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With 12,000 tickets unsold, another blackout looms in San Diego

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The San Diego Chargers are once again likely to be blacked out on local television on Sunday.

The team announced that 12,000 tickets are unsold for Sunday’s game against the Bengals, making it a near certainty that the game will be blacked out.

Although the Chargers have sold out their last six prime time games, this would be the Chargers’ eighth blackout in the last 16 afternoon games.

Barring a corporate sponsor stepping up to buy those thousands of tickets, Sunday will mark the Chargers’ third sellout of the season. San Diego’s final two home games, against the Panthers and Raiders, might be their fourth and fifth blackouts of the year.

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Philip Rivers: Any rookie QB will have to sit for a while

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The Chargers have talked about the possibility of adding a quarterback in the draft and they’re doing their due diligence on this year’s prospects.

They had workouts with Texas Tech’s Patrick Mahomes and Tennessee’s Joshua Dobbs and are set to work out Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer on Friday. If they do draft a quarterback, they’ll be playing behind Philip Rivers and Rivers said during an interview with Nick Hardwick and Judson Richards on KLSD that he’d be willing to act as a mentor. He also said that the learning process would be an extended one for any new arrival.

“You expect at some point they’re going to get a younger guy in the room to try to start to develop him and groom him,” Rivers said. “It doesn’t by any means really affect me. I think it’s healthy for me to know this thing doesn’t last forever. I have to get to playing better and keep this thing going as long as you can. I think as long as I do that, then whoever it is they bring in here, they’re going to sit for a while.”

Rivers is signed through 2019, so any rookie addition would be sitting for at least three years if he plays out his current pact with the team that didn’t let Drew Brees‘ presence stop them from adding a quarterback in the first round of the 2004 draft.

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NFL has no specific proposal for automatic ejections/suspensions, yet

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The long list of proposed rule changes does not include a proposal regarding ejections or immediate suspensions based on certain types of hits. Apparently, that’s because the league has yet to formulate an actual proposal.

“On the suspensions, for certain types of hits we will cover it with the NFLPA, we’ll cover it with the membership this next week,” Competition Committee chairperson Rich McKay said during a Thursday conference call. “We just want to show some plays that we think have no place in our game and therefore should result in suspension and/or ejection if it’s seen on the field and can be called. As opposed to I think sometimes people get caught up in the idea that a player should be warned and then there should be progressive enforcement. In this case these are plays we just don’t want in our game and our feeling is if suspension is an option and you show those plays to players, we’ve seen them really conform to rule changes and we think this will help us even more conform to not having these types of plays in our game. So, that’s the purpose of that.”

There’s apparently no proposal yet because a fundamental change to the procedures for suspending players would require agreement with the union. Also, because game officials already are reluctant to eject players for fear of impacting competitive balance, any new rule would require clarity, specificity, and a procedure (possibly supervised in real time by the league office) that would ensure consistency.

In other words, don’t expect anything to happen next week. In the absence of a written proposal and an agreement with the union, this one is going to take more time — especially if the NFLPA insists on a significant concession to expand the league’s ability to suspend players.

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Dean Blandino: Officials can issue warning before penalty for 12 men in huddle

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During the Cowboys’ playoff loss to the Packers in January, Dallas was penalized 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct when wide receiver Brice Butler was judged to have entered the huddle and then left without participating in a play.

The penalty wiped out a 15-yard gain that put the Cowboys on the edge of the red zone and was followed by a punt a couple of plays later in a turn of events that loomed large in a three-point loss. If the same thing were to happen in the playoffs next season, the Cowboys might not find themselves penalized.

During a conference call on Thursday, NFL senior vice president of officiating Dean Blandino said that the league will give officials the right to issue a warning before heading straight to a 15-yard penalty.

“We did discuss it,” Blandino said, via the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “Obviously that’s a penalty you don’t see very frequently. We looked at some of the language in the book, and we’re going to give our officials more latitude to warn the team if they feel it is a potential issue and then penalize after a warning.”

Given how rarely the call is made — referee Tony Corrente made both the January call and the previous one in 2014 — it’s not likely to come up all that often, but the shift laid out by Blandino seems like a more appropriate response when and if it does.

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Friday morning one-liners

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The Bills announced their offseason workout schedule.

Will Dolphins DT Jordan Phillipspotential meet his production this season?

It doesn’t look like WR Michael Floyd will be staying with the Patriots.

A look at the newest member of the Jets’ receiving corps.

Can the Ravens find LB Terrell Suggssuccessor in the draft?

