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The meanest, the nicest and the quirkiest

A simple and bold evaluation for how to beat the Lions


John from Waunakee, WI

Would you describe yourself as an old curmudgeon?

I'm old school, but I'm open to change. Do we have to do it all at one time? I would prefer that we effect change at a slower pace.

Adam from Eau Claire, WI

Vic, it seems to me in the early season teams are gearing up to stop the run against the Packers and, from what I've read, the Lions look poised to do the same. I think this is awesome, but isn't it crazy teams are less focused on the best quarterback in the NFL?

I don't get it either, but I remember George Perles saying that's why MIT doesn't have a football team. Now, I see MIT does have a football team. Maybe that's the answer to the NFL's problems: They should start drafting players from MIT.

Jon from Redding, CA

In all your years around the NFL, who is the meanest player you have come across, who was the nicest, who was the weirdest?

One of the smallest players I've ever covered, Glen Edwards, is the fiercest hitter I've ever covered. I literally thought John Gilliam's head came off – it was actually the ball popping into the air – when Edwards hit Gilliam head-to-head in Super Bowl IX. I also remember Edwards battering Golden Richards in Super Bowl X, and clotheslining Kenny Anderson five yards out of bounds in a 1973 game in Riverfront Stadium. Tony Dungy is the most pleasant, courteous and accommodating football player I've ever covered. The word weird doesn't work for me, but three guys come to mind that had a quirky side to them. Brian Blankenship was a replacement player who stuck in the league for a while. He was a cool guy. I remember him wearing some kind of mask – it might've been a Reagan mask – on a flight all the way to the West Coast. I also remember Blankenship de-frocking Brian Bosworth, who was wearing some kind of bonnet under his helmet that left long strings hanging out of Bosworth's helmet. Blankenship became fascinated by the strings and eventually got hold of one of them and pulled Bosworth's bonnet out from under his helmet. The other guys that come to mind are Ernie Holmes and Carlton Haselrig, the two most naturally powerful men I've ever covered. Ernie had a personality that included the biggest smile I've ever seen, but he could flip the switch and send shivers up your back. He kept a cooler of raw hot dogs under his bed in training camp. During an interview with a reporter, he pulled the hot dogs out and started eating them. "You didn't see this," Holmes said to the reporter. Holmes had come into camp overweight and was put on a salad diet at training table. Haselrig might be the most natural football player I've ever covered. He was six-time NCAA heavyweight wrestling champion and never lifted a weight in his life. He was purely natural and I enjoyed talking to him. The "Rig" had an unfortunate penchant for going AWOL. I remember him getting in trouble for driving his car up the steps of the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. Oh, well, these things happen, but they don't taint my memory of these very colorful characters.

Joe from West Bend, WI

Looking back at the time of Lombardi/Starr and before, I have been under the impression all quarterbacks in the NFL called their own plays. I have again been under the impression the only time coaches got involved in a play call was when a time out was called and the quarterback went over to the sideline to discuss the options. Are these assumptions correct?

They are not correct. Paul Brown used a messenger guard system to shuttle in plays to the quarterback. Chuck Noll was one of Brown's messenger guards. Also, Roger Staubach didn't call his own plays. Johnny Unitas called his own plays. As the story goes, when Don Shula took the head job in Baltimore, he sent a play into the huddle and Unitas called time out, went to the sideline and asked Shula if he wanted to play quarterback.

Joe from Chicago, IL

Vic, I know it's still way too early to look at statistical rankings, but I hate seeing the Packers at the bottom of the league in both rush offense and rush defense. When in the season do you think there will be a sample size large enough for an accurate gauge?

The rankings calm down by midseason. At that point, they're a worthy study.

Paul from Zanesville, IN

Vic, if you could cover any NFL team in history for one season, who would it be and why? You've already covered the Steelers, Jaguars and Packers, so those teams are off limits. I'm guessing you'll say the 1985 Bears. Lots of great quotes!

