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49ers beat Cardinals, set up playoff trip to Green Bay

Green Bay Packers v San Francisco 49ers Getty Images

For the second consecutive season, the 49ers and Packers will meet in the playoffs.

San Francisco finished at 12-4 with today’s win over Arizona, earning the NFC No. 5 seed. That means they’ll travel to Green Bay to take on the Packers, the NFC No. 4 seed.

Last year’s playoff game was something of a coming out party for 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who had the greatest rushing game by a quarterback in NFL history against the Packers’ defense. Green Bay will need to be a lot better than that this time around.

The 49ers’ win ended a solid 10-6 season for the Cardinals, who deserve a lot of credit for being a much more competitive team this season than most people expected. But in the end, the Cardinals were eliminated even before losing to the 49ers today, as the Saints took the sixth and final NFC playoff spot.

Now we can get ready for another 49ers-Packers game. These two teams have a history, and some bad blood from this year’s Week One meeting, which the 49ers won in San Francisco. All fans should look forward to seeing these two teams meet again in Green Bay.

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Mike Brown says Marvin Lewis, Katie Blackburn now run the team

Marvin Lewis AP

Bengals owner Mike Brown, the son of team founder Paul Brown, has been so heavily involved in running the team that Mike Brown paid himself a $1 million General Manager bonus from 1991 through at least 2009. In the future, any such bonus could be going to someone else.

Brown tells Joe Danneman of FOX 19 that Brown no longer runs the show.

“They’re doing it now,” Brown said of his daughter, Katie Blackburn, and coach Marvin Lewis. “The ball’s been essentially handed off.”

Lewis told Danneman that Brown remains heavily involved, with Brown at the team facility “seven days a week.”

Even if Brown has handed off the ball, he deserves some of the praise for the team’s three consecutive playoff appearances. On that point, Brown opted for humility and self-deprecation.

“Do I take credit for that?” Brown said of the team’s success. “I wasn’t out there taking credit when it wasn’t going well, so maybe I ought to shut up and not take credit when it’s gone a little better.”

Even though things have improved, the Bengals still haven’t won a playoff game since the week before the January 1991 loss to the Raiders in a game far better known for a career-ending hip injury to one of the best running backs the game briefly saw.  This year, the Bengals hope to finally shed what very well could be the curse of Bo Jackson.

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Report: Chiefs, Charles have had talks on new deal

Oakland Raiders v Kansas City Chiefs Getty Images

Linebacker Justin Houston didn’t join the Chiefs for offseason work as he tried to leverage himself into a contract extension and the question of whether or not he’d report to training camp on time has been a big one in Kansas City.

It now has to make room for the question of whether or not running back Jamaal Charles will be there. Reports on Tuesday indicated that Charles will not report to camp on time in a holdout for a new deal that will pay him more money. Not everyone is convinced that Charles will be a no-show, however.

Terez Paylor of the Kansas City Star reports that the Chiefs have had discussions about a new contract for Charles, who is set to make $3.9 million this year and $6 million next year under the terms of his current deal. Paylor also reports that the Chiefs “believe” Charles will report to camp with the other veterans on Wednesday whether or not they have agreed on a revised deal.

Charles’ desire for a new deal is a fairly strong one, given his importance to the Chiefs and the fact that his compensation ranks him below less effective backs as well as other members of the Chiefs offense. He’ll also be 29 when his current deal expires and that’s not a great age for a running back to sell himself on the open market.

It’s a headache the Chiefs don’t need with contract decisions to make on Houston and quarterback Alex Smith before they become free agents after the 2014 season, but one they appear to be willing to deal with if it means ensuring Charles is leading the offense again this season.

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Michael Sam pragmatic about Dungy comments

Sam AP

Former Buccaneers and Colts coach Tony Dungy has said that he wouldn’t draft defensive end Michael Sam.  On Tuesday, Sam addressed the situation in a very pragmatic way.

“Thank God he wasn’t a St. Louis Rams coach,” Sam told reporters on Tuesday.  “But I have great respect for Tony Dungy. Like everyone in America, everyone is entitled to their own opinions,” Sam said.

