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Owners should override Competition Committee on Calvin Johnson rule

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As expected, Competition Committee chairman Rich McKay explained to the media on Wednesday that the league’s rule-making body won’t recommend to ownership any substantive changes to the rule regarding pass completions while the receiver is going to the ground.

That’s why the owners need to take the bull by the ball (the football, not the other kind) and come up with a rule that will allow consistent and easy application by the officials, and that will mesh with reasonable fan expectations.

Here’s what McKay said regarding the Competition Committee’s decision to stand pat:

“We spent an awful lot of time on catch-no catch. It’s not the first time that we’ve spent a lot of time on it. We seem to do it a lot. Let me give you a couple of things that we started at. We started in Indianapolis going through it with the committee itself and just watching the plays and asking is that a catch or not a catch – let’s go back through the rules. We came out with the fact that we all see an inherent conflict between what goes on with respect to the scrutiny provided by replay or slow motion and what goes on in live action. I think all of us came out at a point that we have to make sure that we write the rules for what is officiated on the field at full speed in live action, and not what gets looked at in super slow motion. I think what will come out and what will be written in our report is that we’ll confirm the rule that’s really been there for more than 70 years, which basically says there are three elements to a catch: number one, you’ve got to secure control of the ball in your hands; number two, you’ve got to maintain that control when you have two feet down or any body part other than your hands; and number three, which will be the clarification that we’ll add to the book, we’ll say you must control the ball long enough after A and B, meaning you’ve caught it cleanly and you’ve got two feet down or a body part, and after those two elements then you’ve got to maintain control long enough, and we’re going to use the language we’ve had in the book for a long time, in which you would have the ability to perform any act common to the game. It doesn’t mean you have to perform the act, but it’s an element of time and you’ve got to write it in such a way where people understand that it’s not just bang-bang and that’s a catch.

“So in our mind, and I think in the coaches subcommittee’s mind when we went back and watched the tape with them, if you asked me the simple question of would Calvin Johnson be a catch in 2011, the answer in our minds would be no. You still wouldn’t have those three elements having been maintained, especially because in his act he is going to the ground in the act of catching a pass, and the way the language will be written this year to make sure that people understand it, it will say if the player goes to the ground in the act of catching a pass with or without contact by an opponent, he must maintain control of the ball throughout the process of contacting the ground, whether in the field of play or the end zone. So that’s a lot of verbiage, but that’s kind of how we look at it. There are three elements to the catch and there’s the element of if you’re going to the ground you’re going to have to maintain it throughout the process of contacting the ground. So we looked at I can’t tell you how many plays that probably go back over the span of three or four years just to make sure we’re consistent, and the one thing we’ve come away with is you have to put some responsibility on the receiver and that responsibility is maintaining possession throughout contacting the ground, because otherwise you’re going to have a real issue with respect to how replay conflicts with live action officiating. We’ve got a long part of our report that will be written up that deals with those two issues, so maybe I didn’t explain it as clearly as I could but I think it’ll be written in the report.”

Based on the first paragraph, it sounds like the Competition Committee will potentially be making the process more complicated by codifying the vague “second act” exception that was used, despite not appearing in the rule book, during Super Bowl XLIV, when Saints receiver Lance Moore caught the ball while falling down near the goal line, reached the ball across the plane while falling, lost possession of the ball upon hitting the ground, and ultimately was awarded two points via a ruling that the catch was valid.  Those two points put the Saints up by seven instead of five late in the game.  Knowing that a Colts touchdown could have merely tied the game instead of taking the lead may have made Saints cornerback Tracy Porter more inclined to jump the route that produced a backbreaking touchdown in New Orleans’ eventual victory.

Though the owners have in the past refused to adopt rule changes recommended by the Competition Committee, it’s unusual if not unprecedented (as Eagles president Joe Banner said during today’s PFT Live) for the owners to interject their own rule change that the Competition Committee specifically decided not to suggest.

Well, there’s a first time for everything.

