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“Bountygate” possibly taints Saints’ Super Bowl win

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The NFL’s investigation regarding the use by the Saints of a bounty program began after a Super Bowl run that featured big hits on Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner and Vikings quarterback Brett Favre.

“Our investigation began in early 2010 when allegations were first made that Saints players had targeted opposing players, including Kurt Warner of the Cardinals and Brett Favre of the Vikings,” Commissioner Goodell said in the league’s release announcing the determination that the “bounty” rules had been violated.  “Our security department interviewed numerous players and other individuals.  At the time, those interviewed denied that any such program existed and the player that made the allegation retracted his earlier assertions.  As a result, the allegations could not be proven.  We recently received significant and credible new information and the investigation was re-opened during the latter part of the 2011 season.”

That “significant and credible new information” possibly came from a former Saints player or coach with direct knowledge of the bounty program.

In the 2009 division-round playoff, Warner took a wicked (but clean) post-interception hit from Bobby McCray.  The following weekend, the Saints repeatedly battered Favre in the NFC title game.

The fact that former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams administered the program didn’t prompt him to be discreet.  Before Super Bowl XLIV against the Colts, Williams said of Peyton Manning, “We’re going to have to do a good job of finding ways to get to him and when we do get to him we’re going to have to make sure he gets a couple ‘remember me’ shots when we get there.”

As the 2010 regular-season opener against Minnesota approached, Williams generally said, “We have to send messages to every offense about how physical it’s going to be when they play us.  Those messages are out there, starting with No. 4.”

The league’s announcement that the Saints violated the “bounty” rules sends a clear message to the Saints and every other team regarding the fact that such activities won’t be accepted.  But what message does this entire situation end regarding the Super Bowl victory the Saints earned at the end of a playoff run fueled by extra payments for injuring opposing players?

Feel free to make your opinion known below.

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Jordy Nelson’s chance to play this week is very small

Jordy Nelson AP

The Packers were hoping to keep playing long enough to get Jordy Nelson back on the field. It appears they’re going to have to get to the Super Bowl to do that.

According to Rob Demovsky of, a source said Nelson’s chance to return for the NFC Championship Game exists, but was a very small one.

Nelson suffered broken ribs in the Wild Card win over the Giants, and was inactive last week. There was some suggestion that he might try to practice last Saturday, but the Packers shut him down on Friday.

He apparently has no internal injuries, but it’s an obviously painful injury which has kept him from doing anything beyond the rehab work with the team’s athletic training staff.

Nelson led the Packers with 97 catches for 1,257 yards and 14 touchdowns, and they obviously miss him. But their receiving corps and tight end Jared Cook were able to take up the slack.

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Philip Rivers isn’t trying to get out of L.A. move

SAN DIEGO, CA - JANUARY 01:   Philip Rivers #17 of the San Diego Chargers heads down the tunnel to warm up ahead of a game against the Kansas City Chiefs before a game at Qualcomm Stadium on January 1, 2017 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images) Getty Images

Two years ago, there were reports suggesting that Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers didn’t want to move his ever-growing family to Los Angeles. Then, after weeks of rumors regarding a potential trade to Tennessee, which would have put him not far from his Alabama hometown, Rivers signed a four-year, $83.25 million contract, extending his commitment to the team through 2019.

The contract was signed at a time when he knew a move to L.A. was very possible, if not likely. Which is more than enough proof to show he’s all in with the relocation.

If that wasn’t enough, his interview from last week with XTRA 1360 in San Diego should be.

If that wasn’t enough, there’s this: A source with knowledge of the situation says that a new report that he’s not interested in moving to L.A. and that the 49ers are interested in securing his services is not true. (Really, how could the 49ers be interested in Rivers when they currently don’t have a coach or a General Manager?)

Unless Rivers belongs in L.A. to pursue a career in acting, his comments from last week came off as honest and genuine and effusive about playing in Los Angeles for the balance of his career, whatever it may be.

“I’m not gonna be there for 13 years but I’m gonna give ’em all I’ve got in the short time I have left,” Rivers said.

He has 35 million reasons to do that — along with $13.5 million in previously-paid bonus money.

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Jaguars interviewing Mike Nolan for position coach gig

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As it turns out, Chip Kelly’s not the only former 49ers head coach interviewing with the Jaguars.

According to Alex Marvez of the Sporting News, Mike Nolan has talked to the Jaguars about a linebackers coach job.

