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Chiefs planning bigger workload for Jamaal Charles

Oakland Raiders v Kansas City Chiefs Getty Images

Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles is averaging 24.5 touches per week through the first six weeks of the season, which puts him on pace for 392 on the season.

That’s a hefty number for any back and especially so for a back that’s already dealt with minor injuries to his quad and toes this season. According to Chiefs offensive coordinator Doug Pederson, though, Charles’ workload is only going to rise as the season progresses.

“He’s a guy who steadily wants a little more each week, a little more responsibility, and the more he gets comfortable in our system and what we’re asking him to do, we’ll put a little more on his plate,” Pederson said, via the Kansas City Star. “He’s so explosive, and we want to be able to use him in that fashion and create matchups in our favor.”

Charles is leading the NFL in yards from scrimmage and the Chiefs have been winning behind a ground-heavy offensive attack , which makes it easy to understand why the Chiefs would want to keep feeding him the ball as much as possible. Since he’s accounted for 775 of the 1,958 yards they’ve gained on offense this season, the Chiefs will need to be mindful of the risk of Charles wearing down when formulating plans for his workload. Absent an upgrade from Knile Davis at the No. 2 back, the Chiefs wouldn’t be able to thrive should Charles wind up on the sideline.

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Lane Kiffin staying at Alabama

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If the 49ers were hoping to land Lane Kiffin as their offensive coordinator, they’ll need to look in a different direction.

Kiffin announced Saturday that he’ll return for a second season running the offense at the University of Alabama. There were reports earlier this month that Kiffin was a “front-runner” for the same job on Jim Tomsula’s staff, but he’s decided to keep on rolling with Nick Saban after leading the Crimson Tide to a school record for total offense.

“I made a comment at the Sugar Bowl that I would be back this fall at Alabama and that is definitely the plan. This time of year, there are lots of things out there regarding other coaching opportunities, but I want to reaffirm my commitment to the University of Alabama, Coach Saban, and our team,” Kiffin said in a statement. “I’m excited about what our offensive staff was able to accomplish last year, but I also think there are a lot of things we can do a better job of in terms of putting our players in the best situation to have success.”

Colts assistant Rob Chudzinski is also thought to be a candidate for the job. The Colts blocked him from interviewing, but Chudzinski’s contract is coming to an end so he’ll be free to talk to the 49ers as long as they don’t hire someone else.

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Packers’ Sam Shields admits he thinks Dez Bryant made the catch

samshields AP

Packers cornerback Sam Shields was covering Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant on his infamous overruled catch when their teams met in the playoffs. At the time, Shields said the ref made a good call in reversing the catch. Now Shields admits that’s not how he saw it.

Shields told ESPN that he believes Bryant did catch the ball, and he is surprised the Packers won their challenge of the play.

It was a catch,” Shields said, “But the new rule and at the last minute what happened, that’s what the refs came up with. I never said he didn’t catch it. He made a helluva catch I was in great coverage. Like I said, it was good on good and he came up with the catch.”

Shields seems surprised that Bryant reaching for the goal line didn’t constitute a “football move” that would make it a catch.

“I did look back and I seen him reaching and I guess that’s when he didn’t control the ball as he was doing that,” Shields said.

What Shields doesn’t seem to realize is that the NFL rules say that when a player makes a catch as he’s going to the ground, he must maintain control, and Bryant didn’t. Under NFL rules, it wasn’t a catch. But the fact that even Shields thinks it was a catch shows just how convoluted the NFL’s rules are.

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NFL to test new replay system at Pro Bowl

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This year’s Pro Bowl will be used to experiment with a variety of new procedures.  Most already were known.  One potentially significant one wasn’t.

Per Darren Rovell of ESPN.com, replay review during the Pro Bowl will be conducted via review of the play on a Microsoft Surface tablet — and with communication via Bose headphones.

That replaces the voting-booth approach the NFL has used since replay review returned well over a decade ago, with the referee examining a monitor hidden behind a curtain.

Per Rovell, the change is part of an effort to better integrate the products for which the NFL is paid millions of dollars to use.  It’s unclear whether the NFL will ditch the mobile replay unit and use tablets exclusively for games that count.

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Bill Belichick on sideline videotaping: “We never did it again”

Bill Belichick AP

After a more than 2,000-word opening statement in his Saturday press conference detailing how the club’s footballs might have become under-inflated in the AFC title game vs. Indianapolis, Patriots coach Bill Belichick opened the floor for a question-and-answer session.

