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Roger Goodell “certain” that regular refs are “ready to go”

Super Bowl Football AP

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell says there’s no doubt in his mind that, less than 24 hours after the lockout of the referees ended, the officials will be ready to perform at a high level tonight in Baltimore.

“I’m certain that they’re in shape and ready to go,” Goodell said.

There’s little doubt that Ed Hochuli stayed in shape during the lockout, but for the other 120 locked-out officials, that could be a concern. As NBC officiating consultant Jim Daopoulos has noted, some of the officials still need to pass their physicals before they can get to work — but Goodell sounded confident that everyone will be cleared to do their jobs before they take the field. And Goodell made special mention of the officials who agreed to drop everything and get to Baltimore for tonight’s game.

“I salute Gene Steratore and his crew for stepping up and saying, ‘Let’s get ready,'” Goodell said.

Goodell also noted, however, that there’s never any guarantee that the officiating will be perfect.

“You never want to see a game end like that,” Goodell said of Monday night’s Packers-Seahawks game. “You never want to see a game end on a controversial play. In 32 years as a league employee, that’s something you always would like to see avoided. But it happens in sports. Sports are imperfect, officiating is imperfect, life is imperfect. That’s why I think we all love sports. But you always want to try to avoid those controversial plays, particularly at the end of the game.”

If there is a close call at the end of a game this week, we can all be certain that the officials working that game will be more prepared than the officials working the first three weeks of the NFL season.

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Looking at the teams that could be/should be interested in Jay Cutler

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 31:  Jay Cutler #6 of the Chicago Bears gestures before the game against the Minnesota Vikings at Soldier Field on October 31, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) Getty Images

If you watched or listened to Wednesday’s PFT Live, you saw or heard (or both) a discussion about the teams that could be or should be interested in Bears quarterback Jay Cutler. And while Cutler has the power to essentially scare away any potential suitor, it doesn’t get to that point unless and until potential suitors emerge.

So which teams could be or should be interested in adding Cutler via trade or, if he’s released, as a free agent? Here’s the list that Stats and I discussed on Wednesday’s show.

49ers: This one makes a lot of sense, for various reasons. First, the cupboard is largely bare. Second, new G.M. John Lynch called Cutler a “once-in-every-15-year-type talent” after the Broncos traded Cutler to the Bears eight years ago. Third, the father of new coach Kyle Shanahan drafted Cutler 11 years ago in Denver. And while Shanahan has said he’s not interested in a short-term fix at quarterback, Cutler at the age of 33 could, in theory, have five or more years left.

Jets: Last year, the Jets reluctantly paid Ryan Fitzpatrick $12 million to be the starter. This year, they could trade for Cutler at $12.5 million (plus up to $2.5 million in per-game roster bonuses). That comparison, along with the presence of Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg on the roster, makes Cutler a potential arrival in New York — even though ESPN.com reported in the aftermath of the hiring of Jeremy Bates, a twice-former Cutler tutor, as quarterbacks coach that the Jets won’t be pursuing Cutler.

Bills: If they decide not to guarantee $27.5 million to Tyrod Taylor, the Bills need a quarterback. Enter Cutler, who arguably would walk through the door as the best signal-caller since the days of the Doug Flutie/Rob Johnson rigmarole. But a team that hasn’t been to the playoffs since Johnson and Flutie were on the roster should think twice about embracing a quarterback who hasn’t been there since 2010 — especially since Cutler may have no interest in spending his final years playing second fiddle in the AFC East to Tom Brady.

Chiefs: Adding Tony Romo makes sense because it can be argued that Alex Smith has taken the Chiefs as far as he can. That’s still farther than Cutler would possibly take them. Given Cutler’s personal playoff drought and his own durability questions, Cutler wouldn’t be the potential upgrade that Romo could be.

Texans: It makes no sense to add Jay Cutler at his current salary or anything close to it, especially with Brock Osweiler getting $16 million fully guaranteed in 2017. It makes plenty of sense to consider Cutler as a backup, at backup-quarterback pay, if it gets to the point where no one wants Cutler as a starter and the Texans want a viable break-glass-in-emergency option if/when Osweiler fails during his second season with the team.