Nolan, 57, coached linebackers for the Chargers last year, after a three-year stint as defensive coordinator for the Falcons.

He had an 18-37 record with the 49ers and was fired midway through the 2008 season. That’s still better than the 2-14 Kelly put on the board last year in his one year in San Francisco. He has interviewed for the Jacksonville offensive coordinator job.

The Jaguars are also adding former Clemson assistant coach Marion Hobby to work with their defensive line, but he never coached the 49ers.

So if anyone knows where Jim Tomsula is at the moment, let us know.

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Report: Bills to interview Greg Olson Thursday, Brad Childress not likely for OC

JACKSONVILLE, FL - AUGUST 30:   Blaine Gabbert #11 of the Jacksonville Jaguars (L), #7 Chad Henne, and Assistant coach Greg Olson talk during a preseason game against the Atlanta Falcons at EverBank Field on August 30, 2012 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images) Getty Images

A report over the weekend pegged Chiefs co-offensive coordinator Brad Childress and former Jaguars offensive coordinator Greg Olson as candidates to take the offensive coordinator job on new Bills head coach Sean McDermott’s staff.

Things appear to be moving forward with Olson. Vic Carucci of the Buffalo News reports that Olson will interview with the team on Thursday.

If Olson were to get hired by the Bills, it would be his sixth tour of duty as an offensive coordinator in the NFL. The most recent stint ended before the end of his second season in Jacksonville when the Jaguars fired him in October as the unit in general and quarterback Blake Bortles failed to build on the growth they showed in 2015.

A bid for Childress may not get off the ground. Carucci reports that it appears the former Vikings head coach is “out of the picture” for a gig in Buffalo.

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Jerry Jones: I “really believe” Tony Romo will be in a Super Bowl

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - FEBRUARY 06:  (2ndL-R) Dallas Cowboys Owner / President / General Manager Jerry Jones, NFL player Tony Romo, and AXS TV Chairman, CEO, and President Mark Cuban attend the DirecTV Super Saturday Night co-hosted by Mark Cuban's AXS TV at Pier 70 on February 6, 2016 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images for DirecTV) Getty Images

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones isn’t ready to say goodbye to Tony Romo or anything else about how things will play out for the quarterback over the course of the offseason, but he’s not wavering from one of his longest-held convictions about the quarterback.

During an appearance on 105.3 The Fan on Tuesday, Jones reiterated his postgame comments about it not being the time to really delve into questions about what’s next for Romo. He was willing to discuss his belief that “Romo is capable of doing” what Aaron Rodgers did against the Cowboys on Sunday and that Romo’s future includes a trip to the Super Bowl.

“I really believe that Tony Romo will play in a Super Bowl,” Jones said, via the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “Now try that one on. I know that if he’s healthy enough, he’ll be in a Super Bowl. I strongly believe that.”

The questions of where Romo will get the chance to prove Jones correct and how he’ll get there remain unanswered and Jones was firm about them remaining unanswered until he’s ready to make “my decision” about the quarterback’s future.

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Roger Goodell continues to avoid New England

ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 14:  NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell stands on the field prior to the game between the Atlanta Falcons and Seattle Seahwaks at the Georgia Dome on January 14, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) Getty Images

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell attended Saturday’s game in Atlanta, so with the two conference championship games set for Atlanta and New England on Sunday, it would make sense for Goodell to go to Gillette Stadium to visit another league franchise.

But Goodell won’t be in New England. He will attend the NFC Championship Game in Atlanta, the league confirmed to Mike Reiss of ESPN. Goodell still hasn’t attended a game in New England since the 2014 playoffs.

The obvious reason is that Goodell would face a frosty reception from the Patriots and their fans. After suspending Tom Brady and docking the Patriots’ first-round draft pick this year for Deflategate, Goodell is Public Enemy No. 1 in New England. He would be booed mercilessly by Patriots fans if he showed his face in New England.

And so if we’re going to see a face-to-face meeting between Goodell and Brady, it will only come in Houston, if the Patriots win the Super Bowl and Goodell is there on the podium to congratulate the winners after the game. That would be an awkward moment for Goodell, and a moment of vindication for the Patriots.

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Texans don’t want to lose Romeo Crennel

HOUSTON, TX - AUGUST 22:  Defensive coordinator Romeo Crenne of the Houston Texans waits in the bench area during their game against the Denver Broncos at  NRG Stadium on August 22, 2015 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Texans allowed the least yards of any team in the NFL during the regular season, which was the main reason why they were able to win the AFC South and a playoff game despite shoddy quarterback play and the 28th-most points in the league.

