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Scott Wells closing in on return for Rams

Scott Wells Getty Images

St. Louis Rams center Scott Wells returned to practice for the first time this week since suffering a fractured left foot in the team’s season opener against the Detroit Lions.

Wells was placed on injured reserve with a “designated to return” tag that made him ineligible to play for the next eight weeks of the season. By rule, Wells was eligible to return to practice after six weeks and able to be activated after eight weeks. But Wells just began practicing again this week. The Rams will have 21 days after the first day he returned to practice to activate him to the 53-man roster.

With eight weeks having elapsed since being placed on injured reserve, Wells would be eligible to return this week if he were ready to go.

According to Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, that decision will be up to the Rams’ coaching staff as they see how Wells responds returning to the practice field.

“It’s all up to them,” Wells said. “I just go out there, do what’s asked of me each day, and try to get better each day. And then be ready for whenever they say it’s time.”

Wells made the Pro Bowl as a member of the Green Bay Packers in 2011. Wells spent the first eight years of his career with the Packers before signing with the Rams this off-season.

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Richard Sherman had knee injury, Seahawks didn’t report it

GLENDALE, AZ - OCTOBER 23:  Head coach Pete Carroll of the Seattle Seahawks talks with cornerback Richard Sherman #25 prior to the NFL game at the University of Phoenix Stadium on October 23, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) Getty Images

For much of the 2016 season and into this year’s playoffs, Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman would get days off practice that the Seahawks would claim on their official injury report were “not injury related.”

Now the Seahawks are admitting that an injury did affect Sherman for much of the season.

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said today on 710 ESPN in Seattle that Sherman suffered an MCL injury during the season. Carroll said the injury was affecting Sherman both physically and mentally.

That raises an obvious question: Why did the Seahawks’ injury report repeatedly list Sherman’s days off as “not injury related” when an injury was affecting him physically and mentally? The whole point of the injury report is that the NFL wants teams to be transparent about which players are ailing and which players are healthy. The Seahawks were less than transparent.

Carroll surely believes the Seahawks’ decision not to list Sherman on the injury report violated the letter of the law, or else he wouldn’t have mentioned it today. And he might be right: Not every bump and bruise has to be listed on the injury report, and if the Seahawks were certain Sherman was going to be able to play through the injury, they may be in the clear as far as the league office is concerned.

Still, it’s odd that Carroll is talking about injuries affecting Sherman now, when the official word from the Seahawks all season was “not injury related.”

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Chip Kelly talking to Jaguars again, and they have a head coach

SANTA CLARA, CA - OCTOBER 06:  Head coach Chip Kelly of the San Francisco 49ers looks on from the sidelines during their NFL game against the Arizona Cardinals at Levi's Stadium on October 6, 2016 in Santa Clara, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) Getty Images

Tom Coughlin interviewed for the Jaguars head coaching job, didn’t get it, and still ended up employed there.

And Chip Kelly might be following the same path.

After interviewing for the head coaching job that went to Doug Marrone, the former Eagles and 49ers head coach was back at EverBank Field today talking to Jaguars officials, according to Hays Carlyon of the Florida Times-Union.

Kelly as coordinator would be a fascinating idea, and could give Blake Bortles a better chance to succeed. They haven’t officially parted ways with coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, but if Kelly’s hanging around, there are only so many other jobs for him there.

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Report: DeShawn Shead suffered torn ACL

SEATTLE, WA - JANUARY 07:  Defensive back DeShawn Shead #35 of the Seattle Seahawks breaks up a pass intended for Wide receiver Anquan Boldin #80 of the Detroit Lions in the NFC Wild Card game at CenturyLink Field on January 7, 2017 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images) Getty Images

Seahawks safety Deshawn Shead suffered a torn ACL in last weekend’s playoff loss at Atlanta, NFL Network reported.

The report said Shead will have surgery to repair the tear. The Seahawks feared after the game that Shead had torn his ACL but no official diagnosis was made until the team returned to Seattle.

Shead will become a restricted free agent in March.

Shead started all 15 games he played in 2016. He had one interception and a career-best 14 pass breakups.

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Titans add two to coaching staff

PHILADELPHIA, PA - NOVEMBER 26: Ryquell Armstead #25 of the Temple Owls celebrates with wide receivers coach Frisman Jackson after scoring a touchdown in the first quarter against the East Carolina Pirates at Lincoln Financial Field on November 26, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Titans have hired ex-NFL player Frisman Jackson as their new wide receivers coach and Craig Auckerman as assistant special teams coach.

