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NFL admits officials, replay assistant screwed up on 49ers fumble

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During the first quarter of Sunday’s 49ers-Patriots game, San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick hit Delanie Walker with a pass, and New England’s Steve Gregory hit Walker just as he grabbed the ball, knocking it loose. Aqib Talib picked the ball up, and the officials ruled it a fumble recovered by the Patriots.

One problem: Walker never had possession of the ball. Another problem: The replay assistant who is supposed to review all turnovers and tell the referee to take a closer look at the close calls never told the ref to review the play.

The officials got the play wrong on the field, but NFL director of instant replay Dean Blandino placed the blame on the replay assistant in an appearance on NFL Network.

“This actually never went to review,” Blandino said. “The replay official confirmed it upstairs without bringing the referee over. And that’s a mistake. We need to bring the referee over.”

Blandino said the replay official made the mistake of watching the replay in slow motion, which made it look like Walker had control of the ball for long enough to constitute a catch. But the replay official should have watched the replay at full speed, which would have shown that Gregory knocked the ball out of Walker’s hands just as Walker grabbed it.

“He slowed it down,” Blandino said. “If you go frame-by-frame you distort the time element and you can make it look like he has it longer than he does. We want to watch it at full speed.”

Still, Blandino said that the referee can’t take the time to review every single scoring play and turnover, and so the job needs to be the replay official’s to do.

“We have to be cognizant of the delays that replay causes in the game,” Blandino said. “We’ve given the replay official — that’s his jurisdiction. He has to make those decisions.”

Unfortunately, too often this season we’ve seen the replay official make the wrong decision.

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Pats fan who pulled alarm at Steelers hotel told cops he was drunk

FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 10: The New England Patriots mascot interacts with fans during the 2015 AFC Divisional Playoffs game against the Baltimore Ravens at Gillette Stadium on January 10, 2015 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images) Getty Images

Well, this one is pretty much #asexpected, but it’s worth entering into the record simply because it’s one of the most to-the-point quotes ever.

According to Cristela Guerra of the Boston Globe, the man who was arrested for pulling a fire alarm at the Steelers hotel Sunday morning told State Police he had a motive.

I’m drunk. I’m stupid. I’m a Pats fan,” Dennis Harrison told State Police, according to the report filed for his arrest for disturbing the peace and setting off a false fire alarm.

He pleaded not guilty in court this morning, and was released on personal recognizance.

The police report said Harrison was at a party in Revere when he was dared to pull off the stunt. That, and apparently a snoot-full was all he needed to get a ride to the hotel and find an alarm.

His genius plan was foiled when his getaway car bolted, and he began to walk away. When cops approached him, he said he was waiting for an Uber to pick him up, before admitting he had not. He then spilled the beans.

“Harrison informed me that he knowingly and willingly activated the fire alarm system with the sole purpose of attempting to disrupt the Pittsburgh Steelers football team,” Trooper Bryan Erickson wrote, adding that Harrison “expressed regret over committing the prank.’’

Considering the Patriots won, it’s reasonable to wonder whether his remorse is genuine. Or whether his hangover has subsided.

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Matt Prater replaces Matt Bryant in Pro Bowl

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - SEPTEMBER 11: Matt Prater #5 of the Detroit Lions celebrates with teammates after kicking the game winning field goal in the fourth quarter of the game against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium on September 11, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) Getty Images

Now that we have the Super Bowl participants set, the players on the Patriots and Falcons who were elected to the Pro Bowl will need to be replaced from the other 30 teams in the league.

That group includes Falcons kicker Matt Bryant, whose first trip to the Pro Bowl will be superseded by his first trip to a far more significant game. The NFC will still have a kicker named Matt on hand, however.

Lions kicker Matt Prater is the choice to replace Bryant and he’s coming off a very strong season. Prater was 31-of-36 on field goals during the regular season and made all seven of his tries from 50 yards or more. He also went 31-of-33 on extra points and made six kicks that won or tied games for the Lions with in the final four minutes of the fourth quarter and overtime.

Prater is the first Lions kicker to make the Pro Bowl since Jason Hanson in 2000 and will be making his second appearance in the game.

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Julio Jones creates nightmare for man who advised against trade

ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 22:  Julio Jones #11 of the Atlanta Falcons runs after a catch for a 73 yard touchdown against Damarious Randall #23 of the Green Bay Packers in the third quarter in the NFC Championship Game at the Georgia Dome on January 22, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) Getty Images

As the Patriots prepare to face the Falcons in the Super Bowl, New England coach Bill Belichick will have to come up with a game plan rivaling some of his best work, including Super Bowl XXXVI against the Rams and Super Bowl XXV against the Bills. He’ll draw that assignment because, six years ago, one of his pupils ignored a suggestion from Belichick.

