NFL and College Football Articles

NFL and College Football Articles

Report: Kitna to become Cowboys QB coach

Report: Kitna to become Cowboys QB coach

Former NFL quarterback Jon Kitna is in line to become the new

Report: Kitna to become Cowboys QB coach

Former NFL quarterback Jon Kitna is in line to become the new quarterbacks coach of the Dallas Cowboys, ESPN reported Sunday.

Kitna is currently the offensive coordinator for the San Diego Fleet in the Alliance of American Football, a league that begins play next month.

Current Cowboys quarterbacks coach Kellen Moore is the leading candidate to become the Cowboys’ offensive coordinator, according to ESPN.

Dallas recently parted ways with offensive coordinator Scott Linehan after four seasons in that role. Linehan spent five seasons as the primary play caller.

There is a possibility that Cowboys coach Jason Garrett will call plays in 2019.

Kitna spent seven seasons as a high school football coach before agreeing to join the Fleet, who are coached by former NFL head coach Mike Martz.

Kitna, 46, played 14 NFL seasons, including two with the Cowboys in 2010-11. He also came out of retirement to be on the roster for one game in 2013. He passed for 29,745 yards, 169 touchdowns and 165 interceptions with the Seattle Seahawks, Cincinnati Bengals, Detroit Lions and Cowboys.

The 2018 season was Moore’s first as quarterbacks coach after retiring as a player.

Moore, 29, played in three NFL games for Dallas in 2015 and passed for 779 yards, four touchdowns and six interceptions in 104 passing attempts.

–Field Level Media

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Report: NFL to wrap up Hunt investigation by March

Report: NFL to wrap up Hunt investigation by March

Report: NFL to wrap up Hunt investigation by March

The NFL is expected to finish its investigation into three different off-field incidents involving running back Kareem Hunt and decide on a final punishment before free agency opens in March, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.

Rapoport reported Sunday that Hunt is expected to face a suspension of six-plus games but is likely to be back on the field at some point in the 2019 season.

The former Kansas City Chiefs running back was released by the team in November after TMZ released a video showing Hunt pushing and kicking then-19-year-old Abigail Ottinger from Berea, Ohio, in Cleveland last February.

Hunt also allegedly was involved in an altercation at a restaurant last June, an incident the NFL was aware of and questioned the running back about. However, TMZ also reported that Hunt was involved in a violent incident last January at a nightclub in Kansas City, an altercation the NFL did not previously know about, according to ESPN.

In that incident, TMZ reported that Hunt and others — including then-Chiefs running back George Atkinson — beat a man to the point of unconsciousness at a nightclub in Kansas City on Jan. 11.

The NFL placed Hunt, the 2017 rushing leader, on the commissioner’s exempt list while it investigates all three incidents, meaning Hunt is unable to play for any team that might sign him.

Hunt went unclaimed on waivers and is officially a free agent.

Hunt, 23, is from the Cleveland suburb of Willoughby and spends a significant part of his offseason in the area. He played college football at Toledo and burst onto the scene as a third-round draft pick in 2017.

Hunt rushed for an NFL-best 1,327 yards as a rookie. He had 824 yards through 11 games this season.

–Field Level Media

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Report: Berry to play, but surgery likely after season

Report: Berry to play, but surgery likely after season

Report: Berry to play, but surgery likely after season

Kansas City Chiefs safety Eric Berry is expected to play in Sunday’s AFC Championship Game against the New England Patriots, but he’ll likely need surgery to repair a lingering heel injury after the season, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported Sunday.

Rapoport said the heel will be examined further whenever the Chiefs’ season ends, and that corrective surgery is the likely outcome.

Berry was removed from the injury report following Friday’s practice, his third straight day as a full participant.

“I feel pretty good,” Berry told reporters after the practice.

The five-time Pro Bowl selection missed the preseason and the first 13 regular-season games because of the heel injury. He played in two regular-season games in December before missing the finale after reinjuring it, and he also missed last weekend’s divisional-round victory over the Indianapolis Colts.

“I wanted to go in that game,” Berry told reporters of the Colts’ game. “Just a lot of complications that I can’t really explain. Hopefully this weekend it will be different.

“Right now, I just know it’s moving in the right direction and I want to get on the field on Sunday.”

–Field Level Media

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NFL fines Colts DL Autry, Rams CB Peters

NFL fines Colts DL Autry, Rams CB Peters

The NFL has

NFL fines Colts DL Autry, Rams CB Peters

The NFL has fined Indianapolis Colts defensive lineman Denico Autry and Los Angeles Rams cornerback Marcus Peters for separate incidents in last weekend’s divisional playoffs, NFL Network reported Saturday.

Autry was fined $13,369 for his hip-swiveling celebratory dance after sacking Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes in the third quarter of the Colts’ 31-13 loss, according to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero.

Autry, whose performed his celebration directly in front of an official, was also penalized 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct.

Peters was fined $10,026 for unnecessary roughness during the Rams’ 30-22 win against the Dallas Cowboys, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.

Peters drew a 15-yard flag after shoving receiver Amari Cooper out of bounds after a fourth-down run by Ezekiel Elliott.

–Field Level Media

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Report: Cardinals hire Clements, won’t have OC

Report: Cardinals hire Clements, won't have OC

The Arizona Cardinals will hire former

Report: Cardinals hire Clements, won’t have OC

The Arizona Cardinals will hire former Green Bay Packers assistant Tom Clements as their passing game coordinator/quarterbacks coach, NFL Network reported Saturday.

The network also reported the Cardinals are not expected to hire an offensive coordinator, despite interviewing a number of candidates.

New head coach Kliff Kingsbury will run his own offense and call plays, but he said at his introductory press conference he hoped to hired a veteran coordinator with NFL experience. Clements, who was the Packers’ OC from 2012-2014 and led the Buffalo Bills’ offense from 2004-05, brings experience to the staff, without the coordinator title.

Clements, 65, helped groom Aaron Rodgers while serving as the Packers’ quarterbacks coach from 2006-11 before his promotion to coordinator, and he was the team’s assistant head coach from 2015-16. Clements will now be charged with developing 2018 first-round pick Josh Rosen, a friend of Rodgers’ who struggled behind a poor offensive line as a rookie.

According to various reports, the Cardinals interviewed at least five other former offensive coordinators before hiring Clements:

–Jim Bob Cooter, ex-Detroit coordinator, whose contract was not renewed by the Lions.

–John DeFilippo, fired by Minnesota late in the season but hired by Jacksonville to be OC.

–Steve Sarkisian, ex-Atlanta coordinator who reportedly turned down the Cardinals’ job to return to Alabama.

–Ben McAdoo, former coordinator and head coach with New York Giants.

–Hue Jackson, former Cleveland head coach and Cincinnati coordinator.

Jackson reportedly interviewed for the job on Friday. He spent the second half of the 2018 season with the Bengals after being fired in October by the Browns, ending a tenure of two-plus years in which he went 3-36-1.

–Field Level Media

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Jaguars sign S Wilson to 3-year extension

Jaguars sign S Wilson to 3-year extension

The Jacksonville Jaguars have

Jaguars sign S Wilson to 3-year extension

The Jacksonville Jaguars have signed safety Jarrod Wilson to a three-year contract extension, the team announced Saturday.

Wilson, who turns 25 next month, was set to become a restricted free agent in March.

Originally signed by the Jaguars as an undrafted free agent in May 2016, Wilson has appeared in 47 games and has 26 tackles, two passes defensed, two tackles for loss and one forced fumble in his career.

Wilson played all 16 games in 2018, starting the last two. He played 222 snaps on defense and 262 snaps on special teams, after logging 592 of his 673 snaps from 2016-17 on special teams.

–Field Level Media

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S Burnett seeking release from Steelers

S Burnett seeking release from Steelers

S Burnett seeking release from Steelers

Pittsburgh Steelers safety Morgan Burnett told NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport on Saturday he would like the team to release him before free agency.

Per Rapoport, Burnett wants to join a team that will use him in a pure safety role, after he played what he believes was out of position at dime linebacker in Pittsburgh.

Burnett, who turned 30 last Sunday, joined the Steelers on a three-year, $14.4 million deal as a free agent last March, but he started just two of 11 games this season as the third safety. Sean Davis primarily played free safety, with rookie first-rounder Terrell Edmunds at strong safety and Burnett playing in sub packages, logging 55.7 percent of the defensive snaps.

Burnett is set to cost just under $6.5 million against the cap in 2019. His release would save Pittsburgh about $3.6 million in cap space, while bringing a $2.8 million dead-money hit.

After eight seasons with the Green Bay Packers, Burnett registered 30 tackles and six passes defensed in his first season with the Steelers in 2018. In 113 career games (104 starts), he has 747 tackles, 50 passes defensed and nine interceptions.

–Field Level Media

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Reports: Ravens, Harbaugh finalizing extension

Reports: Ravens, Harbaugh finalizing extension

Reports: Ravens, Harbaugh finalizing extension

The Baltimore Ravens are finalizing an extension with head coach John Harbaugh, according to multiple reports Saturday, a month after the team announced its plans to retain him and work on a new deal.

Harbaugh was set to enter the final year of his contract, but the Ravens announced Dec. 21 that they planned to keep him and begin discussing an extension. Prior to that announcement, many had speculated about Harbaugh’s job security, and some had speculated in the weeks since that another team might pursue him via trade.

Harbaugh, 56, has spent 11 seasons with the Ravens, making him the fourth-longest-tenured head coach in the NFL behind Bill Belichick (19 years), Mike Tomlin and Sean Payton (12 each). The Ravens have had just three head coaches since arriving in Baltimore in 1996.

After winning a playoff game in each of his first five seasons at the helm — culminating in a Super Bowl XLVII victory — Harbaugh and the Ravens had missed the playoffs in four of the last five seasons, including three straight years, before winning the AFC North in 2018. After winning six of their final seven regular-season games behind quarterback Lamar Jackson, they were bounced in the first round of the playoffs by the Los Angeles Chargers.

Harbaugh is 114-78 with the Ravens, including 10-6 in the postseason.

His extension will maintain some continuity as the team undergoes its first change at general manager since it arrived in Baltimore. Longtime assistant GM Eric DeCosta took over the lead job last week as Ozzie Newsome retired to take a smaller advisory role in the organization.

–Field Level Media

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Texans sign RT Henderson to 1-year extension

Texans sign RT Henderson to 1-year extension

Texans sign RT Henderson to 1-year extension

The Houston Texans have signed right tackle Seantrel Henderson to a one-year contract extension, the team announced Saturday.

NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported the deal was worth a maximum value of $4.5 million.

Henderson started the Texans’ 2018 season opener at New England, but suffered a broken left ankle in the first quarter and missed the rest of the season.

Henderson, who turns 27 on Monday, played the previous four seasons with Buffalo. A seventh-round pick out of Miami in 2014, he appeared in 34 games for the Bills with 27 starts from 2014-17.

–Field Level Media

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NFL notebook: Ravens, Harbaugh reportedly near extension

NFL notebook: Ravens, Harbaugh reportedly near extension

The Baltimore Ravens are

NFL notebook: Ravens, Harbaugh reportedly near extension

The Baltimore Ravens are finalizing an extension with head coach John Harbaugh, according to multiple reports Saturday, a month after the team announced its plans to retain him and work on a new deal.

Harbaugh was set to enter the final year of his contract, but the Ravens announced Dec. 21 that they planned to keep him and begin discussing an extension. Prior to that announcement, many had speculated about Harbaugh’s job security, and some had speculated in the weeks since that another team might pursue him via trade.

Harbaugh, 56, has spent 11 seasons with the Ravens, making him the fourth-longest-tenured head coach in the NFL behind Bill Belichick (19 years), Mike Tomlin and Sean Payton (12 each).

After winning a playoff game in each of his first five seasons at the helm — culminating in a Super Bowl XLVII victory — Harbaugh and the Ravens had missed the playoffs in four of the last five seasons, including three straight years, before winning the AFC North in 2018. They were bounced in the first round of the playoffs by the Los Angeles Chargers.

–Philadelphia quarterback Nick Foles fell four snaps shy of earning a $1 million bonus this season, but the Eagles reportedly paid him anyway in a good faith gesture.

Playing for injured starter Carson Wentz, Foles went 4-1 in five regular-season starts and finished with 357 snaps — 32.69 percent of the team’s 2018 total. He needed to play 33 percent of the snaps to earn the $1 million incentive, leaving him four snaps short.

ESPN’s Field Yates reported Philadelphia opted to pay the Super Bowl LII MVP despite the shortfall.

–The Arizona Cardinals will hire former Green Bay Packers assistant Tom Clements as their passing game coordinator/quarterbacks coach, NFL Network reported.

The network also reported the Cardinals are not expected to hire an offensive coordinator, despite interviewing a number of candidates.

