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ProFootballTalk: Is Smith to KC a done deal?

It’s being reported the 49ers will receive a second round pick this year and a similar pick next year for Alex Smith. But since the terms can’t be finalized until the new league year begins, how done is this deal?

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Jameel McClain carted off the field at Giants camp

Giants Camp Football AP

One of the rites of training camp season is the emergence of the cart as a harbinger of bad news.

And in Giants camp, they’re going to need a bigger one.

According to Mike Garafolo of FOX Sports, linebacker Jameel McClain was hauled off the field in the dreaded cart, with what appeared to be a left leg injury.

While we don’t know the severity of McClain’s problem at the moment, we know they’re already thin there, with linebacker Jon Beason on the physically unable to perform list.

Guard Brandon Mosley was also hauled off earlier. He was working with the starters after the retirement of veteran Chris Snee, and was apparently replaced with the ones by rookie Weston Richburg.

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Super Bowl champion Seahawks are at the top of PFT’s preseason rankings

Jacksonville Jaguars v Seattle Seahawks Getty Images

The Seattle Seahawks won the Super Bowl by 35 points over the Denver Broncos in February. They re-signed several key players to long-term deals this offseason and suffered few significant losses to free agency this spring.

With all that in mind, the Seahawks had to come in at the top of our preseason power rankings.

The Seahawks have few questions as training camp gets set to open on Friday. Seattle’s offense has the potential to be more explosive this season with a healthy Percy Harvin in the lineup and Russell Wilson having another year of experience under his belt. The defense will remain as one of the most physically imposing units in the league with their key pieces intact and star-studded secondary locked up for the next few years.

However, the San Francisco 49ers remain directly in the rear-view mirror and the battle for NFC West should once again be must-see entertainment this fall.

Our full Seahawks preview is located here. Tell us in the poll below if you feel the Seahawks deserve the ranking we gave them heading into the season.

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Bengals don’t expect Leon Hall, Geno Atkins to be on PUP for long

Tom Brady, Geno Atkins AP

The Bengals got ready for the start of training camp on Monday by putting a slew of players on either the Physically Unable to Perform or Non-Football Injury lists.

Two of the biggest names to hit the PUP list were cornerback Leon Hall and defensive tackle Geno Atkins, both of whom are recovering from season-ending injuries during the 2013 season. There wasn’t much word leading up to Monday’s moves that either player was going to need to extend their rehab much longer and coach Marvin Lewis said Tuesday that the team hasn’t ruled out either player practicing before the first week of camp is out.

“Leon’s goal was to be out there the very first practice. He’ll probably achieve that goal,” Lewis said, via the team’s website. “Geno’s goal is to be out there the very first practice. I’m going to keep him from achieving that goal because I want to lay eyes on Geno for a few days. That’s what I told him yesterday. He’s going to start on PUP and as soon as he and I agree he’s ready to go in the rigors of practice, we’ll feel good about it.”

It’s the prudent direction to take since players who participate in practice are not eligible for the regular season PUP list, which requires them to wait at least six weeks before practicing, and the Bengals can remove the designation at any point during training camp.

Hall will take the conditioning test on Wednesday and he should be off the list if he performs well. If Atkins follows suit quickly, the Bengals defense will be shaping up nicely ahead of the start of the regular season.

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Weather the latest thing to keep Marcell Dareus from camp

Dareus Getty Images

For all his self-inflcited problems this offseason, weather is the latest thing to keep defensive tackle Marcell Dareus from training camp.

According to Mike Rodak of ESPN.com, Dareus wasn’t able to get from his court date in Alabama Monday to Rochester, N.Y. because of bad weather.

“He’ll be with our weight room staff working out as soon as he gets here,” coach Doug Marrone said.

They’re going to give him a few more days before he re-takes his conditioning test, which he failed once already. Between that and arrests for synthetic marijuana and drag racing, it’s been quite an offseason already for the former No. 3 overall pick.