Broncos: I love good stories (because clickety-click-click), and a Cutler homecoming to Colorado would be a great story. It also is plausible, given that the football regime has completely changed since he was run out of town by Josh McDaniels and in light of the current in-house options. Last year, an effort to trade for Colin Kaepernick cratered because Denver didn’t want to pay $12 million for one year. How much would John Elway and company be willing to pay Cutler? Ultimately, that could be the key to a potential reunion.

Washington: The case against tagging Kirk Cousins is a simple one. At $23.94 million for 2017 under the franchise tag, Washington could get someone nearly as good as Cousins for a lot less money, with the rest going to other players at other positions. Cutler, at roughly half the amount Cousins would cost, therefore makes sense to consider, if Washington is seriously considering not keeping Cousins.

Dolphins: I’m throwing this one in here primarily to troll Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald. Cutler had a strong season in 2015, when Dolphins coach Adam Gase ran the offense in Chicago. But as became clear during the 2016 season and the trade deadline approached, the Dolphins are all in with Ryan Tannehill, and they won’t be adding Cutler.

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Deshaun Watson to Cowboys: Trade Dak and Romo, draft me

TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 09:  Quarterback Deshaun Watson #4 of the Clemson Tigers reacts after defeating the Alabama Crimson Tide 35-31 to win the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game at Raymond James Stadium on January 9, 2017 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) Getty Images

Myles Garrett isn’t the only top draft prospect who wishes the Cowboys would take him.

Former Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson said at the Davey O’Brien Award reception in Forth Worth, Texas, that he wants to be a Cowboy. Watson said that when he won the Davey O’Brien Award last year, he told Cowboys coach Jason Garrett that if he won the award again, the Cowboys would have to draft him. Watson did win the award again, so Watson wants the Cowboys to follow through.

“I like being in Fort Worth, Texas, and I promise you I’ll be back here,” Watson said. “And I told coach Garrett, ‘If I’m back here, you have to draft me.’ I know a lot of Cowboys fans, Tony Romo is healthy, Dak, I’m a huge fan, love that man, he’s been successful, but hey, I did my part, you have to do your part. I’ll see you at the Combine so we’ll talk more about that.”

There is, of course, exactly zero chance of the Cowboys trading Dak Prescott to draft Watson, and Watson surely knows that — he was laughing as he said it. But in Watson’s perfect world, the Cowboys would acquire the first overall pick from Cleveland, and Watson would go to Dallas.

“The Browns do need a quarterback. You can trade both of them. They need two.”

Watson was joking, as was Myles Garrett when he called for the Cowboys to draft him. But Browns fans may not find it so funny that top prospects keep talking about how they’d prefer to go elsewhere.

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Voice of the Crimson Tide thinks Saban is staying put, permanently

TUSCALOOSA, AL - NOVEMBER 15:  Head coach Nick Saban of the Alabama Crimson Tide looks on during pregame warmups prior to facing the Mississippi State Bulldogs at Bryant-Denny Stadium on November 15, 2014 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) Getty Images

Wednesday’s PFT Live included a visit from Eli Gold, the long-time voice of the Alabama Crimson Tide. Gold addressed, among other things, the incoming NFL class of Alabama players and the hiring of former Alabama assistant Steve Sarkisian by the Falcons. Along the way, I asked Gold about the possibility that the man who once declared he won’t be the Alabama coach will be anything but the Alabama coach.

Eli Gold firmly believes that Saban is staying put — and specifically that he won’t return to the National Football League.

“He loves what he does and this is what he is,” Gold said. “He is a football coach. He is a teacher who is also a football coach. He teaches these young men how to be better players, how to be better people and that was the thing he didn’t like about the National Football League.

“Once he got the players in the NFL, they were who they were. You’re not gonna to be a coach and I just pick this name out of a hat so don’t take anything from it. But you’re not gonna be a coach in the NFL and change a Flozell Adams, he is who he is. Vince Wilfork, he is who he is. You’re not gonna come in and start changing guys, as wonderful a player as those two gentlemen are and were.

