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Matt Asiata starting with Adrian Peterson doubtful and Toby Gerhart out

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The Vikings got three touchdowns from Matt Asiata a couple of weeks ago when Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart were out of the lineup and they’ll be looking for the same kind of production from him again this week. 

Coach Leslie Frazier announced on Friday afternoon that Asiata will start the season finale against the Lions. Peterson is doubtful to play because of injuries to both his groin and foot. Frazier said that Peterson would be out there if the team felt he was ready, but the safe money is on Peterson having played his final snap for the 2013 season. 

Gerhart may have played his final snap with the Vikings altogether. He’ll miss Sunday’s game with a hamstring injury and will head into free agency this offseason without a chance to pull a George Costanza and leave everyone wanting more. Gerhart gained 283 yards on 36 carries when he was healthy this year and has been a reliable backup for Peterson for the last four years, which may lead to a shot at a bigger workload elsewhere this offseason. 

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Pete Carroll: Kam Chancellor looked well on Saturday

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One day after appearing on the injury report with a knee injury, Seahawks strong safety Kam Chancellor looked no worse for wear at Saturday’s walk-through, according to the media pool practice report.

According to pool reporter D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Chancellor “did not appear to be favoring either leg” one day before Seattle plays New England in Super Bowl XLIX.

“He looked pretty good today,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll told Ledbetter on Saturday. “We will make sure we test him in pregame, but he remarkably looked great today, and so that’s all we have to go on.”

Chancellor sustained the knee injury in a tumble near the end of practice on Friday. Per Will Carroll of Bleacher Report, Chancellor suffered a bruised knee.

A three-time Pro Bowler, the 26-year-old Chancellor had a major impact in Seattle’s 43-8 romp vs. Denver in Super Bowl XLVIII, notching 10 tackles.

All Seahawks players took part in the walk-through, which was held indoors and lasted less than an hour, according to the pool report.

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Report: 49ers informed Jim Harbaugh of dismissal after loss at Seattle in December

Harbaugh AP

At the conclusion of the 49ers’ regular-season finale vs. Arizona, the club announced it would be parting ways with head coach Jim Harbaugh by mutual agreement.

However, a published report Saturday indicates Harbaugh had been previously told he would not be returning.

Citing multiple unnamed sources, Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News reported the 49ers told Harbaugh after the December 14 loss at Seattle that he would not coach the team in 2015.

The 17-7 loss to the Seahawks dropped the 49ers to 7-7 and eliminated San Francisco from playoff contention.

The report of Harbaugh being told in-season that he would not be back is reminiscent of the 49ers dismissing Mike Singletary with one game left in 2010, right after the club was knocked out of postseason contention. However, in that case, the 49ers tabbed an interim coach, with Jim Tomsula replacing Singletary for Week 17.

Tomsula was hired as Harbaugh’s full-time replacement in January. By then, Harbaugh had become head coach at Michigan.

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Browns hiring Kevin O’Connell as quarterbacks coach

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The Browns have tabbed a coach who’s worked with Johnny Manziel as their new quarterbacks coach.

Cleveland has hired Kevin O’Connell to oversee the club’s quarterbacks, Alex Marvez of FoxSports.com reported Saturday.

The 29-year-old O’Connell was a third-round pick of the Patriots in 2008 and also played for the Lions, Jets, Dolphins and Chargers. He worked with Manziel leading up to the 2014 NFL Draft.

O’Connell replaces Dowell Loggains, who was not retained after one season in Cleveland.

The Browns are unsettled at quarterback entering the offseason. Veteran Brian Hoyer, who was the starter for the most of 2014, will be an unrestricted free agent. Manziel, meanwhile, did not stake a strong claim to the job before suffering a season-ending hamstring injury.

The Browns are also hiring Kurt Roper as a senior offensive assistant, Marvez reported. Roper was most recently offensive coordinator at Florida.

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Blandino says NFL will look at permitted pressure range

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The entire #DeflateGate controversy sprang from the provision in Rule 2 of the official NFL rule book regarding the mandate that the football be filled with enough air to create 12.5 to 13.5 PSI of internal pressure.

That’s been the standard for a very long time, according to NFL V.P. of officiating Dean Blandino.

“I have rule books going back to 1940 in my office, and that was in the 1940 rule book,” Blandino told reporters this week during a Super Bowl football operations press conference. “[NFL Senior Vice President of Player Personnel and Football Operations] Joel Bussert, who many of you know in the league office who’s kind of a historian, he’s got rule books that go back prior to that. It’s been in there even before 1940.”

