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James Harrison says KC tragedy not a gun problem

James Harrison AP

Steelers linebacker James Harrison has never been afraid to take an unpopular stand.

But the avid gun collector said Wednesday that the fault for last weekend’s murder-suicide in Kansas City was with Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher and not the gun he used to kill his girlfriend and then himself.

“It’s a big issue as far as what happened and everything, it’s a sad story,” Harrison told USA Today’s Jim Corbett. “But the fact of it being part of the guns. . . . They want to say it’s guns and all this other stuff. It’s ridiculous. He did it. And he alone is responsible for it. It has nothing to do with the guns.

“Somebody goes out and kills somebody with a knife, you going to blame the knife? Somebody goes out and kills somebody by pushing somebody in front of a train, you going to start cutting off the guy’s arms? You going to start blaming people’s arms now? It’s the person who did it who is responsible.”

Harrison said he’s long been “fascinated” by guns, and that he owns around 20. He was pictured in Men’s Journal magazine with a pair of handguns across his chest, and insists that individuals need to be able to protect themselves.

“It’s not an athlete thing, it’s a human thing,” Harrison said. “If you go and say, ‘All right, now we’re going to take guns away from everybody, and the only person who is going to have guns are the police.’ . . . if that was a good thing and that’s actually how it would go, then that would work.

“But the two people who are going to have the guns then are the police and the criminals. So now I know I can break into every house in the country that doesn’t have a gun in it because they’re no longer allowed to carry handguns. That’s not going to solve things. It’s only going to cause more problems.”

Harrison’s stance, and taking it today, might not be considered particularly sensitive. And many won’t agree.

But the only Amendment that comes before the Second is the First, giving him the right to his opinion as much as others who have used the tragedy in Kansas City as a chance to win political ground from the other direction.

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Aaron Hernandez jury seated, trial starts Thursday

Aaron Hernandez AP

The trial of former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez on charges that he murdered Odin Lloyd in 2013 will begin on Thursday as a result of the blizzard bearing down on the Northeast.

A jury of 18 people — 13 women and five men — was selected on Monday in Fall River, Massachusetts, but the Hartford Courant reports that Judge E. Susan Garsh pushed back the intended Tuesday start date because the predicted snowfall is expected to leave the area digging out for the next couple of days.

Hernandez and two other men are accused of picking up Lloyd in a car early in the morning of June 17, 2013 and murdering him a short time later. The other men, Carlos Ortiz and Ernest Wallace, will be tried separately.

Prosecutors recently submitted a petition for immunity for Shayanna Jenkins, Hernandez’s fiancee, in what’s believed to be a bid to get her to testify against Hernandez at the trial. Jenkins faces a charge of perjury related to the case, but, per the Courant, no immunity had been granted by Monday’s jury selection.

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Report: Richard Smith joining Raheem Morris on Falcons staff

Richard Smith AP

The Falcons continue to keep busy while waiting to officially make Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn their new head coach.

Albert Breer of NFL Media reports that Redskins defensive backs coach and former Buccaneers head coach Raheem Morris has verbally accepted a spot on the team’s coaching staff, a move that was reported over the weekend. Breer also reports that Broncos linebackers coach Richard Smith will be coming on board.

The initial reports on Morris had him coming to Atlanta as the team’s defensive coordinator, but Breer reports he’ll be the assistant head coach and run the team’s pass defense. Smith will “likely” be the coordinator and run the team’s run defense, although Quinn’s background suggests he’ll play a big role in everything the defense does in Atlanta.

Smith was the defensive coordinator for the Texans from 2006-2008 and also ran the defense in Miami in 2005 for Nick Saban.

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Russell Wilson: Deflategate “had nothing to do with anything”

russellwilson AP

Like a lot of people, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson feels that he has heard enough about Deflategate.

Asked what he thinks it means that the Patriots allegedly deflated the footballs they used on offense against the Colts, Wilson said it’s a big nothingburger.

