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Winter 2014: I nearly had to yell for help

Johnathan Franklin, Colt Lyerla, yoga and other thoughts


Matt from Oshkosh, WI

Vic, did the Packers draft three wide receivers with the thought they might lose Jordy or Randall after this year?

No, they drafted three wide receivers because they stuck to their board. That's what Ted Thompson said on Saturday and he literally pleaded with us to believe him. When will we get this? Do we have to see the board? Are we so mistrusting that we no longer believe our leaders?

Darin from Toronto, ON

Vic, this has been bugging me for a while. What happens during the draft if the clock runs out and a team doesn't have a pick in?

The next team in the order may turn in its pick and the team that expired its clock without making a pick may turn in its pick at any time. It's happened. It's a race to the podium.

Alex from Chapel Hill, NC

Vic, are tryout players still free agents? Could they sign with another team at any time?

Yes and yes.

Jack from Madison, WI

Vic, I think I know why people are obsessed with inside linebacker. Before the draft, you satisfied the fans with the need at safety by telling us Micah Hyde will take that spot. So help us with inside linebacker. Who lines up alongside A.J. Hawk this year?

Be patient. Maybe we'll get some information on that during OTAs. I want to see how Coach Capers uses Julius Peppers. Maybe Peppers will be used as an inside linebacker. Coach Capers used Chad Brown as an inside linebacker and Brown was definitely more of a pass rusher than a run stopper.

Henderson from Rochester, NY

When rookies sign contracts and get a signing bonus, do the players get the bonus then or after they make the team?

It's standard procedure for the player to receive the signing bonus money immediately upon signing the contract. In the old days, teams weren't in a rush to put big bonuses in rookies' hands. As a personnel director once said to me, "When I give a guy a million dollars, does that make him a better person?" The feeling used to be that it was best to keep a rookie broke right up to training camp, instead of putting a lot of money in his pocket and sending him home to spend it during the dead zone. I can remember seeing rookies filling bags of food in the cafeteria to take back to the hotel with them. Instead of going home, they literally had to stay at the facility to work out, just so they could get food in the cafeteria. Those days are gone. The new CBA has put everybody in a rush to get their players signed.

Aaron from White Hall, AR

One of my favorite draft moments was Mel Kiper and Jon Gruden going at it over Russell Wilson and Kiper killing the pick, even though it was in the third round.

That's why I say we need more of that, because that's what we remember.

Freddy from Salt Lake City, UT

Vic, during Green Bay winters, do you ever feel like Jack from "The Shining"?


There was one day this past winter that I felt that way. It was a day or two after the playoff game against the 49ers. It was 400 below zero or something like that. I got in my car in the morning and realized I was getting low on gas. On my way to work I noticed that nobody was buying gas at the gas stations. At first, I feared it was a gas station holiday, but then I saw they were open, just nobody was buying gas. That's odd, I thought to myself. So I pulled into one and started to fill the tank. Then the wind began to blow and my eyes began to tear so badly that I couldn't see the pump or find the gas cap to put back on. I was having difficulty breathing – this is a true story, folks – and I was becoming disoriented. I was having difficulty finding the door handle. I just wanted to get back into the car to safety so I could recover my equilibrium. I came close to waving my arm and yelling for help. I prevailed, but not without an experience I'll never forget. Now I know why nobody was buying gas. I also know where I'll be next winter. I ain't doin' this again.**

Bruce from Fremont, CA

It looks like the Lions and Bears are starting to close the gap in the NFC North, where the Packers have dominated since 2011. No team has won the NFC North more than three consecutive seasons since Chicago did it from 1984-88. Do you think the Packers have what it takes to break that trend? If you had to bet your money on it today, would you take Green Bay to win the NFC North this year?


I don't bet money on sporting events. I see no reason why the Packers can't win the division title a fourth consecutive year, but I would not bet money on it. As I've written previously, the Lions are the team I believe is the greatest threat to the Packers' dominance. The Bears don't have my attention as they appear to have yours, but they have weapons with Forte and those two big receivers, and if they get a fix on defense, I acknowledge they could make a push.**

Code from Colorado Springs, CO

Vic, do you think the Packers make it further in the playoffs this year?

That's my hope, but I would rather you ask me that question after I've had a chance to see what the defense does in training camp. The Packers have got to get better on defense to go deeper in the playoffs.

Mitchell from Celina, OH

Vic, how did we get so lucky? We have the defending rookie of the year (Lacy) and now we have the rookie who will win it this year (Lyerla).

