GLENDALE, Ariz. — In a game with 1,063 combined yards of offense, it was a defensive play that was the highlight of the Pro Bowl.

Miami Dolphins cornerback Brent Grimes — aka "Optimus Grimes" — was one of the few defenders who really showed up to play in the 32-28 Team Irvin over Team Carter game. J.J. Watt might have won defensive MVP honors, but Grimes' interception was ridiculous.

Covering Indianapolis Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton, Grimes never turned around to find the ball on a fade route in the end zone, instead playing the receiver. No problem — Grimes reacted to the ball when Hilton leaped to make the catch, and Grimes — without ever really seeing the ball — just stole it. Like it was his lunch money.

Grimes' interception this season while covering Detroit Lions wideout Calvin Johnson was the better play because it happened against Megatron in a heated tight, regular-season game. But this Pro Bowl pick might have had an even higher degree of difficulty.

It was that good.

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

Author: Eric Edholm
Posted: January 26, 2015, 5:57 am

GLENDALE, Ariz. The Pro Bowl goal posts just looked weird.

The NFL trotted out experimental goal posts that were much narrower than regulation, and the uprights were much higher, too.

Adam Vinatieri was not a fan.

The Indianapolis Colts kicker, one of the most accurate ever and probably the kicker with the best chance to make the Pro Football Hall of Fame someday (Jan Stenerud is the only full-time kicker in the Hall), missed two extra points and a field goal to the narrow goal posts. The NFL narrowed the goal posts from 18.6 feet to 14 for the Pro Bowl. They also had kickers attempt extra points to the 15-yard line for a 33-yard try instead of the normal 20-yard attempt. All of Vinatieri's misses were barely wide.

"I probably would have made all my kicks today and walked out of here feeling a little happier than I am now," Vinatieri said.

Kickers have gotten much better over the years. Extra points are automatic and field goals were made at better than an 80 percent clip this past season. Adjusting the goal posts and/or moving the distance for extra points would bring those percentages way down.

"It's a game changer," Vinatieri said.

In a league that likes scoring, this is a rare move to suppress it. Vinatieri said if the NFL follows through on making it tougher on kickers, there will be changes in strategy.

"I doubt there will be as many 50-yard field goals attempted, because your percentages are going to be way down," Vinatieri said. "That's another thing you have to think about. If you want to move extra points back, if you want the skinny posts, you have to be prepared for the results."

Is that what we want? Do we want more missed extra points deciding games? It wouldn't be a better game for a team to score an apparent game-tying touchdown in the final minute, just for a kicker to miss a 33-yard extra point to skinny goal posts. Nobody has ever asked for kickers to have a bigger impact on games. "More missed field goals and extra points" has never been pitched as a way to improve the NFL game. But it seems we're headed toward some type of rule change.

Vinatieri said he was disappointed with how he kicked in the Pro Bowl, taking responsibility for his misses. He also said he sees the "wheels of change" turning and wouldn't be surprised if new rules are implemented for the regular season in the near future. The NFL experimented with longer extra points in the preseason too.

"Any time you make our job more difficult, no kicker is going to sign off on that, no kicker is going to be happy with that," Vinatieri said. "Ask a receiver if they take their gloves off because they catch the ball too well."

Vinatieri, who is 42, is close to wrapping up a great career. He has an 83.7 percent success rate on field goals in his 19 seasons. If the NFL goes forth with some of these rules changes for kickers, it's hard to imagine anyone coming close to that mark again.

"I feel bad for the young bucks who will have to deal with that their whole career," Vinatieri said.

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: January 26, 2015, 5:55 am

GLENDALE, Ariz. — After he had been awarded the Defensive MVP at the 2015 Pro Bowl, posing with NFL cheerleaders and standing next to the brand new GMC sport-utility vehicle he just won for those honors, J.J. Watt was pulled away for an NFL Network interview clear across the University of Phoenix Stadium field.

As the 25-year-old Watt traversed the field, the once sold-out crowd, which had thinned considerably by game's end, gave him a near local's welcome. Yes, the four Arizona Cardinals players received the warmest ovations to start the game and any time any of them were involved in a play in the 32-28 Team Irvin victory.

But they stayed for Watt. And they cheered him incessantly. They wanted his autograph. They wanted anything he wore for the game. They just seem to want to get an up-close look at the freak.

"It was cool to have a sold-out stadium here," Watt said. "It's a lot of fun to interact with the fans.“It was fun.

"The Pro Bowl is all about fun. We had a good time out there. We would have obviously love to have the win, but it’s pretty cool to walk out of here with a new truck.”

Watt finished the game with one tackle, one interception, one fumble recovery and — oh, yes — four Watt-patented passes deflected. In a game with so little actual tackling (more like collective bear hugging), Watt made sure to make his impact felt in other ways.

But where was he on offense? He has lined up in past Pro Bowls at tight end, and he caught three touchdown passes there for the Houston Texans this season. Did Watt not want to go in, heck, even as a quarterback — something, anything to add a little juice to a mostly terrible game?

"You know, right there near the end of the game, I kind of strolled my way into the offensive huddle," Watt said. "I don't know if they didn't see me, or if they didn't want to use me."

Instead, Team Carter stuck with Andy Dalton, who finished with 69 yards passing on 20 pass attempts. You're telling me Watt could not have done better with a few throws?

"I just strolled my way back to the sideline when I didn't get the call," Watt said.

And now it will be at least until July that we see Watt after this week. He'll attend the NFL awards show next week after attending to some personal business in Los Angeles. But after that, the man that everyone wants a piece of is expected to go into hibernation up north.

"And then I'll go back up to Wisconsin to lay low," Watt said. "It's been fun to be down here. It has been fun to represent Houston here. Obviously, I wish I was still playing ball." 

He's earned the rest, though. Watt might not earn league MVP honors over Wisconsin's other treasure, Aaron Rodgers, or Super Bowl quarterback Tom Brady, who arrives in town on Monday. But Watt had about as chock-full of a season as an NFLer can have — on defense, offense and special teams.

And Watt didn't rest on Sunday, either, giving a complete effort in the game when others were not, and even dancing to the music being blasted out over the house PA between TV timeouts. Does anyone have more fun than Watt?

"I am just trying to enjoy it all," Watt said, smiling and looking around at the hundreds of fans still just watching him stand there. "That's what the Pro Bowl is about. Everyone has worked so hard to get here. You want to enjoy yourself. Yeah, dancing around, having fun ... that's what it's all about."

The sacks. The touchdowns. The awards. The SUVs and the girls. It's Watt's world, and we're all just paying rent.

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

Author: Eric Edholm
Posted: January 26, 2015, 5:40 am

GLENDALE, Ariz. New York Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr. put on another show in the Pro Bowl, which is no surprise because that's what he did in just about every other game he played as a rookie.

He had five catches for 89 yards in the Pro Bowl and even among the game's best players he stood out. What's more amazing is what he shared in the locker room afterward.

"I was never really healthy," Beckham said about his rookie season.

Come again? That 91-catch, 1,305-yard, 12-touchdown rookie season (in just 12 games, by the way) was on a bad leg?

He said he had two separate hamstring injuries, and the second time he found out he had two tears in the hamstring, in the semitendinosus and the biceps muscles in the hamstring. Beckham missed four games to start the season because of his hamstring.

"I maintained it the best I could," Beckham said. "Still working on it. Trying to get it 100 (percent) for next year."

So this was a limited version of Beckham we saw rewrite the rookie record books. He's a heavy favorite to win the NFL offensive rookie of the year award on Saturday night. But he spoke about his season like he wasn't completely satisfied because his health wouldn't allow him to play full speed.

"I could never have that last gear I wanted to have," Beckham said. "You look at the Colts game and the Philly game, every time I went to break away I'm stumbling and trying to fall over. My hamstring wasn't strong enough to maintain all that. It's still something I'm working on today and will work on in the offseason."

He said he'll shut it down for a few weeks this offseason and then start working back. He said there's a possibility it won't get to 100 percent by next season, but that's a long way off still.

He looked just fine on Sunday in the Pro Bowl. He looked great in just about every game of an amazing rookie season. So how much better could he in his second year if he's 100 percent?

"I guess we'll have to see," Beckham said.

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: January 26, 2015, 5:19 am

For those expecting swift and harsh justice for the New England Patriots over the deflate-gate issue, with huge suspensions for the Super Bowl, you're likely out of luck.

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady reiterated during a remote Pro Bowl halftime interview with ESPN that he hasn't spoken to the NFL about the issue and doesn't expect to until after the Super Bowl. So unless Brady is really wrong on his assumption, you can probably put the pitchforks away for a while.

"No, no. I believe they're going to do after the season, so we'll deal with it after this game," Brady told ESPN. "I think everybody's locked in, ready to go for this Super Bowl. It's a great opportunity for us, you know, and our guys have worked really hard so, hopefully we can go out there and play our best on Sunday."

While some have figured the NFL would wrap up an investigation on this in a few days, that probably wasn't realistic. Especially because there hasn't been a hint of an admission of guilt from Bill Belichick, Brady or any of the Patriots about the under-inflated footballs in the AFC championship game, and there hasn't been any evidence of wrongdoing. Presumably Brady would tell the NFL exactly what he said in a lengthy news conference on Thursday. He basically said he doesn't want his footballs tampered with after he picks them out and he couldn't tell the difference during the game if the balls were at the proper inflation or below it because he doesn't squeeze the ball. There's no reason to think he'd tell the NFL anything different in a private meeting, and there's nothing in his statements from Thursday to justify punishing him now.

Belichick made it clear during his news conference on Saturday that he was going to share everything he knew and that would be it on the matter. It's a pretty good bet he told his team not to discuss the issue in Arizona. So outside of the very remote possibility of the NFL wrapping up an investigation in a day or two after surprisingly talking to Brady in Arizona and also finding enough evidence to warrant a Super Bowl suspension (the NFL very rarely suspends any player late in the week; it's unfair for teams that have game-planned all week with that player), this might be the signal that the significant news on deflate-gate is drying up heading into Super Bowl week.

That doesn't mean people won't keep talking about it right up until the game, however. It's just that the conversation won't include Brady and NFL investigators.

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: January 26, 2015, 3:14 am

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Several plays could sum up the Pro Bowl experience, from the poor tackling and blocking, to the missed field-goal attempts on tiny goalposts. 

It's riveting stuff.

But we'll nominate Jordy Nelson's touchdown catch from Drew Brees as the play of all Pro Bowl plays to sum up the confusion of this odd game.

Nelson ran to the post and made a really great catch, arms extended, and scored to give Team Carter a 20-19 lead in the second quarter. So who was the first to congratulate Nelson? Clay Matthews, who happens to be on Team Irvin. The other team.

Yes, they are teammates in real life with the Green Bay Packers. Blood is thicker than water, or something. It almost looked like they drew it up that way.

Like ...

Matthews: I'll let you score and then we'll celebrate together.

Nelson: Cool.

And it — humorously — shows just how farcical this whole Pro Bowl experience is.

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

Author: Eric Edholm
Posted: January 26, 2015, 2:46 am

The Super Bowl means special footballs for both the New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks, and that means a repeat of deflate-gate is unlikely to occur. 

Unlike the regular season and playoffs when teams provide their own balls for their offense during the game, the NFL provides all of the practice and game balls throughout Super Bowl week for both teams. There is a longstanding league policy in which an equipment manager from a team not involved – in this Super Bowl it is Tony Medlin of the Chicago Bears – is in charge of the game balls. The attendants for this game are picked well before either the Patriots or the Seahawks got to this point.

The Patriots have been answering questions all week about how 11 of their 12 game balls during the AFC championship game were under-inflated well below the league's rules for air pressure. Teams are in control of the game balls in the regular season and playoffs until the officials inspect then two hours and 15 minutes before kickoff.

Throughout the week of Super Bowl training in Arizona, the league provides each team with balls for practice. The balls are then returned to the NFL following Friday's practice and will remain in possession of the NFL up until Sunday night's kickoff, meaning that there can be no tampering (such as, say, deflation). With no Saturday practice for either team, the balls are then secured until gametime.

All the balls are authenticated and will be tested by gameday officials prior to the game. The balls are authenticated so that afterward they can be auctioned off to raise money for charity.

So if the footballs become deflated during the Super Bowl, you can't blame the Patriots.

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Kristian R. Dyer writes for Metro New York and is a contributor to Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter @KristianRDyer

Author: Kristian Dyer
Posted: January 26, 2015, 1:57 am

GLENDALE, Ariz. — The Seattle Seahawks are not participating the in the Pro Bowl because, well, they are taking part in a bigger bowl next Sunday.

But midway through the first quarter, after Team Irvin took a 3-0 lead, the five Seahawks players — safety Kam Chancellor, running back Marshawn Lynch, cornerback Richard Sherman, safety Earl Thomas and linebacker Bobby Wagner — who were elected to the game were announced to the crowd.

And they were booed.

Yes, the pro-Arizona Cardinals crowd wanted nothing to do with NFL Network's Willie McGinest interviewing the Seahawks quintet during a break in the action. And here we thought the New England Patriots were the most hated team in town!

The Patriots will not land in Arizona until Monday, so we were not afforded a true lithmus test.

But it's a good guess that division rivalries trump any national sentiments this week.

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

Author: Eric Edholm
Posted: January 26, 2015, 1:33 am

GLENDALE, Ariz. J.J. Watt would have fit in perfectly in the single-platoon era, when players stayed on the field and played both sides of the ball.

The Houston Texans defensive end is a wrecking machine on defense. He can catch touchdowns from the tight end position, because his size and agility makes him an incredibly tough matchup. And he can even kick field goals.

OK, so Watt wasn't exactly going kick-for-kick from Adam Vinatieri from 50 yards out during Pro Bowl practice this week. It was a short one he attempted with the cameras rolling, about extra-point range. But wouldn't you know it, the best player in the NFL this season hit it high up into the net and good. It's not an easy task, and you don't see many 289-pound men who can pull it off (Ndamukong Suh, we haven't forgotten your kicking skills).

The Pro Bowl is a time for crazy experiments. It's where we saw Watt line up at receiver a couple years ago, something the Texans used in real games this season, and he caught three touchdowns. John Harbaugh, who coaches Watt's Team Carter in the Pro Bowl, told NFL.com he's prepared to use players at unusual positions. So get ready, we might see Watt doing some really fun things in the game.

And he's not the only NFL superstar who could be called upon for a kick. In the pregame, Colts punter Pat McAfee took a video of New York Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr. nailing a 46-yard field goal before the Pro Bowl, with a nice little celebration afterward.

It's even more impressive when you consider that the NFL is using skinny goal posts in the game as an experiment.

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: January 26, 2015, 12:12 am

PHOENIX — The first shot by Richard Sherman during Super Bowl week has been fired.

The Seattle Seahawks cornerback, in the team's introductory media news conference on Sunday, was asked about potential discipline that could come down on their Super Bowl counterparts, the New England Patriots, in response to the deflate-gate incident.

Sherman, as expected, threw a haymaker at the NFL, the New England Patriots, Patriots owner Robert Kraft and league commissioner Roger Goodell.

"I think perception is reality. It is what it is," Sherman said. "Their resume speaks for itself. You talk about getting close to the line, this and that. I don’t really have a comment about that. Their past is what their past is. Their present is what their present is.

"Will they be punished? Probably not. Not as long Robert Kraft and Roger Goodell are still taking pictures at their respective homes. [Goodell] was just at Kraft’s house last week before the AFC championship. Talk about conflict of interest. As long as that happens, it won’t affect them at all.”

Well, now.

In case you were not aware, Goodell and Kraft were photographed together before last week's AFC championship game, underlying what many have said before: that Goodell and the NFL owners (especially certain ones) are far too cozy for comfort.

Richard Sherman: Pats Won't Be Punished Because Goodell & Kraft are BFFs http://t.co/6NyENAKnmU via @thacover2 pic.twitter.com/KYUnVchn7m

— Robert Littal (@BSO) January 25, 2015

The deflated balls story has been going on now for a week strong. And now a new chapter has been written by Sherman a day before the Patriots are scheduled to arrive and speak to the media.

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

Author: Eric Edholm
Posted: January 25, 2015, 10:57 pm

It'll be a lot harder for Cleveland Browns receiver Josh Gordon and his representatives to come up with excuses for yet another failed test for the league's substances of abuse.

Gordon, the wildly talented 2013 All-Pro receiver, failed another test and faces banishment for the 2015 season, ESPN's Adam Schefter reported. Pro Football Talk said Gordon tested positive for alcohol, which the league can test him for as a result of his DWI arrest last July. 

It's almost inconceivable that Gordon would put himself in this position, after having a season-long suspension for a drug test lessened to 10 games last season. After Gordon came back, he was suspended for the season finale for skipping a walk-through practice. That 10-game suspension last year was the result of Gordon's fourth violation of the league's drug policy, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported at the time.

And yet he failed another test.

Last time around Gordon claimed that he barely crossed the threshold for a positive test for marijuana, and the NFL's threshold was changed after his test. Any excuses this time probably won't be taken too seriously. He said his positive test last year was the result of second-hand smoke. He went to a rehab facility in California. He said he didn't have a drug problem and wanted to make things right with the Browns and the Cleveland fans.

"I see myself in a Cleveland Browns uniform, and a return for Josh Gordon," he told OnDeckEr.com last September. "Hopefully this time, the biggest and the best I’ve ever been. Really looking forward to giving the people what they deserve, not letting anyone down, myself included. And exceeding their expectations."

That seems very hollow now. Obviously Gordon can't stay out of trouble, a problem he has had since a rocky college career. He'll have plenty of time now to sort through his issues now.

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: January 25, 2015, 9:14 pm

There were more than a few sarcastic nicknames that arrived after the impromptu press conference called by the New England Patriots on Saturday, not the least funny of which was "Bill Belichick The Science Guy."

But ABC's "Good Morning America" sought out the real science guy — Bill Nye, a former mechanical engineer at Boeing (in Seattle, we might note) and now host of TV’s “Bill Nye The Science Guy" — for some answers to Belichick's firm prove-it rebuttal to the NFL's investigation of his team's ball handling.

Put straight: Nye refutes Belichick's assertions.

"What he said didn't make any sense," Nye said.

So there you have it?

"Rubbing the football, I don't think, can change the pressure. To really change the pressure, you need one of these," Nye said, holding up a regulation football and a ball pump, "the inflation needle."

Nye, in a light but perhaps biased and undercutting statement, then declared his allegiance for Sunday's Super Bowl: "Go Seahawks!"

Hmm.

@Eric_Edholm @cpriceNFL pic.twitter.com/RwmQnSTQz2

— Kevin Winter (@KevinPWinter) January 25, 2015

Perhaps the ABC segment was cut short, or edited, but Nye doesn't back up his claim of the needle (and the damage done?) being the only way to properly inflate or deflate the ball. He just says it. Because he's a science guy. Or make that a SCIENCE GUY.

