National Football League
NFL News Wire
  • NFL notebook: Raiders cleared of Rooney violations but still facing heat
    By Field Level Media / Friday, January 19, 2018

    While the NFL has ruled the Oakland Raiders met Rooney Rule requirements during the process in which Jon Gruden was hired as coach, John Wooten feels differently.

    • The league announced Friday that after its investigation into the matter, the Raiders will face no discipline. Wooten, the chairman of the Fritz Pollard Alliance that promotes diversity in coaching hires, blistered the NFL and the Raiders in a statement.

      "We believe the facts overwhelmingly point in the other direction," Wooten said in a press release. "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 NFL broke ground when it created the Rooney Rule, but it made the wrong call in refusing to penalize Mark Davis in this instance. 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."

      Wooten's comments contrast those he made earlier when he said he thought the Raiders complied with the Rooney Rule, which was installed in 2003 and calls for at least one minority candidate to interview for every head coach and general manager opening. However, the alliance formally requested that the NFL investigate the matter after being "deeply concerned" by Davis' comments at the press conference introducing Gruden.

      --Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen was named Comeback Player of the Year by the Professional Football Writers of America on Friday after producing perhaps the top receiving season in franchise history. Also, Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff was named Most Improved Player of the Year by the PFWA.

      Allen set a franchise record with 102 receptions after missing nearly all of 2016 due to tearing the ACL in his right knee in the opening game. His reception total was fourth in the NFL and he finished third in receiving yardage (1,393). He also had seven 100-yard performances.

      Goff passed for 3,804 yards and 28 touchdowns against seven interceptions while leading the Rams to their first playoff berth since the 2004 season. It was a huge improvement from his rookie season of 2016 when Goff, who was the No. 1 overall draft pick, had more interceptions (seven) than passing touchdowns (five).

      --New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick did not shed any new light about Tom Brady's injured right hand, responding with his typical short answers when pressed about the quarterback's status.

      "Yeah, we gave out the injury report yesterday. We'll update it today," Belichick said at his Friday press conference at Gillette Stadium ahead of Sunday's AFC Championship Game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Patriots later listed Brady as questionable.

      When asked if Brady could be a game-time decision, Belichick said, "Today is Friday." Brady, wearing red gloves on both hands while at the podium, also would not discuss his injured right hand during his twice-postponed press conference on Friday afternoon.

      --Jacksonville Jaguars safety Tashaun Gipson is listed as questionable with a right foot injury for Sunday's AFC Championship Game against the New England Patriots.

      Jaguars coach Doug Marrone is hopeful Gipson could be available to play in the title game after he participated on a limited basis at Friday's practice. Gipson injured his foot during the Jaguars' 45-42 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers in an AFC divisional playoff game last Sunday. He did not practice Wednesday or Thursday.

      Gipson has not missed a game since joining the Jaguars in 2016. He made 64 tackles, broke up seven passes and had four interceptions in 16 games during the regular season.

      --The Minnesota Vikings listed Pro Bowl wide receiver Adam Thielen as questionable for Sunday's NFC Championship Game against the Philadelphia Eagles.

      Thielen, who has been dealing with a lower-back injury this week, was limited in practice Thursday after sitting out Wednesday. He was on the practice field again Friday and he is expected to start Sunday, according to ESPN.

      The 27-year-old Thielen had 91 catches for 1,276 yards and four touchdowns in 16 regular-season games this season. Meanwhile, Vikings safety Andrew Sendejo remains in concussion protocol and is listed as questionable, but he was a full participant in practice Friday and likely will start.

      --New York Jets receiver Robby Anderson faces nine charges after an early morning arrest on Friday in Sunrise, Fla., in which he was pulled over after driving 105 mph and later threatened to sexually assault a police officer's wife.

      According to the Broward County Sheriff's Office police report, Anderson ran two red lights in his sport utility vehicle while being chased by police. After being pulled over, he boasted about how much money he makes and made verbal threats to the officer's family. Anderson was arrested at 2:15 a.m. in Sunrise, located about 10 miles west of Fort Lauderdale.

      Anderson was charged with felony harm to a public servant or family; felony fleeing/eluding while lights/siren active; resisting an officer/obstruction without violence; reckless driving; failure to drive in a single lane; two counts of disobeying/avoiding a red light; speeding; and turning without a signal.

      The 24-year-old Anderson caught 63 passes for 941 yards and seven touchdowns this season. He had 42 receptions for 587 yards and two scores as a rookie in 2016.

      --The New England Patriots named Drew Bledsoe their honorary captain for Sunday's AFC Championship Game against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

      Bledsoe, who is in the team's Hall of Fame, led the Patriots to a berth in Super Bowl XXXI in 1996 with a 20-6 victory over the Jaguars on Jan. 12, 1997, the first time the Patriots ever hosted the AFC Championship Game.

      "Drew Bledsoe played such an integral role in our efforts to rebuild the Patriots," Patriots owner, chairman and CEO Robert Kraft said in a statement Friday. "He gave fans hope for the future by providing many memorable moments during his record-breaking career. For a franchise that had only hosted one playoff game in its first 35 years, winning the AFC Championship Game at home in Foxborough and taking the Patriots to the playoffs for three consecutive years were unimaginable goals prior to his arrival."

      --Field Level Media

  • NFL clears Raiders of Rooney violations; Pollard Alliance upset
    By Field Level Media / Friday, January 19, 2018

    While the NFL has ruled the Oakland Raiders met Rooney Rule requirements during the process in which Jon Gruden was hired as coach, John Wooten feels differently.

    • The league announced Friday that after its investigation into the matter, the Raiders will face no discipline.

      Wooten, the chairman of the Fritz Pollard Alliance that promotes diversity in coaching hires, blistered the NFL and the Raiders in a statement.

      "We believe the facts overwhelmingly point in the other direction," Wooten said in a press release. "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 NFL broke ground when it created the Rooney Rule, but it made the wrong call in refusing to penalize Mark Davis in this instance. 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."

      Wooten's comments contrast those he made earlier when he said he thought the Raiders complied with the Rooney Rule, which was installed in 2003 and calls for at least one minority candidate to interview for every head-coach and general-manager opening. However, the alliance formally requested that the NFL investigate the matter after being "deeply concerned" by Davis' comments at the press conference introducing Gruden.

      Davis and general manager Reggie McKenzie both claim the organization met the requirements by interviewing Southern California offensive coordinator Tee Martin and then-Raiders tight ends coach Bobby Johnson prior to agreeing to contract terms with Gruden.

      However, Davis admitted after the press conference to announce Gruden's appointment that he had been pursuing the team's former coach (from 1998-2001) since taking over control of the club in 2011.

      Davis said he wouldn't have fired Jack Del Rio as coach with three years remaining on his contract if Gruden wasn't agreeable to come back to the Raiders.

      That admission irritated the Fritz Pollard Alliance.

      "We do not doubt that Reggie McKenzie earnestly interviewed Tee Martin, but Mark Davis' singular focus on Jon Gruden meant that McKenzie was interviewing Martin for second place," the Pollard Alliance statement continued. "The Rooney Rule was never meant to prompt consideration of a candidate of color in the event that a white candidate, who faced no competition, declined an offer. It was meant to give candidates of color an opportunity to compete for the first offer.