We see two potential approaches.  First, the owners should adopt a rule that recognizes a catch as a valid completion if the receiver lands with both feet on the ground, or a knee, leg, butt, torso, elbow, shoulder, or head touching the turf, regardless of what happens as the rest of his body hits the deck.  Alternatively, and preferably, the owners should go back to the rule that applied before Bert Emanuel had possession in both hands but the ball touched the ground and the league thereafter decided that under certain circumstances the ball would be allowed to touch the ground as long as it didn’t move.

So what’s wrong with requiring the player to catch the ball and to not allow it to touch the ground at any point in the process of making the catch?  If the player is going to the ground while catching the ball, the ball should not touch the ground.  If it does, the catch is not a catch.  Though some may think that it’s not “fair” to take away a good catch simply because the pigskin grazes the grass, at least there would be no room for ambiguity or inconsistency.

At a time when the owners are surely feeling like they don’t have control over much of anything, this would be a great opportunity for them to take charge of their game — and to give the fans a clear rule that widely will be regarded not only as fair but sufficiently clear to allow folks who in varying degrees of intoxication to understand when a catch is a catch, and when it isn’t.

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PFT Live comes to you from Super Bowl Radio Row at noon ET

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We’ve drawn a day closer to the Super Bowl and gotten through Media Day, but there’s still plenty to talk about regarding the Patriots and Seahawks before Sunday.

We’ll be doing it with several great guests on Wednesday’s installment of PFT Live. Former NFL rushing leader LaDainian Tomlinson and former Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward will give us the view from former NFL stars while current Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor and Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles will share their thoughts on the Super Bowl while also talking about their own futures in the game. Greg Cosell of NFL Films is also scheduled to be on 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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Tom Brady Has a Cold

Tom Brady AP

As he met the Super Bowl media Wednesday morning, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady appeared to be dealing with a cold, sounding congested, sniffling on occasion and wiping his nose on sleeve a couple times.

Asked about the cold, Brady indicated it was . . . well, a cold.

“Yeah, I’ve had it for four or five days,” Brady said. “My kids got sick, and then my wife’s pretty sick right now, so I brought it, unfortunately, to Phoenix. But I’ll be fine. I’ll be good.”

Asked a follow-up about how Patriots fans might be a little concerned about his health, Brady replied: “I’ll be at 100 percent. Yeah, I’ll be great. I’m not worried about it all.”

Patriots fans probably shouldn’t worry, either. And if they are, we have the perfect prescription to help pass a little time.

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Washington hires Mark Clark as strength and conditioning coach

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The Redskins continued turning over their coaching staff on Tuesday with a pair of hires.

The team made official the addition of former Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell as their new defensive backs coach and also announced that Mark Clark will be joining the team as their new strength and conditioning coach.

Clark worked for the Bears in the same role for the last three years and was in Kansas City for three years before that. His first NFL job came with the Seahawks, who hired him in 2004 and kept him on the staff until he departed after the 2009 season. He spent 23 years in the college ranks before that and was twice named the Strength Coach of the Year by the Collegiate Strength and Conditioning Coaches Association when he was at Texas A&M.

Clark replaces Ray Wright, who was fired early this month after five years with the club. The moves continue a busy offseason that’s seen the Redskins make defensive coordinator Joe Barry and offensive line coach Bill Callahan a pair of high-profile additions to Jay Gruden’s staff.

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Seahawks G.M.: John Idzik just needed more time

John Idzik AP

Former Jets General Manager John Idzik was a part of a good front office in Seattle, and his old boss thinks the Jets didn’t give him enough time to succeed.

Via Brian Costello of the New York Post, Seahawks G.M. John Schneider thinks Idzik could have succeeded eventually.

I felt bad for him,” Schneider said. “I think that, it’s just my personal opinion that you should be able to hire a head coach. If you’re going into a situation like that, try to make it work with the coach that’s there and then if it doesn’t, hire your own coach and see where it goes. . . .

“It’s an entertainment industry, so you know going in that it’s tough, especially in New York City. We just talked about staying positive and what his next step is going to be. We’re just good friends.”

Of course, Idzik never got a chance to hire that coach, as he and Rex Ryan were swept out after two years, and it remains to be seen when or if there is a next step for Idzik.

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LeGarrette Blount admits Seahawks defense is “pretty good”

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The Patriots have moved the ball well enough that they can be confident.