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Andre Johnson sighting at NRG Stadium sparks speculation he’ll report for camp

Miami Dolphins v Houston Texans Getty Images

As the Texans and receiver Andre Johnson remain at an impasse over whether he’ll be given a chance to earn back $1 million in a squandered roster bonus, a new development suggests he’ll show up for training camp.

Unless it doesn’t.

Per multiple reports, Johnson was spotted Monday at NRG Stadium, the building in which the Texans play and the location of the team’s facilities.  Per a source with direct knowledge of the situation, however, Johnson’s visit to the building doesn’t mean he’ll be showing up for training camp.  It likewise doesn’t mean he won’t be showing up for camp.

After the offseason program ends and before the start of training camp, players are permitted to use the team facility to work out on their own, as long as no coach, trainer, or other club personnel participates in the process.  That’s possibly all that Johnson was doing — utilizing his free access to the weight room and other exercise equipment at the team facility.

So, yes, Johnson was there.  And, no, it doesn’t mean anything, one way or the other.

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Tony Dungy elaborates on his Michael Sam comments

Dungy Getty Images

On Monday, the Tampa Tribune published Tony Dungy’s answer to the question of whether he would have drafted Michael Sam, the NFL’s first openly-gay player.  Dungy’s 38 words triggered a flood of debate and controversy, and plenty of pointed criticism.

On Tuesday, Dungy issued a statement elaborating on his comments.  The full text of it appears here.

Dungy explains that the quotes were obtained in the aftermath of the draft, following the news that Oprah Winfrey would turn Sam’s story into a reality show.  (The plug has since been pulled on the project.)

“I gave my honest answer, which is that I felt drafting him would bring much distraction to the team,” Dungy says.

“I was not asked whether or not Michael Sam deserves an opportunity to play in the NFL.  He absolutely does.

“I was not asked whether his sexual orientation should play a part in the evaluation process.  It should not.

“I was not asked whether I would have a problem having Michael Sam on my team.  I would not.”

Dungy notes that he had been asked those questions in the preceding three months, and that he consistently said that playing in the NFL “is, and should be, about merit.”  The question posted by the Tampa Tribune focused much more narrowly than that.

“What I was asked about was my philosophy of drafting, a philosophy that was developed over the years, which was to minimize distractions for my teams,” the former Buccaneers and Colts head coach says.  “I do not believe Michael’s sexual orientation will be a distraction to his teammates or his organization.  I do, however, believe that the media attention that comes with it will be a distraction.  Unfortunately we are all seeing this play out now, and I feel badly that my remarks played a role in the distraction.”

While not mentioned by Dungy, Sam’s status as a marginal prospect likely was a factor in that analysis.  Some players are good enough to justify the distractions that come along with employing them, from Lawrence Taylor to Michael Vick to Ben Roethlisberger to Johnny Manziel.  Sam, the 249th selection in a 256-man draft, may not be good enough to make it.  Thus, Dungy and plenty of other coaches would choose not put on the roster bubble a player whose mere presence could be the equivalent of signing up for Hard Knocks.

And then, if/when the player is cut, the scrutiny intensifies.  “Did his teammates not accept him?”  “Was there a power struggle in the front office?”  “Is the coaching staff split?”  “Did something happen?”

Dungy is expected to talk about the situation later this week, on The Dan Patrick Show.  Until then, his statement and the context of his original comments should be considered, regardless of whether Dungy’s position is being criticized or praised.

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Bengals want to pay Dalton like Kaepernick

Dalton AP

When the real numbers of the long-term contract signed by 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick became available, it became apparent that any team with a potential franchise quarterback should offer the same deal.  Now.

Not surprisingly, a team widely regarded as being extremely careful with money wants to pay its potential franchise quarterback like Kaepernick.

Via Geoff Hobson of the Bengals’ official website, owner Mike Brown believes Dalton’s deal should be in the Kaepernick range.  Presumably, a deal already would be done if Dalton’s camp agreed with that sentiment.

