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Julius Peppers might've become the next L.T.

Bears offense has balance to challenge Packers defense


Shawn from Madison, WI

Do you think football in September is the new preseason, since the Collective Bargaining Agreement does not allow practice the way it used to be? I don't believe one half of football for the first team in August is nearly enough for them to be ready. Do you?

I believe September is an extension of the preseason, but not because of the CBA as much as because of the fear of injury. Coaches all over the league are reluctant to play their starters during the preseason for fear of losing them to injury. So, we're using the preseason almost solely as an evaluation tool, and four games to do that is overkill. How many personnel decisions were made do to preseason games that wouldn't have been made without them? Practices provide more information than preseason games because practices provide more exposure. I covered the Jaguars-Patriots preseason game when Bill Belichick benched all of his starters. I remember thinking this could become a trend, and I remember thinking Pete Rozelle would've had a fit about it because Pete was adamant about providing a quality product in the preseason. He bristled at anybody that referred to preseason games as exhibition games. We need that mindset again. We need the commissioner to get tough with coaches that treat the preseason dismissively. The preseason should first and foremost be about preparing for the season, not about making decisions on the bottom two players on your roster.

Corey from Las Vegas, NV

Vic, I really love my Packers, but I'm torn on how not to root for Brandon Marshall. I also suffer from borderline personality disorder and really applaud and look up to Brandon Marshall for what he has done, admitting to suffer from an illness a lot of people like myself are very ashamed to admit because of people's reactions, and he's proving anyone can overcome it. He's given me a lot of hope and I respect him a whole lot. How can I root for someone who, if he does well, it hurts my beloved Packers?

I think you're about to achieve perspective.

Chris from Voorhout, The Netherlands

Vic, I know you're a golf man. Who is going to win the Ryder Cup?

I can't imagine the U.S. winning, which can only mean they'll win. Or they'll get hammered so bad they won't even get to the singles.

Stef from London, UK

The defense, I liked what I saw on Sunday. What are your thoughts on it so far?

I think the secondary has played exceptionally well. Sam Shields is playing up to his contract right now, and that's something that's gotten lost in all of this angst for the Packers' slow start. Matt Forte is going to challenge the run defense. I reserve further evaluation until I see how the Packers defense fares against an offense that possesses balance, as the Bears do.

Jon from Wahoo, NE

Vic, I completely agree with your assessment of Peppers. I even echoed your words to my wife last game and commented on how this is new to him. He seems to be getting more and more comfortable with his new assignments. I am extremely excited to see him play against his old team. Don't you just love the underlying stories week to week this league provides us?

I'm not sure with what assessment of Julius Peppers you agree, but here's something I've decided about Peppers: He was out of position for 12 years. Had he been drafted No. 1 overall in 2002, as he should've been, he would've been used as a play-making linebacker. Instead of having to put his hand down, identify himself to the defense and become a stationary target, he could've been used in a manner that would've made him more difficult to find and block. He might've become the next Lawrence Taylor.

Aric from Oshkosh, WI

Vic, do you feel the Packers should be attempting more screen passes with the no-huddle offense?

Packers fans love their screen pass, and I covered a team for a long time that loved to screen, so I know and appreciate its value. The rule of thumb is you screen against aggressive fronts and weak linebackers. You've got to get a lot of defenders on your side of the line of scrimmage to have an expectation of success with a screen pass. You don't screen against soft fronts and good linebackers. Last Sunday was not a good day to screen. For most of my career, the "rule" was you don't screen inside the red zone, because the field has tightened and you can't run off defenders, but Mike McCarthy changed my thinking on that. He screens inside the red zone more than any coach I have ever covered or even watched.

Darren from Washington, DC

Believing it's players not scheme, and with limited practice time to work on fundamentals, how does a team improve week-to-week so come December they are operating as well as we know they could be?

They practice the execution of the scheme so they might become so proficient and so quick in the execution of the scheme that it works exactly as it's drawn up. All schemes on paper are successful. It's the execution of the scheme that determines its success. Does the "Packers Sweep" ring a bell? Lombardi obsessed about it. He made his players practice it and practice it and practice it. Everybody knew it was coming, but nobody could stop it because nobody executed stopping it as well as the Packers executed making it work. If you were playing the Packers that week, you practiced stopping the "Packers Sweep" all week, but the Packers practiced running the "Packers Sweep" every day all season. That's the difference between scheme and execution.

Ross from Ankeny, IA

Vic, it appears Chris from Milwaukee doesn't care much for your writing scheme. You do realize if you changed your scheme the rest of us would ultimately feel let down. You can "talk down" to me all you want. At the end of the day, I'll know this: You still give me the truth. Never leave us, Vic.

I've never lied to you. I'm about players, not plays, and I'm about the draft, not free agency. Those two beliefs are at the heart of my football consciousness. If you're about blaming schemes and killing your cap, this column isn't for you.

