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Joe Horn: Roger Goodell is the Vladimir Putin of the NFL

joehorn AP

Former NFL player Joe Horn has never hidden his animosity toward NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, and now Horn is drawing an interesting parallel between Goodell and an infamous authoritarian leader.

“Roger Goodell is like the Vladimir f–kin Putin of the NFL,” Horn told SI.com. “You quote me on that shit. Roger Goodell is the Vladimir Putin of the NFL when it comes to players. Putin punks every country when he gets ready to. And there’s no rules when it comes to Putin, and Goodell is the same f–kin way when it comes to players. He sets all the standards.”

Asked whether Goodell would kill Horn — as Putin has reportedly had critics killed — Horn admitted that Goodell might not be quite that bad. But he’s pretty bad, in Horn’s view.

“If they read that quote, they would know that he’s not having people killed and none of the players killed,” Horn said. “But as far as dictatorship, as far as making moves to do what he wants, that’s what Putin does.”

Horn’s tenure in the NFL only overlapped briefly with Goodell’s. Paul Tagliabue was the commissioner for most of Horn’s playing career, including his famous cell phone celebration, which resulted in a $30,000 fine from the NFL. But Horn has become a harsh critic of the league under Goodell’s leadership, and Horn is one of the many former players who has sued the NFL over brain injuries.

Horn is far from the first former player to criticize Goodell, but the Putin comparison is a new one.

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Dirk Koetter declines to elaborate on decision to release Austin Seferian-Jenkins

TAMPA, FL - OCTOBER 26: Tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins #87 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins #87 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers catches a touch down pass as outside linebacker Anthony Barr #55 of the Minnesota Vikings defends in the 4th quarter at Raymond James Stadium on October 26, 2014 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Cliff McBride/Getty Images) Getty Images

On Friday, the Buccaneers proved yet again the time-honored sports adage that excuses are made for the stars and examples are made of the scrubs.

A DUI arrest prompted the Bucs to release tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins. The move came amid lingering concerns about his overall commitment to the game. If a player the team held in significantly higher regard had been arrested for DUI, he surely wouldn’t have been cut.

On Friday night, coach Dirk Koetter addressed the decision to move on from Seferian-Jenkins, without much elaboration.

“Well, it is disappointing and Austin is a guy that we had high hopes for,” Koetter said on SiriusXM NFL Radio, via JoeBucsFan.com. “He was a second-round pick here a couple of years back. He has fought through some injury issues. He’s a very talented individual. It is disappointing when guys, when they make mistakes, and there’s more to every story than meets the eye. Sometimes there is more to it than things I can say on the radio. We wish Austin well. The number one thing is I am glad that Austin is safe and healthy. And I hope he can get himself healthy.”

The use of the term “healthy” at the end of the quote will spark speculation regarding whether Koetter is referring to something beyond physical health. Any team that may be inclined to claim Seferian-Jenkins on waivers won’t have time to do their due diligence about the player’s overall “health” before making a decision on whether to try to snag him before he becomes a free agent.

A second-round pick in 2014, Seferian-Jenkins has 45 career catches for 603 yards and seven touchdowns. He has three receptions for 44 yards and one score in two 2016 games.

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High-school players in Oakland take anthem demonstration to another level

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Four weeks after 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s decision not to stand during the national anthem was first noticed, a high school team in Oakland has taken the anthem demonstrations to another level — with Kaepernick present.

Former NFL player Kirk Morrison, who currently has several media jobs, posted on Twitter a photos of Kaepernick kneeling during the anthem while the players laid on the ground with their hands up.

The gesture comes in a week that included a pair of fatal shootings by police of an African-American man: Terence Crutcher in Tulsa and Keith Lamont Scott in Charlotte. The officer who shot and killed Crutcher faces manslaughter charges; in Charlotte, clear evidence has not yet emerged to prove that the shooting was justified — although Scott’s DNA reportedly was found on a gun recovered from the scene of the incident.

Kaepernick has explained that his decision not to stand for the anthem arises from concerns about police misconduct toward African-Americans and people of color, pointing out the degree of training and education required before men and women are authorized to serve on the front lines of law enforcement, armed with a handgun and the authority under certain specific circumstances to draw it and to pull the trigger.

[Photo credit: Twitter.com/kirkmorrison]

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Done deal: Lady Gaga will perform at Super Bowl halftime

SANTA CLARA, CA - FEBRUARY 07:  Lady Gaga sings the National Anthem at Super Bowl 50 at Levi's Stadium on February 7, 2016 in Santa Clara, California.  (Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images) Getty Images

The talks have ended, because a deal is done. And if I remembered the names of any of her songs or some of their lyrics, I’d be tempted to start dropping in some stupid puns.

