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Quartet of coaches will head to the Persian Gulf for USO tour

The NFL-USO Coaches Tour reconvenes this summer with four men who head up NFL franchises heading to the Persian Gulf for a visit with our troops.

This year, Vikings coach Brad Childress, Eagles coach Andy Reid, Bengals coach Marvin Lewis, and Panthers coach John Fox will make the trip.

Childress has a child in the military, and Fox’s father served in the Navy Seals.

“Since my son has enlisted in the Marine Corps, I have learned a new appreciation for the freedoms we all enjoy and take for granted,” Childress said in a release issued by the league.  “Our armed forces are the most highly-skilled, best-trained men and women in the world.  Their character is on display on a daily basis because they’re an all-volunteer force.  We all owe them a debt of gratitude and this trip is a small way of saying thank you.”

The NFL has sent players and coaches to boost troop morale for more than 40 years.  In 2008, Commissioner Roger Goodell joined players on a USO trip to Iraq and Afghanistan.

For some reason, the thought of any of the other Commissioners doing the same thing brings to mind visions of Mike Dukakis driving a tank.

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Report: Texans making Mike Vrabel DC and keeping Romeo Crennel

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 03:  Assistant coach, Mike Vrabel of the Houston Texans during a preseason game on September 3, 2015 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) Getty Images

Texans linebackers coach Mike Vrabel seems to be a rising star in the coaching ranks, but the Texans already a strong defensive coordinator.

They seem to have found a way to keep both sides happy.

According to Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com, the Texans are promoting the 41-year-old Vrabel to defensive coordinator, while keeping 69-year-old coordinator Romeo Crennel on staff.

That likely means kicking Crennel upstairs to an assistant head-coach position, which might help head coach Bill O’Brien spend more time on the offense after firing coordinator George Godsey.

Vrabel turned down a chance to be defensive coordinator for the 49ers last offseason, and interviewed for the Rams head coaching job this year. With a rising profile, the Texans probably had to offer him something nice to keep him around.

But Crennel has done such good work for so long that keeping him around is also wise, as the defense is the one thing the Texans can count on over the last three seasons. His contract expired this year, and O’Brien made it clear he wanted Crennel back.

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Vance Joseph: I knew I’d take Denver job over other opportunities

ENGLEWOOD, CO - JANUARY 12:  Vance Josepf addresses the media after being introduced as the Denver Broncos new head coach during  a press conference at the Paul D. Bowlen Memorial Broncos Centre on January 12, 2017 in Englewood, Colorado.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images) Getty Images

New Broncos head coach Vance Joseph was a candidate for four of the six head-coaching vacancies in the NFL this offseason, but the job he got was always his top choice.

Joseph said this morning on PFT Live that after interviewing with the Broncos, he had planned to interview with the Chargers, Rams and 49ers for their head-coaching vacancies. But John Elway offered Joseph the Broncos job, and with that, Joseph ended his search.

“I was close,” Joseph said of potentially leaving Denver to go to another job interview. “I wasn’t offered the job here in Denver so Wednesday morning when I got dressed to go to the airport, John stopped me, brought me back in the office and offered me the job. I was heading to the airport, heading to San Diego and then after that heading to L.A. and San Fran. So I had some things rolling, but I knew that if John offered me the job I would take it, because in my opinion it was the job that was most ready to win now.”

Once Joseph got the job, he immediately went to work on hiring Mike McCoy as his offensive coordinator.

“The first thing I did was call Mike McCoy, that was the first thing I did,” Joseph said. “I called Mike McCoy because I knew that as a first-time head coach and defensive guy, my offensive coordinator was going to be a big hire. And I wanted Mike. I didn’t want to lose Mike.”

So Joseph got the job he wanted, got the top assistant he wanted, and now gets to work in a place where he thinks he can win and win big right away.

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Panthers kick the tires on quarterback Aaron Murray

KANSAS CITY, MO - SEPTEMBER 01:  Quarterback Aaron Murray #7 of the Kansas City Chiefs is sacked by Kyler Fackrell #51 of the Green Bay Packers during the preseason game at Arrowhead Stadium on September 1, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) Getty Images

Quarterback Aaron Murray was on three teams during an 11-day stretch of September, and is continuing his efforts to turn up with as many teams as possible.

Via Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer, the former fifth-round pick from Georgia is working out for the Panthers today.

