Rex Burkhead was the Patriot who accidentally injured Tom Brady’s hand

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NFL quarterbacks are off-limits to contact in practice, so it’s unusual for a quarterback to suffer an injury on the practice field. So how did Patriots quarterback Tom Brady hurt his right hand in practice this week?

According to Mike Garafolo of NFL Network, it was running back Rex Burkhead who accidentally ran helmet-first into Brady’s throwing hand, causing a cut that required stitches. The report says there was “blood all over the place.”

Nonetheless, everyone is expecting Brady to play on Sunday against the Jaguars. The question is whether he’ll be affected by the injury, perhaps needing to wear a glove on his throwing hand, as he has said in the past he prefers not to do even in cold weather.

Burkhead himself is questionable for Sunday’s game after missing last week’s game against the Titans. He missed six games in the regular season but is a solid contributor on both offense and special teams when healthy.

Vikings gobble up trademarks for the slogans of a special season

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The Vikings have been working hard this month, both on the field and off it.

As explained by Darren Rovell of ESPN.com, the Vikings have applied for various federal trademarks with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in the aftermath of Sunday’s demon-exorcising last-second win over the Saints.

They’ve filed three separate applications for trademarks based on “Minneapolis Miracle” (coined in the moment by Paul Allen of the Vikings Radio Network) and one for “Minnesota Miracle.” Earlier this month, the Vikings filed for trademark protection of the phrase “Bring It Home,” the mantra that the team unveiled for a postseason that could end with the Vikings becoming the first team to qualify for a Super Bowl played in its home stadium.

Of course, the Vikings won’t reap the full benefit of those phrases unless they find a way to beat the Eagles in Philadelphia on Sunday. Maybe that game will spark another slogan or two on which the Vikings can try to squat next week, as long as it’s not something like “sometimes you’re the steak, sometimes you’re the cheese” or “six-time NFC finalists since 1977” or “close but still no cigar” or “at least we tried” or “why go to the Super Bowl only to lose to the Patriots?”

Blake Bortles has 19 million reasons to run, run, and run some more

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The one clear truth regarding the habits of Patriots coach Bill Belichick flows from his determination to take away what the opposing offense does best. The one clear truth regarding Sunday’s opponent for a berth in the Super Bowl? The best aspect of the Jacksonville offense traces to running the ball with rookie tailback Leonard Fournette.

Let’s assume that, unlike the Steelers, the Patriots will both try to take away Fournette and succeed. That will place responsibility for moving the ball in the hands of quarterback Blake Bortles.

Maybe Bortles can make the throws into the windows the Patriots will give him. (Stop laughing.) Regardless, he also should be ready to use not only his arm but also his legs.

Bortles rushed for 323 yards in the regular season, and against the Bills in the wild-card round he fared better on the ground (88 yards) than through the air (87).

While the Patriots surely will have a plan for Bortles opting to go mobile, the door is open for doing it in a creative way. As Chris Simms suggested on PFT Live after the win over Buffalo, the Jaguars should consider a Wildcat-style offense — with Bortles, not a running back, taking the snaps.

Remember what Miami running back Ronnie Brown did to the New England defense in 2008? He rushed for four touchdowns and threw for another under the seat-of-the-pants Wildcat plan hatched by a desperate Dolphins team that secured a 38-13 win at New England. That outcome proved the benefit of the element of surprise when facing the Patriots; on Sunday, if they simply aren’t ready for a different kind of Bortles, they may not be able to deal with him.

And here’s where it gets even more interesting. Bortles has a fifth-year option for 2018 at $19 million. If he finishes the year healthy, the team could cut him before the start of the league year in March and avoid that commitment — possibly re-signing him for less. But if he has any injury that prevents him from passing a physical before the start of the league year, they can’t cut him before the salary becomes fully guaranteed. Which guarantees he’d get $19 million for next season, at a minimum.

