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Five most important positions other than quarterback


Chuck from State College, PA

I have read different articles through the years about how some teams in the league treat their players better than others. I'm assuming they're referring to amenities, facilities, support staff, etc. Where would you rate the Packers?

It doesn't get any better than this for the players. Everything about the facilities is player-friendly. Everything about the organization is football-first and player-first. The fans are adoring. Last week, following practice, as fans were seeking autographs from players, I heard a guy yell out to a player, "You better get used to the love." The NFL was heading into an era of free agency and Mike Holmgren instituted a lot of player-friendly programs that would make it attractive for players to come to Green Bay. That attitude continues within the organization, but it's not without a singular demand of the players: They must conduct themselves in a manner befitting a Packers player.

Ryan from Clyde, OH

With you having grown up with training camp being a more grueling, strenuous thing, what do you think of this more laid back training camp in the new CBA?

My first thought is that it's not going to produce stories similar to the legendary tales of killer camps of the past. I covered one in Stevens Point, Wis., in 1995. It was the Jaguars' first-ever camp and Tom Coughlin laid the wood to his team in what was record-setting heat in Wisconsin. The temperature hit 106 one day. Coughlin took his team to Wisconsin to get out of the heat in Florida, and the temperatures in Wisconsin were topping the temperatures in Florida; they were running pictures in local newspapers of cattle dying in the field, and Coughlin's players were "dying" on the field in Stevens Point. Because they were an expansion team, they were allowed to start camp early, plus, they were playing in the Hall of Fame Game, which added another week. I remember going there on July 9. I remember that the dorm rooms had no air-conditioning. It was two-a-day every day and full pads always. He had this thing called a "Concentration Line." You crossed it as you went onto the field and from that point forward you better be all business or else. They ran live goal-line drills every day. He'd halt wind sprints and demand do-overs if somebody didn't run hard. A couple of veteran receivers tried to skip practice one day with fake hamstring injuries, and Coughlin ordered them onto the field. Why do we remember such agony so fondly? I can tell you this: Those days are gone.

Adam from Belleville, WI

Based on how well Rodgers did last season, what does he need to get better at? What do you think is his weak point?

I see no weaknesses in his game; I honestly mean that. If there's one thing at which Mike McCarthy would like to see his quarterback improve, it's at avoiding sacks. All young quarterbacks need to learn how to bridle their enthusiasm for making a play, and check the ball down or throw it away to avoid a sack.

Lora from DePere, WI

Vic, you talk a lot about the quarterback position being the most important, which I definitely agree with, but what do you believe are the next most important positions? Could you give us your top five?

If you have a franchise quarterback, as the Packers do, the next most important position is left tackle because he's the quarterback's premier protector. If you don't have a top left tackle, your quarterback is going to get a hit a lot and we know what that means. After left tackle, I think cornerback is the next most important position, followed by right defensive end or rush-backer, the premier pass-rush positions. Passers, pass-blockers, pass-defenders and pass-rushers; those are the premier players in the modern game. Then comes defensive tackle or nose tackle, because he's the guy who sets the tone up front. No. 5? A playmaker anywhere on the field.

Joe from Piscataway, NJ

Do you think Jim Plunkett should be in the Hall of Fame, as he did win two Super Bowls?

He's got the defining postseason moments and significance to the game (he proved a failed quarterback's career can be reclaimed), but he doesn't have the body of work. I'd love to see him get into the Hall of Fame. He's a great story and I love great stories, but I just don't think he has the body of work to make it in, and as the offensive stats of today's players continue to explode, Plunkett will become less of a candidate, I'm afraid.

Don from Schofield, WI

Are the practices filmed so Ted Thompson and the coaches can study them later?

Every practice is shot by the video department and every practice of training camp is viewed for the purpose of evaluating the performance of every player on the roster. One of my all-time favorite personnel guys had a saying: "Get 'em good or get 'em gone." That's the NFL. It's a tough game for tough guys.

Robert from Harvel, IL

Hey, Vic, in your opinion, which team that was a solid, talented playoff team in 2010 will fall in 2011?

