Tagged in: NFL

Bears land top CFL free agent Tre Roberson

The Bears have made an interesting signing, landing the services of the much sought after CFL cornerback Tre Roberson. He was a hot topic this NFL offseason, a player most critics agreed was the No. 1 CFL free agent. 

Roberson has an interesting background. He originally came up through the ranks as a quarterback, eventually becoming the first true freshman to ever start at quarterback for Indiana University Bloomington.

After transferring to Illinois State and playing the 2014 and 2015 college football seasons with the Red Birds, Roberson turned pro and ultimately went undrafted as an extremely under-the-radar prospect. 

Eventually, the athletic Roberson made the switch to cornerback. He didn’t stick with the Minnesota Vikings after making their roster ahead of the 2016 NFL preseason, being a part of the final round of roster cuts.

He made his way to the Calgary Stampeders in 2018, where he really started to make a name for himself at cornerback.

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Roberson has a total of 95 tackles and 10 interceptions over his two campaigns in the CFL, helping lead the Stampeders to a Grey Cup (CFL’s title game) win.

The 27 year old chose the Bears over nine other NFL teams and according to NFL insider Adam Schefter.

The Bears have made their first “splash move” and for the sake of Bears faithful, hopefully, this represents the first of many great additions to the Bears’ roster.    

He had seven interceptions and 41 tackles last season for Calgary, and he scored two touchdowns. Roberson played college ball at Illinois State.

The Bears are expected to give Roberson the largest CFL-to-NFL compensation since the Miami Dolphins signed defensive end Cameron Wake to a reported four-year, $4.9 million deal in 2009.

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Gary Kubiak to take over OC duties for Vikings

Gary Kubiak has reportedly agreed to become the Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator, substituting Kevin Stefanski after he departed to take over the head coaching job with the Cleveland Browns. 

Per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, Kubiak will take the role after spending last season as an assistant head coach and offensive adviser on Mike Zimmer’s staff. 

Minnesota has been in the market for a new offensive coordinator since Stefanski was named as the Browns head coach Jan. 13. 

Stefanski took over as the Vikings offensive coordinator on an interim basis midway through the 2018 campaign after John DeFilippo’s firing. He was given the full-time job this season, and his unit ranked ninth in the NFL with 25.4 points per game. 

Kubiak returned to coaching in 2019 after spending the previous two years as a senior personnel adviser with the Denver Broncos. He walked away from being head coach of the Broncos following the 2016 season, citing health concerns.

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The 58-year-old was hospitalized with a complex migrane in October 2016 that caused him to miss Denver’s Week 6 game versus the San Diego Chargers. He had a previous health scare during the 2013 season as head coach of the Houston Texans when he was taken off on a stretcher after collapsing while leaving the field during halftime of a game versus the Indianapolis Colts.

Kubiak went 82-75 in 10 combined seasons as head coach of the Texans (2006-13) and Broncos (2015-16).

He won Super Bowl 50 with the Broncos and made the playoffs twice with the Texans, exiting in the divisional round on both occasions. 

Kubiak’s passing offenses have ranked in the top 10 in net yards per attempt 12 times since his first year as a coordinator in 1995. Eleven times, his scoring offenses cracked the top 10 during that span. A lot of that had to do with how much he was able to get out of the quarterback position.

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Eli Manning retires after 16 NFL seasons

New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning will inform his retirement from professional football after 16 seasons, the team announced Wednesday.

The durable 39-year-old signal-caller walks away following a decorated career that includes a pair of Super Bowl championships and nearly every team passing record for one of the NFL’s blue-ribbon franchises.

Manning, a four-time Pro Bowl selection who retires with a career record of 117-117 as a starter, saved his best for dramatic runs through the 2007 and 2011 postseasons.

Both times, the Giants barely qualified the playoffs following uneven regular campaigns – 10-6 in 2007 and 9-7 in 2011 – only to catch fire in January before upsetting the New England Patriots in a pair of razor-close Super Bowls.

“For 16 seasons, Eli Manning defined what it is to be a New York Giant both on and off the field,” co-owner, president and CEO John Mara said in a statement. “Eli is our only two-time Super Bowl MVP and one of the very best players in our franchise’s history.

