PHOENIX – Once the Super Bowl ends and the crowds go home, the Arizona Cardinals will put their efforts into overdrive to work out a new deal with wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald.

“I don’t have a specific timetable, but I think there’s no reason after the Super Bowl not to move along with it as reasonably quickly as we can,” Cardinals president Michael Bidwill told ESPN.com on Friday.

Larry Fitzgerald
Fitzgerald
Fitzgerald traveled to Australia the week of the Pro Bowl but returned to Arizona in time for Super Bowl week.

Bidwill said he hosted Fitzgerald for dinner at his home a few weeks ago and the two discussed Fitzgerald’s future with the team, which currently includes four years left on his contract. Fitzgerald is scheduled to earn $16.25 million in 2015 with a $23.6 million cap hit.

“That’s where he told me he wants to stay with the team and get this worked out,” Bidwill said of the dinner. “We talked a lot about how we can build the roster around him and take the next step because we weren’t satisfied with getting eliminated in the wild-card round.

“We want to go to Super Bowl next year and that’s what the plan is and that’s what we’re going to do. So, we've got a lot of work to do in free agency and the draft and he knows that renegotiating that contract will allow us to do it.”

The Cardinals have until early March to decide if they want to pay Fitzgerald an $8 million roster bonus, cut him or renegotiate his current contract.

Bidwill said Cardinals general manager Steve Keim has had talks with Fitzgerald’s agent, Eugene Parker.

Asked about the benefits of keeping Fitzgerald, Bidwill called him the “face of our organization” in the middle of a long answer about how the team reveres Fitzgerald.

But when he was asked what the team would lose if a new deal can’t be hammered out with Fitzgerald, Bidwill kept his answer short.

“We’re," he said, "planning on keeping him.”
PHOENIX – Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning has been out of sight, at least in terms of public appearances. But the team’s coaching change, with John Fox out and Gary Kubiak in, has not been out of Manning's mind.

Manning is aware of the public conversation following Kubiak’s hire has been about whether Manning could fit into his new coach's offense. On Friday, Manning said the subject isn't worth debate.

Manning
“I know that’s been a hot topic of discussion," Manning said following a breakfast where he received the Bart Starr Award for his off-the-field efforts. “ ... But if I choose to come back, I feel pretty comfortable, aside maybe from Tubby Raymond’s Delaware Wing-T offense, I feel pretty comfortable playing in any offense. I really do. I don’t see that as really being a factor."

Manning’s affirmation of his ability to work within Kubiak’s playbook confirms what former Broncos quarterback Jake Plummer said shortly after Kubiak’s hiring that the two would be able to work together.

“There's no doubt in my mind," Plummer said earlier this month. "Man, look, Gary is a great coach and great coaches change their systems up -- they extend it or tweak it to maximize their players' abilities. But they would both have to work at it, they both would have to find what was best for them on each side. They could do it, but they would have to put in the time to make it right. It’s not an exact fit, but Kubes is a great, great coach and Peyton is one of the best ever. If they want to get it done, need to get it done, they'll get it done."

Manning has not yet decided if he will return for the 2015 season, but said Friday he doesn’t want the process “to linger." He said Kubiak’s offense and any fallout from the Broncos’ 24-13 loss to the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC’s divisional round would not be factors. Kubiak has run a version of the West Coast offense almost exclusively in his career as an NFL play-caller. It requires the quarterback to be on the move plenty, to throw on the run, rolling left or right to both sides of the formation at various times.

Manning has played almost exclusively in the pocket in his Hall of Fame career with a far different playbook with far different verbiage in the play calls. Kubiak, on the day he was introduced as Broncos coach, said it would be “easy to work with Peyton," and that should Manning return: "We would make an offense that fits what our players do. This will be a Denver Broncos offense, not Gary Kubiak's offense. ... We would work to Peyton's strengths when the time comes and he makes his decision either way."

Manning also reaffirmed Friday his decision to return will be based largely on his physical health as well as the team's plans for himself and the roster.