This is Jackson’s first NFL coaching job. Jackson spent the last two years as wide receivers coach at Temple and previously coached at North Carolina State, Northern Illinois, Western Illinois and Akron. He added the title of passing game coordinator at Temple last season.

Jackson played under Titans offensive coordinator Terry Robiskie with the Browns in the early 2000s.

Auckerman was special teams coordinator with the Chargers last season after serving as assistant special teams coach the previous three seasons with the Chargers. Auckerman has 10 years of NFL coaching experience.

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Julio Jones may be limited, but will be “ready to rock”

ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 14:   Julio Jones #11 of the Atlanta Falcons reacts after a touchdown against the Seattle Seahawks at the Georgia Dome on January 14, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) Getty Images

It may not be “no concern,” but the Falcons are apparently confident wide receiver Julio Jones is OK.

Falcons coach Dan Quinn told reporters that Jones might be limited in practice this week, but would be “ready to rock,” in time to play Sunday against the Packers.

Jones aggravated the foot/toe injury he’s been dragging around the last few weeks, and may not be 100 percent.

But it’s also clear there’s nothing so significant it will keep him off the field against the Packers in the NFC Championship Game.

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New Browns defensive coordinator Gregg Williams hires his son

PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 11: A Cleveland Browns helmet rests on the field prior to the game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field on September 11, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Eagles defeated the Browns 29-10. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Browns are hiring Blake Williams as their new linebackers coach and Jerod Kruse as assistant defensive backs coach, per multiple reports.

Williams is the son of Gregg Williams, who was hired as the Browns’ defensive coordinator earlier this month. The Browns have made staff changes on both sides of the ball since the end of last season.

Blake Williams worked under his father with both the Saints and Rams. He’s spent the last four seasons coaching in the college ranks, the last two at Southeastern Louisiana.

Kruse will work under DeWayne Walker, who was hired as the secondary coach last week. Kruse also coached at Southeastern Louisiana.

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49ers continuing G.M. interviews with Seattle’s Trent Kirchner

UFC Fighters meet San Francisco 49ers Players Getty Images

The 49ers might be honing in on a head coaching choice (or just picking whoever’s left), but their search for a General Manager is continuing.

Via Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com, the 49ers are interviewing Seahawks personnel man Trent Kirchner today.

They’re presumably clear to also talk to Seattle’s Scott Fitterer today, as he was among the previously reported candidates and the Seahawks’ schedule is clear after this weekend’s loss to the Falcons.

The 49ers have cast a wide net for G.M. candidates, and initially suggested they wanted to fill that position before they hired a head coach. And if the Falcons beat the Packers this week, they’d technically have another two weeks to accomplish that goal, since presumed choice Kyle Shanahan would be held up the way Falcons head coach Dan Quinn was.

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Brady, Ben, Peyton are 14 of the last 16 AFC Super Bowl quarterbacks

FOXBORO, MA - SEPTEMBER 10:  Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots and  Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers speak before the game at Gillette Stadium on September 10, 2015 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) Getty Images

For the 14th time in the last 16 years, the AFC Super Bowl team will be quarterbacked by Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger or Peyton Manning.

That became certain when Brady’s Patriots and Roethlisberger’s Steelers won this weekend to meet in the AFC Championship Game. Either Brady will start his seventh Super Bowl, adding to his own NFL record, or Roethlisberger will start his fourth. Manning also started four.

The only other quarterback to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl in the last 13 years was Joe Flacco, whose team topped Roethlisberger’s Steelers to win the AFC North in 2012, then beat Manning’s Broncos in the divisional playoffs and Brady’s Patriots in the AFC Championship Game. Before that, the last other quarterback to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl was Rich Gannon, whose 2002 Raiders dethroned Brady’s 2001 Patriots as reigning AFC champions.

Sunday will be, incredibly, the 11th time Brady has started in the AFC Championship Game. It will be Roethlisberger’s fifth AFC Championship Game. Manning also started five AFC Championship Games.

Since 2001, the Patriots have advanced to 11 AFC Championship Games, the Steelers six (five with Roethlisberger, one without), the Colts four (three with Manning, one without) and the Broncos three (two with Manning, one without). So counting this year, those four teams will have accounted for 24 AFC Championship Game appearances since the 2001 season, with the other 12 AFC teams accounting for a combined eight AFC Championship Game appearances.

