Nick from Toronto, Ontario
I know you're a big fan of the history of the game. I'm just wondering if you could provide some insight into what players from past eras think of today's NFL, particularly the focus on player safety and how it's changed the game.
Players of the past, especially those of the distant past, marvel at the athletic ability of today’s players. The old guys gush about the things today’s players are doing, but in hushed and sometimes not-so-hushed tones they question the toughness of today’s players. The little hurts that keep players out of action today bewilder the old guys, who didn’t even know what a torn MCL was when they played. They just called it a sprained knee, taped it tight and played. That’s one of the major differences in the pro football eras, as it is in baseball, too. Once upon a time, when a pitcher was handed the ball, he was expected to finish the game. Relief pitchers didn’t exist. Now we have long relievers, middle relievers, set-up men and closers. If a starter gives you six quality innings, he did his job. Huh? In the NFL in 1925, the roster limit was 16. In 1950, it was 32. Lombardi won his first two NFL titles with a roster of 36 players. Back then, players were expected to play hurt because rosters didn’t include a lot of reserves. Those teams played six-game preseason schedules and the starters played and played hard. Now rosters are at 53 with an additional eight-man practice squad and an injured reserve list; teams can keep up to 80 players total. Bigger, stronger, faster? Yes. Tougher? I think you have to give that one to the old guys.
Jacob from Green Bay, WI
Why does it seem the Packers always play the Chiefs and the Browns in the preseason?
Actually, it’s only been that way the last three years. The Packers didn’t play the Chiefs in 2009 and hadn’t played either team in the preseason before that since 2003. The league makes the preseason schedule. Once upon a time, it was up to the individual teams to do their own preseason schedules, but a buddy system developed and it caused some of the West Coast teams to struggle to put together schedules. Preseason schedules tend to be a little vanilla because they are restricted by division, conference and travel. The league doesn’t want teams from the same division playing against each other, interconference games are preferred, and short trips are better than long trips because coaches want to get their players back into the camp regimen as quickly and as easily as possible. The games with the Browns and Chiefs are no-brainers: They’re close, they’re interconference and there’s some history between the Packers and both teams.
Hans from Front Royal, VA
Vic, I know you're sick of the bounty story, but it's not going away anytime soon. Does it seem like the NFL has opened a kind of Pandora's Box here? I understand Goodell is intent on changing the culture, but isn't this the culture the league helped create? How much of this can be linked to injury reports becoming more and more detailed over the years, presumably to assist gamblers and fantasy football?
You got it backwards. The intent of requiring injury reports is for the purpose of transparency so no one will accuse teams or coaches of manipulating the betting line. If a coach isn’t truthful with his injury report, the team is fined or more. Yes, the culture the commissioner is attempting to change is the culture that made the league popular. I’m talking about the rough-and-tumble culture that has always been at the root of the game’s charm and mystique; I’m not talking about bounties and the kind of ugliness that was evidenced in the Gregg Williams audio. Once upon a time, rough-and-tumble was charming. Then it got too rough and the game’s contact had to be redirected. That’s where we are now. The game is evolving.
Patrick from Minneapolis, MN
Overall, how have you seen the draft change from the 1960s to the present?
In my first-ever training camp, in 1972, I went to the dorm room of Franco Harris, the Steelers’ first-round pick. Harris had just arrived in camp after playing in the College All-Star Game, and as an eager young reporter wanting to get a scoop, I followed Franco to his dorm room to get an exclusive interview. The real story, however, would be about his roommate; I think he had also played in the College All-Star Game. He was a fourth-round defensive back from Missouri. I introduced myself to him and in the process of shaking hands, I couldn’t help but notice he was missing a couple of fingers. Well, I did the interview with Franco and proudly wrote my story. A little later, I was in conversation with the personnel director and I asked him if he was concerned about the rookie defensive back missing a couple of fingers. He said, “What fingers?” That’s how the draft has changed.
Jarrid from Shawano, WI
I don’t know if you heard the audio from Gregg Williams prior to the 49ers-Saints match up. Do a lot of coaches and coordinators talk like this?
If you’re referring to the salty language, then the answer is, yeah, I’ve heard a little bit of it in the years I’ve spent covering pro football. Does it bother me? No, because I come from a town where everybody but the nuns talked like that, and we had suspicions about them, too.
Josh from Naperville, IL
Vic, since you have been around for such a long, long time and seen so many great coaches come and go, if you could only pick one to coach your team, who would it be and why?
It would be Chuck Noll because he was the most stubborn coach I have ever covered, and in coaching, stubbornness is a virtue. Some people call it belief.
Matthew from Fayetteville, AR
Vic, could you describe the usual physical attributes of a 3-4 rushing outside linebacker that teams are looking for?
He needs to be fast and powerful. It starts with that.
Dale from Kettering, OH
During this tempest in a teapot about the new materials, I haven't seen anyone ask the question that a reasonable Packers fan would want to know: How warm is the new stuff?
It sounds about as warm as wearing a coat of paint. The whole lighter, tighter thing puzzles me. I think I speak for all men when I say that at some point in our lives we transition from briefs to boxers, and once you make the move to boxers, there ain’t no goin’ back, if you know what I mean. The first few days in boxers can produce a feeling of insecurity, but it’s quickly replaced by comfort. Going back? Like going to prison. I just don’t understand why these guys want to wear something tighter.
Bob from Colby, KS
What Packers draft was the best ever?
I’ll say it was 1958: Dan Currie, Jim Taylor, Ray Nitschke and Jerry Kramer.
Mike from Brunswick, GA
When did they start giving the Wonderlic to players entering the draft?
They started using the Wonderlic as part of the draft evaluation process back when the current generation of coaches were players, and that’s become a little bit of a problem.
John from Carson City, NV
The Packers have 12 draft picks. Realistically, how much room do the Packers have on their roster to absorb 12 new players?
Don’t think in terms of 53, think in terms of 80, because that’s the total number of players a team can retain, including the eight-man practice squad and injured reserve. When you think about it, you take 80 to camp and you’re allowed to keep 80, so it’s just a matter of effectively using all of your roster space to keep the players you think are worthy of keeping. In other words, when one of your low-round draft picks sustains an injury in camp that will curtail his development, put him on injured reserve. Given the roster numbers of today, the only way a rookie gets cut is if the team doesn’t want him.
Robert from Albuquerque, NM
Why can't we have cameras by each pylon on each end zone showing us clearly if the ball is in the end zone or not?
Why not take a nutrition pill instead of going to the bother of having to chew that delicious steak? We all need flavor in our lives, that’s why.
Damone from San Jose, CA
Trust is huge in the NFL, especially between players and media. What do you think about Sean Pamphilon being invited into the Saints locker room and releasing audio that was not asked for by Commissioner Goodell? How hard is it to earn locker room trust?
There is no such thing as off the record. You earn trust by making sure the men with whom you work understand that. You earn trust by being forthright and honest.
David from Racine, WI
Jason Smith posted an article on nfl.com that ranked the 32 best quarterbacks in the NFL (this list included Luck and RG3). He ranked the top 10 as follows: 1. Eli Manning, 2. Tom Brady, 3. Ben Roethlisberger, 4. Drew Brees, 5.
I think Rodgers is the best quarterback in the league, but it doesn’t anger me that someone else disagrees.