“I’m kind of still determining that," Manning said. “That’s a little bit of the time. I’m taking some time to assess some things and to see. That’s something that’s important to me is not whether I can physically do it for myself, but can I physically do it to help the team? I’ve always wanted to be part of the solution to helping and never a problem or a limiting factor for the team. I want to be able to look Coach Kubiak and John Elway and Joe Ellis in the eye and say, ‘Yeah, physically, I honestly feel I can contribute and help.'

“It’s one thing to play and have a uniform and be on the roster. It’s another to truly contribute and help. And that’s the only thing I’ve known in football."
Junior Seau will always be admired for the passion and enthusiasm with which he played the game.

But Rodney Harrison remembers his former teammate for the way he brought energy to the practice field on a daily basis.

"As a rookie, I looked at Junior every day in practice and I went up to him and said, 'Why do you practice so hard?'" Harrison said. "He's running around, this big, muscular guy. And he said, 'Rodney, I get paid to practice. I play the games for free.'

"And if you think about it, it's easy to go out in front of 60 to 70,000 people and play. You don't need motivation. But to come in and practice every single day like it's a game, that's what Junior Seau taught me."

That commitment to preparation served as a catalyst for Seau to produce at an elite level for a long period of time. For that reason, Seau likely will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. He's one of 18 finalists for this year’s Pro Football Hall of Fame class, which will be announced on Saturday.

It's hard to argue that Seau is not on that short list as one of the best linebackers ever to play the game, a list that includes Dick Butkus, Jack Lambert, Mike Singletary and Ray Lewis.

Seau played 20 seasons for three different teams, was voted to the Pro Bowl 12 times and was named first-team All-Pro eight times. Seau played in 268 games, the second most of any linebacker in NFL history. He finished with 1,522 tackles, 56.5 sacks and 18 interceptions.

Seau played in two Super Bowls, including the Chargers' only Super Bowl appearance in franchise history. He was named to the 1990s All-Decade team by the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

At 6-foot-3 and 250 pounds, Seau not only played with a relentless effort, but with exceptional athleticism for a linebacker.

Willie McGinest followed in Seau's footsteps at USC, inheriting the No. 55 as the school's best linebacker once Seau left the Trojans for the NFL.

"He's a big reason why I decided to go to USC, because of the way they used him," McGinest told The Mighty 1090 AM radio. "And, of course, his NFL career -- it's first-ballot. It shouldn't be a question with what he did on the field, for the length of time he did it."

Seau played his final four seasons in the NFL with the New England Patriots from 2006 to 2009, including an appearance in Super Bowl XLII. Patriots coach Bill Belichick was effusive in his praise of Seau while talking to reporters in the lead-up to this year's Super Bowl.

"Everybody in the locker room loved Junior," Belichick said. "They loved what he did and the way he interacted with the team. He was a great player. I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to coach him. We had great experiences together.

"Obviously, it was at the end of his career. There were things that were a little different than when he was with San Diego and so forth. He brought a lot of energy and passion to our team. I personally had a very good relationship with Junior. I loved coaching him. He always expressed how much he enjoyed playing on the New England Patriots, and that meant a lot to me."

Along with his longevity and elite production, Seau's lasting impact in his native San Diego will be his legacy for his work in the community.

"What he did in the community, he set the example for myself and a lot of other teammates for what we needed to do to help San Diego become a better community," said Seau's former teammate, LaDainian Tomlinson.

Seau was inducted into the Chargers Hall of Fame in 2011. He died a year later at the age of 43 after taking his life on May 2, 2012.

Jack Del Rio to have influence on Raiders' personnel moves

January, 29, 2015
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ALAMEDA, Calif. -- With some $50 million worth of salary-cap space to work with, Oakland Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie figures to once again be an active player on the open market. Expect new coach Jack Del Rio to have a heavier influence on the roster moves Oakland makes than many of his predecessors.

Del Rio was instrumental in building the Jacksonville Jaguars into a playoff contender during his previous stint as an NFL head coach. He’s coached in the league for nearly 20 years and has maintained good knowledge of players, both on his teams and others. Owner Mark Davis said Del Rio gave him a player-by-player breakdown of the Raiders offensive roster during one of their two meetings prior to Del Rio being hired.

That experience and knowledge will come in handy when free agency begins.

