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Peyton Manning to return Sunday, but as backup for the Broncos’ Brock Osweiler

Peyton Manning

Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning waves before a game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Dec. 20.

(Don Wright / AP)

Peyton Manning will be back in uniform Sunday, but not as Denver’s starting quarterback.

Manning will serve as Brock Osweiler’s backup when the Broncos (11-4) play San Diego (4-11) with a fifth consecutive AFC West title and fourth straight first-round bye on the line.

Coach Gary Kubiak said before the walk-through workout Wednesday night that Manning has made enough progress from a foot injury to take this next step.

“I’m happy to be more of a part of it now than just being in street clothes and kind of quarantined in the indoor facility and working out on my own,” said Manning, whose last full practice was Nov. 13.

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Elsewhere:

• Tennessee quarterback Marcus Mariota’s inaugural NFL season has ended two games early. Titans interim Coach Mike Mularkey said it’s “not worth the risk” of playing Mariota (sprained right knee) in the season finale Sunday at Indianapolis. Zach Mettenberger will start his second straight game and fourth of his season. Mariota threw for 2,818 yards with 19 touchdowns and 10 interceptions despite being sacked 38 times. He completed 62.2% of his passes and posted a 91.5 passer rating.

• Cleveland quarterback Johnny Manziel was diagnosed with a concussion and has been entered into the NFL’s protocol for head injuries, likely ending his second season with one game left. Austin Davis is expected to start Sunday against Pittsburgh, which must beat the Browns to have a chance of making the AFC playoffs. The Browns also announced that starting cornerback Tramon Williams has been placed in concussion protocol, further depleting their banged-up secondary.

• Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger skipped practice Wednesday, sent home early by the coaching staff thanks to a nasty cold.

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• Houston quarterback Brian Hoyer is out of the concussion protocol and will start Sunday against Jacksonville when the Texans try to clinch the AFC South title. Hoyer missed the last two games. Brandon Weeden made his first start for Houston last weekend in a Texans win over Tennessee.

• Dallas receiver Dez Bryant’s injury-plagued season is ending early, and he faces the likelihood of more surgery on the right foot he broke in the opener. Bryant will miss the finale against Washington.

Aftermath of firing

A day after firing coach Chip Kelly, Philadelphia Eagles Chief Executive Jeffrey Lurie made it clear he wants a coach who can relate to his players and everyone else in the building.

“You’ve got to open your heart to players and everybody you want to achieve peak performance,” Lurie said Wednesday. “I would call it a style of leadership that values information and all of the resources that are provided and at the same time values emotional intelligence..”

Kelly didn’t have close relationships with many of his players, and former Eagles running back LeSean McCoy and cornerback Brandon Boykin were critical of his personality after he traded them.

Lurie said he wants “someone who interacts and communicates very clearly with everyone he works with.”

Eagles right tackle Lane Johnson, who was Kelly’s first draft pick, said his former coach was considered “unapproachable” by many players, though he thought Kelly had “good intentions.”

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Kelly was fired after missing the playoffs for the second straight season and failing in his first year in charge of personnel. The Eagles entered the season with Super Bowl expectations, but are 6-9.


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