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Raiders won't be surprised by screen passes

My three favorite football memories


Ken from Niagara Falls, NY

Vic, thanks for sharing the story about losing your "friend," when you participated in the comments section on Thursday.

Those were excerpts from Jim Murray's famous column about losing his eyesight. A reader commented about Murray's beautiful writing style, and I decided to post an example of Murray's literary genius from what I think is the greatest sports column ever written. Nobody could write as Murray did.

Jerry from Wilmington, NC

Vic, why a three-day trip?

It's a long flight. Teams have always experimented with ways to deal with the flight and the time change. Bill Cowher once left for San Diego late on Saturday so his team arrived with little more left of the day than to brush their teeth and go to bed. It worked; they won. Jack Del Rio took the Jaguars to Seattle on a Friday, and the results were disastrous. One player was involved in a car accident on the way to the airport, and another player was suspended for breaking team rules on a Friday night. It's all what a team makes of it. The Packers went out early to San Francisco earlier this season, and the results were positive. That, effectively, became the Packers' routine.

David from Prophetstown, IL

Referring to the question from Don from Aurora, would you then say that before the ball is snapped it's about plays?

Of course it is. Plays are what determine the assignments and responsibilities of the players. Without plays, there's no plan; nobody knows what to do. Plays are critical to the game. The game can't proceed without them. Once the ball is snapped, however, it's all about the players.

Kody from Louisville, KY

When I saw the question and answer about overtime, I immediately thought of the Green Bay-Seattle playoff game in which Matt Hasselbeck famously proclaimed, "We want the ball and we're gonna score," after winning the toss. The rest is history and, you're right, who would want to remove something like that?

We talked about this in yesterday's chat. The Hasselbeck coin toss is memorable. So is the Jerome Bettis that's-not-what-I-called coin toss on Thanksgiving Day. It wasn't an overtime coin toss, but I experienced one here in Oakland in 1976 that's probably the funniest thing I've ever seen happen on a football field. It was the year the NFL decided to make a drama of the opening coin toss by broadcasting it to the fans in the stadium and to those watching on TV. The coin toss had previously happened unceremoniously in the hallway outside the teams' locker rooms. This was the opening game of the season, the biggest game of the day between two teams whose hate for each other drove TV ratings. Jack Lambert must've forgot about the coin toss being broadcast because when he was introduced to the Raiders' captains, he greeted one of them with a word that caused the stadium and press box to explode with laughter. The most memorable coin tosses, however, have been for overtime, as the one I described from a 1997 game between the Jaguars and Steelers. Of course, the greatest overtime coin toss in football history is Abner Haynes' "we'll kick to the clock."

Dan from New Berlin, WI

The line is actually "And why is the carpet all wet, Todd?" (not Margo). I thought you liked the movie.

Oh, Dan, why do you sadden me so?

Kevin from Park City, UT

I am curious as to how a market that refused to support one NFL team for the last 20 years all of a sudden deserves two teams? What am I missing? Stadiums bring fans after winning builds a base, unless I am missing something. What is it?

You're missing the theory of volume, especially as it pertains to the theory of making money.

Jim from Des Peres, MO

Why does anyone bother to interview players about the opposing team? There is no edge in the responses; everything is so positive. Let me write the typical interview: "Great team, lots of good players, very well coached. They have speed and good, rising, young players. It will be a tough test for us." All hot air.

You forgot "we'll have to play our best football to have a chance of winning on Sunday." The conference call is a leftover from the days when teams advanced games for the purpose of selling tickets. The PR guy for the visiting team would travel to the site of the game to assist the home team's writers in promoting the game. The first thing the visiting PR guy would do upon arrival is dump a lot of black-and-white pictures on the table in the press room, and we'd dive on them so we had something to use with our stories. Today's fans think it was always the way it is today. It wasn't. When I began covering the NFL, football was the college game and baseball was the national pastime. Pro football had to sell itself and it was appreciative of any coverage it got. The motto back then was, "Write anything you want, just spell the name right," and the coaches and players were expected to cooperate with the marketing of the game, and they did. I'm not sure what the motto is today, but I don't sense the same cooperative effort.

Dane from Durand, IL

I see a lot of potential in rookie WR Ty Montgomery. If and when we make it to the postseason, do you think he will be ready to go by then?

As Coach Noll would say, "Nobody knows."

Dustin from Independence, MO

Vic, you said basically what I have thought of the Patriots for years, being a two-man dynasty. So what was the fan base like there before everyone in New England wanted Tom Brady to be president?

The Red Sox were No. 1 – they still are – followed by the Bruins, Celtics and Patriots, and in that order. Boston was a bad football town. The greatest achievement of the Bob Kraft, Bill Belichick, Tom Brady era is they've turned Boston into a very good football town.

Steve from Eau Claire, WI

When a quarterback calls a defender's number as the "mike" or middle linebacker, is this directing a particular offensive lineman or running back as that position's specific responsibility to block for that particular play?

All of the blocking assignments along the offensive line are based on the position of the middle linebacker. Once the "mike" is identified, the linemen can begin counting off – you'll see them point. They have a pretty good idea what those assignments are before the quarterback identifies the middle linebacker; the quarterback makes it official so there can be no confusion. It's about gaps and defenders.

Chris from Bellingham, WA

Vic, how about a whole "Ask Vic Chat" dedicated to the screen pass?

I'm more worried the Packers will wear the screen out on the field than I am for wearing it out in "Ask Vic." Jack Del Rio made a point of going right to the screen pass during his conference call. Let me put it this way: The Packers will not surprise the Raiders with screen passes on Sunday. If they work, it'll be the result of execution, because it'll have nothing to do with unpredictability.

Ralph from Vero Beach, FL

When do the Packers leave for Oakland? Do they stay overnight after the game? Will they stay on the West Coast to prepare for the Cardinals?

We're here, it's raining, and when we leave to return to Green Bay immediately following Sunday's game, it'll probably rain on the plane the whole way home. If there's a community out there that needs rain, it should call the Packers and schedule a game. This is the team of rain.

Ben from New Prague, MN

Back-shoulder pass. Nearly impossible to defend if executed with precision. Nelson-Rodgers, it seems to me, perfected it. I don't see that play without Nelson, at least not as much. Is that a trust issue with the receivers? Or am I missing something?

You might be missing the special talent required to execute that play. Practicing a play and then calling it in a game isn't enough to make the play work. Several other factors are involved, beginning with a player's parents.

Scott from Lincoln City, OR

Vic, this year has seen the fewest NFL player arrests since 2000. Are teams doing a better job in their selecting, a better job educating their players on the ramifications of bad behavior, or both?

Teams are doing a better job in all ways. When they identify those players, they tend to knock them down in the draft order to a place where the potential for reward is worth the risk. Now they have maneuverability. If the player doesn't change his ways, he's gone. Teams are also acting more responsibly when it comes to players with social baggage. They understand they are bringing that player into their community, and they are responsible for his behavior.

Andy from Clive, IA

St. Louis approved funding of $150 million for a $1-billion riverfront stadium. Which city keeps their team between Oakland, San Diego and St. Louis?

I don't think anybody can answer that question right now, but I'm greatly interested in the reported agreement between the Chargers and Raiders to share Los Angeles. I have to believe a partnership between two teams from the same division would demand some re-shuffling of the league deck.

Chad from Tarpon Springs, FL

What is your most memorable moment from football?

1.) Immaculate Reception. 2.) Hail Mary in Detroit. 3.) Jaguars win in Denver in 1996 playoffs.

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