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Nat. briefs: Bears to start Cutler on Sunday

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press
Thursday, November 7, 2013 - 11:31 pm

LAKE FOREST, Ill. — Jay Cutler's time away proved shorter than the Chicago Bears originally expected.

After missing one game, the quarterback will return Sunday to face the Detroit Lions at Soldier Field following a groin tear suffered Oct. 20. Team officials originally expected Cutler to be out four weeks and then be assessed week to week, but doctors cleared Cutler to play Thursday and he practiced without a problem.

“As soon as I got hurt, I felt like I'd be back quicker than they thought,” Cutler said. “I kind of had that mindset.”

Coach Marc Trestman saw no reason to believe the team is pushing its starter back onto the field too soon.

“He had an excellent practice,” Trestman said. “He moved around. We worked the entire game plan today: our movements, climbing the pocket, throwing the football, down the field, short throws, everything. He did everything today.”

Cutler does not view his quick return as a gamble. He credited the use of an Athletic Rehabilitation and Performance machine (ARP), a device that helps heal soft tissue, with his rapid recovery.

“If I wasn't back to 100 percent, or if they had any doubts, I wouldn't have been able to practice today,” he said. “That was the stipulation.”

The Bears had a bye after their 45-41 loss to Washington, which provided some extra time for Cutler to recover. He suffered the injury with 10 minutes left in the first half of the Washington game on a sack, and backup Josh McCown completed the contest, then played all of Monday night's 27-20 win at Green Bay.

Cutler is slated to become a free agent after this season, but called his contract status no factor in coming back so soon.

“I haven't worried about my contract,” he said. “I haven't worried about it, period. That stuff takes care of itself somehow some way.

“So my biggest thing was just helping Josh last week to make sure, even though I knew he would be ready, to make sure I could help him in anyway, and then get back as soon as possible so I could help those guys.”

McCown completed 36 of 61 for 476 yards and did not turn the ball over as Cutler's replacement. He had a passer rating of 100.2. Cutler has completed 146 of 225 for 1,658 yards and 12 touchdowns with seven interceptions. He has a passer rating of 91.7.

McCown said he had no problem returning to the sidelines after playing so well.

McClendon glad to replace Wedge in Seattle

SEATTLE — Lloyd McClendon wanted this news conference three years ago. He wanted the showy introduction and to be posing for pictures holding his new jersey. He wanted to be asked about his managerial philosophy and why it didn't work his first time out in Pittsburgh.

And when it didn't happen, when the Seattle Mariners chose Fort Wayne native Eric Wedge to be their manager back in 2010, McClendon didn't sulk. He made sure to greet Seattle General Manager Jack Zduriencik every time their paths crossed and waited for a time when his desire to be a manager again would be realized.

“When he didn't get this job I think he was really heartbroken and he was really looking forward to (it),” Zduriencik said. “When we would see each other on the field when we would play Detroit, he would come over to me and was always, `How are you doing?' And he never wore anything on his sleeve. It was a handshake and a hug .... It's pretty neat. Three years ago and this guy never held it as a negative.”

Their paths have come full circle with McClendon being named as the Mariners' new manager earlier this week. He was introduced on Thursday, showing a mix of quiet intensity, a sense of humor and a belief that Seattle can finally return to winning after a dozen years without a postseason appearance.

It's a refrain heard in the past in Seattle that this will be the time the losing ways end and the Mariners become a consistent contender for the first time since an eight-year run, 1995-2002, when the franchise made four postseason appearances.

McClendon spoke Thursday of understanding the challenges ahead with a young roster, unproven in spots, and playing in one of the toughest divisions in baseball. McClendon said he wasn't dissuaded from going after the job by Wedge's sudden decision to leave at the end of the 2013 season citing differences with the front office, or the fact it's Zduriencik's third managerial hire in his five season as GM.

“This is a result-oriented business,” said McClendon, who was 336-446 as the Pirates manager from 2001-05. “I understand the honeymoon process, but the bottom line is winning games, developing young talent, making sure they are moving forward, win games in the process and, hopefully, when it's all said and done, we'll be popping champagne and having a good time.”

McClendon showed his sense of humor a number of times during his 30-minute introduction. He joked about now being a good smoker, having worked the past eight years for Jim Leyland in Detroit, the last seven of those years as the Tigers hitting coach. He talked of getting pounded growing up as the youngest in a family of nine boys in Gary, Ind.

Asked what the draw was to Seattle, McClendon was succinct, “Felix, Felix and Felix.”

Having aces like former Cy Young winner Felix Hernandez and AL Cy Young finalist Hisashi Iwakuma is a good place to start any rotation, especially for a new manager who believes in the importance of pitching.

“Pitching is the name of the game and if they pitch well, you're going to love me and you'll probably give me the keys to the city,” McClendon said. “And if they don't, you'll be kicking my butt out of the door and that's OK if that's the way it goes.”

Zduriencik was convinced McClendon wouldn't be coming to Seattle. He believed Detroit was going to promote McClendon to replace Leyland and he would have to look for another option. McClendon interviewed during the 2012 offseason for the job in Miami and was a finalist for the Tigers job that ended up going to Brad Ausmus.

Zduriencik said he was even more studious during this search, hoping to finally find a stabilizing field leader for the franchise. Unlike the first two managerial searches, Zduriencik went beyond speaking with managers, coaches and front-office personnel regarding McClendon, adding players to the mix.

“Guys are going to trust him,” Zduriencik said.

Notably absent from the day was any mention of Wedge. He was never referred to by name and when asked to compare the personalities of Wedge and McClendon, Zduriencik chose not to answer the question directly.

“I don't care to talk about what was here before. I would prefer to talk about this,” Zduriencik said. “I've talked about his qualities, his personality. I'm not interested in what happened before or anybody else's personality. I don't view that as a negative. My point is this is about him and not what was.”

Heat beats Clippers

MIAMI — Dwyane Wade scored 29 points, 11 in the fourth quarter, and the Miami Heat held off the Los Angeles Clippers 102-97 on Thursday night.

LeBron James added 18 points for the Heat (4-2), who won their third straight and extended their club record by scoring at least 100 points in a sixth

consecutive game to start the season. Chris Bosh, playing for the first time since his wife delivered a baby earlier this week, finished with 12 points for Miami.

Blake Griffin had 27 points and 14 rebounds for the Clippers (3-3). His dunk with 31 seconds left got the Clippers within four, but Griffin allowed about 15 seconds to run off the clock without fouling James on the ensuing possession.

James made one free throw to push Miami's lead to five, and that closed the scoring.

Baylor 41, Oklahoma 12

WACO, Texas — Bryce Petty threw for three touchdowns and ran for two more, Shock Linwood ran for 182 yards and fifth-ranked Baylor stayed undefeated, passing its first big test with a 41-12 victory over No. 12 Oklahoma on Thursday night.

Baylor (8-0, 5-0 Big 12) scored twice in the final minute before halftime and stretched its school-record winning streak to 12 games since a loss at Oklahoma last November. The Bears are 8-0 for the first time.

Even though Baylor came in leading the nation in scoring (64 points per game) and total offense (718 yards per game) — and was outscoring opponents by an average margin of 48 points — many questioned how good the Bears were after getting into November without playing a ranked team. They have now, and they responded with an impressive victory against a team that used to routinely overwhelm them.