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Sean McVay: No question Kirk Cousins can keep improving

LANDOVER, MD - JANUARY 01: Quarterback Kirk Cousins #8 of the Washington Redskins looks on after the New York Giants defeated the Washington Redskins 19-10 at FedExField on January 1, 2017 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) Getty Images

Sean McVay is the youngest head coach in the NFL after being hired by the Rams and Kirk Cousins had a hand in getting McVay to that spot.

Cousins’ play as the starter over the last two seasons has created a big question for the Redskins to answer about his future with the organization, but it didn’t hurt McVay to be associated with the development of a quarterback who went from backup to the franchise tag in 2015 before turning in another good season in 2016.

During an interview with ESPN 980 in Washington, McVay called Cousins someone you can “absolutely win a championship with” and said he thinks that Cousins will continue to move up the ladder of NFL quarterbacks in the years to come.

“I don’t think there’s any question in my mind,” McVay said. “Look at his body of work the last two years. These guys are great players and they have a long resume. They’ve accumulated that experience and gone through things good and bad. Anytime you look at someone who is successful at anything, one thing they’ve had to do is overcome some adversity. It’s an inevitable part of this game, but it’s something when you look at Kirk over the course of his career and through his life, he continually responded to challenges in a way that makes you believe in him.”

McVay added that he hopes Jared Goff can progress on the same kind of trajectory in the coming years. Goff’s presence in Los Angeles should keep anyone from connecting dots between the coach’s praise and Cousins’ impending free agency, which promises to be a major storyline in Washington while McVay is trying to have the same kind of success with another quarterback.

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Anthony Lynn credits Bill Walsh’s commitment to minority coaches

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When Anthony Lynn was introduced as the Los Angeles Chargers’ new head coach today, he remembered one of the most influential coaches he ever knew: Bill Walsh.

Walsh was a Hall of Fame coach for the 49ers and worked in the 49ers’ front office in 1996 when he contacted Lynn, a backup running back for the 49ers, and said they needed to talk.

“I remember the day when Bill Walsh came down to the locker room in 1996 and he grabbed me and he said, ‘We need to talk.’ And I said, ‘Oh, s–t, he’s about to cut me,'” Lynn said, perhaps not realizing his press conference was on live television.

But Walsh didn’t cut him. Walsh told him he had a better future in football than he realized.

“He goes, ‘No, I want to take you to lunch, I want to talk to you about something.’ He started talking to me about coaching. He said, ‘I’ve identified you as a coach in the National Football League and I want to tell you about my program for minority coaches.’ And we begin this talk about coaching, and I’d never thought about coaching before. But that’s where the seed was planted, from Coach Walsh. . . . From that moment on, every team meeting I sat in I started taking notes like a coach, I started preparing like a coach.”

Walsh realized that African-Americans were underrepresented on coaching staffs in the NFL at a time when few others were talking about it. The league now recognizes Walsh with the Bill Walsh Diversity Coaching Fellowship, and coaches like Lynn recognize how Walsh helped pave the way for their career success.

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Mike Tomlin: I regret my language, will discipline Antonio Brown

PITTSBURGH, PA - DECEMBER 25:  Antonio Brown #84 of the Pittsburgh Steelers shakes hands with head coach Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers during warmups before the game against the Baltimore Ravens at Heinz Field on December 25, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images) Getty Images

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin is sorry he called the Patriots “a–holes” and sorry that Steelers receiver Antonio Brown chose to film Tomlin saying it and broadcast it for the world.

Commenting for the first time on Brown’s bizarre decision to broadcast the Steeler’s postgame locker room on Facebook Live on Sunday night, Tomlin said today that he is sorry for the language he uses, and wishes he hadn’t been shown that way in his role as the leader of the Steelers.

“The language on the video is regrettable, by me and by others,” Tomlin said, via Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “That’s why we go to great lengths to preserve certain moments and interactions between us. As a parent, as a member of the community I take that very seriously. I issue an apology in that regard.”