I usually have a candidate or two for what I call my "disappointment team of the year," but I don't see one this year. I wonder a little bit about the Patriots. Was that performance against the Jets a harbinger? Is there a message of panic in the Ochocinco and Haynesworth signings? My logic tells me Tom Brady has a lot more left in the tank, and that means the Patriots will stay on top, but there's a blinking light in the back of my head that's saying, "Warning, warning."

Tom from Cedarburg, WI

I think it would be great if the Packers set up live cams on the outdoor practice fields so fans from around the state could follow the action. Has this ever been proposed?

I doubt that it has, probably because every team on the Packers' schedule would love for the Packers to set up live cams on the outdoor practice fields so those teams' scouts could follow the action.

Mike from Zion, IL

Why are the Packers so low-key on everything? You never see them getting free-agent players?

Look at the two teams in Super Bowl XLV. How did they build their rosters? Is there a message in their success?

Rich from Chapel Hill, NC

I love how much I learn about the game from your columns, Vic. For example, I had already learned the difference required for a kickoff vs. punt-returner, so it made perfect sense to me when I heard Mike McCarthy was looking at Green for the kickoff-returner. That said, who are the guys in league history that were so special that they were the best at both duties?

Gale Sayers is the obvious answer. The best at both I ever covered is Rod Woodson. They're both big, fast guys that had the size to return kickoffs and the quickness to return punts.

Scott from Orwell, OH

You have been around some great football teams. In your opinion, where would the present Packers rank against some of the great Pittsburgh teams?

You can't do it because the Steelers of the '70s were pre-cap and the current Packers are products of the cap. Here's what I mean: The cap forced the current Packers to let Cullen Jenkins leave in free agency. The '70s Steelers didn't have to do that. Had the cap been in place then, it would've been Green or Greenwood, not both. It would've been Ham or Lambert, not both. It would've been Swann or Stallworth, not both. You can't compare pre-cap teams to cap teams. In every case, the pre-cap team has to be judged to have had more talent, for the obvious reason that it could have more talent. As long as the current cap system continues, we'll never see another team put as many players into the Hall of Fame as the '60s Packers and '70s Steelers did. The cap won't allow it. Look at what the cap did to the Cowboys. They had Irvin and Harper, and then came the cap and Harper had to go.

Gerald from Karlsruhe, Germany

What do you mean by Aaron "threw it late on the break and without stepping into the throw."

It means Rodgers had enough arm strength to throw the ball to a receiver that had already come out of his break, and to do it by throwing the ball off his back foot.

Stephen from New Meadows, ID

No question here. Don't do video. Just sayin'!

Thanks for the input.

Wes from Mishawaka, IN

I wanted to get your thoughts on the recently introduced QBR metric for quarterback performance. To me it seems like it was a long overdue revamp of a stat that previously neglected to account for situational performance.

It's just more mumbo jumbo intended to attract the legion of fans that are stats crazy. I don't need a new passer rating system to tell me Rodgers is good.

Tom from Chesterfield, VA

What's your early take on the left guard competition? I believe a healthy Lang has the inside track due to the steep learning curve for the rookies. Any predictions?

I think it's Derek Sherrod's job to lose and I don't think he'll lose it.

Noble from Madison, WI

Could a team opt to do two-a-day workouts if they all agreed to it and it wasn't initiated by the coach, or is such conduct forbidden?

Talk about having a bullseye on your back? That's your union brethren you'd be betraying, and you have to play against them. Every player in the league would hit a little harder and a little later when they play the Packers.

Mallory from Saint Paul, MN

Three times in the last four years, the "Family Night" scrimmage has been truncated or cancelled due to weather, and twice the Green Bay Packers have played in the Hall of Fame Game and had it ended early due to weather. Would they cancel a normal preseason game due to inclement weather? It seems like the final outcome of a preseason game has very little to do with why they're played.

I covered a College All-Star Game that was stopped in the third quarter by a storm, and it not only ended the game, it ended the College All-Star Game series forever. It was 1976 and that was it. Football wasn't meant to be played in the summer. Storms are just something we have to endure to get to where we want to be, which is to say in Lambeau Field on a deliciously crisp autumn day. Hang in there. It's just the preseason.

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