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Julius Thomas anticipating a physical game on Sunday

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Broncos tight end Julius Thomas broke out as a pass catcher this season, his third in the NFL after playing basketball in college.

During Monday’s media session, Thomas said he never imagined his life would lead him to the Super Bowl when he was getting ready for NCAA tournament games at Portland State. He also probably didn’t imagine that he’d be getting ready to take hits from the likes of Kam Chancellor, although he’s ready for it now.

Thomas said he anticipates a physical matchup with the Seahawks and that the Broncos have to match Seattle’s physicality when the opportunities to do so present themselves. He also said that he plans to avoid big hits whenever possible, but that doesn’t mean he’ll be playing the game any differently than the way he played all season.

“No. I think all year I’ve been trying to avoid big shots,” Thomas said. “That’s just something you do as an offensive player, you don’t want to let guys tattoo you when you’re out there running with the football. On the line, that’s a physical part of the field. All physicality is welcomed down there in that part of the trenches.”

Thomas said the Broncos aren’t making a special point of being more physical for this game during meetings and practices, but it will be a different kind of test for their offense. The same is true of the Seattle defense, which makes the meeting of those two units something plenty of us will be anticipating between now and Sunday.

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Raiders announce one-year lease to remain in Oakland

Mark Davis Getty Images

For at least one more year, the Raiders will remain in Oakland.

The Raiders announced today that they have agreed to a one-year lease extension to play at Coliseum for the 2016 season. The agreement includes an additional two years of team options, giving the Raiders the choice to play at the Coliseum in 2017 and 2018 as well.

Raiders owner Mark Davis called the deal a “win-win situation” and said he’s optimistic that a deal can get worked out that will keep the Raiders in Oakland. The Raiders have hired real estate executive Larry MacNeil, who helped the 49ers with their move into Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, to help the Raiders negotiate a deal for a new stadium in Oakland.

“It gives us an opportunity to work on a permanent facility here in Oakland,” Davis said. “It gives us some certainty for this season as well as flexibility for the next two seasons. . . . My heart is here in Oakland.”

As they attempt to encourage more Bay Area fans to support them in Oakland, the Raiders have also announced that they will not raise season ticket prices.

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Super Bowl fans spent $151.92 each on food, drink, stuff

food-and-beer-at-the-super-bowl-are-even-more-expensive-than-we-imagined Getty Images

Going to the Super Bowl is a rare and special thing. So rare and special that the people who show up for the game happily accept the fact that everything is really expensive, forking over whatever the price may be for grossly overpriced food, beverages, and merchandise.

Via SportsBusiness Journal and, that mindset allowed for $6.2 million to be spent on food and beverages, an average of $87.57 per person. According to SBJ, another $4.6 million was spent on merchandise, pushing the total per person expenditure to $151.92.

That’s $151.92 for each of the 71,088 who attended. Which resulted in another $10.8 million flowing through the cash register.

When it comes to food and drink only, the record high came at MetLife Stadium two years ago, when fans spent an average of $94.60.

Meanwhile, I spent $59.64 on eight medium-sized pizzas from a national chain that needs no free advertising, feeding nine people and providing four days and counting of lunch and/or dinner for me since then. Which would explain why I’ve been spending so much time in the bathroom.

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No offset language in Brees guaranteed salary


The Saints definitely will be keeping quarterback Drew Brees for 2016.

Wednesday’s non-news news that $10.85 million of his $19.75 million base salary had become fully guaranteed omitted a piece of new news that means Brees will not be going anywhere. Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the Brees deal has no offset language for 2016.

This means that, if the Saints were to cut Brees, he’d still get the full $10.85 million without reduction for any money earned elsewhere, meaning that the Saints would carry $20.85 million on the books for Brees in 2016, no matter what.

If the deal had offset language, the Saints could have moved on from Brees if the two sides failed to work out a new deal for 2016 and beyond, since someone else surely would have paid Brees that much for the coming season — and the Saints would have gotten a dollar-for-dollar credit for the guaranteed pay.

So as it now stands, Brees has maximum leverage. He can either proceed with a $19.75 million base salary and a $30 million cap number, or he can sign an extension that reduces the cap number in exchange for cash and other considerations beyond the current season.

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Nate Allen back with Raiders

Nate Allen, Nick Foles AP

Earlier this week, the Raiders parted ways with safety Nate Allen shortly before his $4.9 million salary for the year would have become guaranteed.

The move didn’t cost the Raiders any dead money under the cap and freed up space to use on other acquisitions. Or re-acquisitions in the case of Allen.

