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Dennis Hickey says “yes” to the Dolphins


The Dolphins finally have a General Manager.  And the team can confidently say he wasn’t their second choice.

He was their third.  And perhaps lower.

Regardless, Buccaneers director of player personnel Dennis Hickey has accepted the position, according to Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald.

An 18-year employee of the Buccaneers, he became the director of player personnel under G.M. Mark Dominik in 2011. Hickey wasn’t considered for the team’s recently-filled G.M. job.

Hickey gets a clean slate with the Dolphins, and his job will entail more than merely finding players via the draft and free agency.  He’ll now have to navigate a potential mine field in Miami, tiptoeing around established relationships, finding a way to coexist with assistant G.M. Brian Gaine (who was a finalist for the job) and trying to enhance the reputation and perception of the football operation after a string of embarrassments.

Like many General Managers, Hickey may want to hire his own coach, eventually.  The better approach for owner Stephen Ross would be to tell Hickey, coach Joe Philbin, and executive V.P. of football administration Dawn Aponte that they’re all in this equally — and that if the team continues to struggle, everyone is getting fired the next time.

UPDATE 11:42 a.m. ET:  The Dolphins have announced that Hickey has become the team’s new G.M.

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Mike Tomlin: Le’Veon Bell injury “wasn’t significant” prior to Sunday flare-up

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - NOVEMBER 24:  Le'Von Bell #26 of the Pittsburgh Steelers runs with the ball during the 28-7 win over the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium on November 24, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) Getty Images

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin told reporters Tuesday that the groin injury that knocked star running back Le’Veon Bell out of the AFC Championship went from something minor to something that left one of the NFL’s best players unable to continue.

“[Bell] was doing a great job of managing it,” Tomlin said. “It didn’t cause him to miss any practice time, let alone game time. It was something to manage. When you look at the journey that is the season, I think just about every guy down there is dealing with and managing something in an effort to stay on the grass.”

Bell said when he had a flare-up Sunday he had “no burst” and though he wanted to stay in the game, he felt he would be holding the team back if he did. He finished with 20 yards on five carries after setting franchise playoff rushing records in the team’s first two postseason games.

The NFL might have some questions for the Steelers because Bell said he’d been playing through an issue but was not showing up on the team’s official injury reports. Tomlin insisted that it had not been something the Steelers worried about until Sunday.

I was aware of it,” Tomlin said. “It wasn’t significant to the point where it affected planning or the anticipation of planning in any way. It’s unfortunate that it became an issue in game.”

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Jerry Jones: Cowboys need to “cool it” on Tony Romo talk

gettyimages-135521475 Getty Images

Nine days in to the offseason, the biggest question for the Dallas Cowboys continues to be the future of quarterback Tony Romo. On Tuesday, the team’s ordinarily loquacious owner made it clear that he and the rest of the franchise are done talking about the issue in public.

I’m not going to get into that at all — whether we’ve talked or not,” Jerry Jones said at the Senior Bowl, via Drew Davison of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “We’re at a juncture now that, we need to just cool it in our public conversations about what we’re going to be doing or not doing there with Tony.”

Jones is wise to not talk about it, because the more he does the more sensible it will become to simply release Romo’s rights without trying to trade him. That’s what Romo surely will want, and that could be what Jones ultimately does — reluctantly.

Cowboys executive Stephen Jones made it clear last week that Jerry and Tony will work out the situation between them, and it remains distinctly possible that Jones and Romo will agree: (1) that the player will be released; and (2) that Romo will give his word to avoid certain teams, like Washington or other Dallas rivals. It would be unenforceable and, technically, impermissible.

Still, it would be something that Romo could either honor and preserve a relationship that will likely generate plenty of revenue for him after he retires or disregard and lose his standing with Jones.

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Matt Patricia praises Julio Jones

ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 22:  Julio Jones #11 of the Atlanta Falcons makes a catch in the third quarter against Jake Ryan #47 and LaDarius Gunter #36 of the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game at the Georgia Dome on January 22, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Patriots surely have gone to work on a defensive game plan aimed at neutralizing the Atlanta passing attack and, specifically, receiver Julio Jones. There’s a chance that, no matter how New England configures the X’s, the O named Julio will still find a way to catch passes, gain yards, and potentially score touchdowns.

On Tuesday, Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia didn’t say that specifically when praising Jones, but the point came through Patricia’s remarks, loud and clear.

“[W]e saw him a couple of years ago and studied him,” Patricia told reporters. “He’s probably just one of the most dynamic players in the league. I usually don’t wind up comparing him to other people; I wind up comparing other people to him just because of his skill set and his ability.”

