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It changed him

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

Reese from Frederick, MD:
Did free agency ruin the game?

Vic: What's ruined? The game has never been more popular. If you're referring to the potential for a lockout, the blame for that, in my opinion, is on a CBA that was too one-sided. Free agency had nothing to do with that. I think free agency has been good for the game and I wouldn't have expected that when unrestricted free agency came to exist. What we've found out is that there's plenty of football talent to stock 32 teams. You don't have to be a big spender in free agency to succeed. The Steelers sure haven't been a big spender in free agency.

Brandon from Ft. Myers, FL:
In short-yardage situations, how come teams never use a big guy to pound the ball in? For example, Alualu as the back.

Vic: I can't speak specifically of Tyson Alualu or Terrance Knighton or any other big guy, but I can tell you why offensive coordinators are reluctant to use big guys as "Refrigerator" Perry was used: They tend to get cut. Perry was unique. He was so wide and so low-cut that you couldn't get to his legs. He was the proverbial bowling ball and he blew the hole open. Good short-yardage backs tend to be either stumpy pounders – anybody we know? – or lean leapers, as Sam "The Bam" Cunningham and Marcus Allen were. James Stewart was a leaper, too. The preponderance of short-yardage backs are pounders and they are usually guys who have a penchant for protecting their legs. Big guys have difficulty doing that.

Beth from Orange Park, FL:
Can you explain in terms the average football fan can understand exactly what the owners and players are wanting in this new CBA?

Vic: In the simplest terms I can provide, the players want a CBA similar to the one they've enjoyed since 2006 and the owners want something different than the CBA they've endured since 2006.

Tom from Jacksonville:
If you could interview anyone from the history of the game, who would it be?

Vic: Lombardi. I would have a million questions for him. I'd ask him what he was thinking when Starr said he could sneak it in. I'd ask him about those scoreless ties, those bloodbaths against Pitt. I'd ask him why he resigned as Packers coach; was it because he didn't have the heart to cut the players who had been loyal to him? I'd ask him why he ignored the signs that he had colon cancer. I'd ask him if was considering running for political office. I'd ask him what made him so tough. I'd ask him what he thinks of the game the way it's played today. I grew up during the Lombardi era, when every high school coach was trying to be Lombardi and treated his players with the same hard edge Lombardi had for his players. I remember the days when water was denied, on the hottest of days. I remember the days when the complaint of injury was met with, "Tape it to the other one." It did something to me and I'm not sure if it screwed me up or made me better. I'd ask him which one he thinks it is.

Max from Tucson, AZ:
Hines Ward spoke his mind on NFL Network, saying that if the league really wanted to prevent concussions they would take away the helmets. Have you ever heard of such a far-fetched idea? The man clearly doesn't understand the game of football the way we do.

Vic: What he's saying is the extreme of what others have been saying for years: If you want to protect the head, then stop padding it. Simply put, no one in their right mind would ram their head into a brick wall, but I can walk down the hall to the equipment room, put on one of the Jaguars helmets and ram my head into a wall all day and I might not even get dizzy, but what might the long-term effects of ramming my head into that wall be?

Kevin from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL:
Did you ever think this column would generate an office pool bet?

Vic: Everything about this column amazes me. I'm so appreciative of readers, such as yourself, that I want to reward one of them: Congratulations, you won the office pool bet.

Andrew from Orange Park, FL:
Do you have any stories about Donovin Darius? I always figured he would be a good interview.

Vic: Yeah, Donovin was always a good interview. He's a very cordial, gregarious and accommodating man. He's a player I'll long remember. My favorite memory of him is from draft day. Tom Coughlin and the personnel department were sitting on the other side of the wall from the radio studio when the Giants drafted UCLA safety Shaun Williams right ahead of the Jaguars, which was met by an explosion of disappointment on the other side of the wall. Immediately, we knew who the Jaguars had targeted for their second pick in the first round of the 1998 draft. Being a diehard needs drafter, Coughlin turned to the next highest-rated safety on the Jaguars' board, which was Donovin. Shortly after picking him, then-defensive coordinator Dick Jauron came into the radio studio and provided a sound bite on Darius that was a preview of his career. Jauron said Darius would add some violence to the Jaguars defense. Well, he sure did, didn't he? As it turned out, Williams and Darius had similar careers. Darius played a year longer, but Williams had one more interception. If it was a physical presence the Jaguars wanted, and I think it was, then I think they got the better guy.

Stephen from Jacksonville:
Pete Prisco mentioned an instance where you, he and Vito Stellino were arguing about whether Terry Bradshaw or Dan Marino was the better quarterback. He said he won. Would you please give us your side of the story and make your defense for Terry Bradshaw?

Vic: You really need to ask that? Let's see, it has something to do with being 4-0 in the Super Bowl, 14-5 in the postseason and having won two Super Bowl MVPs. What Pete apparently didn't mention is that he lumped Peyton Manning into that same defense. I guess he's too embarrassed to mention it.

