The San Francisco 49ers have been handed a twin boost ahead of Sunday's NFC Championship Game against the Los Angeles Rams with Deebo Samuel and Jimmy Garoppolo taken off their injury report.

Samuel took a helmet to his knee late in the 49ers' win over the Green Bay Packers but was a full participant at practice on Wednesday.

Quarterback Garoppolo has been battling shoulder and thumb complaints, but he also did not appear on the injury report.

"I'm sure it's pretty good," 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan told reporters on Wednesday.

"I hear about the thumb more than the shoulder, so that's off the injury report now, so I guess we're good."

Left tackle Trent Williams is in some doubt for the Rams game due to a right ankle issue sustained against the Packers.

"In Trent's mind, there's no way he is not playing," Shanahan said. "That's why he was so crushed last game because he believed he would and his body wouldn't let him.

"Hopefully we'll have some better luck this game. But I know he believes he's playing and so do I, so we'll see how that pans out as the week goes. If he can, he will."

Joe Schoen is "really excited" to help Daniel Jones "put his best foot forward", with the New York Giants set to stick with their quarterback after ruling out a Deshaun Watson trade.

Schoen has been hired as the new Giants general manager and has plenty of work to do to make the team challengers once more.

The former Buffalo Bills assistant GM will at least be able to name his own head coach, with Joe Judge out after a 4-13 2021 season, but he may not have the same flexibility elsewhere. The Giants are over the salary cap for 2022.

As Schoen attempts to operate on a budget, he will not immediately be looking for an upgrade under center.

Having been a surprise selection with the sixth overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, Jones initially impressed with 24 touchdown passes and 12 interceptions in 13 games (12 starts) in his rookie year.

The quarterback has since struggled to build on that performance, however, tossing only 21 TD passes across the past two seasons combined.

Many would suggest it is time for the Giants to move away from Jones, but Schoen, it seems, would rather work to get the best out of a 24-year-old who threw an accurate, well-thrown pass with 80.3 per cent of his attempts this season.

That mark ranked ahead of three of the four quarterbacks still alive in the playoffs; Joe Burrow's 86.5 per cent led the league (minimum 100 attempts).

"I've looked at Daniel," Schoen said as he met the media in his new role on Wednesday – with Jones in attendance.

"Once the new staff gets in here, we're going to get together – offensive coordinator, head coach, the entire staff – dive into the film as a group and look at what Daniel does best, and we're going to try to allow him to put his best foot forward.

"I've looked at him. I wasn't here in the past, so I don't exactly know what he was told to do, but I do know this: I know he's a great kid.

"He's been in this building the last two days. I've talked to him. There's not anybody in this building that's said a bad word about his work ethic, passion, desire to win, and I think you've got to have those traits as a quarterback.

"The kid has physical ability. He's got arm strength, he's athletic, he can run. I'm really excited to work with Daniel.

"Again, when the new staff gets in here, we'll build an offense around Daniel to accentuate what he does best."

Jones also has the backing of Giants co-owner John Mara, who accepted the team had "done everything possible to screw this kid up".

And Mara assured there would be no move for wantaway Houston Texans QB Watson.

Watson pushed for a trade before the 2021 season and instead spent the year on the sideline as the subject of police and NFL investigations into sexual assault and misconduct allegations, facing 22 civil lawsuits.

"We're not trading for Deshaun Watson," Mara said. "There are so many reasons why we wouldn't do that.

"Cap-wise, we couldn't afford it, but more importantly with the allegations that are out there right now, that's just not the right fit for us."

Brandon Brooks, the Philadelphia Eagles' right guard in their Super Bowl LII success, has announced his retirement.

Brooks, who was a third-round pick for the Houston Texans in 2012, moved to Philadelphia in 2016 and enjoyed great success.

The guard was a three-time Pro Bowl selection – in 2017, 2018 and 2019 – and played his part in the championship triumph against the New England Patriots in February 2018.

However, Brooks subsequently suffered a series of injury setbacks.

Although the player recovered from a torn right Achilles tendon in the following postseason to play every game in 2019, a tear to his left Achilles kept him on the sideline throughout 2020.

