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Schiano says he’s “absolutely not” the source of medical information released about Freeman

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v New England Patriots Getty Images

Although an exercise in dueling statements didn’t break out on Monday night after Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman responded to the report that he’s in Stage One of the substance-abuse program, coach Greg Schiano responded in a Tuesday session with reporters.

Per Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times, Schiano said he’s “absolutely not” the source of confidential medical information being released about Freeman.

It’s not a surprising response, and it may indeed be technically accurate.  The Bucs and Schiano would have had no reason to leak anything about Freeman on Monday, at a time when the Bucs are trying to trade Freeman.

The suspicion regarding leaks occurring by or at the behest of Schiano emerged last month, in the aftermath of reports of a players-only meeting that addressed, among other things, concerns about the legitimacy of the vote that resulted in Freeman no longer being a captain.  That’s when negative information about Freeman began to percolate, such as the fact that he failed to show up for the team photo.

“Unfortunately, it appears that some people who may have noticed the [drug] testing at my workplace have made hurtful and incorrect assumptions and chosen to disseminate inaccurate and very disturbing information,” Freeman said in a statement released last night.  That sentence sweeps far more broadly than Chris Mortensen’s report that Freeman is in Stage One of the substance-abuse program, and the leaks that occurred (if Freeman’s allegations are accurate) predated the moment at which the Bucs decided to trade him.

As we understand it, Freeman and his representatives suspect that Schiano or someone working for Schiano began spreading negative information and rumors about Freeman after Schiano’s counting of the captain votes came into question.  If that was the plan, it initially worked; fans and folks in the media realized that players wouldn’t want Freeman to be a captain based on the things that were being discussed and reported.

But now, as Freeman tries to finagle a path out of Tampa with his salary paid and the ability to sign with anyone he chooses, those past leaks (if they happened) have become the basis for an attempt to pressure the Bucs to cut Freeman.

And cut him they should.  Who cares if Freeman gets what he wants?  The Bucs also will be getting what they need — and end to the drama and the distraction, and an opportunity to focus on the players who’ll actually be playing football for the organization.

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Jaguars hire Tyrone Wheatley as running backs coach

DENVER - SEPTEMBER 22:  Tyrone Wheatley #47 of the Oakland Raiders runs to the outside as defensive end Trevor Pryce #93 of the Denver Broncos pursues him on September 22, 2003 at Invesco Field at Mile High in Denver, Colorado. The Broncos defeated the Raiders 31-10. (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Jaguars have announced the hiring on Tyrone Wheatley as their new running backs coach.

Wheatley previously coached under new Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone in the college ranks and with the Bills.

Wheatley, 44, had a 10-year career as an NFL running back with the Giants and Raiders. He’s spent the last two seasons as running backs coach at his alma mater, Michigan.

“I am excited to have Tyrone join our staff and work with our running backs,” Marrone said in a statement. “I have worked with him for five years and know the type of leader and teacher that he is. He is an exceptional coach and will bring out the best in his players. He brings a charisma, attitude and Super Bowl-playing experience to the staff that will be vital.”

The Jaguars reportedly interviewed Chip Kelly for their offensive coordinator job on Monday.

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Pete Carroll admits to injury-reporting violation

SEATTLE, WA - JANUARY 07:  National Football League commissioner Roger Goodell (L) talks with head coach Pete Carroll of the Seattle Seahawks before the NFC Wild Card game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Detroit Lions at CenturyLink Field on January 7, 2017 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images) Getty Images

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll accidentally wandered into quicksand on Monday during a radio appearance, admitting that cornerback Richard Sherman played for much of the year with an MCL injury to his knee that never was disclosed. At his end-of-season press conference conducted later in the day, Carroll admitted to the violation.

“I didn’t realize that we hadn’t even revealed it,” Carroll told reporters, via the transcript generated by the team. “I don’t even remember what game it was, it was somewhere in the middle, he was fine about it, he didn’t miss anything. Same with Russell [Wilson], he was fine about it. I don’t know how they do that, but they did.”

Carroll seems to believe that, because Carroll never missed practice or game time due to the injury, the injury didn’t need to be disclosed.

