Sunday 21st January, 2018
3.8
35 ℉ | 44 ℉Pittsburgh
nfl-notebook-steelers-bell-threatens-to-sit-out-if-franchise-tagged
Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell told ESPN.com that he is willing to sit out a season, and perhaps even retire, if the franchise tag is placed on him for the second year in a row.

"I hope it doesn't come to that, but I would definitely consider it," Bell said Thursday, according to ESPN.com.

The 25-year-old Bell was named to the first-team All-Pro squad this season, and he played on a $12.1 million franchise tag in 2017. That made him the NFL's highest-paid running back this season.

The franchise-tag figure is expected to increase to about $14.5 million for next season.

The Steelers offered Bell a long-term contract last year, but he rejected a contract that reportedly would have paid him $30 million in the first two years of the deal.

--The Chicago Bears have hired former Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich as the team's offensive coordinator, according to multiple reports.

The move comes one day after Chicago hired Harry Hiestand as its offensive line coach as part of the team's staff under new coach Matt Nagy.

Helfrich served as the offensive coordinator for the Ducks from 2009-12 before being elevated to head coach after Chip Kelly left for the Philadelphia Eagles. He was fired after going 4-8 during the 2016 campaign.

--Rich Gannon will not follow the recently traveled path of Jon Gruden, which is out of the broadcast booth and back to the Oakland Raiders.

Gannon, who played under Gruden from 1999-2001, told 95.7 The Game that he spoke with the team's new head coach on Wednesday and declined an opportunity to be the Raiders' quarterbacks coach.

The Raiders reportedly did add two assistants, however. Jemal Singleton, who spent the past two seasons with the Indianapolis Colts, has agreed to become the Raiders running backs coach, according to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network.

Alabama defensive backs coach Derrick Ansley has been hired to work with the Raiders secondary, multiple media outlets reported.

--The NFL will feature three games to be played on consecutive weeks in London next season, the league announced.

The Seattle Seahawks and Oakland Raiders will kick off the festivities on Oct. 14 at the new Tottenham Hotspur stadium.

The Philadelphia Eagles will play the Jacksonville Jaguars while the Tennessee Titans will challenge the Los Angeles Chargers, with both games to be contested at Wembley Stadium. The order of those games - Oct. 21 and Oct. 28 - will be announced closer to the season.

--Shortly after reports that Frank Pollack was dismissed by the Dallas Cowboys, he was named the offensive line coach of the Cincinnati Bengals, the team announced.

Pollack replaced longtime Bengals assistant Paul Alexander, who, according to some reports, is a candidate to take Pollack's place in Dallas.

Pollack, 50, was the assistant offensive line coach with the Cowboys for two seasons before succeeding Bill Callahan as offensive line coach following the 2014 season.

--Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones returned to practice as he works his way through an ankle injury.

Jones was listed as a non-participant in workouts on both Tuesday and Wednesday. Despite his absences this week, coach Dan Quinn told reporters that Jones was still "on the right trajectory" to play for sixth-seeded Atlanta on Saturday when it visits the top-seeded Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field.

--The New England Patriots had all roster player participate in practice, including wide receiver Chris Hogan.

Hogan, who missed seven of the last eight games with a shoulder injury, was not on the injury report, indicating he will play in Saturday's playoff game against the Tennessee Titans.

Linebacker Kyle Van Noy, who missed two games and played only 12 snaps in the regular-season finale because of a calf injury, also was absent from the injury report, meaning he is likely to play as well.

Three running backs - Mike Gillislee (knee), Rex Burkhead (knee) and James White (ankle) -- as well as Marquis Flowers (illness), defensive tackle Alan Branch (knee) and defensive lineman Eric Lee (ankle/finger) are listed as questionable.

--Jacksonville cornerback Jalen Ramsey remained limited in practice with an Achilles injury as the Jaguars prepare for Sunday's AFC divisional round matchup against the No. 2-seeded Pittsburgh Steelers.

If he plays, Ramsey is expected to draw the assignment of covering Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown, the AFC Offensive Player of the Year after recording 101 catches for a league-high 1,533 yards.

Wide receiver Jaydon Mickens (hamstring) also was limited in practice for a second straight day, while the Jaguars downgraded linebacker Blair Brown (ankle), who was unable to practice Thursday after participating on a limited basis Wednesday.

Cornerback Aaron Colvin (illness), linebacker Telvin Smith (ankle) and linebacker Paul Posluszny (abdomen), who all sat out Wednesday, were limited at practice.

--Minnesota Vikings defensive end Everson Griffenwas limited in practice due to a foot injury.

The Pro Bowl selection, who tied for fourth in the league with 13 sacks, has been dealing with plantar fasciitis during the season and was forced to miss a game against the Washington Redskins on Nov. 12.

Nose tackle Shamar Stephen (ankle) practiced on a limited basis for the second straight day while cornerback Terence Newman (foot) missed practice Thursday after participating on a limited basis one day earlier.

--Pittsburgh Steelers starting cornerback Artie Burns, who suffered a hyperextended knee on Wednesday, did not practice Thursday but still expects to play in Sunday's playoff game against the Jaguars.

The other Steelers players who did not practice were defensive end Stephon Tuitt (elbow) and defensive tackle Javon Hargrave (back).

--Two Philadelphia Eagles defensive players were listed as questionable for Saturday's playoff game against the Atlanta Falcons.

Linebacker Dannell Ellerbe, who started the final two games of the regular season, and cornerback Sidney Jones are both questionable with hamstring injuries.

--The Fritz Pollard Alliance has altered its stance regarding the compliance of the Oakland Raiders with the Rooney Rule.

After downplaying concerns last week over the Raiders' potentially side-stepping the Rooney Rule amid reports that Jon Gruden was expected to get the team's vacant head coaching job, The Fritz Pollard Alliance offered the following statement on Wednesday:

"We are deeply concerned by reports that the Oakland Raiders' owner, Mark Davis, came to an agreement with Jon Gruden about him becoming the Raiders' next head coach before interviewing any candidates of color. If so, the Club violated the Rooney Rule, which was instituted by the NFL in 2003 and requires teams to interview at least one candidate of color for open head coaching and general manager positions.

"As soon as we learned of the reports, we formally requested that the NFL thoroughly investigate the matter to conclusively determine whether the Rooney Rule was violated -- and if it was violated, to impose an appropriate punishment."

--National champion Alabama is losing at least five juniors to the NFL, including four who could go in the top half of the first round.

Coach Nick Saban said at a press conference that defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick, defensive lineman Da'Ron Payne, running back Bo Scarbrough and safety Ronnie Hamilton are turning pro, joining receiver Calvin Ridley, who announced his decision on social media earlier this week.

As of Thursday morning, 101 underclassmen had announced their intention to enter the 2018 NFL Draft, with the number sure to grow by Monday's deadline. The record number of early entrants had been 98 in 2014.

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