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Buddy all right with me

Join senior editor Vic Ketchman as he tackles the fans' tough questions.

Keith from Jacksonville:
OK, I'll ask. What is the story about Buddy Ryan and Doug Plank. You mean Buddy was actually a nice guy?

Vic: Doug Plank played safety for the Bears when Buddy Ryan was the team's defensive coordinator. I first met Doug when he played at Ohio State. He was from a town in the circulation area of the newspaper for which I worked. Doug was a great kid with a great smile, blonde hair and shining blue eyes. He was an All-America boy every mother wanted her daughter to meet, but on the football field he'd knock your head off and stick it in your back pocket. God, I loved that about him; so did Buddy Ryan. Plank was Ryan's favorite. Unfortunately, a neck injury forced Doug out of football in 1983, right before the Bears got good. Ryan didn't forget about Plank, however, and Ryan honored Plank by naming Ryan's greatest creation, the "46 defense," for Plank, who had worn number 46. All right, here's the story part of the story. Because Plank was in my circulation area, I had to do periodic updates on him for the local readers. I would call the Bears PR department and they would give Ryan the message for Plank to call me. A day or two after giving Plank the message, I would get a call from Ryan asking me if Doug had returned the message. If Doug hadn't returned the call, a few minutes after hanging up with Ryan my phone would ring and Doug would be on the other end. Then Ryan would call back and ask me if there was anything I needed from him. In my book, that made Ryan a pretty good guy and I always maintained an affection for him. Ryan was someone you wanted as a friend, but never as an enemy. By the way, Plank was the guy at the center of the great Bob Thomas story. Thomas was the Bears' field goal kicker and he had cost the Bears a big loss one season. In the hotel the following weekend, Plank, who was Thomas' roommate, noticed a crowd of Bears fans outside the window. Plank opened the window and called out to the fans, who immediately recognized Plank. He informed them that Thomas was his roommate and produced Thomas in the window for the fans to see, which caused the fans to boo angrily. The exchange ended with Plank asking the fans, "Who do you want, Thomas or Barabbas?"

Jason from Jacksonville:
I read that Doss will be suspended when the Colts play the Jags. Does this mean Doss won't practice with the first team, in order to give the second-string player extra practice? How does this work?

Vic: It means that during the period Mike Doss is suspended, he can not have any contact with the team. That means he's forbidden from the grounds of the team's facility.

David from Jacksonville:
Should the Jags look at safety Reggie Tongue that was just released from the Jets, since they had some problems with Donovin Darius?

Vic: Yeah, and get Louis Lipps, too.

Mark from Savannah, GA:
The gate is split with the visiting team. In terms of percentages, how is it divided and do the players get a portion of the proceeds?

Vic: Thirty-four percent of each game's ticket revenue is divided evenly among the league's 32 teams. The remaining 66 percent belongs to the home team. Previous to 2002, the visiting team claimed the 34 percent. Pooling the money among all 32 teams is a way of more evenly distributing the wealth; a way of helping the teams that aren't great draws and play to smaller crowds on the road. It was also a way for easing the sting of realignment; losing a team that was a good draw. Under the new plan, when the Steelers packed 'em in at Alltel last season, every team in the league was the beneficiary. In 2005, the players will receive 65.5 percent of designated gross revenues and ticket revenue is one of those designated revenues.

Sean from Jacksonville:
Who were your favorite players growing up? Did you ever have the pleasure of seeing them play in person?

Vic: Bobby Layne, John Henry Johnson, Mike Ditka; I saw them play plenty.

Charles from Jacksonville:
How many stadiums in the NFL are sold-out for all games before the season starts?

Vic: Between 15 and 20.

Nick from Tampa, FL:
I'm not questioning your concerns about the ticket issue. My question is about the reported discrepancies between your column, which says about 11,000 tickets are left for each game, versus an earlier "Ask Vic" answer in which you said about 8,000 tickets were left for each game.

Vic: The 11,000 figure includes club seats. The 8,000 figure, as stated in the "Ask Vic" column, pertains only to non-premium seats. Club seats don't count toward the TV blackout number; non-premium seats do. Today's column isn't as much about blackouts as it is about sell-outs. That's the real issue; selling-out Alltel Stadium. It's not just about getting games on TV so people can see the Jaguars play for free. It's about this team collecting the ticket revenue it needs to be able to compete with the rest of the league.

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