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Giovani Bernard could see time as receiver for Bengals

Giovani Bernard AP

The Cincinnati Bengals had their choice of any running back in the draft when they selected North Carolina running back Giovani Bernard in the second round in April.

The Bengals are hoping Bernard’s skills give them a more dynamic threat at the running back position than the bigger backs they’ve utilized for the past several seasons. However, the Bengals could be getting an additional benefit from Bernard than just his ability to carry the football.

According to the team’s official website, Bernard saw time at receiver during the Bengals’ offseason workouts and running backs coach Hue Jackson liked what he saw from the rookie.

“He’s so natural catching the ball. He can catch it like a receiver,” Jackson said. “I knew he could catch it really well, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he could go out there and line up outside and catch balls like some other guys can because he has that skill set.”

BenJarvus Green-Ellis started 15 games for the Bengals last season and served as their workhorse back with 1,094 yards and six touchdowns. He still figures to factor in heavily for Cincinnati this season. Bernard could prove to be the versatile threat needed to give another dimension to the Bengals’ offense next season.

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Marshawn Lynch to media: “You know why I’m here”

Super Bowl XLIX Media Day Fueled by Gatorade Getty Images

Marshawn Lynch’s second press conference of Super Bowl week was similar to his first.

One day after repeatedly answering questions by saying he was “just here so I won’t get fined,” Lynch responded to numerous reporters’ queries Wednesday with this response:

“You know why I’m here.”

The “why” is obvious — avoiding fines from the NFL for not complying with media policy. The “how” is clear, too — Lynch will appear, but he will appear on his terms.

“I’m still the same person I was yesterday, and I’ve got the same thing for you that I had yesterday,” Lynch told reporters at the beginning of his press conference Wednesday.

When a reporter asked the tailback why he wouldn’t use press conferences as a way to communicate with fans, Lynch replied: “They know why I’m here.”

According to Jim Wyatt of the Nashville Tennessean, Lynch used a timer to measure how long he would stay, and after four minutes and 58 seconds, he left, thanking reporters before departing.

As was the case Tuesday, Lynch wore a cap with a “Beast Mode” logo emblazoned on the crest. According to ESPN, the NFL “will review” whether the hat is allowable under the league’s brand apparel policy. If not, Lynch could be fined.

Lynch’s final compulsory media session is Thursday.

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Report: Eagles assistant doesn’t want 49ers coordinator job

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The 49ers chose tranquility and control over Jim Harbaugh and his coaching staff.

And now, it looks like they’re having a hard time finding people willing to join new coach Jim Tomsula’s staff.

Via Geoff Mosher of CSNPhilly.com, Tomsula and Eagles receivers coach Bob Bicknell talked about the vacant 49ers offensive coordinator job, but Bicknell wants to stay with the Eagles.

The 49ers were also denied a chance to talk to Colts assistant Rob Chudzinski, and .they could be scrambling to fill a staff.

Moving quarterbacks coach Geep Chryst into that job might be the most sensible option they have with other reported additions to the staff.

But very little about the 49ers can be described as sensible the last several months, so that may not matter.

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Undrafted Patriots are thankful Belichick noticed them

klineconnolly AP

Bill Belichick hasn’t always had a great track record for effectively using his high draft picks. But one area where Belichick excels as a General Manager is in finding undrafted free agents, many of whom will play important roles on Super Bowl Sunday.

Several of the Patriots’ undrafted players told PFT today that they think of New England as a good place for undrafted players, because Belichick’s mindset is that the players who earn playing time will play, regardless of their draft status, their contracts or anything else.

Patriots offensive lineman Ryan Wendell arrived as an undrafted free agent from Fresno State in 2008. He said he had several offers from other teams to sign on their offseason rosters, but when Belichick called it became an easy decision.

“When Bill Belichick calls, it’s hard to say no,” Wendell said.

Wendell said he wasn’t expecting to get drafted and only hoped for a shot in the NFL.

“I knew there was a slim chance,” Wendell said. “Playing in the NFL has been a dream. It’s been an amazing experience.”

