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The first official non-practice Super Bowl practice report

New England Patriots' Gronkowski is tackled by Baltimore Ravens' Pollard in the third quarter during the NFL AFC Championship football game in Foxborough Reuters

The NFL has some great traditions.  And some bizarre habits.

One particularly goofy quirk comes from the publication of injury reports for practices that didn’t happen.  It happens from time to time during the season.  And it happens during the bye week before the Super Bowl.

On Wednesday, neither the Giants nor the Patriots practiced.  But both teams were required to predict whether and to what extent injured players would have been able to participate in practice, if there actually had been practice.

For the Patriots, the only player whom they think wouldn’t have been able to practice if there were practice was tight end Rob Gronkowski, whose ankle suffered an unnatural, Gumby-like twist on Sunday against the Ravens.

The following Patriots would have participated in practice on a limited basis, if there had been practice: receiver Deion Branch (knee), tackle Marcus Cannon (ankle), safety Patrick Chung (knee), linebacker Dane Fletcher (thumb), safety James Ihedigbo (shoulder), defensive tackle Kyle Love (ankle), guard Logan
Mankins (knee), linebacker Rob Ninkovich (hip), linebacker Brandon Spikes (knee), tackle Sebastian
Vollmer (back, foot), receiver Wes Welker (knee), and linebacker Tracy White (abdomen).

Guard Dan Connolly (groin) and receiver Matt Slater (shoulder) would have fully participated in practice.

For the Giants, running back Ahmad Bradshaw (foot), receiver Hakeem Nicks (shoulder), and safety Tyler Sash (concussion) would not have practiced.  Defensive end Osi Umenyiora (ankle, knee) would have practiced on a limited basis.

Stay tuned for further updates for who wouldn’t have practiced on days on which there wasn’t practice.

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Kroenke could be making a bid for the Dodgers

File photo of Los Angeles Dodgers before their Opening Day MLB National League baseball game in Los Angeles Reuters

Stan Kroenke owns the St. Louis Rams.  And the English soccer club Arsenal.  He also owns, through family members, the NBA’s Denver Nuggets and the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche.

But he doesn’t own a baseball team.  Yet.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Kroenke has “explored” the possibility of joining the bidding for the L.A. Dodgers.

Though the process, with more than 10 candidates to purchase the team from Frank McCourt, is far from complete, a successful effort by Kroenke to buy the Dodgers could be regarded as the first tangible step toward moving the Rams to Los Angeles.

And here’s where things get even more interesting.  If Kroenke owns the Dodgers and another team moves to Los Angeles, how would the NFL’s cross-ownership rules apply?  Currently, an owner of an NFL team can own a non-football team in another market as long as there’s no NFL team in that market.  If Kroenke buys a baseball team in Los Angeles, which would be permissible, and then an NFL team other than the one owned by Kroenke moves there, the situation could get dicey, to say the least.

We’ve asked the league for clarification of the manner in which the cross-ownership rules would apply in this situation.

It may be that Kroenke would merely be required at that point to transfer the paperwork of the Dodgers to another family member.  Regardless, it would be hard not to view a purchase of the Dodgers as a potential precursor to moving the Rams to the same town.

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Minneapolis stadium could be prevented by city charter

110314-biz-minneapolis-1213p.grid-6x2 Getty Images

Though Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton plans to propose that a new Vikings stadium be constructed on the site of the Metrodome, the project entails many challenges.

Given the current mood of the electorate in Minnesota, the biggest challenge comes from getting the place built without having to put the matter on the ballot.

In 1997, voters adopted a provision in the Minneapolis charter that requires public approval of any payment of $10 million or more by the city for a sports facility.  The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports that the powers-that-be plan to circumvent that requirement by depositing city sales tax revenues into an independent stadium authority that would then spend the money.

Good luck with that.

The maneuver would render the charter provision meaningless, allowing the city to ignore the requirement any time it wants by setting up an independent authority that would receive and spend the money that the city directly would be spending.  Frankly, it’s surprising that anyone would be able to articulate that possibility with a straight face.

So maybe the Vikings have reportedly decided to reluctantly accept the Metrodome site because the Vikings realize that the Metrodome site, along with any other potential location in Minneapolis, is doomed.  In the end, the team’s preferred location of Arden Hills could become the only viable location for a new Vikings stadium.

Other than, you know, Los Angeles.

UPDATE 9:21 p.m. ET:  Several of you have pointed out that Target Field was constructed in Minneapolis notwithstanding the city charter provision in question.  However, city tax revenues were not used for Target Field.  Instead, a county-wide tax was implemented via a legislative device that avoided a public vote.  The ultimate challenge for the Vikings and the politicians is to find a way to publicly fund the stadium without exposing the process to the inevitable failure of a public vote.

