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Packers expect Derek Sherrod to compete for job

OTKWIMR173.JPG AP

Thanks to a broken leg, the Packers haven’t gotten much out of Derek Sherrod in the two years since they made him a first-round pick.

Sherrod broke his leg in Week 15 of the 2011 season and never made it off the PUP list this season, leaving the Packers scrambling when right tackle Bryan Bulaga was lost for the season as well. Weston Hodkiewicz of the Green Bay Press-Gazette reports that it’s still unknown whether Sherrod, who also suffered nerve damage, will be ready in time for the start of the offseason program. Offensive line coach James Campen is expecting him to be ready for the season either way.

“I expect him to be back and competing for a spot,” Campen said. “He was just on the cusp of doing some very good things when he got hurt. It was there and unfortunately we had the injury in Kansas City and it’s taken a little bit longer than we had thought to get ready, but we expect him to be back and ready to go.”

Bulaga expects to be back for training camp, opening up the possibility that the Packers will field the offensive line bookends that they hoped to get by using first rounders in 2010 and 2011 on them. At the very least, they’ll hope for spirited competition as part of the effort to cut down on the 51 sacks allowed in 2012.

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Seahawks tie it up

Lynch AP

The Seahawks woke up a lot earlier than they did two Sundays ago.

To cap a drive that started with quarterback Russell Wilson having not completed a pass all game, Wilson connected on a pair of throws en route to a three-yard touchdown run from tailback Marshawn Lynch. The game currently is tied at the two-minute warning in the first half, 7-7.

The score was set up by a 44-yard rainbow from Wilson to receiver Chris Matthews. The man who recovered the onside kick in Seattle’s thrilling come-from-way-behind win over Green Bay made his first career catch, securing the ball with both hands while preventing it from popping out of his control upon hitting the ground.

The drive was kept alive before the long throw by a six-yard pass from Wilson to receiver Jermaine Kearse.

Lynch currently has 12 carries for 45 yards, including the game-tying touchdown.

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Brandon LaFell gives Patriots a 7-0 lead in second quarter

Super Bowl Football AP

Tom Brady’s willing to play small ball, and the Seahawks finally yielded a play.

Brady just hit Brandon LaFell for an 11-yard touchdown pass to give the Patriots a 7-0 lead.

With cornerback Jeremy Lane doubtful to return with an arm injury, Brady was picking on backup cornerback Tharold Simon. Julian Edelamn got inside Simon for a 23-yard gain on a crossing route, setting up the score.

Brady took one shot over the top to Rob Gronkowski (which could have easily been called for offensive pass interference when Gronk clubbed Kam Chancellor in the head), but otherwise the Patriots are willing to dink, dunk and run their way downfield.

The Seahawks haven’t completed a pass yet today, and they’re clearly going to need to find something through the air soon.

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Jeremy Lane injures arm, leaves game after interception

brady AP

Seahawks cornerback Jeremy Lane made a big play in the first quarter of the Super Bowl, but it may have been his last play.

Lane landed awkwardly on his left arm after intercepting a Tom Brady pass and stayed on the ground for a few minutes. He eventually had an air cast put on his arm and then walked to a cart, where he rode to the locker room.

The Seahawks announced that Lane is doubtful to return to the game.

Lane was the subject of some scrutiny during the run-up to the Super Bowl after he said he doesn’t think Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski is a good player. By picking off a pass in the first quarter, Lane showed that he can play as well as talk. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like he’ll get to show anything else today.

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Tom Brady with the game’s first turnover, to Jeremy Lane

Super Bowl Football AP

The Patriots were willing to use jabs early in this fight.

But the Seahawks came up with the first good cross.

Jeremy Lane just picked off Tom Brady in the end zone, to end a methodical 13-play Patriots drive.

With both Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett converging on Brady, his pass to Julian Edelman was rushed just enough to force the turnover.

The Seahawks take over on their own 14, after a three-and-out on their opening drive.