“It had nothing to do with anything,” Wilson said. “We’re not focused on that. We’re focused on playing our football and playing one play at a time, and trying to find a way to win the Super Bowl. . . . I don’t think the integrity of the game’s under assault or whatever you want to say. I think that we have a lot of great football players in this football league and we do things the right way.”

Asked if he does anything with the footballs the Seahawks use on offense, Wilson answered, “No.”

“In terms of the football pregame, I just want to have a football out there to throw. That’s all I look forward to,” he said. “All those distractions about the footballs have nothing to do with us.”

Whether Deflategate is a distraction for the Patriots remains to be seen, but the Seahawks are doing their best to say nothing that would turn it into a distraction for their team as well.

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Report: Raiders meet with Todd Grantham

Todd Grantham AP

A veteran NFL assistant currently in the college coaching ranks is reportedly on the Raiders’ radar for their defensive coordinator vacancy.

Dianna Marie Russini of NBC4 Washington reports Oakland is “meeting with” Louisville defensive coordinator Todd Grantham.

Grantham, 48, was the Browns’ defensive coordinator from 2005 through 2007. He also had NFL coaching stints with the Cowboys (2008-2009), Texans (2002-2004) and Colts (1999-2001).

Grantham is entering his second season with Louisville. He was Georgia’s defensive coordinator from 2010-2013.

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Colts parting company with RBs coach David Walker

Indianapolis Colts 2011 Headshots Getty Images

The Colts are making a coaching staff change.

Indianapolis has “mutually agreed to part ways” with running backs coach David Walker, the team said Monday morning.

The 45-year-old Walker had been with Indianapolis since 2011. He previously was an assistant at Pittsburgh and Syracuse.

The Colts have finished no better than 20th in rushing in the last four seasons. Injuries have hampered the club’s ground game in each of the last two campaigns, with Vick Ballard and Ahmad Bradshaw each missing significant stints. The club’s 2013 trade for Trent Richardson has also failed to work out, with the former No. 3 overall pick falling out of the Colts’ rotation by season’s end.

The new running backs coach is likely to have a role in the Colts’ evaluation of their tailback needs. The club seems likely to add a featured back this offseason, given its problems generating much of a rushing attack.

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PFT Live kicks off Super Bowl week at 12 p.m. ET

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Assuming you’ve been able to come down from the high that only the Pro Bowl can provide, it’s time to start looking forward to the main attraction in Glendale, Arizona.

It’s Super Bowl week and PFT Live will be there for all of it to make sure that you know everything you need to know about the Patriots and the Seahawks. And we’ll be making sure that you can watch us as well as listen to us as the entire three-hour show will be simulcast online all week long.

Scheduled to join Mike Florio on Monday’s show are Ross Tucker of NBC Sports, Peter King of Football Night in America and MMQB.com, Tom Curran of CSN New England, PFT’s own Michael David Smith and longtime Steelers defensive end Brett Keisel.

We also want to hear from PFT Planet. You can call the show by dialing 855-323-4NBC, email questions at any time via the O’Reilly Auto Parts Ask the Pros inbox or get in touch on Twitter at @ProFootballTalk.

It all gets started at noon ET and you can listen live via the various NBC Sports Radio affiliates, through the links at PFT, or with the NBC Sports Radio app. And, again, you can also watch a simulcast of all three hours of the show by clicking right here.

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Tagliabue gives Goodell some advice, indirectly

Goodell Getty Images

A decade ago, Roger Goodell served as the right-hand man to former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue.  A “wingman,” one unnamed executive recently told Gabriel Sherman of GQ in a new profile of Goodell.

By 2005, Goodell wanted to be the guy with the wingman.

He was getting impatient,” Tagliabue told Sherman, who noted without specifically quoting a source that Goodell was “agitating” for Tagliabue to relinquish the throne.  At one point, Goodell reportedly considered leaving for ESPN.

Now, as Goodell tries to guide the league and his own career through murky waters in large part of his own making, Tagliabue would be a great person to give him some advice — especially regarding, for example, challenges like how to deal with anecdotal evidence that a team may be underinflating footballs.  But Goodell doesn’t take advantage of the experience, knowledge, and expertise of his predecessor.

