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No fine for Reggie Nelson’s hit on Dez Bryant

Cincinnati Bengals' Crocker celebrates his interception of a pass from San Diego Chargers' Rivers during their NFL football game in San Diego Reuters

In the aftermath of the Bengals’ 20-19 loss to the Cowboys, Bengals safety Reggie Nelson was furious about being penalized for a hit that dislodged the ball from Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant’s hands.

Nelson complained that he delivered a textbook hit without leading with his head or hitting Bryant in the helmet and a review of the play makes it hard to disagree with that opinion. Bengals coach Marvin Lewis had a hard time understanding what Nelson did wrong and said after the game that he thought the league should teach people to hit the way Nelson hit Bryant.

“I thought it was a great target and probably one that will be on their teaching reel of how to do it,” Lewis said. “Reggie’s done a good job with those things. He was on their teaching reel last year, and I thought that one was picture perfect.”

We’re not sure if the league will put the hit on their training reel, but we do know they won’t be taking any money out of Nelson’s pocket. Nelson wasn’t fined by the league this week as a result of the hit, which is a good thing since he never should have been penalized in the first place.

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Reggie McKenzie “not the type” to wait on deals for Derek Carr, Khalil Mack

OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 24:  Quarterback Derek Carr #4 of the Oakland Raiders drops back against the Indianapolis Colts in the third quarter on December 24, 2016 at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum in Oakland, California.  The Raiders won 33-25.  (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images) Getty Images

Drafting defensive end Khalil Mack and quarterback Derek Carr in 2014 was a major part of the turnaround for the Raiders that pushed them to 12 wins and a playoff spot this year.

Now the Raiders have to work on keeping those two players in Raiders uniforms for years to come. Carr has one year left on his rookie deal and the team has an option on Mack through the 2018 season, which makes it little surprise to hear General Manager Reggie McKenzie say that signing them is a priority as the team moves into offseason mode.

“The good thing is we do have time, but I’m not the type to wait until the last minute,” McKenzie said, via the San Jose Mercury News. “Those two guys are not only great players, but they’re great men and they are true Raiders and I want to make sure we do the best that we can to make sure they stay Raiders.”

Salary cap management will be a big deal as Carr, Mack and other young players move into their second contracts, something that McKenzie said he doesn’t feel threatened by at this point while noting that the team will “continue to strive to get good players for a lesser amount.” After years of struggling to find players worth building around, that’s not the worst problem to have.

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Donald Trump got a phone call from Tom Brady

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady chats with Donald Trump (Photo by Donna Connor/WireImage) Getty Images

Despite a “Make America Great Again” hat being spotted in his locker early in the campaign, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has tried to keep under wraps his support of Donald Trump in the closet.

The Later-Today-To-Be-President outed Brady last night.

“Your friend Tom [Brady] just called,” Donald Trump said at a Thursday night black-tie dinner, in comments directed to Patriots owner Robert Kraft. “He feels good. He called to congratulate us. He feels good.”

How Brady and/or Mrs. Brady feel about that comment remains to be seen.

I’m not talking politics anymore, guys,” Brady said in November, via Phill Perry of CSNNE.com. “I’m just not. I got other things to worry about. Just speaking with my family, it’s just a bad idea. I know, you guys, I told you I would, then after I told you I would, I changed my mind.”

In September 2015, Brady made it clear that he’s not interested in or knowledgeable about politics.

“I don’t even know what the issues are. I haven’t paid attention to politics in a long time,” Brady said. “It’s actually not something that I really even enjoy. It’s way off my radar. . . .

“I try to have fun with certain things, you know, but some things a lot of times get taken out of context. I think you are just more careful with what you say because you don’t want certainly a big headline with you as saying something that’s going to take the attention away from your teammates or what you’re trying to do.”

On one hand, there’s nothing wrong with calling the incoming president to congratulate him the incredibly rare honor, privilege, and power he’s about to receive. Whenever a personal friend is about to become the President of the United States, it’s probably a good idea to at least give him a phone call.

On the other hand, the potential for friction and distraction when it comes to such a polarizing figure (and, hopefully, Americans who otherwise can agree on little can at least agree that he’s polarizing) makes it smart to keep that support under wraps. Which Brady had successfully done in recent months. Until last night.

