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Tim Brown suggests “sabotage” by Bill Callahan in Super Bowl XXXVII

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A decade ago, the Raiders’ fate in Super Bowl XXXVII presumably was sealed by the weekend disappearance of center Barret Robbins.  Hall of Fame finalist Tim Brown believes that the blame for the 48-21 loss to the Buccaneers should go to Oakland’s head coach.

“We get our game plan for victory on Monday, and the game plan says we’re gonna run the ball,” Brown said Saturday on SiriusXM NFL Radio, which provided us with the audio.  “We averaged 340 [pounds] on the offensive line, they averaged 280 [on the defensive line].  We’re all happy with that, everybody is excited.  [We] tell Charlie Garner, ‘Look, you’re not gonna get too many carries, but at the end of the day we’re gonna get a victory.  Tyrone Wheatley, Zack Crockett, let’s get ready to blow this thing up.'”

According to Brown, coach Bill Callahan then “blew this thing up” on the Friday before the Super Bowl, changing the game plan from a run-heavy attack to an intent to “throw the ball 60 times.”

“We all called it sabotage . . . because Callahan and [Tampa Bay coach Jon] Gruden were good friends,” Brown said.  “And Callahan had a big problem with the Raiders, you know, hated the Raiders.  You know, only came because Gruden made him come.  Literally walked off the field on us a couple of times during the season when he first got there, the first couple years.  So really he had become someone who was part of the staff but we just didn’t pay him any attention.  Gruden leaves, he becomes the head coach. . . .  It’s hard to say that the guy sabotaged the Super Bowl.  You know, can you really say that?  That can be my opinion, but I can’t say for a fact that that’s what his plan was, to sabotage the Super Bowl.  He hated the Raiders so much that he would sabotage the Super Bowl so his friend can win the Super Bowl.  That’s hard to say, because you can’t prove it.

“But the facts are what they are, that less than 36 hours before the game we changed our game plan.  And we go into that game absolutely knowing that we have no shot.  That the only shot we had if Tampa Bay didn’t show up.”

Brown explained that the change had a specific impact on Robbins.  “Barret Robbins begged Coach Callahan, ‘Do not do this to me.  I don’t have time to make my calls, to get my calls ready.  You can’t do this to me on Friday.  We haven’t practiced full speed, we can’t get this done.'”

Brown tiptoed around the question of whether the change caused Robbins to go off the deep end, suggesting that it had an impact and then explaining that there’s no way to know if it did.  “I’m not saying one had anything to do with the other,” Brown said.  “All I’m saying is those are the facts of what happened Super Bowl week.  So our ire wasn’t towards Barret Robbins, it was towards Bill Callahan.  Because we feel as if he wouldn’t have did what he did, then Barret wouldn’t have done what he did.

“Now, should Barret have manned up and tried to do it?  Absolutely.  But everybody knew Barret was unstable anyway.  So to put him in that situation — not that he was putting him in that situation — but for that decision to be made without consulting the players the Friday before the Super Bowl?  I played 27 years of football.  The coaches never changed the game plan the Friday before the game.  I’m not trying to point fingers at anybody here, all I’m saying is those are the facts of what happened.  So people look at Barret and they say all these things, but every player in that locker room will tell you, ‘You’d better talk to Bill Callahan.’   Because if not for Coach Callahan, I don’t think we’re in that situation.”

Well, we now know what Tim Brown will be asked about next week in New Orleans.  Continuously.

There’s only one potential flaw in Brown’s logic.  He assumes that the new game plan came from Callahan.  Who’s to say that the order to throw the ball 60 times didn’t come from the late Al Davis, who had a special affinity for throwing the football, and also for meddling directly in the coaching of the team?

Thus, while it’s easy to blame Callahan, Callahan may have simply been the messenger.

Regardless, Brown and Callahan and Gruden and quarterback Rich Gannon and anyone/everyone who was part of that team will soon be hearing from reporters and radio/TV producers, just in time for the 10th anniversary of the game.

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Doug Pederson: The sky’s the limit for Carson Wentz

PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 25:  Quarterback  Carson Wentz #11 of the Philadelphia Eagles looks on in the second half against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Lincoln Financial Field on September 25, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Carson Wentz Express rolled on Sunday as the rookie threw for 302 yards and two touchdowns to pace the Eagles in a 34-3 rout of the Steelers that moves their record to 3-0 ahead of their bye week.

There has been plenty to like about the Eagles’ performance over the first three weeks, particularly with a defense that has allowed just 27 points so far this season. It’s a quarterback-driven league, though, and the ones picked at the top of the draft always get the most attention, so Wentz was the man of the hour again on Sunday.

