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I return with many thanks

Join senior editor Vic Ketchman as he tackles the fans' tough questions. Vic: Where was I? Oh, yeah, I was getting ready to fly out and visit my dad. We were gonna play some golf. Then the call came. I missed him by two days; never regained consciousness. They said he wouldn't make it through the night. He passed on the 11th night. I returned to work this morning. I made sure I was at my desk very early and it was a wise decision because there were over a thousand e-mails in my inbox. Most of them were expressions of sympathy. I would've liked to have responded to each one, however, that was impossible, but I read every e-mail and they mean so much to me. A lot of you who wrote to me told me about how you had lost a parent, which means that at some point during our "Ask Vic" friendship we must've developed something genuine, and that's a great source of pride. I was introduced to Jack Del Rio's father this morning and he told me of how and when his father passed, and how close the Jaguars head coach was to his grandfather. We all have it. It's called sorrow and love is the root of it. None of us are getting out of this alive. Not even Tom Brady. Well, anyhow, I'm back. Be patient with me. It may take me a little bit of time to get back to my old self. Thank you all.

Daniel from Montebello, CA:
Vic, I'm in trouble and I'm not supposed to be on the computer for non-educational purposes. But I am. What do you have to say about that loyalty?

Vic: That's great, kid, but let's try it another way. Stop doing what got you in trouble, reclaim your computer privileges and keep it that way. Hey, I think I'm back already. Thanks, kid.

Vincent from Jacksonville:
How do you feel about Brett Favre's attempt to break the NFL career record of interceptions thrown? He has thrown 273 picks and George Blanda has thrown the most interceptions over his career at 277. He's thrown at least 16 interceptions in the past five years and besides his rookie year, he's thrown no less than 13 picks every season. Is Favre the most overhyped of the great quarterbacks of the game?

Vic: I think interceptions are overrated. I understand that turnovers are bad, but I've always thought a lost fumble is usually more damaging than an interception because of the yardage factor. There are "bad" interceptions and then there are "good" interceptions, and I think you know what each is. Here's what I know about great quarterbacks: They tend to throw a lot of interceptions. Brady has several four-interception games. Peyton Manning was an interceptions machine in last year's playoffs and it didn't seem to hurt the Colts, did it? Brett Favre is a great quarterback. There is no question about that. I'm not gonna tell you he's my favorite because he's not, but it's not because he throws a lot of interceptions, it's because I don't like that chuck-and-duck stuff.

Mac from Fernandina Beach, FL:
As per, the Jaguars' 2007 team motto, should be, "No more excuses; no more talk."

Vic: I don't detect any being offered.

Gary from St. Augustine, FL:
Please give me your best guess as to how many rookies and free agents will make the roster and practice squad this year.

Vic: The Jaguars kept all six of their draft picks and seven of their undrafted free agents last year. I had never covered a team that kept seven undrafted guys. This year, the Jaguars have 11 draft picks and I expect them all to be kept, one way or another, and that'll likely keep the number of undrafted guys kept to a minimum. I'm thinking one or two undrafted guys will be retained in one way or another.

Leonardo from Arizona:
Who is your Jaguars favorite player?

Vic: Yes, sportswriters have favorites. Fred Taylor is probably my favorite player in the Jaguars locker room. I like the fact that Fred usually gives it to me straight, and I like the fact that you can needle Fred and he'll play along.

Hugo from Orange Park, FL:
Can you explain the "nickel" back's job?

Vic: The "nickel" back is a fifth defensive back who is employed when the offense goes to three wide receivers, which is often the case in obvious passing situations. He is often the team's number three cornerback.

Ryan from Jacksonville:
So, a year later, is finding a replacement for Jimmy Smith still at the top of the team's to-do list?

Vic: This team could play football for 50 more years and not have found a replacement for Jimmy Smith. You're talking about a truly great player and great players are difficult to replace. I think you may be underestimating the task of replacing a player of Smith's caliber. What the Jaguars need to find is a wide receiver capable of being a true number one receiver. That's at the top of the team's to-do list.

Aaron from Milroy, PA:
Why are left tackles so valuable?

