O-Zone: Just what we need

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Vincent from Jacksonville

Hey, John. I find it shameful that so many people are saying things like, "Since when did the NFL forget they're a distraction from the real world?" Are people serious? Have they forgotten that just because the NFL is not their "real world," there are very real people for whom the NFL is their real world? This essentially is claiming that their real world is more important than the lives of everybody that works for the NFL. They should be ashamed of themselves for even trying to put themselves on such a high pedestal. Also, people that aren't in the military: Please stop trying to talk for the military. I have been serving for 12 years and I promise you, we love that people are protesting and exercising the rights that we fight for them to have. It is extremely difficult to come across somebody in the service who is upset about kneeling during the National Anthem. So again, stop speaking for "your friends" in the service. Rant over.

This email and rant says a lot – and says it well. Nothing to add on my part.

KC from Orlando, FL

With this being a contract year for Fournette and the general consensus around the league that you can run by committee with less financially invested than a star-caliber/highly paid running back, what do you think will be his future if he puts up comparable numbers to last year, the Jaguars are indeed an improved ball club and retaining the current regime? I think he learned from his prior mistake and put in a lot of work last year that showed on the field. His all-purpose yards were Top 5 despite missing the final game of the season, and the line really didn't do much to help with making holes especially in goal-line situations.

If Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette in 2020 puts up statistics comparable to last season – and I think he will do just that – I think he will earn a very fair, lucrative short-term contract. I would be  a little surprised if that contract is with the Jaguars because former first-round selections typically move on if a team doesn't exercise the fifth-year option for a player, which the Jaguars did not do this offseason in the case of Fournette. But that doesn't mean Fournette absolutely won't return to the Jaguars. Perhaps he will have a monster year and the team will decide in November it can't risk losing him for the foreseeable future. It's possible. I doubt it will happen, but it could.

Mark from Orange Park, FL

Hi John, I've been a fan of the NFL for over 50 years now. I can say without a doubt that I watch for the entertainment value. Politics being what it is today, I only listen every four years and tune it out in-between. If the NFL is intent on including issues, then why not include other issues as well? Unfortunately, we live in a very divided country and half the population does not agree with the kneeling issue. By my count, that's over 164 million people you've just alienated and the NFL will hear their message with lost revenue. Then maybe they will remember that they should be in the entertainment business only.

The NFL isn't "intent on including issues." There are many issues the NFL doesn't bring to the fore. There are also issues that matter enough to the people involved – players, coaches and owners – that they transcend sports and become impossible to keep out of the game. The reality is that professional sports – particularly the NFL – are very much part of the fabric of this country and our society. And people with real views and emotions participate in the sports. It's impossible at this point to separate the two.

Charlie from Jacksonville

Standing to show respect for the flag becomes a stance when those doing it believe those not doing it are deserving of contempt.

OK.

David from McAlester

Are there actually people at home watching NFL games that take off their hats, stand at attention with their hands over their hearts when the National Anthem is played? Can somebody give me a good reason that's not disrespectful? Can you only respect the flag in public? Would you throw someone out of your house for not standing at attention every time they hear the national anthem and see the flag on TV? It's the same thing.

The watching-at-home thing isn't really all that applicable, I don't think. But are there plenty of times when I'm standing for the national anthem in the press box before a game that I see fans in the stands laughing, not paying attention and in some cases being not at all respectful? Yeah, you could say that. Do I wonder sometimes if some of those people are quick to get offended by players who don't stand for the national anthem? Yeah, you could say that.

Greg from Ponte Vedra, FL

I can't wait to get back to football, but I'm curious: Do you really think the Jaguars' offensive line is OK? It still seems like the area they didn't address in the offseason.

Time will tell on this front. I wish I had a better answer, but it's the only legitimate response to this question. The Jaguars believe the offensive line is talented enough to win, and that left tackle Cam Robinson will take a big jump in 2020 because he is more than a year removed from the torn anterior cruciate ligament that cost him the final 14 games of the 2018 season. Many fans and observers think more should have been done to upgrade the area. The Jaguars felt differently. I think the Jaguars' offensive line could be OK in 2020, but it must play better as a group than it has the last two seasons. The group should enter the season fully healthy. It should have the benefit of continuity and another year's experience for some young players. Those things can make a major difference in offensive line play. Stay tuned.

Gabe from Chapel Hill, NC

I was listening to a podcast talk about the pandemic as it pertained to college football. That's a different scenario than the NFL, but one thing they mentioned wasn't just that a team could have several players get sick, but that a whole position group could have to miss time – as they spend the most time together. You can socially distance in group meetings and do as much as you can, but how could a team play if the whole O-line had to miss a game, or the whole secondary?

This is a very fair question. I would anticipate some unusual, chaotic situations early in the season when teams may have to play players just signed off the street because of the exact scenarios you cite. Perhaps not, but it certainly seems possible.

Geoffrey from Orlando, FL

I respectfully disagree that there are no bad beers. Ever try steel reserve? In my younger and more vulnerable years, I noticed steel reserve has like eight percent abv (this being before the craft brew revolution). "Score," I thought. "Two beers in one! After the first sip I immediately did a spit take and handed it to my friend, who immediately did a spit take and threw it away.

I never tried Steel Reserve. I'm sure it was lovely.

Josh from Atlanta, GA

There is still a relatively large pool of good players remaining on the free-agent market – definitely caused by the unusual offseason thus far. But when do you see some of them signing? Not with Jacksonville, but in general? Do you see it being a wait and see type of approach for teams sustaining injuries?

I expect many players who are currently free agents to be signed once training camp begins – and more when the regular season begins. I expect most if not all teams to use more players this season than normal. A lot more.

Jonathan from Ellenton, FL

If I were an NFL player, I would consider contracting Covid-19 on purpose. You have a lot more avenues to help alleviate the symptoms. Then you would not have to worry about being sick during the season. Crazy?

You may not be crazy, but this feels a little off base. Covid-19 is a virus that can make you very sick and potentially take your life. Young, healthy athletes are more likely to be far less affected than many others, but it's still better not to have it than to have it.

Kirk from Green Cove Springs, FL

Hey Mr. O, what if the networks broadcast a game with no fans in the seats, but give the fans at home, pubs and tailgate devices that they can yell, boo or gasp with real emotions "in real time." Kind of like a talking remote for the telly. What do you think?

I think we need football in the fall.

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