The Bengals special teams should benefit from RB Cedric Peerman’s return.

The Browns were all over Ohio State’s pro day workout.

Steelers DE Stephon Tuitt is in line for a contract extension.

Texans DE J.J. Watt was on the wrong side of a snowball fight.

How do the Colts stack up at cornerback behind Vontae Davis?

Jaguars QB Blake Bortles thinks he’s making progress toward cutting down turnovers.

DT Sylvester Williams hopes to make his late father proud with his play for the Titans.

Is Michigan WR Amara Darboh a good fit for the Broncos?

Could the Chiefs offer QB Colin Kaepernick a landing spot?

Raiders offensive coordninator Todd Downing likes the new additions to his unit.

RB Branden Oliver is predicting a breakout season with the Chargers.

CB Orlando Scandrick stuck up for Cowboys fans.

Will DT Jonathan Hankins re-sign with the Giants?

The draft should offer the Eagles a chance to address their remaining needs.

A trio of free agents who might interest the Redskins.

A few things to consider with QB Mark Sanchez joining the Bears.

The Lions took a look at a few prospects from the University of Missouri.

Explosiveness has been a focus for the Packers this offseason.

Who will back up Vikings QB Sam Bradford this season?

Falcons S Keanu Neal returned to Florida for his alma mater’s pro day.

Greg Olsen has worked out well for the Panthers and they’re taking a look at another tight end from the University of Miami.

LB Manti Te’o is thankful for a chance to play for the Saints.

The Buccaneers have built up their young talent.

The Cardinals think an exodus of free agents is a sign of how well they’ve built their team.

It didn’t take a long journey for Rams personnel to check out USC’s pro day.

49ers coach Kyle Shanahan is doing his research on this year’s quarterback prospects.

A defense of Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell.

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Chargers working out quarterback DeShone Kizer today

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The Bears aren’t the only ones who want to take a closer look at Notre Dame quarterback DeShone Kizer.

According to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, the Chargers are working out Kizer today, adding them to a list that already includes the Browns and Jets.

While a number of teams with glaring needs for immediate starters will be kicking the tires on Kizer, the Chargers aren’t that needy.

Philip Rivers is still playing at a high level at 35, and has three more years on his current contract.

But General Manager Tom Telesco refused to rule out the possibility of using the No. 7 overall pick on a quarterback, to set the Chargers up for the future in Los Angeles.

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Jonathan Stewart signs one-year extension with Panthers

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Running back Jonathan Stewart has been with the Panthers since they made him a first-round pick in the 2008 draft and the relationship hasn’t hit its expiration date yet.

The team announced on Friday morning that they have agreed to a one-year extension with the veteran running back. No terms were announced, but the deal will likely result in a lower cap number than the $8.25 million that Stewart was set to count against the cap this year.

Stewart has started 13 games for the Panthers in each of the last two seasons and posted 824 yards and nine touchdowns on 218 carries last season. There’s been some talk about the Panthers adding a running back to the mix in the draft this year, something that the extension likely wouldn’t impact as there will still be a need to spell Stewart and plan for a future backfield that doesn’t include him.

Fozzy Whittaker and Cameron Artis-Payne are the other running backs currently on the 90-man roster in Carolina.

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Aaron Rodgers: Packers fans should be excited

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Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has turned R-E-L-A-X into a catchphrase of sorts over the years, but that’s not the message he’s sending to the team’s fans ahead of the 2017 season.

Rodgers noted how the team played offensively down the stretch last season and the additions of tight end Martellus Bennett and Lance Kendricks while sharing his optimism about his side of the ball. He thinks the team still has a little tweaking to do on the defensive side, but that there’s plenty of reason for excitement in Green Bay.

“We probably need a couple more pieces on defense before the season starts, but we’re going to be really tough to stop on offense,” Rodgers said on a podcast with Evan Daniels of FOX Sports. “Mike [McCarthy] has a great system there that’s ever evolving and changing. I put my stamp on it once we get it down on paper. It’s exciting, man. Green Bay Packers fans should be really excited about this season and the possibilities.”

The Packers have made the playoffs in each of the last eight seasons and they’ve won at least one playoff game in each of the last three, which is a run that Rodgers called “phenomenal” while noting that the team has to find a way to push through for his second Super Bowl of the year. Rodgers said that this would be as good a year as any to break the drought as it would mean the Packers were celebrating their title on the Vikings’ home field.

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Under proposed overtime rule, Bucs would have been a playoff team

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When the proposal to shorten regular season overtimes to 10 minutes comes up for a vote at the owner’s meetings next week, there’s a good chance the Buccaneers will support the measure.

