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Harbaugh: Kaepernick’s “armadillo skin” pays off

San Francisco 49ers v Washington Redskins Getty Images

At least one of the quarterbacks last night showed he could throw the ball.

But the thing that 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick displayed to his coach in a bounce-back game might be the thing that separates him from his Washington counterpart at the moment.

“Some people have baby deer skin,” 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said, via Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com. “And some people have armadillo skin. He’s got armadillo skin. It’s just strong, good leadership.”

Like Robert Griffin III, Kaepernick has taken his share of heat lately for his team’s inability to move the ball through the air.

But Kaepernick came back with an efficient night, going 15-of-24 for 235 yards and three touchdowns, for a single-game best passer rating of 134.5 (after a 42.0 and a 72.9 the previous two weeks).

“It was a good step in the right direction,” Kaepernick said simply, after the dominant 27-6 win.

For their part, his teammates acted as if nothing was ever wrong.

“You’ve got to ask the people who were questioning him,” wide receiver Anquan Boldin said. “I mean, for us, we didn’t lose confidence in ourselves. We know what we’re capable of doing.

“He [Kaepernick] was himself. I think he’s that way every week. He comes out. He prepares the right way. He has great practices. He’s into meetings or giving his opinions, so I see that from him every week.”

For all the angst in Washington about their situation, Kaepernick resolved his by working and performing, and for a moment, has silenced those who wonder how effective he can be as a passer.

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Joe Flacco spreading it around effectively, Ravens up early

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco throws to a receiver in the first half of an NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Sunday, Nov. 6, 2016, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Nick Wass) AP

The Dolphins are the ones on the streak, but it was Joe Flacco who was elite early today.

Flacco just completed a sharp opening drive with a touchdown pass to running back Terrance West, giving the Ravens a 7-0 lead over the Dolphins.

Flacco was 6-of-7 passing for 73 yards, finding six different receivers on the drive.

The Dolphins have won six straight, but are in a fight for a wild card spot, making this game crucial to their chances. A missed field goal on their ensuing possession didn’t help their cause.

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Patriots go for it on early fourth down, get 43-yard touchdown

SANTA CLARA, CA - NOVEMBER 20:  LeGarrette Blount #29 of the New England Patriots in action against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi's Stadium on November 20, 2016 in Santa Clara, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Patriots didn’t let the absence of tight end Rob Gronkowski stop them from going for it on fourth down near midfield on their first possession of Sunday’s game against the Rams.

The Rams didn’t stop them from getting a touchdown on the play. LeGarrette Blount took a handoff from Tom Brady and turned the corner for a 43-yard touchdown run that put the Patriots up 7-0 less than five minutes into the contest.

The Patriots used three different running backs on the drive with Blount seeing the ball three times for 55 yards and Danny Woodhead going unused, which likely confounded Rams coach Jeff Fisher. Brady completed all three passes he tried, but all were of the shorter variety and added up to 12 yards in total.

Los Angeles will now get the ball for the first time, although they’re missing wide receiver Tavon Austin and left guard Rodger Saffold on their visit to New England.

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Tom Savage a surprise scratch with elbow infection

HOUSTON, TX - AUGUST 28: Tom Savage #3 of the Houston Texans looks to pass against the Arizona Cardinals in the third quarter of a preseason NFL game at NRG Stadium on August 28, 2016 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) Getty Images

If the Texans were considering a change from Brock Osweiler to Tom Savage, it’s definitely not happening on Sunday against the Packers.

Savage is inactive for Sunday’s game. Per multiple reports, he has an infection.

Savage had not appeared on the Week 13 injury report.

John McClain of the Houston Chronicle reports that Savage has a “viral infection” that is causing him to get antibiotics. Tracy Wolfson of CBS reports that Savage woke up with an infection in the elbow of his throwing arm. Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that the infection is in the skin.

The development sounds a lot like the staph infection that suddenly appeared on the knee of defensive end J.J. Watt two days before an October 2015 game at Jacksonville. If the infection on the elbow of Savage is bacterial and not viral, the question becomes whether the Texans have now had a pair of staph infections in consecutive years, and whether that will prompt an effort to scrub the team’s locker room and other facilities.

Per McClain, Savage is expected to return to practice on Monday. So whatever it is, it’s serious enough to knock Savage out for Sunday, but apparently not much longer than that.