It's possible that Nye is as much an authority on ball pressure as, say, Dr. Phil is on STDs or Guy Fieri is on the ideal cooking temperature for achieving a velvety bisque — which is to say somewhat questionable at best. On his show, Nye attacks anything under the umbrella of science, from the evolution/creationism debate, to climate change. He's put up as an expert of all things science, which, short of tapping into the mind of Stephen Hawking, feels a bit flimsy.

And there's also the fact that ESPN pulled a segment that appeared to offer little, if any tangible difference between a ball falling within the legal parameters of pounds per square inch (12.5 to 13.5) and one that was two PSIs below that, which is where the Patriots' balls were said to be. In fact, the far more detailed ESPN would-be segment indicates, a deflated ball's velocity was actually less than that which was more inflated.

Anyone want to talk football? Hearing Belichick talk atmospheric pressure is about as riveting as Nye talking football, which is to say a mind-numbingly not at all.

This isn't getting ridiculous. We're already into overtime of that game. Time to take the air out of this ball, for the love of science.

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

Author: Eric Edholm
Posted: January 25, 2015, 4:44 pm

Usually Super Bowl opponents have no reason to dislike each other. 

Maybe there's a former coach or player who was wronged and now facing his old team, but rarely is there any hint of a rivalry. Teams from different conferences play each other only once every four years in the regular season.

But the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks are an exception.

Their history was the "U Mad Bro?" Game (oh how I wish the great John Facenda of NFL Films was alive to narrate that title). In 2012 Richard Sherman wasn't a household name and we didn't know yet that the Seahawks were going to be champions. Oh how that would change.

The Seahawks beat the Patriots 24-23 on a late touchdown in 2012. The Seahawks had the "Fail Mary" win over the Packers earlier that season, which was Russell Wilson's rookie year, and the Patriots win solidified their ascent. Seattle would lose a close game in the divisional round that season, then win a Super Bowl the following season. But the 2012 Patriots game is known for a tweet more than anything that happened during the 60 minutes of action. 

Sherman said that Tom Brady was trash talking him and safety Earl Thomas during the game.

"I think people somehow get a skewed view of Tom Brady that he's just a clean cut, does everything right, never says a bad word to anyone," Sherman said this week. "We know him to be otherwise. In that moment of him being himself he said some things and we returned the favor."

We know now that you don't trash talk Sherman, or the Seahawks for that matter. They are indefatigable when it comes to that. But Brady got them going.

"He was pretty much saying we were nobodies and that we should come up to him after they win," Sherman said. "We should take that pretty well. 'Cool, can I get your autograph too?'"

The Seahawks won. Even if opponents talk trash during the game, it's part of the game and doesn't carry over to the postgame handshakes. But Sherman didn't let it go. He did find Brady after the game and let the future Hall-of-Fame quarterback know what he thought. And then Sherman, in his second season and still just establishing himself as a top cornerback, tweeted out a photo of him returning the trash talk to Brady after the win, and the words "U Mad Bro?" were added to the picture. He deleted the tweet shortly after he posted it.

(@RSherman25)

Sherman had a great line after the game.

"We're built for a heavyweight fight," Sherman said after the game, according to the Seattle Times. "I don't think they're built for a heavyweight fight."

Sherman also said after the game: "Me and Earl walked up to him and said, 'We're greater than you. We're better than you. You're just a man -- we're a team.' That's the Brady Bunch; this is a defense."

Brady didn't forget either. When Sherman was involved in his pre-Super Bowl week controversy last year, after yelling about Michael Crabtree after the NFC championship game (ah, a simpler time where we had something other to talk about than deflated footballs), Brady took some not-so-subtle shots at Sherman.

“I don’t know him at all,” Brady said on WEEI last year. “I’ve watched him play. He’s that kind of guy. So, you know. I approach the game — and I have respect for my opponents. That’s the way our team always plays. We win with graciousness, and when we lose, we could do better. Some teams don’t always do that, or that’s not their program."

Something says that these two aren't going to be giving hugs to each other if they cross paths in Arizona this week.

Brady wasn't asked about Sherman in his media conference this week (he was busy with other questions) and we'll see if Sherman wants to keep talking about Brady once the team arrives for the Super Bowl. Sherman didn't really say anything inflammatory at the Super Bowl last year. But nobody on the Denver Broncos, last year's Super Bowl opponent, had ever gotten his attention in the way Brady did.

For once, we have a little bit of bad blood between the Super Bowl teams.

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: January 25, 2015, 1:42 pm

New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick stood up at a surprise news conference on Saturday to say that the team's in-house investigation into allegations that the club deflated footballs improperly led him to say that they "have followed every rule to the letter."

And then he was asked about the 2007 Spygate incident. And Belichick unloaded.

Broaching a subject that he rarely — if ever? — has discussed in such detail since, Belichick issued a fierce defense of his team's actions back then.

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

"We try to do everything right, we err on the side of caution, it has been this way for many years. Anything that’s close, we stay as far away from the line as we can. In this case, I can say that as far as I know and everything I can do, we did everything as right as we could do it. We welcome the league’s investigation in this matter."

The running debate amid the deflate-gate chatter is that, had this been any other team, we might not even be talking about PSIs and under-inflated footballs eight days from the Super Bowl. But given that the Patriots and Belichick were levied such heavy fines in the Spygate incident and that the Patriots' consistent winning and Belichick's sometimes brusque personality have become national rallying points against this team, deflate-gate has taken on a life of its own.

Perhaps even more so than Spygate. Which Belichick took a crack at relitigating seven-plus years later. With great ferocity.

"A guy is giving signals in front of 80,000 people, OK?" Belichick said. "So we filmed them taking signals in front of 80,000 people like there were a lot of other teams doing at that time too. Forget about that. If we were wrong, we’ve been disciplined for that.

"Guy is in front of 80,000 people ... 80,000 people saw it, everybody on the sideline saw it, everybody sees our guys in front of 80,000 people. I mean, there he is. It was wrong, we were disciplined for it, that’s it. We never did it again. We’re never going to do it again. Anything else that’s close, we’re not going to do either."

"We always do, we always have. Anything that’s remotely close, we’re [erring] on the side of caution."

How about that? 

Belichick not only took time on a Saturday to take the air out of the current controversy but turned back the clock to douse any lingering Spygate embers.

Note to media members covering this little football game coming up in a little more than a week: Ask Belichick about the incident with caution.

"This is the end of this subject for me for a long time," Belichick said. 

Guess we'll have to wait for his personal memoirs to get anything more on it.

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

Author: Eric Edholm
Posted: January 24, 2015, 9:07 pm

New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick decided to call a surprise news conference on Saturday to let everyone know that he feels his team did nothing wrong.

He was defiant and frustrated over the entire deflate-gate controversy, in which the Patriots were accused of deflating footballs during the AFC championship game. So in this news conference he described in excruciating detail the experiments the Patriots have done to footballs to determine what happened. And he is convinced that the Patriots did nothing wrong.

"I believe now, 100 percent, that I have personally and we as an organization that we have followed every rule to the letter," Belichick said. "I feel on behalf of everyone in the organization – everyone that is involved in this organization – that we need to say something."

Belichick reiterated his thoughts from Thursday, in which he said he knew nothing of the preparation of footballs or the air pressure of them. So, as we'd expect from Belichick, he threw himself into the subject to figure it out. On Thursday, it was Ask Tom. On Saturday, Bill Belichick went at deflate-gate head-on. (AP)

What Belichick told the media was that the Patriots replicated the process that footballs go through on game day. And the explanation for how the balls became under-inflated was two-fold: The pregame preparation process to rub the balls down inflate the pounds per square inch (PSI) and so does the change in weather. 

First, he discussed the preparation before the officials inspect them two hours and 15 minutes before the game. The Patriots rub the balls to get the texture correct for the quarterbacks, and Tom Brady in particular. Many quarterbacks have described the process of breaking the balls in. That's common in the NFL. Quarterbacks hate slick footballs. Belichick said that rubbing process changes air in the football and the PSI. He said they never did that in a heated room or in front of the heater. It just happens.

"We rub it to get the ball to the proper texture," Belichick said. "I don’t know what’s vigorous, what’s not vigorous, we’re not polishing fine china here. We’re trying to get a football to the proper texture that the quarterbacks wants it to grip it. Does that stimulate something within the football to raise the PSI? I would say yes, it does."

The other part is the weather. The temperature outside was colder than it was in the locker room. It was 51 degrees at kickoff. Belichick compared the change in the air pressure due to the weather to parking your car outside overnight in the cold, and that changing the air pressure in your tires. He suggested that also changed the air pressure in the footballs.

He also experimented with the quarterbacks. He said they had a tough time differentiating between under-inflated footballs and ones that were within the NFL rules of 12.5 to 13.5 pounds per square inch.

"We had our quarterbacks look at a number of footballs," Belichick said. "And they were unable to differentiate a 1 pound per square in difference in those footballs. They were unable to do it. On a 2-pound differential there was some degree of differentiation but not a consistent one. A couple ones they could pick out, but they were also wrong on some of those other ones. So, you’re welcome to do that yourself."

Belichick sounded frustrated about the whole thing (he said at no point did the Patriots compromise the integrity of the game, and even passionately answered the follow-up questions about Spygate years ago), and rightfully so. This controversy has come during an important week as the Patriots prepare for a Super Bowl against the Seattle Seahawks, and during a week in which the team should be reveling in its accomplishment of winning the AFC. If Belichick's experiments are accurate and correct, then he has spent a lot of time this week dealing with a made-up controversy.

"I’m embarrassed to talk about the amount of time that I’ve put into this relative to the other important challenge in front of us," Belichick said. "I’m not a scientist, I’m not an expert in footballs, I’m not an expert in football measurements, I’m just telling you what I know."

Belichick called the impromptu news conference to discuss deflate-gate in full and exhaust the topic from his end because he seemingly doesn't plan to discuss it again before the Super Bowl.

"This is the end of this subject for me for a long time," Belichick said.

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: January 24, 2015, 8:45 pm

Beast Mode Sausage (via @darrenrovell)Well, this is horrifying: a butcher in Seattle is selling sausage stuffed with Skittles in honor of Seattle Seahawks running back and noted Skittles aficionado Marshawn Lynch. It makes absolutely no sense, but then that's about par for the course with anything involving Lynch.

The creation of Blue Max Meats owners Tommy Marshall and Evan Greco, Beast Mode Sausage has brought people to the store in Puyallup, Washington every day for the past year. The owners estimate they've gone through 1,000 pounds of Skittles.

They claim that the sweet Skittles mixes well with the spicy sausage upon cooking, but we're not entirely sure that's anything more than marketing-speak. Regardless, it's done the job, bringing notoriety to the Blue Max name and drawing big attention now that Seattle's back in the Super Bowl.

Lynch himself hasn't yet sampled the sausage, apparently. But even if he did, we wouldn't count on him to spend a lot of time pontificating on its flavor.

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Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter.

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Author: Jay Busbee
Posted: January 24, 2015, 3:51 am

Welcome to the latest Shutdown Corner podcast! On today's fully-inflated episode, we have:

• An interview with Tony Gonzalez, in which he discloses whether or not he can tell the difference between an inflated and slightly deflated ball, breaks down the Seattle defense, assesses Rob Gronkowski, and reveals whether he'll take Busbee's offer of $20 to return to the Falcons (26:18 mark)

• A look at the madness of Deflate-Gate, including the farcical press conferences of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady (00:35 mark)

• Did Belichick throw Brady under the bus? (16:19 mark)

• Why on earth would the Seahawks taunt Gronkowski? (36:51 mark)

All this and more as part of the Shutdown Corner Podcast. Listen up, and while you're listening ...

Subscribe via iTunes right here.

Non-iTunes subscription link here.

Leave us a nice review here.

The Shutdown Corner podcast is the product of Kevin Kaduk (@KevinKaduk), Frank Schwab (@YahooSchwab) and Jay Busbee (@JayBusbee). New episodes every Tuesday and Friday, with bonus episodes when you least expect it. Enjoy!

Author: Jay Busbee
Posted: January 23, 2015, 11:03 pm

Note to media members covering the Super Bowl: Do not, for the love of Roger Goodell, post a picture of your credential on social media.

That's exactly what one Arizona man did for what was supposed to be his first Super Bowl ever, according to KTVK-3TV. When the NFL caught wind of Russ Knight, who was hired to be an assistant frequency coordinator during Super Bowl week, posting a picture of himself and his newly acquired credential, the league revoked it.

Ouch.

NFL security called him up and delivered the bad news.

"He said, 'Russ, we've got a problem,'" Knight said. "Apparently, on my picture, even though it's far away, they could zoom in and they could read my credential on the bottom."

The league prohibits such things for security measures. It's printed right on the back of the credential: It can't be posted on the internet, for fear that it could be cloned or copied to duplicate a fake credential.

"I can't blame anybody else," Knight said. "I was the guy. I was the fool who didn't read the fine print. I was that guy."

Knight, a former deejay, is telling his story so that others don't make the same unfortunate mistake. But even in his act of goodwill, the sting is still fresh.

"It hurts real bad," Knight said.

He sent an apology letter to the league and plans to watch the big game on television.

"But it won't be the same as being on the field," Knight said.

No kidding.

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

Author: Eric Edholm
Posted: January 23, 2015, 10:08 pm

Will Russell Wilson appear on "Dancing WIth the Stars" when its 20th season kicks off in March?

Despite turning ABC's hit show down after his first championship, it looks like there's a chance WIlson might say "yes" if leads his team to a second straight Super Bowl title. That's according to an Instagram from DWTS star Karina Smirnoff, who relayed a "deal" she made with the Seattle Seahawks quarterback when the two were hanging out last fall.

"So….calling out @dangerusswilson 'if I win this year’s #SuperBowl, I’ll do next season of @dancingabc #DWTS,'" Smirnoff wrote on Instagram. "Ok-Should we hold him to it?!?!"

Messages to Wilson's reps seeking comment were not immediately returned on Friday.

"They made a deal a couple months back that if he wins the 2015 Super Bowl, he would dance as her partner for Season 20 of 'Dancing With the Stars,'" a source tells Yahoo.

Wilson, 25, has previously expressed his desire to appear on the show, but publicly turned down an opportunity to appear on Season 18 after beating the Denver Broncos in last February's Super Bowl.

He could change his mind if the Seahawks beat the New England Patriots on Feb. 1.

"I'm going to do it, at some point," Wilson told Access Hollywood after originally turning the show down.  "I love 'Dancing With the Stars.' I love watching and I love dancing myself, so hopefully I can win it. Some of the people are pretty good dancers and performers. Hopefully it will help me to hopefully win it. But who knows, I need to focus on my football career right now."

The NFL features a schedule that makes it favorable for its players to appear on the spring session of DWTS and the show's competitors list reflects that. Five NFL players have competed on DWTS while still active in the league — Jason Taylor, Chad Ochocino, Hines Ward, Donald Driver and Jacoby Jones.

Wilson might be able to expect a long commitment if he does the show because football players have traditionally done well on the show. All of the active players finished fourth or higher with Ward and Driver winning the title in their respective seasons.

None of those stars, however, were in the prime of their career or the reigning Super Bowl champion quarterback, so Wilson doing the show would be a surprise of sorts.

Would Wilson ignore the critics who would charge that doing DWTS would qualify as a distraction?

Would he trade in time filiming lucrative commercials to put in the work with Smirnoff in a dance studio?

We're a tad doubtful that he would, but it's also possible Wilson was dropping some hints when a video of him dancing this past Christmas hit the Internet.

Stay tuned.

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Kevin Kaduk is a writer for Yahoo Sports.. Have a tip? Email him at kevinkaduk@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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Author: Kevin Kaduk
Posted: January 23, 2015, 8:58 pm

Johnny Manziel texted former Cleveland Browns QB coach Dowell Loggains on Draft Day 2014, urging him to draft Manziel so he could "wreck this league."

Instead, Manziel's nightmare rookie season almost wrecked the team. So says an ESPN.com report, which quotes nearly 20 Browns sources, indicating that the divisive rookie has problems that run deep after a mere nine months with the team.

In six quarters as a starter, Manziel failed to impress, and his presence in the locker room helped fracture a team that had some nice moments at time but fell from the playoff race late and now stands with total uncertainty on where it stands at quarterback heading into 2015.

Loggains was fired. Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan left with two years left on his contract. New offensive coordinator John DiFllippo has said the team must figure out if the Browns' future quarterback is on the roster currently, and Browns owner Jimmy Haslam echoed those uninspiring comments, too.

Manziel was fined for being AWOL on the final Saturday of the season after suffering a hamstring injury that ended his season. The Browns brass openly wondered during the season, per the report, whether Manziel ever would be a viable franchise quarterback. Manziel's teammates clearly had troubles with the rookie's social calendar and lack of commitment to getting better and being prepared.

One player, according to the ESPN story, said Manziel as a rookie was a "100 percent joke."

Anyone shocked by this? Other teams around the league hardly are. Those that did their work on him during the pre-draft run-up hd their share of questions.

Even though Manziel twice late in the season vowed to fix his problems with tardiness and tone down his partying, the evidence suggested that it carried right through to the offseason — and not long into it.

He was seen partying in Miami Beach, Houston and in Aspen, Colorado, and all in a short time span.

"Johnny's his own worst enemy," one source said in the report.

Manziel sparked the team in the fourth quarter against the Buffalo Bills and led a touchdown drive — he ran it in — in the eventual loss. But his follow-up work against the Cincinnati Bengals and Carolina Panthers was not good, and he left the latter game with a hamstring injury. The Browns were upset he did not appear at the facility diligently to rehab his injury, and he was fined for missing a team meeting.

Are the Browns holding him accountable? The report suggests not nearly enough. Although his teammates had good things to say about Manziel publicly, privately the report shows another matter. And people on other teams are seeing the things that scared them off from drafting Manziel.

"What Johnny has to understand is [if] he has another year like he just had, he's not going to be famous anymore," one NFL team exec said. "LeBron James is going to lose his number."

This is not what the Browns needed. All the positive momentum gained in Mike Pettine's first year as head coach in what would be a 7-9 season now feels undercut by the underprepared and unreliable Manziel. With one year under his belt, it's way too soon to say that he's a bust or that he'll eventually be one.

But the early returns are not positive, and the immediate future all of a sudden looks very questionable.

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

Author: Eric Edholm
Posted: January 23, 2015, 8:24 pm

Although the Senior Bowl wraps up with the game itself on Saturday, the majority of the scouting work has been done by NFL teams over the course of the week's worth of practices. We were on hand for those sessions and came away impressed by some players, not as much by others.

Here are some of the winners and losers from the week:

WINNERS

Iowa DT Carl Davis — The buzz centered on Washington's big defensive tackle, Danny Shelton, and for good reason: he won all week with power. But Davis won the week, too, the second he strode across the weigh-in stage with his treetrunks legs and continued on with a great week. He looked dominant at times in one-on-one battles and projects to be a big run clogger on the next level. The reputation of him taking plays off in college seemed to subside after a strong week of practice.

