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Rodgers coming into his prime


Catherine from Jacksonville, FL

The "Monster Truck Jam" is this weekend. Coming back for that?

Vic: No, I got the combine this weekend. Darn it, I hate missing the monster truck show. It's so me.

Doug from Ames, IA

In 1963 or '64, Green Bay played in a postseason game of losers. They won the game. Am I dreaming?

Vic: No, I remember it. Officially, it's known as the "Playoff Bowl," but back then it was affectionately known as the "Runnersup Bowl" because it pitted the second-place teams from the NFL's two conferences. The Packers played in it in '63 and in '64 and they beat the Browns, 40-23, in the '63 game and lost to the Cardinals, 24-17, in the '64 game. The "Playoff Bowl" was played in the Orange Bowl and I remember something about ticket sales benefitting something. It lasted less than a decade.

Nick from Monticello, MN

What do you think of Pitt RB Dion Lewis? Would he be a good fit for the Packers?

Vic: Lewis and Virginia Tech running back Ryan Williams intrigue me. Two years ago, as freshmen, they were nearly unstoppable. Lewis was so good that he was a legit Heisman Trophy candidate going into last season. Injuries damaged their seasons this past year. Lewis lost his groove early behind a rebuilt offensive line and then came the injuries, but late in the season he regained his form and turned in some big performances and looked like the guy that had been compared to Barry Sanders a year earlier. Lewis is a shifty runner. He's a wiggle and jiggle guy who catches the ball well and does amazing things in space. He had a top bowl game against Kentucky. Yes, I think he's an excellent prospect for a team that likes to throw the ball and use its backs in multiple ways. Lewis will drop his pads on you, but power isn't his game.

Cody from St. Simons Island, GA

Do you think it's even possible to truly compare great players of the past with great players of today? It seems the way the game has evolved and the fact the players work out 50 times more than they did 25 years ago makes it very difficult to make a fair comparison.

Vic: If the Packers of the '60s played in today's game with today's training regimens, schemes, equipment, 18-20 coaches instead of 7-8, medical advantages and salaries, they'd be every bit as good as the players of today. Three players on the Packers teams of the '60s, Forrest Gregg, Herb Adderley and Dave Robinson, had the pure physical talent to play in any era just the way they were.

Paul from Kilrush, Ireland

Can I be your first foreign questioner? How many players can be held on the practice squad and does it vary from team to team?

Vic: You are the first from Ireland. Eight players may be signed to the practice squad, according to the CBA that is about to expire. It'll be interesting to see what roster adaptations might result from a new CBA.

Brian from South Beloit, IL

Despite winning the Super Bowl, some have mentioned that the Packers were not at their maximum potential. Not counting the return of injured players, do they have a large potential to be better?

Vic: Sure they do. Aaron Rodgers is just coming into his prime. The players coming off injured reserve are going to make the Packers' roster stronger and, of course, talent will be added in the draft. The most important thing is that the Packers have a strong core and they've already taken steps to keep that core together.

Kevin from Kennewick, WA

From the answer to one of your questions, "I cried all night" after the Packers' victory over the Steelers in the Super Bowl, it seems apparent that your loyalty and passion is with one of the oldest and most respected organizations (comparable to the Packers) in the NFL. Do you think it's possible that, given the history of our team and the passion of its fans, you might find this feeling for the Packers?

Vic: It was sarcasm, Kevin. If you must know the truth, I spent the night of the Super Bowl at the Packers' victory party and partook of the refreshments. Hey, I'm a sportswriter; if it's free, I'll take three. Seriously, Kevin, I have a profound respect for the Steelers, just as I do for the Packers. I loved my years covering the Steelers and I can already tell I'm going to love covering the Packers, but I'm a sportswriter and there is no cheering in the press box. I like to watch.

Ryan from Cincinnati, OH

Vic, you've long stated that a wide receiver is not worthy of a first-round selection unless he's a sure-fire star. In the past, you've cited Larry Fitzgerald and Calvin Johnson as both being of this distinction. Is there any wideout in this draft that appears to be without risk?

Vic: I'm not opposed to picking wide receivers in the first round; I'm opposed to picking wide receivers high in the first round when there are quality big guys available, unless those wide receivers are truly special, as Fitzgerald and Johnson are. I'm not trying to rip on wide receivers. It's just that you can usually find them in the later rounds, whereas you gotta get the big guys early. In this draft, A.J. Green and Julio Jones are thought to be the cream of the receiver crop. Without risk? I won't go that far.

Eric from Fort Atkinson, WI

Out of all the players in this year's draft, is there a guy that is a sleeper that really intrigues you? If so, why?

Vic: The media attention on the draft is so intense these days that you really have to dig deep to find players that genuinely qualify as a sleeper. I think James Starks would've qualified. Here are a few guys I've seen and liked but they don't appear to be at the top of boards: North Carolina quarterback T.J. Yates, Maryland running back Da'Rel Scott and Notre Dame cornerback Darrin Walls. Yates is a big guy with a good arm; that works for me. Scott is a former sprint champion. Walls is a guy who've I've seen make plays.

Peggy from Bloomer, WI

Earlier a fan asked you why you moved to Green Bay. I think I have the answer: You want to retire there. Am I right?

