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Ravens' reputation was Packers' challenge

Facemask invented to protect Otto Graham


Tom from Erie, PA

Looking ahead to the Browns, what's the deal about their return man, Rabbit? Our local newspaper published an article that described how, as a youngster, he chased and caught rabbits. Supposedly, he uses what he learned in his kick-return efforts.

Let me guess, he's from Belle Glade, Fla., right? Those guys have been playing that joke on media and fans for years. The first guy I knew to do it was Rickey Jackson when he was at Pitt. Fred Taylor tried it in Jacksonville and I called him on it. Here's the deal: Rabbits can't run for more than a few seconds. The trick is getting them out in the open; they usually just hang around thickets and high grass so they can duck back in at the first sign of danger. If you can get them out in the open, run at them and they'll start running in circles for a few seconds, then fall to their side and play dead. You can reach down and pet them then. I used to do that for my kids when they were young. They loved petting them. I called Fred on that story and he laughed. He knew it was a Belle Glade inside joke.

Don from Waukesha, WI

Postdraft, OTAs, mini camps, training camp, preseason, all you heard was what a tremendous receiver Charles Johnson was; big, strong, speed to burn. With the need now for receivers, we let him go to the Browns for nothing. Were we sold a bag of goods or was Ted Thompson fleeced?

I don't know what you mean by fleeced. First of all, all practice-squad players are free agents. You own no rights to any of them. Secondly, Johnson missed all of OTAs, nearly all of training camp and played sparingly in two preseason games and caught no passes. I can't remember writing anything more about him than he was still not practicing due to a hamstring injury. The practice squad was the only way to see more of him. This might've been his big chance. These things happen.

Keith from Greendale, WI

Vic, I don't disagree with the logic that facemasks are part of the problem with respect to player safety, but before we decide facemasks should go, can we better understand why they were introduced in the first place? I'm guessing there was sound logic 50 years ago when they were introduced and I'd like to understand that before agreeing they should go.

The facemask was invented in 1953 for Browns quarterback Otto Graham, who had sustained an injury to his mouth that required several stitches. The facemask, therefore, was built to protect an injured player who neither blocked nor tackled. It was a purely passive invention. What followed in the evolution of the game and the facemask, however, is what's now threatening the future of the game. It allowed blockers, tacklers and runners to use the helmet as a weapon. I'm really concerned about the future of the game I have spent a lifetime loving. I don't think it can be played safely. I think it's an inherently dangerous sport, and I think we've reached a point that we have to decide which injuries we'll accept in exchange for those injuries that must be avoided. In my opinion, the facemask is at the root of the majority of the injuries that must be avoided.

Sean from Denver, CO

I heard Tony Dungy talk about how great the Patriots are at situational football. What in the world is situational football?

Two-minute offense is situational football. "Hail Mary" time is situational football; the Packers call it "Last Eight Plays" in their practice regimen. No-huddle or hurry-up offense is situational football. Four-minute offense is killing the clock. Run-on field goal is for a quick field goal attempt to beat a running clock. All of those are part of the situational football practice regimen.

Stephen from Madison, WI

Your constant focus on the human confrontation has elevated my enjoyment of the game. It's demonstrated in the stories Rodgers and Nelson told after the game, when they discussed the big TD play. Both men were tired following a scramble by Rodgers on the previous play that also had Nelson running a deep route, then running back to the huddle. They both discuss getting energized by the play-call (Nelson talked about getting excited from just seeing the personnel grouping come out onto the field). They each dug deep, committed and executed a thrilling play, made more thrilling by the human confrontation.

I've never seen this team more excited about a win than it was following yesterday's game. Frankly, it shocked me. I didn't know this game meant that much to them. I don't think it was about Baltimore being the Super Bowl champions. I think it was about Baltimore having a reputation for being a bully. The Ravens' reputation for physical play is the challenge that became the Packers' human confrontation.

Larry from Plymouth, MN

Too many times I've noticed extra seconds tick off the clock near the ends of halves. I would consider that a point of homefield advantage. I'm glad Gene Steratore got that one right, as it ended up being the difference between a win and a loss.

You're right about it being the difference between a win and a loss. Think about how that game might've been different had Steratore not ordered two seconds be put back on the clock. I love games with intrigue.

Tyler from Chicago, IL

What was Kuhn doing on that blocked punt? Why didn't he just fall on the ball?

Fall on the ball? Leon Lett tried that. What Kuhn should've done is run into the locker room; just get away from the ball because the play would've been blown dead and it would've been the Packers' ball at that point.

Dan from Grosse Pointe, MI

If my team is down by four points with a minute left in the game, there is no quarterback I want more for my team than Tom Brady. You?

Let me take that up a notch: In all of my years watching and writing about this game, I have never known a player to mean more to his team than Brady has meant to his. He IS the New England Patriots.

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