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Muhammad Wilkerson says no holdout coming

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On a recent episode of Pro Football Talk on NBCSN, Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson wouldn’t rule out the possibility of a holdout if he isn’t able to get the kind of contract extension he’s looking for in Arizona.

Peterson was a first-round pick in 2011, which makes him eligible for an extension for the first time this offseason. It also makes him part of the first group whose contracts feature a team option for the fifth year of their careers, an option that can push extension talks later than they would for a player of Peterson’s accomplishments.

Or Muhammad Wilkerson’s, for that matter. The Jets defensive end is in the same boat as Peterson and would like an extension, but he broke from the cornerback when he said that a holdout isn’t something under consideration this offseason.

“It will be taken care of, definitely,” Wilkerson said, via Metro New York. “But all that holdout and all that other talk that people were saying and everything — I never said anything like that. I’m not going to hold out. It’s not something I want; it’s not something I’m thinking about. I’m going to show up like everybody else and do what I’m told.”

An extension is still a possibility this offseason, but the presence of a fifth year option at a reasonable price (it’s expected to be around $6 million for Wilkerson) means any longer deal would likely be on the team’s terms. A holdout is about all the leverage a player can muster at the moment, but it is a costly route to take without any guarantee of success.

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Von Miller strips Newton, Malik Jackson falls on ball for TD

SANTA CLARA, CA - FEBRUARY 07:  Von Miller #58 of the Denver Broncos strips the ball from  Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers in the first quarter during Super Bowl 50 at Levi's Stadium on February 7, 2016 in Santa Clara, California.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Broncos defense has forced the first turnover of the Super Bowl and it led directly to the first touchdown of the game.

On third down from the Carolina 15-yard-line, Broncos linebacker came off the left edge and barreled into Panthers quarterback Cam Newton. Miller yanked the football out of Newton’s hands before taking him to the ground and defensive end Malik Jackson fell on the ball for a touchdown.

Brandon McManus‘ extra point extended Denver’s lead to 10-0 with 6:27 left in the first quarter of the game.

The play came a couple of snaps after a pass to Jerricho Cotchery was ruled incomplete on the field. Coach Ron Rivera challenged that Cotchery caught the ball, but the call was upheld. Running back Jonathan Stewart was stopped for no gain on second down and then limped off the field after taking a painful looking shot to the back of his leg.

The Panthers have played from in front for most of the season, but they’ll have to dig out of an early hole to win the Super Bowl.

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The “What’s a catch?” question hits the Super Bowl

Miami Dolphins v Carolina Panthers Getty Images

All season long, NFL players, coaches, officials, media and fans have wondered what constitutes a catch. So it’s only fitting that the biggest play in the early part of Super Bowl 50 would center on what constitutes a pass.

When Panthers quarterback Cam Newton hit Jerricho Cotchery with a perfect pass, Cotchery initially bobbled it, then brought it in as he was going to the ground. The officials on the field ruled it a catch, Panthers coach Ron Rivera challenged, and the replay review upheld the call on the field.

Not everyone agreed with that decision. Mike Carey, the former Super Bowl referee turned CBS officiating “expert,” thought the call should have been reversed.

“I think this is a good challenge by Carolina,” Carey said. “If I was in the booth, I would reverse this to a catch.”

Carey was wrong: There was no definitive angle that showed Cotchery getting his hands under the ball, and so the call on the field stood.

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Panthers open with a three and out

SANTA CLARA, CA - FEBRUARY 07:  Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers warms up prior to Super Bowl 50 against the Denver Broncos at Levi's Stadium on February 7, 2016 in Santa Clara, California.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Broncos got points on their opening drive of Super Bowl 50, but the Panthers weren’t able to follow suit.

Carolina was forced to punt after three plays when a Cam Newton completion to tight end Greg Olsen came up a yard short of a first down at their own 28-yard line. Jonathan Stewart ran for two yards to open the drive and Newton missed an open Philly Brown high on second down to leave them with a long conversion attempt on third down.

While the Panthers surely would have liked to get points on their first possession of the game, they can take away the strong protection from their offensive line on the two passing plays as a positive. Newton had plenty of time to throw on second and third down, but his inaccurate throw to Brown kept the drive from going anywhere.

