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Sunday morning one-liners

Jacksonville Jaguars' Robinson runs ball past Indianapolis Colts' Freeman during their NFL football game in Jacksonville Reuters

Good news and bad news about the Hall of Fame chances of former Bills WR Andre Reed.

The Dolphins could learn a few things at the Super Bowl.

Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston.com wonders if WR Brandon Lloyd is guaranteed a return to the Patriots in 2013.

Alec Baldwin had some fun at the Jets’ expense during NFL Honors.

Said fomer Ravens T Jonathan Ogden of making the Hall of Fame, “It’s kind of a full circle weekend. With me and Ray (Lewis), you couldn’t have written a better script over these two days because no one would’ve believed it.

Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer worked for Bill Parcells and added his voice to those celebrating Parcell’s election to the Hall of Fame.

Assessing the state of the Browns defensive line.

The son of the late former Steelers C Mike Webster is working to help those who suffer from brain injuries like the one that plagued his father.

Several former NFL players and coaches declared themselves fans of Texans coach Gary Kubiak’s work.

Bruce Arians is the fourth coach to win coach of the year for his work with the Colts.

Jaguars WR Laurent Robinson still has work to do to get back on the field for the 2013 season.

New Hall of Famer Curley Culp is best remembered as a Chief, but he was also a member of the Oilers/Titans organization.

Broncos QB Peyton Manning isn’t sure if he’ll keep wearing a glove on his throwing hand.

Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt is looking forward to a better 2013 season.

Did former Raiders WR Tim Brown hurt his Hall of Fame chances by accusing Bill Callahan of sabotaging Super Bowl XXXVII?

Chargers LB Takeo Spikes is a believer in the changes the team has undertaken already this offseason.

Joe Theisman doesn’t see the changes with the Cowboys making anyone uncomfortable.

The Giants are celebrating the career of former coach and new Hall of Famer Bill Parcells.

A look at what some early mock drafts are predicting for the Eagles.

Dan Graziano of ESPN.com thinks the “dramatic degree” of Redskins QB Robert Griffin III’s impact made him the offensive rookie of the year.

An oral history of how the 1985 Bears came to do the Super Bowl Shuffle.

The Lions are weak in areas that both of this year’s Super Bowl teams are strong.

Packers QB Aaron Rodgers and former Packers QB Brett Favre shared the stage on Saturday night.

Said Chris Doleman of former Vikings teammate Cris Carter making the Hall of Fame, “He’s going to appreciate it. He’s going to realize just how difficult this road was.”

Falcons WR Roddy White shared his thoughts on how to attack the 49ers secondary.

Panthers rookies have taken home honors two years in a row.

Six members of the Saints pitched in with a volunteer effort to help rebuild an area of Algiers, Louisiana.

Ira Kaufman of the Tampa Tribune recounts some of the details of his speech in support of former Buccaneers DT Warren Sapp for the Hall of Fame.

Said Cardinals coach Bruce Arians of winning the coach of the year award for his work with the Colts, “It’s whipped cream and a cherry on top, all that stuff. It’s the final chapter of an unbelievable story but now I can’t wait to get on to the next one.”

With the arbitrator ruling in favor of the Rams’ plan for renovating Edward Jones Dome, there’s talk about a new stadium in St. Louis.

Five reasons to like the 49ers in the Super Bowl.

Former Seahawks DT Sam Adams is staying busy in retirement.

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Stanford wideout Owusu medically cleared after college concussions

Chris Owusu, Johnny Williams AP

Stanford wideout/return specialist Chris Owusu entered his senior season with second-day draft grades from NFL scouts, but suffered two concussions in 2011 and did not play in Stanford’s final four games. He suffered a previous concussion late in his junior year.

Owusu’s agent, Steve Caric of Caric Sports Management, revealed to PFT on Thursday that Owusu has been medically cleared to continue his football career. Owusu received a Combine invite and will participate fully with the wide receiver group in Indianapolis.

Per Caric, Owusu has been symptom free since November 6 of 2011, one day after his last concussion. A doctor with the NFL Head, Neck, and Spine Committee has diagnosed Owusu as “perfectly normal” and cleared Owusu “to play football now.” The doctor also determined that Owusu is not at greater risk of concussions due to his history.

Owusu was Andrew Luck’s top wide receiver in 2010. He averaged over 15 yards per reception in his career and returned three kickoffs for touchdowns. At 6-foot and about 200 pounds, Owusu is expected to run a forty time in the 4.3s at the Combine.