“He never missed anything, just like Russell [Wilson], Russell never missed anything and Tyler [Lockett], they all had it during the course of the season and they just made it through it,” Carroll said, overlooking the fact that Russell’s MCL injury was properly disclosed. “They never complained, they didn’t want to miss a practice and they basically didn’t miss anything but they were legit, it was legit injury, it showed up and the whole thing. That’s a challenge for anyone. Guys over the league are going through the same thing, our guys just happen to be doing it as well.”

None of this changes the fact that the Seahawks failed to disclose the injury.

“I’m feeling like I screwed that up with not telling you that,” Carroll eventually conceded. “He was OK, so I don’t know, he never missed anything I guess is probably why.”

Still, that’s not the standard. Plenty of players who never miss practice or games nevertheless are disclosed on the injury report. While the league rarely slaps a team for violating the rules, the league rarely has such clear evidence of a violation fall into its lap.

Coupled with a pair of offseason workout violations from the past three offseason, the NFL could be inclined to take potentially significant action against a team that has developed a pattern of breaking the rules. Or, perhaps more accurately given the prevalence of cheating in the NFL, that the Seahawks have developed a pattern of getting caught.

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Jets sign Brian Winters to four-year extension

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - OCTOBER 23:   Brian Winters #67 of the New York Jets in action against  James Hurst #74 of the Baltimore Ravens during their game at MetLife Stadium on October 23, 2016 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Jets won’t let right guard Brian Winters hit the open market as a free agent this offseason.

The team announced on Monday evening that Winters has signed a four-year extension with the team. No financial terms were included in the announcement, but multiple reports peg the value at around $8 million per year.

Winters was a third-round pick in 2013 and has started 41 games over his four seasons with the team. Thirteen of those starts came in 2016, although he ended the season on injured reserve thanks to a torn rotator cuff.

Winters turned in good work when he was healthy and his return gives the Jets some certainty at an uncertain spot for the group. Four players ended the year on injured reserve and veteran tackles Breno Giacomini and Ryan Clady could be moving on. Brandon Shell, a 2015 fifth-round pick, likely fits in somewhere, but center Nick Mangold’s $9 million cap number has led to discussion about his future with the team.

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All signs point to Sunday night divisional-round game becoming the norm

KANSAS CITY, MP - JANUARY 15:  Inside linebacker Ryan Shazier #50 of the Pittsburgh Steelers celebrates a play against the Kansas City Chiefs during the second quarter in the AFC Divisional Playoff game at Arrowhead Stadium on January 15, 2017 in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images) Getty Images

It’s not exactly the discovery of plutonium by accident. But Sunday night was an awakening for the NFL.

Ever since the NFL first started staging Saturday night wild-card and divisional-round playoff games, the possibility of shifting the Sunday schedule from 1:05 p.m. ET and 4:40 p.m. ET to 4:40 p.m. ET and 8:20 p.m. ET had been lingering. And then, with a shift of a single early Sunday game to prime-time necessitated by weather issues in Kansas City, the league apparently will be declaring “eureka!” and making the move permanent.

The league had resisted this in the past because it creates a competitive disadvantage where, as in the case of the Steelers, they traveled home late Sunday night and will travel again before Sunday’s game. Meanwhile, the Patriots played at home on Saturday, don’t have to travel at all, and get extra time to prepare, rest, etc. (And no matter what the Steelers have said or will say publicly, they were not happy about the shift in the starting time for Sunday’s game.)

The next question is whether the league will do the same thing on the Sunday night of the wild-card round. The possibility that a team playing on the first Sunday night of the playoffs would have to play on the following Saturday could be a factor, especially since the home game in the divisional round has 13 or 14 days between games.

The overriding factor continues to be (drum roll, please) money, and the NFL will make more of it if games are dropped into prime time on Sunday night. Also, the league will get even greater exposure from games played during windows that will be conducive to more people watching.

Which makes it odd that it took an experiment born of need to get the NFL to realize what had been hiding in plain sight for years.

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Mike Groh interviews for Eagles wide receivers coaching job

CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 15: Brandon Marshall #15 and wide receivers coach Mike Groh on the field during pregame warms up before a game against the New Orleans Saints at Soldier Field on December 15, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Brian Kersey/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Eagles interviewed Mike Groh for their vacant wide receivers coaching job on Monday, ESPN’s Adam Caplan reported.

Groh was the wide receivers coach for the Bears from 2013-15 and spent last season as the wide receivers coach and passing game coordinator with the Rams. Groh has also coached in the college ranks including a stint as offensive coordinator under his father, Al Groh, at Virginia.

