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Dolphins closing in on new stadium naming-rights deal

82887214-e1461790904759 Getty Images

The place where the Miami NFL franchise plays has been known by many names. From Dolphins Stadium to Joe Robbie Stadium to Pro Player Stadium to Pro Player Park to Dolphin Stadium to Land Shark Stadium to Sun Life Stadium to a stadium that currently has no naming-rights partner, the venue has carried plenty of labels since it opened in 1987.

Soon, it could have another new name.

During a Wednesday visit to PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio, Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald said that Hard Rock International may buy the rights.

Later in the same show, Dolphins president Tom Garfinkel offered this response to a question on the status of the naming rights: “I can’t disclose who the companies are [negotiating], but I can tell you we’re in sort of what I call late-stage discussions with a few different companies. I’m optimistic that we’ve got to get one into the end zone here, but I think we’re in the red zone and pushing towards the goal line. So hopefully we get one done soon and [I’m] excited about the potential of getting a new name on it.”

Getting a Super Bowl necessarily makes the naming rights more valuable to any company that thinks there’s value in having its name attached to a stadium. Fortunately for major sports teams throughout the world, more than enough corporations see the value treating a place where football is played like a giant billboard.

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Kirk Cousins knew Josh Norman had plenty of talent four years ago

CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 24:  Josh Norman #24 of the Carolina Panthers celebrates in the fourth quarter against the Arizona Cardinals during the NFC Championship Game at Bank of America Stadium on January 24, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) Getty Images

As Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins waits for a big-money, long-term deal, he’s getting a close look at a guy to whom the organization recently gave a big-money, long-term deal. But it’s not the first time Cousins has witnessed the work of cornerback Josh Norman — apart from last season’s loss to Carolina.

“I was able to train in the same place as him before the draft back in the spring of 2012,” Cousins told reporters on Wednesday regarding Norman. “We would go out and do one-on-ones with several really good receivers who are higher NFL draft picks and had great careers. He would lock a lot of them up in one-on-ones back then. So you could see his ability four years ago, and obviously he’s proven that through his time with the Panthers and hopefully continues that with us. But, it’s exciting to have a player of that caliber to go against every day.”

Every day gets Cousins and the team closer to July 15, the deadline for signing him to a long-term contract. Cousins had nothing new to say about the status of negotiations.

“I think everything I could possibly say on the matter of the contract has already been said,” Cousins said. “I’m positive, very confident, that when or if something gets done you guys will be notified. . . . So stay tuned, but I really don’t have anything to add to what’s already been said.”

All that needs to be said is that Cousins has a $19.95 million guaranteed payday in hand for 2016. The question becomes whether the team will offer the kind of long-term deal will get him to trade in both the $19.95 million for 2016 plus either a 20-percent raise in 2017 or a shot at the open market.

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Bucs add two defensive backs

CLEMSON, SC - NOVEMBER 7: Javien Elliott #14 of the Florida State Seminoles breaks up a pass intended for Hunter Renfrow #13 of the Clemson Tigers during their game at Memorial Stadium on November 7, 2015 in Clemson, South Carolina. (Photo by Tyler Smith/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Buccaneers Thursday announced the signings of cornerback Javien Elliott and safety Kimario McFadden.

Elliott is an undrafted rookie out of Florida State. He’s a former walk-on who became a productive player at Florida State last season and previously had tried out for the Steelers as part of their rookie minicamp earlier this month.

McFadden has been on and off the Buccaneers roster. He played in three games last season, recording two special teams tackles. McFadden, 25, broke into the league as an undrafted rookie with the Falcons in 2014.

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Washington will hold Junior Galette back until training camp

BALTIMORE, MD - MAY 21:  Washington Redskins Junior Galette attends The Stronach Group Owner's Chalet at 141st The Preakness at Pimlico Race Course on May 21, 2016 in Baltimore, Maryland.  (Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images for The Stronach Group) Getty Images

Washington is encouraged by the progress Junior Galette has shown in his comeback from a torn Achilles, but they’re not going to let him push it.

