- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 3, 2012

PITTSBURGH — Steelers coach Mike Tomlin knows safety Ryan Clark wants to play in Denver on Sunday when the team plays the Broncos in the wild card round.

It’s why Tomlin didn’t give Clark the option.

The Steelers (12-4) will begin their quest for a second straight AFC title without Clark, who will be held out of the lineup as a precaution due to a sickle-cell trait that becomes aggravated when playing at higher elevations.

Tomlin and Clark met Monday to discuss the situation, with Tomlin telling the team’s leading tackler he can travel but not suit up.

“Looking at data and all the variables he is at more risk, so we’re not going to play him,” Tomlin said. “It’s just that simple.”

Clark nearly died in 2007 when the condition first presented itself, losing his spleen and gall bladder in addition to losing 30 pounds. He was cleared by team doctors to play in Denver during Pittsburgh’s last trip out west in 2009 before Tomlin intervened.

Tomlin did the same this time around, pointing to the inherent dangers involved and the capability of backup Ryan Mundy.

Bears keep Smith, but dismiss GM Angelo

LAKE FOREST, Ill. — Lovie Smith is keeping his job as coach of the Chicago Bears. Team president Ted Phillips said Smith will return next season. But general manager Jerry Angelo will not.

Angelo’s dismissal comes after a wild season in which the Bears at one point seemed a lock to make the playoffs. A five-game losing streak spoiled a 7-3 start, keeping Chicago out of the playoffs for the fourth time in five years, and Angelo wasn’t the only one on his way out Tuesday.

The Bears also confirmed that offensive coordinator Mike Martz and quarterbacks coach Shane Day won’t be back. Martz had an expiring contract, and there had been plenty of speculation he would be gone after two seasons.

Angelo was signed through the 2013 season, but he was undone on a number of fronts. The next GM will inherit a team that could use help on the offensive and defensive lines, at wide receiver and in the secondary. Star running back Matt Forte’s rookie contract is up, and Pro Bowl linebacker Lance Briggs would like a new one even though he has two years left on his six-year deal.

In addition, the next GM will inherit a team that could use help on the offensive and defensive lines, at wide receiver and in the secondary.

Chargers decide to keep coach Turner, GM Smith

SAN DIEGO — Chargers President Dean Spanos has decided to keep coach Norv Turner and general manager A.J. Smith despite the team missing the playoffs for the second straight season amid increasing fan discontent.

The Chargers finished 8-8. San Diego went 4-1 at the beginning and end of the season but was undone by a six-game losing streak in the middle. One more win would have earned the Chargers the AFC West title.

Turner is 49-31 in five years in San Diego but only 3-3 in the playoffs. He is 107-113-1 in three stints as a coach, including with Washington and Oakland.

Feeling that he has a good team with a marquee quarterback in Philip Rivers, “Keeping this intact gives us the best chance to win and change this thing as quickly as possible,” Spanos said.

Ravens cut K Graham with Cundiff healthy again

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Baltimore Ravens have cut placekicker Shayne Graham. He has been replaced on the roster by rookie center-guard Justin Boren, a former Michigan player promoted from the practice squad.

Graham became expendable once regular kicker Billy Cundiff returned from a left calf injury and kicked a 42-yard field goal Sunday during a 24-16 win at Cincinnati.

Around the league

DOLPHINS: Jeff Fisher completed an interview for Miami’s head coaching job. He’s believed to be the Dolphins’ top choice, but competition from other NFL teams may be fierce. Tampa Bay and St. Louis fired their coaches Monday, increasing to five the number of top vacancies.

JETS: The NFL is looking into an obscene gesture New York linebacker Bart Scott made toward a photographer in the team’s locker room. The incident occurred as the players cleared out their lockers at the team’s facility in Florham Park, N.J., on Monday.


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