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Ex-Dolphin, 49er Freddie Solomon dies at 59

1984 NFC Championship Game: Chicago Bears v San Francisco 49ers Getty Images

Freddie Solomon, a wide receiver for the Dolphins and 49ers who was a key player on two Super Bowl-winning teams, has died at the age of 59.

Solomon was diagnosed with colon and liver cancer nine months ago, and his health took a turn for the worse last week, the Tampa Tribune reports.

As a quarterback at the University of Tampa in the early 1970s Solomon did sensational things with the ball in his hands, rushing for 3,299 yards, which at the time was the all-time NCAA record for a quarterback. Although the NFL didn’t have any place for his style of quarterback in those days, Don Shula was enamored enough with Solomon’s talent that he used a second-round draft pick on him in 1975.

After three seasons in Miami, Solomon was traded to San Francisco, where he became a great fit in Bill Walsh’s offense. His best season was 1981, when he caught 59 passes for 969 yards and eight touchdowns. Following that season the 49ers won the Super Bowl, getting there when Joe Montana hit Dwight Clark in the end zone for “The Catch” to win the NFC Championship Game. Solomon was the first option on that play.

Solomon retired after the 1985 season, and he came to be known in Tampa as much for his good works in the community as he was for his football heroics. He did outreach to young people through his work in community relations with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, and he teamed up with Eddie DeBartolo Jr., who owned the 49ers when Solomon played there, to provide an annual Christmas celebration for foster children.

Solomon is survived by his wife of 33 years, Dee Solomon.

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Bears name Clint Hurtt outside linebackers coach

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The Bears have brought several of John Fox’s assistants to Chicago from Denver since hiring Fox as their head coach, but one member of the 2014 staff will be sticking around.

Clint Hurtt was the defensive line coach in 2014 and will remain on the staff in 2015 as the team’s outside linebackers coach. The position is usually found on staffs running a 3-4 defense, which isn’t what the Bears ran last season but is likely to be at least part of their scheme in 2015 with Vic Fangio coming aboard as the new defensive coordinator.

Hurtt helped the Bears defensive linemen record 35 of the team’s 39 sacks during the 2014 season and the outside linebackers will play a major role in the team’s pass rush if the Bears do move toward more 3-4 fronts under Fangio.

The Bears also announced that offensive quality control coaches Brendan Nugent and Carson Walch would not return to the team.

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Bobby Wagner: Seahawks “will be ready” for Patriots’ formation ploys

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In the divisional round, the Patriots caught the Ravens by surprise by declaring typically eligible receivers to be ineligible on certain plays.

The Seahawks are well-aware of this. And as Pro Bowl middle linebacker Bobby Wagner tells it, the Seattle defense will be prepared for it.

“Everybody will be ready for it,” Wagner told reporters at Media Day on Tuesday. “It’s going to be run maybe once or twice in the game, so it’s not going to be a big deal.”

Wagner indicated the responsibility for recognizing the Patriots’ formation fell on the entire defense, as well as the officials, who have to announce the ineligible receiver.

Wagner observed that the opposition’s fatigue is a factor in New England’s formation ploys.

“They do it at a time where they feel like the team is tired, so they’re always going to catch you when you’re not thinking as much or when you’re tired, but I think we do a great job of not getting tired,” Wagner said.

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Robert Kraft: Party with Roger Goodell made Richard Sherman money

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When Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman arrived in Arizona for the Super Bowl, he opined that the Patriots wouldn’t be punished as a result of the NFL’s investigation into their use of under-inflated footballs because of a “conflict of interest” illustrated by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell attending a party at Patriots owner Robert Kraft’s house before the AFC Championship game.

Kraft didn’t seem to agree with that take on Monday when he deplaned with a statement demanding an apology from the league “for what [the Patriots have had to endure this past week” in the event that the league’s investigation determines the team didn’t intentionally tamper with the balls.  Kraft then slammed the league for using “circumstantial leaked evidence” to paint the Patriots in a bad light.

At Tuesday’s Super Bowl Media Day, Kraft said he only wanted to answer questions about football, but did respond to a query about Sherman’s remarks. After calling Sherman “a very smart marketing whiz,” Kraft explained that the party in question would actually benefit Sherman.

“If you go into the facts of what he said, the NFL always used to pay for a big party for the AFC Championship Game. We’ve been privileged to own the team for 21 years, and this was our 10th championship game. When the league stopped giving the parties, we started doing it. This is our third one,” Kraft said, via ESPNBoston.com. “I think Mr. Sherman understood that he’s the biggest beneficiary, because they get over 50 percent of the revenues. So he didn’t go to Harvard, but Stanford must be pretty good because he figured it out.”

The league’s investigation isn’t expected to wrap up anytime soon, which leaves plenty of time for plenty of people to share opinions about what will  or won’t happen in the most watched study of air pressure in memory.

