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The good, the bad and the ugly Scouting Combine performances


With the Combine in the books, we run down some of the best and worst performances on the field at Lucas Oil Stadium over the last four days:

40-yard dash
Best: UAB wide receiver J.J. Nelson ran the 40 in 4.28 seconds, fastest at this year’s Combine and 0.04 seconds off Chris Johnson’s record.

Solid effort: Ali Marpet, an offensive lineman from Division III Hobart College, ran his 40 in 4.98 seconds — the only offensive lineman to break the five-second mark in the 40. It’s a huge leap from Hobart to the NFL, but Marpet looked good enough at the Combine that he’s likely going to get drafted.

Red flag: TCU’s Paul Dawson was viewed by many as the best linebacker in this year’s draft, but he did not help his cause at all with a painfully slow 4.93-second time. Dawson got defensive about it on Twitter, saying he’s a football player and not a track star. But NFL teams have to be concerned that he’s just not fast enough to play linebacker in the NFL, especially at just 230 pounds.

Bench press
Best: Miami offensive lineman Ereck Flowers benched 225 pounds 37 times, a very good showing especially considering that the he’s 6-foot-6 with 34.5-inch arms. (The best bench pressers often have short arms.) Flowers has the potential to be a big-time NFL offensive lineman.

Solid effort: Clemson linebacker Vic Beasley managed 35 reps at 225 pounds, the third-best at the Combine and the best of any linebacker. Beasley’s 40-yard dash time of 4.53 seconds was also the best of any linebacker. When you’re both the strongest and the fastest player at your position, NFL teams are going to take notice. Beasley made himself some money in Indy.

Red flag: Wisconsin offensive lineman Rob Havenstein may be the pound-for-pound weakest player at the Combine. Havenstein weighed in at 321 pounds but managed only 16 reps at 225 pounds. That’s a sign this guy needs to spend some serious time in the weight room.

Vertical jump
Best: Georgia receiver Chris Conley went 45 inches in the vertical, part of an all-around great Combine showing that will surely help his draft stock.

Solid effort: Kentucky defensive end/outside linebacker Bud Dupree jumped a whopping 42 inches — an absurdly good leap for a guy who weighed in at 269 pounds. No one else who’s nearly that big jumped nearly that high.

Red flag: Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston had a 28.5-inch vertical, a very poor showing to go along with a slow 40 time. Winston looked good in throwing drills and from all accounts impressed teams at interviews, but some teams may wonder if Winston simply isn’t athletic enough to be a star in today’s NFL.

Broad jump
Best: UConn cornerback Byron Jones jumped an extraordinary 12 feet, 3 inches — by far the best jump in the history of the Combine. Jones was a four-year starter who’s now showing that he has elite athleticism.

Solid effort: Tennessee-Chattanooga linebacker Davis Tull jumped 11 feet, the best for any linebacker. There’s no question about Tull’s productivity in college — he was named Southern Conference Defensive Player of the Year each of the last three seasons — but there were questions about whether he matches up athletically with the best the NFL has to offer. With a very good showing at the Combine, Tull showed that he has what it takes to make it in the NFL.

Red flag: Florida State guard Josue Matias jumped only seven feet, the worst showing at the entire Combine. He also had the worst vertical, at 17.5 inches. Jumps like that might be acceptable if Matias were a big, strong road grader, but Matias weighed in at just 309 pounds and didn’t participate in the bench press. He’s not going to measure up in the NFL.

Three-cone drill
Best: Tennessee cornerback Justin Coleman finished the drill in 6.61 seconds, showing great change-of-direction quickness.

Solid effort: Kansas linebacker Ben Heeney did the three-cone drill in 6.68 seconds, which was not just the best of any linebacker but better than any cornerback or safety other than Coleman.

Red flag: LSU running back Terrence Magee’s three-cone time of 7.52 was terrible for a 213-pound running back. There were linemen who outweighed Magee by 100 pounds and did the three-cone drill faster than Magee did.

20-yard shuttle
Best: Memphis cornerback Bobby McCain finished the 20-yard shuttle in 3.82 seconds, just one-hundredth of a second off the best time in the last 10 years at the Combine.

Solid effort: UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley finished the short shuttle in 3.98 seconds, the fastest ever for a quarterback at the Combine.

Red flag: Florida State running back Karlos Williams had a short shuttle time of 4.46 seconds. That’s a mediocre time, but what’s particularly interesting is that Williams ran a pretty good 40 for a 230-pounder, clocking in at 4.48 seconds. Most players run the short shuttle significantly faster than they run the 40. That Williams ran his short shuttle in almost exactly the same time as his 40 indicates that while he has straight-line speed, he struggles to stop on a dime and change directions.

60-yard shuttle
Best: UConn cornerback Byron Jones finished in 10.98 seconds. With his 60-yard shuttle added to his vertical jump record, Jones was the only player to win two events at the Combine, and may have been the single best athlete on the field at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Solid effort: Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon had the second-fastest 60-yard shuttle, clocking 11.00 seconds. Gordon had great productivity in college, and at the Combine he showed he has the athleticism to match.

Red flag: Oregon linebacker Tony Washington’s 12.83-second long shuttle was the slowest at the Combine.

What does it all mean? Ultimately, the Combine matters less than what players did on the field in college, and all of this should be taken with a grain of salt. But a player like Byron Jones can use the Combine to boost his stock, while a player like Paul Dawson can see his stock tumble when he doesn’t run well. That’s what we saw over the last four days.

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The Free Agent Hot 100

Chris Johnson AP

The following are PFT’s top 100 free agents for the 2015 league year. The rankings include prospective unrestricted and restricted free agents, as well as released players. The list will be updated as events warrant, with signings and re-signings denoted when announced and/or reported.

1. Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. (Signed six-year deal with Miami.)

2. Chiefs outside linebacker Justin Houston. (Received non-exclusive franchise tag.)

3. Patriots cornerback Darrelle Revis. (Reached five-year deal with Jets.)

4. Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant. (Received non-exclusive franchise tag.)

5. Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas. (Received non-exclusive franchise tag.)

6. Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul. (Received non-exclusive franchise tag.)

7. Packers wide receiver Randall Cobb. (Reached four-year deal with Packers.)

8. Patriots safety Devin McCourty. (Reached five-year deal with Patriots.)

9. Broncos tight end Julius Thomas. (Signed deal with Jacksonville.)

10. Bills defensive end Jerry Hughes. (Reached five-year deal with Bills.)

11. Steelers outside linebacker Jason Worilds. (Announced his retirement.)

12. Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray. (Reached deal with Philadelphia.)

13. Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy. (Signed one-year deal with Dallas.)

14. Lions defensive tackle Nick Fairley. (Reached deal with St. Louis.)

15. Eagles wide receiver Jeremy Maclin. (Reached five-year deal with Kansas City.)

16. Ravens defensive end Pernell McPhee. (Reached five-year deal with Chicago.)

17. Seahawks cornerback Byron Maxwell. (Reached six-year deal with Philadelphia.)

18. Packers offensive tackle Bryan Bulaga. (Reached deal with Green Bay.)

19. Chargers cornerback Brandon Flowers. (Reached four-year deal with Chargers.)

20. 49ers offensive guard Mike Iupati. (Reached five-year deal with Arizona.)

21. Broncos defensive tackle Terrance Knighton. (Reached one-year deal with Washington.)

22. Washington outside linebacker Brian Orakpo.(Agreed to four-year deal with Tennessee.)

23. Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith. (Reached five-year deal with San Francisco.)

24. Chiefs center Rodney Hudson. (Signed five-year deal with Oakland.)

25. Ex-Jets wide receiver Percy Harvin. (Reached one-year deal with Buffalo.)

26. Bills running back C.J. Spiller. (Agreed to four-year deal with New Orleans.)

27. Titans outside linebacker/defensive end Derrick Morgan. (Reached four-year deal with Tennessee.)

28. Eagles outside linebacker/defensive end Brandon Graham. (Reached four-year deal with Philadelphia.)

29. Broncos offensive guard Orlando Franklin. (Reached deal with San Diego.)

30. Cardinals defensive tackle Dan Williams. (Reached deal with Oakland.)

31. Texans cornerback Kareem Jackson. (Agreed to four-year deal with Houston.)

32. Ex-Buccaneers defensive end Michael Johnson. (Reached deal with Cincinnati.)

33. 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree. (Reached deal with Oakland.)

34. Dolphins defensive lineman Jared Odrick. (Signed deal with Jacksonville.)

35. Browns tight end Jordan Cameron. (Signed deal with Miami.)

36. Browns outside linebacker/defensive end Jabaal Sheard. (Agreed to two-year deal with New England.)

37. Bears defensive tackle Stephen Paea. (Signed deal with Washington.)

38. Cardinals cornerback Antonio Cromartie. (Reached deal with Jets.)

39. Jets inside linebacker David Harris. (Signed three-year deal with Jets.)

40. Ex-Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson. (Reached deal with Indianapolis.)

41. Ex-Chiefs wide receiver Dwayne Bowe. (Reached deal with Cleveland.)

42. Raiders center Stefen Wisniewski. (Reached deal with Jacksonville.)

43. Saints running back Mark Ingram. (Agreed to four-year deal with Saints.)

44. Packers cornerback Davon House. (Signed deal with Jacksonville.)

45. Bengals tight end Jermaine Gresham.

46. Broncos safety Rahim Moore. (Agreed to deal with Houston.)

47. Patriots running back Shane Vereen. (Signed with Giants.)

48. Packers cornerback Tramon Williams. (Signed three-year deal with Cleveland.)

49. Chargers running back Ryan Mathews. (Reached three-year deal with Philadelphia.)

50. 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver. (Agreed to four-year deal with Washington.)

51. Browns cornerback Buster Skrine. (Reached deal with Jets.)

52. Chargers offensive tackle King Dunlap. (Signed four-year deal with Chargers.)

53. Dolphins tight end Charles Clay. (Signed offer sheet with Buffalo; Miami did not match.)

54. Ravens running back Justin Forsett. (Reached deal with Baltimore.)

55. Eagles quarterback Mark Sanchez. (Agreed to two-year deal with Philadelphia.)

56. Giants safety Antrel Rolle. (Agreed to three-year deal with Chicago.)

57. Seahawks offensive guard James Carpenter. (Signed with Jets.)

58. Jaguars defensive tackle Tyson Alualu. (Agreed to two-year deal with Jacksonville.)

59. Saints cornerback Patrick Robinson. (Agreed to deal with San Diego.)

60. Bengals offensive guard Clint Boling. (Reached deal with Cincinnati.)

61. Patriots linebacker Akeem Ayers. (Reached two-year deal with St. Louis.)

62. Jaguars wide receiver Cecil Shorts. (Agreed to two-year deal with Houston.)

63. Cowboys defensive tackle Henry Melton. (Reached deal with Tampa Bay.)

64. Bills safety Da’Norris Searcy. (Signed four-year deal with Tennessee.)

65. Cowboys linebacker Bruce Carter. (Signed four-year deal with Tampa Bay.)

66. Bills inside linebacker Brandon Spikes.

67. Chargers wide receiver Eddie Royal. (Signed three-year with Chicago.)

68. 49ers running back Frank Gore. (Reached two-year deal with Colts.)

69. Patriots cornerback Brandon Browner. (Reached deal with New Orleans.)

70. Ex-Saints inside linebacker Curtis Lofton. (Reached deal with Oakland.)

71. Chargers cornerback Shareece Wright. (Signed one-year deal with San Francisco.)

72. Cowboys linebacker Rolando McClain. (Re-signed with Dallas.)

73. Texans linebacker Brooks Reed. (Reached deal with Atlanta.)

74. Cowboys offensive tackle Doug Free. (Reached three-year deal with Cowboys.)

75. Falcons defensive end Kroy Biermann. (Re-signed with Atlanta.)

76. Ex-Buccaneers quarterback Josh McCown (Signed three-year deal with Browns.)

77. Ex-Eagles defensive end Trent Cole. (Agreed to deal with Indianapolis.)

78. Patriots defensive tackle Vince Wilfork. (Reached deal with Houston.)

79. Jets defensive tackle Damon Harrison. (RFA — signing deadline has passed)

80. Buccaneers defensive end Adrian Clayborn. (Reached deal with Atlanta.)

81. Eagles safety Nate Allen. (Reached deal with Oakland.)

82. Rams offensive tackle Joe Barksdale.

83. Titans quarterback Jake Locker. (Announced retirement.)

84. Texans offensive tackle Derek Newton. (Reached five-year deal with Texans.)

85. Buccaneers inside linebacker Mason Foster. (Reached deal with Chicago.)

86. Falcons linebacker Sean Weatherspoon. (Signed deal with Arizona.)

87. 49ers cornerback Perrish Cox. (Reached deal with Tennessee.)

