49ers’ Harbaugh back to work after heart procedure


SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Jim Harbaugh practically galloped through the locker room, lively as ever, offering a wave and a smile to long snapper Brian Jennings before putting his arm around right guard Alex Boone.

The San Francisco 49ers coach was back at work Friday and fired up to be there a day after undergoing a minor procedure for an irregular heartbeat that kept him away for all of half a day.

“I’m fine, I’m fine,” Harbaugh said. “No limits. Going about everything as normal. Had a little irregular heartbeat. I’ve had that before. Now that I have the procedure, a cardiovert, it’s amazing. It gets the heart rate back to normal. Atrial flutter is something I’ve had for a while, most of my life.”

The reigning NFL Coach of the Year returned to the field to lead San Francisco through a morning walk-through session, with a full practice scheduled for the afternoon. He did stop by for the final hour of Thursday’s practice for a “little bit” of coaching but “more standing.”

“It was pretty cool to see him,” safety Donte Whitner said. “We knew it was a minor heart thing, but a heart thing no matter if it’s minor, it’s serious. It felt a little different without him. Hopefully, he doesn’t have to go through it again.”

Harbaugh, who turns 49 on Dec. 23, was away from the team Thursday for his procedure at Stanford Hospital after undergoing tests Wednesday night. Several players said Friday they were initially scared for their coach, who acknowledged Friday that he underwent a similar procedure called an “ablation” 13 years ago while still playing during a 15-year NFL career at quarterback.

“He’s an intense person,” fullback Bruce Miller said. “It’s definitely a serious issue already with his heart. He’s not going to slow down. We’re glad he’s back.”

Eagles QB Vick out; Foles to

start at Washington

PHILADELPHIA — The news wasn’t surprising to Nick Foles.

Or anybody else, for that matter.

After all, the Eagles rookie quarterback had practiced with the first team all week, and the starter at his position, Michael Vick, hadn’t even touched the field since he left it with a concussion six days ago.

So, when Philadelphia coach Andy Reid on Friday officially ruled Vick out of Sunday’s game vs. Washington, and named Foles the starter, there weren’t many out there shocked by the expected proclamation. Certainly not the third-round pick from Arizona who has been preparing for his first NFL start his whole life.

“We’ve had a great week of preparation, a lot of hard work, and it definitely has sunk in,” Foles said. “I’m ready to go.”

Eagles fans certainly hope so.

When Foles and Philadelphia take the field Sunday in a matchup of disappointing 3-6 teams, there will be plenty at stake. Any chance of getting back in the NFC East race depends on this team making a run. Reid’s future — and perhaps even Foles’ as a full-time starter — also depend on it.

No pressure, or anything.

Bears’ Cutler to miss 49ers

game with concussion

LAKE FOREST, Ill. — The Chicago Bears were bracing for an injury to Jay Cutler long before the season started.

Now, they’ll see just how prepared they are.

Cutler will miss Monday’s game at San Francisco because of a concussion, leaving the Bears without their starting quarterback. The team announced the decision Friday, meaning Jason Campbell is the likely starter against the 49ers.

Star receiver Brandon Marshall said Cutler is getting better, but he also said there’s a bigger picture that goes beyond this week’s game.

“Our life, our health, is more important than football,” Marshall said. “I think we’ll get Jay back sooner than later.”

For now, the Bears believe they have enough to get by. They brought in Campbell in the offseason for a situation like this, and he found out before Thursday’s practice that he’ll be starting.

Coach Lovie Smith would not say if Cutler will make the trip to San Francisco. Players need to be cleared by team physicians and an independent neurological consultant before they can return, under NFL safety protocols. It’s possible the Bears could hold him out even if he gets the OK from doctors.

The Bears will also be missing defensive end Shea McClellin because of a concussion. They might get receiver Alshon Jeffery back from a hand injury. He’s missed the past four games but went through a full practice on Friday.

RB Mendenhall ready

to return for Steelers

PITTSBURGH — Insisting he feels well with no setbacks after a full week of practice, running back Rashard Mendenhall is set to return for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Because of an Achilles injury, Mendenhall has missed all four games of a winning streak that the Steelers (6-3) carry into their Sunday showdown with the Baltimore Ravens (7-2).

Mendenhall had not been through a full practice in more than a month, but made it through complete workouts Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. He is officially listed as probable.

“He looks like he’s back to his old form,” running back Isaac Redman said. “He’s making all the cuts, it looks like he has his burst. So he looks good.”

With former 1,200-yard rusher Mendenhall back, the Steelers have to decide how to split carries between he, Redman and Jonathan Dwyer. Redman and Dwyer each had 100-yard rushing games while Mendenhall was out.

With Mendenhall unavailable to play the first three games of the season because of his recovery from a torn ACL sustained Jan. 1, the Steelers running game struggled. Pittsburgh averaged 65 rushing yards per game in starting 1-2.

Since Mendenhall returned with a 68-yard performance in a win over Philadelphia Oct. 7 — to that point, the most yards by a Pittsburgh back this season — the Steelers have improved their NFL ranking in rushing yards from 31st to 20th.

After being deactivated for the two previous games, Dwyer had consecutive 100-yard efforts in victories over Cincinnati and Washington.

Then Redman had 147 rushing yards in a 24-20 win at the defending Super Bowl-champion Giants Nov. 4.

Reports: Mike Ditka

has minor stroke

CHICAGO — Hall of Famer Mike Ditka has had a minor stroke, an ESPN producer said.

ESPN’s Seth Markman posted on Twitter that the former Chicago Bears coach and player fell ill Friday and will not appear on the network’s NFL shows this weekend.

Markman wrote that Ditka “wanted everyone to know he’s OK.”

Ditka did not immediately return a message from The Associated Press.

He told the Chicago Tribune he was feeling “good right now, and it’s not a big deal.” He was playing cards at a suburban country club Friday when he noticed his hands “weren’t working quite right,” and he then started having difficulty speaking.

The 73-year-old Ditka had a heart attack during the 1988 season when he was coaching the Bears.

The stroke came on the same day that a Lake County prosecutor said in court that Ditka’s son, Mark E. Ditka, tested positive for opiates during a pretrial screening earlier this month, according to the Tribune.

The younger Ditka is awaiting trial on his fourth DUI charge.