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Good crop of backs in middle, late rounds


Mike from Langdon, ND

I ask questions as compelling as the others, yet, I'm ignored day after day. Do you have a North Dakota bias? Oh, and "Vince Lombardi" was the best answer ever.

One of my all-time favorite coaches, Ron Erhardt, is from North Dakota. He's the only person I've ever known from North Dakota. Now I know two.

Robert from Delft, The Netherlands

What's the point of having a salary cap if the revenue keeps climbing at a rate where no team ever comes close to violating it? Isn't the cap supposed to limit salary and similar expenses instead of boosting it?

The cap is tied to revenue. The more revenue the league creates, the higher the cap goes. I don't have a problem with that concept. My concern about the cap is that different teams drive revenue to different degrees, largely the result of market size, but all teams must abide by the same spending minimum. When big-market teams build new stadiums, charge big ticket prices and drive revenue streams through the roof, they are, in effect, transferring their player costs onto the other teams in the league. In the case of small-market teams, those player costs are difficult to absorb, and that's why we now have revenue sharing to help those teams absorb those costs. Philosophically, I'm not crazy about that system. Baseball employs a form of it and, by all appearance, the rich teams are paying a tax to the poor teams so the rich teams have someone to beat. The cap system is working right now, but I'm not sold on it for the long-term future. Eventually, the divide could become too great. I think the league will need to be attentive to how it divides revenue among its teams. Frankly, I believe there's enough football talent available, as long as the league stays at 32 teams and seven rounds of the draft, to allow teams to spend to their chosen levels and still be competitive.

Mark from Stewartville, MN

Vic, who are the smartest quarterbacks you've ever covered?

Aaron Rodgers and Byron Leftwich are the quickest processors of information of all the quarterbacks I've covered. Terry Bradshaw and Mark Brunell are the most instinctive.

Keith from Indianapolis, IN

During the Super Bowl week, I went on the tour of Lucas Oil Stadium, which included the press box. Impressive view from up there, but it's so far up there it would be hard to see much in detail. You like to watch, but what part of the game do you really see well in real time from up there?

Press boxes are getting higher and farther from the 50-yard line as time goes on and teams are forced to drive revenue. We're being pushed up and out by premium seating that returns a handsome profit for prime real estate. That's just the way it is. Fortunately, we have TV monitors to assist us. When I started covering the NFL, we didn't have TVs in the press box. You might find one at the home team's PR position, and everybody would run to that TV to see a replay if there was a controversial call, but we didn't have TVs at our individual positions. Now we do. I watch the field, and then I turn to the TV monitor. It's how we watch football in the press box these days.

Sean from Arlington, VA

You've been crystal clear about your feelings on Dan Fouts in the Hall of Fame, but what about Warren Moon? To me, he's another guy with big stats that came up small in the postseason. Is his name crucial to telling the story of the NFL of that era? I would say no.

It's not the NFL Hall of Fame, it's the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and Moon's name is critical to telling the story of the CFL, the result of Moon having led Edmonton to five consecutive Grey Cup titles. I also believe Moon's name is critical to telling the story of the emergence of the African-American quarterback in the NFL. I believe he belongs in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Jordan from Los Angeles, CA

Vic, I love your column and traditional, but not outdated or irrelevant, approach. That said, I couldn't help but think you were going too old-school when you proposed removing facemasks altogether. Is this backed up by any kind of science, or did you just get all nostalgic for your days in the 1920s when we wore the throwbacks this year?

It wasn't until 1955 that the NFL encouraged players to wear a facemask. Prior to that, most players didn't wear one. Even into the 1960s, Bobby Layne and Tommy McDonald played without a facemask, and most skill-position players wore a single bar. In the Eagles' win over the Packers in the 1960 NFL title game, McDonald caught a 35-yard touchdown pass from Norm Van Brocklin while wearing a helmet that didn't include a facemask. So we don't have to go back to the 1920s to do a scientific study on the impact of the facemask on football. Go back to the '40s and '50s and what you'll see is a lot of form tackling, and the proper tackling technique then was for the defender to drive his shoulder into the runner's thighs, wrap arms around the runner's legs, lift and drop. It was a technique that was practiced daily on tackling dummies that hung from a support that included a rope, a pulley and a piece of cement that was formed by a bucket; right shoulder, then left shoulder, over and over, always keeping your head in front of the runner's body. Players didn't lead with their heads in those days, for the obvious reason that their face was connected to it and, of course, it was unprotected. The facemask changed all of that. The more we protected it, the more players incorporated the use of their head in tackling. I'm not stupid enough to suggest that the NFL outlaw the facemask. I know there's no chance of that happening because to do that would be to invite massive litigation. All I'm saying is that it's widely agreed that the simple act of removing facemasks from helmets would dramatically address the concussion issue that is dominating today's game. Simply put, Paul Brown's invention of the facemask in 1953 may be the worst thing to ever happen to the game.

