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Valentine's Day edition

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

Maritza from Phoenix, AZ:
The most romantic thing I can do for my husband this year is to find out how the Jags can fix their inconsistent linebacker play. Please let me get the love I deserve tonight by being able to tell my husband what they can do to improve that critical area of what should be a very strong defense next year.

Vic: Tell your husband the Jaguars need to seek an upgrade at the linebacker position in the offseason. Tell him the Jaguars might seek that upgrade in free agency but that the free agency crop of linebackers is weak. Tell him the linebackers crop in the draft is strong. Tell him that on a team with as strong a defensive line as the Jaguars have, a number 14 ranking against the run may be more a function of the linebackers than it is the defensive line and that a higher level of performance should be expected.

Sharon from Port Charlotte, FL:
After a game, what happens to the uniforms? Do they re-use them, sell them or throw them away?

Vic: In the old days, a veteran player would have his uniform tailored to fit and he would wear that uniform for several years, provided the style didn't change. I've seen jerseys that were completely covered by repair stitching. It's a little different these days, mostly because of a high-performance fabric known as Codura, which is a stretch-mesh lycra that allows jerseys to fit as tight as possible. Each player receives a game jersey and a backup game jersey in each color and those jerseys are used for one year and then discarded. They are washed and hung up to dry after each game. On Monday, a seamstress will examine the jerseys for tears and effect repairs. As part of the licensing agreement with Reebok, each team receives 200 game jerseys, 200 game pants and 150 practice jerseys. The Jaguars purchase about another 200 of each, above the agreement.

Debbie from Jacksonville:
Do we have enough money to sign Shaun Alexander or Edgerrin James?

Vic: The Jaguars have enough salary cap room to sign a lot of guys. The Jaguars have done a great job with their salary cap and it's one of the major reasons this team's arrow is pointing up. The team did not achieve salary cap health, however, by throwing money around carelessly or excessively. I can't think of anything more depressing about the state of a football team than the awareness that the next several years are likely to be spent in decline because the team overspent chasing a title that never materialized. I am not in favor of mortgaging the future of the franchise for any player. No matter how good he is, he came into the league through the draft and you may have had a chance to get him then, so look in the draft for this year's model of the same player. The draft is where you find star players who won't ruin your cap.

Kathleen from Jacksonville:
Stop hating on the old guys. If they can play, age doesn't matter.

Vic: I agree with that assessment, but I'm prejudiced toward young players because I know that when I find a young guy who can play, I've settled that position for a long time. Older players tend to be temporary bandages. You bring them in for a year and then a year later you find yourself having to do it again. I hate that approach. It's nothing more than treading water. The Jaguars have been treading water at the right cornerback position for the last two years. They signed stop-gap players in each of the last two seasons and now they find themselves having to address the position again. Sometimes that's the best you can do; you can't fix everything all at once. I think, however, it's time the Jaguars fix right cornerback long-term. That usually means addressing the position with a player who is good and young. It's not that I hate the old guys, I just believe very strongly that football is a young man's game.

Debbie from Jacksonville:
With both Ricky Williams and Edgerrin James apparently available this offseason, which one would you rather have?

Vic: Edgerrin James; no question about it. Ricky Williams is an immensely talented player and, frankly, I prefer his pounder quality to James' wiggle style of running. I would prefer James over Williams, however, because I know I can depend on James to give me a committed effort. Williams walked out on his teammates; maybe he'll do it again. James has never been anything but productive. He has been a highly accountable player and some team is going to get a great player in free agency. James might do for some team what Marshall Faulk did for the Rams, which is to say James might become a difference-maker in the second half of his career.

Rachel from Jacksonville:
I have been trying to convince my friends that next season you won't be able to just walk up to the ticket window at 12:30 on Sunday and get into Alltel. We are hosting some incredible teams next year. As someone who has watched our team's popularity go up and down, what are your predictions for sold-out games?

Vic: Right off the top, we know the Steelers game will be sold out. The Cowboys, Giants and Patriots games are likely to be the same. That's half the home schedule that will likely be in high demand and that should increase the demand for the remaining four home games. Given the Jaguars schedule for 2006, I can't imagine the team will open the season with many tickets remaining for any of the eight home games.

Sonal from Jacksonville:
My husband is so passionate about football. What is the secret of football mania in this country? Why is this the number one sport?

