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No cheering in the press box

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

David from Jacksonville:
Do you think anyone on the Jaguars has a chance to be a league MVP? Are we just too much of a small-market team and just don't have enough big-name guys. Do you think it can happen?

Vic: The NFL is the most high-profile league in professional sports. Nothing and no one suffers from under-exposure in the NFL. If you're a star-quality player, you can make it into the "bright lights," even in small markets such as Nashville and Indianapolis, which produced the 2003 co-MVP's. Frankly, I don't think the Jaguars have an MVP-type candidate on the roster. That could change in the future, but heading into the 2005 season, I don't see anyone whose personal performance draws comparison to players such as Tom Brady and Peyton Manning.

Jim from San Diego, CA:
I heard about the retirement of Myron Cope. I've never been a Steelers fan but I loved to hear him call a game. It's always great to hear somebody get excited who obviously has a great love for the game. What are your thoughts on his retirement? Any Myron Cope stories?

Vic: Any Myron Cope stories? I've got too many Cope stories to fit in this space. Here's one with a little local flavor. After I came to Jacksonville, Myron and I got into a nice offseason routine in which he would come to Jacksonville and spend a week with me and we'd play golf. Well, one year I took him to a favorite watering hole of mine in Jacksonville Beach. We weren't there for two minutes before heads started turning and the bartender walks over with a "Terrible Towel" and asks Myron if he'll autograph it. The last I looked that "Towel" was still tacked to the wall just inside the front door. A day or so later I was listening to one of our sports talk shows and a caller reported a "Myron Cope sighting" in Jacksonville Beach. The talk-show host asked the caller who was with Cope and the caller said "some gray-haired guy." Imagine that; I had become the gray-haired guy. Myron is an amazing personality whose roots in sports are as a writer. He didn't begin broadcasting until he was 40 and that's when his career took off. He invented the "Terrible Towel" for the 1975 playoffs and his invention is the thing for which he is most famous and it is the thing that will endure long after he is gone. I remember the playoff game at which the "Towel" was unveiled. Cope was moaning and groaning before the game because he didn't see any fans carrying towels. He was thinking, "How am I going to live this down?" All through pregame, not a towel in sight. Then, as the Steelers ran onto the field just before kickoff, up went 50,000 "Towels" and Cope exploded with an infamous radio diatribe that proclaimed the "Towel" alive and well in Three Rivers Stadium. The "Towel" was more than just a fan gimmick. Proceeds from sales of the "Towel" benefited the Allegheny Valley School (for exceptional children). Myron called me this past Sunday to tell me he was announcing his retirement on Tuesday. I was not surprised by the news because he has been battling voice problems, but the end of things that were with us for 35 years and help define our lives do not pass without making us feel funny inside. My first words when I got off the phone were, "That's the end of that era."

Bill from Jacksonville:
With the training camp schedule announced, I thought of an old story I'd like the scoop about: Was there ever any truth to the rumor that coach Coughlin forbade the other coaches from wearing sunglasses during the first Jaguars training camp?

Vic: It wasn't a rumor, it was a widely-reported fact. No sunglasses and both feet on the floor during meetings. Tom Coughlin never downplayed the demands he made of his coaches and players. Coughlin believes football is a game that should be played with an edge. If his rules make you angry, good.

Pete from Gainesville, VA:
I'm very impressed with the coaching staff we have now. How many years of football experience do they have combined? Which coach is your favorite so far? Why?

Vic: Jack Del Rio's coaching staff has over 200 years of combined NFL experience. This is a good staff. Ken Anderson, Dave Campo and Carl Smith are great conversationalists, with whom I share experiences from the same time frame. In many cases, our conversations revolve around mutual acquaintances. Mike Smith is a guy I like a lot. I think he's a very bright and ascending coach who is just coming into his best years. If his defense plays to the level I think it will this year, Smith could become a hot coaching commodity. Paul Boudreau has always been a willing source of information and I appreciate that. Todd Howard is a real fan of the game and I like that, too. Del Rio has a bunch of good guys on this staff.

Nick from Atlanta, GA:
Since you are employed by the Jaguars, are you considered part of the media? Do the media blackout days apply to you? You mention things you have seen in the spring practices and I was curious if you had seen more than the rest of the people covering the Jags.

Vic: I am media and I adhere to the rules of the media. The practices I have witnessed are the same practices open to all of the media; nothing more. I am a graduate of the Kent State University School of Journalism, I fully embrace the principles and ethics of my profession and I am a proud member of the sportswriting community.

Chris from Gainesville:
Are the Jaguars officially off until training camp or do they still have to come in for workouts?

Vic: Today marks the 14th and final practice of OTA's. As of this afternoon, the players are officially off until the start of training camp, though a lot of them will continue to use the stadium training facilities to stay in shape.

Ryan from West Palm Beach, FL:
What is your take on whether or not you, as a journalist, compromise your professional integrity by rooting for the team you cover? If I was a journalist I wouldn't want to cover a miserable franchise. I ask because the column that appeared in the Florida Times-Union yesterday on this subject rubbed me the wrong way. That columnist takes himself too seriously.

Vic: Sportswriters should be judged by their work, not by the personality they express or the questions they ask in doing their job. There's a code of conduct that's expected of us and the biggest part of that code is "no cheering in the press box," which the home team announces prior to the start of every game. Do I think it's wrong to want the team you cover to win? No, I don't. Do I think it's wrong to want the players you interview to have success? No, I don't. Do I think it's wrong to slant your work one way or the other? Yes, I do. Just judge a guy by what he writes. It's his job to be accurate, informative and entertaining. If he's all of those things, he's fulfilled his obligation.

Dwayne from Duluth, GA:
When are you on vacation, so that your readers will know when we will be unable to get our daily fix?

Vic: I'm taking next week off. I'll be back on July 5. During my vacation, we're going to present a new feature called "Vic For A Day." Randomly-selected "Ask Vic" readers have been asked to provide guest-columnist pieces for publication. We'll begin posting their work next Monday. As far as "Ask Vic," you're on your own for awhile. When I go on vacation, I go on vacation.

Randolph from San Diego, CA:
What's your take on Khalif Barnes and do you think the Jags got the better of the top three offensive tackles in the draft?

Vic: Khalif Barnes is very athletic. That's his strong suit. Now he has to develop toughness, which is usually the case with players making the transition from college to professional football. If he develops that toughness, he could end up being one of the steals of the draft and every bit as good a player as Jammal Brown and Alex Barron. Barnes has the athletic ability to be a premium player.

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