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On the Dolphins, Matt Flynn, and Peyton Manning

Peyton Manning, Maurice Jones-Drew AP

We’re going to hear a lot of reports in coming weeks about teams that are interested in Peyton Manning, if healthy.

It would probably be shorter to create a list of teams not interested in a healthy Manning.

Any team with modest room for improvement at quarterback will investigate one of the league’s all-time greats. It’s not like Manning was exactly struggling when he last played.

The latest report about Manning comes from Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald. He has a team source that says the Dolphins would prioritize going after Manning ahead of Matt Flynn. (The Dolphins also prefer Tom Brady to Matt Cassel, and they like Mario Williams more than Rob Ninkovich.)

Pursing Manning will be tricky because of timing. Will Manning be able to show he’s healthy enough for a monster contract early in the offseason? If not, can teams wait around to see what happens with Manning’s recovery?

Salguero notes that the Dolphins have not even shown “informal interest” in Flynn behind the scenes despite coach Joe Philbin’s ties to Flynn. That’s good, because even informal interest would be tampering. Perhaps the Dolphins are just trying to cover their collective backside.

Aaron Rodgers told Jason Wilde of ESPN Milwaukee on Wednesday that it’s a “strong possibility” the Dolphins will pursue Flynn. That’s practically evidence of tampering right there.

We’d expect the Dolphins to show interest in Flynn eventually. Any team like the Dolphins that has interest in Manning can’t realistically expect to land him. They need alternatives.

There’s a real chance Manning will never play football again. If he does play again, there is going to be a lot of competition for his services.

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League will allow in-game tweeting during Pro Bowl

20100503_i-phone-twitter-getty_w Getty Images

The NFL’s annual Pro Bowl routinely provides the league with an occasion to let its hair down.  Or, some would say, to remove to the stick from a place where sticks ordinarily aren’t stuck.

At this year’s Pro Bowl, the league will permit players to post Twitter messages during the game, according to Darren Rovell of CNBC.

But it won’t be open season for tweeting, with players pounding away on their smartphones while in full pads.  Instead, each sideline will have a computer station.

Rovell points out that the computer stations won’t be sponsored.  He should have added “this year.”  Surely, the league will find a way to turn this into a revenue stream, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Ordinarily, the league prohibits players from posting messages on Twitter and other social media beginning 90 minutes before kickoff and extending through the post-game media availability.

The game will be televised by NBC, with the game streaming online at NBCSports.com.  I’ll also be tweeting during the Pro Bowl, with questions and answers appearing on the right rail of the NBC Postseason Extra application.

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John Harbaugh dismisses “Scoreboardgate” as “nonsense”

AFC Championship - Baltimore Ravens v New England Patriots Getty Images

On Sunday, Ravens coach John Harbaugh gave Ravens kicking consultant Randy Brown a shove on national television.  Three days later, Harbaugh is essentially telling Brown to take his tinfoil-hat theory about the failed field goal attempt at the end of the AFC title game — and shove it.

“Any suggestion the wrong down info was a deliberate effort to affect the outcome of the game is nonsense,” Harbaugh said Wednesday, per Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun.

Brown hinted at foul play when talking to WIP radio in Philly on Tuesday.  “The scoreboard was one down behind, the entire last three plays, from what we understand,” Brown said.  “I don’t think you can rule anything out in New England, can you?

Cundiff himself said that he was rushed in part because the scoreboard showed that it was third down.

Harbaugh doesn’t want to hear any of that.  “We knew what the down and distance were on our last series,” Harbaugh said.  “The scoreboard was not a factor for us.”

It’s the right move.  Reckless claims of cheating undermine the integrity of the team making them, and that’s surely something owner Steve Bisciotti doesn’t want to see.  Besides, creating the impression that the Ravens actually relied on the scoreboard creates a Keystone Cops quality to the entire operation, something that neither Harbaugh nor Bisciotti nor anyone in the organization should want.

Moving forward, it’ll be interesting to see if Cundiff and/or Brown return in 2012, either because of the missed kick or their subsequent comments about it.

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Colts continue dramatic change in philosophy with Pagano

Jarret Johnson, Terrell Suggs, Chuck Pagano AP

Peyton Manning said this week that everyone was walking on eggshells at the Colts facility because no one was sure who was going to be fired next.

We know this much: More change is on the way.

Florio broke the news that the Colts have chosen Ravens defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano to be their next head coach. (The Colts have since confirmed Pagano is the pick.) Owner Jim Irsay has rapidly overhauled the Colts organization.