Although McKenzie has said he prefers to build through the draft, the Raiders are in position financially to add several top-flight free agents. Several names have already been rumored to be potential targets for Oakland, including Detroit defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and Denver tight end Julius Thomas. Current Raiders defensive lineman Justin Tuck went on radio Thursday and said he’d welcome the chance to play along Suh.

Whether that happens or not remains to be seen. But expect Del Rio’s fingerprints to be on any move the Raiders make. That’s something few Raiders coaches could say. Late owner Al Davis would listen to input from his coaches but ultimately built the roster the way he wanted. McKenzie had the heavy hand when he became Oakland’s general manager out of necessity. Dennis Allen had never been a head coach previously and didn’t have the experience Del Rio has.

“We’ll evaluate, share information and help make good decisions on how we put it all together,” Del Rio said. “You just start working at the process. That’s what we’re going to need to do, be very thorough. Know our own guys best before we start the process; know our own and have a real thorough evaluation on our own roster and start there. Then get to know the rest of those that come available.

“Obviously you lose some of those guys that get signed back by their teams, so it’s a fluid process. It’s one that there is a lot of work involved in, and a lot of sharing of information and we’ll work through that with our staff.”
PHOENIX – Former NFL quarterback Archie Manning said Thursday that he expects Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, one of his three sons, to decide on whether he plays in 2015 “maybe in the next week or two."

Archie Manning made his comments during an appearance from the Super Bowl media center, aired by a Nashville, Tennessee, radio station, and touched on Peyton Manning’s impending decision as well as the quarterback’s right thigh injury he suffered in December.

“He’s given a lot of thought to it," Archie Manning said. “My advice for him is to go through the process, get away a little bit, let your leg heal, give it a lot of throught and decide what you’re going to do … [I] think he’s taken a good evaluation of where he is physically."

[+] EnlargePeyton Manning
Ron Chenoy/USA TODAY SportsPeyton Manning missed the Pro Bowl because of a lingering thigh injury.
Peyton Manning skipped last week's Pro Bowl because of the injury. At the time, Manning issued a statement that he was “disappointed that I'm just not healthy enough this year to be part of it."

Manning suffered the injury just before halftime of the Broncos' Dec. 14 victory over the San Diego Chargers. Manning had suffered flu-like symptoms the night before the game and had four bags of fluids administered by IV in the night before the game and the morning of the game.

He has said he believed dehydration contributed to the leg injury, which he suffered trying to roll out to throw to Broncos wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders.

After missing some practice time the week following the injury, Manning had his first four-interception game of the season against the Cincinnati Bengals and he did not throw for a touchdown pass in the regular-season finale against the Oakland Raiders.

Manning had said on Christmas Eve that he intended to return for the 2015 season, but then backtracked Jan. 11 following the Broncos’ 24-13 loss to the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC’s divisional round. Manning finished 26-of-46 passing for 211 yards and a touchdown in the playoff loss as several Colts defenders said they wanted to put the game’s in Manning’s hands and force him to throw the ball toward the sidelines.

Following the game, Manning said he could not say with any certainty if he would be back for the 2015 season. Broncos executive vice president of football operations/general manager John Elway met with Manning the day after the season-ending loss and Elway said he told Manning to take at least four weeks to make a decision.

Manning’s salary for the 2015 season -- $19 million – is guaranteed on March 9, which is the last day of the league year, if Manning is on the roster. Manning was signed to a five-year, $96 million deal in 2012 that has been tweaked since he signed it.

If he returns to play in 2015, his cap charge is scheduled to be $21.5 million -- his base salary and a pro-rated charge for bonuses.

Asked Thursday if he expected Manning to return for the 2015 season, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said: “What a great player he’s been for this league? He’s a great competitor, and I’ve been fortunate to play against him a bunch of times. I certainly hope he comes back because the league will miss him if he doesn’t. Those decisions are up to him. I’m sure it’s up to him whether he’s [ready] mentally and physically, if that’s what he wants to do. I certainly hope he’s back."

