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Team-by-team look at who would/could/should be tagged

Clady AP

On Monday, the two-week window for using the franchise tag opens.  Every team can use the franchise tag (or the rarely-used transition tag) on one player.

Last year, 21 teams took advantage of the franchise tag, which no longer is based on the five highest-paid players at the position but on a far more convoluted (and club friendly) formula.

It’s not a coincidence.  The new formula makes it much cheaper to keep a player off the open market than it would to pay him a multi-year market contract.

Here’s a look at the team-by-team candidates for the 2013 tag, in alphabetical order.

Arizona Cardinals:  The Cardinals need to keep hard-nosed cover corner Greg Toler, but not at anything close to the eight-figure franchise number.  No other pending free agents have the talent or potential to justify franchise money.  Last year, the Cardinals used the tag on defensive end Calais Campbell; they eventually signed him to a long-term deal.

Atlanta Falcons:  Left tackle Sam Baker, drafted in round one the same year as the man whose blind side he protects, has had good years and bad years.  After starting 16 games in 2012, Baker hits the market on a high note.  Still, the glut of tackles in free agency and the draft will make it hard to justify tagging Baker; if he leaves, the Falcons can find a capable replacement after the market softens.  In 2012, the Falcons used the tag on cornerback Brent Grimes, who tore an Achilles tendon in Week One.  Tagging him would cost $12.48 million for 2013.  It would cost nearly half that amount to tag safety William Moore.

Baltimore Ravens:  It’s not a question of if the Ravens will tag quarterback Joe Flacco.  The only remaining unknown is the level of the tag.  And while a lazy look at the situation would lead to conclusively presuming that there’s no way Flacco leaves Baltimore, there’s a chance (slim, but a chance) that the player and the team could be destined for a game of chicken that would result in both cars flying off the cliff.  The Ravens could opt to go non-exclusive, daring Flacco to sign an offer sheet with another team — and assuming that he never would.  Another team with plenty of cap space could easily craft a front-loaded offer sheet that the Ravens wouldn’t be able to match.  It’s not likely, but anyone who thinks there’s no way Flacco leaves the Ravens hasn’t been paying close enough attention to the far crazier things the NFL has seen in recent years.

Buffalo BillsJairus Byrd has become one on the best free safeties in the league.  With George Wilson gone in a cap move, the Bills need to keep Byrd.  Absent a long-term deal, the tag is the only way to make it happen.  If a long-term deal can be negotiated, guard Andy Levitre becomes a candidate for the tag.  The only impediment would be the fact that interior offensive linemen get the same franchise tender as tackles.

Carolina Panthers:  Their list of potential free agents contains no names that cry out for use of the tag, especially since the Panthers are still dealing with the sins of salary caps past.

Chicago Bears:  The Bears need to keep defensive tackle Henry Melton, but they’ve already got plenty of cap space tied up with defensive players like sackmaster Julius Peppers, cornerback Charles Tillman, and linebacker Lance Briggs.  With Melton regarding himself as the best defensive tackle in the league, a long-term deal could be hard to come by.  Despite his name recognition, linebacker Brian Urlacher isn’t a serious candidate for the tag.

Cincinnati Bengals:  The Bengals are extremely careful with money.  On defense, lineman Michael Johnson is the most obvious candidate to be tagged.  It’s just as likely that the Bengals will be content to go bargain shopping (again) for defensive players to replace their bevy of free agents on that side of the ball, and then hope that defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer can whip up another batch of chicken salad.  On offense, the tag could be used to keep Andre Smith, who quietly has overcome his notorious Jello run to develop into an elite right tackle.  Last year, the tag was used on kicker Mike Nugent; tagging him again would cost only $3.48 million.  Which could make him the most likely candidate.

Cleveland Browns:  Kicker Phil Dawson was tagged in 2011 and 2012.  Using it a third time would entitle him to quarterback money.  So if it’s used, it won’t be used on him.  Punter Reggie Hodges is hitting the market after three years with the team.  Though his performance doesn’t cry out “franchise tag,” it could be cheaper to squat on him for a year than to sign a replacement on the open market; that’s why so many punters and kickers have been tagged in recent years.

Dallas Cowboys:  Tagged last year at $10.5 million, linebacker Anthony Spencer still hasn’t had the kind of impact that he should, given that he plays across from DeMarcus Ware.  Spencer isn’t worth $12.4 million for one more year.

Denver Broncos:  V.P. of football operations John Elway has said that the tag will be used on left tackle Ryan Clady, and for good reason.  Last year, Clady turned down a five-year, $50 million deal.

