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Concussion lawsuit creates potential conflict of interest

nfl_g_cantu_gb1_300 Getty Images

There’s a common belief that the pending concussion litigation against the NFL ultimately will result only in the lawyers making money.

The so-called expert witnesses likely will, too.

Often overlooked in complex litigation involving esoteric medical knowledge and jargon is the fact that the men and women who have the education and experience to share that knowledge and jargon with a judge and a jury get paid a lot of money.

That reality routinely results in a blurring of ethical lines.  According to Steve Fainaru and Mark Fainaru-Wada of, Dr. Robert Cantu previously served as a senior adviser to the NFL’s Head, Neck and Spine committee — but he also has consulted with the lawyers who are suing the NFL on behalf of thousands of former players.

“It was an informational session, just like I get paid to give a talk someplace else,” Cantu said of a February 2012 presentation to the lawyers representing the players.  He also justified working for the players suing the league by explaining that the NFL could hire him to serve as an expert witness, which would block from him talking to those suing the league.

“If [the NFL] wanted to put me on their payroll, to defend their case, then I’m not gonna say boo about those issues [to the plaintiffs],” said Cantu, who gets $800 per hour for legal services, $5,000 for depositions, and $8,000 per day for trial testimony.

Cantu’s attitude underscores one of the biggest problems with the litigation industry.  Many experts aren’t necessarily motivated by the pursuit of justice but by the supplementation of their total income with the exorbitant fees they charge.  And since there’s plenty of discretion to be exercised when telling the truth, their testimony often can be molded to help whichever side of a case hires them first.

Here’s a concrete example, for those of you who are still awake.

Eleven years ago, I represented a former employee of a major U.S. low-cost big-box retailer who had been forced to take an alcohol test under circumstances that, as the jury concluded, didn’t justify an invasion of the employee’s privacy rights via the drawing of a blood sample.  The case included testimony from an expert witness who had been hired by the employer to justify the conclusion, based on the blood-alcohol concentration measured by the test, that the employee had indeed been intoxicated at work.

On cross-examination, I confronted the expert witness with a passage from a written report on the issue of blood-alcohol testing.  In the report, the author expressed concern about the reliability of efforts to use blood-alcohol measurements to determine a person’s BAC at an earlier point in time.

I read the sentence to the expert witness, and I asked the expert witness if he agreed with the statement.

He said, “No.”

So I read it to him again, slowly.  I asked him if he agreed with that statement.

Again, he said, “No.”

So I handed him the report, showed him the first page of it, and asked him to tell the judge and the jury who had written the report.

The expert witness, after taking a gulp, said his own name.

And that’s pretty much all I ever needed to know about the world of expert witnesses.

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LeSean McCoy doubtful for Sunday

LANDOVER, MD - DECEMBER 20: Running back LeSean McCoy #25 of the Buffalo Bills walks off of the field in the third quarter after being injured against the Washington Redskins at FedExField on December 20, 2015 in Landover, Maryland. The Washington Redskins won, 35-25. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) Getty Images

Last week, the Bills allowed running back LeSean McCoy to play through a hamstring injury. That turned out to be a bad idea, as McCoy aggravated the injury during the loss to the Dolphins.

This week, the Bills will have McCoy rest his hamstring.

McCoy is officially listed as doubtful for Sunday’s game against the Patriots. Players who are listed as doubtful almost never end up playing, and it seems extremely unlikely that the Bills would risk yet another setback to one of their most important players.

In McCoy’s absence, the Bills will give Mike Gillislee plenty of carries. Gillislee has looked good in limited action this year, averaging 6.2 yards a carry.

The Bills have also ruled out safety Aaron Williams, who was injured on a brutal hit from Dolphins receiver Jarvis Landry last week. Also out is wide receiver Marquise Goodwin.

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Doug Pederson isn’t complaining about facing teams after their byes

PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 23: Head coach Doug Pederson of the Philadelphia Eagles walks on the field prior to the game against the Minnesota Vikings at Lincoln Financial Field on October 23, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Eagles are smack dab in the middle of a three-game stretch against opponents with extra time to prepare to face them. And their head coach isn’t griping about it.

“It doesn’t bother me,” Doug Pederson told reporters on Friday regarding the prospect of playing the Vikings, Cowboys, and Giants after their bye weeks. “You know, I don’t make the schedule.”

Those who did make the schedule have added an extra layer of difficulty for the Eagles.

Then again, they beat the Vikings, whose 5-0 momentum may have been disrupted by the emerging from the bye a week ago. The Eagles, who had their break after three straight wins to start the season, may have lost a little of their sparkle, too.