New head coach Kliff Kingsbury will run his own offense and call plays, but he said at his introductory press conference he hoped to hired a veteran coordinator with NFL experience. Clements, who was the Packers’ OC from 2012-2014 and led the Buffalo Bills’ offense from 2004-05, brings experience to the staff, without the coordinator title.

–Pittsburgh Steelers safety Morgan Burnett told NFL Network he would like the team to release him before free agency.

Per Rapoport, Burnett wants to join a team that will use him in a pure safety role, after he played what he believes was out of position at dime linebacker in Pittsburgh.

Burnett, who turned 30 last Sunday, joined the Steelers on a three-year, $14.4 million deal as a free agent last March, but he started just two of 11 games this season as the third safety.

–The Houston Texans have signed right tackle Seantrel Henderson to a one-year contract extension, the team announced.

NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported the deal was worth a maximum value of $4.5 million.

Henderson started the Texans’ 2018 season opener at New England, but suffered a broken left ankle in the first quarter and missed the rest of the season.

–The Jacksonville Jaguars have signed safety Jarrod Wilson to a three-year contract extension, the team announced.

Wilson, who turns 25 next month, was set to become a restricted free agent in March.

–The NFL has fined Indianapolis Colts defensive lineman Denico Autry and Los Angeles Rams cornerback Marcus Peters for separate incidents in last weekend’s divisional playoffs, NFL Network reported.

Autry was fined $13,369 for his hip-swiveling celebratory dance after sacking Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes in the third quarter of the Colts’ 31-13 loss, according to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero.

Peters was fined $10,026 for unnecessary roughness during the Rams’ 30-22 win against the Dallas Cowboys, according to Rapoport.

–Field Level Media

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Mickelson maintains 2-stroke lead at Desert Classic

Mickelson maintains 2-stroke lead at Desert Classic

Mickelson maintains 2-stroke lead at Desert Classic

Phil Mickelson’s strategy for the third round at the Desert Classic on Saturday was a simple one: use his driver off the tee whenever he could to hit the ball as far as possible, then go find it and try to score.

That approach worked well for Mickelson, who fired a bogey-free 6-under-par 66 to maintain a two-shot lead after 54 holes of play at the 60th edition of this event, contested at a trio of courses in La Quinta, Calif.

Mickelson, playing for the first time this week at the Stadium Course at PGA West, enters the final round at 22-under-par 194. He had three straight birdies on holes six through eight and two more on the 13th and 14th before making a gutsy 6-foot putt for par on the 15th.

Mickelson then rolled in a 45-foot putt for birdie on the daunting par-3 17th hole, the water- and rock-surrounded “Alcatraz,” to re-establish the two-shot advantage he held after 36 holes. Sunday’s final round will be held on the Stadium Course.

“I played okay,” Mickelson explained. “My goal or game plan was to hit drivers and bomb the ball down there as far as I could to set up wedges or short irons in, even if I was off the fairway. It seemed to play out okay. I missed some putts, but I also made some long ones that were little bonuses.”

Canadian Adam Hadwin fired a 7-under 65 at the Nicklaus Tournament Course to pull into solo second place while rookie Adam Long ripped off a 9-under 63 at La Quinta Country Club to move into third at 19 under.

Steve Marino carded a 5-under 67 at Nicklaus to end up alone in fourth, four shots off Mickelson’s lead. Michael Thompson (65 at Stadium) and Patrick Cantlay (66 at La Quinta CC) are tied for fifth five shots back.

The 48-year-old Mickelson matched his career-low score with 12-under 60 at La Quinta CC in the opening round and had a 68 at Nicklaus to reach 16 under after 36 holes.

Mickelson, whose most recent win was at the World Golf Championships-Mexico Championship last year for his 43rd PGA Tour title and first since the 2013 British Open, will sleep on the lead for the 38th time in his career.

He will stick to his third-round strategy for the final 18 holes Sunday.

“This is a course you don’t have to be perfect on,” Mickelson said. “You have to hit a lot of good shots in certain spots, but if you miss it and miss it properly, you can still play this course. I want to come out and play aggressive and get as close to the greens as possible to make some more birdies.”

If there is a horse for the course, or courses in this case, this week, it’s Hadwin. He began Saturday’s round three shots behind Mickelson and took advantage of the easiest of the three courses in use this week to sweep to the lead while Mickelson was making the turn at Stadium.

This is the fourth consecutive year Hadwin has been in contention in the Coachella Valley, after finishing sixth in 2016, runner-up in 2017 (after shooting a third-round 59 at La Quinta) and third last year.

“I was playing one of the easier golf courses, so I knew I had to keep the pedal down,” Hadwin said after his Saturday round. “I had kind of a slowish start, and then just kind of caught fire midway, made a couple putts, hit some good shots. I’ve been playing really solid all week, and luckily I’ve got a chance going into Sunday.”

Defending champion Jon Rahm of Spain opened with back-to-back 66s in a bid to join Johnny Miller as the only player to successfully defend his tournament title (1975-76) at the event. Rahm fired a 68 on Saturday at Stadium to finish in a tie for seventh at 16 under.

“I played solid, but didn’t take advantage of chances, especially early on in the round,” Rahm said. “I’m not surprised I’m as far back as I am, but it makes me think about the shots I missed during today’s round that could have made a difference. The course is there for the taking.”

Curtis Luck, the 2016 U.S. Amateur champion from Australia who was second after a 66 at Nicklaus on Friday, struggled to a 4-over 76 at Stadium on Saturday, finishing the third round at 10 under and tied for 46th.

The field was cut to the top 73 players at 9 under after 54 holes rather than after the first two rounds as in most PGA Tour events. Jamie Lovemark withdrew from the event before start of the third round. Former Desert Classic champion Pat Perez also withdrew after four holes of the third round with a thumb injury.

–Field Level Media

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Report: Eagles pay Foles $1M bonus despite shortfall

Report: Eagles pay Foles $1M bonus despite shortfall

Report: Eagles pay Foles $1M bonus despite shortfall

Philadelphia quarterback Nick Foles fell four snaps shy of earning a $1 million bonus this season, but the Eagles reportedly paid him anyway in a good faith gesture.

Playing for injured starter Carson Wentz, Foles went 4-1 in five regular-season starts and finished with 357 snaps — 32.69 percent of the team’s 2018 total. He needed to play 33 percent of the snaps to earn the $1 million incentive, leaving him four snaps short.

ESPN’s Field Yates reported Saturday that Philadelphia opted to pay the Super Bowl LII MVP despite the shortfall.

“Philly does right by the clutch QB,” Yates tweeted.

Foles completed 72.3 percent of his passes for 1,413 yards with seven touchdowns and four interceptions in the regular season. He set a franchise record with 471 passing yards in a Week 16 win against Houston and tied an NFL record with 25 consecutive completions at Washington in a Week 17 win.

Foles, who turns 30 on Sunday, also led the Eagles to a 16-15 wild-card victory at Chicago. The defending champions fell short in the division round last Sunday, losing 20-14 at New Orleans.

–Field Level Media

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Report: Cards interview ex-Browns coach Jackson for OC role

Report: Cards interview ex-Browns coach Jackson for OC role

Report: Cards interview ex-Browns coach Jackson for OC role

The Arizona Cardinals on Friday interviewed former two-time head coach Hue Jackson for their offensive coordinator opening, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported.

Jackson was fired by the Cleveland Browns midway through this past season after winning just three games in parts of three seasons, going 3-36-1. Jackson also spent one season as head coach of the Oakland Raiders in 2011.

Such a hire by the Cardinals would give the team two deposed head coaches helming both coordinator positions. The Cardinals hired former Denver Broncos head coach Vance Joseph to be their defensive coordinator under new head coach Kliff Kingsbury, who has no coaching experience in the NFL.

Jackson and Joseph worked together for two years in Cincinnati under former Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis.

Though Kingsbury plans to call the plays in Arizona, he has said he would like to hire a veteran offensive coordinator with NFL experience. And the Cardinals have reportedly interviewed a host of former coordinators, including:

–Jim Bob Cooter, ex-Detroit coordinator

–John DeFilippo, fired by Minnesota in midseason but hired by Jacksonville to be OC

–Steve Sarkisian, ex-Atlanta coordinator who returned to Alabama

–Tom Clements, former coordinator in Green Bay

–Ben McAdoo, former coordinator and head coach with New York Giants

Jackson, 53, was hired by Lewis in Cincinnati for the remainder of last season until both were fired by the Bengals.

–Field Level Media

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Mickelson to end 28-year streak playing Torrey Pines

Mickelson to end 28-year streak playing Torrey Pines

Mickelson to end 28-year streak playing Torrey Pines

Phil Mickelson is ending his 28-year relationship with Torrey Pines, his hometown course.

The left-handed star will skip next week’s Farmers Insurance Open, the PGA Tour event that will be held at Torrey Pines Golf Course in the La Jolla neighborhood of San Diego. Mickelson has participated in the tournament each year since 1991.

Mickelson, a three-time winner of the event who was born in San Diego in 1970, announced the development Friday on Twitter.

“I want to share my updated tour schedule: this week I will be playing here in the desert, Phoenix, Pebble Beach, and then defending my title in Mexico,” the 44-time PGA Tour winner wrote. “My streak of 28-straight Farmers Insurance Opens will end next week. I will try to make it up to the great community of SD!”

Not counted among the 28-tournament streak is his first appearance there as a 17-year-old amateur in 1988. Mickelson also tied for 18th when the U.S. Open was played at Torrey Pines in 2008.

Since a 2001 redesign of the South course by Rees Jones, Mickelson has not been a winner at Torrey Pines. (His victories there came in 1993, 2000 and earlier in 2001.) He indicated on Thursday that it’s no longer “a good place for him” and that he was not sure if his game could currently handle one of the longest courses on tour.

Not that Lefty is struggling right now. He is leading through two rounds of the Desert Classic in La Quinta, Calif., following up his 12-under 60 on Thursday with a 4-under 68 on Friday for a two-shot cushion.

–Field Level Media

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Cardinals’ Fitzgerald one-ups Obama with ace during golf round

Cardinals' Fitzgerald one-ups Obama with ace during golf round

Cardinals’ Fitzgerald one-ups Obama with ace during golf round

Even when he isn’t playing football, Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald knows how to make an impression as a professional athlete. On Friday during a round of golf at Seminole Golf Club near Palm Beach Gardens in Florida, he made a hole-in-one while playing a round of golf with former President Barack Obama.

The news spread quickly as Jimmy Dunne, the president of the golf club, waived a rule and allowed cellphone use so Fitzgerald could reveal his good fortune. His shot turned out to one-up Obama, who hit his approach to 20 feet at the par-3 13th.

Golf Channel analyst Tim Rosaforte offered his quick report on Twitter about Fitzgerald’s ace using an 8-iron on the 162-yard hole, saying in part, “The elation coming from All Pro wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald on the 13th hole at Seminole GC at 1:30 this afternoon was unreal. But it was very real. … ‘I’m playing with the President of the United States and I just made a hole in one!’ shouted the host to Barack Obama’s first go around The ‘Nole. ‘This is unbelievable!'”

Also, according to Rosaforte, “Among the high fives was the one coming from the 44th President of the U.S.”

Fitzgerald was playing in a foursome with Obama, Dunne and Glenn Hutchins, part owner in the Boston Celtics and a board member of Obama Foundation, and recently played golf with Tigers Woods, perhaps in preparation to defend his title next month at the Pebble Beach Pro-Am.

Last February, he teamed with friend and PGA pro Kevin Streelman to win the event with a score of 41-under par, including a 12-under for their final round.

“It was me being completely out of my comfort zone, not being a professional, just dealing with what comes I think that’s what made it special for me,” Fitzgerald told Bay Area News Group then. “This game is so difficult, and I think you even have more respect for the guys who win and play consistently at a high level because this is the hardest game out there.”

Fitzgerald, with 1,303 catches and 16,279 yards, third and second all-time, respectively, hasn’t decided yet whether he’ll continue playing football next season.

He did give thumbs-up to Arizona’s recent hire of Kliff Kingsbury as head coach.

“Hell of a coach,” Fitzgerald told TMZ, via Pro Football Talk. “Look at his resume. He’s innovative offensively. That’s somebody with a future right now. So, I’m excited for the chance to meet him.”

However, the 35-year-old All-Pro could be contemplating another career move after 15 NFL seasons. His opponents on the golf course don’t seem to be nearly as intimidating.

–Field Level Media

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Lucas Glover’s wife gets probation in domestic violence case

Lucas Glover's wife gets probation in domestic violence case

Lucas Glover’s wife gets probation in domestic violence case

Krista Glover, the wife of golfer Lucas Glover, agreed to 25 hours of community service and to undergo a substance abuse and mental health evaluation in charges relating to a domestic violence incident in May, multiple news outlets reported Friday.

As part of the deferred prosecution agreement reached Friday, she will be on probation for 12 months — during which she must complete the community service, follow any treatment guidelines and not violate any laws.

