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It's confirmed; players, not plays

I was abducted by aliens


Richard from Madison, WI

Say you're right and nobody even bothers having kickoff returners on their rosters. Then why even have kickoffs anymore? Why not just put the ball into play at the 20 or 25?

The kickoff is ceremonial, much as the PAT kick was until last season. The kickoff is also a kicking contest. The kicker is being challenged to kick the ball beyond the goal line without kicking it out of bounds. Late in the season, when the weather turns cold, kickoffs become something more than ceremonial, but by and large it has effectively been assigned non-play status by manipulation of the rules.

Brandon from Tulsa, OK

Vic, I saw Coach McCarthy discuss winning the one-on-one battles and their inability to win those battles last season. He then said they would definitely win the one-on-ones in 2016. What do you think gives him such confidence in that?

He's telling fans the problem that plagued the Packers last season has been identified and will be addressed. He was speaking to you through the media. Would you rather he not do that?

Garrett from New Berlin, WI

Coach K just said at halftime it usually isn't X's and O's, it's heart and mind. Is this just a more poetic way of saying players, not plays, even in basketball?

I have never known a coach in any sport to credit winning to plays, not players. I wouldn't play for a guy that said that. That was one of the big issues involving the play-caller change last season. It was a sensitive subject because putting an emphasis on plays gives players an excuse for losing, and it also robs them of the credit for winning. That's why Coach McCarthy emphasized the change was about the process, not the plays. Players, not plays, are accountable for the outcome of games. If you don't believe that to be true, you don't understand the game, its challenges and its charm.

Scotty from Lombard, IL

Vic, today the players in the NFL are better athletes. The stadiums are more entertaining. The game is more accessible, however, the players in the past were better football players, and the stadiums on the most part had more of a down home feeling. I miss that NFL.

There were still open-air press boxes when I began covering the NFL. I remember covering a game in Shea Stadium, which had an open-air press box, on a cold day. I'm not going to say I miss it, but we sure have gotten soft.

Jeff from DeForest, WI

Why didn't the Packers sing Forte instead of Starks? Sorry if I missed this.

I guess they didn't know the words.

John from Reedsburg, WI

It is being reported Aaron saw a UFO back in 2005. Have you also seen a UFO and, if so, what were the circumstances?

Not only did I see one, I was in one. It was late in the 2011 season. We were coming back from New York. The Packers had just rallied to beat the Giants and remain undefeated. It was getting late and the plane was dark. Spofford was asleep in the aisle seat; I was in the window seat. All of a sudden, I felt a presence in the seat next to me. The next thing I knew, I was in a space ship, and I had a terrible ice cream headache, like when I nearly died pumping gas. There were four aliens looking at me. One's face was red and swollen, as though it had been out in the cold for a long time. Another one was wearing a pair of good-looking khakis. I heard him say, "I don't have that list in front of me." Another one was chewing gum as though his mouth couldn't stop doing it. Another alien was wearing a silly little red hat, and I remember vaguely seeing another one that bore an eerie resemblance to Jay Cutler. I realized they were stealing information from my head. Then, all of a sudden, I was back in my seat on the Packers' charter. I told a few people what happened, and they laughed. Nobody believed me.

Patrick from Bemidji, MN

You said, "I'm all for adding players to the practice squad, but I think that would require some kind of regulation for their use." What kind of regulations are you talking here?

I'd like to see teams have the right to designate a fixed number of practice-squad players for protection. I don't like the idea teams dedicated to the real meaning of the practice squad, development, can lose players to teams that want to use those players for a week or two and then kick them to the curb. If, say, five players were designated for protection, I believe those players should be compensated at a higher rate. For example, protected players earn active-roster minimum wage. I'll leave the logistics to the league and the union. I'd just like to see teams have the right to protect some of their practice-squad projects.

Ed from Palm Beach Gardens, FL

Vic, care to address the fact that since you joined the Packers we've suffered four straight ignominious playoff defeats?

I didn't ask to be abducted. I was minding my business, writing my stories, just doing my job.

Dale from Owatonna, MN

Would Larry McCarren trade a year in football to fix his finger?

I would. I don't know how he can putt with that thing sticking out like that. I'm afraid I'd get it caught on something on the way through, which would make the putter head turn over and pull everything to the left.

Jake from Fort Lauderdale, FL

The last mock draft I saw had Green Bay taking A'Shawn Robinson. What type of impact does he bring to Green Bay, if selected?

You would want him to be the first player out of the tunnel on game day. Why? Because this guy just doesn't pass the eye test, he is the eye test. The other team takes one look at Robinson and says to itself, "We lost."

Phil from Los Angeles, CA

Can you explain how Bo Jackson was drafted twice, 1986 by the Bucs, who he didn't sign with, and then in 1987 by the Raiders?

Jackson decided to play baseball, so the Bucs couldn't find a team willing to trade for Jackson's rights. The Bucs' rights to Jackson expired in the next draft, and the Raiders had a plan in mind that would allow Jackson to be a part-time pro football player, so they drafted him.

Dennis from Las Vegas, NV

Vic, what was your opinion of Lynn Dickey in the early 1980's. I don't think he gets enough credit and he has one heck of a speaking voice.

I covered a Packers-Steelers game at Three Rivers Stadium in 1980. Dickey threw the ball around the yard pretty good that day. I didn't cover many Packers games back then, so my lasting memory of Dickey is for wearing white shoes at Kansas State. Personal expression wasn't common back then. When a guy wore white shoes, he stood out in the crowd.

Sam from West Allis, WI

Vic, can a player ever be traded for a coach? Has this ever happened?

Jon Gruden was traded by the Raiders to the Bucs for draft picks. It probably happened in the Notre Dame box formation days. Maybe Cliff Christl knows of such a trade. Hey, Cliff, put me in your Q&A. I remember when Manny Sanguillen was traded for Chuck Tanner, but that was baseball.

Matt from Mukwonago, WI

Vic, I'm not here every day to justify my level of fandom. I'm here for your perspective and to occasionally raz the old-timers in the comments section.

Lay off the old-timers. I'm one of them.

Bruce from Powell River, BC

Vic, if Greg Cook didn't suffer a career-ending shoulder injury, do the Steelers win four Super Bowls in the '70's?

They would've probably injured him. Seriously, though, how could you have a better quarterback than Ken Anderson?

Rick from Portland, OR

Vic, love your column. Great tip on eliminating the word "that" in writing. It's helped me a great deal. Here's one for you: Stop using "yin and yang" to describe opposite or contradictory ideas. I'm an acupuncturist and work in the world of yin and yang every day. You assume you understand what they mean, but you actually overuse, misuse and trivialize these terms. Take some time to read about them, get to know them, then try using them again.

It's called "literary license." Without it, I'm writing documents for "Acupuncture Annual."

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