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Looking ahead at future Hall of Fame classes

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The seven members of the 2014 class of the Pro Football Hall of Fame have received their busts in Canton, Ohio, and now that enshrinement weekend is behind us, let’s look ahead at the players, coaches and contributors who could comprise the next five Hall of Fame classes.


Junior Seau will be eligible for the first time next year, and he’s the one man who looks like a lock for the class of 2015. Seau’s enshrinement will bring up stories about his suicide and questions about whether brain damage on the football field could have led to his depression, but his enshrinement should also be a celebration of one of the greatest linebackers ever to play the game.

Paul Tagliabue, the former commissioner, may be the biggest beneficiary of the Hall of Fame’s new policy of voting on contributors separately from players and coaches. In past Hall of Fame votes, Tagliabue has lost out, but now that he’s no longer competing with players and coaches, there’s a good chance that he’ll be enshrined next year.

Steve Sabol would also be a good choice in 2015, when there will be two Hall of Fame finalists from the separate contributors category. Sabol’s father Ed is already in the Hall of Fame, but both Sabols deserve busts in Canton for building NFL Films.

Kurt Warner is, after Seau, the player with the best chance of being enshrined in his first year of eligibility next year. Some may say Warner’s greatness was too short-lived to merit Hall of Fame induction, but a player with two regular-season MVP awards and a Super Bowl MVP award is probably going to end up in Canton.

Orlando Pace protected Warner’s blind side in St. Louis and was one of the best offensive tackles in the NFL for a decade, and he’ll also be eligible for the first time next year.

Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce were the top two receivers on the Greatest Show on Turf, and they both retired after the 2009 season, making them eligible in 2015. (You can be forgiven if you’ve forgotten that Holt was in Jacksonville and Bruce was in San Francisco in 2009.) It would really be something if they were both inducted along with Warner and Pace. That, however, is awfully unlikely. Wide receivers have had a hard time getting into Canton in recent years, and Holt and Bruce may end up competing against each other and therefore hurting each other’s chances in much the same way that Steelers greats John Stallworth and Lynn Swann did for many years.

Jerry Kramer, the great Packers offensive lineman, would be a strong choice as a senior candidate. Next year will be a harder year for seniors to get in, as only one senior finalist will be nominated. But Kramer may be the most deserving senior candidate eligible.


Brett Favre is a sure thing to be inducted in 2016, and the Packers have already begun the process of turning the year before his induction into a long ceremony honoring Favre, who will have his number retired in 2015.

Terrell Owens also becomes eligible in 2016, but he’s a long shot. Owens is second only to Jerry Rice on the all-time receiving yards list and third behind Rice and Randy Moss in receiving touchdowns, but Owens acted like such a jerk, so often, that he’s remembered as much for becoming a disruptive force in the locker room as he is for being a dominant force on the field.

Eddie DeBartolo Jr., the former 49ers owner, may benefit from the new contributors category and be enshrined soon. The question is whether Hall of Fame voters will reward DeBartolo for his role in building the great 49ers teams of the 1980s and 1990s, and overlook the circumstances that led DeBartolo to be forced out of the NFL.

Jerome Bettis may finally get his bust in Canton in 2016, as a relatively weak crop of first-year eligible players will make room for those who have previously been passed over.

Will Shields, the great guard for the Chiefs, would also seem likely to benefit from a lack of first-year eligible players, although there have been so many great offensive linemen enshrined in Canton in recent years that it’s hard for any one to gain recognition over all the others.

Marvin Harrison was voted down this year, but he had so many great seasons as a receiver for the Colts that it seems like just a matter of time before he gets in, and 2016 may be the year.

Randy Gradishar and Ken Stabler are a couple of good senior candidates who may be enshrined in 2016, when two seniors will be eligible. (Only one senior is eligible in 2015, 2017 and 2019.)


LaDainian Tomlinson becomes eligible for the first time in 2017, and with 13,684 career rushing yards, Tomlinson looks like a good bet to make it. Only four players have more yards than Tomlinson (Emmitt Smith, Walter Payton, Barry Sanders and Curtis Martin) and all four are already in the Hall.

Jason Taylor becomes eligible in 2017 as well, and he has a good case, although he may be joining a crowded field of pass rushers, as we’ll detail momentarily.

