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Pro football has its business side


Laura from Decatur, IL

I know many of us Packers fans are still pretty emotional about the amazing Super Bowl win and love all of our players, but why release Hawk and what did Thompson mean in his statement that the Packers want to make him a part of the team in the future? I really hope we find a way to keep him.

Vic: Mike McCarthy referred to the business side of pro football during his press conference at the combine. That's when I knew this was likely to happen. Yes, it's a game of the heart and, yes, it tugs at our emotions, but pro football is also a business. I'm fond of saying it's pro football, it's about the money, and it doesn't blunt my love of the game to think in those mercenary terms because that, in my opinion, is the charm of the game. It's play for pay and you gotta play up to the level of your pay. There are no scholarships in pro football. Players are evaluated every day; they live on the edge and that, in my opinion, is the drama of pro football. The Packers wanna keep A.J. Hawk. Obviously, however, they want him at a different price. It's nothing personal. It's just business. I'd like at this time to congratulate Packers fans on their understanding of the business side of pro football. I figured my inbox would light up with outrage about Hawk being cut, but it didn't. Packers fans obviously understand and appreciate the business aspect of the game of professional football.

Matthew from Hartford, WI

Besides the Packers, who is your favorite to win the Super Bowl next season?

Vic: Two months before the draft? OK, I'll bite. I think the Eagles are poised to make a run, too. Truth be known, last year was supposed to be a rebuilding season for them. Atlanta is clearly a long-term contender. They've got a solid core of talent in place. The Falcons need a little bit here and little bit there and should they find those little bits, look out. Did the Saints just fall victim to an upset or was that loss to Seattle symptomatic of a downward trend? They were sixth on offense and fourth on defense last season so I tend to think they'll be back. Those three teams and the Packers will likely be the NFC favorites. In the AFC, I think the AFC East will be wide open next year. I don't see a clear-cut dominant team. The Steelers have a solid core but need help in their secondary and on their offensive line. If they can address those two areas in the offseason, look out. I'm not sure about the Ravens; they're starting to show some age. The Chargers are the most perplexing team in the league; number one on offense and defense and didn't make the playoffs. I say they rebound. How about the Texans? Can Wade Phillips do something with that defense? The candidates in the AFC aren't as distinct. It's wide open in the AFC.

Andy from Richmond, VA

I've covered your column for many, many years. I greatly appreciated both your opinion and insight into the CBA discussion the last time it was negotiated in 2006. If my memory is right, you spent a lot of time talking about the two groups of owners; the big-market teams and the leaguethink teams. Is Pete Rozelle's NFL no longer leaguethink?

Vic: It's still there, just not to the degree it was when Pete was commissioner. We've lost a little leaguethink in recent years and I'd like to see it return. It was always a way of leveling the playing field so that small-market franchises could compete with large-market franchises. More than that, it was a way for low-revenue teams to compete with high-revenue teams. That's the real issue.

Alex from Eau Claire, WI

Do you think Mike McCarthy will ever give up calling his own plays? Sometimes it's so frustrating watching him sit on a lead. It's almost like he doesn't know what he's doing when he calls the plays. Just would like to hear your take on whether calling plays should be left to an offensive coordinator?

Vic: I covered Chuck Noll and the fans complained that he sat on a lead. In fact, he did one of the most outrageously conservative things I've ever seen. In Super Bowl X, on fourth-and-4 from about the Cowboys' 39 with about two minutes to play and protecting a four-point lead, he elected to run the ball into the middle of the line instead of risking having a punt blocked or something bizarre happening while attempting to pass. Chuck decided he would just run three seconds off the clock, give the ball back to the Cowboys and turn the game over to his defense, the "Steel Curtain," to stop Roger Staubach and company. The strategy worked, Chuck won the second of four Super Bowls and he, of course, is now in the Hall of Fame. I covered Tom Coughlin in Jacksonville and the fans there were out of their minds about Tom's conservative play-calling, which I never got, by the way. It became such an issue that when a new coach was hired to replace Tom, the owner said, "No more three yards and a cloud of dust." Since then, Tom has won a Super Bowl. You might remember, of course, that Coach McCarthy recently won a Super Bowl.

Mike from Riverhead, NY

Finding a wife: BAP or needs?

Vic: BAP, always, unless you're in the late rounds, if you know what I mean.

Chris from Marquette, MI

So what are your three most important positions on offense and defense?

Vic: On offense, it's quarterback, left tackle and the best player among the remaining positions. On defense, it's number one cornerback, blindside pass-rusher and the best player among the remaining positions.

David from Leeds, UK

Vic, I admire your desire to get the questions posted before lunchtime, but my lunch is around six hours ahead of you guys. I'll read the answers over my evening tea.

Vic: Tea? Please, David, not tea. This isn't a tea kind of column.

Josh from Harrisburg, PA

Uh-oh, looks like green, yellow and white BAP bibs may be on order soon.

Vic: No, they get it. It's just that fans wanna make sure all issues have been addressed and all problems have been resolved before training camp begins. Fans want to be absolutely sure of the starting lineup and that the team will win the Super Bowl. What fans never consider, however, is the inevitability of injuries and the fact that you really can't predict what your strengths and weaknesses are because there will always be a Sam Shields and a James Starks that'll emerge and a Jermichael Finley who will get injured. Heading into last summer's training camp, cornerback was an issue for the Packers. When the season ended, it was clearly a strength.

Mark from Saskatchewan, Canada

Being a sportswriter sounds like a 24/7 job?

Vic: At times, it can be. It's that way for a few weeks at draft time and at mini-camp time. It's that way in training camp and during the season on road-game weekends. I'll tell you this, though: It beats heavy lifting. I grew up in a mill town and I spent a summer working in a sintering plant. That's when I knew I wanted to be a sportswriter.

Eric from Fort Atkinson, WI

"Yes, they said I wasn't kind and sensitive enough to the fans." I hope this is your sarcasm because it sure made me laugh. Not sure if everyone will catch on right away, though.

Vic: That was the old me. I'm a kinder, gentler guy now.

Michael from Milwaukee, WI

What is your favorite football game of all time?

Vic: It's the "Immaculate Reception." It was my first playoff game and I was sitting in the press box and privy to the goings-on between referee Fred Swearingen and league officiating director Art McNally. It was the most dramatic and compelling sports "moment" I have ever witnessed. The air was thick with drama, suspense and intrigue as we awaited the verdict. This was long before replay review or even officials communicating their calls verbally to the fans. Finally, after a seemingly interminable wait, Swearingen began walking from the first-base dugout toward midfield and everybody knew the moment was at hand. The place got as quiet as a tomb, then Swearingen stopped at midfield, turned toward the press box, paused and then raised his arms. There was no, "After further review, we think we saw this but we didn't say that, so …" He just raised his arms. I liked it better that way.

Grant from Darlington, WI

Vic, I read that you were fired from Jacksonville and Pittsburgh for not being kind or sensitive enough to the fans. Why is it that you didn't try to act nicer or try to be more diplomatic towards the fans, the questions and their viewpoints? You could still do as good of a job being a sportswriter as you are now without offending anyone or acting like a jerk. Your actions are exactly why I personally don't like sportswriters.

Vic: I totally agree.

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