“I would rather have continued to play 3-0 and not have a bye, either, so it kind of works the other way for us,” Pederson said. “But it is what it is at this point, and we just got to handle them one game at a time. For us, it’s about just maintaining the momentum and just keep building off of last week and keep playing and fighting. You know, it’s challenging because, again, three of these teams are coming off their break. But we don’t put a lot of emphasis in that.”

It’s the right approach. There’s nothing the Eagles can do other than get ready for each game, hopeful that the same disruption to their three-game streak and the Vikings’ five-game streak will apply to the Cowboys’ five-game streak and, next weekend, the Giants’ two-game streak.

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Obama picks Patriots to win Super Bowl, doesn’t “see any real strong teams”

WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 23: U.S. President Barack Obama (C) holds a jersey while posing for a picture with head coach Bill Belichick (L), owner Robert Kraft (R) and members of the National Football League Super Bowl champions New England Patriots during an event at the White House April 23, 2015 in Washington, DC. President Obama honored the Super bowl XLIX champion Patriots who defeated the Seattle Seahawks 33-27 in overtime.  (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images) Getty Images

At a time when the NFL’s trying to figure out why fewer households are watching their product, the White House pointed out one of the problems — the product may not be as good as it has been.

President Barack Obama did an interview on SiriusXM Shade 45’s “Sway in the Morning” show, and when asked for a Super Bowl pick, underscored something others have noticed.

“At this point, you’d have to put your money on [Tom] Brady again,” Obama said of the Patriots quarterback, via Mike Reiss of “I don’t see any real strong teams. Seattle and Patriots have a rematch [from the 2014 season]. That’s my call.”

Of course, when the Patriots won that Super Bowl, Brady skipped a chance to visit Obama at the White House.

It will be interesting to see if Brady makes the next trip in case Obama’s prediction is correct, particularly if his “good friend” doesn’t win the upcoming election.

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Browns name McCown Sunday’s starting quarterback

CLEVELAND, OH - SEPTEMBER 18: Josh McCown #13 of the Cleveland Browns looks to pass against the Baltimore Ravens in the second quarter at Cleveland Browns Stadium on September 18, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) Getty Images

Browns Coach Hue Jackson had hinted at it throughout the week, and Friday he made it official that Josh McCown will be the starting quarterback for Sunday’s game vs. the Jets.

McCown started in Week Two vs. the Ravens. He suffered a broken left collarbone in that game.

He’s been practicing the last two weeks but hasn’t been cleared to play until now. Six different players have taken snaps at quarterback for the Browns in their seven games.

Rookie Cody Kessler, who suffered a concussion last week, has not been cleared for this week. Rookie Kevin Hogan, who saw his first game action last week, will be the No. 2 quarterback this week. Rookie Joe Callahan, just claimed via waivers on Monday, will likely be a gameday inactive.

Callahan should get himself ready, though. The Browns don’t have a bye until Week 13.

McCown started eight games last season for the Browns and put up some big numbers. He entered this season as the No. 2 quarterback behind Robert Griffin III, who suffered a shoulder injury in the season opener and remains on the team’s injured-reserve list.

McCown, 37, is in his 14th NFL season. He’s started 58 career games and played in 78.

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Goodell on ratings: “We don’t dismiss any theory”

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - FEBRUARY 05:  NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell speaks during a press conference prior to Super Bowl 50 at the Moscone Center West on February 5, 2016 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images) Getty Images

Little is clear about the 2016 NFL season, including the reason(s) for the dramatic drop in TV viewership.

Asked by Gary Myers on WFAN’s Chalk Talk if the league has reached any conclusions regarding the reduction in ratings, Commissioner Roger Goodell said, “No, and I don’t think anybody can do that.”

Goodell added, after Myers rattled off various possible explanations for the decline (election year, quality of games, fans fed up with off-field misconduct, too many penalties, and the national anthem protests), “We don’t dismiss any theory, if you want to call it that.”

That’s a stake contrast from nine days ago, when Goodell insisted that the anthem protests are not impacting ratings.

The Commissioner then added another potential explanation for the phenomenon: “The media landscape is going through some very fundamental changes.”

Goodell generally attributed the drop to a “confluence of events,” and he reiterated that “we don’t dismiss any of them.”

He also focused on the positive; at a time when prime-time ratings have dropped by 36 percent over the last several years, the NFL’s ratings are up by 27 percent.

“It’s not always a straight line,” Goodell said. “You know there are bumps. . . . What we want to do is figure out how to engage our fans in the platforms they want to engage on and how do we engage them longer.”