As explained in Michael Holley’s book War Room, Belichick advised Falcons G.M. Thomas Dimitroff against the move from No. 27 in the first round of the 2011 draft to No. 6, due to the high cost for jumping 21 spots.

Dimitroff nevertheless pressed ahead, in an effort to improve an offense that couldn’t keep up with the Packers in the team’s most recent games, a 48-21 playoff loss at home in January 2011.

“This may have been a once-in-a-career type move,” Dimitroff told the Boston Globe in 2013. “We felt that we were in the right place as an organization with the amount of veteran talent we had and the amount of youthful talent we had and the quarterback we had in place. It was a time that was right for us to get ourselves a very explosive player.”

They did, and it has worked. Even if the Browns hadn’t squandered the picks they got for Jones, the move worked for the Falcons. Jones consistently has been among the best receivers in football, and he proved his worth with an exclamation point in a Georgia Dome boat race fueled by his nine catches for 180 yards and two touchdowns.

Now, Belichick must spend the next 13 days coming up with ways to stop Jones, thanks to the fact that Dimitroff was smart enough to know when to ignore typically sage advice.

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Howie Roseman revises explanation for Eric Rowe trade

FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 22:   Eric Rowe #25 of the New England Patriots reacts against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium on January 22, 2017 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images) Getty Images

Cornerback Eric Rowe had an interception in the AFC Championship Game and will be heading to the Super Bowl with the Patriots five months after they acquired him in a trade with the Eagles.

Eagles executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman explained at an end-of-season press conference that the Eagles made the trade because they didn’t foresee signing Rowe to a contract extension. It was an answer that struck many as odd because Rowe won’t be eligible for an extension until after next season. Rowe said,via the Delaware News Journal, that it was a “really, really weird” answer and Roseman apparently agrees with that assessment.

During an appearance on WIP in Philadelphia Monday, Roseman said the answer “didn’t make any freaking sense” and tried to provide one that did a better job.

“It’s the first week of the season and we get this offer, and it’s the Patriots,” Roseman said, via “And we’re not sitting there thinking we’re getting over on Bill Belichick, maybe the best evaluator of defensive backs in the history of the NFL. What we were thinking about was where he was on our depth chart at the time. And at that time the starting three [cornerbacks] were Nolan [Carroll], Leodis [McKelvin] and Ron Brooks. Jalen Mills at that point in camp had beat him out, so he was the fourth guy. When we spoke with our coaches, they said Malcolm [Jenkins] would be the next guy in the slot. So for where we were and what his role was at the time, we thought it was pretty good value.”

The Eagles got a conditional fourth-round pick in return while Rowe made seven starts and steadily took on a larger role in the New England . That number isn’t reflective of the amount of snaps Rowe is playing now as he only saw action in nine games and it may not be reflective of how things would have played out if he’d remained in Philly, but any explanation of the trade won’t change the fact that the Eagles need to boost their cornerback play in 2017.

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Antonio Brown skips out on post-game media obligations

FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 22: Antonio Brown #84 of the Pittsburgh Steelers carries the ball against the New England Patriots during the second quarter in the AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium on January 22, 2017 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) Getty Images

A week after Steelers receiver Antonio Brown gave the public unauthorized access to the locker room via Facebook Live, Brown bolted the locker room without providing any access whatsoever.

Via Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Brown declined to talk to reporters after the loss at New England. “Maybe he felt he said about in locker room a week earlier,” Bouchette observed.

The league, which may not be able to fine Brown for violating the league’s social-media policy now that the team reportedly has fined him $10,000, could fine Brown for ditching his media obligations.

Brown’s antics, which apparently were part of his contract with Facebook, apparently were encouraged by Facebook — and could prompt the league to come up with ways to block Internet and cell service in the locker room during the period when social-medial activity is prohibited.

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Eric Weddle headed to Pro Bowl

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - OCTOBER 23: Eric Weddle #32 of the Baltimore Ravens runs onto the field before the game against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium on October 23, 2016 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) Getty Images

Patriots safety Devin McCourty was selected to play in the Pro Bowl this year, but he has a bigger game ahead of him in Houston in a couple of weeks.

That opened the door for another safety to join the AFC roster and the Ravens have announced that Eric Weddle will be the man taking McCourty’s place in Orlando this week.

It’s the fourth time that Weddle has been selected to take part in the postseason All-Star game and the first time that he’ll be taking part as a member of the Ravens. Weddle joined the team last year after spending the first nine years of his career with the Chargers.

Weddle had 89 tackles, four interceptions, a sack and a forced fumble while starting every game in Baltimore’s secondary.

