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Perry just what Matthews needs


Jon from Racine, WI

How do you think you would do if someone handed you a microphone and told you to call the game?

I've done it. I don't think I did it very well but I did it for a whole season and it was one of the most enjoyable seasons of my life. Here's the story: One of my best friends owned an AF2 team. He asked me to do play-by-play for the team, not because I knew my way around a microphone, but because we were golf partners and this would be a great way of playing a round of golf on the way to the road games; the team traveled around the Southeast, so there were always plenty of great courses to hit along the way. I felt like the radio guy in "Bull Durham," and I loved it. An evangelist was the halftime show in one town, and prison inmates were the grounds crew at the arena in Charleston; I got my picture taken with them. I never did a minute of prep work for the broadcast. I had a radio partner who loved the team and the whole AF2 scene. He did extensive prep work on the opponent and in the pregame show I'd ask him, "Well, Tony, wadda you know about the Augusta Stallions?" Then I'd listen to what he had to say, and that's how I learned about the Augusta Stallions. The team had a lights-out kick returner named Shorty Pullen. He had something like nine kickoff returns for touchdowns at one point in the season. The guy was unbelievably quick on a short field and he gave me an appreciation for the excitement potential in the kick-return game I had never known. Every time he'd receive a kick, I'd say, with dramatic effect, "Heeeerrre comes Shorty," and then maybe, "and he's gone!" I loved it. I don't think anybody was listening, but I was having fun.

Jerry from Des Moines, IA

Vic, between minicamp and the start of training camp, can the players work out at the team facilities, study film and work with position coaches on a voluntary basis?

The players may use the facilities to work on their own, but not with members of the coaching staff.

Barry from Angola, IN

I like what has been done to strengthen and add depth to the defense. I am concerned about the lack of depth on the offensive line. There weren't many sacks last year, but Rodgers did a lot of running around. Do you see anything or anyone developing that would ease my concerns?

I think the Packers are loaded with young offensive linemen worthy of development. I don't know if they'll offer immediate depth, but I think the potential exists that they will make the offensive line one of the deepest areas of the team in the future.

Nick from Milwaukee, WI

Do we have to be good at golfing to attend the outing? I am a newly addicted golfer with a horrible handicap. Is it worth coming to?

Do you like golf? Do you like to talk about football? Do you like to eat while you golf and talk about football? Those are the only questions you have to answer. Forget about being good at golf. Being good at golf has nothing to do with this event.

Corey from Lake Charles, LA

So with the negotiations between Drew Brees and the Saints at a standstill and a hearing about his future franchise tag on the horizon, how easy would it be for another team to just come over to Brees and offer him more and he sign with them? I'm sure he'd like some guarantees for once this offseason.

The Saints own his rights. They not only franchised him, they gave him the exclusive rights franchise tag, which means other teams are not permitted to negotiate with him. In other words, he can't go anywhere without the Saints allowing it to happen. It's all outlined in the CBA to which Drew Brees' union agreed. So, if the players don't think teams should have the right to use that designation to restrict movement, then why did they agree to it? How can you blame a team for using it?

Jake from St. Louis Park, MN

How much difference is there between rushing the passer with your hand in the dirt and standing up?

The difference is about pad level and space. Why do infielders crouch before each pitch? Because it's easier to go up than it is to go down. The same is true for pass rushers. From a standing position, a rusher has to have the ability to drop his pad level when he's about to engage a blocker, and he's got to be able to hit a moving target. From a three-point stance, the rusher's pads are already down and he's inches away from a stationary target. I watched as Kevin Greene conducted avoidance drills on Thursday. I don't know if he invented the drill, but it's something I haven't seen used by other linebackers coaches.

Joe from Clio, MI

Bonus money is a fraction of the total value of most contracts, so the team is not in the kind of jeopardy you make it out to be if a player underperforms. The real length of a contract is game to game with the owners holding significant leverage. These are not contracts that other pro sports have and certainly not what an average person may face in the course of a lifetime. That being said, I actually agree with you that it's the best system, but I understand holdouts and don't have issues with it.

It sounds as though we would agree that the NFL's way is better than guaranteeing contracts all over the place, as baseball does, which has caused teams to routinely trade players as a result of bad contracts, and then have to pay major portions of those players' contracts while they play for other teams. You are, however, way off on your characterization of bonus money. A fraction? Mario Williams' $50 million in guaranteed money is 50 percent of his contract's potential worth, but very few star-quality players reach the ends of their contracts, so Williams' guaranteed money is almost certainly going to represent the largest portion of all the money receives from the Bills.

