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O-Zone: Feeling the heat

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Chris from Jacksonville:
Why hasn't Blake Bortles signed his rookie contract yet? I was under the impression rookie contracts were fairly simple to negotiate and construct.
John: As much as people want to make this a story, and as many questions as I will receive in the O-Zone until all Jaguars rookies are signed, this is not a crisis, problem, or even a story of real significance. It's just not. Just as Luke Joeckel signed in mid-to-late June last offseason, the Jaguars' early-drafted rookies will sign relatively soon. Rookie NFL contracts are not nearly as complex or expensive as they were under the old Collective Bargaining Agreement, but there are still details to finalize. This will get done soon enough.
J-School Corby from Denver, CO:
Shaking people's hands and introducing himself as Oehser: #shadricksighting
John: What you're describing is rock bottom. He's not there. Yet.
DeAndre from Jacksonville:
Someone asked a question about depth at tight end. I like both Marcedes Lewis and Clay Harbor but there's really no one behind them. Do you think the Jags would take a look at someone like Jermichael Finley even though he's coming off a significant injury?
John: First, it's not fair to say there's no one behind a player just because players lower on the depth chart aren't well-known. We saw an example of this Monday, when rookie free agent Marcel Jensen had a good enough day in organized team activities practice to draw praise from Head Coach Gus Bradley. He looks like a guy with good size and pass-catching ability, though Bradley said the team wants to see him block in pads in training camp. Second, while I wouldn't rule out the Jaguars bringing in a tight end between now and the start of the season, Finley probably doesn't fit the profile. You're talking significant money for a player with what appears a very uncertain future. The issue around Finley seems not as much where he'll play, but if a team physician will clear him to do so.
Bruce from Jacksonville:
Dr. O, some critics and sportswriters are still saying, "The Jaguars are still the worst team in the league." I don't have the stats or info to disprove this but I can't see us being the worst. What is your opinion on the matter and where do you rank the Jags?
John: I have been doing this too long to worry about critics and sportswriters. I've known enough of both to realize fully the importance of their rankings.
Jeanne from West Palm Beach, FL:
I remember reading an article stating that the Jags would have one of the veteran mini camps open to the public, with the date being June 19th. I see you wrote that the first two days would be open to the publc, being June 17th and June 18th. So which is it??
John: I am right. It's the 17th and 18th.
Otto from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL:
I remember an old Lombardi quote: "There is no substitute for speed." I remember when Dave and Gus were hired that was one of the first things they said – that they would try to make the Jags faster. How do you think we are coming along?
John: The Jaguars appear faster this offseason than last. When Marqise Lee was on the field in rookie minicamp, he looked like he will add speed to the receiver corps, and linebacker Telvin Smith has special speed for his position. The secondary also appears faster than before the Caldwell/Bradley era with players such as Johnathan Cyprien and Winston Guy. Becoming a faster team doesn't always happen overnight. You have to add fast players with talent. But overall, the Jaguars are working toward that goal.
Sean from Fleming Island, FL:
How exactly does a player "outperform" their contract. Are there not production bonuses in the contract to reward players for great results?
John: In some cases, yes, but not all – or even most. Most contracts – particularly first contracts for non-first-round selections – are pretty standard in terms of salary, signing bonuses, workout bonuses and roster bonuses. And even in cases where contracts have incentives, the incentives usually aren't enough to make a player well-paid compared to a player who has signed a so-called "second contract."
Greg from Section 122 and Jacksonville:
On your if/then description of the team's approach to Bortles, I think the issue with fans is trust. Our last quarterback, the almost exact same approach was taken. The judgment call of being "ready" was especially wrong. Thus ended the Blaine Gabbert experiment. Fans are nervous because they see the same things being said about the approach to Bortles and wonder if he will ever truly be "ready." I am going on vacation tomorrow and will not see the O-Zone over a week. Worst. Vacation. Ever.
John: There are no guarantees in life, certainly when it comes to drafted quarterbacks. That includes Bortles and just about every quarterback drafted since … well, ever. But I don't know that it's true that the exact approach is being taken with Bortles as was taken with Gabbert. First, the Jaguars in 2011 not only started Gabbert in Week 3 after an offseason with no organized team activities or minicamps, they did so with a pretty good idea he wasn't ready. The idea when the team released David Garrard was that Luke McCown would start. He struggled, and the decision was made to go with Gabbert. The Jaguars' plan now is to allow Bortles to develop and start him when he's truly ready. As for worrying if Bortles ever will truly be ready, that has nothing to do with what is being said about his approach. It will depend on his talent, drive and coaching – and time will tell.
Kenny from Fort Stewart, GA:
Why is the Justin Blackmon issue being kept in the dark? He's suspended, yes, but no reports have come out about what he's doing to come back, what the team is doing and how the league weighs those actions towards bringing him back ... We need something. We being the fans of the Jags.
John: Justin Blackmon emails probably outnumber any other inbox subject, with many asking the question you ask: why don't people know more? The answer is that the league and teams take privacy with suspended players very seriously. So, while most things involving the NFL are publicized to the point that fans feel a right to know everything, information about suspended players is one area where that's not going to happen. What is known about Blackmon is he's unlikely to play for the Jaguars next season. When more is known, it will be known.
Keith from Jacksonville:
Mattel Football II was $30. I remember because: a, I saved my lawn mowing money for weeks for it; and b, It was the most money I had spent on anything to that point. It was well worth it and then some.
John: The most expensive thing for which I saved in high school was the infamous "Beatles Mirror," a rectangular, metallic-framed mirror with a black replica of the Rubber Soul cover blocking most of the reflection. The size of a decent flat-screen television, it ran $50 in 1980 … but oh, the euphoria and pride when I hung it on my wallpapered Arlington bedroom wall. It matched my "Come Together" belt buckle. The belt buckle was so cool my friend – the renowned local attorney David Barksdale, he of the seersucker suit – still finds cause to mention it, usually by saying with an unmistakable tone of envy, "Hey, Oehs, remember how the ladies loved the Beatles belt buckle?" As for the mirror, it's infamous because although still in my possession, Mrs. O-Zone does not permit it to adorn our walls. She's probably in the right – she always is – but that doesn't mean it doesn't sting.
Josh from Kokomo, IN:
I read an article that said Ace Sanders is on the outs in Jacksonville. I feel that's ridiculous. Is there any truth in that from your view or is that just another member of the national media writing about a team he knows nothing about?
John: The whole Ace Sanders On the Outs has stemmed from a comment made by Times-Union beat writer Ryan O'Halloran on Jaguars Today last week. He did not say that Sanders won't make the team. He said he wouldn't be surprised if he didn't based on Sanders being 5-feet-7 and not doing a great job last season making people miss. I'd say Sanders needs to improve from last season, and that he can greatly help himself – as also pointed out by O'Halloran – by improving as a punt returner. At this point, I still would be surprised if Sanders isn't on the roster next season. Very surprised.
Kevin from Jacksonville:
You are way too honest, O-Zone. Boys usually mow the lawn, wash the car, take out the trash, etc. to save up enough money to buy things. Did you say you babysat?? Are we still talking football here??
John: It was hot outside a lot in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

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