The Eagles had previously interviewed Bills wide receivers coach Sanjay Lal for the job, which opened following the dismissal of Greg Lewis earlier this month.

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Greg Manusky expected to interview for promotion in Washington

PITTSBURGH, PA - OCTOBER 26:  Defensive coordinator Greg Manusky of the Indianapolis Colts looks on from the sideline during a game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field on October 26, 2014 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  The Steelers defeated the Colts 51-34.  (Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images) Getty Images

The list of candidates for the Redskins’ defensive coordinator job added several names on Monday.

Rob Ryan interviewed with the team and Jason Tarver is expected in later in the week. They are also slated to speak to an in-house candidate.

John Keim of ESPN.com reports that outside linebackers coach Greg Manusky will interview for the coordinator job. Manusky joined Jay Gruden’s staff last year after spending four years as the defensive coordinator for the Colts. Manusky, who played for the Redskins in the late 1980s, has also been the top defensive coach for the Chargers and 49ers.

Mike Pettine and Gus Bradley have also interviewed for the job, with Bradley also believed to be a candidate with the Chargers and a possible choice for Tom Cable if he were to get the 49ers head coaching position.

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Broncos interviewing special teams coaches

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The Broncos interviewed Bears assistant special teams coach Richard Hightower for the team’s special teams coach position on Monday, Mike Klis of News9 in Denver reported.

Klis reported that Greg McMahon, former Saints special teams coach, will interview for the job on Tuesday.

McMahon was fired by the Saints earlier this month after nine years as special teams coach and 11 with the team.

The Bears hired Hightower last January. He has 10 years of NFL coaching experience including stints in Houston, Washington, Cleveland and San Francisco.

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Bears expected to hire Jeremiah Washburn as offensive line coach

DETROIT, MI - CIRCA 2011: In this handout image provided by the NFL,  Jeremiah Washburn of the Detroit Lions poses for his NFL headshot circa 2011 in Detroit, Michigan.  (Photo by NFL via Getty Images) Getty Images

Jeremiah Washburn spent seven years coaching offensive linemen with the Lions and it appears he’s headed back to the NFC North after spending last season in Miami.

Alex Marvez of Sporting News reports that the Bears will hire Washburn as their offensive line coach. They parted ways with Dave Magazu at the end of the season as John Fox shuffled some parts of his staff after a 3-13 season.

Washburn was the assistant offensive line coach in Miami last season and worked under Chris Foerster, who was blocked from interviewing with the Rams about their offensive coordinator vacancy. Washburn was the head line coach in Detroit from 2013-15 and the assistant in his first four years with the club.

Washburn worked with his father Jim in both Detroit and Miami, where the elder Washburn is on the Dolphins staff as a senior defensive assistant and pass rush specialist.

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Andy Reid more measured than Travis Kelce about late holding call

Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid speaks during a news conference after an NFL divisional playoff football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday, Jan. 15, 2017, in Kansas City, Mo. The Steelers won 18-16. Reid doesn’t believe the holding penalty on left tackle Eric Fisher that cost Kansas City a tying 2-point conversion against Pittsburgh on Sunday night should have been called. (AP Photo/Ed Zurga, File) AP

Arrowhead Stadium was rocking after Alex Smith found tight end Demetrius Harris in the end zone for a two-point conversion in the fourth quarter, but the joy at tying the game ended when referee Carl Cheffers explained the reason for a penalty flag on the field.

Left tackle Eric Fisher was penalized for holding Steelers linebacker James Harrison and the score remained 18-16 Steelers when the Chiefs couldn’t convert from 10 yards further away. Tight end Travis Kelce had a colorful reaction to the holding call after the game, saying that Cheffers shouldn’t be allowed to wear a striped shirt on an NFL field or as an employee at Foot Locker.

Chiefs coach Andy Reid said Sunday night that he wanted to see replays of the Fisher-Harrison interaction before sharing his thoughts on the call. He shared them on Monday and found common ground with Kelce about the quality of the call if not the way he chose to express it.

“There are certain things you agree with and don’t agree with during games,” Reid said, via ESPN.com. “It really doesn’t matter now that we’re sitting here. I don’t want to be fined any money but I would tell you I was probably leaning the other way. I thought Fish did what he needed to do on that particular block to get that done and the problem is when [Harrison] slipped it can look worse than it is. I know Fish is going to have a lot of eyes on him for that call, and I’m not sure I completely agree with what took place, but it did. The call was made and we live with that.”