Chris from Appleton, WI

Vic, I heard Bryce Paup talk today about fixing the tackling problem and that it would need to start at the high school level and would take 5-6 years to fix at the NFL level. So have they not been teaching proper tackling in recent years? Seems to me if you make it to the NFL, you should already know how to tackle. What do you think it will take to fix the tackling problem?

I don't think the problem is as much due to a lack of practicing tackling as much as it is about player selection. Changes in the style of the game have resulted in a premium being placed on speed and jumping ability, and less of a premium on the execution of the fundamentals. A guy could be the best tackler in the world, but if he can't run, he can't play. In other words, we're not looking for good tacklers, we're looking for speed and athletic ability, and guys with the speed to run around a block will usually do just that, and those guys usually aren't good tacklers. It's basketball on grass and the league created it by shaping its rules to accommodate that style of football. It would be just as easy to shape the rules to favor tackling, but that's not what the casual fan wants. The casual fan wants running and jumping.

David from Honolulu, HI

So can you explain how we make a team? We train guys to be great, we get some headliners, we try to sign the most talent for our budget?

Build through the draft, patch in free agency. It's a simple and sound philosophy that protects a team's future because it provides for an endless supply of emerging talent, and a healthy salary cap.

Jim from Westfield, MA

When a player under contract holds out, is it not the right of the team to sue him for breach of contract rather than give in, which most do? It seems that in other work places, if you don't live up to your contract, there are consequences.

This isn't other work places. This is a high-profile business that requires its workers to bang into each other. If you use the courts to force a guy to bang into another guy, he likely won't bang into that other guy as hard as you'd want him to do. You have to want to be good to be good at this game. If a guy doesn't want to play for you, then find somebody who does.

Bram from Colorado Springs, CO

You said your favorite place to watch a game is from the press box. When watching college football, do you find yourself watching more as a fan or as a sports writer? Are you a fan of teams you don't cover?

When I watch a game on TV, usually one of the teams has a coach I know, and I'll watch the game silently rooting for his team to win. For the most part, when I watch a game on TV, I'm looking at a particular player or scheme. For example, I'll watch West Virginia to see how they run their 3-3-5, or Wisconsin to see what they do with their offensive linemen, or Alabama to see if the back is as good as advertised. Al Golden was running a version of something called the "East Coast Offense" at Temple a few years ago, and I spent a whole Saturday afternoon watching Temple and trying to get a feel for what they were doing. I also like storylines. Am I a fan? Probably not according to your definition of a fan.

Paul from De Pere, WI

Any radical changes, or anything that could be determined in the next six weeks before camp opens? Or are we really at an operational pause?

Welcome to the "Dead Zone." I think I invented the term.

Jesse from Lansing, MI

What do you think of Nick Perry so far? Do you think he will be a good complement to Clay Matthews?

I think that when the pads go on, Perry is going to make a loud noise when he bangs into other players. In other words, I think Perry is going to be a physical player who can support against the run and push the right tackle back into the quarterback, and that's exactly what Matthews needs to allow him to flow to the ball. I see Perry as an assignment-type player, which I think will allow Matthews to focus more on using his instincts to make plays.

Mark from Stewartville, MN

Vic, were straight-on kickers still around when you started covering the NFL?

I came in just as the last remnants of the straight-on guys were exiting the game. The first kicker I covered replaced a straight-on guy named Gene Mingo. George Blanda was still going strong into the mid-1970s. Mingo, by the way, is a fascinating story. He's one of the best players not to have played college football, and he is one of the most versatile players in pro football history.

Jimmy from Plover, WI

Vic, thanks for helping me see it. I don't need to be worried about our running backs or how many wide receivers we keep. The GM and others scout and draft, the coaches coach, the players train and compete for spots, and the media helps those of us up on top, the fans, watch it all unfold. The fans are part of a bigger picture, and I know it's far less stressful and way more enjoyable for me to play my part.

Just remember this: That which worries you, is probably something the team identified and addressed long before you began worrying about it. Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy don't get caught off guard; that doesn't happen to general managers and coaches of their talent in this league. They always have a plan. That doesn't mean the plan will always be successful, but it does mean they've dedicated intense scrutiny to the subject.

Joshua from Shaw AFB, SC

Was thinking about surprising my dad with tickets to your golf outing. Can you go into detail on what will all be there and any cool things we can expect?

Everybody's going to be given a Packers hat, then we're going to go down to the range, hit balls and joke around, and then we're going to play golf on a great track, and we're going to eat some lunch while we're golfing, and then we're going to eat dinner and give out a lot of cool prizes, and then we'll do an "Ask Vic Live!" for as long as everybody wants, and then we'll leave excited and ready for the start of football and, best of all, we'll have new friends with whom to enjoy the season.

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