NFL teams, of course, will likely look at precedent in these kinds of cases. Like Owusu, Lions tailback Jahvid Best missed the final four games of his college career with a concussion. Best suffered two more concussions in 2011, one during the preseason and the second in Week Six. Best’s season was over.

A healthy Owusu is a top seven or eight receiver in the 2012 draft whose game-breaking return ability could conceivably push him into the top five. Receiving medical clearance from the NFL is the first step toward rehabbing his draft stock.

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Rams give George Paton second interview for G.M. job

george-paton-2011

Jeremy Fowler of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports that the Rams have lined up a second interview with Vikings player personnel director George Paton regarding St. Louis’ general manager opening.

The Rams conducted their first round of interviews last week, meeting with at least six known candidates. Paton is the only G.M. target St. Louis is known to have contacted about round two.

Per Fowler, Paton’s second interview could take place “as early as today.” Paton has been in the Vikings’ organization since 2007. He reportedly played a significant role in the Vikings’ 2008 trade for defensive end Jared Allen.

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Raiders hire Jason Tarver as defensive coordinator

Jason Tarver AP

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Saturday night that the Raiders were showing interest in Stanford assistant Jason Tarver regarding their defensive coordinator vacancy.

On Monday, the Raiders announced that Tarver has been hired.

A co-defensive coordinator and inside linebackers coach at Stanford this past season, Tarver will work under defensive-minded head coach Dennis Allen in Oakland. Under Tarver’s watch in 2011, Stanford ranked third nationally in run defense and averaged three sacks per game.

Though he is only 37 years old, Tarver is a veteran NFL coach. He spent the 2001-2010 seasons on the 49ers’ staff, working in various capacities and moving his way up.

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Marijuana charges dismissed against Dre Kirkpatrick

Dre Kirkpatrick Arrested Football AP

A projected top-25 pick in April’s draft, Alabama cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick’s stock appeared to take a hit when he was arrested on January 17 for marijuana possession.

But Kirkpatrick is off the hook. Liz Mullen of SportsBusiness Journal reports that the charges against Kirkpatrick have been dismissed.

Based on this story, from the Tuscaloosa News, it sounds like Kirkpatrick’s friend, Chris Rogers, accepted blame for the presence of marijuana in a vehicle rented by Rogers. Rogers, a former teammate of Kirkpatrick’s at Alabama, was also arrested.

Per the incident report, Rogers admitted to police that he purchased the marijuana. Kirkpatrick admitted he was in the vehicle when the purchase was made, but claimed he did not specifically know of the purchase at that time.

We suspect the arrest will not affect Kirkpatrick’s 2012 NFL draft stock whatsoever.

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Report: Bucs turned down by Florida defensive coordinator Quinn

Seattle Seahawks 2010 Headshots Getty Images

Pat Dooley of the Gainesville Sun reports that University of Florida defensive coordinator Dan Quinn recently turned down an offer regarding the same role with the Tampa Bay Bucs.

While rumors have swirled that Bucs rookie coach Greg Schiano is targeting former North Carolina head coach Butch Davis for defensive coordinator, it appears Quinn was Schiano’s first choice. The Gators are returning 10-of-11 starters on defense, and Quinn is apparently comfortable in his current position.

Quinn has NFL experience, as he coached the Seahawks’ defensive line in 2010-2011 following stops with the 49ers, Jets, and Dolphins. He is listed as both a defensive coordinator and defensive line coach at Florida.

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Deion Branch hopes Patriots bring him back

New England Patriots wide receiver Deion Branch is pictured before the NFL's Super Bowl XLVI football game between the New York Giants and the New England Patriots in Indianapolis Indiana Reuters

Patriots receiver Deion Branch has lost some mustard off his forty time, turns 33 before next season, and is an impending free agent. But he believes he’s got something left to offer, and wants to stay in New England.

“This is where I want to be, this is where I want to retire,” said Branch after Sunday’s loss to the Giants. “This is why I came back, for the opportunity to play in this game. I’m pretty sure I will be here in this position next year.”

It may be wishful thinking on Branch’s part. The Patriots’ lack of a vertical threat was more apparent than ever in Super Bowl XLVI. Branch is an outside receiver in New England’s offense, but he struggles to get open downfield at this stage of his career.

The Pats may consider bringing Branch back, but it would figure to be on a one-year deal for around the veteran’s minimum. Julian Edelman and Chad Ochocinco are New England’s only receivers under contract for 2012. It’s going to be a position they remake this offseason.

