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Packers fire special teams coach Shawn Slocum

Green Bay Packers 2011 Headshots Getty Images

The Packers gave up a touchdown on a fake field goal and saw the Seahawks recover a key onside kick during their NFC Championship game loss nearly two weeks ago and special teams coach Shawn Slocum gave up his job on Friday.

There was some talk that a change could be made following the loss and the team released an announcement on Friday afternoon that Slocum has been released. He’d been on the staff since Mike McCarthy became the head coach in 2006.

“I would like to thank Shawn for all of his contributions over the past nine years,” McCarthy said in a statement. “He was a positive contributor to our success, including helping us win Super Bowl XLV. We wish Shawn, Michelle and their family the best moving forward.”

The Packers hired former Florida and Illinois coach Ron Zook as an assistant special teams coach before the 2014 season, but there’s been no announcement about whether he’ll be elevated to replace Slocum.

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Roger Goodell sounded less optimistic about playoff expansion Friday

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At his pre-Super Bowl press conference last year, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said that he thought there were a lot of benefits to expanding the postseason.

Among the benefits he cited were a “more competitive” league with better matchups as the regular season nears its conclusion and “more excitement” for the league’s fans. Talks about adding two teams to the postseason never came to a vote with the owners last spring and there was debate about the need to involve the NFLPA, but Goodell continued to sound optimistic about it when it came up in 2014.

He didn’t sound so optimistic about it during Friday’s pre-Super Bowl press conference.

“The possibility of expanding the playoffs has been a topic over the last couple of years,” Goodell said. “There are positives to it, but there are concerns as well, among them being the risk of diluting our regular season and conflicting with college football in January.”

The latter concern wasn’t aired last year and the better matchups that Goodell mentioned would seem to run counter to the risk of diluting the regular season, so it seems significant that they were specified while the positives were left undiscussed. Owners like John Mara of the Giants and Art Rooney II have come down against the idea since it was broached last year and Goodell’s tone may suggest he’s heard likewise from other owners heading into this offseason.

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Greg Jennings: Not having Adrian Peterson had a great impact

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Vikings wide receiver Greg Jennings doesn’t have any more information than anyone else about whether running back Adrian Peterson will be back with the team for the 2015 season, but he doesn’t have much doubt that the team wants him back.

During an appearance with Mike Florio on PFT Live Friday, Jennings said that he thinks everybody from the front office down would be eager to welcome Peterson back to the team. That’s not too surprising, since he also thinks that not having Peterson in 2014 was a blow to the offense.

“It had a great deal of impact. Obviously when you’re talking about a guy like Adrian who any one of the other 31 teams would love to have as their running back, he changes the course of every game. … Not having him definitely impacted what we were able to do offensively,” Jennings said.

If Peterson does return, Jennings thinks he’ll find a coach in Mike Zimmer that has instilled the right culture for the organization and a quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater who impressed Jennings with his poise and maturity as the season progressed.

To find out what else Jennings shared during his visit to the show, check out the video of his entire visit.

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No decision on Marshawn Lynch fine until after Super Bowl

Marshawn Lynch AP

Among the questions that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell fielded at his press conference Friday was one on the possibility that Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch will face a fine from the league as a result of his appearances in front of the media this week.

Lynch has stuck to his routine of answering every question from reporters the same way with Tuesday’s “I’m just here so I don’t get fined” gaining the most attention this week. He’s also worn a hat promoting his own Beast Mode line of clothing, which Adam Schefter of ESPN reported could draw a fine because it isn’t licensed by the NFL.

Goodell said Friday that any decisions about fines will be announced after the Super Bowl and offered no comment about his thoughts on potential penalties.

“It’s part of your job,” Goodell said of speaking to the media. “There are things in your job that you might not necessarily want to do. I think Marshawn understands the importance of the Super Bowl and the importance of his appearance and the importance of him as an individual in this game.”

Goodell also responded to Lynch’s teammate Richard Sherman’s suggestion that Goodell be forced to meet with the media every week by saying that he’s available to the media almost every day.

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Shad Khan “very optimistic” about Justin Blackmon returning in 2015

Justin Blackmon, Chris Harris AP

It’s been a long time since wide receiver Justin Blackmon has played a game for the Jaguars, but owner Shad Khan thinks that will change in 2015.

