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Ask Vic

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Time to get rid of those nasty squirrels

Posted Feb 7, 2013

Nothing sad about Donald Driver's retirement; it was pure joy

Robbie from Dublin, Ireland

Vic, I’ve been watching American football for the last two years now and a large amount of what I understand about the sport has come from reading your articles. I’ve read your opinion on soccer and, although I don’t agree, I accept it. I’m wondering if you have an opinion on rugby?

It’s not as bad as soccer.

James from Wahiawa, HI

The Giants released Ahmad Bradshaw today. He is definitely a power runner. I know you talk about the Packers and how they approach free agency, but do you think he is worth it?

It’s a young man’s game. If a player has played long enough that his name is easily recognized by fans, then he’s probably past his prime and I don’t like signing guys whose arrows are pointing down, unless it’s stop-gap. Look for the names you don’t easily recognize. Those are the guys that keep you young and in the playoffs.

Neil from Milwaukee, WI

Vic, you mentioned the tough guys you liked and how they may not be the ideal athletes. What did Margus Hunt show you? He sounds like an athlete and a tough guy. He and his story are intriguing and I’d love to hear your take on him.

His story jumped out at me at the Senior Bowl. I need to see more of him before I can form an opinion.

Randy from Medicine Hat, AB

If Joe Flacco can command $20 million a season, what could Aaron Rodgers fetch in free agency?

We’ll never know. Trust me on that.

Larry from Milwaukee, WI

I think that if Jim Brown were playing today, given how devalued the running game is today, he would be an undersized outside, 3-4 linebacker. He’d be terrorizing quarterbacks like Lawrence Taylor, probably more.

I don’t think Jim Brown would stoop to playing defense. If ever a guy was meant to have the ball in his hands, Brown is it.

Bill from Maquon, IL

With the salary cap deadline approaching, how many teams need to make cuts to meet it? Do the Packers have to make cuts to make it?

The Packers’ cap is planned out so any moves the team makes will likely have been decided well in advance of March 12. Most teams strategize their cap so that players they plan to lose are up against a spike year in salary and/or a roster bonus deadline that either makes the point moot or buys both sides time to negotiate a new deal. The contract is structured that way to make it clear that it’s decision time. Find those types of contracts and you’ll pretty much know a player’s future and how many players a team plans to cut or how many contracts a team plans to allow to expire. The days of making decisions on the fly are over.

Ron from Broken Arrow, OK

What are your memories of Curley Culp? I just remember him being the first nose guard I watched play, as it seemed that the Oilers in the 1970s were one of the few 3-4 teams around. I know you got to see him twice a year. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the guy.

He defined the position. Some would say he invented it. When I think of Curley Culp, I hear the haunting swoosh of all those pom pons in the Astrodome on that day late in the 1978 season, the day of one of the most viciously physical football games I’ve ever covered. It was pure defense, pure punishment. After the game, the players were so physically spent they had trouble finding enough energy to talk about the game with reporters. I can remember the winner’s locker room being subdued. Guys had IV lines in them and some of them just sat at their stools and didn’t look up. Every once in a while I cover a game that lets me know how real this game can be, and I never forget those games. When I think of that game, I hear those pom pons and that awful, awful song. I mentioned that game once to Ted Thompson. He smiled.

Conor from Wilmington, DE

Vic, I’m not naming names, but if the Packers decided to release a player or two, would their base salary for that year be added to the cap? How does that work?

Salary is extinguished but remaining bonus amortization accelerates into the current year, provided the player is cut before June 1 or he isn’t one of two designated pre-June 1 exceptions. For a player to be a cap savings when you cut him, his salary usually has to be higher than his remaining amortization. That was the case with Jeff Saturday when he retired. It would appear the Packers are headed for some significant savings on next year’s cap.

Andrew from Rockford, IL

Hey, Vic, I recently decided I want to pursue a career in journalism (preferably in sports journalism). I was just wondering if you had any advice you could give me?

