San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle feels "fabulous" heading into the NFC Championship Game despite missing practice on Wednesday.

Kittle, a star performer for the Niners in their outstanding NFL season, appeared on the injury report and sat out with an ankle problem.

But the 26-year-old was in high spirits as he returned to the field on Thursday ahead of the title game against the Green Bay Packers.

Asked for an assessment of his ankle, Kittle told reporters at a news conference: "I feel fabulous, thanks for asking."

49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan discussed the decision to keep Kittle on the sidelines the previous day, having earlier given no indication of the issue.

"The soreness did [surprise me] a little bit," Shanahan said. "That's why I didn't bring it up in here before practice [on Wednesday].

"We knew he had some wear and tear from the game. It was a little sorer than we thought before practice, so that's why we held him out."

However, Shanahan was confident there would be no further surprises on that front.

Shanahan replied when asked if he was concerned by Kittle's ankle before Sunday: "No, I'm not."

Kittle started 14 of San Francisco's 16 regular-season games, missing two weeks with knee and ankle problems in November.

The New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) has obtained an arrest warrant for NFL star Odell Beckham Jr. on a charge of simple battery.

The alleged incident occurred at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Monday, when Cleveland Browns wide receiver Beckham was in attendance to watch his alma mater LSU defeat Clemson in the National Championship Game.

Footage emerged of Beckham appearing to slap a security officer's buttocks in the LSU locker room during the celebrations after their 42-25 victory.

A statement from NOPD read: "Today, the NOPD has obtained an arrest warrant for Odell Beckham Jr. on a charge of misdemeanour simple battery in regards to an incident that occurred on January 13, 2020 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome."

Cleveland later released a statement of their own saying they had contacted Beckham regarding the warrant.

"We are aware of the incident and have been in touch with Odell and his representatives on the matter," the Browns said.

"They are cooperating with the proper authorities to appropriately address the situation."

Beckham had already been involved in one controversial incident after LSU's victory, having been spotted handing out notes to players on the field.

The NCAA has rules that bar college players from receiving certain benefits.

Having initially said they believed the bills to be fake, LSU later released a statement saying "information and footage received since shows apparent cash may have also been given to LSU student-athletes" and that they had contacted NCAA regarding that incident.

Beckham spent three years with LSU between 2011 and 2013, accumulating 2,340 receiving yards and catching 12 touchdowns.

The New York Giants selected him with the 12th overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft and he shot to prominence during his rookie year with an incredible one-handed catch against the Dallas Cowboys.

Beckham went to three straight Pro Bowls with the Giants and was traded to Cleveland back in March.

In his debut season with the Browns, Beckham had 74 catches for 1,035 yards and four touchdowns - the lowest totals he has achieved across a full 16-game season.

For the Kansas City Chiefs, Tennessee Titans, San Francisco 49ers and Green Bay Packers, Super Bowl LIV is tantalisingly close.

Andy Reid's Chiefs are hoping to go one step further after being beaten in last year's AFC Championship Game and they will host a Titans team that has already upset the New England Patriots and Baltimore Ravens on the road.

In the NFC Championship Game, the 49ers host the Packers in a contest between two offensive-minded head coaches in Kyle Shanahan and Matt LaFleur, both of whom have had success without their quarterbacks lighting up the stats sheet.

We preview the AFC and NFC Championship Games using Stats Perform data.

 

SUNDAY (All times Eastern)

Titans (9-7) @ Chiefs (12-4). 3:05pm

- The Titans have won each of the last four meetings between the two, including the 2017 Wild Card Game at Arrowhead Stadium. In the previous three meetings, including one back in Week 10, Tennessee have erased a fourth-quarter deficit to win.

- Tennessee had 418 yards combined on the ground while totalling only 154 passing yards in the wins over New England and Baltimore. In the postseason, their defense has produced five takeaways and as many fourth-down stops.

- Red-hot Titans running back Derrick Henry has amassed 812 rushing yards in third quarters of games this season. The last player to rush for at least 800 yards across quarters was Terrell Davis in 1998 (824 yards, first quarters).

- Kansas City beat the Houston Texans the hard way in the Divisional Round, overturning a 24-point deficit - the largest in franchise history - to win 51-31.

- The Chiefs are looking to reach the Super Bowl for the first time in 50 years since they won Super Bowl IV.

