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Rams and 49ers finish a bizarre tie game

St Louis Rams v San Francisco 49ers Getty Images

Donovan McNabb wants to know where everyone’s going.

The Rams and 49ers just tripped across each other repeatedly in overtime, finishing in a 24-24 tie. It’s the first tie in the NFL since McNabb and the Eagles drew with the Bengals on Nov. 16, 2008.

It was a ridiculous finish to a game that was played on the fringes all day.

Both Greg Zuerlein and David Akers missed field goals in overtime, after a delay of game penalty on the Rams erased a 53-yard winner by Zuerlein.

Of course, Rams wide receiver Danny Amendola nearly ended it on the first play. He was betrayed by one of his teammates, with an illegal formation penalty negating an 80-yard reception which nearly went the distance.

Colin Kaepernick played an efficient game in relief of Alex Smith, but the Rams gained 458 yards on the league’s second-ranked defense.

It was a strange day, and the end was probably appropriate.

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Steve Smith rejecting requests to help other players train

CINCINNATI, OH - JANUARY 1:  Steve Smith Sr. #89 of the Baltimore Ravens is tackled by Adam Jones #24 of the Cincinnati Bengals during the third quarter at Paul Brown Stadium on January 1, 2017 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images) Getty Images

Steve Smith announced his retirement from the NFL after the 2016 season and took a job with NFL Network to remain involved in the game moving forward.

He’s had other offers to keep his toe in the football world as well. Smith told James Lofton and Brad Hopkins of Sirius XM NFL Radio that he’s heard from wide receivers and defensive backs interested in watching film and doing on-field work with him in hopes of improving their games. He’s also heard from agents of draft prospects interested in polishing their clients’ games, but Smith is resisting all inquiries.

“And I had to take a step back and I said, ‘You know what?’ If I do all these things, now I’m getting my mind and body to say I can still play,'” Smith said. “So I had to text some guys and say, ‘You know what? I don’t think it’s a good idea for me to watch film with you and work out and train with you because that means I’m telling myself and my family I’m about to go play again. And I don’t want to go through that process. I’m done playing.’ So if I’m training anybody, their last name is Smith, meaning my kids. I’m just going to love on them, and that training is less intense. The goal is so lesser. It’s, ‘Hey, let’s make sure we’re drinking water, fluid, and all that stuff.’ Out there, when you’re training for ball, it’s a different animal. So I said, ‘No.'”

There will always be players who could benefit from the tutelage of an undersized player who carved out a 16-year career that ended with 1,031 catches. For now, though, they’ll have to look elsewhere because Smith isn’t ready to share his tricks of the trade.

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Darren McFadden thinks Cowboys wouldn’t mind keeping him

ARLINGTON, TX - JANUARY 03:   Darren McFadden #20 of the Dallas Cowboys runs the ball against the Washington Redskins at AT&T Stadium on January 3, 2016 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) Getty Images

The biggest topic around the Cowboys in the opening weeks of the offseason has been the fate of quarterback Tony Romo, but he wasn’t the only Dallas starter who saw a rookie take over his spot in the lineup last season.

Running back Darren McFadden was brushed aside by Ezekiel Elliott even before he injured his elbow during the offseason and missed the majority of the season while recovering from the injury. McFadden returned for the final weeks of the season and told Jim Miller and Pat Kirwan of Sirius XM NFL Radio that he feels he has a lot to give a team in 2017.

“I still feel fresh,” McFadden said. “Like you said I didn’t get a lot of wear and tear on my body from the season. I only played in the last three regular season games and the playoff game. I feel like I have a lot that I can offer any team. As far as being out there and a guy that can carry the load, I don’t feel like I’ve lost a step at all. I feel like that any team that want to take a shot at me I don’t think it’d be a bad deal for them.”

McFadden isn’t ruling out the Cowboys from teams that might want to take a shot at him. He said he feels the team “wouldn’t mind keeping me,” although the draft will offer less expensive options for a team that has some work to do on defense if they want to sustain their winning ways of 2016.