Vic: The reasons are many but there's one, in my opinion, that soars above all of the others: It's a sport that's made for television. TV made pro football what it is today. I don't think there's any question about that.

Ann from Calgary, Alberta:
Are there any teams currently in the market for a starting quarterback? Do you think any of these teams are interested in David Garrard and, if so, do you think Garrard would leave the Jaguars for a starting position elsewhere?

Vic: Miami is certainly looking for a long-term answer at quarterback. I can think of a lot of teams that should have the quarterback position on their minds: The Jets, Bills, Ravens, Browns, Raiders, Cowboys, Lions, Bears, Packers, Saints and Cardinals come to mind in one way or another. I think it's logical to expect a team such as the Dolphins, for example, to express interest in David Garrard, but I don't expect the Jaguars to be offered a first-round pick for David. That's where the whole thing probably stops because, in my opinion, David is worth more to the Jaguars than a second-round pick. He proved late last season that he can play in this league and it's possible he's capable of an even higher level of performance. I think it's time to take a long, hard look at Garrard as a player and not just as trade bait. Competition is a good thing. It makes everyone better.

Susan from Briarcliff, NY:
That guy on the Bills looked pretty when I saw him play the Jets this year. My husband said he was going to be a free agent. Should the Jaguars try to sign him?

Vic: All I can do is guess that you're referring to cornerback Nate Clements. If that's the guy then I agree that he's a good-looking player. The problem is the Bills are likely to put the "franchise" tag on Clements. The "franchise" salary dropped from $8.8 million to $5.9 million this year and that makes a cornerback of Clements' talent very affordable and the Bills are currently $10.6 million under the cap with 56 players signed. Frankly, at $5.9 million in salary and no signing bonus Clements would be a heckuva bargain, so I don't think Clements will make it into free agency. In the Jaguars' defensive system, the right cornerback position plays a lot of zone coverage, which means the Jaguars may not have to spend as much money to find the kind of guy they need at that position.

Jenny from Madison, NJ:
When did you become such a jerk?

Vic: A long time ago.

Jessica from Jacksonville:
I think we should get a new sports reporter. You're getting pretty far up there in the age category. This is a young man's game.

Vic: Based on all of the old football players who are forcing their way into the media, sports reporting would seem to be an old man's game.

Jane from Jacksonville:
I think, for fans, the offensive line is the most difficult position to evaluate. Do you think the offensive line is a position that needs to be addressed this offseason?

Vic: Most people believe the Jaguars have a problem on their offensive line. I think that opinion is based on the poor performance of the offensive line in the playoff loss to the Patriots. We tend to form our opinions based on our most recent information. I will admit that left guard was a problem for the Jaguars last season. The performance at that position was inconsistent. Guard, however, should be an easy position to fix. I like what the Jaguars found at left tackle and I think right tackle Mo Williams had injury issues late in the year and he'll come back strong in 2006. Chris Naeole is a top guard and the Jaguars believe Brad Meester is a core player. That leaves one spot and it should be easy to address.

Erica from Kansas City, MO:
When Pearman fumbled the ball in the Jaguars playoff game against the Patriots, I could have sworn it was the result of a helmet to helmet hit. The refs didn't throw a penalty flag and Madden said, "Now that's playoff football." Am I missing something? Is there ever a time when helmet to helmet contact isn't helmet to helmet contact?

Vic: There's a lot of helmet to helmet contact in football. We had a helmet to helmet example in the Super Bowl when Hines Ward was knocked out of bounds and the Seahawks defender injured himself in the process of making the tackle. That's not the kind of helmet to helmet penalty the officials are going to enforce. Helmet to helmet hits aren't going to be penalized when they appear to be incidental or unavoidable. They're looking for the helmet to helmet contact that occurred when the offensive player was in a vulnerable position and the defender went high in an attempt to punish the offensive player. That occurs most often when the offensive player is a receiver going over the middle and the defender has the guy "teed up." The helmet to helmet rule was instituted with that play in mind and that's when you are most likely to see a flag thrown.

Tamie from Tallahassee, FL:
Some of the players wear bands on their upper arms and I can not figure out what purpose they serve. None of the hard core football junkies I've talked to know and I'm hoping you do. So what are they for?

Vic: It's strictly fashion. That's all. They wanna show off their muscles.

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