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.”

Report: Eli Rogers tore his ACL last weekend

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After he left last Sunday’s 45-42 loss to the Jaguars with an injury, Steelers wide receiver Eli Rogers tweeted that it was a minor setback but the injury he suffered is reportedly a severe one.

Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that Rogers tore his ACL in the game. Given the timing of the injury, Rogers could have a hard time being ready for the start of the 2018 season.

Rogers saw a drop in playing time from 50 percent of the offensive snaps in his rookie season to 35 percent this season with JuJu Smith-Schuster joining the team and Martavis Bryant returning from suspension. The drop was mirrored in his production as he went from 48 catches for 594 yards and three touchdowns to 18 catches for 149 yards and a touchdown. He also had five catches for 42 yards against Jacksonville.

Rogers is set for restricted free agency this offseason, but his injury probably won’t do much to help create a market outside of Pittsburgh.

Eagles re-sodded the middle of their field this week

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After multiple players slipped during last week’s Falcons-Eagles game in Philadelphia, the middle section of the grass at Lincoln Financial Field was re-sodded this week.

The Eagles replaced a long stretch of grass from goal line to goal line, between the numbers. They believe the field will be perfect for the NFC Championship Game.

“The field is in great shape,” Eagles coach Doug Pederson said, via Sal Paolantonio of ESPN.

Just to be safe, the Vikings are bringing in multiple types of cleats and players will decide which shoes to wear after pregame warmups. But from all indications the Eagles are confident that field conditions will not be an issue.

Derrius Guice goes with music agency for representation

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Former LSU running back Derrius Guice became the first NFL client to sign with Top Dawg Entertainment (TDE), one of the biggest names in music representation, Darren Rovell of ESPN reports.

TDE, which represents Kendrick Lamar, SZA, ScHoolboy Q and Jay Rock, announced Friday it is opening a sports division.

“They were the first guys who came to me, just like LSU was the first school to offer me a scholarship,” Guice said, via Rovell. “I didn’t forget that.”

Veteran agent Fadde Mikhail will lead the Los Angeles-based sports division of the company, which was founded by Anthony “Top Dawg” Tiffith in 2004. TDE currently represents eight artists.

Former Penn State running back Saquon Barkley also went with a non-traditional agency, signing with Jay Z’s Roc Nation Sports. Roc Nation also represents NFL running backs Leonard Fournette and Todd Gurley. Jay Z launched his agency in 2013.

Bengals owner Mike Brown: Late run made a difference

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Bengals owner Mike Brown saw the reports, three games from the end of the season, that coach Marvin Lewis was done.

Then he saw the Bengals last two games.

In an interview with Jim Owczarski of the Cincinnati Enquirer, Brown said that wins against the Lions and Ravens long after the Bengals were eliminated from the playoffs helped him feel comfortable with bringing Lewis back for the 2018 and 2019 seasons.

“I chose not to make a decision on what we were going to do going forward until all the evidence had been submitted,” Brown said. “And that meant playing through the full season and not making a call prematurely. I would say that while we had serious reverses and they were unsettling, to put it mildly, we bounced back at the end of the year. We beat two teams that were in playoff runs. We beat them in games that were important for them where they gave their best shot and I was impressed how we rebounded. That played into what was in my mind when I had to make a final call.”

The Bengals struggled in a number of areas this year, but Brown said he viewed those issues as “correctable.” And he also made it clear that after meeting with Lewis after the season, he thought they were at least close enough to being on the same page that it was worth proceeding.

“Well, there are issues. They are countless. We discuss them all,” Brown said. “More often than not, way more often than not, we agree. There are occasions when we’ll see it differently. Quite often I permit him to go forward when I don’t necessarily see it the same way. Occasionally, I will say no, it’s going to be this way. It’s a mix of all that. That’s a day to day part of the business.

“One of the good things is we understand each other. While we aren’t always eye-to-eye, when we sit down I’d like to think when he leaves the room we have it set to go forward in a way that’s agreeable to both of us. I think that’ the general outcome. There’s nothing wrong with that. I think it’s healthy.”