Andrew, I’m very lucky. A lot of my friends with whom I broke into this business are being forced to take early retirement buyouts from their newspapers. I’ve lived a sportswriter’s life: free games, free hot dogs, free plane rides, friends in every city in the league. It’s a lot better than that sintering plant. If you can find that kind of gig and a wife that likes it when you’re not at home, go for it. If you have a chance to become a doctor, I’d advise that you do that. I didn’t have that opportunity due to limited intelligence.

Richard from Davis, CA

I don’t know if anyone ever phrased it this way before, but with draft prospects, once you get past the top picks, the situation seems to be big, tough or fast, choose two. If that is the case, which pair is the best compromise?

You’re describing it perfectly. In the first round, you should be able to find a guy who has it all: big, strong, fast, athletic, tough. As you move into the other rounds, the have-it-all guys disappear and you have to make choices on the qualities present in the players available. That’s when you shape the personality of your football team. I want tough guys. I think teams make the mistake of treating toughness as an intangible. I think it should be treated as a talent that’s weighted every bit as heavily as size, strength and speed.

Brian from Fanwood, NJ

It’s sad seeing a great player like Donald Driver retire, but I’m glad he’s doing it in style and going down as a Packer.

I think retirement should be the happiest day of a player’s career; it is for me. I felt genuine joy sitting in front of the stage on Wednesday and watching the ceremonies. What can be better than having done all of that and knowing you don’t have to do any of it anymore? It’s like sleeping in on the first day of summer vacation. It’s especially heartwarming to see a guy leave without a limp and with financial security and a plan for his future. Nothing about yesterday was sad. It’s over and it was all good. Joe Namath finished with the Rams. Johnny Unitas wore lightning bolts in his last game. O.J. was a 49er. Franco was a Seahawk. A Seahawk! Jim Taylor was a Saint. When it ends like that, it truly is sad. Yesterday was pure joy. Nothing beats a career well played or a life well lived.

Bram from Colorado Springs, CO

What, in your opinion, causes a quarterback’s sophomore slump, like Cam Newton’s, and do you think Kaepernick, Wilson and RG3 will experience it?

In my opinion, sophomore slumps are caused by players trying to repeat the success of their rookie year by doing the same things they did as a rookie. That won’t work because you have to grow. You’ve given the competition a scouting report on what they have to do to stop you. In year two, you have to show them something different, which usually means being better than you were as a rookie. That’s true of every player for every season. You have to grow, and some point in a player’s career he reaches maximum growth and that’s when he’s in the prime of his career. We know what follows that. It’s going to be tough for Colin Kaepernick, Russell Wilson and RG3 to duplicate what they did as rookies, and I think it’ll be especially difficult for Wilson to duplicate that because I think he has physical limitations the other two don’t. Will they grow? The answer to that question will determine how they play in 2013.

Paul from Beaver Dam, WI

Vic, you called it. Earlier this year, shortly after the regular officials returned to the field, everyone was in love with them. You told us it wouldn’t last. Now here we are and everyone is back to pointing fingers and casting blame at the zebras.

Human beings are blame machines, and NFL officials are the ultimate blame targets. The fans blame them, the media blames them, the coaches and players blame them. Frankly, I think the higher profile officials occupy in today’s game is helping drive the league’s popularity. The blame game is the game within the game. We love it.

Jeff from Seattle, WA

Saw some Jim Brown highlights. I can see why some people put Adrian Peterson in the same conversation as Jim Brown, however, it seems Jim Brown had better balance and was always falling forward. I was really surprised to see that he caught passes so well. It seems that part of Jim Brown’s game gets overlooked.

Jim Brown could do anything, but there was one thing he refused to do: He would not block. Paul Brown was the ultimate taskmaster, but he was smart enough not to demand that Brown block. No way; ain’t gonna happen. I wonder what the coaches of today would do with Brown. Would they not draft Brown because he isn’t good in blitz pickup? Yeah, sure.

Mark from Missoula, MT

I just realized this: Donald Driver’s retirement party took place on Feb. 6. That was also the day two years ago when Driver and the rest of Packer nation celebrated their Super Bowl victory. Cleverness or coincidence?

It was a scheduling thing. They couldn’t do it today because Donald had to meet with the exterminator to get the squirrels out of his attic in his Dallas home. Welcome to the real world, Donald.

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