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My all-time favorite openers

Get ready for "Headsetgate"


Jon from Towanda, PA

Randall Cobb said in an interview he may have to deal with cheap shots. I personally would think players would show some professional integrity and just plain old sportsmanship in this regard and not take them at all. I mean, you have to tackle the guy, but blatantly taking a shot at a wounded player is wrong, in my book. What is your experience with this subject?

They take shots.

Joe from Bloomington, IN

"I think it'll be a clash of the Packers' balance between run and pass vs. the Bears' ability to impose their will with the run." Vic, without Datone Jones and Letroy Guion, do you think conditioning might play a factor in stopping the run later in the game?

Yes, and that's why I believe time of possession will be important on Sunday, especially in a season opener, when players will be seeing their first full-game action.

Matt from Lincoln City, OR

Who is the player to watch on Chicago's defense?

Pernell McPhee is Vic Fangio's Aldon Smith, Lamar Lathon or Kevin Greene, Pat Swilling. Typical of a 3-4 coordinator, they almost always have a star linebacker. McPhee was signed in free agency to be that star linebacker.

Dan from Houston, TX

Thanks for ending the preseason, Vic. What's going to happen this weekend?

Two rivals are going to come at each other with everything they have. The Packers are intent on a fast start. The Bears are intent on taking the first step in rebuilding. I expect each team to be committed to running the ball and controlling the clock, because that's the best way to stop the run, especially in the fourth quarter when the game is on the line. It's supposed to be sunny and 70 in Chicago on Sunday. That's not hot, but the sun stays high in the sky at this time of the year, and I think the Packers will draw from their experience in Pittsburgh a few weeks ago. Aaron Rodgers is usually the difference-maker for the Packers, and I expect him to be the difference-maker this Sunday, but winning this game begins with stopping the run.

Ben from Milwaukee, WI

For the record, I do not think you're lying to me/us. I officially retract the "I realize who signs your checks" comment. I will absolutely continue to read your column every day.

I officially accept your retraction.

Carrie from San Jose, CA

I've greatly enjoyed reading the column through the offseason, but I'm ready to stop reading about practice and player evaluations and start reading about games.

I'm ready to begin writing about games again. I don't know what happened to cause such scrutiny of the 53rd roster spot this year, but I've never seen the sensitivity for final cuts as acute as it was this year. If you want those guys back, go get them. They usually remain available to the teams that released them. Does everyone understand the Packers got a compensatory pick for losing James Jones in free agency, and then got Jones back a year later? Now, the Packers have Jones and the pick. That should instill great confidence in the Packers' personnel department and the team's philosophy for managing its roster.

Caleb from Eau Claire, WI

Vic, do you view Matt Forte as more of a threat running the ball, or catching it out of the backfield?

I'm more concerned about him as a runner because you can scheme to stop him as a pass-catcher, but if he's gashing you between the tackles, you're getting whipped up front and it's difficult to scheme that without committing more people to the line of scrimmage.

Cris from Sachse, TX

Vic, when can we start worrying about Richard Sherman?

Never heard of him.

Tyler from Orlando, FL

Vic, I don't understand how players can choose to hold out and not play in games. Aren't these players under a contract to play? Why can't the Seahawks just sue and force Kam Chancellor to play?

Maybe Judge Berman can rule on that.

Matt from Madison, WI

Do you agree today's college quarterbacks aren't as prepared for the NFL as those of the past? This reminds me of something you said about, I believe, Terrelle Pryor. It seems like the best college quarterbacks are really just the best athletes, but that doesn't always translate to quarterbacking skills in the NFL once the athleticism of all players starts to level out.

I remember Mike McCarthy commenting a few years ago on how much more prepared quarterbacks are coming out of college nowadays. Hey, Coach McCarthy is an expert on quarterbacks – I am in awe of what he's done with Scott Tolzien and Brett Hundley – but I thought to myself, "Coach, I completely disagree." I watched college games last weekend and the play I saw nearly every team run over and over was what I call the drop-back-and-run play. The ball was snapped to the quarterback, he hesitated one count and then ran with it. That's grooming? It's tragic a player of Pryor's overwhelming athletic ability is struggling to find a place in the NFL. He's one of the best athletes I have ever seen, and I can't help but wonder what a player of his talents could become if a team committed to his development. That's why I favor an increase in practice-squad roster sizes and emphasis. That's the developmental league we need. I favor a roster of 20 practice-squad players, new rules governing the movement of its players, and a separate coaching staff for the practice squad. I don't think the NFL can count on college football to provide game-ready talent any longer. College football is facing too many limitations of its own.

