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Kaepernick racks up the endorsements

Jaguar

David Whitley apparently won’t be buying a Jaguar.

49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, whom Whitley criticized last year for his extensive collection of skin art, has been piling up the endorsements.

Via CSNBayArea.com, Kaepernick’s current sponsors include Jaguar, MusclePharm, and MoGo Sport, a company that makes flavored mouth guards.

The newest endorsement comes from Jaguar, which is rolling out a $92,000 convertible with a 495-horsepower engine and a top speed of 186 mph.

Ink or not, Kaepernick has become one of the most popular young players in the NFL.  And since he can’t get a new football contract until 2014, he may as well earn as much as he can elsewhere.

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Ike Taylor returns to practice

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Pittsburgh Steelers Getty Images

It’s been a little more than a month since Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor broke his forearm in a collision with teammate Lawrence Timmons and it appears things have been healing well since then.

Taylor was back on the practice field Wednesday for the first time since getting injured. Taylor was only doing individual drills and said he was a “mutant” when asked if he was recovering ahead of the 6-8 week timeline originally laid down. Even if he’s eligible for membership in the X-Men, Taylor won’t be playing in a game until doctors say his surgically repaired arm is up for the task.

“There’s no timetable. It’s all on the bone, and as soon as the doctors feel it’s strong enough, they’ll give me the OK,” Taylor said, via USA Today. “When the doctor says the bone is good enough for me to go back out there and play, then, we’re going to roll with it.”

Linebacker Ryan Shazier, who was injured in the same game as Taylor, may return to the lineup this weekend and linebacker Jarvis Jones is eligible to play on November 30 against the Saints. They should have a defense pretty close to full strength for the stretch run, although being shorthanded against the Colts and Ravens the next two weeks may leave them with a diminished position when that stretch run gets underway.

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Thursday morning one-liners

Austin Davis AP

The Bills know they need to keep QB Kyle Orton on his feet more.

Ever since their QB controversy, the Dolphins have liked what they’ve seen from Ryan Tannehill.

Patriots QB Tom Brady is trying to be more mobile (whatever).

The Jets are still alarming popular in Alabama.

The Ravens are getting healthier on the offensive line.

Injuries have made a mess of the Bengals’ run defense.

The Browns expect C John Greco to man the middle for another week.

The Steelers didn’t have to go no-huddle as often against the Texans, since they grabbed a quick lead.

Texans rookie OLB Jadeveon Clowney is getting closer to a return.

The Colts got good news from WR Reggie Wayne’s MRI.

Jaguars RB Toby Gerhart appears ready to return.

The Titans added TE Richard Gordon.

The Broncos are a perfect example of where the TE position is heading.

The Chiefs were impressed with their latest secondary changes.

Raiders CB D.J. Hayden is doing more and more in practice.

Chargers OLB Dwight Freeney’s hoping to catch up with an old friend — Broncos QB Peyton Manning.

Cowboys coach Jason Garrett seems to be benefitting from not calling plays.

Giants S Stevie Brown is bouncing back after a rough stretch of games.

Eagles replacement C David Molk better be ready to see anything this week in Arizona.

Washington coach Jay Gruden said he’ll make his QB decision today.

The Bears have communication issues on both sides of the ball.

Lions DT Ndamukong Suh said there’s no bad blood with the Falcons.

Packers RB Eddie Lacy is excited about going home.

Vikings QB Teddy Bridgewater hasn’t been excelling on the deep ball.

Falcons WR Julio Jones is looking forward to some man-to-man coverage.

The Panthers had to shuffle their nickel defense.

The Saints’ search for a second CB has been a disaster from the start.

Buccaneers DE Michael Johnson is frustrated by a lingering ankle injury.

Cardinals RB Andre Ellington is carrying the weight of the offense.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz warns fans not to go overboard over QB Austin Davis.

The 49ers are counting on an improved offense in the second half of the season.

The Seahawks are springing unsuspected leaks on pass defense.

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Hoyer: I don’t even think about getting benched for Manziel

hoyermanziel AP

Rookie quarterback Derek Carr is the starter in Oakland. Rookie quarterback Blake Bortles is the starter in Jacksonville. Rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is the starter in Minnesota. And now rookie quarterback Zach Mettenberger is the starter in Tennessee. But rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel is firmly planted on the bench in Cleveland.

