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Brady, eloquently, on Gronk: “It sucks”

New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski celebrates his touchdown against the Indianapolis Colts during the second half of their NFL football game in Foxborough Reuters

When Tom Brady left Gillette Stadium last night, he was enjoying a 59-24 win. The reality that he lost one of his most dangerous weapons didn’t kick in for about an hour afterward.

“I know he got injured, but I obviously didn’t know the extent,” Brady told WEEI’s Dennis & Callahan this morning (via the Boston Herald). “He’s such a great player. It sucks that he gets hurt, but it’s part of the game, so he’s got to do his best to get back as soon as possible. We’ve got to go out there and win some games without him.”

Gronkowski suffered a broken arm and will have surgery today, leaving the Patriots without one of Brady’s favorite targets. There’s no timetable for the injury, but it’s not expected to be season-ending.

“He does a lot for us,” Brady said. “I think there’s a reason why you have other guys on the roster, too — Visanthe [Shiancoe], Daniel Fells, [Aaron] Hernandez, [Michael Hoomanawanui], everyone has to step up with having Gronk out. . . . No one cares what’s going on with us. We’ve got to still go out there and win.

“We have some flexibility in what we do. We try to play to the strengths of our players.”

Brady tried to be philosophical about it, noting the Jets were without Darrelle Revis and Santonio Holmes for the season.

That’s easy when he still has plenty of weapons, as Julian Edelman had 222 all-purpose yards in last night’s win, and a return to health of Hernandez and Wes Welker would give Brady plenty of choices.

“I think Julian plays to some different strengths,” Brady said, when asked to compare Edelman to Welker. “I don’t think they’re a similar player. I think they’re different players with different skill sets. They’re both very good in their own right.

“Wes is one of the best players to ever play at that position, if not the best player to ever play at that position. I think he is. Julian plays a different role for us. That’s why you can have them out there really at the same time doing different things both very effectively.”

That doesn’t mean they won’t miss Gronkowski, but it softens the blow a bit.

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Family connection helped Rams lure Wade Phillips from Denver

HOUSTON, TX - DECEMBER 16:  Wade Phillips, defensive coordinator of the Houston Texans waits on the sideline during the game against the Indianapolis Colts at Reliant Stadium on December 16, 2012 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images) Getty Images

New Broncos coach Vance Joseph hoped to retain defensive coordinator Wade Phillips. New Rams coach Sean McVay lured Phillips to Los Angeles.

So how did McVay pull it off? He explained the coordinator coup during a visit to Friday’s PFT Live.

“The one unfortunate part of this business is you don’t get a chance to see your family as much as you’d like, and he has a daughter that lives out in the L.A. area,” McVay said regarding Phillips. “Then being fortunate enough to work with Wes, his son, the last couple years in Washington. We’ve developed a really close relationship; I consider him one of my closest friends in this profession and really just in life in general. [I’ve] gotten to know Wade a little bit better through that, and I’ve always admired his career from afar. I think his resume speaks for itself, so just those different connections . . . and it doesn’t hurt when you’ve got some pretty good players that you’ll get a chance to come in and coach right away.”

The Rams definitely have some good defensive players. It may not yet be as potent as the Broncos defense, but it’s good enough to help the team turn things around — especially if McVay can fix an offense that currently has a lot more in common with the Greatest Show on Earth than the Greatest Show on Turf.

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Enforcement of illegal substitution rule doesn’t match its language

ARLINGTON, TX - NOVEMBER 20:   Brice Butler #19 of the Dallas Cowboys celebrates after catching a pass during the second quarter against the Baltimore Ravens at AT&T Stadium on November 20, 2016 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) Getty Images

Cowboys receiver Brice Butler’s NFL career may not last very long, but at least his name will be attached to an obscure rule, at least until the next time the rule is applied. It’s quite possible that the rule wasn’t applied correctly as to Butler.

NFL senior V.P. of officiating Dean Blandino explained in his weekly officiating video the quirk that saw the Cowboys penalized 15 yards after Butler entered and exited the huddle area without participating in a snap last Sunday against the Packers. Blandino said that the so-called (at least by me) Brice Butler Rule is aimed at preventing teams from deliberately fooling opponents by sending players on and off the field. Blandino admitted that the officials have discretion in this regard, when for example a team facing fourth and short initially decides to punt and then sends the offense back onto the field.