Specifically, the Patriots saw the Falcons in September 2013, for a game in Atlanta. Jones caught six passes for 108 yards; the Patriots, however, won the game, 30-23. Of course, that was before the Falcons underwent an offensive explosion with Kyle Shanahan drawing up the attack.

“The things that he does for them and what he can do is he does a great job of moving around into different positions,” Patricia said. “Coach Shanahan puts him in different spots. He’ll try to get him working different positions to get a matchup that he likes, or a particular formation that gives the defense problems, and then they’ll really use him in a variety of ways. He can run underneath routes, he has great speed, he has great hands, he has great body control, and he’s very, very strong. A bigger corner, smaller corner, whatever it is, he can push on the [defensive backs], lean and be able to play physical at the line of scrimmage, plus physical downfield with them, and still come up with the ball. He does a great job of tracking the ball in the air, can go up and high point it and get it.”

In other words, Julio Jones can be “covered,” and he can still make the catch.

“He’s got great hands and like I said, does a great job after the catch,” Patricia said. “Just his ability to get the ball, get vertical into the defense towards the end zone, stiff-arm a defender, break a tackle, run away from guys, it’s just he’s such a dynamic player in that aspect that he can give you a lot of problems. He’ll go vertical, he’ll run the intermediate routes, he’s very good at the top of the route, he does an unbelievable job of stemming and using his skill set to get separation at the top of the route in both man-to-man, and he does a great job of seeing zone coverage and sitting down. He and Matt Ryan have great chemistry where the route might be changed [because of] something that was called but because of the coverage, they’ve adjusted it and he’s been able to work himself into open space and then Ryan will get him the ball. He’s a great player.”

Yes he is, and it’s going to be a challenge unlike any the Patriots have encountered in a Super Bowl since they somehow outscored the Greatest Show on Turf in early 2002.

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Eagles “want to make sure” Carson Wentz on board with offseason moves

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JANUARY 01: Quarterback Carson Wentz #11 of the Philadelphia Eagles looks to pass against the Dallas Cowboys during the third quarter of a game at Lincoln Financial Field on January 1, 2017 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Eagles defatted the Cowboys 27-13. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Eagles made a big move ahead of the draft last year when they swung a deal with the Browns for the second overall pick in order to select quarterback Carson Wentz.

That move didn’t sit well with then-quarterback Sam Bradford, whose agent Tom Condon said after the deal that “it would have been nice” if the Eagles let Bradford know what was going on. Bradford demanded a trade and rescinded it before ultimately being dealt to the Vikings.

The circumstances are quite different this offseason, but the Eagles plan to consult with their current quarterback about this offseason’s moves. Vice president of football operations Howie Roseman said on WIP that he wants to hear Wentz’s voice as they move toward his second season, particularly when it comes to players who might be catching his passes.

“The way the league rules are, you’d love to be able to bring him down and throw to these guys,” Roseman said. “That would be unbelievable. It just doesn’t work that way. But from our perspective, we want to make sure that he’s on board with some of these things, and he’s looking at some … probably more in free agency than in the draft, because it’s hard for him to get caught up on the draft prospects.”

Roseman has already made it clear that the Eagles are building around Wentz, so it makes some sense to make sure the players being acquired are a good fit on his end. Given how little help he got from his receivers in 2016, Wentz may even upgrade the evaluation process.

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Dabo Swinney: If Browns pass on Deshaun Watson, they’re passing on Michael Jordan

TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 09:  Quarterback Deshaun Watson #4 hugs head coach Dabo Swinney of the Clemson Tigers after defeating the Alabama Crimson Tide 35-31 to win the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game at Raymond James Stadium on January 9, 2017 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) Getty Images

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney says there’s no doubt that his star quarterback should be the first overall pick in the draft.

In fact, Swinney says that if the Browns don’t use the No. 1 pick on Deshaun Watson, they’re making a historic mistake that will haunt the franchise for years.

“He’s humble, the same guy every day, and always ready,” Swinney said of Watson. “He comes to every meeting prepared. That’s how you change things, you change the culture, through — for me it’s through discipline and recruiting, staffing and all that stuff. For them, it’s decision-making, it’s who you pick. And I’m just telling you: They pass on Deshaun Watson, they’re passing on Michael Jordan. I mean, I don’t know what the heck I’m talking about, I’m just an old funky college coach, but Deshaun Watson is the best, by a long shot.”

Two teams did pass on Michael Jordan in the 1984 NBA draft: The Houston Rockets took Akeem Olajuwon first overall, and he became a Hall of Famer who led the Rockets to NBA titles in the two years when Jordan left the Chicago Bulls. But the Portland Trail Blazers selected Sam Bowie second overall before the Bulls took Jordan third, and the Bowie selection is often remembered as one of the worst picks in draft history.

