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Philadelphia Eagles RB Miles Sanders to play Sunday, three weeks after hand surgery

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PHILADELPHIA — Philadelphia Eagles running back Miles Sanders will play in Sunday’s wild-card playoff game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers despite having had hand surgery less than three weeks ago.

Sanders suffered a fracture in his right hand against the New York Giants on Dec. 26 and had surgery the next day. He missed the final two games of the regular season but is expected to play a significant role against the Bucs, coach Nick Sirianni suggested.

“No limitations for Miles,” he said. “He’ll be our guy.”

Starting defensive end Josh Sweat, meanwhile, is questionable with an illness. He has been dealing with abdominal pain this week, per Sirianni, and missed practice Wednesday and Thursday, but was back at the practice facility Friday. Sweat is tied for first on the team with 7.5 sacks.

Sanders did not have any protective gear on his injured right hand when entering the NovaCare practice bubble earlier this week. Asked whether he would be wearing anything on the hand Sunday, he responded “nothing really too noticeable.” Sanders said he tested the hand out this week in part by going through ball security drills where assistant coaches punch at the ball and by catching passes out of the backfield.

“I’m just going to try and protect it as much as I can, but I’m not going to be out there hesitant or timid,” Sanders said. “It’s good enough to play. That’s all I know. It’s definitely good enough to play.”

The Eagles finished the regular season as the top-ranked rushing offense in the NFL, averaging 159.7 yards per game. Sanders was second on the team in rushing yards (754) behind quarterback Jalen Hurts (784) and added 26 catches for 158 yards.

Philadelphia, the No. 7 seed in the NFC, enters as an 8½-point underdog to the defending champion Bucs, but Sanders cautioned people not to sleep on the Eagles (9-8), who won four straight before resting most of their starters in the regular-season finale against the Dallas Cowboys.

“I think everybody should be careful about what they say about us. … I think we’re a very dangerous team,” he said.

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Cincinnati Bengals QB Joe Burrow prepared for loud crowd in AFC title game against Kansas City Chiefs

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CINCINNATI — Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow knows that his ears will probably be ringing on Sunday.

One of the loudest stadiums in the NFL has been a main topic of conversation as Cincinnati prepares for Sunday’s AFC Championship Game against the Kansas City Chiefs. Burrow said it’s par for the course this deep in the postseason.

“It’s always going to be a topic when you’re playing on the road in the playoffs,” Burrow said. “It was loud last week. We handled it OK. We had a couple of mistakes.

“But I think we’ve had a good week of practice within that noise. I think we’re going to be more well prepared for it.”

All week, the Bengals have prepared for the expected decibel levels at Kansas City’s Arrowhead Stadium. Cincinnati piped in artificial crowd noise for practices inside Paul Brown Stadium that could be heard from blocks away.

During a Monday Night Football game in 2014, the crowd for Kansas City’s win over the New England Patriots set a mark recognized by the Guinness World Records for the largest crowd roar at a stadium at 142.2 decibels.

However, the stadium capacity is smaller than several college football stadiums, including those in the SEC.

“I think a lot of the guys, and specifically Joe, is ready for that because guys like him and (Ja’Marr) Chase and guys who played in the SEC played against opponents where it was hundreds of thousands of fans in the stadium,” Bengals wide receiver Tyler Boyd said.

Still, the Bengals should be well prepared for the potential pre-snap disruption in Kansas City. Cincinnati has spent the week working on its nonverbal communication in anticipation of all the noise.

Cincinnati committed two false start penalties in the team’s road win over Tennessee in last week’s divisional playoff game. Bengals left tackle Jonah Williams, who played college ball at Alabama, said both stadiums can be plenty loud.

“It’s a big deal,” Williams said. “I don’t think that these things are mutually exclusive. I think the SEC [stadiums] can be loud and Arrowhead can also be loud. I don’t think anyone means to slight them by saying that.”

The fourth-seeded Bengals are looking to block out the noise, upset Kansas City and advance to the Super Bowl for the first time since 1989. Williams added that at a certain point, all noise eventually falls on deaf ears, no matter the volume.