Dungy will join The Dan Patrick Show on Wednesday to discuss his remarks in further detail, supplementing Tuesday’s statement explaining his remarks to Ira Kaufman of the Tampa Tribune.  Also on the show will be the St. Louis Rams coach who welcomed the distractions that go with having an openly-gay player on the roster bubble and who may eventually conclude Sam hasn’t earned a roster spot, Jeff Fisher.

Sam already has shown he’s serious about getting one of the 53 jobs, dropping 13 pounds since the end of the offseason program in an effort to increase his speed so that he’ll be able to contribute on special teams.

“My job is to make this team, that’s my number one priority,” Sam said. ”Everything is faster and you want to make sure you are at a good weight and at good speed to compete at this level. It’s not college anymore, that’s child’s play compared to this.”

And “this” includes a high level of intensity both on the field and off the field. Especially as he continues his journey as the first openly-gay NFL player.

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Chargers, Danny Woodhead agree to two-year extension

San Diego Chargers running back Woodhead catches a first half touchdown pass against Dallas Cowboys outside linebacker Carter during their NFL football game in San Diego Reuters

Chargers running back Danny Woodhead plans to stay in San Diego for at least three more years.

Woodhead and the Chargers have agreed on a two-year contract extension, which keeps him under contract through the 2016 season.

“Danny is an integral part of our offense,” said General Manager Tom Telesco. “His work ethic and on-field production were key elements last year. We look forward to having him be a part of the Chargers organization into the future.”

Woodhead initially entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent out of Chadron State, where he was twice named the best player in Division II football. He played for the Jets from 2008 to 2010 before he was released and signed with the Patriots. In 2013 he left the Patriots to sign a two-year, $3.5 million deal with the Chargers.

In his first year in San Diego last year, Woodhead caught 76 passes for 605 yards and six touchdowns and carried 106 times for 429 yards and two touchdowns.

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Wednesday morning one-liners

Khan AP

Bills WR Sammy Watkins is drawing comparisons to Randy Moss.

The Dolphins face long odds of getting to the Super Bowl.

Here’s the Patriots’ website on what to watch for at training camp.

The Jets plan to reward good fan behavior.

Ravens rookie C.J. Mosley says he’s grown a lot during his first couple months of work as a pro.

Browns LB Paul Kruger thinks Cleveland could win 10 or 11 games this season.

The Bengals have honored a local high school football coach.

Said Steelers linebackers coach Keith Butler of rookie LB Ryan Shazier, “I don’t like to play rookies because defensive football there’s two things that can get you beat. One of them is missed tackles. The other one is mental mistakes. Normally when you try to learn this defense it’s going to take you a little while to do it. He understands concepts and picks things up a little bit easier than most rookies. I think Lawrence Timmons will help him and some of the other guys will help him learn to run this defense. We don’t have a choice whether we can play him or not. We’ve got to play him and we’ve got to be faster and we’ve got to win.”

The Texans waived FB Brad Smelley on Tuesday, leaving Jay Prosch as the only fullback on the roster.

Here’s a look at some of the Colts’ top newcomers.

Jaguars owner Shad Khan is showing off what life is like for a billionaire.

The Titans signed several free agents, but coach Ken Whisenhunt is this offseason’s most important addition.

Broncos QB Peyton Manning has a 98 rating in the Madden game.

Chiefs OT Eric Fisher has gained five pounds of lower body muscle.

Raiders rookie QB Derek Carr has been named the Mountain West Conference Male Athlete of the Year.

The Chargers career of OLB Larry English ended with a torn biceps while sacking Peyton Manning.

Said Cowboys C Travis Frederick of players voluntarily taking a conditioning test, “When the coaches said we weren’t going to have a conditioning test this year, a couple of the older guys wanted to make sure we had everybody in the right shape. Sometimes if you don’t do it, you’re not in the right shape and you’re not ready to practice.”

With Chris Snee retired, the Giants’ offensive line is a work in progress.

One broadcaster describes Eagles coach Chip Kelly as “brilliant.”

Washington coach Jay Gruden still wonders if he could have made it as an NFL quarterback.

The competition to replace Devin Hester as the Bears’ return man is wide open.

There’s a lot of hype in Detroit about Lions RB Theo Riddick.

Packers quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt says Aaron Rodgers runs the offense as well as any quarterback runs any offense.