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“He represented our franchise as a consummate professional with dignity and accountability. It meant something to Eli to be the Giants quarterback, and it meant even more to us. We are beyond grateful for his contributions to our organization and look forward to celebrating his induction into the Giants Ring of Honor in the near future.”

Manning, who turned 39 on January 3rd, said after the regular season ended that he intended to discuss his future with family before making a decision.

He said, “I think I can still play,” but added he didn’t see a future with the Giants, noting, “Being a backup is not real fun.”

Manning was benched after Week 2 of the regular season in favor of rookie Daniel Jones, a first-round draft pick who went on to start 12 matches. Manning filled in for two starts in Weeks 14 and 15 when Jones was injured, winning his final start at home versus the Miami Dolphins.

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Joe Barry to stay with Rams after declining USC offer

Joe Barry, the Rams’ linebackers coach for the last three campaigns, turned down the opportunity to become USC’s defensive coordinator and signed a new contract to remain with the Rams, a person with knowledge of the situation stated Thursday.

Barry took himself out of consideration for the USC job after discussing the parameters of a contract with a school official, the person said.

USC coach Clay Helton sill in the search of a replacement for Clancy Pendergast, who was fired after a 49-24 Holiday Bowl defeat to Iowa. The Rams’ staff has been shuffled since the conclusion of a disappointing 9-7 season that ended with the team missing the playoffs for the first time in coach Sean McVay’s three seasons.

McVay did not retain defensive coordinator Wade Phillips and running backs coach Skip Peete. Special teams coordinator John Fassel left to join the Dallas Cowboys’ staff, and Peete this week also joined the Cowboys staff.

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McVay hired Brandon Staley as defensive coordinator, setting up the possibility of Barry’s departure to USC, where he played linebacker in 1992 and 1993, served as a graduate assistant and later coached with Helton as part of Lane Kiffin’s Trojans staff in 2010.

As USC focused primarily on the NFL ranks to replace Pendergast, Barry emerged as one of its top options.

He met with Helton on campus last week, but a person familiar with the search said that USC had continued considering other candidates.

The process had stalled in the days since Helton met with Barry, leaving many to wonder where USC’s coordinator search stood. Now, as Barry officially returns to the Rams, that search will move into its fourth week.

A few noteworthy options still remain. Kris Richard, who graduated from Gardena Serra High and played defensive back at USC, was not retained by the Cowboys’ new staff this week. He served as a graduate assistant under Pete Carroll, before following the former Trojans coach to the Seattle Seahawks.

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Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald back for 17th season

The Arizona Cardinals informed the receiver will return in 2020 for his 17th pro season, signing Fitzgerald to a one-year contract. He had been set to become a free agent.

NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reports Fitzgerald’s deal is worth $11 million with incentives, per sources informed of the contract.

Fitzgerald’s future has been the subject of speculation each season of the past couple of years. Yet the 36-year-old continues to produce.

Fitzgerald snagged 75 receptions for 804 yards and four touchdowns in 2019, all team highs.

Even as things seem to change often in Arizona, Fitzgerald’s production still as steady as a rock.

The veteran’s ability to get open on quick routes meshes well with Kliff Kingsbury’s offense and Kyler Murray’s lightning-fast release. Perhaps Fitzgerald will no longer burn past receivers, but he still owns the route-running ability to box out defenders and vice-grip hands to snag pigskins in close quarters.

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While the Cardinals hope someday soon one of their young guns overtakes Fitzgerald as a true No. 1 target, Kingsbury understands the vital role the veteran plays for his offense to move the chains consistently.

“I think he’s playing as good as anybody, honestly,” Kingsbury said at the close of the season. “You watch what he does week-in and week-out, the little things, the blocking and the toughness that he brings to the offensive side of the football. We missed him twice for huge plays yesterday. He’s just still creating separation. He does it all.”

The 11-time Pro Bowler and former Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year sits No. 1 in Cardinals history in catches (1,378), receiving yards (17,083) and receiving TDs (120). Fitzgerald trails only Jerry Rice in NFL history in catches and receiving yards.

