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A first-round bye can increase pressure, anxiety


Albert from Davis-Monthan AFB, AZ

I have always felt like Green Bay is a football family, whereas other teams felt like, well, football teams. Is it because of the fan base, their history, their front office or some other intangible aspect?

It's because of success. All successful teams feel special. All successful teams feel a sense of family. If success was replaced by failure, we wouldn't be talking about any kind of good feeling. Just win, baby.

Paul from Spencerville, IN

I recently watched a documentary on the USFL and was surprised to see how many future NFL stars got their start in that league. The documentary seemed to suggest that if the USFL had remained a spring football league and kept its number of franchises at 12-16, the league may have survived. Do you agree with this opinion?

Yes, I do. The founders of the USFL had a great idea, but they weren't as committed to making it work as the pioneers of the NFL were to making their idea of pro football work. Spring football was an idea that was ahead of its time. Pro football had yet to become the year-round game it is now. Today's OTAs are the USFL. If the USFL had hung in there and found a way to stay alive as the game grew into what it is now, with its "Fantasy League" mania and year-round quality, I think the USFL would've owned the spring and, at some point, would've probably forced some kind of merger with the NFL. The USFL failed because it tried to do too much too soon. It tried to force its product on football fans, instead of letting fans find the product. The pioneers of the NFL ran their teams on a shoestring. They made the business of professional football work and, as their business grew, so did their sport's fan base. It's about commitment. The AFL's pioneers also had it. They found a way to stay alive until the NFL had to accept them. The All-America Conference did some of that, too. The day I heard Donald Trump was one of the USFL's pioneers, I knew the league was doomed.

Evan from Stevens Point, WI

I am a criminal justice major at UW Oshkosh and I recently took an exam with a question that stated, "During a football game, Ray tackled Bob, breaking his ankle. Bob then punched Ray in the face. Can Bob claim self-defense? Can Ray be charged for assault?" What do you think?

I think Ray should step on Bob's ankle, and then visit him in the hospital and have a good laugh. It's a tough game for tough guys. I want it to stop becoming a litigious game for litigious guys.

Kevie from North Port, FL

Mr. Vic, why doesn't the NFL redesign the helmet to a softer material? Something like rubber or something that absorbs impact better.

Again, that helmet existed in the 1960s. It had a pad down the middle of the outside of the helmet; it was possibly the worst helmet ever made. Somebody had the same idea you have. The illogic of it was that the shock that was absorbed was being transferred to the head. The Riddell suspension helmet has long been the prototype for modern helmet design. Its intent is to use the hard outer shell to deflect shock. We are currently in an age of intense helmet-design research. Maybe someone will find a helmet cure for concussions, but I think everyone in the industry would agree that protecting the head allows it to be used as a weapon. That's where the problem is. The intent of the helmet is to protect, not inflict. When that message becomes engrained in the football-playing culture, the problem will go away.

Steve from Victoria, BC

With all of the great receivers the Packers have, what kind of an impact do you think we can expect Randall Cobb to have next year?

I think he has star potential.

Gary from Prosper, TX

Next time the NFL has an old uniform game, why don't they make it complete without the facemask on the helmet? Seems to be a good time to experiment.

That's not going to happen, for obvious reasons, but your question intrigues me. If the players would even agree to play in such a game, and I don't think they would, what would that game look like? Would they even be able to tackle anybody? I think your question and the questions I've posed give us a good idea of how important the invention of the facemask has been in the evolution of the game.

Vanya from West Bend, WI

Why is there a pine tree on top of the new south end zone scoreboard?

Pick the right answer: a.) The Packers didn't have anywhere else to put it. b.) It fell from a plane and stuck there. c.) It's just a decoration. d.) A Christmas tree is used as part of a topping ceremony by ironworkers.

Ben from Allouez, WI

What do you think about players like Kurt Warner saying they probably won't let their kids play football? Yeah, I got hurt a fair amount playing, and my formerly broken fingers will never look the same, and I might get some terrible arthritis in my 60s, but my favorite memories from the first half of my life are on the gridiron.

I understand parents' concern, and I appreciate Warner's, but it bothers me that he continues to draw a paycheck from a game he doesn't believe should be played.

James from Eau Claire, WI

I watched Jerel Worthy in the Wisconsin-MSU games last year and on all the big plays he made, it was because he jumped the snap and was through the offensive line. Is he going to be able to do that in the pros?

He has a penchant for being able to penetrate and disrupt, and that's a skill Dom Capers will find a way to incorporate into the Packers' defensive design, but Worthy is also going to have to develop his ability to hold the point of attack. That's what an Okie end does.

Scott from Wausau, WI

If the lawsuits against the NFL are won, can I get a lawyer and sue my local school district because they never informed me of the dangers of concussions?

