University of Miami receiver Jeff Thomas declares for draft

Pro Football Talk - NBC Sports
December 13, 2019 - 7:45 PM UTC
By Charean Williams · Original Article
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University of Miami receiver Jeff Thomas announced on social media Friday that he is turning pro. He will forgo his final season of eligibility to enter the NFL Draft.

Thomas will not play in the Independence Bowl on Dec. 26 against Louisiana Tech.

He made 83 receptions for 1,316 yards and eight touchdowns in his career. He also served as a kickoff and punt returner.

Thomas has questions to answer in the predraft process.

He was dismissed from the team in November 2018 for violating team rules. Thomas returned to Miami for 2019 but served a two-game suspension for violating team rules this season.

Thomas made 31 catches for 379 yards and three touchdowns in 10 games this season.

David Tepper’s interest in the Steelers officially has been sold

Pro Football Talk - NBC Sports
December 13, 2019 - 7:37 PM UTC
By Mike Florio · Original Article
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Before David Tepper bought the Panthers, he owned a minority interest in the Steelers. He continued to own that minority interest after buying the Panthers.

This week, the NFL approved the transfer of Tepper’s interest to new buyers.

According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Tepper’s interest has been purchased by Lending Tree founder and CEO Doug Lebda (pictured) and the NC Revocable Trust, a family-based trust in Pittsburgh. The remainder was purchase by Pittsburgh Steelers Sports, Inc., the company that operates the Steelers franchise.

It was believed that Tepper owned five percent of the Steelers, a purchase he made in 2009.

Rob Gronkowski fell asleep on the floor in predraft visit with Patriots

Pro Football Talk - NBC Sports
December 13, 2019 - 7:21 PM UTC
By Charean Williams · Original Article
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Rob Gronkowski was a long shot to become one of the best tight ends in NFL history. It was a longer shot he would end up with the Patriots after an inauspicious predraft visit.

“Rob was kind of a shot in the dark,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said on NFL Network while introducing the tight ends on the NFL’s All-Time Team. “He came up on his predraft visit, had a bad visit. We put him in a room, came back and he was asleep on the floor. Didn’t make a very good impression. . . . Like, oh, boy.”

The Patriots traded up to draft Gronkowski 42nd overall in 2010. He retired after last season, presumably finishing his career with 521 catches for 7,861 yards and 79 touchdowns.

“He got off to a slow start there,” Belichick said. “Went to Arizona. Didn’t do much as a freshman. Had a decent year as a sophomore, caught 30 passes, and then missed his junior year with back surgery and then came out early for the draft. So there wasn’t much to go on. We traded up for him and just kind of bet that he would come through, and he certainly did big time.”

Gronkowski was one of five tight ends on the All-Time Team, joining Mike Ditka, Tony Gonzalez, John Mackey and Kellen Winslow.

Catch up on a full week of #PFTPM

Pro Football Talk - NBC Sports
December 13, 2019 - 7:09 PM UTC
By Mike Florio · Original Article

In addition to PFT Live, the weekday morning radio and TV show from your favorite one-stop football news and analysis shop, at least three episodes of #PFTPM are produced every week.

This week, three lengthy episodes arrived on three straight days, with the Week 14 awards (with MDS) on Wednesday, the Week 15 Joint Mega Picks Podcast (with Chris Simms) on Thursday, and a your-questions-only Friday edition.

Each one can be heard below, or you can get the podcast wherever you find your podcasts.

Trick-shot kicker has short stint with Patriots

Pro Football Talk - NBC Sports
December 13, 2019 - 7:01 PM UTC
By Mike Florio · Original Article
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Bill Belichick apparently owed someone a favor. And it apparently didn’t take much to pay it off.

On Friday, the Patriots cut trick-shot kicker Josh Gable from the team’s practice squad. He was added to the practice squad on Wednesday.

The 29-year-old gable did not play college football. He instead played professional soccer in Belgium and Italy. In 2016, he became a kicker in the Indoor Football League, playing for the Nebraska Danger, the Iowa Barnstomers, and the Tuscon Sugar Skulls. He made only six of 16 field goals and 50 of 57 extra points during the 2019 season with the Sugar Skulls.

The Patriots have meandered through various kickers since the placement of Stephen Gostkowski on injured reserve. Curently, their kicker is Nick Folk, but he’s only one bad weekend and/or ruptured internal organ away from being cut.

Shanahan: “Very easy” to prepare 49ers for potential trap against the Falcons

Pro Football Talk - NBC Sports
December 13, 2019 - 5:29 PM UTC
By Mike Florio · Original Article
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The 11-2 49ers host the 4-9 Falcons on Sunday, in what will be the only “easy” game among San Francisco’s final six of the season.

And it’s those “easy” games that can be a trap. 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan knows it.