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Athletes skipping White House trip is nothing new

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As Patriots owner Robert Kraft pointed out last week, every New England NFL championship team has had players who skipped the traditional White House trip. As explained by Paul Newberry of the Associated Press, the phenomenon of players boycotting the ritual is hardly new.

For example, former Boston Celtics great Larry Bird once skipped a trip to the White House when Ronald Reagan was in office, saying that “[i]f the president wants to see me, he knows where to find me.” Likewise, Boston Bruins goalie Tim Thomas opted not to visit the White House under Barack Obama, pointing out that government “has grown out of control, threatening the Rights, Liberties, and Property of the People.”

Four years ago, former Baltimore Ravens center Matt Birk opted not to visit the White House over Obama’s support of Planned Parenthood.

Despite the history, there’s a sense that the immediate future will feature more athletes skipping the Rose Garden photo op. With multiple players making a political statement in a league that has been largely avoiding politics, what will happen after the NBA, whose players and coaches have been far more vocal about political issues, crowns a champion?

Ultimately, each player has the right to attend or not attend. And people who oppose the decision to attend or not attend have the right to weigh in on the decision — as Patriots defensive lineman Chris Long recently learned.

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NFL spread itself thin with more broadcast windows than ever

NFL Union TV Complaint Football AP

A record 203 million Americans watched NFL games last season, yet average ratings were down. If those two data points seem contradictory, that’s because most people don’t fully understand how TV ratings are calculated.

That total of 203 million people represents everyone who ever watched an NFL game at all, while the average ratings are about the average number of people watching a game at any given moment. That the former increased while the latter decreased suggests not that the NFL has a shrinking fan base but that the NFL has a problem with more and more fans deciding that they don’t need to watch every game as consistently as they used to.

This data comes from FOX Sports’ Mike Mulvihill, who writes at Sports Business Journal that the NFL’s biggest problem in 2016 was that more viewers were turning away from football to watch election news: The league’s ratings were down 13 percent from 2015 before Election Day but were virtually identical to 2015 after Election Day. But the second-biggest problem, and the one the NFL has some control over, is that the league has too many broadcast windows.

For the 2016 season, that meant a total of 110 NFL television windows when you add up the three every Sunday, plus Monday nights and Thursday nights, Thanksgiving and Christmas, Sunday morning games from London and so on. That’s more than the league has ever had before, and the ratings data suggest that some fans felt that football was spread so thin that they simply couldn’t keep up with it all, and they were more choosy about which games to watch.

The NFL may realize that’s a problem, and there are already indications that the league is looking at scaling back, first by moving the London games back to Sunday afternoon, and perhaps by scaling back on some other broadcast windows as well.

If the NFL scales back the schedule slightly to get back to its bread and butter of Sunday afternoons and nights, and if nothing in the news in 2017 captures America’s attention the way the election did in 2016, average ratings should improve in the season ahead. If ratings decline again, however, that’s a sign that the NFL has a real problem on its hands.

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Captain Munnerlyn hopes Vikings “value my talent”

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - SEPTEMBER 18:  Cornerback Captain Munnerlyn #24 of the Minnesota Vikings in action during the game against the Green Bay Packers on September 18, 2016 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Vikings have picked cornerbacks early in the draft in three of the last four years, but a pair of older players ranked second and third in snaps played at the position in 2016.

Both Terence Newman and Captain Munnerlyn are set to become free agents this offseason, which leaves the Vikings with a decision to make about going with more of their homegrown players or bringing back the guys that filled the top roles last season. Munnerlyn did most of his work in the slot and cited an interview with Patriots coach Bill Belichick about the increased importance of the nickel corner while making his case to return.

“To see coach Belichick say that, I was pumping my fist,” Munnerlyn said, via ESPN.com. “They are finally realizing that it’s a big position. You’re playing nickel 80 percent of the time of the game. If teams game plan you, they might not do that; they might try to keep a linebacker out there, but this is a passing league. Everybody wants to throw the ball. Everybody wants to see the scoreboard light up so hopefully teams see that. [I’m] definitely hoping the Vikings see that because we play it a lot, I hope they value my position and value my talent and bring me back.”

