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I'll take the explosive offense


Kyle from Oklahoma City, OK

Vic, why is the NFL turning into a circus? I can't even get real football news from anymore. Do people really care that much about Tim Tebow running without a shirt on? Can we go back to the days where we learn about players and their stats from our Topps football cards?

Those days are over. We are in the hyper-information days and what they've done is to have turned these players into the equivalent of movie stars. Tim Tebow has star power. Regardless of how he plays, he's a celebrity. That's the new game. It's equal parts performance and delivery. Why is it that way? Because the NFL has reached a new segment of the public, the casual fan. The casual fan doesn't bleed any team's colors. The casual fan doesn't lose sleep over a loss or feel eternal warmth from a win. The casual fan is interested in football because all of his or her friends are interested in football. It's what's hot and the casual fan doesn't want to be left out. Tebow is what's hot. Fans such as yourself, Kyle, which is to say football purists, need to find those sites and those writers that will give you the real football news you seek.

Phil from Green Bay, WI

Can you please explain the difference between a nickel corner and a dime corner?

Nickel is five defensive backs and dime is six, so simply put, a nickel back is usually a team's No. 3 corner and a dime back is usually a team's No. 4 corner, and they often cover the opponents' No. 3 and No. 4 receivers respectively.

Jessica from Wausau, WI

Preseason is constantly in jeopardy of losing weeks to the regular season. Between this possibility and the outlook most people have that the games don't count toward the season's final win-loss tally, preseason has been given an image that it's unimportant and unnecessary. What are your thoughts on preseason and what value it may have?

Pete Rozelle was adamant about preseason games not being referred to as exhibition games. I never quite understood the difference, but I loved and respected Rozelle and if that's what he wanted them called, that was fine with me. Is the nomenclature intended to fool fans into believing preseason games are contested with a regular season-like fervor for winning? No. I think the intent is to encourage fans to view preseason games differently as they would regular season games. They are played with a different scoreboard. The emphasis isn't on teams winning the games; the emphasis is on players winning position and roster battles. That's the way I've always viewed preseason games, and when you do it that way, you find the true competition that's being played out in front of us. I acknowledge that player evaluation isn't engaging for most fans, but for those fans that really get into the whole training camp thing, there's genuine suspense in preseason games. It's right there in front of us. Young men are fighting for their professional lives. For guys at the bottom of the roster, the preseason games are the most important games of their lives. Those games will determine whether or not there will be a regular season for those players.

Logan from De Pere, WI

I went to training camp on Saturday and I noticed three main things: 1.) Alex Green has really great hands. 2.) Daniel Muir can hit. 3.) B.J. Coleman shows flashes of being good, but then throws a horrible pass. Thoughts?

Green reminds me of one of the most talented running backs I've ever covered, Barry Foster. Green has that same kind of low center of gravity quickness. Muir is a pure nose tackle, which means he's a banger. He needs to be a guy on whom the Packers can count for 10-15 snaps a game, to give B.J. Raji a break. By the way, Raji is being used as an end in some pass-rush packages, and I think he has been one of the quiet stars of the first three days of camp. Raji has been quick and explosive. As for Coleman, he brought a smile to my face in the early minutes of the first practice of training camp, when the quarterbacks were doing the drill that has them throw at different-colored squares on a net. On Coleman's first official throw of training camp, Quarterbacks Coach Ben McAdoo called out "white" and Coleman's pass hit the mechanism's left tire. What I've seen since then is a guy who's made throws from time to time that cause me to take notice. He has improved greatly in just three practices. McAdoo and Offensive Coordinator Tom Clements have spent a lot of time working with Coleman. They're making him a better player. That's what I like to see.

David from Osseo, WI

Who is the guy leading drills at camp on the speaker?

It's Special Teams Coordinator Shawn Slocum. The audio system is used when players get spread out on the field, such as in special teams drills. I could be wrong about this, but I think this is another Frank Gansz invention. Gansz is one of the most respected names in special teams coaching history. A lot of guys consider him to be the father of modern special teams coaching. I had a chance to watch the Ganszer at work at the end of his career, and he left his mark on me, too. I'll never forget his voice booming over those speakers, "Come to balance, come to balance." Slocum is a Gansz man.