The man keeping Manziel on the bench, Brian Hoyer, says he’s not worried about that changing. Hoyer said he’s confident in what he’s doing for the Browns, even after Sunday’s ugly loss to the Jaguars, and he believes the coaches are committed to him.

“I don’t even think about it to be honest with you,” Hoyer said, via ESPNCleveland.com. “I know what goes into my preparation. I know that talking to my coaches, that’s the farthest thing on my mind. Yeah, I don’t doubt that [coach Mike Pettine] has my back. I also know that if you have one bad game, I think that people are just going to be calling for your job already. That’s just the way it goes. But I know within this building I feel more than comfortable.”

Hoyer did have one bad game, and people are calling for his job, and Hoyer isn’t happy about that.

“Three weeks ago everyone was saying Tom Brady was done with,” Hoyer said. “He’s the greatest quarterback of all time. He had one bad game, and people are throwing him under the bus. I think when you see that even the great ones have bad games you know you’re going to have a few. Yeah, it sucks. You don’t want to go out there and not perform well. Obviously, we prepare our butts off all week to go out there and execute and play the best of our ability, but sometimes you have a situation where you don’t play great, and the other team plays well. It’s a bad combination. For me, really of all the games I’ve ever played, that was the worst I’ve ever felt after one.”

Hoyer will feel even worse if he has another game as bad as Sunday’s. If he plays like that again this week and the Browns lose to the Raiders, Hoyer will surely lose his job to Manziel.

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DeMarco Murray shows offensive linemen some love

Tony Romo, DeMarco Murray AP

Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray is the first player in league history to open a season with seven straight 100-yard rushing games and he knows that he hasn’t been gaining all of those yards all by himself.

Murray is running behind what’s been the most impressive offensive line in the league and he recognized their efforts in a material form on Wednesday. Starting linemen Tyron Smith, Ronald Leary, Travis Frederick, Zack Martin and Doug Free returned to their lockers to find brand new iMac desktop computers waiting for them.

“That just shows how much respect he has for us, how much he appreciates us, so it’s a great gift,” Leary said, via the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

The computers retail for $1,300 and such gifts usually come at the end of a big season, as when Hall of Fame running back Curtis Martin bought Rolexes for Jets linemen after leading the league in rushing but it seems Murray wanted to get a jump on things in light of his historic start to the year. It’s not a bad way to keep the linemen motivated, either. If seven 100-yard games get you a computer, what will Murray do if he cracks the 2,000-yard mark for the season?

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Bengals trying to teach Vontaze Burfict to play safer (so he can play)

Vontaze Burfict AP

The Bengals are obviously better on defense when Vontaze Burfict is on the field.

But they might want him to play differently in the future, in hopes of actually staying there more often.

Burfict’s reckless, head-first style has resulted in him finishing one game this year, between a concussion, last week’s “cervical strain” and other vaguely diagnoses “head injuries.”

He does us no good sitting on the sideline after five snaps every week,”  Bengals defensive coordinator Paul Guenther said, via Coley Harvey of ESPN.com. “It does us no good. It does us more harm than good. So he’s got to learn how to do [tackle better] for him and the team and everybody involved.”

Of course, trying to teach an adult NFL player to do things differently at this stage in his career might be difficult.

“I tell him to keep his face up,” Guenther said. “I tell him that he’s my quarterback. Like you need to tell a quarterback to slide and to not get hit, I tell him to keep his head up so he can stay in the game. When he starts the game and he comes out, it affects everything. It affects me, it affects the unit, it affects the linebacking crew. . . .

“I’ve said this a million times: He’s my quarterback on the field,” Guenther said of Burfict. “I communicate with him, ‘Hey, tell the corner this.’ And he knows exactly what I’m thinking. Being his [former] position coach, I’ve trained the guy. It’s easier when you have a guy that you’ve trained who can understand that these are the ins and outs of what I’m thinking about. He settles the group down when he’s playing. He brings energy.”

