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'04 could become best

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

Jordan from Kill Buck, NY:
What if the "gunner" bobbles the ball outside the 20-yard line and the ball goes into the end zone? Does the ball go to the 20 or to where it was first touched?

Vic: It is spotted where it was first touched. Rule 9, Article 4: "No player of the kickers may illegally touch a scrimmage kick before it has been touched by a receiver." Penalty: "Receivers' ball at any spot of illegal touching or possession." The rulebook then cites several examples of interpretations of the above rule. In the example you have provided, the receiving team would take possession at the first spot of illegal touching.

Gary from Palm Coast, FL:
I question your answer to the punt-return "gunner" question. If the "gunner" first touches the ball at the one-yard line and it is controlled by his team at the five-yard line, I thought the ball was placed at the five-yard line. Is the new possession at the place most favorable to the receiving team?

Vic: Yes. In the original answer, it was logically assumed the ball was rolling toward the end zone, which would've made the point of original touching most favorable to the receiving team. What you describe as "controlled" is also considered illegal touching, and the rule stipulates that it shall be the "Receivers' ball at any spot of illegal touching or possession." The most forward position is selected.

Matt from Little Rock, AR:
One of the things, in my mind, that added value to Matt Jones' draft stock was the option to put him at third-string QB to free up a roster spot. He could be as effective as any run-of-the-mill third-stringer. Do you see the Jags making that move?

Vic: No. This isn't some backyard pick-up game. This is professional football and players are intensely schooled to play a particular position. Matt Jones will attend wide receiver meetings, not quarterback meetings. Using him at quarterback in an emergency is one thing, but making him the team's third quarterback would mean either retarding his development as a wide receiver or having a third quarterback who does not attend quarterback meetings and is not used at the position in practice. He's a receiver now. His quarterback days are over, other than in a "Slash" or emergency role.

Mike from Albany, NY:
After watching the Matt Jones highlight reel it made me wonder if he could be a replacement for Fred.

Vic: Why not? Maybe he could do the punting and kicking, too.

Chris from St Augustine, FL:
You say you don't remember Jimmy Smith ever being caught from behind? Wasn't that Jimmy who got caught from behind in the 1997 Kansas City game on a long pass play? He was watching himself on the Jumbotron on what would surely have been a TD, only to be tackled from behind at the one-yard line.

Vic: I've had several people respond as you have.

Antwan from Tampa, FL:
I see on that Kevin Everett, the third-round pick from the Bills, tore his ACL in mini-camp. What happens when a player gets hurt and hasn't signed a contract?

Vic: Draft choices sign an agreement with the team that says the team will treat the player as an employee and, should he become injured, the team will negotiate in good faith with the player and he will be offered a contract commensurate with where he was selected in the draft order. Undrafted free agents, of course, are already under contract to the team.

Mark from Rochester, NY:
I would agree with your comments about Rashean Mathis. I see him as one of the top young cornerbacks in the league. Who do you think on the Jaguars roster could be another star player this year?

Vic: In my opinion, Byron Leftwich, Maurice Williams and Daryl Smith have the potential to move into the upper ranks of their positions. I'm not predicting stardom for those players, but I think they possess significant upside potential and could begin realizing that potential this year.

Brad from Jacksonville:
If a defensive player forces the quarterback to fumble behind the line of scrimmage, is he credited with a sack and a forced fumble or just a forced fumble?

Vic: He gets a sack and a forced fumble.

James from Jacksonville:
In your answer to Arsenio's question about top 10 players of the Jags' first 10 years, I was surprised and questioned two of them: Leon Searcy and Byron Leftwich. I know Searcy was a good tackle and Byron is starting to come into his own, hopefully making big steps this year, but what did either of them do to get named to this esteemed list of players?

Vic: Leon Searcy was selected to the AFC Pro Bowl team in 1999. He anchored the right side of the Jaguars' line through its 1996-99 glory years. Let's not forget, Searcy was Mark Brunell's blindside pass-blocker. In my opinion, he is very deserving of being named as one of the team's top 10 players of the first 10 years. Byron Leftwich's selection is more a product of the position he plays than what he has actually accomplished. Leftwich, however, is a player of great significance in Jaguars history. He's the player who represents the new era; the changing of the guard. He plays the position of greatest importance and acclaim, and he's very likely to become the leader in all of the Jaguars' career passing categories. His selection is somewhat of a projection, but there's no denying his impact on the first 10 years of Jaguars history.

Scott from Melbourne, FL:
When I get home from a hard day's work, I do two things: spend time with my little girl and read your column. Nothing relaxes me more. I have a question. Do you think current NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue will go down as one of the best commissioners of any sport. He seems to have the NFL in the right direction, compared to other major sports leagues, with problems of steroid abuse and labor problems, etc. Your thoughts?