The Vikings are expected to meet with free agent K’Waun Williams this week and he’d likely come cheaper than Munnerlyn at a time when the team also has to think about extending Xavier Rhodes‘ contract. That may mean Munnerlyn finds better value outside of Minnesota once free agency gets underway.

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Monday morning one-liners

HOUSTON, TX - FEBRUARY 05: James White #28 of the New England Patriots is pursued by Keanu Neal #22 of the Atlanta Falcons during the third quarter during Super Bowl 51 at NRG Stadium on February 5, 2017 in Houston, Texas. The New England Patriots defeated the Atlanta Falcons 34-28.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images) Getty Images

Former Bills coach Marv Levy wrote a children’s book about the Chicago Cubs.

A look at veteran Dolphins other than DE Cameron Wake.

Patriots WR Malcolm Mitchell has finished writing his second book.

The Jets needed help at cornerback even before Darrelle Revis‘ recent arrest.

The Ravens stole an idea from Jerry Seinfeld and took offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg for a drive.

Assessing how much the Bengals missed departed veterans in 2016.

Should QB Tyrod Taylor interest the Browns?

A breakdown of the Steelers wide receivers.

Rounding up some mock draft choices for the Texans.

How did the Colts fare at tight end in 2016?

The Jaguars website selected the team’s top play of the 2016 season.

Will the Titans make a big move for help at inside linebacker?

The Broncos are in comfortable position under the cap.

Chiefs QB Tyler Bray would like a chance to show he’s grown as a player.

The time for Raiders QB Derek Carr to sign a big extension is close.

Will a change in coaches lead to better special teams play for the Chargers?

Debating whether the Cowboys should draft a wide receiver in the first round.

A deep threat on offense is on the Giants shopping list this offseason.

The Eagles answered some big questions in 2016.

T Ty Nsekhe is likely to return to the Redskins in 2017.

A look at the Bears’ special teams play.

Will the Lions make additions at running back this offseason?

Running through the Packers’ decisions on exclusive rights and restricted free agents.

Considering some of RB Adrian Peterson’s options in the event he leaves the Vikings.

Falcons S Keanu Neal and LB Deion Jones are receiving notice for their strong rookie seasons.

Sifting through some draft options for the Panthers.

Figuring out which Saints players would be in QB Drew Brees‘ “cabinet” is a way to fill some offseason time.

Former Buccaneers DE Simeon Rice believes he’s deserving of more MVP consideration.

It may be easier for the Cardinals to talk about finding their quarterback of the future than it is to find one.

Special teams coach John Fassel is happy he’s able to remain with the Rams after a stint as interim head coach last year.

Tracing defensive coordinator Robert Saleh’s path to the 49ers.

Are the Seahawks done making moves at kicker?

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Darrelle Revis attorneys say voice on tape was not his

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - SEPTEMBER 11:   Darrelle Revis #24 of the New York Jets warms up prior to their game against the Cincinnati Bengals at MetLife Stadium on September 11, 2016 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) Getty Images

While there’s now video of two guys who allegedly were knocked out by someone in a group including Darrelle Revis, the attorney for the Jets cornerback says there’s no way the voice on the tape was his.

Via Paula Reed Ward of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Revis’ attorneys, Robert DelGreco Jr. and Mark Fiorilli issued a statement again denying their clients’ involvement in the attack.

“Darrelle Revis absolutely, categorically and positively did not knock out anyone, did not conspire with anyone to commit an assault, did not say ‘shut up before I knock your [expletive] out next’ and surely did not ‘rob’ another of a cell phone,” the statement read. “The voice and admissions made on the video are not that of Darrelle Revis. We have no doubt but that further investigation relative to the clothing and voice verification will corroborate the above assertions.”

Revis has been charged with aggravated assault, conspiracy, robbery and terroristic threats, and has a preliminary hearing on Thursday.

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Texans and Chiefs could be the favorites for Tony Romo

KANSAS CITY, MP - JANUARY 15:  Quarterback Alex Smith #11 of the Kansas City Chiefs walks of the field after being defeated by the Pittsburgh Steelers with a score of 18 to 16 in the AFC Divisional Playoff game at Arrowhead Stadium on January 15, 2017 in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) Getty Images

With more quarterbacks than normal available this offseason, it might take the first domino falling to make them all drop in a hurry.