Krista Glover was arrested in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., after her husband missed the 54-hole cut at The Players Championship.

According to the incident report, she attacked her husband’s mother when the latter tried to intervene during an altercation between Lucas Glover and his wife. After being arrested, police said Krista Glover became combative and unruly and repeatedly kicked the car door.

The arrest reports stated that Lucas Glover told the deputy his wife calls him a “loser” among other insults after he plays poorly in a tournament, and that she had been drinking. She was charged with domestic violence battery and resisting an officer without violence.

Lucas Glover won the 2009 U.S. Open and has two other career PGA wins, with the most recent coming at the Wells Fargo Championship in 2011. He is playing at this week’s Desert Classic in La Quinta, Calif.

–Field Level Media

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Saints TE Watson could miss NFC title game

Saints TE Watson could miss NFC title game

Saints TE Watson could miss NFC title game

Tight end Benjamin Watson is expected to be inactive when the New Orleans Saints host the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday, according to a report by ESPN.

ESPN reported that Watson’s missed practices on Wednesday and Thursday were because of appendicitis. He has not had surgery to remove his appendix.

However, the Saints listed Watson as questionable on Friday’s injury report. The team said Watson was a limited practice participant on Friday.

New Orleans ruled out receiver Keith Kirkwood (calf) after he missed the week’s three practices.

Watson, 38, announced in December he planned to retire after this season.

If Watson doesn’t play, that will leave quarterback Drew Brees without one of his offensive weapons. On the season, Watson had 35 catches for 400 yards with two touchdowns.

In his career, he has played in 195 games for the New England Patriots (2004-09), Cleveland Browns (2010-12), New Orleans (2013-15, 2018) and Baltimore Ravens (2017). He has played in 12 playoff games and won a Super Bowl with the Patriots in his rookie season.

The Rams didn’t list any players on Friday’s injury report.

–Field Level Media

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NFL notebook: Linehan out as Cowboys offensive coordinator

NFL notebook: Linehan out as Cowboys offensive coordinator

Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan will not

NFL notebook: Linehan out as Cowboys offensive coordinator

Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan will not return to the Dallas Cowboys for the 2019 season, head coach Jason Garrett announced on Friday.

“This was not an easy decision because of how highly we regard Scott Linehan as a football coach and as a person,” said Garrett in a statement. The Cowboys coach described the move as “very much a mutual decision.”

Linehan’s future had been a subject of debate throughout the week in Dallas. On Monday, two days after the Cowboys’ season ended in a playoff loss to the Los Angeles Rams, Garrett told 105.3 FM in Dallas that he expected no changes to his coaching staff, including Linehan.

Later that day, Garrett stepped back from his commitment to Linehan at the Cowboys’ season-ending press conference. Linehan was the focus of fan criticism, especially when the team was 3-5 at the halfway point of the season. Dallas ranked No. 22 in both total and scoring offense in 2018.

–Kansas City Chiefs safety Eric Berry appears to be ready to play in Sunday’s AFC Championship Game against the New England Patriots after the team removed him from the injury report following practice.

Berry, who has a heel injury, was a full participant for the third straight day. The five-time Pro Bowl selection missed the preseason and first 13 regular-season games due to the heel injury. He played in two regular-season games in December before missing the finale after reinjuring it.

Linebacker Dorian O’Daniel (ankle) was ruled out and was the lone player remaining on the injury report on Friday. O’Daniel also missed the game against Indianapolis.

–Tight end Benjamin Watson is expected to be inactive when the New Orleans Saints host the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday, according to an ESPN report.

ESPN reported that Watson’s missed practices on Wednesday and Thursday were because of appendicitis. He has not had surgery to remove his appendix. However, the Saints listed Watson as questionable on Friday’s injury report after he was a limited practice participant.

Watson, 38, announced in December he planned to retire after this season. New Orleans also ruled out receiver Keith Kirkwood (calf) after he missed the week’s three practices. The Rams didn’t list any players on Friday’s injury report.

–Temperatures during the AFC Championship Game on Sunday night should be much warmer than previously thought.

Earlier this week, predictions were that the Chiefs would host the Patriots at Arrowhead Stadium with arctic game-time temperatures in the single digits and falling to below zero.

On Friday, the Weather Channel forecast a high of 32 degrees on Sunday in Kansas City, Mo., with a low of 21.

–A record 135 college football players are bypassing remaining eligibility to enter the 2019 NFL Draft.

The NFL released the official list on Friday and said 103 players were granted special eligibility. Another 32 players graduated while still having college eligibility. Nine others are eligible without the need for special eligibility.

Among the players who declared prior to Monday’s deadline were Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Kyler Murray of Oklahoma and quarterback Dwayne Haskins of Ohio State. Murray has previously signed a baseball contract with the Oakland Athletics.

–The Chicago Bears have signed receiver Jordan Williams-Lambert to a contract, the team announced.

Williams-Lambert, a product of Ball State, played in the Canadian Football League in 2018 with the Saskatchewan Roughriders. He caught 62 passes for 764 yards and four touchdowns in 16 games. He was named the most outstanding rookie in the CFL’s West Division.

The 6-3 Williams-Lambert signed with New Orleans as an undrafted free agent in 2016 and spent the season on the practice squad. The Saints waived him in August 2017. He becomes the third player from the CFL to join the Bears this offseason.

–During a round of golf at Seminole Golf Club near Palm Beach Gardens in Florida, Arizona Cardinals wide receiver made a hole-in-one while playing a round of golf with former President Barack Obama.

The news spread quickly as Jimmy Dunne, the president of the golf club, waived a rule and allowed cellphone use so Fitzgerald could reveal his good fortune. His shot turned out to one-up Obama, who hit his approach to 20 feet at the par-3 13th.

Fitzgerald was playing in a foursome with Obama, Dunne and Glenn Hutchins, part owner in the Boston Celtics and a board member of Obama Foundation, and recently played golf with Tigers Woods, perhaps in preparation to defend his title next month at the Pebble Beach Pro-Am.

–Field Level Media

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Strong finish keeps Mickelson in front at Desert Classic

Strong finish keeps Mickelson in front at Desert Classic

Strong finish keeps Mickelson in front at Desert Classic

Phil Mickelson followed up his blistering opening-round 60 with a 4-under-par 68 on Friday at PGA West’s Nicklaus Stadium Course to take a two-shot lead into the weekend at the Desert Classic in La Quinta, Calif.

He holds a two-shot lead over Australian Curtis Luck, who sits in second place after shooting a 6-under 66 also on the Nicklaus course.

As on Thursday, when he made 10 birdies and an eagle, Mickelson finished with a birdie on his 18th hole, but that was where the similarities ended. He started on the back nine and turned with an even-par 36 after a double bogey on No. 9, but birdies four of his last five holes to salvage his day.

“I actually felt better striking (the ball). I didn’t putt very well today, certainly relative to yesterday where I was making everything,” said Mickelson, a two-time winner of the Desert Classic (2002, 2014). “But I finished strong. I birdied four of the last five. You know, if you shoot 6 or 7 under par at the Nicklaus course, you feel like OK, that’s a good solid round. I shot 4 (under), I was a few behind, so I’ll just have to come out tomorrow on the Stadium (Course) and shoot 6 or 7 (under) to make up for it.”

Mickelson was even through No. 13 after failing to make birdie on the par-5 fourth. However, a birdie from 8 feet on No. 5 turned the momentum.

“I just needed one little spark,” Mickelson said. “Once that one went in, I started seeing the ball go in a little bit easier rather than the ball lipping out and I made some putts thereafter. … You just have to keep firing on all cylinders and going after birdies because this is a course where there’s going to be a lot of birdies.”

The Desert Classic is a pro-am format, with players rotating among two courses at PGA West, the Nicklaus Tournament Course and the Stadium Course, and nearby La Quinta Country Club over the first three days. All three courses are par 72. Sunday’s final round will be played at the Stadium Course.

Last season, the Nicklaus Tournament Course yielded the second-lowest average score (69.445) of any par 72 on the PGA Tour last season. La Quinta was No. 1 (68.831), while the Stadium Course yielded an average of 71.181.

Luck, 22, closed with a birdie on the par-4 ninth, taking out some of the sting from a bogey on the par-3 eighth.

“Just like yesterday, very solid, lot of greens, a lot of fairways,” said Luck, the 2016 U.S. Amateur champion. “Just missed a couple of short ones today, unfortunately. But putting’s been great.”

Adam Hadwin (66, La Quinta) and Steve Marino (65, La Quinta) are tied for third at 13 under. Defending champion Jon Rahm of Spain (Nicklaus) fired his second straight 66 to move to 12 under with Wyndham Clark (67, Nicklaus) and Joey Garber (64, La Quinta).

As for the possibility of capturing the title, Mickelson says experience is on his side but he’s taking nothing for granted. He has won 17 of the 32 times on the PGA Tour when he’s held the 36-hole lead.

“This has been a fun if not surprising start for me, and it’s been fun to get in the mix,” he said. “Usually when you play that well the first two rounds, you’re hitting the ball where you want, making some putts, so I just have to keep that going the next couple days.”

–Field Level Media

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Bears sign WR Williams-Lambert

Bears sign WR Williams-Lambert

The

Bears sign WR Williams-Lambert

The Chicago Bears have signed receiver Jordan Williams-Lambert to a contract, the team announced Friday.

Williams-Lambert, a product of Ball State, played in the Canadian Football League in 2018 with the Saskatchewan Roughriders. He caught 62 passes for 764 yards and four touchdowns in 16 games. He was named the most outstanding rookie in the CFL’s West Division after catching 62 passes for 764 yards and four touchdowns in 17 games.

The 6-3 Williams-Lambert signed with New Orleans as an undrafted free agent in 2016 and spent the season on the practice squad. The Saints waived him in August 2017.

He becomes the third player from the CFL to join the Bears this offseason. The others are linebackers Jameer Thurman and James Vaughters.

–Field Level Media

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Warmer temperatures expected when Chiefs, Patriots meet

Warmer temperatures expected when Chiefs, Patriots meet

Warmer temperatures expected when Chiefs, Patriots meet

Temperatures during the AFC championship game on Sunday night should be much warmer than previously thought.

Earlier this week, predictions were that the Kansas City Chiefs would host the New England Patriots at Arrowhead Stadium with arctic gametime temperatures in the single digits and falling to below zero.

On Friday, the Weather Channel forecast a high of 32 degrees on Sunday in Kansas City, with a low of 21. Kickoff is at 6:40 p.m. ET

The grounds crew at Arrowhead Stadium spent the week getting the field ready. After heavy snowfall fell in Kansas City last weekend, the crew figured the field needed to be replaced for the first-ever AFC championship game at the stadium.

Heads groundskeeper Travis Hogan shared pictures on Twitter on Thursday of the resodded turf.

“We weren’t planning on a resod this week, but Mother Nature had other plans,” Hogan tweeted. “10 inches of snow and all the snow in the stadium being hauled out on the sidelines changed things. My crew did an unbelievable job. They are the BEST! Everyone is tired but we are ready. Let’s Roll!”

–Field Level Media

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Record number approved to enter NFL draft

Record number approved to enter NFL draft

Record number approved to enter NFL draft

A record 135 college football players are bypassing remaining eligibility to enter the 2019 NFL Draft.

The NFL released the official list on Friday and said 103 players were granted special eligibility. Another 32 players graduated while still having college eligibility.

Nine others are eligible without the need for special eligibility.

Among the players who declared prior to Monday’s deadline were Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Kyler Murray of Oklahoma and quarterback Dwayne Haskins of Ohio State. Murray has previously signed a baseball contract with the Oakland Athletics.

Others on the list who figure to go early in the draft are Ohio State defensive end Nick Bosa, Michigan defensive end Rashan Gary, Houston defensive tackle Ed Oliver and Alabama defensive tackle Quinnen Williams.

