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Where's the free stuff?

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

Sam from Largo, FL:
Please tell me the Jaguars practices starting May 17 are open to the public. I have never been able to attend a Jaguars game or practice.

Vic: The Jaguars' May and June practices, which are known league-wide as OTAs (organized team activities), are not open to the public. Training camp will begin on July 29. It will be open to the public.

Bobby from Jacksonville:
There were some players at mini-camp who were not listed on the roster sheet. Do you know who they are; number three and 47, for example? Rumors floating around the message board are that one of them is Jamaal Brimmer, who Fox Sports is saying we picked up, although others sources say he was invited in by the Seahawks.

Vic: The Jaguars mini-camp last weekend included four "workout players." They are: David Brader, a punter from SW Missouri State who wore number three; Ray Piquion, a linebacker from Florida State who wore number 47; Mark Wood, a tight end from Fresno State who wore number 48; and Julius Franklin, a guard from Bethune-Cookman who wore number 64. "Workout players" are, in effect, try-out guys. The Jaguars have not yet signed any of the four "workout players" at last weekend's mini-camp.

Danton from Altamonte Springs, FL:
Your article sounds like the offense will be great and Rashean Mathis is a star in the making. Is there anything that concerns you about the team at this point?

Vic: You may be reading a little too much into my mini-camp reports. I wasn't making predictions, just reporting what occurred at the practices. Spring is a feel-good time of the year and there are plenty of reasons to feel good about the Jaguars. Rashean Mathis is one of the most major of those reasons. Left cornerback is secure. As long as Mathis is healthy, there's no reason for any kind of concern at his position. He may be the best athlete this team has ever had. The Jaguars obviously feel good about their two defensive tackle positions, quarterback, wide receiver, offensive line, safety and their kicking game. The team appears to have depth of talent at those places. There are positions of reasonable concern, however, just as there are on every team in the league. Right cornerback is the position that is on everybody's lips, and I agree that it's a concern that the Jaguars don't have a legitimate starter returning at that position. It should not be, in my opinion, as grave a concern as most think it is. RCB is the underneath corner. He's the zone guy. LCB is the man corner. You can usually make-do at RCB, but if you don't have a big-time guy at LCB, you have major problems. From the cast of characters the Jaguars have at RCB, I think they'll find what they need. Personally, I'm more concerned about running back. We all know what Fred Taylor means to this team. It scares me that we won't be able to get a read on his recovery from knee surgery until late June. What if it's going to take more time? Should a veteran running back of some worth come free, I would expect the Jaguars to attempt to sign him.

Nathan from Richmond, VA:
In the mini-camp interviews, coach Del Rio called Jimmy Smith one of the elite deep-ball receivers in the league. I tend to agree with him, but what makes Smith so great, in your opinion? He doesn't have freakish size, he doesn't have warp-drive speed, and he doesn't blow you away with his quickness. However, game in and game out, he is always a threat. How does the guy do it?

Vic: You got bad information on Jimmy Smith. In his prime, he absolutely did have, as you call it, "warp-drive" speed. At 6-1, 208, Smith has always been a big, fast receiver, and that's a time-honored formula for success. Nothing beats big and fast. I don't know if Smith is as fast at 36 as he was at 26, but it looks like he can still run. In fact, I'd like to see Smith in a race with Matt Jones. We asked Smith this past weekend what his 40 time was the last time he was timed. He said the last time he was timed was in 1998, when he ran a 4.39. I can not remember ever having seen him caught from behind.

John from Jacksonville:
You forgot one key dreaded phrase: "We need to step it up."

Vic: There are lots of coachspeak I didn't mention. Another one I hate is "play above the X's and O's." Every play on paper is a touchdown. How can you play better than that? One of the things I loved about Chuck Noll was his reluctance to use coachspeak. Chuck has a very glib sense of humor. He had a running back named Sidney Thornton, who drove Chuck nuts by continually doing dumb things. After a multiple-fumble performance in which Thornton's final blunder of the day was a fumble that was returned for the game-deciding score while the Steelers were attempting to run out the clock, we asked Chuck about Thornton's nightmarish afternoon. "Sidney has many problems and they are great," Chuck said. I still haven't stopped laughing. That's my kind of coachspeak. It's so much better than "Sidney has to step it up."

Ed from Ponte Vedra, FL:
I saw a woman got stumped on a game show on the length of an official NFL halftime. The show said 12 minutes, which I think is wrong. Except for the Super Bowl, what is the official halftime in the NFL?

Vic: Twelve minutes.

Arsenio from Jacksonville:
Who are the top 10 players of the first 10 years of the Jaguars existence?