And if there was/were/whatever any doubt that the Kaepernick deal is incredibly team friendly, the Bengals’ willingness to give the same contract to a guy who hasn’t won a playoff game proves it.  A mere $13 million fully guaranteed at signing on a seven-year commitment from the player.  A very late (relatively speaking) April 1 deadline each year for dumping the player before injury-only guarantees become full guarantees.  An annual average that pays the quarterback mid-level money now and, given spikes in the salary cap, mid-level money (or worse) in the out years.  And an obligation for the player to plunk down a ton of cash for a $20 million disability policy payable to the team in the event that he suffers a career-ending injury.

So, yes, the Bengals should try to give Dalton that same contract.  And the Panthers should try to give it to Cam Newton.

And the Colts should try to give it to Andrew Luck.  And so on throughout the league as each young quarterback with franchise potential becomes eligible for a new deal.

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David Tyree joins Giants front office

New York Giants David Tyree celebrates a Getty Images

On Monday, the Giants said goodbye to a memorable player from the Tom Coughlin era when guard Chris Snee announced his retirement.

On Tuesday, they welcomed back another memorable player. The team announced that David Tyree, whose helmet-aided catch of an Eli Manning pass set up the winning score in Super Bowl XLII, will be rejoining the team as the team’s director of player development. Tyree has been working in the league office on player engagement and development and replaces former Giant Charles Way, who has moved onto a job with the league.

“I’m overwhelmed with joy,” Tyree said in the team’s announcement of the hire. “I guess you could say it’s a second homecoming. I’m grateful to have an experience with Charles Way, seeing his growth, his maturity as a professional. It even, to some degree, has impacted my life personally as a professional. Then having this opportunity to fill those shoes, I’m just grateful for the foundation that’s been laid, I’m grateful to be an example and hopefully represent this great organization in the same light and continue the great atmosphere and tradition of a wonderful organization with a premier culture. I’m just thrilled to get in here and serve these players.”

Giants coach Tom Coughlin said Tyree would work with players “to aid them in their continuing education, their development as young men, the opportunities in the business world and in networking.”

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T.J. Ward’s assault hearing delayed until August

T.J. Ward AP

Broncos safety T.J. Ward was scheduled for a hearing on assault charges on Tuesday in Denver, but a request from his attorney has led the court to delay the proceedings until August.

The Associated Press reports that Ward’s attorney Abraham Hutt asked the court for more time to review evidence he just received and a judge granted the request. Ward is now due back in court on August 4.

Ward faces misdemeanor assault and disturbing the peace charges as a result of an incident at PT’s All Nude Club in Denver on May 10. Ward is accused of throwing a glass mug at a bartender during a dispute about whether or not Ward was drinking from a bottle he brought with him to the club and was asked to dispose of once inside.

The Broncos signed Ward to a four-year deal this offseason and the former Brown is expected to boost the team’s defense alongside fellow free agent acquisitions DeMarcus Ware and Aqib Talib. He’s also expected to avoid league discipline that would stop him from performing that role.

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Five questions: Buffalo Bills

Manuel AP

The PFT Preseason Power Rankings, which provide a context for looking at the changes made since last season, will be completed later today.  (Spoiler alert:  The Seahawks are No. 1.)

So let’s start something new, aimed at providing a template for discussion and debate about a team’s prospects for the upcoming season.  For each team, I’ll ask and answer five questions for the 2014 campaign.

Hopefully, I won’t ask myself too many tough questions.

First up — the first team to camp in 2014.

1.  Is EJ Manuel ready to take a major step forward?

To be a franchise quarterback, the quarterback must play well and be able to, you know, play.  Last year, Manuel missed six of 16 games due to injury.  While not entirely the quarterback’s fault (especially when the offensive line is not too good), franchise quarterbacks won’t become or stay franchise quarterbacks if they aren’t available to play, week in and week out.

Then there’s the quality of the performance when playing.  Eleven touchdowns and nine interceptions last year.  A 58.8-percent completion percentage.  Six fumbles, three of them lost.