Said Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turner of QB Teddy Bridgewater, “I think he probably should’ve gone in the first 10 picks. He probably should’ve gone at least in the first half of the first round, and then we’re sitting there with an opportunity to get him when we did, it was a bonus to me.”

Falcons coach Mike Smith wants his team to be bigger and stronger this year.

Panthers QB Cam Newton is embracing his role as a leader.

The Saints have signed NT Tyrone Ezell and LB Marcus Thompson.

The career of Bucs DE Da’Quan Bowers is at a crossroads as he enters training camp.

Antoine Bethea may be the biggest addition to the 49ers’ roster.

The Cardinals know that protecting QB Carson Palmer is paramount if they’re going to make it to the playoffs this year.

Said Rams OL Demetrius Rhaney, who was taken the pick after Michael Sam, of whether his high-profile teammate is a distraction, “He’s a football player, he’s not a bother. He’s laid-back, funny, jokes a lot. Pretty good.”

The Seahawks are at the top of PFT’s preseason power rankings, as well as some less important power rankings.

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Pat Bowlen stepping down from Broncos due to Alzheimer’s

AFC Championship - New England Patriots v Denver Broncos Getty Images

Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen is stepping away from the organization to deal with Alzheimer’s disease.

According to Mike Klis of the Denver Post, the 70-year-old Bowlen is relinquishing control of the Broncos to team president Joe Ellis so he can focus on his health.

It’s a really, really sad day,” Ellis told the Denver Post. “It’s sad for his family, his wife and his seven children. It’s sad for everyone in the organization. And it’s sad for all the Bronco fans who know what Pat Bowlen meant to them as an owner. It’s a day nobody wanted to see happen.”

Bowlen took a step back from the daily aspects of running the franchise in 2011 with Ellis taking over much of the workload. Per Klis, Bowlen said he was having issues with short-term memory loss as early as May 2009. The issues progressed with Bowlen revealing it had developed into Alzheimer’s on Tuesday.

Bowlen has owned the Broncos for the past 30 years and guided the franchise to six Super Bowl appearances and two titles during his tenure. The team will not be for sale and control of the franchise now belongs to the Pat Bowlen Trust. Bowlen’s intention is to keep ownership in the family.

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Antrel Rolle says this year’s Giants may be “most talented team” he’s played for

Giants Camp Football AP

Safety Antrel Rolle won a Super Bowl with the New York Giants in 2011 and appeared in another Super Bowl with the Arizona Cardinals in 2008.

However, Rolle believes the current iteration of the Giants may be the most talented team he’s been a part of in his 10 seasons in the NFL.

According to Brian Lewis of the New York Post, Rolle is bullish on the team’s chances this season.

“Absolutely. I think this is one of the most talented teams I have ever been on, if not the most talented,’’ Rolle said.

“It’s almost to a point where you have to hold yourself back — it’s just the first day of training camp. All of the guys are excited, and we’re trying to get out there and see what we can put together. It’s going to be a very special group we have here.’’

The Giants missed the playoffs for the second straight year in 2013. But after an 0-6 start to the season, the Giants did rally to win seven of their final 10 games with their defense ranking eighth in the league at season’s end.

Rolle was excited by the additions the Giants made to the roster this offseason. Head coach Tom Coughlin hopes the changes on offense can help rejuvenate Eli Manning and spark a unit that flailed frequently last year.

Only time will tell if Rolle’s optimism about the Giants potential is well-founded.

 

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Reports: Former Cowboys RB Robert Newhouse passes away at 64

Dallas Cowboys Getty Images

Robert Newhouse, a running back and fullback for the Cowboys from 1972 through 1983, died Tuesday after a bout with heart disease, multiple media outlets reported Tuesday.

A second-round pick out of Houston, Newhouse rushed for 4,784 yards and 29 touchdowns in his 12 seasons with Dallas. He started in three Super Bowls for the Cowboys, and he capped the club’s 27-10 victory vs. Denver in Super Bowl XII with a 29-yard fourth-quarter TD pass to Golden Richards.

“House was a great football player,” Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach said of Newhouse, according to Fox 4 in Dallas-Fort Worth. “Off the field, he was a great man, kind and caring, solid as a rock.”

According to published reports, Newhouse is survived by his wife and four children.

