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Packers' defensive front seven crowded with quality

Tough roster decisions lie ahead, plus one of the dirtiest plays ever


The regular writer of "Ask Vic," editor Vic Ketchman, is out of the office. Staff writer Mike Spofford is temporarily filling in to answer your "Ask Vic" questions.

Ron from Versailles

Hey Vic, you and Ann Coulter seem to agree with respect to the game of soccer.

Knowing that, he might never come back to work.

Nathan from La Crosse, WI

Mike, love the column, keep up the good work! I built my own 53-man roster and I had a very difficult time cutting DL and OLB. How do you feel about the Packers' depth and quality at these positions?

There are difficult decisions ahead within the defensive front seven, no doubt. With the free-agent signings of Julius Peppers and Letroy Guion, the re-signing of B.J. Raji and Mike Neal, the drafting of Khyri Thornton and Carl Bradford, the hopeful return to health of Nick Perry and Jerel Worthy, the continued development of Josh Boyd and Andy Mulumba, and a handful of undrafted rookies worth looking at, the positions you mention are crowded. Inevitably, injuries during training camp will play a role in sorting some of this out, but tough calls will have to be made.

Anthony from Phoenix, AZ

The Packers wore green pants in the '50s. Might they bring those back with the white jersey in the future for a few special games only vs. original NFL teams?

It's an option, but those decisions are way above my pay grade. Per NFL rules, the soonest the Packers can design another alternate uniform is 2015, but there's no guarantee they will.

!Micah from Lincoln City, OR

Vic, I'm 15, and today I saw the Charles Martin cheap shot on Jim McMahon. Why would someone ever take a blatant cheap shot like that? I guess I just grew up thinking there never were Packers that played dirty. Anyway, in your career as a columnist, who are the dirtiest players you've seen?

I was just shy of 15 when on live TV I watched Martin body-slam McMahon to the turf on his already injured shoulder. Martin had a towel hanging from his pants with McMahon's No. 9 on it, and other Packers had similar towels with other numbers, like "hit lists." Those were the Gregg v. Ditka days in the rivalry. Your question immediately made me pull out Cliff's book "Mudbaths & Bloodbaths" to rehash all the details. Martin was immediately ejected and Pete Rozelle suspended him for two games, the largest penalty for an on-field infraction in a quarter century. I would imagine the suspension now would be at least twice as long. Dirtiest players is tough to answer, but that was the dirtiest play I've ever seen.

Jeffrey from Charlotte, NC

Hey Mike, I was going to ask Vic how differently he would have handled a column such as Ask Vic 40 years ago. But then again, how differently will you handle a column 40 years (maybe 35) from now?

In 35 years, I plan to be long retired, but it won't take nearly that long before a column like this will be a live webcast between the readers and columnist, with someone screening the questioners and a transcript automatically produced via the spoken Q&A. Everyone gets the choice between watching/participating live or viewing/reading after the fact.

Tyler from Marquette, IA

You said Rodgers missing half the season would affect the player voting rankings, but don't you think that the Packers going 8-7-1 and struggling proves he deserves a lot better than being ranked 11th?

Maybe, but by that logic, shouldn't Peyton Manning have been in the top five after he didn't play in the 2011 season and the Colts – who hadn't gone worse than 10-6 for a decade – went 2-14 without him? Manning was No. 50 that year. Let's put it to rest, please. It's air-time filler for NFL Network, and it's become an annual annoyance.

James from Naples, FL

People always say Aaron Rodgers holding onto the ball too long is a bad thing, but I see it as him protecting the ball from turnovers. Am I right?

Partly. He also holds the ball when a play breaks down to try to make something happen. I've said often during my in-season online chats that you have to take the good with the bad there. Rodgers makes some phenomenal plays by holding the ball and breaking the pocket, but that's also when sacks can occur. Last season was the worst of outcomes with the sack and injury, unfortunately. There's give and take, and yes, Rodgers would always rather take a sack than throw an interception. But if he got rid of the ball on his first or second read every time to avoid sacks, he wouldn't be the playmaker he is.

Darrek from Grand Junction, CO

How long does the mike in the helmet last? Is it just for plays being called in, or up until the snap? By that I mean does Aaron see a snap and get to communicate to the sideline with Mike what he sees on defense?

The helmet speaker is shut off with 15 seconds remaining on the play clock. Or when the ball is snapped, if the offense is going hurry-up. The QB has no microphone in his helmet to talk with the coach. It's a one-way communication system.

Gary from Bear Valley, WI

The NFL kind of has a version of a penalty kick – if a kickoff is fair-caught. The team can attempt a field goal from that spot with no defensive player between the kicker and the field goal post. I think have only seen it happen twice.

What you're describing can happen after a punt or a kickoff, but I'll clarify some details. Following a fair catch, the receiving team can elect to try a free-kick field goal from the spot of the catch, even if there's no time on the clock, and defensive players cannot line up within 10 yards of the ball (like a kickoff). The Packers tried this back in the 2008 season finale, when Will Blackmon fair-caught a punt at the Green Bay 41-yard line on what the Lions thought was the final play of the first half. Mason Crosby took his kickoff run-up to try a 69-yard field goal and came up just a couple yards short. If only it had been warmer than 20 degrees or so that day at Lambeau. Crosby might have set an NFL record nearly certain to last forever.

Bryan from Madison, WI

Hey Mike, Vic has often stated there's no cheering in the press box. However, while watching that video from NFL Network, I was reminded of how thinly veiled Wayne Larrivee's fandom is during his play-by-play. Are the rules of radio journalism just different? "There's your dagger!" sure sounds like cheering to me (not that I don't love it).

