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Packers-Cardinals game was watershed moment


Josh from Harrisburg, PA

What is on top of Vic Ketchman's list to see, regarding football, before you retire or expire?

I want to see the future of the game. Isn't that what's on everyone's mind right now? Is the game going to resemble what I've known and loved all my life, or is it going to take on a radically different look?

Ben from Milwaukee, WI

I watched the interviews with the rookies on the other day. Nick Perry was straightforward but had an edge to him. I like that. Your thoughts on the interviews with him and other rookies?

Perry and second-round pick Jerel Worthy were prepared to answer the questions they knew they would receive. Perry addressed the issue of moving from end to linebacker, and Worthy let it be known he's committed to a strong work ethic. When I see that kind of obviously prepared response, it lets me know they're aware of the issues confronting them.

Thaddeus from Groveland, FL

I think I've written you maybe three times in total, and the first two were probably not so nice. After having read your column for a while, I wanted to apologize for them. They were probably a bit undeserved. I don't agree with you on every issue but I think I was harsh and would like to let you know that I have enjoyed reading your blog. You provoke a lot of differing thoughts and it's interesting to me to see other people's points of view.

I don't have any recollection of anything you had written to me prior to this correspondence, but I'll certainly remember this one.

Anthony from Portage, WI

How important is it for a quarterback, or any player for that matter, to have a powerful name? Names like Bart Starr, Johnny Unitas, Terry Bradshaw, Joe Montana, Dan Marino, Troy Aikman, John Elway, Brett Favre, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers and now Andrew Luck are all very powerful and legendary-sounding. Does a name have an effect on a player?

I was at a delicatessen some years ago. The man making my sandwich had a name tag with one of those last names on it. I knew right away who he was because I had seen him on NFL Films talking about his brother. It was a great sandwich.

Lauren from Naperville, IL

Report: "At meetings next month in Indianapolis, the NCAA Ice Hockey Rules Committee is planning to formally recommend a switch from full face shields to three-quarter visors on helmets. The change in head gear has long been sought by college coaches because of the belief it will reduce incidents of reckless behavior by players, thus helping to create a safer environment." Vic, did you have anything to do with this?

Protect the face, endanger the head.

Daniel from Evanston, IL

I read your column every day, starting around training camp and going through the end of the season, but I am much less consistent during the offseason. Do you find the number of questions you receive decreases during the offseason or that there is more repetition?

It falls off a little, but spikes during free agency, the draft and other such offseason events. During the season, we have new topics weekly, in the form of the result of the most recent game and a look ahead to the next game. In the offseason, we need to be broader in our range of topics. What more can be said about the 3-4, dropped passes in the playoff game and Cullen Jenkins? I appreciate fans that deepen the subject matter in the offseason by asking questions that make me think and form opinions on subjects I hadn't considered.

Milond from Omaha, NE

Vince Lombardi said football is a game of blocking and tackling. The team that blocks and tackles better wins. Would you say that's no longer true?

There are two ways to look at this: 1.) Better tackling certainly would've given the Packers a better chance of winning the playoff game against the Giants. 2.) The Packers weren't a very good tackling team in 2011 and they won 15 games. I'll summarize by saying this: In Lombardi's day, teams that didn't block and tackle well would not have won with the frequency last year's Packers did.

John from Philadelphia, PA

The article on B.J. Coleman suggested that Graham Harrell already has the backup QB spot locked up. Did I miss something? What did Graham do so well to earn that spot?

Harrell is currently the Packers' No. 2 quarterback and he earned that distinction by having played impressively in last year's preseason, especially in the come-from-behind win in Indianapolis. He demonstrated command of the offense, and that's what's most important for a backup quarterback to have.

Pat from Port Washington, WI

Reading some books about the old Baltimore Colts teams, I was amazed to find out how many players back then held other jobs, even during the season. Gino Marchetti would apparently work at construction sites before going to practice, and Art Donovan ran a liquor distributorship and said he made more money at that than he did as a player. Kind of makes me wonder if players like that weren't better prepared for life after football than our more highly paid players of today.

They probably were better prepared emotionally, because they never lost touch with being a regular guy trying to make a living. They weren't nearly as prepared financially, because football didn't provide them with the security it provides today's players. Players of Marchetti's and Donovan's esteem would never have to work at another job as long as they lived, if they had played today. I think we're using a sad story here and a sad story there and applying it to all retired players. The preponderance of players I've covered are living full and happy lives in retirement.

Lynn from Kenosha, WI

You mentioned a teaching device called the "Oklahoma." What is that?

The "Oklahoma" is an old-time football drill and it was a training camp staple in the '60s and '70s. It would pit an offensive lineman against a defensive lineman between two blocking bags that were five yards apart. Behind the offensive lineman was a quarterback and a running back. The offensive lineman's intent was to move the defensive lineman aside and allow the back to follow that block through the hole and between the bags. The intent of the defensive lineman was to not be moved, shed the block and drop the back in the hole or force him outside the bags. It was football at its very foundation.