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Richard Sherman: Roger Goodell should have to talk weekly

Super Bowl Football AP

While Marshawn Lynch is trying to make himself into a counter-culture commodity by not talking, there are other people who might have things to say who aren’t terribly available either.

And that’s the point Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman made Tuesday at media day, specifically mentioning commissioner Roger Goodell.

Every one of the NFL’s personnel should be obligated to speak weekly,” Sherman said, via Mike Garafolo of FOX Sports. 

See, as political statements against the moneyed bosses who make them put on the red nose to participate in the circus media day has become, this one was a lot more effective.

Lynch is just doing it to be difficult, and frankly, I’m not sure he has that much to say.

Goodell has many things to address, and he’ll get his chance Friday.

That press conference could easily become the same kind of performance art as today (though league PR manages to filter out the costumed silliness better for the boss).

But Sherman’s right. I’m far more interested in what Goodell has to say than Lynch. But Roger’s not threatening to fine himself, either.

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Perry Fewell joining Jay Gruden’s staff as defensive backs coach

New York Giants Super Bowl XLVI Media Availability Getty Images

Perry Fewell drew up game plans to stop the Redskins a couple of times a year since becoming the Giants’ defensive coordinator at 2010, but he’ll have a different take on Washington’s team this year.

According to multiple reports, Fewell has agreed to become the team’s defensive backs coach a couple of weeks after the Giants canned him after a 6-10 season. Fewell also interviewed for a job on the 49ers staff and reportedly received an offer to come on board, but opted to stay in the NFC East.

Fewell will inherit a group that contributed to Washington allowing 249.4 yards per game in 2014 under Raheem Morris, who has departed for a job with the Falcons. With safeties Brandon Meriweather and Ryan Clark and cornerback E.J. Biggers all headed for free agency and Joe Barry replacing Jim Haslett as defensive coordinator, there will likely be a lot of new faces in the group next season.

Should Fewell want those faces to be familiar, he could push the team to bid for Giants defensive backs hitting free agency. Safeties Antrel Rolle and Stevie Brown join cornerbacks Walter Thurmond and Zack Bowman in that group.

 

 

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Thousands of fans spend $28.50 to attend Media Day

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Many of the players at Super Bowl Media Day don’t want to be there, even though it’s their job. Many of the reporters at Super Bowl Media Day don’t want to be there, even though it’s their job. But while Super Bowl Media Day is often disdained by those who participate in it for a living, thousands of people in attendance wanted to be there so much that they paid for the privilege.

The NFL sold tickets to Media Day at $28.50 a pop, and thousands of fans turned out to the US Airways Center in Phoenix to be there to see it live. Most of those fans seemed to be enjoying themselves.

The fans in the stands got a radio that allows them to tune to whichever podium they choose and hear whatever player they like, and fans were cheering, laughing and otherwise indicating that they liked hearing from their favorite players.

So while most of us who attend Media Day as part of our jobs probably don’t think it’s an event worthy of buying a ticket to attend, there are a lot of football fans who think it’s a fun experience. Which means that the NFL will surely continue selling thousands of tickets to Media Day.

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Marshawn Lynch shows up at media day to avoid fines

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A year ago at Super Bowl media day, Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch played peek-a-boo with reporters, using a side entrance to make a late arrival and an early getaway.

This year, the NFL put him on a podium for a tougher escape, probably as the league’s reminder they set the rules.

Lynch showed up and did his part. Our guy Curtis Crabtree was in the best position to hear this nothing, as Lynch gave the same answer to all the early questions.

I’m just here so I won’t get fined,” he said repeatedly.

Lynch left after less than five minutes, making the appropriate gesture of whatever it is he’s trying to prove.

It really doesn’t have to be that hard. Lynch was able to make a promotional video for candy, but he can’t talk to the people who want to hear from him on other matters.

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Raiders hire Rob Moore, Bernie Parmalee to coaching staff

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A pair of former NFL players are among four new coaching staff hires announced by the Raiders on Tuesday.

Ex-Dolphins and Jets tailback Bernie Parmalee will coach Oakland’s running backs, while former Jets and Cardinals wideout Rob Moore will coach the club’s wide receivers.

The 47-year-old Parmalee previously coached tight ends for Kansas City (2010-2012) and Miami (2004). He also was a special teams assistant with Miami in 2002 and 2003.

Moore, 46, was the Bills’ wide receivers coach in 2014.

In addition to Parmalee and Moore, the Raiders have hired Bobby Johnson to coach tight ends and Tracy Smith as assistant special teams coach. Johnson was the Lions’ assistant offensive line coach in 2014, though he coached the Lions’ special teams the previous season. Smith was the 49ers’ assistant special teams coach the last three seasons.

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Wilfork calls Belichick the greatest coach ever

wilfork AP

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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