Is this the year we see an all-Harbaugh Super Bowl? Mike Florio examines the rarity of this feat and says the brothers’ accomplishments should not be overlooked. Florio also discusses the biggest playoff storylines including the four QBs left and if the Texans are in store for major changes this off-season.This video is no longer available. Click here to watch more NBC Sports videos!
PFT Live: Brady the best QB left?
As part of the effort to make the Pro Bowl less unwatchable, the NFL has fashioned another three-hour block of unwatchable television.
The league has announced that the first-ever Pro Bowl draft will be televised on Wednesday, January 22. The event will come a day after the teams, led by Hall of Famers Jerry Rice and Deion Sanders, draft 11 players who play the least interesting positions — guard, center, fullback, interior defensive linemen, punter, and special teams.
Those players will walk the red carpet at the site of the made-for-TV Wednesday night draft, which should help chew up a few of the 180 minutes devoted to the effort.
Once finalized, the teams will “practice” on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday before “playing” on Sunday.
The new approach won’t make the players play any harder. Which continues to be the biggest problem with the Pro Bowl.
Indeed, Rice himself — who will have a key role in the reconfigured Pro Bowl — has said that he doesn’t think the changes will work.
“You’ve got prima donnas, egocentrics, who act like it’s not an honor,” Rice said earlier this year, via Jarrett Bell of USA Today. “Plus, they’re thinking, ‘Why should I go and jeopardize what I’m doing?’ But it should be for the fans. How can you get the players to recognize that it’s an honor? You’ve got to play your best football in the Pro Bowl. So the spirit of this needs to be changed. I’m not sure that can be accomplished now.”
It’ll never be accomplished as long as players who have made it through a regular season and, for many, part of a postseason healthy enough to suit up and play to play so hard that they risk spending the offseason rehabbing and injury and, for some, squandering a free-agency payday.
The 49ers’ only touchdown in Sunday’s win over the Seahawks came on a Colin Kaepernick pass to tight end Vernon Davis, with Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner in coverage. That was coverage Davis knew he could beat.
As shown on NFL Turning Point on NBCSN, before the series that ended with Davis’s touchdown, backup quarterback Colt McCoy approached Kaepernick on the sideline and told him that Davis recognized single coverage he could beat.
“Vernon said their guy was playing him straight up man. He said he can run right by him,” McCoy told Kaepernick.
Once the 49ers reached the red zone on the ensuing drive, Kaepernick threw three passes to Davis, one a 13-yard pass down to the 6-yard line, one incomplete and one that touchdown. Clearly, Davis was right when he said he could beat that coverage.
That drive came at the end of the first half, and in the second half Kaepernick never threw a pass in Davis’s direction. So the Seahawks apparently made some halftime adjustments. But the damage had been done.
Johnson responded, saying that he’d show off his old-man strength to Elam while saying that he thought Detroit could make some plays against the Ravens safety. Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco wondered what Elam was thinking by calling out the league’s best wide receiver before a game and now coach John Harbaugh has chimed in with further criticism of Elam’s verbal volley.
“I don’t appreciate it,” Harbaugh said, via the team. “It doesn’t help us. You get a guy like Calvin Johnson all fired up, that’s really not the idea.”
Flacco said earlier in the day that the team took deep shots at Elam throughout practice to try to get him ready for what he’ll face against Johnson on Sunday. It doesn’t help matters that linebacker Elvis Dumervil wasn’t able to practice with the ankle injury that kept him out last week. Whatever Elam’s feeling about the best way to approach defending Johnson, keeping balls from getting in the air at all would be safer.
The Cardinals will try to keep their playoff hopes alive in Tennessee this weekend and we’ll spend some time on Thursday’s edition of Pro Football Talk on NBCSN talking to one of the guys who will help them in that effort.
Wide receiver Michael Floyd has blossomed into the complement to Larry Fitzgerald that the team hoped he would become when they drafted him in the first round and Erik Kuselias will talk to Floyd about the role coach Bruce Arians has played in helping him develop. They’ll also talk about quarterback Carson Palmer and we’ll find out who Floyd thinks was the best team that Arizona’s played this year.
Week 15 kicks off on Thursday night, so we’ll spend some time looking ahead to the matchup between the Broncos and Chargers before setting the stage for the entire week. We’ve got all the latest news from practice, injury updates and everything else you need to know about this week in the NFL coming your way.
It all gets started at 5:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN.
We’ve heard plenty from the folks directly involved in and affected by the decision to shut Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III down for the season. We’re now hearing from members of the organization who are on the periphery.
Receiver Santana Moss expressed concern on Thursday regarding the decision to throw Cousins into the fire.
“It’s kind of tough to put him into this situation right now and hope for him to be excellent,” Moss said, via Mike Jones of the Washington Post. “It’s almost like setting a guy up for failure. But you just want him to go out there and be at ease and just take his time, be as efficient as he can because it’s one of those situations that’s like, you know, Catch[-22]. He don’t play as well, then you’re gonna say, ‘Well, should he have been in there?’ But you can’t do that to him because he hasn’t had all this season to go out there and jell with us. But he has been ready enough to go out there and be able to run this offense. So we’re just hoping for the best.”