So where does the range come from?

“[W]e really rely on the experts in the football world, [football manufacturer] Wilson, to give us that number,” Blandino said. “That’s where that spectrum comes from. I feel like we will review that with Wilson and the Competition Committee to look at if we need to have a range or what will that acceptable range be.”

On one hand, it’s surprising that a rule with so much current importance to the game carries an it-was-like-that-when-I-got-here vibe. But there’s never been a question regarding whether teams were tampering with footballs to take them beyond the long-accepted range.

If some quarterbacks like the air pressure lower than 12.5 PSI, it’s fair to ask whether all quarterbacks should have that discretion. Despite the importance of respecting the integrity of the game by demanding that teams not deviate from the accepted limits, this situation naturally leads to the question of whether changing the accepted limits would in any way undermine the integrity of the game.

Many believe that footballs should have as much or as little air in them as the quarterbacks want. In a league without enough good quarterbacks to go around, maybe all quarterbacks should be given the option to put whatever amount of air in the balls they desire.

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Falcons plan to name Dan Quinn head coach on Tuesday

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The worst-kept secret in the NFL will no longer be a secret in a few days.

Per multiple sources, the Falcons currently plan to name Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn the new head coach in Atlanta.

Quinn, 44, succeeded Gus Bradley in 2013. He came from the University of Florida, where he’d spent two seasons after two with the Seahawks.

The Salisbury State graduate began his coaching career in 1994, at William & Mary. He spent seven years at the college level before joining the 49ers in 2001. Four seasons in San Francisco were followed by two with the Dolphins (the Nick Saban years) and two with the Jets, under former head coach Eric Mangini.

League rules prevent the Falcons from offering the job to Quinn until his current team’s season ends. It became clear in recent weeks that the Falcons were waiting for Quinn. The first tangible evidence came when the Falcons hired offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan before hiring their head coach.

The expected announcement will fill the final 2015 NFL coaching vacancy. Unless there’s still another change or two coming in the next week or so.

I haven’t heard of any brewing, but in this business who knows?

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On New England’s final practice day, Darrelle Revis gets some rest

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On the Patriots’ last practice day of the season, cornerback Darrelle Revis did something he hadn’t officially done all year, according to the injury report.

He rested.

Revis “watched the bulk of team drills from the sideline” on Friday, according to the media practice report filed by Jarrett Bell of USA Today.

Revis was listed as having been a limited practice participant on Friday, and he is probable on the Patriots’ final injury report with a designation of “not injury related/rest.” It’s the 29-year-old Revis’s first appearance on the final injury report all season.

Revis is not hurt, Patriots coach Bill Belichick told Bell Friday.

“We backed a lot of guys off,” Belichick said, according to the pool report. “He took a lot of reps yesterday and Wednesday.”

No other Patriots player was listed as having rested on Friday, per the injury report. In fact, according to the club’s online records, Revis is the first Patriots player this season to have been listed on the final injury report for “rest” reasons.

Revis has started every regular-season and playoff game in 2014, playing 1,154-of-1,234 defensive snaps, according to Pro Football Focus data.

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Report: Kam Chancellor’s knee injury just a bruise

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The knee injury that landed Pro Bowl strong safety Kam Chancellor on the Seahawks’ final injury report of the week does not appear to be anything of great concern.

According to Bleacher Report’s Will Carroll, Chancellor suffered a bruised left knee when he took a tumble late in practice on Friday and landed “directly on it.”

Carroll, who reports on sports medicine, indicated that Chancellor “will play” Sunday.

The fall was documented in the Seahawks’ media pool report from Sports Illustrated‘s Peter King. According to the report, Chancellor had his left knee wrapped after practice but walked “without a limp.”

Chancellor was officially listed as probable on Seattle’s final injury report. Per NFL guidelines, “probable” indicates a player has a 75 percent chance of playing.

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Goodell press conference includes surprising answer about football testing

Goodell AP

Circumstantial evidence can be very good evidence. As long as the circumstances can be properly determined.

When it comes to #DeflateGate, the NFL has no record of the air pressure of the footballs measured before the AFC title game began. Which makes it very difficult to determine with precision the amount of air lost, either through Mother Nature or foul play. Which makes it much harder for the NFL to satisfy the expectations of Patriots owner Robert Kraft that any wrongdoing be proven with hard evidence and not circumstantial proof.

It’s now clear that there are plenty of things not readily known about the process, including the question of whether the NFL has a history of testing footballs at halftime of games, in order to check whether air pressure has been lost during the first two quarters.

