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They Call It Pro Football added to National Film Registry

Steve Sabol AP

One of the greatest productions on the long list of masterpieces produced by NFL Films has been selected for recognition in the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress for its place in American culture.

They Call It Pro Football was released in 1967 as the first production of the company founded by Ed Sabol and it quickly established the style that would make NFL Films an indelible part of professional football’s rise to the top of the American sports landscape. It was produced and written by Steve Sabol, who died in September after battling a brain tumor. The film had John Facenda’s inimitable voice narrating the action and featured all the slow-motion shots, creative camera angles and close-ups that we now take for granted as part of the way we watch the NFL.

“Established by Congress in 1989, the National Film Registry spotlights the importance of preserving America’s unparalleled film heritage,” said Librarian of Congress James H. Billington in a statement released by the league. “These films are not selected as the ‘best’ American films of all time, but rather as works of enduring importance to American culture. They reflect who we are as a people and as a nation.”

They couldn’t have picked a better film than the one the Library of Congress calls the Citizen Kane of sports movies to represent football’s enduring importance. NFL Films has made the final five minutes of the film available on their website, although we’d urge you to seek out the full film if you’ve never seen it before.

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Thirty years ago Tuesday, quarterbacks were on the run in the Pro Bowl

Mark Gastineau of the New York Jets Getty Images

From 2009 through 2012, Pro Bowl scoring surged, with the NFC and AFC combining to average 92 points per contest. This coincided with grumbling about the quality of play and speculation the whole thing could be scrapped.

In the last two games, however, the points haven’t flowed as easy, with 60 scored in Sunday’s all-star game in Arizona and just 43 tallied in 2013.

Whether this is just a two-season blip or a sign of things to come remains to be seen. And frankly, it may not matter much as long as there are compelling stretches of competition in each Pro Bowl. Points don’t necessarily signal high-quality play.

On the other hand, all-star games should be a little loose. These are exhibitions featuring some of the league’s best players. A highlight-reel play or two against token defensive pressure is a good thing.

Which brings us to a bruising chapter in Pro Bowl history.

On this day in 1985, quarterbacks were sacked a record 17 times in the Pro Bowl, with the AFC grinding to a 22-14 victory over the NFC.

Picture this: One week after facing off in the Super Bowl, Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino and 49ers quarterback Joe Montana were sacked a combined nine times. Marino was sacked a half-dozen times, including twice in a four-play span by Chicago’s Richard Dent.

The game’s Most Outstanding Player was Jets defensive end Mark Gastineau, who had four sacks, including three take-downs of poor Neil Lomax, the Cardinals’ quarterback.

Sacks haven’t disappeared from the Pro Bowl; Carolina’s Cam Newton was brought four times in last season’s game. However, it bears noting that there were only two sacks in Sunday’s all-star contest.

Which, frankly, isn’t a bad thing.

In the end, the optimal of sacks in a Pro Bowl is closer to zero than 17, given that the game doesn’t count.

The hits, of course, very much count.

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Brett Keisel was shocked by departure of Dick LeBeau

Keisel Getty Images

Super Bowl week kicked off with an annual visit from Steelers defensive end Brett Keisel, who joined PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio to promote his ongoing partnership with Head & Shoulders and to talk about his long-time team.

Among other things, Keisel said he was shocked upon learning that long-time defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau had resigned.  Keisel also talked about the impact of the man the players called “Coach Dad” on the team.

Keisel believes the Steelers will stick with a 3-4 defense, and that safety Troy Polamalu will return.  As to Keisel, who is recovering from a torn triceps that ended his season on November 30, he doesn’t seem to be rushing back for offseason workouts after a 2014 experience that saw him miss most of training camp and the preseason before returning to Pittsburgh for a 13th year — after spurning the Cardinals.

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Majority of PFT readers like Doug Baldwin to exceed four catches

Doug Baldwin AP

Flipping through today’s NFL-furnished press conference transcripts, we couldn’t help but notice Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin was asked about an oddsmaking firm setting the Over-Under on his catches in Super Bowl XLIX at four.

Here was Baldwin’s take:

“Four catches in our offense is a good day. If I get four catches in the Super Bowl, that is a good day for our offense.”

Well, actually, a majority of PFT Planet believes Baldwin can do even better than that.