 

Packers (13-3) @ 49ers (13-3). 6:40pm

- Only the Dallas Cowboys and St. Louis/Los Angeles Rams (nine) have met more frequently in the playoffs than the Packers and 49ers, who will face each other for the eighth time.

- Should Green Bay beat the 49ers and win Super Bowl LIV, they would equal the NFL record for the most postseason wins (37 - New England Patriots).

- San Francisco are bidding to win two home playoff games for the fifth time in their history. On the previous four occasions the Niners are have won two home playoff games (1981, 1984, 1989 and 1994), they have gone on to win the Super Bowl.

- Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers completed just 16 passes - his fewest in a postseason start - in the Divisional Round win over the Seattle Seahawks. Meanwhile, Niners quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo had a season-low 131 passing yards in their win over the Minnesota Vikings last weekend.

- The home team will be concerned about the threat of Davante Adams, who has 17 catches for 175 receiving yards and three touchdowns against the Niners. He also set a franchise playoff record with 160 receiving yards in the win over Seattle.

Larry Fitzgerald will return to the Arizona Cardinals for a 17th NFL season after signing a one-year deal on Wednesday.

The veteran wide receiver, who turns 37 in August, has amassed 17,083 career receiving yards from 1,378 catches in the regular season, with both marks the second-most in NFL history behind only the great Jerry Rice.

Fitzgerald has played in 250 games for the Cardinals, who drafted him with the third overall pick in the 2004 NFL Draft.

He has been named to 11 Pro Bowls and has twice led the NFL in both receptions and receiving touchdowns.

Despite his advancing years, in 2019 he still led the Cardinals in receptions (75), yards (804) and touchdown catches (four) under Arizona's rookie duo of head coach Kliff Kingsbury and quarterback Kyler Murray.

"This season was among the most fun of my career," Fitzgerald wrote on Twitter.

"The future is so bright for this team and I relish the opportunity to build with this talented young nucleus.

"Arizona is where I started and where I will finish. 2020! Let's get to work!"

Fitzgerald is 5,812 yards behind Rice in receiving yards and has made 171 fewer catches.

Carolina Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly has announced his shock retirement from the NFL at the age of 28.

A seven-time Pro Bowler, Panthers star Kuechly dropped the bombshell on Tuesday following eight seasons in the league.

Kuechly, pick nine in the 2012 NFL Draft, finishes his career with 1,092 tackles – the most in the league since he was drafted – and 18 interceptions.

He was also part of the 2015 team that reached the Super Bowl, while he helped the Panthers claim three NFC South titles.

"I think now is the right chance for me to move on," Kuechly said. "It makes me sad because I love playing this game, I've played it since I was a kid. It's my favourite thing in the world to do.

"The memories I have from this place and this organisation and being on the field with these guys – they'll never go away.

"In my heart I know it's the right thing to do… There's only one way to play this game since I was a little kid – play fast, play physical and play strong. And at this point I don't know if I am able to do that anymore."

Panthers owner David Tepper added: "Beyond his extraordinary performance on the field, Luke has had a tremendous impact on this organisation and region.

"In my two seasons with Luke, I quickly recognised how special of a person he is. The respect he gives and garners from others as well as the positive impact he has on his peers is second to none.

"It's obviously going to be very difficult for all of us because we know that no player can replace what he's been for this organisation for the last eight years. His presence can't be replicated."

Former New York Giants head coach Pat Shurmur has been appointed offensive co-ordinator at the Denver Broncos.

Shurmur was sacked by the Giants in December after two seasons in charge of the NFL franchise, where he managed a 9-23 record.

The 54-year-old, however, has landed on his feet after joining the Broncos for the 2020 season.

"Pat is an established play-caller with significant experience leading an offense as both a co-ordinator and head coach," head coach Vic Fangio said on Tuesday.

"Having coached against Pat for a number of years, he's always impressed me. His track record of developing younger players is outstanding.

"Pat brings a collaborative approach to working with the staff as well as a flexibility to adjust the offense to our players and opponents. We're excited to add someone of his calibre to our coaching staff."

Prior to his role as head coach of the Giants, Shurmur spent two years as offensive co-ordinator with the Minnesota Vikings.

Antonio Gates has officially announced his retirement from the NFL.