Here’s a list of the starting AFC quarterbacks in the Super Bowl for every season in the 21st Century:

2001: Tom Brady, Patriots

2002: Rich Gannon, Raiders

2003: Tom Brady, Patriots

2004: Tom Brady, Patriots

2005: Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers

2006: Peyton Manning, Colts

2007: Tom Brady, Patriots

2008: Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers

2009: Peyton Manning, Colts

2010: Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers

2011: Tom Brady, Patriots

2012: Joe Flacco, Ravens

2013: Peyton Manning, Broncos

2014: Tom Brady, Patriots

2015: Peyton Manning, Broncos

2016: Brady or Roethlisberger

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Report: 49ers “honing in” on Kyle Shanahan

FILE - In this Dec. 18, 2016, file photo, Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan walks on the turf before an NFL football game against the San Francisco 49ers in Atlanta. Shanahan, expected to be one of the top targets for teams looking to replace head coaches, could be available for interviews this week. Falcons coach Dan Quinn said Monday, Jan. 2, 2017, “I'm sure he will be contacted by some teams.” (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File) AP

Monday brought word that Josh McDaniels will be remaining with the Patriots as their offensive coordinator after pulling his name from consideration for the 49ers head coaching job.

That decision leaves the team with a pair of candidates that they’ve interviewed in Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan and Seahawks offensive line coach Tom Cable. Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that the team is “honing in” on hiring Shanahan as their next coach.

Shanahan interviewed during the Falcons’ bye week and can talk to the 49ers again after the NFC Championship Game. Should the Falcons win, the 49ers would have to wait until the game is over to formally hire Shanahan and they’d be able to make a hire right away if Green Bay goes to the Super Bowl.

Shanahan has had several head coaching interviews over the last couple of years. If he does wind up with the job in Santa Clara, he’ll be a bit behind — quite a bit if the Falcons get to Houston — other teams when it comes to filling out a staff.

That’s an inconvenience, but it may not be a major one for Shanahan given how it has worked out for current boss Dan Quinn, who was hired in Atlanta after the Seahawks lost to the Patriots in the Super Bowl two years ago.

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Josh McDaniels withdraws from 49ers coach search

FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 14:  Offensive Coordinator Josh McDaniels of the New England Patriots looks on prior to the AFC Divisional Playoff Game against the Houston Texans at Gillette Stadium on January 14, 2017 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) Getty Images

There’s one head coaching vacancy in the NFL right now and it appears it will not be filled by Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.

According to multiple reports, McDaniels has pulled his name from consideration for the position. He interviewed during Wild Card weekend and would be eligible to speak to the Niners again after Sunday’s game against the Steelers whether the Patriots win or lose, although any hire would obviously have to wait until after the Super Bowl if the Patriots advance.

Jason LaCanfora of CBS Sports reports that McDaniels gave the 49ers job a lot of consideration, but is making a “personal decision” to stay put rather than move across the country at this time. McDaniels has said that he wants another chance to be a head coach and will likely be a candidate for openings again next season.

With McDaniels out of the running, Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan and Seahawks offensive line coach Tom Cable are the other candidates who have interviewed with the team without getting another job. The 49ers are also looking for a new General Manager after dispatching Trent Baalke along with Chip Kelly after the end of the season.

UPDATE 11:42 a.m. ET: McDaniels confirmed he’ll be staying put during a Monday conference call.

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Report: Rob Ryan to interview with Redskins

ORCHARD PARK, NY - DECEMBER 18:  Defensive coach Rob Ryan of the Buffalo Bills makes a call after beating the Cleveland Browns 33-13 at New Era Field on December 18, 2016 in Orchard Park, New York.  (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images) Getty Images

Rex Ryan’s departure from Buffalo struck a serious blow to his hopes of more head coaching work in the NFL and many have opined that his coaching future in the league would be as a defensive coordinator.

There’s been no sign that Ryan is going to go that route in 2017, but his brother appears to have interest in such a position. Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com reports that Rob Ryan is scheduled to interview with the Redskins for their defensive coordinator opening this week.

Ryan spent last season in Buffalo with his brother, although their combined efforts didn’t do enough to get the defense where it needed to be. He came to Buffalo after being dismissed as the Saints’ defensive coordinator during the 2015 season and Ryan has also run the defense in Dallas, Cleveland and Oakland over the course of his career.

Washington fired Joe Barry after the season and they interviewed Mike Pettine, who was a longtime Ryan assistant before becoming the Browns head coach, and Gus Bradley for the opening.

