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Football players best to cover

Do these three things when you watch a football game


Del from Sterling, IL

After a sluggish start two years ago, I was in favor of starters playing more in preseason games. Last year we lost Jordy Nelson in the preseason and I was bummed he was injured in a meaningless game. What do you think is the best approach to preseason games?

If I was a head coach I would play my top-of-the-roster players only enough for them to acquire their game legs. It's not that I believe that'll prepare them best to start the season, it's just that the "don't play your starters" outcry has become so deafening I think it's become a distraction. It's difficult, in my opinion, to focus your team for a preseason game when your fans and media are screaming, "Don't play them."

James from Tualatin, OR

As a sportswriter, what exactly do you look for when you watch a game?

The first thing I watch is the line of scrimmage. Does it move? Then I decide which quarterback is sharpest. By the time the game has turned into the second quarter, the game plans have been revealed and I weigh one against the other: Which team is having more success executing its plan? After that, it's all about big plays.

Jeremy from Appleton, WI

Vic, I see Charlie Peprah was hired as a scouting assistant. Do these positions require the person to live in the city of their NFL team or can they work remotely?

Area scouts tend to live in the area they scout. For example, I'm scouting the beach for talent.

Zack from Vancouver, WA

I was wondering about the franchise tag. I heard Von Miller and others complain about being tagged, but I don't understand why it's a bad thing. It's guaranteed money. Is it just the fact it's a one-year deal, or is there something more?

No, that's it. They want the long-term contract with the big signing bonus. It's the only security they have against an injury that would diminish their value or end their career. I'm not a fan of the franchise tag. I'd like to see the two sides work on a new idea that would help teams safeguard their rights to a player without putting the player at financial risk.

Lee from Oshkosh, WI

Baseball has many farm systems. Why can't the NFL do something like that?

The medical liability is too great. Be that as it may, I think we're heading for some kind of leaguewide developmental concept.

Tal from Ascot, UK

Why cover football? Why not golf or another sport?

I've also covered baseball, basketball and golf. Football was instantly my favorite and it's because the players were so good with the media. Football is the best writing sport. The drama is sensational and the players with whom I grew up covering football loved to talk to the media. Joe Greene's dorm-room door was always open. Imagine what that was like for a young reporter. We've lost some of that, but football is still the best. I love Aaron Rodgers' postgame press conferences. They're always flavorful. He's not dismissive. He works at them, and that means a lot to me.

Collin from Blair, NE

Is there a difference between the mind of Green Bay game Vic and college football game Vic? When you watch college football, do you still find yourself thinking of ledes you'd write for the game?

Yeah, there's a difference. I watch the Packers to work; I watch college football to relax and play scout.

Jon from Bloomfield, NJ

Even down to the grill, it seems like you've got it all figured out. What don't you have figured out, Vic?

I haven't figured out how not to worry. Anyone who has children knows what I mean.

Jason from Granger, IA

How do the Packers find balance between staying good right now and staying young? For example, James Jones led the team in all receiving categories last year and is most likely our best option at No. 3 receiver. John Kuhn hasn't shown many signs of decline and is still a top fullback in the league. It's doubtful either of these men will be on the roster this year. We are trading major contributors this year for potential contributors in the future. I guess I don't quite get it.

Youth must be served. It makes you good now and later.

Dennis from Superior, WI

Vic, I just listened to coach's press conference. He said he is not going to praise or call out a player this camp. He said it puts too much pressure on them.

Paul Brown said "I pay you to do it right. I'll tell you when you do it wrong." Bill Parcells motivated with job insecurity. Bill Cowher and a lot of players-type coaches motivate with praise. Whatever it takes. The most important thing for a coach is to be genuine. That's what resonates with his players.

James from Milwaukee, WI

Ali had Cosell. Shouldn't you be the one who makes players interesting? Ask a better question. Get a better answer.

Here's the difference: Cosell had Ali on live network television. When Cosell commented that Ali was truculent, Ali had to respond in a manner that wouldn't offend the viewer. If I suggest to a player he's truculent, he can tell me to stick it in my ear and nobody will know what he said. I'd love to see a fan walk up to a player and ask one of their tough questions. Just because you ask it, doesn't mean he's going to answer it.

William from Middleton, WI

Love the column, Vic, but how and why did you leave Jackie Robinson off your all-sports Mt. Rushmore? I thought for sure he'd be on there.

He certainly belongs there, but I elected to make Jim Thorpe my minority representative. Robinson has been greatly celebrated. Thorpe has been barely acknowledged.

Tom from Lehi, UT

Vic, do you have a Mt. Rushmore of NFL groundskeepers? If so, what made their grass memorable to you?

The first head would belong to Dirt DiNardo, the legendary groundskeeper at Three Rivers Stadium. He engineered the greatest groundskeeping stunt in football history. As the AFC football world celebrated itself in the stadium's Allegheny Club the night before the 1975 AFC title game, the gigantic tarpaulin bubble on the other side of the Allegheny Club glass was about to burst and turn the field to ice. It's comical. My second head would belong to the Packers' Allen Johnson. He's the only groundskeeper I've ever known to get his own TV commercial. My third head would belong to legendary George Toma, the league's long-time top guy. I once sought George's advice on a lawn problem I was having. He told me my problem was the region in which I lived. It was too hot for bluegrass but not hot enough for Bermuda grass. What can I do? I asked. Not much, he said. I felt a sense of absolution. Mine would be the fourth head. Why? Because it's my Mt. Rushmore and nobody cuts grass better than I do.

Luke from Des Moines, IA

Vic, since you love grass so much, what do you think of Oakmont's decision to cut down 4,000 trees? You like the green parking lot?

I love it. Cut 'em all down. The course is magnificent. It's been returned to its roots. It looks like a grass sculpture. There is, however, one problem. Oakmont's logo is that of a squirrel holding a golf ball. No trees, no squirrels. Au revoir, squirrel.

Freddie from Edgemoor, SC

James Harrison on his hesitancy to let his son play tackle football: "He wants to start playing tackle. To be honest, I'm not comfortable with it unless I can be there every day. I want him to learn it properly. I don't want him to go to a program where they've just got the kids doing Oklahoma drills and stuff like that that has them banging their heads for no reason." I think James gets it, Vic.

How'd you like to be his kid's coach? There goes the wildcat.

James from Freehold, NJ

The 2014 Packers peaked approximately four minutes too early. Sometimes, that's all it takes.

Yeah, the Cinderella theory.

Matt from Waunakee, WI

Are you a picker or do you take a big divot?

My divots are dollar bills. Just a sprinkle of sand will bring the grass back overnight.

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