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When is celebration justified?


Randy from Medicine Hat, Alberta

Why don't teams concede a safety when faced with punting out of the end zone? Since field position is so important, you would think some of them would try to flip the field this way.

You're not likely to flip the field with a free kick. Most teams would punt and their net punting average would leave their opponents to start the next drive at about their 40-yard line. So, you've given up two points and field position. There's a time to do what you're suggesting. It's when you have a lead of 11 or more points and you believe the time remaining in the game prohibits your opponent from having more than one more possession, or you're leading by six or more points and you believe the time remaining in the game won't allow your opponent anything more than a "Hail Mary" pass.

Todd from New Richmond, WI

Is it me or are the quarterbacks' numbers down so far this year? You always say it's a pass-happy league.

Eli Manning has thrown for 723 yards, which puts him on pace for 5,784 yards. Michael Vick is on pace for 5,504 yards passing, Carson Palmer for 5,360 and Drew Brees for 5,312. Have we reached the point that those numbers aren't startling?

Todd from New Richmond, WI

How do winning teams over long stretches continue to do so without high draft picks? Patriots, Packers, Steelers. Is it more than just a franchise QB?

Those three teams all have a franchise quarterback and they wouldn't be where they are today without that guy. Those three teams are also patient and committed in developing their draft picks. That's a good combination: a franchise quarterback and a patient commitment to young talent. That'll win.

Jim from San Marcos, CA

With the Bucs' last play against the Giants, do you see other teams not taking a knee now and instead going for a score, even if they are significantly ahead?

I think it's good that this happened because it caused the league to respond on Monday with an approval of what the Bucs did. From this point forward, every team in the league should expect its opponent to employ that strategy, and should employ that strategy when it finds itself in a desperate state against victory formation. My problem with it was that it had long been accepted that you don't do that kind of thing. It was not expected because nobody did it, and that introduced a heightened potential for injury. That's gone now. No more surprises. Let it rip. With that, let me be the first to predict what's going to happen: Some erstwhile and ambitious young coach is going to invent a timing-leap strategy. The defense will attempt to time the snap, launch over the line and onto the quarterback, the most highly paid and valuable player on the field. In most cases, the leap won't be timed successfully, and the quarterback will be subjected to injury for no reason, but what the heck?

Jacob from Green Bay, WI

Are you aware of the fair-catch kick?

Following a fair catch, the receiving team may attempt a field goal (drop kick or from placement without a tee) from the spot of the fair catch, and the defense must align itself 10 yards from the spot of the kick.

Nick from Toronto, Ontario

I know, players, not plays, but to whom do we attribute Matthews' outrageous numbers?

Attribute them to him. He did it. He made the sacks. I remarked to Mike Spofford in training camp that I thought Matthews looked bigger, stronger, faster. I think he came to training camp this year with new resolve, which is common after a season that didn't meet expectations.

Charles from Statham, GA

After your interview over the weekend with Bart Starr and his story about the "Ice Bowl," I found myself looking closely at the defensive line during the goal line stand in the Falcons-Broncos game. Defenders these days do not play low. Starr could have walked in against today's lines, they play so high.

I don't agree with that, and teams still employ the submarine technique in short yardage; it's an age-old technique meant to get at the offensive linemen's feet and stop their advance, and then support over the top with the linebackers. The big difference in line play today vs. the "Ice Bowl" is that today's game is all about use of hands. It's a push-and-shove game. In the "Ice Bowl" era, football was a legs-and-shoulders game. There's a picture outside the Packers' team meeting room that really illustrates what I'm saying. It's from Super Bowl I. Jerry Kramer is blocking for Jim Taylor and you can clearly see Kramer squeezing his hands tightly into fists as he blocks a Chiefs defender. You can almost see the blood being squeezed out of Kramer's hands; that's how tightly he's squeezing them. Kramer's hips are sunk and he's got his right shoulder into the defender, turning him out of the hole. I honestly believe that if they made today's offensive linemen wear boxing gloves, the quarterback would be sacked on nearly every play.