Kevin Greene was voted down as a Hall of Fame finalist last year, but with 160 sacks in his career, he seems sure to get in eventually: The only players with more career sacks than Greene were Bruce Smith and Reggie White, two of the greatest players in NFL history. The 2017 class may be the one that finally makes room for Greene.

Charles Haley also might finally get his Hall call in 2017. He’s been voted down five times already, but his contributions to Super Bowl winners in both San Francisco and Dallas should be enough to earn him a bust at some point.

Hines Ward was a great wide receiver and a Super Bowl MVP winner, and he’ll be eligible for the first time in 2017. But Ward’s career numbers (1,000 catches for 12,083 yards and 85 touchdowns) are dwarfed by those of some other recent receivers, and Ward may suffer by comparison.

Brian Dawkins was a nine-time Pro Bowl safety who also becomes eligible in 2017, but he seems unlikely to be selected in his first year of eligibility. Dawkins was a beloved player both on and off the field, and at some point the voters may put him in Canton, but that point probably won’t be until he’s on the ballot for at least a few years.

George Young, the former Giants general manager, is just the kind of person that the new “contributors” category is designed to recognize, and the 2017 class may be the year that the late Young gets his due.

Don Coryell would appear to be a likely choice as a senior candidate some day, and 2017 may be when that day comes. Coryell never won a championship as a coach, but he was such an innovator of the passing game that he’s a significant figure in the history of football.


Ray Lewis will be an easy choice as one of the greatest defensive players in NFL history. There’s no room for debate on that.

Randy Moss may leave some room for debate, as his numbers are comparable to those of Terrell Owens, who looks like a long shot. But Moss at his best was such a game-changer that he just feels like exactly the kind of player who belongs in Canton.

Brian Urlacher, who like Lewis and Moss becomes eligible in 2018, has a very good case for enshrinement as well. Although he’ll suffer in comparison to Lewis, there will probably be enough support for Urlacher to get him enshrined in his first year of eligibility.

Steve Hutchinson was a great guard and also becomes eligible in 2018, but he won’t get in on his first year of eligibility. Hutchinson may be a finalist many times, but getting the necessary 80 percent of the vote will be tough.

Tim Brown is a longtime finalist who feels like he accomplished enough in the NFL (usually while serving as the only decent threat in his teams’ passing games) that he should be recognized eventually. The 2018 class may be the year.

Art Modell has been voted down several times, and the opposition to his candidacy is strong from some who say that taking the Browns out of Cleveland was an unforgivable sin. But the new contributors category gives Modell a much better chance, and 2018 could be his year.

Bob Kuechenberg and Cliff Harris are among the best senior candidates who haven’t been selected yet.


Tony Gonzalez becomes eligible for the first time in 2019, and he’s just about a sure thing as one of the greatest tight ends ever to play the game.

Ed Reed also becomes eligible for the first time in 2019, and he also looks like a sure thing as one of the greatest safeties ever to play the game.

Tony Dungy was voted down in his first year of eligibility last year and may be voted down a few more times, but he’s likely to get in eventually, and 2019 could be the year.

Morten Andersen was also voted down this year in his first year as a Hall of Fame finalist, but he also has a good case to make it eventually. Andersen, the NFL’s all-time leader in points scored, would join Jan Stenerud and Ray Guy as the only kicking specialists in the Hall of Fame.

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Report: Chargers OC Frank Reich interviews for Maryland job

Frank Reich Getty Images

The University of Maryland is in need of a new head coach and they seem to be kicking the tires on a former Maryland quarterback for the job.

According to Don Markus of the Baltimore Sun, San Diego Chargers offensive coordinator Frank Reich interviewed for the Maryland job on Monday.

Reich played three seasons at quarterback for Maryland from 1982-1894 before being selected in the third round of the 1985 NFL Draft by the Buffalo Bills.

Reich has been with the Chargers the last three seasons. He was promoted to offensive coordinator in 2014 after Ken Whisenhunt left to take the Tennessee Titans job.

Reich has not ever been a head coach, but did interview with the Bills and New York Jets last year.

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Pete Carroll: Russell Wilson is “best he’s been” from the pocket

SEATTLE, WA - NOVEMBER 29:  Quarterback Russell Wilson #3 of the Seattle Seahawks passes against the Pittsburgh Steelers at CenturyLink Field on November 29, 2015 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images) Getty Images

Some of Russell Wilson’s most memorable plays have come while extending plays, breaking out of the pocket and making big throws downfield on broken plays.

