San Francisco 49ers Coach Jim Harbaugh is declining to respond to reports that he is weighing an offer from Michigan to become the new coach at his alma mater.
Harbaugh has one season remaining on the $25-million, five-year contract he signed in January 2011. Several media outlets, including ESPN and the NFL Network, have reported Harbaugh has a six-year offer on the table from the Wolverines to return to Ann Arbor.
“As you know, I’ll only talk about the job that I have. We’ve been together a long time and it’s a long-standing policy,” Harbaugh said Thursday.
All season long, he has said he won’t let outside issues affect him. His name has emerged as a possible candidate for what should be several NFL vacancies after the season if Harbaugh and the 49ers part ways, including to fill the job across the bay in Oakland.
San Francisco General Manager Trent Baalke said this week that a decision on Harbaugh’s future would come after the season. The 49ers (7-7) were eliminated from playoff contention in last Sunday’s 17-7 loss at Seattle, giving them their first three-game losing streak under Harbaugh. San Francisco had reached three straight NFC championship games, losing the Super Bowl after the 2012 season.
“Trent and I have discussions every day,” Harbaugh said, noting he still intends to coach out his contract. “I have said that I’m going to finish this until the end. My focus is the same as the players’ focus, the same as the coaches’ focus, focused on the practice field, focused in meetings, by our players, by our coaches and by me.”
‘Not easy’ to bench Cutler
The Chicago Bears officially benched Jay Cutler on Thursday, deciding to start Jimmy Clausen against the Detroit Lions this weekend instead of their franchise quarterback who signed a massive, seven-year deal at the end of last season.
Coach Marc Trestman said Cutler will be available as the backup for Sunday’s game at Soldier Field, where boos have rained down on a punchless, porous team that is now 5-9 and playing out the string after starting the season with legitimate hopes of a playoff run. They will miss the postseason for the seventh time in eight years.
“Certainly, it was not an easy decision,” Trestman said. “In my mind those types of decisions never are, and I worked it through and think it through not only myself but with our staff.”
Trestman said he met with General Manager Phil Emery on Tuesday and informed Cutler and Clausen of his decision Wednesday. He met again with Emery later in the day to discuss his decision and informed the staff that night.
Cutler was taken aback by the decision, saying that he was “Shocked, I think at first. And then, I think, disappointed.”
He said he wants to stay in Chicago and that he could work with Trestman next season, although their relationship would have to mend during the off-season.
FCC OKs ‘Redskins’ on the air
Saying the word “Redskins” on the air isn’t obscene or profane — at least not according to the Federal Communications Commission.
The FCC on Thursday dismissed a petition that called for one of the team’s flagship radio stations not to have its license renewed. The petition claimed repeated use of the word “Redskins” violates rules against indecent content.
But the FCC said that the law defines profanity as sexual or excretory in nature — meanings that don’t relate to the name of the football team.
The Panthers’ Cam Newton will “probably” start Sunday against the Cleveland Browns barring any physical setbacks this week, Carolina Coach Ron Rivera said after the quarterback practiced Thursday. The team increased Newton’s workload and Rivera said the fourth-year QB seemed to handle it well. However, the coach was hesitant on naming Newton the starter in case he begins to experience soreness in his back.
Denver quarterback Peyton Manning was limited Thursday when the Broncos reconvened for their first practice since their win at San Diego on Sunday. Manning fought through flu in that game and strained his right thigh late in the first half. He didn’t appear in any discomfort after a walkthrough, saying, “I feel OK,” and, when asked if he’ll be ready to play Monday night, added, “I certainly hope so.” Save for the season he missed following spinal fusion surgery, Manning has never missed a start in his 17-year NFL career.
San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers returned a day after sitting out practice in order to rest chest and back injuries. He expects to play at San Francisco on Saturday night, when the Chargers (8-6) hope to keep their playoff chances alive. ... Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray took a step closer toward playing in Sunday’s game against the Indianapolis Colts by participating in practice Thursday — albeit on a limited basis. It was Murray’s first official work with the team since undergoing surgery on Monday to repair a broken bone in his left hand. ... Houston receiver Andre Johnson expects to play on Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens after missing last week’s game because of a concussion.