Amari Cooper could be tempting for Raiders at No. 4 overall

January, 29, 2015
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ALAMEDA, Calif. – The Oakland Raiders have the fourth overall pick in the NFL draft and the consensus seems to be that the team should use it to select Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper. While Cooper would fill a glaring need for the team, there are some people who believe Oakland would be better off using the pick on someone else.

ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. is among those who have projected Cooper going to the Raiders in early mock drafts. Rob Rang and Dane Brugler of CBS Sports, along with Chris Burke of Sports Illustrated and Peter Schrager of Fox Sports, also have tabbed Cooper as Oakland’s top pick.

Given the status of the Raiders' returning group of wide receivers, drafting Cooper would make a lot of sense. He would immediately become Oakland’s No. 1 receiver and would give the team a deep threat it’s been missing for years.
Yet he’s not the only option for the Raiders in the draft.

Bucky Brooks of NFL.com thinks Oakland should go after Missouri defensive end Shane Ray, and Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com has the Raiders selecting West Virginia wide receiver Kevin White.

Oakland general manager Reggie McKenzie has received kudos for the draft class he put together in 2014 but he’s also been criticized for some of the high picks he made in previous years. It’s imperative to the team – and for his job security – that McKenzie hits a home run with his first-round pick this year.

Bobby Johnson will need to improve Raiders' TE play

January, 29, 2015
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ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Bobby Johnson was hired to be the Oakland Raiders' tight end coach, but it’s his background as an offensive line assistant that made him an attractive option for Oakland head coach Jack Del Rio.

For more than a decade the Raiders have been searching for and trying to develop a blocking tight end. Given the state of their offensive line, that’s become even more important.

Rivera
David Ausberry was supposed to fit that role and is the team’s most accomplished blocker as a tight end, but the 2011 seventh-round draft pick has missed 26 games over the past two seasons because of injuries. He’s also coming off knee surgery.

Brian Leonhardt tried to fill the gap in 2014 but ended his season on injured reserve due to a concussion.

Oakland’s best tight end in terms of receiving is Mychal Rivera. Rivera has 96 receptions and eight touchdowns in two seasons and proved to be one of quarterback Derek Carr’s most reliable downfield threats in 2014. But while Rivera has improved as a blocker, the Raiders would prefer to find another option to free up Rivera more in the passing game.

Normally a blocking tight end wouldn’t be high on the priority list for any NFL team, but Oakland has struggled to run the ball with any kind of consistency and needed to keep its tight ends in to assist with the blocking. The results were mediocre at best.

That’s where Johnson will come in.

He was Detroit’s tight ends coach in 2013 before being moved to offensive line assistant when Jim Caldwell was hired as head coach.

The Lions did not get the expected production out of their trio of tight ends (Eric Ebron, Brandon Pettigrew and Joseph Fauria) that they had hoped for in 2014, but all three stood out with their blocking, which helped Detroit overcome some of its own inconsistencies.

Johnson’s main priority in Oakland will be trying to get the same or more out of the Raiders tight ends. While Rivera’s job is safe -- he’s the clear-cut starter -- the team doesn’t have much depth behind him. Oakland will look to improve that either through the draft or free agency.

One option could Denver’s Julius Thomas, who is scheduled to hit the free-agent market this offseason. Thomas grew up a fan of the Raiders and has already gone on record saying Oakland is a team he would definitely consider playing for.

Either way, look for Johnson to be very hands-on with whomever the Raiders bring in.

NFL Nation TV talks Hall of Fame

January, 29, 2015
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Join us at 3 p.m. ET, 12 p.m. PT Thursday for the second special NFL Nation TV Super Bowl Week Spreecast.

Episode No. 42 will review ESPN.com's recent joint venture with Pro Football Focus, which broke down how many "above-average" players each team is from contending for the Super Bowl.

The crew will also preview the Super Bowl matchup between the defending champion Seattle Seahawks and three-time winner New England Patriots as well as break down how the Pro Football Hall of Fame's upcoming class may shake out Saturday.

Host Paul Gutierrez (ESPN Nation's San Francisco 49ers reporter) and co-hosts Coley Harvey (Cincinnati Bengals reporter) and Mike Wells (Indianapolis Colts reporter) will be joined by Jeff Legwold (Denver Broncos reporter) and ESPN NFL Insider Mike Sando, both of whom are among the Hall's 46 selectors.