They don’t particularly need anything other than a fourth arm for the offseason, as Cam Newton, Derek Anderson and Joe Webb are all under contract. But quarterbacks are a scarce commodity thus tend to get plenty of chances to prove whether they can or cannot play.

Murray spent most of last year on the Eagles’ practice squad, but was the only one of their practice squaders who didn’t sign a future contract with them.

He started last season with the Chiefs, was offered in trade and no one bit. So he signed with the Cardinals practice squad and lasted eight days there before he was released, when the Eagles offered a soft place to land.

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Julian Edelman on Antonio Brown incident: “That’s how that team is run”

FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 14: Julian Edelman #11 of the New England Patriots reacts in the second half against the Houston Texans during the AFC Divisional Playoff Game at Gillette Stadium on January 14, 2017 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) Getty Images

In the aftermath of Antonio Brown’s Facebook Live misadventures, most of the attention has centered on why Brown would do it and what the Steelers plan to do about something that conflicts so sharply with the behaviors from other teams, including the typically buttoned-up New England Patriots.

While addressing the situation earlier this week, one Patriots player was perhaps not as buttoned up as his own coach would want him to be.

“Hey, people have different rules,” receiver Julian Edelman said on WEEI in Boston. “That’s how that team is run. I personally don’t think that would be something that would happen in our locker room. But, hey, whatever. Some people like red and some people like blue. Some people like tulips and some people like roses, whatever.”

The full context of Edelman’s quote takes some of the sting out of the “that’s how that team is run” line. But the overriding message is clear: Players on some teams would do something like this, and players on other teams would not.

Patriots players wouldn’t. Because Patriots players know, either instinctively or through hearing it repeatedly from coaches and teammates, that the consequences would be swift and severe. Bolstering that message are examples that arise when, for example, a guy shows up late for work in a blizzard. And promptly is sent home.

In plenty of other cities, things are much looser. And through that looseness comes the opportunity for a guy to decide, due to exuberance or otherwise, to do something really, really stupid. The challenge for every coach is to be smart enough to spot the guys who would do something really, really stupid and come up with a way to keep that from happening.

In New England’s case, the fact that Edelman actually said something neither boring nor robotic about the Pittsburgh situation probably is enough to get him in trouble with Bill Belichick. Which proves the broader point that none of the Patriots players would do what Antonio Brown did.

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Agent: Martavis Bryant “clean” and “on a mission”

Wild Card Playoffs - Baltimore Ravens v Pittsburgh Steelers Getty Images

The agent for suspended Steelers wide receiver Martavis Bryant disputed a report yesterday that his client had applied for reinstatement (though that’s a technicality since he’s about to).

More importantly, he said Bryant has himself on a better track after a year off following multiple failed drug tests.

Via Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, agent Thomas Santanello said they were still in the process of submitting the paperwork to the league, but that’s largely a moot point since any comeback wouldn’t be until the 2017 season anyway, and they hope by March so he can participate in the offseason program.

“He’s doing great, phenomenal,” Santanello said. “I talk to him every single day and he’s great. He’s on a mission to come back too.

“He’s clean. He’s working out four days a week, watches film. He’s in the best shape he’s ever been in. He’s added 10 pounds of solid muscle. He’s a new person.”

That’s good news, because the old person was a bit of a headache for the Steelers, whose frustration with him was clear.

But his talent is likely enough to convince them to give him another chance, after he averaged 21.1 yards per catch as a rookie and caught 50 passes for 765 yards and six touchdowns last year despite a four-game suspension.

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Julius Peppers: You have to realize the opportunity

ARLINGTON, TX - JANUARY 15:  Julius Peppers #56 of the Green Bay Packers warms up on the field prior to the NFC Divisional Playoff game against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium on January 15, 2017 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) Getty Images

Packers linebacker Julius Peppers is no stranger to NFC Championship Games.

He played in two of them with the Panthers, one with the Bears and is on his way to his second with the Packers in his three years with the team. Peppers has only been on the winning side of those games once and his Panthers team went on to lose to the Patriots in the Super Bowl in Peppers’ second season.

Peppers is in his 15th season and the time between that Super Bowl trip and now has made it clear to him that you have to grab the chances when they come.

“I was a young player,” Peppers said, via the Chicago Tribune. “You go to the Super Bowl in your second year and you’re like, ‘OK, cool. I’ll be back next year or the year after that.’ We went to the championship game the year after that. But you have to live in these moments. You’ve got to realize the opportunity, and you have to take advantage of it because it doesn’t come very often. I’m a standing testament to that.”

