JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it …
Chris from Phoenix, AZ
With the NFL and the NFL Players Association working on an option out for players who don't feel comfortable playing during the pandemic, don't you see Jaguars defensive end Yannick Ngakoue taking advantage of the situation and sitting the year out? And if so, would it be considered a holdout? What would that mean for the Jaguars' rights to him for next season?
This, like so much about the NFL in 2020, is to be determined. The NFL and the NFLPA indeed will reportedly allow players to opt out of the 2020 season if they so desire. What that would mean for the contract of a player sitting out isn't yet certain, though one option could be for the contract to simply roll forward a year with everything in the contract remaining the same beginning the next year. In the case of Ngakoue, that would mean the Jaguars could apply the franchise tag for the first time in 2021 – because the tag currently on Ngakoue theoretically wouldn't "exist" if he didn't play in 2020. As for what Ngakoue would do in the 2020 season … that's also tricky. A player opting out of the season presumably would not be paid. That would mean Ngakoue having a choice of earning nothing in 2020 or earning $17 million for playing under the franchise tag. He also by sitting out could be delaying his potential move toward free agency by a year. He may decide he doesn't want to do that. There's also the reality that every NFL player will face – that the league by its nature is one of short careers, which means giving up a season of earning means giving up money they realistically may never get back. That may not matter to Ngakoue, who is young at 25, but it will matter to some players. None of that means Ngakoue necessarily will or won't play this season, but it does illustrate why it will be a difficult choice.
Jess from Glen Carbon, IL
John, your reply: "OK, but it still starts with the quarterback. Pull up all the statistics you like and that's still true" reminds me of the old saying "Never let facts get in the way of a bad opinion."
This refers to a recent O-Zone email from a reader making the point that offensive line is more important than quarterback. There were statistics involved in his point. They were good statistics. But statistics must be interpreted. And any interpretation that tells you it doesn't all start with quarterback in the NFL is difficult to take seriously.
John from Jacksonville
With your influence, isn't there something you could do about this?
I made some calls.
Kevin from St. Johns, FL
I am confused with all of this discussion regarding how to approach a D-List celebrity like the KOAF, when I feel better and more useful information is how to approach Gene Frenette, long time columnist for the Florida Times Union and Local Cultural Icon (LTCFTUaLCI?). There is a man who has an opinion I want to hear.
You don't approach longtime Florida Times-Union sports columnist and Northeast Florida cultural icon Eugene P. "Gene" Frenette. You give the man his distance and hope he makes eye contact. Then, you nod your silent approval for four decades of brilliance – on Twitter and elsewhere – and move forward with your life thankful that for a short time at least you and he breathed the same air.
Oscar from Palm Coast, FL
Hey O, now that the Jags announced their fan capacities, which are well under the stadium capacity, please tell me games won't be blacked out?
No, NFL games will not be blacked out this season – for a couple of reasons. One is that while the NFL still technically has a rule that games can be blacked out if at less than 85 percent capacity entering the weekend, that "rule" has been waived for the last five seasons. Blackouts are no longer really a thing in the NFL. And even if they were, the NFL wouldn't black-out games this season. With fans likely not near capacity anywhere in the league at any point this season, teams and the league as a whole need the games on television more than ever this season. Everyone associated with the NFL is depending upon television ratings and eyeballs to increase advertising dollars, particularly in the 2020 season.
Gary from St. Augustine, FL
Do you honestly think there will be a season? And that it will start on time? It seems like a pipe dream.
I do continue to believe there will be an NFL season because I continue to believe the incentive to do so for many reasons – financial included – remains strong. And I still feel the regular season will start on time. As for training camp …
Greg from Section 122 and Jacksonville
Wow. So, the Jaguars are the FIRST team to address attendance due to the COVID-19 virus. Wonder how much this is in response to season-ticket renewals, or lack thereof. I have to admit I am really frustrated, mainly at the idea of trying to sit through four-to-five hours of Florida heat in a mask. That is just foolish. Stop the nonsense and let people attend at their own risk, sign a waiver, whatever. But 25 percent and now us season-ticket holders have to choose new seats? Come on man, this is premature at best.
The Jaguars announcement this week that they will begin the season with games at TIAA Bank Field at 25 percent capacity had nothing to do with season-ticket renewals and everything to do with ensuring as many fans as possible can attend Jaguars games with as little confusion as possible. And the Jaguars were the second NFL team (not the first) to announce specifics regarding their reduced stadium capacity in 2020; the Baltimore Ravens made a similar announcement earlier in the week. But I find your disdain over the team's approach – and the implication that it was foolish and/or hurried – curious. The Jaguars have enormous financial incentive to put as many people in the stands as possible; any decision to reduce attendance is done with the sole objective of keeping people as safe as possible under local health guidelines. As for the timing being premature … it's July 12, Greg. We're less than two months from the regular season and less than a month from the scheduled preseason. There are many complicated logistics involved. As for choosing new seats and wearing a mask in the Florida heat … I can't argue that those aren't inconveniences. What I can tell you is that the Jaguars don't take those inconveniences lightly. And no one wanted these inconveniences. We're all just trying to the best we can in this complicated, unexpected new reality.
John from Jacksonville
What will happen in the secondary market? Steelers fans will make offers lucky ticket holders can't refuse and we'll see a sea of black and yellow on TV.
You may be right. And you're correct that "historical teams" with national fan bases such as the Pittsburgh Steelers, Green Bay Packers, New York Giants and the Chicago Bears do often purchase tickets on the secondary market of other, "newer" teams such as the Jaguars – and Tampa Bay, Miami and other cities/teams that haven't had recent success enough for tickets to be in mega-high demand. Could that happen at the Steelers' game in Jacksonville this season? Sure, it could. Or maybe it won't. We'll see.
Michael from Milton, FL
We are moving from Jax to Vegas next month. I enjoy your writing and will continue to follow the O-Zone. I'm putting down $50 for the Jags to go over on games won for 2020.
I don't know what "over" means. Drive safe.
Scott from Gilbert, AZ
Zone, I can see a few established stars throughout the league that could realistically never play another down and already have more than enough to retire comfortably, possibly opting-out this year. Maybe it's a good thing that in this unique and unprecedented situation the Jags don't really have many players who fit that description? Aside from center Brandon Linder, guard Andrew Norwell, linebacker Myles Jack and middle linebacker Joe Schobert, who all still have plenty to prove, I can't think of any Jags at this point that might opt not to prioritize career income potential over fear of illness. You?
The decision on whether to play this season will be a personal one with multiple factors for each NFL player. I don't know of any players who I would assume would opt not to play, and I do expect most NFL players will play. But I wouldn't pretend to know enough about each player's circumstance to say for sure who will play and who won't.
Justin from New York City
What are your Top 5 favorite football movies?
Remember the Titans. Friday Night Lights. North Dallas Forty. Everybody's All-American. Gus.