Detroit Lions:  It’ll take $12.4 million to use the tag for a second straight year on defensive end Cliff Avril, and it won’t be easy for the Lions to round up the kind of cap space necessary to keep him around.  Safety Louis Delmas doesn’t like being labeled as injury prone, but he is.  And the Lions will have to decide whether they want to make a long-term or short-term (via the tag) investment in the guy who could be this decade’s Bob Sanders.  Tackle Gosder Cherilus also could be tagged, but in a buyer’s market for tackles it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to do it.

Green Bay Packers:  Receiver Greg Jennings turns 30 in September.  In other words, the Packers won’t be using the tag on Greg Jennings.  The Packers learned while he was injured in 2012 that they can live without him, and they won’t be inclined to invest $10 million in cap space to a guy who plays a position that, with Aaron Rodgers at quarterback, is virtually interchangeable.  If the Packers wanted to keep Jennings, they’d be trying to sign him.  They’re not, which likely means he won’t be tagged.

Houston Texans:  Last year, the Texans passed on tagging linebacker Mario Williams because of the exorbitant tender that the final year of his first-overall rookie contract would have generated.  With linebacker Connor Barwin, much less cap space would be consumed.  After seeing former Texans receiver Jacoby Jones deliver an MVP-caliber performance in the Super Bowl, G.M. Rick Smith may be a little less willing to let quality players walk away in 2013.  Another possible (and cheaper) candidate for the tag is punter Donnie Jones.

Indianapolis Colts:  The man with the self-styled boomstick can be kept off the market for the low, low price of the punter/kicker franchise tag ($2.9 million).  Absent a long-term deal, it’s hard to envision the Colts moving forward without punter Pat McAfee.

Jacksonville Jaguars:  A roster thin on star power naturally doesn’t create many franchise-tag candidates, especially with a new G.M. and (another) new coaching staff.  If linebacker Daryl Smith didn’t miss most of the season, he’d be a potential candidate.  Fullback Greg Jones would be a candidate, if fullbacks weren’t lumped in with running backs for franchise tag purposes.

Kansas City Chiefs:  The Chiefs are trying to work out a long-term deal with receiver Dwayne Bowe; if they don’t, it would cost $11.4 million to keep him around for a second season via the tag.  But receivers are more plentiful than competent offensive linemen, and new Chiefs coach Andy Reid witnessed the hard way in 2012 the consequences of not having competent blockers.  This reality makes tackle Branden Albert a more likely candidate to be tagged.  Then there’s punter Dustin Colquitt, who like most punters and kickers could be cheaper to keep via the one-year franchise tag.

Miami Dolphins:  Tackle Jake Long’s rookie deal makes the cap number for tagging him way too high to justify, especially in light of the gradual decline in his play.  With cornerback Sean Smith looking for big money, the best move could be to tag him instead of Long.

Minnesota Vikings:  G.M. Rick Spielman wants to keep road-grading right tackle Phil Loadholt.  With left tackle Matt Kalil tied up via an affordable rookie deal, the Vikings can afford to pay Loadholt a large chunk of money for at least the next two seasons, before Kalil will be looking for his second contract.  Whether that large chunk of money equates to the franchise tag for Loadholt is a decision the Vikings have to make in light of the realities of the tackle market — and within the context of the impact of the use of the tag on the expectations of receiver Percy Harvin.  They’d also like to keep fullback Jerome Felton, but there’s no fullback franchise tag; they’d have to tender him at the running back level.

New England Patriots:  The Patriots have a trio of players who are potential candidates for the tag.  Whether it’s receiver Wes Welker, tackle Sebastian Vollmer, cornerback Aqib Talib, or no one, it won’t be an easy decision.  Welker would command $11.4 million, given that he was tagged in 2012.  It would be a shock if they tag him.  Vollmer has Marcus Cannon behind him on the depth chart, plus plenty of other tackles available in free agency.  The Pats could be inclined to let Vollmer leave if someone else is willing to overpay him.  Talib presents the biggest conundrum, given his positive impact on the team’s so-so defense.  They need him, but he present plenty of risk given his history of off-field incidents.

New Orleans Saints:  Left tackle Jermon Bushrod is the most obvious candidate for the tag.  But the Saints don’t have the cap space to spare.  They easily replaced guard Carl Nicks with Ben Grubbs last year, and the tackle market is far more plentiful in 2013 than the market was for guards last season.  Defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis doesn’t project to nose tackle in the team’s new 3-4 defense, but he could be a candidate to play defensive end in Rob Ryan’s defense, if the Saints want to fork over the money necessary to keep him around.  Things would get interesting if the Saints tag Ellis as a tackle despite a desire to move him to end, since there’s a $2.6 million gap between the two tenders.

New York Giants:  But for the likely existence of collusion in the restricted free agency market, the Giants should be thinking about tagging receiver Victor Cruz.  Since teams have abandoned in recent years the pursuit of RFAs, there’s no reason for the Giants to double the compensation they’d get if someone else swipes Cruz.  Left tackle Will Beatty becomes a candidate for the tag, along with safety Kenny Phillips.  The cheapest of all would be tight end Martellus Bennett, who didn’t get the long-term deal he wanted a year ago in free agency, opting instead for a one-year stay in New York and another shot at the market.

