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Ask Vic

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The 'Mirror Ball' belongs at Lambeau

Posted May 22, 2012

Chris from Appleton, WI

Vic, with the success of the Packers’ draft-and-develop strategy in recent years, will it become increasingly difficult to stash talent on the practice squad?

No, I don’t think it will become more difficult to stash talent because the Packers use the practice squad the right way: They use it to develop young talent, whereas most teams use the practice squad to exchange marginally talented players that are ready to play in a pinch. These are players that have kicked around the league for a few years and offer security at a particular position where the team has need or concern. The team signs a guy at one position one week, lose a guy to injury at another position the next week, and then cut the guy they signed to the practice squad and sign another guy at the position where they’ve just been weakened by injury. In other words, they use the practice squad as a roster reservoir, and that is not the spirit of the creation of the practice squad. Its intent is for it to be used to develop young talent. I am so impressed by the fact the Packers’ practice squad changed little last season. They stuck young players on it and committed those players to a season of development. Those are the little things that go unnoticed, but they are huge in the grand scheme of developing a roster. Most teams don’t want those young guys because they’d have to sign them to the active roster and they’re not ready to play. The threat to the Packers’ practice squad is going to come late in the season when teams out of contention turn their attention to the future and put players on injured reserve to make room on their roster for young talent they claim off other teams’ practice squads. By then, however, the players on the Packers’ practice squad believe they’ve established a future in Green Bay and they want to stay there.

Andrew from Boring, OR

With the new crop of defensive backs, where do you think Davon House fits into the mix?

He fits into the competition. The rest is up to him.

Patrick from Palm Coast, FL

In your experience, what happens to a team when the top end of its draft doesn't pan out? How many seasons does it set you back to have the first-, second- and third-round picks not live up to the hype?

Live up to the hype? I’m not sure what that means. It should mean that those players must meet the expectation of becoming core players that form the nucleus of the team’s future. That’s what I expect of high-round picks. If they don’t do that, then you’ve got problems, both on your roster and on your salary cap.

Bart from Sanibel, FL

Just read Mike Spofford’s article on Casey Hayward and Sean Richardson. No wonder you loved it back in the 1970s, when you could just stroll into those guys’ rooms during training camp and chat with them about their experiences. As much as I love watching football, I honestly think I equally enjoy seeing these young, hard-working guys with big dreams coming in every year and trying to live out something as special as securing a roster spot in the NFL. Talk the romance of the sport; it's a privilege to be able to follow these new guys each year. I can't put my finger on it exactly, but it speaks to me very definitely of the human will and spirit and of the dreams we all have in life. Good stuff.

You bet it’s good stuff. I love those kinds of stories about young men in a faraway place trying to carve out a niche in life as they chase their dream. I love the energy in their voice and the anxiety in their eyes. You’re very perceptive, Bart. The story Mike did on Hayward and Richardson is the training camp kind of story I have always loved. I guess it’s why I’ve always believed it’s a young man’s game; it’s because the energy those young players bring to a training camp defines it. You have to have them; every team has to create turnover or it’ll get stale and quickly decline.

Roger from Gillette, WY

I know it's all about the pass, but don't you think with the defense playing mostly pass, we should be able to run the ball at strategic times? This would help both facets of the game.

Good teams don’t take what you give them, they take what they want.

Mitch from Big Lake, TX

Any ideas on possible team names for the future franchises that are added to the NFL?

I don’t think franchises will be added to the NFL for a long time. I think two teams will eventually move to Los Angeles and I think we’ll see an international experiment at some point.

Dan from Washington, DC

I've never been to a Packers game at Lambeau. In your opinion, what if anything is different about the Lambeau experience that you won't find in other franchise stadiums?

The No. 1 difference is the lack of no-shows. Packers fans go to the game. That’s the thing about Packers fans that strikes me the most. I think they are also better behaved than most other teams’ fans are, but I think that’s also consistent with the personality of the area. Packers football is the single-most important aspect of life in Green Bay, and it shows.

Trent from Orlando, FL

Who was the last player you can remember who played both sides of the ball?