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Sean Payton quietly resumes play-calling duties

CHARLOTTE, NC - NOVEMBER 17:  Head coach Sean Payton of the New Orleans Saints walks the field before their game against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium on November 17, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images) Getty Images

Last week, Saints coach Sean Payton seemed to relish hanging 49 points on former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. As it turns out, Payton had a more direct role in the output than usual.

Via Ed Werder of ESPN, Payton called the offensive plays in the Week 12 game against the Rams — and Payton will do it again on Sunday against the Lions.

We’ll switch this throughout the year,” Payton told reporters in September. “It’s not like we’re going to come out and make an announcement to you guys that we’re doing it. Pete’s in with the quarterback on every meeting, and we’ve just been together long enough where we feel comfortable with it.”

Payton may feel even more comfortable with the idea of calling plays, now that the Saints are in win-every-week mindset. The fact that the offense nearly put 50 on the board last weekend suggests that Payton should keep doing it, too.

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No Tavon Austin, Robert Quinn or Rodger Saffold for Rams

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 20:  Robert Quinn #94 of the Los Angeles Rams celebrates a sack during the second quarter of the game against the Miami Dolphins at Los Angeles Coliseum on November 20, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Patriots listed a fair number of their players as questionable to play against the Rams this Sunday, but key parts of the team like Tom Brady, Julian Edelman and Martellus Bennett are all active for the game.

Things didn’t go as well for the Rams when it came to game-time decisions. The team’s list of inactive players for the matchup at Gillette Stadium includes defensive end Robert Quinn and left guard Rodger Saffold.

Quinn has a concussion and it seems he did not get cleared through the concussion protocol in time to play the Pats. Saffold has a hand injury that knocked him out against the Saints last week. Saffold started that game at left tackle in place of the benched Greg Robinson, but Robinson is back on the active roster this week.

Rams wide receiver Tavon Austin is also inactive, although that was expected after he missed practice all week with a chest injury before being listed as doubtful on Friday.

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DeVante Parker active despite back injury

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - JANUARY 03: DeVante Parker #11 of the Miami Dolphins is tackled by Devin McCourty #32 of the New England Patriots during the fourth quarter of the game at Sun Life Stadium on January 3, 2016 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images) Getty Images

Dolphins wide receiver DeVante Parker went through a pregame workout Sunday morning and convinced the team’s decision makers he’s healthy enough to play Sunday vs. the Ravens.

Parker suffered a back injury last week. Parker didn’t practice Wednesday or Thursday, and the team promoted rookie wide receiver Rashawn Scott from the practice squad in anticipation of Parker missing the game.

Scott is inactive Sunday.

Parker has 14 receptions for 246 yards and a touchdown over the last three games.

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Week 13 early inactives

NEW ORLEANS, LA - NOVEMBER 13:  Trevor Siemian #13 of the Denver Broncos reacts after a game against the New Orleans Saints at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on November 13, 2016 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The Broncos won 25-23. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images) Getty Images

Every week we bring you all the inactives from the early games in one post, constantly updated with the latest information. Check back to see the full list as it becomes available a little more than an hour ahead of the 1 p.m. ET kickoffs.

Chiefs at Falcons

Chiefs: WR Jeremy Maclin, QB Tyler Bray, CB Phillip Gaines, RB Knile Davis, LB Dadi Nicolas, OL Mike Person, TE Ross Travis

Falcons: DE Adrian Clayborn, S Sharrod Neasman, RB Terron Ward, CB Deji Olatoye, CB Blidi Wreh-Wilson, OL Trevor Robinson, OL Wes Schweitzer

Dolphins at Ravens

Dolphins: C Mike Pouncey, CB Jordan Lucas, CB Xavien Howard, LB Jelani Jenkins, T Bryce Harris, WR Rashawn Scott, TE Thomas Duarte

Ravens: TE Crockett Gillmore, G Alex Lewis, RB Lorenzo Taliaferro, CB Chris Lewis-Harris, RB Buck Allen, LB Kamalei Correa, OL Ryan Jensen

49ers at Bears

49ers: QB Christian Ponder, CB Marcus Cromartie, RB Mike Davis, LB Aaron Lynch, DT Tony Jerod-Eddie, OL John Theus, TE Je’Ron Hamm

Bears: QB Jay Cutler, WR Eddie Royal, CB De’Vante Bausby, CB Deiondre’ Hall, OL Cornelius Edison, DL Jonathan Bullard, S Adrian Amos

Eagles at Bengals

Eagles: RB Ryan Mathews, T Halapoulivaati Vaitai, WR Jordan Matthews, DE Steven Means, OL Josh Andrews, OL  Dillon Gordon, DT Taylor Hart