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Channing Crowder wants to play for the Falcons

Miami Dolphins 2010 Headshots Getty Images

D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that the Falcons have “been in touch” with former Dolphins linebacker Channing Crowder, who is planning an NFL comeback in 2012.

The Crowder-Falcons link makes sense because Atlanta just hired Mike Nolan as defensive coordinator. Nolan oversaw the Dolphins’ defense for the past two seasons. Crowder was a starting inside linebacker for Miami in 2010.

“I’d love to play in Atlanta,” Crowder confirmed. “Coach Nolan is my guy. Actually, when he got the job in Atlanta he [sent] me a text. Coach Nolan is a first-class guy.

“I told him if he needs a better linebacker, let me know,” Crowder added. “He texted me back and said, ‘I’ll keep in touch.’”

The Falcons are expected to try to re-sign incumbent starting middle linebacker Curtis Lofton, who is a free agent. Crowder has experience as a 4-3 starting outside linebacker, too, however, and could team with Lofton inside should Nolan implement 3-4 looks into Atlanta’s defense.

Crowder is still only 28 years old, and his body should be fresh after sitting out last season. He’s going to be a cost-effective pickup for some team.

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Free agency could hit Patriots hard, Giants not so much

Wes Welker AP

The Giants have a lot of celebrating ahead of them, and the Patriots have a lot of second-guessing and what-iffing to contemplate in the coming days and weeks.

But the season is over for both teams, and free agency looms on March 13. Let’s have a look at notable expiring contracts for each club:

Giants impending free agents: Receiver Mario Manningham, tackle Kareem McKenzie, cornerbacks Terrell Thomas and Aaron Ross, defensive end Dave Tollefson, punter Steve Weatherford, defensive tackle Rocky Bernard, safety Deon Grant, linebackers Jonathan Goff and Chase Blackburn, guard Stacy Andrews, quarterback David Carr, defensive tackle Jimmy Kennedy, offensive lineman Tony Ugoh, defensive backs Derrick Martin and Justin Tryon, kick returner Devin Thomas, and punt returner Will Blackmon.

For the most part, the Giants’ free agents are bottom-of-the-roster types whom G.M. Jerry Reese may attempt to replace in the draft. Though he’s coming off an ACL injury, Thomas may be a priority to re-sign, particularly if Ross tries to strike it rich on the open market. The G-Men may look to get younger at McKenzie, Grant, and Bernard’s positions. Manningham is the prize of the Giants’ 2012 free agent class, and figures to move on to a club offering him a starting job.

Patriots impending free agents: Receiver Wes Welker, defensive ends Mark Anderson and Andre Carter, receiver Deion Branch, running backs BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Kevin Faulk, guard/center Dan Connolly, defensive linemen Gerard Warren and Shaun Ellis, linebacker Gary Guyton, returner/receiver Matt Slater, defensive backs James Ihedigbo, Antwaun Molden, and Nathan Jones, and linebackers Tracy White and Niko Koutouvides.

The Pats are in danger of losing some big-time players. Welker will probably be franchise tagged, but Anderson and Carter were the club’s top two pass rushers in 2011. Green-Ellis was New England’s leading rusher. Connolly is a key and versatile cog on the offensive line. The Patriots will likely try to find a superior vertical threat than Branch. Chad Ochocinco wasn’t the answer and will likely be released.

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Manningham, Nicks stepped up as Pats sold out to stop Cruz

NFC Championship - New York Giants v San Francisco 49ers Getty Images

The Patriots’ defensive game plan for Super Bowl XLVI became pretty clear from the get-go: They weren’t going to let Giants receiver Victor Cruz beat them.

Using a variety of double-teaming concepts in the slot and outside, New England executed its strategy, holding Cruz to 25 yards on four receptions.

So Mario Manningham and Hakeem Nicks stepped up.

Manningham, in particular, was often left in one-on-one situations against defensive backs. Although Manningham’s tendency to lose track of the sideline cost the Giants one would-be first-down reception in the second half, he more than made up for the miscue by creating enough separation to secure a perfectly placed over-the-shoulder throw  from Eli Manning on the Giants’ final possession.

The catch went for 38 yards and was the highest-impact non-touchdown play of the Super Bowl. Eight plays later to finish the drive, tailback Ahmad Bradshaw fell into the end zone for the game-winning score. Manningham finished with 73 yards on five grabs.

Nicks, meanwhile, posted game-highs in receptions (10) and yards (109). Seven of his catches went for first downs.

As for Manningham, the performance came with good timing. He is headed for unrestricted free agency in March.