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Brady’s interview contains no unequivocal denials

Brady AP

Yes, the Super Bowl has begun.  But the #DeflateGate controversy will continue.  In addition to the flurry of reports that emerged on Sunday regarding the pending investigation, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s interview with Bob Costas of NBC’s Football Night in America has become yet another piece in a puzzle that will, at some point, be pieced together into a picture that reveals cheating or not cheating.

The full interview appears below.  The last question is the most important one, with Costas giving Brady a clear chance to say that Brady had no prior knowledge of any intentional tampering with the footballs.

“What I hear you saying is,” Costas said, “no matter what may or may not have happened, you had no prior knowledge of it.”

Brady didn’t simply agree with what Costas said and move on.  Brady offered a lengthy explanation.

“I — you know, look, I’ve talked about that in the past, and I don’t want that to continue to be a story about this particular game,” Brady said.  “All the facts will come out after the Super Bowl, and however those facts come out, you know, that will be news to me as well.  So that process will all take place at some point.  I’m excited about the Super Bowl, and that’s where my energy is.  I think there was a little bit of an energy drain, like I said, with my emotions and feelings being involved earlier in the week, but, you know, I’ve got to be able to move past those things and compartmentalize those things, and be mentally tough enough to go out there and try to shine through.”

Like so many other aspects of this controversy, those inclined to believe the Patriots will claim that Brady essentially denied having prior knowledge by saying “however those facts come out, you know, that will be news to me as well.”  Those inclined to suspect cheating will say Brady’s failure to offer an unequivocal denial could be aimed at providing a safe harbor in the event that, for example, someone has confessed to deflating the footballs and has claimed Brady knew.

Either way, the issue will linger for as long as it takes for the NFL to conclude its investigation, to generate a report, and to impose discipline, if any.  Chances are that, regardless of the outcome, the issue will linger well beyond the moment the NFL officially closes the books on #DeflateGate.

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Neither offense can get much going on the first drive

bradyball AP

The Seahawks’ defense got the Super Bowl off to a good start. And so did the Seahawks’ fans.

New England received the opening kickoff but was forced to punt after picking up just 17 yards and one first down. Of perhaps equal importance to Seattle is that the Seahawks’ fans are making their presence known, with crowd noise already a factor. In last year’s Super Bowl, the Broncos were taken aback by their need to use silent snap counts because of the “12s,” and it appears that just as many Seahawks fans have made the trip to this year’s Super Bowl.

But those Seahawks fans didn’t have much to cheer about on Seattle’s first drive, as the Seahawks went three-and-out. Now we’ll see if the Patriots can shrug off the crowd noise, and give their own fans something to cheer about.

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PFT Planet’s Super Bowl XLIX prop bet plays

Las Vegas Strip Exteriors Getty Images

In the lead-up to Super Bowl XLIX, we asked PFT Planet to make a call on 10 proposition bets. Here’s how you voted. Check back Monday when we grade the results:

Day I: Over-Under on Brandon LaFell’s receiving yards: 50.5.

OVER 50.5 RECEIVING YARDS: 3,385 votes (55%)

UNDER 50.5 RECEIVING YARDS: 2,780 votes (45%)

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

OVER 4 CATCHES: 2,347 votes (55%)

UNDER 4 CATCHES: 1,909 votes (45%)

Day III: Will Rob Gronkowski score a touchdown?

YES: 5,781 votes (84%)

NO: 1,061 votes (16%)

Day IV: Will there be a one-yard TD in the Super Bowl?

YES: 1,946 votes (64%)

NO: 1,103 votes (36%)

Day V: Over-Under on Tim Wright’s  receiving yards: 0.5.

YES: 3,556 votes (84%)

NO: 678 votes (16%)

Day VI: Over-Under on LeGarrette Blount’s carries: 13.5.

OVER 13.5 carries: 2,408 votes (68%)

UNDER 13.5 carries: 1,110 votes (32%)

Day VII: Will there be a safety in the Super Bowl?