Coach Doug Pederson said “the sky is the limit” for the rookie while Steelers coach Mike Tomlin complimented Wentz on an “awesome job” against his team. Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins said that “what he’s doing is special” and tight end Brent Celek is feeling enervated by the rookie’s spot in the offense.

“I told [Pederson] being 10 years in, this kid is inspiring me,” Celek said in comments distributed by the team. “He’s adding youth to my game just by the way he’s acting, being in the huddle, taking command, it’s beyond impressive; it’s great. We have to keep it going. I’m not going to sit here and say we’re the greatest team but I’m excited with how he’s playing and he’s elevating everybody else’s play by the way he’s handling it.”

With Wentz taking over the job just before the start of the regular season after initially being ticketed for the No. 3 job, expectations were modest about what he’d do. Three weeks of winning, turnover-free football will bump those expectations up significantly, but it’s clear the Eagles believe that Wentz has what it takes to continue thriving after the bye.

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Cardinals struggling to understand string of slow starts

Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians works on the sideline during the second half of an NFL football game against the Buffalo Bills, Sunday, Sept. 25, 2016, in Orchard Park, N.Y. (AP Photo/Bill Wippert) AP

The Cardinals anticipated being much better than this, after being a missed field goal in the final minute away from being 2-0.

But the mistakes have continued to build, and so has coach Bruce Arians’ frustration.

After yesterday’s 33-18 loss to the Bills, Arians couldn’t find much right about his team’s performance.

“We talked a lot all week about getting off to a fast start and it’s the slowest one we’ve had in four years offensively,” Arians said, via Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic. “We just did a poor job of running routes, finding guys, getting open and protecting the quarterback.

“Just continue to make mistakes in all three phases.”

The flat tire came right out of the parking lot, as they were outgained 142 yards to 2 by the Bills in the first quarter. They needed 18 plays to get a first down, and at one point had more punts (seven) than yards (five). Then there was the comedy of errors stuff, like a high snap on a field goal which was returned for a touchdown by the Bills.

They haven’t scored a point in a first quarter yet this season, which put them in a hole to set up late mistakes. Carson Palmer threw four interceptions, all in the fourth quarter when they were playing desperately.

The Cardinals are now 1-2, the same hole as their NFC Championship Game opponent the Panthers find themselves in. And like Carolina, it’s hard to point to a reason that these things have gone south so quickly, because neither roster suffered major defections this offseason.

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Russell Wilson is #Grateful, which must mean his MRI was clean

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) walks along the sideline with an ice pack wrapped on his left knee against the San Francisco 49ers in the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 25, 2016, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren) AP

Some players wait to hear from the doctors.

But a tweet last night from Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson suggests he’s got it on good word his knee’s OK from a higher authority.

Wilson had an MRI last night on his left knee, the latest in a series of injuries for the diminutive quarterback. He suffered a sprained right ankle in the opener.

The bubbly Wilson was always upbeat about playing through that one, and he did, though his mobility was obviously limited in a loss to the Rams.

He was able to finish yesterday’s game on what was speculated to be an MCL sprain, which is possible depending on the severity.

But Wilson’s gratitude — unless he’s just one of those weirdos who give thanks for everyday blessings — seems to indicate he has dodged another bullet.

The Seahawks only have rookie quarterback Trevone Boykin in reserve, though they signed one to their practice squad to give themselves an alternative for practice. Now the only question will be how effective Wilson can be, since much of his game and the Seahawks offense is built on his mobility.

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John Fox on Bears’ 0-3 start: “It’s frustrating”

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 25:  Head coach John Fox of the Chicago Bears during the first half against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium on September 25, 2016 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) Getty Images

Bears coach John Fox wasn’t happy after his team dropped to 0-3 with a loss at Dallas on Sunday night.

“This game’s only fun when you win. There’s not a whole lot of fun when you lose,” Fox said. “It’s frustrating. I’d rather be 3-0, but that’s not reality.”

Although Fox insisted that “We’ve got the right guys in that locker room,” he also noted that the Bears are playing shorthanded because of injuries.

“It’s not an excuse, but it is an excuse,” Fox said of the Bears’ injuries.

The Bears are, along with the Browns and Jaguars, one of only three 0-3 teams in the NFL. Chicago has been outscored by a total of 38 points, the worst mark in the league. This is looking like another frustrating season in Chicago.

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Dez Bryant to have MRI today, but Dr. Jerry Jones feels “OK”

Chicago Bears cornerback Tracy Porter (21) defends as Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant (88) catches a pass thrown by Dak Prescott (4) for a touchdown in the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 25, 2016, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins) AP

Dez Bryant’s right knee was sufficiently fine that he was able to return to the game after getting it checked out, and to catch Dak Prescott’s first touchdown pass.

