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Report: Belichick will be fined

Bill Belichick AP

The NFL has a bright-line rule when it comes to its officials:  No touchy.

Thus, despite whatever explanation anyone can muster when touching an official, touching an official always results in punishment.

So it’s no surprise that, as reported by Steve Wyche of NFL Network, the NFL will fine Patriots coach Bill Belichick for (wait for it) touching an official.

Belichick grabbed the arm of one of the various officials who were giving him the cold shoulder after a final-play field goal gave the Ravens a win over the Patriots.  Belichick wanted someone to explain why the play wasn’t being reviewed by replay.

“I’m trying to get an explanation for obviously an important call, play, in that game,” Belichick said Monday.  “That’s the number one thing between coaches and officials.  It’s always at the forefront.  It’s just communication of what’s going on, of what’s happening.”

Still, no touchy.

In 2009, receiver Brandon Stokley was ejected from a game and fined $25,000 for making unintended contact with an official while disputing a call.  That same season, Raiders tight end Tony Stewart was fined $25,000 for the same infraction.

And way back in 1995 (as we mentioned on Monday), former Steelers coach Bill Cowher was fined for stuffing a photo of a play on which the Steelers didn’t have 12 men on the field into the pocket of the referee.

So Belichick, in all fairness, will be fined at least $25,000.  Given the multiple warnings regarding treatment of the replacement officials and the fact that fines for verbal abuse have been in the range of $25,000 to $30,000, the fine for physical contact could be higher.

Some have suggested Belichick could be or should be suspended.  But if he wasn’t suspended for Spygate, he won’t be suspended for grabbing an official’s arm.

Still, discipline is warranted.  All he had to do was follow the officials into the tunnel and ask to speak to the referee.  Since it was the last play of the game, a replay was still possible; indeed, the referee in last year’s Raiders-Bills game reviewed a last-play Hail Mary after the game had ended — unbeknownst to everyone at the time.  Belichick should have gone through the proper channels and tried to lobby for another look at the field goal.

That said, the field goal looked to be good.  More importantly, because the ball was over the upright, the call on the field couldn’t have been overturned.

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Catapano, Miles to start as injury replacements for Jets

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - AUGUST 11: Marqise Lee #11 of the Jacksonville Jaguars is tackled by Rontez Miles #45 and Marcus Williams #20 of the New York Jets in an NFL preseason game at MetLife Stadium on August 11, 2016 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images) Getty Images

Safety Rontez Miles and linebacker Mike Catapano are in the starting lineup for the Jets Monday night vs. the Colts.

Miles replaces Calvin Pryor, who has a concussion, and Catapano replaces Lorenzo Mauldin, who is out with an ankle injury. The Jets had also previously listed wide receiver and return man Jalin Marshall as out with a concussion. Jeremy Ross, who just signed with the Jets last week, is expected to handle the return duties.

Jets defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson and Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton, both of whom had been listed as questionable, are active and in the starting lineup.

The Colts had previously listed three defensive starters — defensive end Robert Mathis, safety Clayton Geathers and cornerback Patrick Robinson — as out. The Jets had also previously ruled nose tackle Steve McLendon out.

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Eli on Odell: He needs to kill officials with kindness

New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham (13) stands on the sideline during the second half of an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016. (AP Photo/Don Wright) AP

Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham proposed that referee Terry McAulay and his crew be banned from ever working games played by the Giants after Sunday’s loss to the Steelers, which you probably won’t be surprised to learn was not the approach head coach Ben McAdoo endorsed on Monday.

McAdoo seemed to agree with Beckham that Sunday’s crew missed some calls on the Steelers, who still wound up with 12 accepted penalties against them to four for the Giants, but said he planned to use the usual avenue of requesting clarification from the league office about them.

“I would say that I thought there were a few times yesterday where he may have been interfered with,” McAdoo said on a conference call. “But that’s part of the process. We’re going to send it in to New York and to the officials, and let them take a look at it, and get some feedback from it, some clarification.”