The Raiders announced Thursday that they have brought Allen back to the roster. They didn’t announce the terms, but it’s a good bet that it is for less than the guaranteed salary he was set this season to make before getting bounced and not as long as the four-year, $23 million deal they signed him to before last season.

Allen only played in five games for the Raiders last season because of a knee injury and had 14 tackles and an interception while making three starts. Allen spent his first five seasons with the Eagles.

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Announcement of new Raiders lease expected at 6:00 p.m. ET

OAKLAND, CA - OCTOBER 12:  A general view during the Oakland Raiders game against the San Diego Chargers at Coliseum on October 12, 2014 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Raiders didn’t have a lease to play in Oakland or anywhere else for 2016. They apparently have one now.

It’s believed the Raiders and the Joint Powers Authority will announce at a press conference to be held at 6:00 p.m. ET that the Raiders have reached a deal to remain at the O.Co Coliseum for 2016.

The Raiders had no other options for the coming season. The broader question is whether the Raiders and the powers-that-be within the Joint Powers Authority will strike a deal to build a new stadium, or whether the Raiders will move elsewhere. Last week, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf explained that her goal was to first get a lease in place with the Raiders and then to come up with a long-term stadium solution.

Potential options for the Raiders, if not in Oakland, include Los Angeles, San Antonio, San Diego (if the Chargers leave for L.A.), and Las Vegas. The possibility of the Raiders playing in Sacramento or sharing a stadium with the San Francisco Giants (not the 49ers, the Giants) also has been floated.

The most obvious solution — sharing a venue with the 49ers — continues to be at the bottom of the list.

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Jahri Evans refused pay cut, plans to play this year

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Before they cut him last week, the Saints offered to let veteran guard Jahri Evans hang around, as long as he took less money.

Agent Jerrold Colton told WIP Radio that the Saints offered Evans a reduced salary, after doing the same thing a year ago.

“The Saints came to us for the second year in a row about doing a little contract adjustment and pay cut this year,” Colton said, via Evan Woodberry of the New Orleans Times-Picayune. “We weren’t going to do it again.

“He’s healthy and hungry and looking forward to the next chapter of his career.”

The Saints saved $3.1 million by cutting the 10-year veteran, and had to do it when they did because $2 million of his salary would have become guaranteed this week.

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Bob McNair: No reason Texans wouldn’t be able to draft a quarterback

MEMPHIS, TN - OCTOBER 17:  Paxton Lynch #12 of the Memphis Tigers throws a pass during a game against the Ole Miss Rebels at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium on October 17, 2015 in Memphis, Tennessee.  The Tigers defeated the Rebels 37-24.  (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images) Getty Images

Last month, Texans owner Bob McNair said that the team was working on ways to improve at quarterback this offseason and the topic was on his mind again on Thursday.

McNair was at an event for the Houston Super Bowl committee to discuss the road to Super Bowl LI next year and the discussion turned at one point to what the Texans would have to do to play the game in their home stadium. McNair pointed out that the Broncos “did it with defense” and said that he thought his team needed a reliable quarterback who “won’t take anything away from us” in order to have a shot at following in Denver’s footsteps.

That quarterback could come to town via the draft. McNair sounded like he expects to see the team use a draft pick on a signal caller later this year.

“There are a number of quarterbacks out there, college quarterbacks coming out and I think we have a good chance at getting one of them,” McNair said, via the Houston Chronicle. “There are four or five of them who look like they have enough talent and size and athletic ability. I don’t know any reason why we wouldn’t be able to do it.”

While drafting a quarterback won’t guarantee the Texans reliable play or the improvement they’d need to make it to the Super Bowl, it’s hard to argue with Houston going that route if there’s a player they think can be a starter in Bill O’Brien’s offense. Brian Hoyer isn’t going to be a long-term answer at the position and Tom Savage, a fourth-round pick in 2014, hasn’t played enough for the Texans to know what they have with him.

That leaves them without the solution they need at quarterback and, as McNair mentioned, no reason not to extend their search into this year’s draft class.

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Archie Manning: “I’m not going to blast” Cam Newton for walk-off

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - FEBRUARY 07:  Peyton Manning #18 of the Indianapolis Colts reacts after a play against the New Orleans Saints during Super Bowl XLIV on February 7, 2010 at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida.  (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images) Getty Images

Archie Manning knows something about Super Bowl-losing quarterbacks bailing early.

So maybe that’s why he’s not joining the chorus criticizing Panthers quarterback Cam Newton for leaving his press conference abruptly Sunday night.

Via Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer, the elder Manning compared it to when his son left the field after Super Bowl XLIV without shaking hands.