Vic: Why not? I'm serious. What is it with this fear of snow? OK, so you go to Florida in the winter. Nobody likes cold and snow but I have a feeling the grass gets real green in Green Bay in the summer. Why have we all turned into such weather sissies? You know, it's really starting to irritate me. I don't judge a place by its weather. That's so weak. Does it have a soul? That's what I wanna know. I've lived in Pittsburgh, Jacksonville and for two weeks in Green Bay and I think I'm gonna love Green Bay every bit as much as I love Pittsburgh and Jacksonville.

Al from Green Bay, WI

With the money and sophistication of the scouting in today's NFL, I have one question: How does a guy with the speed and talent of Sam Shields fall completely out of the draft last year? He was not among the 50-plus defensive backs drafted.

Vic: How did Tom Brady fall to the sixth round of the 2000 draft? How did James Harrison go undrafted? It's a crystal ball business and 32 crystal balls were broken. It happens.

Patrick from Ridgecrest, CA

This is nice. I am glad you have this blog. Anyway, my question to you is this: Bart Starr used to come to the line and say "Set," and off they went. Why don't the current Packers do this?

Vic: It's called going on first sound. Maybe they do; I don't know. I like what your question implies, however, because it's symbolic of the difference between Starr's game and the game of today. Starr's game was about line surge. It was about an offensive line coming off the ball low and hard, as one. It was about moving the line of scrimmage. When I first started covering football, I watched for that line surge. If I saw that one line was consistently playing on the other side of the ball, then I pretty much knew that was the team that would win the game. Today's line play is about pass-blocking. It's about mirror technique, not surge. Coach Lombardi was a sled guy all the way. When was the last time you saw a pro team use a five-man sled?

Adam from Cypress, CA

You're covering a 3-4 team now. Pass rushers are outside linebackers, not defensive ends. Do defensive ends still carry the same kind of premium weight?

Vic: A 3-4 defensive end must be able to take on blocks and stop the run. If you can find one that can stop the run and rush the passer, too, he's every bit the premium prospect that a 4-3, pass-rushing end is. Your point, however, is well taken. The charm of the 3-4 is that you don't have to draft from the premium, high-demand, low-supply ranks of the pass-rushing ends. You can draft run-stuffing tackles and play them at end; there's usually a good supply of squatty, run-stuffing tackles. You then find your pass-rushers from the swollen ranks of the tweeners, the guys that aren't big enough to play end but are too big to be nimble enough to drop into coverage. LaMarr Woodley is the perfect example. I prefer the 3-4 to the 4-3 because it allows you to select from larger pools of talent.

Patrick from Green Bay, WI

Do you believe the Packers and other small-market teams have a chance to survive in the future, especially with escalating salaries being what they are and the need for teams to continue to find new ways to create money sources?

Vic: The Packers aren't a true small-market franchise; the size of their fanbase makes them unique. Small market has long been a way of saying low revenue. Pete Rozelle bridged the gap between large-market and small-market teams by employing his leaguethink philosophy of operation. In recent years, the league has moved a little away from that leaguethink mentality. I would like to see a return to it. It's critical to the success of true small-market teams.

Chris from Jacksonville Beach, FL

We miss you terribly, but everything that I have learned from you made me realize that a person with so much knowledge and passion for the game of football needs to be in a place like Green Bay. Maybe 50 years from now, Jacksonville will have such a tradition. Congrats to the cheeseheads.

Vic: When Jacksonville was awarded a franchise, the thinking was that it would become the Green Bay of the south. It would warm my heart to think that might happen because being Green Bay is a very, very good thing.

Brian from Little Rock, AR

Do you recall a team giving up the two first-round draft picks to obtain a franchised player?

Vic: I remember that Carolina did it with Sean Gilbert and the Cowboys traded two first-round picks to acquire Joey Galloway, who had the franchise tag on him. Those were big mistakes. Players, not plays, and picks, not players.

Steve from Jacksonville, FL

Who are some of the best GMs and scouts you've worked with that have shared your BAP philosophy?

Vic: It's a long list. It begins with Art Rooney Jr., who drafted nine Hall of Famers in five years with that philosophy. He had two giants of the personnel business on his staff: Bill Nunn and Dick Haley. Tom Modrak and Tom Donahoe followed them and they had a similarly profound impact on me and if those two guys had been able to land the quarterback Artie had, they'd have Super Bowl rings on their fingers, too. In Jacksonville, Rick Reiprish and his staff did a sensational job building a roster that would go to two AFC title games in the team's first five seasons. The current Jaguars GM, Gene Smith, is as good a personnel man as I've ever known and he has a sensational staff. It's just a matter of time there. In Green Bay, I'll be covering a guy, Ted Thompson, who is currently the toast of the league. The depth of his drafts is remarkable. I can already tell that I'm going to love covering John Dorsey, the Packers' college scouting director. John talks the language and I love it. The one thing I've detected in all good personnel guys is that they have lots and lots of philosophies. Artie believed high picks had to look good in the shower. Gene assigns extra weight to the combine interview sessions. John dropped a five-point intangibles philosophy on me the other day that I love.

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