Reid is correct about it not mattering much what the Chiefs think of a call that can’t be changed, no matter how hard it might be to think of anything but that ruling and the loss that followed in the near future.

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Antonio Brown video creates problem for player, team

KANSAS CITY, MP - JANUARY 15: Head coach Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers congratulates wide receiver Antonio Brown #84 following the Steelers win against the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Divisional Playoff game at Arrowhead Stadium on January 15, 2017 in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images) Getty Images

For Steelers receiver Antonio Brown, the far more significant problem arising from his decision to post live video from the locker room after Sunday night’s win over the Chiefs flows from the undoubtedly strong reaction his head coach will have to the maneuver — especially because the video itself includes an admonition from Mike Tomlin to be smart on social media. But Brown’s behavior created a pair of other problems, for him and for the Steelers.

For starters, Brown violated the league’s social-media policy, which prohibits tweets, live videos, etc. from 90 minutes before kickoff through the conclusion of the post-game media obligations. For that infraction, Brown undoubtedly will be fined.

The broader problem from the team’s perspective is that Brown’s decision to broadcast live video triggers a violation of the league’s TV contracts. The broadcast partners have exclusive rights to video shot in the locker room after the game, and the teams or the league can’t use it for 24 hours. While it’s unlikely that NBC will make a fuss about it, it’s the kind of practice that teams need to prevent; if unchecked, it eventually could trigger a claim that the deals are being breached.

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Texans part ways with George Godsey

HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 30:  Brock Osweiler #17 of the Houston Texans talks with offensive coordinator George Godsey on the sideline in the fourth quarter against the Detroit Lions at NRG Stadium on October 30, 2016 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images) Getty Images

At a time when some have been wondering whether the Texans will have a mutual parting with coach Bill O’Brien, the team has indeed experienced a mutual parting, but one level down from the top of the coaching staff.

The Texans have announced that they have parted ways with offensive coordinator George Godsey.

“I’m grateful for the tireless work ethic and contributions George has made to our team over the last three years,” O’Brien said in a team-issued release. “I wish him nothing but the best in the future.”

Earlier in the day, O’Brien hinted that changes could come at the offensive coordinator position.

“We’re looking at everything,” O’Brien told reporters. “Look, George does a lot of good stuff for me — every coach does. I have even met with Bob [McNair] yet. I haven’t met with Rick [Smith] yet. We look at everything. Every coach is evaluated. I’m evaluated. I haven’t even heard about my evaluation from the owner. Look, I expect to be here next year, but we will begin the evaluation process here in a minute. Now, don’t take that and run with it, either. I’m going to be the head coach here next year. Again, just trying to inject some humor into it, but again it will be a headline. Everything is evaluated and that’s the process that starts here this afternoon.”

Apparently, the end result of the evaluation process was that O’Brien will return. He’ll return with a new offensive coordinator.

To make a quality hire, O’Brien will have to convince the person to whom he offers the job that it will be an assignment that lasts more than one season. Given that every joke has a kernel of truth, that may not be easy to do.

Given that the Texans are tied to Brock Osweiler for another season, it may be even more difficult to do.

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Who will Bill Belichick try to take away from Steelers offense?

KANSAS CITY, MP - JANUARY 15: Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers begins to hand the ball off to running back Le'Veon Bell #26 of the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Divisional Playoff game at Arrowhead Stadium on January 15, 2017 in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images) Getty Images

When it comes to devising a defensive game plan, Patriots coach Bill Belichick has a simple approach: Take away what the opposing offense does best. So what will he try to take away from the Steelers on Sunday?

Putting the clamps on running back Le’Veon Bell could open up a passing game that features quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and receiver Antonio Brown. Taking away the passing game means Bell could run wild.

One of Belichick’s best game plans came when he served as the defensive coordinator of the Giants in Super Bowl XXV. He persuaded the New York defense to buy in to an approach that invited Bills Hall of Fame running back Thurman Thomas to run the ball, allowing Thomas to have a big day on the ground but slowing down the quick-strike K-Gun offense. Fifteen years ago, when facing the Greatest Show on Turf in Super Bowl XXXVI, Belichick focused on taking away the passing game, dropping extra players into coverage and daring coach Mike Martz to run the ball. Martz, too stubborn to deviate from what we wanted to do, refused to adjust.