According to Mike Jones of the Washington Post, the recovering pass-rusher won’t practice until training camp in late July.

While the rest of his teammates were going through OTAs, Galette was working on the side with trainers. Coach Jay Gruden said Galette probably could have practiced, but they want to make sure to give him time to strengthen his leg instead.

“So anxious,” Gruden said of Galette. “He’s like a kid at Christmas, sitting up waiting for Santa Claus and he hasn’t come yet.”

Galette declared himself “85, 90 percent,” and said he understood erring on the side of caution, after missing last season.

“But we’re just being extra careful right now and taking our time instead of rushing into OTAs,” he said. “I could play right now; we’re just being careful. I don’t feel like it’s to my advantage to come out here and really rush and have those sore days.

“I’m as excited as I’ve ever been, probably as excited as I was in 2010 as an undrafted rookie. I’m very excited.”

If Galette can return to form, he adds a dangerous pass-rusher to a defense that also added free agent cornerback Josh Norman this offseason, providing a potentially big boost.

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NFL won’t disclose details of Super Bowl bids

19369539-money-bag-with-stacks-of-cash Getty Images

Earlier this week, the NFL parlayed the interest of five cities into three Super Bowls via a process that, as a practical matter, results in the submission of competitive bids. Even with the loose, wink-nod quid pro quo that calls for a city with a new stadium to be included in the currently non-rotating Super Bowl rotation, cities need to bring something more to the table.

Case in point: The “wish list” for Super Bowl LII to be played at the soon-to-be christened venue in Minneapolis. Building the stadium should have been enough to get the game. As uncovered by the Minneapolis Star Tribune in December 2014, however, the NFL wanted a lot more than that. From free police escorts for team owners to 35,000 free parking spaces to presidential suites at no cost in high-end hotels, the league wasn’t bashful about asking for all sorts of stuff in exchange for the privilege of hosting the league’s premier annual event.

So what similar inducements were made by the cities vying for the trifecta of Super Bowls awarded on Tuesday via the submission of formal bids?

“We do not make them public,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said via email.

There’s a reason for that. Apparently, the bids include all sorts of extra stuff that could embarrass the league at best and invite scrutiny from relevant outside governmental agencies at worst. For example, one source with knowledge of the bids tells PFT that the failed New Orleans proposal for Super Bowl LIII included a $50,000 per-team credit for ground transportation, parties, and related expenses during Super Bowl week. Given that most teams inevitably will be spending that kind of cash during a week in New Orleans prior to the Super Bowl, it’s essentially a $50,000 gift given to each and every franchise — a total of $1.6 million in free money offered to the league by the New Orleans host committee for giving the city the Super Bowl.

Although every Super Bowl host committee relies on privately-raised funds to offset the costs for staging the games (I wonder whether the folks who donate know exactly how the money is being used), there’s a fine line between reimbursing costs and stuffing the already deep pockets of the league’s owners with more cold, hard cash. For that reason, it would be interesting to see each of the bids that were submitted in connection with Super Bowl LIII, LIV, and LV.

If anyone who has them wants to pass them along with a clear and unwavering commitment of anonymity and full protection, we’re easy to find.

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Jeremy Langford wants to be the leader of the Bears backfield

ST. LOUIS, MO - NOVEMBER 15: Jeremy Langford #33 of the Chicago Bears carries the ball in the fourth quarter against the St. Louis Rams at the Edward Jones Dome on November 15, 2015 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images) Getty Images

Running back Jeremy Langford had more than 800 yards of total offense in 2015 and joined Gale Sayers and Walter Payton as the only Bears rookies since 1960 to run for touchdowns in four straight games.

