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Do Packers have what it takes at four premium positions?

Fans had to fight crows to get to their seats


Matt from Scott AFB, IL

Vic, how does one go about getting a job like yours? I still have a few more years left in my Air Force career, but I would love to be sitting at your desk someday. You have what I would consider my dream job.

I don't know of anybody in the media covering the NFL that didn't spend some of the early years of their career working their way up the ladder. The NFL isn't where you start. Two days after my college graduation, I was covering an American Legion baseball game. My first job paid $7,200 a year. For the first 22 years of my career, I spent every Friday night in the fall covering a high school football game. After the game, I would rush back to the office, bat out my story as quickly as I could, stopping several times as I wrote the story to take reports on the phone of other games. The same was required of everyone on my staff. Friday nights usually ended at about two o'clock in the morning, and it was the same during basketball season. Mike Spofford started the same way. All of the guys from my generation still covering the NFL tell the same story, and we often wax nostalgic with each other about those days. I was in a high school press box with one of my best friends when his wife went into labor; he got the story done. This summer, at the Pro Football Hall of Fame, he will be honored as this year's McCann Award winner. It's the best training I could've ever had because it taught me how to get the story. Nobody supplied you with stats; you did your own. I drew a line down the middle of a legal pad and broke the game down into offensive possessions. On a separate sheet of paper, I added or subtracted yardage per play. I developed lasting relationships with high school coaches, and they'd call me with scoops. Maybe that was the most important thing I learned from covering high school football. I learned how to work with coaches to earn their trust and get the story. Are you willing to do that for 22 years, and with no guarantee that you won't do it for the rest of your life?

Dan from Tulare, SD

Vic, I'm thinking about coaching high school football because I feel these are some of the most profound teaching moments teenagers will experience in their life. If you were a football coach at any level, how would your demeanor be?

The level at which you coach determines how you coach. High school coaches paint their team's locker rooms. One of my best friends is a somewhat legendary high school coach who looked for assistant coaches that possessed carpentry skills. Why? Because school boards aren't likely to approve large expenditures, and if you want improvements made to your team's locker room, you're probably going to have to do them yourself. You treat young people differently than you treat men earning millions of dollars. High school coaches from when and where I grew up were equal parts coaches and politicians. The most esteemed coaches were also the most popular man in town. They were coach/mayor. NFL coaches seek privacy. High school coaches made sure they were seen. They went to spaghetti dinner night at the Elks and moved from table to table, saying hello to everybody and offering a little perspective on the upcoming season. They were salesmen, always selling their programs. Why? Because their fates were in the hands of the school board, and the school board members' fates were in the hands of the voters. I have so many wonderful memories of high school football. The coach at my high school was a tough guy. One day he heard the board had called a special meeting for that night, ostensibly to fire him. So the coach showed up at the meeting, walked into the room and said, "I hear you're voting on whether to fire me. OK, let's vote." He walked up to the nearest board member and said, "How do you vote?" By the time he made his way around the room, he was still the coach, by unanimous vote. My all-time favorite coach/board story, however, involves a coach who was notorious for pushing the envelope. When you hired him, you accepted that there would be controversy, in exchange for winning. A school tired of losing hired him. After several years of winning, they fired him. He called me to tell me the news. I said, "What happened?" He said, "They got tired of winning."

Tom from West Bend, WI

When I got Mike Daniels' autograph after the Cruise for Cancer, I said to him whoever lines up across from you, kill 'em with love. He replied, "I'll kill 'em with malice." So there you go, setting the tone.

There is good maliceness and there is bad maliceness. I'm for good maliceness.

Stephanie from Appleton, WI

Vic, I was discouraged to hear it's the fear of booing from the fans that is holding up the retiring of Favre's number. He didn't leave on good terms but that doesn't tarnish what he did for this team, this city and these fans for so long. Then I read your comments section at the bottom of the column and I was so happy to see the fans write that they, too, want him to come back and are grateful for all he did here. It was winsome.

That's why it'll happen. Packers fans are too appreciative and fun-loving to hold a grudge. They know what Brett Favre's place in history is and it can't be erased. It should be celebrated, and when the time is right, it will be celebrated. The time must be absolutely right. When this happens, it must be executed perfectly because it'll be the last chance to get it right. There's no rush.

Howard from Gilbert, AZ

Like always, the Packers are developing and have several wide receivers on the roster. Being it's a contract year for Jordy and Randall, do you think the Packers will pay out for both of them?

It's a question I can't answer. There's no doubt in my mind the team wants to keep both players, and I suspect they will keep both guys, but the commitment to keeping the future of your salary cap healthy must never waver, and wide receiver is a position for which this team has had a lot of success finding and developing star-quality players. We're just going to have to wait and see what transpires.

Ken from Iowa City, IA

In Friday's "Ask Vic," you said: "I would also say that as critical to a team's success as the offensive line is, the best teams have the best combination of quarterback, left tackle, pass rusher and shut-down corner." Do we have this?

The Packers certainly have the quarterback. Based on the way David Bakhtiari played last season, and based on the depth the Packers have at tackle, I would give them a check at left tackle. Pass rusher? Clay Matthews is a star, but he's facing what has been a daunting recovery from a thumb injury. Sam Shields, of course, was signed to be that shut-down corner. In my opinion, the Packers have one of the league's best combinations at the four premium positions.

Ryan from Atlanta, GA

Vic, if Aaron Rodgers sustained an injury like Finley's, had the same fusion surgery and was cleared by his personal doctors, do the Packers bring him back?