Tomlin also said the Steelers will issue an internal punishment to Brown, and he indicated he thinks the league may punish Brown as well.

“It was foolish of him to do that, selfish and inconsiderate. It was violation of our policy and league policy,” Tomlin said. “He’s a great player, respected in the locker room, but incidents such as this don’t help him in that regard.”

Tomlin said he hasn’t yet spoken to Brown about the matter, but will deal with it and then move on to preparing for the Patriots.

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Roger Goodell continues to avoid New England

ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 14:  NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell stands on the field prior to the game between the Atlanta Falcons and Seattle Seahwaks at the Georgia Dome on January 14, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) Getty Images

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell attended Saturday’s game in Atlanta, so with the two conference championship games set for Atlanta and New England on Sunday, it would make sense for Goodell to go to Gillette Stadium to visit another league franchise.

But Goodell won’t be in New England. He will attend the NFC Championship Game in Atlanta, the league confirmed to Mike Reiss of ESPN. Goodell still hasn’t attended a game in New England since the playoffs after the 2014 season, when he went to both the divisional round and AFC Championship games at Gillette Stadium.

The obvious reason is that Goodell would face a frosty reception from the Patriots and their fans. After suspending Tom Brady and docking the Patriots’ first-round draft pick this year for Deflategate, Goodell is Public Enemy No. 1 in New England. He would be booed mercilessly by Patriots fans if he showed his face in New England.

And so if we’re going to see a face-to-face meeting between Goodell and Brady, it will only come in Houston, if the Patriots win the Super Bowl and Goodell is there on the podium to congratulate the winners after the game. That would be an awkward moment for Goodell, and a moment of vindication for the Patriots.

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NFL looking into failure to disclose Richard Sherman injury

ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 14: Richard Sherman #25 of the Seattle Seahawks warms up prior to the game against the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome on January 14, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images) Getty Images

When it comes to the Seahawks failing to disclose the in-season knee injury to cornerback Richard Sherman, they weren’t caught with a hand in the cookie jar. They admitted after successfully fleeing the scene that they had taken cookies and eaten them.

And now the NFL, which initially had no comment on the situation, tells PFT that the league is “looking into it.”

There’s nothing to look into, from the perspective of whether a violation occurred. On Monday, coach Pete Carroll blurted it out during a radio interview and then, later in the day, he admitted it.

In 2009, the league fined the Jets $75,000, then-G.M. Mike Tannenbaum $25,000, and former coach Eric Mangini $25,000 after former Jets quarterback Brett Favre repeatedly admitted that he had an undisclosed arm injury in 2008.

But fines may just be the starting point for the Seahawks. Without regard to any specific team or teams, the NFL has confirmed that “additional discipline can be considered if there are multiple violations” under different policies.

The Seahawks have had three different violations of the offseason workout rules since 2012, culminating in the loss of a full week of 2017 OTA sessions and the forfeiture of a 2017 fifth-round draft pick (the same round in which they found Sherman) for the most recent infraction. The league could impose other penalties, in theory, against the Seahawks for an apparently blatant violation of the injury-reporting rules.

None of this would have even come to light if Carroll didn’t mention the previously unmentioned injury. It invites plenty of speculation regarding how many other teams had unmentioned injuries in 2016 or previously.

But breaking the rules only matters if you get caught. The Seahawks have been caught, multiple times. The question now becomes whether and to what extent they’ll experience the consequences.

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Mike Tomlin returns to stadium where he “always” has communications issues

PITTSBURGH, PA - JANUARY 08:  Head coach Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers is seen on the sidelines during the second quarter against the Miami Dolphins in the AFC Wild Card game at Heinz Field on January 8, 2017 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) Getty Images

The first game of the 2015 regular season was played at a time when the #DeflateGate controversy was still boiling — and when ESPN only two days earlier had gone all in with a broader look at past and present cheating allegations against the Patriots. And so, when Steelers coach Mike Tomlin opted in the aftermath of a 28-21 loss at New England to suggest foul play in connection with communications issues at Gillette Stadium, it instantly became a huge deal.

