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  • Sunday, January 25, 2015
    Running backs stand out at Senior Bowl
    By The Sports Xchange

    The Senior Bowl is like any other all-star game. It caters more to the fans than scouts, with coaches more concerned with divvying up playing time than actually winning the game.

    • That doesn't mean that scouts weren't watching the North's 34-13 victory, however. They want to see if the players who stood out all week during the practices can carry it over to the game itself.

      For players who struggled during the week's scrimmages, the game provides an opportunity to prove that they respond when the lights shine brightest -- something, of course, that every scout is looking for in a player.

      A couple of the themes from the week of practice carried through to the game. First, the general inaccuracy from the quarterbacks -- providing further evidence why there might not be a senior quarterback selected among the first 100 picks this year.

      On a more positive note, there was brilliant running from the backs Saturday, showing off the depth of this year's remarkable crop at that position. A number of small-school prospects at various positions proved they belonged with standout performances.

      Below is a list of the 10 players listed alphabetically who stood out (for better or worse) on Saturday.

      --Ameer Abdullah, RB, Nebraska: Leading the victorious North squad in both running (73 yards) and receiving (four catches for 40 yards) for a game-high 113 all-purpose yards, Abdullah was correctly named the 2015 Senior Bowl MVP. Abdullah's terrific agility, balance and acceleration helped him stand out all week and he rose to the occasion one last time for the Cornhuskers.

      --Cameron Artis-Payne, RB, Auburn: Though David Johnson and Abdullah had flashier runs later, Artis-Payne started the game in fine fashion for the South, showing balance, lateral agility and determination to run through would-be tacklers.

      --Jamison Crowder, WR, Duke: After a very impressive week of practice, Crowder had a tough game, twice bobbling kick returns. He was saved from a fumble on the first one by an obscure NFL rule that states that returners have the opportunity to re-secure a ball bobbled into the air if they waved for a fair catch. Crowder generally possesses very reliable hands. He has terrific quickness and first-step acceleration to make big plays after the catch or as a returner.

      --Rannell Hall, WR, Central Florida: Hall showed terrific body control to adjust over Nelson to haul in a 32-yard pass from Southeastern Louisiana's Bryan Bennett in the third quarter that put the South in position tie the score at 10. This wasn't the case of one splashy play getting Hall attention, though. He made some terrific catches throughout the week of practice, showing excellent timing, positioning and concentration to make contested grabs.

      --David Johnson, RB, Northern Iowa: While Abdullah might have been the flashiest back, the most impressive overall was Johnson, whose combination of size, sharp-cutting and terrific hands out of the backfield made him a mismatch in the running and receiving game, as well. The vision, balance and determination Johnson demonstrated in the 19-yard touchdown to start the scoring ranks among the most impressive individual plays of the game.

      --Ali Marpet, G, Hobart College: Marpet was arguably the most pleasant surprise of the 2015 Senior Bowl. All week long, the former Statesman left tackle demonstrated impressive strength, balance and toughness despite making the jump from Division III and switching inside to guard.

      --Steven Nelson, CB, Oregon State: Nelson stood out in coverage all day long, showing quick feet, a fluid turning motion and the closing burst. He broke up an official four passes on the day, consistently undercutting potential receivers to bat away passes. Nelson has the blend of size and tenacity scouts are looking for in a nickel corner. He does, however, have a tendency to get grabby and drew a penalty in this game for holding.

      --Quentin Rollins, CB, Miami (Ohio): The most impressive corner throughout the week of practice, Rollins carried it over into the game. His interception with 19 seconds remaining in the third quarter might have been the most impressive catch of the game, as he tracked the ball directly over his head and leapt to haul it in. Scouts are excited about Rollins' upside. He earned MAC Defensive Player of the Year in 2014, the only season he spent on the football field, after playing his first four seasons on the basketball court for the RedHawks.

      --Martrell Spaight, OLB, Arkansas: With projected second-round pick Denzel Perryman limited with an abdominal strain, scouts were anxious to see if any of the "other" linebackers in this contest would step up. Spaight flashed with his agility and terrific closing speed, making several eye-popping hits.

      --Tyler Varga, RB/FB, Yale: Varga ran for 31 yards and two touchdowns on just four carries and delivered a couple of crushing blows when asked to line up as a fullback. Varga's toughness, physicality and versatility stood out all week, but it was his surprising agility and balance despite his rocked-up frame that scouts might find most intriguing.

      Rob Rang (@robrang) is a senior analyst for NFLDraftScout.com, owned by The Sports Xchange and distributed in partnership with CBSSports.com.

  • Saturday, January 24, 2015
    Abdullah leads North to Senior Bowl win
    By The Sports Xchange

    MOBILE, Ala. -- The Senior Bowl is like any other all-star game. It caters more to the fans than scouts, with coaches more concerned with divvying up playing time than actually winning the game.

    • That doesn't mean that scouts weren't watching the North's 34-13 victory on Saturday. They want to see if the players who stood out all week during the practices can carry it over to the game itself.

      There was brilliant running from the backs Saturday, showing off the depth of this year's remarkable crop at that position. A number of small-school prospects at various positions proved they belonged with standout performances.

      Nebraska running back Ameer Abdullah, an Alabama native, was named the Senior Bowl MVP. He led the North in rushing with 73 yards on seven carries and in receiving with four catches for 40 yards, giving him a game-high 113 all-purpose yards.

      "It was a fun game against some of the best players in college football with a lot of talent and guys you'll see make a lot of money one day in the NFL," Abdullah said. "It was surreal being back in Alabama for my last game. You couldn't ask for a better story. I left Alabama for Nebraska and now I played my last college game here."

      Yale running back/fullback Tyler Varga rushed for 31 yards and two touchdowns on four carries and Minnesota running back David Cobb ran for 69 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries for the North.

      Northern Iowa running back David Johnson scored on a 19-yard run for the South's first touchdown. Johnson and Auburn running back Cameron Artis-Payne led South rushers with 10 carries for 43 yards each.

      The North opened a 10-7 lead at halftime after a 10-yard touchdown pass from Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion to Notre Dame tight end Ben Koyack in the second quarter.

      Louisiana-Monroe kicker Justin Manton converted a 24-yard field goal for the South to make it 10-10 in the third quarter before the North scored 17 straight points to take a 27-10 lead. After another Manton field goal, Varga closed out the scoring with a 7-yard touchdown run with 1:46 left.

      Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty was 9 of 13 for 123 yards and one interception for the North. Colorado State quarterback Garrett Grayson was 8 of 15 for 118 yards for the South.

      Iowa defensive tackle Carl Davis was named Practice Player of the Week.

      Rob Rang (@robrang) contributed to this report. He is a senior analyst for NFLDraftScout.com, owned by The Sports Xchange and distributed in partnership with CBSSports.com.

  • Saturday, January 24, 2015
    NFL notebook: Patriots 'followed every rule,' Belichick says
    By The Sports Xchange

    New England coach Bill Belichick -- under fire for his team using underinflated footballs in the AFC Championship Game -- said Saturday that the Patriots had studied and simulated the process of ball preparation and he believes they "absolutely followed every rule to the letter."