Minnesota RB David Cobb — He showed off all-around skills, from pass protection to catching the football (which he supposedly doesn't do well) to running inside and out. Cobb was quick and decisive, and displayed some nice power in goal-line drills, blasting through arm-tackle attempts. He most definitely entered solidly into the Day 2 draft discussion with a great week, showing few tangible weaknesses.

Utah OLB-DE Nate Orchard — All week, he consistently made plays and looked the part of an edge defender capable of collapsing the pocket and impacting the run game. He was active with his hands, displayed nice counter moves and never stopped working to win battles. His long arms helped him achieve all those things.

Ole Miss DBs Cody Prewitt and Senquez Golson — Both players had their moments in Mobile. Prewitt wasted little time getting his hands on passes on the first day of practice, breaking up two throws and picking off another in which he showed good anticipation. His size and ball skills looked good. Golson is fast and competitve and has the look of a feisty nickel corner.

TCU CB Kevin White — Each day, he just got better and better. Thursday was his showcase practice, making a diving interception. He might be a nickel on the next level, but White is a player: small but super competitive, showing that TCU (coming off the heels of Jason Verrett a year ago) can produce some quality defensive talent.

Hobart OT Ali Marpet — No player had more to gain than the small-school Marpet, and he did just that. Perhaps he's just a guard at the next level, but he played with fire, held his own against Shelton and others and showed he can handle the mental aspect of the game. It's his physical performance that caught a lot of eyes and won a few people over.

Norfolk State outside linebacker Lynden Trail (John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports)

Norfolk State OLB Lynden Trail — Built like a Range Rover, the 6-foot-6, 260-pound Trail overcame poor practice habits at Florida, where coaches Will Muschamp and Dan Quinn called him out, and moved to Norfolk, where he dominated. On Wednesday, he was agile in staying step for step covering tight ends, and on Thursday he had a huge day: Not only did he make a terrific interception in the red zone, showing some Julius Peppers-esque ball skills, but Trail also lined up at tight end (where he played some in college) and looked natural catching the ball. Trail is confident and supremely athletic, and he might not make it out of Day 2. He said he feels his best position is at outside 'backer, moving in space and running free to make plays all over the field.

Texas CB Quandre Diggs — After being planted on a run play early in Thursday, Diggs responded with a nifty, off-balance interception and later showed up by laying the wood in a red-zone run drill. He's small at a shade under 5-9 but well built at 186 pounds and had no problem getting physical.

TEs Nick Boyle and Clive Walford — In a middling crop at the position, both players stood out. Boyle is a big man (6-4, 267) who moves very well and was very consistent in in-line blocking and catching the ball. He played a few positions (split wide, slot, traditional in-line Y) at Delaware and had a strong week. Walford looked very athletic and had a big practice on Wednesday, when he made a number of big catches. You can see why he averaged more than 15 yards per grab in 2014, but it begs the question: Why didn't the Miami coaches throw Walford the ball more?

LSU OT La'el Collins — If he's not a top-15 or 20 pick, I'd be shocked. The week was exactly what scouts hoped to see. Collins stonewalled pass rushers all week, and his ability to play tackle and guard makes him an extremely safe prospect, too. Collins might not be a dominant, pile-driving force in the NFL, but it would be surprising to see him flop in the league.

Central Arkansas WR Dezmin Lewis — He's 6-3, 215 pounds and catches the ball with ease. Lewis possesses great hands, concentration and body control, making several eye-opening catches. He told me he plans to run "in the 4.4s" in the 40-yard dash at the scouting combine.

Duke OG Laken Tomlinson — If he didn't consistently hold up well in blocking drills and team work, Tomlinson would have earned high marks anyway for his character. Two teams we spoke with said he nailed his interviews with them, giving them the belief that he'll be a set-and-forget starter at guard for the better part of a decade. Defensive lineman Danny Shelton got him once or twice, but Tomlinson held up very well all week.

UCLA QB Brett Hundley — Yes, by not showing up to Mobile, Hundley might have actually helped himself. Sure, coming into town and having a big week would have been more ideal in his evaluation. But by staying away, Hundley's stock appeared to go up just by the fact that the rest of the quarterbacks who were down there did little to impress or alter evaluators' thinking on what kind of players they'll make.

LOSERS

The quarterbacks — As a group, it's hard to remember a more underwhelming Senior Bowl crop. None of them shined, with Colorado State's Garrett Grayson the one who had maybe the best performance overall — but still nothing stunningly good. If any of these quarterbacks are taken before Round 4, it would be a surprise.

Washington OLB-DE Hau'oli Kikaha (Glenn Andrews-USA TODAY Sports)Washington OLB-DE Hau'oli Kikaha — Scouts took notice of his post-practice work on dropping into coverage, long after most people had left Wednesday's session. But Kikaha struggled in linebacker drills, covering backs and tight ends, and looked a bit tight in the hips. This might peg him more into an upfield-rushing role in the NFL, limiting his versatility.

Colorado State OT Ty Sambrailo — Entering the week there was buzz that Sambrailo could make a push into the late first-round discussion, but his week was fairly nondescript and disappointing. He didn't play with good balance, ending up on the ground a few times, and still has some evaluators to win over during the pre-draft process.

UNLV WR Devante Davis — He certainly looked the part in the weigh-in at 6-3, 220 pounds with 33-inch arms, but Davis fought the football a little bit the first day and was beset by a balky hamstring. Injuries slowed him down this week and prevented him from making much positive movement.

Auburn CB Nick Marshall — Right before the first practice, he told the Jacksonville Jaguars coaching staff he wanted to play cornerback, which came as a surprise. And no surprise: He struggled, although he gained some momentum by week's end. Still, Marshall is raw at the position he hasn't played since his freshman year at Georgia and will be drafted as an athletic marvel and a project. There's more work to be done.

Kansas CB JaCorey Shepherd — A left hamstring took him out of what was a tough first practice on Tuesday, when he struggled to handle speed receivers in off coverage. This was a tough week for him. 

Stanford WR-KR Ty Montgomery — Listed at 6-2 in college, Montgomery measured in at under 6 feet and appeared to have the body of a running back, not a receiver. He has special teams value, but he struggled with consistency catching the football this week and might be more of a No. 4 or 5 wideout and return specialist. Injuries plagued him this past season, and he didn't build much momentum in practice this week.

Notre Dame TE Ben Koyack — His reputation pushed him near the top of the position class entering the week, but his lack of athleticism as a receiver and lack of force as a blocker were noticeable. The recent successful run of Irish tight ends in the NFL has been impressive, but Koyack might not match up to that crew. Boyle and Walford both looked far more impressive when stacked side by side.

Auburn C Reese Dismukes — His hands were shockingly small (sub-8.5 inches, with his right hand — the one he snaps with — measuring smaller than his left), he lacks bulk, struggled in one-on-one drills and failed to get good push up front. Dismukes also struggled with his shotgun snapping consistency, which appeared to carry over from the end of this past season.

Florida OT-OG Trent Brown — The biggest man in Mobile (6-8, 376 pounds) with 35.5-inch arms, Brown nonetheless struggled with speed and sustaining blocks. He couldn't handle quickness, and the coaches stuck him at guard. What does that tell you? He's not an NFL tackle, even at his size, it would appear.

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

Author: Eric Edholm
Posted: January 23, 2015, 7:42 pm

The NFL has been strangely quiet this week, as a major controversy swirls.

Aside from spokesmen confirming that an investigation was going on, there hadn't been much word from the NFL about deflate-gate this week, which really isn't the transparent NFL that commissioner Roger Goodell promised us. Reports have trickled out about how many footballs the New England Patriots used were under-inflated in the first half of the AFC championship game and what steps the officials took during the game, but the league has been quiet.

The NFL broke its silence on Friday afternoon, and said practically nothing. It said there is an investigation and "evidence thus far supports the conclusion that footballs that were under-inflated were used by the Patriots in the first half," which we knew. It said it will be led by NFL executive vice president Jeff Pash and Ted Wells of the law firm of Paul Weiss (Wells ran the Dolphins' bullying scandal investigation), which isn't important information to most fans. The NFL has talked to 40 people (but apparently not Tom Brady), but gave minimal details on what it was told. The league did say the officials inspected the Patriots' footballs before the game per the rules and they were compliant with the rules, which clears up that key point.

But mostly the NFL put out a long-winded statement that tells us almost nothing other than that it's looking into it and to sit tight. Not any specifics on what the air pressure of the footballs were or any tests it's done or the results of any interviews. That's not helping build up trust in the NFL again. Maybe it would hurt the investigation to release more of the details it knows already (and if you've done 40 interviews and tested the Patriots' footballs at some point after the first half you know something more than telling us Pash and Wells are on the case and will let us know), but it would be nice to get more than this statement more than four days after the news first broke from the league that wants to be known for transparency.

Here's what the league released in its statement:

"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 under-inflated 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."

 

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: January 23, 2015, 7:21 pm

The Super Bowl ad march has begun. Catch 'em now so they won't surprise you during the Big Game.

Ad: "How Great I Am," Toyota

Concept: Amy Purdy, "Dancing with the Stars" star and Paralympian snowboarder, goes through the rigor of her day-to-day life — dancing, snowboarding, mountain biking, generally kicking butt — with the help of her trusty Toyota Camry.

Execution: Anything with Muhammad Ali quotes is instantly 20 percent cooler. That's a fact. And the "handcuffed lightning" routine, a sequence he unfurled before the 1974 "Rumble in the Jungle" against George Foreman, is one of his finest. Pair that with a strenuous/glamorous training montage straight out of an '80s movie, and you've got yourself a working, virtually critic-proof combination.

Verdict: Solid. You watch Purdy at work, you hear those lines, you feel that pounding beat ... well, you might not be inspired to buy a Camry, but you'll definitely be inspired to do something.

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Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter.

Follow @jaybusbee

And keep up with Jay over on Facebook, too.

Author: Jay Busbee
Posted: January 23, 2015, 6:54 pm

The refrain, albeit flawed, from any New England Patriots hater is that they haven't won a Super Bowl since Spygate. Meaning, they needed to cheat to win Super Bowls.

And former Carolina Panthers general manager Marty Hurney unloaded years and years of anger in one radio segment in which he basically said he wonders if the Patriots cheated them out of Super Bowl XXXVIII. The Panthers lost that game 32-29. The Patriots' past, and specifically the Spygate videotaping scandal that unfolded in 2007, has been brought up numerous times this week after questions about how almost all of their 12 game footballs in last Sunday's AFC championship game were under-inflated.

Hurney's explosion came on Charlotte's ESPN 730 AM, in which he hosts a show. The quotes were transcribed by ESPN.com:

"There isn't a day that goes by since [then] that I haven't questioned ... that there were some things done that might have been beyond the rules that may have given them a three-point advantage,'' Hurney said. "And I can't prove anything, and that's why I'm very angry. And the anger has come back over the last couple of days that commissioner Roger Goodell decided to shred all of the evidence after 'Spygate,' because I think there were a lot of things in there that would bring closure to a lot of people."

Goodell destroyed all evidence after ruling on the Spygate scandal of 2007, a decision that goes down as one of his many questionable moves as commissioner. It allowed people to wonder if there was more on the tapes than the NFL said.

One of those people is Hurney. Included in his rant was a very serious allegation that people have told him they think the Patriots might have been taping their pre-Super Bowl practices in Houston.

"There are people who swear to me that the Patriots taped our practice down in Houston during Super Bowl week," Hurney said. "I can't prove it. I don't know. And I hate talking like this because I feel like a bad loser, but it just gnaws at you and this latest incident brings it back up."

Obviously there has been no proof that the Patriots taped the Panthers' practices, and it's fairly reckless of Hurney to say that on air. But he obviously has been holding this in for a while, and the latest Patriots controversy gave him the reason to let it all out.

"To me this isn't about 'Deflategate', this isn't about anything having to do about any particular game last week,'' Hurney said, according to ESPN.com's transcript. "And it certainly isn't fodder to get by the first week before the Super Bowl.

"This is about a culture. Is there a culture of cheating at probably what most people look at as the best franchise in the National Football League?''

The Panthers had their own skeletons come out of the closet from that season. An investigation by the Charlotte Observer in 2006 stated many Panthers players used performance-enhancing drugs during that NFC championship season. Even if Hurney brought this up during his radio rant ("The organization didn't know anything about it, and we took steps and we addressed that," Hurney said), him railing about how the Patriots might have cheated them out of a Super Bowl comes across as hypocritical, hollow and foolish.

But even if Hurney comes off as the sore loser (and he does), plenty of people will be on his side. There are legions of NFL fans who have tried to dismiss the entire Patriots dynasty because of Spygate. The latest deflate-gate controversy just gives them more reasons to pile on.

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: January 23, 2015, 6:47 pm

Were it not for Deflate-Gate, we'd probably still be talking about Dez Bryant's overturned catch, the one that helped the Packers defeat Bryant's Cowboys two weeks ago in the  NFC Divisional playoffs. But one man, at least, hasn't forgotten, and this man hopes to make the NFL pay for what he sees as a gross miscarriage of justice.

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant (88) catches a pass during the second half of an NFL divisional playoff football game Sunday, Jan. 11, 2015, in Green Bay, Wis. The play was reversed. The Packers won 26-21. (AP Photo/Matt Ludtke)Terry Hendrix, an inmate in a Colorado correctional facility, has filed an $88 billion — that's billion with a "B" — lawsuit against the NFL over the reversal. The total figure is $88,987,654,321.88, with both 88s presumably a reference to Bryant's uniform number.

In his handwritten petition, Hendrix, a prisoner at Fremont Correctional Center in Cañon City, Colorado, seeks the money for reasons including but not limited to "for but not limited to: negligence, breach of fiduciary duty, and also wreckless [sic] disregard."

Bryant, as you may recall, appeared to catch the ball just outside the Packers' end zone late in the fourth quarter, setting Dallas up for what would have been a go-ahead score. Instead, the referees overturned the catch on the Packers' challenge, saying Bryant did not have control of the ball and did not make a football move before going to the ground. The Packers ended up winning and advanced to the NFC Championship, where they lost to the Seattle Seahawks.

Hendrix named NFL Vice President of Officiating Dean Blandino, game referee Gene Steratore and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell in the suit. He filed "on behalf of Dez Bryan #88, all Dallas Cowboys fans, and all people in or and [sic] from the sovereign republic of Texas," claiming that the plaintiffs "did suffer a true injury in fact when the respondent(s) did commit a fraud," referring to the "video reversal" of an "outstanding thirty one (31) yard pass reception by Dez Bryant #88." 

Hendrix further states that the suit will prove "the simple fact that Dean Blandino, Gene Steratore, and Roger Goodell are wrong, and have stolen a victory from the plaintiffs, because the Cowboys offense would have perfectly created an "Autobahn" for for [sic] DeMarco Murray to drive into the end zone for the score and victory."

Sadly, it's highly unlikely this will ever see the inside of a courtroom, but if it did, this would make for far better drama than anything Deflate-Gate has given us. Here's the full petition:

Terry Hendrix NFL Lawsuit

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Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter.

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Author: Jay Busbee
Posted: January 23, 2015, 3:43 pm

First, a disclaimer: "Bulletin-board material" is a farce.

If an NFL player needs an opponent to say something out of line about him or his team to get excited to play a game, he's probably in the wrong profession. If a player needs that extra motivation for a Super Bowl, it's really time to retire.

So we don't point out Seattle Seahawks cornerback Jeremy Lane's comments because they are so-called "bulletin-board material" before the Super Bowl. They're just hilariously wrong.

Here's Lane on New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, via the Seattle Times:

“I actually don’t think he’s that good,” Lane said. “He’s OK. But he does have a big body, and from what I’ve seen on tape, he don’t like your hands being put on him. So if we put our hands on him and shake him up a little bit, he won’t catch that many balls as he should.”

He's OK? You can argue (and I have) that Gronkowski is the most dominant tight end in NFL history. He has 52 touchdowns in 65 games. He has double-digit touchdowns in four of five seasons and played only seven games in the season he didn't reach 10. Tony Gonzalez reached double digits in touchdowns three times in his 17 NFL campaigns. Shannon Sharpe had two in 14 seasons. Oh, and Gronkowski is also a fantastic blocker. So yeah, his best receiving seasons are better than any other tight end in NFL history and as a bonus he's a plus blocker, unlike a lot of the most prolific receiving tight ends through the years. He's "OK" in the same way that any Hall-of-Fame tight end was "OK."

But this Seahawks defense that Lane is a part of is more than just OK as well. They're one of the best defenses ever. It'll be quite fun to see if they can control Gronk. Not many opponents have.

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: January 23, 2015, 3:35 pm

Indianapolis Colts linebacker D’Qwell Jackson cleared up his role in deflate-gate, which is to say he had no role in it.

Multiple reports said the controversy with the New England Patriots using under-inflated footballs during the AFC championship game started when Jackson intercepted Tom Brady’s pass. As the story went, Jackson noticed the ball was flatter than usual, and that news moved to the equipment manager to the coach to the general manager to the NFL to the game officials, who swapped out the under-inflated balls after halftime.

Jackson said he just wanted a souvenir. That’s common. Many players save balls after scoring touchdowns, or defensive players save interception balls, to put in their trophy case. Jackson had no inkling that would lead to the story of the week in the NFL.

"I made a great play on a great player, so I handed (the ball) off and next thing I know, I'm in the middle of DeflateGate,” Jackson said to the Indianapolis Star. “I don't know how that happened."

Jackson said he didn’t even know there was a controversy until Monday morning, the Star said. On the ride home from the airport, his driver told him there was a growing controversy about the Patriots and under-inflated footballs. That's the first he had heard about it. It says something about how outraged the Colts were that their middle linebacker had no clue anything was going on during the game.

Jackson told NFL.com the only odd thing he noticed was that the Patriots were using the Colts' footballs late in the first half. But he had no idea why; he just found it strange the Patriots had run out of their own footballs to use.

Jackson said he didn’t even notice anything different about the ball he intercepted.

“I wouldn't know how that could even be an advantage or a disadvantage," Jackson said to NFL.com. "I definitely wouldn't be able to tell if one ball had less pressure than another."

The ironic thing is that the ball he wanted to keep as a souvenir is now in possession of the NFL as the league investigates the matter. Jackson’s name has come up with the controversy many times, but he says he personally had nothing to do with it.

"I mean, Anderson Cooper asked my agent if I could come on his show," Jackson said. "I'm honored that he wants to talk to me, I guess, but I really just wanted my souvenir from a special accomplishment in my career."

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: January 23, 2015, 3:02 pm

MOBILE, Ala. — Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn attended Thursday's South team practice at the Senior Bowl, and afterward he posed for a photo with his many players who have participated this week.

Auburn has six players at the Senior Bowl: receiver Sammie Coates, running back Cameron Artis-Payne, center Reese Dismukes, defensive tackle Gabe Wright, tight end C.J. Uzomah and quarterback-turned-cornerback Nick Marshall.