The players granted special eligibility for the 2019 NFL Draft:

Ed Alexander, DT, LSU

Jeff Allison, LB, Fresno State

JJ Arcega-Whiteside, WR, Stanford

Mike Bell, S, Fresno State

Amani Bledsoe, DE, Oklahoma

Nick Bosa, DE, Ohio State

Miles Boykin, WR, Notre Dame

A.J. Brown, WR, Ole Miss

Marquise Brown, WR, Oklahoma

Sean Bunting, CB, Central Michigan

Brian Burns, DE, Florida State

Devin Bush, LB, Michigan

Hamp Cheevers, CB, Boston College

Damarea Crockett, RB, Missouri

Maxx Crosby, DE, Eastern Michigan

Tyrel Dodson, LB, Texas A&M

Greg Dortch, WR, Wake Forest

Clifton Duck, CB, Appalachian State

Jovon Durante, WR, Florida Atlantic

David Edwards, OT, Wisconsin

Bobby Evans, OT, Oklahoma

Datryan Evans, TE, Friends

Noah Fant, TE, Iowa

Jazz Ferguson, WR, Northwestern State

Malik Gant, DB, Marshall

Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, S, Florida

Rashan Gary, DL, Michigan

Zach Gentry, TE, Michigan

Kevin Givens, DT, Penn State

Jalen Guyton, WR, North Texas

Mecole Hardman, WR, Georgia

Kelvin Harmon, WR, N.C. State

N’Keal Harry, WR, Arizona State

Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State

Darrell Henderson, RB, Memphis

Nate Herbig, OG, Stanford

Justice Hill, RB, Oklahoma State

Trysten Hill, DT, Central Florida

T.J. Hockenson, TE, Iowa

Joshuwa Holloman, RB, Eastern Michigan

Elijah Holyfield, RB, Georgia

Travis Homer, RB, Miami

Amani Hooker, DB, Iowa

Lil’Jordan Humphrey, WR, Texas

Joe Jackson, DE, Miami

Josh Jacobs, RB, Alabama

Andre James, OT, UCLA

Darryl Johnson, DE, North Carolina A&T

Diontae Johnson, WR, Toledo

Tyron Johnson, WR, Oklahoma State

Michael Jordan, OG, Ohio State

Vosean Joseph, LB, Florida

Tre Lamar, LB, Clemson

Dexter Lawrence, DT, Clemson

Justin Layne, CB, Michigan State

Greg Little, OT, Ole Miss

David Long, CB, Michigan

Julian Love, CB, Notre Dame

Alize Mack, TE, Notre Dame

Alexander Mattison, RB, Boise State

Connor McGovern, OL, Penn State

D.K. Metcalf, WR, Ole Miss

Shareef Miller, DE, Penn State

Dillon Mitchell, WR, Oregon

David Montgomery, RB, Iowa State

Trayvon Mullen, DB, Clemson

Byron Murphy, CB, Washington

Kyler Murray, QB, Oklahoma

Isaac Nauta, TE, Georgia

Chidi Okeke, OT, Tennessee State

Ed Oliver, DT, Houston

Jachai Polite, DE, Florida

Ryan Pulley, CB, Arkansas

Taylor Rapp, S, Washington

Riley Ridley, WR, Georgia

Tyler Roemer, OT, San Diego State

Miles Sanders, RB, Penn State

Jordan Scarlett, RB, Florida

Kendall Sheffield, DB, Ohio State

Jeffery Simmons, DT, Mississippi State

Devin Singletary, RB, Florida Atlantic

Darius Slayton, WR, Auburn

Irv Smith, TE, Alabama

Kaden Smith, TE, Stanford

Savion Smith, DB, Alabama

Benny Snell, RB, Kentucky

Dredrick Snelson, WR, Central Florida

Jace Sternberger, TE, Texas A&M

Jawaan Taylor, OT, Florida

Darwin Thompson, RB, Utah State

John Ursua, WR, Hawaii

Kahale Warring, TE, San Diego State

Mike Weber, RB, Ohio State

Antoine Wesley, WR, Texas Tech

Devin White, LB, LSU

Kerrith Whyte Jr., RB, Florida Atlantic

Greedy Williams, CB, LSU

James Williams, RB, Washington State

Joejuan Williams, CB, Vanderbilt

Preston Williams, WR, Colorado State

Quinnen Williams, DT, Alabama

Trayveon Williams, RB, Texas A&M

Mack Wilson, LB, Alabama

The following 32 players have in timely fashion under NFL rules officially notified the league office that they have fulfilled their degree requirements. Consequently, they are eligible for selection:

Rodney Anderson, RB, Oklahoma

Alex Barnes, RB, Kansas State

Ryan Bates, OT, Penn State

Venzell Boulware, OL, Miami

Hakeem Butler, WR, Iowa State

Xavier Crawford, CB, Central Michigan

Jamel Dean, CB, Auburn

Clelin Ferrell, DL, Clemson

Cody Ford, OL, Oklahoma

Youhanna Ghaifan, DT, Wyoming

Joe Giles-Harris, LB, Duke

Penny Hart, WR, Georgia State

Tyree Jackson, QB, Buffalo

Daniel Jones, QB, Duke

Dre’Mont Jones, DL, Ohio State

Dawson Knox, TE, Ole Miss

David Long, LB, West Virginia

Erik McCoy, OL, Texas A&M

Jakobi Meyers, WR, N.C. State

Anthony Nelson, DE, Iowa

Tony Pollard, RB, Memphis

Anthony Ratliff-Williams, WR, North Carolina

Dax Raymond, TE, Utah State

Quart’e Sapp, LB, Tennessee

Cortrelle Simpson, WR, Richmond

Sutton Smith, DE, Northern Illinois

Jarrett Stidham, QB, Auburn

William Sweet, OT, North Carolina

Josiah Tauaefa, LB, UTSA

Deionte Thompson, S, Alabama

Jonah Williams, OT, Alabama

Caleb Wilson, TE, UCLA

The following players inquired about their draft status and are eligible for selection without the need for special eligibility:

Sean Adesanya, DE, Central Michigan

Blessuan Austin, DB, Rutgers

Jordan Brailford, DE, Oklahoma State

Keenen Brown, TE, Texas State

Byron Cowart, DE, Maryland

D’Andre Ferby, DE, Western Kentucky

P.J.Johnson, DT, Arizona

Daniel LaCamera, K, Texas A&M

L.J. Scott, RB, Michigan State

–Field Level Media

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Report: Saints TE Watson expected to miss NFC title game

Report: Saints TE Watson expected to miss NFC title game

Report: Saints TE Watson expected to miss NFC title game

Tight end Benjamin Watson is expected to be inactive when his New Orleans Saints meet the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC championship game on Sunday.

ESPN reported that Watson has missed practices this week because of appendicitis. He has not had surgery to remove his appendix.

Watson, 38, announced in December he planned to retire after this season.

If he doesn’t play, that will leave quarterback Drew Brees without one of his offensive weapons. On the season, Watson had 35 catches for 400 yards with two touchdowns.

In his career, he has played in 195 games for New England (2004-09), Cleveland (2010-12), New Orleans (2013-15, 2018) and Baltimore (2017). He has played in 12 playoff games and won a Super Bowl with the Patriots in his rookie season.

–Field Level Media

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Chiefs S Berry likely to play vs. Patriots

Chiefs S Berry likely to play vs. Patriots

Chiefs S Berry likely to play vs. Patriots

Kansas City Chiefs safety Eric Berry appears to be playing in Sunday’s AFC Championship Game against the New England Patriots after the team removed him from the injury report following Friday’s practice.

Berry, who has a heel injury, was a full participant for the third straight day.

“I feel pretty good,” Berry told reporters after Friday’s practice.

The five-time Pro Bowl selection missed the preseason and the first 13 regular-season games due to the heel injury. He played in two regular-season games in December before missing the finale after reinjuring it, and he also missed last weekend’s divisional-round victory over the Indianapolis Colts.

“I wanted to go in that game,” Berry told reporters of the Colts’ game. “Just a lot of complications that I can’t really explain. Hopefully this weekend it will be different.

“Right now, I just know it’s moving in the right direction and I want to get on the field on Sunday.”

Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton is looking forward to seeing Berry on the field.

“He has great speed and range,” Sutton told reporters of Berry. “I think he’s our most physical football player. So when you have those qualities and you have playmaking ability, you have a chance to affect the game.

“The one thing about speed on defense is that it isn’t always the plays you make, it’s sometimes the plays you prevent. He has that ability in him. The other part of it that he brings is the players respond to him. They appreciate all he’s been through and what he’s done here and what kind of player he is.”

Linebacker Dorian O’Daniel (ankle) was ruled out and was the lone player remaining on the injury report on Friday. O’Daniel also missed the game against Indianapolis.

–Field Level Media

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Chargers GM on Rivers: ‘He’s not going anywhere’

Chargers GM on Rivers: 'He's not going anywhere'

Philip Rivers has said he wants

Chargers GM on Rivers: ‘He’s not going anywhere’

Philip Rivers has said he wants to play beyond next season, the final year on his contract with the Los Angeles Chargers.

Chargers general manager Tom Telesco signaled Thursday that the team is committed to Rivers beyond next season as well.

“I can tell you he’s not going anywhere,” Telesco said of the 37-year-old Rivers.

“He’s going to be here, but we’ll talk at the right point as far as the moves we need to make in the offseason, the resources we have and kind of see how it all fits in. But yeah, he’s not going anywhere.”

Rivers is due $11 million next season but would count $23 million against the salary cap.

He’s also coming off a 12-4 season that ended just short of the AFC title game with a playoff loss to the New England Patriots.

Rivers threw for 4,308 yards with 32 touchdowns and 12 interceptions this season.

“I couldn’t put a number on it, but I haven’t seen drop off in Philip since I arrived here six years ago,” Telesco said. “In the six years I’ve been here, he’s even playing better now than when I first got here so I guess the sky’s the limit, but for how long he wants to play, you’d have to ask him that but we’re really lucky to have him.”

The Chargers are scheduled to move into their new stadium in time for the 2020 season, which would be Rivers’ 17th in the NFL.

–Field Level Media

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Linehan out as Dallas’ offensive coordinator

Linehan out as Dallas' offensive coordinator

Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan will not

Linehan out as Dallas’ offensive coordinator

Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan will not return to the Dallas Cowboys for the 2019 season, head coach Jason Garrett announced in a statement on Friday.

“This was not an easy decision because of how highly we regard Scott Linehan as a football coach and as a person. He and I had some really positive, substantive and open discussions which took place in the latter part of this week, and we ultimately agreed that it would be in the best interest of all of the parties involved if we were to make a change at this position. This was very much a mutual decision,” Garrett’s statement said, in part.

Linehan’s future had been a subject of debate throughout the week in Dallas.

On Monday, two days after the Cowboys’ season ended in a playoff loss to the Los Angeles Rams, Garrett told 105.3 FM in Dallas that he expected no changes to his coaching staff, including Linehan.

Hours later on the same station, vice president Stephen Jones said, “I think it’s a little early to be speculating about players, coaches, anything like that other than I really do think our group overall did a nice job. I know overall it was a good season, but we also know that we’ve had some good teams around here that haven’t taken the next step. We’ve got to figure out what that is. We’re obviously going to be doing a lot of work … to see how we can take that next step.”

Then, Monday afternoon, Garrett seemed to take a step back from his commitment to Linehan at the Cowboys’ season-ending press conference.

“We haven’t had any substantive conversations,” Garrett said. “Scott did an excellent job for us this year. Again, I don’t know how I answered that question this morning. Nothing has changed.”

Linehan was the focus of fan criticism, especially when the team was 3-5 at the halfway point of the season. Dallas was No. 22 in total offense and scoring offense in 2018.

Still, Garrett was a staunch defender of Linehan throughout the season. After a loss to Seattle on Sept. 23, when the Cowboys scored just 13 points, Garrett was asked if he would start calling plays himself. At the time, the Cowboys were 1-2 and averaging 13.7 points per game.

“We’re not going to go down that road right now,” Garrett said then. “I have a lot of confidence in Scott Linehan. He has been an outstanding coordinator in this league for a long time. He’s been an outstanding coordinator for us.”

Linehan joined the Cowboys in 2014 as the passing game coordinator and was promoted to offensive coordinator in 2015. He was head coach of the St. Louis Rams from 2006-08.

The Cowboys scored 339 points this season, their fewest since 2015, when they finished 4-12 and used a revolving door of quarterbacks when injury limited Tony Romo to four games. It was the second-lowest total since 2005.

–Field Level Media

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NFL Conference Championship Weekend: Over and Under Bets

This NFL season, with sports betting expected to be a more common and accepted practice, we're making a point to look beyond point spreads and analyze often-neglected totals. As part of that approach, we're offering up our favorite bet over and favorite under each week. 

Over and Under Best Bets

Take the

This NFL season, with sports betting expected to be a more common and accepted practice, we’re making a point to look beyond point spreads and analyze often-neglected totals. As part of that approach, we’re offering up our favorite bet over and favorite under each week. 

Over and Under Best Bets

Take the over: New England Patriots at Kansas City Chiefs

Total: 56.5

The Chiefs remain vulnerable against the run. The Colts averaged 6.2 yards per rush against them but weren’t able to establish the run consistently due to the score.

Meanwhile, the Patriots have really discovered a strong running game thanks to the emergence of Sony Michel. Look for them to keep it on the ground and set things up for the passing game to take advantage of a secondary that is also beatable. 

You know Tom Brady will get some shots in, and there’s little doubt Patrick Mahomes will do the same. New England’s run defense is also vulnerable — only the Rams surrendered more yards per carry than the Pats and Chiefs this season — and Damien Williams and Spencer Ware should have plenty of success setting up the passing game. Kansas City could also get a shot in the arm from the return of injured guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif. 

