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Cowboys would have to approve Marinelli move to Tampa

Rod Marinelli, Jason Garrett AP

Rod Marinelli served as assistant head coach and defensive coordinator for Lovie Smith during their time together with the Chicago Bears.

Marinelli appears set to join Smith on his staff in Tampa Bay as the Buccaneers’ defensive coordinator but there could be one hitch that could stop the move.

According to Todd Archer of ESPNDallas.com, the Dallas Cowboys would have to approve any move Marinelli wishes to make. He’s under contract with the Cowboys for next season as the team’s defensive line coach. The Cowboys have blocked assistants Joe DeCamillis and Tony Sparano from taking jobs in recent seasons and only are obligated to allow assistants to interview for head coaching jobs.

Marinelli was with Smith from 2009-2012 in Chicago and coached in Tampa Bay as an assistant from 1996-2005.

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Field in great shape for Super Bowl XLIX

Field AP

There was concern among the teams who in fewer than 12 hours will be playing in Super Bowl XLIX that the grass field at University of Phoenix Stadium (home of the only undefeated college football team in American history) would be in rough shape after:  (1) the Pro Bowl last Sunday; and (2) rehearsals for tonight’s halftime show.

Per a high-ranking official with one of the teams that will square off there tonight, the field is considered to be in excellent condition, especially in light of the recent usages of it.

During Saturday rehearsals for the NBC pregame show, the perimeter of the playing surface seemed to be soft and fully covered with thick grass, unlike so many of the grass fields that develop conspicuous bare patches.  Some field, like University of Phoenix Stadium in 2013, have displayed bare patches even early in the season.

As a result, neither team will be able to claim that the balls weren’t fully inflated, and neither team will be able to blame any poor performances on the large sliding tray of earth under their feet.

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Giants matriarch Ann Mara dies at 85

annmara AP

Ann Mara, who spent six decades as an influential figure on the New York Giants, has died at the age of 85.

Mara, who married the late Giants owner Wellington Mara in 1954, passed away early this morning after spending the last two weeks in the hospital.

“I am sad to say that our mother has passed away,” Giants President and CEO John Mara said in a statement. “She has been the leader of our family in every way, and we will miss her dearly. She slipped in front of her home during the ice storm two weeks ago. She had been in the hospital since the following day, initially due to a head injury she suffered in her fall. After a few days, we were hopeful for her recovery, although we knew it would be a long road back. Unfortunately, there were complications. She loved her family, and all of us were able to spend time with her in these final days. All 11 of her children and our spouses and numerous grandchildren were with her when she passed away.”

Ann Mara used to talk about how she embraced the sports that her husband loved, although she was also a Giants fan before she met Wellington.

“Our dates were at Yankee Stadium, Madison Square Garden and the Fordham gymnasium. That was my courtship,” she said.

Although her husband and her son were more directly involved in the team’s football operations, Ann Mara took a strong interest in the welfare of the team. Just weeks ago, at the Giants’ end-of-year press conference, John Mara said his mom gets frustrated when the Giants miss the playoffs “probably even more so than I do.”

The Giants will miss that passion, and the NFL will miss one of its most influential women.

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49ers add three defensive coaches

Arizona Cardinals v Seattle Seahawks Getty Images

The 49ers continue to add former defensive coordinators to their coaching staff.

Eric Mangini will run the defense with the help of three assistants who used to have the same responsibilities. Former Raiders coordinator Jason Tarver will be coaching the outside linebackers and Alex Marvez of FOX Sports reports that Clancy Pendergast and Tim Lewis will be joining him on the staff. Pendergast will be coaching the inside linebackers while Lewis works with the defensive backs.

Pendergast was the defensive coordinator for the Cardinals from 2004-2008 and then with the Chiefs in 2009 before dropping to the college ranks to run defenses at Cal and USC. Lewis was the defensive backs coach in Atlanta since 2010 and ran defenses for both the Steelers and Giants early in the 2000s before moving back to being a position coach.

Marvez also reports that the 49ers will make Scott Brown their defensive line coach. Brown was a college assistant coach before joining the 49ers as a midwest regional scout in 2012 so he’ll be transitioning back to an old role.

