NFL knows how to do drama

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The NFL knows drama, on and off the field.

During a season played in the shadow of a potential labor stoppage _ yes, folks, possibly no pro football in 2011 _ the headlines have shifted from the sports sections to the gossip pages and even to the police blotters.

Placed in the spotlight as much for news away from the games as for what they could and would do playing were such big names as Ben Roethlisberger, Brett Favre, Randy Moss and Braylon Edwards.

Any season has its plots and subplots but this season’s story lines have ranged from unsettling to bizarre to bewildering.

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ROETHLISBERGER RETURNS _ The two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback was suspended from the Pittsburgh Steelers for six games in April by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell following allegations that Roethlisberger sexually assaulted a Georgia college student in March. The case brought no criminal charges against him, and Roethlisberger proclaimed his innocence.

Just before the season, Goodell shortened Roethlisberger’s ban to four games, citing the quarterback’s new commitment to making good decisions.

Before the season, the common wisdom was that the Steelers would be lucky to be 2-2 when he returned. Surprise, surprise. Pittsburgh went an impressive 3-1 without their QB and currently look as strong as any team.

FAVRE‘S FIASCOES _ First, there were three Vikings players being dispatched to Mississippi during training camp to recruit Favre. They succeeded, and he returned to Minnesota for his 20th season in the league and second with the team.

Next, the Vikes plummeted toward the bottom of the standings while Favre searched for a deep threat with WR Sidney Rice sidelined. Then came a Deadspin report that Favre, while playing for the Jets in 2008, sent lewd photos and inappropriate text messages to Jenn Sterger, a game hostess for the team.

Enough? Hardly.

Already bothered by tendinitis in his right elbow, Favre then sustained two fractures in his left foot against his other former team, the Packers. That led to a week of speculation whether he could play at New England and extend his incredible record of consecutive starts to 292. He played, of course _ only to leave midway through the fourth quarter with a gash in his chin that required 10 stitches.

Oh yeah, Minnesota got Favre his deep threat, which leads us to …

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