But they’re checking him out today anyway.

Per Jean-Jacques Taylor of ESPN.com, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said his star wide receiver was going to have an MRI today but was hopeful the outcome would be good. Bryant went down on the second play of the game, but was able to continue later in the drive.

“We feel OK,” Jones said. “We’re going to do some other things, too. But right here, yes. Right now, we’re fine. We’ll give it another look-see with the MRI. . . .

“I saw how the knee took it. That was a little concerning. I did see him moving around, but I saw Michael Irvin — I’ll never forget that — go back out and play [after an ACL injury]. Let’s just see how the MRI goes. We’ve got what we’ve seen in here, and that’s not something I would be alarmed about.”

Of course, if Dr. Jones didn’t want to incite alarm, he could have forgotten about mentioning Irvin’s torn ACL. But because he did, his team’s fans will be worried until the results from an actual doctor are in.

Bryant’s coming off a season when he missed seven games with a foot injury, and he had surgery this offseason to repair it.

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Sunday Night wrap-up: Dak Prescott doubles backup win total from 2015

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) celebrates a touchdown scored by running back Lance Dunbar on a running play against the Chicago Bears in the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 25, 2016, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/LM Otero) AP

Dak Prescott is still just a rookie.

But he’s already twice the quarterback that Matt Cassel, Brandon Weeden and Kellen Moore were last year.

Prescott led the Cowboys to an easy 31-17 win over the Bears, looking nothing like a first-year player in the process. He was efficient enough passing, but is able to move in the pocket and keep plays alive and run and get back up again, things that Tony Romo can’t always do (especially that last one).

Prescott finished 19-of-24 passing for 248 yards and a touchdown.

He’s played so precociously that it’s almost a surprise that his fourth-quarter touchdown to Dez Bryant was his first touchdown pass, but the fact we’re still waiting to see his first interception speaks to what makes the Cowboys love the almost-afterthought fourth-rounder so much.

It would be as irresponsible to suggest that he’s going to make Romo obsolete as it was when some were getting moon-eyed over Jimmy Garoppolo in New England the first two weeks of the season. But Prescott walked into a situation nearly as attractive as being coached by Bill Belichick when he got to take his first NFL snaps behind the Cowboys’ offensive line and surrounded by such skill-position talent.

That gives them two wins in three games without Romo, which is double what the Cowboys won in 12 non-Romo starts last year (Cassel had the one). There are plenty of people contributing to that, but unlike past situations, the Cowboys feel like they have a chance with Prescott at the helm.

Here are five more things we learned during Sunday Night Football:

1. Prescott’s been good, but fellow rookie Ezekiel Elliott is helping to make it easy for his quarterback.

Elliott finished with 30 carries for 140 yards,  dramatically improving his totals. He went for 51 yards in the opener and 83 last week, and after a slow preseason, this was the first time he flashed star quality. As a pro, at least. His hurdle of Bears safety Chris Prosinski gave him a poster-worthy shot, and may have summed up the evening for both sides.

The idea behind drafting the Ohio State running back fourth overall was to help Romo-proof the offense anyway, and his ability to keep chains moving is going to be of assistance when the old guy comes back too.

2. On the other sideline, we probably should have seen this coming.

The Bears walked in the door undermanned and on a short week, after an embarrassing loss to the Eagles last Monday, with backup quarterback Brian Hoyer.

While it’s uncertain that Jay Cutler would have made things any better, there’s a certain hopelessness that descends with veteran backups of Hoyer’s ilk. But the Bears were in a transitional phase anyway, and then kept getting hurt.

To recap: In addition to starting Cutler, the Bears were without pass-rushers Lamarr Houston (IR) and Pernell McPhee (PUP), and center Hroniss Grasu (IR). That doesn’t even get into the recent injuries, including defensive tackle Eddie Goldman and linebacker Danny Trevathan, who were inactive because of problems of shorter-term nature.

3. While the lack of punch of the Bears offense was certainly a factor, the Cowboys’ defense looked almost competent at times.

They’re still short on pass-rushers, and will be for another game until Demarcus Lawrence returns a week from now after his four-game drug suspension.

But considering they get the punchless 49ers next week, they might be able to survive the wait.

4. The Cowboys are going to be at their best when they can play from ahead, especially until Tony Romo returns.

But the way they got up on the Bears would have allowed many quarterbacks to have looked good.

The Cowboys had more first downs (19) than the Bears had plays (18) in the first half, leading to a 24-7 lead at the break.

