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"We can't go backward"


Wayne Weaver's focus remains constant.

Weaver, the Jaguars' owner, said while part of his attention by necessity is on the ongoing labor issues that led to the NFL lockout, his primary objectives very much involve ensuring the franchise maintains momentum built in the last two years.

"We're focused on business as usual, selling tickets, selling sponsorships and reminding people that we sold the most tickets in the National Football League (in 2010)," Weaver told following his return from the NFL Owners Meetings in New Orleans, La., Monday and Tuesday.

"We need to build on our momentum. We can't go backward."

Weaver discussed with a variety of issues, emphasizing that the franchise's primary focus in the coming days, weeks and months isn't on the lockout, but on ticket sales, sponsorship renewals, new sponsorships, draft preparation and preparing for free agency when the labor situation is resolved.

"We're focused on the draft and free agency," he said. "We have plenty to do around here. That's our focus – not the labor thing. We think our negotiators will sooner rather than later get back to the negotiating table and both sides will work hard to get a deal done.

"It's important for this market that we continue to build on the momentum we started here."

Weaver said he was limited in how in-depth he could discuss details of the labor situation, but said the key date remains April 6, when a lawsuit filed by 10 players requesting an injunction to end the lockout will be heard in U.S. District Court in St. Paul, Minn.

He also emphasized that he believes the NFL not only will play in 2011, but that there will be a 16-game season.

"I'm very confident we're going to play football next season," Weaver said. "We just have to be patient for April 6, to see how those decisions are made. We think once we get through that both sides will return to the negotiating table sooner rather than later."

Weaver said he emphasized to owners during the meetings that the fans' primary interest is simply that there be football.

"Clearly, the owners are in lockstep that we want to get something done that's fair to the players and fair to the clubs," Weaver said. "More importantly, we have to listen to our fans. They want us to play football."

Weaver also discussed:

*The rule change implemented at the meetings to move kickoffs to the 35-yard line: "I honestly didn't think it made a lot of sense to move the kickoff, but it plays to us because we have a live-legged kicker (Josh Scobee) that can pooch the ball high. If we're kicking to (Chicago Bears returner Devin) Hester, we kick it out of the end zone. I think the rule is fine, because at least we don't give them the ball at the 25 (after touchback). I thought that was silly."

*The upcoming 2011 NFL Draft: "I honestly believe that the draft this year, particularly the strength of the draft, plays to our needs. By taking the best player we're going to get somebody who can come in and contribute immediately to our football team. We think it's a fairly deep draft in areas we want to go after. We think when free agency does open there will be a larger free agent pool than normal, so we'll have a chance to be active in free agency. I like where we are. I think we can really improve our football team. If we do those things, and if we're able to accomplish what we believe we can accomplish in the draft and in free agency, the team will be able to compete at the highest level."

*The team's overall progress: "I really believe that in two drafts – this draft and another draft – we really will be one of the elite teams. I think (General Manager) Gene (Smith) has really done a great job. We had 38 new people (on the roster) – look at how those people have grown. We have some playmakers in that group, along with the core veterans. Then, look at the people sitting on our injured reserve that we're going to bring back this year, players like (defensive tackle) D'Anthony Smith and (defensive end) Aaron Kampman and on and on and on. We have some players who can come in and contribute. It's not only like having a draft class. It's like having another draft class that didn't play for us last year very much coming back."

*On Smith's building philosophy: "Gene and his people have just done an outstanding job. They've been very disciplined and very focused. We're going to do our work. We're not going to get in on draft day and say, 'Here's a need to be filled. He's not the best player on the board, but that's what we're going to do.' We've done too much of that. Gene has really been very disciplined in really saying, 'We're going to execute our philosophy of taking the best player available.' We've done that and it really has paid off. We're building the core. Each draft, we're adding to the core and adding to the playmakers. We have one guy on our team from the 2008 draft. Now, if you look at it, two thirds of our team is from the last two off-seasons."

*The overall quality of players added the last two seasons: "The chemistry on this team is the best it ever has been. These are young men who are hungry, anxious to learn, willing to put in the extra work in the classroom and on the field. It's a good group of young men who are about team and not about self."

*On 2010 first-round selection Tyson Alualu: "A lot of people speculated that we took Tyson too early last year. Well, it turned out that Tyson is the kind of player we thought he was going to be and he's going to be a key for this football team for the next number of years." 

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