“You want to address it, but it’s been very easy for me,” Shanahan told reporters on Friday. “The way these guys have looked on tape these last five weeks, how hard they’ve played, the coaches that they have, the players that they have, and then when you turn on the tape and watch how hard they’ve been going, it hasn’t been hard at all for me to tell the guys. As soon as they saw the tape they could see that.

“These guys have won three out of their last five games. They beat a very good team in New Orleans. It wasn’t a close game, they beat them with ease. Beat Carolina last week by a lot. It’s not just luck. You turn on the tape and you can see why. Everyone knows the names that they have over there, the team is playing at a very high level right now.”

The 49ers have provided no reason to think that they won’t be able to pivot to preparing for playing a team like the Falcons after running the Packers-Ravens-Saints gauntlet and before ending the season with games against the Rams and Seahawks. Besides, to the extent that Shanahan needs a little extra motivation, he’s surely aware of the flak he took from the Falcons for the playcalling at the end of the 28-3 Super Bowl LI debacle.

So the 49ers, who still have everything they’ve been playing for in front of them as the postseason appoaches, should be fine for the one late-season game that won’t be one of their toughest games of the year.

Stephen Jones doesn’t “see a big appetite for realignment”

Pro Football Talk - NBC Sports
December 13, 2019 - 4:24 PM UTC
By Charean Williams · Original Article
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Earlier this week, Broncos coach Vic Fangio threw out the idea of doing away with divisions.

His proposal would have NFC teams play the other 15 NFC teams and AFC teams play the other 15 AFC teams. The final game on a 16-game schedule, Fangio suggested, ideally would involve some sort of a rivalry game such as Eagles-Steelers, Cowboys-Texans and Jets-Giants.

It’s a nice idea that creates a lot of discussion. It’s also not going to happen.

Fangio’s suggestion was borne out of the NFC East’s struggles this season. The division winner could have a losing record, leaving the Cowboys or Eagles to host the second-place finisher in the NFC West, which figures to have one of the best records in the NFL.

Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones, a member of the Competition Committee, pooh-poohed Fangio’s idea.

“I don’t see that,” Jones said Friday on 105.3 The Fan. “I think too many people are traditionalists here and believe in the way we’ve done things with divisions. You’re going to have the odd year where eight divisions all are not playing well. Historically, the [NFC] East has been strong in our league. But obviously this year certainly being pointed out that the East is struggling more than normal, but I certainly don’t see a big appetite for realignment.”

Seahawks downgrade Jadeveon Clowney to out

Pro Football Talk - NBC Sports
December 13, 2019 - 3:35 PM UTC
By Charean Williams · Original Article
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The Seahawks have ruled out defensive end Jadeveon Clowney for Sunday’s game against the Panthers.

The team listed him as questionable earlier in the day after Clowney had a limited practice.

Clowney has the flu, which kept him away from the building part of the week, as well as the core muscle injury he has played through much of the season.

He played 41 of 70 snaps in Sunday’s loss to the Rams and made two tackles.

Carroll said Monday that Clowney was “hurting.”

Clowney had missed only one game, sitting out the Week 12 win over the Eagles.

Seahawks activate Ethan Pocic off IR, place Rashaad Penny on IR

Pro Football Talk - NBC Sports
December 13, 2019 - 3:25 PM UTC
By Charean Williams · Original Article
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The Seahwaks are activating offensive lineman Ethan Pocic off injured reserve before Sunday’s game, Pete Carroll told reporters Friday.

Pocic will take the roster spot of running back Rashaad Penny, whom the Seahawks will place on injured reserve with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.

“We’re going to get Ethan up,” Carroll said, via Curtis Crabtree of Sports Radio KJR and PFT. “He’s going to come up this week. He’s had a really good return to us. Glad to have Ethan back. He’s been a really versatile player for us. He’s worked really hard to get back. He feels great. Three weeks putting it together so he’s ready to go.”

Pocic has versatility to play all five positions on the offensive line.

The Seahawks placed him on injured reserve in October with a mid-back injury.

Thursday Night Football enjoys four-percent audience increase over 2018

Pro Football Talk - NBC Sports
December 13, 2019 - 3:21 PM UTC
By Mike Florio · Original Article
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Thursday Night Football has concluded for 2019, and this year’s number were better than last year’s.

The league has announced that, for the full season, TNF delivered an average of 15.4 million viewers on all platforms, broadcast, cable, and digital.

It’s a four-percent increase over last year’s average audience for the full season of 14.9 million.

For two straight years, TNF has seen its audience increase by four percent from one year to the next.

And so it’s now clear that short-week football is going nowhere. It generates too big of an audience, and in turn too much money for the NFL and its players. Indeed, as the league and the union continue to work toward a new labor deal, there hasn’t even been a whisper of the possibility that the NFL Players Association would try to remove Thursday Night Football from the broader body of work rules.

Thus, while some players may periodically huff and puff (and/or declare Thursday football to be a “poopfest“), no one will be blowing the house down, because there’s simply too much money in play.