Peppers said before the game against the Cowboys that he didn’t want his teammates to think about winning the title for him, but such rallying cries are always in the air when teams make it this far into the postseason. A win in Atlanta will likely make the Peppers one a bit louder in Houston.

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Bill Vinovich, Terry McAulay to referee conference title games

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 13:  Tony Romo #9 of the Dallas Cowboys talks with referee, Bill Vinovich #52 during play against the New York Giants at AT&T Stadium on September 13, 2015 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) Getty Images

Bill Vinovich was the referee for last year’s NFC Championship Game between the Panthers and the Cardinals, neither of whom will be in the game this year after failing to make it back to the playoffs.

Vinovich will be back, however. FootballZebras.com reports that Vinovich will be the official in charge in Atlanta when the Packers and Falcons square off for the NFC crown and that Terry McAulay will handle the proceedings for the Steelers and Patriots in New England.

Vinovich also worked Super Bowl XLIX in 2015, which makes this three years in a row that he has ranked as one of the top referees in the league. Both Vinovich and McAulay will be working with different crews than they worked with in the regular season as the league puts together “all-star” crews for the postseason.

The Super Bowl referee will be one of the four officials that worked in the divisional round. Carl Cheffers, Gene Steratore, Pete Morelli and Tony Corrente handled those duties.

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Ricky Proehl urges Steve Smith to come home to be honored

ST. LOUIS - JANUARY 10:  Receiver Ricky Proehl #81 of the Carolina Panthers congratulates receiver Steve Smith #89 after Smith scored the winning touchdown in overtime against the St. Louis Rams in the NFC Divisional Playoffs on January 10, 2004 at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis, Missouri. The Panthers defeated the Rams 29-23 to advance to the NFC Championship Game.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) Getty Images

Steve Smith was proud to be a Raven, and to attach himself to Baltimore for his final three seasons in the NFL.

But one of his closest friends is lobbying him to return to Charlotte, and hopes time heals the wounds that came during his messy 2014 release.

Retiring Panthers receivers coach and former teammate Ricky Proehl said he’s talked to Smith, and hopes Smith will allow himself to be honored at Bank of America Stadium someday.

“For me personally I hope it happens because I think he’s the greatest Panther to put on the uniform,” Proehl said, via Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer. “He owes it to the fans and he owes it to himself,” Proehl said Tuesday. “There’s a love affair between him and the fans of the Panthers. They deserve it. That’s my opinion.”

Whether Smith shares it remains to be seen. Panthers General Manager Dave Gettleman has wisely recused himself from the conversation, since his (bad) relationship with Smith is one of the few perceived hang-ups to honoring a man who broke all their records in his 13 seasons there.

But Smith’s ability to create and carry a grudge are legendary, so there’s no guarantee when or if he’d have a ceremonial retirement in the city in which he’s established his offseason home.

“I have talked to Steve. I think eventually it’ll happen,” Proehl said. “I think he wants it. I think he should do it, to be honest with you.”

Proehl stepped aside from his coaching job yesterday to spend more time watching his own sons play, and the bonds of family between the Panthers and Smith may win out — someday, when Smith himself decides it’s time.

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Wednesday morning one-liners

HOUSTON, TX - DECEMBER 13:  Defensive Coordinator Matt Patricia of the New England Patriots watches the action on the sidelines during their game against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium on December 13, 2015 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images) Getty Images

Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia’s defense can make a statement by shutting down Ben Roethlisberger on Sunday.

Bills S Corey Graham signed because he wanted to get Buffalo to the playoffs, and he realizes he’s running out of time to make that happen.

Here’s a look at the CFL player trying to make the Dolphins.

The Jets and G Brian Winters were eager to commit to each other on a long-term deal.

Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti doesn’t think his team needs a youth movement.

Is a contract extension coming for Bengals coach Marvin Lewis?

How close a look will the Browns’ coaching staff get at Clemson QB Deshaun Watson?

Steelers DB Sean Davis says he’s not scared by the big stage of the playoffs.

Brian Cushing says nothing short of the Super Bowl should be acceptable to the Texans.

Colts QB Andrew Luck isn’t even in the Pro Bowl as an alternate, at least not yet.

Tom Coughlin isn’t afraid to shake things up in Jacksonville.

Titans coach Mike Mularkey has no regrets.

