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I'm kind of anxious about this one


Tim from Albuquerque, NM

I was interested in your idea about putting throwback numbers on throwback uniforms. Not because it's a good idea, since clearly it's not, but it started me thinking in a roundabout way about teams putting player names on the jerseys. I seem to remember it started with a few college teams, then the AFL and finally the NFL. Sometimes you would see a game where one team would have the names but the other would not. Am I remembering that right? When did the Packers first put names on jerseys?

The AFL created the idea of putting names on the backs of jerseys. It was one of their little gadgets that created an identity of innovation that separated it from the more stuck-in-its-ways NFL, and it attracted young, forward-thinking fans. As part of the merger of the NFL and AFL, the NFL mandated that all teams put player names on the back of the jersey; that was the year the Packers first did it. By the way, most of the comments I'm getting about my throwback numbers idea have been positive. Clearly, they are forward-thinking people.

Brian from Minneapolis, MN

You say it's harder for northern teams to go south at the beginning of the season. I would find that hard to believe, as the players have dealt with summer conditions no matter where they are from. Green Bay sees temps above 90 regularly in July and August.

Let me guess: You've never been to Florida in the summer, right? Let me tell you what the difference is: On those "hot" evening practices in training camp this past summer, I was the guy wearing the coat. There is never a day in Green Bay that even approaches the level of heat and humidity Florida presents every day for five months, sometimes six. Last spring, we had a couple of legitimately hot days in Green Bay; temperatures went into the 90s. A co-worker said to me, is this what it's like in Florida? I said the difference between here and Florida is that down there they will never have a day this cool in the next five months. Playing at one o'clock in Florida in September and October can be too much for a team not from that climate to overcome. The Jaguars have won one game this season: at home in Week 1 at one o'clock. I saw the Cowboys "melt" in the 2006 opener in Jacksonville before the second quarter had arrived, after training in Oxnard, Calif. The Cowboys scored the first two times they had the ball and that was it. The Seahawks couldn't answer the bell in the second half of the '05 opener in Jacksonville, and that was the year the Seahawks went to the Super Bowl. I saw a very good Steelers linebacker, Chad Brown, literally pass out on his feet in the huddle and fall face-first onto the ground, and that was in October. Jerome Bettis suffers from asthma and he had to take himself out of games down there. The advantage southern teams have early in the season is every bit as distinct as the one the Packers enjoy at Lambeau late in the season, and just as Packers fans love to see southern teams come north and shiver, Florida fans love to see northern teams come down there and wilt.

Bryce from Iron Mountain, MI

Although our rushing offense ranks 24th in the league, do you still believe it's effective enough?

Coaches of teams that want to throw the ball but know the importance of balance between run and pass like to say, "It's not about yards, it's about carries." In other words, as long as you make the defense play the run, they can't dismiss it and rush the passer on every down. That's what a passing team must avoid; it must not become one-dimensional and allow the defense to concentrate all of its effort and scheme on stopping the pass. The Packers are 24th in rushing yardage but 19th in rushing attempts. I'd like to see the rushing attempts be a little higher.

Leonard from Jacksonville, NC

Do you think Aaron Rodgers is the best QB you have ever seen?

You're going too far too quickly. I think he's the best quarterback in the league and I said that last winter after he won the Super Bowl MVP award, and I think it's now widely accepted that he's the best in the game. To become the best ever, he would need a few more Super Bowl wins and several more seasons the equal of his current level of performance.

Stephen from New York, NY

Considering the schedule they would have to overcome, how dangerous do you think the Giants may be if they can get healthier and make it into the playoffs?

They have the ingredients, especially if Eli Manning gets hot, as he did late in the 2007 season. That's a circle game. The Packers eliminated the Giants from playoff contention last season. That one will have some salt.

Kris from Los Angeles, CA

Vic, I love the site and all your writing. What are "looks?" When players are interviewed, they talk about getting "looks" from the other team.

A "look" is the appearance of a particular kind of pass-coverage, blitz or front formation. For example, if a quarterback sees two safeties deep in the middle of the field, he might say they gave us a "Cover Two" look. If he sees a cornerback creeping up toward the line of scrimmage, he might say they gave us a "corner blitz" look. That doesn't mean the defense is actually going to do what they're showing. They may just want to show that "look" for the purpose of disguising their real intentions, which they will reveal when the ball is snapped.

Andrew from Baltimore, MD

I totally agree with you with regard to players of the past being just as athletic, if not more, than today. It's not like humans have evolved in 50 years.