Lady Gaga will perform at halftime of Super Bowl LI in Houston, according to Terry Lefton of SportsBusiness Daily.

The announcement will come on Sunday during FOX’s NFL programming, probably during the pregame show.

It’s unknown whether other performers will be involved in the show. The biggest unknown is whether the unpaid gig has indeed morphed into a revenue source for the league, based on a report from the Wall Street Journal in 2014 that the idea had been floated of, for example, the artist surrendering a portion of increased ticket sales arising from the nine-figure audience the Super Bowl will be delivering.

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Usain Bolt says he’s had offers but would never consider the NFL

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 22:  Olympic athlete Usain Bolt visits The PUMA Lab powered by Foot Locker in NYC at Foot Locker, 34th Street on September 22, 2016 in New York City.  (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for PUMA) Getty Images

The fastest human being who ever lived has heard that NFL teams would give him a chance if he wanted to play football. But he doesn’t.

Usain Bolt said on the Dan Patrick Show that he has watched some football and has been offered the opportunity to play, but he wouldn’t want to get hit.

“I used to watch it when I was younger,” he said. “The hits guys would take kind of turned me off. I never thought about going but I’ve gotten offered and people have asked.”

It’s unclear whether Bolt ever heard directly from an NFL team or if he just heard generally that there would be interest if he wanted to play. It wouldn’t be surprising if some team sent feelers to Bolt, just as NFL teams have at times reached out to professional rugby players and shot putters and other athletes who have NFL athleticism. Jahvid Best was a very fast running back by NFL standards, but Bolt easily beat him in an Olympic preliminary heat, showing how much faster he is than even the fastest NFL players. If the 6-foot-5 Bolt had been born in the United States instead of Jamaica, he might have become the greatest wide receiver in NFL history.

But Bolt is wise to turn down any offers. The greatest sprinter ever doesn’t need to risk his health trying a new sport as a lark.

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Todd Gurley feels like he’s facing 12 defenders

SANTA CLARA, CA - SEPTEMBER 12:  Todd Gurley #30 of the Los Angeles Rams rushes against the San Francisco 49ers during their NFL game at Levi's Stadium on September 12, 2016 in Santa Clara, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) Getty Images

Todd Gurley is off to a disappointing start this season, and he sometimes feels like he doesn’t have a chance.

As opposing defenses load up to stop Gurley on the theory that the Rams’ passing game won’t be able to beat them, Gurley says it’s like the entire defense is on him — and then some.

“It’s been crazy,” Gurley said, via the Los Angeles Times. “I’m like, ‘There’s 12 people on the field!’ It’s definitely a lot of people.”

Gurley said he’s hoping to make opposing defenses pay for stacking the line of scrimmage, thinking if he can get past the line there will be no one to stop him.

“Sometimes that’s a good thing because if you get past that first level, then you’re gone,” he said. “But you have to get past that first level first.”

Unfortunately, Gurley hasn’t been able to do that: His longest run this season is 11 yards, and overall he has 36 carries for 98 yards, an average of 2.7 yards a carry. Until Case Keenum and the Rams’ passing game can take advantage of the way opposing defenses are selling out to stop Gurley, it’s going to be hard for him to find room to run.

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With kicker injured, Browns to bring in Cody Parkey

Seattle Seahawks v Philadelphia Eagles Getty Images

The long list of Browns injuries was lengthened today when kicker Patrick Murray hurt his knee in a walkthrough practice. Now the Browns are bringing in a veteran replacement.

Cody Parkey will sign with the Browns, Cleveland.com reports.

Parkey lost a training camp competition in Philadelphia this year. He played three games for the Eagles last year, making three of four field goals and all seven extra points before being lost for the season with a groin injury.

Murray joined a group of injured Browns that included their top two quarterbacks, Robert Griffin III and Josh McCown, as well as receiver Corey Coleman, safety Ibraheim Campbell, defensive end Carl Nassib and center Cam Erving.

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Stephen Jones: Tony Romo is coming along, but we won’t push it

LANDOVER, MD - SEPTEMBER 18: Quarterback Tony Romo #9 of the Dallas Cowboys looks on from the sideline against the Washington Redskins in the first quarter at FedExField on September 18, 2016 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) Getty Images

Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo has made significant progress from the fractured vertebra he suffered in the preseason, but the team remains unsure when he’ll be back on the field.

That’s the word from Cowboys Executive V.P. Stephen Jones, who said Romo has come along nicely.

“He’s throwing the ball around now, so he’ll just keep doing more unless there is something that concerns us,” Jones said, via the Dallas Morning News. “Right now everything is looking great. He’s feeling good and certainly feels good about the progress he’s making.”

Early November has been mentioned as the time Romo can expect to return, although Jones said it will always come down to what the doctors say.

