Martin from Aachen, Germany
Vic, I love reading your column. Why didn't the Packers get a compensatory pick for Tom Crabtree? I think he was a restricted free agent who didn't get tendered.
That's why they weren't compensated for him. They didn't tender him. He was undrafted, therefore, tendering him at the original-draft-pick level of compensation wouldn't apply to him, and the Packers apparently didn't want to commit to the salary that coincides with that tender level. It's the same situation as M.D. Jennings. In the salary cap era, you have to be willing to let players leave. It's a fact of life.
Allen from Zephyrhills, FL
Adding five feet to the uprights seem like a lot of money to spend on something that didn't appear to be a major issue. How many questionable field goal attempts have there been in the last few years?
I can only remember two questionable calls in the last three decades: The Rich Karlis kick in "The Drive" game, and the one in the Patriots-Ravens game in 2012. Initial reports are that the cost isn't an issue; they'll just put a lightweight sleeve over the top of the uprights. My concern is for an oversensitivity for rules. My fear is that slowly and imperceptibly we will change the game so that one day it won't resemble the game the Packers of the '60s played, and that'll further estrange the past from the present. Other than for the designated hitter rule, baseball has done a wonderful job of maintaining the fundamental philosophies of its game. As a result, it maintains a healthy connection to its past. It reveres Babe Ruth, whereas football tends to dismiss its stars of the past. I don't want to see that happen to Bart Starr and Terry Bradshaw and Joe Montana, etc. It's already happened to Otto Graham and it's happening now to Johnny Unitas, and it's a terrible shame. Change is good and it's constant, but it must come in measured doses. This week's annual meeting resulted in an avalanche of rules changes. I'm stunned.
Jerry from Wilmington, NC
A team that relies on a run-around type of quarterback for special plays is like a team that relies on trick plays to win. A team that relies on trick plays to win admits it doesn't have the confidence to impose its will on teams without doing some type of gimmick.
I largely agree with what you've written, but I'm only talking about one play. The '60s Packers liked to use the halfback option pass. That's a gimmick play but I would never refer to the '60s Packers as a gimmick team. Third-and-one has become a problematic play. It's become so predictable that defenses are committing more defenders to the point of attack than there are blockers. As a result, the line of scrimmage is being moved backward and backs are often running into the backs of their blockers. I'm suggesting that instead of bringing in the fullback and an extra tight end and tightening everyone up, let's bring in a guy that causes defenses to think laterally. It's not a trick play. It's a play intended to make the defense be more athletic than the player who has just entered the game. It's also not something new. Kordell Stewart was that player in 1995. He is the original "Slash." He entered the game on third-and-one and he not only converted the down, he made big plays. Defenses didn't dare load up at the point of attack or Stewart would bootleg it around end.
Sean from Williamsburg, VA
If college athletes are actually college employees, then would that not threaten Title IX?
That's not the big threat. The big threat is that players would be able to act collectively, as in suing college football collectively, as the NFLPA sued the NFL in the concussion case. Organizing college athletes isn't the end game, it's the beginning game. If it happens, college athletics is going to get a whole lot more expensive and, as a result, a lot of marginal programs will fall by the wayside. It's the risk that comes with getting too big. College sports should've known this day would come.
Joey from Chicago, IL
Vic, 30 teams sent a representative to see Johnny Manziel's pro day. Why would a team like the Packers, Colts, 49ers, etc., go to his pro day if they clearly have their QB for the foreseeable future? Is it to see other A&M players?
Yes, but you also need to be thorough. How can you say you're a BAP team if you don't bother to adequately scout a prominent player? He didn't work out at the combine. This was a chance to get a postseason look at him.
Rob from Port Washington, WI
Has anyone pointed out the irony in the fact that John Kuhn made the season-saving cut block against Julius Peppers, and now Peppers is on the team and Kuhn seems likely to be gone?
With all due respect to the importance of that block, wasn't that his job?
Matthew from Racine, WI
I think the decline of youth involvement is not only due to squeamish mothers, but also due to an increase in soft kids and the cost of playing has become nearly unaffordable for the average family. I was an assistant coach on a youth team that was full of softies; the mothers were screaming from the sidelines, "Hit somebody or you're grounded." I feel that kids these days would rather play video games than play outside in fear of getting a boo-boo.