    • The NFL is investigating the Patriots after 11 of 12 game balls they used in their 45-7 win over the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC title game were found to be underinflated.

      "I believe now 100 percent that I personally and we as an organization have absolutely followed every rule to the letter," Belichick said.

      "I am embarrassed to talk about the amount of time that I've put into this relative to the other important challenge in front of us," he said, referring to preparations to play the Seattle Seahawks in the Super Bowl on Feb. 1.

      "At no time was there any intent whatsoever to try to compromise the integrity of the game or gain an advantage. Quite the opposite. We feel like we follow the rules of the game to the letter in our preparations, in our procedures and the way that we handle every game we play as it relates to this matter.

      "This is the end of this subject for me for a long time. We have a huge game, a huge challenge for our football team, and that's where that focus is going to go. I've spent more than enough time on this."

      ---Matthew Slater, New England's union representative, said the NFL Players Association has recommended players avoid publicly talking about the league's ongoing investigation regarding underinflated footballs.

      "It's an ongoing investigation," Slater said, "and, in order to protect our players, we're going to go ahead and not talk about it."

      ---The NFL reportedly has warned the Seattle Seahawks that they will be penalized 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct if running back Marshawn Lynch makes an obscene gesture during the Super Bowl.

      Lynch has been fined twice in recent weeks for grabbing his crotch on touchdowns -- including a $20,000 penalty after he did it in the NFC Championship Game last Sunday.

      Dean Blandino, the NFL's chief of officials, told ESPN that the Seahawks have been warned about further obscene gestures in the Super Bowl.

      ---The New York Jets hired Pepper Johnson as their defensive line coach, one day after new coach Todd Bowles named Kacy Rodgers as defensive coordinator.

      Johnson, 50, coached for the New England Patriots from 2000 to 2013 and joined the Buffalo Bills as defensive line coach last season.

      Johnson played linebacker for the Jets in 1997 and 1998 before starting his coaching career.

      ---Cornerback Delvin Breaux, who starred for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the Canadian Football League, has agreed to terms with the New Orleans Saints, according to an ESPN report.

      Breaux, 25, worked out with 13 NFL teams before deciding on New Orleans.

      Because of a back injury suffered in high school, Breaux did not play college football, but he became a top prospect while playing in the CFL.

      --- The NFL reportedly will test a new replay system during the Pro Bowl on Sunday.

      Rather than the referee stepping to the sideline to review the replay via a covered TV screen, the official will view the replay wirelessly via headphones and a computer tablet, according to ESPN's Darrell Rovell.

      The NFL also will provide video replays to players and coaches during the game, using the same technology.

      It is part of the NFL's agreement to give business partners better value for their deals with the league, Rovell reported. Bose and Microsoft provide the technology the league will use.

  • Saturday, January 24, 2015
    Report: NFL will try new replay method
    By The Sports Xchange

    The NFL reportedly will test a new replay system during the Pro Bowl on Sunday.

    • Rather than the referee stepping to the sideline to review the replay via a covered TV screen, the official will view the replay wirelessly via headphones and a computer tablet, according to ESPN's Darrell Rovell.

      The NFL also will provide video replays to players and coaches during the game, using the same technology.

      It is part of the NFL's agreement to give business partners better value for their deals with the league, Rovell reported. Bose and Microsoft provide the technology the league will use.

  • Saturday, January 24, 2015
    Belichick: Patriots 'followed every rule'
    By The Sports Xchange

    New England coach Bill Belichick -- under fire for his team using underinflated footballs in the AFC Championship Game -- said Saturday that the Patriots had studied and simulated the process of ball preparation and he believes they "absolutely followed every rule to the letter."

    • The NFL is investigating the Patriots after 11 of 12 game balls they used in their 45-7 win over the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC title game were found to be underinflated.

      "I believe now 100 percent that I personally and we as an organization have absolutely followed every rule to the letter," Belichick said.

      "I am embarrassed to talk about the amount of time that I've put into this relative to the other important challenge in front of us," he said, referring to preparations to play the Seattle Seahawks in the Super Bowl on Sunday, Feb. 1.

      "At no time was there any intent whatsoever to try to compromise the integrity of the game or gain an advantage. Quite the opposite. We feel like we follow the rules of the game to the letter in our preparations, in our procedures and the way that we handle every game we play as it relates to this matter."

      Belichick referenced his team's previous punishment for taping opponents' practices in the 2000s and said, "We try to do everything right. We try to err on the side of caution. It's been that way now for many years. Anything that's close we stay as far away from the line as we can. In this case, I can say, as far as I know, in everything that I can do, we did everything as right as we could do it."

      By rule, balls are supposed to be 12.5 to 13.5 pounds per square inch (PSI). Belichick said his team's study found that typical preparation of the game balls -- which involves rubbing them to get the preferred texture and feel for the quarterback -- raises the pressure by one PSI in a controlled environment but that once the balls are in the elements for any amount of time they can lose up to 1.5 PSI.

      Belichick denied any suggestion that the balls were prepared in a heated room.

      "At no time were any of our footballs prepared anywhere other than in the locker room or in an area very close to that," he said. "Never in a heated room or heated condition. That has absolutely never taken place to anyone's knowledge or anyone's recollection. That didn't happen."

      Belichick said the footballs are delivered to the game officials, who are responsible for setting the pressure to the proper range, and the footballs are not touched again except for in the game.

      At halftime of the AFC title game, the 11 footballs were found to be two pounds below the required pressure. The NFL was alerted and began an investigation after the game.

      "We welcome the league's investigation into this matter," Belichick said. "I think there are a number of things that need to be looked into on a number of levels. But that's not for this conversation. I am sure it will be taken up at another time.

      "This is the end of this subject for me for a long time. We have a huge game, a huge challenge for our football team, and that's where that focus is going to go. I've spent more than enough time on this."

  • Saturday, January 24, 2015
    NFLPA instructs Patriots players to 'reserve comment'
    By The Sports Xchange

    New England Patriots wide receiver Matthew Slater said Saturday that the NFL Players Association has recommended players avoid publicly talking about the league's ongoing investigation regarding under inflated footballs.

    • "I'd love to get into that with you, but we have been instructed by our union as players to reserve comment on this situation," Slater, the Patriots' union representative, said when asked what the NFL could do to avoid a similar situation in the future. "It's an ongoing investigation, and in order to protect our players, we're going to go ahead and not talk about it."

      Union executive George Atallah told ESPN.com that was standard advice from the union for any players involved in a league investigation.

      Slater, a seven-year veteran and Patriots captain who is regarded as one of the NFL's top special teams coverage players, said that internally the team has "addressed it and moved on."

      The NFL issued a statement Friday on the so-called Deflategate, stating the investigation is ongoing and the league will "fully investigate this matter without compromise or delay."

      The NFL investigation is being led by league vice president Jeff Pash and outside attorney Ted Wells, who led the investigation into the Miami Dolphins' bullying scandal in 2013.

