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Thursday morning one-liners

Falcons' Turner celebrates White after a touchdown against Cowboys during their NFL football game in Atlanta Reuters

Bills CB Leodis McKelvin is great in the return game, but wants to make a name for himself on defense.

For Dolphins LT Jake Long, sometimes a haircut is just a haircut.

The Patriots continue to look for the right mix in thier secondary.

Seeing the damage and meeting Hurricane Sandy’s first responders gave Jets QB Mark Sanchez a new perspective.

Ravens LB Albert McClellan saw the domestic violence charges against him dropped.

Bengals LT Andrew Whitworth is tired of finger-pointing, which will only be cured by winning.

Browns WR Greg Little is beginning to show maturity, and earning trust in the locker room.

He’s no Troy Polamalu, but Steelers S Will Allen has been a steadying presence in the secondary.

Texans TE Owen Daniels is getting more tests on his sore hip.

A comparison of rookies comes out looking good in favor of Colts QB Andrew Luck, if you prefer wins to fantasy stats.

The Jaguars aren’t getting much from their return game (or many other parts of the game, for that matter).

The Titans didn’t really think about holding QB Jake Locker out until after the bye (not when the owner’s breathing down their collective neck).

Broncos WR Eric Decker’s numbers are trending up.

As if they needed any more problems, the Chiefs are going to face a fired-up former coach Todd Haley this week.

With Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson out of practice, Raiders RB Taiwan Jones is getting plenty of work in practice.

Chargers WR Robert Meachem said Wednesday’s practice was the most fun he had all year, after missing a game.

There questions as to whether Cowboys CB Orlando Scandrick is worth what they paid him, with Mike Jenkins headed for free agency.

Giants G Chris Snee was held out of practice with an ankle injury, and they don’t have much depth if he can’t go.

Eagles rookie DE Vinny Curry is waiting for his chance to get on the field.

Though the trend is down in recent weeks, the Redskins are actually better on offense in the first half of this season.

Bears QB Jay Cutler, on comparing his offense to his team’s defense: “We’re eight, nine years behind those guys.”

If you’re a Lions receiver, chances are you had a sore knee Wednesday.

The Packers RBs are getting healthy at the right time.

When Vikings DE Jared Allen was asked about playing the Lions, the best he could come up with was he liked driving his Ford truck.

Falcons WR Roddy White thinks 16-0 is something his team can pull off.

The Panthers know if they have a shot against the Broncos, they’re going to have to put Peyton Manning on the ground.

Saints RT Zach Strief missed practice Wednesday, which could mean another spot start for backup Charles Brown.

In the statistical oddity of the day, the Buccaneers have the league’s best run defense, worst pass defense.

Cardinals DE Calais Campbell is nursing a leg injury during the team’s bye week.

Rams C Scott Wells returned to the practice field Wednesday, the first step in his return from IR.

His old roommate (Rams LB James Laurinaitis) said 49ers RG Alex Boone was: “Dirty. Loud. The guy could snore through four walls and you’d hear him.”

The Seahawks were without three defensive starters in practice Wednesday.

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Pete Carroll on Richard Sherman’s imminent arrival: I can’t wait to see little Petey

Pete Carroll AP

Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman is set to become a father soon enough that there’s a possibility that the baby could come before the end of the Super Bowl on Sunday, which led to questions for Sherman about what he’d do if his son decided to arrive before the Lombardi Trophy.

Sherman said he hopes his son is a “disciplined young man” who waits until his father and the rest of the Seahawks have finished the game on Sunday, but, as any father knows, even the best laid plans are meaningless in the face of a baby’s schedule. Sherman won’t say whether he’d miss the game if the little one decided to make his appearance on Sunday and coach Pete Carroll said Friday that the team is behind Sherman in any choice he makes.

“It’s about family first and we will support his decision,” Carroll said before adding that he “can’t wait to see little Petey.”

We’ve got no insight into what Sherman will be naming his son, although if we were forced to guess we’d say Carroll’s only a slightly likelier namesake than Michael Crabtree.

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Dean Blandino: Nate Solder’s AFC Championship TD shouldn’t have counted

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The Patriots’ use of offensive linemen as eligible receivers and running back Shane Vereen as an ineligible receiver has created confusion for defenses and officials in the playoffs.

That confusion led to a touchdown that shouldn’t have counted in the AFC Championship game. Tom Brady threw a touchdown pass to tackle Nate Solder during that game on a play that NFL vice president of officiating Dean Blandino should have been flagged as an illegal substitution.

