One aspect of this COVID-19-impaired 2020 NFL season that doesn’t get talked about, which will significantly impact the Jaguars’ media coverage, is all teams prohibiting reporters’ access to the locker room.
Being able to communicate to players or coaches only through video conference calls, the limitations are obvious. Reporters, columnists and electronic media will conduct only a fraction of the interviews that normally get done after games and during the week leading up to Sunday kickoff. Plus, lack of access means missing out on informal chats with players and coaches that help build media relationships.
For the first time in Jaguars’ history, the Times-Union will not be sending a beat writer or columnist to road games, starting with next week’s matchup against the Tennessee Titans.
“We have had to adjust our coverage plans for Jaguars games similar to how we’ve had to adjust for other coverage areas,” said Times-Union editor Mary Kelli Palka. “We’ve already shown that this won’t stop us from getting great stories about what’s happening on and off the field.”
None of Jacksonville’s primary television stations – WJAX/WFOX (Channel 47-30), WJXT-Channel 4 or WTLV-Channel 12 (First Coast News) – are sending anchors, reporters or photographers to Jaguars’ road games. For WJAX/WFOX sports director Brent Martineau, that’s a first since he joined the Jaguars’ official station in 2008.
Both Channel 4 and Channel 12 have traveled on a limited basis to Jaguars road games in recent years, but the COVID-19 media restrictions have forced all Jacksonville media to put travel on the back burner this season. It’s possible a Jaguars miracle run to the playoffs could change travel plans in four months, but it’s too early to tell.
“We’re going to hold off [on travel] and wait and see,” Martineau said. “Without being able to do interviews in the locker room and get reaction, it doesn’t make much sense. It’s a lot of money and resources to go on the road and the only benefit is getting to do a live stand-up [report after the game] from the stadium.”
With the assistance of team Director of Public Relations Tad Dickman and his staff, the T-U and television stations will be relying on video conference calls with Jaguars’ head coach Doug Marrone, quarterback Gardner Minshew and possibly two or three other selected players for reaction and sound bites after each game.
For 2020, every media outlet faces similar challenges. It’s going to be more difficult giving Jaguars’ fans the abundance of stories and anecdotes they’re accustomed to getting after games in a pandemic-free season.
“You can hit the main bullet points from a game, but it’s hard to tell the side stories,” said Martineau. “It’s going to be different.”
Even the Jaguars’ 1010XL radio team of play-by-play announcer Frank Frangie, along with analysts Jeff Lageman and Tony Boselli, will be broadcasting road games remotely from the national network television booth at TIAA Bank Field for the first time. Field reporter Rick Ballou will give injury reports from Jacksonville through communication with team officials.
The lack of locker room access, and all media mostly working from home except during Jaguars’ home games, has become the new normal. Hopefully, for the local media and Jaguars’ fans craving as much information as possible, this limited-access season will be a one-time exception. . . .
It’ll be a cool story if the Jaguars’ James Robinson develops into a productive, dependable running back. When he starts Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts, Robinson will become only the second undrafted RB in team history to start as a rookie, joining Elvis Joseph who had three starts in 2001.
That season, the most successful undrafted back in Jaguars’ history, Stacey Mack, started 11 games because Fred Taylor missed the rest of the season due to tearing his groin off the bone in Week 2. Mack played 50 games (13 starts) for the Jaguars, finishing with 1,498 yards and 19 touchdowns. He’s No. 9 on the team’s all-time rushing list. . . .
Only four Jaguars’ players on the 53-man roster are over the age of 30, the oldest being 33-year-old fullback Bruce Miller. The team’s average age is 25.44 years – 24.44 on defense and 26.43 on offense. . . .
Rookie long snapper Ross Matiscik will make his first NFL snap Sunday for the Jaguars against Indianapolis on his 24th birthday. . . .
Jaguars Trivia: In nine career games against quarterback Tom Brady, who are the only two Jaguars to have interceptions? Hint: It happened in the same game. Answer at the bottom. . . .
Isn’t it heartwarming to see Jalen Ramsey receive a record five-year, $105 million contract extension for a cornerback from the Los Angeles Rams, with $71 million guaranteed. The other guarantee is the ex-Jaguar will remain happy and drama-free for at least one season. . . .
It’s no wonder the lack of social distancing and most fans packed in without wearing masks at last week’s Baker County High home game against Bradford went viral. The lack of responsibility on the part of Baker County school and district officials to not enforce a safer environment against the spread of COVID-19 was embarrassing. Nobody did anything illegal, but the lack of consideration for the overall well-being of society defied common sense. . . .
In his first game as the permanent Memphis head coach, Jacksonville native Ryan Silverfield ran a successful fake punt that was rather unconventional. On fourth-and-4 from his own 23, leading Arkansas State 34-17 in the third quarter, Memphis snapped the ball to 280-pound defensive end Joseph Dorceus, who ran through a hole on the left side for a 25-yard gain. It led to a field goal as Memphis won 37-24.
Silverfield made a high-risk call that would have brought severe criticism had it not worked and the Tigers ended up losing the game. Maybe it was a prelude to the bold approach the former Bolles School nose guard is willing to take now that he has the ultimate authority. . . .
One week ago, Baltimore Orioles outfielder DJ Stewart, who had just returned to the club after being optioned off the roster for a month, was hitless in 16 at-bats. The Bolles School product then went to Yankee Stadium and hit home runs in three consecutive at-bats over the weekend. Stewart has sparked an Orioles’ resurgence with 8 hits in his last 14 at-bats, including five homers in a five-day span, and raised his average to .267. . . .
This is one definition of stupidity: The ACC coaches proposing a 354-team, all-inclusive NCAA basketball tournament. Legendary Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski is reportedly leading the charge. It’s a different kind of March Madness and the equivalent of giving everybody a participation trophy. Look, there’s no makeup call for a 2019 COVID-19 canceled tournament, so stop trying to fix something that isn’t broken. . . .
Pigskin forecast: Jaguars over Colts by 1 (surprise party); Tennessee Titans over Denver Broncos by 1 (Jadeveon Clowney addition and untimely Von Miller absence); New Orleans Saints over Tampa Bay Buccaneers by 4 (honeymoon spoilers); New England Patriots over Miami Dolphins by 1 (Cam Newton rebirth); Florida State over Georgia Tech by 13 (cupcake recipes). . . .
Super Bowl: Kansas City Chiefs over Saints. . . .
Trivia answer: In 2012, Jaguars’ cornerback Derek Cox and safety Chris Prosinski each had an interception against Brady, but the New England Patriots won 23-16 at TIAA Bank Field.
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