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#pounditMonday, January 30, 2023

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Travis Kelce has significant injury concern for AFC Championship

Travis Kelce looking on

Oct 17, 2021; Landover, Maryland, USA; Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce (87) on the field during pregame warmups prior to the Chiefs’ game against the Washington Football Team at FedExField. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce apparently has a real injury concern heading into Sunday’s AFC Championship.

Kelce appeared on the injury report Friday with a back issue, and while he was listed as questionable, there seemed to be little doubt that he would play. Multiple reports Sunday, however, suggested that there were real doubts about his status.

Jay Glazer of FOX Sports reported that Kelce is a game-time decision for Sunday’s game as his back locked up in Friday’s practice and is still bothering him.

James Palmer of NFL Network added that Kelce had dealt with back spasms Thursday and Friday, but showed apparent improvement Saturday. On Sunday, his back tightened up again, casting fresh doubt on his status.

Kelce is obviously central to Kansas City’s offensive gameplan, especially if Patrick Mahomes is limited by his ankle issue. It is tough to imagine that the tight end will not play, but whether he is limited in some way remains to be seen.

NFL officials miss that Eagles punt hits wire

Brett Kern shrugs

The officials in Sunday’s NFC Championship between the San Francisco 49ers and Philadelphia Eagles missed yet another play in the first quarter.

The Eagles were lined up to punt from their 26 on a 4th-and-10 play while leading 7-0 with 15 seconds left in the first quarter. Brett Kern’s punt appeared to be redirected after he launched the ball, resulting in it going out of bounds at the San Francisco 40.

Both Kern and kicker Jake Elliott immediately started to point and complain that the ball hit an overhead wire used for the sky camera.

In this graphic, you can see the flight of the ball, which seemed to take a turn between the 35-40.

“We cannot confirm whether the ball hit the wire or not,” the officials said in response to the punt.

The Eagles were called for a hands to the face penalty, which was enforced at the San Francisco 40. The Niners were able to begin their possession at midfield.

Had the officials ruled that the ball hit the wire for the skycam, the down would have replayed.

Between missing this and the DeVonta Smith catch where the ball hit the ground, it was a bad first quarter for the officials.

Brock Purdy leaves NFC Championship with injury

Brock Purdy suffers an elbow injury on a sack

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy suffered an suffer an injury early on in Sunday’s NFC Championship Game against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Purdy was stripped by Eagles pass-rusher Haason Reddick when the rookie dropped back to throw on San Francisco’s first drive of the game. The play was initially ruled an incomplete pass, but the Eagles challenged and the call was changed to a fumble.

The turnover may not have been as costly for the Niners as the injury. Purdy hurt his arm on the play and had to come out of the game.

Purdy was replaced by veteran backup Josh Johnson. The 49ers announced that Purdy was questionable to return with an elbow injury.

Purdy entered the season as the 49ers’ third-string quarterback. He took over as the team’s starter following injuries to both Trey Lance and Jimmy Garoppolo. The lost fumble on Sunday was the first of his career, which is a reminder of how steady the former Iowa State star has been all year.

49ers miss major opportunity to challenge crucial DeVonta Smith catch

DeVonta Smith drops the ball

The San Francisco 49ers missed a huge opportunity to challenge a catch made by DeVonta Smith on the Philadelphia Eagles’ opening drive of the NFC Championship Game on Sunday.

The Eagles had a 4th-and-3 at the 49ers 35 on the opening possession of the game. Jalen Hurts was under pressure and looking for someone to throw to. He tossed one down the field for Smith, who appeared to make an incredible 1-handed catch.

That catch gave the Eagles a first down at the six. On second-and-goal, Miles Sanders rushed for a touchdown and the Eagles took a 7-0 lead.

So what did the Niners do wrong?

They missed that Smith lost control of the ball as he went to the ground, meaning the catch should not have counted and should have been ruled an incompletion.

After seemingly making the grab, Smith wanted his Eagles to hurry to the line to snap the ball. That seemed to be an indication that he knew he didn’t make the catch.

The Niners didn’t have a clear TV angle at the time, but between how close that play was and Smith’s body language, they should have read the situation and thrown a challenge flag. That was a big missed opportunity.

Kyler Murray reportedly could miss significant time in 2023

Kyler Murray in a black uniform

Oct 28, 2021; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray (1) against the Green Bay Packers at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Kyler Murray’s ACL tear was always likely to impact his status for 2023, but a new report gives an idea of just how long it might take before he is ready to play again.

The Arizona Cardinals quarterback is unlikely to be ready for Week 1 of 2023 and could miss as much as half the season, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network. Part of the reason for the lengthy timetable is because the Cardinals want to make sure he is fully recovered and does not rush back.

“My understanding is he is going to take his time and make sure this thing is 100 percent right,” Rapoport said, via Jeremy Bergman of NFL.com. “He is young. He’s got a long career. He’s not going to rush, so do not be surprised if we don’t see him to start the season or maybe even by the midway point. This injury has to heal perfectly.”

Former Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury had confirmed previously that Murray probably would not be ready for the start of next season. The extended timeline gives a clear idea of just how significant the injury was, though. Since recovery can take upwards of a year, it is not a massive shock, but still something to keep an eye on.

Murray is coming off his most difficult season as a pro. The former No. 1 pick threw for 2,368 yards and rushed for 418 more, scoring 17 total touchdowns while throwing seven interceptions.

