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PFT Live: No rebuild for surprising Colts

As the end of the season approaches, Mike Florio runs down the biggest news in the NFL. If Tim Tebow admits he is wrong for taking himself out of the Jets’ game plan, would the public be more inclined to forgive him? Florio also discusses the Colts’ unexpected success in 2012 and who he thinks will have a strong run coming out of the AFC and NFC.

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Roger Goodell: Rules more important than competitive advantage

Super Bowl Football AP

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said early in his press conference that the investigation into the #DeflateGate is continuing, but was careful to not draw comparisons to previous investigations.

Asked specifically about his “ignorance is no defense” ruling on Sean Payton during the Saints bounty scandal, Goddell said it was not fair to compare the two.

“We don’t know enough in this case to know who is responsible, or if there was an infraction,” he said.

While it would be convenient to keep them separate, the issues about the league’s handling of these cases continues to come under question.

He also called the NFL “a game of rules” when asked about the potential of punishment for balls being

“Whether a competitive advantage is gained or not is secondary in my mind to whether a rule is violated,” he said.

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Bret Bielema says talks to coach Dolphins in 2012 broke down over Russell Wilson

Penn State v Wisconsin Getty Images

Every team in the NFL except the Saints and Raiders passed on Russell Wilson at least once in the 2012 NFL Draft before the Seahawks selected him in the third round.

If Bret Bielema had been able to convince the Dolphins that Wilson was worth taking earlier on, Sunday’s Super Bowl might be very different. Bielema is now the coach of Arkansas, but he was the coach of Wisconsin during Wilson’s final collegiate season and was interviewing with the Dolphins about their head coaching job in early 2012 when Wilson’s name came up.

Bielema said he told General Manager Jeff Ireland and others that he thought the Dolphins should draft Wilson in the second round, but the team disagreed with his take.

“They all looked at me like, ‘You can’t say that,'” Bielema said, via ESPN.com. “That’s the difference between college and pro. He’s undersized. He can’t throw.’ I was like, ‘OK, all right,’ and I honestly, that day, kind of pulled myself out of it.”

The Dolphins wound up drafting Ryan Tannehill with the eighth overall pick after hiring Joe Philbin to be their head coach and Tannehill’s college coach Mike Sherman as their offensive coordinator, setting up a pretty sizable “What if?” to consider about the trajectory of Miami and Seattle over the last three years.

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Goodell: League is committed to keeping teams in markets

St. Louis Rams v Oakland Raiders AP

Even though Rams owner Stan Kroenke has been doing more than just making eyes at Los Angeles, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell reiterated a degree of support for St. Louis.

“We want all of our franchises to stay in their current market,” Goodell said, when asked about the league’s stance on the stability of the Rams.

That was followed by the annual question about the league’s interest in the L.A. market, and Goodell largely sidestepped the issue of Kroenke’s plans to build a stadium there.

“There have been no determinations of us going to Los Angeles,” he said, saying that covered any particular team or stadium.

It doesn’t seem like Kroenke got that memo, as he’s made plans that seem to be well-received by the league.

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Bears sign LB DeDe Lattimore to two-year extension

Chicago Bears Rookie Minicamp Getty Images

The Bears have signed one of their defensive reserves and special teams contributors to a new deal.

Chicago has extended linebacker DeDe Lattimore’s contract through 2016, the team said Friday.

Lattimore appeared in 10 games for Chicago in 2014, notching five special teams tackles, per club statistics. A South Florida product, Lattimore signed with the Bears as an undrafted free agent last May. Lattimore turned 24 on Friday.

The Bears also made a coaching staff move Friday, retaining wide receivers coach Mike Groh, the team said. He has served as Chicago’s receivers coach the last two  years. He previously was an assistant at the University of Alabama.

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Roger Goodell says NFL will hire a chief medical officer

Roger Goodell AP

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has plenty to talk about today, but he opened his annual state of the league press conference with talk about player safety.

He said the league was about to hire a chief medical officer to oversee medial policies, with an announcement expected soon.