It just so happens that Saturday, we wrote about Baldwin’s catch total in our ongoing look at the various proposition bets Nevada sports books set for the big game. And with nearly 4,000 readers voting thus far, nearly 55 percent of those polled like Baldwin to finish OVER four catches, which is the total the William Hill U.S. linemaking firm has set for the fourth-year wide receiver from Stanford.

The Seahawks’ leading receiver, Baldwin hauled in six passes for 106 yards in the NFC title game vs. Green Bay. And in his first Super Bowl appearance, he recorded five receptions for 66 yards and a touchdown in Seattle’s rout of Denver last February.

For the record, the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook has set Baldwin’s Over-Under a little higher, putting the total at 4.5 catches.

Hey, maybe PFT Planet is on to something.

Anyways, we’ll continue to look at one Super Bowl prop per day through Sunday. And when it’s all over, we’ll see just how well the readers handicapped.

Now, if you’ll excuse us, we need to pick a prop for Tuesday. If you’re reading about it, we’ll keep writing about it.

And happily so.

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Video shows employee taking 24 balls into bathroom

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On Monday, Jay Glazer of FOX Sports added the next new big piece of news in #DeflateGate, reporting that the NFL has interviewed a locker room attendant who allegedly took footballs from the officials’ locker room after they had been inspected and approved “to another area on way to field” before the start of the game.

PFT can now contribute additional details to that story.

First, per a league source, the other “area on way to field” is a bathroom.  The bathroom consists of one toilet and one sink and a door that locks from the inside.

Second, according to the same source, the person carried two bags of balls into the bathroom:  the 12 balls to be used by the Patriots and the 12 balls to be used by the Colts.

Third, from the same source, the evidence comes from a surveillance video that was discovered by the Patriots and given to the NFL early in the investigation.

Fourth, again from the same source, the video shows the employee in the bathroom for approximately 90 seconds.

Could the employee have fished 12 balls out of a fairly large bag, deflated each of them by two pounds, put them back into the bag, and exited the bathroom in roughly 90 seconds?  That question will surely become the centerpiece of the next red state/blue state debate between folks who have determined that the Patriots have done something wrong and those who are staunchly defending the franchise.

And, yes, the photo accompanying this story was taken inside one of the bathrooms at Gillette Stadium.  When NBC broadcast the Ravens-Patriots playoff game from Foxboro on January 10, Florio Jr. demanded pictures from the venue.  Since he didn’t specify where he wanted them from, I took one inside the bathroom and texted it to him.

He didn’t think it was funny.

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Seahawks response mixed to Browner comments on Sherman, Thomas injuries

Brandon Browner AP

Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman still considers Brandon Browner to be a member of the “Legion of Boom” even if he won’t be on the same sideline in Super Bowl XLIX on Sunday.

However, Browner said there will be no regard for their friendships off the field when it comes to the Super Bowl. Browner said he would tell his teammates with the New England Patriots to go after the injured elbow of Sherman, and injured shoulder of safety Earl Thomas.

The comments received a mixed review from his former teammates in Seattle on Monday.

Linebackers Bobby Wagner and K.J Wright both were asked to respond to what Browner had to say during their Monday press conferences at the Arizona Grand Hotel in Phoenix.

Wright didn’t particularly take the comments all that well and felt that any attempt to injure an opponent, especially a former teammate, is crossing a line.

“I didn’t know he said that but we don’t play like that,” Wright said. “We don’t go out there and try to hurt guys. And I don’t care if they do have an injury. We’re not going out there trying to hurt people, and especially guys you’re close to. If he said that, it’s fine, but that’s not our main focus.

“If you know a player’s injured, you don’t try to re-hurt him. You just try to play ball and play hard. But as far as going out there and targeting certain areas, that’s unacceptable and shouldn’t be in football.”

However, Wagner didn’t take Browner’s comments as being anything nefarious.

“If somebody knows you’re weak in an area, they’re definitely going to try to exploit it,” Wagner said. “I don’t think he meant it in a malicious way or trying to hurt Sherm by any means. It’s just, all trying to compete. It’s a competitive nature.”

“That’s BB. We know him too. We know him very well, so we’re going to go after him too. It’s going to be a fun game. Tell him Bobby said he’s coming after him,” he said with a smile.

They may repair their friendships from Seattle beginning on Monday morning, but neither side is going to let their relationships stand in the way of winning a title Sunday night in the desert.

