Tomlin burns Bengals, says Joey Porter never got a game ball

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Steelers assistant coach Joey Porter did not get a game ball after all.

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Porter helped incite a 15-yard penalty from Bengals corner Adam Jones Jerseys during the waning seconds of Saturday’s Wild Card fiasco which aided the Steelers in their attempt to boot a game winning field goal. Porter was on the field because Steelers wideout Antonio Brown Jerseys had just been knocked out by Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict Jerseys, which cased another 15-yard penalty.

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Handing Porter a game ball — a report suggested that the Steelers indeed did this after the game — would have been a subtle wink and nod to his alleged intentions, but head coach Mike Tomlin wanted to end that narrative on Tuesday.

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“Untrue,” he said.

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Tomlin added: “This is what I’m gonna do about all of that so that we can move on. I think it’s appropriate. Cincinnati is afforded the opportunity to sit around days after the game and rehash what happened. We’re not afforded that opportunity. We’ve got a challenge – a formidable one – waiting on us in Denver. I said what I said after the game. I thought it appropriately summarized the play. We got respect for those guys. We understood what was at stake for them and us.

“It’s a tough hard-fought game against familiar opponents. It’s just part of football. We’re moving on. We have to. We can’t waste one iota of time living in the past. It’s not gonna help us beat the Denver Broncos Jerseys so I’m not gonna address it in anyway, because addressing it just leads to another question, whether it’s to me or someone that plays for us and that’s not gonna help us this week. So I respectfully decline any of those questions. I’m sure it’s interesting for you guys. There’s not enough ball going on this time of year so you’ll continue to chew it but we’re not going to participate.”

Tomlin didn’t even attempt to disguise the burn on Cincinnati there. Over the past few days, we’ve heard a good amount from Bengals players, most notably when Adam Jones Jerseys suggested that Brown was faking a concussion and that Porter was on the field cursing at Bengals players.

The final minute of that game was such a collective embarrassment that it’s probably best for all sides to move on. Tomlin was excited about a win, but probably would have preferred to do so in a different manner.

Instead, he has to be firm and cut the floor out from any remaining questions that might probe into the behavior of the Bengals or the Steelers that night. It’s one of the few times all year a team has actually looked forward to facing the Broncos in Denver.

Observations from Bill Belichick’s New England Patriots teams

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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — In lieu of the weekly Sunday quick-hit thoughts and notes around the New England Patriots Jerseys Jerseys and NFL during vacation week, the following is a summary of a recent public, football-specific talk I gave on 17 seasons covering Bill Belichick’s club.

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Let’s call it the top 10 things a reporter has learned about team-building and covering a four-time Super Bowl championship franchise:

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10. No shying away from tough decisions. While many attempt to emulate the “Patriots Jerseys Way,” it’s easier said than done. This means making unpopular, unemotional decisions that can create a level of initial unrest in the locker room, such as releasing safety Lawyer Milloy (2003) and trading Deion Branch (2006), Richard Seymour (2009), Logan Mankins Jerseys (2014) and Chandler Jones Jerseys (2016). The merits of each decision can be debated, but the intent can’t: Belichick thought it was best for the team and was willing to absorb initial internal turbulence with the big picture in mind. Having a top-of-the-line quarterback and leader in Tom Brady Jerseys often played a significant part in keeping things on a positive track.

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The veteran leadership of quarterback Tom Brady Jerseys has been a key cog in Bill Belichick’s coaching plans with the Patriots Jerseys. Jim Davis/The Boston Globe/Getty Images

9. Reaction to adversity/clutch situations helps define greatness. Outside of the obvious Super Bowl championships, the teams that ultimately could be considered Belichick’s best were those that rose up through adversity and in crucial situations. It helps explain, in part, why Belichick works to create adverse situations for players and coaches to handle on a daily basis, such as pop quizzes and end-of-practice conditioning runs on the hill. Over the years, players have remarked how games were often easier than practices. Belichick’s top teams have been both physically and mentally tough, and they’ve been filled with intelligent players.

8. Public relations 101. When in doubt on how to answer a question, “It is what it is” can be most effective. And in stressing a short-term focus when others would like to consider the big picture, simply say, “We’re on to Cincinnati,” and you never know; it just might become a rallying cry of sorts that is repeated by other coaches around the league.

7. Fun is allowed and encouraged at times. With all those hours spent on the job, and an overall approach that is extremely demanding on staff members and players, it’s a good idea to leave time for some light moments. A team trip to the movies fits well, especially late in the season, when everyone might be wearing down. A good give-and-take between players and coaches is good, too; when Mike Vrabel wore a Giants Jerseys helmet to practice in 2007, it reflected playful banter that helps lighten the mood at times.

