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Leader of the defense: Clay Matthews, Mike Daniels?

Tight end headliner in top position battles in training camp


Craig from Davenport, IA

Vic, I have to take some exception to your comment about the John Deere Classic being a second-rate event. I'm from the Quad Cities, home of the John Deere Classic. Some great players have played at this event and not won the tournament. Steve Stricker has won three times. Zach Johnson has won here, and so have many other players, including many unknown first-time tour winners. You should come and watch this great tournament. I promise, you'll change your mind.

I have to take some exception, but not great offense, that you have erroneously blamed me for remarks Johnny Miller made, even though I completely agree with what he said. It is what it is, Craig. The John Deere Classic is the perfect example of a weak-field golf tournament because the best golfers are on their way to the British Open. The truth is the pure defense.

Nick from Phoenix, AZ

Vic, you are so insensitive to say Harris looks more impressive than Franklin. Have you no respect for this game? Think about the man's feelings next time. Sheesh.

I should've made this "Can't Read Week." I'll let Craig off the hook with a sharp repartee, but I'm banning you, Nick, for gross misreporting of what I wrote in yesterday's column. Here's what I wrote: "I've seen him (DuJuan Harris) catch quite a few passes in the flat during spring practices. It was the role I envisioned for Johnathan Franklin." Nowhere in that answer does it say "Harris looks more impressive than Franklin." Franklin was my pre-OTAs pick for Underwear League MVP. I thought this would be a breakout year for him. I expected him to be cast in the role in which Harris is now being cast. It's not that I take great offense to having been misquoted, I just think you need to improve your reporting skills before you can be trusted to contribute to this column.

Ron from Dakota, IL

Rabbits are nothing more than rats with bushy tails.

Rabbits have bushy tails? Don't you mean squirrels?

Joe from Bloomington, IN

The Patriots and Packers were at the top in injuries and number of plays because of their hurry-up offenses. Not the only factor, but it's a numbers game.

You can use stats to tell any story you wish to tell. Your eyes know the truth, but only if they were witnesses. Too often, we have people trying to tell truths about events they never saw.

Michelle from Westminster, MD

Mr. Ketchman, after hearing about the Packers' day bowling, I (once again) was very impressed on how family-like our team is. I live in Maryland and I'm surrounded by Ravens fans, and this week during Ravens training camp, four players got into a skirmish, complete with pushing and shoving. This is just a good contrast of our team compared to others, seemingly focused on egos and salaries. I just wanted to share how proud I am of our team.

You are, indeed, winsome, but I must remind you that football is not a game of peace and love.

Kevin from Minneapolis, MN

Do you have anything on Colt Lyerla?

I saw him leap to make a catch along the sideline on Tuesday, and I saw him drop a pass on Thursday. That's about it right now. He plays a position of opportunity, and the door of opportunity will swing wide open for him in training camp.

Kerry from Atlantic City, NJ

Vic, how about this for an all-time greatest front four: Joe Greene, Alan Page, Bob Lilly and Deacon Jones. Any thoughts?

That's strong, but if I was asked to pick the four greatest defensive linemen, they would be, in no particular order, Greene, Reggie White, Big Daddy Lipscomb and Alex Karras. I understand that three of those players are defensive tackles, but I feel very strongly about including Lipscomb and Karras among the best four defensive linemen ever. Lipscomb, in my opinion, might be the greatest defensive lineman in the game's history.

Alex from Byron, MN

Vic, I know you hate soccer, but if the U.S. team was to make it to the finals, would you watch it? Is there any way you would ever watch a soccer game, ever?

No and no.

Scott from Holmen, WI

In SI this week, they mentioned Chuck Noll drafted Mean Joe Greene the day after Noll was hired as head coach. Was he GM and head coach? I was a kid at the time but was Greene just the obvious pick or was there some wisdom that went into selecting Greene?

Everything was different back then, and to fully understand why things were done the way they were, you have to first halt any comparison to the way things are done today. There was no combine. Scouting staffs were very small. The draft was in January, right after the Super Bowl. Chuck was familiar with Greene from the scouting work Chuck had done on Greene while Chuck was on Don Shula's staff in Baltimore. In those days, defensive tackle was a premium position because he was the guy that stopped the run and football was a run-the-ball, stop-the-run game back then. Art Rooney Jr. was the Steelers' personnel director, but the separation between coach and GM wasn't as celebrated back then as it is today. The coach often had the final voice in personnel matters, and it was common for a new coach to make a pick that would be the foundation on which he would build his team's future. Chuck saw Greene as that player. On Tuesday, the player on whom Chuck built a team that won four Super Bowls, helped carry his coach to his final resting place. That's a pretty good pick.

Randy from Medicine Hat, AB

Is it just me or are the Redskins being unfairly singled out for their politically incorrect nickname? As examples, do the Blackhawks, Braves, Indians or Seminoles face the same type of scrutiny?