While the Giants are trying to get more information from the league, Beckham’s quarterback offered his thoughts on another avenue that the wideout might take. Eli Manning believes a spoonful of sugar would be a good route.

“He’s got to be careful. With officials, you want to kill them with kindness,” Manning said with Mike Francesa on WFAN, via Tom Rock of Newsday. “He’s gotta learn to be a good guy and warm up to those guys to get some calls.”

We’ll see if Beckham decides to use a smile as an umbrella the next time he feels caught in an officiating storm.

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NFL reverses course, will allow Titans and Browns players to wear special cleats

ATLANTA, GA - OCTOBER 23:  A view of the cleats worn by Mohamed Sanu #12 of the Atlanta Falcons during pregame warmups prior to facing the San Diego Chargers at Georgia Dome on October 23, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Titans and Browns didn’t play in Week 13, so they didn’t get to participate in the NFL’s “My Cause My Cleats” weekend. Players across the league were allowed to wear special cleats that didn’t conform to the league’s usual uniform rules in support of various causes and endeavors.

The NFL has come to its senses and reversed course regarding the Browns and Titans. NFL Senior Vice President of Communications Natalie Ravitz said Monday that the league reached out to both teams to confirm they could participate in Week 14, when the Browns host the Bengals and the Titans host the Broncos.

The NFL originally said that players from those teams wouldn’t be exempt from the usual uniform rules, and at least two Titans players had reportedly planned to risk the fine and wear their special cleats anyway.

So, this solution seems best. And makes you wonder why it took so long to get here.

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Carroll confirms Thomas done for season

Earl Thomas Getty Images

Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll told reporters Monday that safety Earl Thomas will miss the rest of the season with a fractured tibia.

Carroll said the injury was confirmed Monday and that any timetable for a potential return extends past the remaining weeks this season. Thomas was injured in a collision with teammate Kam Chancellor during Sunday night’s win over the Panthers and tweeted from the locker room that he was contemplating retirement.

Thomas, who’s one of the NFL’s best at his position, had played in 106 consecutive games before a hamstring injury kept him out two weeks ago.

Steven Terrell came in to replace Thomas following the injury. Carroll said Monday that Tyvis Powell, Kelcie McCray and Dewey McDonald are all in the mix at safety behind Terrell.

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Two Titans plan to risk NFL fines and wear special cleats

Delanie Walker, D'Qwell Jackson AP

The NFL allowed players around the NFL to wear special cleats with personal messages on them on Sunday, but players on the Browns and Titans were excluded because they’re on their bye this week. And the NFL told players on those two teams that they won’t be allowed to wear special cleats on a different day.

Two Titans players say they’re going to go ahead and promote their causes with their cleats, no matter what the NFL thinks.

Titans cornerback Jason McCourty and tight end Delanie Walker both told Paul Kuharsky of ESPN that they will wear their cleats for this week’s game. McCourty will wear the same shoe design that his brother, Patriots safety Devin McCourty, wore on Sunday to promote awareness of sickle cell disease.

“I believe you should be [allowed], so I’ll be wearing mine for the game,” McCourty said.

Walker, whose aunt and uncle were killed by a drunk driver in New Orleans hours after they watched him play in Super Bowl XLVII, will wear cleats that promote Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

In the NFL, players who refuse to follow uniform policy always risk fines. In this case, the NFL would be wise to give the players a break. And next year, it would make more sense to do “My Cause, My Cleats” in a week when every team plays.

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Chargers, Raiders geographic futures likely to be decided soon

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 12:  Fans practice during 2016 World Chess Championship at Fulton Market Building on November 12, 2016 in New York City.  (Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images for Agon Limited) Getty Images

As the Chargers flirt with the possibility of moving to Los Angeles and the Raiders flirt with the probability of moving to Las Vegas, the future geographic locations of the two teams will quickly become, as one source with knowledge of the dynamics recently told PFT, a “game of four-dimensional chess.”