Brown obviously thinks so, since he allowed Lewis to remain the second-longest tenured head coach in the league despite the lack of a playoff victory.

Dolphins announce changes to coaching staff

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The Dolphins made their coaching changes official, with an announcement of the moves.

Miami confirmed it has hired Dowell Loggains as offensive coordinator and Jeremiah Washburn as offensive line coach.

Three members of the staff have changed job titles with Shawn Jefferson becoming assistant head coach/offense, Ben Johnson the wide receivers coach and Clyde Christensen the director of football and player development.

The team did not retain defensive backs coach Lou Anarumo, running backs coach Danny Barrett and defensive line coach Terrell Williams.

Tom Brady listed as questionable for Sunday

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Patriots quarterback Tom Brady offered little about the condition of his right hand on Friday, but he was able to get in a limited practice after being listed as a non-participant in Thursday’s session.

That information came on the Patriots’ final injury report of the week and it also revealed that Brady is considered questionable to play against the Jaguars in the AFC Championship Game on Sunday. A report on Friday afternoon suggests that his chances of playing are pretty good.

Mike Felger of WBZ in Boston reported that Brady received four stitches after hitting a teammate’s helmet during Wednesday’s practice and that the injury should not have a great impact on his ability to play. Brady refused to say if he threw passes during Friday’s practice, but wide receiver Danny Amendola intimated that he did and that he was throwing well during his own press conference later in the day.

Right tackle LaAdrian Waddle, running back Rex Burkhead, defensive lineman Alan Branch and running back Mike Gillislee were also listed as questionable for New England, and all of them joined Brady as limited participants in Friday’s practice.

Steelers hiring Darryl Drake as wide receivers coach

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There was some speculation that the Steelers might look to Hines Ward to replace the retiring Richard Mann as the team’s wide receivers coach, but Ward won’t be joining the team’s staff in 2018.

The coach who will be taking over the wide receivers job does have a pretty close tie to Ward, however.

Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that the Steelers are adding Darryl Drake to their staff. Drake spent the last five years as the wide receivers coach of the Cardinals and was the wide receivers coach at the University of Georgia when Ward arrived on campus in 1994.

The Steelers also changed offensive coordinators this week with Randy Fichtner moving up from quarterbacks coach to replace Todd Haley after the Steelers opted not to offer Haley a new contract.

Fritz Pollard Alliance strongly disagrees with NFL clearing Raiders on Rooney Rule

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The Fritz Pollard Alliance, which has served as a watchdog for diversity in the NFL, has ripped the league for allowing the Raiders to get away with two Rooney Rule interviews that are widely regarded as shams.

“We strongly disagree with the NFL’s conclusion that the Raiders did not violate the Rooney Rule,” the Fritz Pollard Alliance said in a statement. “We believe the facts overwhelmingly point in the other direction. In his enthusiasm to hire Jon Gruden, Raiders’ owner Mark Davis failed to fulfill his obligation under the Rule and should step forward and acknowledge he violated the Rule.”

The Raiders say they fulfilled the Rooney Rule because they interviewed two minorities, their own tight ends coach Bobby Johnson and USC offensive coordinator Tee Martin, before naming Jon Gruden their head coach. The NFL bought that explanation, but the Fritz Pollard Alliance says those interviews were meaningless.

“The NFL broke ground when it created the Rooney Rule, but it made the wrong call in refusing to penalize Mark Davis in this instance,” the statement said. “Davis crossed the line, and we are disappointed in the League’s decision. The Rooney Rule and all of the League’s equal opportunity efforts need to be strengthened. We have called for meetings with the League to ensure that a process like this never happens again.”

The Fritz Pollard Alliance has usually been open to accepting NFL teams’ explanations about interviewing minority candidates, but in this case, Raiders owner Mark Davis admitted he had an agreement with Gruden before Jack Del Rio was fired, which means the job was never really open. That’s where the Fritz Pollard Alliance says the Raiders crossed the line and the NFL should have stepped in.