It’s also the easy explanation for why they’d prefer not to make a change at defensive coordinator heading into the 2017 season. Romeo Crennel agreed to a three-year deal with the team in 2014, which means he could make a move if he so desired. Coach Bill O’Brien hopes that’s not the case.

“I think Romeo has done a great job,” O’Brien said, via the Houston Chronicle. “I know we would love to have him back. I can tell you Romeo is a great coach and just means a lot to me personally. We would love to have Romeo back here.”

The Texans defense thrived this season despite playing without defensive end J.J. Watt for almost the entire year and other injuries meant the team did a lot of mixing and matching on their way to the postseason. Plugging those players back into the unit along with Jadeveon Clowney, Whitney Mercilus and the other players who were the core of this year’s unit provides reason to believe the unit can be among the best in the league again next year.

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NFL looking into failure to disclose Richard Sherman injury

ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 14: Richard Sherman #25 of the Seattle Seahawks warms up prior to the game against the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome on January 14, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images) Getty Images

When it comes to the Seahawks failing to disclose the in-season knee injury to cornerback Richard Sherman, they weren’t caught with a hand in the cookie jar. They admitted after successfully fleeing the scene that they had taken cookies and eaten them.

And now the NFL, which initially had no comment on the situation, tells PFT that the league is “looking into it.”

There’s nothing to look into, from the perspective of whether a violation occurred. On Monday, coach Pete Carroll blurted it out during a radio interview and then, later in the day, he admitted it.

In 2009, the league fined the Jets $75,000, then-G.M. Mike Tannenbaum $25,000, and former coach Eric Mangini $25,000 after former Jets quarterback Brett Favre repeatedly admitted that he had an undisclosed arm injury in 2008.

But fines may just be the starting point for the Seahawks. Without regard to any specific team or teams, the NFL has confirmed that “additional discipline can be considered if there are multiple violations” under different policies.

The Seahawks have had three different violations of the offseason workout rules since 2012, culminating in the loss of a full week of 2017 OTA sessions and the forfeiture of a 2017 fifth-round draft pick (the same round in which they found Sherman) for the most recent infraction. The league could impose other penalties, in theory, against the Seahawks for an apparently blatant violation of the injury-reporting rules.

None of this would have even come to light if Carroll didn’t mention the previously unmentioned injury. It invites plenty of speculation regarding how many other teams had unmentioned injuries in 2016 or previously.

But breaking the rules only matters if you get caught. The Seahawks have been caught, multiple times. The question now becomes whether and to what extent they’ll experience the consequences.

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Falcons have focused on “trying to limit the soft souls” on roster

ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 18: Head coach Dan Quinn of the Atlanta Falcons shakes hands with general manager, Thomas Dimitroff, after beating the San Francisco 49ers at the Georgia Dome on December 18, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C.  Cox/Getty Images) Getty Images

When the Falcons had a run of success under then-coach Mike Smith early in quarterback Matt Ryan’s career, one of the knocks on the team was that they weren’t tough enough to navigate a path to a championship.

Falcons General Manager Thomas Dimitroff didn’t disagree with that critique and felt the team was “getting away from what we believed was at the very core a good football team.” They started to investigate ways to strengthen that part of the club before parting ways with Smith and came up with a grade for competitiveness and toughness to use as part of their player evaluations.

It’s something that has continued under coach Dan Quinn and Dimitroff says the team is focused on not selling themselves on players who didn’t score highly in those areas.

“We all can be swayed, and that has happened to us,” Dimitroff said to Albert Breer of “Basically, we’re trying to limit the soft souls on our football team. We figured this was a way to do that. You can have players that come in that are really good, but if they don’t possess competitiveness and toughness, then we’re not playing the urgent type of football that we need to be playing. That’s where we were.”

A win on Sunday against the Packers would move the Falcons even further away from those teams that fell short when Smith was on the sideline and reinforce that the path they’ve chosen is the right one to lead to continued success on the field.

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Mike Tomlin returns to stadium where he “always” has communications issues

PITTSBURGH, PA - JANUARY 08:  Head coach Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers is seen on the sidelines during the second quarter against the Miami Dolphins in the AFC Wild Card game at Heinz Field on January 8, 2017 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) Getty Images

The first game of the 2015 regular season was played at a time when the #DeflateGate controversy was still boiling — and when ESPN only two days earlier had gone all in with a broader look at past and present cheating allegations against the Patriots. And so, when Steelers coach Mike Tomlin opted in the aftermath of a 28-21 loss at New England to suggest foul play in connection with communications issues at Gillette Stadium, it instantly became a huge deal.

