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Sidney Rice could be done in Seattle, barring a reduced deal

Rice AP

The Seattle career of receiver Sidney Rice could be ending not with a bang or a whimper but the snapping of an ACL.

With Rice suffering in late October a multi-month knee injury that necessarily will limit him through the offseason and into 2014, the Seahawks could decide to move on, unless Rice will agree to a major reduction in his big-money deal.

Rice is due to earn a base salary of $8.5 million in 2014, an amount that his past performance and current health won’t justify.  With a post-June 1 designation, the Seahawks could shed the contract with a $1.2 million cap charge in 2014 and 2015, according to a source with knowledge of the deal.

Given that cornerback Richard Sherman surely will want a new contract after the coming season and that quarterback Russell Wilson’s mega-deal is looming after 2014, it makes sense to move on from Rice — especially with the investment made during the offseason in receiver Percy Harvin.

Rice had 15 catches for 231 yards and three touchdowns in eight games this season.  Last year, he had 50 catches for 748 yards and seven scores in 16 starts.

It seems that Rice will be sticking around only if he agrees to significantly reduce his pay for next year, and beyond.  Given that no one else will be paying him $8.5 million for 2013, it could make sense to take the best offer Seattle eventually makes.

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Can a bag of footballs be deflated in 90 seconds?

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As the #DeflateGate controversy continues to overtake Super Bowl XLIX, the first tangible evidence other than footballs being underinflated (which the NFL has acknowledged) emerged Monday, when Jay Glazer of FOX Sports reported that a Patriots employee took a bag of football that had been inspected and approved by officials into a separate area. That individual has become, per Glazer’s report, a “serious person of interest” as to the question of how the footballs came to be underinflated.

As PFT reported last night, adding to Glazer’s bombshell, the separate area was a bathroom in which the employee spent approximately 90 seconds. The red state/blue state nature of the debate has caused those predisposed to assuming the Patriots are guilty to say it’s enough time to deflate the footballs. Those predisposed to assuming that this is a league- and/or media-driven witch hunt say the only leaking came from the guys urinary tract (or perhaps elsewhere).

Obviously, the report from Glazer shows an opportunity for foul play existed. And Glazer’s report became the first clear indication since this issue first arose of a chance by someone to do something to the “perfect” footballs as hand-selected by quarterback Tom Brady to make them even more perfect.

A separate question has emerged regarding whether a team employee should have even been taking the footballs on his own to the field without supervision. One source said it’s normal; another source believes it’s entirely abnormal. Regardless, Glazer’s report puts a Patriots employee in a room with a locking door alone with the footballs for, based on PFT’s addition to that report, approximately 90 seconds.

So can 12 (or in this case 11) footballs be deflated in that amount of time?  One league source with extensive knowledge and experience in the NFL believes that 90 seconds provides enough time to do it — especially if the type of bag allowed the valves to be accessed without individually removing them.  (The bag in the photo, for example, has a large zipper that when open permits quick access to the balls.)

The source called it as “easy” thing to do. “Needle in each ball for a couple of seconds,” the source said.

Indeed, if this is something that had been going on for some period of time, the employee would have developed a certain expertise in this regard, allowing him to do it quickly — which in turn would allow for the plausible argument to be made that there was no deflation but merely urination.

Is it conclusive evidence of tampering?  Not without a camera in the bathroom or an admission from the employee.  But it also becomes difficult to declare innocence, given that the contents of the surveillance video as first reported by Glazer reveal an employee of the Patriots taking the footballs into a place where, in theory, something could have been done to them.

That’s the most important thing to remember from Monday’s report.  Whether it was 90 seconds or longer, whether it was the Patriots who surrendered the video or the NFL who found it, Glazer’s report shows an opportunity for tampering that had not previously been disclosed.

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Kam Chancellor on Gronkowski: Just play big-on-big

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Last week, Seahawks cornerback Jeremy Lane dismissed Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski as just an “OK” player, but it doesn’t seem to be the prevailing opinion on the team.