But Wilson seems to be showing that he can make big throws from inside the pocket as well.

Wilson tossed a career-high five touchdowns on Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers with all five scoring throws coming from inside the pocket.

“I think he’s the best he’s been in the pocket,” Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said. “You can see him most solid with his reads and his decision-making and all of that. I think that was an illustration of it yesterday, that he has come a long way and he’s really comfortable. He can rip the football and use all of his guys and use the whole field when we can give him a chance to. It’s a real positive sign.”

One reason is he’s actually had a pocket to throw from in recent weeks. After allowing 31 sacks through seven games, Seattle made a change by inserting Patrick Lewis at center over Drew Nowak. Seattle has since allowed just six sacks in four games and has given Wilson more time to run the offense. Nowak was released on Tuesday.

“I think the pocket being so consistently solid for him makes a huge difference,” Carroll said. “The rhythm, since the (bye week), we’ve really tried to feature a fast rhythm and making sure he’s really got a chance to get the ball out fast to keep the pressure off of the guys up front. All of that has happened with more earnest because of how the start was. I think it’s a combination, but I really think the guys up front are really improving and that’s what’s made the difference for us.”

Wilson made a pair of touchdown throws to Jermaine Kearse and another to Doug Baldwin in the red zone. He then hit Baldwin for a 30-yard score and the 80-yard clinching touchdown late in the fourth quarter on time from the pocket.

It was the first time in Wilson’s tenure in Seattle that the Seahawks had won a game when an opponent had scored at least 25 points. With the defense not being quite as formidable as in past seasons, the Seahawks may need more performances like Sunday’s outing against Pittsburgh down the stretch.

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Falcons owe Matt Ryan more than $50 million over the next three years

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The Falcons won’t be benching quarterback Matt Ryan, in large part because they don’t have anyone else who would be remotely successful for the balance of 2015.

Come 2016, things could get interesting.

Under his second contract, signed in 2013, Ryan is still due to receive more than $50 million over the next three seasons. Specifically, he gets a base salary of $15.75 million in 2016, $15.75 million in 2017, and $19.25 million in 2018.

Ryan already has received a $28 million signing bonus, a $12 million option bonus, and base salaries of $23 million over the last three years. That’s $63 million so far.

In making decisions about Ryan, the Falcons need to forget about the money that has been paid and consider the money to be paid. Is Ryan worth another $50.75 million over the next three years? Would someone else pay Ryan more than whatever the Falcons are willing to pay on a reduced deal?

The other question is whether someone else would be willing to pick up Ryan’s contract, which would allow the Falcons to potentially trade him.

Ultimately, the Falcons have to ask themselves whether they can do better than Ryan. And if Kyle Shanahan will be sticking around as offensive coordinator, it’s not unreasonable to wonder whether he shares his father’s feelings about Kirk Cousins.

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Kurt Coleman says it’s “easy” to focus on one game at a time

Kurt Coleman AP

The Panthers have adopted a five-letter “F” word for their current 11-0 predicament. They focus on one game at a time, one opponent at a time.

So how hard is that to do as the Panthers move closer and closer to the second 16-0 regular season in NFL history?

“Personally it’s easy for me,” Carolina safety Kurt Coleman told PFT Live on Monday. “I think in life we want to think about tomorrow and forget about today, but if you don’t enjoy every single moment you really just don’t get to enjoy the whole ride. I think this whole year, we’ve been able to just enjoy the journey that we’ve been on [and] not really thinking about the destination.

“Obviously everybody that starts off in the NFL wants to be Super Bowl champs, would love to go undefeated, et cetera. But I think if you don’t enjoy the journey that you’re on with the people that you’re on the journey with you’ll never be able to fully embrace the whole moment. And I think we’ve all embraced every single moment that we’ve had as a team collectively, and we’ve been focused each and every week. And say ‘put in everything we have today’ and then when the whole season’s done, we can look back and say, ‘that was a great season.'” But right now I really do believe this team is very focused on just beating New Orleans coming this Sunday.”

They’ll have some help on defense as they prepare for the New Orleans offense, thanks to the arrival of recently unretired cornerback Cortland Finnegan.

