NFL notes: 49ers' Alex Smith practices, may play Monday
Alex Smith insists it's too early to guess whether he will return from a concussion in time to start at quarterback in San Francisco's key Monday night NFC showdown against the Chicago Bears.
The decision is not up to him, anyway.
Smith went through position work with the NFC West-leading 49ers (6-2-1) in a non-contact black jersey Wednesday, his status still unclear after he sustained a concussion in the second quarter Sunday against the St. Louis Rams.
"I feel good, better," Smith said Wednesday in his first comments since the injury. "I'm just going along with the process right now. Nothing's been decided. It's a whole long process that's up to the doctors. I just kind of do what they tell me. Contact obviously is the final straw."
Coach Jim Harbaugh kept a watchful eye on Smith from several yards away as he worked with backup Colin Kaepernick and No. 3 QB Scott Tolzien to get his reps.
Smith had to pass concussion tests given by a neurologist he went to Stanford on Monday to get this far and return to the practice field, but there are still further steps in the process for him to be medically cleared for game action.
"Right now it looks like Alex will be our quarterback for sure," optimistic tight end Vernon Davis said. "I would think so. With all those concussions, you can't really tell, but he was out there and threw the ball around a little bit."
Ryan upset anonymous Jets rip Tebow
Rex Ryan doesn't mind his New York Jets players saying what's on their minds. Just as long as they put their names to their comments.
An angry Ryan addressed his team Wednesday for some anonymous quotes by players and members of the organization ripping backup quarterback Tim Tebow in a newspaper report.
"If you're not going to put your name to it, I think that's about as cowardly of a thing there is," Ryan said. "I don't want to get into specifics of what I said, but I did address it with our football team. If you're searching for things to try to drive a wedge through the team, my thing is, I believe in this team.
"I believe this team is [together], will continue to be and maybe even become tighter. I'm confident that will be the case."
A report in the Daily News on Wednesday said that more than a dozen players and members of the Jets organization believe there's no chance Tebow could overtake Mark Sanchez for the starting quarterback job with one saying of the backup: "He's terrible."
"We never say that it always has to be a bed of roses," said Ryan, who encourages his players and coaches to "be yourself" in interviews. "But again, put your name to it. I think people would respect you a lot more for it."
The story drew so much attention that not a single question about the Jets' next opponent, the St. Louis Rams, was asked during Ryan's 22-minute news conference.
Tebow has remained unflappable all season despite constant questions about his role and how he's used by the Jets, but acknowledged this was a "unique" situation in his career and there was "some frustration and I guess some sadness" after hearing about the story.
Foles prepares to make first start with Eagles
Nick Foles officially remained No. 2 on the depth chart, even as he talked like a starter.
Facing a crush of media in front of his locker, Foles sounded every bit like the Philadelphia Eagles quarterback who will make his first career start Sunday at Washington, not an injured Michael Vick.
"I'm ready," Foles said after running the first team Wednesday. "I'm excited to just play again. Like I said before, my prayers are with Mike, I just want Mike to be healthy. But it's my time to go out there and just play and do everything I can for this team and help in any way possible."
Vick's status atop the depth chart is a mere formality. He did not practice or even come to the Eagles' practice facility again Wednesday as he recovers from a significant concussion suffered in last week's loss to Dallas. His headaches are subsiding, for now, but the veteran still needs to complete the mandated concussion testing this week.
Foles, a third-round draft pick out of Arizona, ran the offense in front of A-list actor Bradley Cooper and remained confident he can help the Eagles end their miserable five-game losing streak.
"I'm going to do my job right now until he gets healthy," Foles said.
Around the league
Packers • Linebacker Clay Matthews will miss Sunday's game in Detroit with a hamstring injury. Coach Mike McCarthy says the absence this week was expected. Matthews was hurt in the second half of Green Bay's Nov. 4 game against Arizona, and McCarthy said the next day that the three-time Pro Bowler would miss a couple of weeks.
Steelers • Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger believes he can return this season despite spraining his right shoulder and suffering what he called a dislocated rib in Monday night's overtime win against Kansas City.
He's just not sure when he'll be ready. And his medical team appears nowhere close to figuring out how exactly to get him there.
"From what (the doctor) said he's trying to talk to experts because there is no case study over the exact same thing," Roethlisberger said Wednesday. "We're just trying to talk to people ... because we don't know."
All Roethlisberger knows for certain is that doctors are concerned the rib which he injured while getting sacked by a pair of Kansas City linebackers in the third quarter on Monday could puncture his aorta if jostled around.
Cowboys • Dallas coach Jason Garrett keeps talking about "thresholds" running back DeMarco Murray must meet to end a longer-than-expected absence because of a sprained foot.
It's probably not on the official list, but Murray offered a benchmark on Wednesday. He said there was "a chance" he could play Sunday against Cleveland.
Murray has missed four games since rushing for 93 yards in a loss at Baltimore on Oct. 14. He had 90 yards in the first half but injured his right foot in the second quarter. He had just one carry in the third quarter before coming out for good.
The second-year pro did some work on the practice field last week and joined his teammates in shorts and helmets Wednesday exactly a month since the injury.
Bears • Quarterback Jay Cutler's status for this week remains in question because of a concussion.
Coach Lovie Smith says Cutler is "feeling a whole lot better" after sitting out the second half of Sunday's loss to Houston. Whether he'll be ready to play against San Francisco on Monday night is another issue.
Meanwhile, kicker Robbie Gould ripped the surface at Soldier Field and then apologized for it.
Gould blasted the field on Wednesday, saying he might have to think about re-signing with Chicago when his contract expires after next season. He told reporters he hopes to remain with the Bears but isn't sure he wants "to deal with that as I get older as a kicker."
He says the field has been "a lot softer" than in previous years.
Later, however, the Bears issued a statement from Gould in which he apologized to the grounds crew and said he has "since learned a lot more about the NFL's policies and the measures that are taken at Soldier Field to ensure a reliable and safe playing surface."