Diana from Three Rivers, MI
Welcome back! Mike did a great job in your absence. Glad training camps are around the corner; so tired of listening to NBA stuff on talk radio. Time for the main event, NFL 2012.
A star was born; I had no doubt. Yeah, I'm ready for the start of training camp, too. I stumbled upon some lame, made-for-TV, high school football event this past weekend, in which teenaged football players who've already achieved legend status in their hometowns performed in skills competitions and, ultimately, a kind of seven-on-seven passing game. It depressed me to think this is what football has come to, a game of who looks good in tank tops. It's everything about where the game is going that I abhor and I long for the days of young men trying to block and tackle their way to glory in training camp two-a-days. Well, the two-a-days are gone, but training camp is still the forum for young men to chase their football dreams, and it's still the thing I like most about football. I'm ready for it.
Clark from Raleigh, NC
If you had to identify one area Aaron Rodgers needs to focus on to elevate his game even further, what would it be?
As I've said, I see no weakness in his game. He has the most complete game of any quarterback I've ever covered. All he needs now are more championships.
Tom from West Bend, WI
Remember the 1980s Chargers with "Air Coryell"? Chuck Muncie and their running game benefitted tremendously from defenses geared to stop the pass. It doesn't seem to me the Packers currently enjoy the same benefits. Why?
You've grossly underestimated Muncie, but that's OK because Muncie is one of the most underrated, underappreciated players in NFL history. He was a stud, 6-3, 227 and fast. Muncie was underutilized. That's the mistake Don Coryell made. He was all about offense. If he had given more thought to how greater utilization of Muncie would've helped the Chargers' defense, maybe they would've won a title during their run. Dan Fouts also had a penchant for playing his worst football in the postseason, which is another reason I say Muncie was underutilized. Muncie wasn't taken lightly by opposing coaches. They feared him, and that fear of Muncie helped the Chargers' passing game as much as the Chargers' passing game helped Muncie. If one of the Packers' backs develops into the running back Muncie was, the Packers will enjoy the same benefits.
Chris from Chicago, IL
I know I'm from Chicago but I've been a Packers fan all my 20 years. It was super fun seeing Sam Shields develop into a solid defensive player in our Super Bowl run. What defensive player can break out this year?
I think several defensive players can have breakout seasons, including Shields. I thought Shields and Davon House positioned themselves in the spring to have breakout-type training camps and preseasons. When you're coming off a No. 32-ranked season, you better have some breakout players.
Mike from New York, NY
A great deal has been said about Hawk this offseason. Do you get a sense he might be out the door with another average season? What are the chances he gets upended by one of the newcomers?
A.J. Hawk has shouldered a major share of the blame for the Packers' decline on defense last season. I don't know if the criticism is fair or unfair. What I like is that I haven't heard him make excuses or respond verbally to criticism of his play. Any response must be made on the field, and it'll begin in training camp. There are young "lions" at the linebacker positions. It's the way of the game that young players attempt to push older players aside. I have no doubt Hawk knows he's in for a battle. It's what I love about training camp.
Hansen from Waukesha, WI
Back when most teams played on artificial turf, a number of players wore turf tape on their elbows to protect themselves from abrasions, but how effective was turf tape?
It must not have been very effective because I have a vivid memory of players having terrible scabs and scars on their elbows. They'd spend all week trying to heal them, but they'd reopen the wound on the first play of the game on Sunday and the bleeding would start all over. The real concern was that a staph infection might result, and there were times when that happened. Domes and multi-purpose stadiums necessitated the creation of artificial turf; sometimes I think the Astrodome is the worst thing to ever happen to football. A friend of mine sent me a square of the artificial turf from Three Rivers Stadium, as a memento from the stadium's final game. I have the swatch of turf on display in my office at home. When people see it and touch it and I tell them what it is, they're amazed that football was played on it.
Juan from Washington, DC
Since the NFL is going through a time when stadiums are not full of fans but the fans' eyes fill the TV screen, what kind of kick in the pants do the people need to hold tradition and go watch the game?
