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Jerron McMillian, M.D. Jennings worth the investment

Plans, schemes and pep talks will only take you so far


Phil from New Lenox, IL

Vic, how has Eddie Lacy looked in camp thus far?

I think he looks like a guy coming out of a drive-blocking scheme and trying to adapt to a zone-blocking scheme. In a drive-blocking scheme, you hit the hole; it's pre-designated. In a zone-blocking scheme, you have to find the hole and then cut back into it. I've seen occasions when he has gotten strung out by the defense and, in my mind, that's symptomatic of a back learning where those cutback lanes are. That's just my opinion. I'm not an expert.

Christian from River Ridge, LA

Just moved to a completely new area after 22 years in my hometown. Thanks for keeping some consistency in my life. You've written a lot recently about everything you love about the Packers roster this year. What are some things you don't love that have you worried?

I don't worry about football. I worry about my family and my friends and the chlorine level of my pool water, but I never worry about football. I enjoy football. When it's not enjoyable, I wait patiently for the day when it will be enjoyable again. As for your question, I wish the Packers had one of those veteran backup quarterbacks, a Kerry Collins late in his career, which is to say a guy with a lot of yards and big games under his belt, but those guys are expensive insurance policies and can eat up cap room unnecessarily, and the Packers are a draft-and-develop team and that's the way it should be. Graham Harrell knows the offense and his role in it. Most importantly, he knows what his coach expects of him. B.J. Coleman is now in the process of learning all of that. It's fun to watch.

Dan from Milwaukee, WI

What is your take on players' diets? Do many take it seriously?

I remember covering a wide receiver that was a vegetarian. His name is Glenn Scolnik and he was from Indiana. He was impressive in his rookie training camp, but there was great concern for his stamina because he didn't eat meat. Funny, huh? I also remember how it changed Fred Taylor's career when he cleaned up his eating habits. He stopped eating junk food and turned to health food and, all of a sudden, the nagging injuries that caused him to be so cruelly dubbed "Fragile Fred" stopped and Fred became one of the most durable backs in the league. So, I could tell you that a healthy diet leads to success, but then I could also tell you that I covered the Steelers when they won four Super Bowls eating bacon burgers in training camp. Some would say you are what you eat. I tend to believe you are what you draft.

Jake from Clearwater, FL

Vic, do you think this team is capable of getting past this trend of one and done in the playoffs the last two years? I know that mentally playoff football is on another level than the regular season. How can Coach McCarthy get these guys mentally ready to win playoff football games again?

First of all, last year wasn't one and done. Secondly, the playoff loss in San Francisco had nothing to do with the Packers' mental preparation for that game, just as the loss to the 49ers at Lambeau Field in the season opener had nothing to do with the Packers' mental preparation. Those games weren't lost between the ears; they were lost on the field to a team that outplayed the Packers. It really bothers me when I read questions such as yours because there is no lack of want in these guys. This is a physical game. Planning and scheming and pep talks will only take you so far.

Ezra from Salt Lake City, UT

Vic, I see you always making excuses for why the defense is not Dom Capers' fault. You always refer to what he's done in the past. That's all well and good, but that doesn't help us now. I don't care what he did because now all I see is a soft defense. What can you tell me to make me believe that our defense will be better?

Obviously, nothing.

Josh from Green Lake, WI

Vic, regarding your response to the question about having a separate general manager and coach, do you think it's possible in today's game to have one person handle both roles, a la Vince Lombardi, or is the game so complex today that it couldn't or shouldn't be a one-man show?

It can't be done in the salary cap era. There are too many hoops to jump through each week just to move guys on and off the roster to account for injuries. If you don't have a general manager or director of player personnel skilled in the art of blending personnel decisions with sound cap management, you're going to make costly mistakes. It requires the full attention of a personnel expert. In cases in which a head coach might also hold the title of general manager, that's in name only. A guy wearing the two most important hats in a franchise would have to have the equivalent of a full-time general manager advising him on personnel matters.

Thomas from Hopewell Junction, NY

The MLB trade deadline was yesterday. There always seems to be a lot of shakeups. What was the most impactful NFL deadline trade you have seen or covered?