Folks, my inbox is jammed with enthusiasm for the addition of Colt Lyerla to the Packers' roster. Once again, Packers fans prove they are, indeed, winsome, but if you really want to help this young man, then dial it back a little bit. Wild expectations aren't going to help him focus on the challenge he's facing.

Margo from Bloomington, IL

Come on, Vic. Last week I asked why you called OTAs the Underwear League. Your answer of "I don't know" is mighty weak. You keep telling us you're just a reporter. So find out!

OK, Margo.

Tim from Milwaukee, WI

In what role do you see the Packers using Johnathan Franklin this year?

I see something creative for Franklin. He's not a pounder. He's an open-spaces player, a complementary back, and I can see him being used in a role that's one part Darren Sproles and two parts James Brooks.

Paul from Beaver Dam, WI

Vic, you said you wouldn't lose sleep over the inside linebacker issue. Have you honestly ever lost sleep over an issue on any team?

No. I've lost sleep over a story I've written, but not because the team I was covering lost a game or didn't satisfactorily address a need in the draft. If you're losing sleep over a game, you need to check yourself. You need to come to balance, as Frank Gansz would say.

Larry from Neenah, WI

With all of the rookie player salaries slotted, why does a player need an agent? Couldn't most of the lower-round players save the agent fee?

Agents are part of the machinery. They're important for a lot of reasons, especially for low-round players because those are the players that need agents most of all. Why? Because low-round players tend to bounce around the league, and their agents find them work. Cap men want to deal with agents, not players. Cap men need to work with an agent that understands the team's cap needs for structuring contracts. A bond of trust is built between the cap man and the agent, and when an agent has a player out of work and the agent sees a particular team is in need of a player, the agent uses the relationship he's built with the team to pitch his player to the team.

Daniel from Sugar Land, TX

Vic, isn't the seven-round draft limit only a perceived protection for veterans? They could easily be cut for a rookie free agent. The only thing protecting a veteran is guaranteed money, correct?

Nothing protects better than silk-pajamas money, but limiting the flow of rookies into the league every year restricts the competition. I began covering the NFL when there were only 26 teams in the league, the draft was 17 rounds, training camp rosters were unlimited and the final cut was to 40. It was common for teams to take 150 guys to camp. The Cowboys would take 200 and cut 30 on the first day. The competition was incredibly intense and guaranteed money was all but nonexistent. If you lived through those days, you'd understand better how the seven-round draft, 90-man and 53-man roster limits protect veteran players. Be that as it may, football is still a young man's game.

Bob from Rochester, NY

Vic, do you see any potential from the new recruits to be return men, or is your prediction they will still use Cobb?

Jared Abbrederis catches punts like Lynn Swann.

Rob from Brookeville, MD

"This is a young man's league." The CBA was quick to cut rookie salaries while doling out the pie to veterans. Don't you think it's a bit ironic that's what makes veterans expensive and therefore expendable? Not sure that part was thought through by the players.

They knew what they were doing, but they each wanted something that went beyond minor issues. The owners wanted the money, the players wanted the game. They each got what they wanted.

Ahmad from Woodbury, MN

Vic, thank you for the column. I have a question regarding player contracts. With players who face trouble off the field, do football organizations build in contingencies that relieve the organization in case players get into trouble?

Yeah, you can build clauses into contracts that protect a team financially, but that's not the issue. The issue is that every team has a responsibility for the players they bring into the community. Just as players must be accountable for their performances, teams must be accountable for their players.

Chris from Minneapolis, MN

Vic, with all the big-letter talk for the Packers, I'm wondering if you have any big-letter promises for "Ask Vic" this year?

Write it down, in big letters: We will set records.

Jeremiah from South Bend, IN

Vic, speaking of the league no longer being in denial, I read an article last fall about the well-being considerations Pete Carroll incorporates into the Seahawks' program. These included meditation, yoga and other activities designed to elevate the players' mental health. I was wondering, how in this game of confrontation can the league or an individual team balance mental health, well-being and the toughness needed for football to be football?

It seems to be working in Seattle and I'm all for mental health, but I can't help but chuckle when I think how far the game has come during my time covering it. The team I covered when I started doing this choked down cheeseburgers and capped a day at training camp with a pitcher of beer, had gigantic ash trays bolted to the facing boards between each locker stall, chain-smoked through halftime and then went out and ripped the other team's faces off. Just win, baby.

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