From a business standpoint, that reality could prompt the Jaguars to not throw caution to the wind by throwing Bortles’ body to the wolves. But if they want to advance against a franchise whose top dog is walking funny on an injured paw, the best way to do it could be to let the Patriots take away a Fournette-based rushing attack — and to repeatedly run the ball with quarterback Blake Bortles via a read-option attack that induces the New England defenders to swarm Fournette, and that allows Bortles to run to where the other guys aren’t, with the kind of Elway-copter reckless abandon that the circumstances (both football and financial) will dictate.

Tom Brady’s hand injury has bettors putting money on the Jaguars

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Most people seem to agree that the hand injury Tom Brady suffered in practice this week won’t keep him from playing well on Sunday. But not everyone in Las Vegas is so sure.

The betting action in Las Vegas has mostly been on the Jaguars since the Patriots announced that Brady was getting medical attention on his throwing hand. The point spread, which opened with the Patriots as 9-point favorites and moved to 9.5 points, is now either 7 or 7.5 points at six major Vegas sports books.

That doesn’t mean bettors have inside information that Brady, who’s listed as questionable, won’t be able to play. But it does indicate that bettors think Brady might be a little less accurate than usual on Sunday, or that Patriots coach Bill Belichick will play it safe with Brady and not have him pass a lot if the Patriots take an early lead.

So if you’re one of those people who is certain Brady’s hand will be fine and he’ll play as well as ever and beat the Jaguars easily on Sunday, now is the time to put some money on the Patriots.

Manziel’s career was Jon Gruden’s biggest QB Camp surprise

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Jon Gruden’s nine-year career at ESPN included the excellent QB Camp series, which featured a more raw and rough version of Gruden, interacting with selected members of the incoming class of quarterbacks.

During a recent visit to PFT Live, I asked Gruden to identify the quarterback whose career surprised Gruden the most, given his expectations after working with the player.

“Man that’s a good question,” Gruden said. “Johnny Manziel was the most disappointing, just because the outcome of his career. I got criticized a lot for trying to pump him up during the draft. I really thought he has just an incredible playing style that would service him well. I was really shocked at his downfall and demise from football, but hopefully he can come back and play somewhere someday, because I sure enjoyed being around him and watching him.”

Manziel, a first-round pick of the Browns in the same year the Raiders selected Derek Carr in round two, currently hopes to make a comeback in Canada. If/when that happens — and if/when he does well — maybe an NFL team will be interested. And maybe Gruden’s Raiders will be at or near the front of the line.

Facebook decides not to submit TNF bid

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The four three-letter networks have submitted bids for Thursday Night Football. The eight-letter social-media giant won’t be.

Bloomberg.com reports that Facebook won’t be submitting a bid for streaming rights for the mid-week package.

Twitter had the rights to stream 10 games in 2016, reportedly at $1 million per game. Amazon, per some reports, spent five times that amount to stream 10 games in 2017; PFT has heard that the amount paid by Amazon was overstated.

In the past, Facebook has secured rights to Major League Baseball, Major League Soccer, college football, and European soccer.

The NFL hopes to announce its broadcast partnership for TNF either in the week before or the week after the Super Bowl.

Sean Payton turns free couch offer into goodwill gesture

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Who would have thought the Vikings and Saints could end up as BFFs after a game that ended like last week’s did?

It began when a Vikings fan suggested on social media that Minnesotans donate to Thomas Morstead‘s “What You Give Will Grow” charity to show appreciation for the Saints punter playing through torn rib cartilage and for returning from the locker room to line up as a defensive tackle on the final two-point conversion kneel-down by the Vikings.

Morstead promised to personally deliver a check to Minnesota’s Child Life Program if the donations surpassed $100,000. Donations have topped $200,000.

On Friday, Saints coach Sean Payton responded to a Minnesota furniture company’s offer of a free couch to watch Sunday’s NFC Championship Game from home. Payton tweeted he wanted the couch . . . to donate to Children’s Minnesota and added a $25,000 donation to Morstead’s charity.

