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Starr, Favre, Rodgers: What a great picture it would make

South end zone expansion is a grand slam


Dustin from Jacksonville, FL

Like you, I wish players could be free to say what they think and feel instead of the same old cliche answers, but it seems like anytime these guys say or do anything that goes against the grain they are vilified and it spreads like wildfire. So how can players and teams protect their brand while still being able to voice their honest opinions?

As long as they speak on football, I don't think they can hurt theirs or their team's brand. Football is a confrontational game and I think it allows players to speak their mind. It's when players step outside the boundaries of football and speak on politics or lifestyle matters that they invite the extremists that lurk in our society, waiting for somebody to provide a platform on which they can assail that opinion and use it to deliver their own. James Harrison, for example, has openly expressed his opinions on the direction the game is headed, but he didn't damage his brand, so to speak, until he spoke on matters outside the game.

Sean from Dubuque, IA

Are practice-squad players free to sign with any team at certain parts of the year, or are they under multi-year contracts like roster players?

Players on the practice squad are free agents free to sign with any team at any time, but signing a practice-squad player requires that team to put the player on the team's 53-man roster.

Thomas from Cape Coral, FL

Vic, am I crazy or is there a simple solution to being speared by a helmet. Why not put a soft material or air cushion outside of the helmet? Then it could no longer be used as a weapon. Maybe this solution is just too logical?

!I get this question often. I'm not a helmet-safety engineer. All I can tell you is that what you're describing has already been tried. See the Ohio State helmet of the 1960s. It is possibly the worst helmet ever made because the soft material down the middle of the exterior of the helmet absorbed the energy from the contact, which often resulted in the worst ice cream headache of your life.

Paul from De Pere, WI

Vic, how big can rosters get without watering down the product?

As long as all of those players are in the same league, you're not watering down the product. You water down the product if you put Aaron Rodgers in one league and Clay Matthews in another. That's the situation that existed during the AFL years in the 1960s. The AFL was signing big-time players. It was spreading the talent out over two leagues, which diluted the NFL product.

Jeron from Madison, WI

Vic, after reading the question about rules that have changed, this immediately came to mind. Isn't there a rule that an offensive player can't push the ball carrier? I see it in every game at every level and I don't think I have ever seen it called.

The rules language that governs "assisting the runner" is some of the most vague and confusing wording in the rulebook. "No offensive player may lift a runner to his feet or pull him in any direction at any time or push or throw his body against a teammate to aid him in an attempt to obstruct an opponent or to recover a loose ball." Then the rulebook provides this example and the proper ruling: "Second and goal on B2. Runner A1 gets to the line of scrimmage and is stopped by A2, who is behind him, pushes him from behind and shoves him over the goal line. Ruling: Touchdown." The only thing I can figure is the guy who wrote this rule is a USC fan.

Andrew from Stevens Point, WI

McCarthy keeps mentioning that B. J. Coleman needs to get the game to slow down for him. To what is he specifically referring?

It's a kind way of saying a young quarterback has to get to his reads and through his progression more quickly. When the game slows down for a young quarterback, he begins to see all of his receivers in the route tree, not just the primary receiver.

Kevin from Chicago, IL

Vic, why did football Europa fail?

I don't think NFL Europe failed. It exposed American football to Europe and it also identified potential hotbeds for expansion. Nobody expected Frankfurt to be the football town it turned out to be. I don't think there was anything more for the NFL to gain from NFL Europe. The next move will be the big one. NFL Europe will have blazed the trail.

Jeremiah from Appleton, WI

Vic, you like Kansas City to improve. Is this because they now have "The Man"?

It's because I like their leadership. John Dorsey and Andy Reid will make a good team. Plus, I think the Chiefs' talent level is a lot better than people think. Watch these guys. Reid is a very good dink-and-dunk coach, and Alex Smith has a natural talent for that style of play. He was miscast in San Francisco.

Eric from Aberdeen, SD

Vic, I love that we are flying under the radar so far this offseason. With that being said, what do you think are realistic expectations for the 2013 season?

Contend for a championship; that's as far as I'll go. I think if you go farther than that, you blunt your enjoyment for the season. Go ahead, surprise me. I love surprises.

Pat from Altoona, WI

Vic, love the column during the dead zone. With all the news about players and PEDs, is there a standard procedure that tests all players, say during the initial physical, and a set time that everyone is continually tested, or is it a random thing?

Drug tests are scheduled. If a player fails one or has entered the program for some other reason, he is then subject to random testing.