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Robert Kraft: NFL should apologize to Patriots if football tampering isn’t proven

Denver Broncos vs New England Patriots, NFL Getty Images

In a prepared statement Monday night, Patriots owner Robert Kraft criticized how the NFL’s investigation of allegations of under-inflated footballs has proceeded and offered a strong defense of his franchise, most specifically coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady.

In one of his strongest remarks, Kraft said the NFL would owe Belichick and Brady apologies if its probe did not find wrongdoing committed by New England.

“If the Wells investigation is not able to definitely determine that our organization tampered with the air pressure in the footballs, I would expect and hope that the league would apologize to our entire team, and in particular, Coach Belichick and Tom Brady, for what they have had to endure this past week,” Kraft said Monday night.

Of Brady and Belichick, Kraft said: “They are my guys. They are part of my family. And Bill, Tom and I have had many difficult discussions over the years, and I have never known them to lie to me.”

In his statement, Kraft held that the Patriots’ integrity had been unfairly questioned because of “public discourse which has been driven by media leaks.”

Said Kraft: “I am disappointed in the way this entire matter has been handled and reported upon. We expect hard facts as opposed to circumstantial leaked evidence to drive the conclusion of this investigation.”

Earlier in his remarks, the Patriots’ owner reportedly said he was sure his team had not done anything wrong.

“I want to make it clear that I believe unconditionally that the New England Patriots have done nothing inappropriate,” Kraft said, according to the Boston Globe.

Kraft did not take questions afterwards, leaving Belichick and Brady next to take the podium as the Patriots collectively channel their energies towards Sunday’s Super Bowl vs. Seattle.

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Tom Brady: Patriots can deal with adversity

tombrady AP

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady says he and his teammates are capable of overcoming anything, and that the Deflategate controversy of the last week won’t be an issue.

Brady, who previously said that his feelings were hurt by suggestions that he’s a cheater, now says it’s time to prove what kind of team the Patriots really are.

“I have moved forward and I’ve moved past those initial feelings,” Brady said. “It’s all part of the process so I kind of left those things behind and I want to move forward because that’s what the team expects of me. We’ve dealt with a lot of adversity this season and we’ve got to deal with some more so we’ll just keep fighting. Hopefully we’ll go out and get a win.”

The kind of adversity the Patriots have dealt with this season was mostly about playing poorly early in the season, and the Patriots were able to take the “On to Cincinnati” mantra and turn it into a Super Bowl season. Now the Patriots’ mantra is “On to Seattle,” and Brady sounds confident.

“This team has really risen to the occasion,” Brady said.

Now Brady and his teammates need to rise to the occasion one more time.

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Packers sign punter Cody Mandell

Cody Mandell AP

The Packers have added a punter to their offseason roster.

Green Bay has signed Cody Mandell, who appeared in one preseason game for Dallas in 2014.

An Alabama product, the 22-year-old Mandell signed with the Cowboys as an undrafted free agent in May. He posted a 47.1-yard gross average in his final season with the Crimson Tide in 2013.

Mandell’s signing gives the Packers two punters on the roster, which expands to 90 players in the offseason. Incumbent punter Tim Masthay posted a career-low 37.0-yard net average in 2014, which ranked 30th among qualifying punters. However, it’s often common for clubs to carry an extra kicker and punter in the offseason to take some practice reps and as insurance against injury.

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Brent Grimes’s wife goes off on the NFL

brentgrimes AP

Dolphins cornerback Brent Grimes played well in the Pro Bowl on Sunday, but he was not named the game’s Most Valuable Player. That has Grimes’s wife very unhappy.

As a result, Miko Grimes went off on an epic Twitter rant against the NFL on Monday afternoon, starting off with complaints about Grimes missing out on the Pro Bowl MVP award but then veering toward discussions of more serious issues like domestic violence and concussions.

Miko Grimes started by saying that she believes the reason Brent Grimes wasn’t named Pro Bowl MVP is that he took a day off from Pro Bowl practice to be with her while she had emergency oral surgery. Miko said Brent asked coach Jason Garrett for permission to miss the practice and that the permission was granted, but that the NFL was angry at Grimes and froze him out of the MVP award as a result.

Of course, it could just be that another Pro Bowler, J.J. Watt, also had an excellent game, and he was chosen as the defensive MVP as a result. But Miko Grimes sees something much more sinister at play. In a series of profane tweets, Miko Grimes lashed out at the NFL for what she sees as hypocrisy, and she said that she has information about violations of the league’s concussion policies.

