ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports that the NFL has chosen Scott Green as the referee for Super Bowl XLIV. Green became the subject of controversy last month when he refereed the Cardinals-Packers divisional round game.
Scott Green tabbed as Super Bowl ref
Former Dolphins QB Dan Marino held his annual walk to raise funds and awareness for autism initiatives.
Some Patriots newcomers are getting their first taste of the Super Bowl.
A rundown of early draft projections for the Jets.
The Bengals have started their draft prep.
There are plenty of ties between the Browns and the Falcons.
How attractive is the Colts’ General Manager job?
Assessing how excited people should be about the Jaguars’ coaching moves.
The Titans drafted four Senior Bowl participants last year.
The top Broncos special teams plays of the 2016 season.
A look at how the Chiefs’ roster was put together.
Former Raiders QB Marques Tuiasosopo is expected to be on the coaching staff at the University of California.
A few NFLPA Collegiate Bowl participants who might interest the Chargers.
Former Giants DB Bennett Jackson is trying to get back into the NFL.
Taking issue with some of the Eagles’ team-building decisions.
The Redskins hope familiarity with defensive coordinator Greg Manusky helps lead to better results.
What was the best offensive play of the year for the Vikings?
Some positions for the Saints to watch during the Senior Bowl.
Which free agents will the Buccaneers work hardest to retain?
A win over the Rams started the Falcons on a winning streak that continued on Sunday.
The 49ers will have to wait a little longer for Kyle Shanahan.
There weren’t many Packers left standing by the end of the game.
But the fact that wide receiver Jordy Nelson played at all was amazing to his teammates, and moving.
Via Jason Wilde of the Wisconsin State Journal, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers was emotional, and had to pause to compose himself when asked about Nelson’s return to play in the NFC Championship Game after being injured in the Wild Card Round against the Giants.
“I’m so proud of Jordy,” Rodgers said. “It’s incredible that he was out there.”
Nelson didn’t play last week against the Cowboys, and was wearing a Kevlar vest and enough padding to make him look like the Michelin man, but had six receptions for 67 yards and a touchdown in the loss to the Falcons.
“All along I was planning on [playing], all the way back from the Giants game, to be honest with you. I was able to get the nod and go out there and play,” Nelson said. “Everyone at this point in the league is doing it. You play as many games as we do, everyone’s going to be banged up. When it comes to playoff time, everyone has to gut it out and do what they can to be on the field and make plays.”
The injuries got ridiculous for the Packers late in the game, as wide receivers Davante Adams (ankle) and Geronimo Allison (hamstring) were playing despite being limited last week. All three were on the bench late in the game, when it was out of reach.
They also lost three starting offensive linemen to injuries during the game [Left guard Lane Taylor (knee), right guard T.J. Lang (foot), and right tackle Bryan Bulaga (possible concussion)] and had to use defensive tackle Letroy Guion at guard to finish the game.
“It’s never easy to watch your players get injured, especially if it’s in a serious nature. Frankly, I’m a little numb to it,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “This is kind of how we’ve had to deal with it. We’ve been able to overcome it. Today, we could not.”
Cornerback Sam Shields only played in one game for the Packers this season as a concussion in Week One turned into a season-ending injury for the veteran.
It was the second concussion in less than a year for Shields and he said on Sunday that he’s still having occasional headaches, but neither they nor the long absence from the lineup this season have done anything to dissuade him from continuing his playing career.
“I’m thinking it’s not over. I’ve still got more [football] in me,” Shields said, via the Wisconsin State Journal. “I understand why you ask that. I don’t know. I just love the game, man, and I feel that I can get back out there and play.”
Shields may need to do that in a different uniform. Shields is under contract for next season, but the Packers can save $9 million in cap space if they were to move on and they may prefer more certainty as they try to build a more effective cornerback unit for next season.
We’re a game away from the end of the season, and from knowing the order of next season’s draft.
After yesterday’s conference championship games, the order is almost filled in for the 2017 NFL Draft.
The Packers will pick 29th after their 10-6 regular season, while the Steelers (11-5) will pick 30th. The loser of the Super Bowl will take the 31st spot, while the winner picks 32nd.
There will be a coin flip for the 14th and 15th spot between the Colts and Eagles.
The 2017 NFL Draft will be held April 27-29 in Philadelphia, with the order for the first round as follows:
1. Cleveland 1-15
2. San Francisco 2-14
3 .Chicago 3-13
4. Jacksonville 3-13
5. Tennessee (from Los Angeles) 4-12
6. New York Jets 5-11
7. San Diego 5-11
8. Carolina 6-10
9. Cincinnati 6-9-1
10. Buffalo 7-9
11. New Orleans 7-9
12. Cleveland (from Philadelphia) 7-9
13. Arizona 7-8-1
t14. Indianapolis 8-8
t14. Philadelphia (from Minnesota) 8-8
16. Baltimore 8-8
17. Washington 8-7-1
18. Tennessee 9-7
19. Tampa Bay 9-7
20. Denver 9-7
21. Detroit 9-7
22. Miami 10-6
23. New York Giants 11-5
24. Oakland 12-4
25. Houston 9-7
26. Seattle 10-5-1
27. Kansas City 12-4
28. Dallas 13-3
29. Green Bay 10-6
30. Pittsburgh 11-5
Steelers linebacker James Harrison retired for a while before returning to action in 2014 and took a little time after last season ended before he declared he’d be back for a 14th NFL season, but he was more certain of what he wants to do in the wake of Sunday’s 36-17 loss to the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game.
