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Sidney, Ben, Tim, Ryan,Todd

Sidney Crosby has concussion-like symptoms. Not a concussion. He completed the tests that reveal whether or not someone is concussed and showed no signs of a new concussion. He has symptoms.

If you want to tell yourself that it’s not that bad, you might be right to do so. A concussion is an injury, concussion-like symptoms are not. The fickle nature of Sidney Crosby’s brain means he could feel great in a day, but it might also take a week, month, or longer. Sid seems to believe that he isn’t back to where he was in January, where the results of his imPACT test showed an extensive brain injury. That said, it’s impossible to say when he’ll come back. It’s hard for me to imagine that he’ll play much less than three or four weeks after he begins feeling better. He thought he was extra cautious before and it took him six weeks after being cleared for contact to return to game action. Speaking of cleared for contact – I have no idea if he has been, uh, “uncleared” for contact or not. I don’t know how this is going to go, and that’s frustrating.

But perhaps most frustrating is there is no telling what triggered this. Looking back in last Monday’s game against the Bruins – the last game Sid played – there doesn’t appear to be any particular incident that would lead to Sid feeling groggy the next day. He collided hard with teammate Chris Kunitz but at no point did his head appear to be traumatized. Crosby’s brain doctors claimed in August that once Sid’s injury was healed he would be at no greater risk than anyone else to suffer further concussions or concussion-related issues. So was Sid not fully healed?  Despite the ability of doctors to put a patient through a battery of tests and take images of the brain can they not tell with certainty that a concussion is healed short of opening up the patient’s head and actually looking at it?

I’m going to keep telling myself that it isn’t a concussion, only concussion-like symptoms, and hope.

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But of course Sidney Crosby isn’t the only notable Pittsburgh athlete to be banged up. Ben Roethlisberger and his Stretch Armstrong ankle are probably on a couch somewhere in Allegheny County wondering along with the rest of us if he’ll be on the field next Monday in San Francisco. It’s too early to tell if he’ll even be able to put a shoe on in a week, much less play a game, but assuming he can play, should he? I think the answer has as much to do with what happens Sunday as it does with how Roethlisberger’s ankle is feeling. The Steelers are currently fifth in the AFC, two games ahead of the 8-5 Jets for the sixth playoff spot, meaning they are all but guaranteed a playoff berth. All that’s left to be determined is the seeding. At 10-3, the Steelers are tied with the Ravens in terms of win-loss but lose the head-to-head tiebreaker, meaning the Steelers need help from Baltimore in order to win the division. The Ravens travel to San Diego next week to face the playoff-hopeful Chargers for what appears to be their last challenging game of the year (week 16 they get Cleveland, week 17 Cincinnati).

If Baltimore beats San Diego there is no earthly reason to believe they’ll lose in either week 16 or 17 and the Steelers will almost definitely finish as the fifth seed. But in the event the Chargers pull the upset next Sunday night – which is a fair possibility – the Steelers will have the chance to usurp the division lead from the Ravens by beating the Niners Monday night and (assuming they can handle the Rams and Browns in the last two weeks) likely wind up with the #1 seed in the conference.

I think it’s fairly unlikely Ben will play next week. But I think the odds of him playing increase dramatically if the Chargers upset the Ravens and open the door for the Steelers to take over the division.

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Tim Tebow and the Broncos won again yesterday in typically Tebowian fashion. I’m not going to break down the full play-by-play of what happened, but they won, and Tebow was a part of it. I didn’t see the game (CBS was kindly bringing the Packers-Raiders slaughtering into my home, for some reason) but when I saw that the Broncos came back from 10-0 with under five minutes left in the game I switched immediately to ESPN to find Trend Dilfer and Tom Jackson fanning each other in an effort to keep themselves conscious. Their excitement over what Tebow had just done had them beside themselves. They even brought the Adam Schefterbot in to try to help them make sense of what they’d seen. I thought I’d missed one of the great moments in NFL history.

It turns out the Broncos won because (chronologically): 1) Marion Barber doesn’t know that stepping out of bounds inside of two minutes with the lead and the opposition has zero time outs left is stupid. 2) Matt Prater has a bionic leg and kicked a 59 yard field goal in subfreezing conditions. 3) Marion Barber cannot hang on to a football in the most crucial moment of a game (overtime with your team just about in field goal range) and fumbled possession to the Broncos. 4) Matt Prater’s bionic leg is still bionic.

I’ll give Tebow credit for the seven play, 63-yard touchdown drive that cut the Bear lead to 10-7. Beyond that this game was nothing more than a Chicago meltdown of the highest order. Tebow only drove the Broncos 39 yards in eight plays to set up Prater’s ridiculous 59-yarder at the end of regulation, and 33 yards in nine plays for Prater’s 51-yarder. That’s 72 yards in 17 plays. I’m sorry,  but that’s just not very good. If the Broncos don’t have an absolutely great kicker this game is nothing more than a loss in which the losing team’s starting quarterback only plays a four-minute game.

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Ryan Braun, the NL MVP, tested positive for performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) over the weekend and faces a 50-game suspension pending an appeal. I saw some Pirate fans on twitter combining this news with Albert Pujols’ departure from the Cardinals as some sort of serendipitous occurrence that will result in the Pirates somehow winning the N.L. Central next year.

Somehow I don’t think Ryan Braun and Albert Pujols leaving the division will help the Bucs win more than 70 games next year.

Also, there has been some talk about whether or not Braun will get to keep his MVP award. The MVP is awarded by the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWA) and they own the award, meaning Bud Selig and the MLB ultimately have no say in this matter. It’s interesting, though, because if the BBWA did choose to strip Braun of the award it would set an interesting precedent when it comes to steroid users and the Hall of Fame. How would the writers (most of whom vote for both the MVP and the HOF) be able to justify casting Hall of Fame votes for Bonds, McGwire, Sosa, Rodriguez, Pettite, etc. if they stripped Braun of his MVP? Taking away Braun’s MVP would be an acknowledgement by the BBWA that they disapprove of steroid use, and it might close the door on some very prominent figures’ Hall of Fame candidacies.

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Todd Haley was fired today, one-year removed from winning his division. The Chiefs are 5-8 this season, which is bad, but still better than eight other teams in the NFL that haven’t fired their coaches. And I highly doubt any of those eight teams are playing without their first and second string quarterbacks, All-Pro safety, and Pro-Bowl running back. I don’t know what the Chiefs’ front-office expects Haley to do with Tyler Palko as his starting quarterback and Dwayne Bowe as his #1 offensive playmaker.

I don’t know why this bothers me, but it does. Haley won his division last year and had his team decimated by injuries this year. I think being 5-8 is actually a pretty decent accomplishment, all things considered. There was a chance – not a very good one, but still a chance – that the Chiefs could finish 8-8. Why not give him the last three weeks to see what he could do? And why give up on a guy who has proven that he can lead a team into the playoffs? Do the Chiefs really believe there is someone better sitting around that can take his spot? If so, do they have him yet? Because if not I can’t really understand this.

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