It surely won’t matter come Sunday night. But it also surely gave Brady at least a mild cringe to hear that Trump had shared with the public a phone call that Brady undoubtedly intended to be private.

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Aaron Rodgers: “Size matters” when it comes to his hands

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) celebrates after winning an NFL divisional playoff football game against the Dallas Cowboys Sunday, Jan. 15, 2017, in Arlington, Texas. The Packers won 34-31. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins) AP

When NFL evaluators descend on Indianapolis late next month for the Scouting Combine, people will laugh about their obsession with the measurements of the quarterbacks. But for all the jokes, there was a practical application of those numbers on display last week.

When Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers was being sacked from behind by Cowboys safety Jeff Heath, he didn’t lose the ball he had in his right hand. Why not?

Size matters,” Rodgers said, via Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com.

When he was at the Scouting Combine, his hands measured 10 1/8 inches. Assuming they haven’t grown since then (or that he hasn’t had them stretched), that makes them officially large.

“His grip strength has got to be fantastic,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn said. “I totally thought the same thing. During the game, I said, ‘That’s amazing that the ball did not come out.’”

Anything under 9 1/2 inches is considered small, and can make it harder for a quarterback to grip the ball well enough to spin it in inclement weather. Or in Rodgers case, to secure it without fumbling while being drilled from behind with 18 seconds left in a tied playoff game.

“That was a huge play because if the ball comes out right there, that’s probably the game for them because they’re already in field goal range,” Packers pass-rusher Julius Peppers said. “I think when he absorbed that hit and held onto the ball, that was just a great, instinctive play that probably saved the game for us.”

Instincts and big hands, neither of which you can teach.

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Kyle Shanahan: No deal yet, focusing on Packers this week

FILE - In this Dec. 18, 2016, file photo, Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan walks on the turf before the first half of an NFL football game between the Falcons and the San Francisco 49ers, in Atlanta. Broncos general manager John Elway began his third coaching search in six seasons with a visit to Kansas City on Friday to interview Chiefs special teams coach Dave Toub. Elway and his committee, which includes team president Joe Ellis and player personnel director Matt Russell, will then travel to Atlanta to meet with Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan over the weekend. (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File) AP

Kyle Shanahan admitted being distracted. For the five minutes it took him to get ready for a press conference, anyway.

Via Jeff Schultz of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Falcons offensive coordinator said all the right things about not having a deal in place with the 49ers yet and all his focus being on Sunday’s NFC Championship Game against the Packers.

No, there’s definitely no understanding of that [a deal with the 49ers],” he said. “I think there’s some interest, obviously. I had my interview a couple of weeks ago. I’m looking forward to a chance when you can speak to people again. It’s a pretty good situation to be in, as far as where a team is at right now. It’s the coolest moment I’ve had in my career. I used to think the rules weren’t that cool. I love the rules. It makes it very simple.

“My friends growing up hear this stuff. My wife hears this stuff. Everybody wants to ask me what’s going on. I don’t know. I’m in my office looking at film all day and there’s nothing I’m allowed to do about it. I think I’ll have an idea after the game. I don’t know what day that will be. Right now, I truly don’t care.”

He said the league rules which prevent him from having his second interview with the 49ers until next week were helpful, considering he has kind of a big game coming up Sunday.

“I had to think about what I wanted to say to you guys,” he said. “But it’s not a distraction. Rules I thought weren’t cool rules, they really are. . . . I wanted to win a payoff game my entire career and I got to do that last week.  Now we have a chance to play for a Super Bowl. That’s pretty much what’s consuming my mind. It’s something we’re enjoying and I’m not going to miss this opportunity.”

Of course, he also has all the leverage here, as the 49ers were turned down by Josh McDaniels, and even Tom Cable has thanked them for the opportunity. So when the time comes for Shanahan to sit down with them next week (when he’ll meet potential General Manager hires), he’ll have a tremendous negotiating position.

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John Pagano interviews for defensive coordinator in Washington

John Pagano AP

Add another name to the long list of candidates to be the next defensive coordinator in Washington.

John Pagano, who spent the last four years as the defensive coordinator in San Diego, has interviewed for the top job on Jay Gruden’s staff, according to Liz Clarke of the Washington Post.

Gruden has been looking for a new defensive coordinator since firing Joe Barry two weeks ago.