There have been players who’ve played a little on both sides of the ball, in a gimmick kind of way. Roy Green, Troy Brown and Julian Edelman are examples of two-way players. The last true two-way player, however, is Chuck Bednarik. He literally stayed on the field for the whole game and he was a star player at both center and middle linebacker. By today’s standards, Bednarik would be considered a three-way player, because he also played special teams. At age 35 in the NFL title game against the Packers, Bednarik left the field only for kickoffs.

Mark from Gillette, WY

You mentioned the “Spread” and “West Coast” offenses are quite different animals. How much do the Packers use each and how pure is McCarthy's form of the “West Coast Offense.”

I see a lot of “West Coast” principles in Mike McCarthy’s offense. He was developed in the “West Coast” under Paul Hackett, and the manner in which receivers are used, the type of routes they run and the pace and personality of the passing game bear a strong resemblance to the “West Coast” offense, but it’s an offense that clearly has McCarthy’s vision and stamp on it. The “West Coast’s” signature plays, the three-step drop and “Sprint Right Option,” have been replaced by a much deeper drop and “The Fade.” I’ll call it the “Cheese Coast Offense,” because it bears the Packers’ unique stamp.

Joe from Sherman, IL

Vic, how does the injured reserve affect the salary cap?

Players on injured reserve remain on the team’s cap. Teams usually leave emergency room on their caps for signing players during the season to replace players that are put on injured reserve.

Dan from Wichita, KS

In response to all this talk about full-field views, I got to say I love it. I also want a game-type experience while watching TV. I want a blimp view of the game so I can not only see the game but the players and coaches on the sideline and the fans in their seats. I want to see the reactions of the fans. I want to see how the hot dog vender reacts when the fans jump to their feet. I want to hear a grumpy old man that's had season tickets since 1859 tell me to sit down after an exciting play because he's too old to stand up anymore. I want to be part of the game without leaving my couch. I want to be able to believe I could coach better if I could only get a chance because I know a few formations from playing my Madden game. This is the new NFL.

I can’t help but wonder what a Sunday in the fall in the year 2078 will be like. Will the football fan at home step into some sort of game-simulation tube? I don’t know how anybody could complain about any view of any game they get from TV these days. The coverage is spectacular. “Instant Replay” was first used in the Army-Navy game of 1963. We were amazed at how quickly they could show the replay, although it showed little more than what we had already seen, which wasn’t much. In recent years, I’ve seen “ESPN Classic” re-runs of the 1965 Notre Dame-Michigan State and 1969 Texas-Arkansas games, and they were pathetic productions compared to today’s standards. We’re talking two of the most important games in college football history and the best TV could do was give us something that looked like it was shot with a 16 mm Bell and Howell. Here’s the crazy part: All we wanted back then was a closer view of the action so we could actually see the ball. Now we don’t want to see the ball, we want to see the coverage scheme. I don’t think we know what we want.

Tom from Waltham, MA

Vic, on Friday you wrote, “If (Peyton Manning is) the same guy he was, or even close to it, yes, the Broncos immediately become contenders.” I know people who've had similar injuries and none of them say they're the same guy anymore. You've mentioned having a similar injury. Are you the same guy you used to be?

From what I understand, it’s his right arm that was weakened by the pain from the neck. If it is his right arm, and if he can pull this one off, he will have earned my respect. His comeback could become the story of the year in the NFL.

Troy from Delano, MN

In today's game, how do you really identify a great wide receiver?

Great receivers do great things, and you’ll know great things when you see them. We don’t need any more clarity of greatness than that.

Greg from Bellevue, WA

Back in the day, you never heard of odd injuries like torn pectoral muscles. Are these guys too muscled up?

Yeah, I think they are. As a result of the collective strength of today’s players, I think the force of the game has exceeded the average player’s physical tolerance.

John from Las Vegas, NV

When my son was about 12, he played youth football. During a game against another team, the opponent's defense kept chanting the whole time, “Kill! Maim! Destroy!” One of them was penalized for spearing. I'll never forget that chant. I see no place at any level for that kind of training.

I would agree. I think it’s also interesting that we’re as sensitive now to the words as we are to the spearing. That’s what the commissioner means when he talks about changing the culture.

Diana from Three Rivers, MI

When Donald comes back with the “DWTS Mirror Ball,” do you think it will go in the Packers Hall of Fame Featured Player of the Week, along with some of his outfits?

I’ve been wondering the same thing. The “Mirror Ball” belongs at Lambeau. It means more to us.

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