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Broncos are getting healthy for playoff run

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The Broncos have dealt with their fair share of injuries.  As their postseason opener approaches, however, most of their injured players not on injured reserve look to be ready to go.

Defensive lineman Derek Wolfe, who hasn’t played since November 24 due to an illness, remains out of practice.  All other injured players fully participated in practice on Wednesday and Thursday.

The injured-but-practicing are cornerback Champ Bailey (shoulder), receiver Wes Welker (concussion), quarterback Peyton Manning (ankle), tight end Joel Dreessen (knee), safety Duke Ihenacho (concussion), tackle Winston Justice (finger), guard Chris Kuper (ankle), center Steve Vallos (concussion), and cornerback Kayvon Webster (thumb).

The Broncos host the Chargers on Sunday, one month to the day after losing to San Diego at home.

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Percy Harvin to have no limitations after nearly landing on injured reserve

Percy Harvin, Brian Schneider AP

Percy Harvin’s season with the Seattle Seahawks nearly ended two weeks ago.

Following Seattle’s 27-9 victory over the St. Louis Rams in the regular season finale, it was finally time for judgment day on Harvin’s injured hip.

Head coach Pete Carroll met with Harvin that Monday with a roster move to injured reserve fully on the table for Seattle’s prize acquisition of the 2013 offseason.

Harvin had appeared in just one game for Seattle in Week 11 against the Minnesota Vikings. He caught one pass for 17 yards and returned his lone kickoff return opportunity 58 yards. It was a small glimpse of the player Seattle traded for back in March. But his surgically repaired hip flared up again following the game and had kept Harvin off the field for the remainder of the regular season.

But Harvin pleaded for a chance to show he was ready to get back on the field.

“Coach came to me last Monday with the whole IR thing. I just looked at him and said ‘coach, I’m ready to play ball,'” Harvin said. “We talked to the doctors, just kept rehabbing. I could hit the practice field and it felt pretty good.”

Carroll added “I had to look him in the eye two weeks ago on Monday and say ‘this is the time, this is it. We have to make the call’ and he said ‘not now, let me have a shot’, and he was ready to go. With great work from the trainers and a very successful surgery, he’s back and ready to go.

Harvin returned to practice that Thursday during Seattle’s bye week and continued to practice every day this week. He’s now ready to go with no limitations against the New Orleans Saints on Saturday.

Harvin gave credit to his teammates for keeping his spirit high while he struggled to keep grinding away at a rehab process that wasn’t showing improvement.

“Came a time where I thought about maybe just kind of shutting it down,” Harvin said. “But the guys just kept giving it to me, kept giving me that positive energy I needed and it all started turning around for me. So I decided that I was going to give it everything I have and go from there.”

Harvin said he’s “absolutely” going to be available to return kickoffs for Seattle and is expected to be available for full duty on offense.

“We’re excited about him going and excited for him. It’s been a long, long haul for a guy that’s such a great competitor and that means so much to, and for him to have the opportunity to join us now is really exciting I know for him, and for us too,” Carroll said.

Considering Harvin was just hours away from injured reserve, it’s quite a boost for a Seattle offense that sputtered at times over the last month of the season.

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PFT’s 2013 coach of the year

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Of all the postseason awards for the recently-completed NFL regular season, coach of the year became the toughest one to decide.

Typically, the prize goes to the man whose team most significantly exceeded preseason expectations, with extra consideration given to any adversity overcome in the process.

This year, the PFT coach of the year is Panthers coach Ron Rivera.

Entering the season on a hot seat that got a lot hotter after an ugly loss to the Cardinals dropped the team to 1-3, Rivera led the Panthers to a mark of 11-1 over the final 12 weeks of the season, securing the No. 2 seed in the NFC.  In hindsight, all that keep Carolina from the top spot was a 12-7 Week One loss to Seattle.

The performance should be enough to persuade new G.M. Dave Gettleman to keep Rivera around for at least a few more years, if not longer.  The pieces are in place for the Panthers to contend for the next several years.  If not longer.

The other finalists for the prize (which doesn’t entail an actual prize beyond, you know, public recognition) were Chiefs coach Andy Reid, Saints coach Sean Payton, Eagles coach Chip Kelly, Cardinals coach Bruce Arians, and Chargers coach Mike McCoy.

Vote for your own coach of the year, and then make your case in the comments.  Or do what coaches do and complain about the official ruling.

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Paul Tagliabue not a Hall finalist for fifth straight year

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For the fifth consecutive year, former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue is not a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Tagliabue, who was commissioner from 1989 through 2006, was one of the 25 semifinalists for the Class of 2014, but he is not among the 15 modern-era candidates and two senior candidates to be considered when the Hall’s Selection Committee meets on Saturday, February 1.