Brian from Columbia, MD

I read that in 1961 Chuck Bednarik tore his right biceps so terribly that it wound up in a lump by his elbow. He continued to play and never let a doctor touch his arm. Are players today allowed to be as tough as "Concrete Charlie" was?

Teams today wouldn't allow a guy in that condition to play, unless he was Bednarik. Know what I mean? Who's the guy who's going to tell Bednarik he can't play? May I watch?

Rick from Appleton, WI

Vic, maybe the failure to adjust at Detroit that Rodgers referred to somewhat cryptically when you questioned him was really about not giving him the flexibility to move the sticks with his feet. Do you think it's possible he was told to keep it between the tackles?

I have a feeling he was referring to combination routes to attack "Cover Two." For example, you attack "Cover Two" up the sidelines and up the seams, forcing the safeties to choose. The problem is you're still throwing against a loaded secondary. A week-long decision had been made to run the ball against an accurately expected six-man box. Coaches are reluctant to throw their game plans out the window with the score 12-7 and a half of football left to play. Even still, the Packers attempted pass plays on 11 of their 15 third-quarter snaps. Does that not represent a shift in the game plan?

James from LaPorte, CO

Vic, are these questions representative of the mix of questions in your inbox? It looks like you're picking the questions to feed the panic. For goodness sake, can we not all just sit back and enjoy another great season of football?

That's up to the fans to answer that question. For every question I've picked this week, I've had to pass over 20 "fire everybody" questions. Fire everybody is nonsensical. It's not going to happen. That's why I don't use those questions. They're ridiculous. The people that send those questions are just using me to dump their anger. I've selected questions that have been representative of the sane segment of my inbox. I acknowledge the adjustments issue; I knew it would be the topic of the week as soon as I heard the word spoken. I have a request: Please, try to clean up the spelling and capitalization in your questions, folks. Don't capitalize words for expression. I have to fix all of that stuff and it's taking a lot of time I don't have, especially for "Ask Vic Halftime."

John from Union Grove, WI

So the Bears will rush four and cover with seven.

I would expect something along those lines, until the Packers force the Bears out of it.

Eric from Lansing, MI

Does scheme allow us to be nicer to the players?

It allows you to be a player. That's why fans love scheme talk. I did a radio show when I was in Jacksonville. One night a guy came on the air railing about bad play-calling. He kept saying the Jaguars need to run play action. He said it over and over and it didn't sit right with me because what he was describing wasn't play action. So, I asked him, what's play action? "Huh?" he said. I asked him again to describe what he meant by play action. He then proceeded to tell me play action was when the quarterback rolled out with an option to run or pass. "Yeah, they needed to do more of that," I said.

Dylan from Forty Fort, PA

Vic, was there ever a year you found it particularly difficult to do your job?

Yeah, from November of 2002 until the week of the 2003 draft. I missed two games due to cancer surgery, but I was bound and determined to get back to work because sitting at home worrying about dying was killing me. So, I went back to work, and I'd be lying if I said it was the smart thing to do, but it got me back to the job of living. The tough part was doing the chemo. I scheduled it for Tuesdays. I'd go in to work early in the morning to do the column, and then I'd go from there to the pump room and sit in the recliner the rest of the day. The next day, people would look at me and quickly avert their eyes. Plus, I had to wear this pump on my belt, to keep pumping in the snake poison, and it made a swirling noise. The week of the 2003 draft, I was scheduled for my final treatment. By then, I was dust. I had to call the doctor to get the result of my blood test, which would determine whether I had recovered enough to get treatment the next day. He said I had. I said, "Doc, is this necessary?" I expected to hear him say, "Absolutely." He said, "No, you've had enough." The 2003 draft is my all-time favorite draft.

Ray from Lawrence, KS

First off, I would like to thank you for your daily column. Your sarcasm is what I enjoy the most. To all that have hit the panic button and are giving up hope, come Sunday, look for a totally different Packers team.

I hope you're right, Ray.

Adam from Hillsboro, KS

Vic, Aaron Rodger said it. It's not about scheme, it's "simple plays and perfect execution." Case closed.

I'm glad to hear it.

Randy from Madison, WI

Tight end play must improve. In recent years, this was always another reliable and viable option for the quarterback. A little more production out of tight end will show improvement in all the areas on offense, including time of possession. Keep up the objective reporting.

Mike McCarthy loves to feature the tight end. Improved play would help. It would especially help for some improvement in the blocking game. Last Sunday wasn't a good day for the tight end position.

Doug from Union Grove, WI

Vic, I'll grant I'm a homer, but my gut tells me this week the defense continues to improve and the offense snaps out of its funk. It's time?

This is a big game. I have no expectations, only intense interest for covering a game that is beginning to give me that feel of the rivalry everybody says it is. I love the drama.

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