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Preseason not about the scoreboard

Join Senior Editor Vic Ketchman as he tackles the fans' tough questions.

Rich from Lake City, FL:
What part of a player's contract is counted toward the cap? Is it the guaranteed money, the amount they actually end up getting with incentives, or the total amount they could get with incentives?

Vic: Every penny a player receives is applied to a team's salary cap, but there are different rules for applying that money. Signing bonus is spread out evenly over the life of the contract, up to a maximum of five years. Salary is almost always declared in full in the year it's paid. So is roster bonus. Incentives fall into the categories of likely or not likely to be earned. If they are likely to be earned, they count on the current year's salary cap. If they are not likely to be earned, you still must retain room on this year's cap for that money because this is the last capped year and those incentives, should they be earned, must be applied to the current year's cap. There's a defined system for applying player compensation to a team's cap but I wouldn't worry about it too much because it's no longer an issue for the Jaguars and I think we're headed for the day when the cap concept is abandoned.

Kenneth from Jacksonville:
Do these agents and rookie players who claim they're willing to hold out for an entire year know anything about the time value of money? A dollar now is worth a heck of a lot more than a dollar a year later. No way these guys will sit out an entire year if it's truly all about the money.

Vic: That's the leverage the teams have and if I owned a team, I wouldn't hesitate to use it.

Christopher from Fayetteville, NC:
A three-hour commercial? The Jaguars have a 24/7 commercial via and are still not selling out. Exposure isn't the problem, lack of commitment is. We, as fans, need to be committed to our team. No excuses.

Vic: If, when I was a kid, we had these websites to visit, I would've been up all night. I get a kick out of the people who think blackouts underexpose the NFL. Underexposure is not a problem. If anything, overexposure is. I guess it's just another way to whine and cry about not getting the games for free. Not this year and not in this column. I'm tired of that. No more excuses.

John from Beijing, China:
I believe you are referring to a certain player who would rather be remembered for "The Epic in Miami" and passing for 433 yards and three touchdowns. Instead he is remembered for the game after that in Cincinnati, the "Freezer Bowl," where he was 15 of 28 for 185 yards, a TD and two interceptions. That was his second AFC championship loss in three years. The Bengals won that game because of precision routes instead of San Diego's long passes, and Fouts couldn't even grip the ball because it was too cold.

Vic: Actually, I was thinking of the "Vernon Perry Bowl," when a Houston team that was without Earl Campbell and Dan Pastorini limped into San Diego, intercepted Dan Fouts five times and scored a 17-14 playoff win behind Gifford Nielsen's 111-yard passing performance. I don't know how cold it was in San Diego that day. It came down to a choice between that game and a five-interception performance by Fouts in a 1982 playoff loss to David Woodley and the Dolphins. You could flip a coin.

Clell from Bee Branch, AR:
My wife and I attended a practice session at the Broncos' stadium last Thursday night. Admission was free and there were 15,000 fans there. It was the first pro practice session we have ever seen and we were there to see our friend, Payton Hillis. We were shocked to hear the crowd boo when passes were dropped or a kicker missed a field goal, in practice. Is this kind of fan behavior common in most pro cities?

Vic: Yes, it is.

Paul from Palm Beach Gardens, FL:
Do you think Tony Dungy will return to coaching once his kids have graduated?

Vic: I like him in his new role. I watched his interview with Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth Sunday night and my mood was lifted by his clarity and balance. This is a guy I want to hear speak, and I was delighted when I found out he would be involved with the "Sunday Night Football" telecasts this year. Tony is a man who has something to say and knows how to say it. His oratory on Michael Vick actually caused me a moment of guilt for the anger I feel toward Vick. We need a person of that kind of calm intelligence to speak to us, and I think Tony will be sensational in his new role. He can be special. He can have a greater impact in that role than he can as a coach.

Jonathan from Jacksonville:
Thanks for your honest answers about the passing game. That should show people that you really do tell it like you see it. It seems like we have competition and depth in every position except QB. Is that as big of a problem as I think it is?

Vic: Let's not get carried away with our enthusiasm for a new season. Quarterback isn't the only position on the Jaguars that has depth concerns. There are depth concerns at most positions, it's just that those concerns are greatest at quarterback. Todd Bouman struggled in red-zone drills on Monday. The Jaguars really need him to come to life, but my real concern at quarterback is for the competition I think all players need to feel but is lacking on the Jaguars. QB is a sensitive position. You need your starting quarterback to know a commitment has been made to him, but he can't feel so comfortable that he loses his edge. Bouman is the Jags' backup and they need him to play well but, at 37 years of age, he's not going to be perceived as competition to Garrard. The Jags need a young gun at the position. They need someone to create the kind of edge they had in the 2007 training camp. It's not likely the Jags will find that young gun until next year's draft, but I have no doubt they'll continue to scour the ranks of available talent, looking for a guy young enough and with a strong enough arm to be perceived as competition.

Malachi from Lebec, CA:
Can every practice be like Monday's? Please?

Vic: Once upon a time, every practice was like Monday morning's, and they did them twice a day at training camp and training camp was nine weeks long. What I can't understand is that if these players are so much bigger and stronger, then why can't every practice be like Monday's for at least one week?

Richard from Woonsocket, RI:
The Patriots used to rely on the draft to build their roster. I noticed that recently they've been signing a lot of veterans. Does this reflect a possible window closing since Brady is getting older?

Vic: Bill Belichick likes to patch with older players. He has an interesting fondness for a mix of young and old. Since the 2003 draft, the Patriots have averaged nearly nine picks a year, so the Patriots remain committed to the draft and to the development of young players, but in the seven-round format we're in, all teams have to patch with free agents and Belichick prefers to sign big-name older players. Most teams are looking for younger free agents who might grow into something; Belichick wants an older player who has one year left in the tank. The nucleus of the Patriots team was still assembled in the draft. The defensive line, for example, are all former first-round picks. I have noticed, however, that the Patriots aren't getting the production out of recent drafts that they did out of their 2001-05 drafts. Tom Brady was picked in 2000, but the 01-05 drafts produced the greatest haul of talent. A lack of production in recent drafts may be forcing the Patriots to lean a little harder on their pro personnel department.

Kamen from Jacksonville:
I don't think preseason says much about the team for the regular season. Last preseason we went 3-1 and finished the regular season 5-11. The same year, the Lions were the only team to go undefeated in preseason, only to become the first 0-16 team in regular season. What is it about preseason that results can end up so differently from regular season?

Vic: Coaches experiment with personnel. A top team rests all of its starters, then loses to a bottom team that played all of its starters. Does the final score of that game have any meaning? No. The preseason is not about the scoreboard. It's about what your eyes saw. Forget the final score. Did you see what you need to see to be able to declare your team victorious? You have to know how to watch preseason games to know whether your team won or lost.

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