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TV more enticing for NFL fans than the stadium experience; mailbag

The report that surfaced this week about the New York Jets having trouble selling out their brand new $1.8 billion stadium should hardly come as a surprise. The issue is not unique to the Jets, as the Jaguars and Rams can attest, but that's not the story here.

The popularity of high-definition television, combined with the availability to watch every game from the comfort of a couch, has started to become a problem the NFL has to tackle. Commissioner Roger Goodell said as much recently when he talked about the need to continue to improve the in-game experience for fans.

Good luck. You'd be hard pressed to find many people criticizing Jets fans who plan to watch at home rather than pay $90 for a seat in the upper level of the end zone. Add on the cost for parking, food, beers, traffic and the weather, and no wonder more fans are choosing to stay home.

Sure, there is nothing like the thrill of actually being there and feeling the energy. But why not buy tickets for your family on StubHub for one of those games rather than plunking down such a large investment for the entire season. That way your kids can experience the real thing one time and then watch the rest of the games within 10 feet of the closest bathroom.

The bottom line is that television coverage and clarity is so stellar these days that it really is better to watch the game in detail at home. And with cable operators like Comcast recently announcing they will be carrying ESPN's 3-D Channel, it doesn't seem like that will be changing anytime soon.

Now for some mail...

If you had to put a number on it, what percentage of NFL players would you guess take performance-enhancing drugs?--Rob, Greenwich, Ct.

Maybe I am naive but I have always estimated it to be less than 10 percent. Probably less than five. I know most fans think there is a large segment of players taking Human Growth Hormone since the NFL doesn't test for it, but if it were that prevalent, I don't think guys like Brian Cushing and Jason Ferguson would be testing positive for PEDs. Let's hope I'm right.

While I'm not a football fan, I read your articles because it's a unique perspective that not a lot of writers can offer. The sport that I do follow, however, is cycling. Recently, a Swiss rider named Thomas Frei was caught using EPO, a drug that boosts red blood cell count. When he was caught, he admitted to the charges, refused the option to have his B sample tested, and told some of his methodology for it. There are a few honest people, just not enough of them.--Tim Root, Houston

That is great to hear. I would have really respected Cushing if he had done the same thing. I'm simply not buying his "I don't know how it got there" comments from his press conference. That just seems so incredibly implausible, especially when some people close to him were saying a doctor had prescribed it for him.

Love your column. When college players are drafted/signed in April-May, do they automatically drop their course load to participate fully in OTAs? The money, aspiration to perform at the NFL level, and pressure from the team/coaches/administration would be huge. But, still, is finishing a semester/degree something a draftee/signee considers upon signing? --Hector Benitez Arraiza, Aibonito, P.R.

Because of the growing emphasis placed on training and preparing for all of the pre-draft events, including the Senior Bowl, combine and pro days, most NFL hopefuls drop out of school after the first semester if they haven't already graduated by that time. There are some who train on their own college campus to finish up their schooling, but it is less every year. The best move somebody interested in playing professional football could make is planning their course work ahead of time so that they can graduate by December, if not earlier.

I keep seeing terms like "three-technique" and "five-technique" linemen. Can you please explain what they mean? Thanks.--Ted Metelnick, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

The "technique" identifies where a defensive lineman lines up across from an offensive lineman. Each technique represents a different shoulder of an offensive lineman or tight end. If a defensive lineman lines up on either side of the center, he is a "one technique". Inside shoulder of either guard is a "two-technique". Outside shoulder of either guard is a "three technique" and so forth going all the way out along the line of scrimmage.

Do you think Dennis Dixon will be given a DECENT shot at starting for the Steelers?--@True_Soul via Twitter

Absolutely. The word out of Pittsburgh is head coach Mike Tomlin is very high on him, and I think he should be after Dixon played pretty well in his first NFL start last season at Baltimore.

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