“There was an issue on that play where on the previous play, [Cameron] Fleming had reported as an eligible player,” Blandino said, via “And on the Solder touchdown he went back to playing an ineligible position. That’€™s illegal. That’€™s an illegal substitution. So that’€™s something we discussed with the crew. Bill [Belichick] was made aware of it. So we’€™re going to be looking for that, make sure we follow the proper mechanics so that doesn’€™t happen again.”

Jim Miller of Sirius XM NFL Radio picked up on the missed call last week and pointed it out, but there was no confirmation from the league until Blandino’s press conference on Thursday. Plenty of other people probably would have picked up on it as well had the score not been 45-7 and another issue having to do with the air pressure of footballs not taken hold of the United States for the last two weeks.

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Martellus Bennett thinks Marc Trestman will be better offensive coordinator than head coach

Martellus Bennett, Marc Trestman AP

Things went south quickly for Marc Trestman and the Bears in 2014, leading to a 5-11 record and the team’s decision to fire both Trestman and General Manager Phil Emery when the year came to an end.

Trestman’s leadership abilities have come under fire in the wake of his two-year stint in Chicago, something that tight end Martellus Bennett didn’t do much to argue against in an appearance on NFL Network on Friday. Bennett did say that he thinks a move to the offensive coordinator role with the Ravens will work out well for coach and team.

“Trestman, I think, first off, the issue that he had, probably, was managing us all, all the different personalities,” Bennett said. “There’s a lot of big personalities. And I think, for a first-time head coach in the NFL, dealing with all the personalities that you have, I think that’s hard when you got guys like me, you know, [Brandon] Marshall …  Lance Briggs on defense, (Charles) Tillman … Calling plays, he was excellent. I think he’s going to be an excellent coordinator for the Ravens. Strategically, he was great. But on the field, guys just weren’t executing.”

Trestman’s issues dealing with those big personalities likely played a role in the Bears’ decision to install an experienced NFL head coach for the first time since George Halas’s second stint on the sideline. If John Fox can get a grip on the locker room, a reprise of the rapid turnarounds he pulled off in Carolina and Denver could be within reach.

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Prosecutors say Hernandez DNA found on joint, bullet casing

Hernandez AP

The first Aaron Hernandez murder trial got rolling on Thursday, with opening statements in the case arising from the June 2013 shooting death of Odin Lloyd.

Via the Boston Herald, prosecutors revealed during their overview of the evidence to be introduced two intriguing pieces of information. A marijuana joint was found near Lloyd’s body, and the joint had DNA evidence that matches Hernandez’s. Likewise, a bullet casing found in a rental car used by Hernandez contained DNA matching Hernandez’s.

Of course, this wouldn’t be the first time a jury disregarded overwhelming DNA evidence in a murder case involving a former NFL player. But Hernandez’s lawyer, Michael Fee, possibly will need something on the level of an “if-it-doesn’t-fit-you-must-acquit” moment to overcome the DNA evidence.

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Colin Kaepernick: Jim Tomsula a players coach who will be great for us

Colin Kaepernick, Kevin Minter AP

The 49ers’ regular season was a disappointment and plenty of people have registered the same reaction to the early part of their offseason, which saw the team part ways with head coach Jim Harbaugh and promote defensive line coach Jim Tomsula as his replacement.

It’s been widely viewed as an underwhelming hire motivated by the desires of General Manager Trent Baalke and CEO Jed York more than what might be best for the football team. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick expressed a different point of view during an interview with FOX Sports, however.

“Jim Tomsula’s gonna be a great coach for us. Players coach, always around the guys,” Kaepernick said. “Someone that’s willing to listen to what players say and has their intake. And I think that’s something that will help this team move forward. We have a lot of veteran players that know what they’re seeing on the field and know what they’re doing, so I think that will help us.”

Kaepernick’s point about the continuity on the roster is sound and should get a boost with the expected returns of linebackers Patrick Willis and Navorro Bowman from injury. By promoting Geep Chryst and Eric Mangini to offensive and defensive coordinator guarantee that carryover will extend to the coaching staff as well. Should that lead to a rebound in 2015, concerns about Tomsula should dissipate quickly but anything else will likely lead to even louder calls that the 49ers stepped off a good path for all of the wrong reasons.

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Friday’s most important NFL employees will be the folks with the microphones

Goodell Getty Images

On Friday, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will face a collection of media far more extensive than he usually does at his annual pre-Super Bowl press conference. Although his September 19 emergence-from-hiding event attracted non-NFL media who would be far more inclined to ask unexpected, unusual, and/or utterly hostile questions, the midtown Manhattan gathering occurred with limited advance notice.

