

Ask, and it will be given you. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and it will be opened for you. Eight for everyone who asks receives.

Phil from Plymouth, MN

Vic, just wondering, if someone writes in with a question and it’s not in the next day’s “Ask Vic,” does it go to the trash bin or could it be answered days or weeks later?

All questions go to “Ask Vic” heaven, where they live with each other in eternal love of the game.

Eric from Denver, CO

Just thought I’d let you know your “News now!” feature does not work on the packers.com mobile app. Only the headline and photo shows up. The article does not show. Keep up the great work!

Is that a shot? I think that’s a shot.

Todd from Ankeny, IA

What can we expect from Capers with the addition of Peppers?

Nobody knows.

Russ from Dubuque, IA

I love to start the game with the defense on the field. If they make a stop, it’s a huge lift. If not, you just get started on the offensive game plan. Do you have a preference of who you like on the field first?

In my perfect world, I would start the game on defense, sack the quarterback and put the long coat on him. I’m trying to change my culture, but it’s not cooperating. I don’t think I’m gonna make it.

Michael from Alameda, CA

Vic, I love watching young players in preseason games to see if anyone makes an impact. My problem is that many of them on the Packers defense have hair that covers their names. In this situation, I think the names should be put below the numbers. What say you?

What if they put the names even a little lower? You know what I mean? Imagine seeing all of the names of the offensive linemen when they get into their stances. Talk about a teaching device. You’re looking at Bakhtiari, Sitton, Linsley, Lang, Bulaga and R. Rodgers. You know where everybody is. As crazy as this idea sounds, it would sure help offensive linemen come out of anonymity, and it would help fans identify formations, running lanes, etc.

Jon from Bath, England

Do you see fantasy football as an annoying distraction or an integral part of the game and a necessity to promote the sport to a new generation?

It’s an attractive sidelight. It helps increase fans’ enjoyment of the game. It also helps promote the game and strengthen the bond between fans and the game. Just don’t compare real football to fantasy football. That’s when I go off.

Kirk from Maineville, OH

Where were you when the “Fail Mary” happened, and what did you do in the first 10 minutes afterward ?

I was sitting at my press box seat in Centurylink Field. I had my bulletin game story written and my finger on the “publish” button as the ball was falling toward Earth. I nearly pushed the button as the ball was falling, so I could get a head start to the elevator; thank heavens I didn’t do that. In all of my career, that would’ve been the greatest of all gaffes. So, I’m thankful I didn’t make that mistake, but what followed were a lot of tense moments. First of all, I had to rewrite the story. We’re talking about one of the biggest stories in football history. You can’t brush it off in a couple of paragraphs. Then another problem arose. The officials didn’t know the extra point had to be kicked. I knew it. So I waited for them to get everybody back out onto the field for the PAT kick, which meant I still couldn’t hit the “publish” button because I didn’t have a final score. I didn’t dare miss any part of Coach McCarthy’s postgame interview. I got there in time and that’s when I began to feel at ease. All of that is why I can’t be like you. You sat and suffered that the Packers had been robbed of a win. I was consumed with worry about doing my job.

Paul from Green Bay, WI

Vic, can you please explain the IR process? I know all teams stash players on IR, but it seems like a loophole. Are there no regulations to this?

A player must have a six-week injury to be placed on IR all year. If you place a player on IR with a five-week injury, the club must release him when he is healthy (regardless of whether or not the injury takes six or more weeks to heal). When placing a player on IR, the club must include the prognosis for how long the injury will last. The NFL may have a neutral doctor evaluate the player to verify the length of the injury.

Leonardo from Las Vegas, NV

With the addition of “Ask Vic Live Postgame,” does that mean you will no longer attend the postgame press conferences? As I understand it, that is one of your favorite routines of game day.

I will still attend and participate in the postgame press conferences, which means “Ask Vic Live Postgame” won’t begin until I return to my office following the postgame press conferences. The difference is that instead of returning to my office to begin writing my stories, I will first do “Ask Vic Live Postgame” and then begin writing my stories. The idea is the moments immediately following a game are when fans seek engagement, so let’s do it. Figure on the chat beginning about an hour after the conclusion of the game.

Art from Edwardsville, IL

The Seahawks got in trouble for hitting too hard in practice. Do you see this as cheating or would you look at this as just win, baby, no matter what the rules are?

They cheated, they hit too hard?

Ben from Shell Lake, WI

Which college team produces the best offensive linemen?

I know what you’re going for here, but forget about it. It’s USC. Ryan Kalil, Sam Baker, Charles Brown, Winston Justice, Matt Kalil, Tyron Smith … those are recent USC products. Anthony Munoz, Ron Yary, Tony Boselli, Brad Budde, Ron Mix, Bruce Matthews … those are some of the all-time greats.

Andrew from Jacksonville, FL

Vic, in other NFL news, Brandon Meriweather was suspended for an illegal hit to the head and Ndamukong Suh takes a late cheap shot on the Jags QB. A tiger doesn’t change its stripes, right?

If you want to change the culture, change the helmet. The helmet is the problem. The league continues to pursue bigger and more protective helmets, and it’s only exacerbating the problem. The helmet is the problem in every way, not just as it affects head-to-head hits. The helmet provides such a feeling of protection that it allows players to throw their heads into knees. It promotes excessively aggressive behavior. The helmet has turned reckless abandon into dangerous abandon. The more the league tries to protect players with bigger helmets and more rules, the worse the situation gets. Reduce the helmet’s protection; that’s how you make the game safer. Take off that facemask and you won’t have to worry about making more rules. I think the league will begin coming to that conclusion within the next 10 years. I think we’ll begin to see mandatory reductions of the facemask. That’s how it’ll begin. The young readers of this column will one day see the facemask go away and the helmet get smaller. At that point, players will stop playing the game with dangerous abandon and begin playing it with measured caution, and that’s what the league wants.

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Vic Ketchman

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Do you have a question for Vic? Your question could be posted on packers.com. Vic has covered the NFL through 42 seasons, including 23 years covering the Steelers and 16 years covering the Jaguars.

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