Category Archives: NFL

Chiefs’ Le’Veon Bell, Sammy Watkins and Buccaneers’ Antonio Brown, Antoine Winfield Jr. expected to play in Super Bowl

Several injured players for the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers are expected to be healthy for Super Bowl LV.

Chiefs running back Le’Veon Bell (knee) and wide receiver Sammy Watkins (calf), as well as the Bucs duo of wide receiver Antonio Brown (knee) and safety Antoine Winfield Jr. (ankle), are all likely to be ready for Feb. 7, sources told ESPN’s Dianna Russini.

All four missed their conference championship games Sunday. Watkins played in 10 games for the Chiefs in the regular season. He was out earlier in the season with a sore hamstring and later with a calf injury, and he did not play in either of the Chiefs’ previous postseason games.

Watkins concluded the regular season fifth on the Chiefs with 37 catches for 421 yards and two touchdowns.

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Bell joined the Chiefs in October after he was released by the New York Jets. Since his arrival, he has had a lesser impact for the Chiefs than had been expected.

After the Chiefs lost Clyde Edwards-Helaire for a stretch, they passed over Bell and made Darrel Williams their featured back in a Week 16 game versus the Falcons and in the divisional-round playoff game against the Browns. During the regular season, Bell rushed for 254 yards in nine games for the Chiefs.

Winfield suffered an ankle injury in practice last Thursday and missed Friday’s practice.

He still flew to Green Bay with the team, but after he tested his ankle out in warm-ups, it was deemed the best course of action for him to sit out the match.

Brown, who led the Bucs in targets the final five weeks of the regular season, suffered a knee injury in the divisional game against the New Orleans Saints. He did not practice last week, nor did he make the trip to Green Bay, as the team felt he wasn’t as far along as it had hoped in his recovery and thought a plane ride could cause further swelling. Brown caught a 36-yard touchdown in the wild-card game against Washington.

The Bucs’ other starting safety, Jordan Whitehead, who forced two fumbles, left Sunday’s victory over the Packers with a shoulder injury and did not return.

Whitehead underwent an MRI on Monday, but sources told ESPN’s Jenna Laine that it’s too soon to tell whether he’ll be able to play in the Super Bowl and that they’re taking it one day at a time to see how it goes.

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Kansas City Chiefs LT Eric Fisher out for Super Bowl LV with torn Achilles

Left tackle Eric Fisher will not play for the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LV versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after he tore his Achilles tendon in Sunday’s AFC Championship Game.

The Chiefs shifted right tackle Mike Remmers to Fisher’s spot after he left Sunday’s game against the Buffalo Bills, and Remmers is the likely starter at left tackle against the Bucs, who concluded the regular season tied for fourth in sacks with 48.

The Bucs have seven sacks in their three playoff games, including five Sunday in their NFC Championship Game victory over the Green Bay Packers.

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The Chiefs have had to dig deep into their offensive line depth this season.

They will play versus the Bucs with three starting offensive linemen out with injuries, including both starting tackles (right tackle Mitchell Schwartz has been sidelined since Week 6 with a back injury).

The Chiefs also had one starter, Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, and one backup, Lucas Niang, opt out before the start of training camp.

Duvernay-Tardif missed all of 2020 as he, a medical school graduate, returned to Canada to assist with COVID-19 relief and treatment in the medical field.

“They’re talented guys,” Reid said when asked how the offensive line has been able to hold up well through so much depletion. “In some cases we’ve had some young guys step in and … we’ve had some older guys step in. That combination has been able to get us through some games here. Most of all, I think the quarterback trusts them, as do the running backs.”

Fisher started 15 regular-season games for the Chiefs, then both playoff games. He was named to the Pro Bowl for the second time in his career.

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Lions to hire ex-Chargers coach Anthony Lynn as offensive coordinator

Detroit Lions head coach Dan Campbell knew he wanted to get some experience around him on his coaching staff, and on Saturday he did that, signing former Los Angeles Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn as the team’s offensive coordinator, sources told ESPN’s Dan Graziano.

The 52-year-old Lynn had been with the Chargers from 2017 to ’20 with a record of 33-31. Before that, he was the offensive coordinator for the Buffalo Bills for one season, in 2016.