And a 2021 return lasted only two weeks before Brooks sustained a torn pectoral muscle, ultimately ending his career.

"After all of these injuries, I just realised: at what point do you listen to your body?" the 32-year-old said on Wednesday.

"I think my body was just telling me I had to make a decision, and at this point in time, I think it's the right decision."

The Minnesota Vikings will appoint the Cleveland Browns' vice president of football operations Kwesi Adofo-Mensah as their new general manager, according to widespread reports.

Minnesota's pursuit of a new GM appears to be nearing its conclusion, with ESPN and NFL Network reporting that Adofo-Mensah - who the franchise confirmed was one of the names being interviewed - has been chosen to take on the role at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Adofo-Mensah will replace Rick Spielman, who was fired two weeks ago after 16 years in the role along with head coach Mike Zimmer after the Vikings ended their season with an 8-9 record, their second straight losing campaign.

The Vikings have been unable to kick on since reaching the NFC Championship Game in the 2017 season. They have not topped the NFC North since then, despite spending big to bring in Kirk Cousins at quarterback.

Other candidates interviewed included Monti Ossenfort from the Tennessee Titans, John Spytek from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Catherine Raiche and Brandon Brown from the Philadelphia Eagles, Eliot Wolf from the New England Patriots, Glenn Cook from the Cleveland Browns and Ryan Poles, who has since taken the GM role at the Chicago Bears.

Adofo-Mensah spent the last two seasons at the Browns working under GM Andrew Berry after seven seasons as the San Francisco 49ers' manager and then director of football research and development.

The 40-year-old will be responsible for finding the successor to Zimmer, with 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans, who Adofo-Mensah worked with in San Francisco, among those who have already been interviewed for the role.

Rob Gronkowski is seriously considering retiring for a second time after the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' season was ended by the Los Angeles Rams.

The Bucs' bid to win back-to-back Super Bowls was brought to a dramatic halt when the Rams won a thrilling Divisional Round showdown 30-27 at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday.

Tight end Gronkowski scored two touchdowns when Tampa Bay beat the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LV last February, but there will be no repeat this year.

The 32-year-old is a free agent and that loss to the Rams may prove to be his last NFL game amid uncertainty over whether the Bucs' legendary quarterback Tom Brady will prolong his incredible career.

Gronkowski quit in 2019 before coming out of retirement to join Brady in Tampa Bay the following year and says he is unsure whether he will play again.

"If they're like, 'Rob, you've got to decide right now, right this second if you're playing next year,' I would say no right now. It's two days after the season," he told TMZ.

"I would be like, 'No, I'm not playing.' ... You've got to give it some time. You've got to rest. I would say to see how everything goes, how everything plays out.

"If I had an answer right now, it would be no. But in three weeks, it might be yes."

Ryan Poles got straight down to work as general manager of the Chicago Bears on Tuesday, interviewing Jim Caldwell for the role of head coach.

After landing the GM job earlier in the day, Poles set about the process of securing a successor to Matt Nagy, with veteran former Colts and Lions coach Caldwell just one figure in the frame.

While the 67-year-old Caldwell already has plenty of top-level experience, Poles is a man on the rise. He joins the Bears having previously served as executive director of player personnel with the Kansas City Chiefs.

Bears chairman George H. McCaskey said of the appointment of the 36-year-old Poles: "We are thrilled to be able to add someone of Ryan's background and football expertise to our organisation.

"His accomplishments with the Chiefs speak for themselves and amplified the team's standing as one of the premier franchises in professional sports. We are confident that under his leadership, we will reach our goal of bringing a Super Bowl championship to Chicago."

That is the target that Poles pointed to, also, although the Bears have only previously won the Super Bowl once before, in the 1985 season. Poles was born in 1985.

The new general manager said on the team's website: "I am extremely grateful to George, the McCaskey family and the rest of the Bears organisation for this opportunity.

"Together with my family, I'm looking forward to hitting the ground running to help get this organisation, its fanbase and the city what they deserve: a winning team and a Super Bowl trophy."

The highly rated Poles had also been on a list of candidates for GM jobs with the New York Giants and Minnesota Vikings.

The Bears limped in third in the NFC North this season with a 6-11 record, their worst performance since going 5-11 in 2017.

