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Laying down the law is one thing, though. Enforcing it in such an arbitrary manner is another.

This wasn’t Joe Horn pulling out a phone after scoring a touchdown for New Orleans in 2003 and calling from the end zone to tell his wife and kids about it. That act _ part of a string of over-the-top touchdown celebrations that the NFL promptly cracked down on _ cost Horn $30,000 and may have been the most expensive phone call ever.

This was simply a player wanting his family not to worry.

Sure, Polamalu should have gone somewhere else to make the call. He wasn’t returning to the game anyway, so the locker room would have been the more appropriate place to let his loved ones know he was fine.

But in a league that has been patting itself on the back recently for taking steps to prevent concussions, the NFL sent out the wrong message by disciplining a player who had just had his bell rung. It was a rare misstep for the NFL, which has been on a public relations roll ever since proving it can be flexible in reaching a 10-year labor agreement with players.

Polamalu will play Sunday against Arizona after passing a series of concussion tests. It’s a safe bet he stays off the phone, no matter how hard he’s hit.

Because in the NFL, as Polamalu found out, talk isn’t cheap.


Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at tdahlberg(at) or follow at htttp://