He and Campbell have familiarity with each other, too. Lynn was the running backs coach in Dallas in 2005 when Campbell was a tight end with the team.

“What’s more important than anything to me as far as an offensive coordinator is someone that I believe has the vision of the offense kind of the way I do,” Campbell stated Thursday.

“Just in regard to, ‘Listen, I’m not going to get hung up on what you want to call the terminology. I’m not going to get hung up on the style of system that you want to put in.’

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“I’m more into, ‘Man, show me what are the nuts and bolts that you believe in.'”

One thing Campbell stressed in his introductory news conference is making sure his coordinators — the team officially informed Aaron Glenn as its defensive coordinator Saturday — can identify and exploit matchup mismatches.

In Buffalo in 2016, Lynn had the best rushing offense in the NFL, averaging 164.4 yards a game and 5.35 yards per carry with LeSean McCoy as his main back. Lynn has also shown a willingness to throw.

His Chargers team this past season was sixth in the league in passing yards per match (270.6) with a rookie quarterback, Justin Herbert, behind center the majority of the season and had the No. 6 passing offense in 2019 (276.6 yards per game).

Lynn will likely be working with a new quarterback in 2021, too, as ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Matthew Stafford has requested a trade from Detroit — the only place he has played in his career after being drafted No. 1 overall in 2009.

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Philadelphia Eagles hiring Nick Sirianni as head coach

The Eagles are hiring Indianapolis Colts offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni as their next head coach, executive vice president Howie Roseman told ESPN’s Sal Paolantonio on Thursday.

Sirianni, 39, had a long interview for the head-coaching job that began Tuesday and reportedly spilled over to the next day.

There was a sense in league circles that the race had narrowed to two candidates — New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and Sirianni, who has been the Colts’ coordinator for three campaigns.

Philadelphia ended up hiring the less-heralded name but one that continued to gain steam inside the Eagles organization the more it called around about him.

The Eagles’ coaching search was done with the quarterback situation — Carson Wentz, in particular — in mind. After firing Doug Pederson, whose relationship with Wentz had soured, Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie said: “It behooves us as a team with a new coach, a new coaching staff, to be able to really get [Wentz] back to that elite progression.”

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Wentz, whose struggles in 2020 were described as “very fixable” by Lurie, was benched for the final quarter of the season after consistently poor play. Rookie Jalen Hurts replaced him in the lineup and provided a spark to the offense but cooled some down the stretch.

Wentz had a near-MVP campaign in 2017 when current Colts coach Frank Reich was his offensive coordinator in Philadelphia.

Sirianni was Reich’s right-hand man in Indianapolis and was the quarterbacks coach when Reich was the Chargers offensive coordinator in 2014 and ’15. The connection could hold significance for Wentz, who has a great deal of trust in Reich.

Wentz had been expected to request a trade this offseason because his relationship with Pederson was fractured beyond repair, according to ESPN’s Chris Mortensen.

Both Hurts and Wentz are under contract with the Eagles for 2021.

Despite a rotating cast at quarterback with Andrew Luck, Jacoby Brissett and Philip Rivers, Indianapolis fielded a top-10 offense in two of the past three seasons. Rivers completed 68% of his passes this season for 4,169 yards with 24 touchdowns to 11 interceptions in 2020.

The Colts (11-5) concluded ninth in the NFL in scoring (28.2 PPG) and 10th in yards per game (378.1) in 2020.

Sirianni has worked as a quarterbacks coach and receivers coach since coming into the league with the Kansas City Chiefs in 2009.

The Eagles held a broad search after firing Super Bowl-winning coach Doug Pederson on Jan. 11. They interviewed Arthur Smith, Robert Saleh, Jerod Mayo, Joe Brady, Kellen Moore, Duce Staley, Todd Bowles, Dennis Allen, McDaniels and Sirianni. They also had a request in to speak with Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, sources said, but there was an agreement to wait until after Sunday’s AFC Championship Game for a potential interview.

Pederson was fired after going 4-11-1 in his fifth season with the team. He went 46-39-1 and obtained the Lombardi trophy during the 2017 season — the first of three consecutive playoff appearances for the Eagles under Pederson.

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New Detroit Lions coach Dan Campbell agrees to six-year contract

New Detroit Lions coach Dan Campbell received a six-year contract from the team, a source told ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler.

