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Battle for No. 4 WR position will be camp highlight

RFA tenders are tool for protecting cap, promoting long-term contract


WR Jarrett Boykin

Paul from Eau Claire, WI

If it's players, not plays, which I can understand, how do all of us know when it might be the coaches that are the problem?

All you have to do is wait, because if losing persists, the coaches will be fired. Ultimately, losing always falls on the coaches. They are always the "problem."

Dan from Vancouver, WA

You said Jim Brown ran for over 1,800 yards in 14 games in 1963. That's incredible! Considering offensive linemen weren't allowed to use their hands when blocking at this time, Brown's stats seem inhuman. What made Brown such a unique back?

He was bigger, stronger, faster.

Kyle from Madison, WI

Vic, while talking about multiple reports aiding the credibility of an event, one interesting event jumped out in my mind. In 1917, 70,000 people in Fatima, Portugal, reported seeing the sun break apart and fall into the Earth. Now granted, multiple reports from multiple sources can aid in determining the truthfulness of an event actually happening, however, I'm fairly certain the sun did not, in fact, crash into the earth in 1917.

That's a perfect example of why never to believe the media.

John from Los Angeles, CA

If it's always the players and not the plays, why did Mike McCarthy send his coaches to Texas A&M this year?

To better learn how to coach their players to perform against the read-option.

Carl from Washington, DC

Vic, you say journalism is about entertaining the viewer/reader and not caring about the facts to back it up. Is this why channels like Fox News even exist? Also, you spelled bologna wrong.

First of all, I have never played loose with the facts for the sake of entertaining the reader, nor have I ever espoused that philosophy. I can't imagine where you got that. Secondly, I did not spell baloney incorrectly. Bologna is a meat you eat; baloney is an expression of nonsense or foolishness. The facts, right?

Nolan from La Crosse, WI

Vic, is there a limit to how many coaches a team can have or how much a team can pay the coaching staffs?


Travis from Chicago, IL

How much weight does the first game of the season against the 49ers carry?

The truth? Not much. By the time December rolls around, that game will long have been forgotten. The Packers lost the opener at home to the 49ers last season, and all the Packers had to do was win in Minnesota late last season and that playoff game against the 49ers would've been in Green Bay. They remember what you do in December. Now, having said all of that, it sure would make everyone feel good if the Packers went to San Francisco and stoned the team that hung 579 on them in January.

Tom from North Fond du Lac, WI

In the 1970s and 1980s, what did you do from February until August?

The all-year season began in the '80s, after the draft became a big TV production and minicamp became an event we covered. My first recollection of minicamp was the "Shouldergate" event in the late '70s. "Shouldergate" made minicamp a coverable event. It was prior to "Shouldergate" and prior to Mel Kiper that covering football meant saying goodbye in January and not really saying hello again, except for two days of the draft, until training camp, which began in those days right after the Fourth of July and lasted nine weeks, which included a six-game preseason. When I first started covering the NFL, the draft was held in January, right after the Super Bowl was played. Then, it truly was goodbye until training camp because players worked out in the spring on their own. The draft was moved to April in 1976. That was the first move toward the all-year season. Then came "Shouldergate," then Mel and then strength and conditioning and, finally, OTAs.

Philip from Las Vegas, NV

Vic, I'm curious how the addition of Datone Jones affects Mike Neal. Will we ever see them in tandem as opposite defensive ends in the base defense?

I can't answer your question except to say that I think the addition of Jones has allowed for Neal's role to be expanded. It intrigues me. This is a swing for the fence. With Neal on the field at linebacker, the Packers can put a lot of size on the field to support against the run. If Neal can rush the passer from a standing position, this can work. That's the key; he has to be able to rush from a linebacker position or the move creates a liability in coverage.

William from Jacksonville, FL

With the group think that has evolved about current players vs. past players, do you ever feel like you are battling against the Flat Earth Society?

It's the easiest thing I do; it's not a battle. Any time I have trouble finding questions that aren't about Cullen Jenkins, all I have to do is suggest that a player from 40 years ago was as good as a player of today, or do the players, not plays thing. Immediately, my inbox lights up. Sometimes I feel cheap, but then I get over it. It never ceases to amaze me how the contemporary football fan is threatened by the past and the notion that what the players do is more important than what the fans think the players should do.

Anton from Ann Arbor, MI

Vic, I'm wondering if you can expand upon your answer to the question about when a team scraps their game plan. Your response seemed to imply your lack of respect for the validity of the question. Your answer: If your defense can't stop them, you better start working on a new game plan for next year's draft. Large comebacks are not impossible.

They're not, but what are you gonna do next week? Look, I'm a realist. My football beliefs are grounded in the philosophy that you win with players. If you don't have the players, the next big "game" on your schedule is the next draft. That's just me. I'm realistic and I'm patient. Let me know how that comeback turns out for you; I'm gonna go scout some players.

Billy from Las Cruces, NM

With all of this talk of the top 10 quarterbacks under 25, it got me wondering. Which one of those quarterbacks would you rather have your team built around? I can't help but think the quarterback that will have the best career is Andy Dalton. He has a strong arm, all of the intangibles, a great work ethic and all of the tools around him necessary to make a run to the big show.