During an interview with the Florida Times-Union, Khan was asked whether he would welcome Blackmon back to the team. Khan said that he would and that he feels good about the wideout’s chances of playing for the team next season.

“Absolutely. As a matter of fact, I’m very optimistic. I think he’s paid his dues. I think he’s got his life together. I think he can be a role model for people who have gone through hard times. We’re waiting for him,” Khan said.

Blackmon is free to apply to the league for reinstatement from his substance-abuse suspension. He’s spent time in a treatment program since being suspended and recently pleaded no contest to marijuana possession charges related to an arrest last July. Once Blackmon applies, the league has 60 days to make a decision.

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Jared Allen: Bears hired a “win-now” coaching staff

Dallas Cowboys v Chicago Bears AP

When defensive end Jared Allen was looking for a team last offseason, he said he was looking for a team that could at least contend for a spot in the playoffs.

Allen signed with the Bears, who fell well short of that goal during a 5-11 season that cost head coach Marc Trestman and most of his coaching staff their jobs. Allen was a guest with Mike Florio on PFT Live Friday and said he thought what Trestman and the other coaches were selling “didn’t come across.” He’s yet to meet with new coach John Fox or defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, but Allen said he thinks it’s a group that can send a message that will get across.

“What the organization’s done is they’ve really put together a coaching staff that’s a win-now type of staff. I think with the talent we have on our roster this can be a staff that can maximize everything that we do,” Allen said.

For the rest of what Allen had to say about quarterback Jay Cutler, his work to provide homes for wounded veterans and more, check out the video below.

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Bret Bielema says talks to coach Dolphins in 2012 broke down over Russell Wilson

Penn State v Wisconsin Getty Images

Every team in the NFL except the Saints and Raiders passed on Russell Wilson at least once in the 2012 NFL Draft before the Seahawks selected him in the third round.

If Bret Bielema had been able to convince the Dolphins that Wilson was worth taking earlier on, Sunday’s Super Bowl might be very different. Bielema is now the coach of Arkansas, but he was the coach of Wisconsin during Wilson’s final collegiate season and was interviewing with the Dolphins about their head coaching job in early 2012 when Wilson’s name came up.

Bielema said he told General Manager Jeff Ireland and others that he thought the Dolphins should draft Wilson in the second round, but the team disagreed with his take.

“They all looked at me like, ‘You can’t say that,'” Bielema said, via ESPN.com. “That’s the difference between college and pro. He’s undersized. He can’t throw.’ I was like, ‘OK, all right,’ and I honestly, that day, kind of pulled myself out of it.”

The Dolphins wound up drafting Ryan Tannehill with the eighth overall pick after hiring Joe Philbin to be their head coach and Tannehill’s college coach Mike Sherman as their offensive coordinator, setting up a pretty sizable “What if?” to consider about the trajectory of Miami and Seattle over the last three years.

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PFT Live wraps up its week in Arizona at noon ET

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It’s been a great week in Arizona getting ready for the Super Bowl and we’re just about ready to stop talking about the game and start playing it.

There’s still some time left before “just about ready” flips over to “ready,” though, and that moment won’t come before the end of Friday’s edition of PFT Live. Mike Florio will be coming to you once again from Radio Row with everything you need to know about the Super Bowl and the rest of the football world.

It all gets started at noon ET and you can listen live via the various NBC Sports Radio affiliates, through the links at PFT, or with the NBC Sports Radio app. And, as has been the case all week, you can also watch a simulcast of all three hours of the show by clicking right here.

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Pete Carroll on Richard Sherman’s imminent arrival: I can’t wait to see little Petey

Pete Carroll AP

Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman is set to become a father soon enough that there’s a possibility that the baby could come before the end of the Super Bowl on Sunday, which led to questions for Sherman about what he’d do if his son decided to arrive before the Lombardi Trophy.

Sherman said he hopes his son is a “disciplined young man” who waits until his father and the rest of the Seahawks have finished the game on Sunday, but, as any father knows, even the best laid plans are meaningless in the face of a baby’s schedule. Sherman won’t say whether he’d miss the game if the little one decided to make his appearance on Sunday and coach Pete Carroll said Friday that the team is behind Sherman in any choice he makes.

“It’s about family first and we will support his decision,” Carroll said before adding that he “can’t wait to see little Petey.”

