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Players free to express

Join senior editor Vic Ketchman as he tackles the fans' tough questions.

Steve from Glenside, PA:
What is the difference between a scrimmage and a mock game? Do they wear full pads in both?

Vic: Scrimmages offer a means for coaches to see their teams perform in a controlled environment. Scrimmages aren't about the scoreboard, they're about execution of those specific aspects of the game a coach wants to emphasize: nine-on-seven drills, 11-on-11 drills, pass-rush drills, passing drills, a separate period for special teams play. A mock game is a means for rehearsing everyone for their specific role in a game situation. Game rules are followed closely, which prepares a team in a lot of non-scrimmage ways: communicating plays from the coaches on the sideline to the players on the field, getting players on and off the field in substitution situations, identifying substitution packages, working against the clock, knowing when to call time out, etc. Scrimmages are about executing assignments; mock games are about the fine details that link those assignments. Teams are likely to be dressed-out for both events.

Kelly from Santa Rosa, CA:
How is pressuring the quarterback practiced in training camp? You described the brute-force running drills and I've seen passing drills that are minimal contact, so when do the defensive ends get to uncork with everything they have, and how does the coaching staff measure the success of the pass-rush during drills?

Vic: They do pass-rush drills almost every day; defensive ends against offensive tackles, defensive tackles against offensive guards and centers. It's a training camp staple and it's full-go. Evaluation is simple: The better man wins. Of course, quarterbacks aren't made to stand there and get hit. Usually some rookie free-agent lineman is handed the ball and told to stand still, but they don't hit him either. The pass-rusher is judged to have won when he either pushes the blocker back into the rookie free agent, or is able to reach out and touch the kid. The pass-blocker gets the nod when the rusher is kept from threatening the boundaries of the pocket.

J.P.O. from Jacksonville:
Jacksonville hasn't allowed a 100-yard rusher in the last 15 games. What team has gone the longest without allowing a 100-yard rusher and how long do you think the Jags can keep their current streak alive?

Vic: The Jaguars will get a serious test from Buffalo's Travis Henry in the season-opener. Henry rushed for 1,356 yards last season. Don't forget, the Bills also have Willis McGahee, who will be in his ACL comeback season this year. The Jaguars defense will also face a stern test in the fifth game of the year, when they'll take on LaDainian Tomlinson in San Diego. The NFL doesn't include an official category for the kind of record to which you are referring, but I can tell you that Baltimore and Pittsburgh have each had streaks in recent years that have stretched over three seasons in which they haven't allowed a 100-yard rusher.

John from Jacksonville:
How are the coaches guarding against player distractions by the NFL Films crew and the spotlight? How are the coaches keeping themselves in check to prevent the same distractions? Are there concerns that performance progress can be hampered by the team wanting to act for the TV series? It seems like it could have a negative effect gearing up for the season. Do you agree?

Vic: Jack Del Rio doesn't believe a coach can or should attempt to suppress his players' natural personalities. After all, it's what makes them what they are, and if you're going to gag your players' right to individual expression, why even waste NFL Films' time and energy on what will almost certainly be a bad product? I can tell you that Chuck Noll believed strongly in allowing his players to express themselves, and Noll was considered to have a very conservative personality. Del Rio experienced the "Hard Knocks" thing when Del Rio was in Baltimore. He saw Tony Siragusa and Shannon Sharpe really play to the camera, but it didn't negatively impact their performances because playing to the camera is a symptom of their natural personalities. After Siragusa and Sharpe retired, they pursued careers in TV. Every practice is video-taped. Every move by every player is recorded for his position coach and his head coach to review and critique. If a player's performance becomes sloppy or unprofessional, he'll be so informed. NFL Films aren't the only people in training camp taking pictures.

Tito from Jacksonville:
How has the play of the defensive ends looked in camp; mainly the health of Tony Brackens and the play of rookie ends Jorge Cordova and Bobby McCray?

Vic: It's too early to know about Jorge Cordova or Bobby McCray. Cordova has great quickness and McCray is naturally gifted. That's as much as I can tell you about them so far. Tony Brackens is a different matter. He's still unable to go "every play, every day." Brackens is recovering from another offseason knee procedure, and it's an issue because of the way his contract is structured. Brackens received a $300,000 signing bonus for doing a new deal with the team. He is guaranteed his $1.025 million salary if he's on the Jaguars' opening-day roster. What that means is the team has to make a firm decision on him before the start of the season, and that means this training camp and the four preseason games will probably determine Brackens' playing future. He has to be able to play. It's that simple. The Jaguars have spent $300,000 to find out if he can.

Dave from Saint Marys, GA:
Do you think, combined with the late addition of full pads, the night practices will cause the players not to be well-conditioned for opening day? Buffalo won't exactly be cold, yet.

Vic: You're right, it won't be cold, yet. In fact, it can get real hot on artificial turf in Buffalo in early September. Conditioning is a definite issue for the opening weeks of the season. You'd like to be able to take your team out into the heat of the day at training camp and whip it into shape, but the risks are just too great. The NFL is super-sensitive to the heat issue. They have requested, all but demanded, that their teams ease into their training camp regimens and remain sensible in how they practice on hot days. The bottom line is that it'll be the same for both teams when the Jaguars play the Bills at one o'clock on Sept. 12.

Bryan from Jacksonville:
With all the talk of covering seats, what is the deadline for the Jaguars to have made a decision by?

Vic: Covering seats is for next year, not this year.

Chris from St Augustine, FL:
Do playoff games and the Super Bowl yards gained by quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers count toward their career totals? Wouldn't that give players who play on winning teams for many years an advantage over equally-talented players who played on losing teams, for purposes of entering the Hall of Fame?

Vic: Postseason statistics do not count toward a player's career totals.

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