      "Although Tee Martin is an outstanding coach and may one day be a superb NFL head coach, he has not to date been a serious contender for any NFL head coach position. The only candidate the Club interviewed who was on anyone's prospective head coach list -- minority or non-minority -- was Gruden."

      Gruden, 54, had been out of coaching since being fired by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after the 2008 season. He coached Tampa Bay to the Super Bowl title after the 2002 season and a 57-55 record in seven seasons.

      Gruden went 38-26 during his four-season stint with Oakland.

      He was serving as an ESPN analyst until his hiring by the Raiders.

      --Field Level Media

  • Jets WR Anderson faces nine charges after arrest
    By Field Level Media / Friday, January 19, 2018

    New York Jets receiver Robby Anderson faces nine charges after an early morning arrest on Friday in Sunrise, Fla., in which he was pulled over after driving 105 mph and later threatened to sexually assault a police officer's wife.

    • According to the Broward County Sheriff's Office police report, Anderson ran two red lights in his sport utility vehicle while being chased by police. After being pulled over, he boasted about how much money he makes and made verbal threats to the officer's family.

      Anderson was arrested at 2:15 a.m. in Sunrise, located about 10 miles west of Fort Lauderdale.

      "Based on his statements," the officer wrote in the report, "it was clear that he intended to sexually assault my wife. He also began to brag about how much money he has."

      Anderson was charged with felony harm to a public servant or family; felony fleeing/eluding while lights/siren active; resisting an officer/obstruction without violence; reckless driving; failure to drive in a single lane; two counts of disobeying/avoiding a red light; speeding; and turning without a signal.

      An NFL spokesman confirmed the league is studying Anderson's arrest. The Jets also acknowledged awareness of the incident.

      "We are aware of the situation," a Jets spokesman said. "This is a pending legal matter and we will have no further comment."

      Anderson was also arrested last offseason. On that occasion, he was arrested after a concert in Miami and his charges included felony resisting arrest with violence and obstruction of police. He is scheduled to appear in court for a trial hearing on March 19.

      The 24-year-old Anderson caught 63 passes for 941 yards and seven touchdowns this season. He had 42 receptions for 587 yards and two scores as a rookie in 2016.

      --Field Level Media

  • Vikings WR Thielen questionable but expected to play vs. Eagles
    By Field Level Media / Friday, January 19, 2018

    The Minnesota Vikings listed Pro Bowl wide receiver Adam Thielen as questionable for Sunday's NFC Championship Game against the Philadelphia Eagles.

    • Thielen, who has been dealing with a lower-back injury this week, was limited in practice Thursday after sitting out Wednesday. He was on the practice field again Friday and he is expected to start Sunday, according to ESPN.

      The 27-year-old Thielen had 91 catches for 1,276 yards and four touchdowns in 16 regular-season games this season. In last Sunday's 29-24 divisional playoff win against the New Orleans Saints, he caught six passes for 76 yards.

      Vikings safety Andrew Sendejo remains in concussion protocol and is listed as questionable, but he was a full participant in practice Friday and likely will start. He still must formally be cleared by an independent neurologist in an exam that will take place no later than Saturday.

      In addition, cornerback Mackensie Alexander did not practice Friday because of an illness and is listed as questionable.

      The Vikings ruled out defensive tackle Shamar Stephen with a knee injury.

      Vikings coach Mike Zimmer did not announce whether Sam Bradford or Teddy Bridgewater would back up quarterback Case Keenum. Bradford had that role last weekend.

      Meanwhile, Eagles linebacker Dannell Ellerbe (hamstring) was limited in practice Friday and is listed as questionable. Cornerback Sidney Jones (hamstring) and linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill (ankle) were full participants in Friday's practice.

      --Field Level Media

  • Chargers WR Allen, Rams QB Goff win PFWA awards
    By Field Level Media / Friday, January 19, 2018

    Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen was named Comeback Player of the Year by the Professional Football Writers of America on Friday after producing perhaps the top receiving season in franchise history.

    • Also, Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff was named Most Improved Player of the Year by the PFWA.

      Allen set a franchise record with 102 receptions after missing nearly all of 2016 due to tearing the ACL in his right knee in the opening game. His reception total was fourth in the NFL and he finished third in receiving yardage (1,393). He also had seven 100-yard performances.

      "He was on a mission to get back," Chargers general manager Tom Telesco told the team website. "Once he got back, he was just determined to show what he can do. There are obviously other receivers in the league that are great route runners (but) I don't know if anybody's better than Keenan. ... He just has a natural feel for the game, that I think he's just born with."

      Goff passed for 3,804 yards and 28 touchdowns against seven interceptions while leading the Rams to their first playoff berth since the 2004 season.

      It was a huge improvement from his rookie season of 2016 when Goff, who was the No. 1 overall draft pick, had more interceptions (seven) than passing touchdowns (five).

      --Field Level Media

  • Bledsoe named Patriots' honorary captain for AFC title game
    By Field Level Media / Friday, January 19, 2018

    The New England Patriots named Drew Bledsoe their honorary captain for Sunday's AFC Championship Game against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

    • Bledsoe, who is in the team's Hall of Fame, led the Patriots to a berth in Super Bowl XXXI in 1996 with a 20-6 victory over the Jaguars on Jan. 12, 1997, the first time the Patriots ever hosted the AFC Championship Game.

      "Drew Bledsoe played such an integral role in our efforts to rebuild the Patriots," Patriots owner, chairman and CEO Robert Kraft said in a statement Friday. "He gave fans hope for the future by providing many memorable moments during his record-breaking career. For a franchise that had only hosted one playoff game in its first 35 years, winning the AFC Championship Game at home in Foxborough and taking the Patriots to the playoffs for three consecutive years were unimaginable goals prior to his arrival."

      The Patriots will play in their 14th AFC title game -- the 13th under the ownership of Kraft, the eighth at home and their seventh at Gillette Stadium when they host the Jaguars with a trip to Super Bowl LII on the line. It would be the team's eighth Super Bowl appearance under coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady.

      To help celebrate Championship Sunday, Bledsoe will be a part of the pregame festivities when he will accompany the team captains at midfield for the coin toss prior to the game.

      --Field Level Media

  • Belichick on Brady's status: 'Today is Friday'
    By Field Level Media / Friday, January 19, 2018

    New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick did not shed any new light about Tom Brady's injured right hand on Friday morning, responding with his typical short answers when pressed about the quarterback's status.

    • "Yeah, we gave out the injury report yesterday. We'll update it today," Belichick said at his press conference at Gillette Stadium ahead of Sunday's AFC Championship Game against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

      Belichick's answer was followed with "I don't know, we'll see" when asked for his level of concern about Brady being able to play with the injury Sunday.

      Reporters tried again to find out more, asking Belichick how much Brady's status complicates the planning process.

      "I don't know," the coach responded.

      And when asked if Brady could be a game-time decision, Belichick said, "Today is Friday."

      Brady, wearing red gloves on both hands while at the podium, also would not discuss his injured right hand during his twice-postponed press conference on Friday afternoon.

