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Guardians of the game; not in my book

Owners begin considering rules-change proposals


Ravens K Justin Tucker reacts to his game-winning FG to beat the Patriots on Sept. 23, 2012.

Derek from Plymouth, MN

Vic, you can't allow the receiving team to choose whether or not they want the ball or the kick without eliminating the possibility for a late onside kick. The team with the lead would always pick the ball.

That's a good point, and I considered it, but it's easily remedied by eliminating use of the onside kick until the fourth quarter, at which point it's all live again and the receiving team has no option of taking the touchback. I think the league would like to find a way to reduce the number of onside kicks; it's a terribly dangerous play. I witnessed one of the worst injuries I've ever covered when a defensive back named Dave Thomas sustained a broken leg on a meaningless, last-seconds, desperation type of onside kick in Cincinnati several years ago. The sound of his leg breaking resonated throughout Riverfront Stadium. I've never been a fan of the onside kick. In my opinion, it disturbs the natural order of the game. I think it's a cheap play and I would favor its elimination from the game other than for the fourth quarter. What everyone needs to understand is that the league isn't trying to find ways to make the kickoff play more competitive. The league is trying to find ways to reduce the risk of injury in the kickoff play, and the best way to do that is to increase the number of touchbacks. I'm OK with that, but I don't want to see the kickoff effectively eliminated from late-season, cold-weather games because I think it's an advantage cold-weather teams should enjoy, just as dome teams enjoy the noise advantage.

Max from Ottawa, Canada

Vic, I didn't know you were a structural engineer on top of being a writer. Which did you get first, your writing degree or your engineering degree?

You have to be a structural engineer to know that as things get top heavy they have a natural tendency to lean? Isn't there a building somewhere that's famous for leaning? Raise the uprights and it's possible they'll have to be reinforced. That's one of the issues, and something like that might require a feasibility study before a rule can be changed. In my opinion, this is a major overreaction. How high is high enough? The uprights are fine the way they are.

Matt from Little Chute, WI

How was your weekend? Did you get to see that blue sky and green grass of the golf tournament? Are you a happy Vic?

I'm in Florida.

Scott from Wausau, WI

New Mexico State has a center that is 7-5, 355 pounds on the basketball team. He runs the court very well. Does he translate to a tight end in the NFL?

I don't know about his football playing ability, but he'd make a great upright.

Charlie from Morgan Hill, CA

Vic, first you said, "We need to let the game alone. We're fussing over it too much. We're strangling it. We're losing touch with its roots." Then you said, "Maybe we should give the receiving team the option to put the ball in play at its 20 or receive the kick. If it elects to receive and the kick results in a touchback, the offense puts the ball in play at its 15." These statements seem contradictory?

Sure they are, but it's what we do in this column. We propose ideas and then discuss them. We try to make sense of circumstances for the purpose of gaining perspective. We're not responsible for deciding the rules of the game. We have absolutely no say in it. This is an open forum for open-minded people. Don't confront, contribute.

Rufus from Milwaukee, WI

Do you really think your bans work, or do they just satisfy some personal need to lash out?

You're banned.


Rich McKay

Will from Kenosha, WI

Did the Falcons overpay for Hester considering the kickoff may be moved again?

Do you get the strong feeling the Falcons, whose president is Rich McKay and who also doubles as the chairman of the competition committee, don't believe the Redskins' kickoff proposal is going to pass? Do you get the feeling we already know the verdict on that proposal? When I saw that the Falcons had signed Devin Hester, I literally laughed out loud.

David from Montgomery, VT

Vic, don't you think the Patriots are suggesting raising the uprights due to the questionable call that cost them the Ravens game in 2012, as well as a nice fine for Belichick after he grabbed the ref in frustration?

They're doing it because they want everyone to know they think they were wronged. I watched video of that kick over and over. Yeah, it was close, and maybe a higher upright would've resolved the issue, but I genuinely believe the official under that upright made the right call. He was decisive. Hey, we're talking about one kick in one game. That's all. What's wrong with a little controversy? Why does everything have to be buttoned down? The game thrives on the human element. Here's a big problem I have with this proposal: The team that's proposing it gave us Spygate. For as long as Bill Belichick has been the Patriots' coach, visiting teams in New England have had their sideline communications system go dead on them in the middle of drives. How about the Gillette Stadium scoreboard displaying the wrong down when the Ravens missed a field goal attempt that would've put them in the Super Bowl? These are the guardians of the game? Not in my book.

