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O-Zone: Juke box hero

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Bill from Jupiter, FL

Just an observation from a lifelong NFL fan: I don't know if it's the kneeling issue, COVID-19 shifting our focus to more meaningful pursuits or whatever, but I've noticed a troubling trend among many NFL fans who are losing interest in the NFL. And it doesn't seem to be driven by anger over a specific controversy but rather an accumulation of circumstances. Have you picked up on this? And should the NFL be worried?

I would be surprised if there's not some drop in interest in the NFL this season, just as I would be surprised if there's not at least some drop in interest in many sports and other leisure pursuits this year. It has been a brutally difficult year for many people on many fronts. Many sports leagues have been suspended and some seasons/events have been canceled. There is more talk about schedules and protocols than talk about what has happened on the field, and there is more discussion of protests and opting out than discussion of games. It's yet another exhausting aspect of an exhausting year, and it would be surprising if at least some people weren't just weary of the whole situation. I expect interest in sports to return to somewhat normal levels as we return to somewhat normal circumstances – providing we indeed return to somewhat normal circumstances. Remember, too: the NFL season really hasn't started yet. There haven't been any practices or games – and there won't be for another month. For that reason, I'm not sure we can accurately judge how much the interest truly has dropped off. Either way, I'm sure the NFL is monitoring this as best it can; it's not a league to ignore potential pitfalls. If it's a long-term thing, then the league should be worried. My sense is it's probably not a long-term thing, but I've never lived through a year like this. Not many other people have, either.

Maryanne from Jacksonville

O, can you please help me understand why the front office is so unforgiving? I know that there were some issues with Fournette a little over a year ago, but since then he has done everything that has been asked of him – and still they fuel bitter feelings by talking of trading him. I sometime wonder if we will ever have a player complete his time here on good terms. l think if we are ever going to change the culture around here, the front office is going to have to treat players with more respect and don't be afraid to pay players what they're worth.

I understand your concern, Maryanne, but your question may be based on some commonly-held misconceptions. Yes, the Jaguars explored trading running back Leonard Fournette shortly before the 2020 NFL Draft. But this wasn't a matter of holding the off-field missteps of his first two NFL seasons against him as much as it was a part of an overall move to acquire draft capital while reshaping the roster and getting what was a messy salary cap in order. This wasn't about "bitter feelings" as much as it was simply about the business of running a professional football team. And while I do understand that there is a perception right now that no player completes his time with the Jaguars on good terms, the reality is comparatively few players end their time with NFL teams on good terms. It's the nature of most NFL contracts that players are released or moved for cap reasons before their contracts are complete. Tom Brady's time with the New England Patriots didn't end happily. Nor did Peyton Manning's time with the Indianapolis Colts. If those marriages didn't end happily, others have little chance of doing so. It's also the nature of the NFL that many young players don't love their contracts. Yes, the situations involving former cornerback Jalen Ramsey, former wide receiver Allen Robinson and defensive end Yannick Ngakoue have created a perception that it's worse in Jacksonville than elsewhere. But multiple players have re-signed here in recent seasons, and I anticipate the young players now forming the core of this franchise will re-sign and re-shape the perception. Only time will show if that's correct.

Bill from Neptune Beach, FL

There's something about you I don't like.

I can't be trusted. Start there.

Wade from Thighland

If COVID-19 is manageable next year will the Jaguars play one or two games in London? How many more years has Jaguars Owner Shad Khan committed to playing home games in London? Do you think we ever have a full non-pandemic home season in Jacksonville?

It's unknown if the Jaguars will play one or two home games in London next season, though I can't believe they wouldn't want to play at least one. The London games are important revenue streams, and revenue obviously will be down in 2020. While Khan likely would prefer playing at least one home game in London for the foreseeable future because of the positive impact games there have on the Jaguars' local revenue, the Jaguars' current contract for London games ran through this season. I don't know if the Jaguars ever will have a full non-pandemic home season in Jacksonville. Ever is a long time. I do expect they will play a home game in London each year for a while moving forward. We'll see.

Doug from Jacksonville

All this bologna about NFL players kneeling and everyday people not kneeling... I have had different careers over my years and not one has involved the playing of the National Anthem before my day. Not since elementary school has the flag and pledging allegiance was even expected from me. I wonder how many of the people who have such strong feelings about players kneeling or putting their hand over their hearts are expected to start their day this way. Kneeling hurts no one that doesn't allow themselves to be bothered by it. The "freedom" to not wear a mask can hurt everyone around them yet I hear about this freedom all of the time. Freedom isn't doing or not doing what one group of people think it right or wrong.

OK.

Paul from Orange Park, FL

Twenty-, twenty-, twenty-four hours ago …

I want to be sedated.

Steve from Nocatee, FL

Mr. O. Can you please give us some perspective about our backupquarterbacks?

I expect Mike Glennon to backup Gardner Minshew II, and I expect rookie Jake Luton to either be the third quarterback on the Jaguars' roster or to be on the practice squad. Glennon is experienced in offensive coordinator Jay Gruden's offense, so I expect him to know the scheme and to be comfortable in it – though I expect there will be a pretty significant drop in performance and results if he were to play for the long-term. The Jaguars' backups presumably aren't as good as Minshew. That's why they're backups.

Tudor from St. Augustine, FL

Does your wife know about your love affair with Gene Frenette?

Yes. Why wouldn't she?

Chris from Mandarin, FL

If an NFL player on an active roster dies from COVID-19 this season, do you think the league will cancel the rest of its games or not?

I don't know that there's remotely enough information to answer the question. Did the player in question contract COVID-19 as part of an outbreak traced to practicing or playing? Did he contract it outside the NFL system? Did he have underlying health issues? I'm not asking these questions in any way to minimize the ramifications or seriousness of a player potentially dying. Everyone involved with the league understands there are risks involved with playing or practicing. I just don't know that the question can be answered without knowing specific circumstances involved.

Greg from Jacksonville

No mention of Rashaan Melvin opting out? This hurts. I was already worried about cornerback.

Jaguars cornerback Rashaan Melvin indeed voluntarily opted out on Thursday because of COVID-19, and it hasn't gotten a lot of attention. I would classify it as a moderate concern rater than a crisis. Tre Herndon and CJ Henderson were almost certainly going to be the starting cornerbacks, with D.J. Hayden starting at nickel corner. Rookie Josiah Scott seems likely to play extensively as the fourth corner. Melvin's role was important because he had veteran experience as the "swing corner," so his absence does raise some concern over depth at an already inexperienced position.

Eder from Mexico City, Mexico

John, what happens with franchise tag if Yannick Ngakoue opts out for COVID?

That's unlikely to happen now. The deadline for an NFL player to opt out for COVID-19 was Thursday at 4 p.m., so the only way a player can opt out now is if a close family member gets seriously ill with COVID or the player himself is newly diagnosed with a high-risk condition.

Paul from Orange Park, FL

I love rock and roll…

Put another dime in the juke box, baby.

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