Herschel Walker to the Vikings. Jimmy Johnson actually wanted to trade Michael Irvin, but Johnson was talked out of it. Johnson wanted picks. He knew he had a lot of holes to fill and he needed a lot of picks to do it. Walker got Johnson the picks he needed, and he used those picks to help move into position to pick Emmitt Smith, Russell Maryland and Alvin Harper.

Bob from Seattle, WA

When a team has too many good players at one position, what are their options? Why don't they make a trade?

Every so often a team desperate for help at a position will trade for an excess player. Usually, they regret having done it. I don't mind pre-draft or draft-day trades that don't involve a king's ransom. Those seem to be thought out, scouted out. Packers fans certainly know what the trade that brought Brett Favre to Green Bay meant to the Packers. Matt Schaub was a good trade for the Texans. So was Mark Brunell for the Jaguars, Jerome Bettis for the Steelers and, briefly, Corey Dillon and Randy Moss for the Patriots. Those trades for players were made with a plan in mind, and they also came at the right price. At this time of the year, however, trades for players usually imply desperation, which usually means a team is trading for a player that won't make a difference, and that leads to regret. The majority of teams are unwilling to risk regret. They'll force you to make your excess available without cost to them.

Tom from Billings, MT

Vic, I am still confused as to the safety position. The Colts were a completely different defense without Bob Sanders; the same with Polamalu for the Steelers and us without Collins. Can you explain the safety role better and why we are not addressing that position as much?

Tom, those are special players. You don't just go out back, shake the safety tree and have Sanders, Polamalu and Collins fall to the ground. The Packers addressed the position a year ago when they selected Jerron McMillian, and he's looked awfully good so far in this training camp. They've also invested two years of development in M.D. Jennings; let's not forget about his game-changing interception and return for a touchdown in Detroit last year. I think McMillian and Jennings are two good-looking young safeties that are not only worth the investment made in them, but are two guys any team would like to have.

Dan from Kelso, WA

Vic, have you seen the changes the NFL is going to implement to the Pro Bowl in 2014? It makes me feel sick how closely it's tied to fantasy football. If this new format is successful, do you see any of these changes crossing over into the regular season eventually?

That would be a terribly frightening thought if I even understood what they're doing. I read on it yesterday and I still don't understand it. Here's what I think. I think some NFL guys were sitting around a table trying to figure out how to get rid of the Pro Bowl, and someone said: "What can we do that would really irritate Vic?" Then somebody said, "I know. Let's replace the Pro Bowl with fantasy football." And then everybody laughed. Fortunately, I have other plans for that day, whenever it is.

Jesus from El Paso, TX

What defines a jam within the five yards? What prevents a defender from tackling a receiver at the snap of the ball?

A jam is a bump. Within five yards of the line of scrimmage, a bump is good. Tackling the receiver is holding. That's never good unless he has the ball.

Danny from Belhaven, NC

Where does C.J. Wilson fit in this year's defense?

At end on running downs.

Pete from Mt. Brydges, Ontario

You said mean people make good football players. Who was the meanest player you covered?

A little safety named Glen Edwards might be the nastiest football player I've ever covered. Pound for pound, he absolutely was the nastiest player I've ever covered. In the tunnel before Super Bowl IX, he looked up at Carl Eller and said, "You better buckle up, big boy." Edwards also infamously clotheslined Ken Anderson five yards out of bounds. When I read your question, I immediately thought of Edwards and I did a search for his signature play, which was in Super Bowl IX. John Gilliam had caught a pass over the middle. He caught the ball directly in front of his face and Edwards speared the ball with his head, which sent the ball squirting into the air and resulting in an interception by Mel Blount. In the process of spearing the ball, Edwards also speared Gilliam's head, causing it to violently snap back. It's the most violent head shot I have ever seen. Of course, there was no penalty for doing that back then, but what gave me a chuckle was the reaction of the broadcast team. They praised Edwards for playing the ball, which he did by hitting the ball first. If it happened today, Edwards would be vilified for being a head hunter, which he was. Mr. Commissioner, the culture is truly changing.

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