And they’re certainly not intimidated by the Seahawks.

Via Mark Daniels of the Providence Journal, Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount said about the closest thing to trash talk about the Seahawks yet.
“I don’t care about them being the top defense, that doesn’t bother me,” Blount said. “They were good enough to get here, just like we were good enough to get here. They’re not immortal. They can be beaten. . . .

“Obviously they’re a pretty good defense. They were good enough to get here, they were good enough to get here last year, so we are going to put a plan together to hopefully make sure we come out victorious.”

The Seahawks led the league in total defense this year, and were third against the run. For the Patriots to make a dent in that, Blount’s going to have to be at his best.

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Aubrayo Franklin returning to 49ers as assistant coach

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When defensive tackle Aubrayo Franklin played for the 49ers, his position coach was Jim Tomsula.

Tomsula has moved up the ladder to become the team’s head coach this offseason and it looks like that’s opened the door for Franklin to return to the team. He won’t be playing on the defensive front this time, however.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee reports that Franklin will be taking a job as an entry level defensive assistant coach on Tomsula’s staff for the 2015 season. Per Barrows, the 49ers want Franklin to serve as an “apprentice” to a more experienced and as yet unnamed defensive line coach.

Franklin played for the 49ers from 2007-2010, starting in 60 of the 62 games he played for the team. Franklin went on to play for the Saints and Chargers before playing his final NFL snaps as a starter with the Colts during the 2013 season.

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Jaguars hire Kelly Skipper to coach running backs

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The influx of coaches from the league’s worst offense to its next-to-worst offense continues.

Via Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union, the Jaguars have hired Kelly Skipper as their running backs coach.

While Skipper and new Jaguars coordinator Greg Olson presided over the league’s worst offense last year, their presence could still help the Jaguars, who were 31st.

Skipper’s actually a good coach, despite spending the last eight years with the Raiders. He’s also worked as an offensive coordinator at UCLA.

He’s also coming closer to family, as his brother Tim’s working at the University of Florida and his father Jim is coaching the Panthers’ running backs.

Photo credit: Jaguars.com

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Greg Roman giving EJ Manuel a clean slate

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The Doug Marrone regime didn’t give Bills quarterback EJ Manuel much rope in 2014, yanking him from the lineup after four games and turning the offense over to Kyle Orton for the rest of the year.

Orton retired after taking Buffalo to a 9-7 record and Marrone opted to take a $4 million payout and an assistant job on Jacksonville’s staff, which provides Manuel with some new life in Buffalo. New offensive coordinator Greg Roman said Tuesday that he’s been watching film on Manuel and that Manuel has the skills to play the position, but said that what happens in their work together will determine his role on the team in 2015.

“I’m not going to get into specifics,” Roman said, via the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle. “I think he’s done some good things and displayed some good traits. We just have to get his level of consistency a little greater. Once we get through this evaluation process, he and every player is going to have a clean slate. What they might have been asked to do in the past is really not relevant to what we may or may not ask them to do. For me to pontificate about this, that, and the other, it’s a little premature.”

When Orton retired, the Bills talked about adding one or two more quarterbacks to the mix, although that came before Marrone decided to opt out of his deal. With Jeff Tuel currently the only other quarterback in town, it’s a good bet that they will still be looking for other options at the position in the event that the new boss feels the same way about Manuel as the old boss.

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Bevell says Seahawks didn’t think about height when drafting Wilson

bevell AP

Russell Wilson was such a great college quarterback that it now seems obvious that he’d be a great pro quarterback as well. But, of course, it wasn’t obvious: He lasted until the middle of the third round of the 2012 NFL draft before the Seahawks got him.

Wilson would have been a first-round pick if he were 6-foot-3, but he’s not, and so he wasn’t. Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell says the Seahawks had a simple approach to drafting Wilson: They’d ignore height.

“I think the first thing you have to do is be able to overlook the fact that he was 5’10 ½” to be able to take him,” Bevell said. “[General Manager] John Schneider did a phenomenal job in preparation for that and was able to look past that. We just tried to build our offense with what is best suited for our guys.”