If the Browns choose Texas A&M pass rusher Myles Garrett, the odds-on favorite to be the first overall pick, they’ll be hoping he’s more an Olajuwon than a Bowie. But Swinney says they should just take Watson, and get football’s Michael Jordan.

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Colts want to interview Ravens’ Eric DeCosta for G.M. job

John Harbaugh News Conference Getty Images

Eric DeCosta has been the right-hand man to Ravens G.M. Ozzie Newsome for two decades, and for most of that time other teams have viewed DeCosta as a strong candidate to become a G.M. himself. Unfortunately for those other teams, DeCosta has consistently declined opportunities to leave Baltimore.

The Colts hope to change that: Albert Breer of reports that the Colts have requested permission to interview DeCosta for their G.M. opening.

Would DeCosta have any interest in working for the Colts when he has shown little interest in leaving Baltimore for other teams? He might, for a couple reasons.

For one, he has a good relationship with Colts head coach Chuck Pagano, who was a Ravens assistant for four years before he went to Indianapolis. For another, the Colts have Andrew Luck, which would mean the hardest part of a G.M.’s job — finding a franchise quarterback — is already done in Indianapolis.

Still, getting DeCosta to Indianapolis seems like a long shot. DeCosta has indicated many times that he’s happy where he is, and Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti has indicated that DeCosta will get the top job in the Baltimore front office when Ozzie Newsome retires. Getting DeCosta to change course and move on to the Colts would be a big coup for Jim Irsay.

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Todd Gurley: 2016 a “nightmare” I don’t want to experience again

Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley, right, runs the ball while under pressure from Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Eric Murray during the first half of a preseason NFL football game, Saturday, Aug. 20, 2016, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ryan Kang) AP

Shortly before the Rams fired Jeff Fisher as their head coach, running back Todd Gurley shared his feeling that the team was running a middle school offense and that some players on the team were just going through the motions as a losing season ran its course.

While Gurley’s comments about the offense would seem to be directed at the people in charge of installing it and calling the plays, he said on The Rich Eisen Show Tuesday that his frustration was with the players. There were “too many mental errors from everybody, including myself.”

It’s not anything that Gurley wants to experience again.

“Like a nightmare. I still can’t believe the season,” Gurley said. “It was definitely a tough year, a learning experience for me. To be 4-12 this year? I don’t want to feel that feeling again.”

The Rams have a new coach in Sean McVay and one of the first things he can do to help chart a winning course is find a way to get Gurley back to the kind of effectiveness he had as a rookie. Gurley ran for 1,106 yards while averaging 4.8 yards per carry in 2015, but dropped to 3.2 yards per attempt in 2016 while never hitting 100 yards in a game, leaving plenty of room for improvement for a player expected to be a building block of better Rams offenses.

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Mike Tomlin didn’t see Antonio Brown pouting, will “continue to challenge him”

KANSAS CITY, MP - JANUARY 15: Head coach Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers congratulates wide receiver Antonio Brown #84 following the Steelers win against the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Divisional Playoff game at Arrowhead Stadium on January 15, 2017 in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images) Getty Images

After a week filled with plenty of discussion about his decision to post video from the team’s locker room on social media, wide receiver Antonio Brown had a quiet game in the Steelers’ season-ending loss to the Patriots.

The aftermath of that game hasn’t been without some drama where Brown is concerned, however. Aditi Kinkhabwala of NFL Media reported that the Steelers are concerned that Brown puts too much focus on his personal statistics and not enough on what’s best for the team. The report went on to say Brown was pouting after a DeAngelo Williams touchdown against the Patriots and that coach Mike Tomlin spoke to Brown about the issue in 2015.

During a press conference on Tuesday, Tomlin said that he didn’t see Brown pouting during the game and was asked more generally about where things stood with Brown heading into the offseason.

“We all need to get better in all areas,” Tomlin said. “I am going to continue to challenge him in the way I have challenged him over the course of his career to continue to find new ways to be an impact player for us. To continue to grow within the role that is his role on this team. He is a dynamic player. There are responsibilities that come with being a dynamic player, I am going to ask him to continue to grow in those areas.”

Tomlin said those things were important for all players, but they seem particularly big for Brown as he enters the final year of his current contract. When discussing the locker room video, Tomlin said incidents like that are “often why you see great players move from team to team.”

With Ben Roethlisberger talking about the possibility of not playing next season and issues involving Brown front and center, there will be plenty of attention on how things play out in Pittsburgh over the coming months.