      "I'm not talking about it," Brady told reporters when asked how confident he is that he will play in the AFC title game. "We'll see,"

      Brady, who is officially listed on the injury report as questionable, repeated the same answer when asked if he threw footballs during Friday's practice.

      Brady only wanted to talk about the Jaguars and their top-rated defense.

      "It's a great challenge," he said. "The team has worked hard to get to this point. It will be a great game. We're playing a team that is great in all three phases. We're going to have to be on the top of our game."

      The 40-year-old Brady jammed his hand when a teammate accidentally ran into him Wednesday, according to multiple reports. He called off his Wednesday press conference to be examined by the Patriots' medical staff and then Thursday pushed the media session to Friday.

      Brady was on the field in a red non-contact jersey with red gloves on both hands Thursday and Friday for on-field stretching, which is the portion of the workout open to media.

      Belichick gave his stock answer when asked if the Patriots had considered adding a third quarterback to their roster.

      "We're going to get ready for Jacksonville. Do the best that we can. Make the best decisions we can for the team to do that. So that's what we're going to do," Belichick said.

      Veteran Brian Hoyer is Brady's backup and the only other quarterback on the roster. He took all the repetitions in Thursday's practice.

      "Brian does a great job for us," Belichick said. "Works hard. Practices hard."

      Running back Dion Lewis said Friday on NFL Network that "it wasn't me" who ran into Brady in practice Wednesday.

      Lewis added "nobody's really worried" about Brady being able to play Sunday.

      "I didn't see it happen," Lewis said. "From what I talked with other guys, I knew he'd be OK. You know, it's Tom. So any situation he's put in, he's going to make it out there on game day. Nobody's really worried."

      Meanwhile, Patriots right tackle LaAdrian Waddle, who is dealing with a knee sprain suffered in last Saturday night's 35-14 divisional playoff win over the Tennessee Titans, participated in warmups Friday. He is listed as questionable. He was seen riding a stationary bike in uniform during the media portions of Wednesday's and Thursday's practices.

      Defensive lineman Alan Branch (knee) and running backs Rex Burkhead (knee) and Mike Gillislee (knee) were limited in Friday's practice. They also are listed as questionable.

      --Field Level Media

  • Report: Broncos WR Sanders not charged in sexual assault case
    By Field Level Media / Thursday, January 18, 2018

    Denver Broncos wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders won't be charged in a reported felony sexual assault in Texas after a grand jury determined there wasn't enough evidence to move forward with the case.

    • The Harris County Sheriff's Office issued a statement Thursday that said Sanders was the subject of an investigation stemming from a June 15 complaint. While details about the case weren't included in the statement, TMZ Sports reported Sanders was accused of sexual assault.

      Sanders has a home in Harris County, having grown up in nearby Austin County.

      "The complaint was thoroughly investigated and all involved parties, including Mr. Sanders, were interviewed by investigators," the statement reads. "Upon completion of the investigation, evidence and witness statements were presented to the Harris County District Attorney's Office to determine whether a criminal charge should be filed. The Harris County District Attorney's Office presented the case to a grand jury, which determined on January 9, 2018 that there was insufficient evidence to support a criminal charge."

      The Broncos released a statement Thursday saying they "are aware of the media report involving Emmanuel Sanders and are looking into it." Meanwhile, NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said the report was "under review."

      Sanders was limited to 12 games in his fourth season with the Broncos because of an ankle injury. The 30-year-old hauled in 47 passes for 555 yards and two touchdowns in 2017.

      Denver inked Sanders to a three-year, $33 million extension prior to the 2016 season, a deal that runs through the 2019 campaign.

      --Field Level Media

  • Falcons GM: Extension for QB Ryan 'No. 1 focus'
    By Field Level Media / Thursday, January 18, 2018

    With quarterback Matt Ryan entering the final year of his contract, the Atlanta Falcons have made it their priority this offseason to reach an extension with the 2016 NFL MVP, general manager Thomas Dimitroff said Thursday.

    • "No real comment, just the fact that it will be a focus this offseason," Dimitroff said. "That's one that, interestingly enough, will help create flexibility in what we're doing [going] forward with a number of moves we may be making. Yes, Matt's focus will be the No. 1 focus."

      Ryan signed a five-year, $103.75 million extension in July 2013 that included $59 million guaranteed. On that deal, he is set to make $19.25 million in 2018, with a $21.65 million cap hit.

      Joining the Falcons as the No. 3 pick out of the 2008 draft, Ryan has amassed a 64.9 percent completion percentage, 41,796 passing yards, 260 touchdowns, 126 interceptions and a passer rating of 93.4 across his 10 NFL seasons.

      The 32-year-old led Atlanta (10-6) to a wild-card berth this season, though his numbers (4,095 passing yards, 20 touchdowns, 12 interceptions) were down significantly from his MVP campaign (4,944, 38, 7). During the 2016 season, the Falcons went 11-5 on their way to losing in the Super Bowl to the New England Patriots.

      Falcons owner Arthur Blank said Ryan "needs to be compensated well, and he will be" ahead of last year's Super Bowl.

      Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford set the bar when he signed his record five-year, $135 million extension last August at 28 years old. He and Ryan share the same agent, Tom Condon.

      "You're always looking at market value," Dimitroff said. "And you're looking at how the cap is going up. And you're looking at a lot of different things, of course. The reality on it is, when you're the quarterback of Matt's caliber, you're going to set a certain tone for how teams are negotiating.

      "I think it's not going to be that difficult of a negotiation, quite honestly. I think we're going to be in a good spot with it. Yeah, we do have to be creative. We always have to be creative."

      Dimitroff also said re-signing 42-year-old kicker Matt Bryant is another priority this offseason.

      --Field Level Media

  • Patriots QB Brady misses Thursday's practice
    By Field Level Media / Thursday, January 18, 2018

    Tom Brady was on the field when the New England Patriots began practice Thursday but was officially designated as "did not practice - hand" on the AFC Championship game injury report.

    • The 40-year-old quarterback jammed his hand when a teammate accidentally ran into him Wednesday, according to reports. He called off his Wednesday press conference to be examined by the Patriots' medical staff and then Thursday pushed the media session to Friday.

      The Jacksonville Jaguars are planning for Brady, head coach Doug Marrone said Thursday.

      "I'm sure he could probably throw left-handed if he has a problem with his right hand and throw just as well," Marrone said.

      Brady was on the field in a red non-contact jersey with red gloves on both hands Thursday for on-field stretching, which is the portion of the workout open to media.

      Based on the injury report, Brady did not work out during the team portion of the practice.

      Right tackle LaAdrian Waddle, who left last week's victory over the Tennessee Titans with a knee injury, also missed another practice Thursday. He rode a stationary bike in his uniform on the sideline.

      Brian Hoyer is Brady's backup and the only other quarterback on the roster. New England has not made a roster move and the Patriots aren't currently carrying a quarterback on the practice squad.

      --Field Level Media

  • NFL Notebook: Patriots QB Brady idled Thursday by sore hand
    By Field Level Media / Thursday, January 18, 2018

    Tom Brady was on the field when the New England Patriots began practice Thursday but was officially designated as "did not practice - hand" on the AFC Championship game injury report.