5. There were some bright spots for the Bears.

Sort of. OK, not many.

Tight end Zach Miller caught a couple of touchdowns, but we already knew he was pretty good.

Rookie running back Jordan Howard popped a 36-yard run in the first half, and might have had more if they were in a position to run more often.

The fifth-round pick from Indiana (via Alabama-Birmingham) has shown some promise, but may need some time to gain traction because Fox is generally averse to playing rookies unless he has to.

Maybe he has to.

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Which win was the most surprising in Week Three?

Minnesota Vikings' Kyle Rudolph (82) catches a touchdown pass over Carolina Panthers' Shaq Green-Thompson (54) in the second half of an NFL football game in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday, Sept. 25, 2016. (AP Photo/Mike McCarn) AP

Sunday’s game had plenty of surprising outcomes. So the question of the day for Monday’s PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio and NBCSN is this: Which win was the most surprising?

The choices appear below. Pick one and make your case in the comments — or complain about how we left out the win secured by your favorite team.

Then tune in on Monday morning for the show, which will feature visits from Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph and Dolphins safety Reshad Jones.

Tune in for the radio show at 6:00 a.m. ET, which slides over to NBCSN at 7:00 a.m. ET.

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Michael Bennett: 49ers would be better off with Kaepernick

SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 25: Quarterback Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers speaks with defensive end Michael Bennett #72 of the Seattle Seahawks after the game at CenturyLink Field on September 25, 2016 in Seattle,Washington. The Seahawks won the game 37-18.  (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images) Getty Images

After the Seahawks finished up a 37-18 win over the 49ers that didn’t feel nearly as close as that final score, 49ers coach Chip Kelly said that he never considered replacing quarterback Blaine Gabbert with Colin Kaepernick.

Kelly said he thought Gabbert “played OK” while going 14-of-25 for 119 yards and an interception while the 49ers fell behind 37-3 before Carlos Hyde ran for two scores in garbage time. Kelly may not be thinking about making a move, but Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett said after the game that he thinks the coach should be heading in the other direction.

“There is no challenge [facing Gabbert]. He threw for 100 yards,” Bennett said, via Curtis Crabtree of PFT and 950 KJR. “The challenge is him reading the defenses and staying in the pocket. What’s the point in running when you have to throw the ball? I think Kaepernick gives the team a better chance of winning, but that’s just my opinion.”

When Kelly said he was sticking with Gabbert after Week Two, he said Kaepernick wasn’t up to his playing weight after an offseason spent recovering from multiple surgeries. Kaepernick said on Sunday that he feels ready to play, but it doesn’t sound like the 49ers are ready to move in his direction.

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“Trainer’s speculation” points to MCL sprain for Russell Wilson

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) is assisted off the field after being brought down against the San Francisco 49ers in the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 25, 2016, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren) AP

Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson will have an MRI on Sunday night to determine the amount of damage, if any, in Wilson’s left knee.

In response to a report from NFL Media that Wilson has an MCL sprain, a source with knowledge of the situation tells PFT that this is “trainer’s speculation” based on physical testing of the knee. The MRI will be definitive.

Depending on the degree of the injury, an MCL sprain is playable. The rope-like ligament can heal itself with rest, fraying when it sprains instead of tearing. Jets receiver Brandon Marshall, for example, played last Thursday with an MCL sprain, and returned to play on Sunday.

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Cowboys pulling away, as Bears pull out bag of tricks

Chicago Bears quarterback Brian Hoyer is sacked by Dallas Cowboys defensive tackle Tyrone Crawford (98) in the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 25, 2016, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/LM Otero) AP

The Bears are down their starting quarterback and plenty of other players, and now they’re down by a couple of touchdowns.

The Cowboys are off to a roaring start on Sunday Night Football, taking advantage of a depleted Bears squad.

Quarterback Dak Prescott just hit Cole Beasley for a touchdown and a 17-0 lead, and the Bears may not be able to slow them down at this point.

Beset by injuries, the Bears haven’t really interrupted the Cowboys all night.

And with backup quarterback Brian Hoyer not really perfectly suited to play from behind, this could get away from them. They did get a field goal after a nice 36-yard run from rookie running back Jordan Howard, but then tried an onside kick but were offsides, and kicked it away after the penalty.

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Terrelle Pryor does something that hadn’t been done in 57 years

Cleveland Browns wide receiver Terrelle Pryor (11) runs for a touchdown during the second half of an NFL football game against the Miami Dolphins, Sunday, Sept. 25, 2016, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky) AP

Browns receiver Terrelle Pryor made a significant contribution to the effort on Sunday. Instead of cutting off a finger or any other appendage, Pryor added roles to catching passes, with rare results.