We’ve got no insight into what Sherman will be naming his son, although if we were forced to guess we’d say Carroll’s only a slightly likelier namesake than Michael Crabtree.

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Dean Blandino: Nate Solder’s AFC Championship TD shouldn’t have counted

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The Patriots’ use of offensive linemen as eligible receivers and running back Shane Vereen as an ineligible receiver has created confusion for defenses and officials in the playoffs.

That confusion led to a touchdown that shouldn’t have counted in the AFC Championship game. Tom Brady threw a touchdown pass to tackle Nate Solder during that game on a play that NFL vice president of officiating Dean Blandino should have been flagged as an illegal substitution.

“There was an issue on that play where on the previous play, [Cameron] Fleming had reported as an eligible player,” Blandino said, via CSNNE.com. “And on the Solder touchdown he went back to playing an ineligible position. That’€™s illegal. That’€™s an illegal substitution. So that’€™s something we discussed with the crew. Bill [Belichick] was made aware of it. So we’€™re going to be looking for that, make sure we follow the proper mechanics so that doesn’€™t happen again.”

Jim Miller of Sirius XM NFL Radio picked up on the missed call last week and pointed it out, but there was no confirmation from the league until Blandino’s press conference on Thursday. Plenty of other people probably would have picked up on it as well had the score not been 45-7 and another issue having to do with the air pressure of footballs not taken hold of the United States for the last two weeks.

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Martellus Bennett thinks Marc Trestman will be better offensive coordinator than head coach

Martellus Bennett, Marc Trestman AP

Things went south quickly for Marc Trestman and the Bears in 2014, leading to a 5-11 record and the team’s decision to fire both Trestman and General Manager Phil Emery when the year came to an end.

Trestman’s leadership abilities have come under fire in the wake of his two-year stint in Chicago, something that tight end Martellus Bennett didn’t do much to argue against in an appearance on NFL Network on Friday. Bennett did say that he thinks a move to the offensive coordinator role with the Ravens will work out well for coach and team.

“Trestman, I think, first off, the issue that he had, probably, was managing us all, all the different personalities,” Bennett said. “There’s a lot of big personalities. And I think, for a first-time head coach in the NFL, dealing with all the personalities that you have, I think that’s hard when you got guys like me, you know, [Brandon] Marshall …  Lance Briggs on defense, (Charles) Tillman … Calling plays, he was excellent. I think he’s going to be an excellent coordinator for the Ravens. Strategically, he was great. But on the field, guys just weren’t executing.”

Trestman’s issues dealing with those big personalities likely played a role in the Bears’ decision to install an experienced NFL head coach for the first time since George Halas’s second stint on the sideline. If John Fox can get a grip on the locker room, a reprise of the rapid turnarounds he pulled off in Carolina and Denver could be within reach.

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Colin Kaepernick: Jim Tomsula a players coach who will be great for us

Colin Kaepernick, Kevin Minter AP

The 49ers’ regular season was a disappointment and plenty of people have registered the same reaction to the early part of their offseason, which saw the team part ways with head coach Jim Harbaugh and promote defensive line coach Jim Tomsula as his replacement.

It’s been widely viewed as an underwhelming hire motivated by the desires of General Manager Trent Baalke and CEO Jed York more than what might be best for the football team. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick expressed a different point of view during an interview with FOX Sports, however.

“Jim Tomsula’s gonna be a great coach for us. Players coach, always around the guys,” Kaepernick said. “Someone that’s willing to listen to what players say and has their intake. And I think that’s something that will help this team move forward. We have a lot of veteran players that know what they’re seeing on the field and know what they’re doing, so I think that will help us.”

Kaepernick’s point about the continuity on the roster is sound and should get a boost with the expected returns of linebackers Patrick Willis and Navorro Bowman from injury. By promoting Geep Chryst and Eric Mangini to offensive and defensive coordinator guarantee that carryover will extend to the coaching staff as well. Should that lead to a rebound in 2015, concerns about Tomsula should dissipate quickly but anything else will likely lead to even louder calls that the 49ers stepped off a good path for all of the wrong reasons.

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Devon and Leah Still releasing book for kids fighting cancer

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Leah Still is still fighting cancer and will start a new round of chemotherapy on Friday, but that’s not stopping her from finding a way to offer some help to other kids in the same position.

