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Game stands above all else

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

Dustin from Kissimmee, FL:
How many footballs are swapped in and out during the average game? What happens to all the used footballs afterwards?

Vic: The home team provides 12 balls to be used on plays from scrimmage and 12 backup balls. After the game, those balls remain in the possession of the home team. The ones that remain in good shape may be resubmitted for a future game. The ones that have a scuff on them will be used in practice. During the week of the game, Wilson Sporting Goods sends 12 kicking balls to the crew of officials that'll work that week's game and the officials then ship the balls to the stadium that'll host the game. Two hours before kickoff, each team has a representative observe the preparation of the balls, which includes having the balls inflated to 13 pounds and wiping down the balls with hot water and rubbing off the residue on the balls. The kicking balls are numbered 1-12 and 7-12 are seldom used, but they are never prepared for use in a game again. They stay with the home team and are used in practice only. Is there anything more you'd like to know about the balls?

Wal from Brisbane, Australia:
What's been your all-time favorite Jags game?

Vic: It's probably the playoff win in Denver in the 1996 season. I think that would likely be voted the greatest win in Jaguars history. The playoff win in Pittsburgh two years ago is probably a close second. I have a lot of favorite games, however, and not all of them are wins.

Kevin from Jacksonville:
Does the large amount of rookies and new faces require Jack Del Rio to take a different approach to this season than in years past, and can you describe it?

Vic: He has to be more patient with this team for the obvious reason that he has so many rookies and young players that are attempting to learn the pro game. A coach in his position has to be demanding, yet, patient. It's a difficult balance to achieve.

John from Colorado Springs, CO:
I think you agree that this team is better than it was a year ago. The question is how much better are they?

Vic: First of all, let's define what last year's team was. Most people would say it was 5-11. I would disagree. I would say it was 2-8 after a 3-3 start; that's the level of performance at which last year's team finished the season. This year's team, in my opinion, will easily exceed that standard. I see this team as getting better as the season goes on and I won't be surprised at all if it finishes strong. That's what you want, a team that's on the rise at the end of the season, not in decline. It's my expectation for this team that it be hard on the rise in the second half of the season.

John from Welland, Canada:
Will the dome be open or closed on Sunday?

Vic: It depends on what Peyton wants when he wakes up on Sunday and looks outside.

Riley from Toronto, Canada:
What do you think of BYU's QB, Max Hall?

Vic: I'd like to see more of him. He's got a good-looking motion and appeared to have some zip. The problem is he lacks size and I think that's a big problem in today's pro game. NFL quarterbacks almost have to be dominant athletes or physical specimens to stand up to the pass-rush and not be broken into kindling.

Steve from Jacksonville:
Do you think there's too much emphasis on the "fan experience" in the NFL? The only experience I value is the game itself; everything else is just a sideshow.

Vic: You sound like a purist, which is great, but I'm not against the extra stuff. The more entertainment you give the fans, the more value you build into the ticket. I'm OK with the sideshow, provided it doesn't detract from or upstage the game. The game must be the centerpiece. One of the problems with the Super Bowl is that the sideshow has upstaged the game on many occasions. That's not the case when you have great games, as they've had in each of the last two Super Bowls, but the Janet Jackson thing was the ultimate alert to the league that it had to cool it on the entertainment side. In my opinion, the game must always be presented as an athletic competition. When it is presented as entertainment, it becomes show business and it loses its integrity. The game must be separate from the sideshow. The game must stand above all else.

Gary from Clark, NJ:
Would you rather have Eli Manning, Aaron Rodgers or Carson Palmer to quarterback your team?

Vic: I've never been an Eli Manning fan. He's got too much chuck and duck for my tastes. I'm very respectful of what he did in the Super Bowl two years ago and for that reason I have treated him with respect, but he's not my kind of quarterback. Carson Palmer was a quarterback I really liked a few years ago, but he's not the same guy now. He's injured way too often and being durable is a big part of being a quarterback. My pick of the three would be Aaron Rodgers. I really liked what I saw in him last season when the Packers played here. He has much more talent than I thought he did. He's not only an effective passer, he's a cagey runner, too. I think he has a chance to be special.

Matt from Port Saint Lucie, FL:
I just read that Roger Goodell will allow replays of blacked-out home games to be viewed on What are your thoughts on this?

Vic: It's a no-brainer. It allows fans to see the games, yet, the blackouts continue to protect ticket sales. I got a ton of e-mails from people celebrating this decision, as if the NFL had lifted the blackout. I don't get it. What's different about this from what "NFL Network" does by showing the games in condensed form? Do people really wanna see the commercials?

Bill from Jacksonville Beach, FL:
Is it just me or do you get a sick feeling whenever you watch the Steelers? Let's see, Byron or Polamalu? Let's go with Byron. How about Reggie Williams or Big Ben? Let's take Reggie. Or Matt Jones or Heath Miller? Let's take a flyer on Matt. I think it's called the dismantling of a city's football franchise.

Vic: I don't care how many quarterbacks you have, never, ever pass on a franchise quarterback without at least realizing his value in a trade down. Pick him or trade him, but never leave him for the competition to pick free of charge.

Jeremy from Jerseyville, IL:
Did Tony Boselli start in the first game of the 1995 season? What defensive end did he face?

Vic: Due to a training camp knee injury, Tony didn't play until the fourth game of his rookie season. He was in the starting lineup in week four of the 1995 season, against the Green Bay Packers, and his assignment was to block Sean Jones, a premier pass-rusher back then. As I recall, Tony did it quite effectively.

Marquis from Little Rock, AR:
As I was watching the Titans and Steelers play, I couldn't help but think to myself that if the Titans had gotten it right and taken Jay Cutler, they would be a real powerhouse for the next 10 years.

Vic: You've made an astute observation. Having watched the Titans thoroughly dominate the Steelers at the line of scrimmage last night, can you imagine what the Titans would be today if they had drafted Cutler in 2006 instead of Vince Young? I'm not down on Kerry Collins. I thought Collins was sharp last night and I think Collins can get it done for the Titans, but Collins is a player at the end of his career, whereas Cutler is just coming into his prime. The Titans would be the dominant team in the league, had they picked Cutler. He was right in their backyard and they missed him. When they looked at Young and Cutler and compared the two, what could they have been thinking?

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