Everyone who has been paying attention to the NFL knows that the Friday before the Super Bowl always consists of a no-holds-barred (in theory) session, which like most press conferences becomes a shotgun approach that depends largely on which of the collected credentialed get an opportunity to introduce themselves and then to formulate a query. Inevitably, there will be far more potential questioners than there will be time to pose questions.

And so it becomes important for the league office employees who have custody of the microphones used to ask questions to the Commissioner to exercise extreme discretion when determining who gets one of them. It’s been part of the reality of the pre-Super Bowl press conference for years now; those walking around with the wireless talking sticks need to make good decisions about who gets the chance to hear themselves talking while spending way too many words formulating a question, dumbstruck by the power of finally getting a chance to be the one to speak.

So who will get the chance to ask questions? Will it be restricted to the familiar faces of folks who cover the NFL on a regular basis and who have an inherent desire not to alienate the Commissioner or the office over which he presides? Will the persons employed by NFL Media, whose paychecks the Commissioner signs, get two or three (or more) bites at the apple? And will anyone who looks like a potentially reckless agitator who may ask tough questions about #DeflateGate or the unexplored nuances of the Ray Rice case (such as the discrepancies between the memo the Commissioner sent to the owners after the in-elevator video emerged and the findings made by Robert Mueller) or anything else that may force the Commissioner to wade through waters he’d rather avoid altogether?

It’s a drama that won’t play out on camera. But the handling of the microphones will be a very real aspect of this and every pre-Super Bowl Commissioner press conference. The event will be only as informative (and compelling) as the questions allow, and the folks with the keys to the questioning castle likely will be inclined to allow only those questioners who will permit the Commissioner to dispense information he’s comfortable sharing.

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Devon and Leah Still releasing book for kids fighting cancer

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Leah Still is still fighting cancer and will start a new round of chemotherapy on Friday, but that’s not stopping her from finding a way to offer some help to other kids in the same position.

Bengals defensive tackle and Leah’s father Devon Still got a lot of questions from other parents with kids fighting cancer about how their family has approached Leah’s treatment and he asked his daughter for her thoughts. That led the four-year-old and her dad to write an animated book called I Am Leah Strong that will be available online next month.

“I talked to my daughter and asked her if she wanted to do a children’s book to help kids who are fighting pediatric cancer now and kids who will be diagnosed in the future to help them with the transition from normal life to being in the hospital all the time,” Still said, via USA Today. “That book was written by her. I just had an outline of questions I wanted to ask her. Whatever answers she had I wrote in book form.”

Leah Still was diagnosed with neuroblastoma in June and the hope is that her next round of chemotherapy does enough damage to the disease that she’s able to begin stem cell therapy.

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Jeff Blake says every team takes air out of the footballs

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Former NFL quarterback Jeff Blake can’t figure out what the big deal is with Deflategate.

Blake spent time with seven different teams, and he says he always instructed ball boys to take air out of footballs to improve his grip.

“I’m just going to let the cat of the bag, every team does it, every game, it has been since I played,” Blake said on 104.5 The Zone in Nashville, via “Cause when you take the balls out of the bag, they are rock hard. And you can’t feel the ball as well. It’s too hard. Everybody puts the pin in and takes just enough air out of the ball that you can feel it a little better. But it’s not the point to where it’s flat. So I don’t know what the big deal is. It’s not something that’s not been done for 20 years.”

Blake said his pre-game ritual always included checking footballs and taking some air out if they were too hard to grip.

“Well, I would say [to a ball boy], ‘Take a little bit of air out of it. It’s a little bit hard,'” Blake said. “And then he’d take a little bit out and I’d squeeze it and I’d be like, ‘OK, it’s perfect.’ That’s it.”

With the Patriots now facing scrutiny for using under-inflated footballs in the AFC Championship Game, Blake is wondering why this is suddenly an issue.

“I guess it wasn’t a big deal back then, but it is now,” he said.

It’s a very big deal in the media. It may not be a big deal to NFL players, some of whom say deflating footballs is just part of the business.

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Friday morning one-liners

AFC Championship - Indianapolis Colts v New England Patriots Getty Images

Looking ahead to Bills S Da’Norris Searcy’s free agency.

Is there a chance that DT Ndamukong Suh could wind up with the Dolphins?

Tom Brady thinks James Develin gives the Patriots the best fullback in the league.

Todd Bowles continues to add coaches he knows from Arizona to the Jets’ coaching staff.

Ray Lewis thinks the window for the current Ravens team is closing.

T Eric Winston hopes to stick with the Bengals for another year.

The Browns may not make a decision about their training camp home for a while.

