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Fundamentals first, playbook second

Don't expect a sea of black and yellow this Sunday


Brian from Pittsburgh, PA

Being I'm a displaced Packers fan now living in Pittsburgh after spending 40-plus years in Wisconsin, I can't describe how excited I am for you and my beloved Packers to be coming to town this weekend. My family of five will be the drop of green and gold in the sea of black and yellow in Gold Lot 1 and Section 219. I'm in Packers and Brewers attire quite often while out and about in Pittsburgh, so it will be nice to see some like-minded, friendly faces for a change. Enjoy Mt. Washington Saturday evening and your visit this weekend. I'm hoping to run into some of the Packers downtown or possibly at the Pirates game Saturday. I read your column daily and enjoy your writing and sense of humor.'

Sea of black and yellow? I'm not sure about that. Preseason games aren't the event in Pittsburgh they are in Green Bay. The Pirates are in a big homestand this weekend. The North Shore is going to be a tangled traffic mess. It'll keep fans away from the Steelers game.

John from Fort Atkinson, WI

Vic, it's not only unfair to ask someone such as James Harrison to change his world view, it's pretty unrealistic to think participation trophies mean anything long-term. Do you know anyone who keeps that "thanks for showing up" trophy on their wall past age 20? I've still got my team photos; the memories count, the life lessons count. Gold-plated plastic that says at least you were as good as everyone else maybe not so much?

His children will decide what's important to them.

Jim from Naugatuck, CT

Vic, do you have any good Jack Lambert stories?

In one of his Pro Bowls, there were five other Steelers in the huddle with him. Lambert started calling Steelers defensive plays and told the rest of the guys to stay out of the way.

Bob from Germantown, WI

Vic, is there a difference in the way you watch a preseason game of football vs. the regular season?

In the preseason, I pick a player and watch him. On the next play, I pick another player and watch him. In the regular season, I mostly watch the ball.

Craig from Radlett, Hertfordshire

Vic, I watched a highlight reel on Charles Woodson the other day. How did you find him when you interviewed him?

Charles possesses true media savvy. He speaks with a distinction that reminds me of Joe Greene. My path crossed with Charles' at the Brett Favre induction. Right away, Charles greeted me and remembered my name. That kind of awareness from a person I covered resonates with me, and I think it resonates with most media people. It says he cares.

Zip from Neenah, WI

Vic, please explain what scheme a scheme means. I get creating matchup advantages, but can't wrap my brain around what scheming a scheme means.

The defense might have three linebackers on the field, and that might invite matching a tight end against one of those linebackers, but what good is it if the linebacker is bigger, stronger, faster and more athletic than your tight end?

Alec from Marshall, MI

It seems there are quite a few questions lately about current players who are or aren't destined for enshrinement in Canton. Has this been something you have seen for your entire career? If not, when did this obsession start?

Every aspect of professional football has increased in popularity during my time covering it. What we have to remember is pro football is a relatively young game. It didn't have a Hall of Fame until the early 1960's. The 1958 NFL title game was a launch point for the game's popularity, and I think the "Ice Bowl" was another launch point, but the merger is the defining moment. That's when we took the rabbit out of the hat and there's been no putting it back in. Interest in the Hall of Fame began shortly after the merger. Seemingly everything began shortly after the merger.

Ken from Kenosha, WI

Wait a second, Vic. I thought you wrote the game recap as the game is in progress.

I write quarterly reports during the game. The final installment I call a bulletin story and it's written in the postgame interview room and, hopefully, published the moment the game ends. The quarterly reports are facts only. I write the game recap on the bus on the way to the airport; it includes comments from Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers.

David from Eatonville, WA

Vic, as a mental health professional and a child mental health specialist, I adored your answer to Del from Sterling, IL. It is very difficult to undo one's upbringing. James Harrison should be applauded for holding to his old-school values, whether or not we agree with said values. You reflected a good balance of old-school and new-school values. Thank you for stating your opinion.

I was too hard on my sons in youth baseball. I regret it.

Andy from Munich, Germany

You have often emphasized the importance of being in shape in December and January. Having 2011 in mind, are coaches trying to avoid their teams peaking too early and, if so, how? Or is it just about playing the best possible football every week?

If you focus your team on fundamentals early in the season, you can open the playbook late in the season and go to a higher level. Blocking and tackling first, scheme second. That's how you peak a team.

Eric from St. Louis, MO

In 2005, Rodgers was six for 15 with 28 yards and an interception through his first three preseason games. Judging by the reaction since the first preseason game this year, do you think the readers of this column would have proclaimed our first-round pick a bust 10 years ago?

OK, folks, come on, fess up to yourselves. Did you think he was a bust?

Tom from Bismarck, ND

Vic, special teams play will be improved when, and only when, we begin to put our more talented players on the field. You really can't hide practice squad type talent on special teams. It will always come back to bite you. New rules changes are only going to make this more obvious. Please chime in on this. You witnessed Rod Woodson on special teams. Who are we protecting?

Mr. salary cap.

Tim from Normal, IL

Vic, my high school, with a long and proud football tradition, has 15 varsity players this year, down from about 40 over the past several years. I understand why. My question is what fall sport are the high school boys moving to?

Girls. They'll hurt you, too.

Jerry from Des Moines, IA

Vic, how much work is being done on prepping for the opener, or is it too early for that kind of prep?

I'll bet the Bears are doing it. They can do it because they know what they're going to face. The Packers don't have that luxury.

Ramon from Paramount, CA

I became a fan of John Crockett when they aired a special on his journey to the NFL. What can you tell us about him?

He has a powerful lower body. I like that in a running back and I want to see more of him. If he improves his pass protection, I think he's got a shot.

Greyolorn from Cochise, AZ

Vic, with the infrastructure crumbling, please don't base your retirement time on the depth of potholes beneath a rented bus. A gyroscopic stabilizer pad beneath your laptop will keep you typing happily well into your dotage.

No, give it to me in the raw, baby. Give me a 42-40, overtime thriller with a lot of big plays and a short ride to the airport in stop-and-go traffic on one of the Northeast's mine fields. Then let me hit the send button as we're pulling up to the plane. I live for that kind of drama.

Mike from Mount Prospect, IL

Vic, who is the best blocking wide receiver you've seen?

It's the guy who made them change the rule on peel-back blocks. It's the guy who turned the hunter into the hunted. For 30 years I watched the Tatums and Atkinsons of the pro football world terrorize wide receivers. They should pin a medal on Hines Ward.

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