These teams combined for 83 points in their first meeting, and this should be another track meet. After initial weather concerns, the latest forecast indicates this game won’t be played in sub-zero temperatures after all, and I think both teams will have just enough in them on offense to push this one into the 60s. 

Predicted score: Chiefs 34, Patriots 28

Take the under: Los Angeles Rams at New Orleans Saints

Total: 56

Dating back to Week 13, the Saints have averaged fewer than 20 points per game. And while they scored 45 points the last time they faced Los Angeles, Rams defensive coordinator Wade Phillips is too smart to let that happen again. Look for Aqib Talib — who didn’t play in that first meeting — to do a better job against productive star Saints receiver Michael Thomas, and don’t be surprised if underrated Rams linebacker Cory Littleton limits Alvin Kamara’s damage. 

That could make life real tough against a defensive front featuring defensive player of the year shoo-in Aaron Donald as well as Ndamukong Suh, who looks inspired thus far in January. 

And while the Rams also scored 35 points in that Week 9 meeting, that offense has also been less stable and consistent without Cooper Kupp down the stretch. 

The Saints defense is certainly beatable, but keep in mind that New Orleans completely shut down the Eagles for three and a half quarters on Sunday and has surrendered 17 or fewer points in seven of its last nine games.

Not even sure this one will hit 50. 

Predicted score: Rams 24, Saints 23

Good luck, we’re all counting on you. 

Previous results
Last week: 2-0
2018 season: 23-14-1

Brad Gagnon has covered the NFL since 2007 and is a member of the Professional Football Writers of America, despite the fact he actually lives in Canada. The Toronto-based sports journalist’s work can also be seen at Bleacher Report, CBS Sports, Awful Announcing and The Guardian. He can be found on Twitter @brad_gagnon

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Mickelson flirts with 59 at Desert Classic

Mickelson flirts with 59 at Desert Classic

Mickelson flirts with 59 at Desert Classic

Phil Mickelson flirted with the 11th sub-60 round in the history of the PGA Tour on Thursday before settling for a 12-under 60 at La Quinta Country Club in the first round of the Desert Classic in California.

He holds a three-shot lead over Adam Long, who sits in second place after shooting a 9-under 63 at PGA West’s Nicklaus Tournament Course.

“It was kind of a lucky day for me in the sense that I did not feel sharp coming in,” Mickelson told The Golf Channel after his round, referencing his tweet prior to the round that he was feeling “rusty.” “I did not have the intense practice sessions that I would have liked, but I felt like all parts were OK and it just clicked. …

“It was a fun day. I certainly did not expect this to be the case, but I’m also excited to start the year, so I was fresh.”

Taking advantage of the easiest course on the PGA Tour last season, Mickelson birdied his first two holes and made the turn in 6-under 30. He then reeled off five more birdies over his next seven holes to set up his chance at the elusive 59.

Needing to birdie the final two holes — both par 4s — Mickelson parred the 17th before rolling in a birdie on his final hole. It marked the 37th round of 60 on the PGA Tour and the third of Mickelson’s career. His two previous 60s came at the Waste Management Open in Phoenix, but TPC Scottsdale is a par-71 course.

“I came to the realization (regarding the possibility of shooting 59) on 16 when I had that putt for birdie that if I make that 4-footer and birdie the last two, I would shoot 59 and I gave myself a decent chance,” Mickelson said. “The shot on 17, I was trying to hook a sand wedge and kind of get that thing to side spin towards the pin, and I just didn’t hook it enough. I still had a good look at it, but I just didn’t roll that one in.”

The Desert Classic is a pro-am format, with players rotating among La Quinta, the Nicklaus Tournament Course and the Stadium Course, the latter two at PGA West, over the first three days. All three courses are par 72. Sunday’s final round will be played at the Stadium Course.

La Quinta yielded the lowest average score (68.831) of any par 72 on the PGA Tour last season. The Nicklaus Tournament Course was No. 2 (69.445), while the Stadium Course yielded an average of 71.181.

Mickelson, a two-time winner of the Desert Classic (2002, 2014), did his best to take advantage of the La Quinta course in soft conditions on Thursday. He will play the Nicklaus course on Friday and the Stadium Course in the third round and noted that the pressure was on to perform in Round 2.

“It’s very difficult to start out with a round and go low like this and then follow it up because the expectations are (that) anything short of a victory is a failure,” said the 48-year-old. “Yet we have three full rounds on some challenging golf courses with a lot of potential birdies, so it’s a tough position to be in but it’s one that I thoroughly enjoy.”

Australia’s Curtis Luck sits alone in third place at 8 under after his round at La Quinta.

Trey Mullinax (Nicklaus), Wyndham Clark (La Quinta), Canada’s Adam Hadwin (Stadium) and Scotland’s Martin Laird (Nicklaus) are tied for fourth at 7 under.

Spain’s Jon Rahm, seeking to join Johnny Miller (1975-76) as the only repeat champions of the event, shot 6 under at La Quinta, leaving him in a 10-way tie for eighth place. Rahm beat Andrew Landry on the fourth hole of a sudden-death playoff last year.

Reigning FedExCup champion Justin Rose is the first No. 1-ranked player to compete in the Desert Classic since the world ranking system began in 1986. The Englishman shot 4 under at La Quinta on Thursday, good for a tie for 31st.

Charlie Reiter, who missed the cut as a high school senior last year, is in the field again on a sponsor exemption. Reiter, currently on the University of Southern California team, shot 3 over par at La Quinta on Thursday, better than just eight golfers in the 156-player field.

–Field Level Media

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NFL notebook: Chiefs S Berry, RB Ware set to play Sunday

NFL notebook: Chiefs S Berry, RB Ware set to play Sunday

NFL notebook: Chiefs S Berry, RB Ware set to play Sunday

Kansas City Chiefs safety Eric Berry and running back Spencer Ware are trending toward taking the field Sunday in the AFC Championship game against the New England Patriots.

Berry was a full participant in Wednesday’s practice and repeated the session Thursday. He’s been bothered by a heel injury.

“He looked good out there,” head coach Andy Reid said Thursday when asked about the risk of Berry being rusty after playing in just two games this season. “I see him out there looking like Eric Berry.”

Berry has played just 99 snaps across the two games while battling the lingering heel issue, while Ware missed the final three games of the regular season after injuring his hamstring Week 14 in a win over the Ravens.

–Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt had a “minor knee cleanup” after the season, reported NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.

“Sounds like he’s fine now,” Rapoport tweeted. “Just some maintenance on an injury that bothered him during the season.”

Watt had appeared on Houston’s injury report multiple times during the second half of the season with a knee issue, but he started all 16 regular-season games plus the Texans’ wild-card playoff loss to the Indianapolis Colts this season.

–Jacksonville Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette has filed an official challenge over the team’s decision to take away the guarantees in the final two years of his contract, according to multiple reports, and an arbitrator will determine if Jacksonville is within its rights to do so.

Fournette was scheduled to earn $2.93 million in 2019 and $4.17 million in 2020, but the Jaguars voided the guarantees after he was suspended by the NFL for one game for coming off the bench to fight with Bills defensive lineman Shaq Lawson during the Jaguars’ loss at Buffalo on Nov. 25.

After the game, Fournette apologized, but the Jaguars still took away the remaining guaranteed money in his rookie contract citing a contract clause that allowed them to do so if he missed a game for anything other than a football-related injury.

–The Seattle Seahawks have agreed to a deal with quarterback Paxton Lynch, a first-round draft pick by Denver in 2016, KJR Radio reported.

Lynch, who turns 25 next month, was released by the Broncos before the 2018 season.

He wasn’t able to take hold of the starting job in Denver, appearing in just five games (four starts) and passing for 792 yards with four touchdowns and four interceptions. The Broncos’ signing of Case Keenum last March made Lynch expendable.

–The Chicago Bears’ impressive 2018 turnaround earned Matt Nagy the NFL Coach of the Year and former defensive coordinator Vic Fangio the NFL Assistant Coach of the Year honors from the Pro Football Writers of America.

Indianapolis general manager Chris Ballard, whose moves helped the Colts reach the playoffs for the first time since 2014, was voted NFL Executive of the Year by PFWA members.

Nagy inherited a 5-11 team and compiled a 12-4 record in his first season with the Bears, who won the NFC North and reached the playoffs for the first time since 2010.

–Legendary singer Gladys Knight will perform the national anthem before Super Bowl LIII on Feb. 3, the NFL and CBS announced.

“I am proud to use my voice to unite and represent our country in my hometown of Atlanta,” the 74-year-old Knight said.

Knight is enshrined in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and has won seven Grammy awards. She also has had two No. 1 Billboard Hot 100 singles during her career: “Midnight Train to Georgia” and “That’s What Friends Are For.”

–Former NFL quarterback Turk Schonert has died, according to Fox 19 News in Cincinnati. He was 62. His cause of death was not announced.

Schonert spent eight seasons in Cincinnati (1981-85, 1987-89) and one in Atlanta (1986), largely as a backup quarterback. He compiled a 7-5 record as a starter.

He later served as quarterbacks coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New York Giants, Buffalo Bills, Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints. He also was the Bills’ offensive coordinator for one season in 2008. More recently, he was an assistant coach with the Montreal Alouettes of the CFL.

–Field Level Media

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Broncos add DB, TE assistant coaches to staff

Broncos add DB, TE assistant coaches to staff

The

Broncos add DB, TE assistant coaches to staff

The Denver Broncos on Thursday announced two more additions to their coaching staff, hiring Renaldo Hill as defensive backs coach and Wade Harman as tight ends coach.

Hill, 40, has been involved in coaching the past six years, and was the assistant defensive backs coach with the Miami Dolphins in 2018. After playing safety for 10 years in the NFL with the Arizona Cardinals (2001-04), Oakland Raiders (2005), Miami (2006-08) and Denver (2009-10), Hill took coaching jobs in college at Wyoming (2012-13) and Pittsburgh (2015-17).

The Detroit native was selected by Arizona in the seventh round (202nd overall) of the 2001 NFL Draft. He was a first-team All-Big Ten Conference selection as a senior at Michigan State.

A native of Corydon, Iowa, Harman, 55, played linebacker at Utah State and Drake University, then began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Utah State in 1987. He worked with the Aggies’ tight ends and running backs for five seasons, then served as an offensive coach at Pacific (1992-95) and Morningside (1996).

A 32-year coaching veteran with 22 years of NFL experience with the Atlanta Falcons (2014-18), Baltimore Ravens (1999-2013, including two Super Bowl championship teams) and Minnesota Vikings (1997-98), Harman has coached tight ends during 19 of those NFL seasons. He has occupied that role with the Falcons for the last four years.

Also Thursday, receivers coach Zach Azzanni indicated that he had been retained by new head coach Vic Fangio, making the announcement on Twitter.

According to the Denver Post, running backs coach Curtis Modkins is also expected to return after joining the Broncos last year, according to a league source.

–Field Level Media

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Report: Seahawks sign QB Lynch as backup

Report: Seahawks sign QB Lynch as backup

The Seattle Seahawks

Report: Seahawks sign QB Lynch as backup

The Seattle Seahawks have agreed to a deal with quarterback Paxton Lynch, a first-round draft pick by Denver in 2016, KJR Radio reported Thursday.

Lynch, who turns 25 next month, was released by the Broncos before the 2018 season.

He wasn’t able to take hold of the starting job in Denver, appearing in just five games (four starts) and passing for 792 yards with four touchdowns and four interceptions. The Broncos’ signing of Case Keenum last March made Lynch expendable.

Veteran Russell Wilson is entrenched as the starter in Seattle, so the Seahawks will groom Lynch as his backup. The Seahawks acquired Brett Hundley from Green Bay last summer in exchange for a sixth-round pick in the 2019 draft to take the backup duties, but he didn’t play in 2018. Wilson took every snap.

–Field Level Media

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Gladys Knight to perform anthem at Super Bowl

Gladys Knight to perform anthem at Super Bowl

Gladys Knight to perform anthem at Super Bowl

Legendary singer Gladys Knight will perform the national anthem before Super Bowl LIII on Feb. 3, the NFL and CBS announced Thursday.

“I am proud to use my voice to unite and represent our country in my hometown of Atlanta,” the 74-year-old Knight said.

Knight is enshrined in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and has won seven Grammy awards. She also has had two No. 1 Billboard Hot 100 singles during her career: “Midnight Train to Georgia” and “That’s What Friends Are For.”

Deaf activist Aarron Loggins will sign both the anthem and “America The Beautiful.”

–Field Level Media

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Report: J.J. Watt underwent ‘minor’ knee procedure

Report: J.J. Watt underwent 'minor' knee procedure

Houston

Report: J.J. Watt underwent ‘minor’ knee procedure

Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt had a “minor knee cleanup” after the season, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported Thursday.

“Sounds like he’s fine now,” Rapoport tweeted. “Just some maintenance on an injury that bothered him during the season.”