88. Falcons defensive tackle Corey Peters. (Signed deal with Arizona.)

89. Ex-Rams defensive tackle Kendall Langford. (Reached deal with Indianapolis.)

90. Ex-Eagles cornerback Cary Williams. (Reached three-year deal with Seattle.)

91. Ex-Dolphins wide receiver Brian Hartline. (Reached two-year deal with Cleveland.)

92. Ex-49ers wide receiver Stevie Johnson. (Reached deal with San Diego.)

93. Raiders wide receiver Denarius Moore. (Reached deal with Cincinnati.)

94. Browns quarterback Brian Hoyer. (Reached two-year deal with Houston.)

95. Eagles cornerback Bradley Fletcher. (Reached deal with New England.)

96. Ravens kicker Justin Tucker. (RFA — signed tender with Baltimore.)

97. Colts wide receiver Hakeem Nicks. (Reached deal with Tennessee.)

98. Browns safety Tashaun Gipson. (RFA — signing deadline has passed.)

99. Ex-Buccaneers offensive tackle Anthony Collins.

100. Ex-Jaguars defensive lineman Red Bryant.


101. Ex-Falcons offensive guard Justin Blalock.

102. Ex-Raiders safety Tyvon Branch. (Reached one-year deal with Kansas City.)

103. Rams wide receiver Kenny Britt. (Agreed to two-year deal with St. Louis.)

104. Rams tight end Lance Kendricks. (Reached deal with St. Louis.)

105. Chargers safety Marcus Gilchrist. (Agreed to deal with Jets.)

106. Ex-Lions running back Reggie Bush. (Reached deal with San Francisco.)

107. Ex-Cardinals defensive lineman Darnell Dockett. (Signed two-year deal with 49ers.)

108. Texans safety Kendrick Lewis. (Signed three-year deal with Baltimore.)

109. Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski. (Signed franchise tender.)

110. Ex-Vikings wide receiver Greg Jennings. (Reached two-year deal with Miami.)

111. Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder. (Signed with Oakland.)

112. Ex-Eagles tight end James Casey. (Signed with Denver.)

113. Eagles defensive end Cedric Thornton. (RFA — re-signed with Philadelphia.)

114. Panthers offensive tackle Byron Bell. (Reached deal with Tennessee.)

115. Jets cornerback Kyle Wilson. (Reached deal with New Orleans.)

116. Jets defensive tackle Kenrick Ellis. (Reached deal with Giants.)

117. Giants cornerback Walter Thurmond. (Reached deal with Philadelphia.)

118. Seahawks linebacker O’Brien Schofield. (Reached deal with Atlanta.)

119. Dolphins safety Louis Delmas. (Reached deal with Miami.)

120. Jets running back Chris Johnson.

121. Packers quarterback Scott Tolzien. (Agreed to one-year deal with Packers.)

Note: Players were considered basis of these criteria, among others: age, availability, injury history, past production, playmaking ability, position value and potential.

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2015 NFL free agency dates and deadlines

DeMarco Murray AP

As the start of the 2015 league year approaches, here’s a recap of key dates, events and deadlines affecting NFL free agency. Teams can officially start to sign players on March 10.

All information is furnished by the NFL:

February 16: First day for clubs to designate Franchise or Transition Players.

February 17-23: NFL Scouting Combine, Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, Indiana.

March 2: Prior to 4:00 p.m., New York time, deadline for clubs to designate Franchise or Transition Players.

March 7-10: Clubs are permitted to contact, and enter into contract negotiations with the certified agents of players who will become Unrestricted Free Agents upon the expiration of their 2014 contracts at 4:00 p.m., New York time, on March 10. However, a contract cannot be executed with a new club until 4:00 p.m., New York time, on March 10.

March 10: Prior to 4:00 p.m., New York time, clubs must exercise options for 2015 on all players who have option clauses in their 2014 contracts.

March 10: Prior to 4:00 p.m., New York time, clubs must submit qualifying offers to their Restricted Free Agents with expiring contracts and to whom they desire to retain a Right of First Refusal/Compensation.

March 10: Prior to 4:00 p.m., New York time, clubs must submit a Minimum Salary Tender to retain exclusive negotiating rights to their players with expiring 2014 contracts and who have fewer than three accrued seasons of free agency credit.

March 10: Top-51 Begins. All clubs must be under the 2015 salary cap prior to 4:00 p.m., New York time.

March 10: All 2014 player contracts expire at 4:00 p.m., New York time.

March 10: The 2015 league year and free agency period begin at 4:00 p.m., New York time.

March 10: The first day of the 2015 league year will end at 11:59:59 p.m., New York time, on March 10. Clubs will receive a personnel notice that will include all transactions submitted to the league office during the period between 4:00 p.m., New York time, and 11:59:59 p.m., New York time, on March 10.

March 10: Trading period for 2015 begins at 4:00 p.m., New York time, after expiration of all 2014 contracts.

March 22-25: Annual Meeting, Phoenix, Arizona.

April 24: Deadline for Restricted Free Agents to sign offer sheets.

April 29: Deadline for prior club to exercise Right of First Refusal to Restricted Free Agents.

April 30-May 2: 2015 NFL Draft, Chicago, Illinois.

May 18-20: NFL Spring League Meeting, San Francisco, California.

June 1: For any player removed from the club’s roster or whose contract is assigned via waivers or trade on or after June 1, any unamortized signing bonus amounts for future years will be included fully in team salary at the start of the 2016 League Year.

June 1: Deadline for prior club to send “June 1 Tender” to its unsigned Unrestricted Free Agents. If the player has not signed a contract with a club by July 22 or the first scheduled day of the first NFL training camp, whichever is later, he may negotiate or sign a contract from that date until the Tuesday following the 10th weekend of the regular season, at 4:00 p.m., New York time, only with his prior club.

June 1: Deadline for prior club to send “June 1 Tender” to its unsigned Restricted Free Agents who received a qualifying offer for a Right of First Refusal Only in order for such player to be subject to the CBA’s “June 15 Tender” provision.

June 15: Deadline for club to withdraw qualifying offer to Restricted Free Agents and still retain exclusive negotiating rights by substituting “June 15 Tender” of one-year contract at 110 percent of the player’s prior-year Paragraph 5 Salary (with all other terms of his prior-year contract carried forward unchanged).

July 15: At 4:00 p.m., New York time, deadline for any club that designated a Franchise Player to sign such player to a multi-year contract or extension. After this date, the player may sign only a one-year contract with his prior club for the 2015 season, and such contract cannot be extended until after the club’s last regular season game.

July 22: (or the first scheduled day of the first NFL training camp, whichever is later): Signing Period ends for unrestricted Free Agents to whom a “June 1 Tender” was made by prior club. After this date and until 4:00 p.m., New York time, on the Tuesday following the 10th weekend of the regular season, prior club has exclusive negotiating rights.

July 22: Signing period ends for Transition Players with outstanding tenders. After this date and until 4:00 p.m., New York time, on the Tuesday following the 10th weekend of the regular season, prior club has exclusive negotiating rights.

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NFC potential free agents


Free agency is coming soon.  Over the weekend, we cobbled together lists of free agents for all teams, unrestricted and restricted.

The AFC list appears here.  The NFC list appears below.

NFC East.

NFC North.

NFC South.

NFC West.

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AFC potential free agents


If you haven’t heard, football season is over.  And if like most fans you’re wondering how your favorite team can climb out of the valley of 0-0 and become a playoff contender and/or a Super Bowl participant, the process begins with free agency.

Whether it’s keeping a team’s free agents or eyeballing potential acquisitions from other teams, let’s start taking a look at all of the potential free agents, restricted and unrestricted.

Links for each of the free agents from the AFC divisions appear below.

AFC East.

AFC North.

AFC South.

AFC West.

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2015 NFL scouting combine invitees

Jameis Winston AP

The NFL has released the names of the draft-eligible players invited to this year’s scouting combine in Indianapolis, which takes place February 17-23.

Anthony Boone, Duke
Brandon Bridge, South Alabama
Cody Fajardo, Nevada
Garrett Grayson, Colorado State
Connor Halliday, Washington State
Brett Hundley, UCLA
Sean Mannion, Oregon State
Marcus Mariota, Oregon
Nick Marshall, Auburn
Bryce Petty, Baylor
Blake Sims, Alabama
Jameis Winston, Florida State
Bryan Bennett, Southeastern Louisiana *
Shane Carden, East Carolina *
Jerry Lovelocke, Prairie View A&M *

Running backs
Ameer Abdullah, Nebraska
Jay Ajayi, Boise State
Javorius Allen, USC
Cameron Artis-Payne, Auburn
Dominique Brown, Louisville
Malcolm Brown, Texas
Michael Burton (FB), Rutgers
B.J. Catalon, TCU
David Cobb, Minnesota
Tevin Coleman, Indiana
John Crockett, North Dakota State
Mike Davis, South Carolina
Michael Dyer, Louisville
Jahwan Edwards, Ball State
Jalston Fowler (FB), Alabama
Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin
Todd Gurley, Georgia
Dee Hart, Colorado State
Braylon Heard, Kentucky
Kenny Hilliard, LSU
Joey Iosefa, Hawaii
David Johnson, Northern Iowa
Duke Johnson, Miami (Fla.)
Gus Johnson, Stephen F. Austin
Matt Jones, Florida
Jeremy Langford, Michigan State
Terrence Magee, LSU
Marcus Murphy, Missouri
Thomas Rawls, Central Michigan
Josh Robinson, Mississippi State
Ross Scheuerman, Lafayette
Tyler Varga, Yale
Karlos Williams, Florida State
Trey Williams, Texas A&M
T.J. Yeldon, Alabama
Zach Zenner, South Dakota State

Wide receivers
Nelson Agholor, USC
Mario Alford, West Virginia
Dres Anderson, Utah
Kenny Bell, Nebraska
Da’Ron Brown, Northern Illinois
Kaelin Clay, Utah
Sammie Coates, Auburn
Chris Conley, Georgia
Amari Cooper, Alabama
Jamison Crowder, Duke
Davaris Daniels, Notre Dame
Devante Davis, UNLV
Geremy Davis, Connecticut
Titus Davis, Central Michigan
Stefon Diggs, Maryland
Phillip Dorsett, Miami (Fla.)
Devin Funchess, Michigan
Antwan Goodley, Baylor
Dorial Green-Beckham, Missouri
Rashad Greene, Florida State
Rannell Hall, Central Florida
Justin Hardy, East Carolina
Josh Harper, Fresno State
Christion Jones, Alabama
Dezmin Lewis, Central Arkansas
Tony Lippett, Michigan State
Tyler Lockett, Kansas State
Deon Long, Maryland
Donatella Luckett, Harding
Vince Mayle, Washington State
Tre McBride, William & Mary
Ty Montgomery, Stanford
Keith Mumphery, Michigan State
J.J. Nelson, Alabama-Birmingham
DeVante Parker, Louisville
Breshad Perriman, Cental Florida
Ezell Ruffin, San Diego State
DeAndre Smelter, Georgia Tech
Devin Smith, Ohio State
Jaelen Strong, Arizona State
Darren Waller, Georgia Tech
DeAndrew White, Alabama
Kevin White, West Virginia
Cam Worthy, East Carolina

Tight ends
Blake Bell, Oklahoma
E.J. Bibbs, Iowa State
Nick Boyle, Delaware
Gerald Christian, Louisville
Cameron Clear, Texas A&M
A.J. Derby, Arkansas
Jeff Heuerman, Ohio State
Jesse James, Penn State
Ben Koyack, Notre Dame
Tyler Kroft, Rutgers
Nick O’Leary, Florida State
MyCole Pruitt, Southern Illinois
Wes Saxton, South Alabama
Jean Sifrin, Massachusetts
Randall Telfer, USC
Eric Tomlinson, UTEP
Clive Walford, Miami (Fla.)
Maxx Williams, Minnesota