Gavin from Omaha, NE

Not to be snide but when you say the Packers need to fortify with youth at all levels of the defense, aren't you nicely stating we simply need new, better players? Aside from Chuck and Pickett all three levels are relatively young.

That wasn't already understood? It wasn't understood that the intent of every personnel department in the league is to bring in young and better talent every year? That's what keeps your roster young. That's what makes you a better team. If you're not getting younger, you're getting older, and if you're not getting better, you're getting worse, because your competition is getting better.

Augustus from Humboldt, CA

Last week I was playing Madden with my cousin when he allowed me to punch it in from the 5-yard line with 45 seconds left. He promptly marched down the field and scored to win the game. The first words out of his mouth? "Take that to 'Ask Vic.'" I haven't played the game since.

I trust nobody got hurt.

Daniel from Belfast, Ireland

Your comment about Marino and pure passer made me look at his highlights more closely and I was blown away. I always thought Rodgers and Favre had the strongest arms I've seen, but Marino's was a whole new level. Do you agree he has the greatest release and arm strength of all time?

I have no way of measuring arm strength and speed of release and declaring an all-time winner, nor am I interested in doing that, but I won't disagree with you on Marino.

Franklin from Birch Run, MI

In regards to the blackout rule, if all games were shown locally, regardless of a sellout, would it benefit a team to have 10,000 empty seats but have 300,000 local viewers that otherwise would not see the game?

I don't know what the value scale for TV viewers to tickets sold is, nor have I ever heard of one, but I doubt that 300,000 people sitting on their couches and watching the game on TV can make up for the revenue lost from 10,000 unsold tickets. There were 16 blackouts in the NFL last season. Of course, a lot of games were shown because the home team bought the remaining tickets at 34 percent of face value so the game might be shown on local TV. Some teams have to pay a penalty to their stadium naming rights sponsor or to other signage sponsors for games that are blacked out, so it becomes financially beneficial to "eat" the tickets and put the game on TV. My question is: If teams are forced to televise all home games, regardless of tickets sales, how many teams will experience a reduction in ticket sales? This is a sensitive subject because once we cross the Rubicon, there's no going back.

Casey from Palos Hills, IL

Should the Packers try to get a running back in free agency?

I really like the draft crop of running backs. It's not strong at the top but it's good in the middle and later rounds and that's where you wanna take a back. I've mentioned that I liked Doug Martin of Boise State and Vick Ballard of Mississippi State at the Senior Bowl, but one guy in particular jumped out at me: Lennon Creer of Louisiana Tech (pictured). I knew nothing about him until the Senior Bowl, but he showed me real power and pop. LSU safety Brandon Taylor was throwing his weight around and sent Ballard flying at the end of a run when Ballard was coasting. The next day, Taylor took a shot at Creer and Creer dropped the pads on Taylor and flattened him. I like that in a back.

Allen from Omro, WI

As the typical draft nut, I've started looking at possible Packers picks. Although I could see the Packers going defense with their first four picks, I'm intrigued by Cordy Glenn. Was he as dominant at the Senior Bowl practices as it sounds and any possibility the Packers would draft yet another offensive line prospect in the first round? Would he not be an instant asset to the running game?

I have no idea who the Packers are going to draft. Was Glenn dominant at the Senior Bowl? He made me stare because I couldn't believe what I was seeing. If I wanted to run the ball, and I very much want to run the ball, he'd be my guy.

Susie from Two Rivers, WI

Reading about Jake Bequette, he really would seem to be a great fit for the Packers.

He made the loudest sound in the back-on-linebacker, blitz-pickup drill at the Senior Bowl.

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