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Running game? What's the big deal?


Chris from Petaluma, CA

Vic, what did you and other sports writers think about the invention of the Internet?

We didn't understand its impact at first. I didn't get it until 2000, when former Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver asked me to do Weaver was chairman of the NFL's business ventures committee and the league was going hard into, and he figured he had to do the same with his team's site. So I started doing and that gave birth to "Ask Vic" and, 12 years later, here I am. Yes, I'm old-school, but I love the Internet age. I love the immediacy it offers. When I started covering the NFL, I carried with me a Royal portable and carbon paper; they were the tools of the trade back then. We used big, heavy transmitting equipment that required either bringing a phone with us or arranging for a phone in the press box. Now, I carry a little bag with a laptop in it and I send stories from 37,000 feet and they're posted within minutes. It's wonderful.

Ryan from Fort Collins, CO

The sport of soccer has a concussion problem, too, mainly from players bouncing balls off their head repeatedly throughout the game.

Are you serious? Recently, I was biking past a soccer field and noticed a father tossing a soccer ball at his son, and the kid would head the ball back to his father. Every time the ball hit the kid's head, his head bounced, too. I thought to myself, "That can't be fun."

Damian from Superior, WI

I miss "Dandy Don" Meredith. Do you suppose we'll ever get another commentator like him?

I loved him. I loved his nonchalance. He was one of a kind and I can't imagine another coming along soon; the broadcast booth is just too intense with analysis to allow for another Don Meredith. Remember the sleeping guy in Houston? "I guess he's No. 1." Great commentary. Now we get cover two, cover three, cover four, yada, yada, yada.

Dustin from Jacksonville, FL

"Bountygate" didn't bother me for the violence of it. I agree that football is a fundamentally violent game and players acknowledge that every time they strap the pads on. What bothers me is that the Saints were cheating.

That's the way I feel. If players got money for targeting and injuring other players, that's a violation of the rules and it needs to be punished. But we can't instruct players to hit softer. That just won't work. We have to create rules that promote player safety. Within those rules, let it rip.

Jim from Minneapolis, MN

Vic, I understand your aversion to trick plays, but by your logic, the offense should line up in the same formation every play, there should be no pump fakes or audibles, and the names for plays should be called out by the QB for everyone to hear before each snap. Deception and diversion are a part of the game. Why shouldn't a team use every tool they have to win?

I think you've taken what I said to the extreme. Are we really going to argue about what I like? I like teams that block and tackle. I like football the way Lombardi liked it. That's the way it's always been for me, the way it is and the way it will continue to be. This is non-negotiable. I don't need permission to like teams that block and tackle.

Jake from Waukesha, WI

I understand that rivalries have a lot to do with two fan bases living in close proximity to each other, but can you give any insight as to how exactly a rivalry begins?

When geography isn't the stimulus, rivalries are almost always the result of a big game. Somebody scored a rousing victory over an opponent that was emotionally crushed by the defeat, and fate has it that those teams find themselves involved in a series of big games. The Packers and Cowboys found themselves in two such momentous title games in the 1960s, the Steelers and Raiders had such a rivalry built on big games in the '70s, the Cowboys and 49ers in the '80s and '90s, and the Patriots and Colts in the most recent decade. It doesn't always have to be about geography. Sometimes it's about big games.

Spencer from Lakewood, CA

Have you been watching the Top 100 players of 2012?

No, that's not my kind of thing. I can understand why fans like it and it's fun offseason kind of stuff, but I find it to be manufactured controversy, and we've certainly got enough of the real stuff to occupy our interest.

Luke from Appleton, WI

Why the animosity toward soccer, Vic? It's the biggest game in the world and demands incredible stamina and physical skills. Did you know Major League Soccer here in the U.S. attracts more fans per game than the NBA or NHL?

I didn't know that and I'll probably forget it, but it doesn't surprise me that you said that because soccer fans always play the did-you-know? card. Sometimes I wonder if that stuff is really the truth: Did you know there are four trillion people in South America and they watch soccer 24 hours a day, every day? No, I didn't know that. Look, I've got nothing against soccer. I think it's a good game. I'm just not very good with my feet. I'm much better with my hands. That's all it is. I figured it was time to drop the soccer bomb, so there it is. I respect your game. The people who play it are fantastic athletes, and I like the singing, too. I think I just have an aversion to feet. I just don't like kicking.

Mark from Walworth, WI

Everyone says the Packers need to improve their running game. Why? Last year Ryan Grant had 559 yards and James Starks had 578 yards. Combined, that's a 1,100-yard back. How is that perceived as an ineffective rushing attack, especially when the Packers with Aaron Rodgers keep the ball in the air the majority of the game?

The Packers averaged 3.9 yards per rush, which was 26th in the league, and they were 27th in rushing yards per game. Not too many years ago, I would've said those numbers need to be dramatically improved, but I'm not going to say that in today's game. Hey, the Packers were 15-1 with the No. 27 rushing attack, and the Giants won the Super Bowl with the No. 32 rushing attack. What's the big deal?