So what will Belichick do against the Steelers and Bell? Sunday night’s 170-yard output from Bell resulted in zero touchdowns for the team, so maybe Belichick should be willing to let Bell get his yards with a bend-don’t-break effort to avoid big plays and easy scores in the passing game.

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Bill Belichick isn’t worried about videos on “Instant Chat”

FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 14:  Bill Belichick head coach of the New England Patriots looks on in the first half against the Houston Texans during the AFC Divisional Playoff Game at Gillette Stadium on January 14, 2017 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images) Getty Images

Patriots coach Bill Belichick has some stock responses for questions from the media that have become well-worn parts of his public image at this point in his career.

The advent of social media added a few new ones to Belichick’s repertoire, particularly when it comes to using the wrong names for well-known companies that operate in that space. The video posted by Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown from the team’s locker room on Facebook after Sunday’s win that featured Mike Tomlin telling his team to get their minds on the AFC title game because the a-holes in New England have had an extra day to prepare.

“As you know I’m not on Snap Face and all those,” Belichick said on WEEI on Monday afternoon. “I’m not too worried what they put on Instant Chat.”

Should Belichick watch the video, chances are he isn’t going to be too shocked by anything that goes on given how long he’s been in the game and that nothing’s going to change his mind about being a more active Face Page user.

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Bill O’Brien not ready to declare Brock Osweiler his 2017 starter

FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 14: Brock Osweiler #17 of the Houston Texans looks on in the second half against the New England Patriots during the AFC Divisional Playoff Game at Gillette Stadium on January 14, 2017 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) Getty Images

Texans coach Bill O’Brien benched Brock Osweiler this year, and he only got his job back when the backup got a concussion.

So it makes sense that O’Brien isn’t ready to declare Osweiler his starter for next season.

Via Sarah Barshop of ESPN.com, O’Brien stalled when asked about his quarterback’s status Monday.

“Before I talk about those types of things, I have to evaluate it myself,” O’Brien said. “I’ve got to talk to our coaching staff, get their input, personnel people, get their input. So I wouldn’t be a good head coach if I stood up here and said, this is what I’m planning to do. The game is less than 48 hours ago. We’re going to evaluate everything.”

Osweiler’s entering the second year of that four-year, $72 million contract they gave him out of desperation last year — when they were hoping to avoid being a a 9-7 team with a great defense and no quarterback.

As it turns out, Osweiler was practically Ryan Fitzpatrick or Brian Hoyer, and the result was the same.

But the contract might have been enough to make him the incumbent, except for the fact Tom Savage replaced him late in the season before a concussion knocked him out of the lineup.

And with the last memory a three-interception performance against the Patriots, Osweiler’s going to have a long offseason to prove himself.

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Andy Reid: Loss wasn’t all about Alex Smith

KANSAS CITY, MP - JANUARY 15:  Quarterback Alex Smith #11 of the Kansas City Chiefs walks of the field after being defeated by the Pittsburgh Steelers with a score of 18 to 16 in the AFC Divisional Playoff game at Arrowhead Stadium on January 15, 2017 in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) Getty Images

The final four teams playing this season are quarterbacked by Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger and Matt Ryan, a group that was described as three Hall of Famers and the favorite for MVP this year in a question posed to Chiefs coach Andy Reid at a Monday press conference.

Reid was asked about whether Alex Smith measured up to that group when it came to being able to get the Chiefs to the next level of success.

“Do I still think you can win with Alex? We were right there to do that,” Reid said, via the Kansas City Star. “He made a phenomenal throw on the two-point play to put us in a position to take care of business. This wasn’t all about Alex, that’s not what this was. That’s not what this came down to.”

One question for any team that might contemplate a quarterback change is whether they can find someone better than what’s already on hand and it’s an especially important one for a team like the Chiefs that have so many other pieces in place at the moment.

Upgrading on Smith from freely available talent won’t be easy and the Chiefs know what to expect from Smith. There’s a low ceiling for offensive fireworks, but there are also limited mistakes and the combination has worked well enough for them to go to the playoffs three times over the last four years. For those reasons and the near $10 million in dead money the Chiefs would have if they cut Smith, thinking about who might be next in line at quarterback seems likelier than a change in the starting lineup in 2017.

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