Offensive linemen
Al Bond (OT), Memphis
Brett Boyko (OT), UNLV
Jamon Brown (OT), Louisville
Trenton Brown (OG), Florida
A.J. Cann (OG), South Carolina
T.J. Clemmings (OT), Pittsburgh
Takoby Cofield (OT), Duke
La’el Collins (OT), LSU
Rob Crisp (OT), North Carolina State
Reese Dismukes (C), Auburn
Andrew Donnal (OT), Iowa
Jamil Douglas (OT), Arizona State
Cameron Erving (OT), Florida State
Tayo Fabuluje (OT), TCU
Jon Feliciano (OG), Florida
B.J. Finney (C), Kansas State
Jake Fisher (OT), Oregon
Ereck Flowers (OT), Miami (Fla.)
Andy Gallik (C), Boston College
Max Garcia (C), Florida
Laurence Gibson (OT), Virginia Tech
Mark Glowinski (OG), West Virginia
Hroniss Grasu (C), Oregon
Chaz Green (OT), Florida
Chad Hamilton (OT), Coastal Carolina
Jarvis Harrison (OG), Texas A&M
Bobby Hart (OT), Florida State
Rob Havenstein (OT), Wisconsin
Sean Hickey (OT), Syracuse
D.J. Humphries (OT), Florida
Tre Jackson (OG), Florida State
Arie Kouandjio (OG), Alabama
Greg Mancz (C), Toledo
Ali Marpet (OT), Hobart
Josue Matias (OG), Florida State
Darrian Miller (OT), Kentucky
John Miller (OG), Louisville
Mitch Morse (OT), Missouri
Robert Myers (OG), Tennessee State
Cedric Ogbuehi (OT), Texas A&M
Andrus Peat (OT), Stanford
Terry Poole (OT), San Diego State
Jeremiah Poutasi (OT), Utah
Corey Robinson (OT), South Carolina
Ty Sambrailo (OT), Colorado State
Brandon Scherff (OT), Iowa
Adam Shead (OG), Oklahoma
Austin Shepherd (OT), Alabama
Donovan Smith (OT), Penn State
Tyrus Thompson (OT), Oklahoma
Laken Tomlinson (OG), Duke
Daryl Williams (OT), Oklahoma

Defensive line
Henry Anderson (DE), Stanford
Arik Armstead (DE), Oregon
Tavaris Barnes (DE), Clemson
Vic Beasley (DE), Clemson
Michael Bennett (DT), Ohio State
Angelo Blackson (DT), Auburn
Malcom Brown (DT), Texas
Anthony Chickillo (DE), Miami (Fla.)
Frank Clark (DE), Michigan
Xavier Coooper (DT), Washington State
Christian Covington (DT), Rice
Corey Crawford (DE), Clemson
Carl Davis (DT), Iowa
Tyeler Davison (DE), Fresno State
Ryan Delaire (DE), Towson
B.J. Dubose (DE), Louisville
Mario Edwards (DE), Florida State
Kyle Emanuel (DE), North Dakota State
Trey Flowers (DE), Arkansas
Dante Fowler (DE), Florida
Markus Golden (DE), Missouri
Eddie Goldman (DT), Florida State
Randy Gregory (DE), Nebraska
Marcus Hardison (DE), Arizona State
Eli Harold (DE), Virginia
Zach Hodges (DE), Harvard
Danielle Hunter (DE), LSU
Martin Ifedi (DE), Memphis
Grady Jarrett (DT), Clemson
Derrick Lott (DT), Tennessee-Chattanooga
Joey Mbu (DT), Houston
Ellis McCarthy (DT), UCLA
Rakeem Nunez-Roches (DT), Southern Mississippi
Owamagbe Odighizuwa (DE), UCLA
Nate Orchard (DE), Utah
Leon Orr (DT), Florida
David Parry (NT), Stanford
Jordan Phillips (DT), Oklahoma
Darius Philon (DT), Arkansas
Shane Ray (DE), Missouri
Cedric Reed (DE), Texas
Bobby Richardson (DT), Indiana
Ryan Russell (DE), Purdue
Danny Shelton (NT), Washington
Deon Simon (NT), Northwestern State
Preston Smith (DE), Mississippi State
Za’Darius Smith (DE), Kentucky
J.T. Surratt (DT), South Carolina
Lynden Trail (DE), Norfolk State
Louis Trinca-Pasat (DT), Iowa
Davis Tull (DE), Tennessee-Chattanooga
Zack Wagenmann (DE), Montana
Leterrius Walton (DT), Central Michigan
Leonard Williams (DT), USC
Gabe Wright (DT), Auburn

Kwon Alexander (OLB), LSU
Stephone Anthony (ILB), Clemson
Neiron Ball (OLB), Florida
Yannik Cudjoe-Virgil (OLB), Maryland
Aaron Davis (ILB), Colorado State
Paul Dawson (ILB), TCU
Trey DePriest (ILB), Alabama
Xzavier Dickson (OLB), Alabama
Bud Dupree (OLB), Kentucky
Alani Fua (OLB), BYU
Geneo Grissom (OLB), Oklahoma
Obum Gwacham (DE), Oregon State
Bryce Hager (ILB), Baylor
Ben Heeney (ILB), Kansas
Amarlo Herrera (ILB), Georgia
Jordan Hicks (ILB), Texas
Mike Hull (ILB), Penn State
A.J. Johnson (ILB), Tennessee
Taiwan Jones (ILB), Michigan State
Eric Kendricks (ILB), UCLA
Hau’oli Kikaha (OLB), Washington
Lorenzo Mauldin (OLB), Louisville
Benardrick McKinney (ILB), Mississippi State
Mark Nzeocha (OLB), Wyoming
Denzel Perryman (ILB), Miami (Fla.)
Hayes Pullard (ILB), USC
Edmond Robinson (OLB), Newberry
Jake Ryan (OLB), Michigan
Martrell Spaight (OLB), Arkansas
J.R. Tavai (OLB), USC
Shaq Thompson (OLB), Washington
Max Valles (OLB), Virginia
Tony Washington (OLB), Oregon
Damien Wilson (ILB), Minnesota
Ramik Wilson (ILB), Georgia

Defensive backs
Adrian Amos (SS), Penn State
Detrick Bonner (FS), Virginia Tech
Ibraheim Campbell (SS), Northwestern
Alex Carter (CB), Stanford
D.C. Celiscar (CB), Western Michigan
Justin Coleman (CB), Tennessee
Jalen Collins (CB), LSU
Landon Collins (FS), Alabama
Justin Cox (FS), Mississippi State
Ronald Darby (CB), Florida State
Quandre Diggs (CB), Texas
Lorenzo Doss (CB), Tulane
Kurtis Drummond (FS), Michigan State
Ifo Ekpre-Olomu (CB), Oregon
Durell Eskridge (FS), Syracuse
Charles Gaines (CB), Louisville
Clayton Geathers (SS), Central Florida
Jacoby Glenn (CB), Central Florida
Senquez Golson (CB), Ole Miss
Doran Grant (CB), Ohio State
Ladarius Gunter (CB), Miami (Fla.)
Chris Hackett (FS), TCU
Anthony Harris (FS), Virginia
Troy Hill (CB), Oregon
Gerod Holliman (FS), Louisville
Kyshoen Jarrett (SS), Virginia Tech
A.J. Jefferson (CB), UCLA
Kevin Johnson (CB), Wake Forest
Byron Jones (CB), Connecticut
Craig Mager (CB), Texas State
Dean Marlowe (FS), James Madison
Bobby McCain (CB), Memphis
Tevin McDonald (SS), Eastern Washington
Steven Nelson (CB), Oregon State
Garry Peters (CB), Clemson
Marcus Peters (CB), Washington
Cody Prewitt (SS), Ole Miss
Damarious Randall (FS), Arizona State
Jordan Richards (SS) Stanford
Quinten Rollins (CB), Miami (Ohio)
Eric Rowe (CB), Utah
James Sample (SS), Louisville
Josh Shaw (CB), USC
Jacorey Shepherd (CB), Kansas
D’Joun Smith (CB), Florida Atlantic
Derron Smith (FS), Fresno State
Tye Smith (CB), Towson
Damian Swann (CB), Georgia
Jaquiski Tartt (FS), Samford
Trae Waynes (CB), Michigan State
Kevin White (CB), West Virginia
Jermaine Whitehead (FS), Auburn
P.J. Williams (CB), Florida State
Julian Wilson (CB), Oklahoma

Will Bauman (P), North Carolina State
Kyle Brindza (K), Notre Dame
Joe Cardona (LS), Navy
Kyle Christy (P), Florida
Sam Ficken (K), Penn State
Will Johnson (P), Texas State
Josh Lambo (K), Texas A&M
Kyle Loomis (P), Portland State
Justin Manton (K), Louisiana-Monroe
Trevor Pardula (P), Kansas
Jared Roberts (K), Colorado State
Spencer Roth (P), Baylor

* – Bennett, Carden and Lovelocke were invited as “throwing quarterbacks” to help with drills for other position players in Indianapolis. They will do quarterback drills as well.

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2015 NFL Draft order

NFC Championship - Green Bay Packers v Seattle Seahawks Getty Images

Here is the selection order for Round One of the 2015 NFL Draft as announced by the league on February 3.

The first round of the draft will be held on Thursday, April 30 in Chicago.

1. Buccaneers

2. Titans

3. Jaguars

4. Raiders

5. Washington

6. Jets

7. Bears

8. Falcons

9. Giants

10. Rams

11. Vikings

12. Browns

13. Saints

14. Dolphins

15. 49ers

16. Texans

17. Chargers

18. Chiefs

19. Browns (from Bills) 

20. Eagles

21. Bengals

22. Steelers

23. Lions

24. Cardinals

25. Panthers

26. Ravens

27. Cowboys

28. Broncos

29. Colts

30. Packers

31. Seahawks

32. Patriots

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NFL morning after: The Patriots are the NFL’s greatest dynasty

bradybelichick AP

Move over, Chuck Noll’s Steelers. Step aside, Vince Lombardi’s Packers. Tom Landry’s Cowboys and Bill Walsh’s 49ers? Sorry, folks. There’s a new team that has shown beyond a shadow of a doubt that it’s the greatest dynasty in NFL history.

Bill Belichick’s New England Patriots have achieved consistent greatness at a time when staying on top is harder than ever before, and as a result they deserve recognition for the best run this sport has ever seen.

With their fourth Super Bowl win on Sunday, Belichick and Tom Brady have put together a run that surpasses even what Terry Bradshaw did with Noll, what Bart Starr did with Lombardi, what Roger Staubach did with Landry and what Joe Montana did with Walsh. It’s not just that Belichick has won more postseason games than any other coach. It’s not just that Brady won his third Super Bowl MVP in his record sixth Super Bowl as a starting quarterback. It’s that the Patriots are doing it during the era of unrestricted free agency and the salary cap, when the NFL is making it all but impossible for the team on top to stay on top.

Think about everything the Patriots have done since Brady became their starting quarterback in 2001: In addition to appearing in six Super Bowls and winning four, they’ve had a winning record for 14 consecutive seasons. They’ve had the only 16-0 regular season in NFL history. They’ve made it to the conference championship round of the playoffs nine times — nine times. They’ve made it to the playoffs 11 of the last 12 years, missing only in the year when Brady was lost for the season with a Week One knee injury — and even that year they went 11-5. They’ve consistently been the best franchise in football.

It’s so hard to keep winning in today’s NFL. The salary cap and free agency mean you simply can’t keep all of your best players together for years at a time, the way those great Steelers and Packers and Cowboys and 49ers teams used to do. Even a great franchise like the Seahawks, who have been to three Super Bowls and made the playoffs nine times during this Patriots reign, also went through a rough patch in which they had four consecutive losing seasons. That’s just the way it works in the NFL. You can’t stay on top for a decade or more.

At least, you can’t unless you’re the New England Patriots. They’ve found a way to do it. They’re consistent winners like no other team in the history of the league.

Here are my other thoughts from Super Bowl Sunday:

Remember “On to Cincinnati”? It’s amazing to think that it was only four months ago that the Patriots lost 41-14 to the Chiefs, and Bill Belichick was peppered with questions about whether the Patriots dynasty had come to an end. Belichick simply repeated, “We’re on to Cincinnati” every time he was asked about the loss at Kansas City, and sure enough the Patriots responded by blowing out the Bengals that Sunday. Belichick is a master at getting his players to tune everything else out and simply focus on the task at hand, and after winning the Super Bowl on Sunday night, Belichick pointed to the aftermath of that loss to the Chiefs as the turning point in the season.