“Im excited,” coach Doug Marrone recently said of Manuel.  “[H]e looks good and confident, obviously its a better situation, last year we were explaining what the offense is and not really the ins and outs of things, this year were able to get more into the ins and outs of things, not just with EJ but with a lot of guys on the team with the system already being in place.”

That’s easy to say in July.  Whether Manuel has mastered “the ins and out of things” will be determined when the dust settles on the regular season, and the Bills are either in or out of the postseason field.

2.  Is Fred Jackson being phased out?

Speaking of ins and outs, running back Bryce Brown is in — and that could mean Fred Jackson will be out.  With a $2.45 million base salary, he’ll have a spot on the roster barring something unforeseen.  But will Jackson be part of a one-two punch with C.J. Spiller or that clunky third training wheel on a Spiller-Brown bicycle?

Brown, acquired from Philly after a reported effort to trade up for Ohio State tailback Carlos Hyde failed, has looked great so far in camp.  If that continues, we could see a lot of Brown this year, and in turn a lot less (and eventually no) Jackson.

3.  Was Sammy Watkins worth it?

The Bills gave up two first-round picks and a fourth-round pick to get receiver Sammy Watkins.  The all-in move has created a ton of hype and astronomical expectations.  To earn that investment, Watkins will need to become not just a potential offensive rookie of the year but a first-team All Pro.

So far, so good.  But it hasn’t gotten very far yet.  And it will be impossible to know whether Watkins can get off the line against NFL-caliber defensive backs until he has to do it in a game that counts.

For most receivers, the quality and intensity of top-level cornerbacks in bump-and-run coverage delays the breakout until year three.  Watkins could be one of the exceptions, like A.J. Green and Julio Jones were two years ago.

If the Bills hope to save jobs in the front office and on the coaching staff, the impact needs to be big enough to get the team to the postseason.

4.  What’s the deal with Marcell Dareus?

Not long after the Bills opted to exercise the fifth-year option on the Pro Bowl defensive lineman, Dareus exercised his inalienable right to screw up his life.  Twice, via arrests for possession of synthetic marijuana and drag racing.

And then came the last chapter of the trilogy, with Dareus showing up out of shape and unable to pass the conditioning test.

It’s hard to paint the Bills as shocked, especially after Dareus missed game time twice last year for violating team rules.  It also gives rise to a fair question regarding whether the Bills made the right decision three years ago taking Dareus instead of, say, A.J. Green or Julio Jones.

5.  Will the impending sale affect the team?

On the record, no coach or player or administrator will say that the process of selling the franchise will affect in any way the franchise’s performance in 2014.

Off the record, and possibly with the attachment of a polygraph machine, the folks in power will admit that they’re worried about whether they’ll lose that power by losing their jobs when the new owner decides to bring in folks hand picked by the new owner to handle the key jobs.

The folks currently holding those key jobs will keep them only if the Bills do well enough to compel the new owner to stay put.  The Bills, likely every other team, are optimistic.  Throw cold water on that, or otherwise, below.

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Report: D.J. Hayden could be placed on PUP to begin camp

DJ Hayden AP

When the Raiders begin training camp in two days, cornerback D.J. Hayden reportedly may not be a participant.

John Middlekauff of 95.7 FM “The Game” in San Francisco reports Hayden continues to recover from a lower leg injury suffered in OTAs and could be placed on PUP to start camp.

The injury has been called either an ankle injury or a foot injury in published reports, and Hayden reportedly wore a boot on the injured lower leg in offseason workouts.

The Raiders’ first-round pick in 2013, Hayden appeared in just eight games, with a groin injury ending his season. He also missed time last summer after abdominal surgery.

According to Middlekauff, Hayden may not be a “full participant” in training camp even if he isn’t placed on the reserve list.

By placing Hayden on PUP before camp, the Raiders would have the option to keep him on the list as long as needed. However, they couldn’t add him once the practices begin.

Hayden is expected to be a key part of a secondary that also includes former 49ers cornerbacks Carlos Rogers and Tarell Brown.