Langford did that work as a complement to Matt Forte in the Bears backfield, but Forte has moved on to the Jets as a free agent. That leaves an opening at the top of the running back depth chart in Chicago and it’s one that Langford says he wants to fill by applying some of what he learned during his year with the veteran back.

“Even last year, I think I prepared a lot, you know, just in case,” Langford said, via ESPN.com. “Playing running back, you never know what can happen. So I prepared a lot to know the whole offense and be the starter if I have to. But this year, it’s really just trying to become more of a leader at the position, being a running back in Chicago. Being more of a leader and really just not being that secondary guy. Acting like more of a veteran and know the whole offense. I learned a lot from Forte, being the guy he was, so you ain’t got to be a hoo-rah guy all the time. Being a young player, it’s just being in the right place at the right time and doing what you got to do. Really helping younger guys coming in, or even the guys following you, being a leader by example.”

The Bears have talked about using a committee of backs from a group including Langford, Ka’Deem Carey, Jacquizz Rodgers and rookie Jordan Howard. Langford says he’s fine with that, calling competition “always a good thing” as he prepares to do whatever he can to win it.

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Devin Hester is not a fan of NFL’s new touchback rule

Devin Hester AP

The NFL refers to kickoff returns as the most dangerous play in the game, and has changed rules to try to minimize them.

To Devin Hester, that’s almost like an unfair restraint of trade.

The Falcons return man said he’s personally never been hurt while returning a kickoff, and since he’s really good at it, he’s naturally skeptical about the change. The league has tweaked rules this year, allowing touchbacks to be placed at the 25 to try to encourage more teams to not return kickoffs.

It’s like taking away a job from people,” Hester said, via Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com. “I got a concussion making a block at receiver. But I never got hurt taking hits back on kickoffs.”

Hester’s currently rehabbing a toe injury which apparently wasn’t suffered on a return. He has five career kickoff return touchdowns, and a 92-yarder in the Super Bowl.

So with a 24.9-yard career average on kickoff returns, you’ll pardon him if he’s not interested in a free crack at the 25-yard line.

“If we’re clicking, we can bring it back from pretty much anywhere; real talk,’’ Hester said. “If our return game is doing good, it’s pretty much the green light. The deepest I’ve fielded one [with Falcons] has been 7 or 8 yards in. The normal is about 4 or 5 yards deep.

“As far as how the other team kicks off, it’s all going to depend on one type of returner you have back there. If they believe in their coverage team they are going to try it.’’

Hester’s hoping they do. His job depends on it.

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Sheldon Richardson waiting to hear if he’ll be suspended

GREEN BAY, WI - SEPTEMBER 14:  Defensive end Sheldon Richardson #91 of the New York Jets on the sidelines during the NFL game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on September 14, 2014 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The Packers defeated the Jets 31-24.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) Getty Images

There are plenty of big names missing from Jets OTAs this week, but defensive end Sheldon Richardson isn’t among them.

Richardson is taking part in the team’s practices and met with the media after Wednesday’s session, which meant he faced questions about whether he’d be absent from any games during the regular season. Richardson pleaded guilty to resisting arrest in January to resolve an arrest from last summer for driving 143 m.p.h. while evading police with a 12-year-old in the car. Police also reported smelling marijuana, although neither drug possession nor child endangerment charges went forward.

On Wednesday, Richardson said he’s spoken to the league “here and there” but doesn’t know whether he’ll be suspended for any portion of the 2016 season.

“Positive vibes, man,” Richardson said, via ESPN.com. “If I get a letter saying I’m suspended, I’m suspended. I don’t really hang my hat on that. That happened last year, last offseason. [It’s] a new year, you know? I’m past it. I’m ready to play football.”

Richardson dropped 11 pounds from last year’s playing weight while preparing himself to play football in a season that will be factored into any long-term contract talks that might get underway with the Jets. Staying on the field would be a plus for Richardson — who was suspended four games in 2015 for a substance abuse violation — on that front because his off-field indiscretions have been the only thing to give pause about a new deal to this point in his career.