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Dan Rooney: Pittsburgh Super Bowl “should happen”

Indianapolis Colts v Pittsburgh Steelers Getty Images

The NFL returned to Glendale for this year’s Super Bowl, but they’ll be taking the game to Santa Clara for the first time next year and Commissioner Roger Goodell has talked about his desire to get the game “to as many communities as possible” in the future.

Steelers president Art Rooney II said last year that he wanted Pittsburgh to be in the mix for the game in the future. Rooney’s father feels the same way. Team chairman Dan Rooney said he hasn’t spoken to Goodell directly, but that people from the team have spoken to the league to relay his message.

“Yeah, I think it should happen,” Rooney said, via the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “As of last year, the (New York) Giants have had one. There have been games in Minnesota and Detroit, places like that. So now you think about it. Of course, you’ll have a lot of teams in the Northeast that will want one, but I think Pittsburgh would be a good place for the next one in the North.”

The size of Heinz Field, which is being expanded to 67,440 seats, and number of hotel rooms in Pittsburgh are potential stumbling blocks, although the league picked Minneapolis for the 2018 game despite the city pledging less than the 30,000 hotel rooms the league has said they look for in a host city.

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Eric Decker wants to play with Demaryius Thomas again

Denver Broncos versus the New York Jets Getty Images

Last offseason, wide receiver Eric Decker made the move from the Broncos to the Jets as a free agent.

The move led to fewer victories and a drop in production with Geno Smith and Michael Vick throwing the passes instead of Peyton Manning. The Jets don’t have a surer bet at quarterback for 2015, but Decker’s hoping he can convince his former Denver receiving mate Demaryius Thomas to make the same move he made.

“I’ve been pushing for the entire year now,” Decker said, via the New York Post. “It was just another opportunity to talk to him about it. It’s going to be interesting to see what happens. I think it would be tough for Denver to let him go. So whether they franchise-tag him here in the next month or give him a long-term deal, he’s just one of those premier players in this league. If he happens to make it to free agency, I would love to sign him because playing alongside him for four years and especially the last two years made it a lot of fun and made it a lot easier. He’s just one of the great players in this league.”

Decker’s probably going to have to use his marketing skills on other players because the Broncos letting Thomas walk is hard to see whether or not Peyton Manning returns for another season. The Jets have the cap space and the mindset to make a big play for Thomas should things go the other way, but it does look like this round of free agency will play out differently than Decker’s did.

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Jed York: We’ve got to put Colin Kaepernick in position to make plays

4th Annual NFL Honors - Arrivals Getty Images

Some 49ers fans may not be confident that the team is headed in the right direction based on the changes to the coaching staff that they’ve made since the end of the regular season, but CEO Jed York thinks that they’re going to be pleasantly surprised by the results on offense in 2015.

During an interview with NFL Network, York said that he doesn’t believe that quarterback Colin Kaepernick needs to be fixed. Instead, it’s a matter of putting him in the right position to make plays that take advantage of his particular set of skills and York’s confident that offensive coordinator Geep Chryst and quarterbacks coach Steve Logan are the right men to do it.

“But with Kap you got a guy in Geep Chryst who knows him better than anybody else,” York said. “You have a great guy in Steve Logan that’s coming in that’s going to work with him on fundamentals and to put a system that’s going to put Kap in the best position to make plays. How many quarterbacks in this league can run 90 yards for a touchdown? I can’t think of many, but you have to put Kap in position where he can make those plays and put Kap in position where we can run the ball. We can throw the ball in ways that allows him to be successful and let him be the absolute stud that he can be on the field, and that’s what you’re going to see from us next year. Defenses are not going to want to play against us because you’re not going to know where we’re going to hit you.”

Kaepernick ran for 639 yards during the regular season, but designed runs made up less than half of his carries. York suggests that will be different the next time around and that’s not likely to be the only change for the 49ers after the shakeup at the top of their coaching staff. Few of the other ones are likely to have as much to do with the success or failure of that shakeup, however.

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Report: Bernard Pollard asked Titans to release him

Dallas Cowboys v Tennessee Titans Getty Images

The Titans parted ways with vice president of player personnel Lake Dawson on Friday and the move wasn’t popular with one member of the roster.

Safety Bernard Pollard tweeted “talk about the wrong guy getting fired” and said he could name a lot of players and other people in the organization that should have been let go before Dawson. According to Jim Wyatt of the Tennessean, Pollard wanted to be one of them.

