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Vikings drop the “L” word

Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome AP

With the Vikings preparing for what could be their last push toward getting a new stadium built in Minnesota, the man in charge of the franchise’s efforts has invoked the name of a place that could send shock waves through Minnesota.

Los Angeles.

John Vomhof Jr. of the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal reports that Vikings Vice President of Stadium Development and Public Affairs Lester Bagley confirmed during an online chat that the team has been approached by the two groups that want to bring a team to Los Angeles.

One group, led by Ed Roski, wants to build a stadium in City of Industry.  The other, led by Tim Leiweke and Casey Wasserman, wants to build a stadium in downtown L.A.  Leiweke recently told ESPN that his group will defer to the NFL regarding the selection of the team that would move to L.A.

Though Bagley stressed that the Vikings want to find a stadium solution in Minnesota, Los Angeles provides them with leverage.  And it also provides them with a viable alternative, if folks in Minnesota ultimately fail to authorize the use of public funds for a portion of the construction costs.

Either way, something needs to happen soon.  The Vikings’ lease at the Metrodome expires after the 2011 season.

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Wilfork calls Belichick the greatest coach ever

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Patriots coach Bill Belichick has been peppered with questions about whether he did anything improper in Deflategate, but Belichick is also getting strong support from his players.

Several Patriots spoke out about their respect for Belichick at Super Bowl Media Day, most notably defensive tackle Vince Wilfork, who said he feels privileged to have played his entire career for Belichick.

“He’s the best coach in the game — the best coach ever in the game,” Wilfork said. “When it’s all over I can say I was coached by the greatest.”

If the Patriots beat the Seahawks on Sunday, Belichick will join Chuck Noll as the only head coaches to win four Super Bowls, and Belichick is already the coach with the most postseason wins in NFL history. Wilfork may be biased by his own relationship with Belichick, but you can make a good case that he’s right, and that Belichick really is the best coach in the history of the game of football.

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Thomas Davis: Knee injuries may have extended my career

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Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis is thought to be the first player to return from three torn ACLs and reconstructive surgeries on the same knee, but the 31-year-old doesn’t feel like all the injuries robbed him of part of his career.

It’s the opposite, actually. Davis explained this week that he feels like he’s going to get back the time he missed because of his knee issues in the years to come.

“That’s the way I’m looking at it,” Davis said, via ESPN.com. “I lost two and a half years to injuries, but I also feel I gained two and a half years. … This was my 10th year and I’m going on year 11, and I still feel I have a lot of football left in me.”

Davis is entering the final year of his contract with the Panthers and is set to count a little more than $10 million against the salary cap. He said that he is “pretty sure [the Panthers will] address” his contract in the near future and an extension would lower that cap hit while also keeping around a player who has rebounded from his injuries with over 100 tackles in each of the last three seasons.

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Stuffed animal question brings out Bill Belichick’s softer side

Bill Belichick AP

We have a soft spot for kids asking questions at Media Day, for they usually have more interesting questions than the assembled adults.

Which brings us to Bill Belichick’s Tuesday media session, when a young questioner asked the 62-year-old Patriots coach about the stuffed animals he liked.

The cub reporter asking about this particular topic? Jerod Mayo’s daughter, Chya, according to Monique Walker Jones of USA Today.

“What stuffed animals do I like?” Belichick asked, smiling. “Um, I like, like, a little puppet. You can kind of put your fingers in. It’s a little monkey, and then he can talk and move his fingers and nod his head, so he can kind of talk back to you.”

Belichick then asked Mayo’s daughter: “What’s your favorite stuffed animal?”

The Patriots’ head coach had another question for Chya.

“Can I ask you one question? Did your daddy fix your hair?” Belichick said.

Her response elicited a laugh from Belichick, who then asked if she any more questions.

And when it was over, Belichick, who has three children of his own, said: “Thank you.”

He was still smiling when he turned to his left to field the next question.

