The Minnesota Vikings learned Wednesday that they will have to make their playoff run without quarterback Brad Johnson, who will be sidelined the rest of the season because of a neck injury.
An examination revealed that Johnson has a herniated cervical disk, and surgery is recommended. The injury created pressure on a nerve in Johnson's neck, resulting in a loss of strength in his throwing hand.
Johnson complained of a neck problem when he awoke Monday, but played that night against the Green Bay Packers. He was noticeably hampered, fumbling twice without being hit and missing badly on several passes in the 27-11 loss to the Packers.
The Vikings, who have lost three consecutive games after an 8-2 start, will turn to Randall Cunningham, 34. He was six-of-12 passing for 72 yards after coming in for Johnson against the Packers.
The San Francisco 49ers sought Wednesday to stabilize their administration, refocus the players' attention on the field, and hold together the $525-million stadium deal critical to keeping the team in the city.
All this the day after owner Edward DeBartolo Jr. stepped down as CEO after newspapers reported he would soon be indicted in Louisiana on gambling fraud charges.
Overshadowed was the return of Jerry Rice, who practiced for the first time since suffering a serious knee injury in the Aug. 31 season-opening loss to Tampa Bay.
DeBartolo, who had run the 49er organization for 21 years, met privately with players to explain his resignation.
At a news conference, Carmen Policy, team president and chief executive officer, said he had received a minority ownership stake and will oversee day-to-day operations. DeBartolo's sister, Marie Denise DeBartolo York, will take over as chairman.
Policy said the 49ers are in the process of selecting a chief executive officer and a chief operating officer to oversee the stadium-mall project and that the city and the institutions expected to finance the construction still want to be in the project.
Kansas City Chief linebacker Anthony Davis was fined $7,500 by the NFL for a hit on San Francisco quarterback Steve Young in last Sunday's game. It was the third time this season the NFL has fined a Chief defensive player for a hit. . . . Baltimore Raven safety Stevon Moore will miss the remainder of the season because of a fractured left knee, an injury that ends his streak of 77 starts. Meanwhile, Raven quarterback Vinny Testaverde missed practice because of knee problems and could sit out Sunday's game against the Seattle Seahawks. . . . The San Diego Chargers appear to have made it all but official that quarterback Stan Humphries will be put on injured reserve for the final three games of the season. Humphries, sidelined since suffering a concussion Nov. 2 at Cincinnati, met with Charger Coach Kevin Gilbride. A final decision wasn't expected until after General Manager Bobby Beathard returns from the NFL labor meetings in Dallas. . . . For the first time in the franchise's 64-year history, the Pittsburgh Steelers staged a closed practice during the regular season. Coach Bill Cowher said he decided to close practice without warning out of "competitive concerns," which he did not fully explain.
TENNESSEE (7-6) AT CINCINNATI (4-9)
5 p.m., ESPN
An interesting contrast exists between the Bengal offense and the Oiler defense. Both have rejuvenated recently, but both could miss injured players tonight. The Bengals haven't missed receiver Carl Pickens much yet because Darnay Scott has stepped up, but this could be the week Pickens' absence becomes obvious. The Oilers, meanwhile, will miss defensive sparkplug Marcus Robertson. Boomer Esiason still can play, but it's one thing to light up the Eagles; another to light up the Oilers. Edge: Oilers