“I’m excited,” Coleman said about Finnegan joining the team. “I think every piece that the coaches and the G.M. have made thus far have really improved our team. I think Cortland brings a lot of veteran experience, he also brings the attitude that we’re looking for because we know if you’re going to be a corner on our team you’ve got to be able to tackle, you have to have the mindset that if a guy is running my way, I’ve got to be able to tackle him. And obviously Cortland’s resume speaks for itself. He’s going to have to get caught up with the playbook, the system and how we kind of mesh together but I’m excited. I got a text message from one of his old teammates, James Laurinaitis, and he was just telling me how Cortland was one of his favorite teammates. So I just think he’s going to be a great addition to what we’re trying to build here in Carolina.”

They’ve built a team that hasn’t lost a regular-season game in a year. They’re building a team that’s going to be very hard to beat in January, and perhaps on the first Sunday in February.

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Cowboys won’t put Romo on IR, yet

Tony Romo AP

Jerry Jones has said that Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo won’t play again this year due to a re-broken collarbone. But the team’s actions have yet to match the words of the franchise’s owner and General Manager.

Specifically, the Cowboys have not yet placed Romo on injured reserve, which would prevent him from playing again this year. Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the Cowboys currently plan to carry Romo on the active roster.

So why would the Cowboys keep Romo around if he’s not able to play for several weeks?

“Why else?” the source said. “The division stinks.”

Indeed it does. With the Giants and Washington at 5-6 and the Eagles at 4-7, the 3-8 Cowboys remain within striking distance of a playoff berth. If they can get to the postseason without Romo, they can get Romo back for the postseason, potentially.

The only downside will be having one less player available for practice and games. Still, seven players from the 53-man roster don’t dress each week. Romo will simply be one of the seven, for now. Also, with the practice squads expanded from eight to 10 players, the Cowboys have enough guys available to get the reps in throughout the week, even if Romo is contributing nothing.

It could all change, quickly. If the Cowboys lose to Washington on Monday night, Dallas may view the situation very differently by Tuesday. But if the Cowboys win — and if the Giants and/or Eagles lose — Dallas could still end up being the best of four bad teams assigned to the NFC East, and they could still have Romo when the time comes to play the best teams from the rest of the conference.

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Patriots officially add veteran WR, another to practice squad

Damaris Johnson AP

The Patriots addressed their shortage of healthy pass catchers Tuesday with a host of roster moves.

The team signed veteran wide receiver Damaris Johnson to the active roster and wide receiver Austin Hill to the practice squad. The Patriots also claimed running back Trey Williams off waivers from the Cowboys and placed rookie defensive lineman Trey Flowers on injured-reserve.

Earlier Tuesday, the Patriots and tight end Rob Gronkowski released a statement regarding Gronkowski’s knee injury. It said he suffered no structural damage and will be evaluated on a week-to-week basis.

Wide receiver Chris Harper was cut Monday, a day after he misplayed a punt in a loss to the Broncos. The Patriots played that game without wide receiver Danny Amendola and will be without Julian Edelman for an indefinite period of time.

The addition of Johnson should fill the punt return role. Johnson previously played for the Eagles and Texans.

Williams is an undrafted rookie who was with the Redskins prior to spending a month with the Cowboys. The 6’3 Hill is an undrafted rookie who’s bounced around rosters and gives the Patriots a healthy receiver on the practice squad to play on the scout team.

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Panthers, Patriots, Bengals can clinch playoff spots this week

Jamie Collins, Andy Dalton AP

No NFL team has clinched a playoff berth yet, but three teams can punch their playoff tickets on Sunday.

The Panthers have the clearest path to the playoffs: If they beat the Saints on Sunday, they win the NFC South. The Panthers can also win the NFC South even if they lose, as long as the Falcons lose to the Buccaneers. And the Panthers can clinch a playoff spot even if they lose and the Falcons win, as long as the Seahawks lose or both the Cardinals and Packers lose.

The Patriots also have a fairly clear path to the playoffs: If the Patriots win and the Jets lose, the Patriots win the AFC East. The Patriots can also clinch a playoff berth even if the Jets win, as long as the Patriots win and either the Chiefs or Steelers lose.

The Bengals need more help: Cincinnati can’t clinch the AFC North this week, but the Bengals can clinch a playoff berth with a win, a Texans loss, a Colts loss and either a Jets loss or both a Broncos win and a Chiefs loss.

Bottom line: The Panthers will probably get their playoff ticket punched this weekend, the Patriots need a little help and the Bengals need a lot of help.

