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Message to Donald: Bring out the secret weapon


Steve from Door County, WI

What is your take on Kevin Greene's coaching abilities? He seems like a fire-up-the-troops kind of guy, but he must also be good with the X's and O's? Furthermore, what type of coaching will it take to bring out the best in Nick Perry?

I had a coach say to me the other day, "Wait until KG gets hold of Nick Perry. That guy can coach." When I hear something like that from a coach's peer, I know I've heard something about a guy on the way up. X's and O's are wonderful, but it's the ability of a coach to teach and communicate technique to a player that is key. For Perry to be successful, he'll have to learn pro-style technique. The more quickly he learns it, the more quickly he'll have an impact. Greene is a big-time technique guy. That's his forte.

Kent from Salt Lake City, UT

In your opinion, how can football reduce the amount of concussions without eliminating too much of the hitting that makes it so popular? Can a soft outer shell be put on helmets and shoulder pads to soften impacts? Or does it go in the other direction and take away helmets and hard plastic pads so tackling is more like in rugby?

First things first: We need more information on cause and effect. We need to know for sure what football's effect is on the brain, when it starts and what the results are. Do the problems begin in high school and continue through college? If they do, then the liability needs to be shared. The NFL seems to be accepting full blame for injuries that might've occurred before the player even joined the league. Maybe some sort of brain scan that would test for an existing condition needs to be made part of a player's entrance-to-the-league physical. If he's already got problems, why accept liability for them? College football is getting a free pass on this and I don't get it. Players are amassing to sue the league; why aren't they suing their colleges, too? We need information. We need lots and lots of information before we can begin understanding where and when the risks occur, and how they can be avoided.

Jesus from El Paso, TX

Vic, how is it possible that mixed martial arts fights are becoming so popular at the same time that football is being criticized for its violence?

MMA is a niche sport. It appeals to a very specific audience. Plus, we're talking about one fighter against another fighter, so the ranks of the participants aren't large enough to result in organized labor. Football is a game and a business with a very broad scope. People are fans of football for a variety of reasons. Some are attracted to the game's physical nature, but some like it for its pageantry. Some like to see a big back pound out a first down. Some like to see a pass spiral into the waiting arms of a graceful receiver. Some just like to tailgate. Some like the game for its end zone celebrations. Others like it for its Super Bowl parties. Men, women and children all like football, and therein lies the secret of the NFL's success. When I went to my first NFL game with my father, you didn't see anything but men in the crowd. Now, women represent close to half of the game's fan base. I think it's safe to say most women – I'm not saying all women – don't watch football games because they want to see violence. You have to keep it clean if you want to appeal to a broad audience.

Guy from Mauston, WI

Besides the obvious, winning a Super Bowl, what would you like to see the Packers accomplish this year? Being a lifelong fan, I believe this to be a powerhouse of talent this year.

My hope is the same for every season. I hope I'll cover a team that plays an exciting brand of football and takes me deep into the postseason. That's as far as I'll go because to have expectations beyond that is to set yourself up for disappointment. The Super Bowl should not be the expectation of a season, it should be the celebration of a season. The goal? Yeah. The expectation? No. When you make it your expectation, I think you're burdening yourself with unnecessary pressure to fulfill that expectation. Don't expect, pursue. It's a completely different mindset.

K.C. from Des Moines, IA

Vic, I'm curious how your job works. Are you employed by the Packers, the NFL or both? It's interesting because you write as if you're an independent reporter. Do most teams give their staffs that kind of freedom?

K.C., this isn't Tass and football isn't the arms race. I can't change the score. When the Packers lost in Kansas City last year, what was I going to do, tell you they won? I'm struggling to understand this perception that team sites are propaganda machines. I think readers need to know what they're reading and what the expectations should be. Some newspapers favor the liberal opinion, others favor the conservative viewpoint. The facts, however, are the facts and must never be altered.

Jeffrey from Republic, MO

You mentioned Don Hutson's skill level. He played during the era when the ball was caught using bare hands only. I have always felt that the new era of sticky gloves should have asterisks next to any records set using these aids. How do you feel about this?

Sticky is stickier?

Rich from Manawa, WI

Johnny Unitas has a birthday this week. Tell us your best game-day remembrance of this great player.