Some might wonder if Newton’s miss came as a result of nerves, but when he misses he usually misses high and that’s what seemed to happen on the incompletion.

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Broncos open the scoring with a field goal drive

during Super Bowl 50 at Levi's Stadium on February 7, 2016 in Santa Clara, California. Getty Images

It might not have ended in the end zone, but it was definitely better than Peyton Manning’s previous first possession in a Super Bowl.

Of course, it couldn’t be much worse than the safety off a bad snap to open the blowout loss to the Seahawks.

But settling for a field goal on the opening drive is a positive start, as Manning led a 10-play, 64-yard drive.

Manning came out throwing early, and completed 4-of-6 for 47 yards. But they stalled in the red zone, as the Panthers forced them to kick a 34-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead.

It’s too soon to determine much about Manning’s arm strength, but they’re certainly not being shy about testing the Panthers secondary.

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Elway takes another shot at Fox

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Broncos G.M. John Elway hasn’t been bashful about the reasons for his decision to move on from coach John Fox after the 2014 season.

This is why we made the decision,” Elway said this week. “This was the idea — to get better and get past the first round.

In an interview with Phil Simms of CBS that aired during an endless pregame show (yeah, NBC did the same thing last year — and will do it again in two years), Elway was even more specific in his criticism of Fox.

“I just didn’t like two out of the last three years we lost in the first round with home field advantage,” Elway said. “And so to me that hurts. If you can’t get guys excited about playing in the playoffs that time of year, something’s wrong.”

That last sentence was the most potent. And it meshes with what receiver Demaryius Thomas told PFT Live in the days preceding last week’s Super Bowl.

“I feel like some guys, you know, didn’t have the fight or whatever it was,” Thomas said. “I think one thing was, I feel like guys kind of looked over the Colts. You had guys always talking the night before the game, you had, ‘Oh, I don’t want to go to New England and play New England.’ And I think that was one of the big things.”

Elway saw it, and so Elway decided to make a change. And Elway has decided to be incredibly candid about that, given that the change has taken the Broncos back to the Super Bowl.

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Rivera’s handling of Manning helped him become a head coach

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Before Ron Rivera became the head coach of the Panthers, PFT regularly pointed out that anyone in the AFC South who is looking for a new coach should consider Rivera, because Rivera had done very well against Manning as the defensive coordinator of the Chargers.

The dynamic culminated in a 36-14 win over Manning and the Colts in Indianapolis on November 28, 2010, with Rivera’s defense holding Manning to 14 points and picking him off four times.

It pushed the Chargers to 4-1 against Manning during Rivera’s time with the Chargers, including a pair of playoff wins over Manning and the Colts. While Manning beat Rivera and the Bears in Super Bowl XLI, Manning was good but not great in that game, completing 25 of 38 passes for 247 yards, one touchdown, and one interception.

In 2012, Manning’s Broncos faced Rivera’s Panthers. Denver won (coincidentally, by the score of 36-14), but Peyton threw only one touchdown pass.

Rivera and Manning meet again in the postseason on Sunday. If Rivera can do against Manning what Rivera did when with the Chargers, the Panthers will be hoisting a Lombardi. Otherwise, the Sheriff will be walking off into the sunset with that trophy under his arm, matching the one from nine years ago.

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Report: C.J. Anderson to get starting nod at running back for Broncos

Denver Broncos running back C.J. Anderson, right, is tackled by New England Patriots cornerback Justin Coleman during the first half of the NFL football AFC Championship game between the Denver Broncos and the New England Patriots, Sunday, Jan. 24, 2016, in Denver. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson) AP

Running back C.J. Anderson hasn’t started for the Denver Broncos since Week 6 of the regular season, but he’ll get the call to start Super Bowl 50 against the Carolina Panthers, per Mike Klis of 9News.

While Ronnie Hillman was the more productive back during the regular season, Anderson has been the rock in the playoffs. Anderson has carried 31 times for 144 yards and a touchdown in the postseason. Meanwhile, Hillman has just 54 yards on 27 carries in the playoffs.