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PFT Live from the Super Bowl keeps rolling on Tuesday

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It’s Super Bowl Media Day on Tuesday and we’ll be bringing you everything you need to know from Arizona on PFT Live.

Once again, Mike Florio is coming to you live from the Super Bowl and we’ve got a packed show that’s sure to make for three entertaining and informative hours. Former NFL great Jason Taylor, Rams linebacker James Laurinaitis and Browns cornerback Joe Haden will all stop by to share their thoughts on the Super Bowl participants and we’ll also have PFT’s own Michael David Smith and Darin Gantt on hand for the show.

We also want to hear from PFT Planet. You can call the show by dialing 855-323-4NBC, email questions at any time via the O’Reilly Auto Parts Ask the Pros inbox or get in touch on Twitter at @ProFootballTalk.

It all gets started at noon ET and you can listen live via the various NBC Sports Radio affiliates, through the links at PFT, or with the NBC Sports Radio app. And, again, you can also watch a simulcast of all three hours of the show by clicking right here.

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Kevin Patullo joining Jets as quarterbacks coach

Geno Smith AP

Quarterback remains a trouble spot for the Jets and they appear to have settled on a position coach to help them develop an answer to their ongoing issues at the position.

Jim Wyatt of the Tennessean and Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times report that Kevin Patullo will be leaving his job as the Titans’ assistant wide receivers coach to join the Jets’ staff as quarterbacks coach.

Patullo spent one season with the Titans and was out of the NFL in 2013 after spending three years on the offensive staff of the Bills. Jets offensive coordinator Chan Gailey was the head coach in Buffalo for those seasons, so the choice represents a reunion with a familiar face for the man running the offense.

The Jets have Geno Smith under contract for next season, but Michael Vick is a free agent and the team is expected to add other competition at the position this offseason. Gailey and Patullo will be charged with finding the best of the available options and molding the offense into one with higher capabilities than we’ve seen in the last few seasons.

Patullo will join wide receivers coach Karl Dorrell as an offensive position coach with the Jets, who have yet to hire an offensive line or tight ends coach for Todd Bowles’s first year on their sideline.

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Bill Belichick calls Marshawn Lynch “best back we’ve faced”

Marshawn Lynch AP

Patriots coach Bill Belichick says his defense hasn’t faced a challenge quite like Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch before.

Although Belichick is refusing to answer questions this week about Deflategate, he gave lengthy answers to reporters’ questions about his thoughts about the Seahawks on the field. And there was no one Belichick sounded more impressed with — and perhaps concerned about — than Lynch.

“Lynch is a tremendous back, best back we’ve faced. He does everything well, he’s got great balance, great power, vision, instincts, he’s great in the open field, he gets tough yards around the goal line, third down,” Belichick said.

Lynch ran for 1,306 yards in the regular season, and his 157-yard game against the Packers went a long way toward the Seahawks winning the NFC Championship. He may just be the best running back in football right now. Belichick seems to think so.

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Ernie Accorsi: John Fox’s experience made him right choice for Bears

John Fox AP

The Bears brought former Giants General Manager Ernie Accorsi on board as a consultant to assist with their searches for a new head coach and General Manager this year, so it’s not a big surprise that a former Giants assistant coach wound up replacing Marc Trestman.

It’s been a long time since John Fox has been an assistant, of course, and Accorsi explained that was one of his biggest selling points when he spoke to the Bears about the job opening. Accorsi explained that having a good idea of what to expect from hiring Fox set him apart from other candidates.

“Look, I think the single toughest thing to do in football is to project an assistant coach to the head coaching job,” Accorsi said on ESPN 100 in Chicago. “They’re two different jobs. The things you have to deal with as a head coach. You can immerse yourself in strategy and X’s and O’s as an assistant, and player relations because you’re dealing with these guys. But the head coach, he has to control that. Now you’re a head coach, you’re the commander of the army. It’s a whole different thing. And you never, never know. You just don’t know. With Fox, you knew: 30 games over .500, seven playoffs, two Super Bowls. The fact that he lost two Super Bowls to me was even more important, because the hunger and drive you have to never let that happen again, to right that wrong, is as powerful a force as you can have in this business.”

