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NFC North more than a division; it's a place


Juven from Abilene, TX

Do you think ya'll will win the Super Bowl, again?

Yeah, how about yinze?

Jake from Green Bay, WI

How does Mike McCarthy motivate a team that has won the Super Bowl for the upcoming season?

You start by challenging each player to be better. In many cases, that means challenging a player to keep his job or win a roster spot. The quest for job security is what really resonates among players. Don't kid yourself, that's job one. After that's been achieved, then players begin thinking in terms of team goals.

Drew from Middleton, WI

Do you see any of the Packers' newly drafted players having an immediate impact on the team?

If by immediate you mean before the first half of the season is complete, the answer is no. If by immediate you mean before the end of the season, I think the answer can be yes, but maybe only for a few rookies whose skills lend themselves to specific roles. I think Derek Sherrod is talented enough and certainly bright enough to become a contributor before the season runs its course. Randall Cobb is versatile enough to carve a role. It's possible another rookie or two will find a place on special teams, but that's the limit of my expectations. It'll be tough for a rookie to find playing time on this team, especially without the benefit of an OTAs period to learn the system and a conditioning regimen to prepare for the physical demands of professional football.

Tim from Libertyville, IL

Vic, love the column. So, if Suh were available to a traditional 3-4 team that has a BAP philosophy, you still take him with the understanding that you will have to tweak your 3-4 to avoid wasting his talent?

That's correct, or you could trade the pick and recoup its value. There's no doubt in my mind Ndamukong Suh would be a sensational nose tackle, but nose tackles are traditionally used as plugs and Suh is much more than a plug. He can plug and he can penetrate and a creative 3-4 defensive coordinator, such as Dom Capers, is very capable of blending the two skills, so I wouldn't shy away from drafting him and fitting him into a 3-4, but I think you must become creative with his role or you'd otherwise waste his talent. B.J. Raji has the combined ability to plug and penetrate and I think we've all seen some of the creative roles in which he's used.

Gerald from Karlsruhe, Germany

What do you mean by "hold-the-point, two-gapping defensive lineman?"

Point refers to point of attack. Two-gapping refers to an old-school defensive line technique in which the defensive lineman plays head up on the offensive lineman across from him, reads the play, sheds the block and makes the tackle. It's a read-and-react technique in which the defensive lineman is responsible for the gap to his right and the gap to his left, two gaps. It's not used much these days by 4-3 teams, which get their defensive linemen down in the gaps and use them to penetrate and disrupt. Two-gapping is used by 3-4 teams, however, to keep blockers off the linebackers and allow the linebackers to run to the ball. A hold-the-point, two-gapping defensive lineman is a guy who digs his cleats into the ground and refuses to be moved, and has the strength to shed the block and make the tackle in the gaps to his right or left. Quick-twitch guys are penetrators. When you find a quick-twitch guy that can two-gap, you got something special.

Shannon from North Little Rock, AR

You went on vacation, I fell out of my routine. I just spent the entire morning catching up on three weeks' worth of "Ask Vic." On the Los Angeles issue, I get the fact that the NFL would want their product in the second-largest market for TV. In an age when stadiums cannot be built without public funding, how would it be justified in a state that's broke and, if the stadium's not full, how would advertising revenue be generated in a TV market that's blacked out?

Private money would be used to build the stadium in Los Angeles. As for blackouts, the stadium proposal I saw provides for a 64,000-seat facility; they shouldn't have trouble filling that. The Coliseum was a 90,000-seat stadium and that consistently posed blackout problems. I covered a lot of games in Los Angeles that were played in front of big crowds. The teams that played there were never provided an adequate facility. In my opinion, L.A. has gotten a bum rap because of it.

Dominic from Mukilteo, WA

If playoff seeding was based completely on wins, meaning the wild-card team could potentially be the second seed, then every wild-card team would have been the home team on wild-card weekend. Do you think they will change the playoff seeding system any time soon?