Asked at the Friday press conference by Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston.com regarding whether halftime testing has occurred in the past, Commissioner Roger Goodell provided a surprising response.

“I don’t know the answer to that question,” Goodell said. “That would be something, I presume, that Ted Wells would look into and will provide that information.”

It’s good that the NFL has involved an independent investigator in this process, but there are certain things that don’t require an independent investigation. Through the normal, reasonable exercise of human curiosity, the Commissioner could have learned in the past two weeks whether footballs have been spot-checked at halftime in the past to assess the impact of external conditions on the internal air pressure. Instead of punting to Wells (whose report likely won’t be released for several weeks), Goodell could have said something like, “I don’t have that information immediately available, but I will obtain it from our football operations department and provide it by the end of the day.”

Either way, it doesn’t require Ted Wells, Robert Mueller, or Inspector Clouseau to answer a simple question about whether the NFL has checked air pressure at halftime in the past. It’s a question that already should have been raised — and resolved — within the walls of 345 Park Avenue, and the man who runs the sport already should know the answer.

Some would suggest that he already does, that the answer is “no,” and that this will make it much harder to prove that the Patriots tampered with the footballs.

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Goodell hasn’t had “any dialogue” with Las Vegas regarding NFL club

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The city Danny Ocean called “America’s Playground” has never had an NFL club.

That doesn’t look like it’s changing any time soon.

Asked Friday whether Las Vegas could support a professional sports team, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said he hadn’t talked to the city about the prospect of a pro football team.

“I can’t speak to other sports, for sure,” Goodell said, according to a league-issued transcript of his remarks. “I certainly can’t speak even to the NFL because I haven’t had any dialogue with officials in Las Vegas about how that could happen successfully for Las Vegas and for the NFL.

“A stadium would be a big component to that. I’m not sure that exists right now. I do understand the passion of the fans in Las Vegas and their interest in football.”

Even if Las Vegas had an NFL-caliber stadium, the league might have qualms about playing in America’s capital of legalized sports betting. And a stadium — which would likely be a billion-dollar project — wouldn’t get built without a tenant.

Ultimately, it’s possible the NFL might not see much upside in the Las Vegas area, which would rank among the smallest TV markets in the league.

With multiple new arenas well-suited for basketball or hockey planned in Las Vegas, an NHL or NBA club landing in the city seems far more likely than an NFL team taking up residence.

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Goodell can’t ever envision himself resigning

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NFL controversies, particularly the botched handling of the Ray Rice case, have led to calls in some quarters for NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to resign. He says that will never happen.

Asked at his “State of the League” press conference whether there’s any set of circumstances that would result in his resignation, Goodell said he can’t imagine that happening.

“No, I can’t. Does that surprise you?” Goodell said.

Goodell did acknowledge that even though the NFL’s popularity has never been greater, he hasn’t had the best of years.

“It’s been a tough year on me personally,” Goodell said. “It’s been a year of what I would say is humility and learning. We, obviously as an organization, have gone through adversity. More importantly, it’s been adversity for me. We take that seriously. It’s an opportunity for us to get better. It’s an opportunity for us, for our organization, to get better. We’ve all done a lot of soul searching, starting with yours truly.”

That soul searching has apparently not included ever asking himself whether he’s the right person for the job. In Goodell’s mind, he absolutely is — and that won’t change.

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Jimmy Graham says current plan is no shoulder surgery

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Before the Pro Bowl, Saints tight end Jimmy Graham said his participation in the annual all-star game will help determine whether he needs surgery on the shoulder he injured early in the regular season.

After the Pro Bowl, Graham told PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio that the current plan is to continue to rest and rehab the shoulder without surgery.

Graham said plenty more during his slot as the final guest in a week full of excellent conversations, from his aggressive approach to pick-up basketball to his love of flying to how the movie Top Gun sparked his passion for flying and provided the template for his first kiss.

The six-foot, seven-inch Graham also said he was first able to dunk a basketball when he was merely five feet, eight inches tall.

In all, Graham was loose, relaxed, funny — something that doesn’t come through very much while he’s bringing the same intensity to football that he does to basketball.

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Patriots won’t hold Saturday walk-through; Belichick happy with team’s approach

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Saying the Patriots were “as ready as we’re going to be” from a practice standpoint, coach Bill Belichick indicated Friday the club would cancel its Saturday walk-through practice, according to the media pool report of the workout.

The Pats also scrapped their Saturday walk-through before Super Bowl XLVI.

According to media pool reporter Jarrett Bell of USA Today, Belichick believes his club has a good mindset entering Sunday.