Other known candidates for the job include former Browns head coach Mike Pettine, former Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley, longtime NFL defensive assistant Rob Ryan and former Bills defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman. Gruden has also considered promoting his own outside linebackers coach, Greg Manusky.

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Mark Gastineau diagnosed with dementia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinsons

Gastineau Getty Images

Former Jets defensive end Mark Gastineau said during a radio interview with WOR that he’s been diagnosed with multiple brain problems, which he traces back to his days in football.

“When my results came back, I had dementia, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s,” Gastineau said, via Seth Walder of the New York Daily News. “Those were three things that I have.”

The 60-year-old Gastinueau traced the illnesses  back to his days in the NFL. He played 10 seasons with the Jets, registering 74.0 sacks, with 41.0 of those coming in 1983 and 1984. He also boxed professionally after leaving football.

And while he said football was the beginning of his problems (“I led with my head all the time,” he said) he also wanted to use his plight to educate others.

“You know, my first reaction was that I didn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe it,” Gastineau said. “My second reaction was how can I help other people coming in to the NFL? That’s what it’s all about. . . .

“I know that there’s techniques out there that if I would have had ‘em, if I would have had the techniques out there that I’m teaching now to these kids, I know I would not be probably, . . . I know I wouldn’t have the results that I have now.  ‘

Gastineau serves as an ambassador for USA Football, and said the Heads Up Football program was a way to protect future generations of players.

“I don’t want [my diagnosis] to over shadow the Heads Up Program,” he said. “I want it to be a warning to mothers and fathers to be able to put their kids in the safe places to be able to carry on a team sports that I think is going to be way more beneficial for them than if they didn’t have it in their lives.”

While Gastineau’s diagnosis is obviously terrible news, he wants to use his platform to make the game safer. Whether the moms who hear his message are able to separate the former from the latter might be a more difficult sell.

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Report: 49ers denied by Bears in pursuit of Vic Fangio for defensive coordinator

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - DECEMBER 30:  Defensive Coordinator Vic Fangio of the San Francisco 49ers looks on during pre-game warm ups before their game against the Arizona Cardinals at Candlestick Park on December 30, 2012 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) Getty Images

Even though he’s not officially the head coach yet, the San Francisco 49ers are in the process of assembling a coaching staff for presumptive new coach Kyle Shanahan.

However, that coaching staff will not include defensive coordinator Vic Fangio.

According to Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle, the 49ers had interest in bringing Fangio back to the Bay Area as defensive coordinator. Fangio, currently the defensive coordinator of the Chicago Bears, was denied the opportunity to speak with the 49ers about the job. He is currently under contract with the Bears.

Fangio previously served as 49ers defensive coordinator for four seasons under Jim Harbaugh from 2011-14. The 49ers were a top five defense in each of his four seasons with the team.

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Davante Adams says last year’s ankle injury “more difficult to deal with”

GREEN BAY, WI - DECEMBER 11: Davante Adams #17 of the Green Bay Packers catches a pass for a touchdown during the game against the Seattle Seahawks at Lambeau Field on December 11, 2016 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images) Getty Images

Green Bay Packers receiver Davante Adams is not practicing this week and his status for Sunday’s NFC Championship game is still in doubt after an ankle injury sustained in the fourth quarter of last week’s win over the Dallas Cowboys.

Adams injured his ankle when his left foot was caught awkwardly underneath Cowboys cornerback Brandon Carr after a 16-yard completion. It’s the same ankle Adams injured a season ago that impeded his productivity. But unlike that injury, Adams doesn’t believe this issue is quite as significant.

It was pretty painful, but it’s not the worst,” Adams said, via Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com. “Last year was definitely more difficult to deal with so far at this point.”

Adams’ injury a season ago forced him to miss three games and significantly limited his effectiveness. After the injury, he had just three games where he recorded at least 50 receiving yards.

Packers head coach Mike McCarthy said Adams likely would not play if it were a regular season game. However, a trip to the Super Bowl rides on the outcome of Sunday’s game with Atlanta and that will certainly factor in to the decision regarding Adams’ availability.

“I mean, it’s a big game,” Adams said. “It’s definitely going to have a lot to do with what’s going on come Sunday. But until then, I’m not sure.”

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Who will win the AFC championship?