 

SAN DIEGO – Stating it has not been done in more of a decade of discussions on the stadium issue, San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer said one of the primary reasons for creating an advisory group to study a new home for the San Diego Chargers is putting together a specific financing proposal that can be presented to voters.

“There’s never been a plan,” Faulconer told Dan Sileo of The Mighty 1090 AM radio. “There’s never been a plan that says, ‘This is how you finance it, and this is where it goes – these are all the hurdles that you have to do.’ There’s been a lot of back-of-the-napkin stuff. We’ve seen a rendering from time to time, which is all well and good.

[+] EnlargeQualcomm Stadium
AP Photo/Gregory BullThe Chargers have played in the facility now known as Qualcomm Stadium since 1967.
“But what I’m interested in – and I’m a dollars-and-cents guy, and that’s why I got elected – is we need to make sure that it’s a plan that works, and that there’s some real numbers attached to it. Without that specificity, we’re never going to get this done. I think we have an opportunity here during the spring, summer and early fall to get a plan that works and to build consensus on that plan because there hasn’t been that consensus before.”

You can listen to the full interview here.

Faulconer reiterated the two locations he asked the group to consider. One is a downtown location next to the San Diego Padres' Petco Park that could be a standalone facility or a joint convention center/stadium facility. Faulconer also wants the possibility of building a new stadium at the Qualcomm site examined.

Faulconer said the most important thing from a financing standpoint is what gives the city the best plan that the public is going to support and the best opportunity for success in getting a deal done. Faulconer is expected to announce members of the advisory group this week.

“I’m putting together a fresh group, a new group,” he said. “A group that I think is really going to help us get the dollars and cents. I’m not looking to litigate what’s been going on for the last 13 years. I’m interested here in the next spring, summer and fall of how we get to ‘yes.’”

Faulconer pointed to the effort to get a new stadium built for the Padres as an example of what the city can do for the Chargers if everyone works together. And he believes the current timeline for the task force finishing up work by early fall will give the Chargers enough time to make a decision on whether the team will stay in San Diego or relocate.

“I know it’s not going to be easy,” Faulconer said. “But it’s worth doing. It’s important to this city and to the San Diego region that we keep the Chargers in San Diego. And I can’t put it any more simpler than that.”
PHOENIX -- Occasionally, in walking around the events that surround the Super Bowl, you’ll spot a forlorn-looking soul in a Broncos jersey. A No. 18 here, a No. 58 there, a No. 10, maybe a No. 88 or two.

The Broncos opened their offseason workouts last April with the idea they would be one of the two teams in Super Bowl XLIX, that they would be the AFC team working out of a snazzy resort hotel. They said it, stood up for it and lived with that thought for most of the season that unfolded.

“That was the goal all year long," said cornerback Chris Harris Jr. after his first Pro Bowl appearance earlier this week. “We didn’t step back from that. That was our goal; we believed we had that kind of team. We still believe we have that kind of team. We’ll take some time and come back to work. But when you’re here and see all the Super Bowl stuff, it’s right there in front of you, most anywhere you look you see something that has the Super Bowl on it with those Roman numerals, right there. Of course, you want that to be you, you want to be playing for the championship."

[+] EnlargeEmmanuel Sanders
Doug Pensinger/Getty ImagesEmmanuel Sanders is among the Broncos players participating in Super Bowl festivities this week.
These Broncos have felt the sting in each of the last three seasons. They have exited the divisional round as the AFC’s No. 1 seed (2012). They have exited the divisional round as the AFC’s No. 2 seed (earlier this month). And they have lost a Super Bowl, by 35 points last February as the AFC’s top seed. It was the team's first title game appearance since it closed out the 1998 season as the champion.

As the eight Broncos players went through the Pro Bowl practices last week, they were surrounded by communities doing a Super Bowl countdown, with Super Bowl banners hanging over calendars of Super Bowl events. They continue to be a part of things, as Broncos wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders was on the autograph schedule at the NFL Experience Tuesday and Wednesday, and linebacker Von Miller was on the docket Wednesday.

