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Andrew Whitworth, Taylor Rapp look on track to return for Los Angeles Rams in NFC Championship Game, Sean McVay says



Los Angeles Rams safety Taylor Rapp and left tackle Andrew Whitworth appear to be on track to play in Sunday’s NFC Championship Game against the visiting San Francisco 49ers, coach Sean McVay said Monday.

Rapp has yet to play in the playoffs because of a concussion he suffered in Week 18. Whitworth missed the Rams’ divisional-round win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers because of a knee injury.

McVay said Whitworth’s replacement, Joe Noteboom, “strained his pec a little bit” shortly before Matt Gay kicked a 30-yard field goal as time expired to beat Tom Brady and the defending champions, who had stormed back from a 27-3 third-quarter deficit to tie the game.

“[Noteboom] did a great job finishing out,” McVay said. “So we’ll kind of monitor his progress throughout the course of the week. Andrew Whitworth had some great treatment. Really responded well to that. He’s feeling good. I expect him to be able to practice this week and see what that looks like. And then Taylor’s really making great progress, has ramped up some of the physical activity and he’s feeling good. So both those guys look like they’re on track to be able to play on Sunday potentially.”

Whitworth, 40, hurt his right knee on the first play of the Rams’ wild-card win over the Arizona Cardinals. He played 30 of the team’s 60 offensive snaps before Noteboom replaced him for the remainder of that game.

McVay said Noteboom was “outstanding” against Tampa Bay and that he had also played well in two previous fill-in starts this season.

Against Tampa Bay, Notebook recorded a pass block win rate of 96%. Whitworth ranked third among offensive tackles during the regular season with a PBWR of 94%.

The Bucs recorded eight QB hits and two sacks on Matthew Stafford‘s 40 dropbacks.

“We feel like he’s a starter,” McVay said of Noteboom. “I thought he and [right tackle Rob Havenstein] both did an outstanding job for the amount of times and some of the stress we put on them, with the amount of dropbacks that we did have in that game. And to be able to hold up against that rush was instrumental in us being able to win. Was really pleased with Joe yesterday.”

Linebacker Ernest Jones is the only player among those the Rams recently designated for a return to practice off injured reserve who has a chance to play against San Francisco, McVay said.

Rapp’s absence as well as the season-ending ankle injury that Jordan Fuller suffered in Week 18 have forced the Rams to play without both of their starting safeties in the team’s two playoff games. Nick Scott, who has filled in as one of the starters, intercepted Brady late in the first half Sunday.

Terrell Burgess again started opposite Scott but was out-snapped 61 to 14 by veteran Eric Weddle, who came out of his two-year retirement in light of the Rapp and Fuller injuries.

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB Tom Brady says he plans to spend a lot of time with family to figure out his future



TAMPA, Fla. — Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady indicated Monday that family will play a substantial role in determining whether he will return to play next season. He also said that if this is it, he could walk away “proud and satisfied,” even though the Bucs lost 30-27 when they were eliminated in the divisional round of the playoffs Sunday by the Los Angeles Rams.

“I think as I’ve gotten older, I think the best part is, is football is extremely important in my life, and it means a lot to me, and I care a lot about what we’re trying to accomplish as a team and I care a lot about my teammates,” Brady said on his “Let’s Go!” podcast with Jim Gray. “The biggest difference now that I’m older is I have kids now, too, you know, and I care about them a lot as well. They’ve been my biggest supporters. My wife is my biggest supporter. It pains her to see me get hit out there. And she deserves what she needs from me as a husband, and my kids deserve what they need from me as a dad.

“I’m gonna spend some time with them and give them what they need, ’cause they’ve really been giving me what I need the last six months to do what I love to do. I said this a few years ago, it’s what relationships are all about. It’s not always what I want. It’s what we want as a family. And I’m gonna spend a lot of time with them and figure out in the future what’s next.”

Brady has three children. His oldest, Jack, is 14 years old and lives with his mother, actress Bridget Moynahan, in New York, and Brady sees him as much as he can. Brady’s son Benjamin, 12, and daughter Vivian, 9, live with him and his wife, supermodel and philanthropist Gisele Bundchen. While Brady expressed disappointment in being eliminated from the postseason, it meant getting to eat waffles with his children Monday morning, something he cannot do in-season.

He said there is no rush to make a decision on his future, and coach Bruce Arians said Monday that no timetable has been set. The team expressed a strong desire for Brady to return but has encouraged him to take all the time he needs and will look at contingency plans in the event he decides not to return.

Some have questioned how Brady could consider walking away after a loss. He has won seven Super Bowl rings, and owns a 243-73 record during the regular season and a 35-12 record in the postseason. And because of his competitiveness, he said, he felt he couldn’t take everything in Sunday, in the event it was his last game.

“I would say I’m proud and satisfied of everything we accomplished this year, so I know when I give it my all, that’s something to be proud of,” Brady said. “And I’ve literally given everything I had this year, last year, the year before that, the year before that. Like, I don’t leave anything half-ass, you know? I think I leave it with everything that I have. My physical being, I work really hard on that. I feel like I give everything I can to my teammates. Although, it is divided attention as you get older, ’cause there’s different priorities and responsibilities in life. And, you know, I have things happening outside of football that require some time and energy.

