Ryan Shazier plans to continue rehab with hopes of playing again

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Ryan Shazier always has stated his goal is to play football again. Thirteen months after his spinal injury, that remains his plan.

Steelers owner Art Rooney II confirmed Wednesday that Shazier intends to continue rehabbing with hopes of a return to the field.

Shazier would need to sign a new contract to continue that process with the Steelers. He is scheduled to become a free agent in March.

“To the extent he wants to do that, we’re open to working that out,” Rooney said, via Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.

Shazier’s comeback would become one of the best stories in NFL history if he is able to make it back, and everyone is rooting for him to do just that.

Art Rooney II: No Antonio Brown trade talks yet

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The wait for an Antonio Brown interview lingers, but Steelers owner Art Rooney II has taken some time out to address the wideout’s situation for the second time in a week.

Rooney said last week that it is “hard to envision” Brown returning to the team for the 2019 season after he was benched for the final game of the regular season in the wake of missed practices and incidents with other members of the team. Rooney spoke with local reporters again on Wednesday and the message hasn’t changed.

Rooney said, via Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, that no trade talks regarding Brown have happened yet and left the door open for a reconciliation, but there are “not that many signs out there that that’s going to happen.” One sign of a potential thaw would be a conversation with Brown, but Rooney said that he has not spoken to the receiver since the end of the season.

Despite the team’s unhappiness with Brown’s behavior, Rooney said that the team paid Brown for the final week of the regular season.

“He probably did what he needed to do to avoid his last check being voided,” Rooney said.

The question of who will be issuing Brown’s next check will continue to be a major storyline as the offseason fully unfolds around the NFL.

 

Dick Vermeil, Eric Dickerson among ex-Rams calling Patriots cheaters

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The Patriots’ Super Bowl XXXVI victory over the Rams happened 17 years ago. A bombshell report from the Boston Herald that the Patriots filmed the Rams’ final walk-through practice before that Super Bowl emerged 11 years ago. And the Herald’s apology and acknowledgement that “we now know that this report was false” came 10 and a half years ago. But some Rams still believe the Patriots cheated.

And that even includes some Rams who weren’t part of that team. Dick Vermeil, who retired from the Rams two years before that Super Bowl, and Eric Dickerson, who was traded away from the Rams 15 years before that Super Bowl, are among those calling the Patriots cheaters today.

Vermeil said he’s rooting for the Chiefs to beat the Patriots on Sunday because “They’ve done it the right way. They haven’t been accused of cheating.”

Vermeil didn’t explicitly say he was referring to the Super Bowl against the Rams (he may have been referring to Spygate and/or Deflategate), but Dickerson made no secret that he still believes the long-debunked accusation about filming the Rams before the Super Bowl.

“We want a rematch in L.A.,” Dickerson said on FS1. “We want them back again, because they cheated us. They know they cheated us back in New Orleans. They watched our film.”

More than a decade after the Boston Herald corrected its story, that story is apparently never going away.

Jarvis Landry to Pro Bowl in place of DeAndre Hopkins

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The Browns have a fourth representative in the Pro Bowl.

The team announced on Wednesday that wide receiver Jarvis Landry has been added to the AFC roster for the game in Orlando on January 27. He will take the place of Texans wideout DeAndre Hopkins.

“It’s always an honor to be named to the Pro Bowl,” Landry said in a statement. “This is my fourth time going, but my first being able to wear the orange helmet and represent the Cleveland Browns. So this is very special for me.”

Landry was traded to the Browns by the Dolphins last offseason and led the team with 81 catches and 976 receiving yards. He also caught four touchdowns, ran for another and completed both a 63-yard pass and a two-point conversion during his first year in Cleveland.

Landry joins guard Joel Bitonio, defensive end Myles Garrett and cornerback Denzel Ward as Browns players heading to Orlando.

Jeremiah Sirles signs extension with Bills

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The Bills extended linebacker Lorenzo Alexander‘s contract through the 2019 season on Wednesday and they took care of another deal before the day was out.

The team announced that offensive lineman Jeremiah Sirles has also signed a deal that keeps him under contract for next season. No financial terms were included in the announcement.

Sirles played as a tackle, guard and a sixth offensive lineman for the Bills while appearing in 12 games and making five starts in 2018. He spent the previous three seasons with the Vikings and signed with the Bills in September after being released from Carolina’s injured reserve list.

His versatility is a nice thing to have on hand from a depth standpoint, but the Bills should likely heed LeSean McCoy‘s advice and consider some frontline additions to their blocking group this offseason.

Takk McKinley back home after mental evaluation

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Falcons defensive end Takk McKinley was taken for a mental evaluation by Los Angeles police on Tuesday, but was not arrested and has reportedly been released.

D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that McKinley is back home in Oakland on Wednesday and a team spokesman later confirmed that was the case.

“There is no reason to believe that this was anything serious. He’s back home in Oakland with his family.”