Blandino added that the rule has been on the books since the 1950s, and that it was last called in 2014 during a game between Washington and Dallas. (The NFL’s excellent Game Pass feature includes the Week Eight Washington at Dallas game, but neither the broadcast footage nor the coaches film show what Washington tight end Logan Paulsen did before the snap to draw a 15-yard penalty.)

Blandino’s explanation was reasonable, and it all makes sense. But it seems to conflict with the plain language of the rule book.

“The rule is pretty straightforward in terms of the way it reads,” Blandino said. “It says an offensive substitute who moves onto the field inside the numbers and leaves without participating in one play, that’s a foul for unsportsmanlike conduct. There’s a second part of the rule that talks about coming into the huddle and communicating with a teammate and then leaving, but really once a player’s inside the numbers and then leaves but doesn’t participate that’s going to be the foul for unsportsmanlike conduct.”

Here’s the full language of Rule 5, Section 2, Article 2:

“The following are applicable to any offensive substitute who is entering the game:

“(a) He must move onto the field of play or the end zone as far as the inside of the field numerals prior to the snap to be a legal substitution. If he does not, and is on the field of play or end zone at the time of a legal snap, he is an illegal substitute.

“(b) If he approaches the huddle and communicates with a teammate, he is required to participate in at least one play before being withdrawn. Violations of this rule may be penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct.”

The first part of the rule seems to apply only where the substitute tries to sneak onto the fringe of the field. Moreover, the foul under the first part of the rule arises only if the player “is on the field of play or end zone at the time of a legal snap.” Thus, because Butler’s foul had nothing to do with being on the field at the time of the snap, the first part of the rule simply doesn’t apply.

The second part of the rule becomes the focal point of the analysis. By its plain terms, a violation occurs only if the player “approaches the huddle and communicates with a teammate” but doesn’t participate in at least one play.

The video included with Blandino’s explanation doesn’t show Butler communicating with a teammate — unless slapping the hand of the player who was exiting as Butler was entering counts as communication. Instead, Butler enters the huddle area, immediately turns to the sideline, realizes he shouldn’t be in the game, and then leaves. (That fact that Blandino glossed over the second part of the rule seems to confirm that he doesn’t believe that there is evidence of “communication” with a teammate.)

The discretion to which Blandino referred is codified in a note to the rule that explains the overall intention “to prevent teams from using simulated substitutions to confuse an opponent.” The question of whether discretion should be exercised if relevant, however, only if the two key elements of the violation have occurred: (1) the player has approached the huddle; AND (2) the player has communicated with a teammate.” If the player approaches the huddle and doesn’t communicate with a teammate, there’s no reason to exercise discretion because a potential violation has not occurred.

So, based on the language of the rule, there was no foul absent proof that Butler communicated with a teammate once he arrived at the huddle. If there is no such evidence, it’s entirely possible that this is yet another example of a discrepancy between the rules as written and the rules as enforced.

If that’s the case, the rule needs to be rewritten to match the enforcement, or the enforcement needs to be changed to respect the language of the rule.

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Spring League invites Johnny Manziel, Ray Rice, Vince Young

SEATTLE, WA - DECEMBER 20: Defensive lineman Brandon Mebane #92 of the Seattle Seahawks sacks quarterback Johnny Manziel #2 of the Cleveland Browns during the first half of play at CenturyLink Field on December 20, 2015 in Seattle, Washington. The Seahawks won the game 30-13. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images) Getty Images

There’s never a shortage of eventually-failed football leagues, and with two of them angling to join the list of ventures that will later pull the plug, they’re both trying to stand out for at least a little while, before the inevitable demise.

The new Spring League, which received some advance notoriety when the #fakenews of NFL involvement emerged last month, has found another way to make a headline. Via Rob Maadi of the Associated Press, Spring League CEO Brian Woods explained that the door is open for big-name players who want to get back to the NFL.

“If Johnny Manziel is serious about a future in the NFL, the Spring League is willing to provide him with a platform to prove he’s still relevant,” Woods said. (The kids and/or the adults who want to seem cool would call that throwing shade.)

Woods also mentioned Ray Rice and Vince Young as potential additional to the upstart league. Even though the goal is to employ players in their mid-20s, the Spring League realizes that any publicity is good publicity, when it comes to staving off what surely will happen within the first three or four years of the league’s launch.

