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NFL source suggests intentional grounding call against Kirk Cousins was erroneous

An NFL source suggested Kirk Cousins should not have been penalized for intentional grounding Sunday. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)
The NFL apparently believes a key intentional grounding call made against Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins during Sunday’s deflating loss at New Orleans was erroneous.

A judgment call such as that is not subject to instant replay scrutiny during a game and cannot be reversed, under the NFL’s rules governing the use of replay. But officials are graded and judged by the league on the accuracy of the calls they make and future assignments can be affected.

Joe Lockhart, the NFL’s executive vice president of communications and public affairs, said in a conference call with reporters later Monday morning that teams regularly express displeasure with a particular call or calls and those conversations with the league’s officiating department are private.

Lockhart cited the provision of the rule that a quarterback be facing an imminent threat of being sacked, and said: That is a judgment call. In the judgment of the referee here, it was. And he threw the flag.

Helfrich praised Trubisky as a coachable quarterback. The new OC also sees a lot of similarities between Trubisky and quarterback Marcus Mariota, whom Helfrich helped develop at Oregon.

Mitchell has a tight release, Helfrich said, via the Chicago Tribune. He’s an accurate passer. They also have a couple of things similar that make them inaccurate. Their feet take them out of position. I sense from talking to a couple of offensive linemen, and this was unsolicited, when your offensive linemen are talking about how hard your quarterback works, that’s a great sign.

Helfrich spent Mariota’s freshman year at Oregon as the OC and quarterbacks coach under Chip Kelly. Helfrich then took over as head coach for Mariota’s final two seasons in Eugene.

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Injuries: Sam Bradford returns to Vikings practice

Sam Bradford’s long-awaited return to the practice field has become a reality.

The Minnesota Vikings quarterback returned to practice Tuesday for the first time since undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery in November. Coach Mike Zimmer told reporters last week he anticipated Bradford practicing again after the regular season ended.

What remains unclear is when or if the Vikings will have Bradford back in uniform for the playoffs. With Case Keenum excelling and Teddy Bridgewater a more than capable backup, there’s no need to rush Bradford back. He remains on injured reserve for now.

4. Houston Texans coach Bill O’Brien said quarterback Deshaun Watson continues to make progress in his return from the surgically repaired torn ACL which derailed his rookie season. O’Brien said Watson is ahead of schedule in his ongoing rehabilitation and there’s a chance he will be available to participate in organized team activities in some format.

5. Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said cornerback Richard Sherman, who is continuing to recover from a torn Achilles tendon, will undergo a surgical procedure to clean up bone spurs on his opposite leg.

6. San Francisco 49ers linebacker Brock Coyle underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum. He’ll be out for at least five months, general manager John Lynch said.

With the Buccaneers sitting at 4-11 heading into Sunday’s season finale against the New Orleans Saints, there was speculation regarding Koetter’s future in Tampa. Koetter admitted earlier this week that speculation about his job being in danger was a distraction.

In addition, there were reports that former Bucs coach and ESPN analyst Jon Gruden was interested in the job. Rapoport reported last week that Tampa was Gruden’s preferred destination for a coaching return.

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DeMarco Murray to undergo MRI on injured knee

The Tennessee Titans dropped a close game on Sunday. They might have suffered an even bigger loss during the contest.

Running back DeMarco Murray suffered a knee injury in the fourth quarter of Tennessee’s 27-23 loss to the Los Angeles Rams and needed help off the field and to the locker room. He did not return to the game, and Titans coach Mike Mularkey told reporters after the game Murray will undergo an MRI. He added that the injury didn’t look good.

When asked Tuesday if he is a candidate, Gruden said, Well, I think I am being considered, yes. I hope I’m a candidate.

The head of the diversity group that works with the NFL on its hiring practices confirmed to NFL Network’s Steve Wyche on Thursday that Oakland is in compliance with the Rooney Rule, which requires teams to interview at least one minority for any head coaching vacancy.