Miko Grimes also wants fans to know that players’ contracts aren’t always what they’re cracked up to be, because players can be cut long before they earn the full value of their contracts.

And Miko Grimes is warning the NFL that if her husband isn’t treated properly, she’ll air the league’s dirty laundry.

Roger Goodell, you’ve been warned. You don’t want to get on Miko Grimes’s bad side.

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Seahawks say Falcons are getting a great coach in Dan Quinn

Dan Quinn AP

Boy, to listen to Seattle players talk about defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, it’s almost like he already has a job or something.

Oh, wait, he does, it just hasn’t been announced.

The wink-nod reality that Quinn is going to be the new boss in Atlanta (though he technically can’t agree to a deal while the Seahawks are still playing) is evident in the word choices of his Seahawks players.

They are getting a great coach,” linebacker Bobby Wagner said of the Falcons, via D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

“I think he’s done a great job of focusing on the task at hand which is to win the Super Bowl,” Wagner said on Monday. “I know that he’s got bigger endeavors on down the line, but he’s approached it like we need to win this game.”

Wagner and defensive end Cliff Avril praised Quinn’s communication skills.

“DQ is awesome,” Avril said. “He’s a coach you can go and talk to at any time if you have any concerns about any plays or how your position is supposed to play it or whatever. . . .

“He’ll cater to you if need be, if that’s not going to hurt the defense. He’s just someone you can go talk to and break film down with.”

The Falcons need more than a motivator and an X-and-O guy, however. They’ll need players on defense if Quinn is going to have the kind of success they think he will.

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Tedy Bruschi rips Marty Hurney for “culture of cheating” remarks

AFC Championship - Indianapolis Colts v New England Patriots Getty Images

Former Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi taking up for his former co-workers isn’t exactly a surprise.

But Bruschi went after a fellow ESPN contributor, dismissing former Panthers General Manager Marty Hurney’s comments from last week as sour grapes.

Hurney, an occasional contributor on ESPN’s Insiders, openly questioned whether #DeflateGate was just the latest in what he described as “a culture of cheating.”

“There are just certain opinions about the New England Patriots out there because somebody’s team got beat,” Bruschi said during his weekly spot on WEEI, via ESPNBoston.com. “Marty Hurney, your team got beat [in Super Bowl XXXVIII]. That’s all it is. Move on. But you want to talk about and you want to bring it up because you need some reason why as to why you were beat. But this is the reason why: you were outcoached and you were outplayed. …

“We won, that’s the bottom line. And that [Patriots] team is still continuing to win and people want their own justification as to why. Why? You were outcoached, you were outplayed. End of story.”

Actually, that would be the end, if things such as Spygate and #DeflateGate hadn’t happened since the Patriots beat the Panthers in 2004.

But Hurney’s questions were ones shared far beyond Carolina, as the Patriots have frankly made it easy to be skeptical.

But Bruschi passionately defended coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady,

“I think it’s a very difficult position for me to be on set [at ESPN] with certain people that said certain things that of course I was listening to and I heard,” Bruschi said. “Every man is entitled to their opinion. I disagree with them as strongly as I possibly can because I’ve been in this organization for 13 years.

“Tom Brady, I know. Bill Belichick, I know. If vouch is the word, vouch is the word I’ll use. I vouch for these guys. I know their character. There isn’t anything more that they can do or they can say in terms of what they know what happened.”

While successful people are always targets, the Patriots have through deed and defiance brought more scrutiny on themselves.

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Report: Rams L.A. plans met with “quiet applause” by NFL

Stan Kroenke AP

The news that Rams owner Stan Kroeneke’s plans to build a football stadium in Los Angeles have been met with a variety of public reactions from other owners, but a new report indicates that the private response inside the league office has been positive.

Albert Breer of NFL Media reports that Kroenke’s plan to build a stadium in Inglewood with designs on the Rams moving there in the near future was met by “quiet applause” at the league office. One league source told Breer that “we’re beginning to see the goal line” in the league’s efforts to return to Los Angeles.

Per Breer, the plan was proposed to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell in December and should take two steps forward this week. The first was the Rams providing notice to St. Louis on Monday that they will go year-to-year on their lease at the Edward Jones Dome and the other is the presentation of 8,500 signatures on a petition to Inglewood to set up a public vote on rezoning 238 acres of land around 60 owned by Kroenke so that all of it is zoned for a stadium.