“But in college you can change people. You can make them into men. You can make them into better people and get them to the level of where a Flozell Adams was in his heyday and where Vince Wilfork is and that’s what Nick Saban missed in the pros. He didn’t have that molding-of-people element to the job, so he loves doing that.”

Gold added that Saban genuinely loves the recruiting element of the college coach’s job, and that he doesn’t view the travel demands and the uncertainty of landing the desire players as drudgery or a source of frustration.

“I don’t care who you are if you enjoy getting up in the morning and go to work you’re gonna do better than the guy who’s going because he has to and he’s just putting in his time,” Gold said. “Nick Saban loves recruiting, loves coaching, he thrives on this stuff he really does.”

For everything Gold had to say about Alabama players, Sarkisian, and one of the best football coaches college football ever has had, given the full video a listen.

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No groin surgery scheduled for Le’Veon Bell

KANSAS CITY, MP - JANUARY 15:  Running back Le'Veon Bell #26 of the Pittsburgh Steelers tosses the ball forward after gaining a first down against the Kansas City Chiefs during the first quarter in the AFC Divisional Playoff game at Arrowhead Stadium on January 15, 2017 in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images) Getty Images

After the Steelers were knocked out of the playoffs by the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game, running back Le’Veon Bell said he was consulting with doctors about whether he needed to have surgery to address the groin injury that knocked him out of that contest.

It looks like Bell is going to avoid an operation. Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that Bell has not scheduled any surgery at this time. Rapoport adds that Bell “would’ve had it by now if necessary.”

Bell’s contract expired at the end of the season, but the surgery question isn’t likely to impact how things play out for him in the next few weeks.

Steelers General Manager Kevin Colbert said last week that the team wants to have Bell “be a member of the Steelers for life.” March 1 is the deadline to use the franchise tag in the event they don’t reach agreement on a long-term deal before that point.

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Former NFLPA executive director Ed Garvey dies at 76

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 30:  Lonnie Bunch, Director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, speaks during an NFLPA press conference prior to Super Bowl XLVIII on January 30, 2014 in New York City.  (Photo by Alex Trautwig/Getty Images) Getty Images

One of the leading figures of the National Football League Players Association in the 1970s has died.

Ed Garvey, who was the union’s first executive director, died on Wednesday morning in Verona, Wisconsin. His death was first reported by Dave Zweifel of the Capital Times.

Garvey was a labor lawyer for a Minneapolis firm representing the NFLPA in the late 1960s and was named the group’s first executive director in 1970 after working alongside union president John Mackey. Garvey remained in the role through 1982 when he was succeeded by Gene Upshaw.

There were a pair of strikes during Garvey’s tenure in 1974 and 1982, although only the latter strike cost the league any regular season games. His stint as executive director also saw the union win a lawsuit invalidating the Rozelle Rule, which limited players’ ability to move by giving then-commissioner Pete Rozelle the right to assign compensation to any team losing a free agent. The court ruling did not eliminate the compensatory element, but wrote the formula for determining it into the CBA rather than a ruling by the commissioner.

Garvey later worked in the Wisconsin Attorney General’s office and made a pair of unsuccessful runs for Senate twice.

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Eddie Lacy posts workout video with free agency approaching

GREEN BAY, WI - SEPTEMBER 25:  Eddie Lacy #27 of the Green Bay Packers runs against the Detroit Lions
at Lambeau Field on September 25, 2016 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The Packers defeated the Lions 34-27.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) Getty Images

Social media has played a role in the football world in a variety of ways in recent years with one of the most frequent being the posting of videos by players rehabbing from injuries.

Players who are headed toward free agency are often among those sharing such glimpses into what’s going on in their lives and Packers running back Eddie Lacy joined the fun this week. Lacy posted a video of himself working out in a pool as he continues his recovery from a season-ending ankle injury and surgery.