“We were listening to the Patriots radio broadcast for the majority of the first half on our headsets, coach to coach,” Tomlin said, adding that it’s “always the case” that the Steelers have trouble with their in-stadium communications when they play in New England. He said that eventually the problem got fixed.

The Steelers’ official website chimed in, declaring that “[t]his is the kind of stuff that happens to the visiting team in Gillette Stadium all the time.”

It quickly became clear that communications issues happen routinely and throughout the league, making Tomlin’s effort to suggest further cheating by the Patriots seem even more over the top than it was. Four days later, Tomlin declared the matter over.

But the not-so-subtle claim of cheating still exists on the Steelers’ website. Here’s the full entry: “This is the kind of stuff that happens to the visiting team in Gillette Stadium all the time. From the start of the game through the opening 14 minutes of the first quarter, the Steelers’ coaches’ headsets were receiving the Patriots Radio Network broadcast of the game. The broadcast was so loud that the Steelers coaches were unable to communicate, and the NFL rule is that if one team’s headsets are not working the other team is supposed to be forced to take their headsets off. It’s what the NFL calls the Equity Rule. Strangely enough, whenever an NFL representative proceeded to the New England sideline to shut down their headsets, the Steelers headsets cleared. Then as the representative walked away from the New England sideline, the Steelers’ headsets again started to receive the Patriots game broadcast.”

The Steelers return to Gillette Stadium for the first time since September 2015 on Sunday, with a berth in Super Bowl LI on the line. And all eyes will be on the question of whether the Steelers will be able to properly use their ears during the game.

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Tom Brady is an Aaron Rodgers fanboy

GREEN BAY, WI - NOVEMBER 30:  Quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers and Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots shake hands following the NFL game at Lambeau Field on November 30, 2014 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The Packers defeated the Patriots 26-21.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) Getty Images

Tom Brady is like a lot of NFL fans: He loves watching Aaron Rodgers play football.

Brady’s Patriots and Rodgers’ Packers are one win away from meeting in the Super Bowl, and Brady said that for him, a Rodgers game is appointment television.

“I think he does things that no one in the league has ever done, or can do, just because of his physical ability,” Brady said on WEEI. “Some of the plays he makes are just — they’re just phenomenal. Not just the throws but the scrambles.”

Brady said he makes a point of watching the Packers, even if they’re on late and he has an early practice the next day.

“Everything really looks effortless with him, which is probably the amazing part. He’s definitely working hard, but he’s making hard look easy. It’s a very effortless style he plays with. The velocity of the ball, the placement of the ball, he’s just an incredible player. He works very hard at it, he’s a very talented player, and he’s just having an incredible season. It’s fun to watch him play I always love watching him play. Whenever he’s on, I usually stay up and watch.”

Brady may get to see Rodgers from the sideline in three weeks. A Brady vs. Rodgers Super Bowl would surely be a great game to stay up and watch.

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Ezekiel Elliott complains about lingering league investigation

ARLINGTON, TX - JANUARY 15:  Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones talks with Ezekiel Elliott #21 of the Dallas Cowboys before the NFC Divisional Playoff Game against the Green Bay Packers at AT&T Stadium on January 15, 2017 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) Getty Images

At a time when many wonder whether the NFL had been delaying the ongoing investigation regarding domestic violence claims against Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott to help the team, the man at the center of the probe is agitating for a final answer.

I do want closure,” Elliott said following Sunday’s playoff loss to the Packers, via Drew Davison of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “I do. I would rather them not drag it on as long. I think if there was something to find, which there’s not, they would’ve found it by now. The police did a very thorough investigation.