It’s not a path the Bears have gone down anytime recently as it had been more than five decades since the team opted to hire a head coach who had previously held the job. If Fox is able to generate the same kind of defensive turnaround that he did in Carolina and Denver, deviating from the past course will look like a step in the right direction for Chicago.

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Kraft’s statement increases the pressure on Goodell

Goodell Getty Images

Richard Sherman’s premise is possibly being tested.  The Seattle cornerback on Sunday expressed skepticism about potential punishment of the Patriots for #DeflateGate, based on the friendship between Commissioner Roger Goodell and Patriots owner Robert Kraft.  At this moment, one of the most influential owners in the NFL isn’t feeling very friendly about the office over which Goodell presides.

“If the [Ted] Wells investigation is not able to definitively determine that our organization tampered with the air pressure in the footballs, I would expect and hope that the League would apologize to our entire team and in particular, Coach Belichick and Tom Brady for what they have had to endure this past week,” Kraft said in a defiant statement written on the plane from Boston and delivered in Arizona.  “I am disappointed in the way this entire matter has been handled and reported upon.  We expect hard facts as opposed to circumstantial leaked evidence to drive the conclusion of this investigation.”

As Sal Paolantonio of ESPN reported in the aftermath of Kraft’s remarks, “As one source close to the Patriots told me, this was Robert Kraft reminding Roger Goodell who he works for.”

Goodell already has shown a willingness to impose discipline on the team Robert Kraft owns, more than seven years ago in Spygate.  In the aftermath of that incident, Goodell pushed for the owners to permit rules violations that undermine the integrity of the game to be proven with reduced evidentiary requirements.

“Too often, competitive violations have gone unpunished because conclusive proof of the violation was lacking,” Goodell wrote to the NFL’s Competition Committee in advance of the 2008 league meetings.  “I believe we should reconsider the standard of proof to be applied in such cases, and make it easier for a competitive violation to be established.”

Therein lies the dilemma for Goodell.  He ultimately obtained the power to determine violations with something other than direct evidence, such as a Patriots employee caught with a camera containing video showing he was videotaping defensive coaching signals.  But Kraft wants something other than “circumstantial” evidence, even though plenty of men over the years have ended up imprisoned for life or executed based on circumstantial proof.  (Eventually added to that list could be former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, who faces murder charges based largely on circumstantial evidence.)

“[Y]ou’re trying to balance the due process with making sure you’re protecting the integrity of the game,” Goodell said in October regarding the challenge of determining the best way to deal with players facing serious criminal charges.  “My No. 1 job is protecting the integrity of the game, and I will not relent on that.”

If, as the NFL already has concluded, the proper inflation of footballs represents a game-integrity issue and if, as the NFL already has concluded, the footballs used in the first half of the AFC title game were underinflated, the question becomes whether Goodell will authorize significant sanctions against the Patriots without a smoking gun — even if it means that his friendship with Robert Kraft will go up in smoke.

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Colts hang onto Rob Chudzinski with a new title

Rob Chudzinski AP

The Colts blocked assistant coach Rob Chudzinski as long as they could.

And then they gave him a promotion.

The Colts announced that they had agreed to a new contract with the former Browns head coach to make him the associate head coach.

“We’re excited to keep Chud in our family,” coach Chuck Pagano said. “He’s been a critical part of our operation and we’re looking forward to sharing even more success in the future.”

The Colts brought him in this year as a special assistant to the head coach, and there were teams that wanted to interview him for coordinator jobs. They refused requests, but his contract expired this week.

They obviously want to keep him around, and he gives them depth on the offensive side of the ball, with coordinator Pep Hamilton a possibility for head coaching jobs in the future.

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Can a bag of footballs be deflated in 90 seconds?