And one of the first could be Tony Romo, when/if Dallas releases him (and if he plays nice and allows that).

If that happens, a small group of teams who are clearly playoff caliber already top the list of possible destinations.

According to Peter King of TheMMQB.com, the Texans and Chiefs make the most sense as a possible post-Dallas destination for Romo.

While other teams (specifically the Broncos) have been mentioned as possibility, there’s a clear confluence of opportunity and proximity there. Romo clearly doesn’t want to play for a rebuilding team, or one too far away as his family is about to welcome a third child.

So the opprtunity to easily leapfrog Tom Savage or gently nudge Alex Smith aside provide reasonable alternatives for the soon-to-be 37-year-old Romo.

Houston might prefer a younger alternative (such as Jimmy Garoppolo), but plugging an established and able starter like Romo in would be a boost for a team which has played championship-level defense in recent years, with and without J.J. Watt. The Texans would need to invest in more offensive line help to make it make sense, but have a receiving threat in DeAndre Hopkins who has been underutilized.

Kansas City would stand a chance to upgrade from the good-not-great Alex Smith, and many of the same things apply there as in Houston.

King also mentioned that Romo turned down an off-field offer this offseason, which indicates that he’s focused on getting back on the field somewhere, and soon.

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Branden Albert visiting Jaguars

NASHVILLE, TN - OCTOBER 27: Julius Thomas #80 of the Jacksonville Jaguars is tackled by Avery Williamson #54 of the Tennessee Titans during the third quarter of the game at Nissan Stadium on October 27, 2016 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Dolphins could soon be parlaying their apparent intent to cut tackle Branden Albert into the acquisition of a new tight end.

Albert will visit the Jaguars on Monday, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Media. The visit comes as part of an effort to facilitate a trade for tight end Julius Thomas.

Rapoport adds this nugget, which is actually a big deal: Both would have to agree to new contracts in order to make the trade happen.

Why would they? They should refuse and get cut and sign new deals on the open market. Albert already had one foot out the door. Why should he accept a trade to Jacksonville for a deal that isn’t negotiated with the benefit of competition from other teams that: (1) don’t have a player like Julius Thomas to offer to the Dolphins; and (2) possibly would pay more money to Albert if there was no obligation to trade for him?

Ditto for Thomas. If the Jaguars don’t want him at $7 million (and if the Dolphins don’t either), he should sit tight, force a release, and go wherever he wants at the highest possible price. (Maybe the Patriots would want him to replace Martellus Bennett, for example.)

Albert’s contract pays $8.875 million this year and $9.575 million next year in base salary. Thomas will make $7 million in 2017, $3 million of which recently became fully guaranteed. He is signed through 2019.

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Video of Darrelle Revis incident shows two victims unconscious

FILE - In this Nov. 12, 2015, file photo, Buffalo Bills wide receiver Sammy Watkins, left, is defended by New York Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis during the first half of an NFL football game, in East Rutherford, N.J. The NFL isn't colorblind to the concerns of its TV audience regarding the "Color Rush" alternate uniforms the Bills and Jets will wear Thursday night, Sept. 14, 2016. That's a switch from last year, when Buffalo wore all red and the Jets all green during their prime-time game on Nov. 12. The combinations led to colorblind viewers complaining they couldn't determine which team was which.  (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File) AP

A brief video of the aftermath of the incident involving Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis shows two men unconscious on the sidewalk and includes the audio of another man bragging about knocking them out.

The video, which was published by TMZ, shows the two men prone on the ground and features a man off-camera saying, “I knocked both of these motherf—ers out. Both of them. They both sleeping. Shut up before I knock your ass out next.”

According to the TMZ post, “it appears officials believe the voice is Darrelle.”

A police report in connection with the incident says that a witness told police that Revis said to him, “Do you want to be next?”

Revis is facing felony charges of robbery, aggravated assault and conspiracy.

