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O-Zone: Name game

JACKSONVILLE – We'll try to keep this from being all Dante Fowler Jr. all the time. We'll see how that goes.

Let's get to it … Andrew from Windsor, Canada:
John, I know you will get this a lot, but I hear a lot of success stories about players returning from ACL tears such as Von Miller and AP. Is there a realistic chance Fowler comes back and plays up to potential? I've had many conversations already and it seems they aren't as big of a deal any more.
John: Anterior cruciate ligament tears are a big deal. Let's start there, and keep that in mind throughout this whole process. At the same time, there absolutely is a chance Dante Fowler Jr. returns to play to his full potential, and in fact, it's more likely than not. His injury Friday afternoon was heartbreaking, frustrating and sickening. There's no doubt about that. What it wasn't was career-ending or even career-threatening. That's not to say Fowler's road to recovery will be easy. That's not to say his return to full potential is a guarantee. While ACL tears aren't nearly as "final" as they were decades ago, they still are serious and the rehabilitation is long, grueling and frustrating. There is an issue of recapturing explosiveness, which because of his position will be a key storyline for Fowler. A player often doesn't return to full health for two seasons. That also will be a storyline. There are storylines all over with this one, and many will be critical. But maybe the biggest storyline is Fowler's career is not over and it won't necessarily be diminished in the long-term, either.
Mark from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL:
If Brady and the Pats had not deflated the ball during the Colts game would the score been any different? 28-0 instead of 45-7?
John: I have no idea. At the same time, if there was no advantage gained from doing it then why did they do it?
Mario from Broward County:
Mr. John O-Zone, who pays for Fowler's medical expenses after the injury that he sustained on Friday? He hasn't signed a contract with the team, so how does that work? Will the injury have any effect on the contract he signs with the team this season? Will he earn a salary this year even though he, unfortunately, won't play?
John: Fowler signed an agreement with the Jaguars before minicamp that the team would negotiate in good faith in the event of an injury. This agreement serves to allow the player to participate in offseason activities such as minicamp, conditioning and organized team activities before his contract is negotiated and signed. All unsigned drafted rookies sign the agreement, and it makes him a member of the team with access to training facilities, physicians, staff, etc. When it's time to negotiate, Fowler's agent and the Jaguars will negotiate a contract slotted between the Nos. 2 and No. 4 selections in this year's draft as would have been the case had he not been injured. He also will receive essentially the same salary he would have received had he not been injured.
Kim from Dunkirk, NY:
Hi John, it's kind of disheartening to hear all the fans writing off the season already. One player doesn't make a team. I was really excited to see Dante play this year as well and I was very disappointed to hear about the injury, but we've still got a better team than last year. My question for you is how's the atmosphere in the building? Is there still excitement in the air or did Dante's injury bring the mood down?
John: The atmosphere in the building on Friday was roughly the same as on Twitter, and among fans. I say roughly, because while the mood in the building certainly was "down," there wasn't the same find-your-little-brother-and-whack-him-with-a-mallet-for-fun mentality as seemed rampant outside the building. By Saturday, certainly, there was a back-to-normal feel as reality returned. Here's reality: while Fowler was to be an important part of the defense next season, he was just one part of what the Jaguars had done in the offseason. Would they be better with Fowler? Almost certainly. Is the season over because of his absence? Certainly not.
Mike from Las Vegas, NV:
John, in reference to Dante Fowler Jr. how does this injury affect his contract and status as a "rookie" in the coming years? Since he hasn't/won't play a down this year, will he still be considered a "rookie" next year with four years left on his contract or will he be a first-year player with three years remaining?
John: Under the NFL/NFLPA Collective Bargaining Agreement, a player "accrues" a season if he is under full pay status for the season. A player on injured reserve is considered to be on full-pay status, so Fowler will be a second-year player in 2016. He will be entering the second year of a four-year rookie contract and the Jaguars will have the option to pick up an additional year after that. That's the structure of all first-round selections under the 2011 CBA.
Josiah from North Fargo, ND:
I noticed your answer to Brad's question was that you wanted a Pepsi. I work for Pepsi. I can hook you up with the goods. I got your back, O-Man!
John: That'd be awesome, because when all I wanted was a Pepsi she wouldn't give it to me.
Jesse from Panama City, FL:
Is it possible that these kids are getting pushed too hard? Obviously not in the practice where Fowler hurt himself, but overall after the college season? As soon as their football season is over they start training for the combine and team workouts. After that they are drafted and thrown into minicamps ... I mean look at what Blake said about his arm. I think they should have at least three weeks rest and then start with a conditioning program instead of a "minicamp."
John: Look, although I am an old-school guy – just "old," actually – I long have been of the belief that there probably is too much done in the offseason. Despite rules trying to limit offseason workouts and conditioning, teams go strong from mid-April to mid-June, then from August through the end of December and sometimes into January. That's a lot. Rookies do have it even more difficult, going straight from the end of the season into pre-draft workouts that have nothing to do with football and everything to do with pushing their bodies to the limit to show up well in a combine/workout environment. That's a lot, too. All of that said, I don't think you can attribute Fowler's injury to all of his pre-draft preparation. Players get hurt in football in season and out of season and in games and in practice. It happened. It stinks, but sometimes there's nothing to blame. Sometimes players just get hurt.
Mark from Archer, FL:
John, I have a message for all my fellow Jags fans out there. If you think that one rookie pass rusher was going to make or break our season, then you have not been paying attention to everything else Dave Caldwell is doing. It is a morale blow and it sucks but this in no way means our season is tanked. Just thought maybe fellow fans might relax more hearing it from another fan.
John: #DTWD
Paul from Lohrville, IA:
Sometimes the light at the end of the tunnel is just a freight train coming your way. The Dante Fowler injury is disheartening to say the least. But given the timing, it almost ensures that Clemons and Branch make the team. People forget how well Branch was playing before the groin injury. If he can stay healthy, and continue to progress in a contract year, he will get himself paid. (Probably by another team with a better fit). I felt it was gonna be a big year for him before the Fowler pick, but with Fowler out of the way Branch will see a lot of playing time and let's hope he can make the most of it. That's my glass-half-full look at the situation John...
John: #DTWD #windmillwisdom
Mark from Jacksonville:
I thought Justin Blackmon would return and I know you were optimistic as well. My views are changing pretty quickly, are yours too?
John: Unfortunately, yes, they are. All I can do – and all pretty much anyone around here can do – is read the tea leaves and interpret reports. The reports seemed quite positive late last season, and because of that, I wrote that I thought there was a good chance Blackmon would play next season. The reports lately are a lot less positive.
Jordan from Joplin:
Fowler could be back for the Super Bowl.
John: Yes, there is that.
Not John O from Section 119:
O'manator … So say I: Who the heck is BB5? What say you? Jus' sayin'.
John: I assume BB5 is Blake Bortles because his initials are B.B. and his number is five. But I can't say for sure. I wasn't paying attention.

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