“We were listening to the Patriots radio broadcast for the majority of the first half on our headsets, coach to coach,” Tomlin said, adding that it’s “always the case” that the Steelers have trouble with their in-stadium communications when they play in New England. He said that eventually the problem got fixed.

The Steelers’ official website chimed in, declaring that “[t]his is the kind of stuff that happens to the visiting team in Gillette Stadium all the time.”

It quickly became clear that communications issues happen routinely and throughout the league, making Tomlin’s effort to suggest further cheating by the Patriots seem even more over the top than it was. Four days later, Tomlin declared the matter over.

But the not-so-subtle claim of cheating still exists on the Steelers’ website. Here’s the full entry: “This is the kind of stuff that happens to the visiting team in Gillette Stadium all the time. From the start of the game through the opening 14 minutes of the first quarter, the Steelers’ coaches’ headsets were receiving the Patriots Radio Network broadcast of the game. The broadcast was so loud that the Steelers coaches were unable to communicate, and the NFL rule is that if one team’s headsets are not working the other team is supposed to be forced to take their headsets off. It’s what the NFL calls the Equity Rule. Strangely enough, whenever an NFL representative proceeded to the New England sideline to shut down their headsets, the Steelers headsets cleared. Then as the representative walked away from the New England sideline, the Steelers’ headsets again started to receive the Patriots game broadcast.”

The Steelers return to Gillette Stadium for the first time since September 2015 on Sunday, with a berth in Super Bowl LI on the line. And all eyes will be on the question of whether the Steelers will be able to properly use their ears during the game.

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Seahawks don’t plan to spend big on offensive line help

NEW ORLEANS, LA - OCTOBER 30: Germain Ifedi #76 of the Seattle Seahawks, Joey Hunt #53, Garry Gilliam #79 and George Fant #74 hold arms during the national anthem before a game against the New Orleans Saints at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on October 30, 2016 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images) Getty Images

At his end of the season press conference on Monday, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll defended offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell’s work in 2016 by saying that Bevell’s critics “don’t know what they’re talking about.”

The Seahawks offense dropped from fourth in the league in both points scored and yards gained to 18th in points and 12th in yards, but any assessment of the work done by the unit has to take into account how poor the offensive line was over the course of the season. Russell Wilson was sacked 42 times and hit 111 times while the team’s running game never found consistent success.

Fixing the problems up front would likely help create a better impression of the work done by Bevell, but Carroll cautioned against expecting the team throwing money at the problem this offseason.

“That’s not how we — ‘OK, let’s take money and put it here and all of a sudden you’re going to get better,'” Carroll said, via the Seattle Times. “You’ve got to get guys that can play worthy of it, and when they demonstrate that then they get paid. We’ve shown that we understand that and are committed to that mentality. I don’t think you can just buy your way to it. We’re not going to do that. We’re not going to go out and spend a ton of money in free agency on one guy to try to save the day. That’s now how we function at all.”

The Seahawks were very young on the offensive line and left tackle George Fant is a recent convert from basketball, so it’s not hard to see why the team would focus on developing what’s on hand than trying a spending spree. That effort could be complicated if offensive line coach Tom Cable lands the 49ers head coaching job, but, one way or another, the line has to be better for the Seahawks offense to fully take flight.

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Cowboys should release Tony Romo

ARLINGTON, TX - JANUARY 15:  Tony Romo #9 of the Dallas Cowboys warms up on the field prior to the NFC Divisional Playoff game against the Green Bay Packers at AT&T Stadium on January 15, 2017 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Cowboys already have been attempting to lay the foundation to trade quarterback Tony Romo. Given the unique circumstances of his situation, however, the team should consider releasing him instead.

Don’t be surprised if Romo at some point asks to be released. A release would give him multiple flexibility for the selection of his next team, and his next team would not have its ability to put talent around him undermined by the sacrifice of draft picks or players in order to obtain Romo.

The move likewise would allow Romo to negotiate his best possible deal on the open market, in lieu of getting a middle-of-the-pack $14 million salary in 2017 under his current contract. And while Romo can negotiate a new deal to facilitate a trade, the team that acquires him may be more likely to pay more if it’s getting him without having to give up draft picks or players.

