By The Associated Press
Colts receiver Marvin Harrison will miss Thursday night's game at Jacksonville with an apparent hamstring injury.
Team spokesman Craig Kelley said Wednesday that Harrison, who has been listed on this week's practice report with a knee injury, did not travel with the team. Coach Tony Dungy said earlier Wednesday that Harrison "actually has a hamstring issue" and underwent an MRI.
Kelley did not provide additional details about the injury.
Harrison has been one of Peyton Manning's favorite targets over the past 11 seasons. The two have combined for more completions, yards and touchdowns than any other tandem in league history.
And Harrison is No. 3 on the NFL's career receptions list with 1,095 after passing Tim Brown for third in Sunday's victory over Detroit. Only Jerry Rice and Cris Carter have more career receptions and Harrison needs seven more receptions to pass Carter for second.
But Harrison has not played as prominent a role in the Colts' offense this season. He had four straight seasons with 100 or more catches from 1999 to 2002, when he set the league's single season record with 143 receptions. This year, after returning from offseason knee surgery, the 36-year-old has 53 catches for 605 yards and five touchdowns.
Harrison may not be the only key contributor missing Thursday's game.
Dungy said running back Joseph Addai and safety Bob Sanders are likely to be game-time decisions.
Addai hurt his right shoulder Dec. 7 against Cincinnati and did not play in Sunday's victory over Detroit.
Sanders also was held out of the Lions game -- the ninth game he's missed this season. The 2007 NFL Defensive Player of the Year missed five games with a high ankle sprain and had surgery on his right knee while he was out. He has missed four of the last five games with swelling in his right knee.
Both Sanders and Addai have practiced this week.
Quarterback Trent Edwards is ready to make his first start in three weeks since being sidelined by a groin injury, and former starter J.P. Losman has likely taken his last snap for the Bills.
Edwards returned to practice Wednesday and is expected to start at Denver on Sunday. With Buffalo out of playoff contention after losing seven of eight, Edwards will try to spark a bumbling offense and prove he's capable of shedding the inconsistencies in his game before he was hurt.
The same can't be said for Losman, who's been relegated to third-string behind Gibran Hamdan. Losman has no plans to re-sign with Buffalo this offseason, and the demotion comes after his fumble was returned for a decisive touchdown in a 31-27 loss to the Jets last weekend.
A streak that has been one of the keys to the Panthers' success is in jeopardy ahead of their biggest game of the season Sunday at the Giants.
Defensive tackle Maake Kemoeatu missed practice Wednesday with a sprained right ankle, making it possible a defensive starter will miss a game for the first time this season.
All 11 defenders have started all 14 games, but Kemoeatu was seen on crutches on wearing a protective boot on Monday. A key to Carolina's run defense, Kemoeatu's absence would hurt as the Panthers (11-3) face the run-oriented Giants (11-3) with the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs at stake.
"We've got guys on the team we feel good about that have played a lot of football all season long," coach John Fox said. "It's not like Maake or anybody out there plays every play. We've got guys out there that have made great contributions and we'll expect the same thing this week against New York."
Fox, always secretive on injuries, would only say that Kemoeatu is day to day. If he can't play, veteran Darwin Walker could get the start.
Walker was on the inactive list for last Sunday's game against Denver. So when Kemoeatu went down in the second half, defensive end Charles Johnson moved to his tackle position.
The Panthers also have an injury concern on the offensive line. Right guard Keydrick Vincent, the only offensive lineman to start every game, missed practice Wednesday with a groin injury. Jeremy Bridges would likely get the start if Vincent can't play.
Reserve defensive end Hilee Taylor (calf) missed practice. Linebacker Adam Seward practiced for the first time since missing three games with an ankle injury.
Brandon Jacobs practiced, an early sign the big halfback would be back in the lineup this weekend for the NFC showdown against the Panthers.
Jacobs missed the game against Dallas last weekend after aggravating his left knee in a game against the Eagles the week before.
"This game is very important," said Jacobs, who has rushed for 1,002 yards and 12 touchdowns. "You have a good football team coming in here. We are the head honchos of the conference and this game means a lot to our team. I want to be out there to have better chances for our team to win. Whatever I can do to help us win, I'm all for that."
The winner will capture the NFC's No. 1 seed for the playoffs.
Jacobs said he pleaded with the team's trainers to play against Dallas and was turned down.
"I don't want to plead this week," he said. "There is no choice. I want to go. Whoever I have to talk to in order to get this verdict, that's what I'm going to do."