Bengals: WR A.J. Green, DE Wallace Gilberry, S Derron Smith, LS Clark Harris, TE C.J. Uzomah, OL Christian Westerman, QB Jeff Driskel

Texans at Packers

Texans: LB Jadeveon Clowney, RB Tyler Ervin, LB John Simon, WR Jaelen Strong, QB Tom Savage, OL Oday Aboushi, OL Josh Walker

Packers: G T.J. Lang, LB Kyler Fackrell, C J.C. Tretter, CB Makinton Dorleant, LB Blake Martinez, WR Trevor Davis, DL Christian Ringo

Broncos at Jaguars

Broncos: QB Trevor Siemian, LS Casey Kreiter, WR Bennie Fowler, WR Marlon Brown, G Connor McGovern, DB Lorenzo Doss, G Billy Turner

Jaguars: WR Allen Hurns, RB Chris Ivory, DE Jared Odrick, QB Brandon Allen, CB Josh Johnson, OL Jeremiah Poutasi, TE Julius Thomas

Rams at Patriots

Rams: WR Tavon Austin, QB Sean Mannion, DB Steve Williams, T Pace Murphy, OL Rodger Saffold, TE Temarrick Hemingway, DE Robert Quinn.

Patriots: S Jordan Richards, WR Matthew Slater, RB D.J. Foster, DL Woodrow Hamilton, OL LaAdrian Waddle, DT Darius Kilgo, CB Justin Coleman

Lions at Saints

Lions: LB DeAndre Levy, WR Marvin Jones, LB Tahir Whitehead, S Don Carey, T Cornelius Lucas, OL Joe Dahl, QB Jake Rudock

Saints: T Terron Armstead, RB Daniel Lasco, LB Sam Barrington, RB Marcus Murphy, WR Jake Lampman, OL Landon Turner, CB De’Vante Harris

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Rams extend Les Snead, too

ST. LOUIS, MO - DECEMBER 21: Les Snead, general manager of the St. Louis Rams looks on during warm ups prior to playing against the New York Giants at the Edward Jones Dome on December 21, 2014 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images) Getty Images

Rams coach Jeff Fisher isn’t the only guy who has gotten a new contract in L.A. G.M. Les Snead has a new deal, too.

PFT has confirmed that the new contract for the coach coincides with a new contract for the General Manager.

Snead, who was hired in 2012 from the Falcons front office, has worked closely with Fisher over the past five years. The fact that Fisher was hired before Snead created the impression that Fisher runs the show, and that Snead sets the table for the draft and free agency.

Snead presumably has a two-year extension as well. It’s unclear whether the extension previously was in place, but given that Fisher’s was, it’s safe to assume Snead’s was, too.

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Sean Payton not a fan of Brandin Cooks trade speculation

NEW ORLEANS, LA - OCTOBER 16:  Brandin Cooks #10 of the New Orleans Saints catches the ball for a first down against the Carolina Panthers during the fourth quarter at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on October 16, 2016 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images) Getty Images

Saints wide receiver Brandin Cooks aired some frustrations after going untargeted by quarterback Drew Brees in last week’s game against the Rams, something that coach Sean Payton said doesn’t concern him but could lead to a move this offseason.

According to multiple reports, Cooks could find himself on the trading block this offseason. The Saints have two other productive receivers in Michael Thomas and Willie Snead and scored 49 points last week despite getting nothing on the stat sheet from the wideout. Trading Cooks could allow them to address other needs on the roster, notably a defense that remains a work in progress in New Orleans.

Or they could just continue on with Cooks. Payton retweeted a Twitter user castigating Ian Rapoport of NFL Media for reporting on the possibility of a Cooks trade, although Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that “some believe” there were talks with the Patriots about a trade involving Cooks and linebacker Jamie Collins before the Patriots traded Collins to the Browns.

Cooks has 51 catches for 736 yards and six touchdowns this season, leaving him on pace to fall short of his totals from last year with five games left this season.

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Jeff Fisher extension was signed “weeks ago”

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - SEPTEMBER 1: Head coach Jeff Fisher of the Los Angeles Rams looks on during the fourth quarter of the game against the Minnesota Vikings on September 1, 2016 at US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Vikings defeated the Rams 27-25. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) Getty Images

For most of the season, league insiders have insisted that the Rams and coach Jeff Fisher already have a new deal in place. In the aftermath of the news that Fisher has a two-year extension, Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that the deal indeed has been in place for “weeks.”