St. Louis is still trying to keep the Rams and are working on plans for a new stadium, but they have to sort out financing and the Rams seem disinterested about working with local officials about getting a deal done in Missouri.

Breer reports that Kroenke is “amenable” to another team playing at the stadium, something that could help get three-quarters of the other owners to give a green light to a move for the 2016 season although Kroenke is reportedly prepared to move the team with or without such approval.

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Broncos announce a couple of assistants

Broncos practice at Dove Valley Getty Images

John Fox landed in Chicago as the new head coach of the Bears shortly after parting ways with the Broncos, who have hired a member of last year’s Bears staff as their new linebackers coach.

Reggie Herring will be making the opposite trip from the one Fox took earlier this month to join Gary Kubiak’s staff in Denver. It’s a reunion for Herring and Kubiak, who spent three years together when Kubiak was the head coach in Houston and Herring coached the linebackers. Herring has also worked for the Cowboys and at the University of Arkansas over a 25-year coaching career.

Herring joins defensive line coach Bill Kollar, tight ends coach Brian Pariani and offensive coordinator Rick Dennison as former Texans assistants to rejoin their old boss in Denver.

The team also confirmed that Clancy Barone will be their offensive line coach. Barone is a holdover from Fox’s staff, although he’ll be shifting from working with tight ends to working in his new role. Barone was also the Broncos’ offensive line coach in 2010, but worked with the tight ends during Fox’s four years as the head coach in Denver.

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Ted Wells says #DeflateGate investigation won’t be a quick one

Winter Weather Massachusetts AP

So much for having #DeflateGate tied up in a neat little bow before Super Bowl XLIX kicks off.

Ted Wells, who is leading the league’s investigation, said it will be some time before he’s ready to release any findings about the fluctuations in ball pressure heard round the world.

“We are in the process of conducting a thorough investigation on the issue of the footballs used in the AFC Championship,” Wells said in a statement. “This work began last week, stretched through the weekend, and is proceeding expeditiously this week notwithstanding the Super Bowl.  We are following customary investigative procedures and no one should draw any conclusions about the sequence of interviews or any other steps, all of which are part of the process of doing a thorough and fair investigation.

“I expect the investigation to take at least several more weeks. In the interim, it would be best if everyone involved or potentially involved in this matter avoids public comment concerning the matter until the investigation is concluded. The results will be shared publicly.

That’s no surprise, as the league isn’t commenting on the latest round of reports, including Jay Glazer’s that the investigation has zeroed in on a Patriots ball boy.

So until that time, be prepared for more installments of PSI: New England, which threatens to overshadow the game everybody’s waiting to see this weekend.

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Prop Challenge, Day IV: Will there be a one-yard TD on Sunday?

Marshawn Lynch AP

Leading up to Super Bowl XLIX, we’ll take a closer look at one proposition bet per day, something we’ve dubbed PFT’s Prop Challenge. Here’s the idea: we present a prop, do some light analysis, then turn it over to you to vote upon which side you would take — hypothetically, of course. (Previous examples are at the bottom of this post.)

When the Super Bowl wraps up, we’ll tally the votes and see how well PFT Planet did.

Now, let’s get to today’s prop, which is courtesy of oddsmaker William Hill U.S.:

Over-Under on Super Bowl XLIX’s shortest touchdown: 1.5 yards.

Over: +115 (lay $10 to win $11.50).

Under: -135 (lay $13.50 to win $10).

This prop boils down to one question: Will there be a one-yard touchdown in the Super Bowl?

Let’s consider some data.

Per Pro Football Reference, there have been 1,246 touchdowns scored in regular-season and postseason play in 2014.

Of those 1,246 TDs, 195 scores were one-yard long — about 15.7 percent.

Twelve of those scores have come in the first 10 postseason games of 2014, with New England tallying two and Seattle tallying one.

On average, about 4.7 touchdowns per game were scored this season, per PFR’s data, with 0.73 touchdowns of one yard per contest.

Finally, per the PFR database, there have been 42 one-yard TDs in Super Bowl history, including Seattle tailback Marshawn Lynch’s score last season.

So now, it’s up to you. Will the shortest TD in Super Bowl XLIX be OVER or UNDER 1.5 yards? The poll is open, as are the comments.

The floor is yours.

Previous props studied:

Day I: Over-Under on Brandon LaFell’s receiving yards.

Day II: Over-Under on Doug Baldwin’s catches.

Day III: Will Rob Gronkowski score a touchdown?

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