Malzahn is starting not only to send more players to the NFL, but he's also seeing a lot of his plays being used at the highest level. The man who was a high-school coach less than a decade ago is now regarded as one of the most innovative college coaches in the land, with his spread-offense principles leaking into the league.

Heck, the two teams in next week's Super Bowl — the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks — can say they've drawn from the Malzahn offense and installed elements into what they'll be using to decide a championship.

Does that mean Malzahn might consider an NFL move one day? He didn't exactly rule it out, but he certainly didn't rule it in either with his deflective comments.

"I'm happy at Auburn," Malzahn said. "We've got a bright future and a lot of exciting things going on. We just need to get back to winning championships."

Asked about the NFL using some of his principles, Malzahn can see why teams have borrowed from his playbook, and he said it has nothing to do with his own genius.

"You see the game, a lot of people play the pass," Malzahn said. "A lot of people are running read-zone and all of that. It's a big weapon if you can run it effectively."

Malzahn loses a lot to the NFL, but one player who will not be in the NFL next season is receiver Duke Williams. It was a score to get the talented Williams to return, and Malzahn is excited.

"He wanted to come back," he said. "He said he had unfinished business." 

So, apparently, does Malzahn. For now.

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

Author: Eric Edholm
Posted: January 22, 2015, 11:14 pm

MOBILE, Ala. — Southeastern Louisiana quarterback Bryan Bennett didn't look Wednesday like a man who had barely slept on his way to the Senior Bowl.

In the middle of a workout on Tuesday in Carlsbad, Calif. preparing for the NFL draft, Bennett got a call asking if he wanted to be a late replacement on the roster for Auburn's Nick Marshall, who made the last-minute move from QB to cornerback. Bennett didn't hesitate to answer.

"I said, 'Absolutely yes,'" Bennett said.

The former Oregon transfer, who was beaten out by Marcus Mariota for the starting job in 2012, threw for 580 yards with nine touchdowns and three interceptions and rushed for 365 yards and six TDs backing up Mariota and former starter Darron Thomas.

He decided to play his final two seasons in Hammond, La. Having missed out on the chance to play in the Ducks' high-powered offense, Bennett did his best to dominate as a run-pass threat for the Lions — more so in 2013 than this past season — but failed to get an initial invitation to the Senior Bowl. 

In 2013, Bennett completed 60.7 percent of his passes for 3,165 yards, 21 touchdowns and 11 interceptions, and ran for 1,046 yards and 16 touchdowns. During an injury-plagued (shoulder) senior season, Bennett’s effectiveness dropped off in 2014: a mere 49.5 completion percentage, but he did combine for 33 touchdowns (18 passing, 15 rushing).

Bennett had no designs on passing on the late offer to attend the Senior Bowl, despite the logistical nightmare that came with it.

Bennett finished his workout, picked up a few personel effects, boarded a 10:30 p.m. flight in San Diego, landed in Mobile at 8:30 a.m. and went to work. He grabbed his playbook from the Jacksonville Jaguars coaching staff, flipped through it as quickly as possible, and then received his shoulder pads from Southeastern Louisiana head coach Rob Roberts, who drove the 2.5 hours from Hammond to drop them off.

By 1:30 p.m., Bennett was out on the field at Ladd-Peebles Stadium practicing with his new South team teammates. He didn't even have time to be tired — the NFL was awaiting his arrival.

“I got a quick bag packed and headed out,” Bennett said. “I got a little sleep on the plane. But I am so excited to be here … being tired, I didn’t even really feel it.”

Bennett's play was up and down in that first session, and his footwork needs work, coming from the spread systems he ran at both Oregon, playing sparingly in 2011 in mop-up games, and at Southeastern Louisiana, which runs a slower version of that scheme. Bennett also struggled more on Thursday with accuracy.

Bennett has been working out west with former NFL quarterback Jordan Palmer, who has tutored other draft prospects in recent years, on his pocket feel and footwork in a pro-style system.

"I want to show that I can be accurate from within the pocket," Bennett said. "Show that I can get down this NFL-style offense and the footwork that comes with the play-action, five-step, no hitch and the other stuff they ask you to do."

In what looks to be a shaky QB class, even with the intriguing Mariota and the high-risk, high-reward Jameis Winston, there's a huge debate about the third best quarterback in the group. None of the quarterbacks in Mobile have done anything dramatic to separate themselves in that discussion, with UCLA's Brett Hundley — who chose not to attend the Senior Bowl — likely helping himself by not coming.

The 6-2, 210-pound Bennett has the requisite skills to catch the attention of the NFL, and there already is one head coach who knows his skills well. Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly, who chose Mariota over Bennett at Oregon, saw his former pupil and the two chatted briefly before Wednesday's practice. Bennett said they maintain a good relationship.

Bennett watched Mariota put up monster numbers at Oregon, especially in this past season, when he won the Heisman Trophy.

"It was great to compete with [Mariota], and to see him do well was awesome," Bennett said. "He definitely worked for it. Just to be able to get to compete there and to see us both get an opportunity in the NFL is great."

As for any jealousy or Bennett taking a that-could-have-been-me attitude toward the man who beat him out ...

"I tried not to focus on it that way," Bennett said. "I just tried to do what I had to do to get better where I was."

Bennett's athleticism was easy to see in practice, especially when he scrambled for 15 yards on one broken play on Wednesday. Oregon tried to use him elsewhere — safety and receiver — to see if a position swtch might be in order. It was not, and Bennett got his chance to quarterback at a high level on a smaller stage.

Now he'll keep working toward trying to play at the highest of levels. Considering the lack of proven talent in the crop this year, it would not be shocking to see his name called on the third day of the draft.

"He's a great athlete for sure," said Central Arkansas WR Dezmin Lewis, who is training with Bennett in San Diego and his North team teammate. "The fact that he got here is great. It shows how much he wants to compete. I think he'll do real well. I've gotten to know him, and I know he's a player. I am glad he's out here. He deserves it."

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

Author: Eric Edholm
Posted: January 22, 2015, 10:55 pm

It's official: Nobody with the New England Patriots seemingly knows how most of their footballs became under-inflated in the AFC championship game.

Coach Bill Belichick said during a news conference on Thursday morning he was shocked when he heard about it on Monday, and quarterback Tom Brady echoed that sentiment in the afternoon. Brady said, "I didn’t alter the ball in any way."

"Everyone is trying to figure out what happened," Brady said. "I was as surprised as anybody when I heard Monday morning what was happening."

Brady said he had no knowledge of anyone tampering with the game balls, even though reports said 11 of the Patriots' 12 main balls were found to be 2 pounds per square inch below the league standard. He said he would have no idea who even takes the balls after he approves them and the officials inspect them because that's not part of his gameday process.

"I have no knowledge of anything," Brady said. "I have no knowledge of any wrongdoing. I’m very comfortable saying that nobody did it, as far as I know. I was in the locker room preparing for a game – I don’t know what happened over the course of the process with the footballs."

Brady said he has not been in contact with the NFL regarding the situation. When asked about the perception that he or the Patriots might be cheaters, he said he doesn't believe that.

"I don’t believe so," Brady said. "I feel I’ve always played within the rules and I would never do anything to break the rules."

After Brady's remarks, former NFL quarterback Mark Brunell of ESPN flatly and with a touch of anger said he didn't believe what Brady said.

"I did not believe what Tom had to say," Brunell said on ESPN right after Brady was done. "Those balls were deflated, somebody had to do it, and I don't believe there's an equipment manager in the NFL that would on his own initiative deflate a ball without the starting quarterback's approval. I just didn't believe what Tom Brady had to say."

In his media conference on Thursday morning, Belichick said he had no knowledge of the football protocol or the air pressure, but Brady could answer better to his preferences. Some viewed that as Belichick putting the controversy on Brady, although that seems to be creating a controversy out of a controversy.

Brady addressed his previous comments that he likes the balls under-inflated, but he said that he meant he likes the balls inflated to the low end of the NFL's specifications. The NFL stipulates that balls be between 12.5 and 13.5 pounds of pressure per square inch. 

"I like them the way I like them, which is 12.5," Brady said. "That’s a perfect grip for the football. I would never do anything outside of the rules of play. I would never have anyone do something."

Brady repeatedly said he didn't know anything, and in the game against the Colts couldn't tell the difference between the balls in the first half, which were reportedly under-inflated, and the balls in the second half, which reportedly were the backup balls that were supposedly within the league rules for air pressure.

"From the first half to the second half, I didn’t think twice about it," Brady said. "I don’t put one thought into the football at that point. Once I approve the football, that’s the ball I expect on the field."

Possibly the most memorable moment of the news conference came when Brady invoked the Islamic terrorist group ISIS. (Watch below)

On WEEI radio on Monday, Brady called it “ridiculous” and started laughing when the topic was brought up.

“I think I’ve heard it all at this point,” he said on the WEEI show.

He said that radio interview was the first he had heard about the controversy.

Brady said before games he'll go through a process of picking out the balls prior to the officials' inspection. He said he wouldn't want anyone messing with them after that.

"When I pick those footballs out, at that point to me they’re perfect," Brady said. "I don’t want anyone touching the balls after that. I don’t want anyone rubbing them, putting any air in them, taking any air out. To me those balls are perfect and that’s what I expect when I show up on the field."

He said he doesn't put thought into the footballs, so he didn't notice if they were under-inflated. 

"You're just reacting to the game," Brady said. "I don't certainly think about the football. I just assume it's the one I approved in the pregame."

One point that Brady was questioned about repeatedly was how he wouldn't know if the ball was significantly under-inflated. It seems hard to believe he'd never notice if there was a major difference, but he said he didn't notice one. He said repeatedly he didn't note a difference between the balls in the first half and those in the second half, when reportedly the balls were switched out. He explained that he just grips the ball during the game and throws it. He wouldn't squeeze it, so he wouldn't notice a difference.

One sticking point with that is that reportedly Colts linebacker D'Qwell Jackson noticed the ball was under-inflated when he made a second-quarter interception.

"I get the snap, I drop back, I throw the ball," Brady said. "I grip it and I try to throw the ball. That's the extent of me touching the football. I don't sit there and try to squeeze it and determine that. If that's what the Colts want to do, then that's what they want to do.

"I did not recognize that. I did not feel a difference between the first half and second half, when supposedly they were inflated to the original, even more inflated. I didn't notice a difference. I didn't think there was anything different between halves."

Brady pleaded ignorance over what happened, but said it's a serious matter as the integrity of the sport is serious. He maintained throughout his news conference that the first he'd heard about any of it was early Monday morning, he'd never asked anyone to tamper with the balls after the officials' inspection, and wouldn't want anyone tampering the balls after he picks out the ones he wants.

"I’d like to know what happened, as you all would too," Brady said.

More NFL coverage on Yahoo Sports:

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: January 22, 2015, 9:21 pm

The Benson family, which controls the New Orleans Saints and the NBA's New Orleans Pelicans, is airing all of its dirty laundry in public.

Family members filed a lawsuit saying family patriarch Tom Benson, who owns the Saints and Pelicans, is incompetent and is being "directed by a manipulative wife and her allies" after announcing that his wife Gayle Benson would succeed him as owner of the Saints and Pelicans after he dies, according to Jeff Duncan of the New Orleans Times-Picayune. Leading the battle against Tom Benson is Rita Benson LeBlanc, one of Tom's two grandchildren who was positioned to take over the teams. The lawsuit, filed Thursday in Orleans Parish Civil District Court, attempts to block the succession change to Gayle Benson.

The suit came one day after Tom Benson's announcement that he would transfer future ownership of the Saints and Pelicans to his wife Gayle. According to the Times-Picayune, that cuts out daughter Renee LeBlanc and grandchildren Ryan LeBlanc and Rita Benson LeBlanc.

The lawsuit said that the 87-year-old Benson's "declining health is much worse than publicly known and has rendered him unfit to manage his personal affairs or the business of the New Orleans Saints and New Orleans Pelicans," the Times-Picayune story said. Duncan's story also says that the rest of the family is claiming Gayle Benson is "a gold-digging opportunist who has taken advantage of her husband's unfit state of health and ostracized family members in grasping for power and riches."

Very ugly stuff.

Rita Benson LeBlanc has represented the Saints at league and owners' meetings, the Times-Picayune noted, so the announcement this week was a shock in that area. 

"Gayle will own the teams upon my death and as I noted Rita will not be involved in the ownership or management of the Saints or Pelicans," Tom Benson said in a press release, via the Times-Picayune. "My family, just as they have been for their entire lives, will be well taken care of. The reason for my decision is about laying the foundation for the Organization to continue to be successful."

Not that the NFL needed more to worry about, but having a large and public family struggle involving one of its team owners is a tricky spot. It's even more sensitive if any of the claims in the lawsuit that Benson is incompetent to run the team are true.

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: January 22, 2015, 8:41 pm

MOBILE, Ala. — With hundreds of coaches and scouts in attendance, the Senior Bowl is a great place to get noticed. For good reasons and for bad.

For Tennessee State OT Robert Myers, we're not sure which category to put him in.

His performance in a decent group of tackles has been up and down. A mixed-bag Day 1 was followed by a strong Wednesday practice and then, disappointingly, an ankle injury that kept him out of the Thursday practice, the final session before Saturday's game.

But this much we know: His hair game is strong. Very strong. Check out the locks on young Mr. Myers.

"My coaches in college thought I should cut it down," he said with a smile that suggested Myers never considered the possibility. "I get a little buzz about it." Robert Myers (Y Sports)

Nice pun, son.

Myers made quite the entrance on Tuesday morning at the weigh-in, striding confidently across the stage with his bi-colored hair and a nice physique. The man in charge of measuring heights made sure, Myers said, to measure from his skull — and not on top of the Afro. He said he's had this style of hair for about a year and a half, and Myers hasn't had it cut in about 10 months.

"Not everyone can wear it like this, so I am just trying it out for a while," he said.

Scouts might come for the hair, but they stay for his play. At least that is Myers' hope.

Myers said one thing that has allowed him to play well this week before getting hurt is that a lot of the offensive concepts of the Tennessee Titans, who are coaching Myers' North squad this week, are similar to the Tigers' system.

"The Titans' offense is very similar," he said. "Different words for the same things, basically. Just learning a new vocabulary.

"Even hurt [Thursday] I am trying to help out with the guys, getting them in the right spots."

All in all, even with the injury, Myers likes what he has done in a few short days.

"I think I made a mark," Myers said. "I think I got some attention with my play. I think I've done enough to change the minds of people."

And maybe changing minds on a different kind of 'do, too.

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

Author: Eric Edholm
Posted: January 22, 2015, 8:08 pm

Wembley Stadium (USA Today Sports Images)There's nothing redeeming for American fans about NFL games in London. In fact, it messes with the integrity of the schedule when some teams give up home games to play on a neutral site.

But the NFL stumbled upon one great benefit for fans last season: Early morning start times from England. And they're doing it again for all three London games this season.

According to Adam Teischer, who covers the Kansas City Chiefs for ESPN.com, all three London games scheduled for the 2015 regular season will start at 9:30 a.m. ET. That gives fans a fourth window on Sunday for NFL football, and yes, that's a great thing.

Teischer said the games will be Oct. 4 between the New York Jets and Miami Dolphins, Oct. 25 between the Buffalo Bills and Jacksonville Jaguars, and Nov. 1 between the Detroit Lions and Chiefs. All three games will be at Wembley Stadium. 

The NFL tried the early start last year for a London game between the Lions and Atlanta Falcons. The Lions staged a great comeback and won with a field goal on the final play, and the ratings and feedback were positive. It was extra NFL football before the typical 1 p.m. ET start. You won't find too many arguments.

Fans won't get excited just because a game is in London at a normal time slot, and fans of the home teams have a rightful complaint that those games are taken away from them all in the name of the NFL's belief that there's a lot of money to be made in the London market, like the league isn't greedy enough already. But at least now there's some reason to get excited for those games: More football to watch.

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: January 22, 2015, 7:12 pm

At this point, we have to laugh at the NFL to keep from crying. Thankfully, that's where Bad Lip Reading comes in. Just click and enjoy Tony Romo's confusion, Cam Newton's storytelling abilities, and the very creepy proclivities of several of your favorite head coaches. Great stuff.

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Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter.

Follow @jaybusbee

And keep up with Jay over on Facebook, too.

Author: Jay Busbee
Posted: January 22, 2015, 6:10 pm

Last year, we spent this week before Super Bowl week debating every single syllable Richard Sherman said to Erin Andrews.

Something needed to fill this void this year, so enter deflate-gate.

The New England Patriots are just one of those teams. People love to complain about them. They’ve probably taken over as the NFL’s villains. In New England, Patriots fans yell just as loud back at anyone who dares speak ill of their team. Bill Belichick is a divisive personality. This is a perfect storm for everyone speaking their mind on social media and elsewhere.

I’ve read through all the opinions and theories (I think, there are probably some really weird ones I haven’t gotten to yet, but surely I’ll be alerted to them) and here are the five most oft-repeated ones that I just don't buy:

“Bill Belichick had to know about the state of the footballs”

For many of these, feel free to call me naïve. Like now. I believe Belichick when he says he knew nothing about the state of the footballs.

Belichick knows everything, right? Xs and Os wise, sure. Do I think Belichick has taken out time from learning what the opponents’ tendencies on third-and-long are to figure out how many pounds of pressure per square inch the footballs have, or to watch the officials' inspection before the game? No.

Before Monday, that was an unimportant matter in his life. I don’t think he knows about the temperature of the Gatorade, how many snaps are on the helmet for the chinstrap or how the programs are printed either. Most good NFL coaches don’t waste time on stuff they don’t care about. Belichick had no reason to care about the NFL’s rules on the inflation level of footballs. He has other things to do. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to think that Belichick is measuring the weight of footballs before playoff games.

I’m buying his explanation that before Monday, he wouldn't have thought about the state of the team's footballs.

“Belichick threw Tom Brady under the bus/He’s ready to move on from Brady”

I have to start with this thought: It’s not hard to at least imagine the relationship Brady and Belichick have.

(AP)Think about the success they’ve had, rising to prominence, maintaining excellence for 14 years and counting, and they’re getting ready to leave soon as arguably the greatest head coach and greatest quarterback ever. These two men have a unique relationship many of us will never have in our lives.

And this comment during Belichick's news  conference on Thursday ruins all of that?

“Tom’s personal preferences on his footballs are something he can talk about in much better detail and with more information than I could possibly provide,” Belichick said.

This came during a quote that “quarterbacks, kickers, specialists” have preferences about footballs, and we’ve learned a lot about that this week. It’s easier to believe this is more of a way of Belichick explaining that football preparation isn’t his realm than thinking he was consciously ruining one of the great relationships in sports history.

Did he shift the focus onto Brady? Yes, even if he didn't mean to. Was it a media strategy to ruin the reputation of his quarterback who he has had unprecedented success with and probably feels a connection to that most of us can't understand? Come on.

And the thought that this is the end for the two? That it’s a sign Belichick is going to move on now? I don't know why anyone would think that's Belichick's end game in all of this (unless Brady listens to all of the "He threw you under the bus!" and wants out, and even then it would take both sides to make that happen).

