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A new position for the new game: spy backer

Posted May 17, 2013

Don’t be afraid of the new TV show about cheeseheads

OLB Nick Perry

Brian from Yakima, WA

In the Peyton vs. Eli debate, are rings all that matter? I believe Peyton plays the position much better, and that Eli has had the benefit of a strong defense. What say you?

I agree that Peyton plays the position better, but with the game on the line in the Super Bowl, give me Eli. Eli’s drives in Super Bowls XLVI and XLII and Roethlisberger’s drive in XLIII are amazing examples of crunch-time grit. Those are what I respect the most in quarterback play.

Donny from Green Bay, WI

Back when Keyshawn Johnson played for the Panthers, he also sat on the ESPN set on draft day and got real excited when the Panthers drafted Dwayne Jarret (WR, USC). He said he was looking forward to mentoring him. Keyshawn was cut weeks later. It’s a young man’s game.

I laughed when he said it because I knew he had just cut himself. Coaches don’t want players to be coaches, they want them to be players. Coaches coach, players play. It’s the most profound thing Brian Billick has ever said. Mentoring, when overdone, can be an obstacle to competition. It can be a way for one player to intimidate a younger player and cause him to accept a subservient role. No coach wants that. Coaches that truly want competition on their team want the boldness of youth pushing the desperation of age out the door. That’s the law of the football jungle that keeps teams young and able to hunt. Young lions drive old lions out. It was taught to me by Joe Greene, who saw himself as an old lion late in his career and said with a smile, “We need some young lions.”

John from Antioch, IL

Here we go already, the stars of the underwear league. Angelo Pease had one good cut and now everybody can’t stop talking about him.

I think he’s the early favorite for Underwear League rookie of the year.

Stewart from Edinburgh, Scotland

If the left tackle is generally the better tackle, why does a defense not line its best pass rusher opposite the right tackle, to create the biggest mismatch?

Because the pass rusher is probably not as good against the run as Reggie White was. If you put a pass rusher at left defensive end, the offense is probably going to run at him. Most teams are righthanded. If he’s Reggie White, go ahead and put him at left defensive end.

Kerry from Margate City, NJ

Where were you when the “Ice Bowl” was played?

I was in my grandparents’ basement, watching the game on a little black and white TV. I was also sitting next to something called a root cellar, which my grandmother had filled with pop and cookies and snacks for the holidays. It was a great day.

Stephen from Chicago, IL

The blogoshere is lighting up regarding Mark Murphy’s comments regarding Favre one day returning to the Packer family, and the comments are not pretty. Why all the hate from these Packer fans, Vic?

It’s become a Tailgate Tour tradition. How many times can the same question be answered the same way and the answer still be newsworthy?

Hunter from Richmond, VA

Hey, Vic, I was thinking about what you said about Randall Cobb. I think he’s the perfect example of a best-player-available success story. Imagine if he went to an NFC North rival and we had to face him twice a year.

It’s kind of become an NFC North thing. The Vikings had Percy Harvin, the Bears have Devin Hester and the Lions signed Reggie Bush in free agency this year. All of those guys are impact players, but I think Cobb is going to take this role to new heights. I can remember a Chiefs running back named Ed Podolak, and the 49ers’ Freddie Solomon and the Steelers’ Antwaan Randle El were Cobb-like players. Pro football has touched on this role off and on for a long time – Paul Hornung was a version of it, too – but I think there’s a chance Cobb could become the role’s trademark player.

Jerry from Wilmington, NC

Vic, are players paid in instances such as David Garrard’s situation, in which he signed and then retired before he even took a snap (practice or game)?

Players don’t begin drawing their salary until the regular season begins. If he was paid a signing bonus and then quit, he would have to return the signing bonus. David’s spirit was willing, but I think he realized his body wasn’t. He’s overcome a lot in his career. He was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease, which nearly ended his career, but he recovered from it and became a starting quarterback who had one Cinderella season, 2007, that’ll warm his heart for the rest of his life. I always liked David. I wish him a long and prosperous retirement.

Sam from La Crosse, WI

My primary college internship was as SEO engineer for consumer goods website copy. Even in that market, the best way to drive traffic is to prey on hot trends. I can only imagine the production meetings for journalistic SEO.

It’s not just the integrity of the profession that SEO threatens, it’s the whole style of writing that has been taught in journalism school for a long, long time that is being threatened. We are taught to use the AP Stylebook, but SEO is forcing website reporters to abandon the AP Stylebook and write according to the rules of the SEO Stylebook. It’s a bitter pill for me to swallow.

Bill from Kohler, WI

Can you explain what holding is? Commentators state that holding could be called on almost every play. They also talk about linemen having their hands outside the shoulder pads, etc. Please clarify. Thanks.