The Chargers have the more immediate deadline, given their ability through January 15 to strike a deal with the Rams to share space in Inglewood. Previously, Commissioner Roger Goodell was believed to be “fixated” on keeping the Chargers in San Diego. In recent weeks, however, there’s a sense his stance is softening.

His stance may be softening due to the realities of the situation. With no public money available in San Diego and no chance of even trying to change that until the elections of 2018 or 2020, the Chargers will be spinning their wheels if they stay put.

The Chargers also will likely lose money if they don’t move. In 2015, the uncertainty over a potential relocation helped the team have its best year ever in local revenue, according to a source with knowledge of the situation. The renewed embrace of the team came from the uncertainty regarding a move. In 2016, the numbers are down — and the team expects the trend to continue if the franchise adopts year-to-year status in San Diego.

The possibility floated here last week of Rams owner Stan Kroenke kicking in cash to keep the Chargers out of L.A. and to help them build a new stadium in San Diego ultimately isn’t practical, for two reasons. First, it would take about $500 million to bridge the gap between the contribution from the Chargers and the NFL and the full stadium costs. Second, if the Chargers decide to stay in San Diego, the Raiders then would acquire the right to go to Los Angeles.

Yes, Raiders owner Mark Davis wants to move to Las Vegas. But, as one source explained it, the Los Angeles deal actually would be better for the Raiders than the Las Vegas deal. It also would potentially make the Raiders the prime draw in L.A., relegating the Rams to red-headed stepchild status.

These dynamics make it more likely the Chargers will move to L.A. As one source explained it, Kroenke has offered a fair deal to the Chargers. While the upside from local revenues are limited, the Chargers also aren’t required to borrow hundreds of millions of dollars to build their own stadium, along with assuming the risks of cost overruns. Coupled with the increased value of the franchise after the move, an L.A. relocation makes a lot of sense.

So if the Chargers go to L.A., the Raiders will be left with staying in Oakland or moving to Las Vegas. Oakland won’t be a viable option unless and until there’s a real proposal that doesn’t entail Davis selling any of the team. Even then, his mind seems to be firmly made up — and it won’t be easy to change it at this point.

However it plays out, it’s all going to play out soon, with a seismic shift potentially coming to California’s NFL teams very, very soon.

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Bears claim Johnthan Banks

TAMPA, FL - DECEMBER 21: Wide receiver Jordy Nelson #87 of the Green Bay Packers catches a pass over defender cornerback Johnthan Banks #27 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the fourth quarter at Raymond James Stadium on December 21, 2014 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Cliff McBride/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Bears claimed cornerback Johnthan Banks via waivers on Monday.

The Lions waived Banks over the weekend. A second-round pick of the Buccaneers in 2013, Banks was traded by the Bucs to the Lions in early November.

Banks, 27, had played in two games for the Lions. He was a starter for his first two seasons with the Bucs but had fallen out of the rotation last season and did not start a game this season before the trade.

Banks had seven interceptions over his first two seasons with the Bucs. He’s started 37 of 52 career games.

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Redskins cut Dashaun Phillips

Washington Redskins defensive back Dashaun Phillips (35) picks up the fumble by Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott (21) during the second half of an NFL football game in Landover, Md., Sunday, Sept. 18, 2016. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon) AP

A few days after calling him up from the practice squad, the Redskins cut cornerback Dashaun Phillips on Monday.

Phillips started two games in September and opened the season as the team’s top nickel cornerback but he was benched, then released in mid-November before being added back to the practice squad.

Phillips also played in six games last year for the Redskins. This season, he hadn’t played in a game since September and was inactive for Sunday’s game at Arizona.

No corresponding roster move was announced, but offensive tackle Trent Williams is eligible to return this week from suspension.

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NFL: No deadline for Aldon Smith decision

OAKLAND, CA - SEPTEMBER 13:  Aldon Smith #99 of the Oakland Raiders warms up prior to playing the Cincinnati Bengals at O.co Coliseum on September 13, 2015 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) Getty Images

So when does the NFL owe Raiders linebacker Aldon Smith a decision on his application for reinstatement? Whenever the league feels like giving him a decision, apparently.