Jeremy from Marietta, GA

Vic, I was so excited to see you finally published one of my questions in the Labor Day column. Then I read on Tuesday you think it was the worst column you have ever written. I'm not sure how to feel right now.

But your question was the best.

Ben from Niles, MI

Two of my daughters attended their first Packers game this preseason and really enjoyed the Lambeau experience. Classy fans, an awesome stadium and tundra football. What more could we ask for?

I want giant pretzels in the press box. Get rid of the popcorn; it gets stuck between my teeth. Put one of those giant pretzel warming machines where the popcorn machine is. I'd like to be remembered as the guy who brought giant pretzels to the Lambeau Field press box.

Nolan from West Salem, WI

Vic, who do you think will be the kickoff returner come Sunday?

Ron Zook said it'll be Ty Montgomery.

Craig from Brookfield, WI

I get that we should not look past the Bears. This game has me nervous! But would Coach Vic consider holding Cobb out, even if he could play, for a few series and see how the game goes? If we're in control from the start, Cobb rests for another week. If we are not in control after, say, a quarter, Cobb goes in.

That kind of ambivalent approach doesn't work; it lacks commitment. If the doctor says the player can go, it's go time. Managing pain is what a true pro does, and Cobb is a true pro.

Chris from Superior, WI

My high school teacher said if the Packers go 2-14 in a season and those two wins are against the Bears, it was a good year.

Your high school teacher is wrong. You know, my inbox is full of this kind of rivalry talk. I can almost hear Frank Broyles saying, "It's a border war, Keith." I get the feeling this is supposed to be the pro football version of Florida-Georgia, but where's the cocktail party, if you know what I mean? I'm still new to this rivalry. Maybe this is the year.

Paula from Anaheim, CA

How can the Packers improve this year as a team? In your answer you wrote, "Be as good as last year's team; that'll be good enough. And then finish." First, how could you possibly be satisfied with a team that isn't constantly striving to improve? Good enough isn't! You can always get better. Every player, every coach, every columnist and every guy who sells popcorn should have a goal to improve every single day. If they do this, they have strengthened their chances of finishing. If they don't, finishing is a matter of luck. Alen wrote a question that sincerely and reasonably asked for your opinion on a topic within your area of expertise. Your answer looks as though you were unable to think of a way the Packers can improve, or didn't want to take the trouble of providing a clear analysis. I enjoy the column and your wit, but this response was humorless and lazy and not consistent with your usual excellence. Thank you.

Little nervous, huh?

Don from Torrington, CT

I loved Cliff Christl's story on the top five Packers season openers. Have you covered any memorable openers in your career?

The two best I've covered are the 1976 opener between the Steelers and Raiders, and the 2011 kickoff game between the Packers and Saints. The '76 opener is the first time the NFL held the coin toss at midfield and put it on television and used live audio for the crowd to hear what was said – previously, the coin toss was done in the hallway between the two teams' locker rooms before they came out onto the field, and it was just announced which team had won the toss and what they had elected. In the coin toss ceremony for the '76 opener, Jack Lambert said a bad word, and everybody laughed. I also remember the '76 opener for George Atkinson's attack on Lynn Swann, and I remember Coach Noll referring to Atkinson as a "criminal element" during Coach Noll's press conference the following day. The Raiders then sued Coach Noll for slander, which resulted in a court case that made the Tom Brady case look like traffic court. How's that for a memorable opener? What I remember about the 2011 opener is that it was my first regular-season taste of covering the Packers at Lambeau Field, and it was a sensational way to begin. I don't think I had ever previously covered a walk-off goal-line stand. Bravo!

Andy from Cologne, Germany

Vic, you watched Mike Tomlin's press conference? Headset problems? This never gets old.

I was in bed long before the conclusion of the game, but I couldn't stop laughing in the first half when Al Michaels let it be known to the TV audience the Steelers coaches were listening to the Patriots' radio broadcast of the game.  As soon as I saw league people scrambling behind the Steelers' bench, I knew it was the headsets. I had long been writing about this issue in this column. This is nothing new to me. It's just now it's humorous. Get ready for "Headsetgate."

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