    • The 40-year-old quarterback jammed his hand when a teammate accidentally ran into him Wednesday, according to reports. He called off his Wednesday press conference to be examined by the Patriots' medical staff and then Thursday pushed the media session to Friday.

      The Jacksonville Jaguars are planning for Brady, head coach Doug Marrone said Thursday.

      "I'm sure he could probably throw left-handed if he has a problem with his right hand and throw just as well," Marrone said.

      -- Youth didn't hold Sean McVay back in his first season as the Los Angeles Rams' head coach.

      The soon-to-be-32-year-old was named Coach of the Year by the Pro Football Writers of America after leading the Rams to an 11-5 record and division title in the NFC West. The campaign marked the Rams' first winning season since 2003. The Rams were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the Atlanta Falcons, losing 26-13 at home.

      Upon his hiring last January, McVay became the youngest head coach in modern NFL history. He took over a 12-loss team a year earlier and reinvented it offensively, going from last in the league in scoring (14.0 points per game) to first (29.9) behind the arm of second-year quarterback Jared Goff and legs of dynamic running back Todd Gurley.

      -- Steve Sarkisian will return as offensive coordinator of the Atlanta Falcons in 2018 as head coach Dan Quinn opened his season-ending press conference with support of him.

      "I know your first question, and I'm not even going to wait for it: So, yes, Sark is coming back in 2018,'' Quinn said during Thursday's season-ending news conference. "And we've done this dance before. Back in 2016, I stood in front of you and we had some conversations about (former coordinator) Kyle Shanahan. And a number of people wanted his head. Well, they're different people, and they're different coaches. But what has stayed the same, and what I learned during that process, is what you're doing in order to build consistency, you better be consistent.''

      The Falcons lost Shanahan to the San Francisco 49ers after their appearance in the Super Bowl last February.

      -- Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt updated football fans on his recovery from a broken leg with the release of a video.

      The 30-second clip shows Watt running on a treadmill and concludes with the three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year flashing a smile and giving two thumbs up.

      Watt went down with a fractured tibial plateau in his left leg suffered in Week 5 against the Kansas City Chiefs, forcing him to miss the rest of the 2017 season.

      -- Three days after the Minnesota Vikings stunned the New Orleans Saints in the divisional playoffs, more than 2,400 Vikings fans have donated $100,000 and counting to Saints punter Thomas Morstead's charity, What You Give Will Grow.

      Morstead announced Tuesday that donations received by the foundation this week from Vikings fans will go to the Children's Minnesota Child Life Program in Minneapolis "as a thank you for the support" following the Saints' defeat. He added in a video on Wednesday that he would fly to Minneapolis during Super Bowl week to personally present a check to the program if donations exceeded $100,000, which happened Wednesday evening.

      The 31-year-old punter sustained torn cartilage in his ribs while making a tackle early in the Sunday game but played through the injury. He was the first Saints player to return from the locker room to the field for the Vikings' extra-point try, which was required by rule, after Stefon Diggs' game-winning touchdown and the chaos that followed on the field.

      -- The driver who rear-ended Leonard Fournette's car Tuesday morning in a highway accident was a Steelers fan whose family attended the Jaguars' playoff win in Pittsburgh, the Jacksonville running back said Thursday.

      "Actually, they had pictures from the game," Fournette said. "I think her in-laws didn't know who I was until everybody started taking pictures with me and then they were like, 'We were at the game going against y'all.'"

      The Jaguars defeated the Steelers 45-42 on Sunday to advance to this weekend's AFC Championship game.

      --Field Level Media

  • Rams' McVay named top coach by PFWA
    By Field Level Media / Thursday, January 18, 2018

    Youth didn't hold Sean McVay back in his first season as the Los Angeles Rams' head coach.

    • The soon-to-be-32-year-old was named Coach of the Year by the Pro Football Writers of America on Thursday after leading the Rams to an 11-5 record and division title in the NFC West. The campaign marked the Rams' first winning season since 2003.

      Upon his hiring last January, McVay became the youngest head coach in modern NFL history. He took over a 12-loss team a year earlier and reinvented it offensively, going from last in the league in scoring (14.0 points per game) to first (29.9) behind the arm of second-year quarterback Jared Goff and legs of dynamic running back Todd Gurley.

      McVay's Rams were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the Atlanta Falcons, losing 26-13 at home.

      Also honored by the Pro Football Writers were Philadelphia Eagles executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman (Executive of the Year) and Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur (Assistant Coach of the Year).

      Shurmur is reportedly expected to be named head coach of the New York Giants when the Vikings' season ends.

      "There's a time and place for everything," he told reporters Thursday regarding the Giants rumors. "This is not the time or the place to talk about that."

      The Pro Football Writers named Gurley its Offensive Player of the Year earlier this week, along with tabbing New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady as its MVP.

      --Field Level Media

  • Fournette: Driver who hit car was Steelers fan
    By Field Level Media / Thursday, January 18, 2018

    The driver who rear-ended Leonard Fournette's car Tuesday morning in a highway accident was a Steelers fan whose family attended the Jaguars' playoff win in Pittsburgh, the Jacksonville running back said Thursday.

    • "Actually, they had pictures from the game," Fournette said. "I think her in-laws didn't know who I was until everybody started taking pictures with me and then they were like, 'We were at the game going against y'all.'"

      The Jaguars defeated the Steelers 45-42 on Sunday to advance to this weekend's AFC Championship game.

      Fournette said the woman apologized after the accident, ESPN reported. There were no injuries.

      "I was good," Fournette said. "I had my seatbelt on so I wasn't really worried. Just making sure everybody was all right and everybody was in great health."

      Fournette said one of the first responders asked if he could have the rear bumper from his car, a 2017 Mercedes Maybach.

      "I was in the car waiting for the police to come and he just came out of nowhere like, 'Man, can you sign this for me?' I'm like, 'You want me to sign a bumper?' And he was like, 'Yeah.'

      "Whatever, it's cool."

      Fournette initially said he wasn't sure about the extent of damage to his car, which has a sticker price of nearly $200,000.

      "I mean, the bumper's probably like $50,000 by itself," he said.

      Later, he told USA Today, "I've got to get a whole new car. But at least nobody got hurt."

      -- Field Level Media

  • Falcons bringing back Sarkisian in 2018
    By Field Level Media / Thursday, January 18, 2018

    Steve Sarkisian will return as offensive coordinator of the Atlanta Falcons in 2018.

    • Head coach Dan Quinn opened his season-ending press conference Thursday with support of Sarkisian.

      "I know your first question, and I'm not even going to wait for it: So, yes, Sark is coming back in 2018,'' Quinn said during Thursday's season-ending news conference. "And we've done this dance before. Back in 2016, I stood in front of you and we had some conversations about (former coordinator) Kyle Shanahan. And a number of people wanted his head. Well, they're different people, and they're different coaches. But what has stayed the same, and what I learned during that process, is what you're doing in order to build consistency, you better be consistent.''

      The Falcons lost Shanahan to the San Francisco 49ers after their appearance in the Super Bowl last February.

      Quinn announced Sarkisian as the replacement at offensive coordinator not long after and addressed an expected learning curve for players and coaches. Perhaps he didn't expect the dramatic decline in output for the Falcons' offense, which averaged 33.8 points per game in 2016 and 22.1 points in 2017.