      After the Patriots advanced to the Super Bowl with a 45-7 rout of the Indianapolis Colts last Sunday night, reports surfaced that the Patriots purposely deflated footballs used in the game.

      The investigation reportedly has found 11 of New England's 12 allotted game balls were under inflated.

      The NFL said it began the investigation Sunday night and had conducted nearly 40 interviews and are "continuing to obtain additional information, including video and other electronic information and physical evidence."

      Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who held a news conference on the subject Thursday, also addressed teammates that day.

      "He stood up and spoke and just said, 'This is a distraction and we just need to keep focus as a team,'" cornerback Darrelle Revis said Friday. "'We have a big game to play,' and that's something he wouldn't do. He wouldn't break any rules."

  • Saturday, January 24, 2015
    Report: Saints sign CB Breaux
    By The Sports Xchange

    Cornerback Delvin Breaux, who starred for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the Canadian Football League, has agreed to terms with the New Orleans Saints, according to an ESPN report.

    • Breaux, 25, worked out with 13 NFL teams before deciding on New Orleans.

      A highly college prospect, Breaux sustained three broken vertebrae in his back and a partially blocked artery while covering a kick in high school in 2006.

      Breaux did not play college football, but after a long recovery played for New Orleans Voodoo of the Arena Football League before moving on to Canada.

      The 6-1, 196-pound Breaux had 33 tackles, five pass breakups and three forced fumbles for the Hamilton last season, in addition to returning the first interception of his career 27 yards for a touchdown.

  • Saturday, January 24, 2015
    Jets hire Johnson as DL coach
    By The Sports Xchange

    The New York Jets hired Pepper Johnson as their defensive line coach on Saturday.

    • The news comes one day after new head coach Todd Bowles named Kacy Rodgers to be the defensive coordinator.

      Johnson, 50, coached for the New England Patriots from 2000 to 2013 and joined the Buffalo Bills as defensive line coach last season.

      Johnson played linebacker for the Jets in 1997 and 1998 before starting his coaching career.

      Johnson expressed his frustration last week after missing out on the New York Giants' defensive coordinator job. The job went to Steve Spagnuolo, who previously had won a Super Bowl ring as a member of Tom Coughlin's staff.

      "Moving away from the Patriots, spending a year in Buffalo, I was hoping it would open doors and open some eyes, that more people would be watching," Johnson told the New York Daily News, "and (that some team) will give me a call before all this is said and done. I feel bottled up. I have a lot of knowledge and a lot of information that I feel like I just have to keep to myself."

  • Saturday, January 24, 2015
    Colts LB Jackson arrested on suspicion of DUI
    By The Sports Xchange

    Indianapolis Colts linebacker Andrew Jackson was arrested in Kentucky early Friday morning for suspicion of careless driving and DUI.

    • According to records of the Warren County Regional Jail in Bowling Green, Ky., and obtained by the Indianapolis Star, Jackson was booked into the jail just before 5 a.m. on preliminary charges of operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs and reckless driving.

      Jackson, 22, was released from jail at 12:30 p.m. Friday.

      Jackson, a sixth-round pick in the 2014 draft out of Western Kentucky, appeared in 13 regular-season games and all three playoff contests for the Colts as a reserve and special teams contributor. He had 10 tackles and one sack in his rookie season.

  • Friday, January 23, 2015
    NFL notebook: League investigating Patriots 'expeditiously'
    By The Sports Xchange

    The NFL issued a statement Friday on the so-called Deflategate, stating the investigation is ongoing and the league will "fully investigate this matter without compromise or delay."

    • The NFL investigation is being led by league vice president Jeff Pash and outside attorney Ted Wells, who led the investigation into the Miami Dolphins' bullying scandal in 2013.

      After the Patriots advanced to the Super Bowl with a 45-7 rout of the Indianapolis Colts last Sunday night, reports surfaced that the Patriots purposely deflated footballs.

      The investigation reportedly has found 11 of New England's 12 allotted game balls were underinflated.

      The NFL said it began the investigation Sunday night and had conducted nearly 40 interviews and are "continuing to obtain additional information, including video and other electronic information and physical evidence."

      The NFL said, "The playing rules are intended to protect the fairness and integrity of our games. We take seriously claims that those rules have been violated and will fully investigate this matter without compromise or delay. The investigation is ongoing, will be thorough and objective, and is being pursued expeditiously."

      Patriots owner Robert Kraft also released a statement Friday, saying he received a notice of the investigation on Monday and "instructed our staff to be completely cooperative and transparent with the league's investigators. During the three days they were here, we provided access to every full- and part-time employee the league's representatives requested to speak with and produced every communication device that they requested to search."

      "Competitive balance and the integrity of the game are the foundation of what makes our league so special and I have the utmost respect for those principles," Kraft said. "Our organization will continue to cooperate throughout the league's investigation."

      ---Wide receiver Jermaine Kearse, who caught the winning touchdown pass in overtime in Seattle's 28-22 win over the Green Bay Packers, became the fourth Seahawk to be fined out of that NFC Championship Game.

      The league penalized him the standard $5,512 for throwing the football into the stands after the score.

      From the AFC title game, New England Patriots defensive tackle Vince Wilfork was fined $8,268 for a late hit in his team's 45-7 win over the Indianapolis Colts.

      The NFL previously this week fined Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch, wide receiver Chris Matthews and guard J.R. Sweezy, as well as Green Bay linebacker Clay Matthews.

      ---Seattle safety Earl Thomas was a limited participant in practice Friday and listed as questionable for the Super Bowl, although he is fully expected to play on Feb. 1 in Glendale, Ariz.

      Thomas suffered a dislocated shoulder in the NFC title game against the Packers and had sat out the first two practices of the week. But coach Pete Carroll said Thomas is ready to play.

      Cornerback Richard Sherman, who suffered a sprained elbow, practiced all week and was among six Seahawks listed as probable Friday.

      For the Patriots, six players were listed as questionable: former Seahawks cornerback Brandon Browner (knee), linebacker Dont'a Hightower (shoulder), defensive tackle Chris Jones (elbow), wide receiver Brandon LaFell (shoulder/toe), Sealver Siliga (foot), center Bryan Stork (knee).

      Stork missed the AFC title game but is expected to play in the Super Bowl.

      ---The Indianapolis Colts suspended running back Trent Richardson for two games for "personal reasons," general manager Ryan Grigson revealed.

      After being inactive for the Colts' divisional win against the Denver Broncos, Richardson said "that situation will never happen to me again." He then missed the Colts' walkthrough before the AFC Championship Game against the Patriots because of what he called "a very serious family emergency."

      He missed that game due to what the Colts called "personal reasons," but on Friday Grigson told reporters that Richardson had in fact been suspended for two games. Grigson did not elaborate on the reason or say whether Richardson would sit out the second game next season or even be on the team.

      ---Coach Todd Bowles now has all of his top assistants in place as the New York Jets announced the hiring of Kacy Rodgers as defensive coordinator and Bobby April as special teams coordinator.

      Rodgers and April join Chan Gailey, who was hired earlier in the week to be Bowles' offensive coordinator.

