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Packers should prosper from new major point of emphasis

Depth being revealed at safety positions


Alan from Woodland Hills, CA

I've never seen a team more snake bit by major injuries over a longer period of time than the Packers. Is this just the way of life in today's NFL or has it always been this way?

It's always been this way but the number of injuries/games lost to injury would seem to be increasing. It's not limited to the Packers. Training camp reports throughout the league feature injuries to key players. I had mentioned either in this column or in my "Family Night" blog that ACL injuries have become commonplace. Once upon a time, a torn ACL was the death knell of a career. Heads bowed when it was revealed a player had torn his ACL. Evolution isn't producing a weaker ACL; at least not that quickly. In my opinion, the size of players has exceeded the force the soft tissue of their bodies can endure. In my opinion, the game needs to get smaller and it's my hope the league and its rules committee will start brainstorming rules changes that would make the game smaller. Or maybe this is the proper perspective: As long as the quarterback doesn't get hurt, everything's fine.

John from Chippewa Falls, WI

Vic, in a seven-on-seven drill, what positions are on the field and what's the objective of having only seven?

It's a passing drill; the quarterback and the offensive players involved in the passing game vs. the seven defensive players that would drop into coverage. It's offense vs. defense without the big guys up front. Some affectionately refer to the drill as "skeleton" or "skelly." When I began covering the NFL, the Steelers used a metal contraption on wheels to simulate the two lines. It looked like something on which you might hang clothes. Metal "arms" were raised to simulate rushers' arms, which forced quarterbacks to throw between the arms (passing lanes).

David from Chuluota, FL

I love the image of the Starr-Favre-Rodgers picture and your description of how you will cherish it when it finally happens. What pictures do you cherish from your time with the Steelers and Jaguars?

*I'm more of an artifacts guy than a picture guy. I have a picture of Fred Taylor on which Fred wrote a message for me. It's on my study wall and it means more to me every day. I have a large photo of Jacksonville Municipal Stadium from the Jaguars' inaugural game, Sept. 3, 1995, and I have a photo of Three Rivers Stadium from its last game. Friends scraped off my press box seat No. 37 and sent it to me; it's framed within the picture. I have a large Lambeau Field picture I'm going to have framed, but I'll wait until I get the Starr-Favre-Rodgers picture and then I'll have them both framed. The star of my study is a photograph of Forbes Field that bears Bill Mazeroski's autograph on the leftfield wall's 406-foot mark. *

Michael from Dover, PA

With the new emphasis on pass coverages and expected pass interference calls this season, do you think this will affect the game as it did in 1978? Call this change the Richard Sherman rule vs. the Mel Blount rule?

You don't have to go back that far. Go back to 2004; that's the year of the last major emphasis. The Colts receivers got roughed up by the Patriots in the 2003 AFC title game, so the league mandated a major point of emphasis on enforcement of the five-yard chuck rule in 2004, which produced a record-setting season for Peyton Manning. Now, after the Seahawks roughed up Manning's receivers in the Super Bowl, the league has decided it's time for another major point of emphasis. Call it the Peyton Manning rule, I and II.

Jeff from St. Clair Shores, MI

Vic, the line in the sand is imaginary and shifts with the generations. You reflect on the hard hitting days of your youth. I am sure Jerry Kramer remembers an even harder hitting time. You can never go back because you cannot change the fourth dimension, time. The game of our youth is no longer ours.

I like that. Yes, I agree the line shifts, but I still believe there is a limit to its movement. That's the ultimate line in the sand and the league must identify it and go no farther. The charm of football always has been and always will be the game's inherent physical danger. Without physical danger, there is no fear. Without fear, there is no excitement.

Josh from Milwaukee, WI

It's going to be more important than ever to get to the QB, with the latest craze for not playing pass defense. Which teams do you think are most stacked to get to the QB? I think St. Louis' addition of Aaron Donald to that already fantastic line is going to wreak havoc on opponents this year.

We'll get a look at the Rams on Aug. 16. I'm looking forward to it. They seem to be the consensus-favorite to be the surprise team this year. The Packers have clearly identified the need to get to the quarterback. So have the Bears. The Jets can do it. Beware of the Jets.

Steve from Fergus Falls, MN

Vic, I just read John Madden's remarks at the roundtable discussion with Roger Goodell about the NFL's "Heads Up" program. Madden stated he thought a 90-minute course on teaching a youth coach how to coach was meaningless. Madden also stated that teaching a six-year-old to tackle with a helmet on was pointless. Madden indicated if you want to create future football players, teach them the basic skills in flag football until they get older. What are your thoughts about the age a youth should put on the pads and start hitting?