Bevell played quarterback at Wisconsin in the 1990s and still knew plenty of the Badgers’ coaches when Wilson was at Wisconsin, and he said that helped him research Wilson. Bevell also said that the Seahawks liked Wilson being a two-sport athlete — even though it was Wilson’s commitment to minor league baseball that led him to lose the starting quarterback job at North Carolina State and transfer to Wisconsin.

“Russell has great savvy and awareness,” Bevell said. “I think all the sports that he played as he was growing up have given him that. His baseball days with being able to slide – timing or whatever to get down. He’s played enough football that just his spatial awareness and his vision of being able to see where all the defenders are coming from and the understanding of how important that he is in our offense and he knows that he has to be able to get up and play the next play not just that one play. Again, he has great awareness; it’s kind of innate in him.”

Wilson has all the qualities an NFL team looks for in a quarterback, except height. The Seahawks were smart to overlook that one.

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Justin Houston thinks Chiefs can win Super Bowl with Alex Smith

Justin Houston AP

The Chiefs have some contract decisions to make regarding impending free agent linebacker Justin Houston this offseason and it doesn’t sound like Houston’s feelings about committing to Kansas City for the long term are negatively impacted by the team’s offensive state of affairs.

During an interview on ESPN Tuesday, Houston said that he thought it was a “team effort” and that his view is that the team would have won more games if the defense had done a better job of stopping the opposition. He also feels that the team can win a Super Bowl with quarterback Alex Smith running the offense.

“I’m very convinced. The past two years we’ve had winning seasons. But we need some more pieces,” Houston said. “This year I feel our offensive line struggled a little bit. We had some injuries on our offensive line that caused him to get sacked more than usual. But I think we can do it with Alex.”

Among the pieces Houston thinks the team needs are wide receivers after the Chiefs became the first team since the Truman administration to go an entire season without a touchdown catch from a player at the position. Houston’s contract situation will impact their ability to do that. If the Chiefs can’t sign Houston to a long-term deal that spreads out a big cap hit, they’ll likely use the franchise tag on him and that hit would limit other things they can do to prepare for the 2015 season.

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Darrelle Revis on Jets alleged tampering: I couldn’t say much on the subject

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The Patriots have filed tampering charges against the Jets because owner Woody Johnson said he’d “love for Darrelle to come back” to the Jets while talking about Revis winding up in New England after being released by the Buccaneers last year.

Johnson’s comment could theoretically make it harder for the Patriots to renegotiate their deal with Revis, something that would make keeping him for the 2015 season plausible. On Tuesday, Revis gave no indication that Johnson’s comment is influencing his thinking about who will be signing his checks.

“I heard the Woody Johnson quote,” Revis said, via NJ.com. “If that’s how he feels, that’s how he feels. I couldn’t really say much on the subject.”

Revis faced another question about the Jets during Super Bowl Media Day when he was asked about Jets fans watching him play in the Super Bowl for the team that has ruled the AFC East for more than a decade.

“It’s not really my fault. I didn’t make the call,” Revis said. “Management made the call at that time and they felt it was best to get rid of me. So that’s the situation. That’s how I look at it.”

Revis also said he needed to find the “right team” to make it to the Super Bowl for the first time, something that stands as further suggestion that his career will continue to play out away from the team that first employed him in the NFL.

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Dan Quinn says he’s focused on his current job, not his next one

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Although NFL rules prevent it from being officially announced until Monday, everyone knows that Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn will be the next head coach of the Falcons. But even though Quinn will take a big step in his career next week when he becomes a head coach for the first time, Quinn says all of his focus is on Super Bowl Sunday.

Quinn said at Super Bowl Media Day that he appreciates the NFL rule that allowed him to interview with the Falcons during the Seahawks’ bye week, and that he’s having no trouble keeping his focus on the Super Bowl.

“The interview process allows us to go through it during the bye. I am appreciative of how the NFL does that. It is pretty easy to get right back into focus to play in this situation,” Quinn said.

Quinn said it would be crazy to be at the Super Bowl and allow his focus to be on anything else.

“This is such a cool experience,” Quinn said. “Where else would you rather be?”

Quinn has decided he would rather be in Atlanta than Seattle. But not until after the Super Bowl.