The Lions informed Campbell’s hiring on Wednesday but did not disclose terms. The team will introduce him with a news conference on Thursday.

“With more than 20 years of experience as both a coach and player in the National Football League, Dan knows the rigors of professional football and what it takes to be successful. He will help promote the culture we want to establish across our organization, while also bringing with him high energy, a respect for the game and an identity with which everyone can align themselves,” Lions principal owner Sheila Ford Hamp said in a statement.

Campbell, the New Orleans Saints’ assistant head coach/tight ends coach, replaces Matt Patricia, who was released in November after less than three seasons with the Lions and a 13-29-1 record.

The Lions will now try to reset after concluding last in the NFC North the past three seasons. Campbell is expected to bring fellow Saints assistant coach Aaron Glenn with him as defensive coordinator. Glenn has a few other suitors, but Detroit is the favorite, the source told Fowler.

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The 44-year-old Campbell, who has never been a coordinator in the NFL, is viewed as a motivator and someone who can bring a team together, rather than an X’s-and-O’s guru. The Lions had been searching for people they considered unifiers as they identified qualities they deemed important to building a winner out of a franchise that has one playoff victory in the Super Bowl era and claimed its last division title in 1993.

Campbell doesn’t have much experience as a head coach — just 12 games as an interim head coach for the Miami Dolphins — but the Lions clearly saw enough to pair him with recently hired general manager Brad Holmes. Without experience calling plays on either side of the ball, whom Campbell brings in as coordinators will be paramount to his success.

During Holmes’ introductory news conference on Tuesday, the Lions stated all three of Holmes, Campbell and vice president of football administration Mike Disner will report to team president Rod Wood, creating a balanced structure. When asked whether Holmes or Campbell would have final say over the 53-man roster, Wood said it would be a collaborative process.

“Dan’s passion for this opportunity was evident throughout our interview process,” Wood said in a statement.

“When we began the search for a head coach, it was imperative that we find the right leader who values our commitment to building a winning culture based on organizational alignment and collaboration. The leadership Dan has exemplified throughout his football career has prepared him for this next step, and we are excited to support him as our new head coach.”

The Lions had conducted their searches for Holmes and Campbell simultaneously, often asking candidates whether they had people in mind for the other position they would want to work with. After Holmes was hired last week, Ford Hamp said Holmes spoke with some of their remaining candidates.

Campbell played 10 seasons in the NFL, including the final three years of his career for the Lions.

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New Orleans Saints receiver Michael Thomas likely to have multiple surgeries on ankle

New Orleans Saints receiver Michael Thomas is likely to have surgeries on the torn deltoid and other injured ligaments in his ankle that plagued him all campaign, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter on Tuesday.

The expectation is that Thomas would be recovered in time for summer OTAs under a normal offseason calendar, the source said.

Thomas first suffered the high ankle injury in the final minutes of Week 1 and missed a total of nine games in the regular season. But the source said he knew it was likely Drew Brees’ last season and didn’t want to miss out on trying to win a Super Bowl with him.

Thomas often wouldn’t practice all week, yet would still play in games, at much less than 100% and with pain medication, the source said. The coaches told him that, even as injured as he was, they were much better off with him than without him.

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Thomas went on injured reserve from Weeks 15-17 to try to get as healthy as he could for the playoffs. He returned with five catches for 73 yards and his first touchdown of the season in the wild-card playoff victory over the Chicago Bears.

However, he had zero catches on four targets in the divisional round playoff loss to Tampa Bay — including a near-touchdown in which his knee was ruled out of bounds.

Thomas also missed Weeks 2-8 after first suffering the injury, then being disciplined for one game for a practice altercation that included him punching teammate C.J. Gardner-Johnson, and then suffering a hamstring injury during his recovery.

He concluded the regular season with 40 catches for 438 yards and zero touchdowns in seven games — just one season after setting the NFL record with 149 catches in 2019. He did, however, have two games with nine catches and more than 100 yards receiving during Taysom Hill’s four-game stint at QB while Brees was sidelined by injuries of his own.

Thomas’ 510 career receptions are the most by a player in the first five seasons of his NFL career.

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Los Angeles Chargers hire Rams’ Brandon Staley as coach

The Los Angeles Chargers have agreed to terms with Brandon Staley to become their next head coach, the team revealed Sunday night.

