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I love to walk among the fans


Thomas from Dunkerton, IA

In the Feb. 10 edition of "Ask Vic," someone mentioned Grantland Rice. If I'm not mistaken, he once wrote: "The one great scorer in the sky marks against your name, not whether you've won or lost but how you played the game." Do you have anything you have written that is recognizable as a "Vic Ketchman quote"?

I like to watch?

Joe from Milwaukee, WI

I know you're likely to disagree with this, but I can't help wondering if this "ingenious restructuring" – in particular, Edgar Bennett's emphasis on YAC – might have had something to do with all the drops. Everyone was looking downfield before securing the ball. In the Giants game, if the receivers catch and fall down, we have at least three drives that stay alive.

Did it have anything to do with 51 touchdown receptions, which were up from 31 in the previous season? I don't know how anybody could question the cross-training strategy after the year Edgar Bennett had as a rookie wide receivers coach. Touchdown catches increased by 20, yards receiving increased by 806, and there was an explosion of big plays in the passing game. All of a sudden, yards after the catch are the reason for failure after having driven success for an entire season? No. We've talked about this and I've expressed my opinion on this. There were too many defenders in the passing lanes. Too many hands waving and too many bodies just a step away as the ball arrived, and too many safeties sitting in the middle of the field to deny the crossing routes. The open spaces to which the Packers had become accustomed during the season, other than for the game in Kansas City, did not exist in the playoff game against the Giants. Crowd the passing lanes and rush the passer is how you beat passing teams. It's a difficult strategy to execute, but the Giants did.

Saul from Chicago, IL

Do you believe Vinny Curry form Marshall is a first-round talent?

If he works out at the combine in his "underwear" as he did at the Senior Bowl in full pads, yeah, I think he'll be a first-round pick. I know of at least one scouting director whose team is positioned near the bottom of the first round that loves Curry. He and Kendall Reyes performed the best of any of the defensive linemen at the Senior Bowl, but I see Curry more as a tweener that'll make the move to linebacker in a 3-4. Interestingly, the scouting director is interested in Curry as a 4-3 end. I can't say enough about Curry. He has an explosive first step and the kind of length you seek in an open-space pass rusher; he has the engaging personality of a pass rusher. The only knock I can find on him is that he needs upper body development, but I like that even more because it indicates that he's got upside. He's a guy I'm going to look up, for sure, at the combine.

Paul from Spencerville, IN

Vic, if I had told you in the late '70s that the NFL draft on television would get better ratings than playoff baseball by the year 2011, would you have offered to take me to rehab?

I get your point, but as early as the late '70s it was becoming increasingly clear that the country was saying yes to everything NFL and no to everything baseball. The NFL and Major League Baseball were truly two ships passing in the night. I don't think anybody in the mid-'60s, as the golden era of baseball was coming to a close, would've considered it possible that pro football would bury baseball the way it has. The World Series wasn't played at prime time until 1971, but ratings were still explosive; people called in sick to be able to stay home and watch the World Series. When I was a kid, I could walk through my neighborhood and not miss a pitch of the play-by-play call of the Pirates' game. Radios tuned into the games were on porches all over town; that's how popular baseball was. Pete Rozelle had the vision to see that TV would become the new radio. He married the NFL to television and it launched the game's popularity. That's why the 1958 NFL title game is so important; it gave us our first glimpse of what football and TV would accomplish as partners.

Jesse from Anaheim, CA

Hey, Vic, I saw an article today that people and a few senators are pushing the FCC to remove the game-day blackout rule for the NFL. I understand the purpose of the rule and believe it should continue. The NFL has long been operating under that rule, even though the congressional law is no longer imposed on the NFL. What are your thoughts on removing it?

It's of no consequence to teams such as the Packers, whose games are sold out and haven't known a blackout since the 1973 Act of Congress was instituted. The idea of the blackout policy was to protect ticket sales without denying fans that couldn't get tickets the enjoyment of the game. I can remember how furious the owners were that they were being forced to give away their product. I can remember hearing and reading statements such as, "Does Ford have to give away its cars?" All these years later, I think the owners overreacted. I think the blackout policy has served the game and its fans well. Going forward, I worry for the franchises that are not sold out week in and week out. How would their efforts to sell tickets to their games be affected by a no-blackout policy? In my opinion, I think their ability to sell tickets would be damaged.

Matt from Charlotte, NC

Could you imagine Randy Moss being picked up by the Packers this offseason?

Yeah, and MIA will sing the national anthem at next season's "Kickoff" opener.

Tommy from Milwaukee, WI

Can you explain this local game TV blackout controversy? Being a Packers fan in Wisconsin, I've never experienced this and had no idea such a thing even occurred.