Wednesday’s news comes during a busy week of change in Green Bay. The Packers parted ways with longtime defensive coordinator Dom Capers on Monday, and it was announced Tuesday that general manager Ted Thompson is transitioning to a role as senior advisor to football operations after running the team since 2005.

The Packers also have let go assistant linebackers coach Scott McCurley and defensive line coach Mike Trgovac.

Such a drastic coaching overhaul comes at a moment when the team currently has no official general manager in place, leaving McCarthy as the person in charge of football in Green Bay for the time being.

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Chuck Pagano calls Sunday ‘last rodeo’ for 2017 Colts

It’s no state secret that Chuck Pagano’s future with the Colts rests on dangerously thin ice.

No final decision has been made on his fate in Indianapolis, but he spoke Wednesday like a man preparing for sweeping change.

At the time of that report, Jim Irsay told Rapoport that no decision had been made on Pagano, with the Colts owner saying he planned to sit down with first-year general manager Chris Ballard after the season.

Asked Wednesday if this campaign has felt unusually unique, Pagano quickly agreed.

To say the least. There’s been a lot of changes since the beginning of 2017, right? Been a ton, Pagano said. I mean, there’s a lot of this stuff that you can’t make up, but it’s the National Football League, so expect the unexpected. We dealt with it. That’s what you do. You just keep picking yourself up, whatever it is.

With the Colts just days away from shutting down their disappointing season, Pagano’s future won’t be a mystery for long.

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, after throwing two interceptions in 432 passing attempts during the regular season, threw two on Saturday night. Running back Dion Lewis had a rushing touchdown, a receiving touchdown and a touchdown on a kickoff return for New England. But he also lost a first-half fumble on a kickoff return to hand the Texans a touchdown. Houston was within 17-13 at halftime and 24-16 in the opening minute of the fourth quarter.

But the Texans weren’t good enough to make things more than marginally interesting. Brock Osweiler, their failed-so-far $72 million quarterback, threw three interceptions. His best pass of the night was dropped by rookie wide receiver Will Fuller to squander what should have been a touchdown. Coach Bill O’Brien benched Osweiler in favor of Tom Savage during the regular season but never made a quarterback switch Saturday.

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NFL announces three enticing London 2018 matchups

The NFL’s 2018 London slate includes three playoff teams, a perennial contender, and two potential risers next season.

The league announced the matchups, locations and potential dates for its U.K. series Thursday.

The Eagles and Jags will each be coming off postseason runs, and will again boast two of the best defenses in the NFL. All indications are MVP candidate Carson Wentz will be back on the sideline for the Eagles’ trip to London.

The Titans and Chargers matchup pits a surging young quarterback (Marcus Mariota) versus an aging star trying to make one final postseason run before the sun sets (Philip Rivers). Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram trying to chase Mariota will be one of the better clashes of 2018.

While much will change among each team before they reach the field in London in October, on paper the NFL is sending three enticing matchups overseas.

Four of the eight teams that played in London in 2017 went on to win their respective divisions: New Orleans Saints, Minnesota Vikings, Los Angeles Rams and Jacksonville Jaguars. Each won their overseas tilt. The three winners in 2018 hope to repeat that success on their way to a playoff bid next season.

DeMaurice Smith, the executive director of the NFL Players Association, will attend next week’s owners’ meeting in New York along with players, the league and union announced in a joint statement Wednesday in which they pledged to work cooperatively to address the issue of players’ protests during the national anthem.

Commissioner Roger Goodell reached out to NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith today and both he and player leadership will attend the League meetings next week, the statement said. There has been no change in the current policy regarding the anthem. The agenda will be a continuation of how to make progress on the important social issues that players have vocalized. Everyone who is part of our NFL community has a tremendous respect for our country, our flag, our anthem and our military, and we are coming together to deal with these issues in a civil and constructive way.

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