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Brandon Spikes disputes lawsuit from The Fish Guy

FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 28:  Brandon Spikes #51 of the Buffalo Bills warms up before a game against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on December 28, 2014 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images) Getty Images

There are two sides to every story, and soon-to-be-free agent linebacker Brandon Spikes disputes the claims of The Fish Guy who is carping about not getting paid.

Instead, Spikes is portraying Joshua Wolfson as a bit of a fish-killer.

Spikes’ agent David Canter said that Spikes hired Wolfson to service his tank in 2011, and that he moved his tank three times. The first resulted in a failure of the tank and the death of about half his fish, but fish die sometimes, so Spikes continued to employ him.

When it was time to move to Buffalo, Wolfson advised Spikes to buy a new tank and installed it, at which point more fish died. A local fish tank service in Buffalo said the filters were improperly set up and the tank was all wrong for the type of fish Spikes had, leading Spikes to buy another tank in an effort to save the remaining fish.

Since he lost a bunch of fish and had two buy two tanks, Spikes decided to not pay The Fish Guy, which led to a threat of countersuit. When Spikes rejoined the Bills and had paychecks again, The Fish Guy filed a motion to garnish his wages, and Spikes’ lawyers have filed a motion to vacate that judgement.

As you can tell, this is different from Wolfson’s story of the veteran linebacker being a piker, and not just something they’re doing for the halibut.

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Should any team trust Johnny Manziel?

KANSAS CITY, MO - DECEMBER 27:  Quarterback Johnny Manziel #2 of the Cleveland Browns watches from the sidelines during the game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium on December 27, 2015 in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) Getty Images

Stop us if you’ve heard this one before: Johnny Football is all about football.

That was the mantra three years ago, with Manziel focused solely and exclusively on football in the months preceding the draft. He was so obsessed with football and only football that a day trip to Nike headquarters in Oregon prompted a “Hey, I thought you were only focusing on football?” reaction.

Manziel was so obsessed with football that he wouldn’t even do radio interviews aimed at talking about (wait for it) football. He carefully crafted an image regarding a player who “gets it” and who has left childish ways behind and who was ready to be a productive NFL player and who, once he was drafted, immediately reverted to the immature, party-loving, not-hard-working player he had been.

After an offseason featuring money phones and inflatable swans and rolled-up dollar bills and a regular season that included stories of a non-franchise-quarterback’s work ethic, Manziel spent more than 10 weeks in rehab. The Browns stood by him as he made the changes necessary to get his life on track.

During the 2015 season, the wheels came off, with Manziel again embraced to his hardy partying ways, a trend that continued through the end of the campaign, prompting his father to muse that the end literally could be coming and sparking a firing by not one but two agents.

The problems continued, from a domestic violence incident to a wrecked car to a trashed rental home to a spindly build that looked like anything but a quarterback’s physique. He finally disappeared from view when he returned to Texas A&M, and now he’s back, openly campaigning for an NFL job a week before he’ll be selling autographs and selfies in conjunction with the Super Bowl in Houston.

If he’s not merely looking to stir up interest in next week’s money grab, Manziel will need to do a lot more than delete his Twitter account in order to get back to the NFL. He’ll need to win the trust of a team, and at this point who would trust him?

A fanboy trip to the AFC Championship hardly suggests the kind of transformation he’ll need in order to secure a spot on the most important aspect of any team’s depth chart. Every quarterback has a key role on an NFL team. Beyond the starter, the No. 2 and No. 3 players are there to support the No. 1 guy and help prepare the rest of the team, offensively and defensively.

It’s not a position for a charity case or redemption story. With multiple past instances of Manziel mimicking Eddie Haskell, there’s no reason to believe that he truly has changed or that he’ll remain changed.

If from a talent standpoint Manziel were potentially the next Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees or Russell Wilson, things would be different. Manziel isn’t.

Even if fully and completely engaged, he’s a limited NFL player with a limited NFL game who has squandered his opportunities and who simply doesn’t deserve another one at the expense of some other quarterback who has checked all the right boxes and done all the right things and who, above all else, can be trusted not to create a host of distractions in new and innovative ways.

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Report: Colts want to interview Chris Ballard for G.M. job

JACKSONVILLE, FL - SEPTEMBER 29: An Indianapolis Colts helmet sits on the sidelines during a game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Field on September 29, 2013 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Colts kicked off their search for a new General Manager by firing Ryan Grigson last weekend and the list of candidates they’re putting together will look familiar to anyone who has been keeping an eye on the 49ers’ search.