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Jim Irsay says coach, new G.M. are “clicking on all cylinders”

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 07:  Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay attends a press conference announcing Manning's release from the Colts at Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center on March 7, 2012 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Joey Foley/Getty Images) Getty Images

He would have said the team is running like a “fine-tuned machine,” but that phrase already has been used this week.

Instead, Colts owner Jim Irsay took to Twitter to declare that his head coach, Chuck Pagano, and new G.M., Chris Ballard, are “clicking on all cylinders.” Irsay added that quarterback Andrew Luck “is healing” and that there are “great things to come.”

And so Irsay continues to set the bar high, even as his team consistently fails to come close to meeting it. Irsay has said that he expects multiple Super Bowl wins during the career of Luck. Through five seasons, the team has one AFC title game appearance and, for the last two years, no playoff games.

While the Colts have found a long-term quarterback, they lack the kind of complementary talent necessary to contend for championships. Peyton Manning had Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne, Edgerrin James, Marcus Pollard, Dallas Clark, Dwight Freeney, Bob Sanders, and more. The Colts have a long way to go to duplicate that roster, and it will be Ballard’s job to do that which former G.M. Ryan Grigson failed to accomplish.

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Report: Dolphins, Jags working on Branden Albert – Julius Thomas swap

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The Dolphins and Jaguars are working on a trade involving offensive tackle Branden Albert and tight end Julius Thomas, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported.

The report said there are hurdles that still need to be cleared, including the possibility that the players involved might need to restructure their contracts.

It was reported last week that the Dolphins would release Albert, but that didn’t happen. It does seem clear that he’s not in the team’s 2017 plans, and the Jaguars were immediately linked to Albert as a potential suitor.

The players involved would have to pass physicals, and no deal could become official until the new league year begins on March 9.

Thomas is under contract through 2019, and $3 million of his $7.1 million 2017 salary is already guaranteed. Thomas caught four touchdown passes in nine games for the Jaguars last season and had his best seasons with the Broncos when Dolphins head coach Adam Gase was the offensive coordinator in Denver.

The Dolphins are in the tight end market with both Dion Sims and Jordan Cameron eligible for free agency next month. The Jaguars are in the tackle market because they won’t be picking up the 2017 contract option on Kelvin Beachum.

Moving on from Albert would save the Dolphins about $7.2 million in cap space for 2017. The team is expected to move 2016 first-round pick Laremy Tunsil out from guard to take Albert’s spot at left tackle.

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Trading Tony Romo won’t be easy, if Romo doesn’t want it

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JANUARY 01: Quarterback Tony Romo #9 of the Dallas Cowboys attempts a pass against the Philadelphia Eagles during the second quarter of a game at Lincoln Financial Field on January 1, 2017 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images) Getty Images

The trade-or-release Tony Romo question ultimately will be resolved by the Cowboys. However, it’s not simply a question of what the team wants. What Romo wants matters, too.

He undoubtedly wants to be released, so that: (1) he can pick his own next team; (2) his next team won’t be diminished by whatever would be sacrificed to do the deal; and (3) he’ll get a new contract on the open market. (If a team is willing to pay Romo $14 million and give up a draft pick, that team would arguably pay him even more if there was no draft pick to be given up.) If Romo isn’t enthusiastic about a potential trade, the suitor may be less inclined to do the deal.

It’s one thing to tap a non-quarterback on the shoulder and tell him that his contract has been sent to a new city. It’s quite another to do it with a starting quarterback, who needs to be more than a clock-puncher in order to get the most out of an offense. As an extension of the coaching staff, the quarterback needs to be all in; if he’s doing the bare minimum, the team won’t get full return on its investment.

Romo has leverage. If he makes it clear he doesn’t want to be traded and if no team will trade for him if he doesn’t want to be traded, the Cowboys have two options: (1) pay him $14 million to hold a clipboard; or (2) cut him.

Romo also could threaten to retire if traded. While that would cost him $5 million if he followed through on the threat (see Jake Plummer), it’s another reason for a team that is thinking about trading for Romo to think twice before assuming that he’ll happily show up.