Former NFL players who already have signed up for the Spring League, which will be based at the Greenbrier in my home state of West Virginia so maybe I should be a little less unrealistic about its chances of success as a gesture of hospitality, include receiver Jalen Saunders, cornerback Ellis Lankster, and safety Pierre Warren.

So, yes, the interest in Manziel, Rice, and Young is obvious. It’s surprising the Spring League also hasn’t made a pitch for a certain football player turned baseball player who definitely needs a platform to prove he’s still relevant.

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Stephen Jones: Jerry and Romo will work something out

Tony Romo, Jerry Jones AP

Stephen Jones has a big role in the operations of the Cowboys, but when it comes to the biggest decision the team will make this offseason — what to do with Tony Romo — Stephen knows that his father is still the owner and G.M.

Asked on KRLD-FM about Romo’s future, Stephen Jones answered, “You got the wrong guy on the phone right now.”

In other words, it’s going to be Jerry Jones who makes that call.

So how will it be worked out? Stephen Jones said he thinks his dad and Romo can come up with something that suits everyone’s interests.

“I’m sure as we move forward, obviously, there’s two really important people in this mix,” Stephen Jones said, via the Dallas Morning News. “First and foremost will be Jerry and then, of course, Tony. I read where Jason said his wish is that Tony, whatever happens here, is happy. I’m sure most people feel that way. At the same time, we all know we’re in a business. It’s something here that will be, obviously, handled with, if you will, kid gloves. And something that we’ll work through and when we’re ready to have any comments about it, I know Jerry and Tony will be the ones to do that.”

Romo has lost his starting job to Dak Prescott, and there’s no getting it back. And there’s no way the Cowboys are going to keep a backup with a cap hit of more than $24 million in 2017. So the only question is whether Jones can find a team willing to trade for an old, injured, expensive quarterback, or whether Jones will release Romo. That’s something the two of them may work out between now and the start of the new league year, which is less than two months away.

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Tom Brady has 19 touchdowns, 0 interceptions vs. Mike Tomlin

PITTSBURGH, PA - OCTOBER 23:  Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots drops back to pass in the second half during the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field on October 23, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Rooneys own the Steelers, but Tom Brady owns Mike Tomlin.

In the 10 years since Tomlin became head coach of the Steelers, Brady and the Patriots have faced Pittsburgh six times. And in those six games, Brady has absolutely embarrassed Tomlin’s defense.

According to NFL Research, Brady has 19 touchdown passes and zero interceptions in six games against Tomlin’s teams. Brady’s passer rating in those games is 127.5, his highest against any head coach he’s faced at least three times. His completion percentage against Tomlin’s defense is 71.2 percent and he has averaged 314.8 yards a game.

Brady has never failed to throw for at least two touchdown passes against Tomlin’s Steelers. Tomlin may need to find a way to reverse that on Sunday if he wants to get to the Super Bowl.

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Aaron Rodgers: It’s loud in Atlanta, whether it’s all natural or not

ATLANTA, GA - OCTOBER 30:  Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers looks to pass against the Atlanta Falcons at Georgia Dome on October 30, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) Getty Images

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers took a shot at the Falcons’ history of playing fake crowd noise over the Georgia Dome loudspeakers in his final media appearance before Sunday’s NFC Championship Game.

Asked about the noise in Atlanta, Rodgers acknowledged it’s loud, and then noted that the noise might not actually be coming from the fans.

“It’s really loud in there. Whether that’s all natural or not is yet to be seen,” Rodgers said.

The Falcons were stripped of a fifth-round pick in the 2016 NFL draft and fined $350,000 after an investigation revealed that they had been using fake crowd noise while the opposing offense was on the field during the 2013 and 2014 seasons. The Falcons fired their director of event marketing, whom they blamed for overseeing the scheme, and the NFL temporarily pulled Falcons President Rich McKay off the Competition Committee for it.

There have been no allegations that the Falcons resumed their practice since then, but Rodgers found it amusing to take a little shot at the team before Sunday’s game.

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Report: Gus Bradley agrees to be Chargers’ defensive coordinator

ORCHARD PARK, NY - NOVEMBER 27: Head coach Gus Bradley of the Jacksonville Jaguars yells out on the sideline during NFL game action against the Buffalo Bills at New Era Field on November 27, 2016 in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images) Getty Images

Gus Bradley will be the Chargers’ new defensive coordinator, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Friday night.

Bradley spent the last four seasons as head coach of the Jaguars. He had been linked to multiple teams as a defensive coordinator candidate, and landing him is considered a win for new Chargers’ head coach Anthony Lynn.