Bill from Stevens Point, WI

I think the only reason the Packers want to retire his number before he goes into the Hall of Fame is because they want him to go in with a Packers jersey instead of a Vikings jersey. Don't you agree?

Players don't wear jerseys when they're inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. They wear yellow coats. There are no jerseys in the Hall of Heads, either. When Brett Favre's bust joins the other busts in the Hall of Heads, it will be noted that he played for four teams: Atlanta Falcons (1991), Green Bay Packers (1992–2007), New York Jets (2008), Minnesota Vikings (2009–2010). If you want a Favre jersey, you'll have to go to the Pro Football Hall of Fame gift shop. They'll probably have them in all four varieties that day. It is what it is, Bill. He played for four teams. His identity, however, is with one. Everyone knows that. !

Tim from Otsego, MN

Growing up, I heard that before each game Jim Thorpe would take two balls to midfield. He would drop-kick one through the uprights, turn and repeat in the other direction, and he never missed.

It is one of the great travesties of pro football that it did such an awful job of recording its history. We know everything about Babe Ruth, but we know very little about Thorpe.

Calvin from Seattle, WA

Vic, what do you think are reasonable expectations to set for a first-round draft pick? I think we all hope Nick Perry is a dominant pass rusher opposite Clay Matthews, but what should we expect?

In a first-round pick's rookie season, I want to see strong evidence that he was worth the pick. I saw that in Perry last year. In year two, I want to see strong evidence that a first-round pick is settling into a position and is on his way to becoming a long-term fixture at that position. I anticipate seeing that in Perry this season.

Sean from Long Beach, NY

Vic, what happens to a player's contract in a trade? Does the new team assume the contract and pay it or do they renegotiate?

The contract goes with the player when he's traded. His amortization remains with the team that traded him. The latter is one of the reasons you don't see a lot of trading. If you've paid a guy a $10 million signing bonus on a five-year contract and the player has four years remaining on that contract, $8 million in amortization must pass through your books rather quickly, should you trade that player.

Harry from Milwaukee, WI

How much does the history and culture of the Packers (or any team for that matter) affect the performance of its players?

It has to have an impact in some way. Maybe the reverence it demands helps discipline a player's lifestyle. Maybe the G on the helmet engenders an extra element of confidence at crunch time. Maybe the storied history of the Green Bay Packers makes it easier for Coach McCarthy to sell his program to the players. Maybe the Packers' allure does all of that. So what happened in the '70s and '80s? Hey, we all like a good feel-good story, but the bottom line is winning isn't about magic wands, it's about having better players than your opponents. That's why the Packers are winning now.

Daryl from Junction City, KS

Will the new seating section affect the allure of Lambeau Field?

Yeah, it'll make everything better. I took a tour of the south end zone last week. Wow! I mean, really wow! I'm thinking it might be the best end zone in the NFL. The best part is that the expansion is seamless. From the outside, you can't detect where old Lambeau ends and new Lambeau begins. The south end zone expansion is a grand slam. It's made a great stadium even better.

Carl from Lexington, OH

I know you love colorful professional athletes. I would assume the late great pitcher Dizzy Dean is near the top of your list. The man who once said, "It ain't bragging if you can do it." The man who gave three different reporters three different dates for his birth and later said, "I was helpin' (them) out. Them ain't lies; them's scoops." After his career was cut short by injury and  he became a broadcaster, his English language skills were assailed by school teachers around the country. Unfazed, Dean said, "Let the teachers teach English, and I will teach baseball. There is a lot of people in the United States who say isn't, and they ain't eating." Where would you rank Dean on your most colorful list?

I don't have a list but I wish we had more guys like him. Hey, it's just sports. Don't worry about saying the wrong thing. Just have fun. Don't take yourself too seriously and don't be afraid to say you were wrong. If a player can achieve that kind of humanness, the fans will love him even more for the mistakes he makes.

James from Greensboro, NC

Just curious as to what you think about the fact that everyone seems to be talking about the greatness of Favre and Rodgers. No doubt they are great, but I've yet to see them do what Bart Starr has done. In my opinion he's the best. Great players win championships and I believe before we can give anyone the best category, they have to outplay Starr and win more championships.

Don't turn everything into a competition. Learn to love it all. One of my hopes is that at some point during my time covering the Packers, I'll see the three quarterbacks you've mentioned standing together on the 50-yard line at Lambeau Field. What a great picture that would make.

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