“These guys have worked hard,” Belichick said. “I think they’re ready to go. We’re playing a good team, so we’re going to have to play well.”

The Patriots practiced as some rain fell Friday at the Cardinals’ practice facilities in Tempe, but the club did its work outside. The club did retreat inside, however, to take a break of about 30 minutes to simulate the longer-than-usual Super Bowl halftime.

Finally, Belichick noted that the club was in good shape health-wise as the Super Bowl nears.

“We’re all good to go,” Belichick said.

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Goodell addresses improvements to officiating

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As a postseason in which officials were a focal point comes to a close, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell says some improvements to officiating may be on the way.

Goodell said at his “State of the League” press conference that the NFL will examine ways to make officiating better for the 2015 season.

“We are looking at other ways to enhance replay and officiating,” Goodell said. “That includes potentially expanding replay to penalties if it can be done without more disruption to the pace of the game. And we are discussing rotating members of the officiating crews during the season as a way to improve consistency throughout our regular season and benefit our crews in the postseason. In officiating, consistency is our number-one objective.”

Achieving consistency is easier said than done, because consistency has been lacking in NFL officiating for a long, long time. But it’s good to know that the NFL realizes that officiating is something that needs to be improved.

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NFL tempts fate with inability to handle scandals properly

NFL AP

Over the years, the NFL’s Commissioner has navigated plenty of difficult situations that could have tested the tenuous balance between the Commissioner’s role as the overseer of the sport and his job as employee of the owners of the teams he oversees. Through it all, an inherent conflict of interest has existed, hiding in plain sight and generating scant scrutiny or concern: How can the Commissioner be expected to police the very people for whom he works?

It’s an obscure, nuanced question, causing few to notice the dilemma faced by the master who is also a servant. And while in most past cases the Commissioner has found a way to solve problems without making conspicuous the delicate ground on which he often treads, the recent bungling of cases like the Ray Rice fiasco and #DeflateGate eventually will cause someone with real political power to notice the fundamental flaw in the structure of the league — and to suggest a solution that would entail a greater degree of independence for the Commissioner.

For the NFL (and other pro sports), a truly independent governing body would be the only way to reliably ensure that all problems would be handled consistently and all franchises treated fairly, without regard to friendship or influence or other factors that could cause a Commissioner to exercise discretion in a way that protects and/or advances the Commissioner’s relationship with a given owner. As it now stands, the NFL (and other pro sports) have a Commissioner who at times pretends to be the representative of all interested constituencies when, in reality, he’s the guy working for the folks who own the teams.

While an election process for Commissioner, with owners, players, coaches, and maybe others voting on the person who would rule the sport, would create plenty of challenges, a broadening of the pool of people who pick the Commissioner would help to alleviate the obvious problem faced by someone who is expected to impose discipline against someone who has a direct, 1/32nd voice in the compensation and/or ongoing employment of the Commissioner. The far bigger wildcard for the NFL (and other pro sports) would arise from a decision by Congress to create an office or a board responsible for supervising the sport, enforcing the rules, and punishing those who cheat.

Before the “doesn’t Congress have anything better to do?” crowd gets too cranked up, the ongoing growth of the NFL — coupled with the benefits it receives from federal legislation that makes the league office a non-profit operation and that exempts the NFL from antitrust laws when it comes to the marketing of TV rights — could eventually compel action, if the NFL can’t properly govern itself. In recent months, the league has undermined considerably public confidence in its ability to clean up its own messes. At some point, a politician will suggest that someone else should police the sport.

While still an incredibly unlikely outcome, the league’s mishandling of recent crises at least puts the potential debate in a corner of the radar. More mistakes could move the subject closer to the center of the screen.

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Goodell says NFL is still looking at changing extra points

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After another season in which more than 99 percent of extra points were successful, the NFL is looking at ways to make it harder.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said today that he wants to continue exploring ways to make extra points more exciting.

“Fans want every play to have suspense,” Goodell said. “But the extra point has become virtually automatic. We have experimented with alternatives to make it a more competitive play, and we expect to advance these ideas through the Competition Committee this offseason.”

Extra points were made harder at the Pro Bowl by moving them farther back from the goal posts, and by making the goal posts four feet narrower. The game’s kickers didn’t like that change, but it did make extra points more interesting.

But is the league ready to take such a step in the regular season? And has the league fully considered the effect that narrower goal posts would have on field goals? It’s clear that Goodell would like to see extra points become more interesting, but it’s unclear whether the NFL has found the right change to make.

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