      Rodgers, 45, coached defensive line for the Miami Dolphins from 2008 through 2014 and worked with Bowles in Miami for the first four seasons under Tony Sparano.

      April, 61, has been coaching in the NFL for 23 years. The Jets will be his eighth team.

      ---The Oakland Raiders hired former Buffalo Bills quarterbacks coach Todd Downing to the same position.

      The Raiders also announced three other assistant hires to new coach Jack Del Rio's staff: Mike Tice, former coach of the Minnesota Vikings, as offensive line coach; Marcus Robertson, defensive backs; and Sal Sunseri, linebackers.

      ---The Denver Broncos hired Bill Kollar to be their defensive line coach, reuniting Kollar with coach Gary Kubiak.

      Kollar, a 26-year NFL coaching veteran, spent the last six seasons with the Houston Texans, where he worked with Kubiak for much of that time.

      Kollar, 62, started his NFL career with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1984 and also has coached defensive lines in Atlanta (1990-2000), St. Louis (2001-05) and Buffalo (2007-08).

      ---The Houston Texans continued to adjust their front office, promoting Jon Carr to director of college scouting and hiring Matt Jansen to the new position of coordinator of college scouting.

      Carr replaces Mike Maccagnan, who left to become the New York Jets' general manager earlier this month.

      Carr has been a scout with the Texans since 2007. Jansen has interned in the personnel departments of the Texans and Baltimore Ravens.

      ---The Baltimore Ravens announced that they intend to terminate the contract of defensive tackle Terrence Cody after the Super Bowl -- even though Cody will be an unrestricted free agent in March anyway -- and the player's agent is blaming the NFL for creating "an atmosphere of hysteria."

      The Ravens did not say whether the decision had anything to do with Cody being investigated for animal cruelty by Baltimore County police, but Cody's agent, Peter Schaffer, reportedly thinks so.

      Schaffer told The Baltimore Sun that Cody is very upset over the death of his $8,000 Spanish bull mastiff, who died after Cody had taken it to a veterinarian for treatment. The agent also said the police investigation was frivolous.

      "The fact that the NFL has created such an atmosphere of hysteria that tramples on due process rights, the right of law and common decency is a tremendous problem in our league and our society," Schaffer told the Sun. "This young man's dog has died and the Ravens were so worried about possible ramifications from the league that they took a preemptive strike. If I find out that anyone holds anything against my client because of this, I will take every and all legal action to make sure my client's rights are vindicated."

      ---The NFLPA filed a grievance against the NFL over the new personal conduct policy.

      Owners unanimously approved the policy changes last month. Because the policy was not collectively bargained, the players' union requested its grievance be heard immediately.

      "The league's revised conduct policy was the product of a tremendous amount of analysis and work and is based on input from a broad and diverse group of experts within and outside of football, including current players, former players and the NFL Players Association," the league said in a statement. "We and the public firmly believe that all NFL personnel should be held accountable to a stronger, more effective conduct policy. Clearly, the union does not share that belief."

      In December, the NFLPA said, "Our union has not been offered the professional courtesy of seeing the NFL's new personal conduct policy before it hit the presses. Their unilateral decision and conduct today is the only thing that has been consistent over the past few months."

      ---The Dallas Cowboys are expected to restructure quarterback Tony Romo's contract this offseason in an effort to create more salary cap space, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

      Romo signed a six-year, $108 million contract two years ago, with $55 million guaranteed. The Cowboys hope to restructure his deal for a second consecutive year, converting most of his $17 million base salary into a bonus to prorate the cap hit over the remaining years.

      Romo's cap number for 2015 is $27.7 million. Last year, the Cowboys created about $10 million in cap space by restructuring his contract.

      ---After new Cleveland Browns offensive coordinator John DeFilippo expressed some skepticism about the team's current quarterbacks, owner Jimmy Haslam was non-committal about 2014 first-round draft pick Johnny Manziel.

      "We've got to get a quarterback and got to get it fixed," Haslam during the Greater Cleveland Sports Awards on Thursday night. "What I would say to our fans is: We're going to continue to work really hard to find that quarterback who can make us a championship team."

      DeFilippo, who replaced Kyle Shanahan after spending the past three seasons as the quarterbacks coach for the Oakland Raiders, said Thursday that Manziel doesn't have the inside track to the starting job next season.

  • Friday, January 23, 2015
    Kearse, Wilfork latest to be fined by NFL
    By The Sports Xchange

    Two heroes from the conference title games last weekend were fined by the NFL on Friday, adding to a fine-filled week from those games.

    • Wide receiver Jermaine Kearse, who caught the winning touchdown pass in overtime in Seattle's 28-22 win over the Green Bay Packers, became the fourth Seahawk to be fined out of that NFC Championship Game.

      The league penalized him the standard $5,512 for throwing the football into the stands after the score. He had referred to it as a release of frustration after a tough day that saw two balls go off his hands for interceptions.

      From the AFC title game, New England Patriots defensive tackle Vince Wilfork was fined $8,268 for a late hit in his team's 45-7 win over the Indianapolis Colts.

      After that game, Wilfork was a real-life hero, pulling a woman from her car after it had overturned and trapped her.

      The NFL previously this week fined Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch, wide receiver Chris Matthews and guard J.R. Sweezy, as well as Green Bay linebacker Clay Matthews.

      Lynch was fined $20,000 for grabbing his crotch after scoring late in the fourth quarter, and the league thought Chris Matthews did the same thing as he congratulated Lynch after that touchdown. Matthews was hit with an $11,025 fine.

      A tweet by Lynch appeared to express his displeasure over the fine levied against Matthews: "I feel embarrassed to work for a particular organization that fined a teammate of mine for shaking my hand after a touchdown."

      Clay Matthews was fined $22,050 for an illegal hit on quarterback Russell Wilson and Sweezy was fined $8,268 for an unnecessary roughness penalty on Clay Matthews.

  • Friday, January 23, 2015
    Broncos hire DL coach Kollar
    By The Sports Xchange

    The Denver Broncos hired Bill Kollar to be their defensive line coach Friday, reuniting Kollar with coach Gary Kubiak.

    • Kollar, a 26-year NFL coaching veteran, spent the last six seasons with the Houston Texans, where he worked with Kubiak.

      Kollar, 62, started his NFL career with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1984 and also has coached defensive lines in Atlanta (1990-2000), St. Louis (2001-05) and Buffalo (2007-08).

  • Friday, January 23, 2015
    Seahawks' Thomas returns to practice
    By The Sports Xchange

    Seattle Seahawks safety Earl Thomas was a limited participant in practice Friday and listed as questionable for the Super Bowl, although he is fully expected to be ready to play when the Seahawks face the New England Patriots on Feb. 1 in Glendale, Ariz.

    • Thomas suffered a dislocated shoulder in the NFC title game against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday and had sat out the first two practices of the week. But coach Pete Carroll said Thomas is ready to play.

      Cornerback Richard Sherman, who suffered a sprained elbow, practiced all week and was among six Seahawks listed as probable Friday.