Questions about facing Gronkowski were waiting for the Seahawks in Arizona on Monday and linebacker Bobby Wagner was willing to call Gronkowski a “great player.” Head coach Pete Carroll said Gronkowski has “all of the elements that you’re looking for from a big-time tight end” and that the team would utilize various approaches to slow him down on Sunday.

Strong safety Kam Chancellor will be a big part of those approaches and he said Monday that he thought his physical play would serve him well in the matchup.

“He definitely is a big, physical guy, but it’s just big-on-big. Just play big-on-big,” Chancellor said.

It won’t come down to just Chancellor, but the Seahawks Defense is going to have a hard time if he isn’t able to keep Gronkowski from breaking loose when the Patriots do look his way.

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Pete Carroll still likes Robert Kraft, who fired him

carrollkraft AP

It feels like Bill Belichick has been coaching the Patriots forever, but he hasn’t. There was a coach of the Patriots before Belichick was hired in 2000, and that coach was Pete Carroll.

Carroll, who is preparing to coach the Seahawks against the Patriots in Super Bowl XLIX, was fired by Patriots owner Robert Kraft after going 8-8 in 1999. And although things didn’t end well for Carroll in New England, Carroll still has warm feelings for Kraft, and Carroll actually called Kraft after the Seahawks and Patriots won the conference championship games.

“I think we’ve remained in a good relationship and it’s been very consistent,” Carroll said. “Whenever we bump into each other, whenever there is a time for us to cross paths, we always check in and that’s just been the way that it has been. So, in calling him, it was just a matter of just checkin in with him and saying, ‘Hey, didn’t know if we would bump into each other here but I wanted to make sure to say hello.'”

Carroll thinks he’s a much better coach now than he was when he coached in New England.

“I’ve been through so many experiences since then, so many challenges and it’s really just about evolving as a coach and as a man,” Carroll said. “But, you know, there were a lot of days back in those years when, man, I was just winging it and trying to do the best I could in figuring it out.”

Whatever Carroll hadn’t figured out when he was in New England, Carroll has it figured out now.

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Jaguars keep talking to coaches from worse offenses than own

Jaguars Minicamp Football AP

The Jaguars continue to shuffle their coaching staff, though it’s unclear if they’re making upgrades.

Via Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union, the Jaguars have fired running backs coach Terry Richardson, and are interviewing Raiders position coach Kelly Skipper for the vacancy.

That makes sense, in that he’d have experience with new Jaguars coordinator Greg Olson.

But the influx of Oakland influence is curious, given that the Raiders had the only offense in the league worse than Jacksonville’s, edging the Jaguars by 7.4 yards per game for the 32nd spot on the list.

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Drew Brees: We’ve identified the problems that hurt us in 2014

Pro Bowl Getty Images

The Saints slumped to a 7-9 record in 2014, well below the expectations that most people had for them coming into the season.

Quarterback Drew Brees thinks he knows why the team fell short. After the Pro Bowl, Brees told Greg Bedard of MMQB.com that he’s met with coach Sean Payton and General Manager Mickey Loomis and that the three men “identified the problems or the things that got us beat or the things that didn’t allow us to be as good as we know we can be.”

Brees didn’t go into great detail about what those problems or solutions are, but suggested that a lack of leadership and grit played a role. He said he hates when people talk about talent, because every team has it and things like work ethic and adaptability determine who ultimately succeeds.

“The thing you can’t lose track of is those guys in the locker room,” Brees said. “Those guys as leaders, their presence. Especially when you have young players. Listen, every team is going to have youth. It’s just the nature of the league. A majority of your team is going to be made up of first- to fourth-year players. So that leadership and guidance and institutional knowledge are very critical.”

The Saints have said goodbye to many veteran leaders of successful teams from the past and the replacements weren’t able to reach the same heights in 2014. They’ll need to do a better job of finding the right players in 2015 or the demands for explanations for a poor record will be even greater this time next year.