He will be formally introduced at a news conference on Thursday.

Staley served the past season as the Los Angeles Rams’ defensive coordinator, developing the top-ranked defense in the NFL behind star defensive tackle Aaron Donald and cornerback Jalen Ramsey.

Staley’s unit propelled the Rams to a 10-6 season and a wild-card playoff victory over the Seattle Seahawks before the team exited the postseason with a loss to the Green Bay Packers on Saturday. I

n his first year as an NFL coordinator, Staley’s defense ranked No. 1 in efficiency, yards permitted per game and points allowed per game. With the Chargers, Staley replaces coach Anthony Lynn, who was fired after four seasons and a 33-31 record.

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The Chargers are coming off a 7-9 season that resulted in a third-place finish in the AFC West.

However, Staley inherits a roster that includes several cornerstone players, including rookie quarterback Justin Herbert, who became the youngest quarterback in NFL history to throw 30 touchdown passes in a single season. Staley also takes over a defensive unit that includes Pro Bowl defensive end Joey Bosa and All-Pro safety Derwin James.

“It’s hard to put into words just how excited I am for the opportunity to be the Los Angeles Chargers’ Head Coach,” Staley said in a statement.

“While this is certainly a dream come true, it’s also a dream that’s just beginning. There’s a reason this was probably the most sought after job out there — from ownership, to the fans, to the city, to the men in that locker room — it’s the total package.”

The 38-year-old Staley has quickly risen through the NFL ranks since he first was hired as a position coach in 2017 with the Chicago Bears. He spent two seasons in Chicago under defensive coordinator Vic Fangio before he followed Fangio to the Denver Broncos, where he spent one season as outside linebackers coach before joining the Rams’ staff.

Staley is the third assistant under Rams coach Sean McVay to get an NFL head coaching job, joining Green Bay’s Matt LaFleur and Cincinnati’s Zac Taylor.

“I think any time that you have those situations arise, that’s one of the most gratifying things,” McVay said Sunday during his season-ending news conference.

“That’s also really a unique thing to see him come in and do such a great job, then immediately be a prime candidate for a lot of these openings and you realize how precious these opportunities are.”

Prior to coaching in the NFL, Staley coached for three seasons at John Carroll University, a Division III college in University Heights, Ohio, and also spent a season as defensive coordinator at James Madison University.

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Packers host Rams with NFC championship game berth at stake

No NFL team scored more points during the regular season than the Green Bay Packers. Nobody has played better defense than the Los Angeles Rams.

That sets up an intriguing showdown of strength vs. strength when MVP favorite Aaron Rodgers and the Packers (13-3) host All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald and the Rams (11-6) in an NFC divisional playoff match Saturday.

“This is what you love,” Rams coach Sean McVay said. “These are the type of matchups and opportunities that as a competitor, you can’t wait for.”

Both of these units are at the top of their game.

The Packers have won six consecutive games and have been held below 22 points just once all campaign. Los Angeles got to this point by sacking Russell Wilson five times in a 30-20 triumph at Seattle last week.

“They went to Seattle, played a familiar opponent and played really, really well, and they’re coming in with the confidence that they should have,” Rodgers said. “And we’re coming in with confidence as well, the season that we’ve had and what we believe we’re capable of.”

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Rodgers has set franchise single-season records for touchdown passes (48) and completion percentage (.707) this year while throwing just five interceptions for an offense scoring 31.8 points per game. Donald calls Rodgers a “great quarterback that’s playing lights out this year.”

Donald leads a defense that permitted the fewest points and yards of any team during the regular season.

“At any time, at any quarter of the game, a different guy could make a big-time play for us,” Donald said. “It’s not just one or two guys. When you’ve got a group of guys – all 11 out there – who are pretty much playmakers who can make that game-changing play at any time, you’ve got a great group.”

This will be the first time the NFL’s top-ranked scoring offense and scoring defense have faced off in the postseason since the New England-Atlanta Super Bowl on Feb. 5, 2017. The Patriots had the top-ranked defense and the Falcons had the No. 1 offense that year.

