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I like 'em flat

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

Chris from Jacksonville:
I was one of the faithful fans who stayed on Monday night in the rain waiting for practice to continue. At about 8 p.m., Carl Smith comes over to a couple of us and just strikes up a conversation. He is a very down-to-earth guy and is almost cocky at the way he feels his offense is going to explode this year. What are your opinions of Carl Smith so far?

Vic: I really like it when Carl stops by my office for a chat. It always results in some fun football conversation. What that tells me is that he has strong communication skills, which is what all good teachers possess.

John from Neptune Beach, FL:
What is Jimmy Smith's remaining cap liability to the team?

Vic: Jimmy Smith has two years remaining on his contract. His bonus amortization is $1.75 million for each of the next two years. Jimmy's salary in 2005 is $3.525 million. The combination of the two makes Jimmy a $5.375 million salary cap hit this year. That includes a $100,000 offseason workout bonus.

Brian from Reston, VA:
What are the prospects Matt Jones will line up as a tight end in four-wide sets and on passing downs? His athleticism would bring a lot in terms of his ability to draw double-teams with his size and speed and allow another receiver to make a catch.

Vic: Why don't we just let this happen, OK? Football isn't a video game. You can't program success. It has to be achieved on the field. As Matt Jones establishes his athleticism, size and speed, his role will be increased. They didn't draft him to not use him. If he displays star qualities, they will use him every way they can.

Antony from Chester, SC:
I noticed that you wrote that Matt Jones' contract is worth $11.15 million, including escalators. What exactly does this mean? Also, does this contract get your stamp of approval for keeping the Jaguars out of future salary cap peril?

Vic: Escalators are incentives. They're called escalators because they escalate the value of the contract, provided the player achieves the terms of the incentive. Jones' escalators range from easily-achieved to difficult to achieve. I like his contract. It's another example of responsible structuring by Paul Vance. The structure of Jones' contract is flat over the life of the deal. What that means is that there aren't any major spikes in any year. His bonus amortization is roughly the same throughout the five years of the contract. I like flat and I like front-loaded. This one's flat. What scares me is back-loaded because that immediately tells me the team intends to re-structure the deal before it's complete, and that means more money will be pushed into the future and at that point the team is headed for a salary cap meltdown. Back-loaded deals are major red flags of instability.

Mike from Jacksonville:
Like your former high school coach, my old Pop Warner coach put an interesting twist to the "Oklahoma" drill. He was a chewing tobacco man and at the conclusion of each drill, whoever lost got a mouth full of spit down the back of his neck. I can tell you it was great motivation; nobody loafed in that drill. I can only imagine how today's soccer moms and dads would take such motivational tactics?

Vic: No spitting on little Johnny, huh? I wonder what little Johnny's parents would say about some of my high school coaches, who often referred to us according to our ethnicities. Little Johnny might have to go into therapy.

Jeff from Jacksonville:
I am in love with the "Oklahoma." I would pay to watch that again. Are their any more "Oklahoma" drills scheduled? That was the next best thing to going to a game.

Vic: See what I mean? Isn't that the best? It's taken me 11 years of campaigning for an "Oklahoma," but I finally got one. I don't understand why it took so long. Nobody gets hurt in the "Oklahoma." Pat Thomas pulled a hamstring in simple back-pedal drills Monday morning, but nobody got hurt in the full-contact "Oklahoma." Jack Del Rio stopped by my office after yesterday afternoon's practice, to see what my opinion of his "Oklahoma" was. He knew what I was going to say. "That's a start," I said. He laughed. I'd like to see everybody get a couple of shots. I'd like to see it acted out with a little more verve, but I'm very appreciative that the first steps toward this first-day-of-full-pads traditional were taken. Hey, it's about the story, right? The "Oklahoma" makes for a great training camp story. I wrote an "Oklahoma" story once a year for 23 years. In the years that rookies reported a week ahead of the veterans, I even had two "Oklahoma" stories. One of the best "Oklahoma's" I ever covered was an all-rookie "Oklahoma" in 1974. In my opinion, we need that kind of stuff to punctuate training camp; to make it something more than a passing camp. In a game obsessed with rushing the passer, the "Oklahoma" brings us back to blocking and tackling. It allows squat run-stuffers such as Anthony Maddox to have their day in the sun, too. I like it and I think the coach liked it. In fact, I know he liked it. I don't think we'll see it again in this training camp, but you can put it on the schedule for next year.

Jill from Evansville, IN:
Looking at the safety position, how many safeties will the Jaguars keep and if one is to go, which player do you believe will receive their walking papers?

Vic: I don't like cutting players. I think it's disrespectful of the training camp process that is currently unfolding. I'll tell you that a player such as Ray Perryman is facing an uphill battle to make this team, but I'm not gonna cut anybody. These are good guys who, in many cases, are locked in the most important struggle of their lives. Their dreams of an NFL career are at stake.

Gene from Jacksonville:
What have you observed from Leftwich thus far in training camp?

Vic: Other than for his rookie mini-camp, Byron had what was probably the worst practice of his career on Monday morning. As I was walking off the field, he asked me if I had ever seen him worse. I told him I hadn't. Yesterday afternoon, he was much better. I'll be interested to see what he does in Friday night's scrimmage. Leftwich was out of this world in the spring and I'm convinced he's going to have a big year.

Leo from New Orleans, LA:
What position were you in high school?

Vic: The prone position.

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