Anderson, who grew up in nearby Richmond, had 720 yards and five touchdowns during the regular season for Denver.

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Mike Shula deserves plenty of credit for Cam Newton’s growth

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Whether he did or didn’t want to interview for head-coaching jobs this year, Panthers offensive coordinator Mike Shula deserved to be considered, for one significant reason: His work with Cam Newton.

At a time when more and more college quarterbacks struggle to adjust to the pro game, Shula has helped Newton get there. It started in 2013, during Shula’s first year as the team’s offensive coordinator. After the offense struggled, Shula had an idea — as coach Ron Rivera explained it on PFT Live in December 2013.

“One of the things that Mike and the offensive staff did was they went back and looked at — we have a library of all of Cam’s plays from college — they looked at what Cam did extremely well and said, ‘You know what, let’s adapt a couple of these ideas and incorporate them into what we do,'” Rivera said.  “[Shula] took three or four things that [Newton] did really well and we’ve incorporated that and put that into what we do as an offense.  Mike has made it work and that has really helped us.”

Not coincidentally, the Panthers have won every NFC South title since then, with their run now at three and counting. By the end of Sunday, the Panthers could have their first Super Bowl title. And Shula’s fingerprints will be all over the trophy, literally and figuratively.

It’s Carolina’s gain, and the rest of the league’s loss, that someone else hasn’t realized that Shula might be able to do the same thing for another young quarterback that he did for Newton.

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No surprises among Super Bowl 50 inactives

Carolina Panthers Derek Anderson (3) warms up before the NFL Super Bowl 50 football game Sunday, Feb. 7, 2016, in Santa Clara, Calif. (AP Photo/Tim Donnelly) AP

There were no players listed as anything other than probable on the final injury report of Super Bowl week, which didn’t leave any question marks on the health front for either team on the way to Sunday’s game.

A look at the inactive lists for both the Broncos and Panthers reflects the lack of suspense once the coaches confirmed players like Thomas Davis, T.J. Ward, Jared Allen and Darian Stewart would be able to play.

Quarterback Trevor Siemian, cornerback Lorenzo Doss, cornerback Taurean Nixon, running back Juwan Thompson, offensive lineman Sam Brenner, defensive lineman Robert Myers and defensive lineman Darius Kilgo are the inactive players for the Broncos.

For the Panthers, wide receiver Bersin, cornerback Lou Young, safety Dean Marlowe, running back Brandon Wegher, running back Cameron Artis-Payne, wide receiver Kevin Norwood and defensive end Ryan Delaire will be limited to observer roles.

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Goodell interview adds nothing to Manning HGH discussion

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Last year, Commissioner Roger Goodell passed on an invitation to be interviewed by Bob Costas of NBC during the Super Bowl pregame show, a move that wasn’t surprising in the early days of #DeflateGate. This year, Goodell opted to sit for an interview with James Brown of CBS.

There was limited real estate for the interview, and a chunk of it was devoted to the pending allegation from Al Jazeera that Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning used HGH in 2011.

Here’s the question that Brown asked: “The investigation linking Peyton Manning with HGH, and while the source has recanted we know that there are other agencies investigating this. Specifically, what’s the role of the NFL in the investigation?”

Here’s the answer from Goodell: “Well, we are conducting our own investigation. We started that immediately when we got the first reports on this. There are other players, other leagues involved. We will work together in a cooperative fashion to make sure that we get the facts. We’re not going to speculate on what they are at this point in time, but we’re going to take it very seriously as we do anything that impacts on either the safety of our players or the integrity of our game.”

It’s unclear how much more could have been gotten from Goodell, but with a question that came off as a perfunctory checking of boxes, it’s no surprise that the answer felt the sam way. Faced with the standard, basic, what’s-up-with-Peyton-and-HGH? question, Goodell provided the standard, basic hand-crafted-talking-point response.

Not surprisingly, the question carried a bit of the implicit derision that many major media outlets have added to the case, with Brown specifically pointing out that Al Jazeera’s source recanted. Phrasing it that way creates the impression that it was all one big lie, and that there’s nothing to anything that Charles Sly said while being secretly recorded.

