American Football - Rodgers closes on return

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers participated in Thursday's practice, although coach Mike McCarthy said he still has not been medically cleared.

Rodgers took part in limited work as the Packers prepared for Sunday's home game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, but Matt Flynn and Scott Tolzien took the first-team reps during 11-on-11 drills. Rodgers has been sidelined more than six weeks since suffering a fractured collarbone against the Chicago Bears.

"Aaron Rodgers practiced well today," McCarthy said. "We'll have a conversation tomorrow. He's still not medically cleared.

He looked very good at practice. We'll make sure we get Matt ready to play. Matt took the majority of the snaps. I'll have an announcement tomorrow."

Rodgers talked to reporters after practice but did not offer any insight about his possible return.

"I have a good sense of what's going to happen," he said. "I didn't take a lot of reps with the team but felt pretty good out there, was feeling good. It's obviously a medical decision and an organisational decision at this point."

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Former Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith was the first candidate to be interviewed to replace Gary Kubiak as the Texans' coach, according to the Houston Chronicle.

Smith, 55, was fired after the Bears finished 10-6 and missed the playoffs in 2012. During his nine years with the Bears, Smith was 81-63, including 3-3 in the playoffs. His teams won three NFC North titles and lost Super Bowl XLI to Indianapolis. Smith, a native Texan, has not coached this year, but he plans to return next season.

The Texans (2-12) have had a disappointing season after winning a combined 22 regular-season games over the previous two years.

Other candidates for the Texans' job include their current interim head coach, Wade Phillips, as well as Penn State head coach Bill O'Brien and Chargers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt.

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New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz, who suffered an injury to his left knee and a concussion in Sunday's loss to Seattle, has under gone an arthroscopic debridement of the knee.

Cruz was cleared of the concussion, per the NFL's protocol, on Wednesday.

Cruz got a second opinion on his knee Thursday. He will miss the rest of the season. He finished with 73 catches for 998 yards.

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Washington Redskins tight end Jordan Reed will miss the rest of the 2013 season due to lingering concussion symptoms.

Coach Mike Shanahan said Reed was placed on injured reserve.

Shanahan told reporters the doctor recommended Reed not practice for three weeks, ending his season.

Reed ends his rookie year with 45 catches for 499 yards and three touchdowns while playing in nine games.

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Seattle Seahawks cornerback Brandon Browner plans to continue to fight his indefinite suspension for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy. His original appeal was denied Wednesday, but he has filed an additional appeal, according to a report.

According to multiple reports, Browner contested his placement in Stage Three of the NFL's substance-abuse program, arguing that the league improperly advanced him while he was playing in the Canadian Football League from 2007-10. Browner said he was unaware he was even eligible for continued testing by the NFL while he was out of the league, and did not receive any correspondence related to NFL drug tests taken more than six years ago.

He also reportedly claimed his September urine sample that led to a positive test for a small amount of marijuana in his system was mishandled.

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Jim Harbaugh has insisted that all is well with the San Francisco 49ers and he remains committed to the team.

The 49ers coach said he is "absolutely" planning to stay with the team long term.

Reports surfaced this week that Harbaugh might be a candidate for the Texas job that opened when Mack Brown announced he will step down after the Alamo Bowl later this month. Harbaugh denied any interest in the Longhorns.

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Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco will wear a brace on his left knee in Sunday's game against the New England Patriots as a precautionary move.

Flacco was hit on his knee by the helmet of Detroit Lions linebacker DeAndre Levy in the fourth quarter of the Ravens' 18-16 win on Monday night.

Flacco, who wore a brace at practice on Wednesday, has started 94 straight games since entering the league in 2008.