They have other injuries at linebacker which complicate things as well, but when he leaves the game, it puts the formation-setting responsibilities on backup Vincent Rey.

Guenther’s point is a valid one, and they do need to re-train Burfict to keep him on the field. But much like Marvin Lewis’s tone-deaf remarks about concussions, it almost sounds like the Bengals are as worried about having a valuable employee available to play as much as they are about Burfict’s health and welfare.

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Lions started game-planning for the Falcons weeks ago

Lions London Football AP

Not only are the Lions five hours ahead of you right now, they’re also weeks ahead in terms of game-planning for the Falcons.

According to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, the Lions adjusted the way they prepared for this game because of the time difference and travel lag. In addition to talking to military officers and a sleep specialists about the adjustment, they also changed the way they prepared a game-plan.

Coaches were given the option of staying late on Fridays and Saturdays, typically the shortest afternoons of the week, to work ahead on Falcons tape as opposed to cramming this week while they were flying and getting adjusted to the new schedule.

(Jets quarterback Geno Smith was not apparently consulted on this.)

“It does take quite a bit of preparation and time and you hope it doesn’t take away from the preparation of the present team that you were playing,” Caldwell said. “And I don’t think it hurt us a bit in that regard.”

In fact, the Lions have won two in a row, so any time they took away from previous weeks to get ready for the Falcons was obviously not a hindrance.

That allowed them to set up shop at a resort there, and have what amounts to a normal week of practice.

“You always have a few glitches here and there, but for the most part, it’s in place,” Caldwell said. “We have to work through a few bugs and I think we’ve gotten those worked out. But the difference is, anytime you relocate it’s bit of a challenge, right, logistically? But if you can adapt and adjust, you’ll be better for it. Our guys adjust very, very well.”

They didn’t talk to players about the Falcons at all until this week, but the fact coaches were willing to buck the “one game at a time” mantra shows an impressive flexibility on Caldwell’s part.

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Rams sticking with running back by committee approach

Tre Mason, Tharold Simon AP

Jeff Fisher is channeling his inner Mike Shanahan with his handling of the running backs for the St. Louis Rams.

Zac Stacy entered last week as the Rams leading rusher and had started the first five games of the year for St. Louis. Against the Seattle Seahawks, Stacy didn’t get a single carry as the Rams turned to Tre Mason and Benny Cunningham instead.

Mason rushed for 85 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries for St. Louis while Cunningham caught five passes for 46 yards and a touchdown out of the backfield.

According to R.B. Fallstrom of the Associated Press, that approach of spreading the workload around will continue for the Rams going forward.

“Zac could get 25 carries this week. He’s been a little banged up,” Fisher said. “We clearly have significant depth at the position.”

Stacy rushed for 973 yards as a rookie but has gotten off to a slower start this season. He’s rushed for 240 yards on 61 carries through the first five games. He was limited on the injury report with an ankle injury last week though he was listed as a full participant.

Mason looked promising in his first extended action against Seattle, though he did fumble on one of the Rams final offensive plays to potentially give the Seahawks a chance to win in the closing seconds.

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Seahawks to use Robert Turbin at fullback for now

Seattle Seahawks v San Diego Chargers Getty Images

Robert Turbin found out less than 10 minutes before kickoff that he was going to be called into duty at fullback for the Seattle Seahawks last week against the St. Louis Rams after starter Derrick Coleman broke a bone in his foot during pregame warm ups.

Despite never having played the position before in his football career, Turbin performed adequately enough that the Seahawks apparently feel comfortable with Turbin leading the way for Marshawn Lynch in Coelman’s absence.

“You’ve got to take your hat off to him,” offensive line coach Tom Cable said Wednesday. “That happens in pregame warm ups, which no one is ready for that. You sit down and start thinking ‘OK, what are we going to do.’ That was the obvious choice. He took the challenge and he did great.”

Seattle did have veteran Greg Jones in for a workout on Tuesday but have apparently elected to stick with the status quo in the meantime.

Turbin says he’s up for the job.

“Absolutely,” Turbin said. “I just want to win. I want to help the team as much as I can. I’m a team guy. If they need me to take on the role for the next few weeks or whatever the case may be, than sure.”