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Wes Welker not sure his “heart and mind” want more football

BALTIMORE, MD - NOVEMBER 22: Wes Welker #19 of the St. Louis Rams carries the ball past Tray Walker #25 of the Baltimore Ravens in the first quarter at M&T Bank Stadium on November 22, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) Getty Images

Wide receiver Wes Welker was out of football all of last offseason, but always insisted he wanted to continue playing despite the series of concussions he’d suffered over the course of his career.

Welker eventually signed with the Rams in November, although you’d be forgiven for having no memory of his eight games and 13 catches for a team playing out the string on a season and a city. Welker is a free agent once again and said during an appearance on NFL Network that his “heart and mind” are still going back and forth on whether he wants to pursue a 13th season.

“That’s kind of the million dollar question right now in trying to figure that out,” Welker said. “I think I’m weighing my options and really trying to figure out where to go with life next. But there are some days I wake up and I’m like ‘OK, I’m done.’ And other days I wake up and I’m like, ‘Oh, maybe one more year.’ But I’m trying not to rush into any decision but at the same time, know that and prepare myself for not playing.”

Given the lukewarm interest in Welker’s services last year, it’s hard to imagine teams are beating down his doors with offers to play and that could offer the final push that Welker needs to flip the switch from active NFL player to the next stage of life.

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Thursday morning one-liners

CINCINNATI, OH - NOVEMBER 16:  DeAndre Hopkins #10 of the Houston Texans celebrates after scoring a touchdown during the fourth quarter of the game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium on November 16, 2015 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Bills have a big hole at RT (Wait, can we say that?).

Dolphins DE Mario Williams is upbeat about his new role.

A young WR is standing outside Gillette Stadium asking the Patriots for a tryout (a young lawyer might have a better shot at employment).

Jets DT Sheldon Richardson is prepared to deal with a possible suspension.

Ravens OL John Urshcel made straight As in his four classes at MIT this spring.

Bengals TE Tyler Eifert isn’t the only one on the shelf.

Browns T Joe Thomas never asked for a trade this offseason.

The Steelers are adjusting to a bunch of newcomers on the defensive line.

Texans WR DeAndre Hopkins wants to get bigger and stronger.

Joe Philbin is happy to get back to teaching with the Colts

Jaguars C Brandon Linder is adjusting to being in the middle.

The early returns on Titans RB DeMarco Murray are good.

Broncos G Ty Sambrailo is ready for his move inside from T.

Chiefs DT Dontari Poe is doing big-man yoga.

New Raiders LB Bruce Irvin is ready to be a leader walking in the door.

Chargers players dispersed around town to thank fans yesterday.

Cowboys LB Sean Lee hopes missing time now saves some time for him later.

Giants RB Andre Williams is trying to put memories of a bad second season behind him.

Eagles DE Marcus Smith promises to be a new player (which is good since the old one hasn’t done a thing).

Washington QB Kirk Cousins is getting used to being in charge.

The lack of WR Alshon Jeffery at Bears OTAs underscores how thin they are at the position.

Lions president Rod Wood is “very optimistic” after seeing what came in the draft.

Packers LT David Bakhtiari thought it was “smart” to draft his potential replacement.

Vikings RB Adrian Peterson hopes to improve when they’re in the shotgun formation.

The Falcons want to see if LB Courtney Upshaw can be a DE.

Panthers QB Cam Newton managed to work in a visit with Michelle Obama between OTAs.

After missing on the Super Bowl, the Saints aren’t expected to bid to host the NFL Draft.

The Buccaneers signed a former college walk-on.

Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald should probably keep his day job.

Rams QB Case Keenum knows he’s a temp.

49ers S Eric Reid thinks it’s fair to expect more from him on the field before a new contract.

Some think the Seahawks have the best QB situation in the league.