The Polian regime is out in the front office, replaced by new G.M. Ryan Grigson. Coach Jim Caldwell has been replaced by Pagano. Any hire was going to put the Colts on a new path as a franchise, but Pagano seems like an especially dramatic shift.

Pagano favors a physical, attacking 3-4 defense. The Colts have built their defenses over the last decade with quicker, smaller players. The Colts will get bigger fast under Pagano.

Pagano displays a great sense of humor when he talks to the media. He comes off as a little brash and outspoken. In demeanor, Pagano is a lot closer to Rex Ryan than Caldwell or Tony Dungy.

Irsay ripped up the Colts blueprint from the last 15 years in three weeks. They are starting from scratch with a new identity.

It’s no wonder that Manning seems to believe he will be the next Colt out the door.

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Source: Chuck Pagano to coach Colts

Chuck Pagano AP

On Tuesday, a guy who spent one year as a defensive coordinator was hired to be the new head coach of the Raiders.  On Wednesday, word has emerged that a guy who spent one year as a defensive coordinator will be hired to be the new head coach of the Colts.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, Ravens defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano will accept the job.

Pagano, 51, spent the 2011 season as the coordinator of the Ravens defense, after spending three seasons as the team’s secondary coach.  He also has coached with the Browns and Raiders at the NFL level, and at various colleges, including the University of Miami, East Carolina, UNLV, Boise State, and USC.

He displayed an infectious smile and a sharp sense of humor when introduced as Baltimore’s defensive coordinator last year.  “I had a great experience, or sentence,” Pagano said at the time regarding a prior stint with the Raiders.  “Well, I can’t say sentence, a two-year sentence in Oakland.  And congratulations to Hue Jackson, it’s well deserved.  And he will earn every cent that they pay him.  It won’t be much, but he will earn every nickel.  But I had a great experience out there.  And two years was plenty.”

To get him in position to be a head coach, one year as a defensive coordinator was plenty.

And if Pagano displayed that kind of charm and wit at his interview with Jim Irsay, the two men surely hit it off.

UPDATE 4:40 p.m. ET:  The Colts have announced the move.  A press conference will be held at 3:00 p.m. ET on Thursday.  We wonder whether there will be more questions about Peyton Manning than references to Rob Lowe.

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Jerry Jones dreams of having linebackers as good as San Francisco’s

Jerry Jones AP

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones watched the NFC Championship Game and came away coveting the 49ers’ linebackers.

San Francisco has a pair of linebackers in Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman that Jones is hoping his pair of linebackers, Bruce Carter and Sean Lee, could some day measure up to.

We all watched Bowman and Willis out there, and boy, did those guys make a difference,” Jones said, via the Star Telegram. “This is my dream. It’s not exactly the prototype for the makeup of the two guys you’d want in the middle – you might want more of a thumper, a big guy, to go along with Sean Lee. But if we can keep both those guys out there, adjust our defense, we might be going toward Bowman and Willis area like they have in San Francisco.”

Those comments are the second time this week that Jones has expressed envy about one of the teams in the NFC Championship Game, having previously said he thinks Eli Manning is the biggest difference between the Giants and the Cowboys. Jones wasn’t trying to knock Tony Romo with that comparison, and he isn’t trying to knock Lee and Carter with his praise of Willis and Bowman. But he seems to view the two teams that advanced to the NFC Championship as having superior players to the Cowboys at some key positions.

Perhaps Jones should have a talk with the Cowboys’ general manager about that.

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Report: Accidental tweet gets Grossi removed from Browns beat

randy_lerner105_786247c-1 AP

Last week, long-time Browns beat writer Tony Grossi of the Cleveland Plain Dealer inadvertently posted an unflattering message about Browns owner Randy Lerner on Twitter.

“He is a pathetic figure, the most irrelevant billionaire in the world,” Grossi said.  The tweet was later deleted.

As it turns out, Lerner may remain sufficiently relevant to influence the work assignments at the Cleveland Plain Dealer.  According to CleveScene.com, Grossi has been removed from the beat.

Last week, the newspaper addressed the issue at its website, Cleveland.com:  “Last night, Plain Dealer Browns beat reporter Tony Grossi made an inadvertent, inappropriate post to Twitter concerning Browns owner Randy Lerner.  Grossi has reached out to Lerner to apologize.  The Plain Dealer also apologizes.”

Grossi also addressed the situation in a video podcast:  “Last night there was a comment attributed to me on my Twitter account.  It was inadvertent, it was inappropriate, and I do apologize for it.  I’ve reached out to Randy Lerner to apologize to him for it and we’ll just leave it at that. It was inappropriate and not meant to be tweeted, but it was inappropriate nonetheless.”

