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Patriots list seven as questionable for Sunday

FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 12:  Malcolm Mitchell #19 of the New England Patriots celebrates scoring a touchdown during the second quarter against the Baltimore Ravens at Gillette Stadium on December 12, 2016 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Patriots didn’t have a player on their 53-man roster miss practice at any point this week, but they aren’t saying that everyone will be healthy enough to play on Sunday in the AFC Championship Game.

They listed seven players as questionable to face the Steelers, including four of quarterback Tom Brady’s targets through the air. Wide receivers Danny Amendola, Chris Hogan and Malcolm Mitchell all got the questionable designation after three days of limited practices. Amendola returned to action last week after missing a month with an ankle injury while Mitchell didn’t play due to a knee issue and Hogan had to leave the win over the Texans after hurting his thigh.

Tight end Martellus Bennett is the other member of the quartet. He’s listed with a knee injury after briefly leaving last week’s game a couple of times, but said early in the week that he was feeling fine.

Linebacker Dont’a Hightower (shoulder), running back Brandon Bolden (knee) and defensive end Jabaal Sheard (knee) make up the rest of the group.

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Sammy Watkins has second foot surgery

ORCHARD PARK, NY - DECEMBER 27:   Sammy Watkins #14 of the Buffalo Bills warms up before the game against the Dallas Cowboys at Ralph Wilson Stadium on December 27, 2015 in Orchard Park, New York.  (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Bills announced Friday that wide receiver Sammy Watkins and defensive end Shaq Lawson have recently undergone surgeries.

The team said Watkins had a second surgery on his injured foot and that his anticipated timetable includes a healthy return in time for training camp.

Watkins had foot surgery last spring, then re-injured his foot and missed half of the 2016 season, though he returned to play in December. He caught 28 passes for 430 yards and two touchdowns in eight games.

Lawson, the team’s first-round pick last spring, had arthroscopic knee surgery. He’s expected to be available for the entire offseason program.

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Jordy Nelson, Davante Adams, Geronimo Allison listed as questionable

ARLINGTON, TX - JANUARY 15:  Davante Adams #17 of the Green Bay Packers reaches for the end zone past Morris Claiborne #24 of the Dallas Cowboys in the first half during the NFC Divisional Playoff Game at AT&T Stadium on January 15, 2017 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Packers aren’t ruling any of their injured wide receivers out for Sunday’s game against the Falcons, but they know that they may need to go without one or all of Jordy Nelson, Davante Adams and Geronimo Allison.

All three players were listed as out of practice on Friday — it was an estimation as the Packers will work out on Saturday — as Nelson fell ill after working two days in an attempt to return from broken ribs. Adams, who has an ankle injury, and Allison, who is dealing with a hamstring issue, missed all three days and coach Mike McCarthy said Friday that the team will go as long as they need to before making a decision about their status for the NFC title game.

“I’m going to give these guys the open time frame to do everything they can to play. Maybe one or two of those guys will have to work Sunday before the game,” McCarthy said, via USA Today.

Safety Morgan Burnett was listed as a limited participant in practice Friday, the first time he’s been listed as anything but out since injuring his quadricep against the Cowboys. He’s been listed as questionable along with cornerback Quinten Rollins, who was limited all week with the neck injury and concussion that kept him out the last two weeks.

The Falcons got wide receiver Julio Jones back at practice Friday and, as coach Dan Quinn said earlier in the day, have no players on the active roster with injuries that will keep them from playing on Sunday.

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Steelers list Green and Harrison as questionable

CINCINNATI, OH - DECEMBER 18:  Ladarius Green #89 of the Pittsburgh Steelers attempts to stiff arm Shawn Williams #36 of the Cincinnati Bengals during the fourth quarter at Paul Brown Stadium on December 18, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Pittsburgh defeated Cincinnati 24-20. (Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Steelers list tight end Ladarius Green and outside linebacker James Harrison as questionable for Sunday’s AFC Championship Game at New England.

