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You will not stop us


Bridget from Chicago, IL

Vic, I've never really thought about this until right now, but how are players paid? Are they paid a weekly or monthly salary during the season only, per game? If so, does that mean the guys now, especially the rookies, working with the team aren't going to be paid until the fall?

Players don't draw their regular salaries until the regular season begins. They are usually paid weekly for 17 weeks, though bi-weekly payments are permitted. In the offseason, they rely on stipends and bonuses. A player's contract, for example, might provide for a roster bonus to be paid on the first day of the league calendar year in March, or for a strength and conditioning bonus to be paid in the spring if he participates in a designated percentage of the team's conditioning program. All players in training camp receive a stipend. These can be lean times for rookies who haven't signed a contract or for undrafted guys whose signing bonuses are nominal. The new CBA is causing rookies to sign contracts much sooner after the draft than had been the case for all of the years I've covered the league, and one of the reasons teams weren't previously in a hurry to sign their draft picks until training camp approached is because keeping those players on the poor side was thought to help keep them out of trouble. A GM type once said to me, "When you put a million dollars into someone's pocket, does that make them a better person?" The point is this: Why give a whole lot of money to a 22-year-old who has lots of free time? Why not wait until he has to go to training camp and his schedule is full of football before you give him that money? The new CBA slots the players so distinctly that it has greatly decreased negotiating, which is causing agents to advise their clients to sign as quickly as possible so they can get the money and get it invested or put it to use. I hope it makes them a better person.

Hansen from Waukesha, WI

Which young tight end do you think has a better chance of being an impact player on offense, Ryan Taylor or D.J. Williams?

If you put that question to fans in a poll, my guess is Williams would be favored by a wide margin. The receiving skills he brought with him from Arkansas have been well publicized and acknowledged, to the point that expectations are for him to be an impact player. That's not the case with Taylor. As a seventh-round pick who projected to be more of a prospect for special teams than for the offense, there were no expectations for Taylor. Maybe that's why he greatly interests me. I see something in him I like. First of all, he's a tough guy. He'll run down under kicks and he'll hit somebody; he'll hit everybody he can. Secondly, he's big enough and tough enough to be an in-line blocker, and that's what defines a tight end. As far as I'm concerned, if a "tight end" isn't tight to the formation, he's not a tight end. Here's the big one: Taylor's got good hands and he moves gracefully for an in-line blocker. What I'm seeing is a guy who looks like he can be a seam receiver. I see him catching the quick pass in the seam and on the run, and dropping his pads on smaller safeties. Taylor intrigues me.

Tevon from Atlanta, GA

If you're a high school QB and you decide to play for an option offense team like Georgia Tech, you have closed the chapter of playing pro football. Is that thought right?

I don't agree. A lot of option quarterbacks and quarterbacks that were runners as much as they were passers have become great safeties and wide receivers in pro football. Nolan Cromwell and Hines Ward immediately come to mind.

Ben from Dover, CT

In minicamp, what differences from OTAs in specific players or positions will you be looking for, now that they'll be in pads?

They won't be in pads until training camp. From a fan or media perspective, there's little difference between minicamp and OTAs. It remains football without fear, which isn't football.

Charlie from Morgan Hill, CA

In one of your responses you stated, "Great teams don't take what you give them; they take what they want." This is contradictory to what Rodgers and McCarthy say all of the time. Rodgers would say, "They took away the deep ball, so we went underneath." With all of the wins over the last several years, explain the contradiction and who's right?

You're applying the comment too broadly. Apply it to the signature-type plays I mentioned. Great teams have strong identities. They are known for signature plays, bread-and-butter plays that every opponent knows is coming but still can't stop. They are plays great teams are going to run regardless of what the defense does to stop them, because great teams impose their will. That's how the comment is meant to be interpreted. If you're going to allow a team to pencil-whip you out of what you do best, then you lost the game before it was even played. The Packers are going to throw the back-shoulder fade to Greg Jennings. The Packers are going to throw the deep sideline pass to Jordy Nelson, as they did to clinch wins over the Bucs and Giants last season. It was a signature play to which the Packers turned when those games were on the line. The Chiefs stopped that play, but the Packers didn't stop running it. We're talking about plays that are a team's identity. Lombardi designed his run-to-daylight scheme to compensate for the emergence of gap-control schemes, but he didn't stop running the Packers sweep. One complements the other. What's most important is that a team's identity be preserved. This is who we are and this is what we do, and you will not stop us from doing it. It's called "playing above the X's and O's."

Trent from Clinton, UT

Do the players enjoy doing things like PackTalkBack and the new Google Hangout for the fans?

The ones that agree to do it are the ones who enjoy doing it. Some guys enjoy engaging the fans; some people are just more social than others. Clay Matthews is obviously one of those people.

Blaine from Madison, WI

Can you think of any players (past or present) that were cut and picked up by someone else and then turned out to be a great player?

I can think of several, beginning with Johnny Unitas and Willie Davis. Look at all of the players in the old AFL that weren't good enough for the NFL. Len Dawson played in a couple of Super Bowls, won one of them and is in the Hall of Fame. So is George Blanda.