Tom Pelissero of USA Today reports that the team has requested permission to interview Chiefs director of football operations Chris Ballard. He joins Packers exec Eliot Wolf, Vikings exec George Paton, interim G.M. Jimmy Raye and Seahawks co-player personnel directors Trent Kirchner and Scott Fitterer on their list.

The Chiefs blocked Ballard from interviewing for the opening with the 49ers, but their ability to do that ended once their season ended with a loss to the Steelers in the divisional round of the playoffs. There was also a report that Ballard was not interested in interviewing with other teams, so we’ll have to see if the new opening in Indianapolis leads to a different outcome.

All of the candidates identified in Indianapolis were in the mix for the 49ers opening, although Paton is the only one still in the running. He’s expected to interview with the 49ers a second time on Saturday.

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Terry McDonough to get second interview with 49ers


While many have pulled out, the 49ers do still have candidates for their General Manager opening.

According to Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic, Cardinals executive Terry McDonough is expected to have his second interview with the 49ers Saturday.

And since Saturday is the day Falcons offensive coordinator and coach-in-waiting Kyle Shanahan can talk to the 49ers, that meeting will presumably take place in Atlanta.

McDonough, the Cardinals vice president of player personnel, has gotten an endorsement from former 49ers coach Mike Nolan, and is one of few known remaining candidates.

Minnesota’s George Paton is also still apparently in the mix, though the Colts want to talk to him as well.

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Johnny Manziel is done with Twitter “distraction”

johnny-manziel.vresize.1200.675.high.90 Getty Images

Not long after former Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel sent the President of the United States some advice about social media via social media, he deleted his social media account.

Now, he says he got out of the Twitter business because it was a “distraction” for him as he tries to get back to the NFL.

“Twitter has been nothing but a distraction for me. I’ve said all I can say,” Manziel told TMZ Sports. “Now I need to shut the hell up and work on bettering myself and my situation.”

This came after tweeting at President Donald Trump with the suggestion to forego the notifications, saying it “will drive you crazy.”

Manziel has said he’s sober and wants another chance to get back into the league. And while getting rid of Twitter doesn’t necessarily move him closer to that goal, it could at least reduce one factor which could might slow that progress.

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Bill Belichick: Falcons look faster than almost every team they play

ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 01: Vic Beasley Jr. #44 celebrates a sack with Grady Jarrett #97 of the Atlanta Falcons during the first half against the New Orleans Saints at the Georgia Dome on January 1, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Patriots haven’t faced the Falcons since the 2013 season and Atlanta’s team has changed considerably since they lost to the Patriots 30-23 on their way to a 4-12 season.

Belichick outlined one of the biggest differences he sees in this year’s Falcons team when he fielded a question about the stamp Falcons General Manager Thomas Dimitroff has put on the team. After noting that he worked with Dimitroff’s father when both men were with the Browns and with Dimitroff when he was in charge of college scouting in New England, Belichick noted Atlanta is “explosive offensively” and pointed to how fast the Falcons are playing on defense.

“I’d say the stamp on the team, the thing that I would notice the most is just the speed, the team speed that the Falcons have,” Belichick said during a conference call. “They have a lot of fast guys. Defensively they close up space very quickly. Their linebackers run well. Their defensive line, although they have a couple of big, strong, physical guys in there, overall they have usually nine or 10 players on the field that I would say are fast. They’re either as fast or faster than probably what the average speed of their position is in the league. I’d say that’s a big stamp that he has put on the team.”

Later in the call, Belichick said that he saw similarities between the Falcons defense and the one Dan Quinn ran when he was the defensive coordinator with the Seahawks. That unit hasn’t posted the same kind of results as the Seattle one did on their way to a 28-24 loss to the Patriots in the Super Bowl two years ago, but they’ll get a chance at gaining a better result in Houston.

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Colts ask for permission to talk to Eliot Wolf about G.M. job

Mike McCarthy, Eliot Wolf AP

Eliot Wolf got another raise out of the Packers after pulling out of the running for the 49ers job. He may be about to parlay a surprise opening into another one.

According to Tom Pelissero of USA Today, the Colts have asked for permission to interview Wolf for the job formerly held by Ryan Grigson.

The Packers blocked the 34-year-old Wolf from interviewing with the Lions last offseason, but that’s reasonable considering their presence in the same division.

It’s also reasonable to wonder if they’ll be talking to Wolf’s co-worker Brian Gutekunst as well, since he also interviewed with the 49ers.

The Colts are also expected to interview the Seattle tandem of Trent Kirchner and Scott Fitterer, along with Minnesota’s George Paton and internal candidate Jimmy Raye III.

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