Tommy from Milwaukee, WI

Everyone seems so concerned with who will be the starters on our defense. With the way defenses cycle bodies in and out, I'm more concerned with how many reliable options the Packers have at each position. Am I finally starting to think like a coach?

Yeah, that's how coaches think. Fans want to know who the starting 11 are, but coaches are just as concerned with having all of the parts necessary to fill their sub packages, because they know they'll be playing their sub packages a greater percentage of the time than they will their base. Today's game is a game of specialization. If you can do one thing well, you can make a roster.

Rev. Carter from Madison, WI

At age 66, I remember the Lombardi years well and his requirements for legendary brutal practices. Quite different approach from McCarthy. How do you feel about the current model vs. Lombardi/Halas.

I think it was easier to be a coach in the Lombardi days than it is now. In the Lombardi era, training camp rosters were unlimited. Training camp was nine weeks long and practices were twice a day every day and always in full pads. The players identified themselves by their endurance. The preseason was six games and when it came time to cut the roster, as Chuck Noll was fond of saying, "the problem wasn't cutting, it was stopping." The information available to Lombardi was far greater than the information available to Mike McCarthy. Lombardi's opportunity to mold his team into the team he wanted it to be was also greater. Coach McCarthy and the coaches of today are hamstrung by the current CBA, as to what they can and can't do. Lombardi's teams practiced tackling live and at full speed. You can't do that today, so coaches have to devise ways to practice tackling without really practicing tackling. That's a difficult task.

Charlie from Misawa Air Base, Japan

Vic, thank you for entertaining me during my 12-hour shifts at the hospital. Would you rather have a lights-out defense or an explosive offense that can score whenever?

I'd rather have a lights-out defense but I don't think it's possible to truly have what I consider to be a lights-out defense in today's game, therefore, I would prefer to have an explosive offense that can score whenever. That's what works in today's game.

Brett from Osseo, WI

In this day and age, does it make sense for teams to live in a dorm during training camp? Wouldn't it be a recruiting tool to let players stay in their homes, like they do the rest of the season? Isn't it a little old-fashioned?

Training camp is more than a place and a time, it's a brand. It's something the NFL markets as one of the mile markers in its season, which is now year-round. The training camp brand says players leave home and embrace a Spartan life for a few dedicated weeks of their lives. Training camp signals the start of the football season and fans have a romantic attachment to it. Old-fashioned? Absolutely, but it still sells and that's why it's not going away.

Steve from Neptune, NJ

What are your thoughts on Tom Crabtree? Do you think he might finally get more in the passing game this year?

With Andrew Quarless on PUP as he recovers from late-season knee reconstruction, Crabtree is the only true in-line blocker the Packers have among their tight ends. He won't make this team because he's a pass catcher, he'll make this team because he's a blocker.

Blaine from Madison, WI

So we have heard about most of the upcoming rookies on the team, and even some adjustments with the defensive backs, but what about Nick Perry? Anything good to note about him from training camp?

It was right in my story on Saturday. Perry was a star in pass-rush drills.

Mark from Reno, NV

Vic, last year about this time you made a great projection on Brandon Saine "sticking around." I believe he started on the practice squad and progressed to the active roster at midseason.

What I remember is having mentioned him as an undrafted free agent signing I liked. I don't remember making any bold predictions about Saine. When I look at a player, I try to think of a player of similar build and skills I covered. It gives me perspective. Green reminds me of Foster; Saine reminds me of a utility back named Leroy Thompson. Saine is a guy that can give you a little bit of everything, and coaches treasure having those kinds of players on their roster. There's an old coaches saying: "The more things you can do …" Saine can do a lot of things.

Hansen from Waukesha, WI

There have been a number of coaches who had success in the college ranks that left for pro football coaching jobs, but were flops in the pros, such as Bill Peterson, John McKay and Steve Spurrier. However, there have been coaches such as Jimmy Johnson who had success at both levels. Why is it that some college coaches fail in the pros, but some succeed?

The difference is recruiting vs. drafting. In college, you go get the players you like. In the NFL, you have to wait in line to get those players, and they might be drafted by your competition. To win in this league, you have to be able to adapt to your personnel. You better be a leader, a teacher and a talent evaluator. You can win by simply out-recruiting the competition in college, but you can't win in the NFL by out-drafting the competition alone. The process for distributing talent in the draft is too equitable to win solely by out-drafting everybody else.

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