NO safety: 2,837 votes (86%)

YES safety: 449 votes (14%)

Day VIII: Over-Under on Russell Wilson’s rushing yards: 41.5.

OVER 41.5 RUSHING YARDS: 2,477 votes (66%)

UNDER 41.5 RUSHING YARDS: 1,273 votes (34%)

Day IX: Will there be overtime in the Super Bowl?

NO OVERTIME: 2,357 votes (86%)

YES OVERTIME: 379 votes (14%)

Day X: Will Richard Sherman intercept a pass in the Super Bowl?

NO INTERCEPTION: 1,038 votes (60%)

YES INTERCEPTION: 681 votes (40%)

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Kam Chancellor wearing knee brace, good to go for game

Kam Chancellor AP

Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor was added to the team’s final injury report of the year with a knee injury that he picked up during practice on Friday.

That injury was reported to be a bruise and coach Pete Carroll didn’t seem too concerned about it on Saturday, but he did say the team would take another look at Chancellor during pregame warmups to make sure that all was well. Chancellor was wearing a brace on his left knee during those warmups for Super Bowl XLIX, which were watched by Carroll, defensive coordinator Dan Quinn and members of the medical staff.

A brace may indicate that the injury is something more than just a bruise, but it doesn’t seem to have much chance of keeping Chancellor off the field. Steve Wyche of NFL Media reports Chancellor told him he’s good to go for the game after what he called an “aggressive” workout on the field Sunday.

Chancellor is expected to play a big role in Seattle’s plans to limit Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, something that’s going to be part of any plan to win a second straight Super Bowl title.

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New NFL Media report on #DeflateGate raises plenty of questions

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As the NFL continues to process the events of two Sundays ago regarding the inflation of certain footballs, the media company owned by the NFL has tried to advance the ball from a news standpoint.

The end result creates plenty of questions — questions that undoubtedly will be answered, one way or the other.

Much of Ian Rapoport’s new report isn’t new.  He confirmed without crediting reports from FOX and PFT regarding the surveillance video that shows Patriots employee taking 12 Patriots balls and 12 Colts balls into a restroom.  The new information:  Rapoport describes the man as “elderly,” and Rapoport says the man was in the restroom for 98 seconds.  (PFT previously reported that the man was in the restroom for approximately 90 seconds.)  Rapoport also confirmed without crediting the PFT report that the Patriots turned the video over to the NFL early in the process.

Here’s where it gets interesting.  Chris Mortensen of ESPN initially reported that 11 of the 12 balls were two pounds under the 12.5 PSI minimum.  PFT later reported that 10 of the balls were closer to one pound under the minimum than two.  Now, the media company owned by the NFL reports that “[m]any of [the footballs] were just a few ticks under the minimum.”

So how many are “many”?  And how much is “just a few ticks”?

Making the NFL media report even more confusing is the fact that, when Rapoport discussed the issue on the air, he specifically said that “a couple, three or four were about a pound under and three or four more were right at the line but a little bit under.”

As one league source with knowledge of the situation told PFT in response to the NFL Media report, “Ian’s wrong.”  Apart from the inherent conflict between the written assertion that “many” were “just a few ticks under” and only “three or four” were “right at the line but a little bit under,” it’s possible that both versions are incorrect.

Either way, the truth eventually will be known.  As a different source told PFT on Sunday morning, the NFL logged all PSI readings for the Patriots and Colts footballs at halftime of the AFC title game.  Assuming that this information makes its way into Ted Wells’ report (and surely it will), the hard numbers eventually will become public.

In the end, it will be more than a little awkward, to say the least, if the official NFL investigation report conflicts with the latest NFL Media report on the investigation.

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Jonas Gray among the inactives for Super Bowl XLIX

Jonas Gray AP

Patriots running back Jonas Gray had one of the most impressive games of the season.

But he’s not going to play in the final one.

Gray was among the seven inactive players for the Patriots tonight, despite his breakout 201-yard game against the Colts in November which landed him on the cover of Sports Illustrated.