Coach Nagy and GM Ryan Pace were sacked at the season's end, and Nagy's replacement has yet to be confirmed, with Dan Quinn, Matt Eberflus and Caldwell reportedly three contenders for that post.

Chicago lost Super Bowl XLI to the Indianapolis Colts after the 2006 season and reached the NFC Championship Game - where they were beaten by the Green Bay Packers - in 2010, both under the guidance of Lovie Smith.

They are winless from just two post-season appearances since, as the Packers continue to dominate the NFC North.

Sean Payton called it a day as head coach of the New Orleans Saints on Tuesday, bidding the NFL franchise an emotional farewell after 15 seasons in charge of the team.

Payton said he had met with team president Dennis Lauscha, owner Gayle Benson and general manager Mickey Loomis to tell them he had decided to go.

"I don't know what's next and it kind of feels good," said Payton in a news conference.

The 58-year-old Payton joined the Saints in 2006 and, in tandem with newly acquired quarterback Drew Brees, began to turn the team into a formidable force, peaking with a Super Bowl XLIV triumph in the 2009 season. Payton's team beat the Indianapolis Colts 31-17 in the NFL showpiece game.

Payton was close to tears as he explained why it was now time to move on. But he had prepared for that eventuality.

"The last thing I did before I went to bed was I Google-searched how not to cry during a speech," Payton said, "and one of the items was drink water and yawn. Well I didn't want to yawn, but it worked a little bit."

He said stepping down had been in his thoughts for some time, and Payton was not minded to go back on his decision.

"Last week I had a great visit, a tough visit with Mickey Loomis and Mrs Benson, and Denis Lauscha, relative to just looking ahead with what I want to do," Payton said.

"Mickey and I are of course now 16 years [with New Orleans] so that was challenging, because of our friendship more than our professional relationship, and then Mrs B was awesome. I love this about her, she said, 'Well go away for two or three months and come back for training camp, and we'll be ready to go'. And I thought that sounded pretty good, actually.

"But I'm glad she told me to spend some time away and give this some thought, because this is a big decision, and it certainly affects a lot of people.

"It's not often you as a coach have the opportunity to possibly leave. We coach, we coach, we coach, and at some point they tell you to leave.

"And as difficult as being fired is, it sure seems easier to thank everyone and move on your merry way."

Payton thanked the "amazing" New Orleans support and recalled having taken charge while the city was still recovering from the damage caused in 2005 by Hurricane Katrina.

Payton will be moving on after a 2021 campaign in which the Saints failed to reach the postseason, finishing with a 9-8 record.

It still marked another fine coaching performance from Payton, who had his team evacuated early in the year due to a hurricane and later had to deal with a number of coronavirus and injury absences.

Brees retired last year, and Payton decided it was time to follow suit.

"He and I never discussed when his last game would be, or when I'd be finished. I just felt like this season it was challenging for everyone, but man I felt like it was time," Payton said, explaining the timing of his departure.

"I knew maybe heading into training camp, but you don't share that with anyone. It's something I've been thinking about. You have close friends in the industry, and I've lost close friends in the industry in the last few years.

"Not many get to choose their terms, and I looked on it as an opportunity to see my kids more, to travel more, to get in better shape.

"I think the attention to details are so important, it can be so exhausting. I felt as this season was winding down it was the right thing."

Payton's career with New Orleans included an NFL suspension for the entire 2012 season after the Saints' 'Bountygate' scandal blew up, with players said to have been rewarded by fellow team members for injuring and knocking opponents out of games.

He returned to lead the team with distinction again, albeit unable to secure a return to the Super Bowl.

From 2017 to 2020, New Orleans achieved regular-season performances of 11-5, 13-3, 13-3 and 12-4, finishing top of the NFC South on each occasion. This season they wound up as runners-up to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Payton, who was under contract through 2024, has a 152-89 regular-season record – the 13th-best of all time (minimum 100 games) – while he is 9-8 in the playoffs.

Sean Payton is stepping down as head coach of the New Orleans Saints after 15 seasons in charge, reports said on Tuesday.

The franchise called a news conference for 15:00 local time (21:00 BST) at which Payton's departure was expected to be confirmed.