Dalton would not be my choice. He does not have a strong arm. That's the rap against him. He has adequate-at-best arm strength. If I was picking a young quarterback, it would be Andrew Luck. He can make all of the throws and he has the mind and instincts you want in a drop-back, franchise quarterback. I'm sold on RG3's and Colin Kaepernick's abilities, but I'm not sold on the run-around systems in which they play.

Patrick from Dallas, TX

After "The Big Three," which receiver do you see becoming the No. 4 guy?

That's one of the questions that'll highlight training camp. Will one of the holdovers, such as Jarrett Boykin or Jeremy Ross, rise to the occasion? Or might one of the rookies, a Charles Johnson or Kevin Dorsey, come out of nowhere to be No. 4? At this point, I would give Boykin the edge. This is an example of what I love about draft and develop. Letting players leave in free agency, as the Packers did with Greg Jennings, keeps your cap healthy and your roster young.

Matthew from Maffra, Australia

I understand the players, not plays philosophy; it makes sense because it's not like there are any secret plays. How much importance do you place on calling the right play at the right time?

It's of critical importance. You can set a play up by what you do in the previous plays. You can influence a defense, for example, to think one way, and then hit them the other way. That doesn't mean, however, that a perfectly conceived play will achieve a perfect result. Players can always play above the X's and O's. That's what coaches call it. Tom Coughlin was always big on playing above the X's and O's. I'll give you an example of it. It's from a game between the Oilers and Jaguars at the Liberty Bowl, when the Oilers spent a year in Memphis on the way to Nashville. The Oilers had rallied and were down on the goal line, needing a touchdown to win. They had a perfect play set up; it was one of those shovel passes to the running back. It should've blown wide open for a walk-in touchdown, but Jaguars veteran defensive end Jeff Lageman saw something in a lineman's stance. He saw him cheat and lean and it tipped Lageman to the shovel play and he played it and stopped it. He played above the X's and O's or the Oilers would've scored and won. I'm not going to say plays aren't important, but in the end, it's always about players, not plays, because X's and O's don't move, only players do.

Luke from East Dubuque, IL

Going along with the journalism discussion, if we could see a rise of romance in journalism, as in the past, would we see cool player nicknames again?

Yeah, maybe, but I don't think that's what the big gain would be. The big gain, in my opinion, is that we'd start to see players and coaches begin speaking to the media in meaningful ways again. Instead of attempting to avoid the question, they might begin trying to answer it. Everybody wants to be part of a pretty picture. When a writer gets a reputation for "painting" a pretty picture, he won't lack for subjects to "paint."

Tou from Eau Claire, WI

Did the Packers not give Sam Shields a long-term contract because they don't truly believe in his play? Do you think he'll choose to leave our organization if he does have a huge year?

Again, RFA tenders are a tool for protecting your salary cap and stimulating negotiations on a long-term contract. They were provided in the CBA by the owners and players with those conditions in mind. You can't give away your salary cap to every player that wants a big contract. Every player wants a big contract. He should. Teams have to draw the line and use whatever tools are available to them to massage their cap and protect their investment. Shields is an investment. He gets it.

Bob from Orlando, FL

What is your opinion of the Super Bowl being in a cold-weather city this year vs. a warm-weather climate?

I think the league is taking a tremendous risk. Remember Atlanta a few years ago? How about Dallas for XLV? Ice and snow shut those cities down. That's what happens when you travel above the weather line. New York is far above the weather line.

Leonardo from London, Middlesex

Your answer about the success of Broncos running backs had me thinking that maybe new schemes allow to see (and employ) talents where others don't. That can create the winning edge you are looking for (as well as explain why and how schemes play a factor).

Sure they do. The zone-blocking strategy of walling up and cutting in behind it is genius, and it's had a profound impact on the evolution of the game. First of all, it found a way to use talented running backs that otherwise might not have fit in the pro game. That's what great coaches do; they find ways to use talent. Zone blocking also required innovation on defense, which is part of the evolutionary process. The zone-blitz scheme for which Dom Capers is famous has had the same impact on the game. It found a way to use tweeners.

William from Savannah, GA

I am sure someone will ask: Fearsome Foursome vs. Steel Curtain, which was better? I am not sure there is a correct answer. Two incredible sets of personalities, however. Although they were a little before your time as a sports journalist, did you ever spend any time with Deacon Jones or other members of the Fearsome Foursome?

I liked Merlin Olsen and had conversations with him when he was a broadcaster. He was a wonderful, wonderful man. The debate to which you refer is an example of meaningful comparison. They were both four-man fronts from a two-gapping era. Olsen was Joe Greene, Jones was L.C. Greenwood, Lamar Lundy was Dwight White and Rosey Grier and, later, Roger Brown were Ernie Holmes. This one honestly looks like a tie. It's important to note there were other "Fearsome Foursome" defensive lines. The Ernie Ladd line in San Diego and the Alex Karras line in Detroit were also nicknamed "Fearsome Foursome," but the one in Los Angeles stuck.

Chris from Coquitlam, BC

Do you think some fans will be disappointed if the run game isn't dramatically better?

I know of one sportswriter who will be disappointed if it isn't. By the way, folks, we only have a few positions remaining for "Ask Vic Day." If you'd like to attend, I would suggest registering for the event soon.

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