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For what teams is this a make-or-break season?

Colin Kaepernick passed the eye test


Lester from Plymouth, MN

Did you like the SI pictures of Colin Kaepernick? I still prefer Joe in pantyhose.

I didn't have to see the pictures. I happened to walk past Kaepernick on the field in pregame last January. He passed the eye test.

Justin from Davenport, IA

Vic, training camp is soon upon us, and I know here in Iowa right now it's very hot and humid. How do teams deal with the extreme heat and humidity during camps?

Hydrate and be smart. It's an issue in every camp in the league, but if you really want to feel heat and humidity in August, go to a training camp in Florida. The Jaguars installed lights at their practice field so they could have night practices. That's one way to deal with the heat; get out of the sun. They also built an air-conditioned shelter, to which the team would repair during water breaks. That's another way to deal with the heat; cool off from time to time so you don't overheat. For a lot of years, I watched teams come into Jacksonville for a one o'clock kick in September and literally lock up with exhaustion. Seattle opened in Jacksonville in 2005, the year the Seahawks won the NFC. They led at halftime but could do little more than go through the motions in the second half. That's the worst heat meltdown I've ever seen. Dallas, after spending training camp in Oxnard, Calif., opened in Jacksonville in 2006, quickly took a 14-0 lead and then barely moved the chains the rest of the game. The Steelers got their first dose of the Jacksonville heat in early October of 1995, a season when they would win in the AFC. During a time out, Chad Brown collapsed and fell flat on his face. The Steelers' locker room floor was a heap of IV hoses and bags. Heat and humidity, in my opinion, are greater obstacles for northern teams and dome teams heading south early in the season, than cold and snow are for southern teams heading north late in the season. The Packers haven't had to play one of those early-season heat games since Week 4 of 2008, when they lost in Tampa Bay, and it doesn't appear they'll face a heat game this year, either. That's big.

James from LaPorte, CO

What do you think about an expansion team in Los Angeles called the Zebras? Not very intimidating, is it? But if nature has already designed the uniforms to confuse predators, and the NFL has already implemented referee uniforms that are similar to zebra stripes, think of how confused other teams would be by the Zebras' uniforms. But then, having the colors of green turf and white stripes hasn't given the Jets much of an edge, has it?

Colorado, huh?

Thomas from Fruit Cove, FL

Vic, with all due respect, how are you doing? I have never seen you post this one question.

As Joe Namath said, I'm just trying to get by, Thomas. You know what I mean?

Mark from Bettendorf, IA

Vic, someone made the following comment: "If the NFL really wants to corral what could be a huge market in Europe, it will want to consider the fact that the Super Bowl kicks off at 11:30 p.m. in London, 12:30 a.m. in Paris." I often wondered why the Super Bowl isn't played on Saturday nights. Seems to me this would make the game even more special, and the working stiffs wouldn't have to worry about getting up the next day. Your thoughts?

There are a lot of TVs in Europe. Think of all the TV rights money the NFL could tap by developing its brand in Europe. It's just a matter of time, and when that day comes, the starting time for the Super Bowl will become an issue.

Joe from Bloomington, IN

My better half had a life-changing revelation: Whenever she gets angry, it's rooted in some expectation.

Never expect happiness. I treat it as a wonderful surprise.

Matt from Cumberland, RI

I'm a big Packers fan and love the column. I read it every day. I realized no one has ever brought up Ernie Davis, the running back out of Syracuse who was drafted by the Browns and would have been alongside Jim Brown. It's a shame he died before he even played in a professional game. Do you think we missed out on what could have been the best running back tandem ever?

It's the great unknown: How was Paul Brown going to blend his usage of Jim Brown and Davis? Jim Brown ran in a split-backs formation. He was the fullback, or dominant running back. Ernie Green would become his halfback, or dominant blocking back. Halfbacks blocked a lot and ran a little. Fullbacks ran a lot and blocked a little, but Jim Brown all but refused to block. So, was Paul Brown going to use Davis as Green was used? If that was the plan, then one of those great backs wasn't going to get as many carries as he had been accustomed. How would Jim Brown have reacted to a reduction in rushing attempts? Would Davis have been as effective a blocker as Green would be? Would Paul Brown have traded Jim Brown and replaced him with Davis? Paul Brown was a strict disciplinarian and Jim Brown wasn't in the Paul Brown mold. We'll never know the answers to those questions.

Paul from Milwaukee, WI

Vic, can you describe the Oklahoma drill? I guess its focus is tackling technique.

That's not its focus. The Oklahoma drill is an exercise in first contact. I've seen it run when the back blew between the bags and the guys on the defense were hooting and hollering about their man's victory. Why? Because the defender got off the ball first, got under the blocker and fork-lifted him. When run in its conventional form, in which a blocker is against a defender, the main thrust of the drill is over in a flash. Who got leverage? That's the issue. You wanna hear a thump, and then you wanna see whose head is raised. The guy whose head is raised has lost the drill, no matter what happens from that point on. That's old-school football.

Bowe from Coarsegold, CA

Vic, all this talk about QB lists is getting old. If you had to build an offensive line around one player, past or present, who would it be?

Anthony Munoz.

Jake from Stevens Point, WI

With all the talk of the Redskins changing their name, I would not want to see it changed but I understand why. Your thoughts?