The tight end compiled a Hall of Fame resume in 16 seasons with the San Diego/Los Angeles Chargers franchise he joined as an undrafted free agent in 2003 following a workout.

A former basketball player who never played college football, Gates racked up 11,841 yards, with his 116 touchdowns the most by a tight end in NFL history.

Gates, who did not play in the 2019 season, was a three-time All-Pro and was named to the Pro Bowl eight times in a career that will likely see him inducted into the Hall of Fame.

"After 16 seasons in the NFL, 16 seasons as a Charger, eight Pro Bowl appearances and many records broken, I find it hard to officially put this statement out and retire from the game of football," a statement from Gates read.

"I never dreamed that I would play this game of football so long or how fortunate I would be to play it with just one organisation. I want to thank the Chargers organisation, Dean Spanos and the Spanos family, and the National Football League for the opportunity to live out a dream and play the game I love.

"And to the fans in San Diego, Los Angeles, across the country and around the world, thank you for your unwavering support all these years. There would be no NFL without you.

"While today I am officially retiring as a Charger, I am grateful that I will still be lending my services to the Chargers organisation - just now in a completely different capacity through the team's community engagement initiatives and public facing events.

"Thank you to everyone that helped me create memories that will last a lifetime, both on and off the field. Thank you to my agent, Tom Condon, and management team, Denise White and EAG, for helping me navigate this sport over the last 16 years.

"Thank you to my family for your love and support through the years, and a special thank you to my kids - I am hopeful to have left a legacy that you can be proud of, not just as a football player but also as a father.

"I'm looking forward to beginning the next chapter of my career and am grateful for the opportunity to be back around the team and our fans.

"Thank you to everyone who has been part of this remarkable journey with me. I can't wait to see what's next."

Joe Burrow fulfilled a childhood dream on Monday by winning the National Championship for LSU.

Quarterback Burrow, the favourite to be selected first overall in the 2020 NFL Draft, inspired LSU to a 42-25 win over defending champions Clemson at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans.

The Heisman Trophy winner threw for 463 yards and five touchdown passes, breaking the record for touchdown throws in a single season with 60.

Afterwards Burrow, who transferred to LSU from Ohio State in 2018, spoke of his delight at delivering a title for LSU in Louisiana.

"This is what I wanted to do from the time I was five years old, was hoist this trophy, and bringing it back to Louisiana," he said.

"I guess we're in Louisiana, but staying in Louisiana, we weren't going to let someone come in here and steal this from us in our home state.

"We have a great fan base that came out and supported us. We were going to keep this thing right here."

LSU coach Ed Orgeron said of Burrow: "He's one of the greatest players in LSU history. He's done so much for the state of Louisiana and LSU. We are so grateful to Joe Burrow.''

Meanwhile, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney expressed pride in his team's performance despite seeing them denied a 30th straight win.

"Just an unreal year, incredible two years, we've won 29 games in a row and it's been a long time since I've stood in front of a team with a loss," said Swinney.

"This team in particular, just really special. Coming into this year 80 freshman and sophomores out of 120, to get back to this point, I'm just super proud of them.

"It's incredibly difficult to even get here and super hard to win it that's for sure. I'm proud of our guys, a lot of history made by this group.

"It was all about LSU, what an unbelievable game. We just couldn't quite put enough plays together. Give them credit."

Quarterback Trevor Lawrence, considered a near certainty to be the first overall pick in the 2021 draft, added: "You get so busy, looking for what's next and a moment like this happens.

"It sucks but you've got to look back on what you've done. We've done some great things and we've got a lot more in store ahead for sure. 

"You've got to look back and enjoy all the things you did accomplish because what were able to do is pretty amazing to be a part of."

The Cleveland Browns have officially appointed Kevin Stefanski as their new head coach.

Reports emerged on Sunday that the Browns had secured the services of Stefanski, previously the offensive coordinator of the Minnesota Vikings.

The Browns have now confirmed those reports, hiring Stefanski after the Vikings' season was brought to an end with a 27-10 loss to the San Francisco 49ers in the Divisional Round of the NFC playoffs.

Stefanski replaces Freddie Kitchens, who was fired after the Browns endured a disappointing 6-10 season in his only campaign at the helm, with many having considered Cleveland postseason contenders at the start of the year.