PITTSBURGH, PA - OCTOBER 23:  Antonio Brown #84 of the Pittsburgh Steelers is pursued by Malcolm Butler #21 of the New England Patriots after making a catch in the first half during the game at Heinz Field on October 23, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images) Getty Images

Thursday’s PFT Live presented a question of the day based on the NFC championship. Friday’s PFT Live flips things over to the other conference.

Who wins the AFC title game between the Steelers and Patriots? Vote below, comment, and then tune in for the show.

Guests include Rams coach Sean McVay, whose team once played the Steelers and the Patriots in the Super Bowl. Which is the only connection between the Rams and the AFC title game I could muster.

Here’s hoping you’ll muster the will to tune in for the show, which starts on NBC Sports Radio at 6:00 a.m. ET and slides over to NBCSN for the simulcast at 7:00 a.m. ET.

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Oakland mayor issues statement regarding Raiders relocation

DENVER, CO - JANUARY 1:  Oakland Raiders fans hold signs before the game against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on January 1, 2017 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Raiders, as expected, have filed for permission to move to Las Vegas. The team’s current home, as expected, has issued a statement cloaked in political cover.

“It’s no surprise that the Raiders have filed for relocation,” Mayor Libby Schaaf said, via Daniel Kaplan of SportsBusiness Journal. “Oakland welcomes the chance to show them and the NFL’s other owners why Oakland is the only home for the Raiders and always will be. Our winning team of the Lott Group, the County and my colleagues on the Oakland City Council has accomplished so much in the last few months. We’ve identified the mechanisms to responsibly finance public infrastructure improvements, we have in the Lott Group a private partner prepared to finance stadium construction, and we have an entitled site for a world-class NFL stadium and new development that enhances fan experience while invigorating East Oakland’s economy.

“But this isn’t all Oakland has to offer. Oakland’s Raiders stadium will be on the most transit-accessible site in the nation, in the sixth largest television market, and in one of the wealthiest and most innovative regions in the world. But above all else, Oakland has something no other city ever will — a die-hard fan base that is loyal and true to the Raiders and wants to see them stay here in Oakland where they were founded. Only Oakland brings the Raiders and the NFL a competitive stadium proposal, along with legacy and loyalty.

“I look forward to the League giving our team a chance to compete.”

The problem is that Raiders owner Mark Davis has no desire to permit a competition to occur. And there currently aren’t, and likely won’t be, enough owners willing to block the move.

Oakland surely knows this. But they need to create the impression that they did all they could to keep the Raiders, even if there’s no way Oakland will ever be able to do enough.

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Report: Browns close to new deal with Jamie Collins

CLEVELAND, OH - DECEMBER 11:  Jamie Collins #51 of the Cleveland Browns tackles Brandon LaFell #11 of the Cincinnati Bengals at Cleveland Browns Stadium on December 11, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Browns are close to finalizing a multi-year contract with linebacker Jamie Collins, CBS Sports reported Thursday.

The report said “significant progress” has been made between the sides and that the deal will be done by the weekend.

Absent a new deal, Collins would have had hit the open market in March and would have been one of the most coveted free agents at any position. The Browns hope locking him up will be the first step in an important and busy offseason; they come out of last season with the most salary cap room of any team and hold the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft.

The Browns acquired Collins in a trade before the trade deadline last November. They gave up a fourth-round pick that reportedly will actually become a compensatory pick at the end of the third round. The Browns would have received a compensatory pick had Collins left via free agency.

The Patriots traded him figuring they wouldn’t be able to meet his salary demands, and Collins started all eight games he played with the Browns. He had two sacks and a forced fumble in those eight games.

Collins has 12.5 sacks and five interceptions over his four-year career. He said at the end of the season he was open to returning to the Browns but would only do so if the money was right.

A second-round pick in 2013, Collins had been a starter since his second year with the Patriots before the trade.

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49ers may have trouble hiring a G.M.

81419378 Getty Images

As the 49ers continue to look for a G.M. who, as a practical matter, will be working for coach Kyle Shanahan, the 49ers could be facing a different set of challenges.

If control over the roster was promised to Shanahan in order to get him to take the job at a time when everyone else had bailed, the current employers of the candidates for the G.M. job could block the move, since it wouldn’t entail the typical powers of a G.M.

Throw in the perception/reality that Paraag Marathe will be involved in football operations (and possibly negotiating contracts), and more of the finalists for the G.M. job could decide to pass, in the same way that Packers executive Eliot Wolf has done.