Terron Armstead, Trey Hendrickson both fined $18,231

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The NFL fined Saints offensive lineman Terron Armstead and defensive end Trey Hendrickson $18,231 each.

Armstead’s fine was for unnecessary roughness after he used a horse collar tackle to bring down Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr following an interception in Sunday’s game. Officials penalized Armstead on the second-quarter play.

Hendrickson received his fine for roughing the passer. His hit on Case Keenum late in the second quarter drew a penalty.

It was the first fines of this season for either player, so they received the standard amount for first offenses for a horse collar tackle and roughing the passer penalty. The NFL fined 10 other Saints during the regular season.

Dolphins move Clyde Christensen to director of football and player development

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The Dolphins will keep former offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen after Dowell Loggains replaced him in that role. Christensen will stay on as the director of football and player development, according to the Miami Herald.

Christensen, 61, spent the past two years as the team’s offensive coordinator. He previously was a coordinator for one season in Tampa Bay and three years in Indianapolis.

The Dolphins made two other coaching moves, via the Herald, promoting Ben Johnson to wide receivers coach and moving receivers coach Shawn Jefferson to assistant head coach/offense.

Johnson previously served as the team’s assistant receivers coach. Jefferson spent the past two seasons coaching the team’s receivers.

Police report alleges Robby Anderson threatened officer’s wife

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Jets wide receiver Robby Anderson was arrested on nine charges early Friday morning in Florida and a full police report from the Sunrise Police Department sheds light on the events leading to Anderson being taken into custody.

The arresting officer reports that he clocked Anderson going 105 mph in a 45 mph zone while running two red lights and swerving “all over the roadway.” That accounts for several of the charges against Anderson, including a felony count of eluding police with lights and sirens on.

Anderson also faces a felony count of threatening a public servant or family member. The police report, which was obtained by NJ.com, alleges Anderson told the arresting officer that he would find his wife “f— her and n– in her eye” along with other threats against the officer’s family. Anderson also allegedly told the officer how much money he has and said that the officer was trying to “ruin his fun.”

Anderson was also arrested last spring and that case is still pending. He could face discipline under the NFL Personal Conduct Policy in both cases.

Jaleel Johnson readying for more snaps with Shamar Stephen out

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The Vikings will not have reserve defensive tackle Shamar Stephen for Sunday’s game. The team ruled him out with a knee injury.

Tom Johnson and Linval Joseph played most of the snaps at defensive tackle last week anyway, but the Vikings may have to call on Jaleel Johnson for more snaps.

Johnson played only one defensive snap against the Saints and only 41 during the regular season, but Vikings coach Mike Zimmer insists Johnson is ready if they need him.

“I’m still working, and I’m still trying to show coach that I can go out and play and contribute to this W,” Johnson said, via Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press. “I’m a little bit nervous. There are nerves. Once I’m out there, I can’t let that get to me. I’ve just got to go out and do what I do best.”

Johnson, a fourth-round pick last spring, played in five games in the regular season.

NFL says Raiders complied with Rooney Rule

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The Rooney Rule is no more. Or it might as well be. Time of death, 2:29 p.m. ET.

The NFL has put out word that the Raiders complied with the Rooney Rule before hiring coach Jon Gruden.

Even though they agreed to hire Gruden before they fired Jack Del Rio, which owner Mark Davis admitted to at Gruden’s press conference.

Even though the two minority candidates they interviewed after they agreed to a deal with their next coach were guys with no head coaching or coordinating experience in the league, who they didn’t even give assistant coaching jobs to. They dragged Southern Cal offensive coordinator Tee Martin and tight ends coach Bobby Johnson through interviews, and even interviewed Martin for a job on Gruden’s staff later.

But the league determined that’s just fine, after talking to Gruden, Davis and General Manager Reggie McKenzie. They will not be punished.

By doing nothing about a flagrant violation of the rule, the NFL has effectively set a precedent that no one will be punished for violating it, ever.

Maybe they’re hoping for a government shutdown today, or maybe they just don’t care. But under no circumstances can anyone interested in fairness in hiring practices believe that the right thing was done here today.