Brock Purdy’s girlfriend Jenna Brandt is a former college volleyball player

Brock Purdy and Jenna Brandt together

When Brock Purdy was selected with the final pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, he probably never figured that he would end up starting half the season for the San Francisco 49ers, and have the team in the conference championship game. But that’s what happened. And the cool part has been seeing his friends and family present to support him at every turn.

During the Niners’ games, Purdy’s family has been a constant presence. His parents and brother have been at the games to support him, as has his girlfriend Jenna Brandt.

Brandt and Purdy were both athletes at Iowa State; Purdy was a quarterback on the football team, while Brandt played volleyball for the cyclones from 2018-2020.

Brandt, a setter, later transferred to Northern Iowa. The Sumner, Iowa native made 29 starts and played in all 120 sets for the Panthers in 2021.

Purdy became the 49ers’ starter in Week 13 after Jimmy Garoppolo got hurt. He has gone 8-0 as a starter entering the conference championship game against the Eagles.

AJ Brown, Jimmie Ward get into pregame altercation

AJ Brown and Jimmie Ward got into it during pregame

Things got a bit chippy before kickoff of Sunday’s NFC Championship Game between the San Francisco 49ers and Philadelphia Eagles.

Eagles star wide receiver AJ Brown and Niners cornerback Jimmie Ward got into a scrum during pregame warmups at Lincoln Financial Field. Brown appeared to give Ward a little shove as Ward was walking by him, and the Niners veteran did not appreciate it. He then turned to say something to Brown, who extended his hand for a shake before things got heated.

Players and officials separated the two players. You can see the video below:

Brown had a monster first season with the Eagles. He had 88 catches for 1,496 yards and 11 touchdowns. He was largely held in check with three catches for 22 yards during last week’s blowout win over the New York Giants, though he was not really needed.

Stopping Brown will be one of the biggest challenges for Ward and San Francisco’s defense.

Saints standing in way of Sean Payton landing new job?

Sean Payton on the sideline

Dec 12, 2021; East Rutherford, N.J.,USA; New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

The hype surrounding Sean Payton’s potential return to the NFL next season has died down a bit in recent days, as many believe he will return to FOX as an analyst. Could the New Orleans Saints be responsible for that?

Payton is under contract with the Saints through 2024. Any team that hired him as head could would have to compensate New Orleans in the form of draft capital and/or money. It has long been reported that the Saints want at least a first-round pick for Payton, which is consistent with what teams have received in the past when parting with coaches who were still under contract.

Payton said earlier this month that the Saints want a mid to low first-round pick for him. That may not be accurate. Tom Pelissero reported on Sunday that part of the issue with Payton trying to land another head coach job is that Saints general manager Mickey Loomis is seeking two first-round picks.

Loomis has almost certainly made his demands clear to interested teams by now. If Pelissero’s report is accurate, it is possible that teams expected the asking price to come down and it has not.

Payton discussed his situation during Sunday’s edition of “FOX NFL Kickoff.” He said any reports about what he will do in 2023 are premature.

“We’ve had a chance to visit with a lot of great owners and a lot of great organizations that are obviously looking for a reboot,” Payton said. “I think with the way the coaching hiring process has changed this year, we’re seeing it play out a little longer for these clubs. … I think in the next week we’re gonna know a lot more. There’s a handful of things that are still taking place for these coaches and myself.”

Payton is reportedly still in play for two teams, but it would not be a surprise if those teams are unwilling to part with two first-round picks.

Justin Herbert undergoes shoulder surgery

Justin Herbert throwing the ball

Nov 14, 2021; Inglewood, California, USA; Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert (10) warms up before the game against the Minnesota Vikings at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Justin Herbert battled through injuries during the Los Angeles Chargers’ season, but he worked to fix one of those during the offseason.

Herbert underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder on Wednesday, the team announced. The Chargers say they expect Herbert to be ready for their offseason program.

Herbert was listed on the Chargers’ injury report due to his shoulder for their Week 18 game at the Broncos. He also played through a serious ribs injury during the season.

The 24-year-old quarterback put together his second straight winning season for the Chargers and made the playoffs for the first time. But his Chargers blew a 27-0 lead and lost to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Herber passed for 4,739 yards and 25 touchdowns this season. Surprisingly, his touchdown total was the lowest of his 3-year career

Vic Fangio accepts defensive coordinator job after reported bidding war

Vic Fangio on the sideline

Aug 8, 2019; Seattle, WA, USA; Denver Broncos head coach Vic Fangio watches from the sidelines in the first quarter against the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Vic Fangio was pursued in recent weeks by several teams who were in need of a defensive coordinator, and the veteran coach has chosen a new team.

Fangio has agreed to become the next defensive coordinator of the Miami Dolphins. Tom Pelissero of NFL Network reports that the deal will make him the highest-paid coordinator in football.

Fangio, 64, has worked as a consultant for the Philadelphia Eagles this season. He is considered one of the best defensive coaches in football, and the way the Eagles have dominated that side of the ball this year has only boosted his stock.

There we at least a couple of other teams that had interest in Fangio, but the Dolphins sold him on the idea of working with Mike McDaniel. Miami’s offense took huge strides in their first season under McDaniel, and they are hoping Fangio will have the same impact on their defense.

Fangio has coached in the NFL since the 1980s. His work with the San Francisco 49ers and Chicago Bears led to him being hired as the head coach of the Denver Broncos, where he was fired after going 19-30 in three seasons from 2019-2021. That never tarnished his reputation as a great defensive coach, and his new gig reflects that.