      The right side of the offensive line is expected to be 100 percent as well: Guard J.R. Sweezy (ankle) and tackle Justin Britt (knee) were listed as probable. Sweezy, who was injured against the Packers, did not practice all week, but he is expected to play in the Super Bowl.

      For the Patriots, six players were listed as questionable: former Seahawks cornerback Brandon Browner (knee), linebacker Dont'a Hightower (shoulder), defensive tackle Chris Jones (elbow), wide receiver Brandon LaFell (shoulder/toe), Sealver Siliga (foot), center Bryan Stork (knee).

      Stork missed the AFC title game but is expected to play in the Super Bowl.

      Quarterback Tom Brady continues to be listed as probable with an ankle injury.

  • Friday, January 23, 2015
    Wilfork: 'Tom's a big boy'
    By The Sports Xchange

    Any other week, 350-pound defensive tackle Vince Wilfork likely would be the talk of the town for his heroics in the hours after the New England Patriots won the AFC Championship Game.

    • The fact that he's not dominating the airwaves is proof that this is not an ordinary week in Foxborough, Mass.

      The 33-year-old Wilfork, a teammate of quarterback Tom Brady since 2004, also serves as the captain of the team's defense. On Friday, Wilfork echoed sentiments from coach Bill Belichick and Brady on Thursday that it's frustrating to see the media focus primarily on the investigation into the Patriots using deflated footballs in the AFC title game.

      Wilfork also said the Patriots will be ready for Super Bowl XLIX no matter what distractions are introduced before the game kicks off Feb. 1 in Glendale, Ariz.

      "This isn't our first rodeo," Wilfork said.

      A few hours after the Patriots' 45-7 win over the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday, Wilfork was driving home from Gillette Stadium when he approached a Jeep Wrangler overturned and resting on the driver's side. He arrived before Massachusetts State troopers, who thanked Wilfork for his enormous assist.

      The driver was unable to exit the vehicle until Wilfork helped her.

      "I just wanted to get her to safety," Wilfork said. "It wasn't a big deal."

      There will be no safe ground for Brady to retreat next week in Arizona. Based on reactions from current and former coaches and quarterbacks, Brady is the prime suspect in the NFL investigation. He'll likely hear every form of question related to football pressure and conspiracy theory imaginable as the NFL probe looks unlikely to be completed before the league's championship game.

      "Tom's a big boy," Wilfork said Friday. "He knows how to handle all situations. He'll handle this with class like he always does, negative or positive. That's something that makes him so great. For him to be attacked the way he (was), trust me, we've been attacked plenty of times, individually and as an organization."

      In the Super Bowl, Wilfork's defense will be attacked by running back Marshawn Lynch, who averaged 5.3 yards per carry in the regular season for the Seattle Seahawks.

      Wilfork's matchup with center Max Unger, who has been saddled by injuries this season, could be a critical one next Sunday. Unger played last week in the NFC title game, when Lynch rushed for 157 yards and caught a 26-yard pass in the fourth quarter that helped the Seahawks complete their comeback.

      "Beast," Wilfork said of Lynch, adding that the Patriots are preaching gang tackling to prevent Lynch from having a huge game. "He's an old-school running back that can do everything. There's not one thing he cannot do. He is very, very, very tough. The more and more you play in the game, it seems like he kicks it to another gear. And that's the sign of a great football player. He's hands down the best back in the game because he can hurt you any time he has the ball in his hands."

      --Owner Robert Kraft issued a statement that followed the NFL's own remarks confirming the investigation into the air pressure in footballs used by the Patriots in the first half of the AFC title game. Kraft said the team gave the NFL access to "every full- and part-time employee" the league investigators requested to speak to over their three-day visit.

      "I very much support the league's desire to conduct a complete investigation and welcome the appointment of Ted Wells to lead the process," Kraft said, referencing the attorney who also conducted the investigation into the Miami Dolphins' bullying scandal in 2013.

      "Competitive balance and the integrity of the game are the foundation of what makes our league so special and I have the utmost respect for those principles," Kraft said. "Our organization will continue to cooperate throughout the league's investigation. Meanwhile, our players, coaches and staff will continue to focus on our preparations for Super Bowl XLIX and the many challenges we face as we prepare for the Seattle Seahawks."

      --Offensive lineman Dan Connolly was called upon to play fullback at Seattle when the teams met in 2012. Personnel has changed -- New England even employs a traditional fullback, James Devlin -- but Connolly said the scheme the Seahawks operate makes communication and execution vital.

      "We've got our work cut out for us," Connolly said Friday.

      The news is good for the Patriots up front. Starting center Bryan Stork practiced for the second consecutive day after sitting out last week because of a knee injury.

  • Friday, January 23, 2015
    Browns QB concerns shared by owner
    By The Sports Xchange

    After new Cleveland Browns offensive coordinator John DeFilippo expressed some skepticism about the team's current quarterbacks, owner Jimmy Haslam was non-committal about 2014 first-round draft pick Johnny Manziel.

    • "We've got to get a quarterback and got to get it fixed," Haslam during the Greater Cleveland Sports Awards on Thursday night. "What I would say to our fans is, we're going to continue to work really hard to find that quarterback who can make us a championship team.

      "We are going to work until we find the right person. I am not slighting Connor (Shaw) or Johnny or Brian (Hoyer) if he were to come back. We are going to work until we get a quarterback that is going to help us win consistently and that has been our goal since Day 1.

      "Every option is open as far as who is going to play next year. That will be up (general manager) Ray (Farmer) and Pett (head coach Mike Pettine) what direction we go."

      Teammates appear to be just as skeptical. One Browns player told ESPN.com that Manziel's 2014 season was a "100 percent joke."

      Browns sources interviewed by ESPN outlined behavior that they say showed Manziel was unprepared and lacked commitment and continued to immerse himself in a party life that impacted his performance in practice and in games.

      DeFilippo, who replaced Kyle Shanahan after spending the past three seasons as the quarterbacks coach for the Oakland Raiders, said earlier Thurday that Manziel doesn't have the inside track to the starting job next season.

      "We're not sure if our starting quarterback's in the building right now or not," DeFilippo said during an introductory news conference. "If he is, that's great. If he's not, that's great, too. Whoever's in that room is going to be coached hard, be held accountable and be expected to do the things that we expect out of Cleveland Browns quarterbacks."

      Haslam said he isn't ruling out Manziel as the 2015 starter, but emphasized that "every option is on the table."

      "Johnny has to show on and off the field he can be a professional," Haslam said. "He knows that. Everybody in the organization has told him that. ... He knows what we expect of him on and off the field, and it's up to him to prove he can do that."

      The low point of the 7-9 season for the Browns was a 30-0 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals on Dec. 14. It was the first start for Manzie and he completed 10 of 18 passes for 80 yards and threw two interceptions.

      Manziel sustained a season-ending hamstring injury a week later against the Carolina Panthers.

      Hoyer will be a free agent and Manziel attempted only 35 passes, completing 18, before being injured. Shaw, who had never played in an NFL game, started the last game because Hoyer had shoulder and biceps injuries, and Manziel was on injured reserve.

      Pettine said after the season that he isn't ready to say Manziel, who was the No. 22 overall pick, is the starter for the future.