Helping to make it better than it otherwise would be is that the Redskins end the season against a trio of not-so-stifling defenses. The Cowboys are last in yards allowed, the Falcons are the seventh worst. When it comes to points allowed, the Falcons are fourth from the bottom, the Cowboys are seventh, and the Giants are in the bottom third as well.
So it’s possible that coach Mike Shanahan is setting Cousins up not to fail but to thrive. To thrive so well that Shanahan could try to go with Cousins as the starter if Shanahan returns next year. So well that if Shanahan doesn’t return his parting gift to the franchise will have been a quarterback controversy.
The Eagles will try to take another step toward an NFC East title against the Vikings this weekend and they might have to do it without one of their starting cornerbacks.
Cary Williams showed up as limited on Thursday’s injury report because of a hamstring injury. Williams was not on the injury report at all on Wednesday and Zach Berman of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports that he was on the field for the start of Thursday’s work, which suggests picked up the injury during Thursday’s practice.
Either way, his status will be something to watch when the Eagles practice and release their final injury report of the week on Friday. He’s started all 13 games this year, turning in play that has fluctuated from good to inadequate over that span. Inconsistent though he may be, Williams’ absence would test the Eagles’ depth at cornerback beyond Bradley Fletcher and Brandon Boykin.
Safety Earl Wolff and linebacker Najeh Goode were also limited for the Eagles on Thursday.
A pair of high-profile NFC West wideouts missed most of the season before returning from injury. For Seahawks receiver Percy Harvin, it was a one-game cameo before again being shelved with the same hip injury. For 49ers receiver Michael Crabtree, he has a different injury after two games back.
Crabtree has an ankle injury. He was officially limited in practice on Wednesday because of it.
According to Bill Williamson of ESPN.com, 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman said Thursday that the ankle problem is unrelated to the Achilles injury that kept Crabtree out of action from May until Week 13.
Crabtree caught two passes for 68 yards in his 2013 debut against the Rams. He had four catches for 40 yards against the Seahawks.
As you might imagine, it didn’t take Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson to notice when somebody called him old.
And it took less time for Ravens safety Matt Elam’s teammates to light him up as well.
And then his teammates had their turn.
Flacco also said the Ravens took shots downfield at Elam all day in practice, to prepare him for what he’s likely to face Monday, when Johnson gets a chance to prove his strength in person.
It’s a good strategy, and perhaps Flacco can offer Elam advice on how to be dull at the right times.
Packers coach Mike McCarthy said Thursday that quarterback Aaron Rodgers did more and looked better at practice than he did on Wednesday, something the quarterback agreed with when he spoke to the media later in the day.
As for what that means for his chances of playing, Rodgers said there were two conditions that needed to be met before he would be in the lineup. He would need to get the majority of the first-team reps and that he’d need a clean bill of health from an imaging scan of his left collarbone. Rodgers was cagey when asked if another test of that nature was scheduled for this week.
“I’m not sure about that,” Rodgers said, via Jason Wilde of ESPN Wisconsin.
Rodgers likely knows whether or not there’s going to be another scan and McCarthy said that he would be evaluated medically again on Friday, but Rodgers probably doesn’t feel like the Cowboys need to know how realistic it is that he returns to the lineup one way or the other at this point in the week. The Packers will likely make their decision about starting Rodgers or Flynn on Friday, which means that Dallas and the rest of us won’t have to wait too much longer.
Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul went for a second opinion on his ailing shoulder this week and got some good news.
Doctors told Pierre-Paul that he does not require surgery to fix the problem and prescribed rest as his best course of action at the moment. With so little time left in the season and the Giants out of the playoff race, that might seem like a signal that it is time to shut things down for 2013. Pierre-Paul said it won’t be his decision to shut things down, but he wouldn’t make that call if it was up to him.
“I’ve been battling injuries all year. It’s part of the game. First, as far as getting back surgery, then the knee and then the f—ing shoulder. That’s how it is,” Pierre-Paul said, via the Newark Star-Ledger. “I’m never going to shut it down. If I can go, I’m going to go. It [stinks] watching your teammates play without you. But it’s part of the game. You never know when you’re going to get hurt.”
Pierre-Paul hasn’t practiced yet this week and he’s almost certainly going to miss his third straight game when the Giants meet the Seahawks this weekend. That won’t help the Giants avoid embarrassment, but getting Pierre-Paul back to full strength would make such outcomes less likely in 2014.
Coach Marvin Lewis said only that Newman was sore, but the Bengals made a roster move on Thursday that suggests they’re concerned Newman won’t be able to play. The team has announced that they have promoted cornerback Chris Lewis-Harris from the practice squad and released safety Tony Dye.
