Earl Thomas injury could have ripple effects in Pittsburgh
Any hope of recalcitrant running back Le'Veon Bell returning to the football field in the black and gold — or any other team's colors — any time soon took a major hit when Seattle star safety Earl Thomas broke his lower left leg, illustrating the dangers of playing without the security of a long-term deal.
Thomas and Bell each held out this summer, but while Bell continued to work out on his own, Thomas returned to the Seahawks in time for the season opener without a trade or a new contract in hand.,
That move didn't pay off financially or otherwise.
He got hurt in a game at Arizona, and when he was carted off the field at State Farm Stadium, he raised his middle finger toward the Seahawks' sideline.
"Earl wanted an extension and at the end of the day he didn't get that," Seahawks defensive end Frank Clark said. "It sucks to see a guy who puts his heart into something, put his all into his team and he doesn't get what he deserves."
Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner said in an Instagram post, "If he doesn't come then he's not a team player. If he does come and gets hurt, then it's 'he shouldn't have came.' If I was him, I'd be (ticked) off."
ESPN posted the quote and a photo of Thomas' obscene gesture, and that's when Bell chimed in , suggesting he wouldn't be back on the field anytime soon.
"Smh, exactly ..." wrote Bell. "Get right bro bro (Earl Thomas)! I'll continue to be the 'bad guy' for ALL of us."
Bell has refused to sign his $14.54 million one-year tender, concerned that he'd get overused in a contract year, either subjecting him to the risk of injury or to a devaluation of his talents.
NFL Network reported earlier Sunday that the Steelers were shopping Bell.
Trading him is a tricky proposition because Bell would have to first sign his tender. Because he can't negotiate a long-term deal until after this season, he'd still be taking on the injury risk with a new team.
Bell can return in Week 10 and still accrue a full season to become a free agent in March.
Other takeaways from Week 4 include a fourth-down gamble that backfired on Colts coach Frank Reich, the "Big Four" rookie QBs going 0-4 Sunday after the hype meter cranked up to high last week and the Ravens tricking the Steelers and the officials on a trick play in their 26-14 win over Pittsburgh.
FIT TO BE TIED
Reich earned kudos from both his players and the Texans for his decision to go for it on fourth-and-4 from his 43 with 27 seconds left in overtime rather than punt, bury Houston deep and settle for the NFL's third tie game.
"We're not playing to tie," Reich insisted after his decision led to a 37-34 overtime loss instead. "We're going for that 10 times out of 10. That (play) has just got to work."
With his favorite target, T.Y. Hilton, on the sideline with a hamstring injury and a short week ahead with the New England Patriots on tap Thursday night, Andrew Luck bounced his pass to Chester Rogers.
The Texans took over and Ka'imi Fairbairn missed a 37-yard field goal as overtime expired. But wait! In yet another call that backfired, Reich had called timeout.
Fairbairn nailed the do-over to end the league's longest losing streak at nine.
Reich's only regret was calling timeout before the fourth-and-4 play after the Texans didn't jump offside, he said.
Luck's only lament was misfiring the pass, but he loved the bold call.
"It had my stamp of approval," Luck said. "We did not execute well enough."
COOL YOUR JETS
After a dominant debut against Detroit in the Jets' opener, Sam Darnold has cooled off in three straight defeats, including a listless loss at Jacksonville on Sunday.
A week after being hailed as a hero for leading Cleveland to its first win since 2016 by rallying the Browns over the Jets in relief of an injured Tyrod Taylor, Baker Mayfield had four turnovers in his first NFL start, a 45-42 overtime loss to the Raiders.
Mayfield threw for 295 yards and two touchdowns but suffered a pick-6, got strip sacked, fumbled a snap and threw an interception in the final seconds of regulation.
"You don't want to rein him in," coach Hue Jackson said, "because I like the things he's doing."
Josh Rosen had a strong debut in his first start for Arizona but it wasn't enough to keep the Cardinals from falling to 0-4 for the first time since 1986.
Josh Allen accounted for three turnovers in the Bills' 22-0 loss at Green Bay a week after a stunning win at heavily favored Minnesota in his starting debut.
"I take this one on my shoulders," Allen said. "We can only go as far as the quarterback goes."
TRICK OR TREAT
Baltimore coach John Harbaugh was furious when the Patriots fooled the Ravens in the playoffs a few years ago with a trick play to an eligible receiver who looked like he was lined up as an offensive lineman.
The Ravens stole that idea from New England eight months later and unwrapped it again Sunday to fool the Steelers.
Tight end Maxx Williams lined up next to the center as the left guard but just far enough off the line of scrimmage to make himself an eligible receiver. He was wide open for a 22-yard gain that set up a field goal for a 23-14 lead.
Retired referee Terry McAulay, now an NBC Sports rules analyst, said Williams probably shouldn't have been an eligible receiver on the play, but no flag was thrown.
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With contributions from AP Pro Football Writer Dennis Waszak Jr. and AP Sports Writer Michael Marot.
Follow Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter: http://twitter.com/arniestapleton