6. Leadership takes on different forms. Every successful team needs quality leaders, and players can lead in different ways. Belichick once said Patriots Jerseys Hall of Famer Troy Brown was one of the best leaders he has been around, yet Brown seldom spoke up or addressed the team. Then there was linebacker Junior Seau, a top-of-the-line leader who spoke to the team regularly before everyone took the field for games. When the core leadership group is strong, it usually leads to a high-quality overall locker-room dynamic. One year, 2009, stands out. When the Patriots Jerseys lacked an abundance of that leadership, owner Robert Kraft said that games can be won and/or lost in the locker room before a team even takes the field.

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5. It’s all about the details. Just last month at practice, Belichick was seen drilling Brady on the finer points of the handoff. There isn’t a better example of how the focus on even the most fundamental details is a significant part of Belichick’s approach. He’s a teacher at heart, still getting his hands dirty on the types of things position coaches usually handle. His approach extends to his coaches, with a general preference to hire young and groom staffers (e.g. Josh McDaniels, Matt Patricia) with an all-encompassing approach that includes personnel evaluation.

4. Always choose comfort on the sideline. The story of how Belichick made the hoodie with cut sleeves a best-selling item is hard to believe: He was seeking comfort, liked the idea of putting things in the pouch and apparently wasn’t thrilled with being told what to wear. The moral of the story: When unsure what to wear, go hoodie and you might unintentionally start a fashion trend.

3. Hardcore preparation and adjusting on the fly. Belichick has long preached “situational football” as he attempts to cover all possible scenarios because they might come up over the course of the season. That includes having the team practice outdoors regardless of most weather conditions (outside of lightning and dangerously high winds). One of the classic examples of stellar preparation was how the team, in the days leading up to Super Bowl XLIX, practiced the play (with a slight variation) in which cornerback Malcolm Butler Jerseys intercepted quarterback Russell Wilson Jerseys. But preparation alone isn’t enough; the ability to adjust on the fly is also crucial, with Belichick quoting president Dwight Eisenhower in 2015: “In preparing for battle, I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”

2. Power of the team. One of the messages that players see on the door as they enter Gillette Stadium is to “put the team first.” The shining example from Belichick’s tenure came when the Patriots Jerseys were introduced as a team prior to Super Bowl XXXVI against the Rams Jerseys despite the NFL’s initial insistence that either the offense or defense would be introduced. Getting a team to come together is one of the great challenges for any coach, and one way to try to move a group in that direction is asking an offensive lineman (Matt Light) to catch a punt after an arduous stretch of training camp, and if he executes, the entire team gets the weekend off. Next thing you know, the punt returners are coaching the offensive lineman, and everyone is celebrating after Light brings it in. Depth and versatility are two buzzwords most often associated with Belichick’s approach of building a complete team.

1. Do Your Job. A trademarked phrase in New England, Belichick is always reminding those in his employ to do their job. I once heard him describe it like this: There is no “I” in “team” but there is an “I” in “win”– and that stands for “individual performance.” Nothing is more important than that.

Texans fear T.J. Yates suffered torn ACL vs. Colts

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The Houston Texans fear quarterback T.J. Yates Jerseys suffered a torn ACL on Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts, a source told NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport.
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Yates suffered the season-ending injury on a scramble on the final drive of the first half. Yates walked directly to the locker room under his own power after the injury, which came on a non-contact play.

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John McClain of the Houston Chronicle first reported Yates suffered a wholesale nfl jerseys china torn ACL.

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Brandon Weeden Jerseys replaced Yates to close out the half. Weeden completed four of four passes (and a spike) to set up a Texans field goal to cut the deficit to 10-3.

Before exiting, Yates completed just six of 10 passes for 68 yards. On the game’s opening drive, the quarterback telegraphed a pass to DeAndre Hopkins Jerseys that was picked off by Vontae Davis Jerseys. Yates also was sacked twice in the half.

The Texans’ offense failed to move the ball much of the first half with Yates under center. Backed up in their own end on many drives, Yates had little time to throw and was inaccurate on a handful of passes.

Weeden will attempt to lead the Texans on a comeback in a pivotal matchup for a divisional lead in the AFC South.

Houston claimed Weeden off waivers in mid-November after the quarterback was cut by the Dallas Cowboys. Starter Brian Hoyer Jerseys is out with a concussion.