Which raises an interesting question about the contract: Why was the news of it leaked today?

It could be that the Rams and Fisher became increasingly antsy about the fan base’s willingness to accept a continuation of Fisher’s tenure with the team, given an all-out assault from Hall of Fame running back Eric Dickerson that has culminated in Dickerson recently playing the “where are the naked pictures?” card.

Then there’s the fact that the news was leaked only a few hours before the Rams face the Patriots, a franchise that has beaten Jeff Fisher-coached teams by the combined score of 104-7 in their past two encounters. Squatting on the secretly-signed contract until after the Patriots hang another 40 or 50 on the Rams would have made it a lot harder to justify the move.

And so while the Rams apparently were waiting for the right moment to announce the deal with Fisher, it could be that they decided there would be no right moment, and that the contract needed to be unveiled before the wrong moment became a worst-case scenario.

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Two-year extension suggests 2017 will be up-or-out for Jeff Fisher

GLENDALE, AZ - OCTOBER 02:  Head coach Jeff Fisher of the Los Angeles Rams walks the sidelines during the second quarter of the NFL game against the Arizona Cardinals at the University of Phoenix Stadium on October 2, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) Getty Images

When it comes to contracts given to NFL players and coaches, the devil takes up permanent residence in the details. As to players, those details always become known. As to coaches, the nuances rarely make their way to the surface.

As to Rams coach Jeff Fisher, who officially has received a two-year extension, the biggest detail relates to the actual security Fisher has received. If, as some league insiders believe, the contract includes a one-year out for the team, Fisher has security only for 2017.

The winds had been blowing in the direction of Fisher staying put. Comments from COO Kevin Demoff strongly suggested that the team’s 4-7 record wouldn’t be held against Fisher, given the changes the team has endured in 2016.

Even without a one-year out clause in the new contract, 2017 now feels like an up-or-out year for Fisher. In 2012, Fisher received a five-year deal, and the exclamation point of commitment that went along with it. With only a two-year Band-Aid currently in place beyond 2016, the not-so-subtle message is that, while Hall of Fame running back Eric Dickerson isn’t getting what he wants for now, the change he craves could be coming in 2017.

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Washington should be upset about DeSean Jackson report

ARLINGTON, TX - NOVEMBER 24:   Orlando Scandrick #32 of the Dallas Cowboys breaks up a pass to DeSean Jackson #11 of the Washington Redskins during their game at AT&T Stadium on November 24, 2016 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) Getty Images

As the Eagles make a last-ditch effort to pull themselves back into the NFC wild-card race, they need to climb over several teams. At a minimum, they need to get past the third-place team in their division: Washington.

And now that Washington receiver DeSean Jackson knows that the Eagles are likely to make a strong push to sign him in free agency, Jackson will have that reality bouncing around inside his head during the final five games of the regular season. Which should make Washington upset about the report.

It’s hard to know with certainty the impact this information will have on Jackson. Will he go out and play even harder in order to attract others to the table? Or will he be more inclined to make “business decisions” aimed at ensuring he’ll be 100 percent when it’s time to take a Philly physical?

Regardless, it’s information he’s not supposed to currently have. And even if no one from the Eagles has told Jackson or his agent on a wink-nod basis that Philly may come calling, the mere fact that ESPN has reported on the plan to pursue Jackson means that someone with the Eagles has made it known that the team intends to try to bring Jackson back — which constitutes a violation of the tampering rules.

Earlier this year, the NFL whacked the Chiefs for speaking directly to former Eagles receiver Jeremy Maclin during the legal tampering period in 2015, when the Chiefs were permitted to speak only to Maclin’s agent. This potential violation strikes more directly at the heart of the rule, putting Jackson on notice as his contract in Washington comes to an end that another team in the same division is ready and willing to sign him to a new one.

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Rams, Jeff Fisher ink contract extension

NEW ORLEANS, LA - NOVEMBER 27: Head coach Jeff Fisher of the Los Angeles Rams reacts during the second half of a game against the New Orleans Saints at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on November 27, 2016 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images) Getty Images

Apparently a 4-7 record is enough to earn a contract extension in Los Angeles.

Jeff Fisher and the Rams have signed a two-year deal through 2018, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reports.

Although a contract extension for Fisher has long been discussed, there was talk that the disappointing season this year could change those plans, and that Stan Kroenke could be in the market for a new coach to build his team going forward.

Instead, Kroenke has decided to keep things going with Fisher. The coach’s single biggest task will be developing first overall pick Jared Goff into a franchise quarterback, but the broader question is the simplest one of all: When will the Rams win under Fisher?