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Seahawks sign Chase Coffman, drop Drew Nowak

ATLANTA, GA - AUGUST 23:  Chase Coffman #86 of the Tennessee Titans leaps over Kemal Ishmael #36 of the Atlanta Falcons in the second half of a preseason game at the Georgia Dome on August 23, 2014 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images) Getty Images

Jimmy Graham is done for the season after tearing the patellar tendon in his knee, leaving the Seahawks in need of some more depth at tight end for the final five weeks of the regular season and what they hope will be more football in the postseason.

They acquired that depth on Tuesday by signing Chase Coffman as a free agent. Coffman entered the NFL as a third-round pick of the Bengals in 2009 and has also spent time with the Buccaneers, Falcons and Titans over the course of his career. He had four catches for 42 yards in one appearance for the Titans this season, but has been out of the league since being released at the end of October.

Luke Willson tops the depth chart at tight end with Graham out of the lineup and the Seahawks also have Cooper Helfet on the roster.

To make room for Coffman, the Seahawks released center Drew Nowak. Nowak opened the season as the team’s starter at center and made seven starts up front before giving way to Patrick Lewis. Nowak’s standing dropped to the point that he was inactive the last three weeks and the Seahawks will continue to use Lemuel Jeanpierre as Lewis’s backup.

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Chip Kelly to Eagles players: I’m here as long as they’ll have me

ARLINGTON, TX - NOVEMBER 08:  Head coach Chip Kelly of the Philadelphia Eagles talks with players during warm-ups prior to the game against the Dallas Cowboys on November 8, 2015 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) Getty Images

While addressing rumors linking him to a departure from the Eagles, Chip Kelly said Monday that he was “totally committed” to remaining the coach in Philadelphia.

Kelly also said that he didn’t feel a need to directly address the chatter with the team’s players because “a lot of times we just chuckle and laugh” about them. Kelly reversed course on that Tuesday, however.

Running back Kenjon Barner said that Kelly told the team “as long as they have me here, I’m here” during a morning meeting. Barner added that he thought it was a good thing for Kelly to put any worries in the locker room at ease.

“I think giving the younger players some confidence and some reassurance is good,” Barner said, via “I’m sure there were some young players [that were wondering about Kelly leaving]. It’s only human nature. You hear certain things, of course, you’re going to question certain things. Chip did kind of put that all to rest today during the meeting just by reassuring everybody.”

As plenty of other people have mentioned in the last few days, coaches have been known to say one thing and then do something different when it comes to speculation linking them to other jobs. For now, though, Kelly remains adamant that the only place he sees himself in 2016 is the City of Brotherly Love.

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Pats, Gronk say he has bone bruise, is “week-to-week”

Rob Gronkowski AP

The Patriots and tight end Rob Gronkowski issued a joint statement Tuesday afternoon regarding the knee injury Gronkowski suffered during the Patriots’ first loss of the season last Sunday in Denver.

The statement said Gronkowski has a bone bruise/sprain in his right knee and will be evaluated on a week-to-week basis. No timetable for his return was offered, and the statement said any timetable reported “prior to that final determination would be speculative.”

So, Bill Belichick really doesn’t want a bunch of questions about Gronkowski’s knee.

With Julian Edelman out indefinitely and Danny Amendola having missed last week’s game, Tom Brady and the Patriots clearly need Gronkowski in the lineup. The 10-1 Patriots host the reeling Eagles this week before playing at the Texans Dec. 13.

Gronkowski has 57 catches for 931 yards and 9 touchdowns this season.

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Cardinals give Chris Johnson IR/return designation

Chris Johnson, NaVorro Bowman AP

The Cardinals placed running back Chris Johnson on injured-reserve/designated for return Tuesday, two days after Johnson suffered a fractured tibia.

The IR/return designation means Johnson must miss a minimum of eight weeks. He’d be eligible to return only if the Cardinals make the Super Bowl.

Johnson would be eligible to return to practice in six weeks, so if he’s progressing and the Cardinals are still playing the team could try to have him ready for the Super Bowl.

His loss is a significant one. Johnson is fourth in the NFL with 814 rushing yards this season and has been a big part of the 9-2 Cardinals’ offense.

The injury is also a potentially expensive one for Johnson, 30, who signed with the Cardinals during training camp. He had a $2 million incentive that would have been reached had he run for 1,300 yards and made the Pro Bowl.

With Andre Ellington dealing with a toe injury, rookie David Johnson is likely the No. 1 back, at least for now. Stepfan Taylor was already on the active roster, and Kerwynn Williams was promoted from the practice squad after Johnson was moved off the active roster Tuesday.

