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NFL: Haley, Sparano fired

Associated Press
The NFL notebook …
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Kansas City Chiefs fired coach Todd Haley on Monday with the team he led to the AFC West title less than a year ago stuck at the bottom of the division following a series of devastating injuries and discouraging blowouts.
The Chiefs dropped to 5-8 after Sunday’s 37-10 loss the New York Jets, their fifth loss in six games. Kansas City committed 11 penalties for 128 yards in another dismal performance, including a 15-yarder on Haley for unsportsmanlike conduct that may have ultimately sealed his fate.
“Timing in these situations is always difficult. There never seems to be a right time,” Chairman and CEO Clark Hunt said. “We just felt the inconsistent play the team has experienced throughout the season, including yesterday’s game, made today the right day to do it.”
SPARNO OUT IN MIAMI
MIAMI — Tony Sparano has been fired as coach of the Miami Dolphins, the third dismissal of an NFL coach in the past two weeks.
The move came Monday, one day after the Dolphins lost to the Philadelphia Eagles to fall to 4-9. The defeat ended a recent surge by the Dolphins after they lost their first seven games.
With two other teams already in the market for a new coach, owner Stephen Ross didn’t want to wait any longer to start shopping. Sparano’s dismissal came hours after the Kansas City Chiefs fired coach Todd Haley. Jacksonville fired coach Jack Del Rio on Nov. 29.
Todd Bowles, who had been Miami’s assistant head coach and secondary coach, will be the interim head coach for the final three games, starting Sunday at Buffalo. Jeff Ireland will remain as general manager and play a role in the coaching search.
TEXANS ROLLING
HOUSTON — The Houston Texans pulled up to Reliant Stadium on Sunday night to thousands of cheering fans who’ve waited 18 years for this.
Houston’s NFL team is back in the playoffs after winning the AFC South. Rookie quarterback T.J. Yates rallied the Texans to a 20-19 win over Cincinnati, and the team earned the franchise’s first postseason berth when New Orleans beat Tennessee.
The city is celebrating its first NFL division title since the Oilers won the AFC Central in 1993. The Texans (10-3), born as an expansion team in 2002, have won a franchise-record seven straight heading into Sunday’s game against Carolina (4-9).
Coach Gary Kubiak is hoping star receiver Andre Johnson returns after missing Sunday’s game in Cincinnati with a “mild” left hamstring strain.
JENNINGS HURT
GREEN BAY, Wis. — Wide receiver Greg Jennings will be on the sideline as the Green Bay Packers make their push for a perfect regular season. Come playoff time, the Packers expect to have him back.
Coach Mike McCarthy said Monday that Jennings will miss two to three weeks with a knee sprain, but is likely to return for the postseason.
“We have three games left,” McCarthy said. “Yes, I would think it’d be safe to say he’ll be back for the playoffs.”
Jennings hurt his left knee when he landed awkwardly in the third quarter of Sunday’s victory over Oakland. Jennings had to be helped from the sideline to a cart and was taken to the locker room.
At 13-0, the Packers can clinch home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs with a victory at Kansas City on Sunday. But losing Jennings will be a significant — if only temporary — blow to a team best known for its dominant passing game.
“We feel fortunate that it is only a couple weeks,” McCarthy said.
The Packers are monitoring several other injuries this week.
Defensive lineman Ryan Pickett and backup running back Brandon Saine both left Sunday’s game with concussions. McCarthy is optimistic both players will be available this week, but first will have to clear post-concussion testing protocols.
The Packers also are missing veteran left tackle Chad Clifton, guard Josh Sitton, running back James Starks and inside linebacker Desmond Bishop.
McCarthy said Sitton is “making progress” on his right knee injury and may practice this week. Bishop is “close” to returning from a calf injury. And McCarthy said he was hopeful Starks (right knee/ankle) could practice Wednesday.
And McCarthy hasn’t given up on getting back Clifton, who has been out since injuring his hamstring in the Packers’ Oct. 9 victory at Atlanta, then hurting his back during the rehabilitation process. McCarthy said Clifton may be able to return to practice next week.
“I wouldn’t say it was too late for Chad Clifton,” McCarthy said. “Actually, Chad was in the training room when I was in there. He looks good, had a hard workout today.”
But the biggest concern was Jennings, and the Packers appear to have dodged the worst-case scenario.
“I have not seen Greg today, but I was told his spirits were (high), he was upbeat,” McCarthy said. “He was in here for treatment, had a process to go through it with the medical staff.”
After making his first Pro Bowl in 2010, Jennings has 67 catches for 949 yards and nine touchdowns this season. He’s just as valuable when he isn’t catching the ball, occupying defenders and creating opportunities for the Packers’ other receivers.
“We feel that we have enough to move forward,” McCarthy said. “Greg will be missed, but with that, it’s more opportunity for the other perimeter players.”
Now the rest of the Packers’ deep and talented group of receivers will have to take up the slack.
“Greg’s a playmaker, and it’s hard to fill in (for) a guy like that,” tight end Jermichael Finley said Sunday night. “But we’ve got playmakers all through our offense. Young guys are going to have to step up, or the guys that already in will have to step up. Next man up.”
The Packers still are loaded with pass-catching talent, as Finley, Jordy Nelson, James Jones, Donald Driver and rookie Randall Cobb all can provide big-play threats.
“I think we know that everybody has a job to do,” Driver said. “It gets to a point where somebody has to step up, I think we can do it. It’s been a proven fact that guys have stepped up to fill other guys’ shoes.”
Still, Packers players acknowledged that losing Jennings is significant.
“It’d be a tremendous loss,” Clay Matthews said. “Obviously, I think he’s an elite receiver in this league, and you hate to see players get injured. Hopefully we’ll have him back soon enough. I’m not sure what happened, but hopefully he’s not out too long.”
The Associated Press
12/12/11 18:31

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