McDaniels’ return to Patriots sparks intrigue

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“We’re going to go play Carolina next year,” said Fox, the Panthers’ former coach. “I don’t think that’s going to be a huge advantage for me.”

His players brush off suggestions McDaniels will reveal team secrets.

“I think everything to know about us is on film,” wide receiver Eddie Royal said.

“We’re just worried about ourselves,” added running back Lance Ball. “We’re not worried about what (McDaniels) thinks, what he’s going to say to them. We’re just worried about going in and beating the Patriots.”

But a little tip here and there could pay off at a critical moment. After all, he was head coach when the Broncos drafted defensive end Robert Ayers in the first round in 2009 and quarterback Tim Tebow and wide receiver Demaryius Thomas in the first round in 2010.

Ayers is grateful to McDaniels for picking him, but is it fair for a coach who didn’t make the playoffs with one team to join another for the postseason?

“I’ll let you guys answer that one,” Ayers told reporters. “I’m pretty sure I’m thinking the same thing you guys are thinking. I’m just not going to say it.”

Fair or not, there’s no NFL rule prohibiting it.

“Teams can sign, during the season, players, coaches, or other staff that are out of work and have no contractual obligation to another team,” NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said.

Brandt, Cowboys general manager from 1960-88, first worked in the NFL as a part-time scout with the Los Angeles Rams in the late 1950s. In all that time, he can’t remember such a case.

There was a similar one when Paul Pasqualoni was fired on Jan. 11, 2010 after two seasons as defensive coordinator of the Miami Dolphins. Four days later, he was hired to replace Dallas defensive line coach Todd Grantham, who had agreed to go to Georgia as defensive coordinator. And two days after that, the Cowboys lost an NFC divisional game to the Minnesota Vikings 34-3.

The Patriots hired the 35-year-old McDaniels on Sunday after the Rams finished their season at 2-14, leading to the firing of coach Steve Spagnuolo. He’ll help offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien, who will stay through the playoffs before going to his new job as head coach at Penn State, with McDaniels expected to replace him in New England next season.

They worked together in 2008 in O’Brien’s first year with the Patriots as wide receivers coach. They’re described as good friends.

“He’s ready to help us in any way that he can. I’m sure that he’ll be an asset to our coaching staff and our team,” Belichick said of McDaniels. “I’m not sure exactly how that will pan out.”

Teams sometimes sign players to their rosters or practice squads to get inside information on an opponent it’s about to play. Last season, the Patriots signed running back Danny Woodhead on Sept. 18, just 12 days after he was released by the New York Jets and one day before the teams faced each other.

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