Zak from Madison, WI

I've actually heard somewhere that the reason Belichick wears the hoodie is to protest the NFL's dress code policy. He dislikes that he can't wear a suit or something more tailored to his style, so he pushes the limits of the NFL dress code to the extreme and wears a loose hoodie with the sleeves cut off. That's the statement that really shows his personality. I love it!

I doubt Bill Belichick wants to wear a coat and tie on the sideline. He just doesn't like being told what to do. He's a rebel. He does things the coaches from Lombardi's era would've never done, because the coaches from that era worked with the league to promote the league and the game. As I've written, baseball was the national pastime back then and the attitude of players and coaches was that what was good for football was good for everyone in football. Belichick hasn't always marched to the league's drum beat. I remember covering a preseason game in which he benched every one of his starters, didn't even dress them for the game, which further fueled fan criticism of paying full price for tickets to preseason games. That's not something Lombardi or any of the coaches in his era would've done, because they were all sensitive to the integrity of the game and the popularity of the league. Because they were, Belichick can be a rebel today.

Cesar from Santa Fe Springs, CA

Do you come up with the headings for the "Ask Vic" column, and is that usually a difficult task? It seems like the headings for "Ask Vic" usually say: "Hey, you, read me!" It seems like someone works hard to make those.

I was thinking of using this one: "Martians land in Lambeau!" Wadda ya think?

Jacob from Sahuarita, AZ

Suppose they are out to get you. Does that make you paranoid or right?

The truth is the pure defense.

Steve from Hazelwood, MO

I have examined the Nike NFL apparel site. I found a Packers tie, sleeved dress, casual shirts, v-neck sweaters, but no jackets or outerwear akin to a suit or sports jacket. There are swimwear, flip-flops and slippers, too. It's really not the Nike contract, it's the times we live in. Most businesses are casual every day, and since I retired, I've only worn a suit once, for a funeral.

I went out to dinner with a bunch of sports writers in Houston years ago. One of the writers was smoking a cigar in the cab on the way back to the hotel and he burned a big hole in the back of my suit coat, rendering it useless for the rest of my life. It's not something I could wear standing up, but it'll look fine lying down, so I'm saving it for then.

William from Sterling, VA

What adjustments do you think the offense will make when facing the Giants or other good four-man pass-rush defenses?

You don't beat that kind of defense with adjustments, you beat it by winning the one-on-ones. A four-man rush is as conventional as it gets. Beating that kind of scheme begins with giving your quarterback enough time for him to allow his receivers to find an open spot in a crowded secondary.

Will from Mt. Laurel, NJ

Why does every scandal these days end in gate? I think it's time America cut Nixon some slack and moved on. I'm tired of being reminded.

It's part of our language and it's not going away. It's slang for a conspiracy to do wrong. I think we apply it too broadly and indiscriminately, but as it pertains to the Saints bounty matter, I think it fits perfectly.

Jerry from Houston, TX

Reading the offseason reviews of the teams, it appears many teams have upgraded their players with a few more outstanding prospects. Do you think there are a lot more quality players coming out of college and it is bringing much more parity in the league?

I don't think there are more quality players coming out of college now as there were years ago. In fact, I think the numbers have been reduced, simply because there are several thousand fewer players in the draft pool every four years, as a result of college recruiting limits and fewer Division I programs. What's changed is our awareness of the players coming into the draft; it has been greatly heightened. When I was a kid, we didn't know much about any of the players drafted after the first round. When the Steelers drafted Joe Greene, the headline in the newspaper the next day was "Joe who?" That would never happen today. The media covers the combine, pro days, personal workouts, etc. Mel Kiper, Tony Pauline, Mike Mayock and an army of draftniks break down prospects in a never-ending cycle of draft reports in the weeks leading up to the draft. None of that existed when Lombardi was the Packers' coach.

Pete from Sherwood, WI

I am a fan of good old-fashioned smash-mouth football. In today's pass-happy league, is there any chance of success for a team that emphasizes a solid run game and great defense?

It could happen, but I don't think you can win a championship today without having an accomplished passing attack.

Joe from Franklin, WI

What are your thoughts on trading one of the established receivers for some proven secondary help?

I don't think the Packers need proven secondary help. I really like what I see. I think the Packers are loaded with young defensive back talent.

James from Ilkley, UK

In the Premiership (the UK's top soccer league) we have a guy called Alex Ferguson, one of the most successful managers ever. The league is now, after 26 years of Ferguson, full of managers who were once his players. I was wondering if there is an NFL equivalent.

The Paul Brown tree is still producing fruit.

Steve from Maryville, TN

I've been telling my friends here that if the Packers have a top 12 defense this year, we would have to be the favorite to win the title. Do you agree?

I would agree that they would be one of the favorites.

Shawn from Madison, WI

Have you ever gotten in trouble for an answer you gave in your "Ask Vic" blog?

Have I ever written anything that's angered a player or coach? Absolutely. It's inevitable. I like the guys who can brush it off. I come from a time when the league's PR mantra was, "Write anything you want, just spell the name right." The league and its teams were appreciative of any publicity they could get. Those days are long gone. We're very sensitive to everything these days.

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