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Too valuable to risk losing

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

Tripp from Jacksonville:
How many other teams, do you think, have 15 guys sitting out practice at this point?

Vic: Probably a lot of them do. This is a different NFL than the one I started covering a long time ago. This is an NFL that views training camp as a warm up event, rather than as a rite of passage. Salaries and roster restrictions make it that way. Consider the differences in structure between then and now: In the early 1970's, the draft was 17 rounds long, the size of training camp rosters was unlimited and, other than for the quarterback, the average salary was considerably less than $50,000 a year. Also, when you got hurt back then, you played through the hurt because, if you didn't, they could cut you without paying you an injury settlement. Teams routinely took 120 or so players to camp and started cutting them after the first few days. Training camp was nine weeks long and the preseason was six games. Practices were twice a day every day and they were always in full pads; walk-throughs didn't exist and the Oklahoma drill was a legitimate teaching event. In fact, I've seen an "NFL Films" production in which Don Shula is conducting an Oklahoma in which Johnny Unitas is the quarterback and Shula is teaching throughout the drill. By the way, the bags were considerably farther apart than they were for the Jaguars' Oklahoma. Teams back then didn't break camp until Labor Day and they were still playing preseason games deep into Sept. Now, the draft is seven rounds, training camp rosters are capped at 80, training camp is three weeks long and the preseason is about to be reduced to two games. Yet, coaches are far more protective of their players, who still seem to get injured far more often than the old guys did, even though today's training camps involve almost no full contact. What's the difference? Money is the difference. The players of today make too much money to be treated recklessly. They are in less supply and losing them is too costly to the franchise to risk on a practice.

Steve from Hudson, FL:
I never thought the Jaguars would see another player with a personality like Tony Boselli. Do you think Tyson Alualu has the same quiet-off-the-field but nasty-on-the-field quality?

Vic: When you put it that way, yeah, I do, but Alualu's personality is very different than Boselli's. Tyson appears to be shy with the media. He's most accommodating, but I sense that he's not entirely comfortable answering questions. Tony loved the media and the media loved him. He enjoyed the banter. In that sense, Tony always reminded me of Joe Greene. Tony was my Jacksonville "Mean Joe." Alualu is going to be a silent leader. He's a just-do-your-job kind of guy and I'm fine with that.

Mike from Atlanta, GA:
I really like BABG. In your opinion, have there been any teams with losing records in recent years that had dominant offensive and defensive lines?

Vic: If there were, they didn't stay losers for long. Consider the opposite example, the Arizona Cardinals of a few years ago, when they had Kurt Warner and Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin and not much up front. They threw the ball up and down the field, but they didn't win until they started drafting Deuce Lutui and Levi Brown and Alan Branch and Calais Campbell. You gotta get the big guys or you're just playing for the stats.

Gary from Pittsburgh, PA:
Have you seen the reports that the NFL is talking to a German manufacturer about implanting micro-chips into footballs? Apparently an alarm in the ball would sound when the ball passed a certain point (first down, end zone, etc.). Is this going to be the beginning of the end of sports as we know it?

Vic: I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. I laughed a little, but I stopped crying years ago when they allowed the game to be taken over by replay review and started selecting officials based on their ability to explain their calls to the fans. Oh, how I long for the day when Fred Swearingen marched to the center of the field, turned to a crowd that waited in silent anticipation, and then raised his arms to signal touchdown. I don't need the explanation; just make the call. Now a micro-chip is gonna make the call. I think most fans will welcome that advance, and that's what saddens me the most.

Terry from St. Johns, FL:
I'm a season ticket holder and going to the scrimmage on Friday. I'm having a hard time finding info and what's going on at the scrimmage.

Vic: What's going on at the scrimmage? The scrimmage is going on at the scrimmage. Isn't that enough?

Nicole from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL:
Are there going to be concessions at the scrimmage?

Vic: Yes, there will be concessions at the scrimmage.

Jimmy from Jacksonville:
Other than Ko Quaye, are there any other undrafted rookies you've notice that you believe may have a huge upside?

Vic: One guy that's jumped out at me is Aaron Morgan, a linebacker from Louisiana-Monroe. He's got a tremendous burst to the ball and, in my opinion, offers distinct pass-rush ability, but I think he's more of a practice squad guy. He probably needs to get bigger and stronger and a year of development. I see a lot of undrafted guys I like. I mention Morgan because I think he has some home run potential.

Marvin from Baltimore, MD:
With the loss of Elvis Dumervil and the injuries to the running back corps to start camp, I wonder if the Broncos front office has already begun to question themselves and their first-round selection.

Vic: Well, they could've stayed where they were at 14, instead of trading back, and picked Jason Pierre-Paul or Derrick Morgan, who went off the board at 15 and 16. If one or both of those guys turns out to be a pass-rush star, the Broncos could find themselves looking back with regret.

Mark from Jacksonville:
I realize a lot can happen between now and then, but if you had to guess, which guys do you think will be the 11 defensive starters at the beginning of the regular season?

Vic: DE—Aaron Kampman and Derrick Harvey, DT—Terrance Knighton and Tyson Alualu, LB—Daryl Smith, Kirk Morrison and Justin Durant, CB—Rashean Mathis and Derek Cox, S—Gerald Alexander and to be determined.

Matt from Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island:
I'm slowly turning a colleague of mine onto your column. He's a Bears fan and is envious of the content on I just wanted to express my thanks to you and the IT guys for the top notch coverage of OTAs and training camp. Looking forward to a good year.

Vic: You immediately caused me to go to and find out where Prince Edward Island is. I'm intrigued. I wanna go there someday.

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