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Strong running game would make Packers better in every way

Jerry Kramer or Ray Guy?


Steve from Carlton, MN

In regards to "jars on the shelf," do you see a day when there's a true spring minor league of football to allow teams to evaluate young talent prior to the season and give fans something to do during the dead period?

No, I don't, because the liability would likely exceed the revenue potential. One of the issues the game is or will be facing, in my opinion, is a lack of growth. I don't think we're going to see more teams and more leagues, I think we're going to see fewer of each. Because of the cost of its liability, we could see football shrink on the amateur level, yet, I think it'll continue to grow in popularity. That's a phenomenon. Maybe that's the counter to overexposure of the sport. Because of the cost of the game, due to its liability, I think the game is going to become more and more the property of the NFL. More and more, the NFL will become the driving force of the game and its guardian.

Corey from Abilene, TX

Speaking of false teeth, my grandma yanked her rotting teeth out with pliers in her '60s; said she was tired of the aching. Then she got a teddy bear tattoo. True story.

She sounds like my kind of girl.

Jake from Stevens Point, WI

I have always wondered what the process is of installing the offense/defense. What exactly does that mean?

It just means to teach the players what to do. Football coaches often speak a kind of stiff, military or corporate-like language. It just seems to go with the personality of the game. Football is a rigid game. It loves to use cold, edgy language. Leverage, for example, is a word football coaches use to describe everything from proper tackling technique to maintaining proper pass defense to trapping a punt returner against the sideline. It's also a favorite word of bankers. One of my favorite football terms is "come to balance." I first heard legendary special teams coach Frank Gansz use that term during a punt-coverage drill. Simply put, it means slow down. When I get a little harried, I'll say to myself, "Come to balance, Vic," and I'll always think of the Ganszer. Football has always had a connection to the military. I think a big part of that is the impact of West Point on the game. Remember, Vince Lombardi was on Red Blaik's staff at West Point. That was Lombardi's real dream job. The Army football program was dominant through the war years, and that's when the personality of the game was shaped. Much of the current change-the-culture movement is aimed directly at changing the personality that was given to the game during the war years.

Rick from Cameron, WI

Vic, I get the fact that you're a wuss and the only reason you're living up north is to cover the greatest sports franchise ever. Is your wife made of hardier stuff that knows how to embrace our brisk Wisconsin winters?

Whoa! When we got into our every-Tuesday-snowfall pattern last winter, I was the guy out there snowblowing the driveway at 4:30 in the morning. I was the guy driving everyone to work and school. I'm no weather wuss. I don't like it, but I did it and I'll be doing it again next winter.

Jack from Charlotte, NC

What position on our team is the most important that we improve this offseason?

In my opinion, it's most important that the Packers improve their running game. That involves a lot of positions. It's most important because the running game goes to everything. It goes to making defenses play run, which opens up the passing lanes. It goes to time of possession, which will limit the defense's time on the field and that'll make the defense a more effective unit. It also relates to the field-position game, which accentuates special teams play. When you can pound the ball, you can play the field-position game, and the Packers need that kind of change of pace in their offensive personality. The running game also goes to closing out the game. If I could wave a magic wand and improve one thing about this team, the running game would be it.

Bryce from Iron Mountain, MI

I watch college for the run. Who are some of the most promising/exciting college running backs going into this year?

Heading into the season, it doesn't strike me as a great crop of seniors. Damien Williams of Oklahoma and LaDarius Perkins of Mississippi State are headliners. USC's Silas Redd, the transfer from Penn State, is intriguing. Carlos Hyde of Ohio State, Charles Sims of West Virginia, Alfred Blue of LSU and James White of Wisconsin are also prospects. The strength of the running back class in next year's draft will likely be determined by underclassmen that declare eligibility.

Patrick from Watervliet, NY

Don't forget No. 88. There's a litany of great wide receivers that wore that number.

That number immediately makes me think of Super Bowls X and XIII. There were two great wide receivers in those games that wore the number 88. I consider one of them, Drew Pearson, to be one of the most underrated players in the game's history.

Dave from Bellingham, WA

You have a magic wand and can tap three former NFL players on the head (any era, any position) and resuscitate careers tragically cut short by injury. Who intrigues you or would you have liked to see play out a full career to see them in full glory?

I'd like to have seen Joe Namath and Gale Sayers play full careers on healthy knees. I'd like to have seen what Willie Galimore, Ernie Davis and Gabe Rivera would've done had their careers not been cut short.

Tom from Melbourne, FL

What is needed more for a player to be a great QB, arm strength or vision of the field?

The first question that has to be answered about a quarterback is can he make all of the throws? He has to have enough arm strength to make all of the throws. He doesn't have to have a strong arm, just enough arm strength to get the ball to where it needs to go. At that point, the most important quality a quarterback can possess is accuracy. Just about any quarterback coach would tell you that. We're assuming, of course, that the quarterback has the courage to keep his eyes downfield. If he does, then he can be taught where to look.

Jared from Crestwood, KY

Vic, you said that teams who have "The Man" will win. The Packers have one of the best and they still don't win in the playoffs. Is this because of the defense, or simply playing better teams?

Jared, if you don't think 36-12, four playoff wins and a Super Bowl title in a three-year period is winning, then bad times are going to be really, really bad for you.

Joe from Clio, MI

Vic, if the three-point stance is eliminated, the line of scrimmage will become a big, slow pillow fight, which will lead to smaller, quicker players and a much different looking game. I know you think these and other changes are inevitable, but my question to you is, are they really necessary? Does the league actually need these changes to survive?