Coleman is expected to miss at least 4-6 weeks due to the broken foot.

The Seahawks may not run as much of their traditional two-back offense with Turbin as their full-time fullback now. Even with the trade of Percy Harvin, the Seahawks have two rookie draft picks in Paul Richardson and Kevin Norwood at receiver they also want to get more involved in their offense. The lack of a traditional fullback could lead Seattle to go with Lynch solo in the backfield more often.

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Kessler will be questioning Goodell

Jeffrey Kessler AP

Well, this one keeps getting even more interesting.

I’d assumed (ass, you, me) that the questioning of Commissioner Roger Goodell at the Ray Rice appeal hearing would be handled by Rice’s lawyer, Peter Ginsberg.  Per a source with knowledge of the situation, Goodell will be questioned by NFLPA outside counsel Jeffrey Kessler.

Kessler, a longtime antagonist of the NFL, now gets a crack at tying the man who runs the sport into a verbal pretzel, with question after question after question aimed at laying traps or twisting words or simply allowing the creation of a tangled web that Kessler then will blast apart with a flamethrower.

Goodell, who isn’t a lawyer, will need to be aggressively and meticulously prepared.  And Goodell needs to focus on the task like his job depends on it, because there’s a chance that his testimony will go badly enough that it does.

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No limits on Goodell testimony

Goodell Getty Images

The bad news for the NFL is that Commissioner Roger Goodell has been required to testify in hearing regarding the appeal of Ray Rice’s indefinite suspension.  The worse news is that, according to a source with knowledge of the situation, no limits have been applied to the topics on which he’ll be interrogated.

The case involves two separate issues — whether Rice lied to the NFL in connection with the investigation that resulted in a two-game suspension and whether the NFL knew, should have known, or needed to know the specific contents of the elevator video before issuing Rice’s initial two-game suspension.  Although the NFL’s lawyers will be able to object to any and all questions posed to Goodell, former U.S. Judge Barbara Jones applied no restrictions in her decision to compel the Commissioner’s testimony.

This doesn’t mean the NFL won’t try.  Plan A likely was shielding Goodell from testimony completely.  Plan B may be to limit the topics to which he’ll be exposed.  And with the question of what the NFL and when the NFL knew it about the Rice video far more likely to create lingering problems for the NFL than whether Rice told the truth, look for the NFL to continue to try to protect Goodell from having to answer questions regarding what the league knew or should have known under oath.

But the P.R. cost could be significant.  The effort to keep Goodell from testifying already paints the league in a not-so-favorable light.  Ongoing attempts to shape and mold and craft and limit the contours of what he can and can’t be asked will invite even more scrutiny.

Beyond the court of public opinion, there’s also a jury of 32 who may be very interested in how this plays out.

Plan C (or Plan B) could be a settlement of Rice’s appeal.  But Rice likely wouldn’t be interested in something like immediate reinstatement.  At this point, a significant amount of money would have to change hands to get Rice to release the tail of the tiger — so much that it would be obvious that the league opted not to purchase peace with Rice, but to buy Goodell’s right to remain silent.

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Report: Titans tabbing Zach Mettenberger as their starter

Zach Mettenberger AP

The Titans appear to be making a change at quarterback.

According to Jim Wyatt of the Nashville Tennessean, the Titans “plan” to go with rookie Zach Mettenberger as their starter for Sunday’s game against Houston.

Fourth-year pro Jake Locker, who has missed the last two games with a right thumb injury, went through a limited practice on Wednesday. Charlie Whitehurst, not Mettenberger, has filled in for Tennessee in Locker’s absence.

A sixth-round pick from LSU, the 6-foot-5, 244-pound Mettenberger has appeared in one regular season game for Tennessee, completing 2-of-5 passes for 17 yards with a pick in a lopsided loss at Indianapolis. In the preseason, Mettenberger completed 47-of-68 passes for 659 yards with two TDs and two interceptions. He also lost three fumbles.

The 23-year-old Mettenberger is nearly 11 months removed from an ACL tear that ended his collegiate season. Should he make his first NFL start on Sunday, it will come against a Texans defense featuring an MVP candidate in defensive lineman J.J. Watt.