Fellow running back Derrick Ward (ankle), defensive tackle Fred Robbins (shoulder), receivers Sinorice Moss (calf) and Domenik Hixon (ankle-foot) and linebacker Gerris Wilkinson (knee) did not practice on Wednesday.
The Super Bowl champions made four roster moves, signing receiver Derek Hagan and linebacker Edmond Miles, while placing linebacker Jonathan Goff (hamstring) and running back Reuben Droughns (neck) on injured reserve.
Droughns injured his neck Sunday night in Dallas.
Hagan was released by Miami on Nov. 4. He caught 53 passes for 643 yards and three touchdowns in 2 1/2 seasons, including three catches for 51 yards this season.
Goff, the team's fifth-round draft choice, played in only five games because of an assortment of injuries, the last being a hamstring.
Miles played 16 games for the Miami Dolphins in 2007, when he had a team-high 16 special teams tackles.
Indignant over another Pro Bowl snub, middle linebacker London Fletcher stepped out of character and vented his frustration, calling himself "the Susan Lucci of the NFL" and deeming his career "Hall of Fame worthy."
"I don't know if it was because I wasn't a first-round draft pick, I don't do some kind of dance when I make a 10-yard tackle, I don't go out and get arrested," Fletcher said. "I believe in playing the game the way it's supposed to be played. You line up each and every week, each and every play, and you go out and get the job done.
"You look at my body of work and I've done that for 11 years, but because I'm not going out causing a lot of controversy, holding a private meeting with the coordinator saying this, this and this, causing a lot of strife on my team, I don't garner a lot of attention."
Fletcher is the leading tackler in the NFL this decade and has never missed a game in his 11-year career, even persevering through a severely sprained foot earlier this season. He is widely considered the MVP of the Redskins, the anchor to a defense ranked fourth in the league.
But it is rare to hear him brag about himself or stray from the politically correct party line when addressing reporters.
"My career has been Hall of Fame worthy," Fletcher said. "But some coaches and some players get caught up in the hype reading the newspapers or listening to some national TV game as opposed to watching the game with no sound. ... I put myself up against anybody playing the position, anybody."
Though solid throughout his career, Fletcher has never been able to place himself among his position's elite. San Francisco's Patrick Willis and Carolina's Jon Beason were the NFC selections for inside linebacker this year in voting among fans, coaches and players, and it would be hard to argue with either choice.
"I understand they can take only two middle linebackers, but to have it happen year after year after year after year after year. I'm an eight-time alternate. I'm the Susan Lucci of the NFL," said Fletcher, referring to the soap opera star who was nominated for an Emmy 18 times before finally winning.
Starting middle linebacker Channing Crowder was held out of practice with a stiff knee.
"I just thought he needed a day off," Dolphins coach Tony Sparano said.
Crowder was riding the exercise bike on the side during the practice session. While passing through the locker room with a plate of chicken wings, he said the injury was minor and expects to play Sunday at Kansas City.
Crowder had 10 tackles against San Francisco last Sunday, giving him the team lead with 105 this year. He has started every game for the Dolphins this season.
Launched over cocktails by two fed-up Browns fans, the Web site has bloomed into a full-born movement by thousands to bring Bill Cowher back to Cleveland.
"We knew we had to do something," said Ryan Martz, co-founder of Cowher09.com, designed to "unleash the power of Cowher" and make the iconic chin the Browns' next coach. "After years and years of losing and seeing the same bad product, we deserve a winner in Cleveland. Fans have had enough."
Since its debut in September, Cowher09.com has grown into a home base of support for Cowher, believed to be at the top of Cleveland's wish list to replace Romeo Crennel.
Browns owner Randy Lerner is waiting until after the season before deciding on Crennel's future. But it's safe to assume he'll replace the former defensive coordinator who is just 24-38 in four seasons, three of which have ended with double-digit losses and none has included a playoff appearance.
The Browns have lost at least 10 games seven times since 1999.
Cowher has not indicated he's interested in a return to coaching in the NFL. He's reportedly content in his job as a pregame studio analyst for CBS, a career he began after leaving the Steelers two years ago.
When the Patriots let Super Bowl star Adam Vinatieri leave as a free agent, fans wondered how long it would take to find another outstanding kicker.
Not very long.
Stephen Gostkowski has achieved a feat his clutch predecessor didn't: make the Pro Bowl in just his third pro season.