Scott from Jacksonville:
If the Jaguars don't draft a quarterback, will you be returning to Jacksonville to swim the St. Johns River?

Vic: We can work something out. Maybe I can swim the Fox River, but I wouldn't worry about that.

Jonathan from Palatka, FL:
I never once got my question in your columns over a five-year period of time, however, I easily knew your commitment because multiple times I still received a response from you with either an answer or to go look at an article to further my knowledge. I want to thank you for that extra effort you always gave and wish that one day you can retire as a Jaguar.

Vic: You made it, Jonathan.

Tom from Estero, FL:
What is the one question you wanted asked but no one ever asked it?

Vic: If you could be another person, who would that person be? The answer is Art Rooney. I like the benevolent cigar, the burn holes down the front of his shirt, his ease and grace, his faith, his sportsmanship and sporting ways. I like the old-timers. I like the way they carried themselves. They lived the life of sportsmen. They were men's men. Art called sportswriters "my boys" and I always loved that. I have his holy card from his funeral. I keep it with my father's.

Carter from Fernandina Beach, FL:
I had a little get-together with one of my season-ticket holder buddies for an impromptu wake in honor of your passing on to the legendary fields of Lambeau. We had a wide-ranging conversation about the Jags, football and the impact you have had on our understanding and appreciation of the game, the pride in seeing our questions answered in "Ask Vic" and the way Vicisms have become standard vocabulary in our football conversations.

Vic: Try golf; it's more fun.

Harry from Jonesboro, AR:
I get what you're saying about five-star high school recruits not being highly represented in the NFL. Do you think that has more to do with them playing in a way more suited for college than the pros, or is it simply a case of the two and three-stars not peaking as early, so that we don't know their upside until later?

Vic: It's lot of things. A lot of the five-star kids are early-bloomers; that's as good as they're gonna get. Some of them have been misevaluated: They really don't have five-star talent; they played against weak competition. Some of them have been spoiled by their success and they stop working and get passed by kids who out-work them. In my opinion, the majority of the five-star kids who don't pan out have been mislabeled. It's a flawed system. A kid can go from no stars to four stars simply by being recruited by a big-time program, but if the big schools miss him and leave him for the little schools, then he stays at no stars. Hey, so when did his talent level change? There's also another consideration: academics. A lot of five-star prospects fall through the academic cracks along the way.

Adam from Bloomsbury, NJ:
This was on Snoop Dogg's Twitter feed, @SnoopDogg: What do you think Doggfather on Vic Ketchman the beat writer for the Jags leaving for Green Bay? He says u guys are friends.

Vic: Yeah, he told me.

Will from Fernandina Beach, FL:
What's your favorite Fred moment?

Vic: It would be very easy to say the night he ran wild in Three Rivers Stadium or that it was the 90-yarder against Miami, but that's fan stuff. I know he can play. What charmed me about Fred is that I know he can hurt, which let me know he's real. Fred is a sensitive guy and I saw proof of that twice. The first time was when he missed some games at the start of the 2000 season due to a knee injury in the preseason. Cruelly, he was dubbed "Fragile Fred" and it crushed him. He fought it off, but I could see how it hurt. The second time is the big one. It involves having been bilked out of his first signing bonus and virtually all of the money in his first contract by his first agent. I saw anger and hurt. I saw a guy who was fighting through betrayal, which I think produces the worst hurt of all. What I remember the most is the day I found out Fred's new agent, Drew Rosenhaus, had assembled a recovery team and that they had found Fred's money in the Cayman Islands and were returning it to him. I saw relief on Fred's face, a kind of happiness I had never seen in him previously. It changed him. In my opinion, that discovery launched Fred into a higher level of performance and maturity. The trust was back. Most importantly, he understood the need to protect his money and make the most out of the talents he was given because you can't play this game forever. At that point, in my opinion, Fred began his pursuit of the Hall of Fame. I think he's got a chance. It's a long shot, but he's got a chance. I'm gonna work the phones.

Pete from Jacksonville:
I believe you are leaving the Jags organization in a good place. You helped us weather the storm that these last two rebuilding years had created and I believe you and our new GM have changed the approach that many fans take towards the team. I am now interested in draft picks past the third round and can see this team taking shape right before my eyes, despite the lack of immediate success.

Vic: There's no doubt in my mind the Jaguars' arrow is pointing up.

Griffin from Jacksonville Beach, FL:
I'm currently a mass communications major at USF. Last semester I received a low grade on an assignment because I didn't match the correct word count but, because of you, I ended up receiving full credit on the assignment. When I met with the professor, I quoted your take on the matter. He laughed and let me slide. Can you remind us all again what you think of word counts?

Vic: The length of a story should be like a woman's skirt: Long enough to cover the subject but short enough to make it interesting.

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