I'm beginning to think it might. If the future of the game rests with making it safer, then I think it has to find a way to make the game smaller.

Roger from Indianapolis, IN

Do you know of any research that links America's rising love of football with increased violence in our younger people? Football does glorify physical violence and injuries are just part of the game, even though often a personal tragedy for the injured player.

Football also glorifies self-discipline. Should I look for any research that links America's rising love of football with increased self-discipline in our younger people? I don't think it's fair to blame football for our country's ills. Just turn on the TV to see violence glorified.

Eric from Amherst Junction, WI

Vic, are you a fan of the Jumbotron craze going around the league? What is your favorite and least favorite thing about it?

I like looking at it and that's both the best thing about it and the worst. It gives me a view of the game that enhances my enjoyment of the game, but I also rely on it too much and that means taking my eyes off the field too much. Think about how far the game has come in my lifetime. When my father took me to games at Forbes Field, the scoreboard had a clock and a man inside the scoreboard who changed the numbers by hand. Was that such a bad thing? It didn't bother me. The hours I spent with my father at Forbes Field were heaven.

Vinny from Dunkirk, NY

Al from Superior, maybe sometimes the weather doesn't keep out the rift raft because it's not rift raft, its riff raff you want to keep out. Taking shots and you don't even know the correct words.

I guess I should've changed that.

Scott from Lincoln City, OR

Vic, you've got it drilled into my head that this is a game of replacement (I think that phrase would be fitting on your tombstone, in the very distant future, of course). Has there ever been a player you think the team should not have released or let go to free agency?

Sure there has. In most cases, I was wrong. The best example of what you're asking is Bernie Kosar. It's not that I thought he shouldn't have been released, but Browns fans were outraged by Kosar's release. As it turned out, Bill Belichick was right, Kosar's skills were declining. Coaches and general managers know a lot more than for which fans give them credit. They see these guys in practice every day. Every practice is videotaped and reviewed. Every day of every player's career is analyzed and graded in some way. The coaches and the personnel people know when a guy has lost a step.

Dean from Rochester, MN

My fondest memory of a national anthem was waving the flags in the stands at Lambeau two weeks after 9/11. The players walked onto the field and held the flag with the servicemen. Since then, I always get chills. What's your favorite, Vic?

I was in Jacksonville, which has a huge naval presence. The Jaguars orchestrated a proud and distinguished display of patriotism. My favorite national anthem moment, however, occurred at the start of a hockey game. It was for the game in 1976 between the Flyers and the Russian Red Army team in Philadelphia. Kate Smith didn't sing the national anthem, she sang "God Bless America" and the energy she created in the Spectrum was amazing. Then it really got good.

Nick from Cypress, CA

Every year around Hall of Fame time someone brings up Ray Guy. Where do you stand on him deserving or not of a spot in Canton?

I'm opposed to kickers and punters in the Hall of Fame. Look, Nick, I'm having enough trouble explaining to people why Jerry Kramer isn't the Hall of Fame. You want me to put a punter in the Hall of Fame? A punter?

Thomas from Park Falls, WI

Pretty clear to me that rookie Eddie Lacy has a great personality in interviews/stories. Have you had a chance to be around him and can you explain the quote from a scout predraft that "he's just a different kind of cat."

He's a free spirit. He has a kind of Frenchy Fuqua personality, I hope. Hey, I like this guy. I think everyone knows that. I'm a running back kind of guy. I like big, pounding, free-spirited running backs. I was born to cover John Riggins. I always wished I had.

Ted from Wilmington, OH

Vic, we are currently in the midst of celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg. I love the history of warfare as well as the history of football. Do you have any other historic events or subjects that you enjoy besides football?

I'm a Civil War buff and I have a friend – a big Packers fan, by the way – who says he has 1,200 books on the Civil War and related events. He recently told me Jeb Stuart has been horribly maligned for his part in the South's defeat at Gettysburg. You know, blame it on the dead guy, right? I love that kind of stuff and I can't wait to read more on the subject. July 3 was the day of the final and deciding battle, Pickett's charge, at Gettysburg. It was 150 years ago today.

Mark from Stewartville, MN

Vic, you mentioned watching "troubled young players develop into model pros." Could you give a specific example or two?

In his rookie season, Joe Greene spit on a sportswriter and spent much of the season accumulating personal fouls. He was the Ndamukong Suh of his day. Joe had anger issues. He then grew into the player I most admire of any player I have ever covered.

Alex from New York, NY

What did turning Joe Greene sideways accomplish?

It kept the center and one guard off Jack Lambert, allowing him to run to the ball.

Don from Chicago, IL

Vic, I was wondering why there was such a discrepancy between where Dave Robinson was selected in the AFL and NFL drafts? The Chargers didn't select him until the end of the third round, but the Packers took him in the first round.

The AFL drafted players according to what they thought their chances of signing them were. They targeted players and often worked the draft so the teams that had the best chance to sign those players, drafted them. Maybe they didn't think they could sign Robinson. That's just a guess.

Aaron from Jacksonville, FL

I'm not convinced the NFL will put a team in Europe permanently because of the time difference, but I can see where there would be more games scheduled there. What are your thoughts on this?

I think Roger Goodell is bound and determined that a committed attempt to root a team in Europe or some other international destination will be made during his time as commissioner.

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