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How did we get to here?

Join Senior Editor Vic Ketchman as he tackles the fans' tough questions.

Ron from Stowe, VT:
What are you most proud of in your professional career? Is there anything in your career that you have left that you really hope to accomplish or experience?

Vic: I'm proud of the longevity. Thirty-nine years is a long time to do anything. I remember the first story I did and a lot of the ones along the way. I think I have a reputation with my subjects for being fair and honest and I think my readers believe my work to be a full disclosure of the event I'm covering. Frankly, I've never found the news difficult to report. It is what it is. I've always worked hardest at entertaining readers and providing a feel for the event I'm covering, which is largely the attitude of a reporter who grew up writing for P.M.s. The A.M. guys always got the scoops, so they only had to report the news. The P.M. guys have to put a slant on the news and make it entertaining, controversial, and provocative. The thing I love most about writing for is it has allowed me to experience the joy of being an A.M. reporter. It's allowed me to use both styles. I think I'm most proud of I think it's a fantastic news medium and we're doing new and exciting things with it all the time. We've got some things planned I think everyone is really going to like. As far as what's left to accomplish: I'd like to cover one more Super Bowl team. It's been a long time since I've done it.

Sherman from Middleburg, FL:
Is the Major League Baseball draft less interesting than the NFL draft because of Kiper, the reality of minor league development or the fact that "Ask Vic" doesn't need to grace it with comment?

Vic: It's because of the inevitability of minor league development. Fans know it'll be a long time before they see the players drafted in the uniform of the team that drafted them. They also know the likelihood is they'll never see the majority of those players in the uniform of the team that drafted them. The NFL draft offers immediacy. The players it drafts will be on the field with the teams that drafted them the following weekend in mini-camp. They'll have a chance to be in the starting lineup on opening day. Football fans can follow through training camp and the preseason the progress of every player selected, whereas the players selected in the Major League draft will immediately disappear from view for a long time, as they begin their long and unheralded march through the minor leagues.

Joe from Jacksonville:
Do you have any update on Zach Miller?

Vic: Miller has some kind of a foot injury. Specific information has not been offered. I asked Jack Del Rio about Miller's status on Monday and coach Del Rio said: "He's making progress. He's just not ready to go, yet."

Justin from Jacksonville:
In your 30-plus years of sports journalism, what has been the greatest surprise? Thank you for your time.

Vic: I remain stunned that the owners agreed to the terms of the 2006 Collective Bargaining Agreement. When I started covering the NFL, minimum wage for an undrafted rookie was about 20-grand. I can remember that as a second-round pick in 1974 Jack Lambert got a $15,000 signing bonus and a $35,000 rookie salary. In 1987, the owners used replacement players to crush the players union, putting the owners in a position that they could pretty much pay their players anything they wanted. So how in the heck did we get from there to here so quickly? Why, after all the years of holding the line and making the game affordable for fans, did the owners allow the players to go from crushed in '87 to getting 60 percent off the top on all football revenue? I wish I had an answer.

Joshua from Jacksonville:
I have to disagree with coach Del Rio on his stance on fighting. Fighting between rival teams, on the field and in a tight game is one thing. To fight another team member, on the practice field at the end of practice, is immature. If you are not mature enough to pick yourself up and forgive a teammate, you don't deserve to be on the field, on the team or even in the NFL.

Vic: It's a tough game for tough guys, Joshua. Offensive and defensive linemen have been fighting in practice for as long as I've been covering the league. I can remember Ernie Holmes and Jon Kolb going at each other on a routine basis. I remember one particular time when the two of them got into it. George Perles started to break it up and Chuck Noll barked, "Let 'em go," and Holmes and Kolb beat the poop out of each other until they were too tired to poop, at which point practice resumed. Football is for those people who inexplicably take delight in such ridiculous behavior.

James from Jacksonville:
You didn't mention Johnny Unitas when you were answering the question about great arms. Where do you think he would fall in at?

Vic: I only covered one game in which Johnny Unitas played. It was his last game and his arm was tired. He was replaced at halftime by Dan Fouts. By all accounts I have read, Unitas' arm, in the prime of his career, was the NFL prototype. He could make all the throws. He could drop the deep ball nose-down into Jimmy Orr's hands 60 yards downfield. He could make Raymond Berry's hands sting with a deep-out pitch that was waiting for Berry as he came out of his break. He could lead Lenny Moore on a wheel route in stride with a feathery pass that allowed Moore to make the catch with one eye on the ball and his other eye on defenders. Every time I hear today's TV analysts talk about the wheel route, as though it's a new invention, I laugh. I wonder what Unitas' reaction was when he watched games on TV and endured all the technical jargon today's analysts use to proclaim, "I played the game." Where does Unitas fall? He doesn't. He sits at the top; all the others fall. Unitas invented the game that's played today and nobody could make all the throws better than Unitas could. He had it all. I've successfully blocked his last game and those awful lightning bolts on his uniform from my memory of him.

Jamie from Anchorage, AK:
In following James from St. Pete's question on division names, I completely agree with your answer. It would be awesome to see some of football's legends honored in that way. So, if we take the geographic locations out of the divisions, why not go all the way and redraft the divisions entirely?

Vic: Because you'd get the same result. The AFC East, North and West, and the NFC East and North are set in stone. The other three divisions are comprised of leftover teams. This is not college football. It's not about regionalism. Dallas is in the NFC East because that's where Washington is. Miami isn't in the AFC South because the Jets, Patriots and Bills aren't there. Rivalries have been developed over time and it would be insanity to break them up. Ask Dolphins fans where they wanna be. Ask Cowboys fans where they wanna be. I like where the Jaguars are. They've built some history and tradition with the Colts, Texans and Titans.

Jeff from Fullerton, CA:
Why was there a trade between the 49ers and Rams for Isaac Bruce just so he could retire a Ram? I would think the 49ers would release him and the Rams would sign him so he could retire with them?

Vic: There's probably something procedural involved, but the trade is just ceremonial; there was no exchange of draft picks or players. The Rams wanna fuss over Bruce; they wanna celebrate his career as a way of connecting with their fans, which they need to do. I remember writing about a trade a long time ago that involved a running back named Alvin Maxson. Jim Finks was the Bears' GM then and he traded Maxson to the Steelers for "past considerations." What are the past considerations, Finks was asked? "I was their quarterback," he said. The Bills and Raiders used to do that kind of stuff between each other. The game has changed, but the Bruce deal doesn't involve anything devious.

Grant from Fernandina Beach, FL:
I like to think the fate of the franchise rests on our first game. Beating the Broncos will sell out the next game and so on. Lose the Broncos game and we are in trouble.

Vic: It's a big one.

Jeff from Durham, NC:
Has Mark Brunell retired? If not, do you think New Orleans will trade him for one day to Jacksonville so he could retire a Jaguar?

Vic: Mark is a free agent. No trade is necessary.

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