Former Steelers LB Jack Ham is a big fan of Richard Sherman.

The Texans website breaks down Nebraska RB Ameer Abdullah.

The case for former Colts WR Marvin Harrison to make the Hall of Fame.

The Jaguars added K/P Kasey Redfern to their roster.

Said Titans TE Delanie Walker, “If that don’t make you angry, to go 2-14, I don’t know what would make you angry. It’s kind of sad when your own fans don’t believe in you. It should make you mad. It’s embarrassing to only win two games at any level. But that’s what we did, and now we have to make sure nothing like that ever happens again.”

Broncos S T.J. Ward will be playing for his fifth head coach in six seasons.

Does being a guard hurt former Chiefs star Will Shields’ Hall of Fame chances?

The Raiders need more out of their tight ends.

Jeremiah Sirles recaps his rookie year on the Chargers offensive line.

How can the Cowboys be more like the Seahawks and Patriots?

Giants WR Odell Beckham’s knack for one-handed catches landed him a world record.

The Eagles have found their personnel man.

Predictions of a fruitful relationship for Redskins QB Robert Griffin III and quarterbacks coach Matt Cavanaugh.

CB Charles Tillman has good feelings about the Bears after speaking to coach John Fox.

Barry Sanders thinks the Lions have pieces to contend for a Super Bowl spot in 2015.

Can the Packers hit in free agency for the second straight year?

A look at the new Vikings stadium.

Running backs coach Gerald Brown could stick with the Falcons for another year.

Panthers fans score well on the niceness scale.

CB Delvin Breaux got a partial guarantee in his contract with the Saints.

Super Bowl weekend brings back the memories for former Buccaneers DB and Super Bowl MVP Dexter Jackson.

The Cardinals practice facility has held up well for the Patriots this week.

The Rams looking for an offensive coordinator leads at least one person to think about Mike Martz.

S Antonine Bethea looks back on his first season with the 49ers.

CB Jeremy Lane closed Thursday’s Seahawks practice by knocking the ball away from WR Bryan Walters.

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“Added security” planned for Super Bowl footballs

Super Bowl Football AP

There’s been a lot of discussion about the handling of footballs for the last two weeks and the NFL would prefer not to have a rehash of the topic after the Super Bowl, so they’ve made some changes to the process for Super Bowl Sunday.

The league already announced that the Bears equipment staff has been tabbed to oversee the pregame preparation of the footballs that the Patriots and Seahawks will use and NFL vice president of officiating Dean Blandino outlined some other differences on Thursday.

“There will be some added security just because of the environment we’re in for this game,” Blandino said, via

The 54 balls (the high number is due to “charity commitments” for game-used Super Bowl balls) each team want to use will go to Bears equipment manager Tony Medlin on Friday and will remain in his possession with the additional security in place until referee Bill Vinovich inspects them a couple of hours before kickoff.

Blandino also said that the league plans to review all of their pregame procedures for dealing with footballs this offseason, presumably including the league’s practice of not logging the PSI of the balls during the initial check.

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Confusion continues about refs signaling Patriots’ ineligible receivers

blandino AP

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said on Thursday morning that the NFL has instructed its officials to use a new signal in the Super Bowl to inform defensive players which offensive players are eligible receivers and which offensive players are ineligible. That came as news to Patriots coach Bill Belichick.

“I haven’t heard anything about that, so we’ll see what happens,” Belichick told pool reporter Jarrett Bell at the Patriots’ Thursday practice. “I’ll check it out.”

NFL head of officiating Dean Blandino said there’s nothing new for Belichick to check out: Carroll misunderstood, and there is no new signal. It’s unclear where Carroll got that idea, as he said on Thursday morning that he was informed by the league that the officials were changing the way they officiate when the Patriots run trick plays.

“The new signal is the referee will point to the player that has the eligible number and he’ll signal that he is not eligible. That’s the new thing. They’ve never done that before,” Carroll said.

So where did Carroll get that idea? It’s unclear, but Super Bowl referee Bill Vinovich seemed to have the same idea. Vinovich and Blandino had an awkward moment in front of the press when Blandino told Vinovich that he shouldn’t tell the defense which ineligible receivers not to cover, something that came as news to Vinovich.

The Patriots’ trick plays surprised the defenses of the Ravens and Colts in their playoff games. Those plays also seem to have confused everyone else in the NFL. Even the officiating department.

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Cardinals not planning around having Daryl Washington

Daryl Washington AP

The Cardinals were able to advance to the playoffs this season despite the absence of several key players from the lineup.