"I respect everything he's done and hope I can do half the things that he does in his career," Gostkowski said. "When fans or somebody come up to me and say, 'we haven't missed that guy,' it's nice to hear."
Vinatieri provided the winning margin in all three of the Patriots' Super Bowl wins. But the Patriots decided not to put the franchise tag on him, which would have cost them $3 million for one season, and he signed with the Colts in 2006.
Some fans were upset that he had joined one of the Patriots' top rivals. Others were angry the Patriots didn't do more to keep a player who now holds the NFL record for most postseason field goals.
But the Patriots thought a lot of Gostkowski. Why else would they draft him in the fourth round, early for a kicker, out of Memphis in 2006?
Still, he knew he was following one of the best kickers in NFL history.
"Any time you come in after a guy who's done what Vinatieri did, it's a little tough," Gostkowski said one day after being named to the AFC squad, "but it's nothing I ever thought about.
"He paved the way for kickers and has gotten kickers a lot of respect."
Gus Frerotte returned to practice and split time with Tarvaris Jackson at quarterback.
The Vikings, of course, remain tightlipped about who will start Sunday against Atlanta. Frerotte missed last week's game against Arizona with a lower back injury.
Jackson shone in his place. He threw four touchdown passes in the 35-14 victory that earned him NFC Offensive Player of the Week honors.
Coach Brad Childress says he will evaluate the situation over the next few days.
Defensive end Jared Allen (knee), left tackle Artis Hicks (triceps), nose tackle Pat Williams (shoulder) and kick returner Darius Reynaud (foot) all missed practice with injuries.
The storm clouds scattered as the Cardinals took the practice field on Wednesday, to coach Ken Whisenhunt's dismay. Whisenhunt thought a bit of rain and cold might have come in handy as the Cardinals prepare for a foray into the New England winter this weekend.
"I thought maybe we were going to get a little help with that, but it magically cleared," Whisenhunt said.
The Cardinals (8-6) hope they'll be as lucky on Sunday, when they meet the Patriots (9-6).
Forecasts call for snow showers and a high temperature around 30 degrees -- worrisome conditions for desert-dwelling birds.
"We've talked about it," Whisenhunt said. "We're aware of what the conditions may be. But it's not like there's someplace we could go to practice to prepare for it."
Actually, the Cardinals would have found snow-globe conditions at their training camp in Flagstaff, where up to a foot of snow has fallen this week. But Flagstaff is 140 miles away and not a realistic option for midweek game preparations.
For many NFL teams, bad late-season weather is part of the deal. Not for the Cardinals, whose biggest weather concern for years was playing in scorching Sun Devil Stadium in September.
Now that they've moved into retractable-domed University of Phoenix Stadium, the Cardinals don't encounter adverse conditions very often.
That's likely to change this weekend, and it's on the minds of the players and staff as they gear up for the game.
"I think people talk about it around the league: warm-weather teams, you have to get your mind ready to go play in the cold," quarterback Kurt Warner said. "You step off the plane and it's a shock. Everybody says your blood thins a little bit, or your skin thins a little bit when you come out here.
"There's no question that that's a mental battle. You have to go in with a mind-set, 'Hey, it's going to be cold, and I'm going to be cold out there. But so what?' "
Cornerback Frank Walker denied that he intentionally spit on Steelers punter Mitch Berger, saying it was an accident during a heated confrontation at the end of the game.
"It was a slobber moment," Walker said. "Yeah, say it, don't spray it. After the kick, he felt like I tried to take his kicker's knee out and I was just trying to block his kick."
Berger and kicker Jeff Reed told Pittsburgh reporters they don't believe Walker.
"I had my mouth open and was about to say something when he spit right on me," Berger said. "It wasn't something that happens by accident when you're talking sometimes. There was the full noise, he made the full spitting noise."
Added Reed: "I just couldn't believe he did what he did. It was disgusting, just classless." Buccaneers
Tampa Bay quarterback Jeff Garcia was limited in practice, but said his injured right calf is improving and that he's optimistic about playing this week against the San Diego Chargers.
The 38-year-old sat out last week's 13-10 overtime loss at Atlanta after determining he could not play during a pregame workout. Brian Griese replaced him, seeing action for the first time after being sidelined nine weeks with an elbow injury.
"I am going to practice, so I plan on being ready Sunday," Garcia said.
Coach Jon Gruden said he was "confident and optimistic" that Garcia will start against the Chargers, but also stressed the quarterback's status is "day to day" and he plans to make sure Griese and Luke McCown are prepared to step in.