Bengals defensive tackle and Leah’s father Devon Still got a lot of questions from other parents with kids fighting cancer about how their family has approached Leah’s treatment and he asked his daughter for her thoughts. That led the four-year-old and her dad to write an animated book called I Am Leah Strong that will be available online next month.

“I talked to my daughter and asked her if she wanted to do a children’s book to help kids who are fighting pediatric cancer now and kids who will be diagnosed in the future to help them with the transition from normal life to being in the hospital all the time,” Still said, via USA Today. “That book was written by her. I just had an outline of questions I wanted to ask her. Whatever answers she had I wrote in book form.”

Leah Still was diagnosed with neuroblastoma in June and the hope is that her next round of chemotherapy does enough damage to the disease that she’s able to begin stem cell therapy.

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Friday morning one-liners

AFC Championship - Indianapolis Colts v New England Patriots Getty Images

Looking ahead to Bills S Da’Norris Searcy’s free agency.

Is there a chance that DT Ndamukong Suh could wind up with the Dolphins?

Tom Brady thinks James Develin gives the Patriots the best fullback in the league.

Todd Bowles continues to add coaches he knows from Arizona to the Jets’ coaching staff.

Ray Lewis thinks the window for the current Ravens team is closing.

T Eric Winston hopes to stick with the Bengals for another year.

The Browns may not make a decision about their training camp home for a while.

Former Steelers LB Jack Ham is a big fan of Richard Sherman.

The Texans website breaks down Nebraska RB Ameer Abdullah.

The case for former Colts WR Marvin Harrison to make the Hall of Fame.

The Jaguars added K/P Kasey Redfern to their roster.

Said Titans TE Delanie Walker, “If that don’t make you angry, to go 2-14, I don’t know what would make you angry. It’s kind of sad when your own fans don’t believe in you. It should make you mad. It’s embarrassing to only win two games at any level. But that’s what we did, and now we have to make sure nothing like that ever happens again.”

Broncos S T.J. Ward will be playing for his fifth head coach in six seasons.

Does being a guard hurt former Chiefs star Will Shields’ Hall of Fame chances?

The Raiders need more out of their tight ends.

Jeremiah Sirles recaps his rookie year on the Chargers offensive line.

How can the Cowboys be more like the Seahawks and Patriots?

Giants WR Odell Beckham’s knack for one-handed catches landed him a world record.

The Eagles have found their personnel man.

Predictions of a fruitful relationship for Redskins QB Robert Griffin III and quarterbacks coach Matt Cavanaugh.

CB Charles Tillman has good feelings about the Bears after speaking to coach John Fox.

Barry Sanders thinks the Lions have pieces to contend for a Super Bowl spot in 2015.

Can the Packers hit in free agency for the second straight year?

A look at the new Vikings stadium.

Running backs coach Gerald Brown could stick with the Falcons for another year.

Panthers fans score well on the niceness scale.

CB Delvin Breaux got a partial guarantee in his contract with the Saints.

Super Bowl weekend brings back the memories for former Buccaneers DB and Super Bowl MVP Dexter Jackson.

The Cardinals practice facility has held up well for the Patriots this week.

The Rams looking for an offensive coordinator leads at least one person to think about Mike Martz.

S Antonine Bethea looks back on his first season with the 49ers.

CB Jeremy Lane closed Thursday’s Seahawks practice by knocking the ball away from WR Bryan Walters.

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“Added security” planned for Super Bowl footballs

Super Bowl Football AP

There’s been a lot of discussion about the handling of footballs for the last two weeks and the NFL would prefer not to have a rehash of the topic after the Super Bowl, so they’ve made some changes to the process for Super Bowl Sunday.

The league already announced that the Bears equipment staff has been tabbed to oversee the pregame preparation of the footballs that the Patriots and Seahawks will use and NFL vice president of officiating Dean Blandino outlined some other differences on Thursday.

“There will be some added security just because of the environment we’re in for this game,” Blandino said, via ESPN.com.

The 54 balls (the high number is due to “charity commitments” for game-used Super Bowl balls) each team want to use will go to Bears equipment manager Tony Medlin on Friday and will remain in his possession with the additional security in place until referee Bill Vinovich inspects them a couple of hours before kickoff.

Blandino also said that the league plans to review all of their pregame procedures for dealing with footballs this offseason, presumably including the league’s practice of not logging the PSI of the balls during the initial check.

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