Russell Wilson had a slow start, and a disastrous finish. Wilson has a reputation for playing well in big games, but that reputation has to take a hit after this Super Bowl. He didn’t complete a single pass in the first quarter for the second consecutive game and struggled for much of the first half. And although Wilson settled down and looked like he was on the verge of a game-winning comeback, his last pass was a terrible interception that never should have been thrown. Wilson is a good young quarterback, but he had a rough game.

Chris Matthews stepped it up in the playoffs. Matthews, a backup receiver for the Seahawks, had never caught a pass in his NFL career until Sunday, when his 44-yard catch in the second quarter gave the Seahawks their biggest play of the game to that point and set up Seattle’s first touchdown. Matthews’s second NFL catch was for a touchdown just before halftime. On the day, Matthews had four catches for 109 yards. Matthews also recovered the Seahawks’ onside kick in the NFC Championship Game, setting up their dramatic comeback. Maybe Matthews is a young player who has a great career ahead of him or maybe he’ll always be a little-used backup, but whatever else he does, he’s already made a major impact on two huge games.

What if Marshawn had been MVP? If the Seahawks had done the smart thing at the end of the game and handed off to Marshawn Lynch, there’s a good chance he would have scored the game-winning touchdown. Lynch, who finished with 102 yards and a touchdown, might have been the Most Valuable Player if he had added a game-winning score to his impressive game. If that had happened, it would have been fascinating to see what Lynch had done: The NFL relies on the MVP to go through a series of media appearances on the day after the Super Bowl, but Lynch likely would have either skipped those appearances or used them to call attention to his distaste for the way the NFL does business. It would have been incredibly awkward for the NFL if Lynch had won the award. Roger Goodell would never admit to rooting against any individual player, but you can bet he was rooting against Lynch winning Super Bowl MVP.

Edelman was excellent. Patriots receiver Julian Edelman had an outstanding game, catching nine passes for 109 yards and the game-winning touchdown. Edelman is just the kind of player Belichick excels at identifying and developing: Edelman was a college quarterback at Kent State who was mostly overlooked by the NFL because he was nowhere near a good enough passer to run an NFL offense. But Belichick saw some potential in Edelman and used a seventh-round draft pick on him in 2009, and all Edelman has done is become a good receiver and punt returner who is one of the most important players on this Patriots team. If you’re going to stay on top in the NFL for years, you can’t do it by building up a stockpile of All-Pro players. The salary cap just won’t allow for that. What you have to do is find good, solid role players who fill the needs your team has. In New England, Julian Edelman is that kind of player. Players like him allow the Patriots to stay on top.

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Statement from Patriots owner Robert Kraft on NFL’s inflation investigation

Robert Kraft AP

On Monday night, Patriots owner Robert Kraft addressed the NFL’s investigation into allegations the club used under-inflated footballs in the AFC title game. Here are his remarks, which were provided by the NFL:

“On the plane ride out to here, I prepared a few remarks which I would like to read to you.

“On behalf of the entire organization, I want to express what an honor it is to be here and represent the AFC in the Super Bowl. I know how difficult it is to get to this game and I appreciate the work of everyone who helps host the event. We are anticipating a great game against the defending Super Bowl champs, Seattle Seahawks.

“Given the events of the last week, I want to take a minute to address the air pressure matter before we kickoff this week’s media availabilities. I have spoken with Coach (Bill) Belichick. I have spoken with Tom Brady. I have taken the time to understand to the best of my abilities what goes on in the preparation of gameday footballs. And I want to make it clear that I believe, unconditionally, that the New England Patriots have done nothing inappropriate in this process or in violation of NFL rules.

“Tom, Bill, and I have been together for 15 years. They are my guys, they are part of my family. And Bill, Tom, and I have had many difficult discussions over the years, and I have never known them to lie to me. That is why I am confident in saying what I just said. And it bothers me greatly that their reputations and integrity, and by association that of our team, has been called into question this past week.

“As I said on Friday in my prepared statement, we welcome the League’s investigation and the involvement of Attorney (Ted) Wells. I am confident that this investigation will uncover whatever the facts were that took place last Sunday and the science of how game balls react to changes in the environment. This would be in direct contrast to the public discourse, which has been driven by media leaks as opposed to actual data and facts. Because of this, many jumped to conclusions and made scarring accusations against our coach, quarterback and staff questioning the integrity of all involved.

“If the Wells investigation is not able to definitively determine that our organization tampered with the air pressure in the footballs, I would expect and hope that the League would apologize to our entire team and in particular, Coach Belichick and Tom Brady for what they have had to endure this past week. I am disappointed in the way this entire matter has been handled and reported upon. We expect hard facts as opposed to circumstantial leaked evidence to drive the conclusion of this investigation.

“In closing, I would like to say to all the fans of the National Football League, and especially the amazing fans of the New England Patriots, that I and our entire organization believe strongly in the integrity of the game and the rules of fair play properly, equitably and fairly enforced. Thank you.”

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Transcript of Bill Belichick’s January 24 press conference

Belichick AP

[Editor’s note: On Saturday, January 24, Patriots coach Bill Belichick conducted a press conference to provide further information about the ball-inflation investigation the NFL currently is conducting. The full transcript as provided by the team appears below.]

BB: I want to take this opportunity to share some information. I spent a significant amount of time this past week learning as much as I could learn, more than I could ever imagine to tell you the truth, about bladders, air gauges, stitching, pressure, game day football preparation, rubdowns and so forth. [I’m] trying to be as helpful as I can here and share with you what I’ve learned. Having coached for 40 years in the National Football League, played for several years, growing up in a football family, being around this game my entire life, it’s clear that I don’t know very much about this area. Over the last few days I’ve learned a lot more than I ever knew — like, exponentially more.

I feel like this is important because there have been questions raised and I believe now 100 percent that I have personally, and we as an organization, have absolutely followed every rule to the letter. I just feel that on behalf of everyone in the organization, everyone that’s involved in this organization, that we need to say something.

I’ve talked to and gathered a lot of information from members of our staff, I have talked to other people familiar with this subject in other organizations and we have performed an internal study of the process and I think there are certainly other things that I can do and there’s maybe other research that can be done, but I say at this time, I definitely have enough information to share with you. So, based on the events of today, I feel like now’s the time to do it, rather than wait. I know this is kind of an impromptu thing, but that’s just the way it worked out.

First of all, let me start with the process. As Tom [Brady] explained on Thursday, the most important part of the football for the quarterback is the feel of the football. I don’t think there’s any question about that. The exterior feel of the football is not only critical, but it’s also very easily identifiable. When I feel a football, I can feel a difference between slippery and tacky. I can feel the difference between the texture of the football to what degree it is broken in. If you put five footballs out there, which football is broken in the most, which football is broken in the least, that’s easy to identify. That’s the essence of the preparation. We prepare our footballs over time and we use them in practice. That preparation process continues right up until the footballs are given to the officials prior to the game. That’s when they are finalized, if I could use that word. I would say that in that process I’ve handled dozens of footballs over the past week. The texture of the footballs is very easy to identify. The pressure of the footballs is a whole different story. It’s much more difficult to feel or identify. So, the focus of our pregame preparation for the footballs is based on texture and feel. I think Tom went into that extensively on Thursday and he obviously could go through it a lot better than I can because he’s the one that touched them. But that’s the heart of the process.

We simulated a game day situation in terms of the preparation of the football and where the footballs were at various points in time during the day, or night, as the case was Sunday. I would say that our preparation process for the footballs is what we do. I can’t speak for anybody else. It’s what we do. That process, we have found raises the PSI [pounds per square inch] approximately one pound. That process of creating a tackiness, a texture — the right feel, whatever that feel is, it’s just a sensation for the quarterback, what’s the right feel. That process elevates the PSI approximately one pound based on what our study showed, which was multiple footballs, multiple examples in the process, as we would do for a game. It’s not one football.

When the footballs are delivered to the officials locker room, the officials were asked to inflate them to 12.5 PSI. What exactly they did, I don’t know. But for the purposes of our study, that’s what we did. We set them at 12.5. That’s at the discretion of the official, though. Regardless of what we ask for, it’s the official’s discretion to put them where he wants. Again, that’s done in a controlled climate. The footballs are prepared in our locker room, they’re delivered to the officials locker room, which is a controlled environment. Whatever we have here is what we have there. When the footballs go out on to the field into game conditions, whatever those conditions are, whether it’s hot and humid, whether it’s cold and damp, whether it’s cold and dry, whether it’s whatever it is, that’s where the footballs are played with, and that’s where the measurements would be different than what they are, possibly different, than what they are in a controlled environment. That’s what we found.

We found that once the footballs were on the field over an extended period of time, in other words, they were adjusted to the climatic conditions and also the fact that the footballs reached an equilibrium without the rubbing process, that after that had run its course and the footballs had reached an equilibrium, that they were down approximately one-and-a-half pounds per square inch. When we brought the footballs back in after that process and re-tested them in a controlled environment as we have here, then those measurements rose approximately one half pound per square inch. So the net of one and a half, back to a half, is approximately one pound per square inch, to one and a half.

Now, we all know that air pressure is a function of the atmospheric conditions. It’s a function of that. If there’s activity in the football relative to the rubbing process, I think that explains why when we gave them to the officials and the officials put it at, let’s say 12.5, if that’s in fact what they did, that once the football reached its equilibrium state, it probably was closer to 11.5. But again, that’s just our measurements. We can’t speak specifically to what happened because we have no way of touching the footballs other than once the officials have them we don’t touch them except for when we play with them in the game. But it’s similar to the concept of when you get into your car and the light comes on and it says, ‘Low tire pressure,’ because the car has been sitting in the driveway outside overnight and you start it up and you start driving it and the light goes off. It’s a similar concept to that.

The atmospheric conditions, as well as the true equilibrium of the football is critical to the measurement. At no time were any of our footballs prepared anywhere other than in the locker room or in an area very close to that — never in a heated room or heated condition. That has absolutely never taken place to anyone’s knowledge or anyone’s recollection. That just didn’t happen.

When you measure a football, there are a number of different issues that come up. Number one, gauges. There are multiple types of gauges. The accuracy of one gauge relative to another, there’s variance there. We’re talking about air pressure. There’s some variance there. Clearly all footballs are different. So, footballs that come out of a similar pack, a similar box, a similar preparation, each football has its own unique, individual characteristics because it’s not a man-made piece of equipment. It’s an animal skin, it’s a bladder, it’s stitching, it’s laces. Each one has its own unique characteristics. Whatever you do with that football, if you do the same thing with another one, it might be close, but there’s a variance between each individual football.

Footballs do not get measured during the game. We have no way of knowing until we went through this exercise, that this is really taking place. When we hand the footballs to the officials, the officials put them at whatever they put them at, but let’s just say it’s 12.5, that’s where they put them, then the air pressure at that point from then on until the end of the game, we have no knowledge of. Honestly, it’s never been a concern. What is a concern is the texture of the footballs and again, that’s the point that Tom hit on hard on Thursday.

We had our quarterbacks look at a number of footballs. They were unable to differentiate a one-pound per square inch difference in those footballs. They were unable to do it. On a two-pound differential, there was some degree of differentiation, but certainly not a consistent one. A couple ones they could pick out, but they were also wrong on some of the other ones that they had. You’re welcome to do that yourself. I can tell you from all the footballs that I’ve handled over the last week, I can’t tell a difference if there’s a one-pound difference or half a pound difference in any of the footballs.

Again, anyone who has seen us practice knows that we make it harder, not easier, to handle the football. Our players train in conditions that a lot of people would recommend that we not drive in. That’s what they do. They’re a physically and mentally tough team that works hard, that trains hard, that prepares hard and have met every challenge that I put in front of them. And I know that because I work them every day.

This team was the best team in the AFC in the regular season. We won two games in the playoffs against two good football teams. The best team in the postseason, that’s what this team is. I know that because I’ve been with them every day and I’m proud of this team.

I just want to share with you what I’ve learned over the past week. I’m embarrassed to talk about the amount of time that I put into this relative to the other important challenge in front of us. I’m not a scientist. I’m not an expert in footballs; I’m not an expert in football measurements. I’m just telling you what I know. I would not say that I’m Mona Lisa Vito of the football world, as she was in the car expertise area, alright?