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Rams linebacker claims self-defense in fight with NBA player

St Louis Rams v San Francisco 49ers Getty Images

Rams linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar will soon be delivering hits, but he’s claiming self-defense in an incident with an NBA player outside a South Beach nightclub.

According to Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Dunbar was actually only charged with misdemeanor disorderly conduct and breach of peace, not battery as was mentioned in an earlier report of the incident.

According to the police report, Dunbar said he was defending himself, after an altercation with former Sacramento Kings player Donte Greene and Greene’s brother.

One of the officers responding to the incident said he was concerned for Dunbar’s safety, and after warning Greene, hit him with a taser for “approximately 6-7 seconds.”

That ended the fight, but Greene said Dunbar was assaulting his brother.

“I’m sorry, officer, but this guy has been after me for years since I got into the NBA,” Greene said in the report. “He was beating my brother and I had to do what I did.”

Dunbar got off on the wrong foot last year, as he was suspended for four games for violating the league’s policy on performance enhancing substances. This arrest will merit review by the league as well, but so far the Rams haven’t commented on the incident.

At the very least, it’s a reminder of why coaches are so glad the offseason is nearly over.

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Lions to wear patch honoring William Clay Ford

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Three long-time and respected NFL owners have died in recent months, including Lions owner William Clay Ford.

The Lions will honor Ford in 2014 with a uniform patch bearing his initials, via Michael Rothstein of ESPN.com.

Ford’s wife, Martha, now owns the team. Bill Ford, Jr. serves as the team’s vice-chairman.

As noted by Rothstein, Ford bought the team for $4.5 million on November 22, 1963. A date that is far better known for a much different reason.

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Norv Turner: Our three QBs are as good a group as I could ask for

vikingsqbs AP

If you were an NFL offensive coordinator and your quarterback depth chart consisted of Matt Cassel, Christian Ponder and Teddy Bridgewater, would you be optimistic? You would be if you were Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turner, who says those three players give his team a strong group of passers.

“We’re sitting there with two quarterbacks who have taken teams to playoffs and won over 10 games, which is hard to do,” Turner told Vikings.com. “And we’ve got a young guy that’s exciting to be around. So our quarterback situation is as good as you could ask for and I think we’ll get a high level of play from those guys.”

It is true that Ponder and Cassel have both been the starting quarterback for teams that went 10-6 and got to the playoffs. Then again, Ponder and Cassel were both on the Vikings last year, and they went 5-10-1 and finished last in the NFC North. The reality is, if Bridgewater isn’t good enough to start ahead of Cassel and Ponder, Vikings fans will be disappointed.

The good news is that Turner said he sees “great upside” to Bridgewater and believes the Vikings got a steal with the 32nd overall pick in the draft. If Turner is right about that, Vikings fans can forget about Cassel and Ponder, because Bridgewater is both the present and the future of the team.

Turner also acknowledged that the Vikings’ strength on offense will likely be its running game, but Turner said he thinks the passing game will at least be good enough that Adrian Peterson doesn’t see many eight-man fronts.

“You play to the strength of your team,” Turner said. “I really believe that we have enough talent across the board, enough guys who can make plays, that we can do some things that will take some attention away from Adrian.”

Last year Cassel and Ponder weren’t able to take much attention away from Peterson. Maybe Bridgewater can do it.

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Class action against NFLPA raises old, new allegations

DeMaurice-Smith Getty Images

Before the Vikings launched a Friday night bad-news dump regarding the ongoing Chris Kluwe drama, the NFLPA launched a preemptive Friday afternoon bad-news dump regarding the first concussion lawsuit filed a day earlier against the union.

PFT has since obtained a copy of the complaint.  While it contains plenty of the same allegations made against the NFL in the many concussion lawsuits, the first attack on the NFLPA contains some contentions unique to the players’ union.

The gist of the argument is that the NFLPA “deliberately ignored, failed to warn, and actively concealed . . . information” from football players at all levels and the general public.  The complaint also contends that the NFLPA “spent no significant funds on research and development of safer helmets, safer competition rules, or safer football equipment that could prevent or mitigate brain trauma to players,” and that the NFLPA failed to certify medical personnel to treat players for head injuries, even though the NFLPA certifies agents and others who interact with players.