      Haslam talked about the ups and downs of the team's 2014 season.

      "Considering at the first of the year if we were going to finish 7-9 what would have everyone said? They would have said we had a pretty good year," Haslam said. "The reality is we were 7-4 at one time and now it really looks bad. We have things we have to work on as a team. We don't have enough depth, injuries hit us hard which is why we faltered down the stretch."

  • Friday, January 23, 2015
    Steelers re-sign P Wing
    By The Sports Xchange

    The Pittsburgh Steelers signed punter Brad Wing to a one-year contract extension on Friday.

    • The team did not disclose financial terms of the contract.

      Wing punted 61 times for a 43.7-yard average in 2014 that ranked fifth among rookie punters in team history. He had 20 kicks downed inside the opponents' 20-yard line.

      An undrafted free agent, Wing joined the Philadelphia Eagles in 2013 out of LSU and was originally signed by the Steelers last January.

  • Friday, January 23, 2015
    Prospects boost stock during Senior Bowl week
    By The Sports Xchange

    MOBILE, Ala. -- The 2015 Senior Bowl will be played Saturday, but the heavy lifting is already done as all 32 NFL teams were represented this week to evaluate prospects during daily practices.

    • The game itself, scheduled for 4 p.m. ET on NFL Network, carries some value, but the majority of scouts and executives have already left town, having seen what they needed to see.

      Below are 10 Senior Bowl prospects who opened eyes this week and helped themselves in the minds of NFL evaluators.

      -- OL Ali Marpet, Hobart (6-4, 307). It's not easy for a player to go from Division III to the Senior Bowl and stand out in a positive way, but that's what Marpet did this week, more than just holding his own during drills. He did a nice job squaring and with excellent body coordination to latch and play sticky against some of the best pass rushers in the senior class. Marpet might be ideally suited inside at guard in the NFL, but he proved in Mobile that he's worth a draft pick.

      -- CB Kevin White, TCU (5-9, 180). During practice drills, White displayed the athleticism needed for the position with natural movement skills, swivel hips and explosive footwork to redirect his momentum in any direction. Measuring 5 feet 9 and 180 pounds with arms under the 30-inch benchmark, White doesn't necessarily look the part, but he is a top-notch competitor who doesn't back down physically, attacking the catch point with a "my ball" attitude.

      -- DT Carl Davis, Iowa (6-5, 321). After playing mostly a one-technique role for the Hawkeyes, Davis didn't have too many splash plays on his college game film. But when put in one-on-one opportunities in Mobile, he was near unblockable, using his initial quickness, brute power and natural leverage to shine during drills. Davis was already considered a top-75 draft pick entering the week, but after this week, he might have cemented himself as a top-50 prospect.

      -- WR Jamison Crowder, Duke (5-8, 174). It can be tough for a 5-8, 174-pound wide receiver to stand tall in this type of all-star setting, but that's exactly what Crowder did this week, showing the best combination of explosion and polish at the position. He has a tiny catching radius and small hands (8 3/8 inches) but caught everything thrown his way during drills, showing the ball skills and separation skills that will appeal to teams in search of an impact slot target.

      -- DE/OLB Nate Orchard, Utah (6-3, 251). Despite a record-setting senior season at Utah, Orchard wasn't considered a first-round pick entering the week and was far from being a top-100 lock. But he forced evaluators to take a second look after he routinely flashed during practices, winning with edge speed, long arms and active energy. Orchard has limitations, but he also uses his bag of tricks to be effective, reinforcing that at times the end result is more important than the process.

      -- DT Danny Shelton, Washington (6-2, 343). Shelton entered the week with a good amount of hype and he lived up to the expectations, showing off rare movement skills for a 343-pound body. He also has the upper-body power to match but got away with bullying blockers in college and needs to develop his hand technique for the next level. As the week winds down, Shelton is the prevailing favorite to be the first player drafted from the Senior Bowl rosters.

      -- RB David Johnson, Northern Iowa (6-1, 224). Looking like a linebacker during the weigh-ins, Johnson was another small-school player who immediately proved that he belonged, especially as a pass catcher out of the backfield. He doesn't have the traditional frame for the position and might be best suited for a hybrid H-back role, utilizing his ability as a receiver and blocker in pass pro. But regardless, he's a versatile prospect teams would love to add to the depth chart.

      -- OT La'el Collins, LSU (6-5, 308). Just like his game tape, it didn't always look pretty for Collins in Mobile, but more often than not, he gets the job done. Seeing reps at tackle and guard, he showed the same grit and determination during drills that he does during games, extending and selling out on each snap. Collins will fall off balance and overextend himself at times, but he also showed that he can recover and finish his blocks. He reinforced the first-round grades being thrown at him.

      -- FB Jalston Fowler, Alabama (5-10, 264). Although he's tagged with the fullback label, Fowler showed that he's much more than that. With only 12 carries as a senior for the Crimson Tide, he was an afterthought on that offense, but after seeing him during Senior Bowl practices, it was clear that he was also underutilized. During drills, Fowler was through the hole with decisive quickness and the pop to brush off contact, keeping his feet and rumbling to the second level.

      -- G/C Shaq Mason, Georgia Tech (6-2, 310). It was easy to see Mason's body control and quickness in Georgia Tech's triple-option offense, but it was near impossible to truly evaluate him until seeing him outside of that scheme. This week in Mobile provided scouts that opportunity to judge his talent in a pro-style look and Mason didn't disappoint. He made the easy transition and even took some snaps at center, which might be his best NFL position.

      Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) is a senior analyst for NFLDraftScout.com, owned by The Sports Xchange and distributed in partnership with CBSSports.com.

  • Friday, January 23, 2015
    Texans make front-office moves
    By The Sports Xchange

    The Houston Texans on Friday continued to adjust their front office, promoting Jon Carr to director of college scouting and hiring Matt Jansen to the new position of coordinator of college scouting.

    • Carr replaces Mike Maccagnan, who left to become the New York Jets' general manager earlier this month.

      Carr has been a scout with the Texans since 2007. Jansen has interned in the personnel departments of the Texans and Baltimore Ravens.

      General manager Rick Smith still needs to find a director of pro personnel after he promoted Brian Gaine to director of player personnel last week.

  • Friday, January 23, 2015
    Cody's agent blames NFL for Ravens' move
    By The Sports Xchange

    The Baltimore Ravens announced Friday that they intend to terminate the contract of defensive tackle Terrence Cody after the Super Bowl -- even though Cody will be an unrestricted free agent in March anyway -- and the player's agent is blaming the NFL for creating "an atmosphere of hysteria."

    • The Ravens did not say whether the decision had anything to do with Cody being investigated for animal cruelty by Baltimore County police, but Cody's agent, Peter Schaffer, reportedly thinks so.

      Schaffer told The Baltimore Sun that Cody is very upset over the death of his $8,000 Spanish bull mastiff, who died after Cody had taken it to a veterinarian for treatment, the agent said. He also said the police investigation was frivolous.