Payton will be moving on after a 2021 campaign in which the Saints failed to reach the postseason, finishing with a 9-8 record.

The 58-year-old Payton joined the Saints in 2006 and, in tandem with newly acquired quarterback Drew Brees, began to turn the team into a formidable force, peaking with a Super Bowl XLIV triumph in the 2009 season. Payton's team beat the Indianapolis Colts 31-17 in the NFL showpiece game.

Payton was suspended for the entire 2012 season after the Saints' 'Bountygate' scandal blew up, with players said to have been rewarded by fellow team members for injuring and knocking opponents out of games.

He returned to lead the team with distinction again, albeit unable to secure a return to the Super Bowl.

From 2017 to 2020, New Orleans achieved regular-season performances of 11-5, 13-3, 13-3 and 12-4, finishing top of the NFC South on each occasion.

Payton, who was under contract through 2024, has a 152-89 regular-season record – the 13th-best of all time (minimum 100 games) – while he is 9-8 in the playoffs.

Ryan Poles will be the new general manager of the Chicago Bears, according to NFL Network.

An agreement is said to have been reached to hire the 36-year-old, who will step up after serving as executive director of player personnel with the Kansas City Chiefs.

Reporting the deal, the NFL's official website said Poles had also been on a list of candidates for GM jobs with the New York Giants and Minnesota Vikings.

The Bears have yet to finalise the deal that is set to see Poles, who was interviewed on Friday, step up to a general manager position for the first time.

Bears chairman George H. McCaskey has led the search for the new general manager, and interviews were also held with 12 other candidates: Glenn Cook, Champ Kelly, Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, Jeff Ireland, Monti Ossenfort, Joe Schoen, Ed Dodds, Ron Carthon, Omar Khan, Morocco Brown, Reggie McKenzie and Eliot Wolf

The Bears limped in third in the NFC North this season with a 6-11 record, their worst performance since going 5-11 in 2017.

Coach Matt Nagy and GM Ryan Pace were sacked at the season's end, and Nagy's replacement has yet to be confirmed, with Dan Quinn, Matt Eberflus and Jim Caldwell reportedly three contenders for that post.

Poles joined the Bears as an undrafted free agent in 2008, but his playing career was short-lived. He switched to the Chiefs and served in a range of roles, impressing in scouting duties of increasing seniority, before becoming assistant director of player personnel in 2018 and executive director of player personnel in June of last year.

The new Bears regime will build around quarterback Justin Fields - a 2021 first-round pick - in a bid to end an 11-year drought without a win in the play-offs.

Chicago lost Super Bowl XLI to the Indianapolis Colts after the 2006 season and reached the NFC Championship Game - where they were beaten by the Green Bay Packers - in 2010, both under the guidance of Lovie Smith.

They are winless from just two post-season appearances since, as the Packers continue to dominate the NFC North.

The Green Bay Packers' key decision-makers are united in their bid to bring Aaron Rodgers back next year, Matt LaFleur says.

Rodgers' future will again be debated after the Packers' season ended on Saturday with defeat to the San Francisco 49ers.

The 2020 NFL MVP pushed for a move away from Green Bay last year before eventually returning and enjoying another stellar campaign.

But the Super Bowl once again proved beyond Rodgers, who has not returned to the big game since the Packers' title triumph in February 2011.

Rodgers is 7-9 in the postseason in that time and, despite himself underwhelming in the loss to the 49ers, might now wonder if this team will ever get over the hump.

The Packers, for their part, want Rodgers to come back.

LaFleur confirmed on Monday his desire to have the QB return was shared by the rest of the organisation, despite the saga surrounding his future at the start of the season.

"Every conversation that I've been involved in with Gutey [Brian Gutekunst, general manager] and Russ [Ball, director of football operations] and Mark [Murphy, team president], we're all on the same page there," the coach said. "There's no debate."

LaFleur added of Rodgers: "I want to be respectful of his process, whatever he needs to go through to make the best decision for himself.

"And certainly we would love for him to be a Packer and be a Packer to the day he decides to retire."

Rodgers has played 213 games for the Packers, throwing 449 touchdown passes – ranking fifth all time in the NFL and first for Green Bay, ahead of Brett Favre (442).