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As the #DeflateGate controversy continues to overtake Super Bowl XLIX, the first tangible evidence other than footballs being underinflated (which the NFL has acknowledged) emerged Monday, when Jay Glazer of FOX Sports reported that a Patriots employee took a bag of football that had been inspected and approved by officials into a separate area. That individual has become, per Glazer’s report, a “serious person of interest” as to the question of how the footballs came to be underinflated.

As PFT reported last night, adding to Glazer’s bombshell, the separate area was a bathroom in which the employee spent approximately 90 seconds. The red state/blue state nature of the debate has caused those predisposed to assuming the Patriots are guilty to say it’s enough time to deflate the footballs. Those predisposed to assuming that this is a league- and/or media-driven witch hunt say the only leaking came from the guys urinary tract (or perhaps elsewhere).

Obviously, the report from Glazer shows an opportunity for foul play existed. And Glazer’s report became the first clear indication since this issue first arose of a chance by someone to do something to the “perfect” footballs as hand-selected by quarterback Tom Brady to make them even more perfect.

A separate question has emerged regarding whether a team employee should have even been taking the footballs on his own to the field without supervision. One source said it’s normal; another source believes it’s entirely abnormal. Regardless, Glazer’s report puts a Patriots employee in a room with a locking door alone with the footballs for, based on PFT’s addition to that report, approximately 90 seconds.

So can 12 (or in this case 11) footballs be deflated in that amount of time?  One league source with extensive knowledge and experience in the NFL believes that 90 seconds provides enough time to do it — especially if the type of bag allowed the valves to be accessed without individually removing them.  (The bag in the photo, for example, has a large zipper that when open permits quick access to the balls.)

The source called it as “easy” thing to do. “Needle in each ball for a couple of seconds,” the source said.

Indeed, if this is something that had been going on for some period of time, the employee would have developed a certain expertise in this regard, allowing him to do it quickly — which in turn would allow for the plausible argument to be made that there was no deflation but merely urination.

Is it conclusive evidence of tampering?  Not without a camera in the bathroom or an admission from the employee.  But it also becomes difficult to declare innocence, given that the contents of the surveillance video as first reported by Glazer reveal an employee of the Patriots taking the footballs into a place where, in theory, something could have been done to them.

That’s the most important thing to remember from Monday’s report.  Whether it was 90 seconds or longer, whether it was the Patriots who surrendered the video or the NFL who found it, Glazer’s report shows an opportunity for tampering that had not previously been disclosed.

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Kam Chancellor on Gronkowski: Just play big-on-big

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Last week, Seahawks cornerback Jeremy Lane dismissed Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski as just an “OK” player, but it doesn’t seem to be the prevailing opinion on the team.

Questions about facing Gronkowski were waiting for the Seahawks in Arizona on Monday and linebacker Bobby Wagner was willing to call Gronkowski a “great player.” Head coach Pete Carroll said Gronkowski has “all of the elements that you’re looking for from a big-time tight end” and that the team would utilize various approaches to slow him down on Sunday.

Strong safety Kam Chancellor will be a big part of those approaches and he said Monday that he thought his physical play would serve him well in the matchup.

“He definitely is a big, physical guy, but it’s just big-on-big. Just play big-on-big,” Chancellor said.

It won’t come down to just Chancellor, but the Seahawks Defense is going to have a hard time if he isn’t able to keep Gronkowski from breaking loose when the Patriots do look his way.

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Pete Carroll still likes Robert Kraft, who fired him

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It feels like Bill Belichick has been coaching the Patriots forever, but he hasn’t. There was a coach of the Patriots before Belichick was hired in 2000, and that coach was Pete Carroll.

Carroll, who is preparing to coach the Seahawks against the Patriots in Super Bowl XLIX, was fired by Patriots owner Robert Kraft after going 8-8 in 1999. And although things didn’t end well for Carroll in New England, Carroll still has warm feelings for Kraft, and Carroll actually called Kraft after the Seahawks and Patriots won the conference championship games.