He cited stats from yesterday’s report that concussions were down 25 percent from the previous year, but said there was more to be done.

He added that hits to defenseless players were down 68 percent this season.

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Hernandez jurors can watch Super Bowl

Aaron Hernandez AP

The presiding judge in the Aaron Hernandez murder trial will allow jurors to watch the Super Bowl.

According to ESPN’s Michelle Steele, Bristol (Mass.) County Superior Court Judge Susan Garsh said jurors can watch Sunday’s game between the Patriots and Seahawks, but she asked them to step out of the room if Hernandez — the former New England tight end — is mentioned during the telecast of the contest.

The trial is in its second day. Hernandez is accused in the June 2013 killing of Odin Lloyd in Massachusetts.

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Peyton Manning hasn’t made up his mind about next year

Colts Broncos Football AP

Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning hasn’t made up his mind about his playing future, but said he thinks he’ll have a decision sooner rather than later.

Via Bob Glauber of Newsday, Manning said he’s still thinking about what he wants to do in 2015.

“I’m not interested in making this a lingering thing,” Manning said. “I’d like to make a decision soon.”

He said he didn’t think passing his annual physical in March would be a problem, at least as it pertains to his surgically repaired neck.

Of course, the leg injuries he was dealing with down the stretch were clearly an issue, and how they affected his play likely complicates his decision.

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LeGarrette Blount’s marijuana charges dropped

LeGarrette Blount AP

The Patriots gave LeGarrette Blount a clean slate, and now he has a clean record to go with it.

According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Blount completed his court-ordered 50 hours of community service in Boston, and the marijuana possession charges were dropped by local prosecutors.

Blount and then-Steelers teammate Le’Veon Bell were arrested on their way to the airport for a preseason game in August, and the DUI charges Bell had in addition to the possession could lead to a two-game suspension next year.

But after bailing out on the Steelers in midseason, Blount was released and quickly signed by the Patriots, who will be counting on him Sunday.

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PFT’s Super Bowl picks

Richard Sherman, Tom Brady AP

It’s finally here. And I still have no clear idea who will win. Even though a blowout could be brewing (especially if the Patriots can duplicate what the Packers did in the NFC title game before opting not to play to win but playing not to lose), I don’t have a really strong feeling.

But enough of that. This is the part where I write a few paragraphs to set up the picks.

And then I say the MDS and I were both accurate with our conference title picks, and that he’s 9-1 for the postseason, and I’m 7-3.

MDS’s take: Moving past #Deflategate and Marshawn Lynch sparring with reporters and all of the off-field issues of the last two weeks, I keep thinking it comes down to this: Seattle’s defense is just too good.

Last year the Seahawks’ defense made Peyton Manning look bad in the Super Bowl, and this year I think the Seahawks’ defense is going to make Tom Brady look bad in the Super Bowl. Richard Sherman, Byron Maxwell, Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas are about as good as it gets in the NFL, and I don’t think Brady is going to find many open receivers on Sunday. If there’s one weakness to Seattle’s defense it’s that a good tight end can beat them, and as a result I can see Rob Gronkowski having a big day. But even if Gronk gets 100 yards and a touchdown, that won’t be enough on a day when I don’t expect any of the Patriots’ wide receivers to play well.

The reason this game will be a lot closer than last year’s Super Bowl is that I don’t see Seattle putting a lot of points on the board. Bill Belichick will have a good game plan to neutralize Russell Wilson’s running, and the Patriots’ secondary should be able to shut down Seattle’s wide receivers. This looks like a fairly low-scoring game.

But in the end, it’s a game that sees Seattle coming out on top. The Seahawks will repeat.

MDS’s pick: Seahawks 21, Patriots 17.

Florio’s take: Back in September, I picked the Seahawks and Patriots to make it to the Super Bowl. And I picked the Seahawks to win. And I can’t in good conscience abandon that selection.

I could be wrong. Very wrong. The Patriots may finish the job the Packers started. The Patriots may give Russell Wilson the Tim Tebow treatment, blowing the Seahawks out in the first half so that there’s no chance for a rabbit-from-hat finish. Or maybe it will be a close, down-to-the-wire, three-point margin with Stephen Gotskowski playing the role of Adam Vinatieri.

