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Tua Tagovailoa feels ‘100 percent,’ could play as rookie

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Things are steadily returning to normal for former Alabama quarterback and projected top-10 draft pick Tua Tagovailoa, who went through four months of rehab to repair a broken hip and recently returned to the field to run through drills and throw a football again.

“I’d say I’m a hundred percent right now,” Tagovailoa said during an interview on SportsCenter. “I’m just ready to go.”

Without giving a specific recovery timeline, Tagovailoa didn’t rule out the idea of playing as a rookie — something that runs contrary to the popular notion that he’d bide his time recovering behind a veteran quarterback his first year in the league.

“I feel like if I had to go out there and perform the same way I did my sophomore year and my junior year, being 100 percent healthy, I feel like I’d be able to go out there and do that,” he said.

Tagovailoa recently released several clips of him practicing on his social media page, giving a first glimpse at the quarterback who was a Heisman Trophy finalist as a sophomore and threw for 33 touchdowns and only three interceptions as a junior before suffering a season-ending injury on Nov. 16 against Mississippi State. He said his body has responded well to those workouts and the soreness he’s felt afterward has been “little-to-none.”

“It’s been really good,” he said of getting back on the practice field. “I’ve been really excited to actually just be able to go and throw the ball, to spin it around. It’s been a long process — four months waiting, going through all the physicals, going through rehab. And just being able to go out there and throw the ball, spin it, it’s been good.”

Because of the restrictions due to the ongoing Coronavirus epidemic, Tagovailoa has been unable to meet with prospective NFL teams face-to-face. But virtual meetings, he said, have been a “daily thing.”

“It hasn’t been a lot of questions as far as how I’m going about doing rehab, or how I’m doing with my health,” he said. “It’s more so just been football talk. And I’ve really appreciated it. It’s been good.”

Tagovailoa declined to say which teams he’s met with. The interest is nice, he said, “But you just never know where the cards can turn out.”

There’s been speculation that teams might trade up in the draft to take him. Tagovailoa’s message to those teams was: “If I’m your guy, I’m your guy.”

In his latest mock draft, ESPN’s Todd McShay projected Tagovailoa being taken with the fifth pick by the Miami Dolphins, making him the second quarterback to come off the board behind former LSU Tiger and projected top overall pick Joe Burrow.

Tagovailoa said he and Alabama coach Nick Saban have spoken frequently throughout the recovery process, giving him advice as he navigates life as a professional.

“At first … you think of it as, ‘Dang, I’m going to the principal’s office,'” Tagovailoa said of his conversations with his former coach. “But now, just the relationship we’ve created over time, it’s easy. Just be yourself in those meetings, talk to him, give your input and he’ll give you the same. It’s just been really good. He’s a great person that I have to rely on.”

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NFL vice president Troy Vincent pans launch of pass-interference replay

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NFL executive vice president of football operations Troy Vincent, in an interview with NBC Sports, acknowledged that the league “failed miserably” in its implementation of pass-interference replay reviews last season and that such failure would serve as a cautionary tale for the NFL not to rush out rule changes in the future.

Vincent’s comments came during a broader discussion of the “sky judge” proposal — the addition of a booth umpire to each officiating crew — a modified version of which is set to be voted on during Thursday’s NFL owners videoconference meeting.

“We cannot fail this year,” Vincent told NBC Sports. “We saw, a year ago, when (the pass-interference rule) played out, starting with myself, what we put in place last year … Those outcomes were not good for professional football. Because we didn’t do the proper due diligence, it played out publicly. The last thing people should be talking about is the way the game is officiated. They (officials) should be faceless objects, managing and facilitating game flow.

“We failed. I’m first in line. I shared that (with league officials). I failed, as the leader of that department. I failed. We cannot allow that to happen again. What did we learn from that? We’ve got to do our due diligence. You can’t rush and just shove something in there without knowing all the consequences. And we found that out last year, live and in action, publicly.

“We didn’t do (our due diligence) last year, and we failed, and we failed miserably.”

The NFL last year made the groundbreaking decision to allow coaches to challenge pass interference flags and non-calls in response to the controversial missed PI call that cost the New Orleans Saints against the Los Angeles Rams in the 2018 NFC Championship Game. The execution of the rule proved inconsistent, however, with the NFL overturning only 13 of the 81 pass interference-related plays that coaches challenged during the 2019 regular season. (Booth reviews resulted in reversals on 11 of 20 instances.)

The rule was passed on a one-year experimental basis, and last month the NFL competition committee declined to endorse its renewal.

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Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin likes incentivized Rooney Rule changes

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Mike Tomlin likes the discussion around an incentivized minority hiring process in the NFL.

On “Coffee with Cal,” hosted by Kentucky men’s basketball coach John Calipari, on Monday morning, the Pittsburgh Steelers head coach said he likes the idea of a change to the Rooney Rule that rewards teams for hiring minority candidates.

