Browns may be without linebackers Karlos Dansby, Jabaal Sheard

The Cleveland Browns may have lost starting linebackers Karlos Dansby and Jabaal Sheard for the season because

The Cleveland Browns' defense has taken two more major hits, blows that could knock them from playoff contention.

The Browns could be without starting linebackers Karlos Dansby and Jabaal Sheard for the remainder of the season after both sustained significant injuries Sunday during a 23-7 loss to the Houston Texans.

Dansby injured his left knee on a running play in the second quarter and Coach Mike Pettine said Monday that the 11-year veteran will be out for "upwards of a month," and it's possible he could be done for the year. Dansby, who signed as a free agent with Cleveland in March, leads the Browns (6-4) in tackles and has been a leader on and off the field.

Sheard's foot injury could be more serious and his season is likely over. Pettine did not give specifics of the injury other than to say it involves a bone in Sheard's foot.

The losses of Dansby and Sheard, who will be an unrestricted free agent, further hurts Cleveland's defense, which lost run-stopping end Phil Taylor to a season-ending knee injury last week.

Dansby has been remarkably durable during his NFL career. He has never played fewer than 14 games in stints with Arizona and Miami.

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The New Orleans Saints will have to continue their chase for an NFC South title without a pair of starters: receiver Brandin Cooks and safety Rafael Bush.

Cooks had surgery on his broken right thumb and his recovery time is expected to be four to six weeks, said his agent, Jeff Sperbeck.

Bush said he has a fractured bone in his lower right leg.

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San Diego Chargers Coach Mike McCoy refuted star tight end Antonio Gates' comment that quarterback Philip Rivers has a severe rib injury. Rivers was injured twice Sunday in a 13-6 victory against winless Oakland but remained in the game.

Afterward, while commenting on Rivers' toughness, Gates said: "For those who don't know, he's been dealing with a rib injury, a very severe rib injury. So he's been toughing it out these last three, four weeks."

Asked Monday about Gates' comment, McCoy said: "Philip's never missed a snap in practice and he hasn't been in treatment with James, so I would not say severe injury." McCoy was referring to trainer James Collins.

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The San Francisco 49ers activated nose tackle Glenn Dorsey following his 21-day evaluation window, putting him in position to play for the first time Sunday against Washington if he's deemed ready.

Dorsey tore his left biceps Aug. 1 and required surgery. He was placed on the injured reserve/designated to return list with the hopes he would be able to come back this season.

San Francisco cleared room on the 53-man roster by placing nose tackle Ian Williams on season-ending injured reserve because of a fractured left fibula suffered at New Orleans on Nov. 9.

Linebacker NaVorro Bowman's 21-day evaluation window is set to begin Tuesday. That means he could start practicing again this week as the 49ers determine whether he will be able to play this season following a devastating left knee injury in last January's NFC championship game that required surgery.

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