Vic: The Jaguars did a 10-year commemorative publication in which they named the franchise's top 10 players. Those players are: Tony Boselli, Tony Brackens, Mark Brunell, Mike Hollis, Byron Leftwich, Keenan McCardell, Leon Searcy, Jimmy Smith, Marcus Stroud and Fred Taylor.

Stan from Jacksonville:
You said to find a team that doesn't have at least one position of concern: San Diego.

Vic: Really? The Chargers' most productive wide receiver last season was Eric Parker, who was 32nd in the AFC last season with 47 catches for 690 yards and four touchdowns. The other starting wide receiver is Keenan McCardell, who is 35 years old. Behind those two the Chargers have nearly nothing, and they didn't address wide receiver as fully as they would've liked in the draft. They picked Vincent Jackson, a big, raw guy from Northern Colorado who most would consider to have been a major "reach" in the second round. Do you still think the Chargers don't have a concern at wide receiver?

E. Michael from Jacksonville:
On a punt-return, when a "gunner" for the punting team attempts to down a punt before it goes into the end zone and the player touches the ball before maintaining possession, is the ball placed where first contact was made or where possession is attained?

Vic: If the "gunner" controls the ball and downs it before he or the ball goes into the end zone, then the receiving team will be awarded possession at the point where the ball is first touched. That rule applies to anywhere on the field.

Aaron from Huntington, WV:
Looking ahead, who do you see as the possession receiver in the Jaguars offense?

Vic: That's a great question. This past weekend, I asked Jimmy Smith, "Are they ever going to replace you?" Jimmy thought about it for a second, then said, "Have we replaced Keenan, yet?" The answer is no, they haven't. This team needs a possession receiver. It needs someone to move the sticks. I'm thinking Reggie Williams might become that guy, even though he was drafted to be a big-play receiver. Maybe Matt Jones will become that guy. In the little I saw of him last weekend, he clearly gave the appearance of being a sure-handed guy.

Nigel from Cedar Hill, TX:
Does the rule preventing college players from practicing with pro teams until their class graduates apply to juniors?

Vic: It applies to everyone. Listen, everybody's missing the point on this rule. The intent is to send the message to players and their universities that the NFL honors the importance of education and the uninterrupted pursuit of a baccalaureate degree. Is that so difficult to digest? That a few spring football practices in a player's rookie season should take a backseat to the concept of a lifetime degree from one of America's esteemed institutions of higher learning? Even if the player isn't a candidate for graduation, shouldn't the NFL's message be loud and clear that the league respects the purpose for which America's colleges and universities were founded? Don't tell me the practices Reggie Williams missed last spring were the reason he didn't catch more passes. I'm not buying that.

Lou from Jacksonville:
Reggie Williams looked like a different person during this weekend's mini-camp. If the draft took place next weekend instead of two weeks ago, would the Jaguars still have taken Matt Jones?

Vic: That's another great question. My hope is the answer would be yes. My hope is that because Matt Jones was clearly the highest-rated guy on the Jaguars' board, and because the Jaguars believe he can be a great player and James Harris has always said you shouldn't ever pass on a great player, Jones would still be the pick. I think he would still be their pick.

Mark from San Luis Obispo, CA:
Fred Taylor's injury concerns me. You have previously said that you can tell when Fred is lying. After seeing Fred's video clip on his rehab comments, do you think he is telling the truth when he says he will be fine for the start of training camp?

Vic: I don't think he was lying. I think he believes he'll be recovered in time for the start of training camp. His "body language" in the video clip isn't real re-assuring, however, and I think that's because there's an element of the unknown involved. Can anyone know for sure what lies ahead? Can anybody say it'll be all better on this day? That's what I read into Fred's "body language." He's not lying. He's merely repeating what his doctor has told him, but he can't know for sure.

Eric from Navarre, FL:
What do off-season workouts consist of? Is it just lifting weights or can the team actually hit the field and throw the ball around? Seems to me this would be a great time for Leftwich and the wide receivers to work on the new offense.

Vic: That's what they'll do in the OTAs. It's a full-scale practice, without the pads.

Adam from Bremerton, WA:
I just watched a re-run of "Everybody Loves Raymond" and thought about how easy his life looks, since he's a sportswriter. Is your life as good as Ray's?

Vic: The guy's supposed to be a sportswriter but he's not a drunk, he's happily married and actually spends time with his wife and family, and he doesn't spend half the day on the phone with John Clayton. I think I actually saw him wearing pajamas in one show. Yeah, and I'll bet he has one of those mini-robes he takes with him on road trips. What a joke. I'm offended by this fantasy representation of the life of an American sportswriter. Where's the free golf shirt? The free golf? The stolen hotel pens, stationery, soap, shampoo, conditioner, mouthwash, lotion and towels? Why is he at home all of the time? This guy is giving us all a bad name. How dare they destroy what so many of us have spent our lives attempting to establish.

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