New York Jets:  Safety LaRon Landry is the only guy who merits the tag, but his one-year deal from last year expressly prevents the team from using it.  No one else who is due to become a free agent deserves it.

Oakland Raiders:  There’s a major problem with using the franchise tag on punter Shane Lechler, apart from the fact that the Raiders have landed in a salary cap black hole.  While the franchise tag for punters and kickers will be an affordable $2.9 million in 2013, Lechler’s cap number last year was $4.9 million.  Under the CBA, he’s entitled to a 120 percent raise over that number, which translates to a cap number of $5.88 million.  It could be time for the much cheaper Marquette King, a converted receiver who has drawn comparisons to the monster-legged Reggie Roby.  Either way, it’s hard to imagine that the cap-strapped Raiders would pay a punter twice the amount of the base franchise tag for punters.

Philadelphia Eagles:  The Eagles don’t have many looming free agents, which means that they don’t have many candidates for the franchise tag.  Cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie would be one, if he was, you know, better.

Pittsburgh Steelers:  The Steelers have said they won’t use the franchise tag.  Which means that receiver Mike Wallace will hit the open market.  Which means that someone will overpay him on the first day of free agency.

San Diego ChargersLook at their free agents.  Though cornerback Quentin Jammer has been a mainstay in San Diego since 2002, he’s not worth what it would cost to keep him via the franchise tag.  No one else with an expiring contract justifies the tag, which is one of the reasons why there’s a new G.M. and head coach.

San Francisco 49ers:  Safety Dashon Goldson doesn’t want to be tagged again, but what he wants and what he gets could be two different things.  Absent a long-term deal, the Niners have to keep Goldson around — even if using the tag for a second time virtually guarantees he’ll hit the market in 2014.  If Goldson gets a new deal, it’ll be interesting to see whether the Niners would use the tag on their second-string but highly versatile tight end, Delanie Walker.

Seattle Seahawks:  The ultra-low kicker tag of $2.9 million could be used to keep the strong-legged Steven Hauschka.

St. Louis Rams:  Receiver Danny Amendola has become one of the best slot receivers in the NFL, but his injury history and the eight-figure franchise tender for wideouts likely will scare the Rams away.  Still, if Amendola hits the market, he won’t be there long.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers:  The Bucs plans to spend on keeping their own guys.  When it comes to using the tag, it’s a toss-up between tackle Jeremy Trueblood and defensive end Michael Bennett, or neither.

Tennessee Titans:  The Titans reportedly are expected to use the tag on tight end Jared Cook, absent a multi-year deal.  Kicker Rob Bironas also is a possibility, but he had a cap number of $3.675 million in 2012.  Which means that the tag would cost the Titans $4.41 million in 2013, $1.5 million more than the base tag for kickers and punters.

Washington Redskins:  With $18 million in missing cap space, the Redskins can’t afford to use the tag.  Especially since tagging tight end Fred Davis again would bump his 2012 tender by 20 percent — a year after he suffered a torn Achilles tendon.  Punter Sav Rocca is a slim possibility, but even the $2.9 million will be more than the Redskins can justify with their cap situation.

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Tuesday morning one-liners

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A look at Bills DE Jerry Hughes as he approaches free agency.

How can the Dolphins create cap space for the offseason?

The Patriots believe they can run the ball on the Seahawks.

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll called trading Percy Harvin to the Jets a “difficult choice.”

S Matt Elam is hoping to turn things around for the Ravens in 2015.

Is Bengals QB Andy Dalton’s Pro Bowl dud a big deal?

A call for the Browns to part ways with WR Josh Gordon and QB Johnny Manziel.

The Steelers haven’t lost hope in CB Cortez Allen.

Assessing the Texans’ chances of making a Super Bowl trip in the near future.

Stopping Colts WR T.Y. Hilton will be a focus of defensive coordinators in 2015.

S Devin McCourty should be an attractive free agent for the Jaguars if he makes it to the open market.

Speaking of McCourty, Titans CB Jason McCourty will be watching his brother in the Super Bowl this weekend.

The Broncos want more takeaways from their defense in 2015.

Kansas State WR Tyler Lockett would like to play for Chiefs coach Andy Reid.

Said Raiders S Charles Woodson of returning for another year, “I get the opportunity to keep doing what I love and to keep having fun.”

San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer is expected to announce a Chargers stadium advisory group this week.

Does former Cowboys QB Roger Staubach think Russell Wilson is an updated version of himself?

Giants WR Odell Beckham is hosting a fashion show at the Super Bowl.