“I will tell you this — it just seems like they’re dragging their feet right now. Who knows, man? I just want it to end.”

Elliott’s lawyer made similar comments in late October; nearly three months later, the matter is still pending.

While his desire for exoneration is understandable, the absence of a decision is better than an adverse decision. And an adverse decision remains entirely possible, especially in light of the news that follow-up questions have been sent by the league to Elliott.

Regardless of whether police did a “very thorough investigation,” the NFL is operating under a much lower standard of proof. Unless/until Elliott’s alleged victim recants her claims, a he said/she said remains regarding whether he assaulted her. By seeking more information from Elliott, the league hopes either to check all boxes in order to prop up the conclusion that he did not violate the personal conduct policy or to get him to lock in to a version of the events that conflicts with something she said that allows the league to resolve the dispute in her favor and, in turn, come to the conclusion that she’s telling the truth.

That’s the core of the analysis here: Do the people at 345 Park Avenue responsible for the investigation believe Elliott, or do they believe the woman accusing him of violence? Complicating the situation is a variety of business factors, including the lingering P.R. concerns arising from the perception that the league is too soft on domestic violence (as exacerbated by the bungling of the Josh Brown case) and the very real possibility that Cowboys owner Jerry Jones will react much more strongly to a suspension of Elliott than Patriots owner Robert Kraft did when the league suspended quarterback Tom Brady.

It’s no easy spot for the league, which probably is one of the big reasons for the delay. The good news for Elliott is that, now that the team’s season has ended, the case can move toward a conclusion. The bad news is that he may not like how it concludes.

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Ravens owner would like fewer commercials on NFL broadcasts

BALTIMORE, MD - NOVEMBER 01: Team owner Steve Bisciotti of the Baltimore Ravens looks on before the Baltimore Ravens play the San Diego Chargers during the first half at M&T Bank Stadium on November 1, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) Getty Images

At least one NFL owner is willing to reduce the number of commercials on league TV broadcasts.

Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti says he thinks fans can get inundated with commercials, and that may be hurting the league’s TV ratings.

“It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that nobody wants to see two minutes of commercials, come back, kick the ball and then go to a minute-and-a-half of commercials,” Bisciotti said last week. “I’ve thought that was absurd since I was 20 years old.”

The question is whether fewer commercials would mean less money. Bisciotti believes it would be the players, not the owners, who would have the biggest problem with that, as a reduction in revenue would result in a lowered salary cap.

“We’ve got to figure that out,” Bisciotti said. “Again, if you change that, it could mean a reduction in income, but that’s going to hit the players more significantly than it’s going to hit the owners.”

Realistically, neither the players nor the owners are going to agree to reducing commercials if it would cost them money. But perhaps reducing commercials wouldn’t actually reduce revenues because it would lead to more people watching the game, and therefore the commercials that remain would become more valuable. Or perhaps there are other ways to increase revenues during game broadcasts through sponsorships that don’t bring the game to a halt like commercial breaks do. Bisciotti’s idea deserves more thought.

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Pete Carroll admits to injury-reporting violation

SEATTLE, WA - JANUARY 07:  National Football League commissioner Roger Goodell (L) talks with head coach Pete Carroll of the Seattle Seahawks before the NFC Wild Card game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Detroit Lions at CenturyLink Field on January 7, 2017 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images) Getty Images

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll accidentally wandered into quicksand on Monday during a radio appearance, admitting that cornerback Richard Sherman played for much of the year with an MCL injury to his knee that never was disclosed. At his end-of-season press conference conducted later in the day, Carroll admitted to the violation.

“I didn’t realize that we hadn’t even revealed it,” Carroll told reporters, via the transcript generated by the team. “I don’t even remember what game it was, it was somewhere in the middle, he was fine about it, he didn’t miss anything. Same with Russell [Wilson], he was fine about it. I don’t know how they do that, but they did.”