Though no one has explained specifically how it happened that the tweet was posted on Grossi’s page, it appears this is the latest example of someone not understanding how to properly use the “direct message” function.  Grossi apparently intended to express his opinion privately to one of his Twitter followers, but he accidentally posted it onto his primary Twitter profile, which can be viewed publicly.

And while we know nothing about any other issues or circumstances between Grossi and his bosses, the reaction seems more than a little harsh.  Though the not-intended-for-publication message raises potential questions about Grossi’s objectivity when it comes to Lerner, it’s not as if Lerner is actively involved in the management of the team.  In many respects, Lerner is an absentee landlord, with little or no interest in doing the things that so many other NFL owners love to do.

But while Lerner takes a hands-off approach to the Browns, he has shown a willingness to respond to indignities with aggressive action.  In 2008, the Browns ended a preseason partnership with WOIO-TV after the station broadcast a portion of a 911 call made by Lerner’s sister when her daughter drowned.

“The recent coverage of the Lerner family tragedy is but the latest, albeit the most shocking and insensitive example of this destructive behavior,” Browns vice president Michael Keenan wrote in a letter to WOIO terminating the contract for “irresponsible journalism.”

It’s currently unknown whether Lerner or the Browns requested, suggested, or demanded that Grossi be reassigned.  Regardless of how this all came to be, Grossi’s only wrongdoing, in our view, was his failure to properly navigate the Twitter application on his smartphone.

Besides, the substance of Grossi’s comments don’t come off to us as objectively offensive or inappropriate.  He referred to Lerner as “pathetic” and called Lerner an “irrelevant billionaire.”  (I’ve been called much worse than an “irrelevant billionaire,” and I aspire to be much less.)

If it turns out that Lerner indeed pushed the Plain Dealer to dump Grossi from the beat for his accidental expression of a private opinion he’s entitled to have, it definitely will be evidence, in our opinion, of a pathetic act by the billionaire owner of a largely irrelevant team.

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Chris Hoke will retire

Chris Hoke AP

The first, expected change to the Steelers defense will officially take place Thursday. Defensive lineman Chris Hoke will announce his retirement at a press conference held by the Steelers.

Hoke was a classic, valuable role player for an entire decade. He joined the organization in 2001 as an undrafted free agent and remained a backup for most of his career.

Hoke only started more than three games in a season once (2003), but he was the type of unsung 3-4 defensive lineman that the Steelers defense is built upon. Hoke had a neck injury this season and his retirement is no surprise.

The Steelers aging defense faces a lot of questions this offseason, with the futures of Casey Hampton, James Farrior, and Aaron Smith all uncertain.

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PFT Live: Who has more Super Bowl motivation?

Mike Florio kicks off PFT Live talking about the motivation for the Patriots and Giants heading into the Super Bowl, how far the Harbaugh brothers can take their teams in the NFL and the Raiders’ hiring of Dennis Allen as their new head coach.

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PFT Live: Who will be the next coach of the Bucs?

Mike Florio talks with Tampa Bay Buccaneers reporter Rick Stroud about the Bucs’ recent coaching search. The Bucs almost lured Oregon coach Chip Kelly away from the college ranks, but the deal for the offensive guru fell through. Now the Bucs must start from scratch and find a coach who can turn the team around.

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PFT Live: Where will Peyton play next season?

Mike Florio takes questions from PFT Planet about who will be the next defensive coordinator of the Broncos, the future of Peyton Manning, why Eric Mangini hasn’t been a candidate for head coaching vacancies, why the Raiders didn’t go with an established head coach and more.

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5,000 temporary seats will be added for Super Bowl

Super Bowl Banners AP

A year after efforts to expand Cowboys Stadium resulted in seats that weren’t ready and paying customers who were displaced and a class-action lawsuit that is still pending, the powers-that-be plan to add extra chairs to Lucas Oil Stadium for Super Bowl XLVI.

Per the Indianapolis Business Journal, via SportsBusiness Daily, the NFL plans to add 5,000 seats for the Giants-Patriots game, pushing the capacity from 63,000 to 68,000.

When the bid was first made, the plan included expansion to 70,000.  More recently, only 254 extra seats were expected to be added.

League spokesman Brian McCarthy told the AP that last year’s experience “played a role” in the decision to keep the number under 70,000.

The most sparsely attended Super Bowl was the first one, which was played before Lamar Hunt had even coined the term.  For the AFL-NFL Championship Game at the L.A. Coliseum, only 61,946 showed up.  (When the game returned six years later, more than 90,000 were present.)

The second-lowest attendance came in 1992, when 63,130 witnessed the Redskins beat the Bills in Super Bowl XXVI in the Metrodome.

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