Payton ended his Twitter post with #skol #recovering and “Feeling better already.” He added he is rooting for his longtime friend Mike Zimmer.

PFT PM gets you ready for Championship Weekend

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Come Sunday night, we’ll know the two teams who will square off in Super Bowl LII. For now, on Friday night, you can get fully prepared for the games that award the trophies that look like oversized Monopoly pieces.

To enjoy a monopoly (I did what you see there) of NFL information, listen to the Friday PFT PM podcast, which reviews the news of the day (include a take on the Le'Veon Bell situation) before looking closely at both games and then answering your Twitter questions.

Both PFT Live and PFT PM will return on Monday; until then, check PFT around the clock for all news and analysis relating to the AFC and NFC title games, along with everything else happening in and around the NFL.

Vikings practiced indoors all week

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The Vikings will play outdoors Sunday. The practiced indoors.

They had no choice.

“The [outdoor practice] field wasn’t in good enough shape,’’ Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said, via Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press.

Kicker Kai Forbath, though, did get his work in outdoors.

“Every day we were supposed to kick, we kicked outside,’’ Forbath said. “It’s not really grass out there, but it’s better than kicking on the turf. [It’s] dirt. It’s tough to grow grass out there now.’’

The forecast for Sunday in Philadelphia calls for a high of 51 and a low of 39 with only a 10 percent chance of rain, so weather shouldn’t come into play.

Eagles coach Doug Pederson proclaimed the natural grass at Lincoln Financial Field “in great shape” after the middle of the field was re-sodded this week. Players from both teams slipped during last week’s divisional-round game there.

“Hopefully, it’s better than it was before, but I’m not sure how terrible it was before,’’ Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr said. “But I’m not going to worry about that too much.’’

Report: Bears hire Brock Olivo as assistant special teams coach

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The Bears are hiring Brock Olivo as assistant special teams coach to help new special teams coordinator Chris Tabor, Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune reports.

The Broncos fired Olivo after the season.

He worked with new Chicago head coach Matt Nagy in Kansas City while serving as the assistant to special teams coordinator Dave Toub from 2014-16.

The Bears currently don’t have a kicker, punter or long snapper under contract for next season. Punter Pat O'Donnell, kicker Cairo Santos and long snappers Andrew DePaolo and Patrick Scales all are scheduled to become free agents in March.

Report: Tom Brady not taking snaps under center after thumb “bent back badly”

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Tom Brady didn’t offer an update on his injured thumb, wearing gloves during his media session Friday. Bill Belichick didn’t have anything to say either. Nor did any of the Patriots.

Not much information has leaked out of the building.

But Tom Curran of NBC Sports Boston has added details he’s hearing to what Mike Felger of WBZ in Boston reported earlier Friday. Felger said Brady needed four stitches. Curran indicates the injury is worse than just a bad cut.

“Brady’s right thumb bent back badly,” according to Curran, when a running back ran into the quarterback. The ball jammed into the webbing between Brady’s thumb and index finger, causing a cut.

Brady left practice Wednesday for an X-ray that showed no structural damage. He didn’t practice Thursday and returned Friday, but Brady did not take snaps under center, per Curran.

The Patriots are limiting Brady’s reps to keep him from aggravating the injury. Curran said Brady can throw, but adds, “I have no idea how hard, how far or how accurately.”

The team lists Brady as questionable on the injury report, and he could take a shot of Toradol to help with the pain from the injury.

LSU running backs coach interviews with Browns

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The Browns interviewed LSU assistant Tommy Robinson for their running backs position, Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports. Robinson currently serves as the Tigers’ running backs coach, assistant head coach and recruiting coordinator.

He just completed his first season at LSU after spending the 2016 season at USC. Robinson has a long history coaching running backs in the college ranks, including at the University of Texas in 2014-15.

Robinson also spent six seasons in the NFL. He was the Cowboys’ offensive assistant/wide receivers/special teams from 1998-2000 and coached the Cardinals running backs in 2010-12.

