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Packers special teams will improve

Marcus Mariota likely first pick of the draft


Joe from Albany, NY

I watched the NFL Network "A Football Life" on Jimmy Smith and Keenan McCardell and had no idea about their fascinating career stories. Can you share any anecdotes about either of them from your time in Jacksonville?

I love both of them. They were a joy to watch play and they always cooperated with me during media time. Jimmy's had some difficulties, and I so hope hard times have ended for him. Keenan is one of my all-time favorite interviews. He got it. He understood the role of the media and how he could use it for gain and also enjoy it. During a little slump late in his career, I floated the issue in my column that he might've lost a step. I knew he'd read it. A few hours later, when I went into the locker room, he called to me. "Hey, Vic, you think I lost a step?" He was indignant. I went right to his locker stall. "Am I wrong?" Keenan then proceeded to give me a rebuttal interview that was one of the easiest stories I've ever written. He then had a monster game on the following Sunday, which made for another easy Keenan-hasn't-lost-a-step story. I thanked him for turning a harmless comment into a week-long story, at a time when I was hurting for subject matter. He smiled. Two summers ago, when I was in Canton to cover Dave Robinson's Hall of Fame induction, I heard a voice in a crowd yell, "Hey, Vic." I looked around and saw Keenan coming toward me. We hugged. That's the way it can be when you make it fun.

Tony from Rancho Cucamonga, CA

Love your feature. I read every word, every day. Boy, I'll miss it. You educate in a provocative way. This venue has become a lot smarter during your tenure, but it's not for the thin-skinned. Wisconsinites are a kind group. You bust chops. They don't understand or appreciate chop bustin'. Their loss. Thank you for all the thinking and laughing. Best of luck in the future.

I'm not going anywhere. I've still got a lot of chops to bust.

Roger from Indianapolis, IN

We see how much the Eagles work on special teams and they are probably the best in the league at it. I find myself holding my breath every time the Packers are back to receive a punt. How important are special teams to a team's success?

Early in my career, I lacked appreciation for them. It wasn't until teams began hiring special teams coaches and I spent time interviewing them and learning about the intricacies of special teams play that I began to appreciate their importance. The Packers won a Super Bowl on special teams play. The 2001 Patriots were able to win a Super Bowl on the strength of two returns that were the difference in that season's AFC title game. Special teams are game-changers, and that's especially true at this time of the year, when the weather gets cold and the ball doesn't fly as you'd like. The Packers need to do a better job on special teams, and I genuinely believe they will.

Garin from Worcester, MA

"Underclassmen requesting evaluations for early entry to the NFL draft are down 42 percent from 2013." What are your thoughts on that?

My first thought is that the 2015 draft class might be weak.

Chenc from Calgary, Alberta

Vic, it's clear you have a good pulse on which teams match up well with the Packers and which don't. In your opinion, how does Tampa match up with Green Bay?

I think this is a favorable matchup for the Packers.

Jessica from Salt Lake City, UT

Look forward to meeting you in Tampa. Where?

The Packers Everywhere pep rally in Chicago was outstanding, and the ones planned for this Saturday in the Tampa area promise to be every bit as good. Here’s where.

Patrick from New York, NY

As part of a secret Santa gift exchange this year, one of my co-workers gave me a gruff-looking bulldog with a Green Bay "G" on its chest. I've decided to name him Vic. Happy holidays to you and yours. It really is the most wonderful time of the year.

I'm really a very nice guy.

Jake from Franklin, WI

Vic, how many questions about Tampa Bay have you been asked?

Not many.

Brad from Ontario, WI

So how many plays per game have the Packers been averaging? I'm guessing the 75 per game goal is pretty lofty?

The Packers have run 868 plays, an average of 62 per game. Packers opponents have run 941 plays, an average of 67 per game. Gets kicked by a mule, eyes go crossed. Falls down a well, eyes go back to normal. I don't know.

Kelly from Las Vegas, NV

Vic, the last six quarters of football for the Packers have been pathetic on both sides of the ball. Rodgers clearly cannot do it alone. Once again, we're calling on their porous defense to bend but not break, as they've been prone to do under Dom Capers. Have you jumped off the Capers bandwagon or are you still a believer in his schemes?

I'm still a believer. I thought the Packers defense played pretty well last Sunday. Of course, I'm a very positive person.

Jake from Grand Marais, MN

Vic, do you think Marcus Mariota will be able translate his success to the NFL? He seems to have the passing abilities of Rodgers but he can run like Kaepernick.

Mariota's stock is on the rise, and the rise began before he won the Heisman. A lot of draftniks think he can be a star quarterback in the NFL. He's big, strong, fast and throws with pinpoint accuracy. He would seem to be the quintessential "New Age" quarterback, and the likely first pick of the draft. This is where it could become difficult for a team such as the Raiders, should they have the first pick. They picked Derek Carr last spring. Do they pick Mariota, or do they stick with Carr, trade the pick and run the risk of passing on the league's next star quarterback?

Karl from Onalaska, WI

What does a guy gotta do to get his question answered around here? Sheesh.

Keep trying.

John from Covington, WA

At the risk of being banned, I must ask, what are the odds of the Packers not making the playoffs? I hope they win it all, however, I'd think not making the dance would drive most every Packers fan to their doctor's office requesting an anti-depressant.

You're banned.

Bridgette from St. Croix Falls, WI

You said you believe things are moving towards the "New Age" QB which, to my understanding, is more of a running QB. However, you've also discussed in length about how the league is courting the casual fan, and the casual fan likes the excitement the big passing game brings. These statements seem contradictory. Could you expound on them?

Listen to the crowd the next time Aaron Rodgers scrambles from the pocket. Fans love a running quarterback because it introduces the unexpected. I think if we took a fan poll and asked if fans prefer a quarterback that can run or one that stays in the pocket, the results would overwhelmingly favor the quarterback that can run.

Dan from Waupun, WI

Shaun says it's time for you to go. You agree.

I wasn't agreeing it's time for me to go.

Earl from Winnipeg, Manitoba

Vic, in my opinion, the drama leading to the NFL playoffs is the best in all of pro sports. Win your division and you are in. The fact that the Packers could miss the playoffs entirely, while the NFC South will still send someone, has me excited to see what happens. When I look at other leagues that have point systems to determine playoff seeds, I find there's no drama to actually making the playoffs.

If the Packers missed the playoffs and the NFC South champion had a losing record, I'd have to call in sick for the offseason.

Darin from Owensboro, KY

Vic, what are your thoughts about Aaron Rodgers' comments and defense of Jay Cutler's situation in Chicago?

Quarterbacks have a union. I come from a union town.

Wyatt from Grand Rapids, MI

Vic, the reason so many people don't understand that it's all about players and execution and winning your individual battle is because so many people don't have any experience playing sports at a competitive level, at an age when one understands the world and their place in it.

The best thing that can ever happen to a young man is having his butt kicked on the football field. He finds out how great he's not, and he learns how to react to that new piece of information. He also learns to respect his opponent and about the art of human confrontation.

Andrew from Los Angeles, CA

What are some of your hobbies? You're part of the family now, Vic. Don't be so shy.

I like golf, bicycling, reading and relaxing. Writing this column is also somewhat of a hobby; it's certainly not work. The sintering plant was work.

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