Just three days before the Super Bowl, the U.S. judicial system has ruled that the NFL will not be forced to replay a portion of the NFC Championship Game, which likely would have meant delaying the Super Bowl.
U.S. District Judge Susie Morgan issued a ruling out of New Orleans on Thursday that rejected the argument of two Saints season-ticket holders, who filed suit against both the NFL and commissioner Roger Goodell.
At issue was a late no-call on what appeared to be pass interference by the Rams that, if penalized, likely would have set up a scenario where the Saints could have kicked a game-winning field goal just before running out the clock.
Instead, after the Saints’ field goal there was enough time remaining for the Rams to tie the game and force overtime. The Rams won 26-23 in overtime to advance to Super Bowl LIII against the New England Patriots.
—Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein (left foot) and safety Blake Countess (foot) both were limited during practice Thursday. Zuerlein did not kick, though he will kick Friday.
“The plan all along has been for (Zuerlein to kick Friday),” Rams coach Sean McVay said. “We’re right on track. He’ll kick tomorrow.”
Countess was upgraded after being listed as out of the team’s walkthrough Wednesday and appears on schedule to play Sunday.
—As for the Patriots, every player was a full participant at practice except for starting linebacker Dont’a Hightower, who did not attend the workout due to an illness.
Defensive tackle Malcom Brown, who was limited on Wednesday with a calf injury, did everything in the Thursday session and is expected to be available moving forward.
—Pittsburgh wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster said the Steelers need to limit off-field drama and distractions, comparing the team to a family of reality TV stars.
“I think everyone just needs to stop being divas,” Smith-Schuster said on ESPN’s “First Take.” “I think we need to stop being the Kardashians and just play ball.”
The Steelers battled numerous off-field distractions this season, including the yearlong holdout of running back Le’Veon Bell and several issues with wide receiver Antonio Brown, who is reportedly a trade candidate this offseason.
—A day after Dallas Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones backed head coach Jason Garrett, ESPN reported Jones is not expected to extend Garrett’s contract as the coach enters the final year of his deal.
Jones called into 105.3 The Fan in Dallas on Wednesday and said that delays in officially naming assistant coaches does not reflect any uncertainty about the future of Garrett.
On Thursday, the team did announce the signing of Kellen Moore as offensive coordinator and Jon Kitna as quarterbacks coach.
—The Philadelphia Eagles announced they have reworked safety Rodney McLeod’s contract, freeing up cap space and keeping a player who almost certainly would have been cut otherwise.
McLeod, 28, sustained a season-ending knee injury in Week 3 of this season. He had two years remaining on his contract but was due $9.9 million in 2019 and $10.9 million in 2020, per Spotrac.
In 97 career games, McLeod has 392 tackles, one sack, nine forced fumbles and 11 interceptions.
—The Green Bay Packers have hired Shawn Mennenga from the college ranks to be their new special teams coach, ESPN reported.
Mennenga was the special teams coordinator for Vanderbilt last season after seven seasons as a special teams assistant on the Cleveland Browns’ staff, including time under then head coach Mike Pettine, now the Packers’ defensive coordinator.
—During the NFL Players Association’s annual pre-Super Bowl news conference, executive director DeMaurice Smith pointed toward the reported language included in the new contracts of several coaches that teams are preparing for a potential work stoppage before the 2021 season.
Smith mentioned a “myriad” of issues that will be on the table that dive far deeper than the hot-button topics such as the players’ share of league revenue.
One thing the union said it has done differently from the last work stoppage is setting aside player royalties from EA Sports’ Madden video game franchise and using funds from Players Inc. to build what union president Eric Winston called “an investable war chest.”
—Field Level Media