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Two great games

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

Clay from Jacksonville:
As a Jaguars fan, how should I feel about the Titans not re-signing Eddie George? Will this help them get out of their salary cap mess or does this just put a dent in fixing their problems?

Vic: Cutting Eddie George in June will give the Titans a degree of relief on this year's salary cap, but will create significant dead money on their 2005 salary cap. In other words, cutting George in June is just another way of pushing money out and extending the problem. Do you remember the June rule from "Salary Cap 101?" What's in the year stays in the year; everything else goes into the next year.

Chad from Reading, PA:
I love your column but you don't answer any of my questions. Anyway, do you think the Jaguars will give up a first-round pick to get Mike McKenzie?

Vic: No.

Chris from St. Augustine, FL:
I see you did not mention Jeff Lageman as one of the best all-time Jaguars defenders. I believe he is. Do you think Jeff would be able to reach the Hall of Fame with his combined football accomplishments and his post-football contributions in broadcasting?

Vic: No.

Nic from Neptune Beach, FL:
Love the forum. Quick question: I know some lineman are more finesse and technique, but who on the offensive line and defensive line punches, so to say, the other guy lined up across from them in the mouth to set the tone for the rest of the game?

Vic: In my opinion, Maurice Williams is the most physical of the Jaguars' offensive lineman. He'll punch you in the mouth, so to speak. On the defensive line, the Jaguars really don't have an enforcer, but Marcus Stroud will play with an edge from time to time, especially if he's been cut-blocked.

James from Ojai, CA:
I was hoping you could give us an inside look as to how Byron Leftwich is preparing for the upcoming season. With a full offseason to prepare, we are expecting more from him this time around, and I was wondering what he has done and is doing to improve his game.

Vic: He's practicing. Each NFL team is permitted 14 on-field spring practices, in addition to their mini-camp. The Jaguars conducted their fifth such practice yesterday. Leftwich has been impressive throughout spring drills, including the post-draft mini-camp.

Bryan from Houston, TX:
Love your outlook, even though I'm a Texans fan. Question is, who is gonna (sorry, Doc) have a better record at season's end and why, Texans or Jaguars?

Vic: I've said that I believe this will be a changing-of-the-guard season in the AFC South. That means I expect either the Jaguars or the Texans, or both, to replace the Titans and the Colts at the top of the division. The Jaguars and the Texans have a lot of similarities. Their arrows are pointing up and each team's success is tied to a young quarterback. I like what the Texans did in free agency, though they sure spent a lot of money doing it. Dunta Robinson is a good pick and should help right away. If David Carr makes the big leap forward in his career this year, the Texans will also make the big leap forward in their brief history. It's that simple. I'm just not sold on Carr.

Jeremy from Buford, GA:
Just wondering if leaving Jermaine Lewis out of the fastest Jaguars player consideration was intentional or not. Every time I had seen him I was blown away by his quickness. And could you e-mail me if the "Ask Vic" tournament comes to fruition?

Vic: I left Jermaine Lewis off the list of fastest Jaguars candidates because he's recovering from ACL surgery.

Jon from Jacksonville:
Vic, settle a minor dispute between a friend and I, if you'd be so kind. My friend thinks Kordell Stewart was one of the most over-hyped players in NFL history and his impact on the NFL, more specifically the Jags-Steelers rivalry of the mid-late '90s, was minimal at best. I disagree wholeheartedly with him, and I personally feel the Jags-Steelers games from 1996-99 were some of the most entertaining games in NFL history. Can you settle this with an unbiased third-party response?

Vic: I may not be unbiased because the two games between the Jaguars and the Steelers in 1997 represent the best single-season, two-game series I have ever covered, and I have great sensitivity for those games and the great rivalry those two teams had. I don't know if there's ever been another two-game series in which both games were decided when the winning team scored a touchdown on the final play of the game. The Jaguars-Steelers overtime game in Pittsburgh in '97 was selected as one of the top 10 games in Three Rivers Stadium history, and is there anybody who doesn't think the Monday night game between the two teams earlier that season isn't one of the top two or three games in Alltel Stadium history? Of course, Kordell Stewart was the Steelers' quarterback in both games and he was sensational in that overtime thriller. Stewart led the Steelers on scoring drives of 80, 98, 71 and, in overtime, 77 yards. He threw for 317 yards and two touchdowns and scored a touchdown rushing. And he did all of that after throwing an interception on the Steelers' first play from scrimmage. His career as a quarterback never reached the highest level, but he never deserved the criticism he's received. The bottom line is the "Slash" role he created has had as much impact on today's game as anything that has happened in the last 10 years. As a result, his name will be forever prominent in NFL history. I'm with you on this one.

Stormy from Jackson, TN:
Thank you so much for your work on (cha-ching). I really enjoy the stories you write about the guys as players and as human beings, such as the ones about Paul Spicer, Troy Edwards and Jimmy Smith you have written recently. My question to you is, what level of trust do you have to have with the players to be close enough to get the type of deep insight you provide? Also, do you think players read their own press? And how much do they put stock into it?

Vic: Most players want to communicate with the fans, and the media offers the means to do that. Feature stories are an opportunity for players to "write" the story. Clearly, they are the subject of the story and they will be the reporter's main source of information. As far as developing a level of trust, I leave that to the work I do. I write my stories according to what I believe to be true. Those players who want the truth to be known and who trust my ability to represent the truth will be willing subjects. Those players who prefer not to communicate with the fans usually aren't worth the time and space, and they become the players about whom little is written. Paul Spicer, Jimmy Smith and Troy Edwards are sensational interviews, mostly because they are introspective people who want to communicate their thoughts. Nobody can fill a notebook like Spicer can. Smith is clearly troubled by what happened last year and wants to repair his image, and I find that refreshing. Edwards has undergone a great metamorphosis of maturity since being drafted by the Steelers, and he's proud of his growth and wants to share that with the fans. These are the guys about whom I want to write. I wanna (sorry, Doc) write about guys who have something to say. When they do, they know I appreciate the effort, and that's when the relationship between player and reporter is cemented. Being there every day is a big part of it, too. Nothing beats the old-fashioned beat-guy concept of reporting.

Tim from Jacksonville:
I was just looking for a quick update on David Garrard's condition. Has his surgery taken place and, if so, what's his status?

Vic: David Garrard underwent colon surgery yesterday at Baptist Medical Center and reports are it was successful and he is resting comfortably.

Hank from Jacksonville:
What is more important in football? Overall team strength or team speed?

Vic: Speed; always speed. Strength can be built.

Mike from Jacksonville:
Vic, will I ever talk to Amy in San Antonio again? I'm thinking it's time for me to give up life and start walking the streets like the bum I am.

Vic: She's gone. Forget about her. It's time to begin focusing on the big "Ask Vic" golf tournament in August.

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