      Schaffer blamed the NFL for the Ravens' decision to terminate Cody ahead of his scheduled free agency. The Ravens were heavily criticized for their handling of the Ray Rice case last year, and Schaffer said the Ravens were trying to avoid a similar scenario.

      "The fact that the NFL has created such an atmosphere of hysteria that tramples on due process rights, the right of law and common decency is a tremendous problem in our league and our society," Schaffer told the Sun. "This young man's dog has died and the Ravens were so worried about possible ramifications from the league that they took a preemptive strike. If I find out that anyone holds anything against my client because of this, I will take every and all legal action to make sure my client's rights are vindicated.

      "We don't fault the Ravens," Schaffer added. "They're put in this awkward predicament of what's going on. We hold the Ravens in the highest regard. It's a predicament caused by the significant overreaction of the league that tramples on players' rights. I'm not going to sit idly by and let it happen to my client."

      Cody, who was drafted by the Ravens in the second round in 2010, appeared in just one game in 2014. He missed most of the season recovering from offseason hip surgery.

  • Friday, January 23, 2015
    NFL issues statement on Deflategate investigation
    By The Sports Xchange

    The NFL issued a statement Friday on the so-called Deflategate, stating the investigation is ongoing and the league will "fully investigate this matter without compromise or delay."

    • The NFL investigation is being led by league vice president Jeff Pash and outside attorney Ted Wells, who led the investigation into the Miami Dolphins' bullying scandal in 2013.

      This investigation so far reportedly has found 11 of New England's 12 allotted game footballs in the AFC Championship Game were underinflated.

      After the Patriots advanced to the Super Bowl with a 45-7 rout of the Indianapolis Colts last Sunday night, reports surfaced that they purposely deflated footballs.

      The NFL statement released Friday stated:

      "Our office has been conducting an investigation as to whether the footballs used in last Sunday's AFC Championship Game complied with the specifications that are set forth in the playing rules. The investigation began based on information that suggested that the game balls used by the New England Patriots were not properly inflated to levels required by the playing rules, specifically Playing Rule 2, Section 1, which requires that the ball be inflated to between 12.5 and 13.5 pounds per square inch. Prior to the game, the game officials inspect the footballs to be used by each team and confirm that this standard is satisfied, which was done before last Sunday's game.

      "The investigation is being led jointly by NFL Executive Vice President Jeff Pash and Ted Wells of the law firm of Paul Weiss. Mr. Wells and his firm bring additional expertise and a valuable independent perspective. The investigation began promptly on Sunday night. Over the past several days, nearly 40 interviews have been conducted, including of Patriots personnel, game officials, and third parties with relevant information and expertise. We have obtained and are continuing to obtain additional information, including video and other electronic information and physical evidence. We have retained Renaissance Associates, an investigatory firm with sophisticated forensic expertise to assist in reviewing electronic and video information.

      "The playing rules are intended to protect the fairness and integrity of our games. We take seriously claims that those rules have been violated and will fully investigate this matter without compromise or delay. The investigation is ongoing, will be thorough and objective, and is being pursued expeditiously. In the coming days, we expect to conduct numerous additional interviews, examine video and other forensic evidence, as well as relevant physical evidence. While the evidence thus far supports the conclusion that footballs that were underinflated were used by the Patriots in the first half, the footballs were properly inflated for the second half and confirmed at the conclusion of the game to have remained properly inflated. The goals of the investigation will be to determine the explanation for why footballs used in the game were not in compliance with the playing rules and specifically whether any noncompliance was the result of deliberate action. We have not made any judgments on these points and will not do so until we have concluded our investigation and considered all of the relevant evidence.

      "Upon being advised of the investigation, the Patriots promptly pledged their full cooperation and have made their personnel and other information available to us upon request. Our investigation will seek information from any and all relevant sources and we expect full cooperation from other clubs as well. As we develop more information and are in a position to reach conclusions, we will share them publicly."

      On Thursday, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady followed the lead of coach Bill Belichick and denied any knowledge of underinflated footballs.

      In a 30-minute news conference before a media throng, Brady acknowledged the importance of "the integrity of the game."

      Like Belichick, Brady said he knew nothing until waking up Monday morning.

      "I didn't have any ... I didn't alter the ball in any way," Brady said.

      Belichick opened his press conference with an eight-minute statement.

      "I don't have an explanation for what happened," Belichick said, and then repeated during a barrage of questions at Gillette Stadium that included questions about why controversy seems to follow him and how he could explain "accidental deflation" of footballs.

      Patriots owner Robert Kraft released a statement Friday regarding the investigation:

      "On Monday, I received a letter from the league office informing me that they would be conducting an investigation into the air pressure of the game balls. Immediately after receiving the letter, I instructed our staff to be completely cooperative and transparent with the league's investigators. During the three days they were here, we provided access to every full- and part-time employee the league's representatives requested to speak with and produced every communication device that they requested to search.

      "It is an ongoing process that the league and our team are taking very seriously. I very much support the league's desire to conduct a complete investigation and welcome the appointment of Ted Wells to lead the process. Competitive balance and the integrity of the game are the foundation of what makes our league so special and I have the utmost respect for those principles. Our organization will continue to cooperate throughout the league's investigation. Meanwhile, our players, coaches and staff will continue to focus on our preparations for Super Bowl XLIX and the many challenges we face as we prepare for the Seattle Seahawks."

      Patriots defensive tackle Vince Wilfork was asked about the deflated football controversy at Friday's usual player press conference.

      "Nothing. Here we are with the biggest game of our career, and that's what it's about," Wilfork said. "It's about going out and being able to play a game you work so hard for and be in the Super Bowl. That's what it's about. (We've) got to be able to eliminate all distractions right now, and I'm pretty sure we'll have more distractions, but at the same time, I think we've done a great job around here all year of just being so focused on our opponents and what we have to do to win a ballgame. That's where I'm at right now, so nothing different for me. (We're) facing a good football team so we have to do everything we can to be able to play well against them this game."

      Reporters followed up by asking Wilfork how he felt -- despite the controversy -- in preparing for the Seahawks in the Super Bowl.

      "Very excited. This is -- besides coming to training camp when you're away from football the whole offseason -- I think this is one of the most exciting times of the year, especially if you have a team that's in it," he said. "We can't let anything take our excitement away. We worked hard to get here and everybody in that locker room is excited to play this game, and we need to be, we should be. You're not going to take that away from us. You can't take our joy away from us.

      "Our job is to be able to prepare well, and hopefully that's good enough to win this ballgame. Everything we put into it to this point, everything we have, we're going to have to leave on the field, and everything energy-wise we have has got to be geared towards getting that accomplished. That's where I'm at right now. Hopefully the team feels the same way. You have a locker room full of guys that are happy and excited, and we should be."

      Meanwhile, at a press conference Friday, Colts general manager Ryan Grigson declined to say whether he had been interviewed by the NFL regarding the under-inflated footballs.

      "I can't speak on it. Sorry, guys," Grigson said.

      Grigson also declined to say whether the Colts had informed the NFL of inflation concerns.

      "Everything's going to I'm sure come out in the investigation, guys, and like I said, it's not appropriate for me to talk about it. I can't do that. It's in the league's hands. I'm sorry," Grigson said.

