Add rib injury to Roethlisberger’s woes


PITTSBURGH — Ben Roethlisberger’s sprained right shoulder is just the start of his problems.

The Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback said Wednesday he also dislocated a rib while getting sacked in the third quarter of Monday night’s win against Kansas City. Roethlisberger sprained the SC joint in his shoulder on the play but says the rib issue is a bigger concern.

Roethlisberger said doctors are concerned the rib could cut into his aorta. He’s already been ruled out of Sunday’s game against the Baltimore Ravens. Backup Byron Leftwich will start in his place, though Roethlisberger doesn’t believe the injuries will end his season.

“I don’t think so, I don’t know though but I’m not a medical expert,” Roethlisberger said. “I just know I’m going to do what I can to get back.”

Roethlisberger added he’s in considerable pain and has slept just four hours over the last two nights. He wore a black sling in the locker room to prevent the rib from moving around. Doctors are worried if the rib gets jostled before it heals it can cause internal bleeding.

“I can move (the arm) around, that’s not the issue,” Roethlisberger said. “Sometimes when I do move it the rib will kind of pop out of place again, which is pretty painful. I just try to keep it as still as I can for the most part.”

The quarterback added the pain level is “nine on a scale of 1-10.”

The Steelers (6-3) have won four straight to pull within a game of first-place Baltimore (7-2), but Roethlisberger left the 16-13 overtime win over the Chiefs in the third quarter after getting slammed to the ground by Kansas City linebackers Tamba Hali and Justin Houston.

The two-time Super Bowl winner underwent extensive testing Tuesday to determine the extent of the injury to his throwing shoulder. He was waiting further word on Wednesday about how to move forward because of the unusual nature of the injury.

“From what (the doctor) said he’s trying to talk to experts because there is no case study over the exact same thing,” Roethlisberger said. “From what I heard, from what he told me it was a 1998 rugby player or something.”

Leftwich completed 7 of 14 passes for 73 yards after replacing Roethlisberger. He will be making his first start since 2009 when he played for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The former first-round pick has been plagued by injuries the last two seasons and said he felt a little rusty after seeing his first regular season action in nearly two years, though coach Mike Tomlin anticipates the rust to wear off this week.

“I’ll trust his assessment if that’s his assessment, but I’m not overly concerned about it,” Tomlin said.

The Steelers have managed to survive without Roethlisberger before. They are 7-5 in games without their franchise quarterback since 2005, including a 4-1 mark over the last two seasons. Roethlisberger missed the first four games of the 2010 season after being suspended for violating the league’s personal conduct policy, but Pittsburgh started 3-1 behind Dennis Dixon and Charlie Batch, who will serve at Leftwich’s backup on Sunday.

Batch filled in nicely last December when Roethlisberger was sidelined with an ankle injury, throwing for 208 yards in a 27-0 win over the St. Louis Rams.

Leftwich is 0-6 in his last six games as a starter, his last victory coming on Oct. 8, 2006 while playing the Jacksonville Jaguars, who selected Leftwich with the seventh overall pick of the 2003 draft.

Bears quarterback Cutler’s status remains up in air

LAKE FOREST, Ill. — Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler’s status for this week remains in question because of a concussion.

Coach Lovie Smith says Cutler is “feeling a whole lot better” after sitting out the second half of Sunday’s loss to Houston. Whether he’ll be ready to play against San Francisco on Monday night is another issue.

The Bears believe Cutler was injured on a helmet-to-helmet hit by Tim Dobbins late in the first half against the Texans, and Smith said Wednesday they were still evaluating him. If Cutler is not ready to play against the 49ers, the Bears believe they have a solid backup after adding Jason Campbell in the offseason.

Vick skips practice; Foles prepares for Redskins

PHILADELPHIA — Nick Foles officially remained No. 2 on the depth chart, even as he talked like a starter.

Facing a crush of media in front of his locker, Foles sounded every bit like the Philadelphia Eagles quarterback who will make his first career start Sunday at Washington, not an injured Michael Vick.

“I’m ready,” Foles said after running the first team Wednesday. “I’m excited to just play again. Like I said before, my prayers are with Mike, I just want Mike to be healthy. But it’s my time to go out there and just play and do everything I can for this team and help in any way possible.”

Vick’s status atop the depth chart is a mere formality. He did not practice or even come to the Eagles’ practice facility again Wednesday as he recovers from a significant concussion suffered in last week’s loss to Dallas. His headaches are subsiding, for now, but the veteran still needs to complete the mandated concussion testing this week.

Foles, a third-round draft pick out of Arizona, ran the offense in front of A-list actor Bradley Cooper and remained confident he can help the Eagles end their miserable five-game losing streak.

Because Vick had not started his concussion testing, he has not officially been ruled out of Sunday’s game. Coach Andy Reid declined to say when Vick’s status would change. Reid, however, did add Vick had improved.

Smith practices for 49ers in non-contact jersey

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — San Francisco 49ers quarterback Alex Smith went through position work in a non-contact black jersey Wednesday, his status still unclear for Monday night’s NFC showdown with the Chicago Bears after he sustained a concussion Sunday against the Rams.

Coach Jim Harbaugh kept an eye on Smith from several yards away as he worked with backup Colin Kaepernick and No. 3 QB Scott Tolzien to get his reps.

Smith would have had to pass concussion tests given by a neurologist to get this far and return to the practice field, but there are still further steps in the process for him to be medically cleared for game action.

Harbaugh said Smith experienced blurred vision on a 1-yard quarterback sneak early in the second quarter of Sunday’s 24-24 tie.

Packers linebacker Matthews to miss game in Detroit

GREEN BAY, Wis. — Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews will miss Sunday’s game in Detroit with a hamstring injury.

Coach Mike McCarthy says the absence this week was expected. Matthews was hurt in the second half of Green Bay’s Nov. 4 game against Arizona, and McCarthy said the next day that the three-time Pro Bowler would miss a couple of weeks.

Matthews is tied for second in the NFC with nine sacks.

Cowboys’ Murray could return after four-game absence

IRVING, Texas — Dallas coach Jason Garrett keeps talking about “thresholds” running back DeMarco Murray must meet to end a longer-than-expected absence because of a sprained foot.

It’s probably not on the official list, but Murray offered a benchmark on Wednesday. He said there was “a chance” he could play Sunday against Cleveland.

Murray has missed four games since rushing for 93 yards in a loss at Baltimore on Oct. 14. He had 90 yards in the first half but injured his right foot in the second quarter. He had just one carry in the third quarter before coming out for good.