Yes, the Cowboys would like to get value for Romo; why wouldn’t they? But the specifics of this case will make it very difficult unless Romo is being traded to a place where he wants to play — and unless he’s getting the kind of contract walking through the door that will prompt him to fully and completely embrace all aspects of the starting quarterback job.

A fight could be on the horizon. The fact that Romo and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones have a close relationship could make Jones more likely to avoid a tussle a guy who was supplanted not because he couldn’t make up his mind about retirement (see Brett Favre) but because the team’s next franchise quarterback fell into the franchise’s lap via round four of the 2016 draft at a time when Romo was once again injured.

That’s why I continue to believe that Romo will be released with a wink-nod agreement as to the places he’ll avoid (like Washington). Eventually, Jones and the Cowboys will come to the conclusion that it’s not only the right thing to do but also the only way to resolve the various competing concerns.

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What will the NFL do about Le’Veon Bell’s undisclosed groin injury?

PITTSBURGH, PA - JANUARY 08:  Le'Veon Bell #26 of the Pittsburgh Steelers is tackled by Xavien Howard #25 of the Miami Dolphins during the third quarter in the AFC Wild Card game at Heinz Field on January 8, 2017 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) Getty Images

One week after the Seahawks admitted that they hid cornerback Richard Sherman’s knee injury, the Steelers admitted that they hid running back Le’Veon Bell’s groin injury. With the NFL inexplicably choosing to give the Seahawks a pass as to Sherman nearly a week ago, the question becomes what the NFL will do to the Steelers.

On the surface, there’s a big difference. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll essentially admitted that Sherman had a “significant” injury; Steelers coach Mike Tomlin wisely avoided the S-word, which by rule requires disclosure of the injury, even if the player consistently practices and plays.

But Bell told a much different story during the torrent of Super Bowl-week interviews.

“I really hurt it in the Miami game,” Bell said on NFL Network. “I played through the whole Kansas City game with it. The beginning of the Patriots game, I felt it. . . . I had a hole, but I couldn’t really hit it. I just felt like I was holding my team back at that point. I was in a lot of pain.”

In the days prior to the playoff game against the Dolphins, Bell didn’t appear on the injury report. After suffering the groin injury against Miami, Bell didn’t practice on the Wednesday before the Chiefs game, with the “not injury related” designation. Prior to the AFC title game at New England, Bell missed practice on both Wednesday and Thursday for “not injury related” reasons. (Curiously, Bell also was listed as fully practicing on Friday with the “not injury related” explanation.)

Through it all, Bell clearly was injured (based on his own words). As evidenced by his inability to accelerate early in the New England game due directly to the pre-existing groin injury, the injury affected his ability to perform. Common sense suggests it should have been revealed.

Some league insiders believe that the NFL looked the other way as to the Seahawks as a precursor for looking the other way as to the Steelers. If that happens, the stage will be set for all sorts of potential shenanigans in the future by other teams who break the rules in a similar way.

Unless and until, of course, a franchise that key members of the league office doesn’t “like” commits the same violation and promptly loses draft picks, money, and any and all players who were “generally aware” of the situation, more probable than not.

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Stanley Wilson II arrested while naked for a third time

DETROIT - 2007:  Stanley Wilson of the Detroit Lions poses for his 2007 NFL headshot at photo day in Detroit, Michigan.  (Photo by Getty Images) Getty Images

A sad situation keeps getting sadder.

Former Lions defensive back Stanley Wilson II had been arrested while naked for the third time in less than a year, and the second time in little more than a month.

Via the Associated Press, police in Woodburn, Oregon arrested Wilson after he attempted to force his way into a home, and then disrobed. When police arrived, Wilson emerged naked from a shed. Wilson was taken to the Marion County Jail.

Last June, a homeowner shot Wilson during a similar incident. In January, he was arrested after being found outside a Portland residence without clothing.

It’s unclear what’s happening between these various arrests, but it’s obvious that Wilson needs help. However and wherever he gets it, he needs it now. If he’s unwilling to do it and if his family is unable to persuade him to, the authorities need to find a way to neutralize the threat Wilson apparently poses to others, and to himself.

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