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Julio Jones cleared for practice, but will be limited

Matt Ryan, Julio Jones AP

Relegated to spectator duty throughout offseason workouts, Atlanta Falcons receiver Julio Jones is getting closer to full strength.

According to D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, head coach Mike Smith said Jones has been cleared to practice ahead of the start of training camp on Friday.

However, Jones will be eased back into full duty.

“He will be limited in terms of his snaps,” Smith said. “Our number one goal is to make sure that we’ve got everybody as healthy as we possibly can be, but we know that we have to get these guys some work together and reps. Julio will be out there participating in practice right from the start.”

Jones appeared in just five games for Atlanta last year before a broken bone in his right foot ended his season. Jones had put together an explosive start to the seasons with 41 catches for 580 yards and two touchdowns before the injury. The 41 grabs were already more than halfway to his career-high of 79 catches in 2012.

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Texans sign rookie TE Chris Coyle

Chris Coyle AP

The Texans have re-signed rookie tight end Chris Coyle, the club announced Tuesday.

Coyle (6-4, 243) signed with Houston as an undrafted free agent on May 16, but the club waived the Arizona State product a little more than a month later. He garnered first-team All-Pac-12 honors as a senior in 2013, catching 29 passes for 423 yards and five touchdowns.

In other roster moves Tuesday, the Texans waived fullback Brad Smelley and defensive end Tim Jackson. According to the NFL’s transactions, Jackson was waived with the “failure to disclose physical condition” designation.

The Texans have 30 rookies on their roster. The club has two open roster spots.

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Report: Jamaal Charles will hold out from Chiefs camp

Jamaal Charles AP

In a surprise move, one of the NFL’s best players has reportedly decided not to report to training camp.

Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles will not show up when the Chiefs report to camp on Thursday. Charles is holding out for more money, KCTV-5 reports.

Charles still has two more years left on his contract and is due $3.9 million this year. He’s correct if he thinks he’s a lot better than a lot of players who are making more money than him, but the Chiefs may feel that they have no reason to give more money to a player who is under contract through 2015.

If Charles is serious about making his holdout a long one, that would be very bad news for the Chiefs: Charles led the team last year not just in rushing with 259 carries for 1,287 yards, but also in receiving with 70 catches for 693 yards. There may not be any non-quarterback in the league who is more important to his team’s offense than Charles.

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Jaguars’ Ace Sanders says he’s facing a four-game suspension

Ace Sanders AP

Jaguars second-year wide receiver Ace Sanders disclosed Tuesday that he’s in line for a four-game NFL suspension.

Sanders, whom the Jaguars placed on the non-football illness list Tuesday, said he will not participate in training camp and will seek counseling, according to a team-issued transcript of his remarks to reporters.

“I’ve made some mistakes that I do regret, that I do honestly regret,” Sanders said, according to the club. “I could have handled situations a little differently. I’m still just dealing with it. I’m trying to be a better person and a better teammate for everybody and everybody around me.

“I decided to go seek that help, get that attention that I need, hopefully somebody can help me out and I should be okay. I should be fine. I just want to get better and come back and be ready to play.”

Sanders was second on the Jaguars in receptions (51) as a rookie. The Jaguars drafted wide receivers Marqise Lee and Allen Robinson in May, and the club also returns leading receiver Cecil Shorts III (68 catches, 777 yards, three TDs in 2013). However, this is another setback for a receiving corps already without 2012 first-round pick Justin Blackmon, who’s serving a substance-abuse suspension handed down last fall.

Sanders said he would not appeal a suspension. He also declined to disclose the nature of the NFL violation.

“I have some personal issues that I am dealing with,” Sanders said. “I’m trying to get everything straightened out. It’s been really tough. It’s been a tough road for me the past couple of months.”

In opening his remarks, Sanders publicly apologized to the organization and fans. He also said he was heartened by the support of the team during this tough time, including that of his fellow receivers.

“That room is just like a brotherhood. They rallied behind me and told me that they were sending prayers and to just do what I have to do to get back and that when I get back that we’ll just play ball like we’ve been playing,” Sanders said. “It just made me feel loved and feel good inside to know that they still have my best interest whether I’m out there with them or trying to get myself together.”