Primarily, because they’d have ended a nine-year playoff drought if it had been in place last year.

As noted by Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times, the Buccaneers would have qualified for the playoffs at 9-6-1 under the proposed timing, since they lost with a minute and 45 seconds left in overtime to the Raiders on Oct. 30.

And you can argue that one was a double loss, since they had to play the Falcons four days later on Thursday Night Football, and dropped a 43-28 decision.

The Bucs defense was on the field for 94 plays against the Raiders, making it no wonder they had little left in the tank the following Thursday when the Falcons pulled away in the second half.

The Buccaneers haven’t made the playoffs since 2007, and would have slid into the final Wild Card spot over the 9-7 Lions had that loss been a tie.

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Bears announce signing of Mark Sanchez


Mark Sanchez has found his fifth NFL team.

Sanchez has signed with the Bears, the team announced today, making him the backup to starting quarterback Mike Glennon.

The Bears may still draft a quarterback, and if they do Sanchez could have value as a veteran mentor. Last year in Dallas, rookie quarterback Dak Prescott credited Sanchez for helping him learn how to be a professional.

Sanchez started his career as the fifth overall pick in the 2009 NFL draft with the Jets. He started in the AFC Championship Game in each of his first two seasons, but those Jets teams were led by their defense, and Sanchez never developed into the kind of quarterback who could lead a team. After five years in New York, Sanchez spent two seasons with the Eagles, then was briefly with the Broncos before getting cut after the preseason last year before finally ending up backing up Prescott in Dallas.

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Dean Blandino: We’ll head toward full-time refs, even if some quit


The NFL is moving toward having full-time referees, even if some refs aren’t willing to quit their other jobs.

NFL Senior V.P. of Officiating Dean Blandino said on PFT Live that he is concerned some referees will quit if forced to go full-time because they make more money in their other jobs. But he said he ultimately expects the league to have full-time referees anyway.

“It’s certainly a concern,” Blandino said of some referees quitting. “When you look at our sport, football is different from other sports. We typically play once a week and as officiating has evolved, that’s why football officials have had other professions, because of the longer gap between games. So that’s a concern. We’re looking at it from a phased-in approach, and giving our referees the opportunity to have two or three years to phase into this and maybe phase out of their other professions. The concern is there, it’s real, you may lose some of your better people, but we think the benefits of full-time officiating outweigh those risks and we’re going to continue down that path.”

It seems likely that some referees would, in fact, choose not to be referees anymore if they were told they had to choose. Ed Hochuli, for instance, is a highly paid attorney who would be taking a big pay cut if he gave that up. But with the NFL paying referees six-figure salaries, most of them would probably stick with it. If the league is convinced it would improve officiating, then the league should make referees full-time employees.

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Joe Thomas likes the local kid best among the college quarterbacks

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The Browns have spent the offseason acquiring offensive line talent. And the cornerstone of that unit has endorsed one particular rookie quarterback which he’d like to protect.

During a radio interview on 92.3 The Fan, Browns left tackle Joe Thomas said North Carolina’s Mitchell Trubisky was the best fit for the Browns or any other NFL team.

“I know that Mitchell Trubisky is probably the guy that has the most upside potential in a pro-style offense in the NFL, and I don’t see those other guys as obvious fits in NFL offenses,” Thomas said, via Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal. “So if you’re going to take a guy, he might be your guy you want to take.

“With that being said, I think he’s only started for a year, so he’s got a lot of improvement to make before he is ready to be the starting quarterback.”

Trubisky gets linked to the Browns a lot, partly because he’s local and partly because their quarterback position has been a Superfund site since they returned to Cleveland.

They own the first pick overall, so they could take him if they wanted. But Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett is the consensus top pick, so they might have to do some juggling with the 12th pick (and their handful of accumulated picks) if they want Trubisky, considering all the people around them also looking for quarterbacks.

Whichever one they take, he’ll walk into a better situation, as they signed free agent guard Kevin Zeitler and center J.C. Tretter while extending guard Joel Bitonio’s deal, giving Thomas the kind of line talent he hasn’t often enjoyed.

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Bears set up private workout with DeShone Kizer

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The Bears signed their starter at the beginning of free agency with a deal for Mike Glennon, and are close to a deal for a backup in Mark Sanchez. But they’re obviously still looking to the future.

In fact, they might have already gotten a peek at their next one wearing gear from their city.