The Cardinals wideout needs 171 receptions and 5,812 yards to tie Rice. It would take a few more campaigns to come close to those numbers, but Fitzy is at least inching closer to records that once seemed outlandish for any wideout to get near.

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Niners get kwon Alexander, others back for Saturday

Linebacker Kwon Alexander will be back on the field Saturday when the 49ers open the playoffs, but he likely won’t step into his old every-down role quite yet.

Alexander is just nine weeks removed from surgery to repair a torn pectoral. He returned to practice last week and still on IR.

The 49ers plan to activate him to the 53-man roster to play Saturday versus the Minnesota Vikings at Levi’s Stadium in the NFC divisional round.

The 49ers know what to expect from Alexander. But they also do not know exactly what to expect.

“I know Kwon will fly around,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan told NBC Sports Bay Area. “He’ll hit. He’ll be energetic. He’ll get everyone going. I think everyone will feel his energy on the field. And we’ll see how it goes.

“We’re not going to throw him out there, just down-in and down-out. But we don’t have a plan, where it’s only going to be ‘this’ amount. He’s looked good in practice, but we’re also not laying people out in practice.”

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Rookie Dre Greenlaw played the weakside linebacker position during the second half of the season in Alexander’s absence.

Greenlaw made the big defensive play of the season in Week 17 when he stopped Seattle Seahawks tight end Jacob Hollister just inches short of the goal line on a late-game fourth-down play.

The tackle preserved the 49ers’ 26-21 victory and wrapped up the NFC West and home-field advantage in the playoffs.

The 49ers’ three linebacker positions are similar, so the team will have some decisions to make on how they want to use Greenlaw and Alexander alongside middle linebacker Fred Warner.

Shanahan said a lot of the team’s in-game decision-making will be in reaction to Alexander’s effectiveness.

“You got to wait to see how the tackling goes and how he feels,” Shanahan said. “(He is) someone we’ll be communicating with throughout the game.”

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Vikings´ Adam Thielen suffers ankle injury

The Minnesota Vikings wide receiver corps is dealing with some problems heading into their Divisional Round matchup with the San Francisco 49ers. Stefon Diggs has been a DNP the past two days with an illness, and now Adam Thielen is dealing with an ankle injury.

The Vikings released their second practice participation report of the week, and Thielen was listed as limited. He was not on the team’s first report Tuesday afternoon.

There is no word on the severity of the injury, but head coach Mike Zimmer is certain to get questions about it on Thursday. Downgrades are never good, but limited participation is still better than a DNP.

The Thursday report will be something to keep an eye on.

That being said, the Vikings receiver corps is not going to be 100 percent coming into this game. Diggs seems likely to play barring a turn for the worse with his illness, but he and Thielen will be coming in off a limited week of work.

One or both should be high volume targets if active, but if they’re limited, it hurts Kirk Cousins’ potential output to at least a modest degree.

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“I got a little tangled up at practice, but I’m going to do whatever it takes (to play), it’s playoffs,” Thielen told NFL Network on Thursday.

This is Thielen’s second injury this campaign. He hurt his hamstring in the first quarter of a Week 7 victory at Detroit and made a brief return in Week 9, only to reinjure himself early in a beat at Kansas City.

The Vikings shut Thielen down for the next six weeks until he returned versus the Los Angeles Chargers on Dec. 15.

Thielen’s breakout performance versus the Saints — seven catches for 129 yards — came after totaling 109 total receiving yards in the last five games he played in 2019, including a Week 16 loss to Green Bay in which he was held without a catch.

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Rams part ways with defensive coordinator Wade Phillips

The Los Angeles Rams had a disappointing post-Super Bowl season, and that has inevitably led to a coaching shakeup. Gary Klein of the Los Angeles Times reported that defensive coordinator Wade Phillips will not be retained for next season, which Phillips confirmed on his own Twitter account.

Phillips, 72, joined the Rams in 2017 as part of head coach Sean McVay’s staff. McVay was just 30 at the time and had experience as the offensive coordinator for the Washington Redskins, but had never been a head coach. McVay handed the defensive keys over to the more-experienced Phillips and the move paid off in a big way.