Visits tracker: Jerrell Freeman to visit Chicago Bears

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The Chicago Bears might not be finished at inside linebacker.
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After signing former Broncos defender Danny Trevathan, the team is set to meet Friday with free-agent Jerrell Freeman, per NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport.

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Freeman, 29, has seen little progress in contract talks with the Colts. He would serve as an upgrade alongside Trevathan over last year’s duo of Shea McClellin Jerseys and Christian Jones Jerseys. Freeman in 2015 ranked behind only Carolina’s Luke Kuechly Jerseys at his position, per Pro Football Focus.

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While Freeman is on the older side after spending part of his career with the CFL’s Saskatchewan Roughriders, he played well against the run last season and helped pressure the pocket.

With talented coordinator Vic Fangio running Chicago’s defense, Trevathan and Freeman — if they land him — would make this an intriguing unit in 2016.

Other visits we’re tracking on Friday:

1. Cornerback Josh Robinson, who spent the past four seasons with the Vikings, is meeting Friday with the Dolphins, per Rapoport.

2. From The Plain Dealer’s Mary Kay Cabot: Browns free-agent linebacker Craig Robertson is cheap soccer jerseys from china on his way to visit the Seahawks.

3. Michael Gehlken of U-T San Diego reported that former Cowboys tight end James Hanna will meet with the Chargers. The team is looking for support at the position after Ladarius Green signed with the Steelers.

4. Defensive tackles Al Woods and Cam Thomas are visiting the Seahawks on Friday, a source informed told Rapoport.

Chiefs sign Lithuanian discus thrower Tautvydas Kieras

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The Kansas City Chiefs Jerseys are taking a flier on a defensive player.

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The team announced it signed Tautvydas Kieras (a.k.a. TK).
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The interesting part: Kieras has played zero snaps of football in his life. He threw the discus in college.

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Exhibit A:

A Lithuanian track star, Kieras set the Mississippi State University school record in the discus throw in 2015. He also competed in shot put.

The Chiefs list Kieras, 24, as a linebacker.

TK stands 6-foot-3, 271 pounds.

He took part in MSU’s pro day last week, repping the 225-pound bench press 24 times, running an unofficial 4.69 40-yard dash, earning a vertical leap of 35 inches and a broad jump of 9-foot, 8-inches. His broad and vertical jumps were tied for the highest of any athlete measured at the pro day, chinese nfl jerseys per the Mississippi State school website.

Kieras began training to play football in Las Vegas prior to the pro day. “He wouldn’t be a bad invite,” one scout remarked after watching Kieras finish the 40-yard dash, per HailStateBeat.com. “He’s put up good numbers.”

Those numbers earned him a tryout with the Chiefs.

The history of players trying to leap into the NFL sans a football background is spotty at best — the greatest successes being tight ends moving over from basketball — but TK will get his shot to overcome the odds.

Lions announce Jim Caldwell will remain head coach

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A largely china wholesale jerseys disappointing season and the hiring of a new general manager made the outlook for Lions head coach Jim Caldwell fairly ominous heading into this week when the two were supposed to meet.

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However, it looks like Caldwell has survived again.

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The 60-year-old head coach will be retained by the Lions for the 2016 season, according to the team’s official website. Caldwell has gone 18-14 in his two seasons with Detroit.

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“It’s clear to me that this team believes in him and responds positively to his leadership,” new general manager Bob Quinn said, via the team’s website.

Though the move will likely be met with rolled eyes by some, Caldwell made some wise personnel moves during the season last year in shifting to new offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter. Detroit started the season 0-5 before scraping out an overtime win over the Bears. They were 1-7 before the team made staff changes at the bye week and finished 7-9.

Keeping Caldwell was the safest of scenarios. Though Quinn has Patriots ties, and in turn links to New England offensive china wholesale jerseys coordinator Josh McDaniels, the wait for the sought-after play-caller may have been too significant. Also, there may have been doubt that McDaniels could put together a better all-around staff in just a short period of time. Per NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport, continuity with quarterback Matt Stafford was key.

Aside from Cooter, the Lions also have Teryl Austin on defense. Austin was one of the most frequently interviewed candidates for head coaching jobs this offseason, and is still widely considered one of the strongest coordinators in the NFL.

For Quinn, this is not the worst way to begin his tenure, even if he did not get to select his own head coach. Team owner Martha Firestone Ford wanted to keep Caldwell all along, and Quinn can now focus on other aspects of his job for a year while he gets a true evaluation of a coach that has a winning record in Detroit.

