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Former Bronco Tatum Bell: Papa's got a brand new bag

Tatum Bell.

On yesterday's episode of ESPN's Pardon the Interruption, hosts Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon debated a bizarre story that had surfaced about former Denver Broncos running back Tatum Bell; shortly after being cut by his most recent team, the Detroit Lions, Bell was captured on video taking the bags of Rudi Johnson, the player who wound up with his roster spot. The bags were subsequently returned sans their contents, including $200 in cash and some credit cards, plus socks and underwear -- and Johnson cried "J'accuse!" Wilbon, too: He said that if a credible explanation didn't surface quickly, someone -- presumably Bell -- would be going to jail.

Seriously? Don't know what they're drinking over at PTI, but one sip would probably leave most of us snockered.

An item in today's Denver Post by Bronco scribe Mike Klis suggests that if anyone's a thief, it's not Bell. According to Bell's agent, the back was asked by another recently cut player, Victor DeGrate, to pick up his bag, and when Bell saw one near DeGrate's locker, he grabbed it, not realizing that it belonged to Johnson. He subsequently dropped off the luggage at the home of a DeGrate acquaintance -- and that was the last he thought about it until Johnson started implying in the press that Bell was Winona Ryder in shoulder pads.

As a Bronco, Bell had a case of fumble-itis, not kleptomania -- and there's little to suggest that his failure to make the Lions' final lineup transformed him into a felon. We've seen enough criminals in orange and blue, as this recent roundup of arrested Broncos can attest -- so we should be able to tell the difference. -- Michael Roberts

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts