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Take your pick, Williams or Matthews


Anthony from Leroy, NY

Vic, this Packers team over the last two years has had some great success. Not only is this a very talented group but I feel this has been a team of great character, as well. You never hear about a member of this team bringing down the group, whether it be in the locker room or off the field. Do you think success comes from more than just talent?

Anthony, when I buy a car, I want it to look good. I'm naturally attracted to a car that pleases my eye, but no matter how good it looks, I won't buy it if it doesn't run. You know what I mean? I mean, I can live with a few dents and scratches, as long as I know the car will run every time I turn the key. I think sometimes we get a little too carried away with how the car looks, and we forget that the nasty world of the highway is a tough place for tough cars, and sometimes cars get dented and scratched. What's most important is that the car takes you where you want to go. You know what I mean?

Jeremy from Indianapolis, IN

I'm ready for the draft, Vic. I'm tired of hearing about Peyton, Payton and Tebow. A more interesting topic: I bought a coffee cup warmer at a yard sale, but my girlfriend later informed me that it's a candle warmer. I think it works just fine. It smells nice, too.

I love my candle warmer.

Dan from Grand Island, NY

Vic, I haven't missed a column in months and appreciate all your offseason explanations of caps, free agents, etc. Been thinking about long-term strategy, specifically regarding the salary cap, to win the most championships over time. My general question is: What schools of thought are out there in regards to managing the cap system?

There are three basic approaches to the cap: 1.) Prepay to make room for later. 2.) Push money out to make room for now. 3.) Structure contracts so the money is spread evenly over the years. I think a combination of the three, depending on the age and expectations of your team, is acceptable. If I have a young team that is in a form of rebuilding, I might be inclined to prepay by use of roster bonus, to make room for a pricey acquisition later that might put the team over the top when it's ready to win it all. If I have an older team that's won a championship and is trying to max out its run, I might do a little contract restructuring to push money out and make room now to acquire a few players that might bring one more title. The Packers are in neither of those situations. Because they are a draft-and-develop team that has done each well, they have a young core of players that is either in or coming into their prime years. They're ready to go, so to speak, and they should stay at that level of expectation for the next several years; therefore, staying flat and spreading the money out evenly over the years would be the sensible thing to do.

Marty from Milwaukee, WI

Hey, Vic, how happy are you that Tim Tebow is not a Packer?

I was never worried about that.

Jamie from Ashland, OR

If Jordy Nelson outperforms Greg Jennings this year, is it fair to say he is the No. 1 receiver?

I don't regard "No. 1 receiver" as a distinction as much as I see it as a designation. In my mind, a "No. 1 receiver" is an X. He's the split end, the guy that has to be big enough to play on the line of scrimmage and get off the jam, and fast enough to absorb the jam and still get deep down the sideline. Jordy Nelson, in my opinion, clearly has the size and speed to be an X. I have no doubt Jennings can do the same, but I see him more in the role of a Z, the flanker or off-the-line receiver, a guy who causes problems for the defense with his quickness in a short area, especially over the middle. I sense you regard "No. 1 receiver" to be the top pass-catcher, but that'll change week to week according to the opponent's coverage scheme and the Packers' game plan. Wes Welker led the league in receptions, but he will never be a "No. 1."

Rob from Cincinnati, OH

Vic, when I saw you quote the "Rolling Stones" in your last column (which was both witty and fitting the situation), it got me wondering what kind of music you listen to and what are some of your favorite bands?

I like everything from Bob Dylan to Frank Sinatra, as long as I can hear the words. I won't listen to music if I can't understand the words.

Jeff from Brooklyn, NY

Scott Wells will make a few million more bucks playing in St. Louis, but his chances of winning a second Super Bowl ring plummeted the second he signed there. Is that the kind of thing players attach any real weight to?

Pro football is a business and a player's body is to his career as a brick layer's hands are to his; they each have to lay as many "bricks" as possible before their "hands" wear out, and the player's "hands" are certain to wear out faster. I understand what you're saying and it can be difficult to understand, especially when you're a fan of a team and your heart is so attached to the success of the team. Pro football players, however, have to be able to separate the business part of their profession from the playing part, and they always have to take care of business first. It's always amazed me that they have such a unique ability to switch allegiances and pour themselves emotionally into their new team which, in many cases, was a team they were attempting to defeat only a few months ago. Some fans struggle with that. I find it romantic, in a pro football kind of way. I like play for pay. There's something coldly warm about it. It fits the game. For me, football has always had a kind of cold warmth to it. I don't want it to be too schmaltzy. I like it with an edge.