It may be too early to grade the Broncos’ rookie class, seeing as QB Paxton Lynch, the most important pick, gets an Incomplete.

Chiefs QB Alex Smith is a Pro Bowler for the second time.

Here’s a look at the Raiders’ rookies’ first year.

Chargers coach Anthony Lynn says he’s ready to work.

Cowboys owner and G.M. Jerry Jones believes he’s built a team capable of winning the Super Bowl.

Giants WR Odell Beckham is getting some grief for not playing as well as other top receivers in the playoffs.

Will the Eagles be in the playoffs next year?

Bill Callahan isn’t looking to be promoted to offensive coordinator in Washington.

Bears fans are saying Jay Cutler looks out of shape in the vacation photos his wife posted online.

Lions LT Taylor Decker is getting recognition for a strong rookie season.

Vince Lombardi Jr. is selling his dad’s old stuff.

Here’s a look at the state of the Vikings’ secondary.

Atlanta is rallying around the Falcons.

The Panthers worked out former Georgia QB Aaron Murray.

The Saints’ special teams are a work in progress.

The Buccaneers improved their completion percentage this season.

If the Cardinals aren’t better than the Seahawks, at least they can take solace in being more likable.

The Rams probably aren’t sorry to see their unsuccessful offensive coordinator Rob Boras go.

San Francisco DT DeForest Buckner was recognized for a strong rookie season.

Tom Cable will remain in Seattle as offensive line coach, where he has a lot of work to do.

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Darius Slay changes his tune on Pro Bowl, now wants to go to Orlando

DETROIT, MI - NOVEMBER 24: Darius Slay #23 of the Detroit Lions celebrates after making a late fourth quarter interception during the annual Thanksgiving day game against the Minnesota Vikings at Ford Field on November 24, 2016 in Detroit, Michigan. Detroit defeated Minnesota 16-13.  (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images) Getty Images

A month ago, Lions cornerback Darius Slay scoffed at the Pro Bowl, called it “pointless,” and didn’t seem enthused about a trip to Orlando at all.

Now, he’s hoping for the chance at some mouse ears.

Via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, Slay’s holding out hope he gets the call now. As the second alternate, someone would have to pull out for that to happen for him to have the chance.

“Of course I will,” Slay said. “That’s not even a decision.”

Currently, the four NFC cornerbacks are Richard Sherman, Xavier Rhodes, Janoris Jenkins, and Patrick Peterson. Josh Norman is thought to be the first alternate. Slay said he knows both Rhodes and Jenkins are playing in the game. But Slay said while exchanging jerseys with Sherman after their playoff loss to the Seahawks that he “said maybe he’ll try to get me in there.”

Sherman is, of course, dealing with a “significant” knee injury — not that anyone would know that from reading a Seahawks injury report — so there could be a spot open.

But in December, Slay cited the move to Orlando as part of the reason he wasn’t so enthused, saying: “I really just wanted to go to Hawaii for the free.”

Now a trip to Central Florida apparently doesn’t sound so bad, but he’d still need one more guy to pull out to make the trip a reality.

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Kiko Alonso could move from middle linebacker

SAN DIEGO, CA - NOVEMBER 13:   Antonio Gates #85 of the San Diego Chargers drops a pass as  Kiko Alonso #47 of the Miami Dolphins defends during the first half of a game at Qualcomm Stadium on November 13, 2016 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images) Getty Images

As a restricted free agent-to-be, linebacker Kiko Alonso’s chances of switching teams for a third straight offseason aren’t good.

Alonso may still be on the move this offseason, however. The Dolphins have considered the idea of moving Alonso away from middle linebacker and putting him on the outside as they head into the 2017 season.

The Dolphins are expected to make additions to the linebacker group in the coming months and Alonso’s ability to play in either spot on the defense gives them flexibility about what kind of players they will pursue. Newly promoted defensive coordinator Matt Burke, who was Alonso’s position coach in 2016, said the results of their shopping will play into their call with Alonso.

“It kind of goes hand and hand,” Burke said, via the Miami Herald. “We’ll see what other type of players we bring in through free agency and the draft and where Kiko fits in. Obviously we see him as an important piece of the future. I had a great time working with him and helping him get to that point; but, we really haven’t even started to evaluate position moves, fits, schemes, all of that stuff. That’s going to be an ongoing process.”

Alonso had 115 tackles, two interceptions and a forced fumble in 15 games during his first season with the Dolphins.

