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Fans fighting crows

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

Andrew from Savannah, GA:
How early, in terms of age, do professional scouts begin looking at prospects? Do professional teams take any notice of the players coming out of high school? Also, does a player's performance in high school influence an NFL team's opinion of him?

Vic: NFL teams don't begin scouting players until their college "junior days," which is a workout that identifies the following season's draft prospects among the class of seniors. All of the scouting work that's done during the season is focused on seniors. When the underclassmen declare their draft eligibility following the season, the scouts collect tape on those players and begin their evaluations on those players.

Cody from Jacksonville:
You stated that excuses make you feel good but help nothing. This is true but I think the excuses about not buying tickets are legitimate. I am one of those kids that grew up and bought tickets, however, times are tough and who wants to watch a team that can't consistently be a contender? You want tickets being sold, we want no more of this one-year-on, one-year-off business.

Vic: You're right. How dare the Jaguars not win every year. The NFL should have some kind of law against losing. After all, it's not fair to the fans that they should have to buy a ticket to a game that might not end in victory. Doesn't the NFL understand that we've been spoiled down here by the success of our college teams? The NFL should at least allow the Jaguars to put Charleston Southern, Troy and Florida International on the schedule.

Matt from Indianapolis, IN:
I know that as a professional reporter you don't allow yourself to be a fan very often, but how has being a fan changed since the advent of free agency? What I mean by that is, do you feel from a sociological perspective that our feeling passionate about a team is more or less absurd, now that we're essentially cheering for the guys wearing the local laundry, while in the past we might have cheered for a fairly consistent group of guys?

Vic: I don't think being a fan has changed at all. It was always about cheering for the helmet and it still is about cheering for the helmet. The helmet is you and you are the helmet.

Tim from Jacksonville:
Why do undrafted players sign contracts immediately after the draft but drafted players wait? Why don't all players wait to sign?

Vic: A player can wait as long as he wants but, realistically, he just went through a whole draft without being picked, so why would he think he's in demand?

Jaime from Jacksonville:
I know you don't believe that any team is just a few players away for winning the Super Bowl, but is it fair to say that most NFL teams are a few players away from being a playoff contender?

Vic: Sure it is, but which teams are they? Some teams are just one player away, the quarterback. We found that out about Atlanta last year. Other teams already have the quarterback but still aren't playoff contenders, and those are the teams that are more than one or two players away from the playoffs. It's all a matter of whether or not you have the quarterback.

Eric from Jacksonville:
What's up with the voting poll, man? Like, shouldn't every year's expectations be the Super Bowl, no matter what? You drive to win, no matter what. If you don't drive for the best, how are you ever going to get there?

Vic: It's not a big deal, Eric, because you're not doing the driving, the players are. It's just a question that might provide what fans consider to be a realistic expectation for the Jaguars in 2009, based on roster losses and additions, the draft, coaching changes, etc. That's all. I wouldn't take it too seriously.

Ryan from Vacaville, CA:
I obviously don't live close enough to attend games but, as a massive Jags fan, I think a big problem in declining attendance might be the hi-def experience. In a declining economy, why fight crows, high-ticket prices and parking when you can see the game better in HD from your own living room? I wouldn't call that person any less of a fan.

Vic: You have to fight crows? I didn't know that. That shocks me. I've been to every Jaguars home game in the team's history and I can't once remember having to fight crows to get from the car to the stadium. Maybe it's because I arrive so early. I'll tell you, if what you're saying is true, then I can't blame fans for not coming to the games. I wouldn't fight crows to go to a football game, either. In fact, I take my hat off to those who've fought the crows and continued to attend the games. Why didn't someone bring this up earlier? I have no doubt the Jaguars would've addressed this problem. There's no way Wayne Weaver wants his team's fans having to fight crows to get to their seat.

Ray from Nampa, ID:
Are you watching or interested in the playoffs going on in the NBA or NHL, or are you strictly a football man?

Vic: I like playoff hockey. I like college basketball but not the NBA. It has a sinister feel to it that really turns me off. The NHL, on the other hand, embodies a spirit I love in athletics. I watched the Boston-Carolina overtime last night and it was spine-tingling action. After Carolina scored the game-winner, the two teams did the obligatory end-of-the-series handshakes as the Boston crowd stood and applauded. The night before, Washington fans stayed through a lopsided defeat so they could applaud their Caps on a great season, and the Caps responded by staying on the ice after the handshakes and raising their sticks to their fans. I don't know of anything like it in all of sports. The NHL and its players get it.

James from St. Petersburg, FL:
The Chiefs are switching to a 3-4 defense, which leaves their 2008 first-round pick, Glenn Dorsey, out in the rain. Do you think the Jags could be in trade talks for Dorsey?

Vic: I don't know if the Jags are interested or not but I can think of one reason why a team needing a defensive tackle might be interested: The Chiefs paid his signing bonus, which means you'd be getting him at a bargain price and a low cap number. What trading for Dorsey would come down to, for any team, is what you'd have to give in the way of draft picks, your opinion of Dorsey as a player and, of course, he'd have to submit to and pass a physical exam.

Phil from Woodmere, NY:
The Jaguars have come under major fire recently for renegotiating the contracts of Jones-Drew and Garrard seemingly early, but couldn't this be a creative strategy to attract quality young players in the future when there is no salary cap? It seems to me that with so many contract disputes these days, a young player on the rise would be happy to come to Jacksonville, where they know that if they perform well they will be well taken care of. Isn't that a good outside-the-box type of strategy?

Vic: Yes, it is, because it sends a message that performance is rewarded. That's what the Jaguars were doing by signing David Garrard and Maurice Jones-Drew to new, long-term contracts. They were sending the message that each player was deserving of a new contract and that the team values and appreciates performance. It's a good strategy, especially because it's a way of rewarding your own, and that's also an important message to send for a team that's committed to building through the draft.

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