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One day after New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski pronounced himself ready to return, Bill Belichick reminded him it will be the coach's decision. ''With all due respect to Rob, I'm glad he feels the way he does,'' Belichick said during a conference call Tuesday. So it was surprising when Gronkowski told reporters Monday he was ''super excited'' to be returning this week - before Belichick said anything of the sort. ''It just feels good in my mind to know that I'll be out there with my boys, working hard, grinding with them, being out there.'' Gronkowski said he was just getting it out of the way because he figured he'd be asked about it all week.
The Seattle Seahawks will start the 2014 NFL campaign this week as the bookmakers' favourites to repeat as Super Bowl champions but they they will have a tough task living up to last season’s success. Pete Carroll's team romped to a 43-8 win over the Denver Broncos in last season's title game but the division rival San Francisco 49ers, with dual-threat quarterback Colin Kaepernick, offer a formidable challenge in the NFC as do Seattle's opening day opponent, the Green Bay Packers.
(Reuters) - Here are five storylines to watch during the National Football League's 2014 season, which begins Thursday in Seattle. - - JOHNNY MANZIEL The charismatic rookie quarterback was not selected until the 22nd pick of the 2014 Draft by Cleveland but there was no more popular choice than the player known as 'Johnny Football.' A dynamic player on the field and outspoken off it, Manziel set several passing records in his rookie college season in 2012 and went on to become the first freshmen to win the Heisman Trophy as college football's most outstanding player. - - COLIN KAEPERNICK The 26-year-old signed a six-year, $126 million contract during the offseason that annointed him as the San Francisco 49ers' quarterback now and into the future.
(Reuters) - Following are brief profiles of the 16 teams in the American Football Conference (AFC) ahead of the 2014 National Football League season. - - BALTIMORE RAVENS Head coach: John Harbaugh 2013 Record: 8-8 (Finished third in AFC North and missed playoffs for first time since 2007) How well an improved offensive line protects quarterback Joe Flacco could go a long way in determining the kind of season the Ravens and new offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak have. New wide receiver Steve Smith should help the offense and linebacker C.J. Mosley boosts the defense. ...
Mike Tomlin believes Johnny Manziel will make a living in the NFL. The Pittsburgh Steelers coach, however, isn't buying the notion that the man who quelled the mania surrounding Johnny Football is merely a placeholder. Last Tomlin checked, Brian Hoyer could throw the ball too. ''(Hoyer) is a football junkie,'' Tomlin said.
The Cleveland Browns have named Brian Hoyer their starting quarterback. But that doesn't mean Johnny Manziel can't play in Week 1. Just to be safe, the Pittsburgh Steelers are preparing for both, head coach Mike Tomlin said Tuesday. Tomlins expects the Browns to play both quarterbacks "in some capacity" when the Steelers host the rival Browns in Sunday's season opener, via USA Today Sports . [ Smack talk season is back at Yahoo Sports: Sign up and play free Fantasy Football! ] "We have a great deal of respect for Johnny Manziel and his talents and what he did to get to this point in his career," Tomlin said. "We fully expect them to utilize him in some capacity in this football game. They didn't draft him in the first round to watch. ... We understand that. "So we're going through the process of preparing ourselves for both guys." Manziel lost the starting competition with a so-so preseason performance, although Hoyer was not much better until the battle had been won. And even though the more mobile Manziel offers different skills than Hoyer does, Tomlin said he doesn't believe that his defense will be set back by having to prepare for two different styles. "Obviously, Manziel has some unique run skills and capabilities I think they're capable of highlighting," Tomlin said. "I don't believe that because I believe all the things they're going to potentially ask (Manziel) to do Brian Hoyer is fully capable of doing it as well. "I just think when you have a talent like Johnny Manziel, you're going to get him on the field and help him grow and develop." That would be fascinating to see. Would it undercut Hoyer if Manziel came in and rallied the Browns offensively? Could Manziel overtake Hoyer if he dramatically outplays him on the field? And how early — if at all — might Manziel enter the game? Browns head coach Mike Pettine had hinted at the possibility of a "Manziel package" where the first-round pick moonlights for a series or two with plays that highlight his ability to make plays on the fly and freelance when things break down around him. The Steelers have a rookie starting at linebacker for the first time in more than a decade in Ryan Shazier. It could be interesting to see if Shazier, with his great speed and range, is asked to "spy" Manziel if he does make an appearance in Sunday's game. Suddenly, what might have been a somewhat blah game now has some added intrigue. - - - - - - - Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter! Follow @Eric_Edholm
The NFL regular season officially kicks off on Thursday when Green Bay travels to Seattle to take on the defending Super Bowl champion Seahawks. Shutdown Corner will be previewing everything to come all week, capped off by our awards and Super Bowl predictions on Thursday. Here are the post-preseason power rankings, updating the initial rankings from four weeks ago, which will be otherwise known as "How could I have known the Bears defense was still going to be this bad?" Chicago (seventh in the initial rankings) looked putrid against Seattle in its third preseason game, when the starters play the most. The Bears didn't look all that great in the second preseason game at home against Jacksonville either. You'd think that a defense that signed ends Lamarr Houston, Jared Allen and Willie Young, drafted tackles Ego Ferguson and Will Sutton, and cornerback Kyle Fuller, and got linebackers D.J. Williams and Lance Briggs back from injury would be better than last season's horrible unit. It definitely didn't look that way. [ Yahoo Sports Fantasy Football: Sign up and join a league today! ] That raises the tough question of how to weigh the preseason. The Bears weren't using a full defensive game plan. So are they that bad? Is the Buccaneers' offensive line that shaky? Is the Bills offense that bad? Is the Giants offense ever going to score? Will young quarterbacks like Blake Bortles look as good in the regular season when teams actually blitz? Is there anything to make of the 49ers' preseason struggles? It's hard to evaluate because the games are meaningless. For now, the Bears have to move down a bit until their defense shows something. Other teams might find themselves bumped up or down a spot or two in our final rankings before the seasons starts (and the "last week" rankings this time are where the teams ranked before the preseason ): 32. Jacksonville Jaguars (Last week: 32) Bortles looks great. I think the only reason he's not starting this week is because the Jaguars boxed themselves into a corner in May by saying he wouldn't and now they feel they have to stick to it. Bortles is their best option right now.
Get to the quarterback. ''No matter how you get there, you just have to get there,'' Jones said. The Steelers hope to see just that starting Sunday when they welcome the Cleveland Browns to Heinz Field for their season opener. Jones displayed flashes during the preseason.
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