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Pending free agent Danny Woodhead ahead of schedule in ACL recovery

SAN DIEGO, CA - SEPTEMBER 13:  Running back Danny Woodhead #39 of the San Diego Chargers celebrates after scoring a touchdown against the Detroit Lions at Qualcomm Stadium on September 13, 2015 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images) Getty Images

There’s no guarantee Danny Woodhead will be with the Chargers as they make their move north.

But he is making moves.

Via Michael Gehlken of the San Diego Union-Tribune, the running back is reportedly six weeks ahead of schedule in his recovery from last year’s torn ACL, and is shown in a video running and cutting.

Woodhead was lost for the season in September, and if he’s ahead of normal pace, a training camp return is realistic.

But he’s also turning 32 next week, and has finished two of the last three seasons on IR, playing just five games combined in 2014 and 2016. When well, he’s one of the better pass-catching backs in the league (he caught 81 passes and had nine combined touchdowns in 2015), so he has value.

He’s an unrestricted free agent in March, thus Team Woodhead getting the positive word out there now.

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Stanley Wilson II arrested while naked again

stanleywilson

Former Lions defensive back Stanley Wilson II has been arrested while naked, and not for the first time.

The Oregonian reports that police in Portland arrested Wilson on January 10 after finding him naked outside a stranger’s home. Wilson hasn’t posted bail and has been in jail since.

Wilson was also arrested on June 22 after a homeowner caught him trying to break into a house. The homeowner shot him and he ran off, and when the homeowner called 911, emergency personnel arrived and found Wilson outside the home, also naked. Wilson suffered only minor injuries from the gunshot.

Since that incident, Wilson has had multiple violations of his conditional release, including testing positive for methamphetamine and getting arrested for spitting at a campus safety officer. It is unclear why Wilson has been allowed to stay out of jail despite repeatedly violating the conditions of his release.

What is clear is that a person who repeatedly gets arrested naked, spits at people and tests positive for methamphetamine has a serious problem. A graduate of Stanford University, Wilson once appeared to have a promising future. But like his father, the former Bengals running back who shares his name, Wilson has a serious drug problem. Wilson’s father was once benched when a Bengals coach caught him getting high before the Super Bowl, and after drugs derailed his NFL career he spent most of his adult life in prison. We hope the younger Wilson can get the help he so obviously needs.

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Report: Kyle Shanahan “almost certain” to accept 49ers job

LANDOVER, MD - DECEMBER 30:  Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan of the Washington Redskins looks on during the fourth quarter of their game against the Dallas Cowboys at FedExField on December 30, 2012 in Landover, Maryland.  (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images) Getty Images

The San Francisco 49ers will have to wait a little bit longer, but it appears their search for a new head coach is winding down.

According to Mike Silver of NFL Network, Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan is “almost certain” to accept the job as 49ers head coach. An ESPN report earlier on Tuesday indicated that the 49ers would be offering the job to Shanahan.

Shanahan cannot officially be offered the job until after the Falcons’ season comes to end. That could come as soon as Monday or may have to wait an additional two weeks until after Super Bowl LI. Regardless, the 49ers search for a fourth different head coach in four seasons is drawing to a conclusion.

The Falcons similarly had to wait for head coach Dan Quinn to become available following Super Bowl XLIX two years ago.

Shanahan will be available to interview again next week after the NFC Championship even if the Falcons advance to the Super Bowl. Once Shanahan is in place, the 49ers appear committed to finding a general manager candidate that can mesh well with him.

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What should Kyle Shanahan do?

FILE - In this Dec. 18, 2016, file photo, Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan walks on the turf before the first half of an NFL football game between the Falcons and the San Francisco 49ers, in Atlanta. Broncos general manager John Elway began his third coaching search in six seasons with a visit to Kansas City on Friday to interview Chiefs special teams coach Dave Toub. Elway and his committee, which includes team president Joe Ellis and player personnel director Matt Russell, will then travel to Atlanta to meet with Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan over the weekend. (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File) AP

The 49ers are down to one option for their head-coaching job. So what should Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan do when he’s offered the job?

That’s the PFT Live question of the day for Wednesday.

The options are simple: Should Shanahan take the 49ers job when it’s offered or pass, waiting at least a year to become a head coach?

Answer below, drop a comment, and then tune in for the show at 6:00 a.m. ET on NBC Sports Radio and then at 7:00 a.m. ET on NBCSN. Guests include Broncos coach Vance Joseph and Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

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