That's right. Are today's players better-conditioned? Absolutely. They are bigger and stronger and probably faster, too, but you don't acquire athletic ability, you're born with it. You can hone your skills, and the players of yesteryear did that. Hey, it's not as though those guys were lumps. We just tend to forget how good they were and that's why it's good to watch some old film every so often, to appreciate just how good they were. How good was "Big Daddy" Lipscomb? Do you think he could play today? We keep asking that question over and over: Could the players of yesteryear play in today's game? Let's turn it around: Could the players of today have played in yesteryear's game? In most cases, I think the answer is yes, but in many cases the answer would be no. A lot of today's small corners couldn't play in the '70s, when corners had to be big guys that could support against the run. A lot of today's super-sized offensive linemen couldn't have played in the '60s, when linemen had to be able to run like blocking backs. Middle linebacker used to be the premier position on defense; now he's a role player. We need to appreciate the players and their eras for what they are, which is to say unique to each other. Stop comparing and afford each the respect it deserves.

Don from Schofield, WI

You talk about taking the best available player in the draft, but Ted Thompson made trades and moved up to take Matthews. Did he think there wasn't a good enough player at the current draft position to help the team? He doesn't move often or trade much; draft-and-develop 90 percent of the time. What made this different?

Doesn't trade much? I had trouble keeping up with all of the trades he made in last spring's draft; he moved nine draft positions in trades. Morgan Burnett came via a trade, as did Jordy Nelson, Matt Flynn, Greg Jennings, Desmond Bishop, Nick Collins and Jarius Wynn, and those are only a few of the draft-day trades Thompson has made. I've never covered a GM that trades as much as Thompson does. Clay Matthews was a guy they had targeted. The Packers had just hired Dom Capers to be their defensive coordinator and Capers needed a centerpiece player for his 3-4 defense and Matthews is the guy the Packers targeted to be that player. When the draft reached the point that Thompson believed Matthews was equal to the value of the pick, per the team's draft board, they did the trade with New England. BAP is all about value. You have to take the player where he fits or below.

Joshua from Austin, MN

How do they decide the football schedule?

The league picks the games it wants to feature, spaces them out through the season, and then fills in the gaps with what's left.

Jerod from Milwaukee, WI

I heard McCarthy say they will be practicing with crowd noise. Does that mean all week they will be running plays with only a silent count or do they actually go inside the practice facility and turn speakers on with crowd noise?

They practice with crowd noise. When the offense comes to the line, the noise goes on. When the ball is snapped, the noise is turned off. The Packers use crowd noise. Some coaches use the sound of jet engines.

Andy from Waupaca, WI

In your answer about the Packers playing overseas, you said they might be asked and agree to play as the visiting team. Does that mean the NFL asks teams to volunteer to play in the UK instead of just scheduling two teams?

That's a good way of putting it. First of all, they're looking for a team that wants to be the home team. Tampa Bay has obviously been a volunteer for that role. The Bucs have ticket-sales problems. They also have an owner that is the owner of Manchester United F.C. The fact that the Bucs are playing in London as the home team for the third time in the last four years has caused some people to wonder if this isn't an attempt to build a following for the Bucs in the UK. Once the home team for that game has been selected, then the league looks at that team's schedule of opponents and starts making calls.

Paul from Spencerville, IN

You said Terry Bradshaw won two Super Bowls with the number 12. What number did he wear for the other two and why did he change?

I said Bradshaw won two Super Bowl MVPs while wearing the number 12. He wore the same number for the other two Super Bowl wins and 14 Super Bowls have been won by quarterbacks wearing the number 12.

Larry from Pueblo, CO

When you listed the quarterbacks that wore 12 and won/were MVP of Super Bowls, the first thing that came to mind was that Kenny Stabler was missing.

Again, I was only referring to players that wore 12 and were Super Bowl MVPs. Stabler was not the MVP of Super Bowl XI, Fred Biletnikoff was.

Steve from Springboro, OH

Does defense still win championships?

Generally speaking, I think the answer is no. Today's game is a game of offense. Offense wins championships. I don't think the 2000 Ravens would win the Super Bowl in today's game.

Anthony from Minneapolis, MN

If you're going to be bored with the massacre that will be Packers vs. Vikings, you should hop on the light rail and go to Mall of America.

First of all, there's no chance I'll go to the mall. Secondly, I don't like that word "massacre." I'm having a lot of trouble getting a feel for the Vikings; their stats just don't add up. Frankly, I think they're kind of scary. I see a team that has gotten out to big, early leads this year, and I don't get it; how could they be 1-5? Big lead early is exactly what a pound-the-ball team wants. So why weren't they pounding the ball with Adrian Peterson when they had big leads against Detroit and Tampa? I don't get it and I tend to be anxious about that which I don't understand. Big lead early, pound the ball with Peterson, make your opponent one-dimensional and then rush the passer with Jared Allen and Brian Robison, Nos. 1 and 13 in the league in sacks; why are they 1-5? I don't get it.

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