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You'll hear the train a comin'

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

Wade from Jacksonville:
I know hindsight is 20/20, but looking back to 1994-1995, what was the knock on Jimmy Smith? He was a second-round pick in Dallas, had an appendectomy, was cut, and then out of football for a year before the Jags signed him as a free agent in the expansion year. Since he was a speed, deep-threat guy, I would think everyone would have tried to sign him. What was the deal then with Jimmy?

Vic: The appendectomy blew out his second season, 1993. You're forgetting about the broken leg he sustained in his rookie training camp, which pretty much blew out his rookie year, 1992. After two non-productive seasons, and playing on a team that had Michael Irvin and Alvin Harper, Smith was cut and landed in Philadelphia where the coach, Rich Kotite, was unable to see Smith's talent. The Eagles waived Smith one day after the '94 final cuts, which made it veritably impossible to catch on with somebody else, especially coming off a broken leg and an appendectomy. There just wasn't enough information on him, at a position that has never assigned a premium to "street" guys. There was also a bigger problem: Smith had lost confidence. Even when he was signed by the expansion Jaguars for the 1995 training camp, Smith's goals and expectations were considerably diminished from when he came into the league as a second-round pick. Smith has said that when he joined the Jaguars all he wanted to do was stick around and get a paycheck. He'd return kicks, cover kicks, anything to stick on a roster. Stardom was the farthest thing from his mind. Smith didn't make his first pro pass reception until the ninth game of that '95 season, in Pittsburgh. Imagine that; on an expansion team. He finished strong the rest of that season and that seemed to fuel his re-birth. After Tom Coughlin cut Andre Rison late in the '96 season, Smith's career exploded. He would later say that all he needed was an opportunity.

Bryan from Jacksonville:
Of the two field goal kickers, Josh Scobee and Seth Marler, which has the best overall accuracy? Whose job is it to lose?

Vic: Training camp and the preseason will determine which kicker is the more accurate of the two. I do believe, however, that it's Scobee's job to lose. I think he has the stronger leg and his performance as a rookie is difficult to deny.

Farris from Jacksonville:
Is there any difference in penalty if a user is caught with marijuana in his system, as opposed to some sort of steroid? Are they both considered a violation of the substance abuse policy or are they classified differently?

Vic: They are in separate programs within the league's substance abuse policy and they are subject to mildly-different procedures.

Paul from Gainesville, FL:
This is an excerpt from an article by Len Pasquarelli on "Fans like to consider the salary cap some sort of great equalizer, but that isn't really the case. As noted here in the past, the cap is more a bookkeeping number than a spending limit, and only partly reflects a franchise's payroll and other player-related costs. That's why teams like Washington, the league's Golden Goose, can afford a payroll in excess of $100 million, while some other clubs have an outlay of 40 percent less than that." This sounds to me like there are ways to circumvent the cap; the cap that is supposed to keep a level playing field. Can you explain what this means? Are all the teams really not playing by the same rules?

Vic: Lenny's statement is absolutely accurate, when it is applied strictly to the present. There are a lot of creative ways to push this year's money onto future caps and to siphon room from future caps into this year. That's exactly what the Jaguars did to get themselves into trouble in the late-'90's. What Lenny isn't saying is that, in time, those kinds of tactics catch up to a team, effectively resulting in its "Armageddon." The Jaguars faced it in 2002. Tennessee is facing it now and the situation will get worse before it gets better. Washington will face the same thing; count on it. When attempting to understand the salary cap, you have to think in terms of many years. One year never tells the story. Here's why: I can sign you to a five-year, $5 million bonus, defer payment of half that money to March of next year in the form of an option bonus and take only a $500,000 amortization hit on you this year. Then, next March, I can convert your $2 million salary for the 2006 season into signing bonus and take only a $500,000 salary hit on you in '06. So where is that money going? That's right, onto future caps. In a few years, I'll see the first signs of that train light headin' for me. It's the amortization train. I'm on the tracks and I can't get off. Eventually, the cap is the great equalizer.

Derek from Rio Rancho, NM:
You said the Jaguars don't have a blitz guy, but isn't that what Cordova and Favors are?

Vic: Greg Favors isn't a blitz guy. Jorge Cordova is supposed to be a blitz guy. We'll see.

Mike from Jacksonville:
Give me some of Ken Anderson's great accomplishments, since he was in the league and with the same team 16 years. Why would a team stick with a quarterback so long? Did they go to the Super Bowl or AFC championship game or something?

Vic: If it wasn't for San Francisco's goal line stand in Super Bowl XVI, the Bengals would've won the game, Ken Anderson would've been the MVP and he'd probably be in the Hall of Fame today. That's how fine the line is between Anderson and immortality. He was a great quarterback and I had the pleasure of covering him twice a year for his whole career. Anderson threw for 197 touchdowns and nearly 33,000 yards. He set records for completion percentage and passer rating. In Super Bowl XVI, Anderson completed 73.5 percent of his passes, threw two touchdown passes and ran for one. Four failed plays from the three-yard line – the last three from the 49ers' one – were the difference, however, in the outcome. The 49ers defense held, Joe Montana won the MVP and the 49ers dynasty was born.

Roger from Jacksonville:
There has been much discussion about the NFL owners meeting and the desire of large-market teams to get a greater share of the revenue. That much I understand. Greed is a pretty simple concept to grasp, but one writer suggested that more revenue would allow owners of big-market teams like New York, Chicago and Dallas to sign more top players to big, long-term contracts. I just don't see how that works with the salary cap. Under the current CBA, doesn't everybody play by the same rules, or is the writer suggesting that more revenue allows an owner to give huge signing bonuses that will be amortized to fit under the cap, whereas teams with less revenue simply wouldn't have the cash to do that? If some teams recklessly applied additional revenue to amortized bonuses, it seems to me that it would, in the long run, benefit the teams who responsibly manage their salary caps. What am I missing?

Vic: You're not missing anything. You've got it all. Remember, however, that as large-market teams drive revenue higher, they'll also drive the cap higher and at some point the small-market teams are going to be left in the dust. The division between large-market and small-market teams is a sticky problem for the league because in many cases the large-market teams have new ownership that paid a whopping price for their teams. Such is the case in Houston and Washington, where the franchise fee and purchase prices topped $700 million. Compare that to the $145 million franchise fee for the Jaguars and the $2,500 franchise fee for the Steelers, which are two teams aggressively representing the small-market group. The Texans and Redskins would say to the Jaguars and Steelers, if you're going to share my revenue, shouldn't you also share my debt? Greed is always at the heart of money decisions. This isn't so much about the salary cap and players salaries and the competitive balance of the game, as much as it is about large-market owners with greater revenue potential and greater debt wanting more money because more money is always better than less money. The philosophy of "leaguethink" is at stake. Greed is a powerful foe.

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