But here’s the thing. The excellent item from the Washington Post regarding the mobilization of the Manning machinery to combat the allegations before the story broke includes a report that Sly recanted “without knowing exactly what he was recanting.” So, in order words, Sly said, “I lied when I said all those things to that guy. I don’t know what specifically I said at this point but all of it was a lie. None of if was the truth. Although I’m not quite sure what I said.”

Why does it seem so hard for the media to process the difference between truly recanting and covering one’s ass? According to the Post, two men hired by Manning’s lawyers showed up at the house of Sly’s parents, wearing black overcoats and claiming to be law enforcement officers. Hired P.R. gun Ari Fleischer insists (predictably) that Manning’s lawyers in no way coerced or influenced Sly’s recanting, which happened one day after the men in black overcoats interrogated Sly.

No, they didn’t influence or coerce Sly. They simply showed up at his parents’ house and sufficiently alarmed them to spark a 911 call. Common sense permits the blanks to be filled in from there regarding the content of the ensuing conversations between Sly and his parents.

And when the men in black overcoats talked to Sly, they didn’t tell him to recant. Common sense permits the blanks to be filled in for there regarding what they possibly told him regarding what might happen if the story is published in its current form, based on the things that Sly recanted the next day. Sly could be sued. His career could be derailed if not destroyed based on the extreme lack of discretion that his comments revealed.

So they didn’t influence or coerce. They just stated facts and Sly influenced or coerced the recantation out of himself, with any further assistance.

As a practical matter, the HGH investigation doesn’t really matter at this point, because Manning likely will retire after Super Bowl 50. Assuming the league eventually gets the information it needs from the Guyer Institute (chances are it won’t), a finding of a violation becomes relevant to Manning only if he’s working for another team and the league decides at that point to discipline him for things that he did as a player.

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It’s warm and sunny in Santa Clara for Super Bowl 50

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The weather isn’t going to be an issue for Super Bowl 50.

It’s warm and sunny at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara and expected to stay that way for the rest of the afternoon as the Panthers and Broncos vie for the NFL title. The condition of the playing field has been issue at times since the 49ers moved into the stadium, but the league put down a new playing surface and field director Ed Mangan said this week that things should be fine.

“I think we’re in great shape,” Mangan said, via the Washington Post.

The PFT team is here and in (mostly) great shape as well. We’ll bring you everything from the game and all of the postgame reactions from both the winners and the losers. It’s been a blast sharing another season with all of you and we’re planning to go out with a bang on Super Bowl Sunday with the readers that have helped us grow over the years.

[Photo: Josh Alper]

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J.J. Watt has a message for his doubters

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In the wake of a debate (real or contrived) regarding whether and why Cam Newton is so polarizing, another guy who isn’t viewed as a lightning rod continues to periodically say things that should be drawing 50,000-degree bolts of electricity, but aren’t.

Texans defensive J.J. Watt, universally regarded as a good guy and who has never seen a camera for which he wouldn’t mug, has a history of utterances far more inflammatory than anything that ever has come from the mouth of Newton.

Newton, who draws the most real (or embellished) criticism from a habit of on-field exuberance, has never said anything negative about an opponent, apart from a joking, cartoonish reference to Ndamukong Suh as “Donkey Kong.” (It quickly became a thing — complete with a mind-boggling suggestion of racism — and Newton promptly apologized.)

Watt, in contrast, has wrangled with opponents multiple times, from picking a fight with Titans quarterback Zach Mettenberger about photos he posted on social media to scoffing openly at offensive linemen trying to block him offering up a carefully-planned-but-poorly-executed post-game comedy routine comparing Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton to a Red Ryder BB gun. He has never apologized; instead, he replied to Mettenberger’s reaction by saying a lion doesn’t concern himself with the opinion of sheep.

Most recently, during a Saturday night awards show no one ever watches, Watt capped a short speech accepting his third career defensive player of the year award with a stunning lack of grace.

It started the right way, with Watt talking about the great players he emulated while growing up, playing football in the front yard, and expressing hope that there could be kids out there today emulating him. Then it took a turn.