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Tony Romo thinks he has at least four or five years left in him

ARLINGTON, TX - JANUARY 03:  Tony Romo #9 of the Dallas Cowboys sits on the bench late in the fourth quarter as the Washington Redskins beat the Dallas Cowboys 34-23 at AT&T Stadium on January 3, 2016 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Cowboys didn’t exactly draft their quarterback of the future this year, so the quarterback of the present figures he’ll just keep going until they do.

Via Todd Archer of ESPN.com, Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo said he can see himself playing beyond his current contract, which expires after the 2019 season. He even joked that with advances in modern medicine, perhaps “seven or eight years” is a possibility.

I’m not in my mid-20s anymore, but I do think based on what my situation has been like the last three or four years, I do think this [offseason] is drastically different,” Romo said. “It takes me back five years ago when I was able to do things the way [I had]. I’m not there yet. I still got these months to just get after it, but it’s exciting to actually be able to get after it a little bit. But if everything keeps going the way it’s going, I think it’s going to be exciting going into camp.”

Romo missed most of last season with broken collarbones (the left one, twice). Surgery was performed in March to strengthen the area and he declared it a non-issue. But after back surgeries in 2013 left him limited, he hasn’t been able to prepare like this in some time.

“The further removed I am from surgery — and now it’s been quite a while — I can go a lot longer periods of time doing what I could do before. But for shorter periods of time before, it would just get heavy or I’d need a break or rest,” Romo said. “The torque you put on it, the jolting of stuff, the hits — it all takes a toll over time. When you have multiple back surgeries, you understand the process sometimes that it’s a little different.”

The 36-year-old quarterback hasn’t played a full season since 2012, but there’s still not a viable plan for life after him. The Cowboys failed in an attempt to trade up to get Paxton Lynch during the draft, settling on fourth-rounder Dak Prescott.

So it’s a good thing Romo feels better than ever, because they’re going to need him.

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Derrick Morgan: Players aren’t surprised by charge of NFL impropriety

SAN DIEGO, CA - SEPTEMBER 16:   Derrick Morgan #91 of the Tennessee Titans celebrates his sack against the San Diego Chargers in front of Jurrell Casey #99 during the second quarter at Qualcomm Stadium on September 16, 2012 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) Getty Images

As the NFL’s “Operation Mom” rolls on, there’s another important demographic they clearly need to spend some time convincing their methods are on the up-and-up.

In the wake of a Congressional report which accused the league of trying to influence government research into CTE, Titans outside linebacker Derrick Morgan said he’s disappointed if what he’s read is true, but not shocked.

“Guys just want to have the knowledge and the information available, and the NFL is supposed to take care of that in the form of research,” Morgan said, via the Tennesseean. “It’s disappointing, but to say it was a surprise, I’d be lying to you.”

That falls in line with the thinking of the players union, which in no way expects the league to be doing the right thing these days.

“We’re the only guys, people that suffer,” Morgan said. “We’re out there laying our bodies on the line, and going through the physical pains of playing football is part of the game. We understand that. We just want to have the knowledge and the information readily available so we can make decisions on our health. . . .

“I think back in February the NFL just admitted the link with CTE and everything. So I think guys, like myself, that hit home and caused me to start doing my own research and trying to find out on my own. We just want the NFL to be responsible and handle their end of the bargain.”

Complaints like those are going to be common among players, and it’s going to be difficult to convince them the league’s being trustworthy, as the relationship between management and labor seems to be getting more contentious with each passing issue.

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Rich McKay expects sideline video to be implemented for 2017

OAKLAND, CA - AUGUST 14:  Oakland Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio holds on to a Microsoft Surface tablet during their game against the St. Louis Rams at O.co Coliseum on August 14, 2015 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) Getty Images

The NFL officially tabled a proposal this week at the league meetings in Charlotte to allow access to in-game video on the sidelines for coaches and players.