Tom Brady has not yet made a decision on retirement, but the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will give the quarterback "all the time he needs".

The Bucs' season ended on Sunday with a dramatic Divisional Round defeat to the Los Angeles Rams, going down 30-27 after Brady had led his team back from 27-3 down to tie the game.

But talk before the game had suggested it could be Brady's last if Tampa lost, as transpired.

The 44-year-old told his Let's Go podcast that he will be making any decision together with his family, refusing to rule out the possibility of quitting the NFL after seven Super Bowl triumphs.

"Playing football I get so much joy from. I love it," Brady said on the podcast. "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."

After two outstanding years with the Bucs, Brady said he would only continue if he was operating at "a championship level".

The veteran QB surely still represents Tampa's best possible option under center, but coach Bruce Arians insisted on Monday he would give Brady time.

"I haven't talked to him yet," Arians said. "He'll take all the time he needs and we'll see."

The Bucs had won the championship at the end of the 2020 season and brought the entire team back for a title defence, but an ageing group could not deliver again.

There will be no "rebuild", though, as Arians responded to that suggestion: "No, I think it's just a reload, like it is every year.

"For us, free agency will be our guys. We'll see how many we can get back and build the team from there. I always look forward to that part of it and the draft.

"Each year is so different and so new. Last year, to get everybody back, that was amazing. I doubt we can do that again this year, but we're still going to give it our best."

Tight end Rob Gronkowski, a team-mate of Brady's with the New England Patriots and then the Bucs, insisted his future was not necessarily linked to the QB's.

"Whatever Tom does Tom's going to do," he said. "I'm sure that he needs time to himself, too, to see where he's at at this stage. We'll see in couple of weeks where I'm at."

Sean Payton is yet to confirm to the New Orleans Saints whether he will remain as head coach for the 2022 season. 

Payton has been at the helm in New Orleans since 2006, but reports in recent days have suggested he is far from certain to return next year. 

In their first season since Drew Brees' retirement, the Saints marginally missed the playoffs with a 9-8 record. 

It still marked another fine coaching performance from Payton, who had his team evacuated early in the year due to a hurricane and later had to deal with a number of coronavirus and injury absences. 

Jameis Winston, promoted to a starting role at quarterback in Brees' place, tore his ACL in October following a promising 5-2 start in which he threw 14 touchdown passes and only three interceptions. 

Payton, who is under contract through 2024, has a 152-89 regular-season record – the 13th-best of all time (minimum 100 games) – while he is 9-8 in the playoffs, winning Super Bowl XLIV. 

The Saints hope he will further improve those totals next season, although owner Gayle Benson knows little more than New Orleans fans at this stage. 

"We don't know," she told FOX 8 NOLA on Monday. "You know, who knows? We'll find out soon enough, I guess. 

"I don't think any of us know. But he'll let us know soon enough." 

The Buffalo Bills face an offseason where they must continue to work to find a way to beat Patrick Mahomes after being left sick to their stomach by his incredible late heroics in the NFL Divisional Round.

Buffalo appeared destined to knock off the AFC's dominant power in Kansas City, striking what looked to be the decisive blow when Josh Allen found Gabriel Davis, who reeled in his fourth touchdown catch of the game to set a postseason record, to give the Bills a 36-33 lead with just 13 seconds left as an incredible weekend of playoff matchups saved its most remarkable for last.

Yet 13 seconds proved more than enough time for Mahomes to thwart the Bills again, driving the Chiefs down to the Buffalo 31-yard line to set Harrison Butker up for a 49-yard field goal to force overtime.

And Mahomes then ensured the Bills will be stewing over their inability to close the game out until the start of the 2022 campaign as the Chiefs won the overtime coin toss and sealed victory with an eight-play drive capped by his eight-yard touchdown throw to Travis Kelce, whose superb catch sealed a 42-36 triumph that will go down in NFL folklore.

While Bills fans will understandably want to extinguish the memory of a painful defeat, McDermott, having seen his team defeated by Mahomes and Co. in last year's AFC Championship Game, must now reflect on an astonishing late turnaround and determine how they can stop the quarterback who continues to haunt them.