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Tom Brady on Donald Trump: He’s a friend, doesn’t mean I agree with everything

FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 22:  Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots reacts after defeating the Pittsburgh Steelers 36-17 to win the AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium on January 22, 2017 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images) Getty Images

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s relationship with President Donald Trump has occasionally come up for discussion over the last couple of years and it happened again last week when Trump said that he got a call from Brady ahead of Inauguration Day.

Brady didn’t want to answer questions about any phone call during a press conference last Friday, but he had a bit more to say about it on Monday morning. Brady said he doesn’t understand why people are interested, but said he and Trump have called each other in the past. As he’s said in the past, he and the President have a friendship going back nearly two decades and that he has a lot of friends he calls on the phone.

He also pointed out that he doesn’t necessarily agree with or “denounce anything” that those people say or do.

“I don’t want to get into it, but if you know someone it doesn’t mean you agree with everything they say or they do. You have a lot of friends in your life,” Brady said on Kirk & Callahan on WEEI. “I think there are things that are based in your own dealings with someone that is a personal dealing, not a public dealing. Because you have personal experiences.”

If Brady and the Patriots beat the Falcons in Houston, he’ll likely have an opportunity to visit his friend at the White House although Brady passed on the team’s last post-championship trip to see President Obama.

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Mixed bag for conference championship ratings

FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 22:  A New England Patriots fan holds up a sign after his teams vicotr over the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium on January 22, 2017 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) Getty Images

The NFL was going to have a hard time matching last year’s conference title games, because much of the eastern part of the country was buried under at or about two feet of snow, or more. This year, it was unseasonably warm throughout much of the country. Against that backdrop, and given the absence of America’s Team from the final four, the NFL did pretty well on Sunday.

Via, the NFC title game blowout between the Packers and Falcons generated an overnight rating of 27.4 percent on FOX. It was a 13.8-percent reduction from the Patriots and Broncos on CBS a year ago, which racked up a 31.8 overnight rating during a contest that went down to the wire.

The second game on CBS, featuring the Steelers and the Patriots, churned up an overnight rating of 27.6. That’s 2.9 percent more than the 26.8 overnight rating realized by the Cardinals and Panthers snoozer a year ago on FOX in the same window.

Considering the differences in the weather and the overall lack of excitement in both games, that’s not a bad performance.

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Kyle Shanahan called a great game, while recovering from stomach bug

ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 22:  Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan celebrates with Matt Ryan #2 after defeating the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game at the Georgia Dome on January 22, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia. The Falcons defeated the Packers 44-21.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) Getty Images

What the Falcons’ offense did to the Packers yesterday was sick.

As it turns out, so was the guy calling the plays.

According to Tom Pelissero of USA Today, Falcons coordinator Kyle Shanahan came down with a stomach bug 48 hours before his team hung 44 points on Green Bay in the NFC Championship Game, making it a sitting down version of the Jordan flu game.

“My kids had it all week. I knew it was coming,” Shanahan said. “Then I made it to Friday, so I thought I was going to be all right, and it happened in the middle of the night on Friday. I’m already skinny as it is, and now I’m way too skinny.

“Fortunately, I get to sit in a chair and just call plays. I don’t have to play football, thank goodness. When the players hear that, they’ll probably think I’m being very high-maintenance, but you want your brain clear at least to call the plays.”

Shanahan had to take intravenous fluids Saturday and Sunday to be ready, but if he was something less than sharp, it was hard to tell. The Falcons racked up 493 yards and converted 10-of-13 third downs, scoring on seven of their first eight drives.

And now, Shanahan has a week to meet with the 49ers about their head coaching job he’s expected to take. Though that might feel like a bit of an aftershock, after the weekend he just had.

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Jets sign former Chiefs wideout Frankie Hammond

HOUSTON, TX - JANUARY 09: Frankie Hammond #85 of the Kansas City Chiefs makes a catch against the Houston Texans during the AFC Wild Card Playoff game at NRG Stadium on January 9, 2016 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Jets added another wide receiver with some return experience.

The team announced they had signed former Chiefs wideout Frankie Hammond to a future contract.

Hammond spent two years on the Chiefs’ active roster and last year on the practice squad.

He averaged 10.9 yards per punt return, and gives them another option behind a fleet of rookies who showed some promise last year.

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Colts want to interview Minnesota’s George Paton, too


The Colts’ interview list is beginning to look very familiar.

According to Tom Pelissero of USA Today, the Colts have asked for permission to interview Vikings assistant General Manager George Paton.

He’s viewed as strong candidate if not the favorite for the 49ers G.M. opening as well, amid a dwindling field of candidates.

The Colts have also asked to talk to Seahawks execs Trent Kirchner and Scott Fitterer, who were also up for the 49ers job but weren’t among the reported finalists before all the Packers execs pulled out of the search.

They’re also going to interview internal candidate Jimmy Raye III.