Seven questions in, a sore subject for the Patriots was broached: the 2007 videotaping scandal that cost the club a first-round pick and $250,000 in fines, plus another $500,000 docked from Belichick.

According to the press conference transcript from the Patriots, here’s what Belichick was asked:

“You said you always try to err on the side of caution and stay on the right side of the rules, but with the videotaping it was clear that you were pushing the envelope on that. Is that something that changed that?”

Here was Belichick’s response, per the Patriots:

“I mean, look, that’s a whole other discussion,” Belichick said of the Patriots’ taping of the Jets’ signals from the sidelines. “The guy’s giving signals out in front of 80,000 people, OK?

“So we filmed him taking signals out in front of 80,000 people, like there were a lot of other teams doing at that time, too. Forget about that. If we were wrong then we’ve been disciplined for that.”

Before a follow-up question could be completed, Belichick continued:

“The guy’s in front of 80,000 people. 80,000 people saw it. Everybody [on the] sideline saw it. Everybody sees our guy in front of the 80,000 people. I mean, there he is.

“So, it was wrong, we were disciplined for it. That’s it. We never did it again. We’re never going to do it again and anything else that’s close, we’re not going to do either.”

It’s possible Belichick could again be asked about “Spygate” at the Super Bowl, especially after indicating Saturday that “there were a lot of other teams” filming signals around 2007, too. However, it doesn’t seem likely Belichick would be very expansive about this topic next week. To borrow a phrase from Jerry Reinsdorf, this might be our only bite of the apple on “Spygate.”

Then again, who saw Saturday’s press conference coming?

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Belichick’s explanation on inflation raises new questions

Belichick AP

Saturday’s unexpected press conference from Patriots coach Bill Belchick seemed like an effort to put the issue behind the team as the trip to Phoenix and Super Bowl XLIX awaits.  But Belichick’s words, which deftly loaded up the media with information on the subject at a time when the NFL is providing very little, raise several key questions.

Most significantly, Belichick’s Thursday and Saturday press conferences starkly differ on one key question:  Who inflates the footballs?

“Obviously with our footballs being inflated to the 12.5-pound range, any deflation would then take us under that specification limit,” Belichick said Thursday.  “Knowing that now, in the future we will certainly inflate the footballs above that low level to account for any possible change during the game.”  (Emphasis added.)

On Saturday, Belichick said that the Patriots have no control over the actual inflation, indicating that the officials — not the team — inflate the footballs.

“When the footballs are delivered to the officials’ locker room, the officials were asked to inflate them to 12.5 PSI,” Belichick said. “What exactly they did, I don’t know.  But for the purposes of our study, that’s what we did.  We set them at 12.5.  That’s at the discretion of the official, though. Regardless of what we ask for, it’s the official’s discretion to put them where he wants.”  (Emphasis added.)

So who inflates the footballs?  Thursday’s “I have no explanation” Bill Belichick made clear it’s the team that was putting the minimum required amount of 12.5 PSI into the balls before the game, and that any naturally-occurring deflation was necessarily taking the footballs under the low end of the one-pound acceptable range from 12.5 to 13.5 PSI.  Saturday’s “I have an extensive explanation” Bill Belichick said the Patriots simply ask the officials to inflate the footballs to 12.5 PSI, but that it’s ultimately the “official’s discretion” as to how much air will be put in the footballs.  (And, in turn, the official’s fault if the balls weren’t properly inflated.)

It’s a stunning contrast, one that calls for further explanation from Belichick.  This should be the first question he’s asked at his first press conference in Arizona, and the assembled media should decline to accept a response along the lines of, “I’ve said all I’m going to say about that.”

Another topic on which Belichick may need to say more than he has said is the interaction between inflation of the balls to 12.5 PSI and any “rubbing” that results in the balls reaching an “equilibrium state” of 11.5 PSI.  The key question is whether anyone in the organization — specifically mysterious football savant Ernie Adams — knew that any type of rubbing would result in the ball reaching an “equilibrium state” that brought it one full PSI below the minimum.  Beyond that, atmospheric conditions would drop the ball even farther below the minimum.

Other curious statements were made by Belichick on Saturday.  For example:  “We can’t speak specifically to what happened because we have no way of touching the footballs other than once the officials have them we don’t touch them except for when we play with them in the game.”  That’s just not accurate; ball attendants employed by the Patriots have possession of the 12 game balls and the 12 backup balls until they’re used during the game.

