Almost off the island

Let's get to it . . . Jesse from Jacksonville:
I read the comments on Justin Blackmon. My question is, "Don't you have to sign a contract before you can become a free agent?" Also, I have not heard one negative word from Justin since he has been here, have you?
John: You are referring to a line in an NFL.com article that has sort of taken on a life of its own here in the O-Zone. A writer made reference to Blackmon trying to become a free agent. The notion was a joke – and a pretty lame one. Yes, you have to sign a contract before becoming a free agent, but before we even go down a road of lending this story credence, let's pull back a minute. Blackmon has not talked about wanting to be a free agent. He has not talked about not liking Jacksonville. He was drafted 35 days ago. He is in the process of trying to learn an offense and figure out where the bathrooms are at EverBank Field. The only things we have read to the contrary have been from people writing for national websites trying to be funny. Trying.
Michael from Jacksonville:
The Jaguars look and sound like they might have a good season, but how can they without the centerpiece, Maurice Jones-Drew. Will he sign a new contract? Will it hurt a lot of fans if they don't?
John: It does sound as if it might be a good season, but I'm not worried about that season playing out without Jones-Drew. He's under contract for two more seasons. Right now, unless he decides to not show up for mandatory events, there's no indication he won't be playing next season.
Martin from Fernandina Beach, FL:
Good to hear Branch is signed. I'm excited to see what he brings to the D this year and in years to come. Tania Ganguli's post about the signing said this: "Branch...has impressed Jaguars defensive line coach Joe Cullen and his teammates during organized team activities." Do a team's early impressions of a draftee factor into the contract negotiations at all? For example, if they weren't impressed, would they lean towards a shorter deal?
John: The team's impressions of a rookie during OTAs mean little in contract negotiations. Contracts for most rookies are determined by what a similarly drafted player signed last offseason, and by the contracts of players drafted around that player. Performances in mini-camp and OTAs aren't enough to influence what a team will pay a rookie.
Davin from Jacksonville:
I read that the Colts have over 3,000 unsold season tickets now that Manning is gone. Does that mean the Colts are moving to LA?
John: It means they are like the great majority of NFL teams, meaning they have trouble selling out their stadium on a year-to-year basis if fans are skeptical about their chances of having a winning record. There are a few teams in the NFL that can withstand bad seasons and sell out their stadium the following season. Green Bay. Denver. Chicago. Pittsburgh. There are a few others. Most cannot. I'm not sure it's surprising that Indianapolis falls into the "most cannot" category.
Kenny from Jacksonville:
The front page of nfl.com has a picture of Tannehill, a guy I assume is his father, and Tannehill's wife. I figured out what the Dolphins have that the Jaguars don't.
John: I have no idea what you're talking about. The Jaguars have plenty of players with fathers.
Jeff from Jacksonville:
Before I get frustrated with nfl.com or espn.com, I remember two things. The first is that, as you mention time and time again, bashing the Jaguars, Gabbert, and Jacksonville is an easy way out. It allows the writer to achieve some level of comedy without the effort of needing wit, intelligence, or originality. They would make the exact same attempt of a joke on any team in our situation. One reader asked why Khan or Alvin Brown don't stand up for the Jaguars, and you said they were above it. I have to agree. The writer is simply a blip. The Jaguars, and Jacksonville by extension, are trying to achieve a much higher goal. Getting distracted by every cheap shot would just take away from their efforts. Ten years from now, no one is going to remember the name of a writer who couldn't make a joke. But, they will remember the Jaguars, for better or worse.
John: Your third sentence is as true a thing as I have read in an email in a while. There's a whole lot of comedy out there that achieves "some level" without wit, intelligence or originality. Quite possibly some can be found here, but I know you can find a lot of it when people write about the Jaguars.
Andy from St. Augustine, FL:
A simple misunderstanding by the General Counsel of the City? Really? How can she send a default letter without knowing the facts? Seriously, all of the struggles we have gone through to keep the team viable and fill the stands and the General Counsel sends a letter like this? Can you explain what has occurred here?
John: It sounds as if what has been reported is pretty self-explanatory. The Jaguars followed the process of choosing an entity to run the stadium, though the city erroneously disagreed. The city seems to have been a bit "overzealous" and incorrect in charging that the Jaguars had defaulted on their contract with the city regarding the matter. Jaguars Owner Shad Khan expressed concern over the city's view and asked that the city withdraw its charge that the team had defaulted. Mayor Alvin Brown then sent Khan letter saying that the city had no intention of terminating the lease, and that he looked forward to meeting regularly with Khan to ensure the sides remain on the same page. It sounds as if Khan made his point and that order has been restored. It created a brief stir Wednesday and it made the expected national headlines, but I'm not convinced there's a long-term problem.
Clyde from Jacksonville:
What about this guy Pendleton? From what I've seen he is a beast and I am happy the Jaguars have given him a chance. Do you see him being our diamond in the rough? I feel the Jaguars are due one of those players.
John: Jeris Pendleton has impressed during the first few weeks of organized team activities. It's always dangerous to do backflips over late-drafted rookie linemen before training camp, because so much changes when the pads come on. But Pendleton has shown big-time quickness and appears to have potential to be a run-stuffer and provide depth. If he can do that, it's a good seventh-round selection. Here's hoping he is. He's a good story who has overcome a lot and he seems from early indications to be an easy guy for whom to root.
Joy from Section 103:
Critique of the team is OK. They have earned it. The lazy, annoying stuff is about the city and the fans. Some has a nasty almost personal edge. I believe that should be frowned upon – not banned due to freedom of speech and all, but one would think some shred of journalistic integrity would be demanded by your peers. They give you all a bad name.
John: And goodness knows my name is bad enough without their help.
Martin from Fernandina Beach, FL:
"I can't criticize the league for allowing it." Can't? or Won't?
John: Your question refers to my answer recently regarding NFL.com being critical of the Jaguars. I wrote that I was fine with editorial policies allowing team and league sites to criticize teams. Because the league has policies that allow criticism, I obviously would be allowed to criticize if I believed it appropriate. In this case, it's not.
Joel from Atlanta, GA:
About Hard Knocks, it's easily a rating pick. Rookie versus a veteran versus a guy who overachieved last year at the quarterback position, a defense that talks too much, and a coach that EVERYONE sympathizes with because of his terrible loss, who is also in his first year. Add in the party scene that is Miami and you have a ratings machine. The Jags have no quarterback battle, no matter how many naysayers disagree, and top class characters who let their play talk. I love Mularkey as much as the next guy, but he's kinda boring, but in a Belichick or Coughlin way.
John: The league also already featured the Jaguars on "Jaguars Summer" on the NFL Network – that may have played a factor in the decision, too. But for the most part, I agree – the Jaguars aren't a team right now that's going to be an obvious choice for a reality show – not because they won't be improved, but because the Jaguars are not concerned about creating storylines. The feeling you get around here is there's a lot of excitement for some reasons that seem boring on the surface – i.e., doing things right, being fundamentally sound, being under the radar, improving from within. Those are clichés, and they seem a bit stale, but if you like winning football and changing the culture, they're exciting storylines.
Scott from Jacksonville:
Ginger or Maryann?
John: Mrs. Howell, especially in the episode when they almost get off the island.

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