Most of those absences were due to injuries, but they were also missing linebacker Daryl Washington because of a one-year suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. Washington is eligible to be reinstated by the league in May, but that may just be the preamble to another suspension.

Washington pleaded guilty to aggravated assault last March after being arrested for pushing the mother of his daughter hard enough that she fell and broke her collarbone. The league has not handed down any discipline for that case, but it seems likely and president Michael Bidwill said that the Cardinals aren’t planning around Washington’s presence as a result.

“He’ll be facing the issue with the domestic violence and there has been no determination of what happens there,” Bidwill said, via the team’s website. “He was only suspended for the drug issue, so we want to make sure we understand what that (other punishment) is. Last year, we learned about his suspension after free agency. This year we are going to plan to make sure we address all the issues not knowing whether Daryl will be back for part of next season or all of next season. ‘Next man up’ is real but we have to make sure we’ve gone into free agency and addressed that situation.”

Larry Foote, who started 15 games at inside linebacker, is set to be a free agent this offseason so it’s a spot that they’ll need to address regardless of Washington’s situation.

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DeMarco Murray doesn’t think he’s easily replaceable

Divisional Playoffs - Dallas Cowboys v Green Bay Packers Getty Images

Cowboys tight end Jason Witten said last week that it would be “silly” to think that any running back could have been dropped into the lineup and given the team what DeMarco Murray gave them during the 2014 season, a point he made in response to those who feel that the Cowboys offensive line and overall offensive talent played a major role in Murray’s success.

Given their salary cap situation and other free agents on the roster, however, the general feeling is that the Cowboys won’t be breaking the bank to bring Murray back for the 2015. Finding a back to work for less shouldn’t be hard, but Murray echoed Witten’s take Thursday when asked about finding one to play as well.

“I would like to see how it goes,” Murray said on NFL Network. “I would like to see how that plan would work for them. I don’t pay attention to it. You know, I have full confidence in myself and my ability to do what I’m capable of doing. I know my talents, I know how hard I play and, you know, I know what I bring to the table. So I’m not worried about it and, you know, I don’t hear it.”

Leading the league in rushing by nearly 500 yards sets Murray up for a nice payday even by the standards of the relatively depressed market for running backs in today’s NFL. That makes it likelier that the Cowboys will get a chance to see how fungible the running back spot really is in their offense.

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K.J. Wright on Dan Quinn: “In this business, you always want guys to reach the top”

Pete Carroll AP

It’s widely assumed Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn will become the Falcons’ head coach after the Super Bowl.

Asked Thursday how Seattle’s players viewed Quinn’s potential departure, outside linebacker K.J. Wright offered a reasoned view of life in the NFL, noting it’s only rational to take opportunities for advancement when they are presented.

“In this business, you always want guys to reach the top of whatever it is,” Wright said, according to an interview transcript provided by the league.

“If you’re guys like J.G. (Seahawks defensive quality control coach John Glenn), he’s a quality control guy, you want him to someday become a linebackers coach or tight ends coach. Take (Seahawks linebackers) Coach (Ken) Norton (Jr.) you want him to one day become a D-coordinator.

“You always want guys to grow. If it comes down to players in free agency, one team’s not paying enough, you want them to go elsewhere and get paid the most money they can.

“I want guys to reach the top of their field and just be the best they can be and be able to provide for their family.”

And soon, it appears Quinn will indeed be at the top level of his profession, which will create a ripple effect of opportunity for others.

Wright, for his part, wouldn’t have been surprised to have seen Quinn get a head coaching job last season.

“I thought he was going to leave last year with how good he was,” Wright said. “… He will most definitely be gone. He can bring a nice presence to teach defense, teach fundamentals. Just put a good defensive coordinator around him and offensive coordinator around him and you’re going to win football games.”

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Sean Taylor highlights could be on Bobby Wagner’s Saturday agenda

New York Giants v Washington Redskins Getty Images

On the night before Super Bowl XLIX, Seahawks Pro Bowl middle linebacker Bobby Wagner might pass the time by watching some clips of standout defenders of seasons past.

And Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, too.

“I’m going to chill and probably watch some Ray Lewis, Sean Taylor highlights,” Wagner said Thursday, according to an interview transcript from the NFL. “Probably throw in some Ninja Turtles.”

A surefire first-ballot Hall of Famer, Lewis was Super Bowl XXXV MVP and one of the all-time greats at middle linebacker. The late Taylor, meanwhile, was of the most skilled safeties to have entered the league in recent memory.

We’re less certain how the Ninja Turtles rank among the animated shows of its time, but one should prepare for the Super Bowl as he sees fit.

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