Again, the surgery isn't the issue; the location of the surgery is. That's the part I don't think we're understanding. Recovery from fusion surgery is rather routine. The body sends bone to the surgically repaired level, fusing the graft to the vertebrae above and below. My graft was fused in six weeks. At that point, it's all about recovery from any nerve damage that resulted from the injury. When that happens, you're healed. As far as continuing to play football, it's all about the level at which the injury occurred. Low is good, high is bad. Even for a quarterback, high is bad. Peyton Manning's fusion is below the "Rubicon."

Mike from Somerset, WI

Vic, I am not pleased with the headlines that the Packers are afraid of Favre getting booed if he returns to Lambeau. I believe it's's fault for not doing more to promote his legacy sooner with video coverage of his years leading the Packers. Favre deserves this and we deserve him back in the family. It's a shame and is doing nothing about it. There is a lack of commitment from the organization and this needs to change.

There will be a right time. This isn't something you rush.

Michael from Wauwatosa, WI

Vic, I recently read an article that the NFL is considering having a developmental league in the next year or two. How familiar are you with it and what do you think are the pros and cons of it?

You're talking about a proposed league that has no affiliation with the NFL. I'm not familiar with the proposed league, but here's what I would say about the idea: It's not likely to drive a lot of revenue, but it's very likely to pay out a lot of money in workmen's comp and injury settlements. I am not interested in owning one of the teams in that league.

Marc from Owensboro, KY

I was watching a feature about the 1983 draft and I couldn't help but notice Pete Rozelle seemed to be really getting a kick out of some of the picks. I also noticed he really seemed to hate Al Davis. I guess I'm just too young to remember, but was he always like that, and did he and Davis really hate each other that much? Why?

Davis was the commissioner of the AFL when that league's owners voted to merge with the NFL. Davis was opposed to the merger. He wanted to keep fighting. So, Davis and Pete were rival commissioners, and they were never able to extinguish their adversarial relationship. Pete was the author of leaguethink. Davis was its greatest critic and was fond of being the one dissenting vote in league matters. He sued the NFL several times, and scored wins that threatened the leaguethink mentality that made the NFL what it was and still is. I was never an Al Davis guy. If you want to know more, read the book, "Slick."

Ken from New York, NY

It's safe to open your shades now.

It's over?

Matt from Marquette, MI

Vic, I understand that making the player's helmets too strong increases the use of the head in tackling, which increases head and spinal injury. Why can't they put an accelerometer in the helmet and if the player's head hits a certain threshold, he needs to be put on the sideline for a play while they are screened for a concussion?

Cool! It would be like "Queen for a Day."

Bob from Washington, DC

Vic, I'm wondering if fourth-quarter comebacks are overrated and usually mean the team is not very good. I checked and they credit Rodgers with six, but none during the Super Bowl season (2010) or during the next (2011), when the offense was unstoppable. Favre only had one in the Super Bowl seasons of 1996 and 1997. I love a fourth-quarter comeback as much as anyone, but I think they are a poor way to judge a quarterback. Do you agree?

If he has the lead all of the time, yeah, it's a bad way to judge him, but for the guys whose teams are trailing, it says a lot about how they perform at crunch time. When it comes to quarterbacking, I put crunch time above all else. I don't need stats to tell me Aaron Rodgers is a crunch-time quarterback. Where's the stat for that third-down completion in Super Bowl XLV? That's crunch time.

Shaun from Redlands, CA

"Don't think of plays, think of players." -- Mike McCarthy. Sounds like you and coach have been in cahoots, Vic.

I have never known a coach, even Bill Walsh, who is one of the most strategy-minded coaches in NFL history, to say: "Don't think of players, think of plays." It was Walsh that said that at some point in the season the coach has to turn the team over to the team. Players win; coaches teach players to win.

Don from McFarland, WI

Love your Alumni Spotlight. How do you get them to Green Bay? Just in town for the weekend?

We interview them when they are featured guests for home games.

Christopher from Iron Mountain, MI

Who will be the Packers' starting tight end this year?

It's Andrew Quarless' job to hold.

Randy from Milwaukee, WI

Vic, who do you think will play opposite Clay Mathews at the other linebacker position by midseason?

Don't think in terms of two outside and two inside linebackers. I think our definition of inside and outside linebackers will be blurred this year. I think we're going to see a lot of creativity we'll struggle to define in depth-chart terms.

Kevin from Austin, TX

Vic, I was wondering if you've ever considered the idea of a "Best of Ask Vic" column? If so, please include the question about the guy who had to fight crows to get to his seat. That makes me laugh every time I think of it.

Sometimes literal interpretation can be fun. I didn't think it was especially funny when I was writing the answer, but I still have readers tell me it's their all-time favorite "Ask Vic" question and answer. It's from May 15, 2009. A gentleman from California wrote: "In a declining economy, why fight crows, high ticket prices and parking when you can see the game better in HD from your own living room? I wouldn't call that person any less of a fan." I responded: "You have to fight crows? I didn't know that. That shocks me. I've been to every Jaguars home game in the team's history and I can't once remember having to fight crows to get from the car to the stadium. Maybe it's because I arrive so early. I'll tell you, if what you're saying is true, then I can't blame fans for not coming to the games. I wouldn't fight crows to go to a football game, either. In fact, I take my hat off to those who've fought the crows and continued to attend the games. Why didn't someone bring this up earlier? I have no doubt the Jaguars would've addressed this problem. There's no way Wayne Weaver wants his team's fans having to fight crows to get to their seat."

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