Inheriting a coach can lead to success. If nothing else, it can allow Quinn a moment to catch his breath.

Ezekiel Ansah on extension: ‘See how this season goes’

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The Detroit Lions Jerseys exercised the fifth-year option for defensive end Ezekiel Ansah Jerseys on china nfl jerseys Monday. But Anzah has not indicated whether he’s interested in signing a long-term deal with the club.

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As of right now, I think you’ve got to take it step by step,” Ansah recently said per the Detroit Free Press. “You’ve got to see how this season goes, and I’m just looking forward as far as having a great season for the team.”

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With the going rate for edge-rushers is on the rise, the Lions made a smart move by locking up Ansah for $12.7 million in 2017.

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The New York Giants Jerseys inked Olivier Vernon Jerseys to a five-year, $85 deal. Vernon has 29 sacks in his first four seasons with the Miami Dolphins Jerseys.

In three seasons of play, Ansah amassed 30 sacks (14.5 sacks in 2015) and earned his first Pro Bowl berth last season.

Ansah added: “(Vernon’s) a great player, and I’m happy for his situation. But that is him. I’ve just got to focus on myself and get better.”

Ansah reiterated that he is focused on the 2016 and 2017 seasons rather than what Vernon’s deal could potentially mean for his financial future.

“I’m not really paying attention to that right now,” he said. “I’ll be here for a couple more years, as of now. I’m excited to be part of this organization.”

Sommer to set AHL record with 636th coaching win

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SAN JOSE — Roy Sommer had just finished a 27-point championship season with the Muskegon Lumberjacks of the International Hockey League in 1987, and the lefty-shooting center was expecting to play an 11th season somewhere.

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His junior and pro playing career had taken him all over North America, playing for 12 teams in seven different leagues, including a stop in Edmonton in 1981, where he played three games with the Oilers and a kid named Wayne Gretzky. Sommer even scored a goal and got into a fight during his one-and-only stint in the National Hockey League.

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But when Rick Ley, his coach at Muskegon, offered him the job of assistant coach after the 1986-87 season, Sommer’s life took another turn, one that has him on the verge of hockey history 29 years later.

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“I wasn’t planning on coaching,” Sommer said Wednesday. “I was going to be an electrician or something. I picked it up and kind of traveled around a bit until I got my feet wet, then stayed with it and now the next thing you know, this record’s getting ready to fall. It might be one that might not be broken for a long time.”

The record is 636 career coaching wins in the American Hockey League, owned by Fred “Bun” Cook, whose last season was 1956. Sommer, in his 18th straight season with the San Jose Barracuda, the San Jose Sharks Jerseys’ American Hockey League affiliate, has 635 wins entering Friday and Saturday games at the Ontario Reign.

“I’ve just been kind of doing the chinese jerseys thing in the American Hockey League and it’s just kind of caught up on me,” said Sommer, who has coached a record 1,380 games in the AHL. “But you know what? The bottom line is, chinese jerseys I guess it’s an honor. You look at some of the coaches that I’m passing — Cook, [Frank] Mathers, [John] Paddock, all pretty good coaches. To be up there with those guys, it is special, I guess.”

His road to the Sharks was as long and winding as his playing career, as he bounced around the minors for eight seasons, winning his only coaching championship with the Richmond Renegades of the East Coast Hockey League in 1994-95. It took a summer job coaching a roller hockey team, of all things, to put him where he is today. In 1995-96, Sommer coached the San Jose Rhinos of Roller Hockey International, a team owned by former Blackhawks and Sharks defenseman and current Sharks general manager Doug Wilson. Sommer was offered an assistant coaching job with the Sharks the following season, serving one season under Al Sims and one under Darryl Sutter, before taking over as head coach of their minor-league team.

In his 18 seasons with the Sharks affiliate, Sommer has sent 120 players to the NHL, a feat he calls the greatest source of coaching pride. One of those players is Dallas Stars Jerseys defenseman Jason Demers Jerseys, an ex-Shark, who played 103 games for Worcester (Mass.), where the Sharks’ AHL team was based for nine seasons before moving to San Jose this season.

“He’s just a players’ guy,” Demers said. “He tries to keep it loose, but stresses the fact of hard work and keeps it disciplined. So it’s a nice guy to have in your corner backing you. Especially when you’re a young guy coming up, you don’t need that kind of drill sergeant.

