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A snapshot of ourselves

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

Mike from Marshall, MN:
There's a good read in this week's "Sports Illustrated" about the potential of re-structuring the current 20-game preseason and regular-season format. One of the lines that sticks with me says: "Fans will only notice the effects of an 18-game season if the quality of play deteriorates. Exactly when does the quality of players' lives enter the equation?" What do you think about that statement and do you think that we, the fans, will notice lower quality of play on the field?

Vic: This concern for the players' well-being has become excessive. If everyone was truly concerned about the players' well-being, there'd be no football. This is not a game you play to improve your health. This is a game you play as a means for venting your aggressions. At this level, it's a game you play to make a lot of money. The risks are weighed against the gains and the dangers of playing the game are accepted. The league is vigilant right now about player safety. There's no way they'll go to an 18-game regular season without having a plan for maintaining player safety. The obvious way to do that is to increase the size of rosters, which would allow, for example, coaches to ration playing time. I'm media and I like reading sports stories and I hope you do, too, but that doesn't mean we have to react to everything we read. Don't worry about player safety. The league is doing a great job. Enjoy the game.

William from Jacksonville:
Gene Smith and any fan with half a clue knew Groves and Nelson were not gonna pan out, yet, he still manages to work trades to recoup value for both of them. Are you kidding me?

Vic: Impressive, isn't it?

Nick from Toronto, Ontario:
Your comment about Courtney Greene got me thinking. Even if we don't have playmakers at safety, I think I speak for most fans when I say that for the 2010 season, I'd be perfectly content if the safeties simply tackled well and played smart football. Do we at least have guys who can do that?

Vic: I don't know; we'll find out. I do know, however, that they had recycled the olds guys enough to know the answer to your question was no. They had to move on, which they did. Let's remember what the safety position is supposed to provide, which is to say safety against touchdowns. Safeties are the last line of defense. They are supposed to make the touchdown-saving tackles. They are the centerfielder in pass coverage and they are to make sure receivers never get behind them. You're right. If they just do that this year, that'll be good enough. I don't think it's asking too much of the players they kept.

Jeff from Jacksonville:
You're the man. For you to do an "Ask Vic" segment on the holiday is above and beyond the call of duty. May your caddy always hand you the right club and give the perfect advice on your drive. Once again, Thanks for all the great coverage and in-depth reporting that keeps us fans going through the best and worst of times.

Vic: I have this chilling recollection of a Labor Day practice from when I was in high school. The coach decided to lay the wood to us that day. He had us running wind sprints until we dropped. I remember everyone with their hands on their knees, huffing and puffing and one kid puking, and the coach was walking between us and saying in a dramatic voice: "Football … players … labor … on … Labor Day." He kept saying it over and over. Little did I know that he was giving me a snapshot of the rest of my life. If you work in this business, you work on Labor Day. I can't remember the last time I didn't work on Labor Day, but I was probably in college.

Adam from Jacksonville:
After a week of college football, I find myself checking out quarterbacks on every team as a potential 2011 draft pick for the Jaguars. Which quarterback looked most impressive to you during week one?

Vic: I didn't see Christian Ponder play and, given the competition, it wouldn't have mattered much if I had seen the game. I know what Ponder can do. He's a big-time prospect. The guy who impressed me this past weekend is the TCU quarterback, Andy Dalton. He didn't have a good game statistically, but I like his size and skill set. He's got a raw-boned look to him I like, and he moves and throws with ease. I think his skills will translate well on the NFL level.

Brandon from Jacksonville:
I know their first game against the Broncos is a big game and I would probably favor the Jags to win, however, could you tell me what the big deal is if they lose.

Vic: The big deal would be that they would head to San Diego 0-1 and it would be very difficult to come out of the first month of the season with a fast start. In my opinion, the fast start the Jaguars seek will probably require a win over the Broncos.

Adam from Chandler, AZ:
This Sunday, the fate of the soul of Jacksonville sports is on the line. The stadium will be packed with the two rivals: the college fans vs. the pro football fans, battling for the future of sports in northern Florida. If the Jaguars lose, the college fans will rise as one and say, "We told you so," and the fate of our team will be dire. If the Jaguars win, perhaps a few will realize the difference between college and pro sports and gain a new-found appreciation of our beloved team. Being the consummate underdogs in 2010 will spread the excitement and pride for the Jags like wildfire. I would appreciate the thoughts of someone whose opinion I greatly respect. Vic, you have always been a straight shooter so please let me know what you think.

Vic: I think you're being a little too dramatic, but our trains of thought are riding on the same tracks. Sunday's game will be a clash of two cultures. Most importantly, I think we're going to get a snapshot of ourselves on Sunday. We're going to finally know what we are.