      Quarterbacks coach Bush Hamdan must be replaced after leaving to be offensive coordinator at the University of Washington.

      Quinn has interviewed multiple candidates, including former Panthers QB coach Ken Dorsey and former Denver Broncos QB coach Greg Knapp.

      Atlanta began the process of evaluating offensive plays, sets and personnel this week, but Quinn said that was a matter of course regardless of the coach or part of the team involved, not an indictment of Sarkisian.

      "To examine what was wrong with our scoring is not an indication on one playcaller or on one player. It's on all of us," Quinn said. "There's plenty of plays Sark would like to have back. There's some throws that Matt would like to have back. I'm sure there were some drops from our receivers, our tight ends, and our running backs that they would like to have back. And myself, some calls that I'd like to have back. But placing blame on one person would be wrong in this instance.''

      --Field Level Media

  • Fournette, Jaguars primed to challenge champion Patriots
    By Field Level Media / Thursday, January 18, 2018

    FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- One franchise is the established winner, heavy favorite and earned its reputation by thriving in situations like Sunday's AFC Championship game.

    • The challenger and 10-point under Jacksonville Jaguars (12-6) are new to the party, having gone 1-10 against the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots (14-3) all-time and 0-10 since the 1999 wildcard game.

      "I think we're going to have to play our best game of the year," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said of the matchup.

      Nothing else would be expected from Belichick from those familiar with his pregame styling.

      But the Patriots stand out by nearly every measure. Jacksonville has seven combined conference championship game appearances on its entire roster. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady will start his 12th on Sunday.

      "I have never talked about experience, so I don't really think it is a relevant conversation," Belichick said. "I think that the team that plays well on Sunday, that will be the team that is victorious. We are talking about how teams go compete on Sunday. That is what is going to determine the winner in that competition."

      Perhaps a winning history on this stage will help Belichick and Brady.

      With five Super Bowl rings, Brady has the decided edge in experience -- and based on his trophy case, also the advantage in excellence -- over the Jaguars' Blake Bortles. Brady returned only to limited participation in practice Thursday after an injury to his throwing hand sent him to the trainer's room on Wednesday. Brady will play Sunday, teammates said, but might opt for gloves on both hands for security and stability as he used Thursday in side-session work.

      "I'm sure he can probably throw it left-handed if he had a problem with the right hand," Jaguars coach Doug Marrone said Thursday, recalling seeing Brady four times while serving as head coach of the Buffalo Bills from 2013-14. "It's always amazing when you go out (for pregame) and watch him. You see a lot of quarterbacks who have to go out and have to warm up. He can literally go pick up a ball and throw it and you would think that he's ready to go. When you're in this league, you watch a lot of quarterbacks warm up and they all warm up and get themselves ready to go. I really think he's one of the most naturally gifted throwers that I personally have ever seen. He can pick the ball up any day and just throw it."

      There have been few doubts about the stability the 40-year-old Brady brings the Patriots. Even operating this season without his favorite wide receiver, Julian Edelman, Brady led the NFL in passing yards and New England was No. 1 in the league in passing.

      Jacksonville boasts the No. 1 passing defense in the NFL. But last week pressure was hard to come by for long stretches against the Steelers, and big plays were there throughout for Ben Roethlisberger because of it. At one point in the third quarter he had a streak of 14 consecutive completions.

      If all goes according to plan for the Jaguars, the key on offense is the front five blocking to drive wedges in the Patriots' maligned run defense and running back Leonard Fournette putting Jacksonville on his back.

      Fournette slashed through the Steelers for 109 rushing yards and three touchdowns. New England's run defense was stomped by some of the best in the NFL this season -- Kareem Hunt of the Chiefs went for 148 yards, Melvin Gordon of the Chargers had 132, LeSean McCoy had a 164-yard day for the Bills and Kenyan Drake of the Dolphins put up 134 rushing yards.

      New England has tightened its 20th-ranked run defense in the past three games, allowing 2.8 yards per carry (136 yards on 49 carries). Jacksonville was undefeated when it got at least 93 rushing yards this season.

      "That's the biggest thing," Patriots defensive lineman Ricky Jean-Francois said. "Once they've got that rolling, you can't stop it."

      Bortles and the Jacksonville offense are not built for exchanging blows with the big-play Patriots. Entering the fourth quarter at Pittsburgh, Bortles was just 9 of 21 passing and had only two completions to wide receivers. In the wildcard win over Buffalo, he had 87 passing yards, 88 rushing yards.

      On the injury report, Bortles is listed with a wrist injury but he is taking every snap with the first-team offense in preparation for a tall mission Sunday afternoon.

      Free safety Tashaun Gipson (foot) is the only player the Jaguars listed as missing Thursday's practice. He is expected to play Sunday.

      "He's trending in the right way," Marrone sad.

      --Jeff Reynolds, Field Level Media

  • Texans star DE Watt releases video of rehab work
    By Field Level Media / Thursday, January 18, 2018

    Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt updated football fans on his recovery from a broken leg with the release on a video Thursday.

    • The 30-second clip shows Watt running on a treadmill and concludes with the three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year flashing a smile and giving two thumbs up.

      Watt went down with a fractured tibial plateau in his left leg suffered in Week 5 against the Kansas City Chiefs, forcing him to miss the rest of the 2017 season.

      Watt said earlier this month that he is on pace to return to the field for training camp.

      Watt has amassed 76 career sacks in his seven seasons, including two NFL single-season sack titles with 20.5 sacks each in 2012 and 2014. He did not miss a game in his first five pro seasons before missing all but three in 2016 as the result of a back injury that required surgery.

      -- Field Level Media

  • Vikings counting on ‘D’ in NFC Championship
    By Field Level Media / Thursday, January 18, 2018

    PHILADELPHIA -- Everything is magnified on the road to the Super Bowl.

    • The Philadelphia Eagles are fully aware of that fact as they prepare to host the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Championship Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field.

      The No. 1-seeded Eagles (14-3) won a thrilling 15-10 game against the Atlanta Falcons while the Vikings (14-3) defeated the New Orleans Saints 29-24 in one of the craziest finishes in NFL history. Wide receiver Stefon Diggs caught a 61-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Case Keenum on the final play of the game.

      "Listen, we all understand what's at stake with this weekend," Eagles head coach Doug Pederson said. "It's a great opportunity, again, for our team and for the Philadelphia Eagles. That's the challenge, in probably our case and in the Vikings' case is coming off these emotional, close victories, and then having to turn around and do it again. And so I've just got to make sure that I continue to stay aggressive with the week of practice and prepare the guys just like we have the last couple of weeks and just try to stay in our lane and try to block out some of the noise."

      The Eagles haven't advanced to the Super Bowl since the 2004 season when they defeated the Falcons 27-10 in the NFC Championship before falling to the New England Patriots.

      Philadelphia hasn't participated in an NFC Championship since the '08 season when they lost 32-25 at Arizona.

      Not that long ago, quarterback Nick Foles pondered retirement. Now he's the starter for the Eagles against his former backup with the St. Louis Rams in one of the biggest games in franchise history.