“The funny thing to me is I was a two-star recruit coming out of a high school going into college, and now I have three defensive player of the year trophies,” Watt said. “So screw all you guys who doubted me.”

Let’s stop for a second and consider what the actual or perceived reaction would be if Newton or anyone else said something like that. So why doesn’t Watt provoke the same thing?

Some will suggest that race has something to do with it. I’d like to think it’s not quite that simple, but only because I’d like to think football fans care only about the colors their favorite team wears. (I know I’m being naïve.)

Watt, drafted ten picks after Newton in 2011, entered the NFL with a compelling story. After starting his college career at Central Michigan, Watt made an all-in bet on himself at Wisconsin, walking on and earning a scholarship and delivering pizzas to make ends meet. Despite his imposing size and the ominous brace he wears on his arm, Watt comes off to many as non-threatening. Possibly because he’s always smiling.

You know, like Cam does. But whether it’s because there were no stolen laptops or scathing scouting reports or suggestions that the smile was fake or any other possible factor (including race), Watt gets a pass when making comments for which Newton, if he said the same things, would get ripped through more letters to the editor and more finger-wagging gas bags and more petitions to ban him from cities like Seattle.

My goal isn’t to solve this one. But it would be irresponsible to not at least point out that there seems to be a weird, national blind spot when it comes to J.J. Watt.

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Eagles interested in bringing back Nick Foles

Philadelphia Eagles v Arizona Cardinals Getty Images

The Eagles want to undo much of what Chip Kelly did in his disastrous year running team personnel, and they may try to undo the biggest move Kelly made.

A year after trading Nick Foles for Sam Bradford, Philadelphia may let Bradford walk and bring Foles back. Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that the Eagles are not expected to use the franchise tag to keep Bradford, and that they are interested in acquiring Foles.

That’s no surprise: Bradford hasn’t played well enough to justify the $20 million salary that would come with the franchise tag. And Foles played well enough at times in Philadelphia that the Eagles may think he could win for them again.

The Rams, however, control Foles for now, as he’s under contract for 2016. But Foles has a $6 million roster bonus due on the third day of the league year, and after he was benched for Case Keenum last year, the Rams may decide to cut Foles and set him free in 2016.

If that happens, Foles may find himself back in Philadelphia, playing for new Eagles head coach Doug Pederson, who was the Eagles’ quarterbacks coach in Foles’ rookie year.

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Dungy lands in Canton, joins PFT Live Tuesday

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On Friday, Tony Dungy visited the set of PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio. On Saturday, he made it to the Hall of Fame.

Coincidence? Well, yeah. It was.

But he’ll be back on Tuesday, for the second show in the brand-new time slot that starts Monday. Three hours live, from 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. ET. The final hour will be simulcast on NBCSN, and Coach Dungy will join the proceedings at 8:35 a.m. ET.

There will be plenty to talk to Tony about by then, regardless of the outcome of Sunday’s game. On Friday, he said plenty about Peyton Manning’s future, Super Bowl 50, and the then-looming Hall of Fame vote. I also asked him the one question I get asked the most often about him: Does he ever get upset?

I’ll be upset if you don’t see and hear everything he had to say on Friday.

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Peyton became “very emotional” in Saturday night team meeting

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I’d expected the endless hours of pre-Super Bowl programming to at some point consist of a report that Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning told teammates on Saturday night that he intends to retire after the game. He apparently sent that message without using those words.

Sal Paolantonio of ESPN reports that Manning became “very emotional” during the Saturday night session with players and coaches.

“Peyton told a few jokes to lighten the mood, but then he got very emotional,” team president Joe Ellis told Paolantonio. “And so did DeMarcus [Ware]. The room was silent. It was a very emotional gathering.”

According to Paolantonio, an unnamed source said that Manning didn’t state that he’ll retire after Super Bowl 50. The source told Paolantonio that Peyton didn’t need to.

It feels like the planets are lining up for Peyton Manning to finish a task that seemed unthinkable only five weeks ago. If it happens, I won’t be one of the many saying, “We should have seen it coming.”

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