Some franchises have ticket-sales issues, and I would agree that TV can become an obstacle to ticket sales. Those franchises that struggle to sell tickets need to attract fans by making the game-day experience at the stadium more entertaining than the product TV delivers at home. That's No. 1 and that's a difficult do. No. 2 is, in my opinion, enforcing the blackout rules. If you give your product away, you devalue your tickets. The Packers and other such heritage teams have developed the feeling among their fans that if they're not at Lambeau Field on Sundays in the fall, they're in the wrong place. That kind of attitude is the result of years and years of tradition. There are only a few teams that possess that kind of tradition.
Jeff from Andover, MN
Vic, what do you think Aaron Rogers needs to do over the next 5-10 years to go down as the best Packers quarterback ever? Who do you feel holds that distinction today?
Bart Starr is the standard by which Packers quarterbacks are measured. Starr won titles. Winning titles always works.
Jeremiah from Two Rivers, WI
Rice fumbled, Rodgers was tackled by the facemask. We grumble about it all the time, dragging the refs through the mud. I like what replay and challenges have done to let us relive exciting plays and to get the call right, but it has also put a brighter spotlight on blown or borderline calls. In your opinion, have replay and challenges had more of a positive or a negative impact on the game?
The answer depends on your perspective of positive and negative. If creating controversy that fuels interest in the game is a positive, then replay review has certainly been a good thing. If you prefer that fans be able to accept mistakes and not whine and cry about every little officiating glitch as having cost the fans' favorite team the game, then replay review has been an unmitigated disaster. I liked it better when we were able to accept mistakes. I think it's a more distinguished quality to accept defeat with dignity than to whine and cry about having lost a game because an official didn't see a player's hand graze another player's facemask.
Keith from Fort Worth, TX
Do you think we have the best receiving corps in the NFL?
Tony from Plymouth, MN
I love the green and gold but I was really hoping after this last Super Bowl win that the Packers would follow suit with what the Rams did a few years back after their Super Bowl win and change the gold/yellow to more of a true metallic gold. What do you think the chances are the Packers will ever modify their colors?
I hope they won't and I doubt they will. Why would they do it? Why would they cancel five-plus decades of identity for the sake of fashion? In my opinion, the Rams ruined the best uniforms in football. Why did they do it? They were fresh off a Super Bowl victory in those uniforms. Who changes uniform design after winning a Super Bowl? I have to agree with Jimi Hendrix on this one. I like bright colors. One of the great things about football is that it splashes us with color. For whatever reason, we've gone through a period of fascination for dark and rather drab colors. Some teams appear to be dressing for a country club dance. I loved the Broncos' bright blue, the Eagles' bright green, the Bucs' flaming orange, the Chargers' baby blue. It would be a travesty for the Packers to change anything about their uniforms. They are bright and distinctive. They are the Packers.
Adam from Des Moines, IA
I've always heard a lot about the hit Sapp put on Clifton but have never been able to see it or find out what really happened.
It was cheap and intentional; that's all you need to know. Sapp lined Clifton up. I like to call them ambush hits. I would prefer that they not occur, but they've been part of the game for as long as I've covered it. When an interception was made in the old days, the "rule" was find the quarterback. That's the culture this commissioner is attempting to change. Maybe he can, maybe he can't. We'll see.
Ben from Watertown, WI
What Packers regular season game are you most looking forward to? I am excited to see the Packers against the 49ers. Your thoughts?
I've got the Giants game "circled" on my schedule, but the opener against the 49ers is a feature attraction. I kind of wish it was scheduled for a little later in the season, after both teams get their feet under them and the NFC race takes shape, but it sure will create a buzz for the start of the season. You could make a point that home-field advantage for the playoffs might be on the line.
Ryan from Dahinda, IL
Hi, Vic, you old cuss. I hope you got burned on your vacation and are a crispy red. But I hope you didn't bake your noodle too much though because you're already plenty senile. Don't you know Mike's desk is only 10 feet away?
I'm back, baby, and I'm lovin' it.