      "I feel like every person goes through moments in their life where it's a big decision moment. And that was it for me," said Foles, who was 23 for 30 for 246 yards against the Falcons. "And I'm glad I went through it. And I said in my interview earlier, that I'm a better person, better player, better father, better husband because of what I went through and having to decide that because I decided that with my family. It's unbelievable to be up here. It's very humbling to be up here and to go to the NFC Championship game with the Philadelphia Eagles. It's been a crazy ride, and I'm excited that I get to do it with these guys."

      The Vikings lean on a nasty defense with standouts at every level of the unit, from defensive end Everson Griffen (13 sacks this season) to linebacker Anthony Barr, cornerback Xavier Rhodes and safety Harrison Smith. They take on an Eagles' offense sputtering since Foles stepped in for Carson Wentz in December at less than 280 yards per game. That total would rank dead last in the NFL if projected over a 16-game season.

      The Vikings are looking for their first berth in the Super Bowl since the '76 season in Super Bowl XI. They are 0-4 all-time in the Super Bowl and have lost five consecutive times in the NFC Championship.

      The Vikings have never defeated Philadelphia in the playoffs with an 0-3 record.

      Minnesota has a terrific chance following their exciting victory over the Saints. The Vikings led the NFL in points allowed per game with just 15.8 being scored against them.

      Linebacker Eric Kendricks paced the Vikings with 136 tackles and Smith equaled his career-high with five interceptions.

      Despite the ultra-successful regular season and unbelievable playoff win, the Vikings realize that they need to play better to advance again.

      "I told them basically the same thing; we can't make these mistakes in playoff games or we'll be going home," Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer told reporters. "There's always good and always bad in some of the games, but we made some critical errors in that game that could have gotten us beat."

      The Vikings last faced the Eagles in the playoffs in the '08 season and lost in the wild card round.

      --Andy Jasner, Field Level Media

  • Take 5: Keys to the NFC Championship game
    By Field Level Media / Thursday, January 18, 2018

    PHILADELPHIA - Drama was thick in the divisional round of the NFC playoff for the Philadelphia Eagles and Minnesota Vikings.

    • Cornerback Jalen Mills obstructed Julio Jones from catching a potential game-winning touchdown on fourth-and-goal from 2-yard line, giving the Eagles a 15-10 win over the Atlanta Falcons.

      Minnesota wide receiver Stefon Diggs caught an incredible 61-yard touchdown from quarterback Case Keenum for a dramatic 29-24 walk-off win over the New Orleans Saints.

      As a result, the No. 2-seeded Vikings will visit the top-seeded Eagles in the NFC Championship Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field. Keenum against Nick Foles is hardly what any expert could have predicted before the season at quarterback.

      One of these teams will advance to the Super Bowl and attempt to capture the Lombardi Trophy for the first time in franchise history. The Vikings are 0-4 and the Eagles are 0-2 all-time in the Super Bowl.

      Here are the five matchups that will determine the outcome of Sunday's NFC Championship in Philadelphia:

      5. Vikings WR Stefon Diggs vs. Eagles CB Jalen Mills.

      Diggs continued his stellar play in the postseason with the spectacular game-winning score against the Saints. During the regular season, Diggs had 64 receptions for 849 yards and eight touchdowns. Mills had an up-and-down season with many solid moments. Though Mills struggled in the final few games, he came up huge in the biggest defensive play of the season against an elite receiver last week. Diggs has plenty of speed and strength and has the ability to get deep with double moves.

      4. Vikings DE Everson Griffen vs. Eagles LT Halapoulivaati Vaitai.

      Vaitai more than held his own against Falcons defensive end Vic Beasley. Facing Griffen will be an even more daunting challenge. Griffen had 13 sacks during the regular season and was disruptive on a consistent basis against the run. Vaitai must keep Foles upright throughout the game. In addition, the Eagles will look to establish the run and Vaitai must control Griffen for the bulk of the snaps to avoid third-and-long situations. Vaitai surely gained confidence with the playoff win and he'll need an even stronger performance to contain Griffen.

      3. Vikings QB Case Keenum vs. Eagles DE Brandon Graham.

      Keenum's remarkable season will continue following the miracle finish against the Saints. The backup quarterback has played at a high level the entire season with 3,547 yards passing, 22 touchdowns and only seven interceptions. Graham registered 9.5 sacks and wasn't even picked for the Pro Bowl. Graham's penetration through the offensive line will be needed and that's his major skill set. Look for Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz to call for a number of plays in the blitz package to break Graham through the line.

      2. Vikings CB Terence Newman vs. Eagles WR Nelson Agholor.

      The Eagles have an advantage with Agholor's speed and ability to catch balls in the slot and deep down the field. The Eagles also utilized Agholor in a different way with a couple of carries out of the backfield against the Falcons. Newman is vulnerable with Agholor's array of skills and the Eagles can take advantage of this matchup even more in the early stages of the game before the teams settle down. Agholor caught three passes for 24 yards and rushed twice for 21 yards against Atlanta.

      1. Vikings DE Brian Robison vs. Eagles RB Jay Ajayi.

      Robison is the longest-tenured player on the Vikings' defense and he'll be tested against Ajayi as the Eagles try to establish the run throughout the game. Robison joined the Vikings in 2007 and if the they're able to advance to the Super Bowl, stopping Ajayi before he gets momentum behind his pads to truck through the second level of the defense will be vital. Ajayi rushed 15 times for 54 yards and added three receptions for 44 yards though he did lose one fumble. The Eagles acquired Ajayi for a fourth-round draft pick from the Miami Dolphins and he'll look to expose Robison through the Vikings' solid defensive line.

      FLM prediction: Vikings 14, Eagles 13.

      --Andy Jasner, Field Level Media

  • Report: Patriots QB Brady won't be hindered by hand injury
    By Field Level Media / Thursday, January 18, 2018

    New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was limited Wednesday with a hand injury but is expected to be ready for the AFC Championship game on Sunday.

    • According to ESPN, Brady "should be OK," but a second source told the network it could affect him slightly against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

      Brady canceled his session with media Wednesday and the Patriots announced he was meeting with the team's medical personnel. Tests including X-rays revealed no structural damage.

      Cornerback Eric Rowe said he saw "The same old Tom out there," after Wednesday's practice despite the team designating Brady as limited.

      The Patriots were scheduled to practice Thursday at 12:15 p.m. ET. New England did not make a roster move. Only two quarterbacks, Brady and backup Brian Hoyer, are on the roster and none are on the practice squad as of Thursday.

      Brady has missed his Wednesday media session multiple times to receive treatment on other injuries. A tender Achilles and throwing shoulder put him on the injury report multiple times this season.

      At 40, Brady was named Pro Football Writers of America Most Valuable Player for the 2017, his third PFWA MVP honor.

  • HOF finalist Urlacher faces lawsuit from child's mother
    By Field Level Media / Wednesday, January 17, 2018

    The mother of Brian Urlacher's son filed a lawsuit against the Pro Football Hall of Fame finalist, alleging that he and others tried to "paint her as a murderer" after the death of her husband in 2016, according to a Wednesday report from TMZ.

    • Tyna Karageorge, who formerly was known as Tyna Robertson, had a son with Urlacher in 2005. She later married and had custody of the child when her husband, Ryan Karageorge, died from a gunshot wound following an argument with her. Urlacher received temporary custody of the boy, then 11 years old, after filing an emergency motion in court and citing "suspicious circumstances" surrounding the incident.