Before doing that, it makes sense to come up with a reliable assessment of the factors. From polling to focus groups to surveys to any of the other ways of obtaining feedback as to why viewing habits have dramatically changed, the NFL has the resources and the incentives to get the answers.

The biggest problem for the league is that, if the anthem protests are a factor, there’s nothing the NFL can do about it — and any acknowledgement of the connection would underscore the power the players have. Which possibly would invite them to find more ways to wield their power.

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Matt Jones out on Sunday, Jordan Reed/Josh Norman expect to play

LANDOVER, MD - OCTOBER 2: Cornerback Josh Norman #24 of the Washington Redskins reacts after a play against the Cleveland Browns in the fourth quarter at FedExField on October 2, 2016 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images) Getty Images

There’s some good news and some bad news on the Redskins’ final injury report for Sunday’s game against the Bengals.

Tight end Jordan Reed and cornerback Josh Norman both said, via John Keim of, that they expect to be in the lineup in London this weekend. Reed and Norman have both been in the concussion protocol this week, but got the green light to travel with the team and will go through a walkthrough practice Saturday to make sure all remains on track for Sunday.

Reed missed the last two games while Norman had to leave last Sunday’s loss to the Lions after getting hurt.

The bad news comes in the backfield as running back Matt Jones has been ruled out due to the knee injury that kept him from practicing all week. The Redskins have already promoted running back Mack Brown from the practice squad to join Rob Kelley and Chris Thompson on the depth chart against Cincinnati.

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Carson Palmer: I’ve been trying to work on deep passes

GLENDALE, AZ - OCTOBER 23:  Quarterback Carson Palmer #3 of the Arizona Cardinals throws a pass during the NFL game against the Seattle Seahawks at the University of Phoenix Stadium on October 23, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) Getty Images

During the 2015 season, Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer connected on just over 50 percent of his passes that traveled more than 15 yards through the air.

That number has dipped to 40.7 percent through his first six games of this season with just one of those passes going for a touchdown, leaving him well off the pace he set while throwing 13 touchdowns in such situations last year.

“I missed a couple,” Palmer said, via “I had J.J. [Nelson] on a couple the other night. I’ve taken shots that I shouldn’t have in certain situations. I think one thing I need to do is be a little bit more picky: when to take them, when not to take them. That’s something I’ve been trying to work on.”

Being pickier doesn’t seem to be coach Bruce Arians’ approach to the issue. He said that the team should “keep throwing them and we’ll hit them,” something that could pay off for the Cardinals against a Panthers secondary that’s been susceptible to the pass all season.

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Nate Allen sues Florida city, cops over his unlawful detention

Nate Allen, Nick Foles AP

Raiders safety Nate Allen has sued the city of Fort Myers, Fla., after he was unlawfully detained by police there in 2015.

According to NBC2, Allen is also suing former Fort Myers Police Chief Douglas Baker as well as a detective and a police officer involved in the case.

Allen, who was then playing for the Eagles, was detained by police as the investigated a report of indecent exposure. But he was later cleared by video evidence, phone records and social media postings which made it clear he wasn’t who the cops were looking for.

Allen told NBC2 after he was cleared of the charges that he “wanted to show people with hard evidence that this is literally impossible and it 300 percent did not happen. . . .

“There still needs to be a lot brought to the table. . . . Because of how my civil rights were violated.”

Police officers involved in the case have already been punished and the department has apologized, which seemingly strengthens Allen’s case.

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Marty Schottenheimer battles Alzheimer’s disease

SAN DIEGO - DECEMBER 10:  Head coach Marty Schottenheimer of the San Diego Chargers walks back to the locker room after defeating the Denver Broncos, 48-20, December 10, 2006 at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images) Getty Images

Former NFL head coach Marty Schottenheimer, whose career reached nearly 350 games with four different teams, has been battling Alzheimer’s disease for five years, according to Tony Grossi of

“He’s in the best of health, [but] sometimes he just doesn’t remember everything,” said Pat Schottenheimer, Marty’s wife of 48 years. “He functions extremely well, plays golf several times a week. He’s got that memory lag where he’ll ask you the same question three or four times. . . . He remembers people and faces, and he pulls out strange things that I’ve never heard, but he’s doing well. It’s going be a long road. We both know that.”

The 73-year-old Schottenheimer, who will be in Cleveland for the 30th anniversary of the 1986 Browns team that came within “The Drive” of getting to the Super Bowl, is upbeat about the situation.

“I’m sitting here looking at a lake and it’s a spectacular setting,” Schottenheimer told Grossi. “Pat and I, the Lord’s blessed us. I mean, there’s no other way I can identify it. We’re doing really good.”