At no time was there any intent whatsoever to try to compromise the integrity of the game or to gain an advantage. Quite the opposite, we feel like we followed the rules of the game to the letter in our preparations, in our procedures, alright, and in the way that we handled every game that we competitively played in as it relates to this matter. We try to do everything right. We err on the side of caution. It’s been that way now for many years. Anything that’s close, we stay as far away from the line as we can. In this case, I can say that we are, as far as I know and everything that I can do, we did everything as right as we could do it. We welcome the league’s investigation into this matter. I think there are a number of things that need to be looked into on a number of levels, but that’s not for this conversation. I’m sure it will be taken up at another point in time.

This is the end of this subject for me for a long time, OK? We have a huge game, a huge challenge for our football team and that’s where that focus is going to go. I’ve spent more than enough time on this and I’m happy to share this information with you to try to tell you some of the things that I have learned over the last week, which I’ve learned way more than I ever thought I would learn. The process, the whole thing is much more complex – there are a lot of variables that I was unaware of. It sounds simple, and I’m not trying to say that we’re trying to land a guy on the moon, but there are a lot of things here that are a little hard to get a handle on. Again, there’s a variance in so many of these things, alright? So, I’ll take a couple questions and then I’m moving on.

Q: Did the NFL share with you the pregame documented PSI?

BB: You would have to talk to the NFL about anything they did or didn’t do.

Q: You don’t know if they documented it?

BB: Look, we could sit here and talk about some of this stuff for two hours, alright? If you want to ask the league any questions about what they do or don’t do you should ask the league. I’m just telling you what I’ve learned and the study that we’ve done and the experience that I’ve had over the last few days in looking into this matter. That’s all I can tell you. I’m not a scientist and I’m not a league official.

Q: Do you feel like after the amount of work and research you’ve put into this this week you’ll be exonerated from all this?

BB: I just told you what I think. That’s what I think right there.

Q: Has your game preparation been compromised at all? I know you usually spend this week in game planning.

BB: Well, I’ve spent a lot of the week in game planning — a lot of this week, yeah.

Q: Do you feel like any of it has been compromised?

BB: Look, I told you: I thought this was an important issue and we addressed it, so we did.

Q: It sounds like according to your simulation, it’s a combination of atmospheric or weather conditions and then trusting that the officials did inflate the footballs to 12.5 PSI. Is that correct?

BB: Well, look, you can take the atmospheric conditions out of it because if the footballs are measured in the same atmospheric conditions then it’s a non-factor. But if you measure a football in a controlled condition like this and you measure a football on, let’s say, the night we played Baltimore, there’s no way they’re the same. You take that football and you set it outside and the football becomes accustomed to those climatic conditions and those temperatures, there’s no way it’s the same. Now if you take it out and bring it back in and let it sit for X amount of time, then it probably is the same. So no, that’s not the issue. But depending on where footballs were measured and how they were measured, that’s a whole other discussion. No, the situation is the preparation of the football caused the football to, I would say, be artificially high in PSI when it was set to the regulation, regulated level. And then it reached its equilibrium at some point later on, an hour, two hours into the game into the pregame, whatever it was — and that level was below what was set in this climatic condition. I think that’s exactly what happened. And I think that anybody who wants to do those experiments should go ahead and do them themselves. Don’t take my word for it. But I’m telling you, we’re trying to get an answer to this and that’s what we have.

Q: You said you always try to err on the side of caution and stay on the right side of the rules, but with the videotaping it was clear that you were pushing the envelope on that. Is that something that changed that?

BB: I mean, look, that’s a whole other discussion. The guy’s giving signals out in front of 80,000 people, OK? So we filmed him taking signals out in front of 80,000 people, like there were a lot of other teams doing at that time, too. Forget about that. If we were wrong then we’ve been disciplined for that.

Q: That’s clearly not doing everything you can to stay on the side —

BB: The guy’s in front of 80,000 people. 80,000 people saw it. Everybody [on the] sideline saw it. Everybody sees our guy in front of the 80,000 people. I mean, there he is. So, it was wrong, we were disciplined for it. That’s it. We never did it again. We’re never going to do it again and anything else that’s close, we’re not going to do either.

Q: So is that a change? I’m talking about what you said a few minutes ago about always trying to stay on the right side.

BB: We always do. We always have. I mean, anything that’s even remotely close, we’re on the side of caution.

Q: You talked a lot about science today. Did you have any science people help with your investigation?

BB: We talked to a lot of people.

Q: How much time did you spend on it?

BB: I don’t know; I didn’t log it.

Q: Are you relieved by what you’ve found in your investigation?

BB: I didn’t — look, I came in here Thursday and I told you that I didn’t have any answers. I just — and I’m very confident in the things that we’ve talked about, the study that we did, going through with a fine-tooth comb, everything. I’m 100 percent confident in everything I’ve told you. That’s what I believe. That’s what I know. That’s what it is. I’m as transparent as I can be on this one, period.

Q: Is that a yes that you feel relieved?

BB: Look, I did what I did. No, I’m not using those adjectives. I told you what I did. That’s what it is.

Q: Is there one thing that you did that caused it to raise 1.5 PSI? Did you put it in front of the heater? Did you put it in dryers? Do you know what it was?

BB: No, it was never put in front of a heater. I just said that.

Q: No, I’m talking about whatever you do to get the texture right that causes it to rise.

BB: You rub it. You try to get the texture the way the quarterback wants it.

Q: I’m just trying to establish what it was that made it rise.

BB: I just said that and I said that at no time was the football ever put in any type of heated environment.

Q: So you rub it vigorously?

BB: We rub it to get the football to the proper texture. Yes, it’s — I mean, I don’t know what’s vigorous or what isn’t not vigorous. We’re not polishing fine china here; we’re trying to get a football to the proper texture the quarterback wants it to grip it. Does that stimulate something inside the football to raise the PSI? I would say yes, it does.

Q: Based on all this research, then what do you do differently in the future to err on the side of caution?

BB: Well that’s another — you’re getting into another whole area here. You’re getting into another whole area as it relates to the next game. Yes, that’s exactly right. I couldn’t. That’s exactly why this whole process was done: for that very reason. I don’t know the answer to that question, but that’s a very important question.

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NFL issues statement on Deflategate investigation

deflated-football Getty Images

The NFL issued the following statement on Friday afternoon in response to inquiries about “Deflategate”:

“Our office has been conducting an investigation as to whether the footballs used in last Sunday’s AFC Championship Game complied with the specifications that are set forth in the playing rules. The investigation began based on information that suggested that the game balls used by the New England Patriots were not properly inflated to levels required by the playing rules, specifically Playing Rule 2, Section 1, which requires that the ball be inflated to between 12.5 and 13.5 pounds per square inch. Prior to the game, the game officials inspect the footballs to be used by each team and confirm that this standard is satisfied, which was done before last Sunday’s game.

“The investigation is being led jointly by NFL Executive Vice President Jeff Pash and Ted Wells of the law firm of Paul Weiss. Mr. Wells and his firm bring additional expertise and a valuable independent perspective. The investigation began promptly on Sunday night. Over the past several days, nearly 40 interviews have been conducted, including of Patriots personnel, game officials, and third parties with relevant information and expertise. We have obtained and are continuing to obtain additional information, including video and other electronic information and physical evidence. We have retained Renaissance Associates, an investigatory firm with sophisticated forensic expertise to assist in reviewing electronic and video information.

“The playing rules are intended to protect the fairness and integrity of our games. We take seriously claims that those rules have been violated and will fully investigate this matter without compromise or delay. The investigation is ongoing, will be thorough and objective, and is being pursued expeditiously. In the coming days, we expect to conduct numerous additional interviews, examine video and other forensic evidence, as well as relevant physical evidence. While the evidence thus far supports the conclusion that footballs that were under-inflated were used by the Patriots in the first half, the footballs were properly inflated for the second half and confirmed at the conclusion of the game to have remained properly inflated. The goals of the investigation will be to determine the explanation for why footballs used in the game were not in compliance with the playing rules and specifically whether any noncompliance was the result of deliberate action. We have not made any judgments on these points and will not do so until we have concluded our investigation and considered all of the relevant evidence.

“Upon being advised of the investigation, the Patriots promptly pledged their full cooperation and have made their personnel and other information available to us upon request. Our investigation will seek information from any and all relevant sources and we expect full cooperation from other clubs as well. As we develop more information and are in a position to reach conclusions, we will share them publicly.”

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Belichick: I had no knowledge whatsoever about deflated balls

belichick AP

Patriots coach Bill Belichick gave the media a lengthy statement about the accusations that his team deflated the footballs used in Sunday’s AFC Championship Game against the Colts.

Belichick declined to answer any questions from reporters, but he did give this statement, which we’ve transcribed in full:

“When I came in Monday morning I was shocked to learn of the news reports about the footballs. I had no knowledge whatsoever of this situation until Monday morning. I’ve learned a lot more about this process in the last three days than I knew — or had talked about — in the last 40 years that I’ve coached in this league. I had no knowledge of the various steps involved in the game balls, the process that happened between when they were prepared and went to the officials and went to the game, so I’ve learned a lot about that. Obviously, I understand that each team has the opportunity to prepare the balls the way they want, give them to the officials, and the game officials either approve or disapprove the balls, and that really was the end of it for me, until I learned a little bit more about it the last couple days.

“Let me just say that my personal coaching philosophy, my mentality, has always been to make things as difficult as possible for players in practice, and so with regard to footballs, I’m sure that any current or past player of mine would tell you that the balls we practice with are as bad as they can be. Wet, sticky, cold, slippery, whatever. However bad we can make them, I make them. And any time that players complain about the quality of the footballs, I make them worse, and that stops the complaining. So we never use the condition of the footballs as an excuse. We play with whatever, or kick with whatever we have to use, and that’s the way it is. That has never been a priority for me, and I want the players to deal with a harder situation in practice than they’ll ever have to deal with in a game. And maybe that’s part of our whole ball security philosophy.

“I’m trying to coach the team and that’s what I want to do. I think we all know that quarterbacks, kickers, specialists have certain preferences on the footballs. They know a lot more than I do. They’re a lot more sensitive to it than I am. I hear them comment on it from time to time, but I can tell you and they will tell you that there’s never any sympathy whatsoever from me on that subject. Zero. Tom’s personal preferences on his footballs are something that he can talk about in much better detail and information than I could possibly provide.

“I can tell you that in my entire coaching career I have never talked to any player, staff member about football air pressure. That is not a subject that I have ever brought up. To me, the footballs are approved by the league and game officials pre-game, and we play with what’s out there. And that’s the only way that I have ever thought about that.

“I’ve learned about the inflation range situation, obviously, with our footballs being inflated to the twelve and a half pound range, any deflation would then take us under that specification limit. Knowing that now, in the future we will certainly inflate the footballs above that low level to account for any possible change during the game. So as an example, if a ball deflated from 13.2 to 12.9, it wouldn’t matter, but if it deflated from 12.5 to 12.3, it would — as an example. So we will take steps in the future to make sure that we don’t put ourselves in that type of potential situation again.

“The National Football League is investigating the situation. We have cooperated fully, quickly and completely with every request that they have made, continue to be cooperative in any way that we can. I have no explanation for what happened, and that’s what they’re looking into, so I can’t comment on what they’re doing. That’s something that you should talk to them about. Again, my overall knowledge of football specifications, the overall process that happens on game day with the footballs, is very limited. I would say that during the course of the game, I honestly never — it probably has happened on an incomplete pass or something, but I’ve never touched a game ball. That’s not something that I have any familiarity with on that. And again, I was completely and totally unaware of any of this that we’re talking about in the last couple days, until Monday morning. Based on what I knew Sunday night, thinking back on this, which I’ve done several times, I can’t think of anything that I would have done differently, based on what I knew then, based on what I know now. I’ve told you the one change we would make on the initial start level of the football pressure, but that’s really about it.

“It’s unfortunate that this is a story coming off two great playoff victories by our football team and our players, but again we’ve been cooperative with the NFL investigation. We’ll continue to do so, and we’ll turn all our attention, focus on the Seattle Seahawks, a very well-coached, talented, tough football team. We’ve spent the last four days, three days, with our preparations and so forth for the trip. Those are coming to a conclusion, we’re wrapping that up, and we’re starting our preparations today for the Seahawks and practicing through the weekend so we’ll have a good, solid opportunity to get ourselves ready to go before we head down there.

“Again, I have no further comment on the NFL investigation, and I’ve told you all I know about the subject from my perspective. So that’s where we are.”

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2015 Pro Bowl rosters

cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznpwe5otgwmgu4zdvinjk1mzu5m2qwotm1nmuyn2m4yjdm AP

After a two-day draft, the 2015 Pro Bowl teams are set. Here are the clubs, which were selected without regard to conference. Most players were drafted on Wednesday, with Colts quarterback Andrew Luck the No. 1 overall pick:


Captain: Michael Irvin.