All of a sudden Belichick is the bastion of football morality and is going to dump an MVP-level quarterback coming off an AFC championship season because Brady might have had some role in deflating footballs (and we don't know that he did, by the way)? Right.

My head hurts. This … I don’t know what to even say about it anymore.

“Belichick should be suspended for the Super Bowl/The Patriots should be removed from the Super Bowl”

I’ll agree with the Belichick part, but with a huge caveat. If the NFL can find evidence that Belichick was personally involved in a conspiracy to deflate the footballs after the officials inspected them, then sure, suspend him for the Super Bowl. Especially when he so strongly denied any knowledge of the whole process. If he was personally involved in the Patriots deflating footballs, whatever punishment he gets is justified.

But do we expect the NFL to find that evidence in a few days? Probably not. And at this point nobody can be sure Belichick was involved. Didn’t we get on the NFL a few months ago for not doing a very thorough investigation?

Something like this isn’t going to get cleared up in less than a week. We all WANT ACTION AND WE WANT IT NOW on the Patriots, but even worse for the NFL would be to give in to public pressure (it has done that before) and affect the Super Bowl and then find out later it was wrong. The NFL will have time to look into it and have 2015 suspensions or fines or strip the Patriots of draft picks if New England is found guilty – whatever it thinks is a fair punishment. Suspending a coach for the Super Bowl without evidence would be the exact kind of thing we've railed on commissioner Roger Goodell for doing in the past. We can't swing the other way just because Belichick is unpopular to some.

And as far as the Patriots having to give up their spot in the Super Bowl or the game being replayed or whatnot … no.

“It didn’t affect the final score so it doesn’t matter”

This is one of the worst arguments. I can’t explain how illogical it is to have the basic attitude that, “It’s OK if they cheated because they won by a lot and they would have won even if they didn't cheat.”

(AP)If the Patriots cheated (and despite all the circumstantial evidence and instant hostility we don’t know that they did), then the final score of the game would not matter. Nor does it matter that they played better in the second half with the backup balls (WEEI reported the Patriots used the 12 backup  balls in the second half against the Colts). Let’s even ignore that the Baltimore Ravens reportedly complained about the same thing in a close playoff loss in which the Patriots didn’t call one handoff in the second half, or that the Colts reportedly had concerns about New England's footballs being underinflated during a regular-season meeting. You aren’t let off the hook for cheating because you won 45-7. Dominating a game isn’t a get out of jail free card.

It is correct Patriots didn’t beat the Colts because the balls were underinflated. They were the better team. That doesn’t mean if they cheated (again, it’s just an “if” at this point) it’s OK because when you see the final results they didn’t need it. This is the weirdest argument there is. Cheating isn’t OK if you win by a lot. Stop it.

“Every team does it”

I’m not saying nobody else in the NFL tries to mess with the air pressure in balls. But equating various measures of breaking in footballs – rubbing them down, putting them in the dryer, whatever – is different than taking the air out of footballs after an officials’ inspection. Teams breaking in balls is fine – they’re going to be inspected by the officials before the game regardless. Matt Leinart saying every quarterback tampers with footballs, which he said on Twitter and got a lot of attention, isn’t the same as deflating footballs after the officials' inspection.

For something everyone apparently does, the Ravens and Colts both reportedly were not happy with the state of the Patriots’ game balls, so maybe deflated balls aren't all that common. You can argue that everyone does it and the Ravens and Colts just had sour grapes over the Patriots. But the Patriots’ balls were found to be illegal, and if they manipulated them after the officials’ inspection, they should get whatever punishment is fair for that. If other teams do that but haven’t been caught, it doesn't change whatever the Patriots did, if they did anything. Rules are rules.

We’ll see if the Patriots broke any. And there’s sure to be a lot of opinions about the whole matter before and after the NFL reveals the results of its investigation.

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: January 22, 2015, 5:31 pm

New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick was actually pretty verbose about what he did and didn't know about deflate-gate.

And he used a lot of words in his long opening statement to say that he had no knowledge of the chain of command for footballs on game day and had no explanation for how almost all of the Patriots' game balls were well under the league-mandated air pressure for the AFC championship game against the Indianapolis Colts.

Once Belichick was done with his lengthy opening statement, he went full Belichick and answered almost every question one of two ways: "I’ve told you everything I know" and "I don’t have an explanation for what happened." After repeating those things a few times, he ended the press conference by walking off.

During his opening statement, Belichick made it clear that not only did he know nothing about the pregame inspection of footballs and what happens after that, he had never thought about it in all of his years in coaching.

"When I came in Monday morning I was shocked to learn of the news reports of the footballs," Belichick said. "I had no knowledge whatsoever of this situation until Monday morning. I’ve learned a lot more about this process in the last three days than I knew or had talked about in the last 40 years coaching in this league.

He clearly said he has never had a conversation with anyone about footballs, which presumably means that he was saying he never told any player or anyone else who works for the Patriots to deflate the game balls.

"My entire coaching career, I have never talked to any player, staff member about football air pressure," Belichick said. "That’s not a subject I have ever brought up. To me, the footballs are approved by the league and game officials pregame, and we play with what’s out there. That’s the only way I have ever thought about that."

Belichick put some of the focus on quarterback Tom Brady by saying Brady could provide more information about his preference for footballs, which should make Brady's news conference on Thursday even more interesting.

Belichick said he knew teams could prepare balls how they want, give them to officials for inspection before the game and they either approve or disapprove. And he said that's about the extent of his knowledge regarding footballs on game day. 

Although it seems like most people won't buy that explanation from a man famous for micro-managing, it's probably accurate. Of all the things a coach deals with during the week, figuring out the protocol for football inspection isn't high on the priority list.

Belichick had no explanation for what happened on Sunday, when 11 of the 12 Patriots' game balls were reportedly found to be two pounds per square inch of pressure lower than league rules. Belichick's only hint at his theory about how that could have happened came when he explained that the Patriots will start inflating balls to the high end of the rule, which is 13.5 pounds per square inch, instead of the minimum of 12.5 PSI. It made it sound like Belichick thought since the balls started at the minimum and lost some air naturally, that's why they were low during the game.

"If a ball deflated from 13.2 to 12.9, it wouldn’t matter," Belichick said, "If it deflated from 12.5 to 12.3 it would. As an example. We’ll take steps in the future to make sure we don’t put ourselves in that type of potential situation again."

Belichick said Brady knows more of the process because he handles the balls (Belichick said he can't remember ever handling a game ball, except maybe grabbing an incomplete pass that came near him). But Belichick truly seemed to have no idea about the football protocol. Until this week, that is, when deflate-gate became the biggest story in the NFL leading up to the Super Bowl.

"It’s unfortunate this is a story coming out of two great playoff victories by our football team and players, but, again, we’ve been cooperative with the NFL investigation and will continue to do so, and we’ll turn all our attention and focus onto the Seattle Seahawks," Belichick said.

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: January 22, 2015, 3:09 pm

The NFL fined Marshawn Lynch $20,000 for his post-touchdown crotch grab in the NFC championship game, and more fines could be forthcoming if Lynch decides to continue his tradition of not talking to reporters.

ESPN's Adam Schefter reported that the NFL is also considering fining Lynch significantly more than the $50,000 for each of the past two seasons for not talking to the media. Lynch again declined to speak on Sunday after the NFC tiel game.

Lynch, along with the rest of the Seahawks, is slated for media availability on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of next week. If he goes with his usual repeat-a-single-phrase routine, the Super Bowl trip could end up being a significant hit to his wallet. NFL officials said that each session in which Lynch declined to speak would accrue an escalating fine, with the initial fine to be more than $50,000.

Lynch's fine is more than two other recent obscene-gesture levies. Johnny Manziel was hit with a $12,000 fine for flipping a bird at the Washington Redskins in preseason. Kansas City's Travis Kelce was fined $11,025 for a gesture that we really can't even describe here that he used to demonstrate his frustration with the officials in a game against Denver.

____
Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter.

Follow @jaybusbee

And keep up with Jay over on Facebook, too.

Author: Jay Busbee
Posted: January 22, 2015, 2:53 pm

Forget simply doing a square pool for the Super Bowl or worrying about the point spread or an over/under. We're all just a Marshawn Lynch crotch grab or an Idina Menzel slip-up in the national anthem from being able to retire in Hawaii.

While some fans will be happy to bet on the tried and true wagers for the Super Bowl, betting on the NFL's championship game can be far more exotic than your normal contest. And Bovada, one of the largest gaming websites in the world, has plenty of proposition bets to make your head spin.

Consider a post-touchdown celebration, which could pay off very handsomely if you're inclined to bet against human dignity.

Lynch, the Seattle Seahawks running back who grabbed his crotch this past Sunday after scoring a touchdown in the NFC championship game (and did the same thing in the regular season against the Arizona Cardinals), is being given 6-to-1 odds to repeat that same act in the Super Bowl. There's even a line on what type of hoodie New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick will wear in the game. Sleeves cut returns just 5-to-7. That's borderline automatic, no? Put us down for a cool $20 on that one.

So in a Yahoo Sports exclusive, Bovada.LV releases its entertaining prop betting action for the Super Bowl. Save us a chair on that beach in Hawaii, why don't you?

Here are Bovada.LV's most intriguing Super Bowl props:

Idina Menzel (Getty Images)How long will it take Idina Menzel to sing the U.S. National Anthem?          

Over/Under: 2 minutes 5 seconds                           

Will Idina Menzel forget or omit at least 1 word of the official U.S. National Anthem?         

Yes   +400   (4/1) 

No   -600   (1/6)

Will Marshawn Lynch be fined by the NFL for any incident on Media Day?              

Yes   +600   (6/1)

No   -1000   (1/10)

Will Marshawn Lynch grab his crotch after scoring a TD in the game?         

Yes   +500   (5/1)     

No   -800   (1/8)

Which Color will Bill Belichick's hoodie be?           

Grey   1/2        

Blue   7/4        

Red   7/1    

Bill Belichick Hoodie Type?            

Sleeves Cut   -140   (5/7)

Sleeves Intact   EVEN   (1/1)

Will Bill Belichick smile during the game on camera?        

Yes   +150   (3/2)   

No   -200   (1/2)            

Which song will Katy Perry perform first at halftime?       

Firework   3/2        

Roar   3/2        

This Is How We Do   5/1        

Dark Horse   12/1      

E.T.   12/1      

Wide Awake   12/1      

Last Friday Night   14/1      

Waking Up In Vegas   20/1      

Katy Perry (Getty Images)What will Katy Perry be wearing when she begins the halftime show?   

Skirt or Dress   4/5        

Pants (below knees)   2/1        

Shorts (above knees)   2/1        

How many times will Gisele Bundchen be show on TV.    

Over/Under: 1½

Will Al Michaels refer to the point spread, total, odds on who wins game or any prop bet?            

Yes   +200   (2/1)      

No   -300   (1/3)      

Will it be mentioned that Pete Carroll was the last head coach of the Patriots?    

Yes   +110   (11/10)      

No   -150   (2/3)   

How many viewers will the game have?  

Over/Under: 113 Million                             

Who will the Super Bowl MVP mention first in his interview?      

Teammates   3/2        

God   5/1        

Fans/City   15/2      

Coach   12/1      

Family   12/1      

Owner   12/1      

Does not mention any of the above   2/1        

What color will the Gatorade (or liquid) be that is dumped on the head coach of the winning Super Bowl team?      

Orange   3/2        

Yellow   5/2        

Clear/Water   3/1        

Red   15/2      

Blue   15/2      

Green   10/1      

Who will Barack Obama pick to win the game?     

Seattle   -140   (5/7)

New England   EVEN   (1/1)

(USA Today Sports Images)What will be higher?        

Russell Wilson Passing Yards   -15½

US National Average Gas Price (in cents) on Monday, February 2nd   +15½

And if you're more serious in how you like to wager, here are some of the more traditional props from Bovada.LV as well:

Super Bowl XLIX MVP - Odds to Win  

Tom Brady   8/5       

Russell Wilson   7/2       

Marshawn Lynch   4/1       

Rob Gronkowski   9/1       

LeGarrette Blount   12/1     

Julian Edelman   25/1     

Doug Baldwin   33/1     

Richard Sherman   33/1     

Kam Chancellor   33/1     

Darrelle Revis   33/1     

Earl Thomas   40/1     

Jermaine Kearse   50/1     

Bobby Wagner   50/1     

Jamie Collins   50/1     

Brandon LaFell   66/1     

Shane Vereen   66/1     

K.J. Wright   75/1     

Danny Amendola   75/1     

Luke Willson   100/1   

Rob Ninkovich   100/1   

Dont'a Hightower   100/1   

Patrick Chung   100/1   

Devin McCourty   100/1   

Stephen Gostkowski   100/1   

Steven Hauschka   100/1   

Malcolm Smith   100/1   

Byron Maxwell   100/1   

Field   25/1     

(AP)

Total TD Passes - Tom Brady (NE)         

Over   2   (+120)

Under   2   (-150)

Total Rushing Yards - LeGarette Blount (NE) 

Over/Under: 62½

Total Passing Yards - Russell Wilson (SEA)      

Over/Under: 219½

Total Rushing Yards - Russell Wilson (SEA)      

Over/Under: 40½

Total Rushing Yards - Marshawn Lynch (SEA)   

Over/Under: 92½

CROSS SPORT - What will be higher on games played Feb. 2?

Marshawn Lynch Receiving Yards   Pick                 

Dwayne Wade Points   Pick                 

CROSS SPORT - What will be higher on games played Feb. 2?

Carmelo Anthony Points   Pick                 

Patriots Points scored   Pick     

CROSS SPORT - What will be higher on games played Feb. 2?

Tiger Woods day 1 score at the Masters   Pick   (+120)                  

Julian Edelman Receiving Yards   Pick   (-150)  

HISTORICAL MATCHUP - What will be higher?                

Tom Brady Super Bowl 2015 Passing Yards   +15½               

Tom Brady Super Bowl 2012 Passing Yards (276 Yards)   -15½   

(AP)Player to score the first TD in the game?           

Marshawn Lynch (SEA) RB   11/2     

Rob Gronkowski (NE) TE    13/2     

LeGarrette Blount (NE) RB   9/1       

Julian Edelman (NE) WR   10/1     

Brandon LaFell (NE) WR   12/1     

Russell Wilson (SEA) QB   12/1     

Doug Baldwin (SEA) WR   12/1     

Jermaine Kearse (SEA) WR   14/1     

Shane Vereen (NE) RB   16/1     

Luke Willson (SEA) TE   16/1     

Danny Amendola (NE) WR   20/1     

Timothy Wright (NE) TE   20/1     

Ricardo Lockette (SEA) WR   20/1     

Robert Turbin (SEA) RB   25/1     

Jonas Gray (NE) RB   30/1     

Brandon Bolden (NE) RB   30/1     

Cooper Helfet (SEA) TE   30/1     

Tom Brady (NE) QB   35/1     

Kevin Norwood (SEA) WR   40/1     

Tony Moeaki (SEA) TE   40/1     

Michael Hoomanawanui (NE) TE   50/1     

James Devlin (NE) FB   50/1     

Christine Michael (SEA) RB   50/1     

Will Tukuafu (SEA) FB   50/1     

Field   15/2     

No TD scored in the game   125/1   

Will there be a safety in the game?        

Yes (Safety)   +550   (11/2)

No (Safety)   -900   (1/9)

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Kristian R. Dyer writes for Metro New York and is a contributor to Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter @KristianRDyer

Author: Kristian Dyer
Posted: January 22, 2015, 2:07 pm

The latest twist in deflate-gate might give you a hint that the rest of the NFL isn't too fond of the New England Patriots.

According to Jay Glazer of Fox Sports, the Indianapolis Colts were tipped off by the Baltimore Ravens before the AFC championship game about the Patriots possibly altering the air pressure in their footballs. The Ravens lost to the Patriots in a divisional playoff game the week before.

Two things stand out about that report: If true, the Ravens were obviously pretty angry to tip off the Patriots' next opponent, and this would mean it's more than a one-game situation in New England. Unless it's a crazy coincidence that the Ravens assumed the Patriots' game balls were under-inflated when they weren't, told the Colts their hunch, and the championship game happened to be the game in which 11 of the 12 Patriots' game balls were flatter than usual. Of the Patriots' 12 game balls, 11 each had two pounds per square inch less than NFL rules stipulate, as ESPN reported Tuesday.

Glazer's story said the officials were planning to inspect the balls at halftime, based on the Ravens' tip. It was reported by other outlets that the Colts noticed the issue when linebacker D'Qwell Jackson caught an interception in the second quarter. It could be both.

There was another story, from ESPN's Adam Schefter, that the Colts thought the Patriots had also under-inflated footballs during a regular-season meeting on Nov. 16. According to Schefter, Colts safety Mike Adams had two interceptions, and gave both balls to the Colts' equipment manager to save. Both times, sources told Schefter, there were concerns the balls were under-inflated.

All three things could be independently true. The Colts could have noticed the issue on Nov. 16. The Ravens could have noticed it during their playoff loss and told the Colts. And Jackson could have noticed it too on Sunday, even before the officials got a chance to inspect the balls at halftime (that part of the story makes it even stranger that the officials didn't do anything in the first half, constantly handling the footballs that were reportedly 16 percent or so flatter than league rules allow).

And if all the reports are accurate, and the Ravens noticed it, and the Colts noticed it in two separate games, who else in the NFL noticed it during the season?

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: January 22, 2015, 2:10 am

MOBILE, Ala. — Just because he didn't have anything close to the college experience that 90 percent of the players who are at the Senior Bowl doesn't mean that Hobart College's Ali Marpet doesn't belong.

Many of the players attended college football factories and big-five conference behemoths. Marpet went to a school with an enrollment around 2,200.

A fair number of the Senior Bowl players played at what can be called "football schools." At Hobart, the top draw is lacrosse. Far and away.

Nearly all of the players showcasing their skills for NFL scouts had full-ride scholarships. Marpet chose to attend the small liberal arts Division-III school and pay the majority of its — ahem — $57,000 annual tuition.

"Well, I did get merit-based academic assistance," Marpet explains. "But I had a to pay a little bit to go there, yeah. Student loans ... yeah, I've got them."

So how exactly did a player from this school get to this hotbed of pro-caliber talent? He took the long road.

"My high school, every other year we'll send one guy to a Division-III college," Marpet said. "I felt like I had a good highlight tape and all of that. But I wasn't really heavily recruited. This biggest schools that recruited me were probably Fordham and Holy Cross. That was about it. That and most of the academic schools around New York."

Marpet landed at Hobart and worked his way into the starting lineup as a sophomore. As a junior he first started getting the attention of Blesto scouts, who scour the nation for NFL talent, after running a 4.92 40-yard dash and standing out for the Statesmen (yes, that's the school nickname) on the field with some dominant performances. As a senior, the 6-3, 307-pound Marpet was named a D-III All-American and helped pave the way for an offense that averaged more 202.8 yards rushing per game and allowed only 9 sacks (one per 20 dropbacks) all season.