Also on the list are defensive end Zach Moore, wide receivers Josh Boyce and Brian Tyms, defensive tackle Joe Vellano, offensive lineman Jordan Devey, and running back James White.

For the Seahawks, the inactives are quarterback BJ Daniels, cornerback Marcus Burley, offensive linemen Patrick Lewis and Keavon Milton, defensive end David King, offensive tackle Garry Gilliam and wide receiver Kevin Norwood.

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John Harbaugh says he had no role in #DeflateGate

John Harbaugh AP

One of the more intriguing aspects of #DeflateGate comes from reports that Ravens coach John Harbaugh instigated the complaints about the alleged underinflation of Patriots footballs by putting the idea into the head of Colts coach (and former Ravens assistant coach) Chuck Pagano prior to the AFC championship game.

Harbaugh, appearing on NBC’s Super Bowl pregame as a guest analyst, rejected the notion that he had any role in the process.

“I heard all that, I couldn’t believe it when I heard it,” Harbaugh told Bob Costas.  “It’s ridiculous, it never happened, I’ve been, I never made any call, nobody in our organization made any call.  As a matter of fact, just to make sure I had all the facts, I called up Chuck Pagano and asked him, ‘Did anybody else in our organization tip you off about deflated footballs?’ and he said, ‘No way.'”

Harbaugh also said he never even considered ball inflation until it became an issue in the Colts-Patriots game.

“It never came up, it never crossed my mind, it wasn’t even an issue in the [Colts-Patriots] game,” Harbaugh said.  “I didn’t even think about it until I read about it later.”

That likely won’t do much to change the suspicion within the Patriots organization that Harbaugh had something to do with the current controversy.  Still, Harbaugh insists he didn’t stir the pot, which is consistent with the NFL’s insistence that the issue didn’t come up until Colts linebacker D’Qwell Jackson intercepted a Tom Brady pass in the first half and took the ball to the sidelines.

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Tom Lewand thinks Lions have “very, very good chance” of deal with Suh in next few weeks

Wild Card Playoffs - Detroit Lions v Dallas Cowboys Getty Images

The Lions have some time to negotiate with defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh before the start of free agency and team president Tom Lewand is optimistic that they’ll put it to good use.

During an appearance on WDIV on Sunday, Lewand said that he thought the team had “a very, very good chance” of reaching agreement on a deal with Suh in the next few weeks. The Lions already have a lot of money committed to quarterback Matthew Stafford and wide receiver Calvin Johnson and any Suh deal would push a lot of their money to three players, but Lewand said it was something the Lions could do.

“Matthew, Calvin and Ndamukong have all and very lucrative contracts under the old rookie system and even as Matthew and Calvin have done their extensions,” Lewand said. “So we’ve done that, we’ve lived in that environment. There’s no reason we can’t continue to live in that environment. We plan really well looking out into the future and where our salary goes. I think we can do that, I have no doubt we can do that with Ndamukong and make him a continuing part of the core of our football team. There’s no doubt that there are trade-outs that have to happen along the way. You can’t keep everybody because it’s a hard cap, but if you have a good nucleus of guys then the draft every year comes through and you can keep adding good players to the mix.”

Lewand says that his impression is that Suh wants to play in Detroit, although Suh said near the end of the season that his agent would be making the decision. That suggests it will come down to money, which would be at odds with the decision to re-sign with the Lions before hearing from any of the league’s other 31 teams.

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Prop Challenge, Day X: Will Richard Sherman intercept a pass?

Richard Sherman, Tom Brady AP

Welcome to PFT’s Prop Challenge, our daily look at a Super Bowl proposition bet.

Here’s the idea: we present a prop, do some light analysis, then let you decide which side to 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 our final prop, which is courtesy of oddsmaker William Hill U.S.:

Will Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman intercept a pass in the Super Bowl?

Yes: +200 / No: -240.

Let’s consider both sides of the prop.