Schottenheimer coached the Browns from 1984 through 1988. He then coached the Chiefs from 1989 through 1998, Washington for the 2001 season, and the Chargers from 2002 through 2006, with his NFL career ending after a 14-2 season and a divisional-round exit from the playoffs.

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Blake Bortles is the king of garbage time stat padding

NASHVILLE, TN - OCTOBER 27:  Quarterback Blake Bortles #5 of the Jacksonville Jaguars throws a pass against the Tennessee Titans during the second half at Nissan Stadium on October 27, 2016 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images) Getty Images

If you skipped last night’s game and just looked at the box score this morning, you might think Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles played well. You’d be wrong.

Yes, Bortles’ stat line looks good: He completed 33 of 54 passes for 337 yards, with three touchdowns. But Bortles padded those stats with a second-half performance against a Titans defense that was happy to let the Jaguars march down the field with time-consuming drives.

Take a look at the first half stats and you see the truth about Bortles’ game: In the first half, Bortles was 8-for-16 for 64 yards, and the Jaguars trailed 27-0 at halftime. Yes, in the second half, Bortles completed 25 of 38 passes for 273 yards, but so what? With a four-touchdown second-half lead, the Titans’ defense was happy to let Bortles complete lots of short passes, and that’s exactly what Bortles did.

And it wasn’t just last night. It’s been that way for Bortles throughout his career. Check out Bortles’ career stats by quarter:

First quarter: 1,598 yards, 4 touchdowns
Second quarter: 2,356 yards, 15 touchdowns
Third quarter: 1,912 yards, 13 touchdowns
Fourth quarter: 3,364 yards 26 touchdowns

Bortles puts up huge stats in the fourth quarters of games. Now, if Bortles were doing that while leading fourth-quarter comeback wins, it would be one thing. But the Jaguars are 10-26 in Bortles’ 36 career starts, and Bortles has engineered just five game-winning drives in his three NFL seasons.

Put it all together, and it’s clear that Bortles is not as good a quarterback as his statistics suggest. The Jaguars are going to have a big decision to make this offseason when they choose whether to pick up his fifth-year option and give him a vote of confidence as their franchise quarterback, or decline that option and make clear that they don’t think Bortles is the man to lead their team going forward.

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Darrelle Revis knows he’s going to be watched like a quarterback

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - OCTOBER 23:  Darrelle Revis #24 of the New York Jets and Marcus Williams #20 are seen in the fourth quarter against the Baltimore Ravens at MetLife Stadium on October 23, 2016 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) Getty Images

Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis gets paid like a quarterback, so it only makes sense that he’s being micro-analyzed like one.

And after a slow start to the season, Revis said he thinks he’s “played better” over the last two weeks.

I brought it upon myself by playing the game and the position at such a high level for so long,” Revis said, via Daniel Popper of the New York Daily News. “There’s nothing you can do. You take the good with the bad and you go with it.

“It’s almost like you’re getting critiqued like you’re a QB, and I’m a DB. But at the same time, it’s how it goes. Win or lose games, for the DB position, what I’ve done in this league, it’s how I get critiqued: as a quarterback. If we’re winning and losing games or if a pass is getting caught, it’s just like a quarterback throwing a game-winning touchdown or a game-losing interception.”

There was plenty of criticism of the veteran corner early this year, but after coming back from a hamstring injury, he did a solid job against Cardinals wideout Larry Fitzgerald.

Coupled with an ankle injury sustained in practice and his offseason wrist surgery, the 31-year-old has had to overcome a number of physical challenges this year.

“Just one thing after another in my journey here — the hamstring, and even before that, coming off the wrist surgery, trying to get back in shape. So it’s a lot of things that was going on at the time,” Revis said. “At the end of the day, I’m a person who perseveres through things. I don’t make excuses for anything that’s going on with me.”

Whether he does or doesn’t, his every move is going to be watched closely, because that’s what happens with stars.

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Mike Zimmer: I didn’t mutilate stuffed animals

PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 23: Head coach Mike Zimmer of the Minnesota Vikings argues with field judge James Coleman #95 during the fourth quarter of a game at Lincoln Financial Field on October 23, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The eagles defeated the Vikings 21-10. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images) Getty Images

During the Vikings’ bye week, there were stuffed cats scattered around the team’s locker room including one festooned with a sign reading “Fat Cats Get Slaughtered” as a message to remind the team not to get complacent after a 5-0 start to the season.

Some of those plush cats wound up with their throats cut and red paint splattered on them, which may have foreshadowed the result when the Vikings took the field in Philadelphia. It’s not clear who decided to go to work on the toys, but coach Mike Zimmer wanted to make it clear that it wasn’t him when he met with the media on Thursday.