Vic: History will record Paul Tagliabue's term as commissioner of the NFL as a period of great prosperity and labor peace. He's Clinton without the sex scandal.

Andy from Jacksonville:
I remember in Byron's first two years that the coaching staff said they wouldn't give him complete control of the offense. Do you think in his third year Byron will have complete control of the offense?

Vic: Fan complaints and criticism about Byron Leftwich not having more freedom to audible last season were, in my opinion, uninformed and unfair. What coaches around the league weren't telling fans is that it had become a general opinion that changing plays at the line of scrimmage was an overrated cat and mouse game. What's to be gained? The defense sees the quarterback changing the play, so the defense changes its alignment. Teams began cutting back on their audible systems. The Colts, obviously, are a big believer in changing the play at the line and they have a quarterback who's a master at it, but a lot of teams flourished without making audibles the mainstay of their offensive strategy. With a rookie at quarterback, the Steelers weren't a big audible team and they went 15-1. The Jaguars weren't a big audible team, either. Leftwich had a limited system at his disposal, but that doesn't mean he wasn't in full control of the offense. It just means the offense didn't include an elaborate audible system. Carl Smith isn't going to give away any trade secrets for this season. We'll find out, in time, what his opinion of audibling is.

Robby from Jacksonville:
I would like to know how you feel about Donovin Darius not showing up for mini-camp.

Vic: Mini-camp is mandatory. Offseason conditioning is voluntary. In my opinion, it's disappointing that a player would elect not to attend offseason conditioning; it's intolerable that a player would miss a scheduled practice.

Derek from Rio Rancho, NM:
Starting from 2000, which Jaguars draft class was the best?

Vic: The 2004 draft class has great balance. The second-day crop – Ernest Wilford, Josh Scobee and Bobby McCray – is outstanding. If Reggie Williams blossoms into a top receiver, the '04 class could become the Jaguars' best.

Jason from Springfield, IL:
Can you think of an NFL team in recent history that has had as many first-round draft picks not pan out the way the Cleveland Browns have? From the Tim Couch pick up to last year, the team seems to have missed the mark consistently.

Vic: Teams go into hard-luck phases. Cincinnati had terrible draft classes in the 1990's; David Klingler, Dan Wilkinson, Ki-Jana Carter, Reinard Wilson, Akili Smith. Some of it was bad talent evaluation and some it was bad luck. People say Carter was a bust. Yeah, but the guy blew out his ACL in the first week of his rookie training camp, and he was never the same. Do the Bengals get the blame for that? I think the Browns can point to Courtney Brown in the same way. Then there are the mistakes: Tim Couch, Gerard Warren, William Green. The one that could haunt them for a long time, however, is taking Kellen Winslow over Ben Roethlisberger. That could become the Browns' "Wrigley goat." How could they pass on Roethlisberger? He's from Ohio. He could've been the image of the team for the next 10 years. Instead, he's playing for their biggest rival. The draft is a fascinating study. Fate has so much to do with how it all turns out.

Jim from Greenville, NC:
I have a question about the undrafted free agents. Do they get signing bonuses and if so about how much? Does this have to be deducted from the rookie pool?

Vic: Undrafted guys will get anywhere from no signing bonus to $25,000 in signing bonus. The Rams paid no signing bonus to their undrafted guys this year. All bonus money counts against the team's salary cap and against its rookie pool.

Miguel from Mexico City, Mexico:
How fast was Mark Brunell in his early days with the Jags?

Vic: He was one of the fastest players on the team in the Jaguars' first-ever training camp in 1995. In the summer of 1997, he suffered a knee injury in a preseason game and he was never the same again. Mark Brunell's days as a scrambler were only two years long.

Cole from Jacksonville:
I saw your response to the depiction of the American sportswriter on "Everybody Loves Raymond." Might I propose that you write a screenplay or sit-com script with a little more accurate depiction of the profession?

Vic: I would call it, "The Free Life."

Shawn from Three Rivers, MI:
Has Fred Taylor ever been caught from behind?

Vic: I can't remember it happening, without someone having the angle on him.

Cody from Mars Hill, NC:
I have been reading the "Ask Vic" column every since I knew it exists. I'm a high school student and I want to become a sportswriter. Can you give me any advice as to how you got your job and the process you went through to get it?

Vic: I went to journalism school. I took a job at a newspaper. I think my first job paid me $7,200 a year. I can remember that the first feature story I ever did on a pro football player was on a guard named Bruce Van Dyke. He would be 60 years old now. Get the point? Kid, I've been at this for so long I don't even know how I got here. I know I got lucky. Do you really wanna do this?

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