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Remembering Gene Upshaw

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

Logan from St. Augustine, FL:
Do you think the Jags starters are gonna play with a lot more intensity in Tampa after being dominated by the Dolphins last week?

Vic: Yes, I think they will play with more intensity against the Bucs because they're going to want to get one under their belt, so to speak, heading into the season-opener.

Zach from Ocoee, FL:
I hope you and your family are safe during the storm.

Vic: What a wonderful thing to say. I'm touched. I accept your concern for all of the "Ask Vic" readers in Fay's path.

J.T. from Altamonte Springs, FL:
In my opinion, Wednesday was one of the best "Ask Vic" columns ever.

Vic: This must be be-nice day. If it is, good; we need more of them.

Mike from Jacksonville:
Gene Upshaw has died. Do you see this as an opportunity for the NFL to create a CBA that may favor the league more?

Vic: I see this as an opportunity to honor a man I had the great fortune to see play in the best and most intense football games I have ever witnessed. I'm talking about the "Unholy Wars" between the Raiders and the Steelers in the 1970s. They were games that were played with such ferocity and bordered on such viciousness and malicious intent that Commissioner Pete Rozelle sent letters to each team warning them that the rivalry had reached the point of "pure violence" and it would no longer be tolerated. Upshaw was one half of the Raiders' great one-two punch on the offensive line. Upshaw was the left guard who played next to left tackle Art Shell. Upshaw's foe was Ernie Holmes, a squat and powerfully-built defensive tackle who, for three years of his career, was the equal of Joe Greene. The Upshaw-Holmes confrontations were the best one-on-one battles I have ever seen. Sadly, both men passed this year. Shell's foe was Dwight White, who passed away a few months ago. As a union boss, Upshaw led the players into an era of unprecedented prosperity, yet, he was criticized by the players he served. I think Upshaw will be remembered more for being the players union boss than he will be for his playing days with the Raiders, but I won't make that mistake because what I witnessed in the most impressionable years of my career is etched forever in my heart. I can tell you without reservation that those games were not about the money. There was no hype. It was the real thing; two teams that truly hated each other. Upshaw was one of the star players in those games and he was a magnificent blocker, and that was before offensive linemen were allowed to use their hands.

Julian from Crestview, FL:
Honestly, do you really think Harvey was worth all the extra draft picks? Do you think he will compete on the level a first-rounder should?

Vic: We won't know until he's signed and shows us what he can do on the field. I can tell you this: I didn't hear any complaints on draft day. My inbox was flooded with e-mails from Jags fans who loved the fact the team aggressively traded up into the top 10 and got the every-downs, pass-rushing defensive end they believed the team needed to become a true Super Bowl contender. Nothing has changed since then. All we can do is wait for an agreement to be reached. This isn't what the Jags want but this is what they have and all they can do is deal with it. In time, we'll have answers to your questions, but they can't be answered now.

Phillip from Bradenton, FL:
I bet you don't have the guts to answer this question. Do you answer every question that says you don't have the guts to answer this question?

Vic: Pretty much, so I'll have to stop doing that because several people have picked up on it and have started doing what you've done. Let me assure everyone out there that thinks he or she has a question I don't have the guts to answer: I promise you, I do have the guts. I may not have the brains, but I always have the guts, so just ask the question because from now on, when I'm dared, you'll be deleted.

Chris from Jacksonville:
Joshua Chamberlain has been an inspiration to me for the past 10 years (that was when I read "The Killer Angels" by Michael Shaara). It should be considered that Chamberlain single-handedly changed the course of battle, war and nation. It's a shame many of our kids and adults don't know his name or story as well as how many Pro Bowls someone has been to.

Vic: Colonel Joshua Chamberlain and the 20th Maine, against great odds, held the high ground at Little Round Top in the Battle of Gettysburg. You're absolutely correct when you say he changed the course of this nation's history. What if he had fallen? How would our nation be different? Would Derrick Harvey be signed by now?

Brian from Milwaukee, WI:
Why do you treat your readers like General Managers? You have to make that decision before the season starts, or we have too much invested to do that. We're fans, we like silly scenarios where we try to trade Fred for L.T. We know it won't happen and we won't win the lottery but sometimes it's just fun to dream. Lighten up and live in fantasyland sometimes.

Vic: Sorry, Brian, that's just not my style. There are other forums for that kind of stuff. I want this to be a place of information.

Fester from Pensacola, FL:
I was in the movie Gettysburg as an extra. You can see me in the scene walking behind Jeff Daniels when he was talking to his brother after he was moved to the middle of the line, just before all heck broke loose. It was a great day filming. They marched us around all day like soldiers and after awhile you got the feeling you were actually a Civil War soldier.

Vic: I remember you. The first time I saw you I said to myself, "That guy's gonna be a star."

Paul from Jacksonville:
Looking ahead to the regular season, what playoff team from last year do you think will struggle the most this year?

Vic: The Steelers are the easy answer because of their schedule. The Chargers had one like it a couple of years ago, but the Steelers' schedule this year looks even tougher. The Packers could be an easy answer, too, because they're making the transition at quarterback and because of the circus that's created. I still don't think the Bucs were a true playoff-quality team last season so I might put them into the struggle category, too. What happens if Peyton Manning doesn't fully recover from his knee injury? With him, the Colts are right back in the Super Bowl hunt, but without him, they'd struggle. How about the Jaguars? Could they struggle? The answer to that question is yes, if they don't get answers at a few troubled positions. Right now, wide receiver, defensive end and left tackle are potential trouble spots. I think you could look at every team and raise questions. Have the Patriots gotten old? Is Tony Romo really the answer? It's a fun game to play.

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