No, I don't. It was proposed at the spring owners meetings in 2008 and it didn't even get to a vote. Why not? Because the owners want to protect the integrity of their division titles. They want a division title to mean something and I agree that it should. It doesn't bother me in the least that Seattle hosted a postseason game at 7-9 last year. I like imperfection. Hey, they won the game, didn't they? What's most important to me is maintaining what little feel of regionalism exists in the NFL. The NFC North is more than a division, it's a place. Winning its title means something to the fans of this division, as evidenced by the fact that I've gotten a lot of e-mail from Packers fans that remain disappointed that the Packers didn't win the division title last season, even though they won the Super Bowl. That sense of regionalism is good for the NFL. It'll carry a division when it's down. It's real simple: You wanna host a postseason game? Win your division. End of story.

Brenda from Sioux Center, IA

I felt the need to respond to the idea that including women has been the impetus for watering down the sport. I am a woman and my favorite part of watching hockey is the fights.

Where have you been all my life?

Nathaniel from Pittsford, NY

If the rules continue to shift in favor of the offense, what will that do to the legacies of old-timers? If 20 years from now, 5,000 yards is a common benchmark, will that limit appreciation for older quarterbacks and receivers without the same stats?

It didn't hurt Paul Hornung, did it? He never rushed for more than 681 yards in a season, but the men who elected him to the Hall of Fame knew of his impact on the game. It didn't hurt Lynn Swann, did it? He never caught more than 61 passes in a season, but the men who elected him to the Hall of Fame understood his impact on the game, especially on the Super Bowl. Hornung and Swann are famous players and the Hall of Fame is the Hall of Famous. It's not a place for stats, it's a place for greatness. They are not mutually inclusive.

Ryan from Las Vegas, NV

Adam Schefter sent out a good stat in regards to James Harrison's comments: Peyton Manning threw 12 interceptions in his own territory last year, Ben Roethlisberger threw three.

The truth is the pure defense. I like the truth and I have no problem with it being spoken.

John from Green Bay, WI

I can agree that the game is a game of collisions, and collisions can cause injury so injuries are part of the game. My issue is with players like Harrison and the like. We so often hear these men talk about the "brotherhood" they share with other players throughout the league. How on one hand can they all be "brothers," yet, the first chance they get they try to literally murder their "brother" on the field by giving a cheap head shot?

You're being naïve. It's a tough game for tough guys. I don't wanna see brothers being nice to each other. I wanna see fierce, physical competition. The game's popularity is built on it. The "brotherhood" stuff is for off the field and at the negotiating table. Trust me, on the field they are not brothers.

Steve from Elk River, MN

During the lockout, if you were to get sick and go to the hospital, could any players who like you come to visit?

Yes, they could come to visit, but I wouldn't be permitted to talk to them. I'd probably have to call security.

Zachary from Christy, IA

Is it possible that we could rush more this season with all the good running backs we have?

I think that's the plan.

Steven from Kewanee, IL

When is all the petty bickering going to stop? When will players start playing for the love of the game; like when Lombardi had the best players ever?

The players of today love the game. I don't think anything has changed since I started covering the league. The players I covered in the 1970s were as intense about their contracts as the players of today are. If there's a difference it's that there's more money involved today and players have more leverage in accessing that money than the players of the '70s, and the players of the Lombardi era, did. Jim Taylor clearly clashed with Lombardi over contract issues, but nobody ever accused Taylor of not loving the game. You don't have to play for free to express your love for the game. It's professional football; it's about the money.

Larry from Missoula, MT

What is your assessment of a steroid problem in the NFL, as compared, say, to baseball or cycling?

The difference is that the NFL has had a substance abuse policy in place for a long time. The players agreed to testing as a way of policing themselves and that's not something players in other leagues were willing to do.

Alan from Jackpot, NV

The Purple People Eaters, Monsters of the Midway, Steel Curtain: None of these nicknames bring to mind safe tackles and a two-point stance. At what point do we ask the players, "Do you want to be in perfect health for the rest of your life or achieve glory?" The safety-first movement in this country has put any discussion about other priorities, well, second. I'm not sure if you would agree, but players didn't enter the NFL with dreams of coming out healthy; they entered to make their name known.

They also pursued a career in football because it would reward them financially. You offer an interesting perspective. Being safe isn't what made this country great, is it?

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