When asked about Locker’s status as the top quarterback on Monday, Titans head coach Ken Whisenhunt seemed to indicate Locker remained the starter.

“Nothing’s changed from the quarterback perspective,” Whisenhunt said, according to the club.

Also on Monday, Whisenhunt suggested giving Mettenberger more reps was more of a media issue than a serious in-house consideration.

“That seems to be a question you guys are saying more than I am. I’m focused on trying to prepare our team each week and play better,” Whisenhunt said.

The Titans did not make Locker available to the media Wednesday. Also, Whitehurst told reporters he was not permitted to talk on Wednesday, according to the Tennessean.

Mettenberger saw an uptick in reps with the starting offense on Wednesday, per Ian Rapoport of NFL Media.

If Locker is healthy enough to play but is being replaced by Mettenberger, it throws Locker’s long-term future in Tennessee into further doubt. He is not signed beyond this season, and Whisenhunt was not the Titans’ head coach when the franchise took Locker No. 8 overall in 2011.

On Wednesday, Whisenhunt indicated Locker was making strides in his recovery, saying the quarterback “did pretty much everything” in the team’s first workout of the week.

The Titans (2-5) are three games behind the Colts in the AFC South.

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Report: Broncos practice squad safety John Boyett arrested

John Boyett AP

The Indianapolis Colts quickly released safety John Boyett a year ago after he was arrested on charges of disorderly conduct, public intoxication and resisting law enforcement.

Boyett could now find himself in a similar situation with the Denver Broncos.

According to Mike Klis of the Denver Post, Boyett was arrested on a misdemeanor third-degree assault charge on Wednesday morning.

After his release by the Colts, the Broncos signed Boyett to their practice squad last November. He turned to their practice squad this season after being released at the end of training camp and had spent the first seven weeks of the season on the squad.

However, teams are less willing to wait for due process to play out with players of lesser standing on the roster. Players on the practice squad typically get even less rope to work with. Boyett may learn that lesson the hard way for the second time in 13 months.

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Week Eight skill-position injury report — Wednesday

Martellus Bennett AP

Here are the skill-position players in Thursday and Sunday games who were listed on the Wednesday injury report. Key fantasy starters are bolded. Injury information is via the NFL and clubs.

The first injury report for Monday night’s Washington-Dallas matchup will be released Thursday.

Teams on bye: 49ers, Giants.

DID NOT PARTICIPATE

Bears TE Martellus Bennett (hamstring).

Bengals WR A.J. Green (toe).

Bills RB Fred Jackson (groin).

Bills WR Marquise Goodwin (hamstring).

Broncos RB Montee Ball (groin) — OUT.

Browns WR Rodney Smith (hamstring).

Cardinals TE Troy Niklas (ankle).

Chargers RB Donald Brown (concussion) — OUT.

Chargers RB Ryan Mathews (knee) — OUT.

Chiefs WR Donnie Avery (groin).

Chiefs WR Junior Hemingway (hamstring).

Colts RB Trent Richardson (hamstring).

Colts TE Jack Doyle (knee).

Colts WR Reggie Wayne (elbow).

Eagles WR Brad Smith (groin) — OUT.

Falcons WR Harry Douglas (foot).

Lions TE Brandon Pettigrew (foot).

Lions TE Eric Ebron (hamstring).

Lions TE Joseph Fauria (ankle).

Packers RB James Starks (ankle).

Panthers RB DeAngelo Williams (ankle).

Panthers RB Fozzy Whittaker (thigh).

Panthers WR Corey Brown (concussion).

Raiders TE David Ausberry (foot).

Rams WR Kenny Britt (ankle).

Ravens TE Owen Daniels (knee).

Saints RB Khiry Robinson (forearm).

Saints RB Pierre Thomas (rib, shoulder).

Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch (not injury related).

Seahawks TE Zach Miller (ankle) — OUT.

Seahawks FB Derrick Coleman (foot) — OUT.

Vikings TE Kyle Rudolph (abdomen, groin).

LIMITED

Bengals RB Giovani Bernard (ribs).

Bills WR Marcus Easley (knee).

