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Four trees you won't find out back

Green Bay is a grow-on-you kind of place


Robert from West Fargo, ND

Vic, I feel like the Green Bay Packers are always a highly motivated squad. We've got the fan base and the storied organization, the draft-and-develop buy-in, excellent coaching, etc. Do you think it's plausible this extra, all-out drive might lead to more injuries than other teams?


Brent from Columbus AFB, MS

Do you think drafting a defensive lineman is a twofer? By that I mean if the defensive line can keep the linebackers clean, both positions are upgraded by one draft pick.

In a two-gapping system, that is absolutely true. Sam Adams and Tony Siragusa made Ray Lewis a better player. Joe Greene and Ernie Holmes made Jack Lambert a better player. In a gap-control system, everybody is on their own.

Scott from Lincoln City, OR

Vic, Cardinals General Manager Steve Keim says pass rushers don't grow on trees. Give it to us straight, Vic. Is there really no such thing as a pass rusher tree?

There are four trees you won't find out back. You won't find "The Man" tree, the left tackle tree, the premier pass rusher tree and the Darrelle Revis tree.

Jimmy from Tomahawk, WI

If it were up to you, what would you do with the catch rule?

I would dumb it down to possession and control, and then I would allow the officials to determine if the receiver displayed both. If the officiating crew says it's a catch, it's a catch. We're losing that mentality. It's like dad says no and the kids run to mom. Hey, when dad says no, it's no, and vice versa.

Joseph from Saint Paul, MN

Interesting take on the Vikings. Did you have the same perspective the Bears were the team to beat in the NFC after 2010? Last time I checked, the Vikes' season ended before ours.

Ooooh, little touchy, huh? Good! We need some of that.

Mike from Stillwater, MN

The four most active teams in free agency last year were the Jets, Dolphins, Eagles and Jaguars. They went a combined 28-36 and none of them made the playoffs.

That's a telling stat because free agency isn't about the future, it's about now.

LB Julius Peppers, in his fourteenth season, made 42 tackles, 10.5 sacks and forced two fumbles. Photos by Shawn Hubbard, Jim Biever, and Matt Becker,

Bill from Madison, WI

Everyone seems completely sold on Reggie Ragland. Is there any concern based on the fact he played behind two first-round defensive linemen in Robinson and Reed? Two talented big men who take up double teams would be sure to make any linebacker look good.

So there's a penalty for playing with good players around you? Isn't that the goal, to surround your players with good players? I remember critics asking of L.C. Greenwood, "How good do you have to be to play between Jack Ham and Joe Greene?" I always thought that was terribly unfair. Dave Robinson got some of that same treatment, and it's one of the reasons I was delighted to attend and celebrate his Hall of Fame induction.

Scott from Eau Claire, WI

Fans are very passionate. Why aren't they more diligent in gaining knowledge about their passion? Human nature? I think the biggest failing of the average NFL fan is they fail to realize there are 31 other teams with similar interests and issues.

Victory is a pursuit, not an entitlement. I think we need a deeper appreciation for the pursuit.

Chris from Ashland, WI

Fear trumps jubilation. Whether it's in regard to the stock market, political decisions or just about anything else, the bad things will stand out and govern a human's decision-making process more so than the good things, except in free agency. It's remarkable how many people have no memory or fear of a bust and can only feel immediate jubilation at a big free agency signing.

It's not their money.

Theologos from Athens, Greece

Vic, would you sing Karlos Dansby for a reasonable price?

Yeah, but I don't know the words.

Chris from Minneapolis, MN

Vic, even if you're certain you're going to buy khakis, you still check the prices on dress pants to see if there's a deal. I'm sure there are a lot of pants out there you would buy for the right price.

I know the price of dress pants; they cost more than khakis. If I want dress pants, I look for dress pants. If I want to buy at a good price pants I'll wear a lot and will likely never regret having bought, I look for khakis. It's the same with looking for free agents. The teams know who the top-tier and second-tier players are. The notion that you call the agent of every free agent whose name interests you is ridiculous. When you express interest in a player to his agent, the agent uses that interest to drive up his player's price. Steven Jackson? You must be very careful of when and how you express interest in a player. Get a reputation for recklessly driving up the cost of free agents and you'll have trouble finding a trade partner on draft day.

Pablo from Mexico City, Mexico

Vic, what's not to like about Billings? Why isn't he considered a top 20 pick? He sure plays like one.

Maybe he is a top 20 pick. We'll find out. Remember, he's a nose tackle, which means he's a perfect fit for only about half the league. It also means he's going to eat blocks, not sack quarterbacks, and it's the players off those four trees you won't find out back that tend to dominate the upper ranks of the first round. Tony said there are 35 players in this draft to whom he has assigned first-round grades. That makes this a good draft, especially at the top of the second round. Great value there!

Mark from Winfield, IL

Vic, I had to take the first flight to Orange County this morning for a business trip. For fun, I dialed up the movie "Groundhog Day." Because the flight was so early, I dozed off a few times, but I always woke up to Sonny and Cher.

Did they ever record a song called, "I got free agents"?

Caleb from Eau Claire, WI

Vic, what's the most surprising early retirement you've seen?

Mike Reid or Barry Sanders.

Larry from Mount Pleasant, SC

As president of the South Carolina beekeepers, we depend heavily on mentoring for new beekeepers. In the NFL, it seems to be a minor part of the Packers' draft-and-develop philosophy. Do any teams use mentors or is it just coaching?

I don't know what the Packers' philosophy is for mentoring. Some coaches and teams like it. I'm not a fan of it. I prefer a spirit of intense competition.

Eric from Bloomington, IL

Vic, how much does the thought of living/playing in Green Bay impact free agents? I'm a Green Bay native, season ticket holder and have property in Door County, but I joke with friends and family all the time that I'd never move back to Green Bay. Love the town, love the people, but perhaps some of Thompson's silence is the bitter reality he's not going to pay a tax on attracting players to play here.

I think you've eloquently and respectfully described one of the reasons draft-and-develop is the right philosophy of operation for the Packers. Green Bay isn't at its prettiest in March, and the state tax can mean having to pay more for a player if you're competing against a team from a tax-free state, such as Florida. Green Bay grows on you. It grew on me. The longer I lived there, the more I appreciated its unique qualities. I think that's one of the big reasons players the Packers draft want to remain with the team, coupled with the fact the team and its fans treat the players so well. Green Bay isn't a big-splash place; it's a grow-on-you place, and it's a personality that's a perfect fit for the team's philosophy of operation.

Ben from Indianapolis, IN

Vic, can we remind the wolves Eddie Lacy, Datone Jones, David Bakhtiari and Micah Hyde are going into the final year of their rookie contracts?

If you want to keep your players, and the Packers do, you'll need to use nearly all of your cap to do so. When the Packers no longer want to re-sign their guys, then we've all got a problem.

Sean from Helena, MT

Vic, what happens to Chicago's cap if they draft an ILB they like better than Trevathan? The guaranteed money stays in the year, but they release the rest of the cost?

Nope. You can cut the player, but you can't cut his cost. You pay it, you cap it. When you sign an expensive free agent, you're married to him.

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