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Favorite, least-favorite stadiums

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

Alex from New York City, NY:
Recently, I've been hearing about a longer football schedule. Some reporters are calling it inevitable. I know the appetite for football in this country is nearly insatiable, I just don't know about the appetite of the players' bodies. Why is the NFL wedded to the idea of a 20-game season? Why, to chop off two preseason games, would they add two regular-season games? Why not just drop two preseason games?

Vic: You're talking about eliminating millions and millions of dollars of revenue. That's not gonna happen. I don't know what the answers are but I do acknowledge your concern for the players' bodies. Injuries have reached the point of great alarm. We're losing our star players before the season even begins. Again, I don't know what the answer is but I do believe this: The increased size and strength of these players is, in my opinion, at the root of the increase in major injuries. I also believe the intensity of year-round conditioning and spring practices is taking a toll. Maybe it was better when players used training camp to get in shape. The dominant player in last season's Super Bowl is gone. S. Merriman's season is in doubt. Peyton Manning is a question mark. The Jaguars gave Jerry Porter $10 million and he hasn't been able to practice since May. When does it stop? What's the answer? If I was an owner in this league, I would have great interest in this subject because the money that's being wasted is extreme. The league has done everything it can to reduce contact, but injuries have never been more. Has anyone considered the possibility that contact isn't the problem? Has anyone noticed that as the game has become more wide open, player injuries have increased?

Jeremy from Jerseyville, IL:
I thought the reason the offense was so conservative early last season was because they were easing Garrard into the starter's position. This is Garrard's second year as a starter. I believe that the offense won't be off to a slow start like last year.

Vic: It wasn't because they were attempting to ease Garrard into the job or that they were protecting him that the Jaguars were overly conservative in their play-calling. It was because Dirk Koetter was in his first season as an NFL offensive coordinator and he was easing himself into the job. Dirk has admitted as much. It wasn't until after the game in Denver that Dirk started to get his pro feet under him. By the final month of the regular season, there wasn't a better coordinator in the league. The guy is fantastic. He was a fantastic hire by Jack Del Rio. When you're new at anything, I think it's natural to tread lightly. You don't want to get wild with what you do and end up being the reason the team lost. In the fourth quarter of the second game last season, Dirk started to come out of his shell.

Darren from Vancouver, BC:
Please give us your five favorite NFL stadiums, followed by your bottom five.

Vic: My five favorite are: Tennessee, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Green Bay and Philadelphia. All five of those stadiums have great press boxes, sight lines and overall stadium feel and atmosphere. My five least-favorite stadiums are: Oakland (awful in every way), Dallas (sports' all-time most overrated stadium; a dark, dank blight on an otherwise good parking lot), San Francisco (it has an excuse; it's old and the place was built for baseball), Washington (out in the middle of nowhere; the press box is not only in the end zone, it's also low), New England (too many mistakes for new construction).

Kristen from Fort Myers, FL:
Last year I was really losing my confidence in Matt Jones and I know it's only preseason, but things are definitely looking up.

Vic: Matt Jones is currently playing the best football of his pro career. He's improved his route-running, he's much better at getting off the jam and he's actually made an effort to improve his blocking. Evaluating wide receiver play isn't just about catches and drops. It's about all of those other things, too. I need to see one more thing from Jones for me to become a believer: I need to see him make the tough catch in traffic. If a guy won't or can't make that catch, he will never be a respected NFL receiver.

Kelvin from Atlanta, GA:
Is the game this week Troy Williamson's last hope?

Vic: I don't think it's an exaggeration to say Williamson's career may be on the line in Washington. Even if Williamson's career isn't on the line, I think he should act as though it is. I think the situation requires that kind of urgency. No catches in the preseason isn't a good thing. I don't believe you can keep a guy based on what he did in OTAs. You gotta do it with the pads on. I think the top five are set: Jerry Porter, Reggie Williams, Dennis Northcutt, Matt Jones and Mike Walker. Williamson is playing for the sixth spot, provided Jack Del Rio keeps six while Porter continues his recovery. If Porter is nearing a return to action, I doubt if Del Rio will keep six.

Trevor from Washington, DC:
What sells more tickets, entertainment or loyalty?

Vic: Loyalty does; absolutely. Football is an emotional sell. The only thing the fan takes with him from the game are his memories, which are all emotion-based. Teams need for their fans to become passionate. They need for their fans to be so in love with the team that they cheer for the helmet, regardless of who's in it. There have been a lot of seasons in places such as Green Bay and Pittsburgh that weren't all that entertaining, but the fans kept coming. Why? Because their loyalty made them do it. They're in love with the team.

Todd from Jacksonville:
Would you speak to the impact of the USFL on the league in the 1970s? It seemed to have drawn some major players from dominant teams (i.e. Larry Csonka).

Vic: It wasn't the USFL, it was the WFL and it had two major effects on the NFL: 1.) It shot player salaries upward. 2.) It ruined a very good football team, the Dolphins, by taking three star players, Csonka, Jim Kiick and Paul Warfield. The league folded midway through its second season.

Robert from Jacksonville:
Who do you think will be the surprise cut for this year?

Vic: I don't see a surprise cut; at least, not according to my definition of a surprise cut. I think the guys on the bubble are obvious.

J.T. from Yulee, FL:
In some of your answers on Monday, it sounds as if you were ready to give Derrick Harvey the money. I hope the Jaguars stand firm. In fact, I would give Harvey until Thursday to get signed and then start subtracting a million dollars a week. Let Harvey roll the dice and see if he will make it into the first round next year.

Vic: What purpose would that serve? The Jaguars have half their draft in this guy. A fantastic investment was made in him when they traded up. They need to continue negotiating and find a way to get him signed. That's the smart thing to do. Contract holdouts are like the preseason: Everybody gets riled about them, but they're quickly forgotten as soon as they end.

Joe from Gautier, MS:
I just read that Ciatrick Fason was signed. He certainly would be a long shot for a roster spot at this point. Does he have practice squad eligibility?

Vic: Fason knows why he was signed. The Jaguars have a preseason game to play, they're light on "bubble" backs and they needed someone to help Chauncey Washington shoulder the load on Thursday. Fason is a pro. He knows what this is all about and he also knows it's another chance to put himself on tape. He'll have a chance to make an impression on the Jaguars and on any other team that might be in the market for a running back. Pro football can be a cold business, but at least they give you the truth. They don't sit in your living room with your mother and father and try to make you believe you're the most important person in the world.

Bill from Jacksonville:
How is the holdout treated as far as roster size?

Vic: Harvey's not under contract. He doesn't count in any way.

Logan from Orange Park, FL:
I saw on that Quinn Gray threw a 94-yard touchdown pass in the game the other night; the only Colts score. I'm glad for him.

Vic: Did they say anything on about his four interceptions?

Tim from Jacksonville Beach, FL:
Can you help shed some light on the new rule of deferral on the coin flip? If a team wins the toss they can defer to receive until the second half, correct? Wasn't this always the case, though?

Vic: Yes, of course, it's always been like that; everybody knows that. That's what Abner Haynes was doing. He was deferring to the second sudden death period.

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