"It's very exciting obviously for me and my family," Stefanski said. "We're really looking forward to moving out here and getting situated in Cleveland and the adventure of it all.

"From my professional level, I just could not be more eager to get to work with this group. I think we have some really good players here. I think we have some outstanding people in this building.

"I know we have to add a GM and add some more pieces to this puzzle. I think the eager part for me is to get to work, buckle down and start to put together a program.

"Before you know it, the players are back in the building and we're going to be putting a system together offensively, defensively, etc. I think that's the fun part, when these guys get back in this building."

The Browns will now turn their attention to finding a replacement for former general manager John Dorsey, who also departed after a season that saw the Browns miss the playoffs for the 17th straight year.

 

John DeFilippo is out as offensive coordinator of the Jacksonville Jaguars, who will have a third coach fill the position in as many years next season.

The former Cleveland Browns and Minnesota Vikings OC arrived at the start of a 2019 season in which the Jags ultimately disappointed in going 6-10.

Tom Coughlin was fired as the Jaguars' VP of football operations in December, but head coach Marrone held on to his position and will lead the search for DeFilippo's replacement.

"The Jacksonville Jaguars and offensive coordinator John DeFilippo have mutually agreed to part ways," the team announced on Monday.

DeFilippo was formerly quarterbacks coach for the Philadelphia Eagles during their Super Bowl win at the end of the 2017 season and had been mooted as a head coaching candidate prior to his spells with the Vikings and Jags.

The Eagles have a vacancy at OC after Mike Groh was removed from that position, while the coach who succeeds DeFilippo will inherit a quarterback battle between Nick Foles and Gardner Minshew.

Pete Carroll declared "it feels like 2012 all over again" and vowed this is just the start for a Seattle Seahawks team that came up short against the Green Bay Packers.

The Packers are headed to the NFC Championship game to face the San Francisco 49ers after winning a thrilling Divisional Round game 28-23 at Lambeau Field.

Leading 21-3 at the half, the well-oiled Packers had to hold off a resilient Seahawks, as head coach Carroll noted similarities with their 2012 season.

On that occasion, quarterback Russell Wilson was in his rookie campaign as the Seahawks came up short at the same stage to the Atlanta Falcons.

The following season, the Seahawks hammered the Denver Broncos to win Super Bowl XLVIII, and 12 months later were beaten on the biggest stage by the New England Patriots.

"This is the start, I think, of this team. It feels like 2012 all over again," head coach Carroll told reporters.

"This is so similar. There was not a guy on that sideline that we were connected to that thought we weren't going to win that football game, all the way until we didn't."

A contentious call at the two-minute warning saw the Packers awarded a first down, despite some replay angles suggesting Jimmy Graham was just short as he was tackled.

Carroll remonstrated with the sideline referee after the call was upheld but was philosophical when addressing it following the game.

"My guys just were telling me it was short, you know?" he added. "It looked short and had they called him short, then it would've been short. 

"It's the same thing last week: you call them a score, you let them score. They wouldn't overturn that one - I'm going back to the Niners game, I guess. That's how it goes."

Wilson was influential in the Seahawks' fightback, completing three straight touchdown drives.

"He did everything he could have done," Carroll said of Wilson's performance. "His courage and his toughness showed up and his resolve to find ways was all over the field, running and passing.

"The only way he can think is he's going to get it done and he's just going to make it happen. He's proven it so many times and he did it again."

Deshaun Watson insisted Houston Texans head coach Bill O'Brien is the right man for the job, despite the team's stunning loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in the NFL playoffs.

The Texans blew a 24-0 lead in Kansas City as the red-hot Chiefs rallied to win 51-31 en route to the AFC Championship Game on Sunday.

Houston conceded 41 consecutive points, with the Chiefs becoming the first team in history to win a postseason game by at least 20 points after trailing by at least 20.

Texans quarterback Watson, though, stood by O'Brien – who has been in charge since 2014.

"There's no doubt," Watson told reporters when asked whether O'Brien is the right coach for the Texans. "I mean, you might have doubt, but there's no doubt. I mean, I love that man. I'm going to play hard for that man. Y'all can say whatever you want to say through all the media and all the writing, but as long as I'm at quarterback, he's cool with me.