I've thought about this issue a lot. What should be done? It's not clear-cut. Syracuse dropped the "men" and shortened its name to the Orange. Maybe the Redskins could modify their name in some way and maintain the team's identity; I don't know, I'm just saying. Here's what I do know: It's one man's call, and no matter what he decides, he's gonna get ripped. So, who does Daniel Snyder least want to embitter, a civilization of people, or a "nation" of his team's fans? I wonder if agreeing to establishing a philanthropy could make this problem go away.

Emily from Spokane, WA

There has been a lot of talk about this season being a make-or-break season for teams like New England, Steelers and Denver. Do you believe it's a make-or-break season for these teams or any other teams?

I can see where that might apply to the Broncos, since time is running out on Peyton Manning, but how is it a make-or-break season for the Patriots and Steelers? The Patriots have already won three Super Bowls and barely lost two others, and the Steelers are clearly in a rebuilding phase. Thomas Dimitroff spoke at the combine about the Falcons facing an age issue, so they could be looking at some retooling in the future and that could make this a make-or-break season for them, and I think the Cowboys are clearly in that mode, which I base mostly on the contract restructuring they've done in the offseason.

Daniel from Arcola, IL

If someone were to compile every "Ask Vic" ever posted into a book, I would pay a large sum for that book. Just an idea. This column is truly my favorite piece of literature of all time. Thanks for the entertainment, education and perspective.

I was playing with numbers the other day and this is what I got. At an average of 20 questions a day, "Ask Vic" answers about 5,000 questions a year. On the conservative side, the column has answered about 50,000 questions during its existence.

Paul from Northbrook, IL

Circling back to Jim Thorpe, I believe many of your readers would enjoy this book: "Carlisle vs. Army: Jim Thorpe, Dwight Eisenhower, Pop Warner, and the Forgotten Story of Football's Greatest Battle," by Lars Anderson.

Anderson gives credence to the punt story.

David from Arlington, VA

Vic, I'm giving you a time machine. You can go back in time and attend one NFL and one college game of your choosing. Which games are you attending?

The 1958 NFL title game and the 1966 Notre Dame-Michigan State game.

Rob from Edmonton, AB

Vic, how could you not mention the Mike Renfro non-catch (Oilers vs. Pittsburgh, 1979) or Jerry Rice non-fumble (Packers vs. 49ers, 1999)? Both were key playoff games without instant replay or coaches challenges. Both calls get changed and Steelers might be missing a Super Bowl and Packers might have one more.

I can't go back through history and name them all. I went with the most dramatic example I could remember. Rob Lytle did not score. It's that simple. Secondly, you're wrong about the Renfro non-catch. A camera positioned in the upper deck and looking down on the play showed the ball moving back and forth between Renfro's hands and his chest as he was going out of bounds. I was at Pete Rozelle's Super Bowl press conference when he used that camera shot to support the officials' ruling of no catch. That prompted Bum Phillips to respond that the Oilers didn't complain about it and don't like having their nose rubbed in it, or something to that effect. I remember writing a column supporting Bum's opinion. I didn't like reviewing calls back then, and I like it even less today. That was one of the first times it happened, and it kind of opened the door to what would become a growing practice of second-guessing officials.

James from New Richmond, WI

I was watching a documentary on the NFL Network about Tom Landry. I noticed toward the end that Tom Landry often got upset at the players claiming his game plan was perfect but the players couldn't execute it properly. That somewhat contradicts your players, not plays idea. I'm not saying you are wrong, as I mostly agree with your thought process. I was just wondering your opinion on the late great Tom Landry's outlook on his perfect game plans.

If Coach Landry's game plans were perfect, but they didn't always meet with success because the players failed to execute them, then doesn't that support the importance of players?

Arthur from Stillwater, OK

What would be the perfect mix between run and pass, 65/35 pass?

I like 60/40, because it means you're winning the battle of the line of scrimmage when you hit 40 percent runs. When you figure in Aaron Rodgers' scrambles as passing plays, the Packers were just north of 60 percent passing last season. Their balance was OK, but when you back out Randall Cobb's and Rodgers' team-leading yards-per-rush averages, the team's overall yards-per-rush average wasn't what you'd like it to be. As that improves, rushing attempts will likely increase.

Eric from Amherst Junction, WI

Vic, do you ever see a day when coaches end up having a cap?

Nobody seems to be concerned about it, which would indicate to me that nobody has found evidence to support more coaches result in more wins.

Jimmy from Chicago, IL

Vic, it seems to me the once noble profession of sports journalism has become a bizarre charade in which "experts" trade unfounded or blatantly obvious quips, and compile the results into painfully meaningless lists and esoteric infographics. There is no romance or depth to be found in vapid rabblerousing mouthpieces. No soul! Yet, we crave it, it would seem.

Fans love controversy. Don't blame us for that. Blame us for giving the fans what they want.

Mike from Wisconsin Rapids, WI

Vic, any memories of Lynn Dickey?

My fondest memory of Dickey is of having read a story about him from when he was at Kansas State and he wore white shoes because Joe Namath did. The story referred to "Broadway Lynn," and I loved it because I've always loved athletes that possess verve and personality. If I could address all professional athletes, I would attempt to persuade them to let their hair down, so to speak, and have fun with their game. Tell us your story. Give us the flavor of the game you play. Take the chance the media might like you, immortalize you, paint you in a positive light. Have thick skin. Learn to laugh at yourself. Don't take yourself too seriously. It's worked for a lot of players, stars and non-stars alike. I covered two games in which Dickey played. He played well in each. I would've enjoyed covering him full-time.

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