Coach: Jason Garrett, Dallas.


Quarterbacks: Tony Romo, Dallas; Matt Ryan, Atlanta; Matthew Stafford, Detroit.

Running backs: C.J. Anderson, Denver; Mark Ingram, New Orleans, DeMarco Murray, Dallas (captain).

Wide receivers: Odell Beckham Jr., New York Giants; Golden Tate, Detroit; Emmanuel Sanders, Denver; Randall Cobb, Green Bay.

Tight ends: Jimmy Graham, New Orleans; Jason Witten, Dallas.

Fullback: Marcel Reece, Oakland.

Tackles: Joe Thomas, Cleveland; Tyron Smith, Dallas; Trent Wiliams, Washington.

Guards: Kyle Long, Chicago; Zach Martin, Dallas; Marshall Yanda, Baltimore.

Centers: Travis Frederick, Dallas; Nick Mangold, New York Jets.


Defensive ends: Robert Quinn, St. Louis; Cameron Wake, Miami; DeMarcus Ware, Denver.

Defensive tackles: Geno Atkins, Cincinnati; Aaron Donald, St. Louis; Sheldon Richardson, New York Jets.

Outside linebackers: Elvis Dumervil, Baltimore; Clay Matthews, Green Bay; Von Miller, Denver.

Inside linebackers: Luke Kuechly, Carolina; D’Qwell Jackson, Indianapolis.

Cornerbacks: Vontae Davis, Indianapolis; Brent Grimes, Miami; Joe Haden, Cleveland; Chris Harris Jr., Denver.

Safeties: Eric Weddle, San Diego, Mike Adams, Indianapolis; T.J. Ward, Denver.

Special teams

Punter: Kevin Huber, Cincinnati.

Placekicker: Adam Vinatieri, Indianapolis.

Return specialist: Darren Sproles, Philadelphia.

Special-teamer: Darrell Stuckey, San Diego.

Long-snapper: L.P. Ladouceur, Dallas or Jon Dorenbos, Philadelphia.


Captain: Cris Carter.

Coach: John Harbaugh, Baltimore.


Quarterbacks: Andrew Luck, Indianapolis; Drew Brees, New Orleans; Andy Dalton, Cincinnati.

Running backs: Jamaal Charles, Kansas City; Justin Forsett, Baltimore; Alfred Morris, Washington.

Wide receivers: A.J. Green, Cincinnati; T.Y. Hilton, Indianapolis; Jordy Nelson, Green Bay; Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh (captain).

Tight ends: Martellus Bennett, Chicago; Greg Olsen, Carolina.

Fullback: John Kuhn, Green Bay.

Tackles: Joe Staley, San Francisco; Duane Brown, Houston; Ryan Clady, Denver.

Guards: Evan Mathis, Philadelphia; Mike Pouncey, Miami; Josh Sitton, Green Bay.

Centers: Jason Kelce, Philadelphia; Maurkice Pouncey, Pittsburgh.


Defensive ends: J.J. Watt, Houston (captain); Mario Williams, Buffalo; Calais Campbell, Arizona.

Interior defensive linemen: Marcell Dareus, Buffalo; Dontari Poe, Kansas City; Kyle Williams, Buffalo.

Outside linebackers: Justin Houston, Kansas City; Connor Barwin, Philadelphia; Tamba Hali, Kansas City.

Inside linebackers: C.J. Mosley, Baltimore; Lawrence Timmons, Pittsburgh.

Cornerbacks: Patrick Peterson, Arizona; Aqib Talib, Denver; Antonio Cromartie, Arizona; Sam Shields, Green Bay.

Safeties: Antoine Bethea, San Francisco; Glover Quin, Detroit; Donte Whitner, Cleveland.

Special teams

Punter: Pat McAfee, Indianapolis.

Placekicker: Cody Parkey, Philadelphia.

Return specialist: Devin Hester, Atlanta.

Special-teamer: Justin Bethel, Arizona.

Long-snapper: L.P. Ladouceur, Dallas or Jon Dorenbos, Philadelphia.

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2015 NFL Draft early entries

Landon Collins AP

The following 74 players have forgone their remaining college eligibility and entered the 2015 NFL Draft, the league announced January 19:

Nelson Agholor, WR, Southern California

Jay Ajayi, RB, Boise State

Kwon Alexander, LB, Louisiana State

Javorius Allen, RB, Southern California

Arik Armstead, DE, Oregon

Malcom Brown, DT, Texas

Alex Carter, DB, Stanford

B.J. Catalon, RB, Texas Christian

Tevin Coleman, RB, Indiana

Jalen Collins, DB, Louisiana State

Landon Collins, DB, Alabama

Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama

Xavier Cooper, DT, Washington State

Christian Covington, DT, Rice

DaVaris Daniels, WR, Notre Dame

Ronald Darby, DB, Florida State

Mike Davis, RB, South Carolina

Stefon Diggs, WR, Maryland

Lorenzo Doss, DB, Tulane

Mario Edwards, DE, Florida State

Durell Eskridge, DB, Syracuse

George Farmer, WR, USC

Max Flores, LB, Northern Colorado

Ereck Flowers, T, Miami

Dante Fowler, DE, Florida

Devin Funchess, WR, Michigan

Jacoby Glenn, DB, Central Florida

Eddie Goldman, DT, Florida State

Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin

Dorial Green-Beckham, WR, Missouri

Deontay Greenberry, WR, Houston

Randy Gregory, DE, Nebraska

Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia

Chris Hackett, DB, Texas Christian

Eli Harold, DE, Virginia

Chris Harper, WR, California

Braylon Heard, RB, Kentucky

Gerod Holliman, DB, Louisville

D.J. Humphries, T, Florida

Danielle Hunter, DE, Louisiana State

David Irving, DT, Iowa State

Jesse James, TE, Penn State

Duke Johnson, RB, Miami

Matt Jones, RB, Florida

Tyler Kroft, TE, Rutgers

Ellis McCarthy, DT, UCLA

Benardrick McKinney, LB, Mississippi State

Patrick Miller, T, Auburn

Tyler Moore, G, Florida

Rakeem Nunez-Roches, DT, Southern Mississippi

Andrus Peat, T, Stanford

Breshad Perriman, WR, Central Florida

Marcus Peters, DB, Washington

Jordan Phillips, DT, Oklahoma

Darius Philon, DT, Arkansas

Bradley Pinion, P, Clemson

Jaquel Pitts, WR, Trinity International

Jeremiah Poutasi, T, Utah

Darien Rankin, LB, North Carolina

Shane Ray, DE, Missouri

Josh Robinson, RB, Mississippi State

James Sample, DB, Louisville

Jean Sifrin, TE, Massachusetts

Jaelen Strong, WR, Arizona State

Shaq Thompson, LB, Washington

Max Valles, LB, Virginia

Easton Wahlstrom, LS, Arizona State

Trae Waynes, DB, Michigan State

Leonard Williams, DE, Southern California

Maxx Williams, TE, Minnesota

P.J. Williams, DB, Florida State

Trey Williams, RB, Texas A&M

Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State

T.J. Yeldon, RB, Alabama

Ten other players graduated with eligibility remaining and have declared for the draft:

Deion Barnes, DE, Penn State

Sammie Coates, WR, Auburn

Zach D’Orazio, WR, Akron

Charles Gaines, DB, Louisville

Dee Hart, RB, Colorado State

Brett Hundley, QB, UCLA

Nigel King, WR, Kansas

Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon

Donovan Smith, T, Penn State

Tacoi Sumler, WR, Appalachian State

Note: All information furnished by the NFL.

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NFL morning after: Mike McCarthy blew it

mccarthy AP

You could call the NFC Championship Game a great comeback by the Seahawks, or you could call it a horrendous collapse by the Packers. But this was something different.

The Packers didn’t so much cost themselves Sunday’s game by playing badly in the fourth quarter, and the Seahawks can’t just credit their comeback to great play in the fourth quarter. What really cost the Packers this game is that when they had a chance to finish the Seahawks, put them away, step on their throats, they didn’t do it.

As great as it seemed like the Packers were playing when they built their 16-0 lead in the first half, the reality is that they were keeping the Seahawks in the game with overly cautious play calling and poor strategic decisions, particularly on fourth downs. Here are the four fourth downs that ought to have Packers coach Mike McCarthy kicking himself this morning:

1. With the Packers facing fourth-and-goal at the six-inch line in the first quarter, McCarthy decided to send in kicker Mason Crosby for a field goal. Just so you know I’m not just second-guessing after the fact, here’s what I tweeted immediately following that field goal:

2. With the Packers facing fourth-and-goal at the 1-yard line on the very next possession, McCarthy did it again: He decided to kick the field goal. That made it 6-0, when the Packers easily could have led 14-0. And McCarthy wasn’t done.

3. In the second quarter, with the Packers facing fourth-and-1 at the Seahawks’ 22-yard line, McCarthy decided to kick yet another field goal. That made it 16-0. And it was about as disappointing a 16-0 lead as a team could have. The Packers were dominating the Seahawks. They could have been up 28-0. They have Eddie Lacy. They have John Kuhn. They have a team set up to run for short yardage effectively. And McCarthy didn’t give them the chance.

At halftime, McCarthy told FOX’s sideline reporter Chris Myers that you have to take the points when you can against a good defense like Seattle’s. McCarthy was looking at it exactly the wrong way. When you’re playing a great team like Seattle, you have to score all the points you can, not just settle for three when you’re inches away from seven.

4. Early in the third quarter, with the Packers still leading 16-0, they had a fourth-and-1 at midfield. Go for it and pick up a first down, and you’re closing in on starting the second half with a score that probably breaks the Seahawks’ backs and sends the Packers to the Super Bowl. So what did Mike McCarthy do? He punted. On the ensuing drive, the Seahawks scored their first touchdown to cut the deficit to 16-7.

If the Packers had gone for it and gained the necessary yard on just one of those fourth-and-1 plays, they likely would have won in regulation. Instead, they lost in overtime.

I don’t want to suggest that McCarthy’s fourth-down decisions were the only thing that cost the Packers this game. Any time you melt down like the Packers did on Sunday, there are any number of things that went wrong: Failing to recover an onside kick. A defense that played great for 56 minutes allowing more than 200 yards and three touchdowns in the last four minutes of the fourth quarter and overtime. Morgan Burnett sliding after an interception when he appeared to have room for a big runback. A lot of things went wrong for the Packers late in the game.

But my contention is that even early in the game, when it appeared that everything was going right, McCarthy was getting a lot of things wrong. That cost McCarthy and his team a trip to the Super Bowl.

Here are my other thoughts from Sunday:

The Seahawks’ defense remains great. Aaron Rodgers may be the best player in the NFL right now, but Seattle made him look ordinary. Rodgers finished 19-for-34 for 178 yards, with one touchdown and two interceptions, for a passer rating of 55.8. That was just the second time in the last four years that Rodgers finished a game with a passer rating under 60. If the Seahawks have another great game in the Super Bowl, they have to be considered among the handful of greatest defenses in NFL history.

The Seahawks’ medical staff has some explaining to do. Russell Wilson took a hard helmet-to-helmet hit from Clay Matthews in the second quarter, and FOX’s Erin Andrews later reported that the Seahawks’ doctors only looked at Wilson for “two seconds” after that. Richard Sherman suffered an injury later in the game, went down in obvious pain on the sideline, and then went right back in without missing a single play. The sideline medical staff needs to explain why, with the NFL’s emphasis on player safety, those two players were allowed to keep playing without being thoroughly checked.

Russell Wilson has incredible luck. After picking up a fumbled snap on Sunday, Wilson has now fumbled 13 times in the regular season and postseason combined — and the Seahawks have recovered all 13 of those fumbles. That’s remarkably good fortune; the bounce of a football is so unpredictable that when a ball is fumbled, it’s little more than a coin flip which team is going to recover. But Wilson or his teammates keep falling on his fumbles. Wilson had a generally awful game on Sunday, with four interceptions, and yet when it was all said and done he topped 200 passing yards and his team somehow won. Things just keep going Wilson’s way.