High school and college football are at risk, too, and they're watching what's happening on the NFL level very closely, anxiously. What do you think is going to happen to the cost of insuring high school football players as a result of these concussion lawsuits? School districts won't be able to absorb a huge insurance hit. That's where the game is most at risk, at its grassroots level.

Tom from Hallandale Beach, FL

Have you ever thought about naming a topic for the week?

I let the readers do that daily, and they do a great job of it. That's why I say the reader writes this column; I just provide my response. The subject matter is provided by the readers.

John from Chandler, AZ

I am not trying to discredit the Giants in their playoff win over the Packers, but do you think having a week off (first-round bye) can actually hurt a team?

I think it can hurt a team early in the game, not because of rust but because of playoff anxiety and the pressure to win that can build up over however long the team with the bye didn't face pressure to win. The Giants were coming into the game off a win over the Falcons, and winning is a release of pressure. The Giants were relaxed and confident. I thought the Packers were tight early, but they got back to 10-10 early in the second quarter with a 60-yard touchdown drive, and then blocked a field goal attempt by the Giants and, at that point in the game, any anxiety or tightness should've been gone. The third quarter, in my opinion, was the key point in the game. The Packers defense held the Giants to six plays and two punts. It was a chance for the offense to take control of the game, but the Giants sacked Aaron Rodgers and forced a fumble to kill one drive, and then held the Packers to a field goal on a promising drive inside the red zone. That's when I started to get the feeling the Packers were in trouble.

Len from Duryea, PA

Is there a limit on the number of undrafted free agents you can sign?

Yes, you can only sign 90 of them, provided you don't have anybody else under contract.

Jeremy from Indianapolis, IN

Bart Starr's mailbox? I'm assuming you're speaking of his old mailbox at the office and not his home.

No, his home.

Jake from Plattsburgh, NY

What are your thoughts on the style and work of Frank Deford? He seems like a romantic sports writer. I recently heard that he had a difficult time being critical of an athlete, and then facing them in person the next day. Have you had similar difficulties?

Everybody faces that difficulty. That's part of being a sports writer. You have to somehow achieve enough respect in the locker room and enough balance in your reporting that you can tell it like it is and not lose the locker room. I like Deford's work. He's been an outstanding writer for a long time.

Bob from Park City, UT

Do you think a true Packers fan can be friends with a Bears fan?

I think anybody that rejects friendship because of football rooting interests is someone I wouldn't want as a friend.

Fabrizio from Fossano, Italia

Hi, Vic, every day I'm reading your column to improve my English. Do you speak a good English?

I don't think good is the word you want, Fabrizio. I think you want to use the word well. I speak a well English.

Aaron from Nett Lake, MN

With the Packers defense finishing so bad last year, what if they installed a hybrid 3-3-5?

Congratulations! You just invented the "nickel defense."

Dorothy from Amberg, WI

What is the status of Donald Driver?

He just needs to win next week and he's the champ.

Norm from Perth, Western Australia

With all the talk about Nick Perry's size and ability to transfer from DE to OLB, can you tell me why he wouldn't make a good ILB? What differences in body type and style of play is there between ILB and OLB?

When you have his size and speed, you can be used at any of the linebacker positions. Perry is going to give Dom Capers a lot of creativity.

Lucas from Menasha, WI

Vic, I'm nothing without my PEDs every morning. If I don't have two cups of the stuff, I never wake up. Don't take my PEDs away from me.

I'm the same way. If I lose some bulk and start to feel weak, I'm just not myself.

Johnny from East Palatka, FL

Two words, Vic: "Fantasy Football." The insanely humongous following of "Fantasy Football," which dwarfs TV viewership, is changing football as we know it. No one wants a 6-3 mud fest because of their "Fantasy" nonsense. It's ruining it, I think.

I hear what you're saying, but I don't completely agree. The TV networks want ratings and if there's one thing we know about TV ratings, it's that bad-weather games are ratings hits. People want to see late-season games at Lambeau because they want to see snow. How about that 3-0 game at Heinz Field a couple of years ago, when the punt stuck in the mud? It was a ratings bonanza. The ratings climbed steadily through the game and even spiked as midnight approached and the score was still 0-0. Is it possible that everything is just too good and our expectations and standards are too high? When does good become too good? When is bad great?

Ryan from Fredericton, NB

Fifty years from now, when young fans ask about Rodgers, how would you describe him on and off the field?

Calm, composed, confident.

Nicholas from Eagle River, WI

With no real significant football news to keep up with, I am focusing my attention right now on my golf game. Everything seems to be working except the putter. I figure you to be a jack of all trades, so I need some good advice on putting.

I bring a monkey with me and when I get to the green, I give him the putter and I stay in the cart. Come to my golf tournament and I'll let you try my monkey.

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