“We’ve always taken it from the approach of, punitive if you don’t interview minority candidates or things of that nature,” said Tomlin, who is one of four minority head coaches in the NFL. “I just like the different approach in terms of spinning it 180 and talking about maybe incentivizing those that develop the talent and those that hire the talent.”

That doesn’t necessarily mean Tomlin is in favor of all the incentives recently discussed. NFL.com and ESPN reported earlier this month that owners were considering a proposal that would have improved teams’ third-round draft picks by 6 or 10 spots if they hired a minority candidate for vacant GM or head-coaching openings, along with other compensation for hiring minority candidates for roles like quarterbacks coach.

Those resolutions, though, were tabled during the a conference call last week that replaced the league’s annual May owners meetings.

“We’re making some adjustments because we’re acknowledging right now that the system is broken, that minorities are not getting enough opportunity,” Tomlin said. “And we’re trying to just figure out how to stimulate that. … I agree it’s debatable about the value placed on the incentivized plan, but I just generally like the discussion.”

The league did approve some new measures in that call with the goal of improving diversity in coaching and front-office hiring. Teams are now required to interview at least two candidates from outside their organization for any vacant head-coaching job and at least one minority candidate from outside their organization for any vacant offensive, defensive or special-teams coordinator job.

In the past, the Rooney Rule stipulated only one minority candidate be interviewed for head coach and none for a coordinator position.

The Rooney Rule was also expanded to some executive positions, requiring teams and the league office to interview “minorities and/or female applicants” for positions like team president and “senior executives in communications, finance, Human Resources, legal, football operations, sales, marketing, sponsorship, information technology and security.” And, to help strengthen the pool of candidates for minority head-coaching positions, every team is also required to establish a minority coaching fellowship program to “provide NFL Legends, minority and female participants with hands-on training in NFL coaching.”

Tomlin told Calipari that he will be talking with NBA coaches Tuesday about minority hiring.

“We have a problem with minority hiring, specifically in football,” Tomlin said. “But I guess that it’s an issue of minority hiring across a lot of industries and lines. I’m on with the NBA coaches tomorrow, actually, talking about things that are going on in our game with the Rooney Rule.”

Information from ESPN’s Dan Graziano was used in this report.

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How to watch Monday Night Football classics: Le’Veon Bell’s walk-off TD beats Chargers – Pittsburgh Steelers Blog

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Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin didn’t want to go for the tie.

So he went for the win, and with running back Le’Veon Bell lined up in the Wildcat, he got it.

With Bell’s outstretched arms, the Steelers beat the San Diego Chargers 24-20 on the final play of the 2015 Monday Night Football game.

The memorable game will be shown as part of the ongoing series of Monday Night Football classics. It kicks off at 8 p.m. ET Monday on ESPN.

“It was time to go to the mattresses, if you will,” Tomlin said after the game. “We had to do what was required to win. Le’Veon gave us an opportunity to win, and we were trying to do everything we could to move the football.

“We have to run the football. We have Le’Veon Bell. We had an opportunity to win the game. We’re on the road in a hostile environment. We’ve got to play to win, and that’s what we did.”

With five seconds left, the Steelers lined up at the 1-inch line, thanks to a big play by quarterback Michael Vick and tight end Heath Miller and an unnecessary roughness penalty against the Chargers.

The Steelers had one timeout to set up for a tying field goal, but they went with a gutsy, winning playcall instead: Bell lined up 7 yards deep to take the direct snap.

He gathered the ball and sprinted to the goal line, muscling his way forward to fight for the final inch needed to score the touchdown. Diving, he broke the plane as his knee landed on a defender’s arm and time expired.

“I got to get it in,” Bell said in 2015. “We still had a timeout left. I was thinking we still have a timeout left, so I’m thinking, ‘OK, maybe if I get stopped, maybe run like 4 seconds off and get a timeout, and we could kick a field goal.’ I wanted to end the game right there.”

The touchdown gave the Steelers a win over the Chargers — and they did it with Ben Roethlisberger on the sideline.

While Roethlisberger worked through a left knee injury sustained in the third quarter of a Week 3 win against the Rams, Vick took over quarterback duties. His first three quarters were dismal, but a 24-yard scramble — his first rush of the night — on the final drive of the game helped set up Bell’s winning touchdown. Vick also had a 72-yard touchdown pass to Markus Wheaton with 7:42 left in the quarter to tie it at 17.

“It’s not how you start. It’s how you finish,” Vick said then. He completed just 13 of 26 attempts for 203 yards with one touchdown and one interception and was sacked three times.

The game also featured the return of Chargers tight end Antonio Gates, playing in his first game of the season following a four-week suspension for PEDs. He scored his 100th and 101st career touchdowns that night, with the second coming in the high-octane fourth quarter.

The Monday night game marked the Steelers’ first trip to San Diego since 2006 and their final game in Qualcomm Stadium before the Chargers’ relocation to Los Angeles.

With the win, the Steelers moved to 3-2 on the season, and the Chargers dropped to 2-3.

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