Brian from Santa Cruz, CA

Just wondering if Packers nation heard what Peyton said on "The Bus" interview when he said you could draw 'em in the dirt, no huddle, huddle, whatever, if you got the players.

Isn't that what Starr did in the "Ice Bowl"? He drew it in the "dirt" and didn't even tell his teammates. Starr knew he had the guy he needed at guard to get it done; he knew he had a mismatch. There was no need for a rollout pass with an option to pass or run. Just run this because our guy will beat their guy.

Nathanael from North Prairie, WI

Hey, Vic, regarding the question of hot or not and jersey color, the color of the jersey makes no appreciable difference to the temperature because, although a black shirt will absorb more visible light from the sun, thereby converting it into heat energy, visible light is not the only light emitted from the sun. The vast range of wave lengths dwarf any advantage a white shirt may have over a black shirt.

Now you did it, Nathaniel. I'm going to get a ton of e-mails from people telling me that when they wear a dark shirt on a hot day they sweat like a pig.

Dennis from Sheboygan, WI

I have been a Packers fan my entire life and a real fan of the NFL. What I tire of now is players celebrating after every play like it's the play of the year. Do you see the league at some point trying to crack down on the endless celebrations we have to witness week in and week out? From my point of view, it grows tiresome and takes away from the game.

I think it blurs the line between what's important and what's ordinary. If I celebrated brushing my teeth in the morning, what's left for the good stuff that might happen later in the day? The league has tried to discourage excessive celebrations, but it's become obvious the players are going to do it and that's that. This is the celebration generation. Plus, most fans like it and the league knows it. It sells.

Austin from Oxford, MS

Vic, I have been without cable for almost six months now. My only exposure to football this season has been through this column, "The Grove" and Packers games, which I watch at the bars. As a result, I have found much greater enjoyment in football this year. Whenever I do catch a glimpse of regular ESPN programing in passing, I find it almost comical. I recall a story you wrote some time ago about the NFL draft and how it was covered in the past. You all laughed at the thought of ESPN televising it. I was wondering if you could elaborate on your feelings about the current status of sports media.

Much of the media's role has clearly changed. We're not reporters as much as we are entertainers. In the old days, the reverse was true. I enjoy reporting the news, but more and more the news is becoming the exclusive property of NFL Network and ESPN. So, I look for story angles the big boys won't be covering, and I offer this column as a form of entertainment that might also inform, and vice versa.

Brad from Huntsville, TX

Vic, is it just me or does it always seem the readers go against you in the point/counterpoint?

They hate me, but I love them.

Jeremiah from Nashville, TN

In regards to today's style of football, it's difficult to have a high-powered, quick-strike offense and a consistent, tough defense because when the offense scores so quickly, it puts your defense back out there too soon on a regular basis. Would you agree?

Yeah, but most coaches would tell you the problem with trying to develop a rock-ribbed defense on a team with a pass-happy offense is that the defense has to practice against that offense, and that means it's practicing against finesse, and finesse won't make a defense rock-ribbed. Usually, teams that run the ball stop the run, and vice versa, because they practice against each other.

Joe from Sherman, IL

Vic, would Bum Phillips be allowed to wear his cowboy hat in today's NFL?

I don't know. Nike might have to make him one for it to be worn on the sideline. A cowboy hat with a swoosh? That's not right.

Aaron from Jacksonville, FL

How much respect did Alex Smith earn from his teammates by playing with blood gushing from his nose?

It takes a little more than the sight of blood to get the players' attention, but I'm sure it curried the fans' favor.

Jimi from Green Bay, WI

Vic, who is your favorite current defensive player and why? I would say Ray Lewis is mine.

I don't have a favorite player. Darrelle Revis and Jason Pierre-Paul are two players in the league I would pick if I was building a defense. Ray Lewis is one of the greatest players in the history of the game. He would've been a star in any era. I marvel at his longevity, his energy and his love of the game, but I could do without the bombast. It's getting really old for me, plus, because he's a player of such esteem, I think a lot of players are mimicking him, and the problem with that is that a lot of players don't possess his self-control.

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