Offensive lineman Josh Kline wasn’t expecting to be drafted, either, but during the seventh round of the 2013 draft he started getting phone calls from teams offering him invitations to rookie minicamps. He said he felt like the Patriots were going to be a better fit for him than any other teams that showed interest because he believed they’d give him an honest shot of making the roster.

“The Patriots see more potential than other teams,” Kline said. “They find talent that other teams don’t see.”

Guard Dan Connolly signed with the Jaguars as an undrafted free agent in 2005, spent two years as a backup in Jacksonville, and then signed in New England after the Jaguars cut him. Connolly has become a consistent starter with the Patriots, and he said in New England, it’s understood that every player is always trying to prove himself — just as an undrafted rookie has to do in training camp.

“I was coming out of a small school [Southeast Missouri State] and just hoping to find a place in the NFL,” Connolly said. “Even after years in the NFL, I can always improve.”

Players with that mindset are Belichick’s kind of players.

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Pete Carroll backs Marshawn Lynch’s silent act

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As Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch braces himself for two more days of scheduled availability, his coach is doing his best to defend his player.

Pete Carroll just finished a well-explained explanation for Lynch’s reticence to play along with the media, saying he’s a team leader and simply not comfortable in the role.

“You’re seeing a guy being himself, and not being what everyone else wants him to be,” Carroll said.

Which is fine, such that it fits within a system with rules and consequences.

While we’ve long passed the point of gleaning any insights from Lynch at a podium, the only thing happening now is turning him into a martyr — which he clearly relishes.

Teammates rally around him, fans love the anti-hero quality, and the media’s an easy pinata. Everyone gets that.

But as he’s made commercials for insurance and candy recently, Lynch is showing that he’s not camera-shy. He just wants to engage in communication on his own terms.

And as long as he’s willing to pay the cover charge, he can party in that club all he wants.

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Report: Browns interview Kevin O’Connell for QBs coach role

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A former Patriots backup quarterback is reportedly being considered for the Browns’ quarterbacks coach position.

Kevin O’Connell, a third-round pick of New England in 2008, is meeting with Cleveland on Wednesday, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported.

The 29-year-old O’Connell appeared in just two regular season games with New England, both as a reserve as a rookie. The Patriots parted ways with him before the 2009 regular season. He later had stints with the Jets, Lions, Dolphins and Chargers.

More recently, O’Connell has been a quarterbacking tutor, and he worked with Cleveland’s Johnny Manziel before the 2014 draft. Manziel comes off a disappointing rookie season, one that saw his play and preparation come under criticism. And as the 2015 offseason begins, Manziel’s development figures a top priority for Cleveland.

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Marshawn Lynch faces a possible fine, but not for not talking

Lynch

Seahawks running might Marshawn Lynch might have avoided a fine yesterday by saying he was just there to avoid a fine, but his plan might have had a hitch.

Via Adam Schefter of ESPN, Lynch’s wearing a non-licensed hat could subject him to another financial penalty.

The league’s going to review it after the Super Bowl, but there’s plenty of precedent for guys taking big financial hits for promoting brands that the league’s not promoting. Brian Urlacher was docked $100,000 for wearing a hat promoting a beverage that was not the beverage which paid the league a lot more money than that for promotional exclusivity.

Lynch’s hat was to promote his personal brand, which makes the case a bit different. The league didn’t comment, and we’re guessing Lynch won’t either.

But it’s clear he doesn’t feel subject to the same rules as everyone else, and is all too happy to build a counter-culture stick-it-to-the-man image for his own financial benefit.

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It’s easy to quickly deflate a football

Football Getty Images

As the news regarding #DeflateGate has slowed to an enlarged-prostate trickle (for now), the biggest remaining questions are:  (1) what did that Patriots employee do with a bag of footballs in 90 seconds behind a closed door?; and (2) is 90 seconds enough time to let air out of nearly a dozen footballs?