This also will be the Rams’ first playoff game at Lambeau Field. These two franchises have met in the postseason just twice before, with the Packers winning 28-7 in Milwaukee on Dec. 23, 1967, and the Rams winning 45-17 in St. Louis on Jan. 20, 2002.

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Denver Broncos reach deal with Minnesota Vikings’ George Paton to be general manager

John Elway and the Denver Broncos wanted George Paton to be the team’s new general manager so much, Paton was given a longer deal than Elway ever had in the same job.

Paton, who has spent the past 13 years with the Minnesota Vikings, has agreed to a six-year deal to be the Broncos’ general manager, sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter. The Broncos informed Paton’s hiring on Wednesday but did not disclose terms.

Paton had spent most of Tuesday in Denver for what was a second interview for him with team officials, and had returned to Minnesota Tuesday night.

Elway had promised to find the “best candidate, the best person” for the job. The Broncos also interviewed New Orleans Saints assistant general manager Terry Fontenot, Chicago Bears assistant director of player personnel Champ Kelly, the New England Patriots’ Dave Ziegler and the Broncos’ director of college scouting Brian Stark.

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“Early in this process, it became clear why George has been such a coveted GM candidate for so many years. He is a proven evaluator who knows every detail of leading football operations,” Elway said in a statement.

“With his experience in all aspects of the job — the college and pro sides, salary cap, trades, working with the head coach and bringing the staff together — George is more than ready to succeed in this role. George has waited and worked for the right opportunity, which shows that he is smart and serious about winning. We’re thrilled to name George Paton as general manager of the Denver Broncos.”

Paton and Fontenot, who did his interview virtually because the Saints are still in the playoffs, were each interviewed a second time Tuesday.

Elway, who has been the Broncos’ top football decision-maker since 2011, announced Jan. 4 he was stepping away from the day-to-day personal operations but would stay as president of football operations at least through the final year of his current contract.

Elway also said he didn’t think the team’s current ownership battle between Pat Bowlen’s children would affect the Broncos’ ability to secure what he believed would be a top candidate. Paton’s six-year deal would likely bridge any potential change in the team’s ownership in the coming years.

Paton has control over the team’s roster, free agency and the draft. The Broncos have missed the playoffs in five consecutive campaigns since the Super Bowl 50 victory and finished this past season 5-11.

The team faces contract option decisions on linebacker Von Miller and Kareem Jackson, and Pro Bowl safety Justin Simmons is scheduled to be among the team’s unrestricted free agents. A decision about the plan at quarterback also is among the front-burner issues for the Broncos.

The team has one of the youngest rosters in the league and enough salary-cap room to participate in the open market. Paton is widely considered among the top talent evaluators on the Vikings’ personnel staff, and his exit leaves Minnesota with a big void in the front office. Ryan Monnens, the current director of pro scouting, could be in line to replace Paton this offseason.

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Chuck Pagano to retire, while Chicago Bears likely to retain Matt Nagy, Ryan Pace

Chicago Bears defensive coordinator and former Indianapolis Colts head coach Chuck Pagano has decided to retire, league sources told ESPN, confirming multiple reports.

The Bears are likely to keep head coach Matt Nagy and general manger Ryan Pace, sources said.

Pagano, 60, spent just two seasons in Chicago after a six-year run as head coach of the Colts. He was hired by the Bears on Jan. 11, 2019, to replace decorated defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, who left to become head coach of the Denver Broncos.

In Pagano’s first season, the Bears’ defense lead the NFC in points permitted per game (18.6) and ranked second in the conference in net yards per game (324.1).

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Chicago’s defense again appeared to be the club’s strength in the early parts of the 2020 season, but the group’s performance leveled off as the year wore on. Chicago ended the regular season 15th in run defense and 11th versus the pass as the Bears (8-9) backed into the playoffs in Week 17.

Chicago was eliminated from the postseason by the New Orleans Saints in a 21-9 loss Sunday in the Superdome.

In six seasons as head coach of the Colts, Pagano went 53-43 in the regular season and 3-3 in the playoffs.

The fates of Nagy and Pace had been unclear after the Bears lost eight of 11 to end the year and concluded 1-7 versus playoff teams in 2020.

Nagy — named NFL Coach of the Year in 2018 — has guided the Bears to two postseason berths in the past three years. Pace just completed his sixth year as Chicago’s general manager.

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