There’s not much to glean from the video about where Lacy stands in the rehab process nor is there much of a hint about what kind of shape he’s in outside of the ankle. Lacy’s weight has been an issue for the Packers over the last couple of years and will likely be one for any suitors in free agency next month as well.

Due to the injury and a lackluster 2015 campaign, Lacy may be looking at signing a one-year deal in hopes of proving he’s worthy of a bigger investment at this point in 2018. That opportunity could come with the Packers, who currently have only converted wideout Ty Montgomery under contract at running back for next season.

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Joe Mixon’s draft chances hinge on an owner’s approval

NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 02:  Joe Mixon #25 of the Oklahoma Sooners is tackled by Joshua Holsey #15 of the Auburn Tigers during the Allstate Sugar Bowl at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on January 2, 2017 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images) Getty Images

The team that drafts former Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon will be getting a very talented player. That team will also be getting a public relations nightmare, as the local TV news in Mixon’s new NFL city will surely feature plenty of footage of Mixon punching a woman, breaking bones in her face.

There’s no doubt that NFL personnel people will like what they’ve seen of Mixon, but will an NFL owner sign off on the possibility that Mixon will tarnish the team’s reputation? That’s the question that will determine where Mixon is drafted — or if he’s drafted at all.

That’s the word from Mike Mayock, who said on SiriusXM NFL Radio that he has talked to “a bunch” of NFL teams and they’ve all told him the same thing: Evaluating Mixon isn’t so much about the football people determining how good he is as about the owner deciding whether he wants to take a PR hit. Mayock said every team he’s talked to about Mixon has told him it will be an “ownership decision.”

The Mixon video is similar to that of Ray Rice, whose career was ended by the video of him punching his wife. So it’s conceivable that all 32 teams will take a pass on Mixon, just as all 32 teams have taken a pass on Rice.

However, Rice was already on the downside of his career when that video surfaced. Mixon is a very promising player who’s just 20 years old. It’s likely that some team will take a shot on Mixon. Just as long as the owner is OK with it.

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Tag-and-trade hinges on Kirk Cousins long-term contract

LANDOVER, MD - JANUARY 10: Quarterback Kirk Cousins #8 of the Washington Redskins walks off of the field after the Green Bay Packers defeated the Washington Redskins 35-18 during the NFC Wild Card Playoff game at FedExField on January 10, 2016 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) Getty Images

It’s gradually becoming a foregone conclusion that Washington will apply the franchise tag to quarterback Kirk Cousins for a second time. Whether that means Cousins definitely will be with the team is a different issue.

Once it became obvious that the 49ers would hire coach Kyle Shanahan, the 49ers became an obvious potential destination for Cousins. So what would it take to make that happen? (Glad you asked, even if you didn’t.)

The first step will be setting trade compensation. The No. 2 overall pick in the draft arguably is too much; the teams could flip-flop the second and 17th picks for starters, with maybe something more (for example, the 49ers’ second-round pick) to get it done.

The harder part will be working out a contract with Cousins.

Since he’d have to be tagged before he’s traded, Cousins will be entitled to $23.94 million for 2017 prior to any contract being done with the 49ers. With the franchise tag and its 44-percent raise highly unlikely for 2018, Washington at most would apply the transition tag next year, which would increase the $23.05 million by another 20 percent — to $28.78 million. And so Cousins likely would want more than $52 million fully guaranteed over the first two years as part of a long-term deal to stay in Washington.

So here’s the real question: Would Cousins accept a deal that pays out less than $52 million over the first two years as part of a trade to San Francisco? He previously has made it clear he won’t take a hometown discount in Washington; would he extend a hometown discount to a new hometown that is ready and willing to give him the kind of long-term security that Washington has refused to provide?

If yes, then a tag-and-trade becomes more likely. If no, then he gets traded to the 49ers only if the 49ers will give Cousins the same deal he wants in Washington, if/when he’s tagged again.