Pryor had 144 receiving yards, 35 passing yards, and 21 rushing yards in the overtime loss at Miami. According to the NFL, Pryor became the first player to have at least 120 receiving yards, at least 30 passing yards, and at least 20 rushing yards in a single game since Hall of Famer Frank Gifford did it on December 6, 1959.

Look for Pryor to keep doing all he can for the Browns as coach Hue Jackson keeps trying his best to make chicken salad. At a time when the Browns don’t have much about which to be proud, they should be glad that they saw real ability in Pryor and stuck with him long enough for it to emerge

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Cowboys take early lead, without losing any more players

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) prepares to throw a pass in the first half of an NFL football game against the Chicago Bears, Sunday, Sept. 25, 2016, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins) AP

The Cowboys have an early lead, and their breath back.

Rookie quarterback Dak Prescott just gave them a 7-0 lead over the Bears with a sneak for a touchdown, capping a drive of highs and lows.

Rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott popped a 21-yard run, tied for the longest of his career so far, as they put together the kind of long, grind-it-out drive they’re built for.

The Cowboys survived a couple of scares, as star wide receiver Dez Bryant appeared to have suffered a knee injury. But he returned to the game later in the drive, as did Cole Beasley, who took a hard shot to the ribs and appeared shaken up for a moment.

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Rams outlast Bucs after an long lightning delay

Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley (30) scrambles for the goal line on a 1-yard touchdown run against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the third quarter of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 25, 2016, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Jason Behnken) AP

Sometimes when you move, those boxes in the garage stay packed.

Well, Rams coach Jeff Fisher dug past the 8-tracks and the old dishes, and found all the touchdowns.

After scoring nine points (9!?!) in their first two games, the Rams exploded in a 37-32 win over the Buccaneers, to move to 2-1.

The Rams didn’t do it all with their explosive offense, with defensive tackle Ethan Westbrook scooping a sack-strip fumble and taking it 77 yards for a touchdown.

But with Todd Gurley running for two touchdowns and quarterback Case Keenum actually doing something, it was enough to withstand an hour-plus lightning delay and a late charge by Tampa, with Robert Quinn taking down quarterback Jameis Winston to end it.

The Bucs (1-2) have a number of concerns, including the fact they left four points on the board with a missed field goal and a missed extra point by rookie kicker Roberto Aguayo. That left them chasing two-point conversions late in the game, both of which failed.

Winston had a solid day, with 405 yards and three touchdowns, but the reality wasn’t as good as the fantasy stats.

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Todd Bowles: We were “s—-y” all around

KANSAS CITY, MO - SEPTEMBER 25: Cornerback Marcus Peters #22 of the Kansas City Chiefs intercepts a pass in front of wide receiver Jalin Marshall #89 of the New York Jets at Arrowhead Stadium during the first quarter of the game on September 25, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Jets lost 24-3 in Kansas City on Sunday due in large part to eight turnovers, six of which were interceptions thrown by Ryan Fitzpatrick.

Wide receiver Brandon Marshall called it a “embarrassing” performance by the team and coach Todd Bowles treaded in similar water, although he used a different word to describe both the team’s plan and the way the team played.

“S—-y game plan, s—-y execution, s—-y all around,” Bowles said, via Rich Cimini of ESPN.com.

Cornerback Darrelle Revis said the team still believes in Fitzpatrick and there’s not much chance that they’re going to bench him three games into the season after finally giving him $12 million for this year before the start of training camp. Things have to get significantly less s—-y on all fronts in a hurry, though.

The Jets host the Seahawks before road games against the Steelers and Cardinals and they’ll need some wins in those games to avoid a real question about how much there will be to play for over the rest of the season.

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Russell Wilson says he’ll be “good to go,” believes MRI will reveal no damage

SEATTLE, WA - DECEMBER 20: Quarterback Russell Wilson #3 of the Seattle Seahawks runs off the field after a football game against the Cleveland Browns at CenturyLink Field on December 20, 2015 in Seattle, Washington. The Seahawks won the game 30-13 and Wilson threw for three touchdowns. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)  *** Local Caption *** Russell Wilson Getty Images

Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson told reporters after Sunday’s game that he’s “walking fine” and doesn’t believe his knee injury “is as severe as it looked.”

Wilson is scheduled for an MRI to determine if his left knee suffered any structural damage.

Wilson said he anticipates he’ll be “good to go” and said he would have returned to Sunday’s win over the 49ers if the game was more competitive.

He left the game in the third quarter. The Seahawks led 37-3 and won 37-18.

The Seahawks play at the Jets next Sunday.

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