“We haven’t talked much since I left,” Tagliabue told Sherman. “It’s been his decision. Bountygate didn’t help.”

Tagliabue is referring to his role as the hearing officer in the appeals of the Saints players Goodell suspended in 2012.  Tagliabue overturned all punishments, based in part on a belief that it was unfair to selectively enforce the rules regarding a broader cultural phenomenon against only one small group of players.  The point?  If a certain practice has become widespread in the sport, catching and severely punishing one violator in the hopes that everyone else will clean up their act isn’t the best way to solve the problem.

Coincidentally (or not), that could be one of the basic realities of the latest rules controversy undermining the sport.  If the Patriots were causing footballs to be underinflated in order to make them easier to throw, they surely weren’t the only ones doing it.

But the Patriots have become the only ones investigated for it, and they likely will be the only ones disciplined for it — if the NFL ultimately can develop proof that something improper was occurring.  Even if the NFL finds no smoking gun, the cloud of suspicion will reside over the Patriots, indefinitely.

“There’s a huge intangible value in peace. There’s a huge intangible value in having allies,” Tagliabue explained to Sherman.

The shoot-first-ask-questions-later approach won’t promote peace or the development of allegiances.  In the bounty scandal, Goodell created enemies in New Orleans.  Now, he’ll have to choose between preserving whatever credibility he has left in the wake of the Ray Rice case and preserving one of his staunchest supporters in Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who could be on the brink of an epiphany that eventually could lead to Goodell being interviewed about the challenges faced by his successor.

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Adam Vinatieri: If you’re going to make it harder for kickers, make it harder for everyone

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The NFL continued their experiments to make the placekicking part of the game less automatic at Sunday night’s Pro Bowl.

The uprights were narrowed by over four feet and extra points were pushed back to the 15-yard-line, which contributed to three missed kicks for Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri. Vinatieri and Eagles kicker Cody Parkey, who made both his extra point tries, both said after the game that they weren’t in favor of the changes being extended beyond an exhibition game with Parkey saying that he felt like the league was “picking on” kickers. Vinatieri, meanwhile, said that the league should make other changes if they’re concerned with things being too easy for players.

“My answer to that is take the receiver gloves off the receivers and see how if they can make these amazing one-handed catches,” Vinatieri said, via ESPN.com. “Things might change. If we’re going to do it to make it harder on guys because they’re getting more accurate or more whatever, then maybe we should change a bunch of things.”

There’s some truth to the point that Vinatieri makes about receiver gloves helping the likes of Odell Beckham make ridiculous catches on a weekly basis, but until field goals join those catches on highlight films the league isn’t likely to treat the two things in remotely the same way.

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NFL offered photo of Marshawn’s crotch grab for sale

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While the NFL was fining Marshawn Lynch $20,000 for grabbing his crotch in the NFC Championship Game, the NFL was also asking fans to pay $149.95 for a collection of Seahawks photos that included a picture of that same grab of that same crotch.

The league has now admitted it screwed up by offering that photo for sale and says it will not be sold.

“Any play that results in a fine may not be used commercially,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told ESPN.

This isn’t the first time the NFL has tried to profit off photos of plays for which players were fined. In 2010 the league also sold pictures of a James Harrison hit on Mohamed Massaquoi and a Brandon Meriweather hit on Todd Heap, even though Harrison and Meriweather had been fined for those very hits.

It’s hypocritical, obviously, of the NFL to do that. Maybe Lynch will have something to say about the NFL’s hypocrisy at Super Bowl Media Day. But probably not.

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Tom Brady: I personalized things last week, but I’ve moved past it

Tom Brady AP

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady found himself in the middle of the biggest story inside and outside football last week as the quarterback of a team accused of playing the AFC Championship game with under-inflated footballs and he admitted Monday that he took that personally.

During an appearance on WEEI on Monday morning, Brady said that he spent a lot of time last week trying to figure out what happened with the balls because he felt like the whole situation was falling on his shoulders but that he’s putting that process on hold to prepare for Sunday’s game.