The league has allowed still photos to be used to show formations and such for years. Recently, the league has transitioned from hard copies of photos printed off on the sidelines to using tablets to view the still shots. Moving to video is likely inevitable at some point in the near future. Competition committee chairman Rich McKay expects the proposal to ultimately be adopted after the upcoming season.

We did an experiment last year in the preseason with video on the sidelines. We’ll go back to the teams that didn’t get to do that experiment and experiment again in this preseason and let them see it and touch it, and then I expect to see it on the field next season, not this coming season, but the season after,” McKay said in an interview with Alex Marvez and Gil Brandt on SiriusXM NFL Radio. “It’s a change that I think – technology is coming. Colleges now are getting ready to introduce it. We’ve got states that have high schools that have introduced iPads on the sidelines. So technology is going to come to the sidelines.”

McKay said there was actually some push back from coaches that wanted to have more time to adapt and prepare for the change before it’s officially implemented.

“That is a big change. Don’t underestimate that change from a coaching perspective,” McKay said. “That’s not something they’re used to. So just like – as happened to us before when we’ve tried to introduce things – I think the coaches, and I don’t blame them for it, I think they’ve put their hand up and said ‘hold it, not so fast, let us just kind of digest how this change is going to impact us, how it’s going to impact the way we operate on the sidelines and operate in the coaching booths upstairs.’ So we tabled it yesterday.”

It shouldn’t take all that long for the coaches to be able to adapt to having a new resource on the sidelines. The 2017 season seems a reasonable expectation for when to see the change put into place for good.

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Kendall Fuller gets some OTA work

WEST LAFAYETTE, IN - SEPTEMBER 19: Kendall Fuller #11 of the Virginia Tech Hokies makes the tackle on Austin Appleby #12 of the Purdue Boilermakers as he fumbles the football that would be returned for a touchdown at Ross-Ade Stadium on September 19, 2015 in West Lafayette, Indiana.  (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images) Getty Images

Maybe he’s well ahead of schedule or maybe he’s right on it. Either way, the Redskins have to see having rookie cornerback Kendall Fuller in uniform for organized team activity (OTA) practices as a positive.

Fuller suffered a torn ACL last September that ended his third and final season at Virginia Tech. He was a spectator during rookie minicamp earlier this month but said he would “definitely” be ready for training camp.

Though the Redskins are monitoring him closely, Fuller participated in Wednesday’s OTA practice. Redskins Coach Jay Gruden said the team will be “cautious” and that Fuller will be eased into full work, but Gruden said he’s progressing well.

A healthy Fuller and the late April addition of Josh Norman potentially give the Redskins depth and talent at cornerback they didn’t have last season. Fuller was projected by many as a first-round pick had he been healthy during the pre-draft process; he was drafted by the Redskins in the third round.

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Goodell blames unfamiliarity with Congressional report on travel

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 28:  NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell speaks during the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University on April 28, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images) Getty Images

The NFL’s response to the Congressional report regarding alleged efforts to interfere with a National Institutes of Health study has looked nothing like the scorched-earth approach taken earlier this year when the NFL strenuously objected to an article from the New York Times that accused the league of shoddy concussion research and haphazardly compared pro football to Big Tobacco. As the hours passed on Monday during ESPN’s incessant trumpet-blasting of the report, with public opinion hardening like reinforced concrete, the league remained silent.

On Tuesday, when Commissioner Roger Goodell met the media at the conclusion of the quarterly ownership meetings in Charlotte, Goodell initially downplayed the situation with this response: “I didn’t see the report, we were traveling down here.”

I engaged in a full analysis of the answer during Tuesday’s PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio. In lieu of me typing it up, you should just listen to it.

Here’s a quick summary: I didn’t like the response very much. If the league plans to devise a winning P.R. strategy to combat the siege mentality arising from the ongoing concussion crisis, the league should start with a more plausible strategy for adopting a dismissive tone regarding one of the more important Congressional reports generated regarding the league in recent years.

For the longer version, click play below.

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