Wyatt reports that Pollard requested his release from the Titans at the end of the 2014 season. Pollard is set to make $3.1 million on his deal with the Titans for 2015 and the team could drop him without incurring a lot of dead money on their cap.

Pollard’s season came to an early end when he ruptured his Achilles five games into the season. Wyatt reports he’s progressing in rehab and asking out of a contract suggests that he’s pretty confident he’ll be able to sell himself to another team well ahead of next season.

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Goodell says NFL’s progress in London is better than expected

Detroit Lions v Atlanta Falcons Getty Images

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell says putting American football in London has worked out better than expected.

At his “State of the League” press conference, Goodell talked up London as a market where the NFL has already experienced tremendous growth, with more to come.

“London has done not only everything that we expected, but more than we expected,” Goodell said. “They’re responding to the game better than we ever dreamed, with more enthusiasm, more passion. You see it every year. When I was back last fall, you could see the passion and the understanding of the game. Every event that we have explodes with interest. We are continuing to advance our interests over there from the same point of playing more games. The more media coverage that we have, obviously leads to better understanding of the game on a national basis. We are working with sponsors, we are working with the fans directly, but already the three games that we have here, the report I had yesterday was just a couple thousand tickets left. That may be sold out by now. That’s three games in an incredibly short period of time. So, their passion is obvious. We want to continue to respond to that fan interest and if we do, we don’t know where it will go, but I think there is great potential in London for the NFL.”

Whether continued growth in London means a franchise based there or more teams giving up home games to play there, it’s clear that the NFL’s experiment with London won’t end any time soon. The league is committed to London for the long term.

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Prop Challenge, Day IX — Will we finally have overtime in a Super Bowl?

NFC Championship - Green Bay Packers v Seattle Seahawks Getty Images

Welcome to PFT’s Prop Challenge, our daily look at a Super Bowl proposition bet.

Here’s the idea: we present a prop, do some light analysis, then let you decide which side to take — hypothetically, of course. (Previous examples are at the bottom of this post.)

When the Super Bowl wraps up, we’ll tally the votes and see how well PFT Planet did.

Now, let’s get to today’s prop, which is courtesy of the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook:

Will there be overtime in the Super Bowl?

Yes: +550. No: -800.

The next Super Bowl to go to overtime will be the first. And undoubtedly, there will be bettors happily taking 11-2 odds with the idea that we’re due for a fifth quarter in pro football’s biggest game.

Also, there’s no denying the “Yes” side of props like this are more fun. What a nice story to have, cashing a ticket on the first-ever Super Bowl overtime. Win a bet like that and you dance to the seafood buffet.

However, history suggests “No” has a lot going for it — and not just because the first 48 Super Bowls have ended in regulation.

According to Pro Football Reference data, only 28-of-413 non-Super Bowl postseason games have gone to overtime since 1967. That’s about one in in every 16 games.

Viewed that way, 5.5-to-1 on the Super Bowl going to OT might seem a touch . . . short.

That said, Super Bowl XLIX is widely regarded as a closely matched competition. The point spread is pick ‘em at the majority of Nevada sports books.

Again, we turn to you. What’s the better bet — no overtime or the first-ever Super Bowl OT?

Aside: could you imagine Super Bowl overtime? The pressure would leave a nation pacing and push every Super Bowl party deeper into the night.

And it would be glorious.

Anyways, cast thy votes and leave thy comments.

Previous props studied:

Day I: Over-Under on Brandon LaFell’s receiving yards.

Day II: Over-Under on Doug Baldwin’s catches.

Day III: Will Rob Gronkowski score a touchdown?

Day IV: Will there be a one-yard TD in the Super Bowl?

Day V: Over-Under on Tim Wright’s receiving yards.

Day VI: Over-Under on LeGarrette Blount’s carries.

Day VII: Will there be a safety in the Super Bowl?

Day VIII: Over-Under on Russell Wilson’s rushing yards.

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Aaron Rodgers wins NFL Most Valuable Player

Aaron Rodgers AP

For the second time, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is the Most Valuable Player of the National Football League.

Rodgers was announced as 2014 league MVP as the culmination of tonight’s NFL Honors event in Phoenix. Rodgers had previously won the award for the 2011 season.