Tagliabue was a finalist in 2007, 2008 and 2009, but he did not receive the support necessary for induction.

The commissioners who preceded Tagliabue — Pete Rozelle (1960-1989) and Bert Bell (1946-1959) — are each in the Hall of Fame. Each were inducted as contributors. As MDS noted last year, considering contributors alongside of players can provide challenges for the committee.

The Hall can elect as many as five modern-era candidates as well as two members recommended by the organization’s Seniors Committee, which considers candidates who have been out of football for more than 25 years.

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Pro Football Hall of Fame finalists announced

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Three first-time eligible players and a coach were among the 15 finalists selected for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

The group of first-timers includes linebacker Derrick Brooks, wide receiver Marvin  Harrison and tackle Walter Jones, along with coach Tony Dungy.

The rest of the finalists include nine of last year’s 10 finalists who did not make the cut: Wide receivers Andre Reed and Tim Brown, running back Jerome Bettis, guard Will Shields, defensive ends Michael Strahan and Charles Haley, linebacker Kevin Greene and cornerback Aeneas Williams, along with owners Ed DeBartolo Jr.

Art Modell, the controversial owner who took the Browns to Baltimore,  did not make the final cut to 25 this year after being a finalist last year.

Voting for no more than five of the modern-era finalists from the group of 15 will take place the day before the Super Bowl.

Kicker Morten Andersen and safety John Lynch are the other finalists.

 

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Munchak could be next Texans offensive line coach

Munchak AP

Mike Munchak has spent 32 years in Houston and Tennessee, with the Oilers and Titans.  He could be returning to Houston, with the Texans.

According to John McClain of the Houston Chronicle, Munchak will interview Friday for the position of offensive line coach.

New coach Bill O’Brien has cleaned out the staff, with the exception of veteran defensive line coach Bill Kollar.

Munchak, who reportedly interviewed for the recently-filled opening at Penn State (even though he denied it), has interviewed for the head-coaching job with the Lions.  He became a Hall of Famer during his playing career with the Oilers.

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Braxton Miller returning for senior season

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Braxton Miller will take another season to show NFL evaluators what he can do.

The Ohio State junior quarterback is returning for his senior year, the school’s athletic department said on Twitter on Thursday night.

Miller, according to the school, said that he wanted to graduate and to “improve as a quarterback in all aspects of my game.”

Miller, who’s listed at 6-foot-2 and 215 pounds by Ohio State, has won the Big Ten’s offensive player of the year honors in each of last two seasons. In 2013, he completed 162-of-255 passes for 2,094 yards with 24 TDs and seven interceptions. He also rushed for 1,058 yards and 12 TDs on 171 carries.

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Ross says G.M. position will have control over the roster

Ross Getty Images

After a couple of confusing days, more is now known about the vacant General Manager position in Miami.

In a statement released Thursday night, owner Stephen Ross made it clear that the G.M. won’t be a so-called “G.M. Light.”

“The new General Manager will have autonomous responsibility for the 53 man roster and selecting players during the draft and will report to me,” Ross said.  “First and foremost, this person must have a passion for the game and demonstrated player evaluation expertise.  They will need to be a person who is a collaborative team player that puts the organization first.  Regardless of reporting structure, the relationship between the General Manager and Coach Philbin must be one of trust, respect, and collaboration, and this will be an area we will look closely at during the process.  This individual also must be a person with integrity who is open-minded and creative.”

Ross said that former Chiefs G.M. Carl Peterson will assist in the search process, but that after the job is filled Peterson will have no role in the organization.

“Carl and I have had a business relationship for almost 30 years dating back to the USFL and I have tremendous respect for his experience and judgment on team building and football operations,” Ross said. Ross reportedly had planned to hire a “football czar,” who would have overseen former G.M. Jeff Ireland and absorbed most if not all of Ireland’s powers.  Ross has now decided to hire a G.M. with basically the same duties and authority that Ireland exercised.

The statement comes after the Fritz Pollard Alliance advised minority candidates to decline to interview for a job that didn’t entail power over the roster.  The other vacant G.M. job in Tampa reportedly doesn’t entail power over the roster.

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Buccaneers running back Michael Hill arrested in Missouri

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New Bucs coach Lovie Smith has had plenty of welcome demands on his time this week.  He’s now had at least one unwelcome distraction.

Buccaneers running back Michael Hill was arrested in Missouri on Thursday, according to the St. Joseph (Mo.) News-Press.

The incident occurred at a St. Joseph bar.  Two officers suffered minor injuries in the scuffle.

Hill, a rookie in 2013, was arrested for failure to obey a lawful order and resisting arrest.

“We have been informed of the situation involving Michael Hill and are in the process of gathering additional information,” Buccaneers director of communications Nelson Luis said.

A native of St. Joseph, Hill was signed from the Green Bay practice squad on November 13.  After the draft, Hill signed with the Chargers.