Watt had appeared on Houston’s injury report multiple times during the second half of the season with a knee issue.

After missing 24 games to injuries in 2016 and ’17, Watt started all 16 regular-season games plus the Texans’ wild-card playoff loss to the Indianapolis Colts this season.

The three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year registered 16.0 sacks and a league-high seven forced fumbles while earning his fifth All-Pro First Team selection and fifth Pro Bowl invitation.

–Field Level Media

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Take 5: Conference championship keys

Take 5: Conference championship keys

Take 5: Conference championship keys

The bright side of a lackluster divisional round is a star-studded conference championship weekend, bringing us rematches of two of the regular season’s best games.

We’ll start at Arrowhead with the New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs, who might have won Round 1 in Foxborough if it had lasted much longer.

1. How will Belichick adapt?

Despite intercepting Patrick Mahomes twice in the first half of Week 6, the Patriots and Bill Belichick couldn’t pin him down. Mahomes eventually caught fire, hitting big shots to Tyreek Hill and creating off-schedule plays outside the pocket to nearly pull the upset.

Belichick’s favored mush-rush approach against mobile quarterbacks isn’t enough against Mahomes, because he’ll win from the pocket when not pressured. However, blitzes can produce scrambling lanes if done without discipline.

To contain AND pressure Mahomes, the Patriots could use more of a tactic that worked in Week 6: Cover-0 with two lurkers. Presnap, they show all-out blitz with one-on-one coverage everywhere (the Cover-0 element), forcing the offensive line to leave one rusher (the furthest outside rusher) unblocked. But at the snap, two inside defenders — usually Dont’a Hightower and Kyle Van Noy — start to blitz before dropping into underneath zones. O-linemen must honor that initial rush, leaving an outside rusher unblocked. With scramble lanes up the middle jammed, the free rusher forces a quick throw, and the two droppers take away short throws inside.

This concept worked a few times in Week 6 (and also foiled Philip Rivers at times last week). Because pressure comes quickly and inside options are limited, it often forces low-percentage deep balls — thrown before a target’s route is defined — leading to harmless incompletions.

Using this tactic early might unsettle Mahomes a bit, enticing him to expect pressure and play too fast. Using it often throughout the game would be riskier — basically Russian roulette, given Hill’s speed and Travis Kelce’s explosiveness — but the reward could be more takeaway opportunities.

Either way, Belichick must try something else against Hill, who hounded New England against man and zone from the slot, where he is extremely difficult to bracket. The Patriots occasionally tried a bullseye tactic (jamming him with a front-seven defender) but Hill was too quick. Perhaps Belichick would consider a vice technique (two defenders jamming at the line) in certain situations.

2. Chris Jones must dominate

Jones strip-sacked Tom Brady in just 1.9 seconds in Week 6, firing through a gap created by pulling left guard Joe Thuney on shotgun play-action.

But otherwise, Jones and the Chiefs’ pass rush barely breathed on Brady. K.C.’s other sack was one of Brady’s worst plays in years — he held the ball for 10 seconds and was stripped by Breeland Speaks. Speaks famously let Brady out of a sack in the fourth quarter, but the Chiefs didn’t even hit him otherwise.

A major reason was a wealth of three-man rushes, one of coordinator Bob Sutton’s preferred approaches against New England. Brady likes to deliver quickly, even when not pressured, and dropping eight clogs throwing lanes underneath. It also lets the Chiefs play Cover-1 (man coverage, one deep safety) with not one but two lurkers, who keep eyes on Brady and thwart inside routes.

Justin Houston is back after missing the first meeting, but he often drops when K.C. rushes only three. Dee Ford should have a few chances to reach Brady, but his quick delivery often neutralizes edge pressure.

Jones will get doubled, maybe even tripled on occasion, but he’s powerful enough to push through two men at times. He doesn’t necessarily have to get free for sacks and hits, as long as he can get push through the middle to force Brady off the spot.

3. Will Reid use the halfback seam again?

Remember Kareem Hunt’s 78-yard touchdown in the 2017 season opener, a seam route from the backfield that other teams (including the Patriots and Rams) quickly copied?

Andy Reid ran a variation of the same concept on the first drive in Week 6 this year. Hunt came wide open behind Hightower, but Mahomes missed the throw, leading to a field goal instead of a 26-yard touchdown.

Hunt is gone, but Damien Williams (or Spencer Ware, if he plays) is certainly capable of making the play. Will Reid dress it up differently and run it yet again? Will the Patriots be prepared to sniff it out?

Given how much attention Hill and Kelce draw, it’s not hard to imagine it working a third time.

4. How Aqib Talib changes Rams’ D

Nobody’s going to shut down Michael Thomas one-on-one, but Marcus Peters was a disaster against him in Week 9 (12 catches, 211 yards, TD).

Talib’s presence makes a big difference. An ideal body-type matchup, he’s strong in press coverage, quick enough to hang with in-breaking routes and lanky enough to thwart contested catches. The Rams rarely travel their corners (Talib usually plays the left, Peters the right), but Talib tracking Thomas would make sense.

That would still stress Peters, however, because it would leave him on the speedy Ted Ginn. The Rams often bracketed Thomas and Alvin Kamara in the first meeting — especially in the red zone, but also on some third downs — which could allow Ginn to exploit Peters deep.

To create time to attack deep, expect the Saints to use six-, seven- and even eight-man protections. They did this regularly in Week 9, often with slow-developing play-action that let tackles Terron Armstead and Ryan Ramczyk block down on Aaron Donald. Despite coming close, Donald was mostly kept in check, but he should be more dangerous with left guard Andrus Peat playing through a broken hand.

5. Can Saints’ D win early downs?

Holding up against the run without Sheldon Rankins will be tough, but far from impossible. David Onyemata is nearly as reliable at 3-technique, and the Saints limited the Rams’ outside zone in Week 9 by shooting a linebacker into a frontside gap while keeping another backside for the cutback.

We know the Saints must also be sharp against Sean McVay’s signature deep designs off play-action, which toy with linebackers’ eyes. A.J. Klein struggled with these in the first meeting, which could mean more snaps for Alex Anzalone, a second-year ‘backer who excels in coverage.

But New Orleans must also have a plan when Los Angeles uses tempo with empty formations, a tactic that was deadly in Week 9. Rather than going no-huddle, the Rams would huddle but break from it quickly, lining up in condensed empty sets and snapping the ball immediately. Saints defenders were often late lining up and/or still communicating at the snap, and Jared Goff took advantage.

On 10 such plays, he went 5 for 8 for 102 yards and a touchdown. One incompletion was a gorgeous throw that Tyler Higbee dropped for a would-be 18-yard TD. Another play produced a first down for defensive holding, and another was a 6-yard Goff scramble.

The Saints improved against these looks after halftime, but they must be sharper from the outset Sunday. Goff remains up-and-down when forced to throw on third down, so taking away easy early-down completions is paramount.

–David DeChant, Field Level Media

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Report: Ex-NFL QB, coach Schonert dies at 62

Report: Ex-NFL QB, coach Schonert dies at 62

Report: Ex-NFL QB, coach Schonert dies at 62

Former NFL quarterback Turk Schonert has died, according to Fox 19 News in Cincinnati.

He was 62. His cause of death was not announced.

Schonert spent eight seasons in Cincinnati (1981-85, 1987-89) and one in Atlanta (1986), largely as a backup quarterback. He compiled a 7-5 record as a starter.

During his career, he passed for 3,788 yards with 11 touchdowns and 20 interceptions.

A product of Stanford, Schonert was a ninth-round pick of the Chicago Bears in 1980.

He later served as quarterbacks coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New York Giants, Buffalo Bills, Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints. He also was the Bills’ offensive coordinator for one season in 2008. More recently, he was an assistant coach with the Montreal Alouettes of the CFL.

–Field Level Media

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Bears’ Nagy named PFWA Coach of the Year

Bears' Nagy named PFWA Coach of the Year

Bears’ Nagy named PFWA Coach of the Year

The Chicago Bears’ impressive 2018 turnaround earned Matt Nagy the NFL Coach of the Year and former defensive coordinator Vic Fangio the NFL Assistant Coach of the Year honors Thursday from the Pro Football Writers of America.

Indianapolis general manager Chris Ballard, whose moves helped the Colts reach the playoffs for the first time since 2014, was voted the NFL Executive of the Year by PFWA members.

Nagy inherited a 5-11 team and compiled a 12-4 record in his first season with the Bears, who won the NFC North and reached the playoffs for the first time since 2010.

He is the third Chicago head coach to win the PFWA honor since 2000, joining Lovie Smith (2005) and Dick Jauron (2001).

The Chicago defense led the NFL in takeaways and interceptions under Fangio, who was named the new head coach of the Denver Broncos earlier this month.

Fangio is the second Bears assistant to win the award, established in 1993, joining Ron Rivera (2005).

Ballard is the fifth Colts executive to win the award since it was established in 1993. Bill Polian was a three-time recipient (1999, 2005 and ’09) and Ryan Grigson was honored in 2012.

–Field Level Media

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Chiefs S Berry, RB Ware set to play Sunday

Chiefs S Berry, RB Ware set to play Sunday

Chiefs S Berry, RB Ware set to play Sunday

Safety Eric Berry and running back Spencer Ware are trending toward taking the field Sunday in the AFC Championship game against the New England Patriots.

Berry was a full participant in Wednesday’s practice. He’s been bothered by a heel injury.

The development would be positive for the Chiefs, who last week had wide receiver Sammy Watkins on the field. Watkins had a stretch in which he only played five snaps between Week 9 and the end of the regular season.

Early this week, the Chiefs activated guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif (ankle) from injured reserve.

Berry has played just 99 snaps across two games this season while battling the lingering heel issue, while Ware missed the final three games of the regular season.

Damien Williams is expected to start at running back for Kansas City.

–Field Level Media

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Reports: Jags RB Fournette challenges contract void

Reports: Jags RB Fournette challenges contract void

Reports: Jags RB Fournette challenges contract void

Jacksonville Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette is challenging the team’s decision to take away the guarantees in the final two years of his contract, according to multiple reports Thursday.

Fournette has filed an official challenge, meaning an arbitrator will meet with both sides to determine whether the Jaguars are within their rights to decline to pay the money.

He was scheduled to earn $2.93 million in 2019 and $4.17 million in 2020, but the Jaguars voided the guarantees after he was suspended for one game by the NFL. In the Jaguars’ loss at Buffalo at Nov. 25, Fournette came off the bench to fight with Bills defensive lineman Shaq Lawson, triggering the suspension without pay.

After the game, Fournette apologized for his actions, but the Jaguars took away the remaining guaranteed money in his rookie contract. The team cited a contract clause that said it could do so if Fournette missed a game for anything other than a football-related injury.

Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone and Fournette, who turns 24 on Friday, met last week to discuss his commitment to the team going forward. Marrone said afterward that he was encouraged by the running back’s attitude.

The 2018 season was a disappointment for Fournette, whom the Jaguars selected with the No. 4 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. After a rookie season that saw him rush for 1,040 yards and nine touchdowns, he finished 2018 having gained just 439 yards and scoring five rushing touchdowns.

He played in just eight games, missing seven of them with injuries. Tom Coughlin, the team’s vice president of football operations, criticized Fournette and fellow running back T.J. Yeldon for sideline behavior during the final game of the season that he called disrespectful and selfish. Neither Fournette nor Yeldon played in the game, a 20-3 loss to Houston.

–Field Level Media

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Potent offenses collide as Saints, Rams meet for NFC title

Potent offenses collide as Saints, Rams meet for NFC title

Potent offenses collide as Saints, Rams meet for NFC title

Drew Brees turned 40 on Tuesday, and the New Orleans Saints quarterback will cap off his birthday week matching throws and wits on Sunday in the NFC Championship Game with Jared Goff, the Los Angeles Rams quarterback who is 16 years younger.

Brees is in no mood for nostalgia, but he knows better than anyone else that chances to win a Super Bowl don’t come around often.

“I think that’s been well communicated, really, as we’ve journeyed through the season and as we’ve hit every benchmark,” Brees said of being one victory away from his second Super Bowl appearance, the other when he won a title after the 2009 season. “Don’t take it for granted. Appreciate it. We are still a young team in a lot of areas, but we also have a lot of great veteran leadership.”

Goff said he appreciated Brees’ willingness to share some insights into the art of quarterbacking when they played together in the Pro Bowl last year.

Brees said he was simply “paying forward” what other veteran quarterbacks did for him, guys like Doug Flutie, Trent Dilfer and Kurt Warner.

“I told myself at that time that hopefully I can play long enough where guys start asking advice from me,” Brees said, smiling.

In their 45-35 regular-season victory over the Rams in November, the Saints held a 35-14 lead late in the second quarter — scoring touchdowns on five of their six first-half possessions. Their only miscue came when Mark Ingram fumbled at the New Orleans 22 with the game tied at 14, but the Rams wasted that scoring opportunity when they passed up a go-ahead, 34-yard field goal on fourth-and-4 and failed to convert on holder Johnny Hekker’s run around right end.