This won't be politically correct or agree with the change-the-culture movement, but just as Madden spoke his mind, I'm going to speak mine. The kid will know when it's time. The urge to strike and be struck comes on a boy without warning. It's part of growing up, but not for everyone. It was for me and a lot of my friends. One day, I felt a strong need to hit and be hit. I felt a kind of wholesome meanness I needed to express. It was part of a need to test my manhood. I wanted to see how much I could dish out and how much I could take. I wanted to rank myself according to my peers. That's when the pads go on. Wait for that to happen. Don't make a kid hit if he doesn't feel the need to do it. You'll know when the time is right. Instead of crying when he falls down, he'll laugh. Football has always been there waiting for young men to arrive at that day. Football has always been the outlet for those kids. We need to make the game safe, but not too safe. Without danger, there's no test.

Diana from Three Rivers, MI

As we were discussing our upcoming trip to Seattle, I threw out the fact I may dust off my Favre jersey and wear it while there. My husband made a negative comment. I asked if he didn't want Favre's number retired. He said, "Yes, he certainly deserves it, but he still makes me mad." What is wrong with men?

I don't know, Diana. I'm still trying to figure out what's wrong with me.

Emmett from Monahans, TX

Going into the first preseason game, how is the whole safety situation looking? Who seems to be the front runner?

Micah Hyde and Morgan Burnett are the Packers' starting safeties. Sean Richardson is one of the stars of this camp, Chris Banjo looked like Ronnie Lott in Tuesday's practice, and Ha Ha is a first-round pick. I don't see a weakness. I see depth.

Peter from Camp Atterbury, IN

Vic, my dad used to say, "You'd complain if they hung you with a new rope." I can't help but think of that when I see Packers fans complain about rules benefiting the quarterback. We have the best quarterback in his prime with a solid line and a powerhouse running back. We should be giddy.

I completely agree. This new major emphasis is tailor made for the Packers.

Blaine from Bagley, WI

Vic, you recently said it needed to be the right time for the Favre event. Is next summer the right time? Personally, I think it is and would love to attend the ceremony.

It's the right time because everyone agreed it's about time.

John from Madison, WI

You've been doing this a long time and are really good at it. Football is a game for tough guys and I've come to realize your job is, too. You play it like a football player who isn't afraid to hit. Sometimes this is the source of great amusement for fans, but I never see you play dirty. Great balance between taking it seriously as your lifeblood while maintaining a perspective that it isn't the most important thing in life, it's entertainment. There seems to be so much divisive bitterness everywhere these days and it bothers me with the Brett Favre reactions. Are fans less attached, more attached?

Fans are more intense about football today than they have been at any other time in my life. Pro football has become a national obsession. Every little thing is a major ordeal. What I've come to believe from my days in Green Bay is that Packers fans are unique. They're different from all of the other fans because Packers fans are motivated by love. They've found something warm and fuzzy in this game. Fans elsewhere are largely motivated by the dark side of football. They like the edge; I like the edge. Packers fans want the love. They want to know Brett Favre loves them. They want to know he regrets having played for the Vikings. From my inbox, I get the strong sense of fans feeling as jilted lovers. I sense genuine hurt. That's not the way it is in other places. They invite confrontation. They like the challenge it creates. They don't get hurt, they get excited. You know, I wrote it without giving it too much thought, but I don't think I could find a word that better describes Packers fans than the word winsome.

James from Groesbeck, TX

Vic, if Favre is getting a bust in Canton, then what are your thoughts on Rodgers getting inducted into the Hall as well?

He's got a Super Bowl title and the defining moment, Super Bowl MVP, I believe every Hall of Fame member should have. Body of work is the only thing left, and he's adding to his body of work and will continue to do so for the next several years. I can't imagine Aaron Rodgers not joining Starr and Favre in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Michael from Greendale, WI

Vic, assuming the NFL takes the defensive holding shenanigans seriously into the regular season, do you think we will see a change in desired skill sets for defensive backs?

You're looking for guys that can mirror or close or do both. Darrelle Revis is the best mirror-technique cornerback I've ever seen. Deion Sanders closed on the ball better than anyone. Jammers beware.

Jeremy from Santa Monica, CA

A day all teams have a great quarterback. I have thought about this before as well. That would be neat. I would like to see what the major difference-maker in team play is once quarterbacks are playing on a more even level with each other. Special teams?

Turnovers. Scores will be 60-59, or higher. Games will be decided by a key interception at crunch time. Defenses won't even bother trying to deny yards. Defense will be all about playing the ball. That's what the league wants. It wants defenses playing the ball, not the man, and the league won't stop changing the culture until it gets what it wants.

Matt from Madison, WI

Vic, out of excitement for the upcoming football season, I watched about five minutes of the Giants-Bills preseason game before losing interest. You've said the preseason must be shortened, and I agree. Do you think this will happen in the near future?

Yeah, I think it'll happen in the foreseeable future. I think the league will dangle some sort of carrot in front of the players and they'll agree to an 18-game regular season. When I was still in Jacksonville, I wrote in this column that the game had to be softened before the league could go to 18 games. I still believe that to be true. The carrot is in the process of being dangled.

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