James from Charlottesville, VA:
David Jones is only a 64 overall in Madden. That means he's going to be bad, right? Reggie Nelson is above 70 overall. Why would we do this? Didn't this trade make our team worse?

Vic: I didn't know that. I can't believe GM Gene didn't check the Madden ratings before he made the trade. That's inexcusable.

Will from Jacksonville:
Is the practice squad about developing players for the future or is it more about depth?

Vic: Coaches use the practice squad as a reservoir for talent they can use now. Personnel directors use the practice squad as a place to store talent that can be developed for the future. I like to call those players "jars on the shelf." A marriage of those two usages is best for the team.

Keith from Jacksonville Beach, FL:
Forty-yard dash times of players entering the NFL draft are widely publicized. Are players tested in the 40 throughout their careers and are these results closely guarded, or is there any benefit to leaking the results?

Vic: A long time ago, it was a ritual to open every training camp with 40-yard time trials. I remember standing along the side watching the players run and the scouts all snap their stopwatches. The times weren't publicized, but I knew scouts who would tell me who ran well and who didn't, provided their anonymity was protected and the information wasn't used in an inflammatory way. I'm not sure when that all stopped; it was at some point in the '80's. Why? I don't know the answer to that, either.

Ryan from Chamberlain, SD:
What do you think of the Brett Ratliff addition?

Vic: He's a big guy with a good arm and he played at a junior college where he broke any records Aaron Rodgers had set. As I've said, small-market, low-revenue teams have to work harder and be more creative to be able to compete against their big-market, high-revenue brethren. Zach Potter is the perfect example. Ratliff is another. Instead of just naming a practice squad and ignoring it the rest of the year, GM Gene uses the practice squad to audition talent. He's vigilant about procuring talent for the future.

Lance from Jacksonville:
I hear you say going younger is better on Jaguars talk radio, but don't you agree the Jaguars need a veteran guy to teach these kids how to play?

Vic: No, I don't agree. In fact, I hate this mentoring stuff. Coaches coach and players play. I don't want players who think they're coaches, or coaches who think they're players. Just do your job.

Darrick from Jacksonville:
We can debate Tim Tebow's football skills all day, however, in the end it may come down to whether or not a young man who is known for his humility will be able to withstand the pressure of a league that's always looking for the next big thing. Can he handle it?

Vic: I don't even know what all of that means. Are you already making excuses for him?

Nathan from Orlando, FL:
While I appreciate your stance on not drafting Myron Rolle and getting over the obsession with Florida and Florida State players, you didn't even come close to answering Jerry's question, which I am also curious about. Was he just not as talented as everyone thought or the product of a year lay-off?

Vic: I don't know. Does it matter? The Tennessee Titans, who've been pretty good at drafting and evaluating personnel, drafted Rolle, spent the spring and summer teaching him how to play and, in the process, evaluating his talent. At the end of the summer they cut him. That's all I need to know.

Ed from Winston-Salem, NC:
Am I the only one who thinks the NFL needs to expand to 500 teams so all of these so-called GMs will stop whining about the cuts? Why not just trust the folks that actually assess the players in practice instead of only preseason games on TV?

Vic: They cut my favorite player and now I can't live vicariously through his personal triumphs, and that makes me sad and angry. I've loved him since he was a freshman at (fill in the Florida university) and he didn't get a fair chance.

Alex from San Diego, CA:
What do you think of Tyrod Taylor?

Vic: He's a talented athlete, but I'm not a fan of the drop-back-and-run offense.

Jason from Madison, WI:
I get that Gene decides who makes the team, but who decides who starts? I'm particularly wondering about the Justin Smiley over Vince Manuwai decision.

Vic: Gene Smith makes recommendations on how personnel might be used, but ultimately it's Jack Del Rio's decision.

Brian from Atlanta, GA:
When it mattered the most, Kellen Moore came through in a big way for Boise. What do you think of Boise State and what do you think of Moore as a QB?

Vic: Boise State is a wonderful program and Moore is a star college quarterback whose talents, in my opinion, probably won't translate as well on the NFL level. I could be wrong, but that's my opinion.

Marion from Jacksonville:
The Boise State discussion is just silly. They pull out a last-minute, small-margin win against a mediocre Virginia Tech. At least I did not have to try to see the blue players against a blue field. I despise trying to watch their home games. The rest of their schedule does not qualify them for national-ranking discussion.

Vic: Hey, did you hear the news? The Jaguars are opening their season this week.

Thomas from Snellville, GA:
Do you think GM Gene thought about Houshmandzadeh at all?

Vic: I asked him on his radio show last night if he was interested in H'sh'mn'zadeh (vowel rationing) and he said, emphatically, "no." It's a good show. Gene tells all. You should listen to it.

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