Coach Bill Belichick has the uncanny ability to develop a game plan that is unique to each opponent, figuring out how to move the ball against any defense he faces — and how to take away what any offense does best. Throw in the #DeflateGate disrespect, and Belichick may be able to press enough buttons to overcome the Seahawks.

But it’s the Seahawks in the Super Bowl, not Cincinnati in Week Five. Sometimes, no amount of Xs and Os and “us against them” and “win one for the Gipper” matters. G.M. John Schneider has put together an excellent roster, and Pete Carroll has coached them up to the point where they believe they can beat anyone.

This year, they didn’t beat everyone, but all that matters on Sunday is whether the can score more points than the Patriots. I believed they could in September, so I’ve got no choice but to stick with that now.

Florio’s pick: Seahawks 27, Patriots 24.

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Baseball scout thinks Tom Brady could have been a good catcher

AFC Champion New England Patriots Team Media Availability AP

Tom Brady’s football accomplishments are certainly impressive, but if the Montreal Expos had their way, he might have never made it to the Super Bowl.

Like Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, Brady was once a baseball prospect as well, and the Expos used an 18th-round pick on the left-handed-hitting catcher in 1995, hoping to steer him away from Michigan.

Instead, he went to college, was drafted 12 rounds earlier in the NFL Draft by the Patriots, and the rest is history.

But the scout who encouraged the Expos to try to lure him to the diamond is convinced the same qualities that enabled him to lead six teams to Super Bowls would have translated well.

I think he would have been a pro,” veteran scout John Hughes said, via Joe Frisaro of MLB.com. “He had all the intangibles. He could throw, left-handed power. There is no reason to think this guy couldn’t have been a big league catcher.”

Brady was a promising baseball player at Serra High School, which also produced Barry Bonds and Gregg Jefferies.

“I could have ruined NFL history if I signed this guy,” Hughes said. “To this day, in all my years of scouting, Tom is still the most impressive high school kid I’ve ever been around. Just the person, the way he carries himself. What you’re seeing now, obviously, he is more mature. But it’s not a drastic change. He just had this presence.

“He’s a good guy. His family are great people. I always say, it was the most fun summer I tried to sign a guy I didn’t sign.”

Bill Belichick’s certainly glad he didn’t.

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Belichick, Carroll both downplay eligible receiver issue

belichickcarroll AP

The Patriots have confused both of their playoff opponents by switching offensive players back and forth from eligible to ineligible receivers. But neither coach Bill Belichick nor his opponent on Sunday, Pete Carroll, thinks that’s going to be an issue in the Super Bowl.

At the coaches’ final media appearance today, PFT asked both coaches about the issue, and they both said they’re confident that the officials will handle any such plays properly, with no problems.

“That’s not my job, so whatever the officials do, that’s their protocol and their mechanics, so whatever that is, you should direct that concern to the league,” Belichick said.

Carroll said that he is confident the officials will handle the Patriots’ formations correctly. And although there have been some suggestions that Belichick is pushing the bounds of the rules when he tries those formations, Carroll said he admires the Patriots for constantly finding new ways to play.

“I don’t have any problem with the way it’s been handled,” Carroll said. “Bill has done a good job of challenging us with really unique and innovative ideas in how to move people around. . . . I don’t think there’s going to be any issue.”

Here’s hoping that Carroll is right. It would be nice to see the NFL get through a game without an officiating issue.

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PFT Live wraps up its week in Arizona at noon ET

pftlive

It’s been a great week in Arizona getting ready for the Super Bowl and we’re just about ready to stop talking about the game and start playing it.

There’s still some time left before “just about ready” flips over to “ready,” though, and that moment won’t come before the end of Friday’s edition of PFT Live. Mike Florio will be coming to you once again from Radio Row with everything you need to know about the Super Bowl and the rest of the football world.

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, as has been the case all week, you can also watch a simulcast of all three hours of the show by clicking right here.