Green has missed the last four games due to a concussion. Though he’s practiced on a limited basis last week and this week, it’s uncertain if he’ll be fully cleared to play.

Harrison has shoulder and triceps injuries and was a full practice participant Friday. Barring a setback, he will play.

Backup running back Fitzgerald Toussaint, who missed last week’s game with a concussion, is also listed as questionable. He was a full practice participant Friday.

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Aaron Rodgers also under the weather

ARLINGTON, TX - JANUARY 15:  Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers drops back to pass in the first half during the NFC Divisional Playoff Game against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium on January 15, 2017 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) Getty Images

No defense has had much luck stopping Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers over the last eight games and he said on Friday that germs won’t be the thing to slow him down either.

The Packers have joined the Steelers as teams dealing with illness kicking around their locker rooms this week. Wide receiver Jordy Nelson was sent home by the Packers on Friday because the team worried he might be contagious, but Rodgers said that he’s already under the weather.

“Rest, fluids, all that stuff,” Rodgers said, via Jason Wilde of the Wisconsin State Journal. “We’ll be OK. Jordy had it. Mason [Crosby] had it. I got it. We’ll deal with it.”

The ailing Packers players will try to get everything is out of their systems by Sunday afternoon in hopes of avoiding a different reason to feel sick to their stomachs.

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Jim Tomsula interviews with Saints for position coach job

SANTA CLARA, CA - JANUARY 15:  Jim Tomsula speaks during a press conference at Levi's Stadium on January 15, 2015 in Santa Clara, California. The San Francisco 49ers announced Jim Tomsula as their new head coach to replace Jim Harbaugh.  (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images) Getty Images

We asked for it, and now we have it.

According to Alex Marvez of the Sporting News, former 49ers head coach Jim Tomsula has interviewed with the Saints for their vacant defensive line coaching gig.

The Saints are looking for someone to replace Bill Johnson, who was fired as part of a staff shakeup there. Johnson landed with the Rams.

Tomsula went 5-11 in his one season as 49ers head coach in 2015, and was defensive line coach there for the eight years prior.

He was out of football last year, living off the $14 million the 49ers paid him for one season of work.

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Kyle Williams replacing Suh in Pro Bowl

DETROIT, MI - NOVEMBER 24:  Kyle Williams #95 of the Buffalo Bills sacks quarterback Michael Vick #1 of the New York Jets in the third quarter at Ford Field on November 24, 2014 in Detroit, Michigan. Buffalo defeated New York 38-3.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images) Getty Images

Bills defensive tackle Kyle Williams has been named to the Pro Bowl.

Williams is an injury replacement for Ndamukong Suh of the Dolphins. The Pro Bowl will be played Jan. 29 in Orlando.

This will be Williams’ fifth trip to the Pro Bowl, and he joins Bruce Smith and Fred Smerlas as the only Bills’ defensive linemen to go to at least five Pro Bowls. Williams’ 40.5 career sacks are the most by a defensive tackle in franchise history.

In 2016, Williams had 64 tackles, five sacks, 15 quarterback hits and 11 tackles for loss.

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Bills hire Andrew Dees as assistant offensive line coach

Green Bay Packers v Buffalo Bills Getty Images

The Bills officially announced another addition to new coach Sean McDermott’s staff on Friday.

New assistant offensive line coach Andrew Dees held the same position with the Bills in 2012. He then spent 2013-15 with the Chargers.

Dees coached in the college ranks for 15 years before breaking into the NFL with the Bills.

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Ted Thompson calls Packers turnaround an “astronomical feat”

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 19: Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson speaks to the media during the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 19, 2015 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Packers are getting set to face the Falcons for the NFC title on Sunday, which isn’t where it looked like their season was headed when they were 4-6 in the regular season.