Barring a deathbed (or sooner) confession, we’ll never know the answer to the first question.  As to the second question, plenty of folks have been experimenting with footballs and needles.

On Tuesday’s PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio, for example, I inserted a needle for a few seconds into a ball that had been inflated to 13.5 PSI.  A loud hiss emerged, and when the needle was removed it was easier to squeeze the ball.  It became clear to me then that, if someone wanted to deflate 10-12 balls in 90 seconds, it would indeed be possible.

Gersh Kuntzman of the New York Daily News performed a more organized test, taking 12 balls that had been inflated to 13 PSI and removed two PSI in a total of 40 seconds.  Adding in the time necessary to open the bag and to access the balls and to enter and exit the bathroom, the exercise took 77 seconds.

Kuntzman isn’t the only one who has done it.  One highly-placed official with an NFL team “took the top off” a dozen balls in a mere 56 seconds.

“Next time I’m gonna pee as well,” the source said.

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PFT Live comes to you from Super Bowl Radio Row at noon ET

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We’ve drawn a day closer to the Super Bowl and gotten through Media Day, but there’s still plenty to talk about regarding the Patriots and Seahawks before Sunday.

We’ll be doing it with several great guests on Wednesday’s installment of PFT Live. Former NFL rushing leader LaDainian Tomlinson and former Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward will give us the view from former NFL stars while current Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor and Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles will share their thoughts on the Super Bowl while also talking about their own futures in the game. Greg Cosell of NFL Films is also scheduled to be on the show.

We also want to hear from PFT Planet. You can call the show by dialing 855-323-4NBC, email questions at any time via the O’Reilly Auto Parts Ask the Pros inbox or get in touch on Twitter at @ProFootballTalk.

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, again, you can also watch a simulcast of all three hours of the show by clicking right here.

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Tom Brady Has a Cold

Tom Brady AP

As he met the Super Bowl media Wednesday morning, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady appeared to be dealing with a cold, sounding congested, sniffling on occasion and wiping his nose on sleeve a couple times.

Asked about the cold, Brady indicated it was . . . well, a cold.

“Yeah, I’ve had it for four or five days,” Brady said. “My kids got sick, and then my wife’s pretty sick right now, so I brought it, unfortunately, to Phoenix. But I’ll be fine. I’ll be good.”

Asked a follow-up about how Patriots fans might be a little concerned about his health, Brady replied: “I’ll be at 100 percent. Yeah, I’ll be great. I’m not worried about it all.”

Patriots fans probably shouldn’t worry, either. And if they are, we have the perfect prescription to help pass a little time.

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Washington hires Mark Clark as strength and conditioning coach

The Philadelphia Eagles play the Washington Redskins Getty Images

The Redskins continued turning over their coaching staff on Tuesday with a pair of hires.

The team made official the addition of former Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell as their new defensive backs coach and also announced that Mark Clark will be joining the team as their new strength and conditioning coach.

Clark worked for the Bears in the same role for the last three years and was in Kansas City for three years before that. His first NFL job came with the Seahawks, who hired him in 2004 and kept him on the staff until he departed after the 2009 season. He spent 23 years in the college ranks before that and was twice named the Strength Coach of the Year by the Collegiate Strength and Conditioning Coaches Association when he was at Texas A&M.

Clark replaces Ray Wright, who was fired early this month after five years with the club. The moves continue a busy offseason that’s seen the Redskins make defensive coordinator Joe Barry and offensive line coach Bill Callahan a pair of high-profile additions to Jay Gruden’s staff.

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Seahawks G.M.: John Idzik just needed more time

John Idzik AP

Former Jets General Manager John Idzik was a part of a good front office in Seattle, and his old boss thinks the Jets didn’t give him enough time to succeed.

Via Brian Costello of the New York Post, Seahawks G.M. John Schneider thinks Idzik could have succeeded eventually.

I felt bad for him,” Schneider said. “I think that, it’s just my personal opinion that you should be able to hire a head coach. If you’re going into a situation like that, try to make it work with the coach that’s there and then if it doesn’t, hire your own coach and see where it goes. . . .