Pros: A former collegiate wide receiver turned All-Pro cornerback, Sherman has exceptional ball skills, as evidenced by his 26 interceptions in 71 NFL games (excluding preseason but excluding postseason). In his lone career matchup with the Patriots, Sherman picked off New England’s Tom Brady, who is far from easy to intercept. Finally, Sherman has one pick in each of Seattle’s first two playoff games of 2014.

Cons: For his career, Sherman has intercepted one pass per every 2.7 NFL games, which could make taking 2-1 on a Super Bowl pick a hard-to-swallow proposition for some. Also, Sherman is dealing with an elbow injury, which could compromise his ability to catch the ball. There’s also the matter of Brady just not throwing many picks. He’s been intercepted once per every 60.6 passes this season.

Now, it’s up to you to pick a side. Will Richard Sherman intercept a pass in Super Bowl XLIX, thus surely creating an Internet meme in the process? The poll will be open until 6 p.m. Eastern or so, as will the other nine props below.

Then, we’ll see how you handicapped the Super Bowl.

Enjoy the game.

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?

Day IV: Will there be a one-yard TD in the Super Bowl?

Day V: Over-Under on Tim Wright’s receiving yards.

Day VI: Over-Under on LeGarrette Blount’s carries.

Day VII: Will there be a safety in the Super Bowl?

Day VIII: Over-Under on Russell Wilson’s rushing yards.

Day IX: Will there be overtime in the Super Bowl?

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Report: Many of Patriots footballs “a few ticks” under proper pressure

deflated-football Getty Images

Back when the story of under-inflated footballs in the AFC Championship game was fresh and new, Chris Mortensen of ESPN reported that 11 of the 12 footballs the Patriots used in the first half of the game were two pounds per square inch under the NFL’s prescribed pressure for balls used in games.

That report became a centerpiece of much discussion about the situation and the Patriots’ possible role in deflating the balls, even after PFT  reported last week that only the ball intercepted by Colts linebacker D’Qwell Jackson came in two pounds under the 12.5 PSI threshold. The rest of the balls were closer to the line by about one pound.

Now Ian Rapoport of NFL Media is reporting something similar. Rapoport reports that many of the other 11 footballs were “just a few ticks” under the minimum, although those ticks aren’t quantified, perhaps because, as NFL vice president of officiating Dean Blandino confirmed, the league doesn’t log the PSI of each ball before the game.

While the word on the level of deflation was already out there, the fact that a league-owned concern is reporting it is a notable development as we wait for the league to say something definitive on the issue.

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NFL insists there was no sting operation against Patriots

TheSting

The #DeflateGate controversy leaves little room for middle ground on many issues.  Either the Patriots tampered with the footballs or they didn’t, and pretty much everyone has an opinion on the issue — regardless of what the facts eventually may reveal.

One key fact that is unrelated to the issue of cheating but nevertheless critical to the broader context is whether the NFL entered the AFC title game intending to try to catch the Patriots in the act, or whether the issue came up during the game itself.

Bob Glauber of Newsday has reported (and reiterated) that the question first emerged during the game, after an interception by Colts linebacker D’Qwell Jackson sparked a chain of events that culminated in the league office deciding to test the footballs at halftime.  Jay Glazer of FOX Sports has reported that the NFL intended to test the footballs at halftime even before the game began.

The latter report speaks to the existence of a sting operation, with the NFL setting a trap for the Patriots and springing it unexpectedly at intermission of the AFC title game.  It also means that the NFL would have allowed the Patriots to potentially undermine the integrity of the AFC title game, allowing them to use balls that may have been underinflated.

As mentioned within the last hour during the Super Bowl pregame show on NBC, the NFL privately insists that there was no sting operation, and that the incident first arose during the Colts-Patriots game.  While some would call that a predictable denial, the failure of the officials to log the air pressure inside the footballs before the game began suggests that there was no plan — or if there was a plan it was a bad one — to catch New England in the act.

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