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NFLPA will offer its own salary cap estimates soon

Super Bowl Football AP

The NFLPA wants to make sure teams are spending enough money on players, and they’re going to release their own set of numbers to try to encourage just that.

Via Tom Pelissero of USA Today, union boss DeMaurice Smith said they would release their own salary cap projection next month, since they feel the league has tried to deflate the market with low-ball estimates.

Last year, the salary cap rose from $123 million to $133 million, and the league’s management council told teams to expect next year’s to fall between $138.6 million to $141.8 million. But Smith said he thinks the final figure will be higher than that.

Look, I’m thrilled when the salary cap goes up 10 million dollars,” Smith said. “I’m ecstatic when they’re paying 8.5 (million) of that. . . .

“The last few years, you have seen various stories reported by some of you in the room … where you have reported things about the salary cap from ownership that has turned out to not be true. We believe that that not only misrepresents the economic reality of how the salary cap works, but our concern is that those inaccurate projections may have a negative consequence on some players who are trying to negotiate new contracts.”

Smith also pointed to 10 teams that didn’t spend required the 89 percent cash spending minimum in 2013, the Browns, Texans, Jaguars, Patriots, Saints, Giants, Jets, Raiders, Steelers and Washington.

“Let’s be blunt: it’s not overly titillating,” Smith said. “But the reason why I think it’s interesting to look at those 10 teams that were under the 89 percent — and there were a couple that were hovering around the 80 percent – (is) they’re going to be in a situation where hypothetically, if the cap continues to rise as we expect, on the back end of this deal, they’ve got to spend 110 and 120 percent of a salary cap that’s 20 million dollars higher than it was three years ago. To that, I say, ‘Fantastic.'”

While Smith’s right that the math won’t grab headlines, the fact that the salary cap is rising at a rate higher than expected will force teams to spend more, which is what he’s after.

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Pete Carroll on Richard Sherman’s imminent arrival: I can’t wait to see little Petey

Pete Carroll AP

Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman is set to become a father soon enough that there’s a possibility that the baby could come before the end of the Super Bowl on Sunday, which led to questions for Sherman about what he’d do if his son decided to arrive before the Lombardi Trophy.

Sherman said he hopes his son is a “disciplined young man” who waits until his father and the rest of the Seahawks have finished the game on Sunday, but, as any father knows, even the best laid plans are meaningless in the face of a baby’s schedule. Sherman won’t say whether he’d miss the game if the little one decided to make his appearance on Sunday and coach Pete Carroll said Friday that the team is behind Sherman in any choice he makes.

“It’s about family first and we will support his decision,” Carroll said before adding that he “can’t wait to see little Petey.”

We’ve got no insight into what Sherman will be naming his son, although if we were forced to guess we’d say Carroll’s only a slightly likelier namesake than Michael Crabtree.

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Dean Blandino: Nate Solder’s AFC Championship TD shouldn’t have counted

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The Patriots’ use of offensive linemen as eligible receivers and running back Shane Vereen as an ineligible receiver has created confusion for defenses and officials in the playoffs.

That confusion led to a touchdown that shouldn’t have counted in the AFC Championship game. Tom Brady threw a touchdown pass to tackle Nate Solder during that game on a play that NFL vice president of officiating Dean Blandino should have been flagged as an illegal substitution.

“There was an issue on that play where on the previous play, [Cameron] Fleming had reported as an eligible player,” Blandino said, via CSNNE.com. “And on the Solder touchdown he went back to playing an ineligible position. That’€™s illegal. That’€™s an illegal substitution. So that’€™s something we discussed with the crew. Bill [Belichick] was made aware of it. So we’€™re going to be looking for that, make sure we follow the proper mechanics so that doesn’€™t happen again.”

Jim Miller of Sirius XM NFL Radio picked up on the missed call last week and pointed it out, but there was no confirmation from the league until Blandino’s press conference on Thursday. Plenty of other people probably would have picked up on it as well had the score not been 45-7 and another issue having to do with the air pressure of footballs not taken hold of the United States for the last two weeks.

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