Eight teams remain alive in the NFL playoffs. We've got some of the best games of the season coming up this weekend, headlined by the Chiefs taking on Josh Allen and the red-hot Bills. Moreover, teams whose season is over are filling coaching and general manager vacancies all the while. This is to say that right now is one of the most jam-packed times of the pro football season, so let's recap the most important news and notes from around the league yesterday.
Jimmy Garoppolo Limited at Practice on Tuesday
49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo was limited at practice on Tuesday. The 30-year-old is dealing with injuries to both his shoulder – which the team is calling a "slight shoulder sprain" on his throwing arm – and thumb. However, the veteran expressed confidence that he'd be available to play in the divisional round against the Packers, remarking that he will see how it feels throughout the week before clarifying that he is "feeling good." That's critical news for San Francisco, who would otherwise have to rely on third overall pick Trey Lance against Green Bay if Garoppolo is unable to go. At the moment, it's sounding like the 49ers should have their starter, and they'll need all hands on deck against the NFC's top seed.
In other Bay Area news, RB Elijah Mitchell was limited with a knee injury, but the team has been monitoring his practice workload throughout the second half of the year, a savvy move considering how banged-up the rookie has been at times this season. All indications are that he's at no risk of missing this weekend's game. LB Fred Warner was also limited, but he also expressed confidence that he can play against the Packers. San Francisco could really use their star linebacker, especially if DL Nick Bosa doesn't clear concussion protocol in time for the game. Bosa and Garoppolo are the big names to watch during the week for the 49ers.
Seahawks Fire DC Ken Norton Jr.
The Seahawks fired DC Ken Norton Jr. on Sunday after a disappointing 2021 campaign. Once one of the league's most-feared defenses, Seattle became a sieve for opposing offenses throughout the year. The Seahawks will now conduct interviews with a host of candidates, one of which is current Broncos DC Ed Donatell. Donatell has coached defense in college and the pros across multiple decades, and he joined Vic Fangio when he got hired as Denver's head coach. Now that Fangio's gone, Donatell could look to move on too. It's just one name out of a handful, but the Seahawks did submit a request to interview him on Tuesday evening.
"All Signs Point" to Mason Rudolph as PIT's 2022 Starter
The Athletic's Mark Kaboly believes that "all signs point" to Mason Rudolph starting at quarterback for the Steelers in 2022. The end of 2021 turned into a farewell tour for Ben Roethlisberger, and while the veteran hasn't officially said that he is hanging them up, he has hinted at it again and again, plus Steelers coach Mike Tomlin has said that he doesn't think Big Ben will be back next year. Rudolph and Dwayne Haskins are the two other quarterbacks under contract for Pittsburgh. There's still a chance the Steelers look outside of the organization for quarterback help – whether that be through free agency or the 2022 NFL Draft – those two would presumably compete for the starting role. That is, to say the least, not an ideal situation considering both players have underwhelmed (at best) when given opportunities in the past. Rudolph has 10 career starts and averaged merely 6.2 yards per attempt, while Haskins' fall from grace after being a first-round pick was well-documented around the league. It's also worth mentioning that Tomlin expressed interest in acquiring a mobile quarterback, but neither Rudolph nor Haskins fit that bill. Already one of the least interesting offenses in the league with Roethlisberger under center, one can only imagine what would happen if Pittsburgh truly does roll into next year with Rudolph or Haskins calling the shots.
Derrick Henry Cleared for Contact
Titans RB Derrick Henry was cleared for contact ahead of the Titans' Tuesday practice, a good sign that he's ready to play in the divisional round. Henry has been practicing since before Week 18, and the star running back – who was pacing the league in rushing yards by a country mile before getting hurt in the middle of the season – appears poised to return for the stretch run. D'Onta Foreman and Dontrell Hilliard performed admirably in Henry's absence – and they could have a role if Henry isn't full throttle right off the bat – but the Big Dog is ready to lead Tennessee's offense once again. The only thing we don't know is how much Henry can handle in his first game back after so much time away from the field.
To cap things off, let's quickly touch on some of the news from the coaching carousel today:
- The Vikings want to interview Rams DC Raheem Morris for their head coaching vacancy. Morris was also the interim head coach for the Falcons last season.
- The Dolphins will interview 49ers OC Mike McDaniel for their head coaching opening.
- Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said he felt the offense took a step back in 2021, but the Steelers will likely keep OC Mike Canada for 2022.
- The Panthers reached out to former Texans OC Tim Kelly for their offensive coordinator opening.
- The Jaguars are bringing back Colts DC Matt Eberflus for a second interview for their head coaching opening.