There was a lot of talk at that time about what the offseason might bring in Green Bay if the team remained on the same path and missed the playoffs, although none of it came from General Manager Ted Thompson. Thompson didn’t meet with the media after August and guard T.J. Lang said that his demeanor inside the facility never wavered from the “positive attitude” he usually displays.

Thompson said that while he knows his attitude won’t “change the world,” he does believe it is “part of the equation” for getting things back on the right track. The team found that track and has an eight-game winning streak that’s left Thompson impressed.

“When you’re on a losing streak, especially in my job, you have your own little personal misery all the time because — it’s not that the team was underachieving or anything — that’s just the way it is in the NFL,” Thompson said to Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com. “For the team to recover and do what they’ve done is an astronomical feat, in my opinion.”

Thompson wouldn’t say whether there had been any thought to parting ways with coach Mike McCarthy when the team was struggling, but did say that he wouldn’t make such a decision based on a single season. Given the way things turned around in Green Bay, that’s probably not a bad view for the G.M. to take.

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Jaguars interviewing Keenan McCardell for receivers coach

22 Nov 1998:  Wide receiver Keenan McCardell #87 of the Jacksonville Jaguars looks on during the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at the Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Steelers defeated the Jaguars 30-15. Mandatory Credit: Robert Laberge  /Allsport Getty Images

One of the best receivers in Jaguars franchise history may soon be the team’s wide receivers coach.

Keenan McCardell, who was a Pro Bowl receiver for the Jaguars when they were an expansion team 20 years ago, is interviewing in Jacksonville today, according to 1010XL in Jacksonville. McCardell is second in Jaguars history in catches and receiving yards, second only to Jimmy Smith, who tweeted today that he is praying McCardell will get the job.

McCardell played for Tom Coughlin during his time with the Jaguars, and Coughlin is now back and running the team’s football operations. Coughlin would presumably encourage head coach Doug Marrone to find a place for McCardell on the staff.

The 47-year-old McCardell spent three years as an NFL assistant as Washington’s wide receivers coach, and two years coaching wide receivers in college at Maryland. He was out of coaching last year.

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Report: Chip Kelly met with Bill Belichick

FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 06:  Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots greets head coach Chip Kelly of the Philadelphia Eagles after their game at Gillette Stadium on December 6, 2015 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. The Philadelphia Eagles defeated the New England Patriots with a score of 35-28.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Jaguars decided against hiring Chip Kelly as their head coach or offensive coordinator. His next conversation was with a team that’s been slightly more successful.

According to Chris Mortensen of ESPN, the former Eagles and 49ers head coach went to New England to meet with coach Bill Belichick after the Jacksonville thing fell through.

It’s unclear whether Kelly and Belichick were talking about any specific role, or whether they just went fishing one afternoon.

But the respect between the two is real, and Kelly seems to have made clear a preference for staying in the NFL as opposed to going back to college.

Kelly also has multiple buyouts after being fired twice in two seasons, so he doesn’t have to get a job or anything. And the Patriots don’t have any openings on the coaching staff, after offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels decided to stay put.

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49ers may have to adjust on the fly, again

49ers-helmet-thearon-w-henderson-getty-images-49ers-drc_0128_hhfi1s Getty Images

The ever-shifting hiring standards for the 49ers may be shifting yet again.

With Packers executive and presumed 49ers G.M. favorite Brian Gutekunst opting to withdraw from consideration and stay put in Green Bay, the 49ers could be adjusting their focus. Which could result in more candidates emerging.

Initially, the 49ers wanted to hire a G.M. who would hire a head coach. With Chiefs director of player personnel Chris Ballard and Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio bowing out, the focus then became finding a coach and a G.M. who would be joined at the hip. When that didn’t pan out, the 49ers opted to wink-nod hire Kyle Shanahan to coach the team, and then to have Shanahan involved in the search for a G.M.-in-name-only, who would essentially set the table for Shanahan.

Some league insiders predict that the job could become more along the lines of “director of player personnel,” with the candidate knowing from the get-go that his job will be to go get players for Shanahan and not to manage or to co-manage the football operations. Folks who would aspire to fill that role may already be contacting Shanahan and/or the 49ers to express interest.