A suggestion that Eagles coach Chip Kelly take a page from Pete Carroll.

Discussing the pros and cons of trading Redskins WR Pierre Garçon.

The recently deposed members of the Bears coaching staff have found new jobs quickly.

Lions WR Golden Tate admitted to a little envy of his former Seahawks teammates.

Packers coach Mike McCarthy’s brother Joseph was laid to rest on Monday.

Previewing the Vikings’ offseason plans at cornerback.

The Falcons coaching staff keeps taking shape while the team waits for prospective head coach Dan Quinn’s season to come to an end.

Panthers TE Greg Olsen and LB Luke Kuechly could be in line for raises.

Seven Senior Bowl prospects that the Saints were keeping an eye on in Mobile.

Will the Buccaneers find trade interest in QB Mike Glennon?

Cardinals players had the unusual experience of playing the Pro Bowl on their home field.

The Rams will be in St. Louis in 2015, but everything’s cloudy after that.

New 49ers special teams coach Thomas McGaughey likes the team’s trophy case.

Seahawks T Garry Gilliam took the long road to the Super Bowl.

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Fire alarm at Patriots hotel goes off in middle of the night

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The Patriots ball boy who took the footballs to the bathroom is going to have to make room in the doghouse.

Because the guy in charge of wake-up calls at the Patriots’ team hotel is going to be in there with him.

Via Jeff Darlington of the NFL Network, the fire alarm at the Patriots hotel went off in the middle of the night, forcing everyone up for about 10 minutes.

The hotel was not on fire, thankfully.

But the Patriots might not be as well-rested today as they’d have otherwise hoped.

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Mel Tucker headed to University of Alabama

Mel Tucker AP

The Bears fired defensive coordinator Mel Tucker after his unit followed up a dismal 2013 season by being as bad or worse in 2014, all of which combined to deal a blow to his reputation as a coach.

He’s headed to the college ranks to turn things around. Thayer Evans of SI.com reports that Tucker will be the defensive backs coach for the University of Alabama in 2015.

Tucker and Alabama coach Nick Saban have worked together in the past. Tucker was a graduate assistant at Michigan State and coached the secondary for a year when Saban was at LSU, jobs that helped propel him to a defensive coordinator job at Ohio State and then a move into the professional ranks.

Tucker may be trying to make the same kind of jump after his latest stint with Saban and should have plenty of talent on hand to help him do it in Tuscaloosa.

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Seahawks, Patriots both saw seasons turn after losses to Chiefs

Dontari Poe, Russell Wilson AP

The Kansas City Chiefs didn’t make the playoffs this season, but they had a major impact on the playoffs.

Last week, Patriots coach Bill Belichick said that he felt his team’s play in the second half of a 41-14 loss to the Chiefs in Week Four was a turning point for the team. That loss led to a week of questions about how good the Patriots were this season, questions they answered by winning seven straight games and establishing themselves as the best team in the AFC.

On Monday, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said something similar about his team’s 24-20 loss to the Chiefs on November 16. The Seahawks haven’t lost a game since then and Carroll credited a team meeting his players called for galvanizing the change of fortunes.

“There’s no question that the change took place the night we got together and the days to follow because of the leadership of the 12 guys that were in that meeting. They took the thought, they took the messaging and delivered it to the club. I told them I will do our best to keep us on topic, but you guys are going to have to embed the thoughts that are going to give us a chance to adjust at this point and they did a remarkable job,” Carroll said during a press conference. “There’s no doubt that our team has changed and we’ve grown. In essence we really recaptured something that we had understood earlier and we just needed to get back in touch with it.”

The Chiefs don’t get any extra credit in the standings for being a common thread between the two Super Bowl participants, but 2015 will bring better results if they can find a way to extend that success across a full schedule.

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Report: Rams interested in trading for Nick Foles

Philadelphia Eagles v Indianapolis Colts Getty Images

Last year, the Eagles made one of the most surprising moves of the offseason when they released receiver DeSean Jackson. This year, the Eagles may again make a surprising move by getting rid of starting quarterback Nick Foles.

Multiple stories have surfaced this month indicating that Eagles coach Chip Kelly is interested in moving on from Foles, especially if Kelly could replace Foles with his old Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota. The latest report comes from NJ.com, which says that possible suitors are beginning to emerge, and the Rams have interest in Foles.

The Rams have indicated that they would like quarterback Sam Bradford to return this year, but only at the right price. If the Rams can’t convince Bradford to take a significant pay cut from the $13 million he’s scheduled to make this year, they’ll surely release him, and then trading for Foles could make sense.

The question, however, is whether it would make sense for the Eagles. If Kelly is going to get rid of Foles, he has to be confident he can acquire someone better. Unless the Eagles are able to move up in the draft and get Mariota in three months, trading Foles feels like an odd move.

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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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