The Seahawks’ defense took off in Bradley’s four seasons as their defensive coordinator from 2009-12 and ranked in the top 10 in total defense in his final two seasons before he went to Jacksonville. Prior to that, he had been the linebackers coach for the Buccaneers.

The Jaguars fired Bradley in December, knowing they would be headed in a different direction for 2017 after the team went 14-48 with Bradley as head coach. With the Chargers he’ll take over a defense headlined by 2016 rookie defensive end Joey Bosa and Pro Bowl cornerback Casey Hayward.

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James Harrison on Tom Brady: Any QB can be rattled if you hit him

PITTSBURGH, PA - OCTOBER 23:  Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots talks with James Harrison #92 and Mike Mitchell #23 of the Pittsburgh Steelers after the conclusion of the New England Patriots 27-16 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field on October 23, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images) Getty Images

Steelers outside linebacker James Harrison knows his primary job on Sunday will be hitting Tom Brady.

Harrison was asked today whether Brady can be rattled and he answered, “I believe anybody can be rattled if you get hit enough.”

In Harrison’s view, beating Brady is all about getting pressure on him.

“You can put pressure on any quarterback, to make him uncomfortable — if a quarterback is sitting back there without pressure he’s going to do a good job of spreading the ball around and getting it to his receivers,” Harrison said.

If Harrison fails at rattling Brady, he knows the Patriots’ offense can put a lot of points on the board.

“He gets the ball where it needs to go, his receivers do a good job of catching the ball and getting yards after the catch, his line does a good job of holding up and blocking well and they run the ball pretty decent too,” Harrison said.

And so Harrison will try to hit Brady enough that the Patriots’ offense can’t do all the things it does very well.

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Report: Kevin O’Connell will coach quarterbacks in Washington

Washington Redskins v Tennessee Titans Getty Images

The Redskins will hire Kevin O’Connell as their new quarterbacks coach, Bruce Feldman of FOX Sports reported Friday.

The team has not announced the move, nor has it announced a replacement for offensive coordinator Sean McVay after he became head coach of the Rams. The hiring of O’Connell would indicate that head coach Jay Gruden will promote Matt Cavanaugh from quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator.

O’Connell, 31, was quarterbacks coach with the Browns in 2015 and worked on the 49ers’ staff last season. The report said he had also been in the mix for coordinator and quarterbacks coach jobs at the college level.

O’Connell spent five seasons in the NFL as a player. He worked training high school and college quarterbacks before accepting a job with the Browns prior to the 2015 season.

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Travis Kelce fined for ripping ref

KANSAS CITY, MP - JANUARY 15: Tight end Travis Kelce #87 of the Kansas City Chiefs signals a first down in the first quarter of the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers  in the AFC Divisional Playoff game at Arrowhead Stadium on January 15, 2017 in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) Getty Images

After the Chiefs lost to the Steelers on Sunday, Kansas City tight end Travis Kelce ripped referee Carl Cheffers, saying Cheffers “shouldn’t be able to wear a zebra jersey,” even at Foot Locker. The NFL was not amused.

A league source tells PFT that Kelce has been fined for criticizing Cheffers.

Although we have not confirmed the exact amount of Kelce’s fine, it’s believed to be about $12,500. That’s half of what Josh Norman was fined for telling an official he sucked during the regular season.

Players generally get a pass if they criticize the officiating in a general sense. When they start to get personal toward an individual official, that’s when the league cracks down. The NFL felt that Kelce, by specifically identifying Cheffers and criticizing not just one specific holding call but Cheffers’ competence in general, had crossed the line.

The NFL has also said that Cheffers was correct on the call in question, a holding call on Chiefs left tackle Eric Fisher. And the NFL has appointed Cheffers to referee the Super Bowl, demonstrating that the league is satisfied that Cheffers is fully capable of wearing the zebra jersey to do more than sell footwear.

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Alfredo Roberts will coach Chargers running backs

Jacksonville Jaguars tight ends coach Alfredo Roberts watches play during the game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Jacksonville Jaguars at Alltel Stadium in Jacksonville, Florida on September 18, 2006. The Jaguars won 9-0.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

The Chargers will hire Alfredo Roberts as their new running backs coach, ESPN’s Adam Caplan reported Friday.