A lot of questions have poured in about Wayne and Larry McCarren on this topic. There's nothing "thinly veiled" at all about their desire for the Packers to win, and there's nothing wrong with that. They are calling a game live for a Packers audience that is hinging on their every word. They are in their own booth and not in the press box, so they can do their jobs the way they do them without creating a distraction to others. Larry also comes down into the locker room to do interviews after games, and he does that job the same way, win or lose. A live game broadcast in an isolated booth is starkly different from doing in-game or post-game work amidst all the other media.

Brad from Mililani, HI

Mike, the stats confirmed what I always knew; Rodgers and Nelson are the best duo of QB and WR in the league with a 140 passer rating between the two. Game of replacement or not, why isn't this contract done?

All in due time. No need to fret in early July.

Josh from Pullman, WA

Mike, do you see the Packers using the depth at O-line this year in packages that include extra linemen on the field? It would certainly be big mentally to be able to pound the ball against teams like San Fran and Seattle.

The Packers ran the ball just fine in the playoff game against the 49ers, and the running game with Cedric Benson got the Packers back on track in Seattle in 2012 in that infamous Monday night game. That's why I think Vic says the Packers match up well with the Seahawks, because the running game is better than it was then and the downfield threats are ever-present. As for extra linemen, it wouldn't shock me if a reserve tackle like Don Barclay or Derek Sherrod were inserted as a tight end in some sort of jumbo formation in Week 1, just for a change-up, but I'll virtually guarantee you we won't see it in advance.

Carlos from Mexico City, Mexico

Just to be more precise, there are actually zero Packers in the Hall of Fame, as you get inducted as an NFL player, not from any particular team. There are, however, 22 Hall of Fame players who at one point played for the Packers. If Vic were here, he'd correct that. Thanks Mike.

Don't try precise with me. No, players are not officially inducted as a member of a team, but I was trying to keep it simple. Favre will be the 22nd player in the Hall of Fame who will have played a significant portion of his career for the Packers. Len Ford, Ted Hendricks, Walt Kiesling, Jan Stenerud and Emlen Tunnel also played at one point for the Packers, which would put your number at 27.

Ethan from La Crosse, WI

Mike, I'm following up Mike's (from Stevens Point) question about pass interference. Enough with the spot-of-the-foul placement altogether. Fifteen yards max; if the foul occurs less than 15 yards from scrimmage, spot-of-the-foul placement is fine. It's a ridiculous rule that can give an offense 40 or 50 yards sometimes. I know the NFL wants to see high scoring games, but come on, give the defense a break. The majority of pass interferences called are incidental contact and the play is awarded to the offense. It's time to do away with the spot-of-the-foul rule.

I disagree, in that I think the spot-foul needs to be an option if a receiver is egregiously prevented from catching a pass that's longer than 15 yards. But I agree with your sentiment on "incidental contact," that pass interference should only be called if a receiver is hindered from catching a pass that the defender has no chance to intercept. If two guys are fighting for the ball, let 'em play. But again, I'm asking for more judgment on the part of the officials, not the less judgment the league seems to aim for. Maybe it's only a matter of time before those judgments are all subject to replay review, I don't know.

Stephen from Chicago, IL

Mike, here is my biggest (among many) pet peeves on instant replay. By way of example, if a player makes a leaping catch near the back of the end zone or sideline that is ruled a touchdown, the play is automatically reviewed. Yet if the same catch is ruled incomplete, no automatic replay. Is it less of a key play if it's not ruled a score?

I totally agree with you, and it's insane. Your scenario also applies to a possible interception that is called an incomplete pass. If it's ruled a pick, it's automatically reviewed as a turnover. If not, a coach has to challenge it. That's nuts. Casey from Tempe re-iterated Vic's solution to eliminate the challenge system completely, and if replay is to exist, everything should be booth-reviewed, like in the NCAA. I'm starting to come around to that line of thinking.

Tony from Colorado Springs, CO

Did you become a fan of wrestling while covering the Wisconsin Valley Conference? My high school was in the same sectional as many of the schools from the conference, so I'm sure we remember much of the same stories from the mid-'90s. Anyways, speaking of wrestling, I think we would be hard-pressed to find a sport that is a better example of human confrontation. Do you agree?

I wouldn't say I ever became a fan of wrestling per se, but I became a fan of the great stories that came from covering wrestling in the Valley and other strong areas of the state, and a lot of those great stories had everything to do with the human confrontation. Ryan from Sycamore, IL, contends wrestling has greater human confrontation than football. I can't speak to that because I didn't play either sport. Mine was baseball, and the confrontation of pitcher vs. batter isn't the same physically, but it hooked me.

Justin from Neenah, WI

Wanted to ask Vic this, but curious to hear your opinion as well. The safety-conscious rules have trickled down to the high-school level. I am an assistant football coach and the WIAA has implemented strict rules concerning practice times. They are also planning on implementing limits on the amount of contact allowed during the week. Your thoughts?

In the current climate, and for the future of the game, it's the right move. Rules and regulations in the name of player safety at the youth levels will be needed to stop participation from declining. I'm sure Vic would agree.

Samuel from Abilene, TX

Mike, you used "y'all" in your last column. Do you have a Texan background?

Uh-uh. I just have to do something once in a while to keep y'all off-balance.

Matt from Dyersville, IA

Mike, what position do you think George Washington would play? How about Ben Franklin? Hope you have a great 4th.

Franklin's either a center or middle linebacker. Washington, as a general, is obviously a QB. Awhile back I visited that famous baseball field in your town on the 4th, and it was a truly uplifting way to spend the day. It's a shame so much controversy has taken hold there now. Have a great holiday weekend, everybody.

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