  • Friday, January 23, 2015
    Jets hire coordinators Rodgers, April
    By The Sports Xchange

    Coach Todd Bowles now has all of his top assistants in place as the New York Jets on Friday announced the hiring of Kacy Rodgers as defensive coordinator and Bobby April as special teams coordinator.

    • Rodgers' hiring had been expected for a week. He and April join Chan Gailey, who was hired earlier in the week to be Bowles' offensive coordinator.

      Rodgers, 45, coached defensive line for the Miami Dolphins from 2008 through 2014 and worked with Bowles in Miami for the first four seasons under Tony Sparano. They came to Miami with Sparano after working in Dallas under Bill Parcells from 2005 to 2007.

      April, 61, has been coaching in the NFL for 23 years. The Jets will be his eighth team.

      He spent the past two years with the Oakland Raiders after stints with the Atlanta Falcons (1991-93), Pittsburgh Steelers (1994-95), New Orleans Saints (1996-99), St. Louis Rams (2001-03), Buffalo Bills (2004-09) and Philadelphia Eagles (2010-12). He and Bowles worked together with the Eagles in 2012.

      Bowles, formerly the defensive coordinator of the Arizona Cardinals, was hired to replace Rex Ryan as the Jets' coach on Jan. 13.

  • Friday, January 23, 2015
    Raiders hire Downing, Tice, two other assistants
    By The Sports Xchange

    The Oakland Raiders hired former Buffalo Bills quarterbacks coach Todd Downing to the same position on Friday.

    • The Raiders also announced three other assistant hires to new head coach Jack Del Rio's staff: Mike Tice, former head coach of the Minnesota Vikings, as offensive line coach; Marcus Robertson, defensive backs; and Sal Sunseri, linebackers.

      New Raiders offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said earlier in the week that he would not double as the team's quarterbacks coach.

      Downing spent the 2014 season as quarterbacks coach with the Bills and prior to that held positions with the Detroit Lions. He also served stints with the Vikings and St. Louis Rams.

      Tice was the Vikings' head coach from 2002-05, compiling a 32-33 record with a 1-1 mark in the playoffs. He joins the Raiders after spending the 2014 season as offensive line coach of the Atlanta Falcons. Tice was assistant head coach and tight ends coach for the Jaguars from 2006-09, working under Del Rio when he was head coach in Jacksonville.

      Robertson enters his second season with the Raiders after spending last year as the team's assistant defensive backs coach. He also was on the coaching staffs of the Tennessee Titans and Lions before coming to Oakland.

      Sunseri enters his 31st season in coaching and his eighth in the NFL after spending the past two years coaching the defensive line at Florida State. Sunseri and Del Rio worked together in Carolina in 2002 when Del Rio was defensive coordinator and Sunseri was defensive line coach. After leaving the Panthers in 2008, Sunseri worked at Alabama and Tennessee before heading to FSU.

  • Friday, January 23, 2015
    Colts RB Richardson was suspended
    By The Sports Xchange

    The Indianapolis Colts suspended running back Trent Richardson for two games for "personal reasons," general manager Ryan Grigson said Friday.

    • After being inactive for the Colts' divisional win against the Denver Broncos, Richardson said "that situation will never happen to me again." He then missed the Colts' walkthrough before the AFC Championship Game against the New England Patriots because of what he called "a very serious family emergency."

      He missed that game due to what the Colts called "personal reasons," but on Friday Grigson told reporters that Richardson had in fact been suspended for two games. Grigson did not elaborate on the reason or say whether Richardson would sit out the second game next season.

      Grigson traded a first-round pick to the Cleveland Browns in October 2013 for Richardson, but the former No. 3 overall pick has not played to that standard. He rushed for just 519 yards in 2014, averaging 3.3 yards per carry, and has just 2,032 rushing yards in his three-year career.

      Asked whether Richardson would be back with the team in 2015, Grigson said, "Every situation is different. Every player and how we deal with him is gonna be different. But he'll be lumped into that conversation with guys this offseason -- where's he fit? Where is he going? Is his arrow up, down, sideways, 45-degree angle? -- and we gotta figure all these things out."

  • Friday, January 23, 2015
    Cowboys expected to restructure Romo's deal again
    By The Sports Xchange

    The Dallas Cowboys are expected to restructure quarterback Tony Romo's contract this offseason in an effort to create more salary cap space, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

    • Romo signed a six-year, $108 million contract two years ago, with $55 million guaranteed. The Cowboys hope to restructure his deal for a second consecutive year, converting most of his $17 million base salary into a bonus to prorate the cap hit over the remaining years.

      Romo's cap number for 2015 is $27.7 million. Last year, the Cowboys created about $10 million in cap space by restructuring his contract.

      "We all realize that anything you push forward that if you don't use it it'll cost you cap space that you could use for other players," Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said. "On an older player, the farther you put it out in the future the less likely you are to use it. That's the point. That is the trick.

      "On the other hand, the effort is to right now put together the best value we can using those dollars and that's the art of the deal. I will tell you when I look at Tony I certainly do see four or five more years, so nothing scares me four or five years out."

      Jones said his priority is to keep as many of this past season's key players.

      "This was carefully thought out when we made our agreement with Tony," Jones said. "We knew that as we moved along there will be reallocation is the best way to say it with his salary, moving it around so that at a given time we could put the best group together with his supporting cast."

  • Friday, January 23, 2015
    NFLPA appeals conduct policy
    By The Sports Xchange

    The NFLPA filed a grievance against the NFL over the new personal conduct policy.

    • Because the policy was not collectively bargained under the terms of the, the players' union requested its expedited grievance be heard immediately.

      Owners unanimously approved the policy changes last month. Commissioner Roger Goodell said when trumpeting the completion of the multi-faceted plan with harsher penalties for domestic violence that he had discussions with NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith.

      The extent of those talks is not known, but the grievance filed Friday implies they were insufficient for players.

      "The league's revised conduct policy was the product of a tremendous amount of analysis and work and is based on input from a broad and diverse group of experts within and outside of football, including current players, former players, and the NFL Players Association," the league said in a statement. "We and the public firmly believe that all NFL personnel should be held accountable to a stronger, more effective conduct policy. Clearly, the union does not share that belief."

      Multiple high-profile cases last year put Goodell and the NFL under the microscope.

      A large part of the objection from the NFLPA is likely to be the appeals process. Goodell remains the stopping point for appeals, and would either hear the appeal of designate a proxy. Within the CBA, Goodell is granted full authority to act in the best interests of the game.

      "I know that some people have questioned whether the Commissioner's office should be the final arbiter," owner Robert Kraft of the New England Patriots said in December. "We gave that a lot of thought. (And determined) That's the one person who understands, long term, what's in the best interests of the game."

      Neutral arbitration was a demand from the NFLPA in the brief talks.

      "Our union has not been offered the professional courtesy of seeing the NFL's new personal conduct policy before it hit the presses," the NFLPA said in December. "Their unilateral decision and conduct today is the only thing that has been consistent over the past few months."