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Gronkowski was non-factor in Patriots’ Super Bowl loss

Giants middle linebacker Blackburn intercepts a pass intended for Patriots Gronkowski in the NFL Super Bowl XLVI football game in Indianapolis in the NFL Super Bowl XLVI football game in Indianapolis Reuters

Aside from Peyton Manning’s speculated future whereabouts and health, Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski’s high left ankle sprain was the Super Bowl’s biggest story during the week leading up to Sunday’s game.

And the injury rendered Gronkowski a non-factor as New England fell to New York 21-17.

Struggling to create separation in the passing game and on the field for only one snap on New England’s final drive, Gronkowski was targeted by Tom Brady just three times in four quarters. One of the throws was intercepted by Giants linebacker Chase Blackburn. Gronkowski secured two passes for 26 yards, but there was a reason Brady threw to him so infrequently. Gronk wasn’t healthy.

The Patriots got a big contribution from fellow tight end Aaron Hernandez, who caught a team-high eight passes for 67 yards and a touchdown. But New England’s offense clearly missed its most dynamic, physically dominant playmaker.

Gronkowski did have a chance to come down with Brady’s Hail Mary attempt at the end of regulation after the ball popped into the air, bouncing off a defender. He just couldn’t dive or reach far enough.

And so in a disappointing fashion did Gronkowski’s historical season end. Gronkowski set NFL records for touchdowns (17) and receiving yards (1,327) at his position, establishing himself as the best all-around tight end in football.

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Report: Colts want Jeff Saturday to join front office

Jeff Saturday AP

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports that the Colts are targeting longtime center Jeff Saturday as a candidate for their front office. Per Schefter, at least one other undisclosed team has the same idea for Saturday.

Saturday played a major role on the players’ side during the 2011 lockout, showing leadership skills. Schefter reports that Saturday “still has an interest in playing,” however.

A former undrafted free agent out of North Carolina, Saturday is still playing at a high level, by all accounts. He has not missed a start over the past three seasons, also earning two Pro Bowl berths. For his career, Saturday is a five-time Pro Bowler and two-time first-team All-Pro.

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Brees crushes Rodgers for AP Offensive Player of Year award

ESPN The Magazine's "NEXT" Event Getty Images

The Associated Press loved Saints quarterback Drew Brees‘ season so much that it awarded him 43-of-50 votes for 2011 Offensive Player of the Year, compared to Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers‘ seven.

Rodgers figures to have a better shot at AP NFL MVP.

In 2011, Brees broke Dan Marino’s single-season passing record, which had stood for 27 years. Brees also set league records for completions (450) and completion rate (71.6 percent).

Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow did not receive any votes.

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Terrell Suggs edges Jared Allen for AP Defensive Player of Year

Terrell Suggs AP

The Associated Press announced Saturday evening that Terrell Suggs of the Ravens is its 2011 winner of the Defensive Player of the Year award.

Suggs held off Vikings defensive end Jared Allen, receiving 21 votes compared to Allen’s 14. Also receiving votes were 49ers defenders Justin Smith, Navorro Bowman, and Patrick Willis, along with Packers cornerback Charles Woodson, and Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul.

Woodson’s inclusion was surprising. Perhaps more surprising was the fact that Pierre-Paul didn’t make a stronger run at Suggs. Suggs did have a beastly regular season, recording 70 tackles, 14 sacks, seven forced fumbles, and two interceptions. Allen led the NFL with 22 sacks, chipping in four fumbles forced.

Pierre-Paul was credited with more tackles (86) than both Suggs and Allen. He registered 16.5 sacks and two forced fumbles.

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AP names Matthew Stafford Comeback Player of Year

ESPN The Magazine's "NEXT" Event Getty Images

The Associated Press announced Saturday evening that Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford was its 2011 selection for Comeback Player of the Year.

Stafford edged out Browns linebacker D’Qwell Jackson, who received 15 votes to Stafford’s 21. 49ers quarterback Alex Smith came in third. Also receiving votes: Carolina wide receiver Steve Smith, Giants quarterback Eli Manning, Broncos defensive end Elvis Dumervil, and Patriots defensive end Andre Carter.

Stafford was a logical choice for Comeback Player of the Year honors. Still not quite 24 years old (he turns on February 7), Stafford was limited to three games by injuries in 2010. In 2011, Stafford returned to start all 16 games and directed the Lions to a long-awaited playoff berth while posting borderline video game stats.

Among those who received 2011 AP votes for Comeback Player of the Year, Stafford stood out as easily the highest-impact player on his team and in the league.

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