Carroll seems to believe that, because Sherman never missed practice or game time due to the injury, the injury didn’t need to be disclosed.

“He never missed anything, just like Russell [Wilson], Russell never missed anything and Tyler [Lockett], they all had it during the course of the season and they just made it through it,” Carroll said, overlooking the fact that Russell’s MCL injury was properly disclosed. “They never complained, they didn’t want to miss a practice and they basically didn’t miss anything but they were legit, it was legit injury, it showed up and the whole thing. That’s a challenge for anyone. Guys over the league are going through the same thing, our guys just happen to be doing it as well.”

None of this changes the fact that the Seahawks failed to disclose the injury.

“I’m feeling like I screwed that up with not telling you that,” Carroll eventually conceded. “He was OK, so I don’t know, he never missed anything I guess is probably why.”

Still, that’s not the standard. Plenty of players who never miss practice or games nevertheless are disclosed on the injury report. While the league rarely slaps a team for violating the rules, the league rarely has such clear evidence of a violation fall into its lap.

Coupled with a pair of offseason workout violations from the past three offseason, the NFL could be inclined to take potentially significant action against a team that has developed a pattern of breaking the rules. Or, perhaps more accurately given the prevalence of cheating in the NFL, that the Seahawks have developed a pattern of getting caught.

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Jets sign Brian Winters to four-year extension

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - OCTOBER 23:   Brian Winters #67 of the New York Jets in action against  James Hurst #74 of the Baltimore Ravens during their game at MetLife Stadium on October 23, 2016 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Jets won’t let right guard Brian Winters hit the open market as a free agent this offseason.

The team announced on Monday evening that Winters has signed a four-year extension with the team. No financial terms were included in the announcement, but multiple reports peg the value at around $8 million per year.

Winters was a third-round pick in 2013 and has started 41 games over his four seasons with the team. Thirteen of those starts came in 2016, although he ended the season on injured reserve thanks to a torn rotator cuff.

Winters turned in good work when he was healthy and his return gives the Jets some certainty at an uncertain spot for the group. Four players ended the year on injured reserve and veteran tackles Breno Giacomini and Ryan Clady could be moving on. Brandon Shell, a 2015 fifth-round pick, likely fits in somewhere, but center Nick Mangold’s $9 million cap number has led to discussion about his future with the team.

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Texans part ways with George Godsey

HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 30:  Brock Osweiler #17 of the Houston Texans talks with offensive coordinator George Godsey on the sideline in the fourth quarter against the Detroit Lions at NRG Stadium on October 30, 2016 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images) Getty Images

At a time when some have been wondering whether the Texans will have a mutual parting with coach Bill O’Brien, the team has indeed experienced a mutual parting, but one level down from the top of the coaching staff.

The Texans have announced that they have parted ways with offensive coordinator George Godsey.

“I’m grateful for the tireless work ethic and contributions George has made to our team over the last three years,” O’Brien said in a team-issued release. “I wish him nothing but the best in the future.”

Earlier in the day, O’Brien hinted that changes could come at the offensive coordinator position.

“We’re looking at everything,” O’Brien told reporters. “Look, George does a lot of good stuff for me — every coach does. I have even met with Bob [McNair] yet. I haven’t met with Rick [Smith] yet. We look at everything. Every coach is evaluated. I’m evaluated. I haven’t even heard about my evaluation from the owner. Look, I expect to be here next year, but we will begin the evaluation process here in a minute. Now, don’t take that and run with it, either. I’m going to be the head coach here next year. Again, just trying to inject some humor into it, but again it will be a headline. Everything is evaluated and that’s the process that starts here this afternoon.”

Apparently, the end result of the evaluation process was that O’Brien will return. He’ll return with a new offensive coordinator.

To make a quality hire, O’Brien will have to convince the person to whom he offers the job that it will be an assignment that lasts more than one season. Given that every joke has a kernel of truth, that may not be easy to do.