“Every year I just have to make sure that I have the ability to commit to what the team really needs, and that’s really important to me,” he said. “The team doesn’t deserve anything less than my best. And if I feel like I’m not committed to that, or I can’t play at a championship level, then you gotta give someone else a chance to play. And, you know, we’ll see. There’s a long time between now and the start of next football season. I’ve gotta really figure those things out, which is probably natural for anyone. And at the same time, I would say this, we never know what’s gonna happen in the future. We really don’t. I mean, Kobe Bryant, a friend of ours, God rest his soul. You think you’re gonna live forever. We’re not. We think we’re gonna play forever. We’re not. What can we do? We can enjoy the moments that we have.

“As challenging as the season was, I was glad I played and glad I participated, ’cause I’m living my life and I’m not just counting the days,” he continued. “So my days are meaningful to me. I’m gonna try to keep ’em meaningful to me. And, you know, in the meantime I’m gonna do as best I can to enjoy, you know, the time that I have not playing football. ‘Cause that’s equally important. Playing football I get so much joy from. I love it. But not playing football, there’s a lot of joy in that for me also now, too, with my kids getting older and seeing them develop and grow. So all these things need to be considered and they will be. And, you know, the funny part is always that most guys retire and then move to Florida. I’m already in Florida. So it’s really confusing, even to me.”

Brady also said he wouldn’t want a farewell tour with all the fanfare that accompanies it. Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was acknowledged by fans and players as this past season wound down, even taking a final lap around Heinz Field. Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers said he didn’t want one either, though many felt there was a strong possibility 2021 might have been his last season, at least with the Packers.

“I think that would be distracting for me. … My enjoyment comes from not a recognition of kind of what I’ve accomplished as a player in the league — my enjoyment comes from the competition,” Brady said. “More so than anything, even yesterday, I was thinking about competing. I was thinking about, this whole year, about competing. I wasn’t thinking about anything other than that.

“So when the time comes to think about post-career and second career, I’ll think about those things. It’s just when you’re 44, I guess you get asked about that a lot. And a lot of people thought I was done playing football in 2015. A lot of people in 2016 said, ‘You’re done.’ A lot of people in 2018, and when I left the Patriots, they said, ‘You’re done.'”

Instead, Brady signed with the Bucs in 2020 in the middle of a pandemic, took them to the postseason for the first time in 13 years and won the franchise’s second Super Bowl 18 years after the first. They came up short in 2021 though, failing to advance in the divisional round for just the fourth time in Brady’s career.

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San Francisco 49ers in wait-and-see mode with Trent Williams’ injury; Deebo Samuel expected to practice



SANTA CLARA, Calif. — As the San Francisco 49ers departed Green Bay late Saturday night, injury questions lingered over two of their best players.

On Monday, Niners coach Kyle Shanahan offered updates on left tackle Trent Williams and receiver Deebo Samuel as the team prepares for Sunday’s NFC Championship Game against the Los Angeles Rams.

Williams, who is dealing with a right ankle injury, will be monitored as the week goes on, which leaves his game status unclear. Samuel is sore but OK after taking a helmet to his right knee on his run that set up the game-winning field goal. Samuel is expected to be available for practice this week, Shanahan said.

Williams suffered a right ankle sprain midway through San Francisco’s 13-10 win against the Packers. He didn’t come out of the game but was seen on crutches headed toward the X-ray room at Lambeau Field after the victory.

X-rays on Williams’ ankle showed no fractures but more tests showed some older issues that are lingering in the ankle and have made it hard to determine the severity of the current injury. It’s similar to the situation the Niners went through last week with defensive end Jordan Willis, in which the initial diagnosis showed a potential high ankle sprain, but when things settled, the newer ankle sprain wasn’t as severe.

“You have got to see how the week goes and whether it heals,” Shanahan said of Williams’ ankle injury. “If it was a high [sprain], then I’d rule him out. But there are more components to it. … So, you have just got to wait and before you declare what it is, you’ve got to see how it heals and reacts throughout the week. So, that’s about all I can say and that’s what we’ll be waiting on to find out.”

Shanahan said the Niners will have to manage Williams and see how he progresses throughout the week before his status for the game can be determined. Willis was able to play against the Packers, blocking the punt that provided the game-tying points, after he was listed as questionable on the injury report.

Williams did not play in the last meeting with the Rams because of an elbow injury. Colton McKivitz replaced Williams in that Week 18 contest.

Elsewhere on the injury front, Niners running back Jeff Wilson Jr. suffered a low ankle sprain covering the first kickoff of Saturday’s game, but he, too, has a chance to play.

Shanahan said cornerback Ambry Thomas, who was a pregame inactive Saturday because of a bone bruise on his knee, should also be able to return to practice this week.

“We were hoping he was going to be close [to playing] but by the time he got there we could tell there was no point in working him out,” Shanahan said. “So, it ended up not being as close as we hoped for. We know he’s doing better today compared to how he was on Sunday. So, I think he has a much better chance of playing this week. Hopefully he’s ready for practice on Wednesday.”

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