The Rams rallied starting late in the second quarter and put up 21 consecutive points to the tie the game at 35, only to have Brees connect with Michael Thomas on a 72-yard touchdown with 3:53 left to seal the victory.

When Saints coach Sean Payton remarked after the game that he liked the matchup of Thomas going against Rams cornerback Marcus Peters, the defensive back fired back and said he was relishing a rematch.

Asked Wednesday about the verbal dustup, Payton discounted any bad blood, saying the Saints had come close to drafting Peters in 2015.

In the November matchup, Brees completed 25 of 36 passes for 346 yards and four touchdowns, and Thomas caught 12 passes for a career-high 211 yards to hand the Rams their first loss of the season.

In the rematch, the Saints will be playing without one of their best run-stoppers, defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins, who sustained a torn Achilles tendon in New Orleans’ 20-14 divisional playoff victory over the Philadelphia Eagles last week.

The Rams also will be without one of their best performers, wide receiver Cooper Kupp, who tore his left anterior cruciate ligament in Week 10. Kupp had 40 catches for 566 yards and six touchdowns in eight games this season.

“That game was a while ago,” Rams coach Sean McVay said of New Orleans’ head-to-head win. “It was a great reference point for us to work from and try to learn from some of the mistakes everybody made, and we’re looking forward to the challenge again on Sunday.”

The Rams, playing in their first NFC Championship Game since 2001-02, are coming off an impressive 30-22 victory over Dallas in which they produced 273 rushing yards, the most ever surrendered by the Cowboys in the playoffs. Running backs Todd Gurley and C.J. Anderson combined for 238 yards and three touchdowns on 39 carries (6.1-yard average).

“I thought those guys did a great job complementing each other,” McVay said. “Certainly, Todd’s our guy, but I thought C.J. was a great change of pace to come in there and be able to do some really good things.”

The rematch should have plenty of offensive fireworks. The Rams finished No. 2 in the NFL in scoring (32.9 points per game), but the Saints were right behind them at No. 3 (31.5). Both defenses finished in the middle of the pack in total yardage allowed and points allowed.

While Gurley and Anderson proved they could pound the ball against the Cowboys, the Saints’ Alvin Kamara and Ingram provide the sixth-best rushing attack in the league. Kamara had three first-half touchdowns in the November meeting.

“We need to keep our gap integrity and tackle well,” McVay said.

–Field Level Media

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Broncos hire Scangarello as offensive coordinator

Broncos hire Scangarello as offensive coordinator

The Denver

Broncos hire Scangarello as offensive coordinator

The Denver Broncos have hired Rich Scangarello as their new offensive coordinator, the team announced Wednesday.

Scangarello served as the San Francisco 49ers quarterbacks coach the past two seasons.

Scangarello interviewed with new head coach Vic Fangio on Tuesday and returned for more talks Wednesday, and Fangio liked what he heard.

“With the addition of Rich Scangarello as our offensive coordinator, we’re getting an experienced coach who was a trusted and valued assistant with Kyle Shanahan for three seasons,” Fangio said in a press release. “He worked wonders with all the quarterbacks who started for San Francisco during the previous two years as quarterbacks coach.

“With his background and knowledge, it’s the perfect time for Rich to be an offensive coordinator in the NFL. I find this opportunity for Rich very similar to when I first became a defensive coordinator many years ago, and he is ready to take this step in his career.”

Scangarello, 46, has never been a coordinator at the NFL level, but he held the OC position in the college ranks at Wagner in 2016 and at Northern Arizona from 2012-14.

He earned praise for his work with 49ers rookie quarterback Nick Mullens and second-year signal-caller C.J. Beathard after starter Jimmy Garoppolo suffered a season-ending ACL injury in Week 3 of this season.

Scangarello’s lengthy resume also includes stints as an offensive quality control coach with the Oakland Raiders in 2009 and the Atlanta Falcons in 2015. Scangarello worked under Shanahan with the Falcons.

–Field Level Media

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NFL notebook: Steelers don’t expect Brown return

NFL notebook: Steelers don't expect Brown return

Pittsburgh Steelers president

NFL notebook: Steelers don’t expect Brown return

Pittsburgh Steelers president Art Rooney II said he still hasn’t talked to disgruntled wideout Antonio Brown but has left the door open a crack for a reconciliation.

In a wide-ranging discussion with Pittsburgh-area media Wednesday, Rooney discussed a number of topics. But much of the conversation focused on Brown.

Rooney said he would be willing to discuss Brown’s return to the Steelers, but there are “not that many signs out there that that’s going to happen.” Rooney told reporters he and Brown have not talked since the end of the season and he doesn’t expect him to return.

It is expected the Steelers will trade Brown, though Rooney said the team has not engaged in any trade talks. Brown caught 104 passes for 1,297 yards and a career-best 15 touchdowns in 2018.

–Atlanta Falcons defensive end Takkarist McKinley is back home in Oakland, Calif., after being taken for a mental evaluation Tuesday by Los Angeles police.

“There is no reason to believe that this was anything serious,” team spokesman Brian Cearns told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “He’s back home in Oakland with his family.”

Police were called to a Los Angeles hotel by a friend who was concerned about McKinley’s well-being. The 23-year-old player was not arrested, as police encouraged him to seek help and he complied.

–The Buffalo Bills signed veteran linebacker Lorenzo Alexander and offensive lineman Jeremiah Sirles to one-year contract extensions.

Alexander, 35, played in all 16 games in 2018 and registered 6.5 sacks, 74 tackles, 11 tackles for loss and a career-high two interceptions. He was set to become a free agent.

Sirles, 27, joined the Bills as a free agent in Week 5 of the season and played in 12 games (five starts) across the offensive line.

–Former NFL offensive lineman Jonathan Martin was ordered to stand trial on three felony counts by a Los Angeles Superior Court Judge, stemming from an incident last February in which he allegedly threatened former NFL teammate Richie Incognito and two former high school classmates.

Martin’s social media post from Feb. 22 was ruled to possess enough evidence for the 29-year-old Martin to answer to the charges, judge Shellie Samuels said at a preliminary hearing, according to the New York Daily News.

The Instagram post displayed Martin with a 12-gauge shotgun resting on a motel bed with 19 shells scattered around the weapon. The social media handles for Incognito, fellow former Dolphins teammate Mike Pouncey and two former classmates at Harvard-Westlake School in Los Angeles were tagged into the post, which featured #MiamiDolphins on the gun handle and #HarvardWestlake on the barrel.

–The New York Jets officially named Gregg Williams as their defensive coordinator.

Williams spent the last two seasons in Cleveland, serving as defensive coordinator before taking over as interim head coach midseason last year when the Browns fired Hue Jackson.

The Jets also confirmed that new head coach Adam Gase is retaining special teams coordinator Brant Boyer.

–The Detroit Lions have hired former Seattle Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell to run their offense, the team announced.

Bevell, 49, replaces Jim Bob Cooter, whose contract was not renewed after Detroit finished 24th in total offense and 25th in scoring offense in 2018.

Bevell was out of coaching last season. He was fired by the Seahawks in January 2018 after seven seasons as their offensive coordinator and did not land another position.

–The Jacksonville Jaguars announced they have hired John DeFilippo as their offensive coordinator.

DeFilippo, 40, spent 2015 with the Cleveland Browns as offensive coordinator, then was the quarterbacks coach in Philadelphia in 2016-17. The Minnesota Vikings hired DeFilippo as offensive coordinator just days after the Eagles won Super Bowl LII, then fired him after a 21-7 loss to Seattle in Week 14.

–The Denver Broncos have hired Rich Scangarello as their new offensive coordinator, the team announced.

Scangarello, 46, served as the San Francisco 49ers quarterbacks coach the past two seasons. He has never been a coordinator at the NFL level, but he held the OC position in the college ranks at Wagner in 2016 and at Northern Arizona from 2012-14.

–Field Level Media

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Rams list clean injury report, including RB Gurley

Rams list clean injury report, including RB Gurley

Rams list clean injury report, including RB Gurley

Before their biggest game of the season, the Los Angeles Rams have a clean injury report.

That includes arguably their biggest offensive weapon: Todd Gurley.

The Rams listed no players on their Wednesday injury report following the team’s limited walk-through, including their two-time All-Pro running back who missed the final two games of the regular season because of left knee inflammation.

Gurley, 24, was expected to be a limited practice participant ahead of the NFC Championship Game at New Orleans this Sunday. He initially injured the knee in Week 1 against the Oakland Raiders before aggravating the knee in Week 15 against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Gurley returned to the lineup for the Rams’ divisional-round matchup against the Dallas Cowboys, and the three-time Pro Bowl back rushed for 115 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries in Los Angeles’ 30-22 win.

Gurley led the NFL with 21 touchdowns and 17 rushing scores during the regular season. He notched his third 1,000-yard rushing season in four years since the Rams took him with the 10th overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft.

Despite Gurley’s return, the Rams continued to find carries last week for C.J. Anderson, who has been a revelation since signing with Los Angeles on Dec. 19. Anderson has ripped off three straight 100-yard games for the Rams, and he owns an NFL-high 422 rushing yards since Week 16, including the playoffs.

–Field Level Media

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KC looking to start fast, outrun history in AFC title game

KC looking to start fast, outrun history in AFC title game

KC looking to start fast, outrun history in AFC title game

The fast starts Kansas City typically manufactures are not something to take lightly.

The Chiefs have outscored opponents 161-56 in the first quarter, a key reason why they earned the top seed and home-field advantage they enjoy entering the AFC Championship Game at Arrowhead Stadium against New England on Sunday.

And the Patriots are well aware.

“You always want to play from ahead. You always want to get off to a good start,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick recently told reporters. “But I think these are 60-minute games and this time of year you’re going to have to battle all the way through.”

That is where Tom Brady comes in.

“We talk about in these games, it’s not like a special play or there’s a special formula,” the five-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback told the media. “It’s just excelling at the right time.”

Few, if any, have played quarterback better than the New England great, whose ability to close out wins is unrivaled. Case in point, Week 6’s meeting between the Chiefs and Pats.

Brady drove New England to the Kansas City 9-yard line in less than three minutes, setting up Stephen Gostkowski for a walk-off 28-yard field goal that gave the Pats a 43-40 victory — handing the Chiefs their first loss of the season. New England gained 500 yards, did not punt and was not penalized. Yet the Patriots almost blew a 24-9 lead they built by, uhh, starting fast.

Don’t expect the Chiefs to buy into Brady’s claim that “everyone thinks we suck” — a startling proclamation he made immediately after New England thumped the Los Angeles Chargers 41-28 in the divisional round last weekend.

“This isn’t their first rodeo here,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid told reporters of his team’s opponent. “They have done this a few times. Arguably, if not the, one of the greatest dynasties in the history of the game.”

No question. The AFC Championship Game appearance is the eighth in a row for New England — which has played in eight Super Bowls and won five of them with Belichick and Brady.

Yet Kansas City is the home favorite Sunday for a night game that will be played in freezing temperatures.

The conditions only add to potential problems Patrick Mahomes could face as a first-year starting quarterback coping with the pressure attached to a conference championship game and the Super Bowl berth that goes to the winner.

But Mahomes has excelled at virtually any test he has faced this season, earning All-Pro honors after passing for more than 5,000 yards and joining Brady and Peyton Manning as the only quarterbacks with 50 touchdown passes in a season. Although Mahomes did not pass for a touchdown in the divisional round, he skillfully engineered a 31-13 romp over Indianapolis.

The Chiefs have averaged 35.8 points in the four matchups Reid has coached against Belichick’s Patriots, going 2-2.

With Mahomes, the Chiefs are as explosive as any time in their history, which has never before involved a conference championship appearance at home. The Chiefs’ last Super Bowl trip came after capturing the AFL title in the 1969 season, beating Minnesota in the last of four pre-merger Super Bowls.

“It means a lot to just make it this far,” linebacker Justin Houston said. “We’ve never had this opportunity. It would mean a lot to me, the organization, the city.”

Defeating perennial power New England, which is playing in its 15th conference championship game, would further punctuate that feat — and the Patriots were only 3-5 on the road this season.

To maintain that dominance, the Patriots will attempt to keep Brady clean against a Kansas City defense good at pressuring quarterbacks but suspect in other dimensions. Defensively, the Patriots are capable of containing the run but must account for Mahomes and a deep receiving corps led by tight end Travis Kelce and wideout Tyreek Hill.

The Chiefs activated offensive guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif this week. He practiced along with two starters who missed the divisional round, running back Spencer Ware (hamstring) and free safety Eric Berry (heel).

Defensive end Deatrich Wise Jr. missed the divisional round with an ankle injury and remains the Patriots’ biggest injury concern.