Releasing Romo also gives the Cowboys more flexibility for absorbing the $19.6 million cap hit. If he’s released with a post-June 1 designation, the Cowboys would absorb $10.7 million this year and $8.9 million in 2018.

That said, the Cowboys have the right to try to get value in return for the Romo contract, like the Packers did nine years ago after the First Annual Brett Favre Unretirement. But the circumstances were far different; Favre had been tormenting the team with his Umpteenth Annual Retirement Deliberations, and when he decided to come back, he wanted to make a beeline for an NFC North rival.

Romo is out of a job not because of anything he said or did, but because the Cowboys have found his replacement. Besides, Romo likely has no intention to play for the Giants, Eagles, or Washington. Given his close relationship with owner Jerry Jones, they surely could strike a wink-nod deal regarding the teams for which he won’t play.

So, yes, they should cut him. Whether they will or won’t is a question that will be resolved sooner than later, and it eventually will become one of the biggest questions of the offseason.

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Saints expected to interview 49ers special teams coach

49ers Saints Football AP

The Saints are beginning the process of filling some coaching vacancies.

According to Nick Underhill of the New Orleans Advocate, the Saints are expected to interview former 49ers special teams coach Derius Swinton.

Swinton’s also interviewed with the Broncos. The Broncos also interviewed Greg McMahon, who was fired by the Saints this year to create the opening Swinton’s applying for.

The Saints’ special teams were a mess last year, and they brought veteran assistant Kevin O’Dea in last year as a consultant.

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Pete Carroll wants Seahawks to limit emotional outbursts

SANTA CLARA, CA - JANUARY 01:  Head coach Pete Carroll of the Seattle Seahawks questioins a call during their game against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi's Stadium on January 1, 2017 in Santa Clara, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) Getty Images

There are things the Seahawks need to work on controlling better, other than their injury reports.

Specifically, coach Pete Carroll said the team needed to do a better job of handling their emotions as they move forward.

“I think there was a couple outbursts that we had that we documented well, that really took us to a place we don’t want to be, we don’t want any part of it,’’ Carroll said, via Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times. “The emotional side of it brought out some expressions, took us to a place that was a distraction and we had to get through and we did. . . .

“Sometimes the setbacks can allow you to grow and they did. We don’t need those distractions, it’s hard enough. It’s hard enough to get it done when everybody is in lock step and all of that.’’

In addition to defensive end Michael Bennett blowing up at a reporter, there were numerous incidents of the frustration boiling over on the field against the Falcons.

Carroll said he communicated the need to maintain a balance between intensity and distraction when he met with them one final time on Sunday, and acknowledged it’s on him to control.

“I do, because it’s important for me to tap into these guys, their emotional side, and it becomes part of their play when it fits the person and that’s how they operate,’’ he said. “But sometimes, like I said, we make mistakes. I needed to do a better job of helping them head that off. This is a game that calls for guys to play at the edge and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. But I think there’s a mistake when they go too far.”

Of course, it’s also a part of who they are. You can’t collect big personalities and expect them to become docile when they get there. And they don’t want that, because aggression is part of the organizational ethos. But too often this season, those personalities became the story instead of the play on the field.

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Tom Brady is an Aaron Rodgers fanboy

GREEN BAY, WI - NOVEMBER 30:  Quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers and Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots shake hands following the NFL game at Lambeau Field on November 30, 2014 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The Packers defeated the Patriots 26-21.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) Getty Images

Tom Brady is like a lot of NFL fans: He loves watching Aaron Rodgers play football.

Brady’s Patriots and Rodgers’ Packers are one win away from meeting in the Super Bowl, and Brady said that for him, a Rodgers game is appointment television.

“I think he does things that no one in the league has ever done, or can do, just because of his physical ability,” Brady said on WEEI. “Some of the plays he makes are just — they’re just phenomenal. Not just the throws but the scrambles.”

Brady said he makes a point of watching the Packers, even if they’re on late and he has an early practice the next day.

“Everything really looks effortless with him, which is probably the amazing part. He’s definitely working hard, but he’s making hard look easy. It’s a very effortless style he plays with. The velocity of the ball, the placement of the ball, he’s just an incredible player. He works very hard at it, he’s a very talented player, and he’s just having an incredible season. It’s fun to watch him play I always love watching him play. Whenever he’s on, I usually stay up and watch.”

Brady may get to see Rodgers from the sideline in three weeks. A Brady vs. Rodgers Super Bowl would surely be a great game to stay up and watch.

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