“Every injury is different,” Jones said. “Everybody wants to say, ‘Well, we rushed him back last time and he got hurt.’ I think unfortunately it was a tough lick there that happened to hit him just right again. At the same time, unless he’s ready and the doctors feel like he’s ready to go, we won’t push it.”

The good news for the Cowboys is that rookie quarterback Dak Prescott has shown enough promise early in the season to make them think they can stay in playoff contention without Romo this year — something that didn’t happen last year, when the team fell apart with Romo out. Prescott’s presence makes it easier for the Cowboys to stay patient.

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Thomas Rawls doubtful for Sunday

LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 18:  Thomas Rawls #34 of the Seattle Seahawks runs after his catch as Coty Sensabaugh #21 of the Los Angeles Rams defends during the first quarter of the home opening NFL game between the Los Angeles Rams and the Seattle Seahawks at Los Angeles Coliseum on September 18, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Seahawks need something more on offense. They likely won’t get it from running back Thomas Rawls on Sunday against the 49ers.

Seattle has listed Rawls as doubtful with a leg injury. Under the revised injury-reporting rules, Rawls’ availability lands anywhere from 49.9 to 0.1 percent.

“It’s not a dangerous injury or anything like that, it’s problematic for him at this time,” coach Pete Carroll told reporters on Friday. “We’re just going to be open minded and still make the decision to see what we’re going to do. We are prepared to go without him if he can’t go, but we’d love to see him if he can get there.”

Christine Michael will get the start if Rawls can’t play, and Carroll is ready to make Michael the workhorse.

“He’s averaging five yards a carry for a reason,” Carroll said of Michael. “He had a really good off season, he had a terrific camp. All indications that he’s ready for a bigger load. He’s had 20-something carries so far, he’s ready to carry the ball 20-something times in a game. He could be fine with that.”

Joining Rawls as doubtful are offensive lineman Germain Ifedi (ankle) and tight end Nick Vannett (ankle). Running back C.J. Prosise is questionable with a wrist injury, and receiver Tyler Lockett is questionable with a knee injury.

As to Ifedi, Carroll suggested he’ll be ready for Week Four. The coach was noncommittal on Prosise but indicated that Lockett should be ready to play.

Not listed are quarterback Russell Wilson (ankle) and receiver Doug Baldwin (knee). Baldwin was limited in practice on Wednesday, but he fully participated thereafter. Wilson reportedly has a high ankle sprain, but he played last week with the injury.

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De Smith: Players are realizing their power

NEW ORLEANS, LA - FEBRUARY 03:  NFLPA President DeMaurice Smith stands on the field during Super Bowl XLVII between the San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on February 3, 2013 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) Getty Images

Not long after 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began to not stand for the national anthem, a basic, fundamental question emerged: Are NFL players realizing that they have power?

Four weeks after Kaepernick’s gesture was first noticed, they apparently are. Apart from social issues for which players are using their platform, the not-too-distant future could entail players flexing their muscles with the confines of the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith hinted at such efforts during Friday’s PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio and NBCSN.

“You and I both know that in the history of the labor movement when it came to issues like work to rule where workers decided that they were going to engage in protest by following the rules to the letter of the law, I think that’s something that also was a perhaps unintended consequence of this but something that has certainly lit the fuse and made players aware of what their power is,” Smith said.

By “work to rule,” Smith means that players would do the absolute bare minimum under the labor deal. Which means, among other things, they would boycott all non-mandatory activities, including the vast majority of the offseason program.

“Do you believe that there will be players who say, ‘You know what? We don’t have to be here, we’re not required to be here, and if you want us to be here let’s go back to the bargaining table and you give us some concessions and we’ll agree to make them mandatory’?” I asked, regarding offseason workouts and OTAs.

“Well, I certainly think that the league, and you know when it comes to issues of Commissioner discipline or the way in which the league office is being perceived sometimes as players, I think players see the flip side of that as happening to them,” Smith said. “I think you can tick off a number of issues that have popped up over the years where players and certainly I believe that the league has gone out of its way to unfairly treat players. Do I think that a number of players, you know, looking at what’s happened over the last few months, are saying to themselves, ‘Well, wait a minute. If you want to pursue this in a way that’s unfair to us, are we gonna avail ourselves of every bit of power to protest we have?’ And I think absolutely, I wouldn’t be surprised if players start looking at what they’re obligated to do and what they’re not obligated to do and when it comes to things like offseason workouts are we hearing players out there saying exactly that? Yes.”

Let that one sink in for a bit. Regardless of whether players ultimately will launch a strike that isn’t really a strike, they’re discussing it.

“I’m not in the business of predicting what’s gonna happen but I do think that the decision of a group of young men over the last few weeks to thoughtfully address the issues that are important to them in their community by protesting has certainly made a number of players look inward at their own system and try and to make a decision about whether and how they can continue that,” Smith said.