Holding in today’s game isn’t as much a function of what your hands are doing, as much as it is a function of where your hands are positioned on the defender. Let’s go back to 1978, when the NFL changed the rules to allow offensive linemen to use their hands in blocking. Prior to that rule change, the only jersey an offensive lineman was allowed to grab was his own, which was a taught technique; grab your jersey so you didn’t grab his. If a lineman got his hands the least little bit away from his body, it was holding and it was 15 yards, not 10, and that was the end of the drive. That’s why the rule had to be changed. It was a drive killer that was holding scores down. The new rule allowed for offensive linemen to put their hands on a defender, even grasp the defender, as long as the blocker’s hands were inside the planes of the defender’s shoulders. When he gets his hands outside the shoulders, that’s holding.

Ryan from Hewitt, NJ

You said players need to pass certain standards to accrue a season. Let’s say a rookie signs a four-year contract, yet, in his rookie year he doesn’t meet the requirements to accrue a year. Does that count as a year against the contract, leaving the player with three years left?

Yes, it does. Contracts are according to the calendar.

Shane from York, NE

Vic, other than unrealistic fan expectations, what is the biggest challenge facing the Packers this fall?

Other than avoiding injury to key personnel, which is every team’s greatest challenge, I think the Packers’ greatest challenge is taking its defense to the next level. Last year, the defense made rankings gains, but it didn’t play to its rankings in some big games. It was not a No. 11 defense in New York, Minneapolis or San Francisco. The next level for this defense is consistency. It needs to play better in the big games.

Casey from Baltimore, MD

I am a bit nervous about our situation at the left outside linebacker position, however, I have noticed that you seem to have a relatively positive outlook on Nick Perry and his ability to play opposite Clay Matthews. I was wondering what it was about him that brought on such optimism?

It’s his athletic ability. I’ve said it more than a couple of times that I consider Perry to be perfect for the “new game,” if that’s what the read-option is going to produce. Matthews is a rush backer. I see Perry fitting a new role: spy backer. I see Perry as the kind of athletic linebacker that can play in space and run down Russell Wilson, as he did last year in Seattle. If this is the way the game is heading, spy backer is going to become a very important player in the game. How important was that player in the loss in San Francisco? It’s a role for which I think Perry is perfectly suited.

Robert from Seattle, WA

Do you participate in any of the fine Wisconsin sports during the fall/winter? Deer hunting, ice fishing?

I participate in snowblowing and waiting.

Jon from Anaheim, CA

The “Catawba Claw"—what a great nickname. I’m sorry we live in an age of witless nicknames like “A-Rod.” If you could bestow a few classic nicknames around the league, who would you choose and what would you call them?

How about the “Berkeley Bazooka” for Aaron Rodgers, or the “California Kid” for Clay Matthews?

Brandon from Houston, TX

Vic, what do you think about the new reality show TBS is making about cheeseheads? Sounds like they want to make us a laughingstock instead of understanding our culture.

My favorite people are the ones that don’t take themselves too seriously. It’s an infectious attitude and it’s one of the best human qualities I know because it allows you to relax. Never be afraid to laugh at yourself. It’s very dignified.

Christopher from Chesapeake, VA

I concur with your opinion of Summerall. I’m wondering what your thoughts on Cosell are: all-time great or all-time blow hard?

He invented Monday Night Football and it hasn’t been the same since he left. I loved his wit. He also warned us about the jockocracy, and he was right on.

Ryan from Billings, MT

With all the questions you get about bringing Woodson back, you tell us to realize it’s a game of replacement and it’s a young man’s game. Was there ever a player you got so close to that you were emotionally affected by his departure?

No, because I love to see a great player celebrate that career with smiles and cheers at his retirement press conference. How long do you have to play to prove you could play? If you play too long, all you’re going to prove is that you can’t play. I love to see a great player leave the game on his terms, and say goodbye to those who cheered him with an occasion befitting his great career. Donald Driver had that kind of occasion.

Leo from Buenos Aires, Argentina

So you’re saying we’re gonna have Miss Kansas Teen USA 2010 presenting Packers videos? I guess we won’t miss you that much.

I didn’t know that.

Ian from Santa Cruz, NM

Jeff from Seattle asked you what are the top five fan myths. One of your answers was “pep talks work.” Could you elaborate on that a little?

The other guys are getting a pep talk, too. At best, pep talks are a 50-50 proposition. Battle of pep talks? I don’t think so. As Chuck Noll liked to say, they only last until the first time you get knocked on your wallet.

Carter from Eau Claire, WI

Vic, as is the case on the Packers website, your tease is never answered. The headline is about the DE from UCLA, but none of the actual back and forth that follows deals with that draft pick. Stop with the tease and address the topics that you know fans want to read about. Thanks, Carter.

Film at 11. I guess it’s film at 10.

Bob from Milwaukee, WI

Vic, who taught you the most about writing?

With all due respect to Jim Murray and his best friend, my best friend taught me the most about writing. They lived in the sports pages. They read everything they could find. They read the bylines and identified the styles, and they stole a little bit from this byline and a little bit from that byline. They always read Murray, and then they closed for a few minutes and imagined what they had just read. They remember Murray’s little old man in Ohio Stadium, and they remember the day Murray lost his best friend, and I hope I never lose my best friend because if you like to watch, as I do, you have to have him.


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