Jake from Madison, WI
My wife is a few years removed from her retirement from roller derby. Her and other friends of mine have been involved in the sport since its beginning. I have been able to see it grow from an event that involved fake, on-rink fights and fundraisers just to keep it alive, to a sport that is played in exhibition halls and now has an all-star USA team that plays against teams in Europe. The women of the sport are single moms, lawyers and housewives. They struggle just to make it to practice, take care of the kids and keep their day jobs. I can't help but feel that this gives anyone who is following a bit of insight as to what it was like for the old-timers of pro football.
This is an "Ask Vic" first. I've never had a reader who was married to someone who's retired from roller derby. The column grows.
Grant from Darlington, WI
Little tidbit for all those Sanders fans out there: The Packers are the only team to actually hold Sanders to negative yards for a game. No other team has ever done that. My question is, was Jim Brown ever held to negative yards for a game?
I don't know. You just wanted to brag on the Packers, didn't you?
Kent from Eagle Grove, IA
Why don't you see more NFL teams running a triple option offense?
Because teams don't want to keep 16 quarterbacks on their roster.
William from Savannah, GA
I know one thing that Jerry Rice could do that Don Hutson could not: sit on the bench while his defense was on the field. While Rice is arguably the greatest receiver to ever play the game, Hutson was the greatest player to ever play wide receiver, because he was also a star on defense.
That's an interesting perspective.
Tom from West Bend, WI
Does the Packers high-scoring offense increase or decrease the pressure put on its defense?
It increases it; there's no doubt about it. The more a team scores, the more its opponent has to score, which means even a run-the-ball foe has to open up its playbook and quicken its pace.
Josh from Oshkosh, WI
You nailed it. The players of yesterday were too busy selling insurance in the offseason to make themselves bigger, faster and stronger. There is no doubt in my mind that the Packers of 2010 would crush any team of then. Any! It sounds to me that you need to let go of the past. And your comment about the younger generation putting down the video game and picking up a history book? How about you show a little respect to the younger generation and give us an apology. You lost the shred of respect I had for you, and also a fan. I think it's time to hand this column over to Mike.
Oh, so you're going to play the Spofford card, huh?
Tom from Indianapolis, IN
Would you ever be able to accept (hypothetically, of course) that a modern quarterback might be better than Unitas but not necessarily as important to the history of the game?
Sure, I can accept that, but importance to the game should not be discounted. Should we discount Lombardi's importance to the game, too? Johnny Unitas invented the game we play today. He's the father of modern quarterbacking. Look at highlights of Otto Graham and Charlie Conerly. They're quarterbacks from the Unitas era that were on their way out when Unitas became the star of the league. Then watch highlights of Unitas. What you'll see is that Graham and Conerly played what I call "lob ball." They bear little resemblance to the quarterbacks of today, whereas Unitas could step out of the 1958 NFL title game and into last season's Super Bowl without any appearance of a generational gap. Unitas ushered in the era of precision passing. That should be discounted?
Matt from Spotswood, NJ
I'm a product of what poor tackling does to youth. In one of my football games, I made the hit of the year. Kid was out with a broken wrist and collarbone (we found out later), but as I jogged to the sideline, I felt myself falling and blacked out after getting off the field. The game hurts the small guys who need to hit hard to keep their roster spots. My coach said if I missed that tackle, I'd be playing college ball. It's funny how life works, right, Vic?
Yeah, but at least you broke the guy's wrist and collarbone, so you have that going for you, which is nice.
Dan from Houston, TX
Is it just me, or is broadcasting the waiving of a player on "Hard Knocks" classless? I can only imagine a player leaving a team meeting and seeing the "Turk" and a camera crew waiting for him to grab his playbook and hand him a one-way plane ticket out of town for all the world to watch his reaction.
I had always heard the story about the "Turk" going to a guy's dorm room and telling him, "Coach wants to see you, and bring your playbook," and I always thought it was baloney. Then, one day I witnessed the event. I was standing in the hallway of the player's dormitory, interviewing Tony Dungy, who had just been traded to the 49ers, when the "Turk" (everyone knew who he was) knocked on the door of veteran kicker Roy Gerela. "Roy, coach wants to see you, and bring your playbook," the "Turk" said. I was speechless. Tony grimaced and then I said, "It's true; they really do say that." Cutdown days, and there were lots of them back when training camp roster sizes were unlimited, were major events. I can remember seeing players shaking hands and saying goodbye, and then getting in their cars and heading out to the highway. I can remember thinking to myself, "Will I ever see him again?" In most cases, the answer would be no, yet, those moments left their imprint on me. I remember the names and the faces and the tension of those cutdown days.