It’s no surprise that the award went to Rodgers, who had a phenomenal statistical season: Rodgers completed 341 of 520 passes for 4,381 yards, with an incredible touchdown-interception ratio: He finished the year with 38 touchdown passes and just five interceptions.

Rodgers got 31 MVP votes. J.J. Watt was second with 13 MVP votes. DeMarco Murray and Tony Romo each had two votes, while Tom Brady and (in a major surprise) Bobby Wagner each had one.

The postseason ended in disappointment for Rodgers, who saw his Packers blow a big lead in the NFC Championship Game and lose to the Seahawks. But in the regular season, Rodgers was the best player in football. He was recognized for that tonight.

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Gronk wins comeback player of the year award

Gronk Getty Images

After shaking off a major knee injury to establish himself as the best tight end in the NFL, New England’s Rob Gronkowski has been named the comeback player of the year.

Gronk, who was a unanimous All-Pro, was given the award at tonight’s NFL Honors event in Phoenix. Members of the Gronkowski family picked up the award for Rob, the most successful of the many athletes in the family, as Rob is at the Patriots’ team hotel getting ready for the Super Bowl.

Of the 50 voters for the NFL awards, 27 picked Gronkowski. In second place were Eagles receiver Jeremy Maclin and Cowboys linebacker Rolando McClain with seven votes each, followed by Broncos cornerback Chris Harris with three votes, Ravens running back Justin Forsett and Texans running back Arian Foster with two votes, and Cardinals linebacker Larry Foote and Bills quarterback Kyle Orton with one vote each.

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Thomas Davis named NFL Man of the Year

Carolina Panthers v Atlanta Falcons Getty Images

Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis, whose foundation helps underprivileged children, has been named the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year — the only award that recognizes players for their community service as well as their playing ability.

Davis received the award at tonight’s NFL Honors event in Phoenix.

“I am honored to be selected as the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year,” Davis said. “This award means a great deal to me, as it symbolizes the valued work that the NFL, its players, and its 32 teams do in the community. I am blessed to have such a strong support system in my family, the Carolina Panthers and the NFL, which allows me to make an impact in the communities we serve.”

Davis, who had 129 tackles for the Panthers last season, will get a $50,000 donation made to the charity of his choice.

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Larry Fitzgerald wins NFL’s inaugural sportsmanship award

Larry Fitzgerald AP

Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald has garnered the NFL’s inaugural Art Rooney Award for sportsmanship, the club announced Saturday night.

The award was voted upon by Fitzgerald’s fellow players. It is named for the founder of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

One example of Fitzgerald’s respect for those he competes against came last season, when he delivered a textbook block on unsuspecting Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman. While Fitzgerald knocked down Sherman, he did not hit him as hard as he could have. As the players ran back to their huddles, Sherman patted Fitzgerald on the helmet.

Afterwards, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll publicly praised Fitzgerald for the physical-but-clean way he plays the game.

The 31-year-old Fitzgerald is entering his 12th NFL season.

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Aaron Donald wins defensive rookie of the year

New Orleans Saints v St. Louis Rams Getty Images

Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald is the NFL’s defensive rookie of the year.

Donald got the award at tonight’s NFL Honors, capping a season in which he recorded nine sacks, including one sack in eight of the Rams’ last 11 games.

Of the 50 media members who vote on the NFL’s awards, 25 chose Donald as the defensive rookie of the year. Ravens linebacker C.J. Mosley was next with 18 votes, followed by Raiders linebacker Khalil Mack with six votes and 49ers linebacker Chris Borland with one vote.

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J.J. Watt named defensive player of the year

Houston Texans v Indianapolis Colts Getty Images

In the least surprising news to come out of tonight’s NFL Honors event, Texans defensive end J.J. Watt has been named the defensive player of the year.

It was obvious that Watt would win the award because it’s obvious that Watt is the NFL’s best defensive player. There’s plenty of debate about who the second-best defensive player in the NFL is, but there’s no debate about who’s first.

Watt was selected unanimously by the 50 media members who vote on the NFL’s awards.

The biggest question about Watt now is whether he can continue to play at the dominant level he has shown off for the last three seasons. If he does, he’ll be not just the best defensive player in the NFL at the moment, but perhaps the greatest defensive player ever to play the game.

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