Last week, ESPN’s Adam Schefter said the league must decide within 60 days after an application is made whether a player banished for at least a year under the substance-abuse policy should be reinstated.

The relevant language comes from Appendix B to the substance-abuse policy, which states that “[a]ll individuals involved in the process will take steps to enable the Commissioner to render a decision within 60 days of the receipt of the application [for reinstatement].”

As noted on Sunday, the wording of that provision could be interpreted as not actually requiring the Commissioner to make a decision within 60 days. And, coincidentally or not (not), that’s how the NFL interprets it.

In response to an email asking the league whether the language quoted above requires a decision from the Commissioner within 60 days, an NFL spokesman said, “No. All parties make every effort to be in a position for the league to make a decision within 60 days. Every step of the process must be completed.”

Smith applied for reinstatement 63 days ago, so “every effort” wasn’t enough. And with no information from the league regarding when or if a decision will be made, it’s impossible to know when or if a decision will be made — and why a decision hasn’t happened.

For Smith and the Raiders, time is of the essence. But that apparently isn’t compelling the league to take action.

It’s hard not to wonder whether the league is dragging its feet on this one simply because it has the power to drag its feet. If, the message may be, the players don’t like it they can negotiate for a more clear deadline — and make an appropriate concession to get it.

So here’s what all players should takeaway from the Aldon Smith situation: If the league intends to do the bare minimum that it’s required to do under the labor deal, so should you. Which means, among other things, choosing not to participate in part or all of the 2017 offseason program.

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Bills place Percy Harvin on non-football illness list

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - SEPTEMBER 27:  Percy Harvin #18 of the Buffalo Bills rushes during a game against the Miami Dolphins at Sun Life Stadium on September 27, 2015 in Miami Gardens, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Percy Harvin first annual unretirement has ended. There was one?

The Bills have announced that Harvin has been placed on the non-football illness list. Harvin had missed the last two games with an “illness” designation; prior to the Week 12 win over the Jaguars, the illness reportedly was a recurrence of migraines.

Even at the worst of his past struggles with migraines, which had ended several years ago, Harvin rarely missed much time. With two games (and now the balance of the season) scrapped, Harvin either is suffering an unprecedented episode of migraines — or the Bills decided that they simply didn’t want to deal with him anymore.

Harvin appeared in two games with one start, catching two passes for six yards. He unretired last month when the receiver-strapped Bills called him on a lark and asked if he wanted to play.

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Texans waive Charles James a day after costly slip

GREEN BAY, WI - DECEMBER 04:  Charles James II #31 of the Houston Texans warms up before the game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on December 4, 2016 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Texans lost to the Packers 21-13 in Green Bay on Sunday and one of the biggest plays for the Packers came when Aaron Rodgers hit Jordy Nelson for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.

Nelson was wide open on the play because cornerback Charles James slipped on the snowy Lambeau Field turf. James had gone shirtless during pregame warmups, but the elements proved too much for him on that play.

It turned out to be one of his final ones with the Texans. The Texans waived James on Monday, ending a run with the team that started in 2015. James played in all 12 games for Houston this season and had 18 tackles.

The Texans claimed cornerback Al-Hajj Shabazz, who was waived by the Steelers over the weekend after seeing action in five games for Pittsburgh earlier this season.

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Bruce Arians says he isn’t thinking about retiring

GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 04:  Head coach Bruce Arians of the Arizona Cardinals looks at his play chart while standing on the sideline during the second quarter against the Washington Redskins at University of Phoenix Stadium on December 4, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images) Getty Images

It’s been a rough season for the Cardinals on the field and for their coach Bruce Arians off of it as he’s had a couple of health scares that have sent him to the hospital.

That has apparently led some people to think that Arians will consider retirement when the year comes to an end. Jason LaCanfora of CBS Sports reported over the weekend that “many coaches who know” Arians believe that will be the case, but Arians said otherwise on Monday.