“I think we’ve remained in a good relationship and it’s been very consistent,” Carroll said. “Whenever we bump into each other, whenever there is a time for us to cross paths, we always check in and that’s just been the way that it has been. So, in calling him, it was just a matter of just checkin in with him and saying, ‘Hey, didn’t know if we would bump into each other here but I wanted to make sure to say hello.'”

Carroll thinks he’s a much better coach now than he was when he coached in New England.

“I’ve been through so many experiences since then, so many challenges and it’s really just about evolving as a coach and as a man,” Carroll said. “But, you know, there were a lot of days back in those years when, man, I was just winging it and trying to do the best I could in figuring it out.”

Whatever Carroll hadn’t figured out when he was in New England, Carroll has it figured out now.

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Jaguars keep talking to coaches from worse offenses than own

Jaguars Minicamp Football AP

The Jaguars continue to shuffle their coaching staff, though it’s unclear if they’re making upgrades.

Via Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union, the Jaguars have fired running backs coach Terry Richardson, and are interviewing Raiders position coach Kelly Skipper for the vacancy.

That makes sense, in that he’d have experience with new Jaguars coordinator Greg Olson.

But the influx of Oakland influence is curious, given that the Raiders had the only offense in the league worse than Jacksonville’s, edging the Jaguars by 7.4 yards per game for the 32nd spot on the list.

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Drew Brees: We’ve identified the problems that hurt us in 2014

Pro Bowl Getty Images

The Saints slumped to a 7-9 record in 2014, well below the expectations that most people had for them coming into the season.

Quarterback Drew Brees thinks he knows why the team fell short. After the Pro Bowl, Brees told Greg Bedard of MMQB.com that he’s met with coach Sean Payton and General Manager Mickey Loomis and that the three men “identified the problems or the things that got us beat or the things that didn’t allow us to be as good as we know we can be.”

Brees didn’t go into great detail about what those problems or solutions are, but suggested that a lack of leadership and grit played a role. He said he hates when people talk about talent, because every team has it and things like work ethic and adaptability determine who ultimately succeeds.

“The thing you can’t lose track of is those guys in the locker room,” Brees said. “Those guys as leaders, their presence. Especially when you have young players. Listen, every team is going to have youth. It’s just the nature of the league. A majority of your team is going to be made up of first- to fourth-year players. So that leadership and guidance and institutional knowledge are very critical.”

The Saints have said goodbye to many veteran leaders of successful teams from the past and the replacements weren’t able to reach the same heights in 2014. They’ll need to do a better job of finding the right players in 2015 or the demands for explanations for a poor record will be even greater this time next year.

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Jim Schwartz being selective about next opportunity

Kansas City Chiefs v Buffalo Bills Getty Images

Jim Schwartz rebounded quickly after losing his job as the Lions head coach to become the coordinator for one of the league’s best defenses in Buffalo, but that success won’t have him back with the Bills this year.

Doug Marrone’s departure led to Rex Ryan’s arrival and the two defensive gurus decided not to work together in the 2015 season. Schwartz hasn’t found himself in the mix for any other coordinator openings around the league, something he says is fine with him as he waits for the right opportunity to continue his coaching career.

“Coaching is still in my blood and I’m just fortunate at this time of my career where I can be selective about opportunities. Where it goes from here, I don’t know. But you always have to be aware of certain dynamics that may come with it,” Schwartz said, via the Baltimore Sun. “I saw the opening up in Buffalo as a good opportunity, so I took it. But no, right now, I can’t see myself doing anything else. Coaching is something I love, something I have a passion about. Another opportunity will present itself. I’m not too concerned.”

Assuming Schwartz remains unemployed for the 2015 season, it will be the first NFL season since 1996 that he won’t be on a coaching staff somewhere in the league. Given his success with the Bills and elsewhere during his career, it would be surprising if that absence extended to a second year.

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