Buccaneers QB Josh McCown (right thumb).

Buccaneers WR Vincent Jackson (rib).

Cardinals RB Andre Ellington (foot).

Cardinals WR John Brown (ankle).

Dolphins TE Charles Clay (knee).

Dolphins TE Dion Sims (neck).

Dolphins WR Brandon Gibson (knee).

Eagles RB Darren Sproles (knee).

Falcons WR Julio Jones (ankle).

Jaguars RB Toby Gerhart (foot).

Jets WR Eric Decker (hamstring).

Jets WR Greg Salas (ankle, wrist).

Lions RB Reggie Bush (ankle).

Lions RB Theo Riddick (hamstring).

Lions WR Calvin Johnson (ankle).

Patriots WR Matt Slater (shoulder).

Raiders FB Marcel Reece (quad).

Raiders WR Vincent Brown (hamstring).

Saints TE Jimmy Graham (shoulder).

Texans RB Arian Foster (not injury related).

Texans WR Andre Johnson (ankle).

Titans QB Jake Locker (right hand).

Titans RB Shonn Greene (hamstring).

Titans TE Taylor Thompson (knee).

FULL

Bills WR Sammy Watkins (groin).

Broncos K Brandon McManus (right groin) — PROBABLE.

Chiefs RB Cyrus Gray (hand).

Eagles RB Chris Polk (hamstring).

Jets RB Bilal Powell (foot).

Jets RB Chris Johnson (ankle).

Patriots QB Tom Brady (ankle).

Seahawks RB Robert Turbin (shoulder).

Seahawks TE Luke Willson (groin).

Vikings TE Chase Ford (foot).

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Brian Cushing will miss at least a week with knee issue

Cushing Getty Images

When discussing highlights of Pittsburgh’s Monday night win over the Texans on Tuesday’s edition of Pro Football Talk on NBCSN, Ross Tucker noticed that Houston linebacker Brian Cushing was having trouble moving.

He was, because of his knee.

Per a league source, Cushing will miss at least one game to rest his knee, which has been bothering him for the last two weeks.  The source says Cushing hasn’t been close to 100 percent, and that the knee has been drained a few times recently.

It’s the same knee in which Cusing tore the ACL last year.

The goal is to give Cushing some rest in the hopes that the knee will improve.  With two games left before the bye (against the Titans and Eagles), don’t be surprised if he’s out until Week Eleven at Cleveland.

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Roger Goodell will testify in Ray Rice appeal hearing

Goodell Getty Images

Ray Rice 1, NFL 0.

The first skirmish in the Ray Rice appeal hearing has resulted in a big victory for Rice and the NFL Players Association — and a potentially costly loss for the league office and Commissioner Roger Goodell.

Per a league source (and as multiple others are reporting as the news is leaked to multiple reporters), former U.S. Judge Barbara S. Jones has decided that Goodell should testify at the hearing.

It’s so obvious that Goodell should testify in a case that hinges on whether Ray Rice lied to Goodell that it’s surprising the league resisted.  It makes Goodell and the league look like they have something to hide, at a time when the NFL is trying to create the impression of transparency.

Then again, lawyers representing a large company typically try to shield the chief executive from testifying.  While it often happens because the chief executive actually has something to hide or lacks the ability to engage in effective verbal fencing with a skilled trial lawyer, folks who are used to having a lot of power typically don’t like submitting to someone else’s authority.

Goodell now will be submitting to the authority of Judge Jones — and answering potentially hostile questions from Rice’s lawyer.

The transcript of Goodell’s testimony, along with the rest of the evidence generated in the Rice appeal process, also will (or at least should) become part of the official investigation conducted by former FBI director Robert Mueller.  Anything Goodell says while testifying in the Rice appeal hearing should be compared to anything he said to Mueller for evidence of any inconsistencies.

With multiple owners reportedly taking a wait-and-see approach to Goodell’s employment status based on the outcome of the Mueller investigation, Goodell’s performance while testifying in the Rice appeal could, in theory, influence whether he’ll remain on the job.  He’ll need to be more direct and responsive before Judge Jones than he was during his September 19 press conference — and during his testimony in the Super Bowl ticket case.

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