“It’s all speculation,” Brady said. “I’ve tried to wrap my head around it, too. I’ve done that and I’m trying to move past that, because I continue to try to rehash things. I personalized a lot of things and thought this was all about me, and my feelings got hurt. Then I moved past it, because it’s not serving me. What’s serving me is try to prepare for the game ahead. I’ll deal with whatever happens later. I’ll have my opportunity to try to figure out what happened and figure out a theory like everyone else is trying to do. But this isn’t the time for that. Honestly, I’m not interested in trying to find out right now, because we have the biggest game of our season ahead.”

During an interview with ESPN at halftime of the Pro Bowl, Brady said he doesn’t expect to speak to NFL investigators until after the Super Bowl and said Monday that he doesn’t plan on talking about ball deflation at all this week, a plan that’s unlikely to move the hordes of people asking him about ball deflation this week.

“It’s really about this week and ignoring what anyone may say or think or do or feel,” Brady said. “Everyone has had an opinion to this point. Everyone can speculate all they want on what happened. That’s their right, that’s their opinion. Part of playing professional sports is dealing with the good and the bad. Coach has taught us for a long time to ignore the noise and focus on what we control. That’s what we’re going to do.”

Brady and the Patriots head to Arizona on Monday.

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NFL announces partnership with YouTube

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The NFL is embracing online video.

The league, which has been slow and cautious about allowing its content to appear online and has often ordered highlight clips removed for copyright violations, has now decided that it makes more sense to use online video to reach as wide an audience as possible. As a result, the NFL and YouTube announced a partnership today that will result in an NFL YouTube channel that makes videos directly viewable on Google searches.

Realistically, it’s all but impossible for organizations like the NFL to prevent all of their copyrighted material from being posted online. So it makes more sense to form a partnership with the biggest provider of online video in the world than to keep futilely fighting online video.

The partnership also guarantees that kickoff times and broadcast information for every NFL game will be prominently displayed in Google searches. The league’s YouTube channel has already launched, and currently features a Super Bowl preview, Pro Bowl highlights, and big plays from the 2014 season. Some day, it may expand to include the league’s enormous NFL Films video archive. That would be a treasure trove for NFL fans. This announcement has great potential.

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Mike Westhoff thinks Pats are clean, this time

Mike+Westhoff+nd2zqPpFIc0m Getty Images

One week ago this morning, the world was waking up to #DeflateGate.  Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, sounding still not quite fully awake for his Monday morning visit to WEEI in Boston, laughed the whole thing off as “ridiculous.”

While it may indeed now be “ridiculous,” it’s for reasons far different than Brady meant.  On Sunday, PFT pointed out that much of the blame for the distraction and debacle belongs to the NFL, which apparently set a trap without quite knowing what to do with the beast whose foot they caught in it.  Throw in the involvement of former Jets executive Mike Kensil, who now works for the league office, and the whole thing takes on a Hatfield-McCoy dynamic, with one of the Hatfields now walking around with a badge.

But former Jets special-teams coordinator Mike Westhoff has chimed in on this one, and he has reluctantly exonerated the Patriots.

“If it’s anybody that walks the edge on the rules, it’s these guys,” Westhoff told the Toronto Sun (via Tom Curran of CSN New England).  “Sometimes they remind me a little bit of Enron — they’re always the smartest guys in the room, until some day maybe they’re not.  That’s how I feel about them. . . .

“Did they do it? I honestly don’t think they did.  To tell you the truth, I’m not so sure they’re not sitting around today thinking, ‘I wish we’d thought this up,’ knowing them. . . .  As much as I hate to, I’m going to defend them.  And trust me, I hate to defend them. [Spygate] was only a part of it.  The number of things that were like this?  There’s only a handful of them that have been made public.”

“Trust me, what I’m tellin’ you.  There are quite a few others.  Clock violations.  You can go on and on.  There’s a whole sh-tload.”

