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Reaching out


Wayne Weaver said he understands the frustration fans must feel.

Weaver, the Jaguars' owner, said without question he knows fans are upset about the ongoing NFL lockout, and that some have put actions on hold during it. He said he also understands their concerns.

But while that's true, he said this is, too:

Now is not the time to break momentum.

And it's hardly the time to wait to support the Jaguars or the NFL, either.

"We need you to step up and buy your ticket, and renew your ticket," Weaver said during a Fan Forum conference call with Jaguars season ticket owners on Thursday.

"If we don't do that, we're going to send the wrong message to both the national media and the National Football League."

Weaver, during an hour's conversation with season ticket owners, discussed a variety of topics – the upcoming NFL Draft and the ongoing lockout included among them – and emphasized throughout the importance of maintaining on- and off-field momentum.

The Jaguars, who finished last season 8-8 and second in the AFC South, last off-season were No. 1 in most-improved tickets distributed, most-ticket sales and No. 1 in most-affordable gate.

"We did some amazing things that started the national press talking about Jacksonville again," Weaver said. "Those were major milestones we accomplished a year ago. We're about at the same place we were a year ago, but we have to almost repeat that Herculean effort to get where we need to get to."

Weaver said while some fans may be delaying ticketing decisions until the NFL's current labor uncertainty is solved, he said it's important fans not take that approach.

"We are going to play football, and we need the fans to step up and buy tickets," Weaver said. "We can't wait until July or August to sell our tickets, because they'll be talking about us again in the press as, 'We're not a great NFL market.'''

Weaver, who said the team wants to build upon the Team Teal initiative that helped the team to its first-place status in ticketing a year ago, emphasized that under the Jaguars' ticketing policy, there is no risk to fans holding tickets.

"If we don't play a game, you'll get your money back with interest," Weaver said. "What we're trying to do is the same thing we did last year, but add to it. We have to build on the momentum we built in 2010 and not go backward.

"I'm appealing to all of our fans to get involved with us, renew tickets, buy new season tickets – we need you to be a part of Jacksonville football this year."

Weaver also emphasized that should fans wait until after the labor situation is resolved, "it would be very difficult" to reach the team's ticket goals.

"I'd never say we couldn't do it," he said. "We'd do whatever we have to do, but the thing it will do is send the wrong message."

The Jaguars, after having seven of eight games not televised locally in 2009, had every game televised locally in the 2010 regular season.

"We've eliminated blackouts from our vocabulary," Weaver said. "The enthusiasm is there, but it's not coming as fast as we need it to – for the reasons we're talking about. People feel like, 'Why should I buy the ticket now?' You need to buy the ticket to show your support for the National Football League in Jacksonville."

Weaver also discussed:

*The decision of U.S. District Court Judge Susan Richard Nelson this week to wait to rule on whether the lockout imposed by owners violates federal antitrust law: "I don't think any of us expected Judge Nelson to rule from the bench. One of the encouraging things to come out of it was she clearly did not want to rule right away and encouraged us to get back to the negotiating table. We all know at the end of the day it has to be settled at the negotiating table. I think the judge did the right thing. She pushed us back toward the negotiating table and hopefully, we'll get back there sooner than later."

*The prospects for the 2011 season: "I am optimistic. I think we're going to play football next fall. We have to get back to the negotiating table and get back to work."

*The Jaguars' approach in the coming months: "It's business as usual here. We've made giant steps over the last two seasons. This draft looks like it's deep in some places that can really help us. We're excited about getting back. We're ready for the draft this month and we're looking forward to free agency when it opens. We want to be active there, too."

*The Jaguars' approach to the draft: "We've always said, 'You have to build your roster from the draft and supplement it with free agency.' We just haven't always practiced what we've preached. To (General Manager) Gene Smith's credit, they (the members of the personnel and scouting departments) really have the discipline. They make sure that when we get to the draft room we know the players we want. If they're there, we take them. If they're not there, we try to move around or we take the best player on the board." 

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