McKinley was in a hotel with a friend who became concerned about McKinley and called the police. McKinley cooperated with the responding officers when they said they thought it was in his interest to get help. The Falcons released a statement saying they are aware of the situation and that they will do “everything we possibly can to support and assist Takk as our players’ mental and physical well-being are always our top priority.”

McKinley was a first-round pick in 2017 and has played in 31 games for the Falcons over the last two seasons.

Report: Tom Clements interviewed for Cardinals OC opening

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Shortly after word broke that one of the coaches who interviewed for the Cardinals offensive coordinator opening is reportedly off the table, the name of another candidate came to light.

Tom Pelissero of NFL Media reports that Tom Clements interviewed for the spot on Kliff Kingsbury’s staff. John DeFilippo previously interviewed for the job as well, but is expected to be the new offensive coordinator in Jacksonville.

Clements has been out of the league for the last couple of years after wrapping up an 11-year run on the Packers coaching staff. He was the quarterbacks coach from 2006-2011 before moving up offensive coordinator and assistant head coaching titles in his final years with the organization.

That gave him a lot of time to work with Aaron Rodgers, who struck up a friendship with Cardinals quarterback Josh Rosen as the Arizona first-round pick prepared for last year’s draft. Asking Clements or any other coach to turn Rosen into Rodgers would be foolish, but his experience in Green Bay might be a plus when it comes to asking him to turn Rosen into a capable NFL starter.

Eric Berry practicing on Wednesday

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Safety Eric Berry has made infrequent appearances on the field for the Chiefs this season and he’s set to make one of them on Wednesday.

Head coach Andy Reid said at a press conference that Berry will take part in practice. Berry also practiced on a limited basis last Tuesday, but sat out the other two practice sessions and last Saturday’s win over the Colts with a heel injury.

That heel injury has been an issue for Berry since last summer and he missed 14 of the team’s regular season games as a result. He played 99 defensive snaps in Weeks 15 and 16 before sitting out the regular season finale.

Reid said that Berry will rotate in with the first team. Jordan Lucas, Daniel Sorensen and Eric Murray saw the majority of snaps at safety against Indianapolis.

Belichick brushes off the “on to Cincinnati” game

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Under Bill Belichick, the Patriots have done well, pretty much anywhere and everywhere. At Arrowhead Stadium, they’ve generated a 1-2 record.

The most recent visit ended poorly. On that Monday night in September 2014, the Chiefs dismantled the Patriots, 41-14. The experience sparked Belichick’s infamous “on to Cincinnati” press conference, which was followed by a run than took the Patriots from 2-2 to 13-3 to the Super Bowl to their first championship in 10 years.

A reporter asked Belichick on Wednesday whether that experience becomes motivation for the upcoming playoff game in Kansas City.

“Yeah, I don’t think that game has anything to do with this one,” Belichick said. “We’re going to get ready for Sunday.”

He’s right. Although some of the players and coaches are the same, that game happened more than four years ago, and not in a single-elimination setting. These two teams have played only once before in the postseason, and not in Kansas City, where it is scheduled to be cold (but not as cold as it was supposed to be).

“Whatever it is, it is,” Belichick said. “Love to play in a championship game. Schedule it wherever you want. We’ll be there.”

Yes they will. And they quite possibly will advance to the Super Bowl for the ninth time since 2001.

Kenny Golladay says Lions don’t need Antonio Brown

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There might be Hall of Fame wide receivers in other cities trying to recruit Antonio Brown, but Lions wideout Kenny Golladay is not going to be one of them.

During an interview on WXYT, Golladay said he thought the Lions were more than capable at the position without the former All-Pro.

“To be honest, I feel like the Lions are good where we’re at,” he said, via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press.

The Lions passing game cratered last season, leading to the dismissal of offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter.

But that was after they traded Golden Tate to Philadelphia, and Marvin Jones was lost to a knee injury.

Lions General Manager Bob Quinn said he wanted to add “more playmakers,” but Golladay apparently doesn’t think he means a player such as Brown.

“No offense to Antonio Brown, he’s gonna go down as one of the greats, an amazing player,” Golladay said. “But with me, T.J. Jones, Brandon Powell, Chris Lacy, Bruce Ellington — I mean, the list just goes on. All those guys have made plays this year. I have trust in those guys and I know the organization does as well.”

Golladay is right, that list does go on.

Unfortunately, Ellington and T.J. Jones are free agents, and Powell has 11 career receptions and Lacy none.

Sean Lee “leaning toward” playing again

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Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee still hasn’t made a firm decision, but his future seems to be pointed toward a return.

During an appearance on KTCK “The Ticket,” Lee said he’s still pondering what to do.

“I want to continue to play the game, but I have to evaluate physically where I’m at,” he said. “I definitely have some decisions to make.

I’m leaning toward playing for sure.”