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Adam Vinatieri on Pat McAfee: I just miss him

ATLANTA, GA - NOVEMBER 22: Adam Vinatieri #4 celebrates with Pat McAfee #1 of the Indianapolis Colts after kicking the game winning field goal during the second half against the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome on November 22, 2015 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images) Getty Images

Punter Pat McAfee made a surprising announcement during Super Bowl week when he retired from the NFL at the age of 29.

McAfee cited repeated surgeries on his right knee as a reason for his decision and he tweeted out a picture of himself prepped for another operation on Wednesday. That would seem to be further sign that McAfee’s on a different path, although one of his Colts teammates still wants to be certain that McAfee’s punting days are done.

Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri will have to work with a new holder with McAfee out of the picture and said that he tried to talk the punter out of calling it quits when McAfee first broached the subject of moving into the media world during the season. He told Alex Marvez and Bill Polian of SiriusXM NFL Radio that he’s still “begging him to come back,” but sounds more resigned to moving forward without his partner for the last eight years.

“I tried to talk him out of it,” Vinatieri said. “I said, ‘Man, do both. You’re so good at punting. We need you. I need you.’ That was selfish of me to even say that because whatever he wants to do, and I know he’s going to be so successful at this, I’m excited for him. I just miss him. I talked to him and I was like, ‘Man, are you sure? It’s not the same without you, buddy.'”

When he does turn away from lobbying for McAfee’s return, Vinatieri said it will be “interesting” to see who the Colts get to do the holding in place of McAfee for the 2017 season.

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Donald Penn: Derek Carr is “almost 100 percent”

SEATTLE, WA - NOVEMBER 02:  Quarterback Derek Carr #4 of the Oakland Raiders is checked on by tackle Donald Penn #72 after being sacked against the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field on November 2, 2014 in Seattle, Washington. The Seahawks defeated the Raiders 30-24.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images) Getty Images

Less than two months ago, Raiders quarterback Derek Carr suffered a broken leg. His rehab apparently is going well.

Teammate Donald Penn appeared Tuesday on NFL Network and passed along some important information regarding Carr’s health.

“I texted Derek two days ago and asked how he was doing, checking in, and he said ‘I’m almost 100 percent,'” Penn said, via NFL.com. Carr’s brother, David, removed the “almost.”

“He’s going to be great,” David Carr said. “He’s good. Walking around already, stretching it out. He can’t do a lot for the bone, but he’s going to be back. He’ll get a whole full offseason in, and that’s going to be the best part.”

That’s the best news for the Raiders; when the offseason program opens, Derek Carr should be good to go. And the better he is for the offseason, the better off the Raiders will be in 2017, as they try to get back to the postseason and advance beyond the opening round.

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Patrick Mahomes II received second-round grade from NFL’s College Advisory Committee

MORGANTOWN, WV - NOVEMBER 07:  Patrick Mahomes #5 of the Texas Tech Red Raiders drops back to pass under pressure in the first half during the game West Virginia Mountaineers on November 7, 2015 at Mountaineer Field in Morgantown, West Virginia.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images) Getty Images

Before Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes II decided to give up his remaining eligibility at the college level, he gathered plenty of information. One relevant piece of data came from the NFL’s College Advisory Committee.

In an interview with PFT Live that will be broadcast on Thursday, Mahomes says he received a second-round grade from the panel that tries to help players with lingering eligibility decide whether to stay in college or go to the NFL.

Mahomes, whose father played Major League Baseball and who until a year ago played college baseball, threw for more than 5,000 yards last season — including 734 in a 66-59 loss to Oklahoma. He plans to throw at next week’s Scouting Combine.

For the full interview, tune in to Thursday’s PFT Live, which starts on NBC Sports Radio at 6:00 a.m. ET and moves to NBCSN at 7:00 a.m. ET.