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Broncos bring back Josh Bush

KANSAS CITY, MO - SEPTEMBER 17:   Josh Bush #20 of the Denver Broncos at Arrowhead Stadium on September 17, 2015 in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Broncos saw safety T.J. Ward go down with an ankle sprain in their victory over the Patriots and he’s expected to miss some time, which likely led to a roster move they announced on Tuesday afternoon.

Denver signed safety Josh Bush to the 53-man roster and released tight end Richard Gordon. If Bush does play in place of Ward this week, it wouldn’t be the first time.

Bush opened the season with the Broncos and played 17 defensive snaps in the season opener when Ward was serving a one-game suspension. He spent two more weeks with the team before getting released and spent a week on the Bills’ roster a bit later in the year. Bush also played two games for the Broncos in 2014 and played in 35 games for the Jets from 2012-2014.

Gordon saw action in one game for the Broncos this year and has been inactive the last four weeks as Owen Daniels, Vernon Davis and Virgil Green have gotten the playing time at tight end.

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Dolphins cut C.J. Mosley, sign Patriots practice squader

C.J.Mosley, Earl Mitchell, A.J. Francis AP

The Dolphins were running out of healthy defensive tackles, so they cut one of the injured ones.

Via Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, the Dolphins waived defensive tackle C.J. Mosley, who was dealing with a calf injury. To fill his roster spot, they signed defensive tackle Robert Thomas off the Patriots’ practice squad.

Mosley signed a one-year deal with the Dolphins in June, reuniting with his former Lions teammate Ndamukong Suh.

Prior to bringing in Thomas, Suh was their only healthy defensive tackle, since Jordan Phillips (shoulder) and Earl Mitchell (calf) are ailing.

The Dolphins also brought back center Jacques McClendon, giving them some depth there after Mike Pouncey’s foot injury. They released linebacker James Michael Johnson for that roster spot.

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Report: Morelli’s crew reassigned to Eagles-Patriots game

ARLINGTON, TX - JANUARY 04:  Referee Pete Morelli shields his eyes from the sun during the first half of the NFC Wild Card Playoff game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Detroit Lions at AT&T Stadium on January 4, 2015 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) Getty Images

Patriots fans are getting upset. Or, as the case may be, more upset.

In confirming the PFT report that referee Pete Morelli’s crew has been removed from Sunday night’s game between the Colts and Steelers, the Associated Press also reports that Morelli and crew have been reassigned to the game between the Eagles and Patriots.

The move comes at a time when plenty of Patriots fans have become convinced that the NFL and/or the referees are out to get the Patriots, presumably for #DeflateGate. Fueling the theory is, among other things, a regional Sports Illustrated cover featuring Broncos quarterback Brock Osweiler throwing a pass in the foreground — and Patriots defensive lineman Dominique Easley being blatantly held in the background.

Then there’s Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski agreeing with the assessment that he’s being targeted for offensive pass interference penalties.

The burgeoning belief overlooks the fact that the Patriots won 10 games to start the season. But maybe that’s the genius of it.

Regardless, if the reaction will be that dramatic after the team’s first loss in 11 games, it’ll be a lot worse if they lose in the postseason.

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Cam Newton: We won’t be “lured in” by talk of undefeated season

ARLINGTON, TX - NOVEMBER 26:  Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers reacts after a play against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium on November 26, 2015 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Panthers are the last team with a chance to go undefeated this season, but a 16-0 record was a topic that coach Ron Rivera didn’t feel much like discussing after they improved to 11-0 on Thanksgiving.

Rivera said last week that thinking about going 16-0 means “you are not focusing on the details” that have contributed to Carolina’s strong start to the season. That message seems to be resonating with his quarterback.

Cam Newton said Tuesday, via Steve Reed of the Associated Press, that the team won’t be “lured in” by talk of an undefeated season, calling it “ink for the media” that isn’t of concern to Panthers players.

We don’t use any ink in these parts, but we’re willing to take a look at Carolina’s chances of running the table all the same. They play at New Orleans, face Atlanta twice, take a trip to Jersey to face the Giants and close with a home game against Tampa in Week 17. It’s neither an underwhelming schedule nor one larded with creampuffs, leaving the Panthers with a decent chance at getting through unscathed if they keep playing at the level they’ve been at through the first three months of the year.

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