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Josh McDaniels: We’ll be smart with Richard Sherman because he’s smart

New England Patriots v Seattle Seahawks Getty Images

Patriots cornerback Darrelle Revis and Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman opted to pass on reviving their argument about who is the best cornerback in the NFL at Tuesday’s Super Bowl Media Day, but the cornerbacks were still a topic of conversation.

Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin called Revis “one of the most patient cornerbacks” he’s ever seen while teammate Jermaine Kearse praised the Patriots corner’s physical play at the line of scrimmage. The words from the New England side were similarly complimentary about Sherman, including Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels’s discussion of the need to throw the ball all over the field while also being cognizant of what Sherman can do to stymie an offense.

“It’s not easy to avoid someone the whole game … just say you’re not going to throw over there,” McDaniels said, via ESPN.com. “But you have to be smart because he will take the ball away from you. There’s a reason he’s taken the ball away from people, because of his skill level. But there’s no way around it. If the coverage takes the play there, that’s where you go. But you can’t just start going right at him if the play doesn’t take you there. We want to be smart, make the smart plays. Because he’s smart, he’ll make the smart plays. … We’re not going to avoid someone throughout, but we’re not going to go out of our way to get in trouble.”

Four Patriots caught at least 50 passes this season, including tight end Rob Gronkowski and running back Shane Vereen, so the Patriots are comfortable going all over the field to make plays through the air. That depth should make it easier for them to go after a variety of Seattle defenders throughout the game without having to force things in any direction other than the one that might be open on a particular play.

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NFLPA: NFL can’t mandate counseling for Adrian Peterson

Adrian Peterson AP

When NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended Vikings running back Adrian Peterson last season, he set April 15 as a date to consider Peterson’s reinstatement and mandated that Peterson meet with a league-approved psychiatrist for counseling after pleading no contest to a charge of misdemeanor reckless assault on his four-year-old son.

On Monday, the NFLPA filed a brief in federal court arguing that Goodell has no power to impose such a condition on Peterson. The union, which is suing to have Peterson reinstated as soon as possible in a case set to begin next month, argues that Goodell’s powers under the collective bargaining agreement are limited to fining players, suspending them or terminating their contracts.

“The collectively-bargained NFL Player Contract could not be clearer in expressly limiting the Commissioner’s disciplinary authority ‘to fine Player[s] in a reasonable amount, to suspend Player[s] for a certain period or indefinitely; and/or to terminate th[eir] contract[s],'” the NFLPA writes in the brief, via ESPN.com. “The NFL does not deny that the Commissioner’s imposed counseling requirement is neither a fine, suspension, or contract termination, nor would there be any other ‘plausible’ interpretation of this CBA provision permitting such a requirement. Instead, the NFL — like the [suspension] itself — entirely ignores the Player Contract’s CBA disciplinary limitation. As the NFL highlights, Arbitrator [Harold] Henderson sustained the counseling requirement of Mr. Peterson’s discipline not on the basis of any provision in the CBA, but by relying upon Commissioner Goodell’s unilaterally promulgated Personal Conduct Policies.”

Peterson met with a psychology professor from Harvard following his indictment in September and provided details to the league, which directed Peterson to meet with a different doctor from NYU. After his suspension was upheld by Henderson, Peterson told ESPN that he felt “like any type of process with the NFL is not the way to go.”

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Report: Bob Bicknell possible candidate for offensive coordinator role with 49ers

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An Eagles assistant coach is reportedly on San Francisco’s radar as it tries to fill its offensive coordinator vacancy.

Eagles wide receivers coach Bob Bicknell has been “discussed” as a potential candidate for the 49ers’ coordinator role, Albert Breer of NFL Media reports.

The 45-year-old Bicknell has been the Eagles’ receivers coach the last two seasons. Previously, he was an assistant with Buffalo (2010-2012) and Kansas City (2007-2009).

Bicknell has five seasons of experience as an offensive coordinator, with all of it coming in NFL Europe from 2001 through 2005.

Colts assistant Rob Chudzinski, expected to be a candidate for San Francisco’s offensive coordinator position, has elected to stay with Indianapolis, which named him associate head coach.

The 49ers and Rams are the only clubs with offensive coordinator vacancies.

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