Zimmer read headlines from stories suggesting he was the culprit while defending himself against those accusations.

“I want to set the record straight on an erroneous report that I feel like attacked my character and reputation,” Zimmer said, via the Pioneer Press. “I had nothing to do with that. The stuffed animals I did have here were given to charity and Toys for Tots. I just want to make sure we get the record straight because my foundation website is getting things saying, ‘Your dad’s crazy, blah, blah, blah’; all this stuff. I do a lot of crazy stuff but I’ll admit to it.”

We still don’t know who ordered the code red, but it seems likely Zimmer and company will be looking in directions other than the stuffed animal aisle for motivational tools for Monday night’s game against the Bears.

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With Matt Jones injured, Redskins add a running back

LANDOVER, MD - OCTOBER 16: Running back Matt Jones #31 of the Washington Redskins carries the ball against defensive end Brandon Graham #55 of the Philadelphia Eagles in the second quarter at FedExField on October 16, 2016 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) Getty Images

Running back Matt Jones didn’t practice on Wednesday or Thursday because of a knee injury, which doesn’t bode well for his chances of playing when the Redskins meet the Bengals in London on Sunday.

Neither does the news that the Redskins have promoted a running back from their practice squad. The team announced on Friday morning that they have added Mack Brown to their 53-man roster.

Brown spent time on the team’s practice squad last year as well and has never played in the regular season. He did make a push for a roster spot with 149 rushing yards in the preseason finale and an NFL-high 227 rushing yards over the entire preseason, but got cut in favor of Rob Kelley and Chris Thompson.

Both of those backs remain on hand and are set to play this weekend. If Jones’ situation didn’t take a major turn for the better on the flight over to London, Brown will likely be joining them in the lineup.

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C.J. Anderson declares surgery “a super success”

C.J. Anderson AP

NFL players almost always refer to every surgery as “a success.” Broncos running back C.J. Anderson has gone a bit further than that.

Anderson, who had surgery to repair a torn meniscus on Thursday, wrote on Twitter this morning that his surgery was not just a success but “a super success.”

“Surgery was a super success been resting all day. FaceTime all my teammates got some good laughs #blessed love them boys,” Anderson wrote.

It remains to be seen whether that “super success” will be enough to get Anderson back on the field this season. Although Anderson initially disputed a report yesterday that he had already declared himself out until 2017, he later acknowledged that he might miss the rest of the year.

The Broncos’ starting running back, Anderson has 110 carries for 437 yards and four touchdowns this season. Rookie Devontae Booker, who has shown a lot of promise as Anderson’s backup, will now be Denver’s starting running back. Kapri Bibbs will move up to No. 2 on the depth chart, and Juwan Thompson could be called up from the practice squad.

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Will Khan make a coaching change?

JACKSONVILLE, FL - OCTOBER 18: Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shahid Khan watches the action before the game against the Houston Texans at EverBank Field on October 18, 2015 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images) Getty Images

I know, I know. Jaguars owner Shad Khan said after Thursday night’s more-hideous-than-their-jerseys loss to the Titans that he’s not making a coaching change.

But let’s think about this one for a second. What else under those circumstances could Khan have said?

“Yes, I am. Now please don’t tell Gus until I get a chance to”?

“Maybe. Maybe not”?

Even a “no comment” would have sparked widespread speculation that the bell is tolling for Gus Bradley, without Khan having the chance to give his head coach the courtesy of a meeting at which Bradley doesn’t already know what the message will be — or without Khan having the chance to make sure the preferred interim coach will take the job. Which means that “no” was the only possible answer, regardless of whether it’s the true answer.

Maybe the hint came via this succinct elaboration from Khan: “Actions speak louder than words. Very little for me to say.”

The words are what they are. The actions are what matters, and Khan in the immediate aftermath of one of the ugliest games of Bradley’s 55-game tenure really can’t say anything more on the topic of a possible coaching change than to deny it.

Change or not, wins will be hard to come by for the Jaguars over the final nine games of the season.  At Kansas City is next, which means 2-5 becomes 2-6. A visit from the Texans means 2-7, probably. Then, back-to-back games at Detroit (2-8) and Buffalo (2-9) are on the docket.

Next up, visits from the Broncos (2-10) and the Vikings (2-11).

Tennessee comes to town on Christmas Eve, which could be the next game in which the Jags are possibly favored. A season-ending trip to Indy could be the difference between 2-14, 3-13, or 4-12.

Either way, the wheels have flown off the wagon, and it will take a major turnaround to get this one back on track — especially after the effort or lack thereof that anyone who had the misfortune of watching last night’s game witnessed.

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