Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert
It's a good thing we're a little slow on the uptake today. (Long story.)
We were halfway through a post suggesting that former Detroit running back Tatum Bell was either the most naïve or the most brazen NFL player we had ever heard of. How else could you have explained his broad-daylight swipe of Rudi Johnson's bags Tuesday from the Lions' locker room, an incident the Lions' security staff captured on video?
NFL practice facilities are more secure than your local bank. Surveillance cameras, locked doors and 10-foot-high fences are standard. Teams usually provide an escort to all visitors. Player entrances are as obscure as a presidential hideout, and even the FedEx guy is viewed with suspicion.
A five-year veteran, Bell would have to know that someone is always watching when you're in an NFL locker room. We couldn't understand how a rational person could be so brazen. But thanks to the Detroit Free Press, we now have what is at least a reasonable explanation, one with enough details that it could be checked out pretty easily.
According to the Free Press, Bell said he had agreed to pick up two bags for ex-Lions defensive end Victor DeGrate, who was released Saturday. Bell said he saw two bags sitting on the floor, assumed they were DeGrate's and grabbed them. He denied opening the bags, let alone taking anything from them.
Bell dropped the bags off with a female friend of DeGrate's. The woman returned the bags to the Lions on Wednesday morning, but they were empty. Johnson is still missing $200, his identification, credit cards and clothes.
Plenty of questions remain. What made Bell think the bags were DeGrate's? Where are Johnson's belongings? And what kind of an omen is it for Johnson that he was cleaned out on his first official day with the Lions?
Johnson has made clear he isn't buying Bell's story. It's not up to us to take a side one way or the other, and in fact the Lions might be the biggest loser in the deal. This incident is the kind of flashy, transcendent story that figures to dominate public attention for at least a couple of news cycles.
Instead of talking about a 4-0 preseason, their explosive pair of wide receivers and a very winnable game Sunday at Atlanta, the Lions are addressing a possible player-on-player crime. I think we have an early nomination for next season's "Hard Knocks" series. You can't find better reality TV than this.