I'll use Seminoles as an example. It's the formal name of Florida's most distinguished Native Americans, and they are proud that the national champions have elected to embrace and advance their name. There is nothing derogatory about the name Seminoles. It's a proud name. Redskins is viewed by most as a derogatory reference to Native Americans in general, for the obvious reason. In my opinion, Daniel Snyder and all of the Redskins' fans have an opportunity to do something noble by agreeing to change the team's name. This is a chance to further distinguish the franchise and its history. In my opinion, they should change the name.

Alex from Bakersfield, CA

Vic, even though you're at the highest level of your profession, do you think you would enjoy covering a college team as much as you do the Packers?

I covered a lot of college football early in my career. I have fond memories of it but covering the worst team in the NFL is better than covering the best team in college football. College football is too secretive for my tastes. It denies information on the basis that it's in the best interests of young men, but that's not the truth. The truth is college coaches are control freaks and they treat their programs as though they were kingdoms protected by a moat and gates. That's what happened at Penn State. Too much was hidden within the kingdom. It's not fun to be a reporter in that kind of environment. The NFL was more transparent when I began covering the league than it is now, but I think the league still understands that attempts at secrecy are futile, especially in today's media culture, and I feel much more able to cover the Packers than I would covering a college team.

James from Milwaukee, WI

I became a football fan in the late 1980's and have noticed that shoulder pads have gotten smaller for every player since then. Did technology improve? What happened?

Rules changes moved the game out of the shoulder-and-hips era and into the hands-and-feet age. Hip pads are gone. Dislocated shoulders have been replaced by broken thumbs. It's a different game and young fans struggle at understanding how different today's game is from the game of the '60s and '70s, because they can't imagine offensive linemen not being able to use their hands to block, and defensive linemen being allowed to slap offensive linemen in the head, etc. Cross-body blocks are gone. Crack-back blocks are gone. Post-and-turn blocks are gone. All of these were mechanisms for running the ball, but now they're forbidden by the rules and that's effected a massive change in the style with which the game is played. Once upon a time, the quarterback was live to the ground. It was common for defenders to spear the quarterback as he was going down. The quarterbacks of today aren't even fully live while they're on their feet. The idea of using stats of players of yesteryear in comparing them to today's players is laughable. Johnny Unitas is arguably the greatest quarterback ever. His career passer rating is 78.2. He threw nearly as many interceptions as he did touchdown passes. His career completion percentage is 54.6 and he threw for 3,000 yards in only three seasons in his 18-year career. Anybody who would attempt to use those stats to prove Unitas was not a great quarterback is not knowledgeable enough about the evolution of the game to offer credible commentary.

Matthew from Racine, WI

Let's say they do change their name to Redshirts. What would you do with the logo?

During the George Allen years, the Redskins' logo was an R inside a circle. Go back to it.

Josh from Chicago, IL

I have been listening to local Chicago radio talk about how Jeffery and Marshall might be the best receiver tandem in NFL history. They had callers call in with their favorite for best all time. They talked about how the Steelers receivers of the '70s didn't have the numbers of the Bills receivers of the '80s or the Broncos receivers of last year. They completely ignore the fact that the rules have been evolving and have changed how the game has been played. What would you say to these people?

I know Swann and Stallworth, Branch and Biletnikoff, Pearson and Hill and Joiner and Curtis, to name a few wide receiver combinations from the '70s, could play in this era. What I don't know is if the top receivers of today could play in that era. How would they react after Jack Tatum took their head off on a pass over the middle? Find video of Tatum's Super Bowl XI shot on Sammy White and Glen Edwards' Super Bowl IX shot on John Gilliam. After watching video of those plays, ask yourself how many of today's receivers could play that game.

Tim from Madison, WI

Vic, I love reading your column every lunch hour. Thanks for genuine opinions. What do you think Scott Tolzien's ceiling is?

He threw a pass in practice on Thursday that gave me one of those moments you remember. It was a sideline shot to Jared Abbrederis, and I mean it was a shot. Tolzien tossed a dart to Abbrederis and Tolzien split a couple of defenders by putting the ball where only Abbrederis could catch it. It was the kind of pass that if I'm Mike McCarthy, I turn to Alex Van Pelt and say, "Work with him."

Reza from Janesville, WI

Vic, if you were Coach McCarthy and you had to pick out a defensive player to be the locker room and on-field leader, who would you signal out and why?

Clay Matthews is the guy, and I think he had been cast in that role last year after he signed his new contract, but then the thumb injury put him out of commission, and you can't lead in street clothes. Matthews must return to form and stay healthy for this defense to be the best it can be. Mike Daniels is embracing a leadership role, but you almost have to be an every-down player to be the heart and soul of a defense. Maybe Daniels will become an every-down player.

Sparky from London, UK

Luxembourg has never qualified for a World Cup.

You're in the Hall of Fame, Sparky.

Jordan from Salt Lake City, UT

What position battles are you looking forward to in training camp?

Tight end, safety, center, No. 3 wide receiver. I think those are the headliners. Tight end is the one that interests me the most. Andrew Quarless missed spring drills. I don't know what his injury is because the Packers don't provide offseason injury information. Will he be back for training camp? What if he isn't all the way back? The door is open at tight end, and Richard Rodgers stuck his foot in this spring.

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