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Is flag football ahead for NFL?

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Is flag football ahead for NFL?

NEW ORLEANS (AP) Making the game safer is making NFL players unsure what's a legal hit.

Players on both Super Bowl teams say they are confused about which hits are considered clean and which ones could lead to a fine. And it's not just the guys on defense who are wondering about the future of pro football.

``I think the rules will change a lot,'' San Francisco 49ers tight end Vernon Davis said Tuesday. ``There's already no helmet to helmet. Might be flag football, maybe.''

Baltimore Ravens safety Bernard Pollard, one of the league's hardest hitters, warned against trying to take collisions out of the game, as long as they are clean.

``You can't play this game and not expect it to be physical,'' said Pollard, who was fined $15,250 for a hit on Patriots receiver Wes Welker in the AFC championship game that Pollard believes was within the rules. ``There will be injuries in football. There's a car crash on every play.''

His 49ers counterpart, All-Pro Dashon Goldson, says defenders keep this in mind when they take the field:

``Do your best and then hope you don't get a letter (with a fine) in your locker on Wednesday.''

The NFL has sought to eliminate any hits to the head and neck area of defenseless players, particularly in the last three years. It also has banned players launching themselves helmet-first toward an opponent.

Yet, every week, players are fined for those actions, and there have been suspensions. Baltimore safety Ed Reed drew a one-game suspension this season that was lifted by the NFL on appeal and turned into a $50,000 fine for repeated illegal tackles. The 5-foot-11, 205-pound Reed is not considered a vicious hitter.

Reed admits he can't be sure what's a true tackle these days and what crosses the line.

``A lot needs to be done with it. I don't think every fine is right,'' he said. ``You have to go back and really look at how guys play the game before you judge them, is what I'm trying to say.''

While still recognizing the importance of keeping games as safe as possible, defensive players have complained for years about the league's crackdown on hits. The 49ers and Ravens have two of the most physical defenses in the NFL, and they are proud of their violent nature.

``You can't play timid,'' Goldson said.

But even offensive players concede that defenses are at a disadvantage to the point of confusion.

Baltimore's Anquan Boldin, one of the more physical wide receivers in the league, doesn't feel sorry for anyone trying to tackle him. But he understands their plight as they close in.

`` All defensive players have to deal with that,'' Boldin said. ``It's tough on defensive players on those defenseless receiver calls because they come in and then the receiver drops his shoulder and they hit in the (head). And they get a penalty.

``So maybe they aren't sure and that's bad. This game is played too fast to worry about that, but they do have to worry.''

The NFL isn't going to back down on its emphasis on player safety, of course. It is facing at least 175 lawsuits as more than 3,800 players have sued the league over head injuries as the concussion issue has gained attention in recent years. The total number of plaintiffs is 6,000 when spouses, relatives and other representatives are included.

So the emphasis on eliminating what Ray Anderson, the league's main disciplinarian, calls ``egregious fouls'' will remain.

``We will just not let up,'' Anderson told The Associated Press on Tuesday. ``Get used to it, this will be our mantra: We have an obligation in being relentless in protecting our players.

``If they are in a defenseless position, hitting in the helmet is unnecessary. We said player health and safety is our No. 1 priority from the get-go and we have stuck to it with no apologies and no defensive attitude about it.''

Meantime, as offenses make scoreboards spin with record numbers of points, defenses try to figure out exactly what they are allowed to do.

``We are guys who are supposed to hit,'' said 49ers safety Donte Whitner, who is known for his bone-crunching tackles. ``We have to bring the element of fear when they come over the middle. We want receivers to think do you really want to keep coming over the middle time and time again.

``We need to make sure they don't want to, but we need to do it the right way. But we need to figure out the right way.''

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Online:http://pro32.ap.org/poll andhttp://twitter.com/AP-NFL

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Fantasy Football: Finding Playoff Help In Week 14 Waiver Wire

Fantasy Football: Finding Playoff Help In Week 14 Waiver Wire

Week 14 of the fantasy football season means owners are entering the playofs or battling for a berth. Well, some are shakng their heads at Adrian Peterson, DeAndre Hopkins and Eddie Lacy and wondering how it all went so wrong, but let's focus on those still alive or glory. Week 14 also means it's time for two lineup reminders:

1) Don't overthink things: Just because Brock Osweiler has by far the easier matchup on paper don't you dare start him over Andrew Luck.

2) Leave stubborn behind: Yes, you drafted Todd Gurley in the first round. Yes, you're feeling like a boss for stashing Dion Lewis. Yes, Dak Prescott is awesome and only you believed in him from Jump Street. That doesn't mean you MUST start them. Use that brain of yours to assess the scene in terms of production and matchup.