If this is a massive step up in competition, Marpet isn't looking out of place. After spending Tuesday's practice at left tackle — his college position — he moved inside to left guard, his likely pro position. In both spots, Marpet held strong. One of the highlights from his Wednesday practice was sustaining a block on a draw play on Washington DT Danny Shelton, who has proven to be one of the tougher players to block this week.

"He made a good play," Shelton said. "He looks like a good player."

From his body of work, and with an endorsement from a possible top-10 player, Marpet looks like he belongs. Still, it's Hobart College. How far off the NFL radar exactly is the school?

Hobart never has produced an NFL draft pick, and you have to go back about a decade since the school produced a player (Alex Bell in 2005) to even attend an NFL training camp.

The last NFL player from Hobart to play in the NFL? Per Pro Football Reference, it's former halfback Fred King, who appeared in one game for the Brooklyn Dodgers (yes, that was a football team once) back in 1937. For more perspective, King died in 1987 — more than five years before Marpet was born.

There have been 17 D-III players drafted by NFL teams since 1991 — including Mount Union standouts Pierre Garcon and Cecil Shorts — but none since 2012. Marpet could end that streak that the way his week is going.

The biggest direct connection to Hobart appears to Ravens senior personnel assistant George Kokinis, who got a degree from the school. But if NFL teams see a player, they'll nab him. Another strong day of practice and Marpet will have opened enough eyes to throw out any pre-conceived notions about football factories and all of that.

As for Marpet, he's just enjoying the ride. He has been welcomed openly by his Senior Bowl teammates and has stood toe to toe in individual and team drills, making the Senior Bowl committee look smart for giving him a roster spot.

If football doesn't work out, his economics major — he hopes to go into finance one day — at one of the best schools in the country won't hurt. (His minors, interestingly, were in philosophy and public policy.) And it doesn't hurt that that there is an army of Hobart grads working at some of the best financial houses in and around New York City. He also wants to get his master's degree in physical education — overachiever alert — so that he can teach econ and maybe coach a little, too.

But that's the proverbial "one day" plan. Right now, he's got this little NFL thing in front of him.

Marpet has no thoughts about where, or if, he'll get drafted. Right now, Mobile has been kind to him and he's loving every minute of his experience.

"I've gotten a lot more free stuff than I ever have in my entire life," Marpet said of his week. "I'm just having a blast."

Showing up the bigger-school competition has its perks.

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

Author: Eric Edholm
Posted: January 22, 2015, 12:48 am

Looks like the great Avengers-Guardians of the Galaxy crossover is happening a few years earlier than expected. Chris Evans, who plays Captain America, and Chris Pratt, who plays Star-Lord, have engaged in a very public battle for bragging supremacy over this year's Super Bowl matchup.

Evans is a Patriots fan, naturally, and Pratt is a Seahawks devotee, and the two fired back and forth at each other over Twitter on Wednesday:

Well, well, well @prattprattpratt, looks like our teams are going into battle. For the next 2 weeks, you are not my friend, you are my enemy

— Chris Evans (@ChrisEvans) January 19, 2015

@ChrisEvans We both know there's only one Captain America and his name is Russell Wilson. #SuperBowlBound #LOB #Repeat

— chris pratt (@prattprattpratt) January 19, 2015

@prattprattpratt them's fightin words. Stakes? #whatisaseahawkanyway #somethingtombradyhunts

— Chris Evans (@ChrisEvans) January 19, 2015

@ChrisEvans OK. Seahawks win you fly yourself to Seattle, visit @seattlechildren hospital as Captain America, waving the 12th man flag.

— chris pratt (@prattprattpratt) January 21, 2015

@prattprattpratt I accept. And when the Patriots humiliate your seachickens, I expect Star-Lord to arrive at @chris_haven in a Brady jersey

— Chris Evans (@ChrisEvans) January 21, 2015

@ChrisEvans Humiliate my Seahawks? Maybe talk to Brady about deflating your expectations. BOOM! (legion of) You're on sucka. 😊

— chris pratt (@prattprattpratt) January 21, 2015

Perhaps once this all is over, the two heroes can band together and challenge the real enemy, the evil mastermind lurking behind the curtain. No, no, not Thanos ... Bill Belichick. Come on, you know he's the one pulling the strings.

____
Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter.

Follow @jaybusbee

And keep up with Jay over on Facebook, too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Author: Jay Busbee
Posted: January 22, 2015, 12:30 am

MOBILE, Ala. — Following a two-hour practice and a 30-minute autograph session, Washington defensive tackle Danny Shelton wasn't finished self-inflcting a little additional torture. He decided it was best to leave the autograph tent without shoes, with a 50-foot rock path standing between him and soft grass.

"Self-discipline," Shelton said, refusing a friend's offer to take his pads and helmet to the locker room.

Shelton stood out Wednesday after a solid start to his Senior Bowl experience on Tuesday, exhibiting the kind of knock-back power that one would expect from a 6-2, 343 pound nose tackle who consistently lived in Pac-12 backfields this past season and who is starting to earn some top-10 buzz for the 2015 NFL draft.

Interestingly, that weight — which Shelton celebrated Tuesday morning by hopping off the scale with a mini-first pump — was actually down from where he played last season, at "345 or more," Shelton said with just the feintest hint of a smile when answering that loaded question.

Dominating one-on-one drills Wednesday, it was easy to see the appeal of a man who finished the season with 16.5 tackles for loss, nine sacks and five fumble recoveries. But in both days' practices, Shelton did appear to wear down a bit after hot starts.

Is stamina an issue for him? Shelton discounts the idea.

"In the Pac-12, teams are running 70 or more plays in a game. It was my last season in college, so I wanted to stay on the field for as many [snaps] as I could," Shelton said. "I was pretty much out there every snap I could."

If there's something Shelton says he can work on, it's his snap-to-snap consistency. Even with a dominant performance at times in Mobile, there still have been some things he'd like to clean up.

"I've definitely worked on some of the things I needed to fix from [Tuesday]," Shelton said. "I figure I have a little more to work on, too."

Shelton had tape wrapped around each wrist for practice: one arm read "BE," the other "GREAT." He knows that it's a daily grind to reach that level that he's still seeking, even coming off a dominant senior season. But if Shelton improves as much from his junior season — pedestrian backfield totals of 3.5 tackles for loss, two sacks — to 2014 as he does from this past season to his rookie year in the NFL, the sky might be the limit.

"I really just focused on playing at a higher level than the last season," he said. "I focused more on my pass rush. I adjusted to the new coaching staff and the changes they made. Adjusting to the little changes they made."

Shelton was asked to handle both one- and two-gap responsibilties in the Huskies' 3-4 scheme, and he figures to project as a nose tackle or a shade player in either a 3-4 or a 4-3 scheme in the NFL. That gives him mass appeal, showing more as a junior that he could occupy blockers and hold the fort for others and as a senior unleashing more of his penetration ability — rare in a player his size.

Shelton said he watches a lot of NFL, with Baltimore Ravens defensive lineman Haloti Ngata a personal favorite. "I like watching him because of his size," Shelton said. "I also like watching Ndamukong [Suh]. BUt I really just like watching defensive ends to see how they pass rush."

Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion knows all about Shelton's game. He faced Shelton all four years and always braced for the massive nose tackle who lined up dangerously close to Mannion across the ball from him.

"Powerful, powerful guy," Mannion said. "He's just so strong in there. Most of the interior guys, they're run stoppers mainly. But he's able to do both: stop the run and collapse the pocket. 

"As a quarterback, it's the rush up the middle that makes it a little harder to operate. If the rush is coming around the edge, you can step up or slide or do other things. But up the middle, it can make things difficult. So I think as tough as he is against the run with his size, but then also to have the pass-rush ability from the interior, it's incredible.

"It seems like he was in the backfield every time we played him."

Huskies teammate Hau'oli Kikaha says Shelton's even temperament is what sets him apart and should make it easy for him to transition to the NFL.

"He's the same everywhere we go," Kikaha said. "He just stays the same. You can always count on Danny to be Danny. That's what I love about him. That's what's going to make him great. He seems to handle anything [that] comes his [way].

"And he's a monster."

Asked if the Huskies' talented defense — four possible top picks, including himself — allowed Shelton to make as many plays as he did, Kikaha said, "Yeah, people couldn't get to the edge. Shaq Thompson had the outside; I made plays outside, too. But Danny Shelton just swallows you up inside. He made those plays himself. Not everyone can make those plays."

And that's why Shelton could end up being one of the highest drafted players attending this year's Senior Bowl if he keeps this upward trend.

"I just want to show teams I can do a little of everything — inside, outside, anywhere along the line," Shelton said.

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

Author: Eric Edholm
Posted: January 21, 2015, 11:49 pm

I'm not an NFL quarterback, but I imagine that life goes something like this: Say you're an NFL quarterback, land the gorgeous girl. This goes with decades of beautiful tradition, from Joe Namath to Tom Brady.

I assumed that's how Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers started dating actress Olivia Munn. Or that their agents set it up, or however famous people in Hollywood start dating anyone. But no, Munn says she had no idea who Rodgers was when she first met him, and definitely did not know he was a famous football player.

"I had no idea," Munn said on "Conan" with Conan O'Brien. "When I met him I said, ‘So what do you do?’ He said, ‘Oh, I play football.’ I go, ‘Cool, what college?’ He’s like ‘Oh, I play professional.’ I say ‘Cool, what position?’ He’s like, ‘Quarterback.’ ‘Cool.’ That was kind of it."

So if it wasn't Rodgers' MVP award or his Super Bowl ring or the great work he does discount double-checking on television ads, why was Munn attracted to Rodgers?

"All I saw is that he was really attractive," Munn said. "I didn’t care what he did."

Well done.

Munn also spoke to Conan about enjoying life in Green Bay ("I love it in Green Bay," the famous actress said. "It’s really comfortable there.") and things like putting off a conference call to go pick up meat at Maplewood Meats in Green Bay. I'm curious as to what seemed stranger, Munn dropping by the meat market for venison or whatever she was getting, or the looks on the locals' faces when the movie actress stops in.

Munn might be well known but in Northeast Wisconsin, it's her boyfriend who would get all the looks in public. He's in little danger of anyone else there not recognizing him or knowing what he does.

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: January 21, 2015, 10:27 pm

Well, you knew this was going to happen. New England Patriots fans have defended their team with rabid intensity against the allegations of deflate-gate, and now actual Patriots are stepping into the fray as well. Cornerback Brandon Browner is apparently the first player to speak up in the wake of allegations of deflated footballs, and he's done so with an instant classic:

For my 2cents Blount scored 3 rushing touchdowns. He could've carried a beach ball. Also doesn't hurt we only gave up 7 points #inflatethis

— Brandon Browner (@bbrowner27) January 21, 2015

If #inflatethis isn't on T-shirts across New England by Thursday, we're going to be disappointed in you, Boston.

Browner is focusing on the results of the game, and he's right; the Patriots could have played with cinder blocks and still beaten Indy by three TDs. What drives Patriots opponents crazy is the intent to (allegedly) cheat ... that, and the question of what nefarious deeds the team may have gotten away with scot-free.

Browner spent the first part of his career with Seattle; indeed, his Twitter page still shows him in a Seahawks uni. (For what it's worth, he was suspended the final four games of 2012 for violating the league's performance-enhancing drug policy.) What will be interesting is how the Patriots brass reacts to this "outburst"; historically, Belichick prefers his players dull and low-key in public.

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Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter.

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Author: Jay Busbee
Posted: January 21, 2015, 9:08 pm

The Super Bowl ads and ad promotions are starting to trickle in, and here's one from Victoria's Secret. It features all your favorite Victoria's Secret models playing football and ... and you're not even reading this anymore, are you?

Anyway, the actual Victoria's Secret ad airs after the two-minute warning in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl, so watch for that. And yes, everyone has already made that deflated-balls joke that you're thinking of right now.

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Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter.

Follow @jaybusbee

And keep up with Jay over on Facebook, too.

Author: Jay Busbee
Posted: January 21, 2015, 8:22 pm

We’ve learned more about the handling, condition and proper inflation of NFL footballs this week than we ever needed to know.

And what the New England Patriots’ deflate-gate has brought attention to is that NFL players, mostly quarterbacks and kickers, are quite particular about the condition of the footballs they use in games. Longtime kicker Nick Lowery once slapped a Patriots ball boy over it.

You can’t even blame Bill Belichick for this one. It happened in 1995, pre-Belichick (he joined the Patriots as an assistant the next year, and has been their head coach since 2000). According to the New York Times story from then, Jets kicker Lowery wasn’t happy the Jets were kicking balls that had not been rubbed up in the cold. He complained to the Patriots’ 20-year-old ball boy, who told Lowery it wasn’t his job to provide him a rubbed-up football, and then Lowery slapped him. These balls are serious stuff.

But what does it mean, rubbing up balls? Don’t teams just break out new footballs for each game?

No, no and no.

(Getty Images)In 2013 the New York Times did a fascinating story talking about the process in which the Giants prepare balls for quarterback Eli Manning, so they’re to his liking. It takes months.

According to the Times story, the balls are rubbed vigorously for 45 minutes to remove the wax and darken the leather (new balls are too slick, quarterbacks will say). The Giants soak the ball with a wet towel. Then it is brushed again. Then it’s off to an electric spin wheel for more scrubbing. Then the process is repeated twice more. They practice with those balls to break them in even further, and then the ones deemed fit for games are protected like the president.

“No one is allowed to touch those balls,” team’s equipment director Joe Skiba told the Times. “They’re precious jewels. Too much work has gone into them.”

Quarterbacks are particular about the footballs they use. In 2006, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady teamed up to lobby the NFL competition committee to allow each team to provide its own footballs for games, so they could be to the quarterbacks’ liking. Home teams provided all the balls before that, and quarterbacks didn’t like the differences in the balls for each road game. The committee passed it, and now each team provides 12 balls for officials to inspect two hours and 15 minutes before the game.

Although much has been made of the edges that teams can get by deflating footballs (it can make them easier to grip and catch), Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers prefers the opposite. CBS’ Phil Simms said during a Packers broadcast (via CSNNE.com) that he prefers his footballs be over-inflated, and he’ll even push the NFL rules on it. Game balls are, by rule, to be inflated with 12.5 to 13.5 pounds of air per square inch and weigh 14 to 15 ounces.

“(Rodgers) said something [that] was unique,” Simms said on CBS, via CSNNE. "[Rodgers said] 'I like to push the limit to how much air we can put in the football, even go over what they allow you to do and see if the officials take air out of it.' Because he thinks it’s easier for him to grip. He likes them tight.”

Are various tricks to break in footballs considered cheating? There have been stories of quarterbacks and kickers putting footballs in the dryer since field goals were invented, sometimes with a wet towel or fabric softener, to break them in.

There hasn't been much of an outrage from many former and current players about this story. Shaun King, a former NFL quarterback who works for Yahoo, said the whole deflate-gate isn’t a big deal. Every quarterback, he said, will do things to break in their footballs.

“Every quarterback does whatever they deem necessary to have their balls the way they like them,” King said. “This is a pure witch hunt the NFL and sports media is on.”

Former NFL quarterback Matt Leinart agreed that the whole story is no big deal, on his Twitter account.

Every team tampers with the footballs. Ask any Qb In the league, this is ridiculous!!

— Matt Leinart (@MattLeinartQB) January 21, 2015

Actually my guy @kurt13warner didn't tamper w the footballs because he wore gloves. Used to irritate me..So correction, almost all QBs! Lol

— Matt Leinart (@MattLeinartQB) January 21, 2015

Former NFL quarterback Tim Hasselbeck, who works with ESPN, shared that sentiment.

QB's are picky about fb's and could tell you everything about their game balls. broken in to their liking. how it works. period.

— tim hasselbeck (@tthasselbeck) January 21, 2015

coaches, refs, average fan wouldn't be able to tell the difference by holding them.

— tim hasselbeck (@tthasselbeck) January 21, 2015

Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Brad Johnson bribed someone to scuff the footballs before the Super Bowl in 2003. Each Super Bowl has a new batch of balls with the Super Bowl logo on them. Is that cheating, or is it more in line with what Eli Manning and the Giants do, breaking in balls? Or is this all much ado about nothing, and the Patriots are in a firestorm even though everyone in the NFL manipulates game balls in some way? There’s a long culture in baseball of pitchers putting goodness knows what on the balls, and only the most egregious violators are ever called out on it. But if it was so common, would the Colts – who got word from linebacker D’Qwell Jackson to an equipment manager to coach Chuck Pagano to general manager Ryan Grigson in the press box to NFL director of football operations Mike Kensil to the officials at halftime – be so upset as to call the Patriots out on it?

Whether or not the Patriots were at fault for 11 of their 12 game balls being under-inflated in Sunday’s AFC championship team, we all know much more today about NFL footballs and players’ preferences for them than we ever did before.

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: January 21, 2015, 7:40 pm

With the pain and misery of the Packers' NFC Championship collapse fading in the distance, we can now turn our attention to one of the marquee elements of this year's Super Bowl: the Seattle Seahawks defense. Led by the Legion of Boom secondary, the Seahawks were the top-ranked defense in the NFL this year, but how do they stack up against great Ds of the past? Do the Seahawks even have a prayer against the '85 Bears, the Steel Curtain, or the 2000-era Ravens?

Yahoo Sports' Kevin Kaduk (@kevinkaduk) and Jay Busbee (@jaybusbee) kick around the topic right here, and you can join in. This is another one of our many Super Bowl Arguments videos, and you're invited to the party. (We also debated whether or not Tom Brady needs to win Super Bowl XLIX to cement his legacy. That clip can be seen here.) Offer up your thoughts in the comments below and on Twitter at #SBarguments. Your words might end up on a future episode. Get to arguing!

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Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter.

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And keep up with Jay over on Facebook, too.

Author: Jay Busbee
Posted: January 21, 2015, 7:27 pm

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh did what looked like a pretty cool thing early Wednesday morning, tweeting out congratulations to NFL teams who made new head coaching hires, those new coaches, and his old San Francisco 49ers assistants who got jobs elsewhere.

The 49ers made a new head-coaching hire, Jim Tomsula. They needed a new coach after parting ways with Harbaugh after the season. Tomsula was also a Harbaugh assistant; he was promoted from defensive line coach to head coach. And yet, no mention of the only Harbuagh assistant to get a head coaching job this offseason. Hmm.

Congrats to Bears, Raiders, Bills, Great Coaches and men, John Fox, Jack Del Rio, Rex! And Home Run hires Vic Fangio, Brad Seely, Greg Roman

— Coach Harbaugh (@CoachJim4UM) January 21, 2015

Coincidence that Harbaugh happened to miss the 49ers? Right. (Although Harbaugh also missed Todd Bowles and the New York Jets and Gary Kubiak and the Denver Broncos ... but you'd think if he took time to congratulate a few teams he would not have just overlooked Tomsula and the 49ers.)

