RB Gordon inactive for Chargers-Chiefs showdown

RB Gordon inactive for Chargers-Chiefs showdown

Los Angeles Chargers running back Melvin Gordon will sit out Thursday night’s AFC West Division showdown at the first-place Kansas City Chiefs.

Gordon, one of six NFL players with 800 rushing yards and 400 receiving yards this season, missed the previous two games after spraining his right knee on Nov. 25 in a 45-10 win vs. the Arizona Cardinals. He was made inactive for the Thursday night contest.

The Chargers (10-3) entered the night one game back of the Chiefs (11-2), who already have clinched a playoff berth.

Gordon leads the Chargers with 802 rushing yards, including nine touchdowns. The 15th overall pick in the 2015 draft also has 44 catches for 453 yards and four touchdowns this season.

In the Week 1 opener against the Chiefs, Gordon rushed for only 64 yards on 15 carries, while catching nine passes for 102 yards in a 38-28 loss in Los Angeles.

Backup Austin Ekeler is also on the inactive list after sustaining a concussion last week in Los Angeles’ 26-21 win at the Cincinnati Bengals.

Ekeler is the Chargers’ second-leading rusher, running for 496 yards and two touchdowns on 98 carries. The undrafted 23-year-old from Western State also has 39 receptions for 404 yards and three touchdowns this season.

With Gordon in the lineup, the Chargers are averaging 137.0 rushing yards, but just 72.3 yards without him.

“I’ve been grinding hard to get back and we’re still trying to decide what we’re going to do,” Gordon told reporters on Tuesday. “I know Coach (Anthony Lynn) is trying to be careful and doesn’t want me to further hurt myself or things like that. So we’ll see where that goes, but I’m a lot stronger and more confident than I was last week.”

Rookies Justin Jackson and Detrez Newsome are likely to be the Chargers’ featured running backs on Thursday night.

Chargers nose tackle Brandon Mebane, who missed the past two weeks while tending to his ill infant daughter, was inactive again for the Thursday game.

For the Chiefs, safety Eric Berry (heel) and wide receiver Tyreek Hill (heel/wrist) were on the active roster Thursday. Kansas City’s inactive players included running back Spencer Ware (shoulder/hamstring), wide receiver Sammy Watkins (foot) and guard Cameron Erving (knee).

–Field Level Media

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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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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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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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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