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Bills’ clearance of Tyrod Taylor sets stage for possible grievance

ORCHARD PARK, NY - DECEMBER 11:  Tyrod Taylor #5 of the Buffalo Bills looks to throw against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the first half at New Era Field on December 11, 2016 in Orchard Park, New York.  (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images) Getty Images

It was no accident that someone from the Bills (cough . . . Russ Brandon . . . cough) told ESPN’s Adam Schefter that quarterback Tyrod Taylor has received medical clearance following surgery to repair a groin/hernia/core muscle/whatever they’re calling it now. When the Bills benched Taylor late in the year, the team’s intention became clear: With $27.5 million guaranteed for injury until March 11, when it becomes fully guaranteed, the Bills wanted to be sure he could pass a physical before they pass on paying him ridiculous money.

Even though the Bills have now gotten the word out that Taylor is fine, the question becomes whether Taylor agrees. If he believes he’s not cleared now or, more importantly, on March 11, he can file a grievance challenging the assessment. It would set the stage for a battle of medical experts with a whole lot of money riding on the outcome.

This doesn’t change the fact that, without a major restructuring, the Bills will cut Taylor. And Taylor will surely find another team, with any money he makes elsewhere reducing Buffalo’s potential obligation. However, with Taylor highly unlikely to fully replace what Buffalo would have paid (or to even come close to it), there will be several million reasons for Taylor to take issue with the team’s assessment of his current health via the devices available under the CBA.

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Bears hire Brandon Staley to coach outside linebackers

Bears Lions Football AP

The Bears are hiring Brandon Staley as their new outside linebackers coach, ESPN’s Adam Caplan reported.

Staley coached last season as defensive coordinator at Div. III John Carroll University in Cleveland, the alma mater of Hall of Fame coach Don Shula and Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.

Staley had been hired for the same role at Tennessee-Chattanooga when ex-John Carroll coach Tom Arth was hired there in December. Arth had a stint as a quarterback with the Colts in the early 2000s.

Though most coaching openings across the league have been filled, the Bears have been busy this week filling out their staff. Zach Azzanni will be the team’s new wide receivers coach, and Derius Swinton will return as assistant special teams coach after he was the 49ers’ special teams coach last season.

Staley replaces Clint Hurtt, who is now the Seahawks’ defensive line coach.

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Mike Zimmer: Maybe I didn’t do enough last offseason

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - JANUARY 1: Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer on field before the game against the Chicago Bears on January 1, 2017 at US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Vikings slipped from a division title in 2015 and 5-0 start to the 2016 season to an 8-8 finish that left them outside of the postseason.

That’s left coach Mike Zimmer and the rest of his staff with a clear goal for the 2017 season and the coach said in an interview with the team’s website that they are already “grinding” to put together a team that can achieve better results this time around. Zimmer also said that he’s wondered if “maybe I didn’t do enough” at this time last year when pondering the disappointing record.

One way he’s working to combat that feeling is by spending more time in offensive meetings than he has in the past to learn about what the team’s offensive coaches think about both their unit and the defenses that are trying to stop them from putting points on the board. Zimmer said his meetings with offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur and company left him with the feeling that “the heart of the problem” was a poor running game.

The team has already made one move related to that shortcoming by releasing guard Brandon Fusco and there are pending decisions on left tackle Matt Kalil and running back Adrian Peterson that will further shape the look of next season’s Vikings offense.

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After Cooley questioned McCloughan’s drinking, team’s silence speaks volumes

Chris Cooley AP

Last week, former Washington tight end Chris Cooley, who works for the team and for a Dan Snyder-owned radio station, questioned on the air whether General Manager Scot McCloughan has been drinking. The team declined to comment.

But declining to comment doesn’t make a story go away, and a column today in the Washington Post suggests that the team’s silence speaks volumes. Columnist Jerry Brewer suggests that Cooley’s speculation about McCloughan’s drinking may have been planted by the team in an effort to reduce McCloughan’s popularity.

McCloughan has been open about his problems with alcohol in the past. For his employer to use that in an attempt to discredit him would be disturbing.

That doesn’t mean it didn’t happen, however, and the Washington Post column features that possibility in a broader picture of a power struggle in Washington in which President Bruce Allen is really calling the shots, and McCloughan is being put in his place. It can’t be a comfortable position for McCloughan to be in, but he’s been muzzled by the team, and we apparently won’t hear his side of it any time soon.

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