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I'll tell you for what fans are accountable

Posted Jun 2, 2014

Julius Peppers is a "who dat?" kind of player

Tyler from Cooper Landing, AK

As much as I hope Julius Peppers’ performance on the field makes the difference for the defense, it seems to me from watching the player interviews and media trends that his presence is giving the defense some much needed confidence. Do you agree? What kind of a difference can confidence make?

Players are speaking with a lot of assurance that the defense will be improved, and that deepens their investment because words are meaningless if you don’t do what you say. I also think the addition of Peppers to the defense is giving fans some much needed confidence that the defense will be improved, and I like that because it’s making the offseason more enjoyable.

Joe from Dallas, TX

Ahhh, the fans pay those salaries.

Ahhh, in my opinion, the fans are in no way responsible for spending their hard-earned money on pro football. That’s not what I have in mind. Spending money isn’t an obligation. It’s the NFL’s job to make its product attractive enough and rewarding enough that fans will want to spend their money on it.

Bryce from New Berlin, WI

Maybe it’s the offseason, and maybe it’s a fan’s affinity to panic, but I didn’t hear anything about Peppers from OTAs. Is there anything to that? Did you, perhaps, hold back on an opinion of performance? Feed my fanaticism, Vic.

If I had written one more thing about Peppers last Thursday I would’ve been arrested for stalking him. What are you looking for, Bryce, something exciting and meaningful from OTAs? Really? OTAs? OK, I’ll feed your fanaticism: On one play, Peppers blitzed, stripped Aaron Rodgers of the ball, picked it up and began racing for the end zone. Nobody could catch him. He spiked the ball in the end zone and began pointing at Rodgers, taunting him. The crowd chanted, “Pep pers, Pep pers, Pep pers.” Mike McCarthy yelled out, “That’s what I’m talking about.” This is the year, Bryce, baby.

Anthony from Janesville, WI

You called it, Vic. Yesterday I saw my first commercial of a law firm advertising for former college sports players that were injured to take part in lawsuits. I hope this doesn’t ruin football on all levels.

This is the greatest threat to football since Teddy Roosevelt had to save it from being outlawed. As I wrote on the day the concussion lawsuit was settled last summer, I believe the real threat is on the amateur level, where there isn’t a CBA to offer protection. In some ways, I think college football needs a players union. It would provide a means for bargaining collectively, instead of colleges having to defend themselves in courts all over the country.

Kyle from Tosa, WI

Glad to hear the defense is going to concentrate on the schematic basics before overloading the players with all of the nuances, however, I am disappointed it took three years to reach this obvious conclusion. The past three years the defense has always been young and has always had issues with communication, which is just a word for not getting it. Why in the world did it take so long for this much needed philosophical shift, when its need was so obvious for so long?

I can’t remember getting one email in the past three years that said, “Vic, we need fewer schemes. We need to be more basic.” I get questions every day asking me when the Packers are going to use the “Psycho Defense” or pleading that the Packers return to the 4-3, but no one had ever suggested that doing less was the answer. Maybe I missed your email, Kyle. Hey, you try something, and if it doesn’t work, you try something else. It’s OTAs, Kyle. There’s no guarantee this approach will work. either.

Mark from La Crosse, WI

As I look at the team roster, there’s a column for experience. Lacy has a “2” listed. Our rookies have an “R” listed. Some players have a “1” listed. What is the difference between an “R” and a “1”?

A rookie is in his first year of participation in pro football. A first-year player has already been a rookie, but he has yet to be credited with an accrued season. Eddie Lacy was a rookie last season and earned credit for an accrued season, which means he’s now a “2.”

Paul from De Pere, WI

What are the fans accountable for, Vic?

They’re accountable for their behavior. If they run a coach out of town and that coach goes on to win two Super Bowls, the fans are accountable. Bill Belichick, Tony Dungy, Tom Coughlin and Pete Carroll have won a combined seven Super Bowls, and they were all fired from their previous NFL head jobs. Carroll was fired twice – Jets fans went crazy about the Dan Marino fake-spike play – and now Carroll’s the hottest thing in coaching. Seven of the last 13 Super Bowls were won by men who weren’t good enough to coach their previous teams. Browns fans howled with disapproval when Belichick cut Bernie Kosar, but I don’t remember anyone saying later that Belichick was right. What about fans demanding that their favorite team sign expensive free agents and take a run at the Super Bowl, and then the run fails and the team is left with a cap mess that’s destroyed the team’s future? Are the fans accountable? Collectively, the fans have a powerful voice. They can shape opinion; they can make things happen if they howl loud enough. In my opinion, they are accountable for their howl.

Jeff from Oak Creek, WI

Seems awfully weird that you are perfectly fine with a 287-pound pass rusher (Peppers) dropping into coverage, but you are against Clay dropping into coverage, even though Clay has proven he can do it.

I’m not sure what’s instigated this misperception, but allow me, please, to put your mind at ease that I am not against Clay Matthews dropping into coverage. Remember the pick six in New York in 2011? If Peppers is that other rusher, the Packers will be able to drop Matthews into coverage more often. Somebody has to rush the passer. In recent years, that somebody has been Matthews. Now, maybe, the Packers have somebody else.

Noel from Sacramento, CA

Vic, I’m sure you realize your snide remarks are not winsome.