“You need that kind of guy that’s going to let you grow a little bit and try some things, and he’s one of those guys. He’s great for this organization. He’s brought a lot of guys up and I think he was great for me. I think there’s a lot of guys that feel part of this record and are happy for him for sure.”

Sharks goaltender Alex Stalock Jerseys, who played 144 games for Sommer, said his former coach makes the entire team feel as if it’s a family.

“He cares so much about the person off the ice, the person you are at the rink, the person you are to the guy sitting next to you,” Stalock said. “So he’s a guy that you can approach any time. There’s an open-door policy. He’s got double doors. You can go in any time and talk to him about anything, not just hockey.”

Sommer, 58, spent two seasons as an assistant coach with the Sharks before becoming coach of San Jose’s AHL team, then based in Lexington, Ky. He spent three years in Kentucky, five in Cleveland and nine in Worcester before moving this season to San Jose, some 30 miles south of Oakland, where he was born and lived until leaving to play junior hockey as a teenager. The Toronto Maple Leafs Jerseys chose him in the sixth round of the 1977 NHL Draft.

Sommer said he has had chances to return to the NHL as an assistant for other franchises, but turned them down.

“I imagine there were times they could have got rid of me and they didn’t,” Sommer said. “And then there’s a couple times I could have left and I didn’t. You always think the grass is greener on the other side but it isn’t. Now I’m glad when I look back that I stayed.”

Sommer said he’s at peace with the fact he hasn’t had a chance to become an NHL coach.

“You know what? I’m all right with it, man,” Sommer said. “I’ve had a really good life. All my kids, when we were in Worcester, they all got to graduate from the same high school they started in. The organization’s been really good to me.”

Sommer and his wife, Melissa, have three children. Their youngest son, Castan, is a college hockey player at Holy Cross, and their daughter, Kira, is a journalism major at George Washington. Their oldest son, Marley, who has Down syndrome, is a locker room attendant for the Barracudas and is hugely popular with the players.

“He’s taught me a lot of patience, man,” Sommer said. “He’s just a treat to be around every day. I look up and I don’t know what I’d do without him. He’s just kind of my buddy. The guy doesn’t say a whole lot, but it’s just his mannerisms and how he goes about things. He’s great for the guys, too. They have a ball with him. They get mad at me if I don’t bring him on a road trip.”

Sommer has been coaching for 28 years, but has no target date for when he’ll retire and move full-time to the family’s lakefront home in Montana.

“I still love going to the rink, and the paycheck when I get back is like a bonus,” Sommer said. “It’s not like working. I go in, I love it. I still like going behind the bench. I still get nervous a little bit, like certain games. Maybe not like I used to be. Losses still hurt and you still get that euphoria from a win. Once that starts going away, then it’s time to go fishing.”

Green Bay Packers fire Sam Gash, Jerry Fontenot

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Fresh from losing in the playoffs, the Packers are relieving two assistant coaches of their duties.

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Green Bay fired running backs coach Sam Gash and tight ends coach Jerry Fontenot, the team announced Tuesday.

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Gash joined the Packers in 2014 after being the Detroit Lions Jerseys’ running back coach. Fontenot started with the organization as an intern during head coach Mike McCarthy’s first year in Green Bay. He was promoted to assistant offensive line coach, running backs coach in 2011 and then named tight ends coach in 2012.

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“I respect the Green Bay organization a lot,” Gash said, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “I just apologize that I didn’t, I guess, get the job done. And that’s totally on me. You just live and learn from every situation that you’re in. I’m living and I’ve learned a lot. That’s all. I think the organization is great.”

Green Bay’s ground attack sputtered this season, mainly because Eddie Lacy Jerseys came into training camp overweight and never recovered. Lacy was put in McCarthy’s doghouse and was replaced at the top of the depth chart by James Starks Jerseys. The Alabama product rushed for just nfl jerseys from china 758 yards after rumbling for 1,139 yards and nine touchdowns a season ago.

Like the running backs, Green Bay’s tight ends were also a disappointment. Richard Rodgers Jerseys made some highlight-reel catches but struggled with blocking and wasn’t consistently involved in the offense. Rodgers totaled 58 catches and 510 yards on the season. The development of the Packers’ other tight ends never came into fruition in 2015.

With Tuesday’s moves, McCarthy clearly isn’t satisfied with the direction of the Packers’ ground attack and the performance of his tight ends. Gash and Fontenot’s successors will have to get in Lacy’s ear about maintaining a good playing weight and produce reliable tight ends.