It’s really hard, really, really hard,” Manning said. “I like Cam. I’m not going to blast Cam. As a parent you say, ‘I wish he’d have handled it a little different.’ But it hurts.”

When Peyton lost to the Saints in 2010, he left the field without congratulating anyone else. But Archie said Peyton texted Sean Payton and Drew Brees from the locker room that night.

But nothing matched the furor Newton triggered by huffing off the podium after losing to the Broncos.

“He did catch flak about it,” Archie said of his son. “I don’t think until that game I ever had enough sympathy for the losing team in a Super Bowl. You’re really probably the second-best team out of 32 that year, but you come away from that game and feel like you’re 32nd instead of second. I can remember that. I remember how hurt [Peyton] was. . . .

“It’s a hard time, winning the Super Bowl or losing the Super Bowl. Cam, he’ll learn from it.”

Peyton did, and has handled losses gracefully since then. And while Newton said in the aftermath he wouldn’t necessarily change things, it’s hard to imagine the natural process of time won’t lead him a different way.

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Keenan Reynolds, Jake Coker don’t get combine invites

ANNAPOLIS, MD - DECEMBER 28:  Keenan Reynolds #19 of the Navy Midshipmen rushes the ball against the Pittsburgh Panthers in the third quarter of their 44-28 win during the Military Bowl at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium on December 28, 2015 in Annapolis, Maryland.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) Getty Images

The NFL will hold its annual Scouting Combine in Indianapolis later this month and the league released the list of 332 players that have been invited.

Ohio State leads the way with 14 invites and Notre Dame was second with 10 players asked to go through drills for NFL scouts. Alabama had nine players invited from their national championship squad, although quarterback Jake Coker was not one of them.

Coker has good size at 6’6″ and 236 pounds, but evaluators would seem to feel that his limited experience as a starter and reliance on a talented supporting cast didn’t make him a candidate for a longer look in Indy. Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds didn’t have the same kind of talent on hand on his way to scoring an NCAA-record 88 rushing touchdowns, but he also didn’t get an invite to show whether his skills might translate to another position at the professional level.

Missing the combine doesn’t close the door on an NFL career. Doug Baldwin, Julian Edelman, Sam Shields and James Harrison are a few players who have gone on to success in the pros without running drills in Indianapolis.

Click here for the full list of players invited to take part from February 23-29.

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Burfict’s three-game suspension upheld

Burfict AP

Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict’s appeal of a three-game suspension to start the 2016 season has been denied, ESPN’s Dan Graziano reported Thursday.

Graziano reported that Burfict, Bengals coach Marvin Lewis, NFL executive vice president of football operations Troy Vincent and Goodell met, and the appeal was denied after that meeting. The NFL considers Burfict a repeat violator of the league’s safety rules.

Burfict and Lewis had worked to secure the meeting. Burfict had filed the appeal last month after being notified of the suspension.

The appeal was heard by Derrick Brooks, who’s appointed and compensated by the NFL and the NFL Players Association. Burfict was fined four times during the 2015 regular season, and his hit on Antonio Brown which ended up costing the Bengals their playoff game to the Steeelers brought on the suspension.

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Rick Spielman “very excited” about Teddy Bridgewater heading into third year

during the NFC Wild Card Playoff game at TCFBank Stadium on January 10, 2016 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Getty Images

Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman was a guest on PFT Live Thursday morning and one of the main topics of conversation was quarterback Teddy Bridgewater.

Spielman said he’s “very excited” about what the team will see from Bridgewater in 2016. That will be his third year with the Vikings and Spielman said that he’s seen “significant jumps” from other quarterbacks when they reach that point in their careers. Spielman pointed to additions to the offensive coaching staff and the way the offense played in the final weeks of the regular season as reasons for the optimism. 

He also touched on the move indoors as the Vikings take possession of their new stadium for 2016. During an appearance on Pro Football Talk on NBCSN from the Super Bowl last week, Bridgewater said he was looking forward to the move and Spielman feels the same although he adds the caveat that the quarterback will still need to be successful when playing in the elements.

“If you look at Teddy’s stats and how he performed when we were indoors –when we were in Detroit, even out at Arizona, some of those ideal conditions — we feel he’s going to even take another step forward,” Spielman said. “He still has to be able play outdoors. We still have to go to Chicago, we have to go to Green Bay every year.”

To find out everything Spielman said during his visit to the show, check out the video below.

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C.J. Anderson knows he can be a bell cow back

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At no point during the 2015 regular season did Broncos running back C.J. Anderson carry the ball more than 15 times. In the Super Bowl, he had 23 carries and four receptions for a total of 100 yards from scrimmage.