“I believe now 100 percent that I have personally, and we as an organization, have absolutely followed every rule to the letter,” Belichick said early in the Saturday press conference.  But there’s a potential difference between following rules to the letter and respecting their spirit.  As Ravens defensive lineman Chris Canty said earlier in the week on NBCSN’s Pro Football Talk, the Patriots are “habitual line-steppers.”  In an effort to gave every possible advantage, they possibly look for ways to push the envelope, retreating to plausible deniability whenever complaints are made or investigations are launched.

It would be naive to assume that the procedures used by the Patriots when it comes to inflating and handling footballs was accidental or coincidental, even if Belichick truly had no knowledge or involvement in that aspect of game preparations.  The ultra-competitive nature of the sport coupled with the uncanny ability of Belichick and those he employs to seize upon every opportunity to gain an edge suggests that they discovered a way to produce footballs that passed the pregame inspection at the low end of the permitted PSI and that then dropped well below the minimum, furthering the stated preferences of the guy charged with the task of throwing the footballs.

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North rolls to 34-13 victory in Senior Bowl

Ameer Abdullah AP

Nebraska running back Ameer Abdullah garnered Most Outstanding Player honors as the North pulled away to a 34-13 victory in Saturday’s Senior Bowl at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Alabama.

One of the more well-regarded backs in the Class of 2015, Abdullah (5-8, 198) gained 73 yards rushing on just seven carries and added four receptions on 40 yards for the North, which was led by the Titans’ coaching staff.

Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty (North) paced all passers with 123 yards on 9-of-13 attempts, though he was picked once. Oregon State’s Sean Mannion added 79 yards on 9-of-13 passes for the North, including a touchdown pass to Notre Dame tight end Ben Koyack.

Yale running back Tyler Varga scored a pair of fourth-quarter rushing touchdowns for the North, which outscored the South 24-6 after halftime. Minnesota running back David Cobb (11 carries, 69 yards) added the North’s other TD.

Northern Iowa running back David Johnson tallied the South’s lone touchdown, a 19-yard first-quarter score. Colorado State quarterback Garrett Grayson led the South with 118 yards passing on 8-of-15 attempts.

The Jaguars coached the South team. Jacksonville selects third in the upcoming draft, with Tennessee picking second.

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Oddsmaker: Super Bowl line won’t reach a field goal

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The defending-champion Seahawks remain one-point underdogs to New England at the majority of Nevada sports books.

And the price has even inched up a little at one notable book.

As Micah Roberts of “The Linemakers” of Sporting News notes, Wynn Las Vegas moved Seattle to a 1.5-point underdog on Saturday, becoming the first Nevada sports book to go that high.

However, Wynn oddsmaker John Avello told Roberts that “we’re not seeing anyone rush to the windows” to back Seattle, even at the higher price.

Avello, for his part, told “The Linemakers” he suspects “those looking to bet large” on the Seahawks are hoping the line hits a field goal, but the veteran Las Vegas oddsmaker doesn’t believe that will happen.

“I could see 2 or maybe even 2.5, but not 3,” Avello said, according to “The Linemakers.”

The Seahawks opened as slight favorites on Sunday night, but Patriots money drove the line toward New England, which is now favored at numerous hotels on the Las Vegas Strip, including the MGM and Caesars properties.

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Saints reach deal with CFL CB Delvin Breaux

Division Finals - Montreal Alouettes v Hamilton Tiger-Cats Getty Images

The Saints are signing a CFL star with Louisiana ties.

According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, New Orleans has reached a deal with ex-Hamilton Tiger-Cats cornerback Delvin Breaux.

In his second season with Hamilton, the 25-year-old Breaux (6-1, 196) was voted to the CFL’s 2014 All-Star squad.

A serious neck injury prevented Breaux, a one-time LSU signee, from playing college football, but he caught on with the Arena Football League’s New Orleans VooDoo in 2012 before joining Hamilton.

Breaux had workouts with 13 NFL clubs, ESPN reported.

The Ticats released Breaux on Saturday, which presumably allows him to join New Orleans.

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NFL warns Marshawn Lynch a crotch grab will cost 15 yards

cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznptlim2u1zmu0nmizodbmmme4yju1mdi4yju2zde4ogvm AP

The threat of fines has not deterred Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch from grabbing his crotch after scoring touchdowns. But the threat of a 15-yard penalty might.