Bruce Arians would have interest in joining Monday Night Football

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Bruce Arians has had his name floated about as a potential replacement for Jon Gruden as an analyst on ESPN’s Monday Night Football. The former Cardinals coach seems perfect for the job, other than, of course, for the possible need for a seven-second delay.

Arians said he would have interest in the job, calling it the “dream job.”

“Oh gosh, I’d be interested,” Arians said, via Josh Weinfuss of ESPN. “I don’t think they’re interested in me. But that would be like the dream job, especially working with someone as good as Sean [McDonough]. That’d be fun. That’s obviously a home run.”

Arians wants to stay involved in the game by working in the media, and prefers television, either in the studio or in the booth, over a radio job. It appears he will get that chance, even if it’s not at ESPN.

Arians, 65, said he has met with Fox and the NFL Network and will meet with CBS in early February.

“I want to be part of the game,” Arians said. “When you’re doing games, you do a lot of traveling — good, bad, indifferent. You’re in the locker room; you’re doing production meetings with players and coaches. In a studio, you get a broader perspective, maybe you can tell more stories. I’m probably a better storyteller.”

Cardinals’ coaching search will extend into next week

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The Cardinals conducted second interviews with Falcons special teams coordinator Keith Armstrong and Panthers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks on Friday. They will meet with Eagles quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo and Patriots linebackers coach Brian Flores next week, Mike Jureki of Arizona Sports Station 98.7 reports.

Cardinals defensive coordinator James Bettcher remains a candidate but won’t get a second interview since the team already has a relationship with him.

The Cardinals and Titans are the only teams still conducting searches, and Wilks interviewed with Tennessee on Thursday.

The Lions, Giants and Colts all have agreements with coaches whose teams remain in the playoffs.

The Cardinals are seeking to replace Bruce Arians, who retired after the season.

Scot McCloughan on Kirk Cousins: “I don’t see special”

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Former Washington General Manager Scot McCloughan spent a lot of time around Brett Favre, Russell Wilson, Matt Hasselbeck and Alex Smith during stints with the 49ers and Seahawks. McCloughan said he didn’t spend as much time around Kirk Cousins in his two years in Washington.

Still, McCloughan questions whether Cousins is “special.”

“He’s a good player,” McCloughan told Denver radio station 104.3 The Fan, via the Washington Post. “Is he special? I don’t see special. But also, we were still building a roster around him to make him special. Jay Gruden does a great job play-calling. [Former Washington offensive coordinator-turned-Rams coach] Sean McVay did a great job play-calling to put him in positions to be successful. He’s talented. Talent is good at quarterback in the NFL. He’s won games. I know his record overall is not over .500. I know he has not won a playoff game. But he’s competitive. He works his tail off. He’s so methodical. Every day he has planned out. He’s always in the building; he’s always watching tape; he’s always talking to coaches; he was talking to me. From the standpoint of the tangibles, they’re excellent. You just need to have some talent around him because you don’t want him to be throwing the ball 35 to 40 times to win the game. You want to have a running game, have a good defense, good [special] teams, and then let him do what he does.”

Cousins’ future remains in doubt, with Washington in a bind. The franchise tag for a third consecutive year is cost prohibitive, so the team likely either keeps him with a long-term deal or he goes elsewhere in free agency.

“The thing about it is, when I was there, we tried to get a long-term deal done and were unable to do it,” McCloughan said. “He’s respected in the building. He’s a really good football player; he’s a leader; he’s a smart guy; he does everything right. But he has all the leverage now. . . . If they tag him for a third time, that’s $34 million for one season. It’s good if you’ve got a guy that you know can win a world championship for you, but it affects the other guys, teammates, because of contracts. You’re investing so much money in one position, you’re going to lose some good players, some good young players, and that, from a GM standpoint, that’s how you have to look at it. You’d love to have him. I’m sure they’d love to have him back for another year. He’s had three solid seasons in a row, but it’s a huge investment, and it’s going to affect the team.”