Did that make him think he can do that job more frequently?

“Oh, I know that’s something I can do,” Anderson said during a visit to Thursday’s PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio. “You know, we chose to go the two-back route and we chose to split time with me and Ronnie [Hillman] and just try to get a change of pace. You know, keep defenses off balance. But I mean if they want me to touch the ball 25 times, 27 times, 28 times, either way whether it’s all carries or carries and catches I believe I can handle it always, whether it’s being a third-down back catching the ball out of the backfield or picking up the blitz and also being first- and second-down just every-down back.”

Anderson, the unsung hero of Super Bowl 50, had 90 yards rushing, including a 34-yard burst punctuated by his ability to shake off Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly. Anderson also scored Denver’s only offensive touchdown. Unlike defensive lineman Malik Jackson, who scored the other touchdown for the Broncos, Anderson didn’t through the ball into the stands.

He could have more footballs to add to the collection, if Sunday’s performance is a sign of things to come.

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Who’s to blame for Michael Oher on ice?


As we continue to be amazed by the Madden-glitch Vine that has Panthers tackle Michael Oher skating backward in Super Bowl 50, it’s still not clear who bears the blame for the failure of Oher’s shoes to grab the grass.

The potential universe of culprits is small. Either the NFL, which is responsible for the field at all Super Bowls, did a poor job preparing the turf or the Panthers equipment staff did a poor job outfitting Oher with cleats.

Oher isn’t the only guy who had issues with the field. Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib called the footing on the field “terrible.”

Predictably, NFL field guru George Toma has defended the field, even though players from both teams had problems with it. Panthers coach Ron Rivera has called the field “outstanding,” but we’ll assume that this is likely an extension of Rivera’s decision to take the high road and to make no excuses for the fact that his team lost the game.

And so for now it’s unclear whether the blame falls to the NFL or to the equipment managers of both teams, given that players from both teams had problems with the turf. Regardless, it’s hard to remember an offensive lineman sliding 10 feet backward in any prior Super Bowl. Or in any game at any time.

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Report: Vontaze Burfict to meet with Goodell in next week

during the AFC Wild Card Playoff game at Paul Brown Stadium on January 9, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Getty Images

At his press conference in San Francisco last Friday, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said that he would like to see the NFL adopt a rule that would see players flagged for two personal fouls in the same game ejected.

Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict would not have been ejected from the team’s playoff loss to the Steelers if such a rule was already in place because the only personal foul he received was for the shot to the head he delivered to Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown late in the fourth quarter. Burfict was suspended for the first three games of next season in the days following the game, however.

Burfict’s suspension came because of repeated violations of player safety rules — he’s been flagged for 16 personal fouls in the regular season and playoffs since 2012 — and he’s reportedly going to talk to Goodell about a possible reduction to that ban. Coley Harvey and James Walker of report that Burfict is expected to meet with the commissioner in the next week.

Given the proposal for stiffer penalties for players crossing the line during games, it would be a surprise to see the league pull back on the punishment handed out to a habitual offender like Burfict.

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Steelers kicker Shaun Suisham is now officially an American citizen

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - NOVEMBER 09: Kicker Shaun Suisham #6 of the Pittsburgh Steelers looks on against the New York Jets during a game at MetLife Stadium on November 9, 2014 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) Getty Images

Shaun Suisham has another title today, beyond “injured Steelers kicker.”

Now, he can call himself “American.”

The 34-year-old Suisham was sworn in as an American citizen yesterday as part of a naturalization ceremony at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, in Wilkins, Pa.

I have grown to love the United States of America; specifically, Pittsburgh,” Suisham said, via Chris Adamski of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “And it has become our home.

“I have been here for my entire adult life, and the United States has provided me and my family with wonderful opportunity. And I’m extremely grateful for that.”

Suisham was born and raised in Wallaceburg, Ontario, Canada, but came to the U.S. in 2000 on scholarship to kick at Bowling Green. He then met his wife, and they have two daughters.

“I couldn’t stand the thought of ever being separated for any reason from my girls,” Suisham said, “and that was the catalyst for going through this.”

And because he’s a bit of a local celebrity, he gave a brief speech at the ceremony where 31 others became citizens.

“[The speech] was really a cool moment of reflection of the past 15 years and what it has meant to me,” Suisham said. “It is pretty cool to see it on paper, and it’s been an awesome journey. I’m looking forward to continuing it.”

He joked that he’s lost his Canadian accent, meaning he now merely sounds like a Pittsburgher.

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