- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 21, 2011

GREEN BAY, Wis. — Aaron Rodgers is the 2011 Male Athlete of the Year chosen by members of The Associated Press after his MVP performance in the Green Bay Packers’ Super Bowl victory in February and his stellar play during the team’s long unbeaten run this season.

Rodgers received 112 votes out of the 212 ballots submitted from U.S. news organizations that comprise the AP’s membership. Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander finished second with 50 votes, followed by tennis standout Novak Djokovic, Carolina Panthers rookie quarterback Cam Newton and NASCAR champion Tony Stewart.

Cowboys’ Jones ailing, misses practice again

IRVING, TEXAS — Dallas Cowboys running back Felix Jones sat out of practice again Wednesday because of hamstring tightness. NFC East-leading Dallas (8-6) plays its home finale Saturday against Philadelphia (6-8).

Jones is coming off consecutive 100-yard rushing games for the first time in his four NFL seasons. He matched a career high with 22 carries at Tampa Bay, where he ran for 108 yards.

Rookie running backs DeMarco Murray, the team’s leading rusher with 897 yards, and Phillip Tanner already are on injured reserve.

Jets’ Burress expects to be ready to face Giants

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — New York Jets wide receiver Plaxico Burress was limited at practice because of a cold, but expects to be fine for the first regular-season game against his former team, the Giants, on Saturday. Rookie wide receiver Jeremy Kerley didn’t practice for the second straight day Wednesday, also because of an illness, but he is expected to play.

Around the league

RAVENS: Baltimore signed kicker Shayne Graham, who could replace injured Billy Cundiff in Sunday’s game against Cleveland. Cundiff has a sore left calf and has struggled this month. He missed a 36-yard field goal attempt Sunday night’ at San Diego and is 2 for 5 in December.

TITANS: Running back Chris Johnson (right annkle) expects to be able to play Saturday as Tennessee tries to keep its faint playoff hopes alive against Jacksonville Jaguars. This has been Johnson’s worst season after missing all preseason before signing a $53.5 million extension. Yet he is just 70 yards shy of 1,000 yards rushing for the season.

BEARS: Chicago quarterback Josh McCown will start an NFL game for the first time in four years Sunday night at Green Bay. McCown, who will replace the struggling Caleb Hanie, last started a game since Dec. 23, 2007, for Oakland against Jacksonville. He was out of the NFL last season.

RAIDERS: Oakland running back Darren McFadden did some light jogging Tuesday but it remains uncertain whether he’ll play again this season after being sidelined with an ankle injury since mid-October. There has been speculation all along that McFadden’s injury might be worse than the Raiders were letting on.

STEELERS: Pittsburgh linebacker James Harrison thinks the Cleveland Browns should be disciplined by the NFL for how they handled the aftermath of Harrison’s helmet-to-helmet hit on Cleveland quarterback Colt McCoy. Harrison practiced Wednesday for the first time since being suspended one game for his collision with McCoy on Dec. 8.

CARDINALS: Arizona put outside linebacker Joey Porter on injured reserve, ending the season for the four-time Pro Bowler. Porter, 34, has missed eight games with a knee injury. The former Pittsburgh Steelers star is two sacks shy of 100 for his career.

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