Kris from Suring, WI
My generation loves Madden. You can't deny the popularity of video games any more. With that being said, when gamers see a rating of "99 Strength" or a rating of "99 Speed," they think to themselves, "These players I'm controlling are the strongest and fastest ever." In reality, players from the old days would probably have ratings of "120 Strength" on our current 1-99 scale used to rate today s players, and Jim Brown would probably have an all-around rating of 110. Agree?
I don't know. Do you realize the people who create those ratings are computer geeks that call girls and hang up on them?
Nick from Whitewater, WI
Vic, what does the word "fungible" mean and have you invented any other new words recently?
It means interchangeable and I didn't invent it or use it. It was used by a writer a reader was quoting. I have never in my life used the word fungible, your honor, and that is the absolute truth.
James from Wausau, WI
So what you are saying is a few teams this year will be caught with their pants down in the future?
In terms of mortgaging future salary caps for what it might bring in the present, I think you can say the Colts are in their future. They pushed a lot of money out for a lot of years, it caught up with them last season when injury and cap issues met, and now they're in hard rebuilding. The Redskins have gotten caught with their pants down several times, yet, they still spent a lot of money in free agency this offseason. The teams that are playoff contenders year in and year out are largely the teams that don't get caught with their pants down.
Buzz from Philadelphia, PA
Do people also claim that Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Bob Gibson, Ty Cobb and our very own Hank Aaron couldn't compete in today's game?
No, and that's the crazy part. Baseball fans are reverent about the sport's past and the game's great players of old. I don't hear anyone saying DiMaggio couldn't hit today's pitchers because they throw harder. I don't hear basketball fans saying Wilt Chamberlain or Kareem Abdul Jabbar wouldn't excel today because today's basketball players are bigger, faster, stronger. Oscar Robertson, Bill Russell and Jerry West are regarded reverently. Even golf bows to its past, as Tiger Woods continues to battle the stigma of Jack Nicklaus, who the sport steadfastly regards as the greatest golfer ever. Football is alone when it comes to the lack of regard a large segment of its fan base has for the game's past. It's more than a lack of a regard, it's a kind of disdain, as though today's fans are threatened by the past. It confounds me. I'm not sure why it's this way, but I will remain a voice for the great football players of the past. This is Green Bay, where the history and tradition of the game holds a high place, and I like that.
James from Racine, WI
What are the chances of WR Gurley becoming a TE?
Don't think in terms of what he can become, think in terms of what he is. Tori Gurley has a knack for blocking punts. If he can do that for this team, that's good enough.
Julian from Kingman, AZ
With the recent signing of Drew Brees, would it be wise to try to sign Aaron to a long contract now, rather than wait until 2014?
That decision has already been made. The Packers didn't get blindsided by the Brees deal. Capology is a science. Teams plan deep into the future as to when and on whom they're going to spend their money. Some cap men use a color-coding system, some use flow charts to plan their budgets. You know who your core players are and a strategy for signing them is already in place. I don't know what the Packers' strategy is for Aaron Rodgers, but it will no doubt result in a new contract and a lot of money for Rodgers. More importantly, the Packers have already planned for how it will impact their strategy for signing other players on the team.
Randy from Lakewood Ranch, FL
How are home and away games determined for non-division games? Last year the Saints were at home and the Giants away. This year it's the same. Why would the schedulers do that?
Who you play and where you play them are the result of a pre-determined scheduling format. That format is according to where teams finish in the standings. In 2012, NFC North No. 1 hosts NFC South No. 1 and visits NFC East No. 1.
Tom from Pine City,MN
Vic, the reason athletes are better today is because of something called science. First of all there's natural selection.
I think you have something there. In the old days, football players tended to marry the girl next door, so to speak. These days, I see example after example of players marrying women who are also top athletes. In Tom Brady's case, he married an international model. Bloodlines are undeniable.