Harrison said after the game that “I’m not done,” which suggests he’ll be back to work later this year. Harrison led the team with five sacks in the regular season and added 2.5 more in the playoffs while also drawing a key holding penalty on Eric Fisher in Pittsburgh’s win over the Chiefs.
Harrison admitted that the year took a toll on him physically, but expects to be feeling fine in short order.
“A few little dinks and bruises here and there, but other than that I feel fine,” Harrison said, via ESPN and NFL.com. “Time will heal all of that.”
Harrison doesn’t have a contract for 2017, but it’s a good bet that he and the Steelers will be able to work something out that ensures he’ll be back on the edge of their defense again next season.
After spending last year out of football, former 49ers head coach Jim Tomsula found himself in demand.
Via Carol Maloney of NBC4, Washington is hiring Tomsula as defensive line coach.
The deal is apparently not finalized yet, but would reunite him with defensive coordinator Greg Manusky and General Manager Scot McCloughan, former 49ers co-workers.
Tomsula also interviewed with the Saints for a line coach job.
He went 5-11 in his one season as the 49ers head coach, beginning a rapid descent for the team after the Jim Harbaugh years. Things actually got worse under chip Kelly, as they went 2-14 last year.
When the result of Sunday’s AFC Championship Game was well in hand, the crowd at Gillette Stadium began chanting “Roger, Roger, Roger” in reference to the absent NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
Goodell opted to attend the NFC title game on Sunday and has not been at Gillette Stadium since DeflateGate was launched, something that the crowd referenced with a slightly different chant. With a helping hand from Patriots radio announcer Scott Zolak, the crowd broke into “Where is Roger?”
Quarterback Tom Brady, who served a four-game suspension this year after a protracted battle in the courts, was asked about the chants after the game, but claimed he only heard the crowd singing earlier in the game.
“I didn’t hear that chant,” Brady said. “I did hear them singing to Bon Jovi though, that was pretty cool.”
Tight end Martellus Bennett feigned ignorance at who Roger was before being told Goodell was the subject of the chants.
“Oh yeah,” Bennett said, via CSNNE.com. “Where is he? He’s like Waldo right now. He didn’t want to come here.”
It’s a good bet that a fair number of Patriots fans will make the trip to Houston for Super Bowl LI and they won’t have to ask where Goodell is come gameday, but it’s a good bet they’ll find a way to express their displeasure with the Commissioner all the same.
Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell said the groin injury that knocked him out of last night’s AFC Championship Game had been bothering him for weeks.
Last night, it became more than he could bear.
“I had no burst anymore,” Bell said, via Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com.
Bell ran five times, left limping, and tried to come back for a sixth. He finished with 20 yards. He said the injury became worse on his second carry, and he could tell he wasn’t himself.
“I felt like I was holding the team back,” Bell said. “It’s real disappointing. We work so hard to get here. I felt like I had done a lot to help us get here. To not play and not go to battle with my teammates, it hurt.”
If Bell was hurting previously it was hard to tell, as he had 167 yards against the Dolphins and 170 against the Chiefs in the playoffs, on a combined 59 carries.
That followed a remarkable regular season in which he had 1,884 yards from scrimmage on 335 touches, despite missing three games with a suspension and sitting out Week 17.
When the Patriots began their game against the Steelers, the NFC representative in the Super Bowl already was known. As a practical matter, it was known a couple of hours before kickoff.
One of the few figures in the football-following world who didn’t know was Patriots coach Bill Belichick.
“No, I mean I didn’t even know they won,” Belichick told reporters when asked for his early impressions regarding facing the Falcons in the Super Bowl. “We didn’t see the first game. Obviously they’re a great team or they wouldn’t be playing in this game. They’ve had a great year.”
Asked later whether the team deliberately avoided the Packers-Falcons game, Belichick gave a pragmatic answer: “Yeah, we were focused on this game. I mean that game, if we didn’t win this game then that game didn’t make any difference.”
While it’s entirely possible that Belichick sufficiently walled himself off from the results of the early game, surely he asked and/or someone told him between the time his game ended and his press conference started. So maybe something like “I just found out they won” would have been more accurate and less arguably dismissive of the Falcons.
The Falcons are used to being dismissed, and they’ll surely be scouring all quotes and comments over the next 13 days for evidence that people are continuing to overlook them in order to push the buttons on players and coaches who have accomplished many great things while most have shrugged.
No player has played in seven Super Bowls. No head coach has coached in seven Super Bowls. Until now.