Roberts previously worked with new Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn in Cleveland, where Lynn coached running backs and Roberts coached the tight ends in 2007-08, and in Jacksonville.

Roberts also previously was the tight ends coach for the Buccaneers and Colts. He played on two Super Bowl teams with the Cowboys in the early 1990s.

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Jaguars hire Keenan McCardell as wide receivers coach

536984 Getty Images

Jimmy Smith’s prayers have been answered.

When word broke that the Jaguars were interviewing Keenan McCardell to be their wide receiver coach, Smith said he was praying for his former Jacksonville teammate to get the job. Their former coach and current executive vice president of football operations Tom Coughlin helped announce the news on Friday afternoon.

“We all understand what Keenan means to this organization and we are excited to welcome him home to Jacksonville, as he’ll oversee the growth and consistent improvement of our receiving corps,” Coughlin said in a statement. “I had the pleasure of coaching Keenan for six seasons and understand his passion for the game of football and his burning desire to win.”

McCardell joined the Jaguars in 1996 and caught 499 passes for 6,393 yards and 30 touchdowns over six seasons with the team. McCardell played 16 years in the NFL overall, wrapping up his career with the Redskins in 2007 and catching 883 passes in the process.

McCardell coached the wide receivers in Washington in 2010 and 2011 and spent two years in the same job at the University of Maryland, where he worked with current Vikings wideout Stefon Diggs.

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Tom Brady still not willing to talk Donald Trump

FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 14:  Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots looks on in the second half against the Houston Texans during the AFC Divisional Playoff Game at Gillette Stadium on January 14, 2017 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) Getty Images

On Thursday night, Donald Trump said that Patriots quarterback Tom Brady called to congratulate the since-inaugurated Commander-in-Chief. On Friday, Brady declined to address the situation, in any way.

Asked by reporters to share some of the details about the call, Brady said this: “I don’t have much to say.”

Asked simply whether he called Trump, Brady said this: “Did I call him? Let’s talk about football.”

In contrast, coach Bill Belchick admitted that he had sent Trump a letter of encouragement before the election, after Trump read from the letter at a rally.

It’s Brady’s prerogative to say whether he did or didn’t make the call; after the election, he said he’s done talking politics. However, the fact that he said nothing underscores the notion that he surely wasn’t happy about the public disclosure of his private communication.

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Vikings make it official with coordinator Pat Shurmur

PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 7: Offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur of the Philadelphia Eagles watches his team warm up prior to the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars on September 7, 2014 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) Getty Images

After going through interim quarterbacks, interim running backs and interim tackles last year, the Vikings decided to remove that adjective from their offensive coordinator’s title.

The team announced that Pat Shurmur would remain as their offensive coordinator, after he took over for Norv Turner last November.

The team also announced that Kevin Stefanski will move from coaching running backs to quarterbacks, along with the hirings of running backs coach Kennedy Polamalu and tight ends coach Clancy Barone.

Shurmur’s background with Sam Bradford was helpful for the Vikings this year, as they tried to recover from Teddy Bridgewater’s knee injury. They worked together previously with the Rams and Eagles, and may well into the future, since no one’s quite sure when or if Bridgewater will return.

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Travis Kelce fined for shoving Ross Cockrell

KANSAS CITY, MP - JANUARY 15:  Tight end Travis Kelce #87 of the Kansas City Chiefs reacts against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the fourth quarter in the AFC Divisional Playoff game at Arrowhead Stadium on January 15, 2017 in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) Getty Images

Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce ripped the officials in last Sunday’s playoff loss to the Steelers for a holding call on left tackle Eric Fisher on a two-point conversion attempt in the fourth quarter and said that referee Carl Cheffers wasn’t fit to wear a striped shirt for Foot Locker.

The NFL has a different read on Cheffers’ work as they named him to work the Super Bowl in Houston in a couple of weeks. We don’t know if Kelce’s views of the officiating have drawn a fine from the league, but PFT has confirmed that Kelce was fined for an on-field penalty.

Kelce has been fined $9,115 for an unnecessary roughness penalty. Kelce was flagged in the third quarter for shoving Steelers cornerback Ross Cockrell at the end of a play. The penalty pushed the Chiefs back 15 yards, but they were able to convert a first down on the next play and ended the drive with three points.

That wasn’t enough to put them in front of the Steelers, who advanced to the AFC Championship Game by an 18-16 score after the Chiefs’ second try at the aforementioned two-point conversion came up short.

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