The Colts wasted two first-round picks. Colts pass rusher Bjorn Werner was inactive for the AFC Championship Game simply because he hasn’t been effective this season, and running back Trent Richardson was inactive because of a family emergency, although he was expected to be inactive anyway because he hasn’t been effective either. Werner was the Colts’ 2013 first-round draft pick, and Richardson was the player the Colts acquired by trading away their 2014 first-round draft pick. And neither of them is even good enough to be one of the 46 active players for a must-win game. That’s some terrible decision-making by Colts General Manager Ryan Grigson.

No great quarterback gets less help from his teammates than Andrew Luck. It’s painful watching the Colts sometimes: Luck throws great passes and they get dropped. Luck is forced to run for his life and takes a beating behind a patchwork offensive line. The Colts’ defense fails to get stops. The Colts’ special teams makes major mistakes. It says something about how good Luck is that the Colts made it to the AFC Championship Game, because the rest of that roster is not very good. Compare the 53-player rosters of the four teams that played yesterday, and you’ll have to agree that the Colts have by far the least talent of the four. When Luck doesn’t play well — and he didn’t play well on Sunday in New England — the Colts get blown out.

Tom Brady is in for a rough Super Bowl Sunday. Congratulations to the Patriots for getting to their sixth Super Bowl with Brady as their quarterback. Brady will join former Bills and Broncos defensive lineman Mike Lodish as the only players to appear in six Super Bowls. But Brady is in for a tough time, because the Seahawks may have the toughest defense he’s ever faced in his NFL career.

The two best coaches in football are meeting in the Super Bowl. Either Patriots coach Bill Belichick will earn his fourth Super Bowl ring, or Seahawks coach Pete Carroll will become the first coach ever to win multiple championships at both the college and professional level. These are the two best coaches in football right now. Mike McCarthy could learn a thing or two from them.

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PFT’s Conference Championship picks

Wilson AP

I knew my only shot at catching MDS in our 11-game postseason picks contest would be to take the upsets this weekend — and hope for two of the bigger conference-title-game upsets in recent history.  But then I remembered that:  (1) it’s still more important to get the picks right; and (2) I picked the Patriots and Seahawks to make it to the Super Bowl back in September.

So I stuck with the favorites, even though I knew MDS would.

Did I mention the reasoning simply for the ability to point out that I’d picked the Patriots and Seahawks to make it to the Super Bowl back in September?  Perhaps.

Last week, MDS and yours truly both went 3-1 in the divisional round, and I should get extra credit for picking the Colts to beat the Broncos.  (That mention definitely was gratuitous.)

Through two weeks of postseason play, MDS has gone 7-1, and I’m 5-3.

Packers at Seahawks

MDS’s take: The Seahawks are the best team in the NFL. They were the best team in the NFL a year ago, they were the best team in the NFL when they spanked the Packers in Week One, and they’re the best team in the NFL today.

So do the Packers have any chance? Sure. When you have the best quarterback in the NFL, as the Packers do, you always have a chance to put a lot of points on the board. I’m not going to say Aaron Rodgers can’t have a big game, I’m just saying that if there’s one defense that can shut Rodgers down, it’s Seattle’s.

And let’s not overlook Russell Wilson, who in last week’s win over Carolina had a passer rating of 149.2, the highest for any quarterback in a playoff game in the last five years. Even if Rodgers has a big game, the Seahawks’ offense might have a big game, too.

And so I’m taking Seattle, and taking Seattle comfortably. The best team in the NFL will return to the Super Bowl.

MDS’s pick: Seahawks 28, Packers 17.

Florio’s take:  Way back in September, the Seahawks raised their first championship banner and then dismantled the Packers, winning by 20.  This time around, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (who chased the R-E-L-A-X moment with an M-V-P season) is playing on a pogo stick, thanks to an injured calf that has limited his uncanny mobility.  While that could be balanced out by a willingness to throw at cornerback Richard Sherman’s side of the field (unlike the first time around), it can’t be enough to overcome one of the best defenses of the past generation in a place where it becomes harder and harder to win as the stakes get higher and higher.

Florio’s pick:  Seahawks 24, Packers 16.

Colts at Patriots

MDS’s take: Last week Andrew Luck took his first step toward establishing a changing of the guard in the AFC by dethroning Peyton Manning. Can Luck do it to Tom Brady this week?

I don’t think so. Luck is a phenomenal quarterback who may out-play Brady on Sunday, but the Colts just don’t have the personnel elsewhere to keep pace with the Patriots. The Patriots’ defense is much better than the Colts’ defense, and the Patriots’ offense can control a game on the ground if it has to, something that the Colts’ offense can’t do.

There may come a time in the near future when Luck has the Colts atop the AFC, but that time is not now. The Patriots will return to the Super Bowl.

MDS’s pick: Patriots 31, Colts 17.

Florio’s take:  Last week, the Patriots managed only 14 rushing yards against Baltimore.  It’s a stark contrast from the 200-plus gained by previously (and since) unknown tailback Jonas Gray against the Colts in November.  So what does it mean for the rematch against Indy?  Probably more running.  Probably from LeGarrette Blount, who has since the regular-season game against the Colts returned to the Patriots and who had 166 yards and four touchdowns against Indy in the postseason a year ago.  While the chess match that routinely occurs during football games could prompt the Pats to flip the game plan to a pass-heavy attack, the safer approach will be to keep running the ball and running the ball and running the ball some more, until the Colts show they can stop the Patriots.  With 367 yards and eight touchdowns from the team’s leading rushers in the last two meetings, there’s no reason for Bill Belichick and company to do anything differently.

Florio’s pick:  Patriots 41, Colts 21.

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NFL morning after: Bill Belichick is a genius

belichick AP

Bill Belichick is a genius.

I know, I know, I’ve lost half of you because you don’t like Belichick personally and half of you think it’s ridiculous to call football coaches geniuses. As Joe Theismann once said, a genius is a guy like Norman Einstein. But as I look at everything that Belichick has accomplished in his coaching career, I really do think he has a genius for coaching football, to an extent that we haven’t seen in professional football since Paul Brown was coaching the Cleveland Browns in the 1940s and 1950s.

We saw that on Saturday in New England, when the Patriots, trailing the Ravens by 14 points in the second half, did something that just isn’t done in professional football: He sent out an offense featuring only four offensive linemen and one running back lined up as an ineligible receiver, confusing and infuriating the Ravens. Baltimore’s John Harbaugh is a good coach, too, but he had just been out-coached and he was so angry about it that he ran onto the field to yell at the officials, drawing a flag for unsportsmanlike conduct.

“Nobody’s ever seen that before,” a still-angry Harbaugh said after the game.

When Harbaugh says no one had ever seen it before, what he really is saying is that no one had ever thought of it before. Harbaugh certainly hadn’t thought about it before, and neither had any of his assistants or his players, and that’s why they were completely ill-equipped to handle it. Belichick had out-smarted them.

I’m not exactly saying anything shocking when I say that Belichick is a great coach. With Saturday’s win, Belichick tied Tom Landry record for the most postseason victories in NFL history. The Patriots are favored to win the AFC Championship Game on Sunday, and Belichick is favored to break the tie with Landry and get the postseason victory record all to himself. When you own a record like that, it goes without saying that you’re a good coach.

But I know I’ll get plenty of pushback on this from those who dislike Belichick. Some people don’t like him because of his gruff demeanor, and I don’t particularly like that aspect of his personality, either. But so what? Good football coaches haven’t always been swell guys. I’m calling him a great coach, not Miss Congeniality.

The other thing people don’t like about Belichick is a legitimate issue: He got caught cheating in the 2007 Spygate scandal. The NFL fined Belichick and stripped the Patriots of a first-round draft pick, and that was appropriate. He broke the rules and deserved to suffer the consequences.

But when people suggest that he was somehow exposed as a coach who only wins by cheating, well, that’s just plain silly. After the NFL put a stop to Belichick’s prohibited videotaping in Week Two of the 2007 season, Belichick won 17 consecutive games. The next year Belichick went 11-5 despite losing Tom Brady in Week One. He’s made the playoffs every year since then. Since he got caught spying he’s 99-28 in the regular season, 7-6 in the playoffs. His winning percentage of .757 post-Spygate is better than his .598 winning percentage pre-Spygate. The idea that Belichick needed to spy on other teams to win is just not borne out by the evidence.

What the evidence does show, quite clearly, is that Belichick is not just a good coach but a great coach. If his team wins its next two games, it may be time to proclaim Belichick the best coach ever.

Here are my other thoughts from this weekend in the NFL:

The Seahawks remain the best team in football. The Panthers went to Seattle and played a tough, spirited game of football, but there was never really any doubt that the Seahawks were going to win that game.

Seattle’s defense is insanely good. It was the best defense in the NFL last season in both the regular season and the playoffs, and it was the best defense in the regular season, and seems to be just as good in the playoffs again. The Seahawks forced Cam Newton into three turnovers on Saturday, and Seattle is now on a seven-game winning streak in which it has allowed a total of just 56 points. That just doesn’t happen in today’s NFL.

So can the Seahawks keep it up? I think they can. I like Seattle to beat Green Bay on Sunday, and I like Seattle to win the Super Bowl as well. If that happens, we’ll look at the 2013-14 Seahawks Defense as one of the greatest in the history of the sport.

A bad rule negated a great play. I don’t like the way the NFL defines the word “catch” because I think it too often negates the most spectacular plays made by NFL players. What Dez Bryant did on the crucial fourth down in the fourth quarter in Green Bay on Sunday was a wonderful catch — he leapt impossibly high into the air, grabbed the ball, controlled it, rolled over and then held it up to show that he still had it. But under the rules of the NFL it was technically not a catch. Although the official on the field ruled it a catch, Packers coach Mike McCarthy challenged, and the referee (in conjunction with head of officiating Dean Blandino) correctly overruled the call on the field. Dallas fans can’t complain about the officiating, because the officials got it right. But they can complain about the NFL rulebook, because it needlessly complicates the meaning of the term “catch,” and takes away some of the best football plays that football players make.

Peyton Manning is old. I hate saying this, since Peyton Manning and I were born only a few months apart, but the guy is ancient by NFL standards. He was the oldest quarterback in the NFL last season. He’ll be 39 in March. Even the greatest quarterbacks are usually done by the time they’re 38. Dan Marino was 38 in his last season. So was John Elway. So was Joe Montana. So was Steve Young. So was Kurt Warner. And plenty of great quarterbacks don’t even make it that long. Roger Staubach was 37 in his last season. Terry Bradshaw was 35. Troy Aikman was 34.

Can Manning play in the NFL in 2015? Yes. But can he play at the level he demands from himself? I’m not so sure.

Gronk is great. No player impressed me more this weekend than Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, who caught seven passes for 108 yards and a touchdown in helping New England beat Baltimore. When it comes to creating matchup nightmares because of his physical presence, I put Gronkowski in the same category as Jimmy Graham and Calvin Johnson: They’re almost impossible to cover because it’s almost impossible to find someone who’s both fast enough to keep up with them and strong enough to tackle them. Gronkowski often hasn’t been completely healthy, but when he is, he’s among the truly elite players in the entire league.

If the 25-year-old Gronkowski can stay healthy, he may be headed for the Hall of Fame some day. His coach will be there with him.

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2015 NFL Draft early entries tracker

Marcus Mariota AP

The following players have indicated they will be early entries for the 2015 NFL Draft. Underclassmen have until January 15 to officially declare:

Alabama S Landon Collins.

Alabama WR Amari Cooper.

Alabama RB T.J. Yeldon.

Arizona State WR Jaelen Strong.

Auburn WR Sammie Coates.

California WR Chris Harper.

Colorado State RB Dee Hart.

Clemson P Bradley Pinion.

Boise State RB Jay Ajayi.

Georgia RB Todd Gurley.

Indiana RB Tevin Coleman.

Florida DE Dante Fowler Jr.

Florida OT D.J. Humphries.

Florida RB Matt Jones.

Florida State CB Ronald Darby.

Florida State DE Mario Edwards Jr.

Florida State CB P.J. Williams.

Florida State QB Jameis Winston.

Houston WR Deontay Greenberry.

Kansas WR Nigel King.

Louisville S Gerod Holliman.

Louisville S James Sample.

LSU LB Kwon Alexander.

LSU CB Jalen Collins.

Maryland WR Stefon Diggs.

Miami (Fla.) OT Ereck Flowers.

Miami (Fla.) RB Duke Johnson.

Michigan WR Devin Funchess.

Michigan State CB Trae Waynes.

Minnesota TE Maxx Williams.

Mississippi State RB Josh Robinson.

Missouri DE Shane Ray.