Paul from Oxford, NC

Enjoyed your response to the ethics of "Bountygate." Everyone may not agree with you, but this is "Ask Vic." If they want something nicer and politically correct, they can read "Ask Mary Poppins." By the way, I wonder what "Ask Ditka" has in his column.

What I'm trying to get across is that changing the culture is a difficult thing to do. It's not like flipping a light switch. I grew up being led to believe that being bad on the football field was good. Dick Butkus was celebrated for trying to twists men's heads off, Chuck Bednarik for clotheslining Frank Gifford, Deacon Jones for soaking his adhesive-wrapped hands in water to harden them so he could strike a more resonant blow to his opponents' heads when he delivered a then-legal head slap. All of this was celebrated as being the charm of the game and I bought into it. When I was in high school, spearing was a sound football technique. It was taught and we practiced it nearly every day. You were expected to "wear out that stripe on the crown of your helmet." When I was a kid, one of the favorite sayings in my neighborhood was, "Be a Ditka." The first great player I covered bore the nickname "Mean Joe," and I saw him do mean things on the football field, and he was beloved. It was just accepted that football was a game for people who possessed a physical bent, and that they accepted the consequences in exchange for the right to play a game that allowed them to express the aggression they possessed. Now, after all those years of conditioned behavior, we have to change all of that, and I agree that it has to happen, but it's difficult to do. This is going to take time.

Rory from Minneapolis, MN

I am a Vikings fan and I was wondering why the Packers are so terrible.

Did you giggle when you hit the send button?

Tom from Nottingham, UK

I am a huge Packers fan but also a soccer fan, as I have grown up with it in the UK. I love the fact that you despise soccer; I feel the same about rugby. But so you know, I am making you an honorary Notts County fan. They are my team and would suit you for a history perspective as they are the oldest professional soccer team (1862).

I don't despise soccer. I think I just hate feet. Go Notts!

Nick from Greendale, WI

I recently read a quote from Mel Kiper that the Manning kid from N.C. State would have been his No. 1 OLB in next year's draft projection. Any chance he could help out the Packers sooner than later?

Sounds like it. We love Mel when he loves on us, hate Mel when he hates on us, ignore Mel when he hates on us and he's right. I love the draft. It really is fun.

Kyler from Anderson, CA

I hope you read this, even if you don't put it up. I just want to say (yesterday's) whole column was the best one to date, from everyone's questions to all of your answers.

The soccer people are after me, Kyler. I'm afraid to start my car.

Jon from Norfolk, NE

The one aspect of football I truly enjoy is the penalty. What I like is when a flag is thrown you are guilty and punished; there is no gray area, no plea bargain, I like that. What say you?

Remember when the officials went on strike and the league used college or high school officials, or something like that, at the start of one season? Remember how they didn't call any penalties? I liked that.

John from Green Bay, WI

I see Kiper's already looking at next year's draft and predicts even more underclassmen leaving the college ranks. I feel like this is a pivotal moment in NFL history for determining the future of college football. Does this put an even greater emphasis on NFL teams being young?

I don't think that's the issue. I think the bigger issue is how it'll pertain to college football, which could then trickle down to the NFL. Do you remember the little story I did from the combine, in which a general manager talked about a trend toward more underclassmen committing to the draft? He talked about how more affordable rookie contracts were having the opposite effect from what was intended: more underclassmen were coming out of college so they could get to their second contract faster. This could be devastating to college football.

Leonardo from Las Vegas, NV

How do you think Cris Carter's admission to his role in player bounties will affect his eligibility for the Hall of Fame?

How could it hurt it? I think if the old-timers start telling their stories, we might have to start throwing guys out of the Hall of Fame. Are we really so naïve as to think this stuff wasn't going on? I used to tease Kenny Anderson about a clothesline hit I saw him take 5 yards out of bounds from a nasty safety named Glen Edwards; it was clearly intended to injure Anderson. Nobody had to pay Edwards. He did that stuff for free.

Griffin from West Bend, WI

My high school just hired a new coach and we're going to run the Wing-T offense. He's planning to run the ball more than ever. Any advice?

Don't play wing back if you're afraid of railroad crossings, because when you run those counters into the face of the defense's pursuit, you better get across those tracks in the hole as quickly as you can.

Nick from Cedarburg, WI

The only problem I had with Cris Carter revealing he had bounties on people is that he mentioned his teammates that carried out the "protection" for him on live TV. Your thoughts?

Fredo got hit for less than that.

Jack from Chicago, IL

If the Packers were a woman, what would she look like?

She'd have beautiful long, blonde hair, a flawless complexion and gorgeous face, but she'd never smile because she'd have Lombardi's teeth.

Andy from Kalamazoo, MI

Given that you're a journalist, a type of professional I associate with seeking the facts and reporting them in a compelling way, I'm surprised you seem against investigating things like "Bountygate." Isn't it part of your role to look into such things and help us to know what's going on? Real lives and the integrity of our favorite game are at stake.

You're absolutely right, and I'm ashamed.

Dusty from Rice Lake, WI

What are your thoughts on the Wishbone?

I love to watch Navy and Georgia Tech play because I love to watch the aggressive, low blocking schemes and the quick, undersized linemen that execute them. What I don't like about the Wishbone is that it doesn't have a role in it for a true quarterback.

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