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This is a 'regular-season' week


John from Las Vegas, NV

If the ball is blown dead between the hash marks, is it placed where blown dead, or a mark in the middle?

Between the hashes, the ball is spotted where it is when the play is blown dead. You no doubt have heard the term "centering the ball" for the kick, right?

Patrick from Jacksonville, FL

I was watching old footage of Terry Bradshaw. It looked like he gripped the back end of the ball to throw it. I hadn't seen any other player do this. Is that type of throw unique to him, or have others used it?

Brad put his index finger on the tip of the ball. I can remember that another quarterback did that, too, so I won't say that Brad invented it, but he's the first guy I ever saw do it. Brad had hands, of course, the size of frying pans. He's probably the most physically and athletically gifted quarterback I've ever covered. He could've played running back, tight end, linebacker, safety and probably even cornerback, too, especially in the day and age of bump and run. I can't remember if Brad changed to that index-finger-on-the-nose grip after coming into the NFL, but I know he hated the stripes that were painted on the noses of the ball back then for night games. He complained that the paint that was used to make the stripes was slippery, and I'm thinking that those stripes were the reason he moved his index finger out over the nose, but I'm not sure of that. I forget when they took the stripes off the ball for night games, but I think it was while Brad was still playing. I know his complaints resonated with the league.

Kevin from Tempe, AZ

I've heard rumors that teams don't game-plan their opponents in the preseason. Is there any truth to this? If so, why not?

The third preseason game is the only one for which most teams, maybe all teams, game-plan. Coaches don't game-plan the other preseason games for a few reasons: 1.) They're only using a handful of plays. 2.) Putting players into one-on-one matchups for the purpose of evaluating them is more important than pencil-whipping your opponent. Coaches game-plan for the third preseason game because they use that game to install a regular-season routine. This week's game is the one that will launch the Packers into the regular season, and I imagine the word "Saints" will be used more than a few times. This week is a regular-season week rehearsal. If you wanna use the preseason to get a feel for what kind of team you have, this is the week to do it.

Aaron from Jacksonville, FL

What was the preseason record for the Detroit Lions the year they went 0-16? I think that pretty much tells all about how important the preseason record is.

The Lions were 4-0, but they had some tough breaks. They could easily have been 1-3.

Dustin from Dell Rapids, SD

I have heard the back-shoulder catch called the Packers' trademark play. When teams game-plan against the Packers, how are they going to try to negate that signature play?

By trying to sack the quarterback. That's how you stop great quarterbacks. If you give Aaron Rodgers time to throw, you're gonna lose. He can make all of the throws. It's just a matter of whether or not he'll have time to make them.

Sara from Davis, CA

I was just wondering what the attendance was for the preseason home opener against the Cardinals? How did you like it?

The attendance was 67,688. It was the best-attended preseason game I've ever covered.

Jim from Tucson, AZ

I realize Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy work well together but, when push comes to shove, who has the final say on the makeup of the 53-man roster?

Thompson has final say, but he's a guy who listens to his coach and weighs all of the information in making his decisions.

Peter from Viborg, Denmark

Who are the best 3-4 defensive ends in the game right now?

The Ravens use Haloti Ngata inside and outside. He beats people up at both positions, so I'd say he's the best 3-4 end in the game; he might be the best defensive lineman in the game, period. The other guy is Aaron Smith, though he's been injured and his best years are obviously behind him. Smith is the classic 3-4 defensive end, which is to say a mauler and a brawler that still has enough length and twitch in his body to shed and chase. Smith is a rare specimen and any time I've talked to coaches, such as Dom Capers, about 3-4 defensive ends, Smith's name is the first one they mention.

Andrew from Oklahoma City, OK

Which player popped out at you in Friday's game? For me, it has to be Derek Sherrod. Obviously, he's not the immediate answer at left guard, which Lang seems destined to become, but he also played poorly at left tackle. Your thoughts?

He's had no OTAs and only a few weeks of training camp and two preseason games; I think you're being harsh. Sherrod is going to be everything the Packers expect him to be. For him, it's not if, it's when, just as it was for Bryan Bulaga last year. When you watch the Packers offensive line go through drills, Sherrod easily jumps out as the most gifted athlete. He needs to polish his technique and, more importantly, see all the moves the pass-rushers have. He's seeing moves now he's never seen. As he sees them and learns about them, he'll understand how to defeat them.

Lee from Hugo, OK

Does the back-shoulder catch require good timing? Can you explain what makes it so hard to defend?

It's difficult to defend because the defensive back's momentum is being used against him. He doesn't know the ball is going to be thrown short or when it'll happen. He's running full-out to keep up with the receiver. The way to defeat the back-shoulder throw is to play something called "trail technique," but that's a dangerous device and there are only a few defenders in the league that have the skill and closing speed to play "trail technique." If you're trailing the play, the quarterback and the receiver are going to detect that and they're going to adjust the route and hit you over the top. Now, do you have the closing speed to catch up? A few guys do. Darrelle Revis can play "trail technique." That's one of the reasons he's considered to be the best cornerback in the game.

Matthew from Madison, WI

I've noticed that Paul Hornung's number, five, is not officially retired, yet, no one has worn that number since the 1980s. Is there an unofficially retired status? Thanks, really enjoying your writing; the live stuff is a lot of fun.

It's called taking a number out of circulation and I like it better than retiring numbers because it honors the player while also providing the team with flexibility in what it can do with that number. Hey, if one day the Packers were to draft a Heisman Trophy winner out of Notre Dame and he wanted to wear the number five, I'd want him to wear that number. I think it would make for a cool story that would further celebrate Hornung's great career and the memories we all have of it.

Peter from Toledo, OH

Vic, if you don't mind, please write out your very first "Vicipedia" entry, namely a categorization of the different offensive philosophies. Also, if you could write a brief description of each, it would be very helpful to me. I'll let you decide if you want to include obsolete philosophies. Perhaps, beginning the writing of a "Victionary" would be good, as well, one place where you can put all the words and phrases you've been defining.

Who needs that stuff; you've got Mike McCarthy to teach you. Friday night, the Packers went empty and then, a few players later, they lined up in a full-house look. McCarthy's practices are a thing of beauty. The Rockettes aren't any more organized. He's the only coach I've ever covered that uses a game clock to display period times during practice. His practices are amazing in their pace and variety of drills. He includes a healthy dose of middle run early in practice, and I really like that because I think too many practices these days are "passing camps." The Packers use more formations and varieties of looks than any team I've covered. If you wanna learn about offense, just watch the Packers because they incorporate bits and pieces of several offensive philosophies, from the "T" to the "West Coast," from "pro set" to "I," from "Bunch" to "Spread."

Ryan from Fredericton, NB

Over the last couple of years, I've read about the possibility of coaches leaving. Though I expect this, eventually, as per the nature of the NFL, I am concerned about how it will affect the Packers. One major example would be the departure of Dom Capers. If he takes a head coaching job, how much would the defense fall?

You take care of the future and the future will take care of the present, and good head coaches take care of the future. They manage their staffs by making sure they grow. You've got a couple of defensive coordinators in training right now. Kevin Greene has defensive coordinator written all over him. It's just a matter of time. Nothing stays the same. Good teams lose good coaches, for the obvious reason. Good coaches, however, prepare young coaches to move up the ladder.

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