The class action, which if certified will encompass all former NFL players, points to the “unparalleled access to and knowledge of data relating to the relationship between head impacts on football players and cognitive decline,” from among other things the union’s participation in the controversial NFL’s Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Committee, which allegedly concealed the risks of concussions and “attacked” (paragraph 75) studies showing a link between concussions and brain damage for years.

At paragraph 40, the complaint alleges that the NFLPA received in 1994 a report from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health regarding player death rates.  The report suggested further study over time on the question of whether four cases of ALS were the result of chance, or something else.  At paragraph 41, the complaint claims that the NFLPA concealed the results of the study.

At paragraphs 44 and 45, the complaint contends that the NFLPA received information from the Center for the Study of Retired Athletes suggesting a substantial link between head impacts and cognitive decline, and that the “consistently concealed, ignored, and turned a blind eye to the studies’ results.”

At paragraphs 46 through 52, the complaint focuses on the NFLPA’s role in the Retirement Board, arguing that the Mike Webster case shows the NFLPA knew of the link between head injuries and brain damage (once hyped inaccurately by ESPN and the Fainaru-Wadas as a “smoking gun” for NFL liability), given the NFLPA’s role in the Retirement Board.

The complaint also includes quotes from past NFLPA leadership, including the late Gene Upshaw, long-time executive director of the union.  In 2007, Upshaw allegedly said in response to the suicide of former Eagles safety Andre Waters, “We all get alarmed when we see something like this.  But it’s not like we’ve been just sitting on our hands.  That’s what’s being implied here, that no one is looking at this, that no one’s studying this, that no one cares about this.  If that was true, I’m irresponsible and I haven’t been doing my job, and neither has the NFL.”

That same year, Upshaw allegedly downplayed the link between football and brain damage.  “I think we’re just a reflection of society,” Upshaw said.  “I don’t want to take that next leap to say, you know, football caused dementia.  I just don’t believe that.”

The complaint also attacks comments from former NFLPA president Kevin Mawae attacking the NFL’s efforts to make the game more safe.

“For the Commissioner and for the NFL to say they are going to increase fines because hits seem to be vicious or violent — I think it’s ridiculous and I think the skirt needs to be taken off in the NFL offices,” Mawae said in November 2010.

The complaint also seizes on comments from current NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith (pictured) regarding the past failings of union leadership.  “[T]he days of denigrating, suppressing, and ignoring the medical findings must come to an end,” Smith wrote to Congress in 2009.

The complaint repeats a quote we have mentioned several times in this space, given by Smith to Congress that same year:  “There is simply no justification for the NFL to have previously ignored or discredited Dr. [Bennet] Omalu and others with relevant, valid research,” Smith said at the time.  “For far too long, our former players were left adrift; as I emphasized at the last hearing, we were complicit in the lack of leadership and accountability, but that ends now.  I am here again to make it clear that our commitment is unwavering.”

When former NFL safety Dave Duerson committed suicide, Smith said Duerson’s death “makes it abundantly clear what the cost of football is for the men who played and their families,” and that “any decision or course of action that doesn’t recognize that as the truth is . . . perpetuating a lie.”

Based on those allegations, the plaintiffs claim that the NFLPA fraudulently concealed the risk of harm arising from repetitive head trauma, that misleading information about the health risks was given to players and the public by the NFLPA, that at a minimum the misrepresentations made by the NFLPA were negligent, that the union generally engaged in negligence regarding the handling of issues and information relating to brain injuries, and that the NFLPA conspired with the NFL “to perpetrate the fraudulent concealment of the connnection between repetitive TBI and long-term neuro-cognitive damage, illness, and decline.”

The NFLPA already has said that the lawsuit has no merit, and the union undoubtedly will defend itself aggressively.  But even with the concussion lawsuits against the NFL moving toward a conclusion, the former players are now taking on, as a practical matter, the current players on the question of what the union did and failed to do over the years.

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