Vic: Left tackles protect your quarterback's blind side, provided he's a right-handed passer. Your quarterback needs to have confidence in his blind-side protector. He needs to know he's not going to hit from behind. When he has that kind of confidence in what's going on behind him, he's free to keep to his eyes downfield, instead of peeking to see what's happening to his left.

Justin from Jacksonville Beach, FL:
The slow-release critics are driving me crazy. Can you put them in their place by providing us the facts? What is the average time of Byron's release vs. other NFL quarterbacks? I hope someone can put this to rest.

Vic: As I have said over and over, the issue is not the speed of Byron Leftwich's release, but the width of it. You don't time width; you measure it. It's not that he needs to get rid of the ball quicker. He needs to get rid of the ball with a tighter, shorter motion.

Luis from Fruit Cove, FL:
"Third-round pick Mike Walker and seventh-round pick John Broussard immediately became the two fastest wide receivers on the team when they were drafted." Does this mean that what you've been telling us for a number of years, that you don't have to pick wide receivers in the first round because you can find them in the later rounds, is true?

Vic: It's much too early to anoint Walker and Broussard, but should they become the answers at wide receiver then, yes, they would symbolize what I've been saying about being able to find wide receivers in the later rounds.

Charlie from St. Augustine, FL:
The offensive players seem real excited about the new offense. What did you see in mini-camp? What are your thoughts about it?

Vic: I was told the most impressive ingredient in Dirk Koetter's pass-offense is the spacing of the receivers. After being provided that information, I observed that the receivers do tend to spread the field. One of the intentions of that spacing is to open up the deep-seam portion of the field for the tight end, and I saw a lot of deep-seam passes thrown in the tight end's direction.

Charles from Jacksonville :
Would you name some players that were quarterbacks in college and successfully made the switch to wide receiver in the NFL?

Vic: The first one that comes to mind is Freddie Solomon. Kordell Stewart played a lot of wide receiver in his "slash" years and the Steelers felt that had Stewart devoted himself full-time to the position, he could've become the greatest wide receiver in Steelers history. Hines Ward was a college quarterback. Antwaan Randle El was a top quarterback at Indiana. Brad Smith played quarterback at Missouri. Drew Bennett and Ronald Curry are former quarterbacks.

Liam from Cardiff, Wales:
I watched a video the other day of when Matt Jones was drafted and one of the analysts said he would be a tight end. Taking into account his size, was this ever a possibility for the Jaguars?

Vic: They considered it but, after having seen him play, I don't think he could play the position, unless he was used solely as a pass receiver, but that would make him a wide receiver playing tight end and defenses would adjust accordingly. I don't think Jones possesses the mind-set or the skill-set to be an accomplished blocker. I said last year what I thought Jones' role as a pro should be. I said I see him as a possession receiver. I don't see him as a deep receiver and I don't see him as a broken-field, run-after-the-catch guy, either. I see him as a tall, good-hands possession receiver who would be especially effective on the hooks and curls. What it'll take to assume that role is a dedication to the technical aspects of his trade. He needs to become a precise route-runner. He needs to develop a pitch-and-catch relationship with his quarterback. That's how I see Jones.

Michael from Knoxville, TN:
When Fred Taylor reaches 10,000 yards, do you think it will be the quietest 10,000 ever?

Vic: It no doubt will be. Ottis Anderson has Super Bowl fame behind him. Edgerrin James and Eddie George have a lot of big-game and postseason exposure. Tiki Barber had a monster season two years ago. Ricky Watters played in multiple Super Bowls. Curtis Martin has the quietest 14,000 yards ever, but even Martin had that big touchdown run in the Super Bowl that put the Patriots in the lead until Bill Parcells decided to throw the ball 14 times in a row.

Abel from Jacksonville:
I think Byron Leftwich needs to earn the respect of the Jaguar fans. How do you think Byron Leftwich can earn that respect?

Vic: You're confusing respect with adoration. You earn respect with your performance as a person and Leftwich has earned my respect already. He has always treated me kindly and appreciatively. He has always made time for reporters and I have never heard him bad-mouth a coach, a teammate or the fans. You want to adore him as a player, and the ingredients for that to happen are simple: throw touchdown passes and win games.

Paul from Mountain Lakes, NJ:
: What's the NFL record for a player's yards rushing, passing and receiving for an exhibition game?

