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What will it take for defense to improve?

One play made me question myself


Courtney from Butte, MT

Your analogy of safety and its consequences is understood but it puts dollars ahead of life. I am old school like you and still believe in risk/benefit analysis, but I always had trouble putting a dollar figure on a life. Granted, football is a business and so economics comes first, but one cannot put dollars before a life. Where do you draw the line?

That was the intent of my DDT story in yesterday's column; I wanted to stimulate thought and debate on where you draw that line. Obviously, the line has to be drawn where the consequences become too grave to accept. With that, I'll allow the debate to continue, as it pertains to football, of course.

Bill from Morris, IL

What do you think of the Dolphins' new logo? Unlike the old logo, in the new logo the dolphin isn't wearing a helmet. Is that sending the wrong message about safety?

The old dolphin didn't wear a facemask. It had the right idea.

Brent from Cedar Grove, WI

Vic, is it possible Goodell is only hated because he was put into the position of ruining football? Did he not inherit a league that was sued by former players saying the game wasn't safe enough when they played? So to protect the future of the game, he decides to radically change the culture of the game. I don't always agree with how dramatic the new rules are, but I think Goodell was forced into being the bad guy.

He inherited a game that was wildly popular, but was facing two crises: 1.) It needed a new CBA; 2.) It needed to address player safety. If we've learned one thing about this commissioner, it's that he's an aggressive, forceful personality. He began his reign over the game by attacking player misbehavior. It was an issue, but I didn't think it was as big an issue as he obviously thought it was. Again, I'm part of that old culture that comes to expect and accept a little misconduct from men who are recruited to this game largely for their rough and tumble ways. On the new CBA front, the commissioner got a deal that saved the day for every small-market, low-revenue franchise in the league. Roger Goodell did for the Jacksonvilles of the league what Pete Rozelle did for the Green Bays. I understand that an element of control of the game was given to the players in exchange for a better financial landscape, but that element of control can also be viewed as a responsibility. OK, players, you want it, you got it; now let's see what you do with it. Addressing player safety was also a part of getting an agreement on a new CBA, and the lawsuits are driving the player safety movement, too, but I genuinely believe the commissioner believes a shift in the culture of the game is necessary to grow it. He's probably right. I sense that young fans want a kinder, gentler game. I don't, but I am part of the culture that needs to be changed and, of course, time will change it if the commissioner doesn't, if you know what I mean. I am intrigued by the commissioner's aggressive approach.

Chris from Eau Claire, WI

I love "Ask Vic." First, you have to have a fan base with a following such as the Packers have, with people interested enough to check this every day. Second, you need a guy like yourself that creates some turbulence to get people fired up. Without you, Vic, this would just be lame. At first, I was wary of you, but you're not so bad after all.

When you have a following such as the Packers, the second part is easy. It always begins with the fan base. The Packers' fan base guarantees success.

David from Bangor, ME

When I voted in this week's poll on the new lowering the head rule, the problem with the rule crystalized for me. This rule removes highlight reel type plays, and while it may only be of one type, it threatens to eat away at the fabric of the NFL. I truly hope it does help to reduce injuries, but I fear you are correct and it will not achieve even that.

A reader sent me a video of Greg Jones using his shoulder to crush a defender. It was from Jones' days at Florida State. I covered Jones in Jacksonville for a long time and he is the most muscular person I have ever seen. Just for one day, I would like to stand in front of the mirror as I shave and see muscles like that. Anyhow, in the clip, Jones is running down the left sideline when he thrusts his right shoulder into the chest area of the defender, sending the defender flying backward into one of his teammates, who then delivers a blow to the would-be tackler's head, knocking off his helmet. It was vicious looking, and Jones did exactly what the new rule would have him do, and the tackler still took a blow to the head. I decided that the bottom line is that in a physical game, the head is going to get hit. It's connected to the body and there's not much we can do about that. We must accept a degree of danger.

