Cowboys’ DeMarco Murray progressing

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IRVING, Texas — Dallas running back DeMarco Murray is practicing again for the first time since spraining his right foot a month and a half ago. Nobody’s saying whether that means he will end a six-game absence Sunday night against Philadelphia.

Murray was a limited participant in practice Wednesday and back on the field Thursday. Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said the running back was doing “more football” than at any point since being injured Oct. 14 at Baltimore. The second-year pro would only acknowledge a “good first day.”

The Dallas ground game has struggled without Murray. The Cowboys have gained 100 yards just once without him and have dipped to last in the league in rushing offense.

Dallas cornerback Mike Jenkins was fined $7,875 for pushing Pierre Garcon to the ground well after the Washington receiver crossed the goal line on a 59-yard touchdown last week. Jenkins was penalized for unnecessary roughness for the shove on Garcon in the end zone during the Redskins’ 38-31 victory on Thanksgiving.

49ers’ Smith tries to understand demotion

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Alex Smith is trying to comprehend how he lost his job as starting quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers a month after being named the NFC’s offensive player of the week.

It’s not an easy thing for the NFL’s fifth-ranked quarterback to deal with this week, even though Smith already has experienced plenty of ups and downs in his tumultuous career since the 49ers made him the No. 1 overall selection of the 2005 draft.

Smith spoke with the media Thursday for the first time since coach Jim Harbaugh made Colin Kaepernick the team’s starting quarterback for Sunday’s game against the St. Louis Rams, a rematch of the last game in which Smith appeared.

Smith is completely healthy from the concussion he suffered that day and medically cleared to play.

Around the league

STEELERS: Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger doesn’t sound like he’s planning on playing at Baltimore on Sunday. He said he’s still in significant pain from the sprained right shoulder and dislocated ribs that have forced him to sit out the Steelers’ past two games. The Steelers (6-5) are 0-2 since Roethlisberger left in the third quarter of a 16-13 overtime win against Kansas City on Nov. 12.

BEARS: Chicago return specialist Devin Hester (concussion) and guard Chris Spencer (knee injury) have been ruled out for Sunday’s game against Seattle. Both players were injured in a win over Minnesota last weekend.

PACKERS: Green Bay running back Cedric Benson will remain on injured reserve for the rest of the season after having surgery on his foot. Benson was placed on injured reserve but designated to return Oct. 10 after spraining his left foot. He finishes the year with 248 yards rushing on 71 carries.

RAMS: St. Louis wide receiver Danny Amendola (right heel) wore a walking boot Thursday and missed a second straight day of practice. It might be a game-day decision whether the team’s leading receiver plays against San Francisco on Sunday. Amendola was on the field for just seven snaps last week, making one catch for 38 yards.

RAIDERS: Oakland linebacker Rolando McClain did not practice again a day after being held out for an undisclosed team-related issue. The Raiders said McClain still is on the team’s roster despite being held out of practice for two days.

VIKINGS: Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson said he missed the team bus to Soldier Field on Sunday because he overslept. Peterson was about 20 minutes late to the stadium for the game against Chicago, then side-stepped questions after the game.

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