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Jordy Nelson better, but “no guarantees” for Atlanta

ARLINGTON, TX - JANUARY 15:  Jordy Nelson #87 of the Green Bay Packers stands on the field before the NFC Divisional Playoff Game against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium on January 15, 2017 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) Getty Images

The absence of wide receiver Jordy Nelson didn’t stop the Packers from coming back to beat the Giants in the Wild Card round and it didn’t stop them from taking down the Cowboys 34-31 on Sunday, so the team knows they can win if Nelson’s injured ribs keep him out of the lineup against the Falcons.

They’d prefer to have everyone on hand helping with the effort to get to the Super Bowl, however. After Sunday’s win, Nelson said that his ribs were feeling “a lot better” than he was a week ago but that it’s too early to say if he’ll be able to play.

“No, there’s no guarantees,” Nelson said, via the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “We’re a whole week away.”

The Packers had a handful of other players get banged up during the win over the Cowboys. Safety Morgan Burnett’s thigh injury appears most serious as a return after getting hurt in the first quarter was short-lived. Tackles David Bakhtiari and Bryan Bulaga joined wide receiver Davante Adams and cornerback Ladarius Gunter as players who were briefly sidelined before returning to action, something that should bode well for their availability in the NFC title game.

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Packers-Cowboys draws highest divisional round rating in 20 years

ARLINGTON, TX - JANUARY 15:  Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers reacts after the Packers scored a touchdown against the Dallas Cowboys during the NFC Divisional Playoff Game at AT&T Stadium on January 15, 2017 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) Getty Images

Sunday afternoon’s Packers-Cowboys game has done blockbuster TV ratings for the NFL on FOX.

Packers-Cowboys drew a 28.2 overnight rating, which is the highest rating for a divisional playoff game in 20 years.

The combination of two popular teams and a great game that was decided as time expired gave the NFL an absolutely phenomenal rating — the kind of rating that can be topped only by the conference championship games and the Super Bowls. Other sports simply can’t draw those kinds of ratings, even for the biggest and best games. For context, Game 7 of the 2016 World Series drew a 25.2 overnight rating, while Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals drew an 18.9 overnight rating.

That’s very good news from the NFL, which spent much of the 2016 season mired in low television ratings. Those ratings began to rebound after the election, and the playoffs have been particularly strong.

From a ratings standpoint, the Cowboys losing is not great news for the NFL and FOX, as the Cowboys are the league’s biggest television draw. But Packers-Falcons and Steelers-Patriots are both attractive matchups as well, and the league should expect strong ratings for the conference championship games and the Super Bowl.

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Vikings adding UCLA coordinator Kennedy Polamalu as RBs coach

Minnesota Vikings v Dallas Cowboys Getty Images

One of the more intriguing questions of the offseason for the Vikings will be the future of running back Adrian Peterson.

Well, at least we know who his coach is going to be, if he’s back with the team.

According to Alex Marvez of the Sporting News, the Vikings are hiring Kennedy Polamalu as their new running backs coach.

Kevin Stafanski coached that position the last two years, moving over from tight ends. Polamalu was offensive coordinator at UCLA last year, and has worked two stints in the NFL with the Browns and Jaguars.

What he has to work with is unclear. The Vikings may not want to keep the 31-year-old running back with the $18 million cap hit next year, and if they move on from Peterson, they need a fresh start and an infusion of talent at the position after finishing last in the league in rushing.

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Brice Butler on unsportsmanlike conduct penalty: Never heard of it in my life

ARLINGTON, TX - JANUARY 15:  Brice Butler #19 (L) and Dez Bryant #88 of the Dallas Cowboys celebrate after Bryant scored a touchdown in the first half during the NFC Divisional Playoff Game against the Green Bay Packers at AT&T Stadium on January 15, 2017 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Cowboys thought they had a first down in the red zone early in Sunday’s game against the Packers after a 22-yard gain by wide receiver Terrence Williams, but the play was called back and then some thanks to a penalty that comes up rarely.

Wide receiver Brice Butler was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct after he came into the huddle and then left the field without participating in a play. NFL rules say that if a player “approaches the huddle and communicates with a teammate,” he has to remain in the game to bar teams from creating confusion about which players are in the game. The 15-yard penalty put the Cowboys back into their own territory.

“Never heard of it in my life,” Butler said, via the Dallas Morning News. “[We] couldn’t beat the stripes. You can quote me on that.”

Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said he’s never seen that call before. Referee Tony Corrente told a pool reporter after the game that it isn’t “an obscure rule” and that Butler “has to stay either in the game or they can call a timeout and get out of it.”

The Cowboys tried passes to Butler on the next two plays, but both fell incomplete. Butler finished the day without a catch and said he “played like trash” in what will be his final game for quite a while.

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