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O-Zone: A reasonable man

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Trevor from Jacksonville:
Johnny O, in the case of Justin Blackmon, when does trouble trump talent?
John: Your question is legitimate in light of Blackmon's multiple off-field issues, and it's obviously one asked many times by many people in many different ways since news of Blackmon's latest incident Wednesday. First, without question there does come a time when trouble trumps talent, but what some people seem to not grasp with this issue is Blackmon isn't giving the Jaguars much trouble right now. That's not to say the Jaguars aren't concerned. They are. That's not say he's not causing trouble for himself. He apparently is. But Blackmon already is suspended indefinitely by the NFL. That means the Jaguars aren't paying him and he's not counting against the cap. He's not taking up a roster spot. The Jaguars are retaining his rights in the event he gets things straightened out and he is eligible to return to the NFL someday, but beyond that they aren't touched by the situation. All of which means there is literally no risk and no harm in retaining Blackmon's rights. Any trouble Blackmon has caused the Jaguars is damage already done, and severing ties with him now can't fix the past. Keeping Blackmon's rights doesn't hurt the Jaguars, and there remains the slightest of chances he could benefit them somewhere down the road, so what's the sense in releasing him?
Rick from Callaway, FL:
Stick a fork in him. He done. Strike Three, a bust. RIP Justin.
John: That's a very popular sentiment in the last couple of days, and what strikes me is the sudden vehemence the most recent incident inspired in Jaguars fans. The Jaguars for the last several months have made it pretty clear they're not counting on Blackmon this season, and they've made it pretty clear they don't know what his future holds. As strange it might sound, this latest incident really doesn't change much. It surely will have personal ramifications for Blackmon, but for the Jaguars' it alters almost nothing. Fans have reacted to this latest incident like it's some sort of Final Straw. It's probably best to consider it more evidence that Blackmon has a lot to work through, but it's not as if that wasn't already pretty obvious.
Eric from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL:
We keep hearing about the boards. How are the pools coming along? May I swim al fresco?
John: The pools will be complete by Saturday's MegaEvent/Unveiling/Friendly/Carrie Underwood concert. I can't say whether el fresco is a good idea or not, but if you try it, give my best to Shadrick.
Jake from Beech Grove, IN:
So, with Ace Sanders suspended, is he still able to play in the preseason? And will he?
John: Sanders is eligible to play in the preseason and he's eligible to participate in training camp. The NFL allows players serving a four-game substance-abuse suspension to participate until the first week of the regular season. In Sanders' case, he has opted to not do that, instead using at least the first part of training camp to focus on addressing the personal issues that led to his suspension.
Patrick from Jacksonville:
How does this change the chances of Allen Hurns making the final roster?
John: If you're referring to Blackmon, not at all. Blackmon's not on the roster and the team wasn't planning for him to be on the roster this season. If you're referring to Sanders, it certainly makes one more wide receiver position available entering the regular-season opener.
Tim from Jacksonville and Section 213:
How about we have zero tolerance for zero tolerance? People are not things that you can just toss out when you find an imperfection. Maybe we should have zero tolerance for spelling and grammar errors in the O-Zone, or zero tolerance for idiocy, or zero tolerance for cruelty and indecency towards other people. That would be nice.
John: Oh, yeah? How about zero tolerance for zero tolerance for zero tolerance? Think about that, OK? OK? Yeah, I said it. I went there.
Gamble from Washington, DC:
So now that Justin Blackmon has assured everyone -- beyond any shadow of a doubt -- that he won't play for any team in 2014, what more could Commissioner Goodell do to get his attention? He's already suspended indefinitely. What would you do if you were commissioner for a day?
John: If I were commissioner for a day I'd bank the day's check and be that much further on the road to retirement. Then, I'd run the league and let the substance-abuse policy do its job. The league has policies in place and punishments and suspensions to get players' attention. At some point, Blackmon and any player with off-field issues has to figure a way to get things right – either by seeking the help available or however he can do it. That's not to suggest this is a simple issue. It's not. But it's also probably not realistic to think Goodell can solve it by "getting Blackmon's attention."
Scott from Husky Land, WA:
So, is the message the NFL has less tolerance for violations of its substance-abuse policy than for assaulting your fiance' and knocking her unconscious? Or is Ray Rice too big a star to suspend any longer?
John: I doubt this had much to do with Rice being too big a star. While he is a good player his star potential isn't such that the league would risk bad public relations to protect him. Not that they would do that with any player. It strikes me as more a flaw in the system and perhaps a sign that the NFL's mechanisms for punishment are a bit antiquated. The NFL suspends players in the substance-abuse program based on a predetermined formula that has been collectively bargained with the players' association. There's not much wiggle room and not much way to insert judgment into the equation. That's not the case with other off-field issues. You can certainly make a strong case that Rice's offense was worse than a player who, say, tests positive for marijuana, but the league likely would make the case that they are separate issues governed by different mechanisms. I also suspect that given the backlash this week that the league tries to find a way to govern off-field issues more equitably in the future.
Brian from New Hampshire:
I think it's a bit early to worry about losing Jedd Fisch to some team as a head coach. The offense was near the bottom of the league last year. The offense will need to perform well for more than one year before he's in serious talks.
John: I agree it's too early to worry about losing Fisch to another team, but that's because there's really no reason to be concerned until after this season. But I wouldn't say the offense necessarily has to perform well for more than a year for Fisch to get an opportunity. If the Jaguars improve significantly offensively this season, Fisch would almost certainly start being mentioned as a head coaching candidate. And certainly that could be next season.
Patrick from Jacksonville:
Who would be on your Mt. Rushmore of NFL pass rushers? I got Lawrence Taylor, Reggie White, Derrick Thomas and Bruce Smith. These are the guys I actually got to see play. I'm sure Deacon Jones falls in there somewhere.
John: Of the players I have seen play, my list pretty much matches yours. Dexter Manley was ferocious when he was right, but didn't play at a high level long enough to merit being on the list, and Dwight Freeney and Julius Peppers were awfully good for a long time in recent seasons. I'm leaving many out. I'd probably make it Lawrence Taylor, Reggie White, Bruce Smith and Deacon Jones in no particular order because you just have to have Jones on the list.
Chris from Ponte Vedra, FL:
I really like Ace Sanders. The more I watch Marqise Lee, the more I think that he is Ace without the awesome hair! Do you think with the addition of Lee, Robinson, and Doss, and now this situation, does this put him on the bubble to not make the team?
John: A couple of thoughts here. First – and this is not a knock on Sanders – the Jaguars hope Lee is more than Sanders without the hair .They used an early second-round selection on him believing he is a first-round talent who can play a significant role in the offense – even an elite, big-play receiver. If Sanders, a fourth-round selection, develops into that sort of player it will be a significant draft steal. As far as Sanders' roster status, it's accurate to say that the addition of Lee, Robinson and Doss could lessen his role and it's accurate to say that Sanders must improve to figure into the Jaguars' long-term plans. But I think he'll have a role when he returns, and I don't think his future with the Jaguars will be affected one way or the other by his suspension.
Marty from Jacksonville:
O-man, your answer to Daniel from Jersey City applies to every business, not just the NFL. Every business is a talent, performance-driven business. Employees are often retained after they make a mistake that damages the business. The NFL is not unique in that regard.
John: No, it is not.
Erock from Space:
I hate myself for loving you...
John: I'm sure you have better reasons than that.

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