      A medical examiner later determined that Ryan Karageorge died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Tyna Karageorge reportedly maintains that Urlacher and others tried to persuade the public that the shooting was not a suicide in order to help the ex-Chicago Bears linebacker gain custody of the boy.

      Tyna Karageorge is seeking $125 million in the lawsuit, which was filed in the Chicago suburb of Bridgeview, Ill. Other parties listed as defendants in the suit include the Chicago Tribune and one of its reporters who covered the story following Ryan Karageorge's death.

      Urlacher retired following the 2012 season and recently was named as one of 15 Pro Football Hall of Fame finalists. The 2018 Hall of Fame class will be announced Feb. 3, the day before the Super Bowl.

      --Field Level Media

  • Vikings fans donate to Saints punter's foundation
    By Field Level Media / Wednesday, January 17, 2018

    Three days after the Minnesota Vikings stunned the New Orleans Saints in the divisional playoffs, more than 2,400 Vikings fans have donated $100,000 and counting to Saints punter Thomas Morstead's charity, What You Give Will Grow.

    • Morstead announced Tuesday that donations received by the foundation this week from Vikings fans will go to the Children's Minnesota Child Life Program in Minneapolis "as a thank you for the support" following the Saints' defeat. He added in a video on Wednesday that he would fly to Minneapolis during Super Bowl week to personally present a check to the program if donations exceeded $100,000, which happened Wednesday evening.

      "Hi, Minnesota, you guys are officially ridiculous -- $100,000 raised ...," Morstead said in a video posted on the charity's website. "That is incredible. I am totally blown away. I will book my flights tonight. I will be there the week of the Super Bowl. ... You guys should all be proud of yourselves. That's a group effort, and it's going to affect everybody in your community in a positive way.

      "I'm just totally humbled by this. I may be forced to root for you guys all the way through the Super Bowl now."

      The 31-year-old punter sustained torn cartilage in his ribs while making a tackle early in the Sunday game but played through the injury. He was the first Saints player to return from the locker room to the field for the Vikings' extra-point try, which was required by rule, after Stefon Diggs' game-winning touchdown and the chaos that followed on the field.

      After the game, a Vikings fan made a post on Reddit encouraging others to donate to Morstead's charity out of respect for the punter's effort.

      This is the third time in recent weeks that fans have offered a flood of donations to a player on an opposing team. Buffalo faithful gave more than $350,000 to Andy Dalton's charity after Dalton led the Cincinnati Bengals to a win in Week 17 that sent the Bills to the playoffs, breaking a 17-year drought.

      Meanwhile, Bengals fans donated at least $5,000 this week to Blake Bortles' charity after the Jacksonville Jaguars knocked Cincy's biggest rival, the Pittsburgh Steelers, out of the playoffs.

      --Field Level Media

  • NFL notebook: Steelers part ways with OC Haley
    By Field Level Media / Wednesday, January 17, 2018

    Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley will not return for the 2018 season, ending a six-year run with the team, and quarterbacks coach Randy Fichtner is expected to replace him.

    • The 50-year-old Haley's contract is expiring and he won't get a new deal to remain in Pittsburgh, head coach Mike Tomlin announced Wednesday.

      "I have made the decision to not renew the contract for offensive coordinator Todd Haley," Tomlin said in a statement. "I would like to thank Todd for his contributions to our offense the past six years, and we wish him the best in his coaching future."

      The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported later Wednesday that the team is prepared to promote Fichtner to offensive coordinator, pending final approval of his contract. Fichtner coached in college from 1986 to 2006, serving as offensive coordinator at Arkansas State (1997 to 2000) and Memphis (2001-2006). He has spent all 11 of his NFL seasons with the Steelers, spending three years as wide receivers coach before moving to QBs in 2010.

      --New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was named the 2017 NFL Most Valuable Player by the Professional Football Writers of America.

      The PFWA also announced that Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley was voted Offensive Player of the Year and Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Calais Campbell was selected Defensive Player of the Year.

      Brady passed for a league-leading 4,577 yards with 32 touchdowns and just eight interceptions, Gurley rushed for 1,305 yards (second in the NFL) and 13 touchdowns and also caught a team-high 64 passes for 788 yards and six touchdowns, and Campbell had 67 total tackles, an AFC-leading and team record 14.5 sacks (second in the NFL) and three forced fumbles.

      --With Championship Sunday drawing near, both favored teams have an injury to a star player listed on Wednesday's report.

      New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was limited with a right hand injury and missed his regular media availability because he was with the team's medical staff, the Patriots announced. According to a Boston Herald report, Brady jammed the hand in an accidental collision during practice, but X-rays showed no structural damage.

      Meanwhile, Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen missed Wednesday's practice with a low back injury. The 27-year-old Thielen was not on the team's injury report last week. Vikings nose tackle Shamar Stephen (knee/ankle) also missed Wednesday's practice, while safety Andrew Sendejo (concussion) and cornerback Mackensie Alexander (ribs) were limited.

      --Minnesota Vikings quarterback Case Keenum was struggling to recall the prognosticator who predicted the 2018 NFC Championship Game starting quarterbacks: Keenum and his former teammate, Nick Foles of the Philadelphia Eagles.

      Keenum congratulated anyone who saw the Keenum-Foles title game coming prior to this season on Wednesday as the Vikings took the field to begin preparation for the Eagles. Philadelphia, the No. 1 seed in the NFC, will host Minnesota on Sunday.

      "I know this is what all of you guys predicted back in the day, a Foles vs. Keenum NFC Championship. So good job to all of you guys who predicted that," Keenum said with a sly smile.

      Of course, no educated observer would have guessed Keenum, who started the season as the ideal No. 3 quarterback behind Sam Bradford and Teddy Bridgewater in Minnesota, would be dueling with Foles for a shot at the Super Bowl in January. Foles became Philadelphia's starter due to Carson Wentz's season-ending knee injury.

      --Pittsburgh Steelers offensive line coach Mike Munchak turned down a second interview for the Arizona Cardinals' head-coaching job, according to ESPN's Chris Mortensen.

      Munchak, 57, reportedly met with Arizona during the Steelers' wild-card weekend bye. Munchak, who has been Pittsburgh's offensive line coach since 2014, was head coach of the Tennessee Titans for three seasons. He compiled a 22-26 record with the Titans (2011-13) and was fired after he refused to make requested changes in his coaching staff.

      Other candidates who interviewed for the vacancy in Arizona include New England Patriots linebackers coach Brian Flores and Philadelphia Eagles quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo. The Cardinals are seeking a replacement for Bruce Arians, who announced his retirement on Jan. 1 after five seasons with the Cardinals.

      --By virtue of winning five Super Bowls during the ongoing reign of coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady, the New England Patriots are favorites this time of year, an idea Jacksonville Jaguars coach Doug Marrone views as undisputed fact.

      New England is favored by 9.5 points Sunday in the AFC Championship Game against the Jaguars, who upset the No. 2 seed in the AFC last week with a 45-42 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers.

      "When you're playing against New England, who hasn't been an underdog?" Marrone quipped.