In 2012, Hill rushed for 2,168 yards at Missouri Western State University.

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Saints deny Dolphins’ request to interview Ryan Pace

Pace

The Dolphins are casting a wide net in their effort to find a G.M.  But not every candidate will make it into the boat for an interview.

Jay Glazer of FOX Sports reports that the Saints have denied a request by the Dolphins to interview New Orleans director of player personnel Ryan Pace.

A 12-year member of the Saints organization, Pace is completing the first season in his current job.

Confusion persists in some league circles regarding the rules that apply to a team’s ability to block a request to interview a front-office employee for the job of General Manager.  As one league insider described the rule on Thursday, it’s “murky.”

For employees in the final year of their contracts, permission can’t be denied — but under certain circumstances a departure can be delayed.  For employees not in the final year of their contracts, the current team can block an interview for a position that doesn’t entail “(1) the authority over all personnel decisions related to the signing of free agents, the selection of players in the College Draft, trades, terminations, and related decisions, and (2) the responsibility for coordinating other football activities with the Head Coach.”

Or, as we learned today in connection with Kansas City’s denial of permission to the Buccaneers for permission to interview Chiefs director of pro personnel Chris Ballard, the explanation could be that the candidate didn’t want to leave.

[Photo credit:  NewOrleansSaints.com]

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ProFootballTalk: Pep Hamilton takes a shot at the Pats

The ProFootballTalk crew discusses Pep Hamilton’s jab at the Patriots for ‘stealing signals’. Mike Florio believes this is something Bill Belichick won’t take lightly.

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ProFootballTalk: Hail to Jay Gruden

The ProFootballTalk crew shares their thoughts regarding the Redskins’ decision to hire Jay Gruden as the team’s next head coach.

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Titans confirm interview with Mike Zimmer

Mike Zimmer AP

The Titans confirmed that they had interviewed Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer for their head-coaching vacancy on Thursday.

Zimmer, 57, has overseen the Bengals’ defense for the last six seasons. He has also interviewed for the Vikings’ head-coaching vacancy. Zimmer has been a defensive coordinator in each of the last 14 NFL seasons, leading defenses in Dallas (2000-2006) and Atlanta (2007) before joining Cincinnati.

Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden, who also interviewed for the Titans’ head-coaching job, was announced as the Redskins’ head coach on Wednesday.

The Titans fired head coach Mike Munchak on Saturday.

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Fritz Pollard Alliance advises minority candidates to pass on Dolphins job

Ross Getty Images

As the Miami Dolphins prepare to start the process of interviewing for the replacement to G.M. Jeff Ireland, the organization responsible for promoting minority hiring in football has a word of caution for its constituency:  Don’t do it.

According to the Miami Herald, the Fritz Pollard Alliance recommends that minority candidates decline to interview for the General Manager position unless it will be a “real” G.M. position.

“If it’s just going to be a personnel guy, my opinion is our guys don’t need to be going in and taking those interviews, ” John Wooten, chairman of the Fritz Pollard Alliance, told the Herald.  “I don’t know if the new people [owner Stephen] Ross is interviewing are going to be true general managers.”

Wooten specifically is concerned that the next G.M. will essentially have the job that was offered to Ireland before he left the team — a position without ultimate authority.

“[You're] now going to have the same position that you’re offering Jeff Ireland?” Wooten said. “Then our guys need to stay where they are.”

While we agree that no candidates should interview for a job without full information about what the duties will be, the idea of rejecting a General Manager’s job because it amounts to what’s known in league circles as “G.M. Light” would be a mistake.

For most if not all of the candidates linked to the Miami job, “G.M. Light” would be a promotion.  Basically, “G.M. Light” is better than no G.M. at all.

Under Wooten’s theory, minority candidates also should pass on the chance to become “G.M. Light” in Tampa, where coach Lovie Smith reportedly has control over the roster.  Throughout the league, teams have General Managers and Vice Presidents of Player Personnel who don’t have final say over the roster.  From the Patriots to the Steelers (sort of) to the Chiefs to the Eagles to the Rams, plenty of General Managers don’t hold full and complete control.

If Wooten is going to apply that standard in Miami, then Wooten needs to apply that standard to every other team that uses a “G.M. Light.”

Regardless, the Dolphins have become the target.  And if no minority candidates will interview for the job, the Dolphins won’t be able to comply with the Rooney Rule, which requires that at least one minority candidate be interviewed for every vacant coach and G.M. position.

UPDATE 8:25 p.m. ET:  Dolphins owner Stephen Ross has issued a statement explaining that the G.M. position will entail full control over the roster.

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ProFootballTalk: Big payday coming up for Newton

According to Mike Florio, the time is coming for Panthers QB Cam Newton to receive a shiny new contract.

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