Through five seasons with the team, Fisher has gone 7-8-1, 7-9, 6-10, 7-9 and now 4-7. At some point, he’s going to have to do better than that if he wants to keep his job. But that point will apparently not be this year. Fisher will be back.

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Sunday morning one-liners

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - NOVEMBER 27:  Jay Ajayi #23 of the Miami Dolphins reacts to a play during a game against the San Francisco 49ers on November 27, 2016 in Miami Gardens, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) Getty Images

Bills LS Garrison Sanborn will be honoring a friend who died of cancer with his cleats on Sunday.

RB Jay Ajayi believes the Dolphins can run the ball on any defense.

Patriots RB Dion Lewis is no stranger to bouncing back from injury.

Five plays that helped sink the Jets this season.

The Ravens have picked up the tempo on offense more often this year.

Can Rex Burkhead help the Bengals run game get going?

Continuity has not been part of the plan with the Browns recently.

S Sean Davis has had an up-and-down rookie season with the Steelers.

The Texans defense will have to come up with a plan that accounts for LB Jadeveon Clowney’s absence.

The Colts will square off with a former assistant in Jets special teams coach Brant Boyer.

The Jaguars pass defense has held up fairly well this season.

An early look at what the Titans could do in the draft.

Broncos LB Brandon Marshall returns to Jacksonville on Sunday.

The Chiefs defense is looking forward to testing themselves against the Falcons.

Raider great Jim Otto likes the way this year’s offensive line looks.

Comparing the Chargers’ injury issues with those for other teams around the league.

What does Herschel Walker think of the Cowboys’ Super Bowl chances?

Giants P Brad Wing will face the Steelers for the first time since they traded him.

It’s no surprise that Eagles G Stefan Wisniewski is a big fan of the Seinfeld episode that includes the Wiz.

The Bears’ draft standing will be impacted by the result of their matchup with the 49ers.

Looking for Lions QB Matthew Stafford to heat up down the stretch.

Defending the Packers’ decision to let CB Casey Hayward walk as a free agent.

The Vikings’ new stadium made a good impression on Jerry Jones.

Falcons T Ryan Schraeder will be matching up with Justin Houston on Sunday.

Can RB Jonathan Stewart lead the way to a Panthers upset?

The Saints would like more from their return game.

A look at how the Buccaneers have improved their pass protection.

Checking in with Cardinals T D.J. Humphries.

The Eric Dickerson feud remains at home, but life may not be any easier for the Rams on Sunday.

Ranking the biggest needs for the 49ers.

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll ranks consistency at the top of his list of goals.

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Kaepernick’s future clouded by potential 49ers changes, anthem protest

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - NOVEMBER 27:  Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers warms up during a game against the Miami Dolphins on November 27, 2016 in Miami Gardens, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) Getty Images

The starting point for this one comes from a report that, given the performance of 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in recent weeks, is fairly obvious: According to Ian Rapoport of NFL Media, Kaepernick will exercise his right to void his contract after the current season, but Kaepernick could indeed be back with the 49ers in 2017.

Even if/when Kaepernick voids the contract, the 49ers will still hold exclusive negotiating rights until the 2017 league year begins in March. Whether the 49ers will try to re-sign Kaepernick depends in large part on whether ownership presses the reset button.

The 49ers currently have lost 10 games in a row, and there’s a growing belief that G.M. Trent Baalke won’t be back. Would ownership also move on from coach Chip Kelly, or would the team set up an inherently awkward and dysfunctional arrangement in which a G.M. is hired but is prevented at least for a year from hiring his own coach?

If Baalke goes, the best approach could be to elevate assistant G.M. Tom Gamble and let Kelly and Gamble run the show. If that happens, Kelly may want to keep Kaepernick around.

The other question is whether any other team, owner, G.M., or coach will shy away from Kaepernick given his refusal to stand for the national anthem. Regardless of whether it shold be a factor (it shouldn’t), the reality is that any team considering the addition of a veteran quarterback (and there likely will be plenty of them) will at least consider the impact of signing a signal-caller who may spark hundreds of angry callers to local sport-talk radio claiming that they will never attend or watch another game if Kaepernick becomes an employee of the team.

The easy part of this is coming to the conclusion that Kaepernick will be available to all 32 teams. The hard part is figuring out where he will land — especially with open questions about the future of the 49ers and the potential impediment arising from his position on non-football issues.

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