Until 1973, all games were blacked out in the markets in which they were played. I know this is difficult for young fans to understand, but trust me, all home games were blacked out. The "Ice Bowl" was blacked out in Green Bay. Super Bowl I was blacked out in Los Angeles. In my opinion, Dec. 23-24, 1972, might be the most important consecutive days for fans in NFL history. On Dec. 23, the early game was the "Immaculate Reception" and the late game was Dallas' furious rally to defeat the 49ers. That was the day, in my opinion, football became our national pastime; America went pro football nuts that holiday weekend. The next day, the Redskins hosted the Packers and the game was blacked out in Washington, and that's when it hit the fan. Congressmen in Washington were furious that they couldn't see the game in Washington, and just days before the '73 season opened, an Act of Congress forced the NFL to abide by the TV blackout rules by which the league still abides. That legislation has long since expired, but the NFL continued to voluntarily live by it for more than 30 years. Now the league is facing the possibility of being forced to show its games, regardless of ticket sales. Stay tuned.

Brian from River Falls, WI

What have they decided for our failing ground game? I know our passing game is the best in the league, but we would be more competitive with a better ground game.

I have a feeling the running game is going to begin with a short pass.

Scott from Palos Park, IL

Not sure if this is possible in the cap era, however, with pros like Donald Driver and Hines Ward possibly being pushed out by youth, do you think we'll ever see a franchise assemble a bunch of old guys in one place like the Redskins did years ago?

I saw some comments at the bottom of yesterday's column about Vince Lombardi's impact on the Redskins and, frankly, I've never thought Lombardi had much impact on the Redskins. Why? Because a year after Lombardi died, the Redskins replaced him with George Allen, who then executed a building strategy that was in direct opposition to Lombardi's. Allen traded draft picks for older, veteran players. The Redskins traded away their first seven picks in 1972, their first four and eight of their first nine picks in '73, their first five picks in '74, their first eight picks in '75, and their first eight (one was forfeited) in '76. That's not the Lombardi way. Buddy Parker shared in Allen's love for older, veteran players. Bill Belichick has done a little bit of that in recent years, but I don't think we'll ever see anything to equal Allen's "Over the Hill" gang. It caused the Redskins to go over the cliff.

Nick from Toronto, Ontario

I know you're a diehard BAP draft guy and aren't too into free agency, but are there any free agents out there you think would fit well with the Packers right now and for the next few years?

Sure there are, but I don't give it much thought until after the tags go out. That process begins on Feb. 20 and concludes on March 5. Watch the list of free agents shrink as the tags go out and March 13, which is the start of free agency, nears. Teams have become very good at keeping the players they want, leaving only the players they don't want. The depth of last summer's free agency crop can be attributed to the lockout and the confusion and delay it created. It was an exception to the rule. Let's wait until after the tags go out and the requisite re-signings play out. When we get to the start of free agency and we know exactly who's there, we'll take a look at it then. Yeah, there'll probably be a guy here and there that can offer help.

Leonardo from Las Vegas, NV

Can you share your best memory in the last year since becoming a member of the Packers family?

I think my favorite memory of the last year is the walk I made from the press box to the pregame radio show, and back, every Sunday during the home season. The walk required that I go through the crowd from one side of the stadium to the other. It allowed me to experience the fans in their pregame mode. This was new stuff for me. For a very long time, I have been arriving in press boxes long before the crowd arrives, and not leaving until the game was over, or making my way down the elevator to the interview room for postgame press conferences. I've lived in the sterile environment of the press box for my entire career, until this past season. I thoroughly enjoyed being with the fans and experiencing their enthusiasm and anticipation for the day's events.

Terry from Dillon, SC

What else do we need besides a pass rusher?

A team needs to continually fortify itself with youth at all positions. I think the Packers could use youth at all three levels on the defense: the line, the linebackers and in the secondary.

Butch from Norfolk, VA

I have enjoyed your column this year, especially the discussion about head coaches being leaders of men. What do great football head coaches have in common with other great leaders outside the world of sport?

They're stubborn. When their stubbornness results in success, we call it conviction.

Jeff from Cobolo, TX

Are there any hard and fast rules for the type of facemask each position wears on the helmet?

No, there aren't, and I think this is a subject that should be researched as to its impact on player safety. I'm not talking about increasing the size of facemasks, I'm talking about decreasing the size of facemasks. I had a discussion with Mark Murphy about it yesterday when I interviewed him about having been named to the competition committee. In my opinion, the facemask is the single-greatest contributor to the explosion in concussions in football. Take off the facemask and the number of concussions could decrease. Taking off the facemask, however, is not likely to occur. So how about regulating the size and weight of the facemask and the protection it affords? The theory is that by decreasing the protection, you discourage the use of the helmet as a weapon.

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