McDermott said of Mahomes in his post-game media conference: "That's the reality of our situation, and we’ve got to continue to work to beat him.

"Give him the credit. He made a couple plays down the stretch. That’s what great players do. They make big plays in big moments in big games.

"The game came down to, pretty much, 13 seconds. I think they all feel the same way I do; we're all sick to [our] stomach and it hurts. We worked really hard to get here.

"I know the fans are disappointed. I wish I could take that off of them, take it off the team. But we can't."

Asked about the bizarre decision to send the kick-off after Davis' fourth touchdown out of the endzone for a touchback rather than taking time off the clock by kicking it in play, McDermott replied: "We talk about a lot of things. I'm just going to leave it at execution and it starts with me."

Allen, meanwhile, echoed McDermott's sentiments after once again being left to take in the agony of another loss to Mahomes, whose game-winning connection with Kelce marked the fifth and final lead change following the two-minute warning in the fourth quarter.

"It was tough to be in that moment," Allen said. "I have a lot of respect for Pat. He throws a winning touchdown, and he comes straight over and finds me.

"To be in that situation and to do that, that was pretty cool of him. Obviously, it just sucks the way it happened. We wanted to win that game and had our opportunities.

"I was taking it all in and holding on to that feeling and making sure that we don't feel like this again. Back-to-back years in the same spot, it's tough to take in, but it's part of the game; it's part of the learning process.

"We've got to use this and figure out how to be better and how to accomplish what we want to accomplish."

Patrick Mahomes put Sunday's incredible win for the Kansas City Chiefs among his career highlights as he propelled his team to within one victory of a third straight Super Bowl appearance.

A thrilling contest between the Chiefs and the Buffalo Bills was settled in Kansas City's favour when Mahomes found Travis Kelce for a game-winning touchdown in overtime.

The Chiefs have now reached the AFC Championship for the fourth straight season, as they look to go on and replicate their Super Bowl success from two years ago.

Buffalo seemed to have the game tied up in regulation time when Josh Allen picked out Gabriel Davis for a record-breaking fourth touchdown with just 13 seconds left on the clock, making it 36-33 to the Bills.

Yet Mahomes got the Chiefs within field-goal range and Harrison Butker did the rest to send the roller coaster encounter into overtime.

Mahomes – who completed 33 of 44 attempts for 378 yards with three touchdowns as well as getting into the endzone himself for the Chief's first TD – then kept his composure to find Kelce in the corner four minutes and 15 seconds into overtime after Kansas City had won the coin flip.

"To be in this moment in this game against that team, to make a play to walk off a game at Arrowhead, I'll remember this game for the rest of my life.

"It was definitely special to win a game like this at Arrowhead. Obviously the Super Bowl was probably number one for me but this one is right up there.

“To be able to come back a couple of times, get points when we needed to get points, score touchdowns, get in field goal range, I'll remember it forever."

Asked what words of wisdom he offered to the Chief's talisman before overtime, head coach Andy Reid replied: "When it's grim, be the Grim Reaper and go get it.

"He did that. He made everyone around him better, which he's great at, and he just does it effortlessly. When it gets tough, he's going to be there battling."

"This is definitely another step for him into the Hall of Fame," Mahomes' team-mate Tyreek Hill added of the QB.

"He had the chance to prove once again he's at the top of when it comes to quarterbacks in this league.

"He definitely doesn't flinch, especially in moments like that."

Across 17 regular-season appearances in 2021, Mahomes threw for 37 touchdowns, tied for fourth in the NFL alongside Dak Prescott and Aaron Rodgers.

Only Matthew Stafford (4,886), Justin Herbert (5,014) and the league-leading Tom Brady (5,316) had a higher yardage than Mahomes' 4,839 in the regular season, with just Herbert and Brady completing more passes in total.

Mahomes has already accumulated eight touchdowns this postseason, doubling his tally from last year and is just two shy of his previous postseason best of 10, set in the Chief's triumphant 2019 campaign.

Kansas City will face Cincinnati in the AFC Championship game, with the Bengals having won 34-31 in the most recent meeting between the teams on January 2, a defeat that snapped an eight-game winning streak for the Chiefs.

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