The Rams made it to the wild-card game in 2017, and then all the way to the Super Bowl in 2018. With the Rams’ battles in 2019, it makes sense that McVay and GM Les Snead would want to make a change or two.

A 9-7 record might be good enough to win the NFC East, but it’s a huge comedown for a team that was so successful just a year ago.

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The Rams are Phillips’ 10th NFL team, and he’s had an impresive career. He started with the Houston Oilers in 1976 when his father was the head coach, and has been steadily employed in football ever since.

He’s been the defensive coordinator for eight different teams and had head coaching jobs with the Denver Broncos, Buffalo Bills, and Dallas Cowboys — and that is not counting his three stints as an interim head coach.

As Phillips said in his tweet, he’s not done. He still wants to coach. McVay has talked about him in glowing terms in the past, which will only help his résumé despite the end of his Rams tenure.

“He’s always had a great perspective based on his experience, whether it be as a head coach or as a coordinator,” McVay told the OC Register in late December.  “But it’s never pushed on you. He’s always willing to share. [Players] love him. He’s got a consistency that you can’t help but appreciate.”

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Kirk Cousins delivers for Vikings in Overtime to pick up first playoff victory

It will be the Minnesota Vikings, and not the New Orleans Saints, moving on to the Divisional Round of the NFC playoffs.

After letting the Saints to tie up the game late in the fourth, the Vikings were guided down the field by Cousins and stunned the home crowd with walk-off touchdown to Zach Rudolph.

Cousins, who has been criticized throughout his entire career–including during his tenure in the nation’s capital–for not being able to deliver when the team needs him most, booked the Vikings a trip to San Francisco for a date with Jimmy Garappolo and the San Francisco 49ers. 

The 31-year-old Cousins lost his only previous playoff start — during the 2015 campaign with the Washington Redskins — and came up short of a playoff berth in the Vikings’ final game last season.

He also struggled in a handful of other high-profile matchups in prime time in 2019, but he delivered in Minnesota’s first road playoff victory since Jan. 9, 2005, when the Vikings defeated the rival Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field in the wild-card round.

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“I’m just happy we won,” Cousins said. “It was a great, great game, two good football teams.”

New Orleans fans surely begged to differ after seeing the NFC South champions’ season end in overtime at home for a second straight year.

The latest disappointing end for the Saints (13-4) came the year after they lost in the NFC championship game to the Los Angeles Rams in a matchup marred by blatant penalties not being called against the Rams late in regulation.

This time, replays on video boards showed a possible push-off by Rudolph against defensive back P.J. Williams moments before he jumped to snag the winning catch.

NFL president of officiating Al Riveron said the league reviewed numerous replay angles, and though officials saw contact by both players, “none of that contact rises to the level of a foul.”

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Steelers to play starters with shot at No. 1-2 seed

The Pittsburgh Steelers wrapped up at least the No. 2 seed in the AFC playoffs by defeating the Houston Texans on Monday.

Pittsburgh will have a bye to the divisional round of the tournament and can still earn the No. 1 seed by defeating the Cleveland Browns and by having the New Jets beat the New England Patriots.

But Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said he won’t let the fact the No. 1 seed in the AFC is still in play factor into his decision-making on who he will dress for the Browns game.

“I’m undecided as I stand here right now,” Tomlin said Tuesday afternoon at his weekly news conference. “It’s obvious those discussions are in play. We’ll do what’s best for us short-term and long, and we won’t look back.”

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The Steelers-Browns game kicks off at 1 p.m., the same time the Patriots-Jets game starts.

There is a scenario where Tomlin and his staff can watch the scoreboard to see if there is a chance the Patriots could be upset, but that would require Tomlin to play his starters for at least one half and perhaps more if that game is close.

“We have no control over that,” Tomlin said. “We better take care of the business in our stadium. We better focus on the challenges in our stadium and take care of the business that’s in our control. That will be my mentality as we prepare this week and as we walk into the stadium.”

Regardless of whether Tomlin decides to sit or play his stars, the Steelers have an oportunity to go undefeated in the AFC North for the first time since the 2008 season.

Tomlin said there were no significant injuries to come out of the Houston match. He did not have an update on wide receiver Antonio Brown, but he did rule him out for the Browns game.

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