The NFL wants Lynch to know that officials will be on the lookout and ready to assess a 15-yard penalty if Lynch does it again. NFL V.P. of Officiating Dean Blandino told ESPN’s Sal Paolantonio that the Seahawks have been warned that if Lynch makes an obscene gesture at any time during Super Bowl XLIX, the Seahawks will be penalized 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct.

Blandino told Paolantonio that if Lynch grabs his crotch after scoring a touchdown, “that means they will kick off from the 20 yard line.”

That’s where the Seahawks would have kicked off after Lynch scored a go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter of the NFC Championship Game. If the officials had seen Lynch grab his crotch, he would have been penalized.

Lynch got away with it that time. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll will probably tell Lynch in no uncertain terms that he can’t risk it in the Super Bowl. If Lynch wants to pay a fine out of his own paycheck, that’s his business. If he hurts the team, that’s another story.

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Over-Under on Doug Baldwin’s Super Bowl catches: four

Doug Baldwin AP

Welcome to Day Two of PFT’s Prop Challenge, where we analyze one of the hundreds of Super Bowl XLIX proposition bets set by Las Vegas oddsmakers and let you vote upon what side you would take — hypothetically, of course.

On Day One, we took a closer look at the Over-Under on Patriots wideout Brandon LaFell’s Super Bowl receiving yards, which the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook sets at 50.5 yards.

With a little more than 5,000 votes in our poll, OVER 50.5 yards for Brandon LaFell in Super Bowl XLIX leads by a 55-45 margin.

So on to the next order of business.

As promised, the second prop is a Seahawks one. And it’s also a receiving-related gamble.

Linemaker William Hill U.S. sets the Over-Under on Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin’s receptions at four.

The OVER, interestingly enough, is even money, meaning bettors will double up on a winning bet.

The UNDER, however, is -120, meaning bettors have to bet $12 to win $10.

In short, OVER four catches is set to entice.

Again, we turn to you. Including the playoffs, Baldwin averages 4.2 catches per contest, and he’s exceeded four catches seven times. In his last five postseason games, Baldwin has caught 22-of-28 passes thrown his way, including all five targets in Super Bowl XLVIII.

On the other hand, Baldwin faces a strong New England secondary headlined by standout cornerback Darrelle Revis, one of the game’s very best at his position.

Which way to go — OVER or UNDER four catches for Doug Baldwin? Cast your vote and tell us in the comments.

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Belichick’s explanation invites scrutiny, analysis, testing

Pesci

By offering a detailed explanation of the things the Patriots do to prepare their footballs for games and the pressure changes that occur inside the bladders contained in those footballs, Patriots coach Bill Belichick has thrown down the gauntlet to anyone who would doubt his version of reality.

And now the media outlets that spent the week comparing balls inflated to 12.5 PSI with balls inflated to 10.5 PSI will parse through Belichick’s words, copy his recipe, and try it on their own footballs.  With actual scientists, not a football coach, reporting the results.

On one hand, Belichick deliberately has set up what the lawyers call a “battle of the experts.”  It happens in a trial when one side brings in a witness with specialized knowledge who tells one story based on the physical evidence and the other side brings in a witness with specialized knowledge who tells the exact opposite story based on that same evidence.

That reality makes Belichick’s My Cousin Vinny reference even more appropriate.  In that film, Mona Lisa Vito testified as an expert witness who obliterated the testimony from the dude who played the prosecutor in the Seinfeld finale.  In real life, there’s a chance that Belichick will be the guy who played the prosecutor in the Seinfeld finale — and that a looming litany of scientists and engineers and other highly-educated folks will duplicate the variables contained in Belichick’s explanation, come to their own conclusions, and eventually reprise Joe Pesci’s two-sentence opening statement from the trial at which Ms. Vito testified:

“Everything that guy just said is bullsh-t.  Thank you.”

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Belichick now has the ammunition to get his team ready to beat Seattle

Belichick AP

During an epic, unexpected, and entirely bizarre Saturday press conference, Patriots coach Bill Belichick said he was “embarrassed” to admit the amount of time he’d spent in recent days on football air pressure.

In the end, it could be time well spent.

As he turns his focus to the Super Bowl after a week that has been marred by #DeflateGate, Belichick now has everything he needs to motivate his players to have the game of their lives against Seattle.

