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NFL roundup: Bears bench Cutler; Clausen to start

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Jay Cutler’s future with the Chicago Bears is not determined beyond this week, coach Marc Trestman claimed Thursday while announcing Jimmy Clausen would make his first start since 2010.

Trestman stressed Thursday that his decision to bench the team’s highly paid quarterback, whose seven-year contract includes a cash value of an NFL-high $22.5 million this season, in favor of Clausen for Sunday’s game with the Detroit Lions was merely an attempt to find a way to win the next football game.

“I think we need a lift at quarterback,” Trestman said. “I think we need a spark.”

The move took Cutler by surprise. “Shocked, I think, at first,” he said. “And then disappointed. I didn’t see it coming. but I think anytime you lose a lot of games and you don’t play as well as you’d hoped, there’s a chance that that could happen.”

—Quarterback Philip Rivers will start Saturday for the San Diego Chargers despite a back injury that might be more severe than the team has indicated.

ESPN cited a source Thursday in reporting that Rivers is “battling a back injury that is bigger than people realize.” He did not practice Wednesday and is on the injury report with back and chest injuries, but he was back at practice on Thursday and appeared to throw passes without a problem.

Running back Ryan Mathews (ankle) did not practice Thursday, but defensive end Corey Liuget and tight end Lardarius Green returned.

—Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning went through team stetching exercises but left Thursday’s practice to receive treatment on his strained thigh.

According to the Denver Post, Manning did not suffer further injury to the thigh and is expected to practice Friday.

Manning left last Sunday’s game against the San Diego Chargers late in the first half with a thigh issue but was able to return for the third quarter. He also battled flu-like symptoms during the game.

—Tight end Dominique Jones was signed to the Denver Broncos’ active roster and offensive tackle DeMarcus Love to the practice squad.

Jones played against the San Diego Chargers on Sunday after spending 13 weeks on the practice squad. He has played in 13 career games, including three starts, with the Colts (2012-13), Chiefs (2013) and Broncos (2014).

Love is a fourth-year player drafted in the sixth round of the 2011 draft by the Vikings. He has played for the Vikings (2011-13) and Jaguars (2013) and served on the practice squad with the Giants and Saints this season.

—There is nothing wrong with Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray’s left hand, if you judge by his grip Thursday on the team’s man of the year trophy. Coach Jason Garrett said Thursday morning that Murray could play Sunday, six days after surgery to stabilize a broken left hand.

Garrett said the experience of the medical staff in constructed a padded glove for Emmitt Smith gives the team confidence.

Murray said after Thursday’s practice that he plans to play on Sunday but that the decision was left up to him.

—Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton took more reps in practice with the first-team offense on Thursday and could be on track to start Sunday against the Cleveland Browns after sitting out last week with injuries suffered in an auto accident.

Carolina coach Ron Rivera has yet to name a starter for Sunday’s game because he wants to wait and see how Newton responds but that he probably will get the nod.

Despite a 5-8-1 record, the Panthers remain in the hunt for the NFC South Division title.

—The Seattle Seahawks signed linebacker K.J. Wright to a four-year contract extension.

A fourth-round pick in 2011, Wright has started 54 of 58 career games and has recorded 333 tackles, 6.5 sacks, an interception, 14 passes defensed, four forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries. Wright, who has started at outside and middle linebacker, has already tied a career high with 96 tackles this season.

New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman was back at practice Thursday but his status for Sunday’s game is uncertain.

The Patriots play at the New York Jets on Sunday with a chance to move closer to the No. 1 seed in the AFC. Edelman, who was been on the injury report for several weeks with a thigh injury, is following NFL concussion protocol. He was limited Wednesday and Thursday in practice.

Edelman leads the Patriots with 92 receptions. He has four touchdowns and 972 receiving yards. He had four catches for 44 yards in the Oct. 16 meeting with the Jets.

—Houston Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson plans to return Sunday for their game against the Baltimore Ravens after sitting out last week because of a concussion.

Johnson was injured on a hit to the head by Jacksonville linebacker Telvin Smith during a Dec. 7 against the Jaguars. The 33-year-old Johnson said he has completed the NFL’s concussion protocol and cleared to return.

In 13 games this season, he has 69 receptions for 737 yards and two touchdowns.

—With reports circulating that Michigan has extended Jim Harbaugh a six-year, $48 million offer to become their head coach, he refused to answer questions about the job opening on Thursday.

Meering with reporters, the 49ers coach offered a standard response regarding the Michigan vacancy. “As you know, I only talk about the job that I have,” said Harbaugh, a former Michigan quarterback. “We’ve been together a long time. Always been my policy.”

Michigan is looking to replace Brady Hoke, who was fired Dec. 2 after four seasons.


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