I only ever covered one game in which Johnny Unitas played, and I wish I had never seen it. It was one of the most awful things I've ever witnessed. It was in 1973 and it would be the last football he would ever play. Ironically, it was in his hometown, where he was discovered on a sandlot field nearly 20 years earlier. Unitas was playing for the San Diego Chargers. Yeah, that's right, he had exchanged his horseshoes for lightning bolts. It was like Ted Williams in pinstripes, except worse. He was still wearing the black high tops, but he had lightning bolts up the sides of his pants, across his shoulders and on the sides of his head. It was so bad nobody laughed. And then the game started. By halftime, the score was 38-0, and that was the end of the line for Unitas, replaced by a young quarterback named Dan Fouts. The Chargers were a team with rampant drug problems then, and that a square-shooter such as Unitas would finish his career with that team was a tragedy that, fortunately, ended quickly.

Chris from Durand, WI

What is the best way to bring up a quarterback? Clipboard in hand for a while, or throw him to the wolves?

It depends on the quarterback. He has to be able to defend himself. If he's a mobile quarterback, he can defend himself with his legs. If he's a smart pocket passer, he can defend himself with his wits. If he's your guy for the future, and if he can defend himself, then I say play him, as long as he gives you the best chance of winning.

Mitch from Tomah, WI

Do you read every question?


Bram from Colorado Springs, CO

Speaking of "Bountygate," I seem to recall a game when the Packers were playing the Bears and had towels with targeted opposing players' numbers on them. I believe after an interception, one Packer slammed Jim McMahon on the ground. Was there any team punishment for this or any warning sent around the league?

I'm sorry, but I don't know the game to which you are referring, but I won't be offended if there isn't an investigation.

Johnny from Appleton, WI

Brute force or finesse?

I prefer pound and counter, but this isn't a pound-and-counter league anymore. This is a spread-and-flood league now.

Hans from Front Royal, VA

Washington Nationals GM Mike Rizzo recently invoked "Bountygate," while calling for the Phillies' Hamels to be suspended for his admitted plunking of rookie phenom Bryce Harper. Though he had his own agenda for doing so, the crossover reference surprised me. Could it be we will soon see the beginning of radical changes in all of the major sports in response to what is happening with the NFL?

"I'd like to see Don Drysdale trying not to laugh as a young hitter came up with both feet in the bucket." Those words were penned by Jim Murray, and Murray was a romantic. Imagine that, a romantic approach to being bad. That calls for an investigation.

George from La Crosse, WI

I thought Donald's dance with Peta Murgatroyd and Karina Smirnoff was great last night. Seems like his scores should have been higher. Do you think he will survive through to the end of the competition?

Yeah, I thought it was great, too. Here's my advice to Donald: It's time to bring out the secret weapon, the "Lambeau Leap" two-step.

Sean from Little Egg Harbor, NJ

Don't players have a duty or obligation to protect their fellow union members to blow the whistle on any bounty program and any coaches who institute one? There's an element of trust here. Bounties are unethical. They encourage life-altering and career-ending injuries that are done on purpose to win games and make money. I'm real surprised that more players haven't come forward about this. It's got to make them angry that some players might be going out there to try and hurt and injure them on purpose. I believe the players have an obligation to keep that integrity for the fans and for their fellow players and themselves. What do you feel?

It's a tough game for tough guys. They'll take care of it internally. Please, no more investigations.

Jack from Chicago, IL

What does Nick Perry need to do to make the successful transition from a 4-3 end to a 3-4 outside linebacker?

He needs to learn to play in space, which will require new techniques.

George from Hutchinson, MN

On paper, meaning just X's and O's, what base defensive formation did the Packers offense fare better against in the regular season last year? Was it the 4-3 or 3-4?

They fared well against all defenses except one, the four-man rush. That's a tough one to beat when it's getting home.

Joe from Brookings, SD

The rule that drives me crazy is the 50-yard pass interference penalty. First of all, you're assuming he was going to catch it and we've all seen receivers drop 5-yard passes. Why not move the offense back 50 yards on offensive pass interference?

Here's some food for thought: Why not assume the defensive player was going to make the interception and give the ball to the defense where offensive pass interference is committed? I mean, fair is fair, right?

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