I am not winsome. I am the least winsome person I have ever known. I couldn’t achieve winsomeness if I bought a dairy farm and milked cows for a living. That sintering plant ruined me forever.

Aaron from Fort Wayne, IN

Vic, I was going through some of the locker room videos the other day and towards the end of the interview with Peppers he was asked a question: What made him feel at home with the Packers? One of his first responses was something along the lines of they are established at winning. Doesn’t that answer the question you have seemed to receive time and time again on what builds team chemistry? Chemistry doesn’t make winners; winning produces chemistry.

I agree. You might’ve noticed that in answering that question Peppers also said the whole NFL is a family, which he credited as another reason for being comfortable. That one really hit me. I thought to myself, he’s right, these guys can go into any locker room in the league and feel right at home. Why? Because they’re all the same. They all have the same feel to them, which is largely the result of players bouncing all over the league. The Packers’ draft-and-develop philosophy makes them a little more homegrown, and that gives them a little different feel, but along the way all teams are going to sign free agents and acquire journeyman players, and that’s the “family” feeling to which Peppers was referring. Free agency has changed the game. A part of me likes it. Another part of me doesn’t.

Adam from Racine, WI

Vic, how can you expect fans to hold ourselves accountable? Don’t you know we are just the mindless masses of clay that bend and shift at the media’s every whim?

I think it’s just the opposite. We bend and shift to your every whim.

Jacob from Oslo, Norway

What’s the difference between a three-down and a four-down player?

A three-down player plays every down on offense or defense. A four-down player is a three-down player that also plays special teams. Micah Hyde offers the potential to become a four-down player.

Josh from Milwaukee, WI

I think it’s hilarious how everyone loves Julius Peppers now. Greg Jennings and Brett Favre went to the Vikings and everyone hated them with a passion. They were terrible human beings for their betrayal. Peppers, the guy who made a cheap shot on Rodgers two seasons ago, is a hero. Ironic, isn’t it?

The players belong to the league. The passionate fans belong to the league’s individual teams. That’s become a fact of pro football in the year 2014.

Kevin from Westwood, MA

In a recent interview, Eddie Lacy made a reference that he doesn’t really watch football. The only two players that have made this type of statement that I know of are Jared Allen and Curtis Martin. Including Lacy, all three guys don’t watch football on TV, but play with their hair on fire. As someone who lives for watching the sport, but not enough talent to play it professionally, do you struggle to understand this?

 No, this is nothing new and I came to understand long ago that probably half of the players in the locker room aren’t football fans; they’re just football players. Joe Greene and Tony Boselli were huge fans of the game, and that’s one of the reasons I interviewed them as much as I did. They were able to offer a complete perspective. There weren’t many players that could. I remember getting on the plane after a game and sitting next to a young defensive lineman named Tom Beasley. He asked me what the playoff picture looked like – I think he was just making conversation – and I began to explain it. I quickly realized he didn’t have a clue what I was saying and wished I would stop saying it. They don’t get paid to be fans. They get paid to be players.

Joseph from Raleigh, NC

Vic, I would just like to say I gained a lot of respect for you after your response about veterans being cut. It’s nice to be able to hear from a guy that truly loves the game and reports real stories instead of just wanting to create headlines and cater to fans.

Mostly, I want to create headlines and cater to the fans, but I have to draw the line somewhere and experiences a long time ago created sensitivity in me for what it’s like for veterans on the bubble. I’ve told both stories – Johnny Dirden and Reggie Harrison – and I owe those men a debt of gratitude for what they taught me. I’m also thankful that I was allowed to get that close; those days are over.

Jack from Naperville, IL

Vic, how did the “Martians visit Lambeau Field” edition perform on the viewing scale?

It did well but it didn’t set records. Packers fans are too media savvy to get sucked in by that headline. I’ll suck them in with others.

Trent from Appleton, WI

You described the Packers as “a very good team that knows it’s very good.” Do you think it’s dangerous to become too confident in the NFL?

It can be if you don’t stay grounded. I think playing in Seattle on opening day will keep the Packers grounded.

Thomas from Milwaukee, WI

Has anyone looked better at 34 than Julius Peppers?

I haven’t seen a lot of guys on the Packers defense over the last three years that have made me go wow at first glance. It hasn’t been an eye-test kind of defense. The linemen have been kind of short and stout, and the linebackers haven’t had that long, lean look I’ve come to expect in a 3-4. Last Thursday, Peppers made me go wow. He’s the guy at the Senior Bowl that would cause me to point and ask Tony Pauline, “Who dat?”

John from Green Bay, WI

Vic, do you think using the concept of the “elephant” position and having it manned by converted defensive ends is an attempt at making the 3-4 a little less light in the pants? And do you take Coach McCarthy’s comments about reducing volume in the scheme and maybe having had players manning the defense that weren’t ready an acknowledgement that opinions like Tramon Williams’ comments after last season, that more vets were needed and that the scheme was too complicated for young players, had some truth?

Yes and yes, but I remain a firm believer that pro football is a young man’s game. Be that as it may, there’s no mistaking that this is, indeed, a veteran defense this year, so an increase in overall experience and a reduction in complicated schemes should combine to resolve whatever problem existed if, indeed, too many schemes and too many young players were the problems.

 

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