Gaudreau, Saad among Team North America hopefuls

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NASHVILLE — If the rosters for the NHL’s best-on-best midseason 3-on-3 extravaganza can serve as an indication, the biggest wild-card team set to compete for gold in the next best-on-best international hockey tournament is looking like a legitimate contender.

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Five eligible candidates for Team North America at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, the team consisting of the best 23-and-under Canadians and Americans, will play in the 2016 NHL All-Star Game on Sunday at Bridgestone Arena (5 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).

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That’s only three fewer candidates than Team USA has competing here. It’s two more than Team Russia and Team Sweden, three more than Team Finland and four more than Team Europe and Team Czech Republic.

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Five is enough reasons for the potential North America all-stars — forwards Johnny Gaudreau Jerseys (Calgary Flames), Brandon Saad Jerseys (Columbus Blue Jackets) and Dylan Larkin (Detroit Red Wings), defenseman Aaron Ekblad (Florida Panthers), and goalie John Gibson Jerseys (Anaheim Ducks) — to feel as if the young guys should be taken seriously at wholesale jerseys china the World Cup in eight months.

“You can tell we might be able to compete, play well,” Gaudreau said. “You never know, maybe win it. Why not?”

Twenty of the 44 all-stars playing Sunday could be on Team Canada’s roster in the World Cup. That’s not including Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Jonathan Toews Jerseys of the Chicago Blackhawks, locks and potential captains for the team, who aren’t here in Nashville.

Regardless, Gaudreau’s point is well taken; Team North America will have a competitive team. The All-Star Game is the latest proof.

“I think people are saying that team would be an underdog because the guys are younger, but if you look around the League there’s a lot of good young guys, guys that are in their first year or second year that have a chance to be on the team,” Gibson said. “People just don’t give us, the younger guys, enough credit.”

There was a reason to doubt Team North America’s chances when the 2015-16 season started. It didn’t have a single eligible goalie in the NHL. It’s impossible to win in an elite tournament without elite goaltending. It was a concern for North America general managers Peter Chiarelli and Stan Bowman.

Gibson started with San Diego in the American Hockey League. He didn’t play his first NHL game this season until Nov. 24.

However, since arriving in Anaheim, he has a .923 save percentage, a 1.91 goals-against average and four of his 11 victories are shutouts. His GAA is first in the NHL among goalies with 20 or more appearances (21). He’s also tied for third in the League in shutouts.

“I got to play with Gibson in World Juniors (2013) and I think he won us that tournament with the way he played,” Gaudreau said. “In my mind, I didn’t think there was any question. I thought he was going to be the goalie for Team North America.”

Gibson has company in Winnipeg Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck, who isn’t in Nashville for All-Star Weekend but could have been considering how his numbers compare to Gibson’s.

Hellebuyck has a .927 save percentage and 2.10 GAA in 22 appearances. Two of his 12 wins wholesale jerseys china have been shutouts. He started the season with St. John’s in the AHL and didn’t make his NHL debut until Nov. 27.

“To see the years they’re having, getting more comfortable and more confident, that’s what it takes and I don’t think there’s going to be any doubts about [goaltending] anymore,” Saad said. “The team is going to be a scary team in general. I don’t think there are many weaknesses.”

The competition to make the team has only intensified as the season has worn on.

Nobody figured Larkin would be on the radar for Chiarelli and Bowman in September because the odds were against him making the Red Wings’ roster. Now he’s the third-leading scorer among rookies with 15 goals and 33 points.

“Look at the rookie class for this year, it is just impressive,” Larkin said.

Connor McDavid (Edmonton Oilers), Jack Eichel (Buffalo Sabres), Max Domi (Arizona Coyotes), Anthony Duclair (Arizona Coyotes), Sam Bennett (Flames), Sam Reinhart Jerseys (Sabres) and Shayne Gostisbehere (Philadelphia Flyers) are among a handful of the players he’s talking about.

“There’s a lot of younger guys making a bigger impact and it’s going to be tough,” Larkin said. “Whoever is picking that team has a tough job because there’s so many great players.”

Even Gaudreau, who would seem like a lock, is somewhat nervous about his chances.

“If you look at it, I mean, we’ve got a ton of talent there through the young guys that are here, and there’s a lot of young guys in the league that aren’t here at All-Star Weekend but are still great players,” he said. “It’s cool because you know you might be able to compete with Team Canada, Team USA, the other teams. Hopefully I get to be a part of that team.”

The prospects of that team look better today than maybe ever before. Look on the ice Sunday and you’ll see five reasons why.

“There’s no chance that we’re going to be the underdog,” Ekblad said.