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PFT’s preseason power rankings, sorted by division

Jeff Fisher, Bruce Arians AP

PFT wrapped up our 2014 preseason power rankings Tuesday by unveiling our top-ranked team, the defending-champion Seattle Seahawks.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the top two teams are out of the same division, with the San Francisco 49ers — NFC West and NFC runners-up a season ago — taking the No. 2 spot.

With the ultratough West in mind — what a challenging draw for the Cardinals and Rams — here’s a division-by-division look at the power rankings. Teams are ordered within their divisions by their overall ranking:

AFC East

4. New England Patriots. (AFC rank: 2.)

19. New York Jets. (AFC rank: 9.)

28. Buffalo Bills. (AFC rank: 12.)

31. Miami Dolphins. (AFC rank: 15.)

AFC North

7. Baltimore Ravens. (AFC rank: 3.)

9. Cincinnati Bengals. (AFC rank: 5.)

15. Pittsburgh Steelers. (AFC rank: 6.)

22. Cleveland Browns. (AFC rank: 10.)

AFC South

8. Indianapolis Colts. (AFC rank: 4.)

25. Houston Texans. (AFC rank: 11.)

29. Jacksonville Jaguars. (AFC rank: 13.)

30. Tennessee Titans. (AFC rank: 14.)

AFC West

3. Denver Broncos. (AFC rank: 1.)

16. San Diego Chargers. (AFC rank: 7.)

17. Kansas City Chiefs. (AFC rank: 8.)

32. Oakland Raiders. (AFC rank: 16.)

NFC East

13. Philadelphia Eagles. (NFC rank: 8.)

18. New York Giants. (NFC rank: 10.)

23. Washington Redskins. (NFC rank: 13.)

24. Dallas Cowboys. (NFC rank: 14.)

NFC North

5. Green Bay Packers. (NFC rank: 3.)

12. Chicago Bears. (NFC rank: 7.)

21. Detroit Lions. (NFC rank: 12.)

27. Minnesota Vikings. (NFC rank: 16.)

NFC South

6. New Orleans Saints. (NFC rank: 4.)

10. Carolina Panthers. (NFC rank: 5.)

14. Atlanta Falcons. (NFC rank: 9.)

26. Tampa Bay Buccaneers. (NFC rank: 15.)

NFC West

1. Seattle Seahawks (NFC rank: 1.)

2. San Francisco 49ers. (NFC rank: 2.)

11. Arizona Cardinals. (NFC rank: 6.)

20. St. Louis Rams. (NFC rank: 11.)

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Jameel McClain OK after injury scare at training camp

mcclain AP

There’s good news on Giants linebacker Jameel McClain, who was carted off the field on Tuesday at training camp.

According to multiple reporters on the scene, X-rays were negative and McClain is believed to have nothing more serious than soreness in his foot. If McClain is still in pain tomorrow he’ll get an MRI on the foot, but it appears that the Giants’ starting weak side linebacker will be fine.

It wasn’t all good news on a hot and humid day at Giants camp, as coach Tom Coughlin said he was disappointed that multiple players had to step off the practice field for heat-related reasons. But in the case of McClain, things have turned out OK.

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Ravens expect NFL to be “fair” and “judicious” to Ray Rice

John Harbaugh AP

The Ravens are bracing themselves for being without running back Ray Rice.

But they’re not worried about how long, at least not yet.

Ravens coach John Harbaugh said he didn’t think the timing of Rice’s punishment (for assaulting his now-wife) would be a problem for the team, as long as they knew by the middle of the preseason.

“It’s not my decision to make or any of us here,” Harbaugh said, via Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun. “It’s in other people’s hands. I’m sure there’s a lot of complications making those kind of decisions. There are many sides to every story, and there are a lot of factors. There are other people involved.

“There are other disciplinary situations involved around the league. That has to be weighed and taken into context They’re going to have to sort through that to be fair about the whole thing. I know the league is really judicious about that. I think they work really hard to do the right thing. I don’t think they worry about public opinion too much. I think they want to do the right thing by the people involved and see where it goes.”

Of course, if the Ravens were concerned about public opinion, they might not have live-tweeted Rice’s wife apologizing for getting knocked out.

But that’s just one of the issues they’ve faced this offseason, as they led the league with five arrests.

Asked how he addressed that surge in off-field activity, Harbaugh replied: “I think the point has been made.”

Now we get to sit back and see if it is heeded.

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