Either way, the Waiver Wire remains a viable tool, even if just to prevent others owners from getting help. Here's a look at some of that potential help.

Quarterbacks 

1.  Joe Flacco, BAL vs. Patriots
 
2.  Trevor Siemien, DEN vs. Titans
 
* More than likely you're set at QB so consider this just the writer doing his due dillegance. I'll assume Andy Dalton (vs. Browns) isn't available, which leaves two other AFC options as your best hope if in need. Flacco is coming off a monster and now faces a situation where he could be in catch-up mode during the second half against New England. As for Siemien, who missed last week with an injury, he gets a Tennessee defense allowing the sixth most points to fantasy quarterbacks and at least two touchdown tosses for seven straight weeks.

Running Backs

1. Mike Gillislee, BUF vs. Steelers

2. Jacquizz Rodgers, TB vs. Saints

3.  Kenneth Dixon, BAL vs. Patriots

4. Rex Burkhead, CIN vs. Browns

Others: Charles Sims, TB;  Justin Forsett, DEN, Shane Vereen, NYG

* No screaming must adds, intrigue exists. Gillislee has four rushing touchdowns over the last four weeks with rushing totals of  85, 32, 72 and 49 yards in that span. ...The Bucs backfield is possibly for grabs after Doug Martin sat out the final three drives in Week 13. ... Jeremy Hill likely leads Cincinnati in attempts against Cleveland, but Burkhead should be all kinds of active in the regular game plan and possible garbage time. 
 
Wide Receivers 

1.  Pierre Garcon, WAS at Eagles
 
2.  Malcolm Mitchell, NE vs. Ravens

3. Adam Thielen, MIN vs. Jaguars
 
4.  Dontrelle Inman, SD at Panthers

5. Tyler Lockett, SEA at Packers
 
5.  Ted Ginn, CAR vs. Chargers
 
* If you like your otther lineup options and need safe help at receiver, look at Garcon (At least 6-67 in four of last five weeks) and Thielen (7 for 89 in Week 13). Mitchell (17 catches, 222 yards and three touchdowns over last three games), Inman, Lockett and Ginn, have higher ceilings.

Tight Ends 

1.  Gary Barnidge, CLE vs. Bengals
 
2.  Dennis Pitta, BAL at Patriots
 
3.  Lance Kendricks, LA vs. Falcons
 
* The Barnidge recommednation isn't about the expected return of Robert Griffin II -- as if -- but facing a Bengals defense allowing the second most points to fantasy tight ends.
 
Defenses – Because you stream this position

1. 49ers (vs. Jets)

2. Colts (vs.Texans)

3. Jets (at 49ers)

* For those already in the playoffs, look ahead to Week 15 and 16 for possible additions.

MORE NFL: Hungry Flacco can almost taste the playoffs

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Joe Flacco leading by example as he tries to lead Ravens to playoffs

Joe Flacco leading by example as he tries to lead Ravens to playoffs

Joe Flacco is trying to make the playoffs for the seventh time in nine NFL seasons, and you can tell he smells the postseason.

Judging from Sunday’s sparkling performance against the Dolphins (36 for 47, 381 yards, four TD’s), the Ravens’ quarterback is ready for the stretch run. The next challenge is Ravens at Patriots on Monday Night Football, which will have the intensity of a playoff game.

Ravens veterans like Flacco, Terrell Suggs, and Marshal Yanda have been through epic battles in New England before, and have delivered in clutch situations. Part of their job this week is to prepare younger teammates, not only for Monday night, but for a December run that the Ravens (7-5) hope will carry them to the playoffs.

“You try to look around you and see who’s been through it with you before, and you see a couple of guys, really,” said quarterback Joe Flacco. “The biggest thing is just trying to somehow get it through to the young guys how unique of an opportunity we have. Getting to the playoffs is a big-time accomplishment, and to position yourself in December to play these meaningful games is also a big-time accomplishment, and you can’t take it for granted. You’ve got to keep your focus 100 percent of the time.’’

To beat the Patriots, the Ravens will need contributions from several young players who have never played against the Patriots, like left tackle Ronnie Stanley, cornerback Tavon Young, wide receiver Breshad Perriman, and outside linebacker Matt Judon. Flacco isn’t one for rah-rah speeches, but he’ll be delivering messages this week.

“When you’re a young player, sometimes you might think, ‘Oh, there’s always tomorrow,’ and in this league, you never know when you’re going to get your golden opportunity,” Flacco said. “So you have to take every little thing as a big opportunity and make the most of it.”

MORE RAVENS: Ravens fan-favorite on the move again