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It's vacation time

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

Kevin from Monterey, CA:
Interesting stat: Only 20 players from our 2008 training camp roster are currently on the roster here in Jacksonville. That was just less than two years ago. That is what I call cleaning house and the best part is it's positive change by Gene Smith.

Vic: Let's go back to that playoff win in Pittsburgh on Jan. 5, 2008. Only nine players – Vince Manuwai, Brad Meester, Marcedes Lewis, David Garrard, Greg Jones, Daryl Smith, Justin Durant, Rashean Mathis and Reggie Nelson – from the starting 22 in that game remain on the Jaguars roster. None of the Jaguars' starting defensive linemen in that game are still with the team. Call it what you want – rebuilding, reloading, reconstruction – but it's clear to see that Gene Smith has gutted the roster since being promoted to general manager at the end of the '08 season. We thought the win in Pittsburgh was the start of something when, in fact, it was the end of a playoff window that didn't open wide enough and closed too quickly. Why was it that way? Because the Jaguars drafted poorly in the first round. The Jaguars under Smith are all about a better draft performance. If the Jaguars continue to draft well, time will take care of their problems. It's all about the draft. Give it time, please.

Matt from Jacksonville:
I love watching football on TV. I love the fact that I can eat and drink reasonably-priced food and drinks. I love the fact that I can see every play perfectly. I love the fact that I can watch during the hot days and the rainy days. I love the fact that I can easily watch other games during, before or after the Jaguars game. So when you wonder why we don't buy season tickets, know that we already have the best seat in the house for free. Blame TV and NFL policies, not us.

Vic: That's why it's so important that, when the stadium isn't full, you are denied the free things you love. You are the perfect example of why this team has an attendance problem. I've been saying it for years: Jacksonville loves to watch football on TV for free, and that's a habit that has to be broken.

Nick from Jacksonville:
There's nothing I'd rather do when I get home from a vacation than curl up on my bed and read "Ask Vic." Just read the last five. I gotta say, I hate getting behind, but I love catching up.

Vic: We need to do a better job in the future of coordinating our vacations. You just got back from yours, and I'm just about to start mine.

Jeff from Mayport, FL:
Regarding Brian from St. Mary's question: No wonder the Steelers travel so well. It's cheaper to go to a game out of town than in it.

Vic: You're absolutely right. Put yourself in a Steelers fan's position. He can get in the car with friends or family and head to Jacksonville for some fun in the sun and a Steelers game for less money than he'd have to pay for tickets to a home game and the prorated portion of the seat license, especially if they have a friend in Jacksonville who lets them stay in his house and who gives them free food and beer.

Seth from Jacksonville:
How do you think Leftwich will respond to the pressure as the starter for the Steelers?

Vic: Pressure won't be an issue. Byron always handled pressure beautifully. I never saw him crack in the face of a pass-rush or fan criticism. Byron needs pass-protection. Because of his long throwing motion, he needs time and room to throw. Every quarterback should expect time, but room's a tough one. He'll be facing Mike Smith's Falcons in the opener and Mike knows Byron well. The Falcons will be focused on denying Byron room to throw and Smitty will have all summer to do it. How well the Steelers protect Byron will determine how well he plays.

Stan from Jacksonville:
You have to have 18 games as opposed to 17 so teams can go 9-9 and not have a losing record.

Vic: That's the kind of cynical thinking I would expect from a sports writer, not from a fan. Congratulations, sort of.

Mark from Greenwood, IN:
Your pitch to "save the whale" and honesty about the Jaguars' long-term future is the reason I became a long-distance season-ticket holder. My adult son grew up with me at Alltel Stadium and my four-year-old daughter has a Jaxson de Ville doll by her bed and wants to be a Jaguars cheerleader when she grows up. Keep fighting the fight, Vic, and I pray Mr. Weaver doesn't get tired of swimming upstream against a fan base that just wants free football on TV.

Vic: I genuinely believe that if we can get over the hump this year, the situation will improve exponentially in the seasons that follow. That's how much faith I have in Gene Smith, that he's going to improve the Jaguars' roster steadily and incrementally.

Keisha from Washington, DC:
My boyfriend grew up down in Jacksonville and is a huge fan of the Jaguars. I don't mind listening to him discussing this and that about the Jaguars, but we just got off vacation from out west and every day he had to log in and read your column. What is it about your column that makes him unable to resist reading it on a daily basis?

Vic: I'd like to think people read the column for information and entertainment, and I think they do, but I think a lot of people read the column because it has an edge. Hey, football is an edge game. It's for people that like confrontation. Basically, there are two kinds of people that read this column: There are those that read it because they tend to agree with my opinions, and there are those that read it because they usually disagree with my opinion and dislike me because of it. The latter fans give this column its edge and they are easily provoked. For example, I could make my inbox explode with one frivolous comment about the U.S. soccer team losing to a country that doesn't even have bombs. Why are we so darn angry? I'm not angry. I'm going on vacation.

Sean from San Bernardino, CA:
So you're saying you're a fan of golf, but not a fan of soccer? Can you give me one good reason why? I'm sorry, but any sport where a 65-year-old man can put on khakis and compete with people half his age is not a sport. I think I'd rather watch old ladies play badminton.

Vic: Well, I'm getting old and I own a lot of khakis. I didn't play golf when I was young, but I didn't play soccer, either. I mean no disrespect. I never saw a soccer field until I went to college. The town where I grew up was, to put it mildly, different than that to which you and most of my readers are accustomed. Did you ever see "The Deer Hunter?" It was a mill town; it still is. We had baseball, football and basketball and that's about it. There were no varsity girls sports back then. The goal posts, backstops, seven-man sled, etc. were made by the fathers in the mill fabricating shop. I doubt they would've even known how to make a soccer goal. I was surfing on Saturday and stopped on the soccer game to listen to the horns for awhile. I watched a little. It's just not for me.

Daniel from Egg Harbor Township, NJ:
It would bother me that a group of young men don't get to compete for national championships because old liberals like you and those at the Pac-10 schools are too bigoted and disrespectful of people who actually have values.

Vic: It's vacation time, folks. The next "Ask Vic" will appear on Monday, July 12.

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