Why would Harbaugh be sore? He and the 49ers mutually agreed to part ways, after all! Right. Exactly.

The relationship between the 49ers and Harbaugh was strained by the end of this past season, to say the least. Tomsula's name had come up as a possible replacement during the season, while Harbaugh was on the job, and it's easy to imagine that made things uncomfortable.

Whatever the reason, Harbaugh wanted to offer some well wishes for new NFL coaches and his old assistants who landed new jobs, and it doesn't seem like he just somehow forgot the assistant who took his old job.

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: January 21, 2015, 3:52 pm

As deflate-gate reaches DEFCON 1 levels — refocusing on Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and the New England Patriots under the microscope — we are reminded of former Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Brad Johnson's admission he paid to have footballs doctored prior to Super Bowl XXXVII.

Tampa Bay Times reporter Rick Stroud recounted the story he originally published in 2012, when the 2002 Bucs were honored during the 10th anniversary of their championship season. Johnson told Stroud he shelled out $7,500 to ensure "the balls were scuffed and ready" when the title game kicked off in San Diego.

"I paid some guys off to get the balls right," Johnson now admits. "I went and got all 100 footballs, and they took care of all of them."

How much did it cost Johnson? "Seventy-five hundred [dollars]," he said.

"They took care of them."

There are several important distinctions between Johnson's revelation and Chris Mortensen's ESPN report that 11 of the 12 footballs used by the Patriots in Sunday's 45-7 AFC Championship win over the Colts were under-inflated. The two-time Pro Bowl QB makes no mention of inflating or deflating those 100 footballs, and teams are permitted to condition a dozen balls to their liking in games prior to the Super Bowl.

However, just as Aaron Rodgers prefers an over-inflated ball, Johnson's bribe of an NFL representative suggests quarterbacks are willing to go to extraordinary lengths to ensure a football meets their standards.

Author: Ben Rohrbach
Posted: January 21, 2015, 2:26 pm

As the NFL investigates deflate-gate, a report says that it wasn't just one under-inflated football, which Indianapolis Colts linebacker D'Qwell Jackson happened to intercept, that was suspect.

A report by ESPN's Chris Mortensen said that 11 of the New England Patriots' 12 allotted game footballs in Sunday's AFC championship game were each under-inflated by 2 pounds of air per square inch, according to Mortensen's league sources. That's hard to chalk up as a coincidence, and now the Patriots will face some hard questions. According to NFL rules, each team in NFL games makes 12 primary balls available for testing by the referee two hours and 15 minutes before kickoff. In addition, the home team makes 12 backup balls available. The visiting team can bring 12 backup balls in games played outdoors. (AP)

If the report is accurate, how were 11 balls under-inflated, each by a significant amount?

The ball is, by rule, to be inflated with 12.5 to 13.5 pounds of air per square inch and weigh 14 to 15 ounces. Two pounds of air per square inch is a lot, given those guidelines. It's surprising the officials, who handle the footballs throughout the game, didn't notice. Reports on Tuesday said after Jackson's interception in the second quarter, word got to NFL director of football operations Mike Kensil in the press box and he told the officials at halftime.

A source told Mortensen the league is "disappointed ... angry ... distraught" at the latest findings.

Adding to the story, CBSSports.com's Jason La Canfora reported that in the Baltimore Ravens-Patriots divisional playoff game, some of the Ravens believed the kicking balls used in the game were under-inflated.

The NFL had no comment immediately on Mortensen's report.

As the NFL's investigation continues, the Patriots' past will continue to be brought up. The Patriots and coach Bill Belichick are still reminded of Spygate, the 2007 scandal in which the team videotaped opponents' signals. The Patriots were fined $250,000, Belichick was fined $500,000 and the team was stripped of a first-round pick. If the NFL finds that the Patriots purposely deflated footballs against the Colts, which would have made them easier to pass and catch in the rain, the league could fine them, and there was a report the NFL could take a draft pick from New England.

The Patriots won the AFC championship game 45-7, and under-inflated balls weren't the reason for that. But it will be on the NFL to find out how almost all of the primary footballs provided by the Patriots were under-inflated. Even if the footballs weren't the reason the Patriots are going to the Super Bowl, if they are found to have altered the balls after the referee's pregame inspection, the NFL will presumably send a strong message.

 

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: January 21, 2015, 4:36 am

MOBILE, Ala. — Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty senses a void.

Many people are calling the 2015 NFL draft class a two-horse race — Florida State's Jameis Winston and  Oregon's Marcus Mariota, with the rest of the field way behind. The way Petty sees it, this is his opportunity to be right in the Winston-Mariota discussion.

"If they're one and two in the class, that's who I want to be with," Petty said.

If the first day of practice was any indication, though, Petty has work to do. One practice session with the North team, coached by the Tennessee Titans, is hardly enough evidence for what kind of quarterback he'll be in the NFL. After all, Russell Wilson notoriously struggled in Mobile, but — reminder — he'll be going for his second straight Super Bowl title in less than two weeks. Bryce Petty (USA TODAY Sports)

Petty might be the best-known name at the Senior Bowl this week, and he appears to have benefitted from Mariota and UCLA's Brett Hundley passing on the event. The remainder of the quarterbacks here either didn't match Petty's gaudy statistics or come from smaller programs. This is his chance to step out and step up in the class.

Still, Petty labored through practice and was not happy on the field with his performance. He received the first crack for reps and started slowly, skipping one throw too low and dropping the center exchange. That was followed by an overthrow to Nebrasks running back Ameer Abdullah in the flat and a double-clutch throw to Notre Dame tight end Ben Koyack that indicated some doubt and hesitation.

Petty cranked it up through the middle portion of practice, hitting Delaware tight end Nick Boyle on a nice crossing route and finding former Bears teammate and receiver Antwan Goodley — it was a wobbler, but, like a Peyton Manning pass, it got where it needed to get — on a flag route. But even with that little hot streak, it was followed by an overthrow and another bounced pass, late on some passes and early on others.

"You have to have fun out there," Petty said of his struggles. "I just need to keep my head up. I know I am going to make a mistake here and there, but there's also a short timetable here, so [Wednesday] I need to pick it up.

"I am a perfectionist, though, so I always try to do as well as i can."

Defenders who have faced Petty say he's legit.

"He's a competitor, and they scored a lot of points in a short amount of time," said Michigan State safety Kurtis Drummond, who faced Petty in the final game of both of their careers at the Cotton Bowl. "We just tried to slow them down as best we could, but he made a lot of plays."

In that game, Petty completed 36 of 51 passes for 550 yards with three touchdowns and an interception; he also ran for one score. The Bears led 41-21 in the fourth quarter but fell 42-41 in a miraculous Spartans comeback.

Goodley shot a few eye daggers when asked about that game but turned to smiles when asked about Petty. Together they connected for more than 2,000 yards and nearly 20 touchdowns the past two seasons.

"We came in together, redshirted together and worked our way up together," Goodley told Shutdown Corner. "We were always working on little things, and Bryce for sure has what it takes to play on the highest level. He's a great athlete and a great quarterback."

In a losing effort, Bryce Petty put on a show at the Cotton Bowl. (Getty Images) No kidding about the athlete part. Petty strutted across the Mobile Convention Center stage Tuesday morning for the Senior Bowl weigh-in at a rocked-up 230 pounds on his 6-2 3/4 frame. Petty reportedly can vertical jump 38 inches, broad jump nearly 10 1/2 feet, squat more than 500 pounds and can run somewhere in the 4.6 range in the 40-yard dash. He also came back quickly from a transverse process injury in his back, missing one game, which showed his toughness and ability to heal quickly.

Petty, who turns 24 after the draft, admits he has spent a lot of time investing in Baylor's renowned weight-training program but underscores it next to his ability to quarterback. 

"It's important to be in great shape and add a dimension to my game with my athleticism; I can run it a little," Petty said. "But I want to show I can read defenses, go through progressions and do everything in a pro-style offense. That's what's most important."

Petty has been working with noted QB guru George Whitfield in San Diego for the past few weeks, taking drops from center, running five- and seven-step drops and changing his eye level after coming up in Baylor's spread, predominantly shotgun-based offense.

"We started Jan. 6 and didn't waste any time," Petty said. "We knew where I had to be here. We've been doing nothing but drop work, getting the footwork down and trying to get as prepared as I can."

Winston and Mariota are going to be out in San Diego with Petty, so he knows what he's up against.

"I'll get to see what they are doing every day," Petty said. "Their strengths are my weaknesses; my strengths are their weaknesses, and so on. We'll get to work together and test ourselves against each other.

"I'm not afraid to compete," Petty continued. "I am not going to be perfect out here. I am going to have fun while I am out here, knowing there are a lot of people who don't get this opportunity. For me, I want to take advantage of that and work with people who will be playing on Sundays."

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

Author: Eric Edholm
Posted: January 21, 2015, 4:17 am

MOBILE, Ala. — The Tennessee Titans' Ken Whisenhunt reached out to Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota to see what his level of interest was in playing in the Senior Bowl, the head coach said on Tuesday. 

Mariota was a fourth-year junior who has finished his degree, which would have allowed him to play in the game, per an NFL exemption that was granted a few years ago. Auburn wide receiver Sammie Coates is an example of a fourth-year junior who is playing in this year's game.

Senior Bowl officials put the full-court press to get Mariota to the game but ultimately he passed on the opportunity. But that didn't mean Whisenhunt wasn't also trying to grease those wheels a bit himself, too.  Marcus Mariota (USA TODAY Sports)

"It would have been great. I am hopeful he'll still show," Whisenhunt said — kidding but not kidding, as it were. "He's still got a couple of days. As long as he gets here by the game, I think we'll be great."

Mariota lost the national championship game to Ohio State and had only a few days to solidify his decision to enter the draft. Although he had a standing invitation to the Senior Bowl, it wasn't meant to be.

"Listen, when you've had the season he's had, and [there are a] lot of demands on him, you get it," Whisenhunt said.

The Titans hold the second pick in the 2015 NFL draft. Both they and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who hold No. 1, have quarterback uncertainty. It's no iron-clad lock that Mariota goes first (or second) overall, and the Titans might not select a quarterback at No. 2 if they stay there, but Mariota is widely seen as a top-five certainty.

Nonetheless, Whisenhunt said he did what he could to get Mariota to Mobile.

"I didn't talk to Marcus myself, but we tried to talk about what we were going to do," Whisenhunt said. "But yeah, he's been real busy since the season has been over, so ..."

The Titans' level of interest in Mariota is unclear. If the play of the North team quarterbacks — Shane Carden, Bryce Petty and Sean Mannion — after one day is any indication, the Titans might have sent a repo man after Mariota had they known previously how much the talent level might be dropping off.

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

Author: Eric Edholm
Posted: January 21, 2015, 3:21 am

MOBILE, Ala. — Nick Marshall, who nearly led Auburn to a national championship as a quarterback two years ago, said he went up to the Jacksonville Jaguars' coaching staff before the first Senior Bowl practice and told them he wanted to play cornerback.

Simple as that.

No urging from his agent or family members. No second-guessing. He just woke up a quarterback, weighed in Tuesday morning as one and was listed on the Reese's Senior Bowl roster as one and ended the day as a defensive back.

No looking back. (USA TODAY Sports)

"It's something I told the coaches I wanted to do before practice, and they said OK," Marshall said. "I believe that's the position I have the best chance at in the NFL."

Marshall led Auburn to wins in 20 of 27 games and came within a few minutes of knocking off Florida State for the 2013 season championship. He was an ace runner and thrower in the Tigers' spread-option attack, though Marshall lacked ideal NFL measurables at 6-foot-1 and 205 pounds.

His Auburn coaches — including head coach Gus Malzahn himself — pounded on the table of the Senior Bowl committee to let Marshall attend the game as a QB. So the switch came as a surprise to the Jaguars coaches and the Senior Bowl folks, who respected Marshall's wishes but had to act fast to find a replacement. He took the field wearing a QB jersey before disrobing and switching to a generic Senior Bowl shirt with no uniform number.

The move left the South team with only two quarterbacks for Tuesday's practice — Colorado State's Garrett Grayson and Alabama's Blake Sims — and forced a call to the bullpen, with Southeast Louisiana's Bryan Bennett being sent in. Barrett, who once backed up Marcus Mariota at Oregon, was not in Louisiana; he was actually in San Diego training, so the logistics were a bit thornier.

"He made a decision for what he had to do, and I can't get mad at him for that," said Sims, who earned extra reps because of the switch.

Marshall knows he might have burned a bridge or two with his switch. But he says it gives him the best chance to compete in the NFL.

"It's a change, definitely," Marshall said, "but I am a competitor and I am ready to compete."

The position is not entirely foreign to him. After playing corner and QB in high school, Marshall started his college career playing cornerback as a freshman at Georgia before transferring to Garden City (Kan.) Community College after being caught stealing from a teammate. Marshall switched to QB there and scored 37 touchdowns — 19 rushing, 18 passing — in 11 games before ending up at Auburn.

Marshall got in trouble again, this time before the 2014 season, cited for marijuana possession and being benched for the first half of the season opener. So not only is Marshall changing positions, one he hasn't played in three years, but also faces character questions from NFL brass.

It's an uphill climb, but one Marshall says he's ready for.

"I know I have a lot of work to do," he said.

That was clear in Tuesday's practice. He was beaten a few times — once wickedly by Kansas State wide receiver Tyler Lockett — and was third in the pecking order in practice reps in what looks to be a so-so cornerback crop in Mobile.

Auburn teammate Sammie Coates excused himself for laughing when he saw Marshall, who threw him passes in college, covering receivers in practice.

"I was like, 'Man, what's my quarterback doing over there? He's in the wrong spot!'" Coates said. "But if there's anyone who can do it, it's Nick. We're extremely tight, and I know he has trust and faith he can make this change."

"It's going to be hard, but after a few days I hope I can get more comfortable over there," Marshall said.

And, just so you know, this is it. As far as Marshall is concerned, he has thrown his last pass. If he makes it in the NFL, that's the position he'll do it at.

Marshall said he never considered playing any other offensive position, but he did say that the Jaguars staff plans to feature him on special teams, maybe kick or punt return. He was one of the most dangerous players in college football the past two seasons with the ball in his hands, so the move is a shock. But he's confident he has what it takes.

"I like my chances," he said. "It's a challenge, but it's a position I know. I think it's going to come back to me."

Look at those physical measurements again. Small for quarterback, in this case, means just fine — even above average — for cornerback. Marshall also feels that playing quarterback has allowed him to see the game differently the past three seasons, giving him a new perspective on defense.

"I understand the route combinations better now," Marshall said. "I know the passing game better."

How much NFL interest will there be in Marshall? Tough to say.

"I haven't seen him yet," Senior Bowl director Phil Savage said. "I want to see how his speed translates, too. What his 40 [yard dash] will be, how fast he can run. He has the skills to do it."

Right now, Marshall said he's eager to watch the tape of Tuesday's practice and "see what I messed up on," so as to get better. After all, it's Day 1 (Part 2) of his new career.

"I'm just excited to see how I do," he said.

So are a lot of other people, considering just how rare this particular position switch happens to be.

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm

Author: Eric Edholm
Posted: January 21, 2015, 3:01 am

It's easy to link an NFL coach to drafting a player he had in college.

That's how more than a few mock drafts had the Buffalo Bills and Doug Marrone taking Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib, who Marrone coached in college, with the eighth overall pick of the 2013 NFL draft. Nassib went in the fourth round to the New York Giants.

So plan on a lot of speculation that the Philadelphia Eagles will somehow land quarterback Marcus Mariota. Mariota, Oregon's Heisman Trophy winner, played for Eagles coach Chip Kelly in college. And, it turns out, the Eagles are reportedly trying to move up to take Mariota.

NJ.com, citing "a person familiar with the Eagles' offseason plans," said the team will try to move up and get Mariota.

That's where it gets tricky.

The Eagles have the 20th pick of the first round. Mariota is expected to go in the top few picks, maybe first overall, which presents a problem.

In 2012, when Robert Griffin III was the second pick of the draft, the Rams got two first-round picks and a second-round pick to move from No. 2 to No. 6. That's three premium picks to move up four spots. The Bills sent a future first-round pick to move up five spots to No. 4 to draft receiver Sammy Watkins last year.

What will the Eagles need to trade to move from No. 20 to No. 1, the Liberty Bell?

"It's probably going to take moving up twice to do it," the source told NJ.com. "There's going to be some wheeling and dealing involved."

Expect this rumor to stay hot for the next three months leading up to the draft. It's a natural one, and Kelly has raved about Mariota before. But if the Eagles actually pull off a deal (deals?) to get Mariota, it will probably take so much it would make the RG3 trade look like the Redskins were shopping for that pick at the dollar store. And it might not make sense to trade away years of valuable draft picks and ruin the organizational depth for a quarterback when Kelly has already had relatively good success with Nick Foles and Mark Sanchez playing quarterback.

So any Eagles fans who are hoping for Mariota might want to be careful what they wish for.

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: January 20, 2015, 10:37 pm

We all know that the Seattle Seahawks staged an incredible comeback to win the NFC championship, but let’s take a look at how they did it.

First of all, the biggest play in the game was by the Green Bay Packers defense. With just over five minutes left, Morgan Burnett got an interception and had four blockers. The only non-offensive lineman in front of him was Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson. He could well have scored. Why did Julius Peppers tell him to go down?

Take a look at how much room Burnett had to run:

(NFL.com screen shot)
(NFL.com screen shot)

Here's the end-zone angle:

(NFL.com screen shot)

That was the biggest play in the game. It helped set in motion Seattle’s comeback, and let’s break down the four big plays the Seahawks made.

Marshawn Lynch gained 26 yards on a touchdown drive on the same wheel route the Seahawks had called in the third quarter, right before their fake field goal touchdown. That ball in the third quarter was broken up by linebacker Sam Barrington. This time Barrington went with underneath split receiver Luke Willson (on the first one he went over the top of the receiver and was in position to defend Lynch) and was immediately in trail position. That’s easy pitch and catch for Wilson and Lynch.

(NFL.com screen shot)

(NFL.com screen shot)
(NFL.com screen shot)

Lynch’s 24-yard touchown to give the Seahawks the lead late in regulation came out of “11” personnel (one back, one tight end) with Wilson in shotgun and Lynch offset to the boundary. The Packers were in nickel playing “man free” with single high safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix dropping into the box at the snap. It was an inside zone with a great double team from center Max Unger (60) and left guard James Carpenter (77) on defensive lineman Mike Daniels and stacked linebacker A.J. Hawk. Hawk jumped inside reacting to Lynch’s initial downhill path and was easily blocked by Unger.

(NFL.com screen shot)
(NFL.com screen shot)
(NFL.com screen shot)
(NFL.com screen shot)

In overtime, Doug Baldwin got a 35-yard gain on third and seven in overtime. The Packers played “man free lurk,” which they had done all game on third and long. Baldwin had great patience on his route, setting up cornerback Casey Hayward, who was playing with inside leverage. Wilson made an excellent throw to the Baldwin go route to make sure it was away from the safety rotation..