For Wolf, why swap the opportunity to eventually (if not sooner) run the Packers’ football operation for being a third spoke in the wheel at best, a glorified scout at worst?

The other candidates will need to ask themselves those same questions, before, during, and/or after their upcoming interviews with the presumed next coach of the team. And it will be important to know whether the G.M. will indeed have final say, since that aspect of the job could be the thing that ultimately keeps the 49ers from getting the guy they want.

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Gregg Williams: No one will be more aggressive or physical than us

ST. LOUIS, MO - AUGUST 8: Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams of the St. Louis Rams walks the sidelines during the second half of a pre-season game against the New Orleans Saints at the Edward Jones Dome on August 8, 2013 in St. Louis, Missouri.  The Saints beat the Rams 26-24.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images) Getty Images

New Browns defensive coordinator Gregg Williams says his players will love playing for him in Cleveland because they’re going to be the toughest defense in the league.

“From an attitude standpoint, they’re never going to play for anybody that’s going to let them play more attacking, more physical, more aggressive than me. I’ll back them up,” he said. “I’ve only coached two or three guys in the league that I’ve ever had to put my hand on and back up. My whole life I’ve been trying to speed up your decisions and speed up your toughness and get you to play harder, get you to play tougher, get you to play meaner, and so that will be the way.”

Of course, Williams’ coaching career was almost derailed because he was allegedly too aggressive, too physical and too mean during the Bountygate scandal in New Orleans. Asked about that, Williams quickly shut down that line of questioning.

“Yeah, we’re not here to talk about that,” Williams told reporters. “What else do you want to talk about?”

What folks in Cleveland will want to talk about is whether Williams can turn around one of the worst defenses in football. He thinks his aggressive and physical system will do just that.

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Bills hire Rick Dennison as offensive coordinator

Denver Broncos introduce new coaches Getty Images

New Bills head coach Sean McDermott has made the most important hire on his staff.

Rick Dennison will be the Bills’ offensive coordinator, the team announced.

Dennison spent the last two years as the Broncos’ offensive coordinator under Gary Kubiak but was not retained by new head coach Vance Joseph. Dennison was in his second stint as the Broncos’ offensive coordinator, having also served in that role from 2006 to 2008, and he was also offensive coordinator of the Texans from 2010 to 2013.

In Buffalo, Dennison will run the offense for a new head coach who comes from the defensive side of the ball. Dennison and McDermott have never worked together, but McDermott apparently feels confident that Dennison is the right coach for the job.

Dennison joins a Bills team that has a big decision to make on whether to keep Tyrod Taylor as the starting quarterback. Dennison was the quarterbacks coach of the Ravens in 2014 when Taylor was in Baltimore as Joe Flacco’s backup, so that could be a sign that Taylor remains in the Bills’ offensive plans.

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Robert Kraft is still salty about #DeflateGate

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - JANUARY 01: New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft looks on during a game against the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium on January 1, 2017 in Miami Gardens, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) Getty Images

Patriots fans who are still salty about #DeflateGate aren’t alone. The man who owns the team remains miffed, too.

“Sometimes, the league really messes up, and I think they really messed this up badly,” Robert Kraft told the New York Times as part of a broader profile. “But we’ve all agreed to subjugate our right to disrupt everything . . . I mean, we can, but we’re a partnership. There’s jealousy, there’s envy, there’s stupidity. Sometimes, life is unfair, and you have to suck it up and move on and not use it as an excuse.”

That quote from Kraft reflects plenty of truths about the debacle arising from a dynamic the league had never previously considered before an in-game complaint from the Colts two years and one day ago prompted a dusty-garage laboratory experiment with miscalibrated equipment, flawed assumptions, and ultimately an agenda to work backward and find that cheating happened even if it didn’t. All of it seemed to be fueled by lingering resentment that has set a standard that plenty of other teams can’t compete with, so they claim that the success came from something other than hard work, careful planning, and superior execution.

This year, with the Patriots generating an overall record of 16-2 despite not having Tom Brady for four games, no one can claim that anything happening other than hard work, careful planning, and superior execution. With two wins, it could culminate in Kraft, Bill Belichick, and/or Tom Brady telling Commissioner Roger Goodell to stick this in his trophy case.

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