Vic: Jack Deloplaine set the record in 1976, though the figure escapes me. It was in a game that was played in a torrential downpour. Because Deloplaine was so good in that game, he was nicknamed "Hydroplane." That's my story and I'm sticking to it, unless, of course, you can find different information in the "NFL Preseason Record and Fact" book, which, to my knowledge, doesn't exist. OK, now for the real story. I know who this mystery writer is – though it disturbs me that he used the term "exhibition game" instead of "preseason game" – since I was tipped off by my loyal "Ask Vic" readers that I would be receiving such a question from no less a celebrity and esteemed football writer than Paul "Dr. Z" Zimmerman of "Sports Illustrated." The fact, Paul, that you have so graciously agreed to join the "Ask Vic" family allows me to tell this story about which you no doubt are unaware. A very long time ago, when I was a young reporter seeking the respect of veterans such as yourself, I found myself nearly pushed to the ground by you while interviewing a player following a postseason game. I angrily left the huddle of reporters, came upon fellow reporter Vito Stellino and complained – I used bad language – of being pushed aside. Vito, always the pacifist, explained that you, Paul, were a very aggressive and respected reporter, and a good guy, too. Hmmm, I thought. Well, all these years later, I know that Vito was right. I still don't understand how you could've put that Eagles tight end on your All-Pro team way back, but I marvel at your knowledge of offensive line play, your sense of respect for the history of the game and your passion for the game. Thank you for joining the "Ask Vic" family and I trust you will grace us with return appearances.

Ronnie from Guttenberg, IA:
I want to know how close are you with the team? Do the coaches and players know you personally and, if so, what do you think of some of them?

Vic: All beat reporters are close to the team. That's their job. Yes, I know everybody personally and there isn't anybody I don't like. In fact, I value these relationships, and that's where the tough part comes into play because the truth can often be harsh.

Andy from Granger, IN:
What kind of adjustments will Reggie Nelson have to make to become productive in the Jags' 4-3?

Vic: He has to learn the defenses. Safeties have to be able to think on their feet.

James from Middleburg, FL:
I've seen Mike Walker play and he reminds me of a stronger Jimmy Smith. I'm not saying he's the next Jimmy Smith but do you see any comparisons? Could this guy be a great player?

Vic: I thought the same thing. He's big and athletic, as Jimmy was. He has Jimmy-like speed, though he doesn't appear to be as explosive off the ball. He may have better hands than Jimmy, who was not the best-hands guy I've ever covered. Yes, I think Walker could develop into a great player, but I think we have to temper our enthusiasm because Walker is still in the recovery stage of his ACL post-surgery period.

Jake from Boca Raton, FL:
What is the biggest adjustment Dirk Koetter will have to make moving from a head coaching position at the college level to a coordinator position in the NFL?

Vic: He's never seen defensive coaches like he's going to see now.

Bijon from Boston, MA:
What is your take on Jim Plunkett and his career? He had speed and an arm and won two Super Bowls. No one talks about him any more. What is your analysis of him and his career? I think he was great and he had a gun and could run.

Vic: The Patriots franchise was a mess when they made Plunkett the first pick of the 1971 draft. It's no wonder he failed there. He lost some of his mobility and that caused him to fall in Chuck Fairbanks' estimation, after Fairbanks was hired from Oklahoma, where Fairbanks ran the wishbone. Steve Grogan took the job from Plunkett primarily because Grogan was a better runner. Fairbanks never really bought into the pro game and eventually returned to college football. Plunkett didn't blossom until late in his career, back home in the Bay Area. He led the Raiders to two Super Bowl wins. At that point, some of his talents had eroded. At that point, he was winning with guile and grit. I think he is one of the most underrated and under-appreciated quarterbacks in NFL history.

Scott from St. Augustine, FL:
Was your dad a football fan and how did he influence you in your life and profession?

Vic: He took me to my first pro football game. That day, the names were Conerly, Gifford, Huff, Patton, Stautner and Brady. My father put me through college, though I always considered that to be an investment he strategically recouped by underpaying me when I worked for him. Last summer, I bought him a set of golf clubs. Sunday, I brought them home with me.

Terrence from Baghdad:
Vic, the soldiers love you, man! We'll keep your family in our prayers just as you do us.

Vic: Just, please, pay attention and be careful until we can get you guys out of there.

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