(NFL.com screen shot)

(NFL.com screen shot)
(NFL.com screen shot)

Then came the game-winning play. The Packers were in “cover zero,” with no deep safety help, for the first time the entire game. Jermaine Kearse ran a deep post against cornerback Tramon Williams, and because of the Packers’ play call there was no safety in the deep middle. The coverage was excellent. But the throw was outstanding, and Kearse had the touchdown.

(NFL.com screen shot)

(NFL.com screen shot)
(NFL.com screen shot)

The Seahawks weren’t great the entire game. They did not have an effective run with two backs the whole game. Wilson didn’t see things clearly at all through three quarters, left throws on the field with a lack of pocket patience and didn’t even made spontaneous improvisational plays with his legs because the Packers often utilized a defensive lineman to spy on Wilson to deter him from running.

But late in the game, after Peppers told Burnett to stop running for some reason when he might have scored, the Seahawks made the big plays they needed to make for the win.

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NFL analyst and NFL Films senior producer Greg Cosell watches as much NFL game film as anyone. Throughout the season, Cosell will join Shutdown Corner to share his observations on the teams, schemes and personnel from around the league.

Author: Greg Cosell
Posted: January 20, 2015, 9:28 pm

Among the stories penned on Sept. 29, after the New England Patriots were trounced by the Kansas City Chiefs 41-14 on "Monday Night Football" was one titled, "Was this the end for Tom Brady and the New England Patriots' dynasty?"

"It was impossible to also not think about Tom Brady in the past tense. To wonder if we're just never going to see one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history be great anymore. It was also worth wondering if the Patriots' incredible dynasty died at Arrowhead Stadium, too. That's how bad the 41-14 loss was. The Patriots have never looked this incompetent in the Belichick-Brady era.

"Maybe the Patriots and Brady are fooling us and by the end of the year they'll wear the 'AFC East Champions' hats with yet another double-digit win season and look back on this game at Kansas City and laugh. But the Patriots' embarrassment was so thorough and complete that you have to wonder if that team is ever coming back."

Yep, that was me. I was one of many who cover the NFL and wondered if the Patriots were done. And, yeah, in our Shutdown Corner playoff projection that week ...

@YShutdownCorner RT Our latest playoff projection has the Bills IN and the Patriots OUT http://t.co/UND9XXDhDo pic.twitter.com/QrUG2V6gpj haha

— Mark Powell (@mtp_78) January 20, 2015

The Patriots are obviously not done. They're going back to another Super Bowl and it's no fluke because they were the best team in the AFC for the final three months of the season. Thanks to the magic of the Internet, it's easy to go back to late September and see exactly what everyone thought of the Patriots.

The "Everyone wrote off the Patriots!" narrative today is not really true. When you look back at the comments and stories from then, few definitively said the Patriots were done. A few did. Some wrote that it was hard to see them bouncing back. And let this be clear: Just because the Patriots played well the final three months of the season doesn't mean they were retroactively good in September. They had real issues. Bill Belichick fixed a lot of them through a phenomenal coaching job. Rob Gronkowski got healthy, and he impacted New England in a way no tight end in NFL history has impacted a team. The Patriots just got better. But they were bad that night in Kansas City (like they were bad in the second half of a loss at the Miami Dolphins and bad in almost losing at home to the hapless Oakland Raiders in the first few weeks of the season) and most analysts pointed out the flaws while acknowledging they could be fixed. But it didn't look good that night.

Some analysts knew immediately there was an overreaction and predicted the Patriots would be fine. ESPN.com's Mike Reiss in particular wrote often that he thought the Pats were fine. ESPN's Skip Bayless said on Oct. 3 that "the New England Patriots will rise like the phoenix from the ashes of Monday night's 41-14 loss in Kansas City and land at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, playing in Super Bowl XLIX," although it's hard to give him full credit because he is paid to be a professional contrarian. ESPN's Steve Young strongly defended Tom Brady, saying, "I guarantee you this guy is still capable of taking any team that's really good to the Super Bowl," although Young also was critical of Brady's supporting cast.

Bill Belichick during New England's loss at Kansas City (Getty Images)It wasn't all doom and gloom. But the words of warning from that week are still funny to look back on in retrospect. So here are some of the (mostly incorrect, as it would play out) words that were written and said after the Patriots lost to the Chiefs, and it's not like I'm telling anyone that I told you so. Because I was just as wrong as anyone else:

Will Brinson, CBS Sports

"Pick any facet of the game, and New England was completely dominated. But the biggest concern was Tom Brady. And it's not close.

"Less than a month ago Brady said 'when I suck, I'll retire.' If he's true to his word he'll walk away tomorrow, because he straight up sucked on Monday. There's plenty of reasonable excuses relating to a lack of weapons and a lack of protection for Brady. But the 37-year-old quarterback  who's struggled previously this year  made tons of mistakes throughout the night.

"... Anyone totally melting down and calling for either a) the Patriots to move on from Brady or b) Brady to actually retire is falling prey to a serious bout of #HotSportsTakes. We're just four games into the season.

"The Pats offense looked terrible four games into 2013 too and they recovered nicely until Rob Gronkowski suffered his knee injury against the Browns.

"But don't absolve Brady of blame either. He looked awful on Monday. Red flags are flying and there's reason to be concerned."

Kevin Duffy, MassLive.com

"The questions surrounding the Patriots offensive line, while still relevant, need to be bumped down the list.

"And the top of said list should read like this: Are the New England Patriots just a bad football team?"

Michael Silver, NFL.com (from the story titled, "Is Tom Brady jealous of Peyton Manning's weapons?")

"Brady suddenly seemed powerless to overcome the inertia of age and a decided dearth of playmakers in his huddle. Before being benched in the fourth quarter, alone in his misery as rookie Jimmy Garoppolo led the Pats to a garbage-time touchdown, Brady looked 37 going on 50. 

"As incredibly successful as the Belichick/Brady partnership has been over the past 14 seasons, with three championships and five Super Bowl appearances among their many collective accomplishments, many players, coaches and executives across the NFL are currently questioning the coach's commitment to his aging quarterback.

"Put it this way: I'm not the only one wondering whether a him or me power struggle might ensue at season's end -- and how such a staredown would be resolved by owner Robert Kraft, who has deep affection for his franchise quarterback but possesses a proper understanding of and respect for Belichick's strengths as a strategist and team builder."

Greg Knopping, Pats Pulpit

"These aren't your same Patriots. We're now a quarter of the way through the Patriots season, and it's obvious this team isn't a Super Bowl contender. That doesn't mean they can't turn the ship around, but as currently constituted, this team is far from contention. The offense is an absolute mess, and the defense didn't look any better tonight. This game was an absolute embarrassment in every way imaginable."

Mike Florio, Pro Football Talk (from the story titled, "Belichick bears the blame for current Patriots’ mess")

"When reporters asked Patriots coach Bill Belichick about a burgeoning quarterback controversy, he shouldn’t have scoffed.  He should have been grateful.

"The focus on Tom Brady has kept many from looking at the guy squarely responsible for the current state of the team — Belichick himself.

"... No one can question Belichick’s coaching ability.  But when it comes to handling the personnel side of the operation, he’s either losing his fastball or he needs more help.  Because it’s not enough to find ways to trade down or to draft backup quarterbacks lower than perhaps they should have gone.  At some point, the players need to be good enough to play.

"Right now, they’re not. And that lands at the feet of the guy who runs the show."

Florio, in his power rankings that week

"19. New England Patriots (No. 5; 2-2): Tom Brady said he’ll retire when he sucks; when is the press conference?"

(AP)Mike Lupica, on ESPN radio

"Young offensive line, aging quarterback … it seems like an odd mix. And there aren’t enough weapons. … That’s a long way of saying yes, I don’t believe this group is ever going to play in another Super Bowl."

Bill Barnwell, Grantland.com (from the story titled, "Is This (Finally) the End of the Patriots?")

"I don’t think what happened last night is Tom Brady’s fault. I’m going to tell you why, and it’s going to sound like I’m making excuses, and in the long run, maybe that will end up being the case. It’s entirely possible to see how ineffective the Patriots have been on offense over the first four weeks and suggest they are fatally flawed and there is something horribly wrong with them to the extent that even Tom Brady and Bill Belichick can’t fix it.

"... For whatever reason, it seems difficult to believe he’ll make that sort of leap forward this time around. Maybe it’s because he’s older. Maybe it’s because the line is so horrific ... It’s not impossible to envision a second-half run where the Patriots finally get the interior line combination right, Gronkowski gets healthier and looks more like his old self, (Julian) Edelman stretches teams horizontally, and somebody — likely (Aaron) Dobson — provides a semblance of a deep threat.

"After Monday, though, it’s not hard to envision the end, either."

Ty Schalter, Bleacher Report (from the story titled, "Embarrassing MNF Blowout Loss to Chiefs Sounds Death Knell for Patriots Dynasty")

"Their failure was so complete, so embarrassing, that it's hard to see any way they'll win more games than they lose—let alone collect their usual division title or represent the AFC in the Super Bowl again.

"With 37-year-old quarterback Tom Brady playing the worst football of his life, behind an offensive line that can't protect him, across from a defense that's the antithesis of Patriots football, the awful conclusion is inescapable: It's over."

Sam Monson, Pro Football Focus via ESPN.com

"In short, Brady is declining. We have seen evidence of it the past few seasons, but it was subtle and slow enough that it wasn't easy to identify. Last season, there were many factors outside of Brady's control that affected his play, and many observers attributed the statistical dip to those other influences. But the fact is we have seen the best of Tom Brady, and the only question remaining is how steep the drop-off will be."

Cris Carter, ESPN radio

"(Belichick’s) No. 1 failure I believe, because he’s managing the whole house, is the players he has drafted or the free agents he has signed. They haven’t been real good. He has missed on a lot of players. … Right now, as far as the talent evaluation and player development, that’s not a great roster. He hand picked each and every one of them."

Eric Wilbur, Boston.com/Boston Globe (from the story titled "Trading Tom Brady May Make More Sense Than the Patriots Are Willing to Admit")

"But it is a realistic debate to pursue, and one we have to imagine has the New England Patriots in a state of inner turmoil.

"Should they explore trading Tom Brady?

"... Brady’s future in New England was on a tight leash to begin with, even before his decline in play became one of the primary reasons why the 2-2 Patriots are in the midst of an identity crisis. At 37, he’s only one year younger than John Elway was when the Denver Broncos Hall of Fame quarterback won his first Super Bowl, but in many ways Elway had Terrell Davis and a shining supporting cast including Rod Smith, Shannon Sharpe, and an offensive line featuring Gary Zimmerman and Tom Nalen, to thank. Aside from Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman, Brady has little in the way to compare to Elway’s offensive tools from 17 years ago.

"At what point does Brady realize that he can’t possibly do this alone? Not with this crew."

Matt Williamson, ESPN.com

"Brady is a quickly aging quarterback who has withstood a lot of punishment over his career, and the hits he continues to take are more impactful at age 37.

"He is stuck behind a dreadful offensive line that is rotating players at an alarming rate in a desperate attempt to find a combination, any combination, which can pass block. The Pats have yet to find said combination, and Brady is very uncomfortable in the pocket.

"He isn't the athlete he once was, either. Never a tremendous physical specimen, Brady's arm strength has waned, and his accuracy has declined."

Ben Volin, Boston Globe (from the story titled, "For Tom Brady, the end game has become apparent")

"But it’s time to start wondering if the clock is running out on Brady’s Patriots tenure a lot more quickly than we thought. He says he wants to play well into his 40s, but the way he has opened the 2014 season, the Patriots look smarter each day for drafting Garoppolo in the second round this past May.

"Everything should be on the table now with Brady and the Patriots, if Belichick truly wants to do what’s best for the team, as he constantly stresses.

"... Trade Brady now? Of course not. But this four-game stretch certainly has opened some eyes about Brady’s level of play."

And, of course, we'll always have Bill Belichick's reaction after the game to the question of if he'd evaluate the quarterback situation

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: January 20, 2015, 7:12 pm

A Super Bowl berth isn't just a dream for players, it's a dream for the players' friends, family, mail carriers, grocery baggers, dry cleaning attendants, and other assorted hangers-on. Everybody wants a taste of that sweet, sweet Super Bowl ticket action, and that can turn players into ticket brokers at a time when they need to be focusing on the most important game of their lives.

The Patriots are old hands at this postseason business, and that allows them to keep the grasping opportunists at bay. Julian Edelman, for instance, knows that the best way to keep people from asking for you for tickets every time is to repel them the first time.

"I'm a pretty big a-hole to all my friends and family," Edelman said. "They know that. When it's football time it's football time."

Last year, players got two complimentary tickets to the Super Bowl and had the option of buying up to 13 more tickets at face value, which at 2014 prices totaled anywhere from about $10,000 to $20,000.

The key for players, Edelman noted, is to stay in the groove. "I think you want to make the process as familiar as possible to what you're used to by going out and preparing like you try to do everyday," he said. "Going in the hot tub, the cold tub, getting your treatment every day. It's gonna be a little differnt. Usually the team that can handle that stuff the best is usually the team that comes out with a win."

And therein lies the rub. This game pits two teams very well familiar with "handling the stuff" of Super Bowl week. So if you're pulling for one team, you'd be well advised to start badgering the other one for tickets.

____
Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter.

Follow @jaybusbee

And keep up with Jay over on Facebook, too.

Author: Jay Busbee
Posted: January 20, 2015, 6:27 pm

Tom Brady's second-quarter interception to the Indianapolis Colts didn't affect the outcome of the game, but it might end up being very costly after all.

When Colts linebacker D'Qwell Jackson picked off Brady deep in Colts territory during Sunday's AFC championship game, that's when deflate-gate started.

According to New York Newsday and WCVB in Boston, Jackson believed the ball wasn't inflated as much as usual. He told a Colts equipment manager the ball felt under-inflated and gave it to him. The equipment man told Colts coach Chuck Pagano on the sideline. That message was relayed to Colts general manager Ryan Grigson in the press box, who told NFL director of football operations Mike Kensil, Newsday and WCVB said. Kensil told the on-field officials at halftime about the balls. Someone told Bob Kravitz of WTHR in Indianapolis, because he broke the story of the Patriots possibly deflating their game footballs which would help them throw and catch it better in the rain and now the NFL is looking into it.

And that's the recipe for the first crazy story leading up to the Super Bowl between the Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks.

“Did not notice, and that’s something for the league to handle," Pagano said, according to Newsday. "It’s not my place to comment on it.”

The game had an odd delay right after the second-half kickoff. The officials threw a ball that had been spotted back to the sideline and replaced it with another ball. CBS' Mike Carey, a former official, speculated during the broadcast that the officials had mistakenly spotted the ball used for kickoffs only, but based on the timeline we now have of how deflate-gate came to light, there was likely more to it than that.

The Patriots have mostly shrugged it off. Coach Bill Belichick said the team will cooperate with the NFL. Tom Brady called it all ridiculous. And tight end Rob Gronkowski, as only Gronk can, hilariously said he was to blame:

Whoops lol pic.twitter.com/uLxN7A5cpq

— Rob Gronkowski (@RobGronkowski) January 20, 2015

New England could end up being fined, and Kravitz said a source told him the league might even strip the Patriots of draft picks if it's found they deflated footballs after the officials inspected them before the game. Brady's lone interception against the Colts might end up being a lot worse for the Patriots than we could have imagined at the time.

- - - - - - -

Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdowncorner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab

Author: Frank Schwab
Posted: January 20, 2015, 2:44 pm

Look, let's be honest: most grandstands at NFL games are frigid, roiling pits of alcohol-soaked sin, degradation and brawling occasionally punctuated by cheers or off-key chants. They're not places for normal humans, much less kids. But every so often, something happens that gives you faith in both humanity and NFL stadium denizens, as unlikely as that might sound.

According to KING 5 News of Seattle, two Packers fans, Tim McElravy and his 13-year-old son Austin, were enjoying the Green Bay-Seattle playoff game ... enjoying it very much until the final two minutes, matter of fact. The McElravys were taking plenty of grief from surrounding Seahawks fans, and at the end of the heartbreaking-for-Green-Bay game, couldn't even point to the scoreboard for salvation. Austin was despondent until a Seattle fan by the name of "PJ" literally buddied up to Austin and gave him the jersey off his back:

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Tim McElravy tried to locate the mysterious "PJ" with a Facebook post that read:

"Can you help us get in contact with this fan? We attended the game today and my son and I are die-hard Packers fans At the game there was one fan (a 12) who was pretty vulgar to us and said some pretty rude things to me and my 13 year old son Austin. The whole game this guy in a Sherman Jersey was talking to us having a good time...offered to trade jerseys with us (but we did not want to give up our Green and Gold). At the end of the game my son congratulated him on a great game and PJ took off his Sherman Super Bowl Jersey and GAVE it to my son. We were moved to tears...the 12's showed what being a Seahawk fan is truly about."

KING News posted the above photo on its Instagram account, and soon enough, PJ was located. "It was an emotional decision at the time, it was my last year's Super Bowl jersey and Sherman is my favorite player," PJ said of handing over the jersey. "You attach memories to that. As awesome as those memories are, that kid is never going to forget that moment and that means more to me than that jersey."

Good on ya, PJ. Way to redeem football fans everywhere.

____
Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter.

Follow @jaybusbee

And keep up with Jay over on Facebook, too.

Author: Jay Busbee
Posted: January 20, 2015, 2:42 pm

Jermaine Kearse's overtime touchdown catch was one of the most stirring moments in Seattle sports history, and the ball that Kearse threw into the stands instantly became one of the city's most valuable sports artifacts.

The man who caught the ball, 32-year-old Scott Shelton, ended up with the ball after the kind of scrum that's made throwing the ball into the stands a $5,000 fine from the NFL. Shelton, who wore a Russell Wilson jersey to the game, exulted on camera with his prize.

"That throw ... It was more so just a sigh of just frustration," Kearse said Monday. "Just letting a lot of frustration throughout that game out. I just tried to throw it as far as possible. It was just something that happened in the moment."

But Kearse decided he wanted the ball back, and reached out to Shelton. A sports memorabilia dealer had already offered Shelton $20,000, but he turned that down. Kearse offered a signed helmet and his jersey, and is trying to get Shelton tickets for the Super Bowl.

Here's the wrinkle: Shelton apparently had far more good fortune at CenturyLink on Sunday than he's had the rest of his life. According to KOMO News, Shelton has had brushes with the law, and is apparently due to report to jail the day after the Super Bowl. That could make travel to the Super Bowl highly problematic. Regardless, at least in this one instance, things turned Shelton's way.

Here's the story, from KOMO News:

____
Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Contact him at jay.busbee@yahoo.com or find him on Twitter.

Follow @jaybusbee

And keep up with Jay over on Facebook, too.

Author: Jay Busbee
Posted: January 20, 2015, 1:37 pm

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