Super Bowl LI will be Super Bowl No. 7 for Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and coach Bill Belichick, setting a new NFL record.
Brady is currently tied with former Bills and Broncos defensive lineman Mike Lodish for the most Super Bowls played, with six. Brady owns that record for himself with the first snap he takes on Super Bowl Sunday.
Belichick is currently tied with former Colts and Dolphins coach Don Shula for the most Super Bowls coached, with six. Belichick owns that record for himself when Super Bowl LI kicks off.
If the Patriots win, Belichick also becomes the first head coach ever to win five Super Bowls. Belichick is currently tied with former Steelers coach Chuck Noll, with four Super Bowls won. And Brady, with a win, would join former 49ers and Cowboys outside linebacker Charles Haley as the only players to earn five Super Bowl rings.
Belichick and Brady are a pairing like no other.
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has plenty of playoff experience, but a lot of his teammates don’t. And Roethlisberger thinks that may have been the Steelers’ problem in their loss to the Patriots on Sunday.
Asked what the biggest difference in the game was, Roethlisberger answered, “It just at times almost felt like it was almost too big for some of the young guys.”
“It’s a little frustrating because we talk about sometimes it’s just one play here, one play there and tonight we didn’t make those plays,” Roethlisberger said. “Was it too big? Was it just a, I don’t know. We need to make every single play in a game like this against an opponent like this.”
Roethlisberger also made a point of saying he likes the players the Steelers have and doesn’t think they need to acquire anyone else, so he wasn’t exactly calling out his teammates. But he was saying that inexperience showed for some of the younger players on the Steelers, and that’s why their season ended.
Many believed that the Patriots would design a game plan aimed at taking away Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell. The Patriots didn’t have to.
A groin injury limited Bell to 11 snaps on Sunday night, carrying the ball six times for 20 yards.
After the game, coach Mike Tomlin was asked whether the injury changed the offensive strategy.
“No question,” Tomlin said, “but like I said, injuries are part of the game. We didn’t do a good enough job or a quick enough job adapting to the circumstance.”
The Steelers got away from running the ball, in part because they fell behind. DeAngelo Williams carried 14 times for 34 yards with a long of 15. Which means that his 13 other carries generated 19 yards.
Of course, a defense that performed like it usually does against Tom Brady didn’t help, forcing the Steelers to throw in order to close a gap that kept getting bigger and bigger.
The Super Bowl participants have been locked and loaded. In 14 days, the Patriots and Falcons will square off.
So let’s start the prognostication process now: Who wins the game?
Answer below, battle it out in the comments, and then tune in for Monday’s PFT Live, which will feature visits from Hall of Fame head coach Tony Dungy and Patriots fanboy (not really, but I like to accuse him of it) Tom Curran of CSN New England.
PFT Live begins at 6:00 a.m. on NBC Sports Radio, and the simulcast starts at 7:00 a.m. ET on NBCSN.
Roger Goodell kept Tom Brady off the field for the first four games of the season.
Nothing was keeping Brady from finishing it, and giving himself a chance to accept another trophy from the NFL commissioner in two weeks.
The Patriots quarterback was clinical as his team crushed the Steelers 36-17, setting up a Super Bowl LI showdown with the Falcons in Houston two weeks from today.
Brady was 34-of-42 passing for 384 yards and three scores. It was his ninth career three-touchdown performance in the postseason, tying Joe Montana for the most in that category. And that underscores the kind of historic company he’s keeping, as he leads the Patriots to their ninth Super Bowl appearance.
It also sets the stage for plenty of talk about the four-game Deflategate suspension that delayed the start of his season, but the Patriots went 3-1 during that stretch with the kind of all-hands effort as they displayed Sunday night.
Offensively, wide receiver Chris Hogan was brilliant, with nine catches for 180 yards and two touchdowns.
But the league’s best scoring defense also kept the Steelers from doing much of anything, making plays at critical junctures and forcing a pair of turnovers.
The Steelers were fairly helpless once running back Le’Veon Bell left with a groin injury early. He tried coming back for a play, but it wasn’t working, and without him, neither did their offense. With Bell offering just 20 yards on six carries, the rest of the Patriots’ attention went to slowing Antonio Brown, who will not be live-streaming any celebrations in the locker room tonight.
Brown finished with seven catches for 77 yards (cosmetic yards late padded that number), and the rest of the Steelers couldn’t overcome the attention.
Which means Brady and the Patriots will get plenty for the next two weeks, as they chase a fifth title.
The Colts have denied it on the record, and the Saints eventually may do the same.
For now, a source with knowledge of the situation tells PFT that no one from the Saints at any time has ever spoken to the Colts, directly or indirectly, about a deal for coach Sean Payton.
Colts COO Pete Ward has denied talking to the Saints, but Ward has said that a “Payton associate” called the Colts to gauge interest in the possibility of obtaining Payton by compensating the Saints.
Payton remains under contract with the Saints and there’s no indication that either side plans to change that reality, or that any team plans to try to secure the rights to Payton.