In other words, Superman is realizing he can fly. It will be interesting to see whether he chooses to, and where he decides to go.

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Twitter audience spikes for second Thursday Night Football effort

NEWCASTLE, AUSTRALIA - JULY 11:  In this photo illustration the Twitter website is displayed on a mobile phone at a NRL match on July 11, 2009 in Newcastle, Australia. The micro-blogging phenomenon sees users post text 'tweets' of upto 140 characters in response to the question 'What are you doing?'.  (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images) Getty Images

After plenty of evidence suggesting not just a flattening but a decline in the American TV appetite for NFL prime-time football, the trend abruptly changed on Thursday night, boring and non-competitive game notwithstanding.

The NFL has sent out the perfunctory chest-thumping press release touting the dominance of live pro football action against scripted and other pre-taped/watch-whenever programming on other broadcast networks, a victory that has become a given in today’s world. In reality, the NFL is competing only against its past performance (and The Walking Dead); this week, the numbers finally have gone up.

For Twitter, the spike was significant. The average audience for Texans-Patriots via the prominent (anti)social media platform was 327,000. That’s an increase of 34 percent over the Week 2 Thursday night game between the Jets and Bills.

The TV numbers also were strong, with a 14-percent increase over Week Two and a four-percent climb over the Week Three Thursday night game (Washington-Giants) from 2015.

In all, the most recent Thursday night game had an average total viewership of 17.9 million across all platforms.

That’s a good way to start a week destined to end with an ugly Monday night performance in the TV ratings. Apart from the reality that the Falcons-Saints game will be broadcast on cable at a time when viewers are cutting cords like a producer trying to fit Free Bird onto a 45, the first presidential debate conflicts with the game. Whatever the low-water mark is for NFL prime-time viewership, chances are that Monday’s numbers will be even lower.

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Decker, Richardson fined for taunting penalties

Eric Decker, Jalil Brown AP

Jets wide receiver Eric Decker and defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson were each fined $9,115 for taunting during last week’s win over the Bills, PFT has confirmed.

Decker’s was a double whammy; it came after what appeared to be a big gain but was negated by penalty. Richardson’s came after the Bills scored on an 84-yard touchdown pass to Marquise Goodwin.

Bills cornerback Stephon Gilmore was also fined the same amount for his facemask on Jets wide receiver Brandon Marshall in that game.

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Key defensive players on both sides out for Lions-Packers

GREEN BAY, WI - DECEMBER 28:  Defensive end Ezekiel Ansah #94 of the Detroit Lions stands over quarterback Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers as he holds his leg in the second quarter during the NFL game at Lambeau Field on December 28, 2014 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  (Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images) Getty Images

Neither team’s defense is at full strength for Sunday’s game in Green Bay.

For the Lions, defensive end Ziggy Ansah is out with an ankle sprain. The injury, which is expected to sideline Ansah for multiple games, is a big one for arguably the Lions’ best defensive player. Detroit will also be without two linebackers, DeAndre Levy and Antwione Williams, who are both listed as doubtful.

For the Packers, cornerback Sam Shields is out with a concussion. Shields saw a concussion specialist during the week amid talk that the team and the player are increasingly concerned about the matter.

Players listed as questionable for the Lions include TE Eric Ebron (back), DE Wallace Gilberry (abdomen), OT Riley Reiff (ankle) and G Larry Warford (illness). Players listed as questionable for the Packers include S Morgan Burnett (groin), DT Letroy Guion (knee), G T.J. Lang (hip) and LB Clay Matthews (ankle and hamstring).

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Raiders punter slapped with fine for horse-collar tackle

Denver Broncos vs. Oakland Raiders Getty Images

Raiders punter Marquette King has been fined $18,231 for a horse-collar tackle in last week’s loss to the Falcons.

King saved a touchdown but drew a flag when he brought down Eric Weems of the Falcons from behind last week.

He knew the fine was coming. King had joked earlier this week about setting up a GoFundMe account to pay the fine.

King got a new contract last February, so chances are he can afford it.

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Mike Daniels fined for hit on Sam Bradford

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - SEPTEMBER 18:  Quarterback Sam Bradford #8 of the Minnesota Vikings passes as defensive end Mike Daniels #76 of the Green Bay Packers rushes during the game on September 18, 2016 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) Getty Images

Packers defensive lineman Mike Daniels has been hit in the paycheck for a hit on Vikings quarterback Sam Bradford.

The NFL has fined Daniels $18,231 for roughing the passer. That’s the standard fine for that infraction.

That penalty aside, Daniels had an excellent game against the Vikings, routinely beating the linemen in front of him and blowing through the line to hit Bradford or Adrian Peterson.

If Daniels can keep playing that way, the Packers can tolerate the occasional roughing the passer penalty.

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