That, too, is a Super Bowl phenomenon. For players good enough to draw a crowd in the Super Bowl mayhem, it is an odd existence. You’re at the Super Bowl, just not in the Super Bowl.

“You know you had a good season; you were in the playoffs and it’s hard to get in the playoffs," said Broncos defensive end DeMarcus Ware, who played in this past Sunday’s Pro Bowl. “But the goal was to get to where we wanted to go all season and that’s the Super Bowl … It’s why it’s a little different to play [the Pro Bowl] where the Super Bowl is. You see Super Bowl stuff everywhere, kind of reminds you a little every time."

The Broncos have continued to go about their business in the last week as Gary Kubiak fills out his coaching staff. But there may be no bigger crossing of paths between the Broncos and the Super Bowl than Friday when quarterback Peyton Manning is scheduled to be in Phoenix to accept the Bart Starr Award for his community work.

It will be Manning’s most public appearance since the Broncos’ Jan. 11 loss to the Indianapolis Colts. Manning said following that game he was uncertain if he would return for the 2015 season.

Executive vice president of football operations/general manager John Elway met with Manning the day after the loss and told Manning to take several weeks to make his decision.

“It’s hard for the season to be over," said Miller, one of the other Pro Bowl Broncos. “All you can do is get ready to get back to work when it’s time. We wanted to be here for the other game, be in the last game. You’re going to remember that no matter how many banners we see here."

Todd Grantham's decision a bad sign for Raiders

January, 28, 2015
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ALAMEDA, Calif. -- There are a lot worse things than being turned down by a college coach, but from the outside Todd Grantham’s decision to stay in Louisville isn’t encouraging sign for Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio.

[+] EnlargeTodd Grantham
AP Photo/Timothy D. EasleyTodd Grantham will not be leaving Louisville to become the Raiders' defensive coordinator.
According to ESPN.com’s Brett Murphy, Grantham turned down a two-year offer from the Raiders to stay at his same position in the college ranks.

Del Rio has previously said he would be more hands-on with a coordinator who didn’t have much experience.

Grantham is a veteran college defensive coordinator who held the same job with the Cleveland Browns from 2005-07, so that shouldn’t have been an issue. But it’s conceivable Grantham might have thought Del Rio would want more input on the defense than he was comfortable with. Also, Oakland has already begun assembling defensive assistants, meaning Grantham wouldn't be bringing in his own staff.

It’s probably no coincidence that Grantham coaches under Bobby Petrino at Louisville -- the same guy who turned down an offer from Al Davis to be the Raiders coach in 2006. Grantham interviewed with Del Rio earlier this week and the team quickly put together an offer to try to lure him to the NFL but were shot down on Wednesday.

And so the search for Oakland’s defensive coordinator continues while the list of available candidates continues to shrink.

Del Rio has received mostly high marks for the staff he’s put together, and this probably won’t derail much of the positive momentum the team has generated since the regular season ended. But there was a red flag somewhere that scared Grantham away and that has to be a concern for anyone else who might interview for the gig.

Hue Jackson talks Derek Carr, memories of his time in Oakland

January, 28, 2015
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ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr gained a lot of fans across the NFL during his rookie season. Count former Oakland head coach and current Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson among them.

Jackson coached the Raiders to an 8-8 record in 2011 -- the last non-losing season the team has had. But he was let go shortly after the season ended when new general manager Reggie McKenzie came in and made sweeping changes to the coaching staff and roster. It’s a move that still angers many Oakland fans.

The 49-year-old Jackson still carries a soft spot in his heart for the team he says he grew up watching and thinks Carr has a bright future ahead of him. Jackson practically gushed like a teenager in love when discussing Carr on Bay Area radio station 95.7 FM Wednesday morning.

Carr
“I’m sure just knowing Jack (Del Rio) that he has a plan on what he wants to do for the young man,” Jackson said. “He is a tremendous talent. When you watched him coming out of Fresno State, he could throw the ball with anybody. He’s smart, he has moxie, he has the ability to make ad-lib plays, he can use his legs.

“The most important thing is just keep surrounding him with really good players and push him over that hump to the next level. He’s the guy that’s going to take them where they want to go. That’s what they drafted him for. When you watch some of the things he did this year, I think the sky’s the limit for this young man.”

