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O-Zone: Soaking up the sun

JACKSONVILLE – Let's get to it … Mike from Albany, NY:
We have lost yet another person who was a true inspiration to the world. Muhammad Ali – like Prince, David Bowie, Glen Frey, Harper Lee and too many others in the last 12 months – was an irreplaceable talent and an inspiration to millions of people all over the world. In a world of Twitter, Instagram and all the other crap, it feels like there are no fresh ideas or radical thinking that can move people to purpose anymore. I am just bummed out. Did Ali mean anything to you?
John: I'm not smart enough to know where Muhammad Ali ranks with or against artists in terms of influence, and I'm sure not smart enough to know social media's ultimate effects on how we behave as a society. Times change, and there are people who influence every generation in their own way. Ali certainly influenced the world, and he did it through the medium of television. Today's icons influence through Twitter and Instagram … there's certainly a difference. Better? Worse? Who knows? As far as Ali … yes, he meant something to me because you couldn't be a sports fan – or alive, really – in the 1970s and not be aware of Ali. I wasn't born when Ali won his Olympic Gold medal in 1960 or when he beat Sonny Liston for world heavyweight championship in '64, and I was too young to remember his refusal to enter the military draft and his subsequent suspension from boxing. I was waking to sports and the world during his early 1970s comeback and his fights with Joe Frazier and George Foreman; I remember watching the Leon Spinks fights in the late 1970s. I didn't watch his last fight against Larry Holmes, but I remember hearing the result on the radio the next morning and feeling that something – an era – had ended with that loss. You couldn't grow up in the 1970s and not have memories of Ali. He was an athlete who was truly bigger than not only his sport, but sports itself. He indeed was the most famous person on the planet, and I don't know that it was all that close. If you didn't have chills/tears when Ali appeared on the stage and lit the torch in the opening ceremonies in Atlanta, you weren't paying attention. Or you weren't alive. Or you just didn't understand. What other athlete could define an Olympics in which he didn't compete? I honestly, though, feel a bit uncomfortable writing so much about Ali. I don't feel I have that much to add to the conversation. I didn't cover him, or meet him. I do know sportswriters of the generation just before mine revered him on a level that sports media has never revered an athlete since. As such, there are far better remembrances being written this weekend than this. I know I was sad when he died, and I know the sports world – and the world overall – was better and more interesting because of him. May he rest in peace.
Jeff from Jacksonville:
Long live The Greatest.
John: Indeed.
Jim from Bondi Beach, Australia:
Heeeeeey, one thing to add to the Allen Hurns fairy tale payday is if I remember correctly his first two catches in the NFL were both for touchdowns. Looking back, I think that was THE moment I knew this kid would have his sooooo well-deserved day this week. Even my opposing-team-loving friends agree that our Jags are ALL class!!! Let's get this party started #DTWD!!!!!!!
John: Hurns indeed showed from the start of his career – not only in his first regular-season game in 2014, but in his rookie preseason and as far back as his first offseason – that he was far from your "normal undrafted free agent." But what happened after that first game against Philadelphia defined Hurns more than his early success. Hurns did catch six touchdown passes as a rookie, and he showed that he was going to have a place in the NFL. But he in no way during that first season established himself as a long-term starter; in fact, had some issues with drops. Those drops were significant enough that more than a few O-Zone readers wrote that he should be released (I am not making this last part up, and it was said about Allen Robinson, too). As recently as the 2015 regular-season opener, Hurns had a costly fumble in a tight loss to Carolina. The point here is not to bring up Hurns' shortcomings but to note that he continued working and continued improving after adversity. He has improved from a young receiver with some potential to a very productive one. Considering his work ethic, there's no reason to think he won't continue improving from where he is now.
Hunter from Jacksonville:
After reading Rob's recent question and your answer, I remembered my one experience meeting Jimmy Smith. I met him outside a restaurant right after his departure from the league. It wasn't during his best moments, and you could tell he was a bit weary about engaging a "fan," but I told him: coming from a fan who had grown up here I just wanted to thank him for the impact he had on the team and Jacksonville, and how much I really enjoyed watching him play. He told me something along the lines of what I had just said, and similar experiences with other fans, would be what he cherished longest from his time in the game. One for Jimmy Smith. All day long.
John: Indeed.
Stephen from Jacksonville:
How are joint practices planned and coordinated between NFL teams? Do players receive coaching from both staffs and participate in individual drills with the opposing team? Do coaches game plan and watch film to prepare in hopes of "winning" the practice session? What should fans expect to observe differently in the Jaguars/Buccaneers joint practice that might not be seen in a normal, one-team training camp?
John: The main points of interaction in joint practices are team-oriented drills. Teams typically do their own usual individual work on adjacent fields with coaches coaching their own players. There's no game-planning in any normal sense, with the idea being to get work against an opponent that doesn't know what you're doing as opposed to "winning" the practice.
Jason from Jacksonville Beach:
Are most teams sitting on enough cash to pay the guaranteed lump sum portion of a contract when a player signs? Just curious what it would be like to see that much money leave your account in a lump sum.
John: Teams must pay signing bonuses up front, so they must have the money to cover the check. I have no idea what it would be like to see the money leave the account; I can only assume it has to be cooler than never having that much money at all.
Mike from Des Moines, IA:
John, I was recently passed over for a job because I'm "too laid back." OK, I suppose I need to turn the chill dial down a notch. Do you ever get criticized for something you thought to be a good thing?
John: If I had a nickel for every time a woman said, "O-Zone, you're too good-looking, too cool, too funny …" well I'd have at least … no, wait.
Kris from Copenhagen, Denmark:
Hey John, there are some people outside of Jacksonville who understand how special the Jaguars are. Why else did I buy a Jimmy Smith jersey 16 years ago, a MJD jersey five years ago and have jaguars.com as one of my most visited sites on my laptop? Go Jags
John: #DTWD
Sam from Orlando, FL:
A few years ago, I was out at Jax Beach. My cousin and were griping about Jags football and planning our tailgate for the Steelers game the next day. An unassuming patron was listening in and joined our conversation. We thought he was a nice dude and loved the Jags like we did. I ended up buying him a drink or two. Or so I thought. At the end of the night, the bartender told me my tab was paid for. I said, "By who?" He pointed at the gentleman we were hanging out with that night. It was none other than Tony Khan! He said he appreciated us as diehard fans and offered us some field passes the next day. The next day he met us, gave us our field passes and introduced us to Donovin Darius and Fred Taylor. A cool story I thought I'd share.
John: I must admit this story irks me a bit. Every time I follow Tony to a public place, pose as a fan and gripe I wind up having to pay the check. But hey … as long as it worked for you …
Nolan from St. Augustine, FL:
Thoughts on changing the "Jags of the Round Table" segment to: "No round table, just three sets of pale legs in shorts … "
John: Wow, Nolan … envious much?

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