"He's got my heart. He's going to get all of my 110 per cent every time I step on that field. So y'all can say whatever, but [I'll] always be rooting for that man and going to play hard for him."

The Texans entered the divisional-round contest having topped the Buffalo Bills in a wild-card clash – their second playoff win under O'Brien.

Houston also wrapped up their fourth AFC South crown in five seasons as they eyed a first conference championship appearance.

O'Brien said: "I feel like we are moving in the right direction. I think we did a lot of good things this year. Not enough, obviously. I feel good about where we are headed."

Aaron Rodgers praised the "incredible" Davante Adams after the Green Bay Packers held off the Seattle Seahawks in the NFL playoffs on Sunday.

Adams had 160 receiving yards and scored two touchdowns in the 28-23 win that sent the Packers into the NFC Championship Game.

Rodgers, who was 16 of 27 for 243 yards and the two TDs, praised the wide receiver's performance.

"He had an unbelievable night. He carried us on offense," the Packers star told Fox Sports.

"His route-running ability was incredible.

"We came up with a timely stop because Russ [Wilson, Seahawks QB] and their offense was pretty tough.

"We started off the game the right way and we finished it the right way."

Green Bay, who set up their win by taking a 21-3 half-time lead, moved into a clash with the San Francisco 49ers at Levi's Stadium.

Rodgers paid tribute to the 49ers, who were 13-3 during the regular season before overcoming the Minnesota Vikings on Saturday.

"We're going to enjoy this one first," he said.

"I think it's super special, a little extra special to get the ball to Jimmy [Graham] there on the last third down because he was in Seattle for a few years, but we'll enjoy this one tonight and we'll get onto San Francisco.

"They're a great football team, they've had a fantastic year. I think these are the two best teams in the NFC and we have to go out there and get a win."

The Green Bay Packers held off the Seattle Seahawks 28-23 to reach the NFC Championship Game on Sunday.

The Packers set up their win in the first half at a cold Lambeau Field, taking a 21-3 lead that proved to be enough to advance to a meeting with the San Francisco 49ers in the NFL playoffs.

Davante Adams scored two touchdowns on the back of 160 receiving yards, while Aaron Jones rushed for 62.

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers threw the two TD passes to Jones as he went 16 of 27 for 243 yards.

Russell Wilson (21 of 31 for 277 yards and a TD) and the Seahawks came to life in the second half, but it was too little, too late.

The Packers made their dominance count in the first half, with Jones scoring two second-quarter touchdowns.

But the first score came through Adams, who was found by a 20-yard Rodgers pass after an eight-play, 75-yard drive early in the encounter.

Jason Myers' 45-yard field goal put the Seahawks on the board, but the Packers were 21-3 up at half-time.

After two lengthy plays for 75 and 60 yards, Jones pushed over from close range to put Green Bay in control.

Seattle delivered a much-needed response through Marshawn Lynch early in the third quarter, only for Rodgers and Adams to combine again, a 40-yard TD pass restoring the Packers' 18-point lead.

Wilson's short TD pass to Tyler Lockett late in the third quarter brought the Seahawks back into the clash before Lynch bulldozed his way over from close range in the fourth to bring Seattle within five.

But that was as close as they got as Green Bay moved to within a win of Super Bowl LIV.

New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton believes star quarterback Drew Brees will be back on the field in 2020.

Brees is coming out of contract after the Saints suffered a surprise wild-card loss to the Minnesota Vikings in the NFL playoffs earlier in January.

Set to celebrate his 41st birthday on Wednesday, Brees has refused to be drawn on his future amid reports of offers to become a television analyst.

Payton, though, expects the Super Bowl champion and MVP to play in New Orleans next season.

"I see him on our field this upcoming season," Payton told ESPN on Sunday.

"I do think he is one of those guys that, whatever he touches - business, obviously football, and whatever his future holds when he is done playing - he is going to be successful at.

"But I still think and based on what we just finished watching and grading, which was the body of work of all season, he was outstanding and he's got more football left in him."

Brees, who suffered a thumb injury during the season, completed 281 passes for 2,979 yards and 27 touchdowns in 11 games.

The Saints veteran also broke the NFL record for most career touchdown passes this season.

Brees moved up in the record books yet again, surpassing Peyton Manning with his 540th TD pass against the Indianapolis Colts in December.

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