Part of the problem is that, in the rush to get Shanahan to verbally commit to the job after all other coaching candidates had withdrawn, the 49ers apparently promised him control over the 53-man roster. That instantly made the G.M. less attractive and less powerful.

So, basically, the 49ers eventually may need to redefine and rename the job in order to fill it.

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Julio Jones practices, no limitations Sunday

PHILADELPHIA, PA - NOVEMBER 13: Julio Jones #11 of the Atlanta Falcons is tackled by Rodney McLeod #23 of the Philadelphia Eagles after getting a firstdown during a game at Lincoln Financial Field on November 13, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Eagles defeated the Falcons 24-15. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images) Getty Images

The league did away with the probable designation on injury reports this year, which means that teams are only supposed to give injury designations to players if they have doubts about their ability to play.

Don’t expect wide receiver Julio Jones to be listed on the Falcons’ injury report for the NFC Championship Game. Jones returned to practice on Friday after missing the first two practice days this week due to the toe injury he aggravated against the Seahawks last Saturday.

Jones was a full participant in Friday’s practice and coach Dan Quinn said that the team would not put any limitations on the wideout’s playing time against the Packers.

Quinn said that everyone on the Falcons is healthy enough to play, so defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux and wide receiver Taylor Gabriel should also be off the injury report after limited practices this week.

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Johnny Manziel says he has gotten sober without professional assistance

SEATTLE, WA - DECEMBER 20: Quarterback Johnny Manziel #2 of the Cleveland Browns is tackled by defensive tackle Brandon Mebane #92 of the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field on December 20, 2015 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images) Getty Images

Two years ago, Johnny Manziel spent more than 10 weeks in rehab in an effort to overcome addiction. It didn’t work.

Manziel now says he has managed to do it without professional assistance. Via Ed Werder of ESPN.com, Manziel claims that he has achieved sobriety on his own.

The first-round pick of the Browns in 2014 said his next goal is to “PLAY FOOTBALL,” and that he plans to do so in a “preseason game, anything, I don’t care what it is.”

So where will that happen?

“[I] only need one team to believe in me and I’ll do anything to make that a possibility,” Manziel said.

The first challenge will be to get an agent, because he’ll need someone who knows the right people in order to persuade someone to give him a workout, an offseason roster spot, and/or a position on the 53-man roster. Then, the challenge for that agent will be to work the phones and persuade someone to trust Manziel.

Trust ultimately will be the key for Manziel. Who will trust him to do the right things, say the right things, show up for work, be committed to football? The fact that he’s not regarded as a potential franchise quarterback will make it harder for anyone to justify taking the chance, because the benefit won’t outweigh the potential cost of doing business with a man who has become the poster child for all the things that football coaches don’t want in their locker rooms: laziness, lack of discipline, entitlement, lack of commitment.

With so many other players out there who haven’t done anything to put themselves in position to need a second chance, why should Manziel take a spot that could go to one of them? He has had his second chance, and he has squandered it. If he were more talented, maybe he’d get a third chance.

He’s not, and thus he likely won’t.

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Ryan Kerrigan had elbow surgery, faces 6-8-week rehab

LANDOVER, MD - SEPTEMBER 14:  Outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan #91 of the Washington Redskins celebreates after recording a second quarter sack during a game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at FedExField on September 14, 2014 in Landover, Maryland.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) Getty Images

Washington linebacker Ryan Kerrigan had already pulled out of the Pro Bowl because of an injury, now he’s getting it taken care of.

According to John Keim of ESPN.com, Kerrigan had surgery to clean up some “loose bodies” in his left elbow.

His recovery is expected to take six to eight weeks, giving him plenty of time to be ready before training camp.

He suffered the injury late in the season against the Panthers, but continued to play. He finished the season with 11.0 sacks.

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