“This is the kind of thing that he is able to manipulate minds with,” one league source said.  “‘Us against the world. . . .  ‘No one thinks you can win unless we cheat.’ . . .  ‘The world is calling us cheaters.’ . . .  ‘They don’t think we belong here.'”

The ultimate prediction from the source?  “The Patriots are going to slaughter the Seahawks.”

That said, the Seahawks are pretty good.  And they’ve been able to make good use of the past six days.

“This was an excellent week for us,” coach Pete Carroll told reporters on Friday.  “We did it just the way we wanted to.  We practiced as though we were playing a game this week so we got all the installation in as we always do so we’re ready to go.”

Carroll also realizes that he has been able to allow his team to focus fully on the task at hand.

“It’s a big deal for them,” Carroll said of the lingering ball-deflation controversy.  “I know they’re dealing with it.  It isn’t for us at all. It has no bearing on anything.”

But if Belichick is able to better press his players’ buttons because of the pending investigation and widespread accusations, it will definitely have a bearing on Carroll’s team in eight days.

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Bill Belichick quotes science, My Cousin Vinny in bizarre presser

Belichick AP

The Patriots raised the bar on the normal Friday afternoon news dump, calling a 2:30 p.m. ET press conference on the Saturday before the Super Bowl.

And after making reporters wait 35 minutes, it was coach Bill Belichick taking the podium, to tell reporters, “I believe 100 percent we have followed every rule to the letter.”

Belichick detailed their process for preparing balls for game day, and he said their process of getting balls ready raised the air pressure by one pound per square inch. He then talked about putting his quarterbacks through a series of tests to see if they could tell the difference in balls at different air pressure.

He insisted the balls weren’t prepared in a heated room, or treated in any unique way.

There was a lot of scientific bluster from Belichick, none of which explained why 11 of his 12 balls weren’t in compliance but all 12 of the Colts’ were.

He even quoted the movie My Cousin Vinny, saying he was “no Mona Lisa Vito,” in terms of ball knowledge compared to Marisa Tomei’s character’s mechanical knowledge.

“I’m embarrassed to talk about the amount of time I’ve put into this, relative to the challenge in front of us,” Belichick said.

In many ways, we all are.

But it’s hard to tell after this press conference that we’re any closer to knowing what happened.

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Matthew Slater: NFLPA has “instructed” Patriots players to “reserve comment” on deflation investigation

Matthew Slater AP

The NFL’s football-deflation investigation figures to be much discussed at the Super Bowl.

However, the discussion might go on without Patriots players contributing much.

At a Saturday morning press conference, Patriots wide receiver Matthew Slater said the NFL Players Association had recommended New England players not publicly address the issue.

“I’d love to get into that with you, but we have been instructed by our union as players to reserve comment on this situation,” Slater said. “It’s an ongoing investigation, so in order to protect our players, we’re going to go ahead and not talk about that.”

Slater’s response was to a question about “Deflategate” and how the NFL might prevent such a controversy from occurring again.

Slater, 29, is the Patriots’ player representative. He is regarded as one of the NFL’s top special teams coverage players.

No matter the NFLPA’s recommendations, the “Deflategate” questions will come at the Super Bowl. Moreover, it’s likely Patriots players would politely parry them away all the same.

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Pete Carroll declares the Earl Thomas injury to be “over”

Thomas Getty Images

The official injury report, which had Seahawks safety Earl Thomas participating in practice on a limited basis on Friday, suggests that the player is still dealing with a shoulder injury suffered in the first half of the NFC title game.  The team’s head coach says Thomas isn’t.

“It’s over,” Carroll told reporters on Friday.  “It’s over, really.  It was two days of him being very uncomfortable with the setting and it’s over now.  He was back in action and in full flow today.”

Discomfort is only part of the problem for Thomas, as former NFL athletic trainer and NBC Sports Medicine Analyst Mike Ryan said on Friday’s PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio.  Ryan explained it’s not about pain but range of motion, if Thomas will be wearing a harness to stabilize the shoulder he dislocated.  Ryan said that could make it difficult for Thomas to reached over his head with his hands and arms — which could hamper his ability to deal with a tall pass-catcher like Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski.

For all of Friday’s show (really, I didn’t pick this topic for the sole purpose of pushing the on-demand stream), click the show logo in the top right corner of the page or the NBC Sports Radio logo in the right rail.  Other guests included Bob Ryan of the Boston Globe and ESPN, Larry Holder of the New Orleans Times-Picayune, Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, and Clarence E. Hill, Jr. of the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram.

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