The sintering plant is closed. I'm softer. You're softer. We're all softer. I went to Orlando to cover the annual meeting. When I picked up the rental car at the airport, I didn't ask for directions, I just typed the destination into my phone and a voice directed me there. Whatever the voice said to do, I did. She could've been running me over a cliff for all I knew. When I got on the expressway, I didn't have to stop to pay tolls, reach into my pocket for change, communicate intelligently, graciously with another human being. All I had to do was open some little box on the windshield and it would pay the toll; just drive on through. Everything is easier than it was a few years ago, when it was easier than it was a few years before that. Life gets easier and we get softer. When I was in high school, a kid would get stuck in the Smitty Blaster and the coach would leave him in there while practice continued. We laughed. It was demeaning. I can remember the coach throwing a football at the kid. If that happened today, it would be national news. The coach would be vilified, and rightfully so. It was wrong. It's a painful memory, but it happened and we didn't think much of it back then because life was tougher than getting stuck in the Smitty Blaster. Today, it's not, and that's good. It's symbolic of the progress of a civilized society. I observe these things. I watch kids in my travels, in public places such as airports. They're kinder than we were. They're not as aggressive or as competitive, and that's another way of saying calmer and more peaceful. So, if football is to remain a microcosm of life, it has to change in the same ways. So do you, Matthew, and so do I. Grrrrr!
Mike from West Bend, WI
I'm surprised you haven't talked about the PR nightmare the NFL has been dealing with. I believe the game is getting too big and fat and could use a dose of humble pie. Ravens have had three different players arrested. One very unflattering video released. Jim Irsay's impersonation of a burned out college student. Two former Patriots players said Belichick flat out lies on the injury report. Emanuel Sanders' agent reaches an agreement with a team but then does a last-second switcheroo. Goodell's compensation was reported at $42 million last year, but the league couldn't find a way to help out broken-down ex-players with healthcare costs. And the concussion settlement was thrown out. It's sad to say this but the goose that laid the golden egg just isn't as much fun to follow anymore.
I don't struggle with these things because I didn't become a football fan in search of goodness. This is a nasty business. It's long been a place for men who struggle in mainstream society because their edge is too sharp. Football is a good place for men with a sharp edge. If you can't find positives in the game – I can provide you with examples that would smother what you've presented – then it's not for you. I still think it's a wonderful game played by unique individuals. What you might be experiencing is disillusionment due to change. The game is currently experiencing the greatest wave of change in its history, and it can be difficult to digest and accept.
Pablo from Oak Creek, WI
Vic, I must say, I am jealous of the all the great NFL moments you've personally witnessed. Which would you say is your most treasured memory?
Someone recently asked me to name my favorite games. I started going through the seasons chronologically: the '74 and '75 AFC title games, the '76 snow game in Cincinnati, the "Luv Ya Blue" game in '78, Super Bowl XIII … and then I stopped because I realized there are just too many games to name. It's the same thing with great moments. It would become a predictable list, beginning with the "Immaculate Reception." It's the purely personal moments that I treasure the most. Here's one of them: Frank Pollard was a tough, blue-collar running back; one of my favorite players. I first met Frank when he was a longshot, undrafted running back from Baylor. He caught my eye in training camp, I told his story and he never forgot. On a late-season flight to Houston, Frank walked back to where I was sitting and began talking. I realized Frank had more to say so I asked the fellow next to me if he'd mind giving his seat to Frank for a few minutes. Frank sat down and began to talk and I quickly realized he was saying goodbye. He retired at the end of the season. Those are the moments I cherish the most.
Andy from Kurz, IL
Living just a few miles from Northwestern, the union issue is not about wages but protections, especially when injuries occur, and they too often do. If a player can't play, his scholarship is usually revoked. While immediate medical expenses get paid, the student is on his own for all future medical expenses. That abuse was the main argument made by the Northwestern quarterback. That is also the story of the entire union movement some hundred years ago. Protection from abuse, not a money grab, gave birth to the union movement. Let's not make this a union-bashing argument.
I grew up in the shadow of the Homestead strike and the Pinkertons. No bashing here. I have written in this column more than a few times that it's ridiculous to think concussions occur only in professional football.
Peter from Eau Claire, WI
Vic, I really was surprised that the Packers decided to choose Peppers over Jared Allen. Jared plays the run and pass very well. This makes him an every-down player. Peppers struggles at this and plays out to be a pass-rush specialist. Did the Packers make a mistake taking Peppers over Allen?
I don't know. Maybe they did, maybe they didn't. Maybe both teams made a mistake. Here's what I know to be true: 1) You can't sign everybody. 2) The Packers don't agree with your evaluation.
Andy from Charlotte, NC
Vic, I also noticed the greatest-quarterback poll on nfl.com, and Russell Wilson beat Payton Manning and Drew Bledsoe beat Troy Aikman. I think fans tend to vote with emotion more than the facts of who really is the better quarterback. I mean, I love Wilson, but at this stage of his career he's already better than Manning? That's tough to swallow.
It makes it difficult for football people to take fans' opinions seriously when you see something like this. It makes me want to ignore these things because I feel embarrassment for the fans.
Oscar from Pardeeville, WI
Clicked on Rich Gannon over Brett. There was nothing relating to it. You are a jerk and don't know crap.
Ground control to Major Tom.
Chance from Ames, IA
Vic, I just opened a fortune cookie that read, "Your winsome smile is your sure protection." It made me happy.
True Packers fans make me happy.