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O-Zone: Wishing the best

Posted Jul 23, 2014

JACKSONVILLE – Let’s get to it …

William from Jacksonville:
Sigh …
John: I’ll assume this is in reference to Ace Sanders’ likely suspension because the email came through shortly after the news broke Tuesday. And yes, “sigh” has been a common reaction from Jaguars fans, in part because this is hardly the first off-field issue for a Jaguars receiver and in part because there is so much enthusiasm around this team as training camp opens. I get the frustration fans feel about the wide receiver position, but perhaps because I know and cover the players, I just can’t lump players together because they happen to play the same position. I was sad for Jimmy Smith when he went through his issues because I liked Smith very much when covering him in Jacksonville. He was gracious and fair with me as I learned how to cover an NFL team and I always appreciated that. Sanders announced Tuesday that he expects to be suspended four games this season, and when I heard that, I was sad, too – this time, because after being around Sanders for a year, I genuinely believe he is good kid. He was pleasant to cover as rookie last season. He was gracious. His teammates appear to like him. Coaches appear to like him. I’ve never seen him be rude or short with people. So from my vantage-point, he’s a guy I hope to see do well. There’s a lot of time to discuss what this means from a football standpoint. But first, here’s hoping the best for Sanders. My guess is he’ll come back from this. Because of how he handled it, and because if his sincerity, I’d be surprised if he doesn’t.
Brooks from Cleburne, TX:
It's a pretty big blow to the team, but it sounds like Ace Sanders is taking an appropriate response to the suspension. I am worried about him missing camp, though. How do you see this playing out?
John: It’s a blow, though the size is debatable. While I don’t agree with those who questioned whether or not Sanders would make the roster this season, he almost certainly was going to be the fourth receiver behind Cecil Shorts III, Allen Robinson and Marqise Lee. So, while he will be missed, there also is the distinct chance the Jaguars can make up a large part of his production. As far as his missing camp, while it may not be ideal from a football standpoint he obviously must work through off-field matters before he does anything else.
Ben trapped in Chiefs territory:
As much as I hate seeing it happen, kudos to Ace for approaching this the right way. Hopefully, we will have him back shortly with improved focus. But seriously... no more suspensions. My wife gets angry when I cry.
John: I couldn’t agree more. Kudos to Sanders for how he handled the situation Tuesday. I’ve been around a lot of players facing off-field issues who opted to not speak to the media when their issues became known, and I’ve been around a lot of athletes who didn’t sound sincere when they discussed their issues. Sanders talked Tuesday when he could have avoided it, and did so with sincerity. That’s a good sign.
Zack from Tallahassee, FL:
I was wondering why teams start training camp at different times? Does the league mandate when they start, or is it up to the team? Seems like some teams have more time to practice than others. Please shed some light. Thanks.
John: Teams can officially open training camp no more than 15 days before their first preseason game. Rookies, first-year players and quarterbacks may report three days before that, but the rest of the team nay not. Teams generally schedule the start of training camp based on that.
Kevin from Jacksonville:
O-man, I try to be nice most times (I really do!) but all of this talk about Blake Bortles starting Week 2 makes it seems like the fan base is adopting my motto of sanity being overrated. Do they just not recall what happened with Blaine Gabbert? Because the same thing will happen here. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting the outcome to change.
John: You’re asking fans to operate from a place of logic and reason. While that would be three types of “awesome,” it’s not going to happen. Many people who follow sports want instant gratification and fail to realize very few players are NFL-ready, particularly quarterbacks. And yes, that’s true even for those people who remember what happened to Gabbert. But all of that sort of misses the bigger point, and that’s that you have to take each situation differently. How the Jaguars are handling Bortles has nothing to do with how Gabbert was handled. The Jaguars are handing Bortles in a manner that they believe will allow him to develop as fully and quickly as possible.
Kent from Jacksonville:
Maybe you've already pointed this out to those who think Telvin Smith may be the first manorexic linebacker in NFL history, but wasn't Derrick Brooks a 210-pound safety when Tampa took him in the second round? And he put on some weight and really set the bar for what a three-down sideline-to-sideline linebacker should be. I'm excited to see how the kid develops.
John: The Brooks-Smith comparison isn’t a horrible one, and if you’re looking for an example of an undersized linebacker excelling Brooks is the way to go. But it’s not entirely fair, either. Brooks – a first-round selection in 1995 – was listed at 229 pounds as a rookie and 231 pounds the following season, so he’s about 10 or 15 pounds bigger than Smith, who is listed at 218 pounds. But biggest reason it’s not fair is it’s not fair to compare *anyone* to Brooks. He is regarded as an all-time great at every measurable level of football – high school, college and professional – which means he is a rare, once-in-a-generational player. Smith started one year of college, so while he indeed has a ton of ability, he should probably crack the starting lineup before comparing him to Brooks.
Benjamin from Jacksonville:
Is this one of those times?
John: No. Not yet.
Rob from Sharpsburg:
Am I being overly optimistic to predict the Jacksonville Jaguars will shock the league by winning nine or 10 games, being this year’s Kansas City of last year? I really believe the schedule can be used to our advantage...I suppose I never have faith in the NFC East and I think the AFC North is a wee bit overrated.
John: This is question keeps a-floodin’ the in-box, so I guess I’ll keep on a-answerin’. While you’re starting a few media types predicting a double-digit victory season for the Jaguars, I don’t know if they’re there. There are new faces in new places all along the offensive line, and it’s quite likely that two of the top three receivers will be rookies. Those position groups appear to have more talent than a year ago, but it can take time for talent to come together and become production. I expect the Jaguars to be more competitive in more games than last season, and if the aforementioned areas mesh and develop, then this could look like a really good team by season’s end. If all of that happens, it’s a very successful season and this team will be on the right track. But I’m not the end all … who knows? Maybe they’ll shock the league. Crazier things have happened.
Mike from Green Cove Springs, FL:
Don't get down on yourself as you near 50. Remember, the older the violin, the sweeter the music. Your wife should be thrilled to hear that.
John: Mike, I have so many reasons to be down on myself that, frankly, approaching 50 doesn’t even make the list.
Dave from Vilano Beach, FL:
It seems all great players have crafty nicknames. How did Emmitt Smith play so long, at such a high level and never have a nickname stick?
John: I don’t know.
Tom from Virginia Beach, VA:
With training camp starting in two days, are the wide receivers still suffering from injuries or they ready to go?
John: The Jaguars’ wide receivers are all expected to be healthy for the start of training camp Friday. Seven receivers -- Cecil Shorts III (calf), Sanders (thigh), Mike Brown (groin), Tandon Doss (calf), Marqise Lee (ankle), Allen Robinson (hamstring) and Lamaar Thomas (knee) – all missed various amounts of time during organized team activities and minicamps, with Brown and Sanders returning for the week of the June 17-19 minicamp. Lee and Robinson, being rookies, were of particularly concern, but each is participating in the team’s rookie on-field work this week. So although Sanders obviously isn’t expected to be on the field for much or any of camp, the rest of the group is healthy and ready.
Hunter from Jacksonville:
Has anyone mentioned Tebow as one of the best short-yardage runners IN THE HISTORY OF THE NFL? Cause they should have.
John: Well, they have now.
Kevin from Jacksonville Beach:
I know you’re going to get a lot of emails from people criticizing Ace Sanders. But I’m pulling for him. I wish him the best.
John: Yes.

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