Mississippi State LB Benardrick McKinney.

Nebraska DE Randy Gregory.

Ohio State DE Noah Spence.

Oklahoma WR Dorial Green-Beckham.

Oregon QB Marcus Mariota.

Penn State DE Deion Barnes.

Penn State TE Jesse James.

Penn State OT Donovan Smith.

Rice DT Christian Covington.

Rutgers TE Tyler Kroft.

South Carolina RB Mike Davis.

Southern Mississippi DT Rakeem Nunez-Roches.

Stanford CB Alex Carter.

Stanford OT Andrus Peat.

Syracuse S Durell Eskridge.

Texas DT Malcom Brown.

Texas A&M RB Trey Williams.

Tulane CB Lorenzo Doss.

UCLA QB Brett Hundley.

USC WR Nelson Agholor.

USC DE Leonard Williams.

Utah OL Jeremiah Poutasi.

Virginia DE Eli Harold.

Virginia LB Max Valles.

Ex-Washington CB Marcus Peters.

Washington LB Shaq Thompson.

Washington State DE Xavier Cooper.

Wisconsin RB Melvin Gordon.

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PFT’s divisional round picks

Colts AP

Last week, MDS and yours truly disagreed on both Saturday games.  He was right, I was wrong, and now I’m in a two-game hole with seven postseason games left.

This week, we agree on the Saturday games.  But we disagree on the Sunday games.  Which means that we could be tied heading into the championship round, or that he could have a four-game lead with three games left.

Maybe we’ll include the Pro Bowl this year.

For our picks in all four games to be played this weekend, keep doing what you’ve been doing to reach the point where we invite you to keep doing it.

Ravens at Patriots

MDS’s take: Patriots fans have reasons to be concerned. The Ravens have a good track record of playing well in New England in the postseason, and the Ravens played some of their best football of the year in Saturday’s win over the Steelers. Baltimore is a complete team with only one weakness, the injury-riddled secondary. And even that injured secondary held up pretty well against Pittsburgh’s passing attack. Add all those things up, and it’s tempting to pick an upset. But I think the Ravens will fall just short. New England’s defense will pressure Joe Flacco into some mistakes, and Rob Gronkowski will come up with some big plays, and the Patriots will win a close one.

MDS’s pick: Patriots 21, Ravens 20

Florio’s take:  The postseason history between these two teams suggests that the Ravens will thrive in Foxboro.  Or perhaps it puts the Patriots on greater notice of the risk of getting caught flat-footed in the divisional round and losing, as half of all No. 1 seeds have done since 2005.  While the most important pieces of the two teams are the same as they’ve been when the Ravens established a 2-1 record at New England in the playoffs, the Patriots have Darrelle Revis and a healthy Gronk.  That alone should be enough to prevent the team that rebounded dramatically from a 2-2 start to the regular season from falling to 1-3 at home against Baltimore in the postseason.

Florio’s pick:  Patriots 34, Ravens 17.

Panthers at Seahawks

MDS’s take: I’ve been impressed with the Panthers the last few weeks. Winning five straight games by an average margin of 16 points per game isn’t easy against anyone in the NFL. But the reality is that playing at Seattle represents an enormous step up in competition for Carolina, and I just don’t think the Panthers are up to it. This looks like the least competitive game of the weekend, as the defending champs will cruise into the NFC Championship Game.

MDS’s pick: Seahawks 28, Panthers 10.

Florio’s take:  In each of the last three years, the Panthers gave Seattle all they could handle.  From 16-12 in 2012 to 12-7 in 2013 to 13-9 earlier this year, coach Ron Rivera and company have shown that they know how to compete with one of the best teams in the league.  But each of those games was played in Charlotte; for the first time ever, the post-Fox Panthers get a taste of Seattle.  While the Panthers may be able to cover the double-digit spread, they won’t be able to advance.

Florio’s pick:  Seahawks 20, Panthers 10.

Cowboys at Packers

MDS’s take: Tony Romo was outstanding on Sunday against the Lions, despite a furious Detroit pass rush beating him up all day. Green Bay’s pass rush isn’t as good as Detroit’s, and Romo should be even better on Sunday at Lambeau Field. Unfortunately for the Cowboys, Aaron Rodgers will be better still against Dallas’s defense. In a high-scoring game, the Packers will come out on top.

MDS’s pick: Packers 38, Cowboys 30.

Florio’s take:  For the first time ever, a team that was 8-0 on the road faces a team that was 8-0 at home.  But the biggest question is whether Aaron Rodgers’ torn calf muscle will hold up.  Even if it does, the Cowboys have a healthy Romo — and an oversized, orange-sweatered mojo.  It all adds up to Dallas punching a ticket to a return to Seattle, the scene of one of the best games of the regular season . . . and the site of the snap-bungling gaffe that gave Tony Romo the label of late-game choker.

Florio’s pick:  Cowboys 28, Packers 24.

Colts at Broncos

MDS’s take: All the attention will be on Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning and Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, but to me the difference in this game is the personnel on the defense. Denver has pass rushers Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware and cornerbacks Chris Harris and Aqib Talib, and that will make life miserable for Luck. Indianapolis just doesn’t have the same kind of personnel, which means Manning can do what he does best, and exploit holes in the opposing team’s defense. The Broncos will score a lot and set up a trip to New England in the AFC Championship Game.

MDS’s pick: Broncos 30, Colts 20.

Florio’s take:  Something hasn’t been right with the Broncos over the past few weeks.  While the good news is that quarterback Peyton Manning has had extra time to allow his thigh (and whatever else may have been injured) to heal, the bad news is that Manning tends to overprepare when he has two weeks to get ready for a big game, with a 2-4 mark in the divisional round after earning a bye.  With the Colts bumping against the ceiling that separates the NFL’s second tier from its elite, this could be Indy’s chance to break through.

Florio’s pick:  Colts 24, Broncos 21.

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Dean Blandino interview transcript

Blandino Getty Images

[Editor’s note:  Monday’s first-ever episode of PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio included an interview with NFL V.P. of officiating Dean Blandino.  Many of you (OK, some of you . . . OK, one of you) has asked for the transcript to be posted.  Here it is.]
Florio: Let’s just break this down from the beginning, regardless of what was said or wasn’t said on the field, when you see that play, when you see the replay, is that pass interference on the defender?

Blandino: When I look at the play it’s a judgment call, I think it’s debatable.  I think the defender’s not playing the ball, I think that’s the first thing the official looks for and then he has to see significant contact that hinders the receiver’s ability to make the catch.  There’s contact on the shoulder with the left hand the back judge felt there was enough for pass interference, the head linesman came in from his perspective felt it wasn’t enough that it was minimal contact, the side judge as well, so they decided to pick it up. I think it’s a judgment call, it’s close.  I would have certainly supported the call had they left the flag down, but I do think it’s a very close judgment call that could have went either way.

Florio:  What do you make Dean, of the shirt grab that you can see, and it looks like that happened right before the ball was thrown, Anthony Hitchens the Cowboys linebacker, clearly grabs and tugs the shirt of Lions tight end Brandon Pettigrew.  Should that have been holding, is that part of the interference? What is that?

Blandino:  That’s holding.  I mean there’s no two ways about it that that’s a jersey grab, that’s a point of emphasis, that’s a foul for holding that could have been called. a jersey grab like that before the ball is thrown it is defensive holding.

Florio:  And you say could have been.  Could have been or should have been?

Blandino: Should have been, sure.  I think had somebody seen it then they should have called it and it obviously wasn’t recognized on the field but that’s defensive holding.

Florio:  Now, the administration of the penalty was I would say not ideal.  What should have happened in that situation?  Because you have Pete Morelli, the referee, declare that it as pass interference and then Morelli said there was no foul on the play.  What should have happened ideally in that situation?

Blandino:  Yeah, ideally I think mechanically it could have been handled much better. I think we don’t want to make an announcement that there’s a penalty, start to put the football down, and then make another announcement that we’re picking up the flag.  We want to get together get all of the information before there is an official announcement, and I think had that happened it would have mitigated some of the response to this.  But the head linesman came in, he didn’t recognize that there was a foul initially, he went over to the back judge as Pete was making the announcement.  Would have preferred Pete not to make the announcement that quick and to wait get together, talk about it and then decide if we were going to pick up the flag or not.  So that part of it I think we could have handled better.

Florio:  Dean, it seems like an art form to come up with the right way to explain the things that happen, and every referee has his own style. Ed Hochuli is notoriously verbose in explaining things, but what we got from Pete Morelli was, the initial call, defensive pass inference, and then we got there is no foul for pass interference.  What should he have said at that point to better explain to everyone what was happening in real time?

Blandino:  I think we wanted to make a clear, concise, distinct, announcement as to why the flag was picked up.  That there wasn’t enough contact for pass interference and hopefully that will help explain it, clarify it, so we’d like the referee to give some type of explanation.  He did make an announcement, it was as Troy [Aikman] and Joe [Buck] were talking so it didn’t come out very clear over the broadcast, but we certainly wanted to explain concisely why the flag was picked up.

Florio:  One of the criticisms raised about this is we’ve got an all-star mash-up of officials who haven’t worked together and that makes it difficult to properly communicate.  Rock, scissors, paper, who’s right?  Who gets listened to?  How much of that is a factor in this and will this renew discussions of just using entire crews rather than instead of putting guys together who haven’t worked together all year?

Blandino:  I don’t think that was ultimately the factor that led to this situation happening.  I think when you look at the crew makeup, this crew makeup we have four officials who have worked together both the head linesman and line judge were on the same crew all year, and the back judge and umpire were on the same crew all season.  We are, right now, we have an individual-based system and that’s been negotiated in the CBA, the current CBA with the referee union.  So they bargained for that, so we can’t really do anything other than the crew-based system until after the 2015 season, but I think there’s pros and cons to both.  I think communications, most of these officials have worked together some point during their career, I think our mechanics have been standardized, we standardized all our mechanics in the last two years, put together a manual, so it’s not like a team where they have a different game plan and different terminology.  It’s pretty standard across the board so officials can move seamlessly in and out of different crews and that happens during the year as well as you have injuries, illnesses and conflict with the schedule so I don’t think that was a major contributing factor.  Something we’ll obviously continue to look at after the 2015 season because I think there’s pros and cons to both crew and individual-based assignments.

Florio:  Now, another issue that arose after the flag was initially thrown, Dez Bryant, Cowboys receiver runs out onto the field without a helmet on.  It’s not the return of the days of two-way players, he’s not coming out to play defense, he’s coming out to argue the call.  No flag thrown.  Do you agree with that decision?

Blandino:  I think we have to look at the rules.  It’s not an automatic penalty and the helmet off, I think we have to take that away because the helmet removal only applies to a player who is in the game that he takes his helmet off to either confront an official or an opponent or some kind of demonstration after a play.  The officials have discretion there.  They have discretion when a player comes off the bench, what he’s doing, is he confronting me, is he confronting an opponent. Certainly would’ve supported a call for unsportsmanlike conduct there had it been made, but it’s in the judgment of the officials and in the heat of the moment they gave the sideline some leeway and, again, it’s not an automatic call in that situation but certainly would’ve supported a call there.

Florio: Now there’s also some still frames floating around of what looks to be either offensive pass interference or grabbing the facemask by Brandon Pettigrew of Andrew Hitchens.  Anything that you saw that would suggest that the tight end did anything he shouldn’t have done on that play?

Blandino:  I didn’t see much.  There is some contact with the mask.  He didn’t grab it and pull or twist the head.  I felt that was minimal contact.  I think if you take the hold out of this hold, the jersey grab, take that out of this whole equation, I think that’s just a tight judgment call, it’s debatable and could have went either way and I didn’t see anything Pettigrew did that would have warranted a foul there.

Florio:  One last thing, because the tinfoil-hat crowd is out now because you were on the Cowboys’ party bus back in August and it’s finally come full circle.  Dean’s presence on the Cowboys’ party bus means that the Cowboys win on a controversial call.  How do you react when you hear that stuff, because obviously it’s all been kicked up again in the last 18 hours?

Blandino:  Sure, that’s something that it happened, one had nothing to do with the other.  I understand why some people might look at that and there’s a perception there and obviously I’ve been through that and my personal growth and what I need to do.  It’s just something that has nothing to do with how the game was officiated.  There are calls that go for or against the Cowboys all year.  There was a replay review that happened earlier in the game that I’m a part of that decision that went in favor of the Lions.  People can believe what they want to believe, but one had nothing to do with the other.

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