Steve from New Berlin, WI

What are your thoughts about the Mark Cuban comments in regards to the NFL becoming oversaturated and that the fans will become sick of it and the NFL will implode within 10 years.

My dad said that in the '60s. I can hear him now: "They're overexposing the game." I don't know if it can be done. America has an insatiable appetite for football. I don't worry about the game being overly exposed. I worry about it being overly sanitized. Player safety includes a dangerous line in the sand the NFL may have no choice but to cross.


Bobby Knight

Ryan from New York, NY

Vic, what's with basketball coaches wearing suits for the games? Could you imagine McCarthy roaming the sidelines in pinstripes and tie?

Fancy clothes add to basketball coaches' allure. In many cases, the clothes they wear define them. It's smart letting them dress that way. Bobby Knight was a snappy dresser during the Scott May years. I enjoyed seeing Coach Knight's array of plaid sports coats. Then, all of a sudden, he began wearing that ratty red pullover sweater, and I always thought it was a downer. Coats and ties dress up a sport that's renowned for having a dark side.

Joseph from Raleigh, NC

Vic, which position – linebacker, tight end or safety – do you think would have the biggest impact on the team's success if drafted?

It depends on the player. A great player makes great impact at any position. Draft a great player. That's all.

Matt from Tamuning, GU

You're the Texans. Who do you take with your No. 1?

I take the best player in the draft, regardless of position. I don't think that player is a quarterback.

Nuno from Carregosa, Portugal

How was it before the cap? Did teams with more money have an edge on getting the better players?

The eras of the salary cap and unrestricted free agency began simultaneously. The salary cap was considered necessary as we headed into the free agency era, as a means for controlling spending in a free market. Previously, signing a free agent meant having to compensate the team that lost the player, which effectively eliminated free agency. At the height of his career, Walter Payton was a free agent and there was no interest in signing him.

Josh from Holgate, OH

Vic, is there a reason the Redskins and Patriots seem to have proposed the most rules changes?

I guess the Redskins and Patriots are smarter than everybody else. There's one rule-change proposal I strongly favor: Proposal No. 9, by the competition committee, which would allow the referee to consult with members of the NFL officiating department during replay reviews. If we're going to do this, then let's use every asset available in trying to get it right. Using direction from the league office should actually help produce a quicker result, and I am definitely in favor of that. One of the Redskins' bylaws-change proposals, in my opinion, is terribly disingenuous and that makes me question anything they would propose. Proposal No. 3 would permit teams to trade players prior to the start of the league year. The Redskins give as the reason for this proposal that it would give players under contract for the upcoming year an opportunity to earn their current contract rather than being terminated. I'm calling baloney on that. Do the Redskins really think we don't see what they're trying to do? They want to be able to trade players prior to the start of the league year so they can recoup their value instead of having to cut them to get under the cap. As it stands, trading and free agency begin at the same time. Before you can trade a player, you have to get under the cap with him. Julius Peppers is the perfect example. The Bears had to cut him to get under the cap. Under bylaws-change proposal No. 3, the Bears could've traded Peppers to avoid having to cap his salary. In other words, proposal No. 3 rewards bad cap management.

Trent from Mishawaka, IN

What is the point of roster bonuses? If I understand this correctly, roster bonuses and base salaries affect both the cap and actual cash paid the same. So why split the payment up?

Roster bonuses create deadlines for decision making. It's a means for a player to force his team to decide his fate before final cuts.

Hilmi from Ankara, Turkey

Vic, you wrote earlier that all teams have to rebuild sometime. I've been a Packers fan since 1997 and I haven't noticed us rebuilding. Is it because I didn't know what to look for, or is it because of our management?

The 2005-08 seasons were a rebuilding period, but it was disguised in 2007 by a great quarterback and then halted in 2009 by the emergence of another great quarterback.

Brian from Hamilton, NJ

Where is home for Vic? Is it still somewhere near Pittsburgh, or somewhere warmer with green grass year round?

Home is where the heart is, and that's both an advantage and a problem for me. I have warmth in my heart for all of the places where I've lived and covered football. Home is many places for me, which is a good thing, but you can't live in them all. That's my challenge going forward. How do I live in them all?

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