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Selling plan in Detroit

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

Richard from Jacksonville Beach, FL:
Whatever happened to Tavian Banks after his career-ending injury? That might be an interesting follow-up piece. He was a pretty darn good player.

Vic: Maybe we could get Tavian to agree to wear a detection device on his ankle so we can know where he is at all times.

Steve from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL:
I'm a season ticket holder and want nothing but good for the Jags. I think they are missing the boat by not having an article in the paper almost every day about players, coaches, etc. Keeping their product in front of potential ticket-buyers would help. I am disappointed every day I pick up the paper and there is nothing on the Jags.

Vic: Media coverage is important to the success of a franchise because it creates and maintains fan interest. When I started covering the NFL, there were enough old-timers left to tell of the days when baseball was the national pastime and the NFL all but begged local sportswriters to cover the league's games. I can remember hearing stories about publicity guys taking sportswriters out to lunch and asking them to cover that Sunday's game, then leaving a couple of tickets behind for the publisher. Back then, the NFL PR philosophy was, "Write anything you want; just spell the name right." And it worked. Young sportswriters (yes, I was once young) turned to football instead of baseball, and soon the nation's sports pages were dominated by the NFL and the best young sportswriters were football writers, not baseball writers. It was all part of Pete Rozelle's grand plan and Rozelle was a promotional genius. Rozelle was probably the most media-accessible and reporter-friendly commissioner of any major professional sports league in history. If you needed a statement from him, all you had to do was call the league office and ask. When he attended an NFL game, he met with reporters in the back of the press box before kickoff. When you interviewed Rozelle, you got information for a story. He made you feel welcome. He made you feel important. And he never forgot your name. Owners and coaches followed his lead in dealing with reporters. Rozelle's era was a media-friendly time in NFL history. Sportswriters who were rejected by baseball were welcomed by the NFL. All of this is a major reason I have such fondness for the 1970's. It was a great time to be a young writer covering the NFL and I would like to see a return to those days. We need sportswriters to want to write stories. We need a friendly atmosphere. The fan, the league and the game will benefit.

Will from Jacksonville, FL:
In your opinion, which player in the team's 10-year history has had the most profound effect on our community? Add in community time, donations and downright bringing us to our feet in the stands.

Vic: This town has been blessed to have a team that promotes community involvement as much as the Jaguars do. The lead is provided by the Weavers. Delores Barr-Weaver's life is absolutely consumed by doing good deeds. The woman lets nothing go to waste and she's known among Jaguars employees as the "Recycle Queen." Delores even asks Jaguars employees to bring in their used Christmas cards so she can recycle them for use through agencies that service needy children. Frankly, I think the Jaguars' commitment to community involvement begins with Delores, and it has passed through a lot of players who have endowed this community in major ways. A lot of things in this community might not be there if the Jaguars weren't here. Anyhow, to answer your question, I'm going to acknowledge Mark Brunell's contributions. He remains, in my opinion, the most exciting player in Jaguars history. He accomplished that in one season, 1996. Off the field, he was just as big. Brunell not only endowed Wolfson's Childrens Hospital in a big financial way, he gave of himself physically. He visited the kids on a regular basis and they were genuine visits during which Mark would often bring one of his daughters with him. My wife is a special ed teacher who works with children who are profoundly handicapped and impaired. She had a student who faced a major surgery at Wolfson's and I asked Mark if he would visit the girl. I gave him the girl's name and never had to say another word. A couple of days later, Mark and his daughter showed up in the girl's room unannounced. Mark was a great quarterback and he's a great person.

Rajesh from Jacksonville:
As a sportswriter, are close games difficult to narrate as compared to blowouts?

Vic: Give me a close game anytime. The better the game, the better the story.

Mike from Pensacola, FL:
When do the owners meet again to vote on the CBA and the plan presented by the Jags/Steelers?

Vic: They began a two-day meeting in Detroit today, but they're not there to vote on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. It's not going to be that easy to get a CBA with the players. First, the owners have to agree to a revenue-sharing plan, and that will be the main topic of discussion in Detroit. The Jaguars have sent Chief Financial Officer Bill Prescott and salary cap boss and lead contract negotiator Paul Vance to Detroit for the purpose of promoting the "Jacksonville-Pittsburgh Plan" for revenue-sharing.

Robby from Jacksonville:
I read your column daily and, for the most part, I agree with your analysis or at least can understand your argument, but you're gonna have to help me out on this one. Could you elaborate on what you feel is wrong with a play-for-the-sack guy? I am having trouble understanding how playing to sack the quarterback on every play is a negative thing. Even if the player is doing it just for his individual sack number, how is that bad for the team?

Vic: It's bad for the team when a defensive end is rushing the passer as the running back is rushing by with the football under his arm. Football is a team game and defensive players have their "keys" or "fits" they are required to follow in executing the defensive strategy. For example, it has long been a "key" for linebackers that if the tight end blocks down, play run; if the tight end releases, play pass. That, of course, is very rudimentary stuff. The "keys" and "fits" employed today are much more sophisticated. I was asked to rank the defensive ends I consider to be the five-best pass-rushers. In selecting those five players, I gave major consideration to how well an end played against the run, too, because I respect players who execute their "keys" and "fits." I don't like freelancers. It takes 11 men to stop the run, too. It's about teamwork. Ends can't get sacks if cornerbacks don't cover, and linebackers can't stop the run if defensive linemen don't hold the point.

Josie from Jacksonville:
You listed the NFL's best cheerleaders. Why did you leave off the Titans male cheerleaders? And did you ever think you'd see the day when an NFL team would have male cheerleaders?

Vic: I really struggle with that. I wish the Titans would stop that.

Jimmy from Jacksonville:
In your upcoming golf tournament, what is the deadline for signing up and do you have to be good? I shoot in the low 100's to 110. Would that be a waste of time for the people out there?

Vic: Make one long putt and your partners will love you forever. I think registration will begin today. At least I'm being told the registration form will be ready for posting some time today. We're not going to have a deadline; it's by availability. See you at South Hampton on Aug. 12.

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