Matt from Spotswood, NJ

Can you name any teams that were built through free agency that won a Super Bowl?

The 2000 Ravens were built through the draft – Ray Lewis, Jonathan Ogden, Peter Boulware – but they acquired a lot of pieces in pro personnel moves – Shannon Sharpe, Tony Siragusa, Rod Woodson, Sam Adams – that helped put them over the top. They probably did as good a job in free agency as any team I can remember. Then they went overboard with it – Elvis Grbac – and it hurt them.

Andrew from Oglesby, IL

If you had to cover any other sport, what would it be and why?

I covered a lot of baseball, but I never thought it lent itself to writing as well as football does. I think golf does. I've covered golf and I like writing about it. Golf and football each provide dramatic moments on which the event or the game will turn, and that makes for good writing.

Zach from Woodstock, IL

It appears history is repeating itself. Among potential rule changes being considered is allowing a player placed on injured reserve early in the season to return at the end of the season. Is this a good idea or a bad idea?

It's not a new idea. We had it back in the 1970s. Then, a team was given four such moves a year. A player could be moved from IR back to the active roster – he had to be on the active roster after final cuts to qualify for being moved back to the active roster – after having spent a minimum of four weeks on IR. I thought it was a great idea but, of course, it was abused. Teams used IR as a supplemental roster. For example, they would get thin at a position and then move a player from a position where they weren't thin to IR with a bogus or minor injury, so they could acquire a player to address their need at the thin position. Then, after the emergency had been averted, they'd cut the guy they brought in to address the emergency and bring the guy they put on IR with the bogus injury back onto the active roster. It was impossible to regulate but it was becoming a rampant practice in the league, and that's why the rule was changed so that once a guy was put on IR, he was done for the season. I like the "new" rule they're proposing, but I'd like to know how they plan to enforce the spirit of it.

Jeff from Hampton, NH

Vic, what are your thoughts on the punishment doled out to the Saints?

I was stunned by the suspension of Sean Payton. Why? Because Bill Belichick wasn't suspended for his obvious role in "Spygate." The message the commissioner is sending is loud and resonant: You will not endanger the safety of the player and you will not damage the image of this league. It's that simple. I can't imagine that this problem will ever surface again.

Jason from Klamath Falls, OR

What was last year's situation with Davon House? I don't recall seeing him play any. Did he get hurt or did the lockout hurt his acclimation to the team?

I thought he was really making a move in training camp when he sustained a significant hamstring injury that pretty much closed the book on his rookie season. Everything was rushed last season due to the lockout; teams couldn't wait on rookies. Plus, House was coming off a significant ankle injury that dogged him throughout his final year in college. I think we're going to see a very different player in year two.

Phil from Fort Wayne, IN

Vic, in this era of football with the rules working against the defense, do you think the Hall of Fame will be inducting more offensive players than defensive players in 10-20 years from now?

It's always been that way. The imbalance is only going to worsen.

Tyler from Eau Claire, WI

If a player meets his NLTBE incentives in the last year of a contract and in the offseason signs with a different team, will his old team then be paying him while he is also being paid from the team he signed with?

He will have already been paid the incentives money before he signs with a new team, but the cap hit for it will appear on his old team's salary cap in the form of "dead money" while he's playing for his new team.

Scott from Palos Park, IL

While you were watching Donald Driver on DWTS, where was the dog that doesn't like you? I would bet he was right next to you watching and rooting for DD because he may not like you but everyone likes DD.

No, he was sitting next to my wife. He won't sit with me and I don't get it. I helped save that dog's life. It's not as though I strapped him to the roof of the car.

Cody from Deerbrook, WI

I would like to know your thoughts on our running back situation.

As it stands right now, they could use an extra pair of young legs.

Hawken from Clemson, SC

Has this been one of the most interesting or active free agency periods you can remember?

No, it's like all the rest of them. A lot of teams overpaid for players they could get a lot cheaper next year after those players are cut.

Chris from Kennewick, WA

Vic, I love your columns and agree with most of what you believe. Now, how do I make my wife see that not signing the big free agent might be a better move? She still doesn't understand passing on Mario Williams.

Explain it this way: She can't have Mario Williams and Clay Matthews, too. That's just a fact of life in the salary cap era. Tell her she has to pick between the two.

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