      --The New York Jets will move on from offensive coordinator John Morton after one season with the team, according to multiple reports.

      According to the New York Daily News, which first reported the story, quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates is "a strong candidate" to fill the coordinator vacancy, but it is not a done deal yet.

      The Jets finished 28th in yards per game and 24th in points in 2017, Morton's first season as a coordinator in the NFL. Morton spent the previous six years coaching wide receivers for the San Francisco 49ers and New Orleans Saints, after a four-year stint at USC as wide receivers coach and then offensive coordinator.

      --Gene Steratore will serve as referee for Super Bowl LII, the NFL announced.

      Steratore has never been referee for the Super Bowl, though he served as an alternate for Super Bowl XLIV. He leads a seven-person crew of on-field officials that includes Roy Ellison (umpire), Jerry Bergman (down judge), Byron Boston (line judge), Tom Hill (field judge), Scott Edwards (side judge) and Perry Paganelli (back judge). Paul Weidner is the replay official.

      Steratore also worked last Sunday's NFC divisional playoff game between the Minnesota Vikings and New Orleans Saints. The 54-year-old has officiated 11 playoff games, including two conference championships, and is in his 15th season as an NFL game official after entering the league as a field judge in 2003 and being promoted to referee in 2006.

      --Miami Dolphins wide receiver Jarvis Landry says contract talks have been "disrespectful" but he still wants to remain with the team.

      The Dolphins made an offer to Landry's agent, Damarius Bilbo, in early December and he made a counter offer in mid-December, according to the Miami Herald. The Dolphins have not yet responded to that offer, Bilbo told the newspaper.

      Landry, 25, can become an unrestricted free agent in March. He had an NFL-leading 112 receptions this season for 987 yards and nine touchdowns, and has 400 receptions for 4,038 yards and 22 touchdowns in four seasons, making the Pro Bowl after the 2015 and 2016 seasons.

      --Seattle Seahawks cornerback Jeremy Lane recorded a blood-alcohol-content level below the legal limit during his arrest for driving under the influence Sunday morning, but Lane admitted to using marijuana before driving, according to a police report.

      The report states Lane was concerned about people thinking he was drunk, quoting him as saying, "This time I was more high than anything."

      Lane, 27, was pulled over by a Washington State Patrol officer east of Seattle on Interstate 90 for going 80 mph in a 60-mph zone. According to the report, his hazard lights were on and his vehicle was drifting and changing lanes without signaling. Traveling with one passenger, Lane said he was going home because his alarm system had been triggered.

      --Field Level Media

  • Reports: Jets fire OC Morton after one season
    By Field Level Media / Wednesday, January 17, 2018

    The New York Jets will move on from offensive coordinator John Morton after one season with the team, according to multiple reports Wednesday.

    • According to the New York Daily News, which first reported the story, quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates is "a strong candidate" to fill the coordinator vacancy, but it is not a done deal yet.

      The Jets finished 28th in yards per game and 24th in points in 2017, Morton's first season as a coordinator in the NFL. Prior to quarterback Josh McCown's season-ending injury in Week 14, New York ranked 17th in yards per game and tied for 10th in offensive points per game, despite cutting veterans Nick Mangold and Brandon Marshall last offseason and losing wideout Quincy Enunwa to a season-ending neck injury in August.

      Morton spent the previous six years coaching wide receivers for the San Francisco 49ers and New Orleans Saints, after a four-year stint at USC as wide receivers coach and then offensive coordinator.

      Bates joined the Jets last offseason for his second stint as quarterbacks coach, after holding the same position for one year in 2005. He has one year of experience as an offensive coordinator, in 2010 with the Seattle Seahawks, and was out of coaching from 2013-16. He previously spent time with the Chicago Bears, Denver Broncos and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

      --Field Level Media

  • Steratore to ref Super Bowl LII
    By Field Level Media / Wednesday, January 17, 2018

    Gene Steratore will serve as referee for Super Bowl LII, the NFL announced Wednesday.

    • Steratore has never been referee for the Super Bowl, though he served as an alternate for Super Bowl XLIV. He leads a seven-person crew of on-field officials that includes Roy Ellison (umpire), Jerry Bergman (down judge), Byron Boston (line judge), Tom Hill (field judge), Scott Edwards (side judge) and Perry Paganelli (back judge). Paul Weidner is the replay official.

      To be eligible for the Super Bowl, officials must rate in the top tier at their position, have at least five years of NFL experience and have previous playoff assignments. Steratore also worked last Sunday's NFC divisional playoff game between the Minnesota Vikings and New Orleans Saints.

      The 54-year-old has officiated 11 playoff games, including two conference championships, and is in his 15th season as an NFL game official after entering the league as a field judge in 2003 and being promoted to referee in 2006.

      Steratore made headlines last month when he used an index card to help measure a first down during a Week 15 game between the Dallas Cowboys and Oakland Raiders. An NFL spokesman said afterward that the decision was "very unusual" but did not violate league rules. Several days later, senior vice president of officiating Al Riveron told officials to no longer use index cards or any other foreign objects to measure ball placement.

      Super Bowl LII will be played Sunday, Feb. 4 at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.

      --Field Level Media

  • Brady (hand) limited; Thielen (back) misses practice
    By Field Level Media / Wednesday, January 17, 2018

    With Championship Sunday drawing near, both favored teams have an injury to a star player listed on Wednesday's report.

    • New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was limited with a right hand injury and missed his regular media availability because he was with the team's medical staff, the Patriots announced.

      According to a Boston Herald report, Brady jammed the hand in an accidental collision during practice, but X-rays showed no structural damage.

      It's the first time this season that Brady has been on the report for an injury to his throwing hand. He missed practice or was limited due to two other injuries -- his left shoulder (Weeks 6 and 17) and Achilles (Weeks 12-15, 17).

      The 40-year-old played 78 of 81 snaps in Saturday night's divisional playoff win against the Tennessee Titans, with backup Brian Hoyer handling three kneel-downs to end the game. Brady finished with 337 passing yards, three touchdowns and a 102.5 rating in the 35-14 win.

      All four of the others listed on New England's injury report -- Alan Branch, Rex Burkhead, Mike Gillislee, LaAdrian Waddle -- got in limited practices with knee injuries in preparation for Sunday's AFC title game against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

      Cornerback Jonathan Jones was placed on injured reserve with an injury he suffered Saturday against the Tennessee Titans. A core special-teamer, Jones started four games this season, recording 44 tackles, eight passes defensed and an interception.

      Meanwhile, Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen missed Wednesday's practice with a low back injury.

      The 27-year-old Thielen was not on the team's injury report last week. He played 77 of 81 snaps in Sunday's 29-24 win over the New Orleans Saints, making six catches for 74 yards. He has played in all 50 possible games (including playoffs) since making the Vikings' 53-man roster in 2014.

      Vikings nose tackle Shamar Stephen (knee/ankle) also missed Wednesday's practice, while safety Andrew Sendejo (concussion) and cornerback Mackensie Alexander (ribs) were limited.

      Sendejo's participation is a good sign after he was concussed in a collision with Saints receiver Michael Thomas on Sunday, giving him a chance to clear protocol in time to play against the Philadelphia Eagles.

      --Field Level Media