Jackson knows a thing or two about quarterbacks, having been a quarterbacks coach in college and for two seasons with the Baltimore Ravens. He’s also a veteran offensive coordinator who has held that title with Washington, Atlanta, Oakland and now in Cincinnati.

One name he’ll forever be linked to is current Arizona quarterback Carson Palmer. The Raiders traded first- and second-round picks to pry Palmer away from Cincinnati, then two years later shipped him to the Cardinals for a pair of low-round picks.

The initial trade to obtain Palmer was a costly one and left many questioning Jackson’s judgment. At the time, Jackson had taken over as the face and voice of the franchise following the death of owner Al Davis, and many fans and critics blamed him for mortgaging the team’s future.

But Jackson denies he was the one who pulled the trigger on the move -- a statement that has been backed up by current owner Mark Davis -- and says he still believes it was the right thing to do at the time.

“Everybody has a different opinion of how it happened and why it happened,” Jackson told 95.7. “The crux of it all was Jason Campbell got hurt. When we tried to go out and look for other quarterbacks, there wasn’t many available. The guys that were available, I think people will be shocked to know that there were some teams that wanted more than what we gave up for Carson, for some other guys who I didn’t know. So when it came to Carson, he was someone I knew, someone I had coached and recruited. But I didn’t want to be the herd of the process, so Mark really took this over. I think everybody thought I was making the decisions at the time. I was the guy that was speaking, I wasn’t making the football decisions. At the time it’s what our team needed. It gave us hope to have a chance to make the playoffs.”

Jackson, who said working for the Raiders was one of the greatest times of his life, also weighed in on running back Darren McFadden. Scheduled to be a free agent this offseason, McFadden had his best season in 2010 when Jackson was the team’s offensive coordinator, rushing for a career-high 1,157 yards and seven touchdowns.

“The most important thing is the young man knew I believed in him, that I truly thought that he had unquestioned ability,” Jackson said. “What I tried to do is build a system that showcased his talent and ability. Obviously he went and had a tremendous couple years for me.”
PHOENIX – In case you don’t know the story of how the Seattle Seahawks secondary became known at the Legion of Boom, strong safety Kam Chancellor explained it Wednesday.

“It was a radio interview,” Chancellor said. “The fans wanted to come up with a name for the group and we saw a bunch of names come across Twitter. None of them were catchy, but when we saw Legion of Boom, it jumped out.”

Chancellor said he and other defensive backs -- Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas and Brandon Browner (now with the Patriots) -- liked that term.

“Legion is like a vast army,’’ Chancellor said. “We just went with Legion of Boom and it kind of fits the description of our unit, our brotherhood of love, trust, honesty, respect. I think all those elements right there create the power in our group. It creates the talent and brings out the talent. It brings out everything in our group.”

Pat Sims unlikely to be back with Raiders

January, 28, 2015
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ALAMEDA, Calif. -- The Oakland Raiders don’t expect to make dramatic changes to their roster like they did each of the past two seasons. However, one player who likely won’t be back in Oakland is defensive tackle Pat Sims.

The 29-year-old Sims played well down the stretch in 2013, but his playing time and production dropped off dramatically in 2014. A former third-round pick by Cincinnati, Sims made only 25 tackles in 2014 and was held without a sack for the second time in his career. He also spent more time on the bench, playing just 37.1 percent of the snaps, according to Pro Football Focus, and lost his spot in the rotation to rookie Justin Ellis.

While the Raiders still need to upgrade their defensive line -- they had just 22 sacks, second fewest in the NFL last season behind the Bengals -- bringing Sims back shouldn’t be a high priority. He lost his starting job to Ellis and made 29 fewer tackles than he did the previous season.

Sims nearly left the team at the end of the 2013 season, when he seemed uncertain of the direction the team was going. He reversed field and signed a one-year deal worth $1.4 million to stay in Oakland but has let it be known he’d like to play in another state because of California’s tax rates.
The Oakland Raiderss and the St. Louis Rams' seasons ended last month, but there is still some postseason intrigue involved for both of the non-playoff teams.

Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald and Oakland outside linebacker Khalil Mack are expected to be among the top candidates to win the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award. The award will be announced Saturday.

Rams NFL Nation reporter Nick Wagoner and Raiders NFL Nation reporter Bill Williamson discuss Donald's and Mack's candidacy here:

[+] EnlargeKhalil Mack
AP Images/Ben MargotKhalil Mack has had an outstanding rookie season and has been a steady presence in the Oakland defense.
Wagoner: Bill, it seems Mack and Donald are sort of in the same boat in that they both were major difference makers but didn't garner much attention because they played on losing teams. I'm of the belief that Donald should win the Defensive Rookie of the Year award. What's the case for Mack over Donald?

Williamson: Mack's case is pretty simple: He looked like a five-year All-Pro all season. He was so smooth, so smart. He was Pro Football Focus' top ranked outside linebacker in the NFL -- and we're not talking about just rookie outside linebackers. He never played like a rookie and he got better as the season progressed. He didn't have a ton of flashy plays, but he was just so steady. According to STATS, INC, he was second in the NFL with 11.5 "stuffs." Who led the NFL? MVP candidate JJ Watt with 13.5. He was also good against the pass. He hit the quarterback 25 times and had four sacks.

So, why Donald?

Wagoner: Well, like Mack the case is pretty simple. Also like Mack, Pro Football Focus rated Donald as the best defensive tackle in the league. Not the best rookie defensive tackle, the best defensive tackle in the league. But aside from a subjective grading system, Donald has the hard numbers to back it up. His nine sacks were the most among all rookies and he had 18 tackles for loss, fifth most in the NFL. His value is best recognized in what happened to the Rams defense after he stepped into the starting lineup. Without Donald in the starting lineup the first four games, the Rams had one sack, gave up 152.5 rushing yards per game and averaged a sack on 0.9 percent of opponent's pass attempts. After he entered the starting lineup, the Rams had 39 sacks, gave up 96.25 rushing yards per game and averaged a sack on 9 percent of opponent's pass attempts.

There are others involved in the mix in this, too. Namely, Baltimore linebacker C.J. Mosley, who has the numbers and plays on a winning team. What do you think are the chances that Donald or Mack is able to overcome that hurdle?

Williamson: I think they are the two frontrunners. If I had to guess, I'd say Donald is going to win the award and Mack will be second. They may not have been on winning teams, but their dominance was so strong, voters couldn't help but notice. That's a testament to both youngsters.

What were the Rams immediate expectations for Donald?

[+] EnlargeAaron Donald
AP Photo/Ed ZurgaThe Rams were surprised Aaron Donald fell to them in the draft.
Wagoner: Honestly, the Rams expected this. I can remember how former Rams offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer saying he thought Donald had a chance to be Defensive Rookie of the Year all the way back in Organized Team Activities when the players were not even wearing pads yet. Jeff Fisher echoed those sentiments. They believed this was one of the most polished players in the draft and they were absolutely right. He probably still exceeded those expectations. The scary part about Donald is despite how good he is right now, he's still just scratching the surface of his potential.

Mack is obviously part of the foundation for the Raiders moving forward whether he wins the award or not. What do you think his ceiling is?

Williamson: There is no doubt; Mack is a building block for the rebuilding Raiders. He will get better as the Raiders add pieces around him. ESPN analyst Merril Hoge told me during the season that he thinks Mack can become one of the most complete, versatile linebackers ever to play in the NFL. That is heady, heady stuff. I don't know if we can expect that type of career, but, because there are no downsides to Mack's game, approach and attitude, I think he has a chance to be a perennial All-Pro player.

Did the Rams focus on Donald or were they surprised he was on the board?

Wagoner: I was told by more than one person in the organization as far back as the combine that they loved Donald but they had little expectation that he would be available. It was made clear as the draft approached that they would take him if he somehow slipped. But even the day before the draft, I was laughed at for even suggesting he might be available. The Rams had plans to take Dallas offensive lineman Zack Martin or Mosley in more realistic scenarios but when Donald slipped to them, it was academic. They were thrilled to get him and that enthusiasm has clearly been justified. He's going to be one of their primary players for the next decade or so.

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