Tom from Minneapolis, MN

Since under the new CBA all rookie contracts are slotted, why do rookies even have agents for their rookie contract? Why not wait to hire an agent until they are ready for the next contract, when there is actual negotiating to do?

Agents serve purposes that go beyond negotiating a contract. They are a liaison between the team and the player. A lot of rookies are going to go through the signed-cut-signed process. An agent will help explain the process to his player and keep him on his toes. The team knows it has a line to the agent, who then becomes responsible for his player. In the case of high-round picks, the agent becomes a financial advisor. He's also someone who has an understanding of the team's salary cap and needs for structuring contracts. Teams want players to have agents. They expedite the processes.

Steve from Madison, WI

What is the philosophical difference between the "Spread" and the "West Coast Offense"?

The "Spread" is about space; the "West Coast" is about timing. There's nothing really similar about them. The "Spread" is so-named because the receivers are spread wide, the quarterback is away from center, and even the line splits are often wider. The "Spread" often results in the quarterback standing in the pocket until it collapses, and then running. The "West Coast" is designed for the quarterback to get rid of the ball quickly, often following a three-step drop. The formation is conventional: quarterback (Montana) under center, fullback (Rathman), running back (Craig), tight end (Jones), wide receivers (Rice, Taylor).

Ryan from Fort Lauderdale, FL

If the rules are changing to make the league favor the passing game to draw the casual fan, then wouldn't it make sense to show the whole field to further showcase the athletic play you see downfield? How about an end-zone-to-end-zone view like people see when playing Madden? I think this would make the game more appealing for casual fans.

OK, I surrender; TV should show the whole field. I can hear the water cooler conversation on Monday morning: Hey, did you see that cover two? I thought they should've used cover three.

Dan from Bowling Green, OH

Listening to Scott Van Pelt today and his one big thing was about whether or not this day and age is the best or worst time to be a sports reporter. He said these new media forums like Twitter and Facebook are making fans demand instant reactions and conclusions about athletes and their legacies from those in the sports media. Any thoughts?

There's some truth to that, but there's also a solution to that problem: Don't do it. I like the way things are. I'm thoroughly enjoying my craft in the Internet age. I love this forum and what I love most about the Internet is how it rewards speed. I think this is a sensational time to be a sports WRITER. Maybe we just need to be better at the writing part of it and not focus as much on the tweeting part of it.

Andrew from Lake Mills, WI

Vic, during the discussion of old vs. new in the NFL, a thought occurred to me: Does having the name of a stadium named after a product or company take anything away from the team playing there?

I think there's a loss of romance and flavor when we lose names such as Three Rivers Stadium and Orange Bowl. Lambeau Field is more than a name, it's a trademark and a symbol of everything that's good about the Green Bay Packers. Progress stops for no one, however, and this league is built on driving revenue, and the cities that build these stadiums need money to make that happen, so naming rights are here to stay. What then becomes important is that the corporate names of these stadiums not be changed every 5-10 years. As long as the names don't change, everything is fine because creating an identity for stadiums is critical; it goes to brand. It's very important that when teams negotiate naming rights deals, they negotiate them with companies that aren't looking for a quick hit. Heinz and Gillette, for example, are old-guard companies with strong local identities and commitments.

Nate from Moody AFB, GA

What moment in your life led you to have so much passion for football?

It goes back to my first experiences. It goes back to the first time I stumbled onto a high school football practice. My town's school had a star running back. I can remember standing up on the hill and hearing the smack of the pads as he ran defenders over. High school football was everything where I lived. I remember the first college game I ever saw. I remember tingling at the sight of that big bowl and all of that green grass and the uniforms, and I remember thinking to myself, "This is for me." My first exposures to football hooked me. From then on, I needed football. I needed to be near it. The hitting scared me in a way that attracted me to it.

Kaylib from Hales Corners, WI

Pending his health, does having Manning immediately make the Broncos a contender?

If he's the same guy he was, or even close to it, yes, the Broncos immediately become contenders.

Dirk from Munich, Germany

Vic, do the salaries paid to players currently on the practice squad count against a team's salary cap?

There is no practice squad currently. Only the top 51 cap values count against the cap between the start of free agency and final cuts. Once final cuts are made and a practice squad is assembled, its members' salaries count toward a team's salary cap.

Albert from Tucson, AZ

The NFL is becoming a league of offense. Do you think we will see a day when arena football-type scores are the norm and defenses are just along for the ride?

I think the 2009 season playoff game between the Packers and Cardinals was a watershed moment in pro football history. I think it was on that day that the game changed forever, and that years from now football historians will point at that game and say, "That's when it changed."

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