Arians said there “couldn’t be anything further from the truth” during an appearance on Arizona Sports 98.7 and brushed off the report by saying that he doesn’t “have that many friends” to talk to about his future plans.

“[General manager Steve Keim] and I are talking a lot about, you know, what pieces do we need to start looking at, getting guys signed up for future contracts, and looking forward to finishing this year and damn sure coaching next year,” Arians said.

Arians did say he believes the stress of the job has contributed to his health issues, but it doesn’t sound like the stress level is going to push him to find another way to spend his days.

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Do 201 wins and four Super Bowl trophies make Tom Brady the best ever?

FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 04:  Fans hold signs for Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots (not pictured) during the game between the New England Patriots and the Los Angeles Rams at Gillette Stadium on December 4, 2016 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images) Getty Images

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady now has more wins than any other quarterback in league history. He has an many Super Bowl wins as anyone, matching Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw with four. Brady also has played in six Super Bowls — and he’d have five or six rings if it wasn’t for Eli Manning.

So do these ingredients make Brady the best quarterback of all time?

It’s impossible to tell Brady’s story without mentioning #DeflateGate, a trumped-up charge with insufficient proof (in the view of many, including me) of cheating in connection with the 2014 AFC title game and zero consideration of the broader cultural realities regarding potential liberties taken with air pressure or the league’s failure to pay any serious attention to the issue until a handful of league employees concluded they had a tiger by the tail without considering how tire pressure reacts when the temperature is in the teens.

Spygate arguably has more of an impact on how Brady is remembered because: (1) #DeflateGate is a red herring; and (2) he benefited directly from ill-gotten advance knowledge of the defensive plays. But that was nearly a decade ago, and Brady has been as good if not better since then.

Ultimately, the court of public opinion a/k/a those who choose to respond to this poll will have the final say. It’s tempting to think he needs one more Super Bowl win to become the one — but consider this: Even without a fifth Super Bowl title, who else would it be?

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Justin Forsett reunites with Gary Kubiak in Denver

BALTIMORE, MD - NOVEMBER 1: Running back Justin Forsett #29 of the Baltimore Ravens looks on prior to a game against the San Diego Chargers at M&T Bank Stadium on November 1, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Matt Hazlett/Getty Images) Getty Images

Justin Forsett had his best NFL season in Baltimore in 2014, when Gary Kubiak was the Ravens’ offensive coordinator. Now Forsett and Kubiak are getting together again.

Forsett has been awarded to the Broncos on waivers, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN. Forsett was waived by the Lions last week.

The 31-year-old Forsett doesn’t look like he has a lot left: He averaged 3.2 yards a carry in three games with the Ravens this year, then went to Detroit, where he averaged 2.9 yards a carry in two games. But perhaps his third team will be the charm this season: In 2014, playing in Kubiak’s offense, Forsett carried 235 times for 1,266 yards and eight touchdowns, all career highs.

The Broncos will be Forsett’s seventh NFL team. He has previously played for the Colts, Seahawks, Texans, Jaguars, Ravens and Lions.

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Titans place Kevin Dodd on injured reserve

SAN DIEGO, CA - NOVEMBER 06:  Kevin Dodd #93 of the Tennessee Titans pulls down  Melvin Gordon #28 of the San Diego Chargers during the first half at Qualcomm Stadium on November 6, 2016 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Titans are getting back on the field after their bye week, but rookie linebacker Kevin Dodd won’t be joining them.

Dodd, a second-round pick in April, is headed to injured reserve. He had foot surgery in the offseason and coach Mike Mularkey said that he may need a second surgery after struggling to get past the injury over the course of the season.

“He’s had a hard time practicing with it and it’s affected his performance,” Mularkey said, via the team’s website. “I know he is disappointed. It’s a conversation we had this morning. He never really felt like he could play like he wanted to play at the level he wanted to play. He has a great future here. We are going to help him get that thing right and come back here stronger than ever.”

Dodd played 179 snaps on defense, so they won’t need to replace a mainstay of their defense. The team promoted linebacker Justin Staples from the practice squad to move the roster back to 53 players.

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