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O-Zone: No control

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …

Jerry from Riverview, FL

If a defensive player is close enough to a runner to get his arms around the player and drop his weight on the back of the legs, then he's close enough to make a conventional tackle. What's the point of risking serious injury so fans can be entertained? All 32 NFL Owners agree with this assessment and voted to make it a 15-yard penalty. Why do some fans insist on seeing more and more players miss playing due to injury? To me, your tepid response is surprising.

You're referencing a Wednesday O-Zone answer regarding the NFL this week banning the so-called "hip-drop" tackle, an answer in which I said this rule and others – while necessary – make the game harder for the defense. I don't believe fans want to see players miss time because of injuries. I do think fans see what many see – that the game has become far more difficult for defensive players as the league has veered increasingly toward player safety. This is not to say that making the game safer for players is bad. Or wrong. This is the trend and it's not going to change. And it must happen for the long-term, big-picture good of the league. But many, many former and current NFL players also will tell you that the trend – including the implementation of the hip-drop tackle – is making the game more difficult for defensive players to play and stay within the rules. I don't know if that's a tepid response. I do know it's reality.

John from Jacksonville

Hi, KOAGF - For the record, I need a nap. Will the new hip-drop tackle rule be subjective like the falling on the quarterback rule? Seems there is much inconsistency with these and they can sometimes affect games in a big way. By the way, is throwing the football on the list to outlaw? It could hurt the receiver trying to catch it or bounce off the receiver and hit a defensive player in the neck.

NFL rules-makers strive to remove as much subjectivity from every rule as possible. This is the goal so that the officials have as little effect on the game as possible. For some rules, such as offsides, this is relatively doable. For others, such as pass interference and holding, it essentially is impossible. I expect an element subjectivity in calling the hip-drop tackle, though I expect the safety benefits will be significant enough that the league will tolerate the occasional controversy over a "gray-area" call. As for throwing the football … hell no, it's not going to be outlawed – though we seem well on the way to legislating that it be done on every play.

Deane from Daytona Beach, FL

Yo O-Zone! Your response to Ed about clearing cap space by trading Cam Robinson and drafting a left tackle … if the thought is that Anton Harrison would be the heir apparent to the LT position; why not draft someone that would be a great starting right tackle? Say Olu Fashanu of Penn State or JC Latham of Alabama, who are projected right-tackle starters, instead of a true left tackle? What says you, O-Zone??

I say I wouldn't at all rule out the Jaguars selecting a right tackle in Round 1 of the 2024 NFL Draft.

Dave from Saint Louis, MO

With the hip-drop ban, a fairly simple solution would be to get quicker whistles on forward-progress stoppage. When a defensive player wraps up, especially if they are a small player, if they stop forward progress the whistle is quickly blown. The idea of "you just get them to the ground to tackle them" becomes pretty near impossible for the 5-feet-10, 175-pound cornerbacks against 6-feet-0, 240-pound running backs and tight ends. It seems like a reasonable compromise and blowing the whistle dead stops play before a lot more bodies can come in and pile on bent knees.

I understand your point and it seems to make sense. In theory. But the NFL is a game of large, athletic people played at a phenomenally fast pace. For a defensive player in reality to stop the execution – and effect – of a hip-drop tackle instantly upon hearing a whistle would be difficult. Maybe I'm missing something here. I miss a lot of things. But that's my first thought.

Roger from Heidelberg, Germany

With the removing of the hip-drop tackle and the new kickoff rule in place, the NFL has officially become a sissy league (you hear me, Mr. Goodell, and all you owners who voted for that nonsense). If players earn millions of dollars, then possibly getting injured is just the risk they have to take. I don't know where this attitude of constantly altering rules comes from. Certainly not from making games more exciting. If I want acting, I watch WWE.

Anyone who has seen an NFL game and seen the level of violence/danger would be hard-pressed to call it a "sissy league." The attitude of altering the rules to promote safety stems from the threat of lawsuits of former players and an effort to keep the game viable for the long-term. NFL owners have a responsibility to make the game as entertaining as possible. They also have an obligation to ensure the long-term health and existence of the sport.

Greg from Section 122, Jacksonville, FL

I echo the comments and opinions about the stupid move on the NFL part to "make the game safer." The violence, barbaric, and combat nature of the game is what makes it popular. If we are going to take out tackling and hitting, then just call it two-hand touch. Hoping the NFL recognizes the fact they are altering the game to a point where it will no longer be football. Just wrap these guys in bubble wrap already.

Ensuring player safety in what is by nature a violent, barbaric sport is difficult. This is the current conflict point of the NFL, and change can be a jolting process. It's why I expect we'll continue to have push and pull – as well as offseason debate – as the owners strive to maintain balance.

Marcus from Jacksonville

I know there are tweaks to the rules nearly every year, but this year seems to include at least two that dramatically affect how the players play the game. In instances like this, with the ban of the hip drop tackle and the change to the kickoff, does the NFL and NFL Players Association, negotiate additional practice time for coaches to work on those specific things? I know time on the practice field is limited and closely monitored, and time in pads is even more so, but these two changes are pretty major. You're asking guys to change the way they've done things since pee wee football. I feel like that will require some extra time on the practice field to master.

No, there will be no extra practice time because of these rules changes.

Troy from Dover, PA

Do you see General Manager Trent Baalke giving any of the players who will be free agents after next season an extension before the season starts?

I'll assume you mean players on rookie contracts with those contracts expiring after the 2024 season. The only such players I could see the Jaguars extending would be quarterback Trevor Lawrence and running back Travis Etienne Jr. I would be a little surprised if they extended Etienne this offseason. I wouldn't be surprised if they extended Lawrence.

Robert from Middleburg, FL

Why does the NFL keep saying they are doing it for the safety of the players, then add a 17th game and play these international games? Please give an answer other than money, Mr. Obvious.

I've never thought international games have much to do with player safety one way or the other. I long have said adding games to the schedule is unnecessary and increases injury risk. I also have long said the reason for international games and extra games is money. There is no other reason. But there's no reason for anything else in the NFL, either. Never has been. Never will be.

Adam from St Johns, FL

Do you now agree it was a bad idea to allow then-General Manager Dave Caldwell to have two first-round selections in the 2020 NFL Draft? At the time, you told us that fans were dumb. Just wondering if you might have changed your mind at this point. Is this enough time to evaluate a draft class or no?

The Jaguars' 2020 NFL Draft was a bad draft, though I never have called fans dumb. Fans ask questions. I answer. I try to do so in entertaining fashion. If some readers attach such great import to these answers that an answer unwittingly makes them feel "dumb" … that I can't control. As you know, Alan … I'm good at this. Really good. Some might even say great. But I can't control everything. That much I know.