Given that the Texans are tied to Brock Osweiler for another season, it may be even more difficult to do.

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Bill Belichick isn’t worried about videos on “Instant Chat”

FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 14:  Bill Belichick head coach of the New England Patriots looks on in the first half against the Houston Texans during the AFC Divisional Playoff Game at Gillette Stadium on January 14, 2017 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images) Getty Images

Patriots coach Bill Belichick has some stock responses for questions from the media that have become well-worn parts of his public image at this point in his career.

The advent of social media added a few new ones to Belichick’s repertoire, particularly when it comes to using the wrong names for well-known companies that operate in that space. The video posted by Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown from the team’s locker room on Facebook after Sunday’s win that featured Mike Tomlin telling his team to get their minds on the AFC title game because the a-holes in New England have had an extra day to prepare.

“As you know I’m not on Snap Face and all those,” Belichick said on WEEI on Monday afternoon. “I’m not too worried what they put on Instant Chat.”

Should Belichick watch the video, chances are he isn’t going to be too shocked by anything that goes on given how long he’s been in the game and that nothing’s going to change his mind about being a more active Face Page user.

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Divisional-round ratings down three percent

ARLINGTON, TX - JANUARY 15:  Dak Prescott #4 of the Dallas Cowboys throws a pass during the third quarter against the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Divisional Playoff game at AT&T Stadium on January 15, 2017 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) Getty Images

Even with one of the four divisional-round games moved from 1:00 p.m. ET to prime-time, the ratings for the quartet of contests fell behind last year’s numbers.

Sure, it was only a three-percent reduction. But it was a reduction nonetheless.

Via SportsBusiness Daily, the spike from Packers-Cowboys was offset by drops arising from the Steelers-Chiefs, Seahawks-Falcons, and Texans-Patriots. The Saturday night game between Houston and New England was down 10 percent over last year’s Saturday night classic between the Packers and Cardinals.

The next ratings test comes Sunday, when the Packers and the Falcons and the Steelers and the Patriots square off in the conference finals. Last year, the Patriots-Broncos averaged 53.3 million viewers, and Cardinals-Panthers had an average viewership of 45.7 million.

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NFL declines comment on Seahawks’ failure to disclose Richard Sherman injury

ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 14:  Richard Sherman #25 of the Seattle Seahawks stands on the field prior to the game against the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome on January 14, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) Getty Images

Amazingly, the Seahawks blatantly violated the rules of the NFL’s injury reports by concealing a knee injury to cornerback Richard Sherman. Even more amazingly, coach Pete Carroll freely admitted to it.

Not surprisingly, the NFL is saying nothing about it. Reached by PFT for comment on the situation, the NFL had none.

Actually, that’s a little surprising. In past situations like this, the league has at times acknowledged that it is reviewing the matter. In this case, the league hasn’t even gone that far. (The league took a similar approach when Raiders guard Kelechi Osemele was a surprise scratch on a Thursday night due to an illness that was not previously disclosed by the team.)

One league source expressed outrage over the Sherman situation, pointing out that deliberate failure to comply with injury-reporting rules compromises the integrity of the game in a significant way.

“They flat-out lied week after week to the league and the public,” the source said. “How is that different from any of the Patriots’ ‘-gates’?”

As the NFL prepares to authorize the relocation of the Raiders to Las Vegas, full compliance with the injury-reporting rules becomes paramount to the integrity of and public confidence in professional football. Transparency regarding potential violations becomes even more important, since the public needs to know when teams have been caught cheating when it comes to the injury reports.

Unless, of course, cheating on the injury reports is so widespread that the league doesn’t want the public (or the public servants who work in Congress) to realize that the violations are sufficiently rampant to amount to inherent corruption.

It’s frankly impossible to know whether and to what extent violations have occurred if the NFL’s position is going to be to say “no comment” and move on, hopeful that everyone else will move on, too.

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