According to Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune, the Bears are setting up a private workout with the Notre Dame quarterback next week. So they had to like it when he showed up for his pro day workout Thursday wearing a “Chicago” T-shirt, even if it was in honor of the band and not the football team.

I just had it with me,” Kizer said of the shirt. “I was able to become a recent big Chicago fan, so I have been wearing that shirt everywhere I go. I didn’t even think about the Bears. I just put that together.”

Of course, the Bears are going to have competition if they want to put something together with Kizer with the third overall pick. The 49ers were there in force yesterday, with General Manager John Lynch (owner of the second pick) there alongside personnel man Martin Mayhew and others.

Lynch called it a “positive workout,” for Kizer, and the jockeying for quarterbacks at the top of the draft will continue for the next month, with the Browns and Jets joining the Bears and 49ers in the mix for the top prospects including Kizer, Deshaun Watson, Mitchell Trubisky and Patrick Mahomes.

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Marshon Lattimore continues to defend his hamstrings

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Ohio State cornerback Marshon Lattimore had to take up for himself during the Scouting Combine, after a report that his hamstring tightened up during his workout.

And after his pro day workout Thursday, he wondered why people kept bringing it up.

Via Austin Ward of, Lattimore said there was nothing wrong with either of his hamstrings and that the hip flexor issue which caused him to cut short his Indianapolis workout was fine too.

“That’s why I tweeted that,” Lattimore said. “Yeah, I wanted to clear it up. It is what it is.

“Man, there’s going to be people that try to bring you down. They didn’t even know what was going on. I didn’t grab my hamstring or anything like that, they just thought it was my hamstring. It is what it is, but, you know, I’m good. I had to come out here and show them [the athleticism], and another reason I tried to come out here was to show them I’m not injured.”

Of course, there’s a reason for the concern. A torn left hamstring cost him his 2014 season and a strain in the right one kept him on the sidelines for most of 2015. Despite only one full year of starting, he figures to be one of the top cornerbacks in a talented pool in this year’s draft, and a likely top-10 pick.

He stood on his combine testing numbers, and did positional drills at yesterday’s pro day.

“I just wanted to show my quickness, that I’m smooth, I can do everything,” Lattimore said. “Because I didn’t do anything at the combine. … [The hip flexor] wasn’t really bad, but they told me just not to try to hurt myself by going back out there.

“So I just had to show them that what I can do. I didn’t put any pressure on myself, because I knew I wasn’t injured like that. I was just ready to show them what I can do.”

His history will make teams wary, or at least cause them to do their own research. But if they trust he’s past those previous problems, there’s nothing about his play which suggests a concern.

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NFL may crack down on penalties designed to manipulate the clock

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Call it the Chip Kelly Rule.

The NFL is considering a rules proposal that would make it unsportsmanlike conduct to commit multiple fouls on the same down, designed to manipulate the game clock. That rule is inspired by the 49ers’ defensive backs grabbing all of the Saints’ receivers late in the first half of a game last year, forcing the Saints to run a play that took precious seconds off the clock as they tried to score before halftime. Kelly acknowledged after the game that it was a tactic he had his team work on in practice.

Under the old rules, the 49ers were only called for defensive holding, which they were glad to take to allow time to run off the clock. Under the proposed rule, it would be both a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, and the clock would be reset to where it was before the snap.

Kelly didn’t have the kind of impact he wanted to have in the NFL, failing with both the Eagles and the 49ers. But perhaps he’ll have the lasting legacy of forcing the NFL to adopt a new rule.

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Report: Clay Matthews Sr. dies at 88

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One of the most prominent families in the NFL lost one of its patriarchs.

According to John McClain of the Houston Chronicle, former San Francisco 49ers offensive lineman Clay Matthews Sr. died at age 88 following a long illness.

Matthews played parts of four seasons for the 49ers (1950, 53-55) and helped father a long line of productive NFL players.

Bruce Matthews was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2007 following a 19-year career that saw him named a first-team All-Pro a whopping 10 times with 14 Pro Bowl selections at tackle for the Houston Oilers and Tennessee Oilers/Titans. Clay Matthews Jr. was a three-time All-Pro and four-time Pro Bowl section in 19 seasons with the Cleveland Browns and Atlanta Falcons.

Bruce and Clay Jr. each have two sons make the NFL as well. Bruce is father to Jake and Kevin Matthews. Jake is the left tackle for the Atlanta Falcons while Kevin played parts of five seasons for the Tennessee Titans, Washington Redskins and Carolina Panthers.

Clay Jr. is father to Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews III and Casey Matthews, who played linebacker for the Philadelphia Eagles and Minnesota Vikings.

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