“It could be 140 decibels,” Williams said. “It could be 300 decibels. It doesn’t matter. You can have no ear drums. But as long as you’re communicating nonverbally and have a good understanding of the scheme and how to work together, that’s our plan.”

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Pittsburgh Steelers GM Kevin Colbert stepping down after April draft, could stay with team in new role

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PITTSBURGH — Longtime Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert will step down after the 2022 NFL draft in April, team owner Art Rooney II said Friday.

“We have left the door open, Kevin and I, to possibly have him fill an ongoing role after the draft,” Rooney said. “We will be conducting a search for a new GM starting immediately. Probably won’t make a hire until after the draft. We will be interviewing people. We’ve already interviewed two of our in-house candidates: Omar Khan and Brandon Hunt.”

Colbert’s imminent departure will leave coach Mike Tomlin as the lone standing member of the longtime nucleus of the Steelers. Tomlin signed a three-year extension with the team last year, and Rooney said Friday that Tomlin’s role will not change under a new general manager.

Colbert has worked on year-to-year deals since the end of the 2019 season and often maintained he would be around as long as quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Roethlisberger announced his retirement after 18 seasons on Thursday.

The Steelers often prefer to keep hires in-house, making Khan, the team’s vice president of football operations and business administration, and Hunt, the pro scouting coordinator, top candidates for the job. Khan has been with the Steelers for 21 years, while Hunt has been with the team for 14.

Colbert, who has been with the Steelers for 22 seasons, took over as general manager in 2010 after a decade as the director of football operations. He has been with the team for two Super Bowl titles and three AFC championships.

He served as the pro scouting director for the Detroit Lions from 1990 to 1999.

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Jerry Jones says Dan Quinn turned down head coaching job to stay with Dallas Cowboys

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FRISCO, Texas — Dallas Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones on Friday said Mike McCarthy’s future as head coach was never in question and that he and McCarthy worked together to make sure defensive coordinator Dan Quinn would remain with the team.

“The idea of Mike twisting in the wind wasn’t the case at all,” Jones told 105.3 The Fan in Dallas. “We were trying to keep Dan Quinn and maintain continuity on the coaching staff.”

Jones said he believes Quinn turned down a head coaching opportunity to sign an extension with the Cowboys “for years to come.”

Quinn was initially signed through 2023. He is still getting paid by the Atlanta Falcons, where he was the head coach from 2015 to 2020.

Jones said Quinn is the third coordinator that the owner has gotten to turn down a head coaching opportunity to remain with the Cowboys. Jones said Sean Payton walked away from a chance to coach the Oakland Raiders in 2004, and that Jason Garrett had opportunities from the Baltimore Ravens and Atlanta Falcons in 2007.

“I experienced seeing coaches turn down a head coaching job for our situation, so I really was trying hard, meeting with Dan and Mike,” Jones said.

Jones called it a “competitive situation” as to why he deferred on answering questions last week regarding McCarthy’s future.

“To give us every chance to keep Dan Quinn,” Jones said. “I couldn’t get out and speak to it publicly because I didn’t want to push a team toward [Quinn].”

Quinn interviewed with the Denver Broncos, Chicago Bears, New York Giants, Minnesota Vikings and Miami Dolphins. He turned down a chance to interview with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Cowboys offensive coordinator Kellen Moore remains in the mix for current head coaching vacancies, but Jones expects him to return in 2022 as well.

McCarthy signed a five-year deal as head coach in 2020. He has an 18-15 record through two seasons and finished 12-5 in 2021, winning the NFC East.

Payton’s decision to walk away from the New Orleans Saints this week opened up more questions about McCarthy’s future, considering Jones’ affinity for Payton.

“He’s well aware of our relationship and long-term friendship with Payton,” Jones said. “I haven’t talked to Sean. I’m not part of any dialogue or any decision making relative to him leaving New Orleans. My point is, we had our heads down, getting this staff in shape, particularly at the top, the coordinator level.”

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