The “physically” part has always been the sticking point for Lee.

The 32-year-old only played in seven games last year because of hamstring problems, and hasn’t played 16 games in a season yet. In five of his nine seasons, he’s played 11 games or fewer.

Of course, fiscally will also be a part of the decision. He’s scheduled to make $7 million next year, and with Leighton Vander Esch taking over his role while he was injury, it seems unlikely the Cowboys want to keep him at anything close to that number.

“I’m going to take a month, travel a little bit with the wife, see how I feel,” he said. “A month or two down the line I’ll figure out where I’m at.”

A month or two from now, that decision might be made for him.

Report: Jaguars expected to hire John DeFilippo as offensive coordinator

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The Jaguars have a lot of work to do when it comes to putting together the right personnel to run their offense in 2019 and it appears they’ve settled on their choice of a coach to put that offense in place.

Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that the team is expected to hire former Vikings offensive coordinator John DeFilippo as their offensive coordinator. Current Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett was fired from that job during the 2018 and quarterbacks coach Scott Milanovich filled in on an interim basis.

DeFilippo also interviewed with the Cardinals about their coordinator vacancy, but the Jaguars job offers a chance to call plays that doesn’t exist in Arizona as head coach Kliff Kingsbury will be handling those duties.

DeFilippo was fired by the Vikings with three games left in the 2018 season after continued complaints from Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer about the team’s lack of a consistent running game. The Jaguars have running backs Leonard Fournette and Carlos Hyde on hand, but it remains to be seen who will be playing quarterback after Blake Bortles was benched during the season.

One option could be Nick Foles, who played for DeFilippo when DeFilippo was the Eagles quarterbacks coach in 2017 and could be on the move this offseason.

There are also needs for more production at receiver and on the offensive line, so there’s still things to fall into place before there will be a clear idea of what Jacksonville’s offense will look like next season.

Jeff Fisher misses “competing on Sundays”

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Jeff Fisher has not coached in the NFL since being fired by the Rams with three games left in the 2016 season and his name hasn’t been publicly mentioned in conjunction with any jobs, but he hasn’t given up hopes of coaching again.

Fisher is consulting with the Alliance of American Football ahead of their inaugural season and called a game for FOX Sports this season, but neither of those pursuits have him feeling like he’s ready to leaving coaching behind. Fisher made that clear when asked about former Falcons head coach Mike Smith saying this week that he’s moving on to other things.

“That happens and I wish Mike the best,” Fisher said, via the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “None of us leave on our own terms. But we can make those decisions, what’s best for us. I feel good. Recharged. I miss the relationship with the players and competing on Sundays.”

Fisher said last year that he felt he left the Rams in good shape and several of the players from Fisher’s final act remain on the team as they prepare for the NFC Championship Game. On Wednesday, Fisher called that kind of success “our plan as we were building that team.”

The team’s success under Sean McVay has led others to say that Fisher failed to maximize the team’s potential, but his best shot at getting another coaching job will likely come from someone who feels that the work done before McVay’s arrival has been undervalued.

Kansas City forecast for Sunday improves, a bit

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Good news, Chiefs fans. It won’t be as cold as previously expected on Sunday night.

Bad news, Chiefs fans. You’re still going to freeze.

According to Weather.com, the projected high for Sunday in Kansas City has increased to 19 degrees, with the projected low now at 15. Up from one.

That’s good news for the local football team, since the Patriots (specifically, their quarterback) have single-elimination experience in those single-digit conditions. The Chiefs don’t. (Then again, the Chiefs didn’t have playoff experience in the snow, and things worked out well for them on Saturday.)

Regardless, the K.C. deep freeze for now isn’t expected to be quite so deep. Which is nothing else means that folks in attendance won’t be as miserable as they otherwise would have been.

Belichick says Reid is as good as any coach at adjusting with new ideas

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Andy Reid has a long track record as an NFL offensive coach, from his time as a Packers offensive assistant in the 1990s, to his 14 years as head coach of the Eagles, and now in his sixth year as head coach of the Chiefs. But the offense he runs now doesn’t look a lot like that offense in Green Bay a quarter of a century ago.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick says Reid has changed his offense over time, and Belichick admires Reid’s willingness to implement ideas from the outside.

“He’s done a great job of that, probably as good as any coach that I’ve seen. He does a great job taking new ideas, new concepts, and utilizing them in a productive and efficient way, depending on what he’s working with, how they fit into what he’s doing, his personnel,” Belichick said. “He’s very creative, he takes on new ideas, new concepts and develops them within the framework of his system to create more problems for the defense. He does a great job of that. We see it every year, and even in the course of the year, from when we played them in October, has come up with more things that create more of a problem. He’s always tough to go agains, he does a great job of game planning and does an excellent job of developing an offensive system that is very hard to defend.”

Reid has evolved over the years and now has his best offense yet this year with Patrick Mahomes.