Andrew from Jacksonville, FL

I'll hazard a guess that newly signed kicker Giorgio Tavecchio has a soccer background.

That's probably why he's playing football.

Gary from Chippewa Falls, WI

Urlacher is the classic example of player sympathy. He holds out to get more money from the team. Now the team does not value him as much and he deserves better treatment. I think the Bears got it right.

It's one of the negatives of the free agency era that players don't step away from the game as gracefully as they did prior to free agency. In the old days, the team would approach the player in the offseason and explain to him that he had lost a step and they wanted to move on. If he wanted to continue playing, they would release him and allow him to find another team. Often, the player would agree to a retirement press conference. It was a dignified way to either end a player's career or his time with the team that had been his identity. Nowadays, teams aren't going to have that conversation. They're going to let the player go into free agency because the team will likely receive compensatory pick consideration should the player sign with another team. It's a process that bothers fans because they don't like the idea of players they've cheered through their whole careers going to the enemy. It kind of soils a team's history, so to speak. It's an unintended consequence of free agency, but it's real and it's not going away.

Peter from Seattle, WA

I found a clear example of a significant injury sustained as a result of a back lowering his head. In the game-winning, overtime drive last season, Seahawks fullback Michael Robinson drilled Bears cornerback Tim Jennings and ended his season. What do you make of this hit?

I watched it and it is the quintessential example of what the league is attempting to extinguish from the game. The runner dropped his head in the open field and ran over the defender with a fearful blow to the head. I watched a second time and then I thought about it. I asked myself: Why does this not bother me? I decided the answer to that question is that I had been raised by the game to believe it was a test of power and strength, and the act of running over a man by knocking him unconscious was the very embodiment of the game that raised me. I can remember one of my high school coaches celebrating a tackle that split an opponent's helmet in half. I felt a slight twinge of shame as I acknowledged to myself that I am part of the culture that must be changed. The league doesn't want players to run over other players; it wants players who possess the elusiveness to run around other players. That's a shift in culture I have to accept or I won't be able to enjoy the game as fully in the rest of my life, as I have for all of my life up to now.

Kereck from LaPlace, LA

What do you think we have to fix on our defense to get back to the Super Bowl? I know that as long as we have No. 12, we can win it all.

A player here, a player there and development from the young players the Packers already have. That's what it'll take, along with patience.

Kurt from Sartell, MN

Why is everyone always talking about how the Packers need a RB, a WR, a safety, an ILB, maybe even another kicker? The Packers need big, dominating guys on both sides of the ball. Am I missing something?

Not a thing.

Lorenzo from West Linn, OR

I think Joe from Chicago meant substance, not sustenance, or maybe he thought you don't have a hunger for knowledge.

I probably should've changed that, but I thought to myself, Joe thinks I'm a bad guy, so why disappoint him? Sometimes I change them, sometimes I don't.

Tony from Minneapolis, MN

I have high hopes with Davon House. Do you see him emerging as a shutdown corner this year, assuming he stays healthy? I like our cornerback situation.

House was right behind Randall Cobb in my breakout player prediction last year. I thought House was going to have a huge season. I really like his length and coverage ability, and I absolutely believe he can become a shutdown-type cornerback. The issue for him is health. He hasn't been healthy for a long time. He played his final season in college on an ankle injury that still bothered him in his rookie season with the Packers. Last year, with the ankle injury behind him, he suffered a shoulder injury that ruined what appeared as though it was going to be a great year for House. If he can stay healthy, I think he can be a big-time player.

Craig from Temperance, MI

Why are we not looking at some of the big defensive tackles that were released? Pickett is getting up there in years.

This is a great draft for defensive linemen, especially the defensive tackle types, which is what defensive ends in a 3-4 are.

Jay from Sheboygan, WI

Vic, are you doing your golf outing this year?

The lunch/tour option is far and away the popular choice. We'll be releasing more information on this soon.

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