–Field Level Media

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Jaguars hire DeFilippo as OC

Jaguars hire DeFilippo as OC

The Jacksonville Jaguars announced Wednesday they have hired John DeFilippo as their offensive

Jaguars hire DeFilippo as OC

The Jacksonville Jaguars announced Wednesday they have hired John DeFilippo as their offensive coordinator.

The Jaguars also interviewed former NFL head coach Mike McCoy for the job, according to reports on Tuesday.

DeFilippo, 40, spent 2015 with the Cleveland Browns as offensive coordinator, then was the quarterbacks coach in Philadelphia in 2016-17. The Minnesota Vikings hired DeFilippo as offensive coordinator just days after the Eagles won Super Bowl LII, then fired him after a 21-7 loss to Seattle in Week 14.

Early in his career, he was in charge of offensive quality control with the New York Giants, working under head coach Tom Coughlin, who now is the Jaguars’ vice president of football operations.

Coach Doug Marrone announced additional coaching staff assignments on Wednesday.

Terry Robiskie will serve as running backs coach, George Warhop as offensive line coach, Jason Rebrovich as defensive line coach, David Merritt as assistant defensive line coach, Tim Walton as secondary/cornerbacks coach and Joe Danna as secondary/safeties coach.

–Field Level Media

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Steelers’ Rooney not expecting Brown to return

Steelers' Rooney not expecting Brown to return

Pittsburgh Steelers president Art Rooney II said he still

Steelers’ Rooney not expecting Brown to return

Pittsburgh Steelers president Art Rooney II said he still hasn’t talked to disgruntled wideout Antonio Brown but has left the door open a crack for a reconciliation.

In a wide-ranging discussion with Pittsburgh-area media on Wednesday, Rooney discussed a number of topics, including the future of coach Mike Tomlin.

But much of the conversation focused on Brown.

Rooney said he would be willing to discuss Brown’s return to the Steelers, but there are “not that many signs out there that that’s going to happen.” Rooney told reporters he and Brown have not talked since the end of the season and he doesn’t expect him to return.

“I would have liked to have had the opportunity to talk to him and understand where he is,” Rooney told the reporters. “Maybe that will happen at some point, who knows?”

Brown didn’t play in Week 17 after missing multiple practices in the preceding week. Rooney said he wasn’t a big distraction to the team until that week.

“I’m not gonna sit here and disparage Antonio,” Rooney said during the session. “You have to remember he’s been one of the most productive receivers in the league for a long time now. He’s helped us win a lot of games over the last few years. Was it always done the way you’d like to see it done? No.

“But I don’t think he was a major distraction to the team up until the last weekend of the season. The proof is in the pudding for the most part.”

It is expected the Steelers will trade Brown, though Rooney said the team has not engaged in any trade talks.

Soon after Rooney talked with the media, Brown tweeted his intention to air his side in an interview.

“Clearly they feel indifferent about me seeing all these reports the big interview coming! watching my teammates, fans and organization show me how they really feel! Stay Woke,” he wrote.

Brown caught 104 passes for 1,297 yards and a career-best 15 touchdowns in 2018. He has topped 100 receptions in each of the past six seasons and has seven 1,000-yard receiving campaigns during nine years with the Steelers.

Concerning another disgruntled player, Rooney said he never expected running back Le’Veon Bell would sit out the entire season in a contract dispute. Rooney said he is content with the Steelers’ backfield situation, putting his trust in James Conner and Jaylen Samuels.

Tomlin also was a main discussion point, with Rooney not committing to an extension of his contract. The coach has two years left on his contract.

“Those are things we get to later in the offseason,” Rooney said. “We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.”

The Steelers finished 9-6-1 this season and missed the playoffs, despite being in the driver’s seat for a postseason berth much of the season. In his 12 seasons with the team, Tomlin has a 125-66-1 record.

Rooney added he doesn’t expect any other coaches to depart, and that the Steelers will concentrate on filling staff vacancies.

He said a contract extension for quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is an offseason priority, however.

Rooney also addressed the status of linebacker Ryan Shazier, who suffered a serious spinal injury 13 months ago. Shazier has maintained he wants to one day resume playing, and Rooney confirmed that Shazier continues to rehabilitate with the intention of putting on the uniform again.

Shazier will be a free agent in March, and Rooney said the team is willing to comply.

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

–Field Level Media

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Lions hire Bevell as offensive coordinator

Lions hire Bevell as offensive coordinator

The Detroit Lions have hired former Seattle Seahawks offensive

Lions hire Bevell as offensive coordinator

The Detroit Lions have hired former Seattle Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell to run their offense, the team announced Wednesday.

Bevell, 49, replaces Jim Bob Cooter, whose contract was not renewed after Detroit finished 24th in total offense and 25th in scoring offense in 2018.

Bevell was out of coaching last season. He was fired by the Seahawks in January 2018 after seven seasons as their offensive coordinator and did not land another position.

Bevell was also the offensive coordinator for the Minnesota Vikings for five seasons (2006-10) before he joined Pete Carroll’s staff in Seattle in 2011.

His offense with the Seahawks peaked in 2015, finishing fourth in the NFL in both scoring offense and total offense.

He helped the Seahawks reach the playoffs in five of his seven seasons, including consecutive trips to the Super Bowl. Seattle defeated Denver in Super Bowl XLVIII and notoriously lost to New England in Super Bowl XLIX when his offense opted to throw from the 1-yard line and Malcolm Butler intercepted Russell Wilson’s pass to seal the win for the Patriots.

The New England defensive coordinator that day was Matt Patricia, now the head coach of the Lions.

Bevell’s NFL resume also includes working with the Green Bay Packers from 2000-05, the last three years as quarterbacks coach.

–Field Level Media

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Ex-lineman Martin to stand trial for threats against Incognito

Ex-lineman Martin to stand trial for threats against Incognito

Former

Ex-lineman Martin to stand trial for threats against Incognito

Former NFL offensive lineman Jonathan Martin was ordered to stand trial on three felony counts by a Los Angeles Superior Court Judge on Wednesday, stemming from an incident last February in which he allegedly threatened former NFL teammate Richie Incognito and two former high school classmates.

Martin’s social media post from Feb. 22 was ruled to possess enough evidence for the 29-year-old Martin to answer to the charges, judge Shellie Samuels said at a preliminary hearing, according to the New York Daily News.

The Instagram post displayed Martin with a 12-gauge shotgun resting on a motel bed with 19 shells scattered around the weapon. The social media handles for Incognito, fellow former Dolphins teammate Mike Pouncey, and two former classmates at Harvard-Westlake School in Los Angeles were tagged into the post, which featured #MiamiDolphins on the gun handle and #HarvardWestlake on the barrel.

It also had this message: “When you’re a bully victim & a coward, your options are suicide, or revenge.”

Martin left the Dolphins in the middle of the 2013 season and accused Incognito of bullying him. An NFL investigation later found that Incognito was one of three players who bullied Martin and Incognito was suspended for eight games.

Martin has experienced his own issues and his lawyer, Winston McKesson, said those troubles were the reasons for the social media post. He said Martin checked himself into a facility shortly after posting the image.

“He was struggling with his own demons. That’s what this is,” McKesson said in court, claiming the post wasn’t specific enough to be a criminal threat.

Judge Samuels disagreed with the argument.

“It does say suicide or revenge. That does sound equivocal on its face,” Samuels said. “However, on the photo, there are 19 shells. Suicide would take one shot. Nineteen shells is a mass shooting, killing more than one person, revenge.

“I think that’s unequivocal enough to be a criminal threat.”

Martin remains free on $210,000 bail and his next court date is Jan. 30, according to the Daily News.

Earlier, a Los Angeles Police Department detective testified that Martin’s web surfing on Feb. 9 showed he pulled up a story about Incognito just hours before ordering the shotgun from American Gun Works.

Court testimony also disclosed that Incognito was in such great fear when he learned of the post on Feb. 22 that he drove two hours north from Scottsdale, Ariz., to meet with an FBI agent.

Meanwhile, Harvard-Westlake closed the school on Feb. 23 as a precaution after being informed of Martin’s post.

–Field Level Media

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Tiger commits to Torrey Pines, Riviera events

Tiger commits to Torrey Pines, Riviera events

Tiger commits to Torrey Pines, Riviera events

It’s official. Tiger Woods will make his 2019 PGA Tour debut next week at the Farmers Insurance Open at his beloved Torrey Pines Golf Course in San Diego.

Woods has also committed to the Feb. 14-17 Genesis Open at Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, where he serves as tournament host.

“Kicking off this season on the west coast at @FarmersInsOpen and my TGRF’s @GenesisOpen,” he tweeted Wednesday. “Can’t wait!”

In addition to his seven Farmers Open titles, Woods also won the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines — the most recent of his 14 major championships. He tied for 23rd last year in his first official PGA Tour event following fusion surgery on his back.

His 2019 entry had been expected, but the tournament received official word from the tour headquarters Wednesday morning.

“It’s fantastic, exciting,” tournament director Peter Ripa told the San Diego Union-Tribune. “Players have choices for where they want to play, and for Tiger to choose San Diego … we’re going to be the center of the sports universe next week.”

Woods, 43, is No. 12 in the official world golf rankings. He last played at the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas from Nov. 29-Dec. 2, finishing 17th in the 18-man field.

The Farmers field also includes defending champion Jason Day, world No. 1 and reigning FedExCup champion Justin Rose, 2017 winner Jon Rahm, San Diegan Xander Schauffele, Rory McIlroy, Tony Finau, Rickie Fowler, Marc Leishman and Jordan Speith.

Woods won his first PGA Tour event at Riviera in 1992 while playing on a sponsor’s exemption as an amateur. His TGR Live manages the event and proceeds from the tournament benefit his TGR Foundation.

“I’m looking forward to being back in Los Angeles for the Genesis Open,” Woods said in a statement. “It’s always great to be able to play at Riviera and I am very proud of the impact the Genesis Open has been able to make on education through my foundation.”

Woods missed the cut at Riviera CC in 2018, one of only two missed cuts in 19 events.

–Field Level Media

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Bills sign LB Alexander, OL Sirles to extensions

Bills sign LB Alexander, OL Sirles to extensions

The

Bills sign LB Alexander, OL Sirles to extensions

The Buffalo Bills signed veteran linebacker Lorenzo Alexander and offensive lineman Jeremiah Sirles to one-year contract extensions on Wednesday.

Alexander, 35, played in all 16 games in 2018 and registered 6.5 sacks, 74 tackles, 11 tackles for loss and a career-high two interceptions. He was set to become a free agent.

He originally signed with the Bills in 2016 after nine seasons with the Washington Redskins (2007-12), Arizona Cardinals (2013-14) and Oakland Raiders (2015). Buffalo re-signed him to a two-year, $9 million deal in March 2017.

Undrafted out of Cal in 2005, Alexander has been an incredible success story. He made the Pro Bowl in 2012 and again in 2016, when he was named the game’s Defensive MVP.

Earlier this month, the team captain expressed his desire to remain with the Bills.

“Obviously, I’m invested,” he told the media. “I’ve been here three years, I’m invested in the community. I’m invested in this team and this organization. I would like to be able to continue to play here and be able to retire here.”

Sirles, 27, joined the Bills as a free agent in Week 5 of the season and played in 12 games (five starts) across the offensive line.

A Nebraska product, Sirles entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent in 2014. He saw limited action that season with the then-San Diego Chargers, then played 28 games over two seasons in Minnesota before joining the Bills. The Carolina Panthers released him from injured reserve earlier in the season.

Sirles tweeted a picture of himself with his contract in hand, and captioned it: “God is so good! The dream continues. Thank you @buffalobills time to get back to work!”

–Field Level Media

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Falcons DE McKinley back home after mental evaluation

Falcons DE McKinley back home after mental evaluation

Atlanta Falcons defensive end Takkarist McKinley

Falcons DE McKinley back home after mental evaluation

Atlanta Falcons defensive end Takkarist McKinley was back home in Oakland, Calif., on Wednesday after being taken for a mental evaluation Tuesday by Los Angeles police.

“There is no reason to believe that this was anything serious,” team spokesman Brian Cearns told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “He’s back home in Oakland with his family.”

Police were called to a Los Angeles hotel by a friend who was concerned about McKinley’s well-being. The 23-year-old player was not arrested, as police encouraged him to seek help and he complied.

Falcons coach Dan Quinn addressed the situation Tuesday.

“Any time a situation occurs that is or could be related to mental health issues we take it very seriously,” Quinn said in a statement. “We 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 the No. 26 overall pick by the Falcons in the 2017 NFL Draft. The UCLA product agreed to a four-year, $10.2 million contract with the Falcons that included a $5.6 million signing bonus, according to Spotrac.

In 31 games over two seasons, he has recorded 42 tackles, 13 sacks, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.

–Field Level Media

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