Lewis-Harris spent seven weeks on the Bengals’ active roster earlier this season and recorded three tackles in the three games he played during that time. Lewis-Harris also played a pair of games for the team last season. Adam Jones, Dre Kirkpatrick, Brandon Ghee and Chris Crocker are other possibilities at cornerback in the event that Newman doesn’t play this week.
Dye returned a blocked punt for a touchdown against the Browns last month in the one game he was active for the Bengals.
For the players who respond to such things, the Jets have been willing to provide plenty of bulletin board material to the Panthers.
The latest was wide receiver Santonio Holmes, who, showing a Patton-esque sense of military tactics, has identified a potential weakness in Carolina’s defense..
“Not to call these guys out, but their secondary is probably weakest link on their defense,” Holmes said, via Rich Cimini of ESPNNewYork.com.
Nothing against the venerable Holmes (who may now need to go by Sherlock), but that’s been evident since the offseason, when the Panthers were filling their defensive backfield with cast-offs and undrafted rookies.
For most of the season, the Panthers have been able to get away with it, because of the pressure created by their front four and an excellent set of linebackers. It didn’t work out last week against the Saints, but no one is going to confuse the Jets’ passing attack for that one.
Of course, the Jets started taking shots at the Panthers months ago, with outside linebacker Antwan Barnes mocking their offensive line after Bills defensive end Mario Williams had 4.5 sacks against them.
But that was months ago, before the Panthers wheeled off eight wins in a row and made themselves a playoff team.
Trestman said that the call to put Cutler back in the lineup when he was healthy was made a long time ago and that he didn’t see it as much of a decision despite the fact that Josh McCown has played well in Cutler’s absence. McCown’s play has led some to wonder if Trestman and the Bears are making a mistake by playing Cutler, but Cutler said Thursday that there’s no such discussion inside the organization.
“There’s not a debate in this building and that’s where my concern lies,” Cutler said, via CSNChicago.com.
It’s a call that opens itself up to a lot of Monday morning quarterbacking if the Bears lose in Cleveland, something Cutler acknowledged when he said that there’s not a lot of room for him to be rusty in his return to the field. The same could be said of sticking with McCown when Cutler was healthy enough to play, though, leaving the Bears are left with winning as the only option to avoid blowback in either scenario.
Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has not been medically cleared to return for Sunday’s game against the Cowboys. But Rodgers seems to be getting closer.
Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy said after practice today that while Rodgers was not a full participant, he’s increasing his workload, which would appear to be a positive sign.
“Aaron Rodgers was limited in practice today,” McCarthy said, “He did a little more today than he did yesterday.”
Rodgers will be medically evaluated on Friday, but McCarthy’s football evaluation was positive.
“He’s getting better. He’s Aaron Rodgers. The thing you appreciate is, my man can throw the football. He throws the heck out of it,” McCarthy said.
The Green Bay Press-Gazette reported that Rodgers was moving well and throwing with good velocity during the portion of practice that’s open to the media, which is another good sign. Still, just because Rodgers looks good in a non-contact practice, that doesn’t mean the team’s medical staff is ready for him to go in a game. That decision hasn’t been made yet.
One day after Redskins coach Mike Shanahan conducted a memorable press conference regarding his controversial decision to shut down quarterback Robert Griffin III, Shanahan’s son made it clear that he was among the naysayers.
“You play your starting quarterback, that’s been Robert,” Kyle Shanahan told reporters on Thursday. “I’m pretty disappointed we don’t get to play with him. But it is what it is, and I’m gonna deal with the cards I’ve been dealt.”
Kyle Shanahan also said didn’t know that Griffin would be shelved for Kirk Cousins until Wednesday morning.
“I’ve got zero involvement in that,” Kyle Shanahan said. “I actually game-planned for both all Tuesday. It was a little frustrating to game plan for both. I was told the final decision Wednesday morning, then rolled with it.”
But Kyle wasn’t thrilled with the outcome.
“I definitely made it clear I was disappointed in that. . . . I think it would be good for Robert to get the reps,” Kyle Shanahan said.
If Kyle is telling the truth, Mike could be trying to protect Kyle from the potential fallout of whatever it is that Mike is trying to do.
And it could be that Mike’s broader goal is to protect Kyle’s career. By creating a triangle of dysfunction that focuses on quarterback, owner, and coach, Mike helps ensure that the offensive coordinator will survive the mess with his future prospects as an NFL head coach unaffected.
Thursday’s explanation from Kyle cuts against the perception that father and son are fused at the femur. On Wednesday, Mike seemed agitated and inconsistent. Kyle came off as credible and reasonable.
If Mike gets fired this year, it’s unlikely anyone will hire him to serve as head coach. Kyle, on the other hand, could surface in a place like St. Louis, where Mike’s friend Jeff Fisher could need a new offensive coordinator, given the so-so results generated by the son of former NFL coach Marty Schottenheimer.