“It’s an entertainment industry, so you know going in that it’s tough, especially in New York City. We just talked about staying positive and what his next step is going to be. We’re just good friends.”

Of course, Idzik never got a chance to hire that coach, as he and Rex Ryan were swept out after two years, and it remains to be seen when or if there is a next step for Idzik.

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LeGarrette Blount admits Seahawks defense is “pretty good”

Super Bowl XLIX Media Day Fueled by Gatorade Getty Images

The Patriots have moved the ball well enough that they can be confident.

And they’re certainly not intimidated by the Seahawks.

Via Mark Daniels of the Providence Journal, Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount said about the closest thing to trash talk about the Seahawks yet.
“I don’t care about them being the top defense, that doesn’t bother me,” Blount said. “They were good enough to get here, just like we were good enough to get here. They’re not immortal. They can be beaten. . . .

“Obviously they’re a pretty good defense. They were good enough to get here, they were good enough to get here last year, so we are going to put a plan together to hopefully make sure we come out victorious.”

The Seahawks led the league in total defense this year, and were third against the run. For the Patriots to make a dent in that, Blount’s going to have to be at his best.

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Aubrayo Franklin returning to 49ers as assistant coach

San Francisco 49ers v Seattle Seahawks Getty Images

When defensive tackle Aubrayo Franklin played for the 49ers, his position coach was Jim Tomsula.

Tomsula has moved up the ladder to become the team’s head coach this offseason and it looks like that’s opened the door for Franklin to return to the team. He won’t be playing on the defensive front this time, however.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee reports that Franklin will be taking a job as an entry level defensive assistant coach on Tomsula’s staff for the 2015 season. Per Barrows, the 49ers want Franklin to serve as an “apprentice” to a more experienced and as yet unnamed defensive line coach.

Franklin played for the 49ers from 2007-2010, starting in 60 of the 62 games he played for the team. Franklin went on to play for the Saints and Chargers before playing his final NFL snaps as a starter with the Colts during the 2013 season.

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Jaguars hire Kelly Skipper to coach running backs

20150127-skipper

The influx of coaches from the league’s worst offense to its next-to-worst offense continues.

Via Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union, the Jaguars have hired Kelly Skipper as their running backs coach.

While Skipper and new Jaguars coordinator Greg Olson presided over the league’s worst offense last year, their presence could still help the Jaguars, who were 31st.

Skipper’s actually a good coach, despite spending the last eight years with the Raiders. He’s also worked as an offensive coordinator at UCLA.

He’s also coming closer to family, as his brother Tim’s working at the University of Florida and his father Jim is coaching the Panthers’ running backs.

Photo credit: Jaguars.com

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Greg Roman giving EJ Manuel a clean slate

Cleveland Browns v Buffalo Bills Getty Images

The Doug Marrone regime didn’t give Bills quarterback EJ Manuel much rope in 2014, yanking him from the lineup after four games and turning the offense over to Kyle Orton for the rest of the year.

Orton retired after taking Buffalo to a 9-7 record and Marrone opted to take a $4 million payout and an assistant job on Jacksonville’s staff, which provides Manuel with some new life in Buffalo. New offensive coordinator Greg Roman said Tuesday that he’s been watching film on Manuel and that Manuel has the skills to play the position, but said that what happens in their work together will determine his role on the team in 2015.

“I’m not going to get into specifics,” Roman said, via the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle. “I think he’s done some good things and displayed some good traits. We just have to get his level of consistency a little greater. Once we get through this evaluation process, he and every player is going to have a clean slate. What they might have been asked to do in the past is really not relevant to what we may or may not ask them to do. For me to pontificate about this, that, and the other, it’s a little premature.”

When Orton retired, the Bills talked about adding one or two more quarterbacks to the mix, although that came before Marrone decided to opt out of his deal. With Jeff Tuel currently the only other quarterback in town, it’s a good bet that they will still be looking for other options at the position in the event that the new boss feels the same way about Manuel as the old boss.

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