They're a consideration, for sure. I loved Buddy Ryan. My choice, however, is the 1958 Baltimore Colts. Unitas, Art Donovan, Ray Berry, Lenny Moore, Gino Marchetti; they were great players and great interviews. Their coach, Weeb Ewbank, was a treasure. Their stories also made those Colts unique: Unitas coming off a sandlot, Berry coming out of the 20th round, Donovan having fought at Luzon and Iwo Jima, Marchetti having fought at the Battle of the Bulge. You think those guys were tough? What a fantastic cast of characters that team possessed. Do you think I might've used some of Donovan's one-liners? That's my kind of team. How dare Robert Irsay move the Colts out of Baltimore.

John from Neptune Beach, FL

How are you doing? Like you, I turned the game off at 21-0. I'm starting my 20th year going to the Jags games this weekend, facing the very real possibility of the same type of score. If it happens, I may stick with it a little longer than I did the TV, but where I was once a diehard football fan, the way the game is being played is turning me into a casual fan, and it's becoming easier and easier for me to find something else to do.

One day, a team or a player or maybe just a play will make your heart beat hard and fast for the game again, and your love of football will be reborn. You just need a little rest.

Matt from Stevens Point, WI

Vic, when the Packers get beaten badly, your inbox is full of emails from fans admonishing McCarthy for not making halftime adjustments. Do fans applaud McCarthy's halftime adjustments when they have a game such as against the Jets this past weekend?

The ones that get it do. It's all about perspective and self-control. When you understand the other team is making halftime adjustments, and the other team has good players, and the other team is getting a pregame pep talk, and the other team is trying just as hard to win the game as you are, you are more fully able to appreciate the difference between winning and losing, not just your disappointment.

Patrick from Washington, DC

I hate to say this, being a lifelong Packers faithful, but it seems to me the entire Packers coaching staff needs to be replaced. Looking at the Eagles or the Seahawks or the Bengals, the coaching paradigm is focused on conditioning, blocking and tackling, three things that are sadly lacking in the Packers philosophy, as seen on the field. Witness the jet play that consistently ran around us in Seattle. Why aren't we doing the sweep from the Lombardi era? All due respect, but isn't it time for Packers coaching to enter the 21st century?

Running the "Packers Sweep" will launch the Packers into the 21st century? Try harder for perspective and self-control, Patrick. Football is a wonderful game of human confrontation. You're missing it because you can't get past your own confrontation.

Jacob from Eyota, MN

Vic, I actually like that Matthews is being moved around and dropped into coverage every now and then. Doesn't this disguise the blitz and make an offense pay for double-teaming him when he drops into coverage?

That sounds reasonable.

Steven from Seven Lakes, NC

I believe I have figured out how to stop Megatron: Sack the quarterback. This game is truly going to be about rushing the passer.

I like that kind of simple and bold evaluation.

Curt from Neenah, WI

Why is nobody mentioning the difference of crime rates in the NFL compared to the rest of the population? Crime rates in general are significantly lower in the NFL. Wouldn't it be an all-around good answer for everybody if the NFL came out with a statement along the lines of: "We understand the concerns people have with criminal accusations made against NFL players. Crime rates in the NFL in general and specifically in cases of domestic abuse, child abuse and violent crimes are significantly lower among NFL players when compared to the general population, and we are proud of that fact."

That's probably not the smart thing to do right now.

Christopher from Scottsdale, AZ

I googled Buzz Nutter to see if he was real or if someone pulled a fast one on little Vic, and lo and behold he is real and was snapping the ball to Johnny U. in the greatest game ever played. Any other crazy autographs or prized possessions you would care to share?

I unscrewed a spike from one of my football shoes when I took them off for the last time in high school. I had a pretty good idea that was the last time I'd wear a pair of football shoes. I still have the spike. I'm not well-adjusted.

Josh from Pullman, WA

Vic, can you please clarify what happens to players that are inactive for games but on the 53-man roster?

They get paid. It's my life's dream.

Lucas from Shawano, WI

Why is the general public so up in arms about athletes breaking the law? I don't look to athletes or Hollywood for morality. When I watch sports, I want to see an athlete, not a role model. It allows me to admire abilities, even if a mouth or an attitude or a misdemeanor is attached. Am I alone?

Yeah, you're alone with me.

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