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Jim Schwartz being selective about next opportunity

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Jim Schwartz rebounded quickly after losing his job as the Lions head coach to become the coordinator for one of the league’s best defenses in Buffalo, but that success won’t have him back with the Bills this year.

Doug Marrone’s departure led to Rex Ryan’s arrival and the two defensive gurus decided not to work together in the 2015 season. Schwartz hasn’t found himself in the mix for any other coordinator openings around the league, something he says is fine with him as he waits for the right opportunity to continue his coaching career.

“Coaching is still in my blood and I’m just fortunate at this time of my career where I can be selective about opportunities. Where it goes from here, I don’t know. But you always have to be aware of certain dynamics that may come with it,” Schwartz said, via the Baltimore Sun. “I saw the opening up in Buffalo as a good opportunity, so I took it. But no, right now, I can’t see myself doing anything else. Coaching is something I love, something I have a passion about. Another opportunity will present itself. I’m not too concerned.”

Assuming Schwartz remains unemployed for the 2015 season, it will be the first NFL season since 1996 that he won’t be on a coaching staff somewhere in the league. Given his success with the Bills and elsewhere during his career, it would be surprising if that absence extended to a second year.

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Wade Phillips interviewing with Broncos today

Wade Phillips AP

It looks like the Broncos are getting the band back together.

According to Ed Werder of ESPN, veteran coach Wade Phillips is in Denver today to interview for the Broncos vacant defensive coordinator job.

He has plenty of background there, having been the head coach there in the 90s (with a quarterback named John Elway). He’s also got more recent experience with new Broncos coach Gary Kubiak, having worked as his defensive coordinator in Houston.

The Broncos were interested in Bengals assistant Vance Joseph, but Phillips is far from a fallback position, as he’s one of the more successful coordinators in the business.

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Kevin Williams likes his free agency choice, for now

Seahawks Williams Football AP

Kevin Williams waited 11 years to try free agency.

Turns out, he’s pretty good at it.

The veteran defensive tackle’s two choices last offseason were the Seahawks and Patriots, the teams that happen to be meeting for the Super Bowl.

Guess I couldn’t have gone wrong,’’ Williams said, via Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times.

Williams said he chose the Seahawks because “I just felt more comfortable coming here versus there.’’

The longtime Vikings defensive tackle never enjoyed this kind of success, and he’s playing a much bigger role than he envisioned now.

After Brandon Mebane’s season-ending injury, he’s back in the starting lineup for one of the best defenses in recent memory.

“Mebane’s the best nose in the game,’’ defensive end Michael Bennett said. “That’s why it’s hard to come in and play at the level Mebane’s been playing at the last couple of years. But Kevin’s done a great job. The yardage has been the same since Mebane left and still been playing great run defense.’’

And come Sunday, we’ll see if Williams made the right choice.

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Bill Belichick’s politely declining to elaborate on #DeflateGate

Bill Belichick AP

Patriots coach Bill Belichick was probably hoping he buried #DeflateGate with Saturday’s Mona Lisa Vito press conference.

And upon arriving in Arizona last night, he gave a hint of what he’s going to be saying a lot today.

Via Phil Perry of CSNNE.com, Belichick insisted that he’s said his last about the relative air pressure of footballs.

I appreciate the questions but I’ve covered everything I can cover in the previous week,” Belichick said. “My attention is focused on the Seattle Seahawks.”

Several attempts were made to revisit the topic, but they were met the same way.

“This week,” Belichick said, “it’s all about Seattle.”

He’ll have an opportunity to reprise that answer a few dozen times today at media day. And in fairness to and solidarity with my media brethren, there are still plenty of questions to be asked.

Because as much as Belichick wants to think it’s over, there have been plenty of developments in the case since Saturday’s filibuster, including our report that there’s video of a ballboy taking a dozen footballs to the bathroom with him.

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Tuesday morning one-liners

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Washington Redskins Getty Images

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

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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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