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Chiefs extend long snapper James Winchester’s contract

Kansas City Chiefs' Cairo Santos (5) celebrates with teammate James Winchester (41) after kicking the game-winning field goal against the Carolina Panthers in the final second of the second half of an NFL football game in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday, Nov. 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Bob Leverone) AP

The Chiefs took care of a little offseason business on Monday by signing long snapper James Winchester to a contract extension.

Winchester’s agent Ken Sarnoff made the announcement on Twitter. No financial terms or length were included in the announcement.

Winchester has played every game for the Chiefs over the last two seasons and was set to be an exclusive rights free agent this offseason.

It was a trying season off the field for Winchester. His father Michael was shot and killed while at work at the Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City in November. Winchester missed some time to be with his family and attend his father’s funeral before returning to play against the Buccaneers that Sunday.

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Hue Jackson “leaning towards” Greg Seamon as new Browns QB coach

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 27:  Josh McCown #13 talks with head coach Hue Jackson of the Cleveland Browns during the first quarter against the New York Giants at FirstEnergy Stadium on November 27, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) Getty Images

Browns Coach Hue Jackson plans to stay in-house to replace quarterbacks coach Pep Hamilton, reported on Monday.

Jackson said he’s “leaning towards” moving Greg Seamon from tight ends coach to quarterbacks coach and moving Mark Hutson from assistant offensive line coach to tight ends coach. The Browns are coaching the South team in this week’s Senior Bowl, so they’ll be on the practice field in their new roles.

Jackson said he may not make a hire to replace Hamilton, who left to join Jim Harbaugh’s staff at the University of Michigan. Jackson calls the plays for the Browns and figures to have a strong voice in however the team decides to proceed at the quarterback position.

“Greg Seamon was my quarterback coach in college so he knows quarterback play and I trust him more than I trust a lot of people,” Jackson said. “I feel good about where we are right now but if I feel like afterwards that I do need someone else, we have the potential position where we could hire someone else.”

Seamon has been in football for 40 years and has spent 15 in the NFL. He was working as a scout with the Bengals when the Browns hired Jackson away from the Bengals last year, and Jackson brought Seamon to Cleveland. He’s been a college offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.

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Report: Colts request interviews with Trent Kirchner, Scott Fitterer

jim_irsay_colts_owner Getty Images

Seahawks co-directors of player personnel Trent Kirchner and Scott Fitterer have been in the mix for General Manager jobs the last couple of years and it looks like they will be again in Indianapolis.

The Colts fired Ryan Grigson on Saturday and PFT reported on Sunday that the team has started reaching out to candidates to join a search that will also include interim G.M. Jimmy Raye. Tom Pelissero of USA Today reports that the team has requested permission to interview both Kirchner and Fitterer for the position.

Both men were on the list of candidates for the 49ers opening, but neither man is still in the running for the position. Fitterer dropped out of the running for a job with the Eagles last year.

Others who might be on the Colts’ radar are not known at this point, but owner Jim Irsay did say that Peyton Manning will not be taking a job in the team’s front office.

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T.J. Lang hopes he hasn’t played final game with Packers

FILE - In this Oct. 4, 2015, file photo, Green Bay Packers guard T.J. Lang (70) sets to block against the San Francisco 49ers during an NFL football game in Santa Clara, Calif. Protecting Rodgers for as long as possible can be a challenging task for an offensive lineman, a job in which success is often measured in seconds. (AP Photo/Jeff Haynes, File) AP

Packers right guard T.J. Lang left Sunday’s loss to the Falcons after aggravating the broken bone in his left foot that cost him time earlier this season.

Lang said after the game that it felt similar to when he initially suffered the injury, but the pain wasn’t the only thing going through his mind when he broke down in tears on the sideline after leaving the game. Lang is set to become a free agent this offseason and the prospect of Sunday’s game being his final one with the team elicited an emotional reaction.

“That’s the first thing going through my mind after I hurt my foot again,” Lang said, via “I’m just hoping it wasn’t the last time I get to put on that helmet. It’s tough, man. Obviously, I’ll take some time, take a couple days, to rest up and recover and see what happens. I think everybody in this locker room knows that this is where I want to be. … It’s been eight years now. I don’t want to go anywhere. I’ve been saying that since the beginning. I love this team, I love Green Bay, I love everything about being a Packer. I love representing the city and the team. I want to be back. It’s not up to me. This is where I want to be.”

The Packers let Lang’s longtime partner at guard Josh Sitton go before the start of the regular season and replaced him with Lane Taylor. J.C. Tretter, who can play guard as well as center, and versatile backup Don Barclay are also set to become free agents, so the team has several decisions to make on the offensive line.

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers may have signaled his preference for how those decisions play out on Sunday when he said “keeping those guys [on the offensive line] together was a big part of our success.”

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