The truth is there’s “a whole sh-tload” for many (if not most . . . if not all) teams.  Westhoff worked for the Jets when former strength coach Sal Alosi (supposedly acting alone) created a wall of humanity on the sideline with the goal of impeding the opponents’ gunners on punt coverage.  Other teams have done other things; in the recent Bill Walsh:  A Football Life documentary, Bill Parcells talked about his strong suspicion that the 49ers took down the communication lines early in playoff games at San Francisco, when the 49ers already had their first 15 plays scripted.

The current case has received much greater attention and scrutiny because of the profile of the team, coach, and quarterback involved — and because of Spygate.  But that made it all the more important that the NFL crafted a clear, reliable plan for connecting underinflated footballs to deliberate misconduct.  Apparently, the NFL didn’t.

Which in some ways makes this a lot like the Ray Rice case, only with different players and different details.  The incompetence of an organization shows itself in many ways, especially when the organization is confronted with an unusual situation.  The NFL’s handling of unusual situations in recent months has been quite unusual indeed, and the impact of this specific incident on the Patriots could be the tipping point for prompting one of the most influential owners in the sport to demand significant changes at 345 Park Avenue.

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Andrew Luck: Nothing doing on contract front

Andrew Luck AP

There has been talk of a fat new contract in the offing for Colts QB Andrew Luck, but Luck said Sunday that he has as much need for a pen to sign for millions as he has need for a razor.

An ESPN report indicated that the Colts have been “working on the parameters” of an offer that would make Luck the highest-paid player in the league this offseason, but owner Jim Irsay said after the AFC Championship game that such a deal was not part of his “thought process” at this point. Luck sent a similar message after the Pro Bowl.

“There’s nothing there right now,” Luck said, via the Indianapolis Star. “I didn’t think about it all during the season and it’s only been a few days since it ended. I haven’t thought about it. I will have conversations with my agent just because you have to prepare, but I’m not sure where that report came from.”

Luck can’t sign an extension until the start of the new league year in March, so things could change. The Colts don’t have much pressure to do something now, though. Luck is signed for one more year on his relatively small rookie deal and they will obviously be executing their fifth-year option on his contract, so it will be at least 2017 before there’s a chance of losing Luck. That’s not much of a chance thanks to the franchise tag, one more reason why the Colts have time to figure out how they want to go forward with their quarterback.

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Bears keep it in the family with defensive line coach hire

Drew Brees, Stephen Paea AP

The Bears have shown a preference for assistant coaches that worked with head coach John Fox in Denver, including their hire of special teams coordinator Jeff Rodgers.

So it’s no surprise that they found another former Broncos assistant to coach the defensive line, especially when that defensive line coach is also the older brother of the guy running the special teams.

The Bears announced the hiring of Jay Rodgers late on Sunday as they continue filling out Fox’s initial staff in Chicago. The elder Rodgers spent the last three years coaching the defensive linemen in Denver and was on the Broncos’ staff for six years overall.

Rodgers coached a pair of Pro Bowlers in DeMarcus Ware and Elvis Dumervil during his time with the Broncos and the Broncos were the league’s stingiest defense against the run for the last three seasons.

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After dunking at the Pro Bowl, Graham asks NFL to change the rule

jimmygraham AP

Saints tight end Jimmy Graham got to do what he loves to do after scoring touchdowns at the Pro Bowl: He dunked the ball over the goal post.

Graham, whose dunk during the 2013 season knocked a goal post off balance and led to a rules change for 2014, wants the league to change the rule back and allow players to dunk in celebration again.

“That was amazing. For me, it made the entire week,” Graham said. “Hopefully, one day they’ll look back and change this rule so I can do it in a real game. And hopefully one day in the Super Bowl.”

The NFL rarely goes back on excessive celebration rules, so it seems unlikely that Graham will get his wish. But it would make more sense for the league to modify the rule so that players can dunk as long as they don’t touch the goal post: The point of the rule was to prevent games from being delayed by a goal post knocked off kilter, so as long as a player doesn’t touch the goal post when he dunks, it shouldn’t be against the rules.

The game, after all, should be fun. And for Graham, it’s fun to pay tribute to his basketball background when he scores a touchdown. At the Pro Bowl, he could do that again.

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