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NFL notebook: Green Bay QB Rodgers to start winner-take-all game

| Thursday, Dec. 26, 2013, 6:42 p.m.

Aaron Rodgers was cleared to return from a left collarbone injury just in time to start Sunday for the Packers against the Bears in a game to decide the NFC North title.

With no advance warning and little fanfare, the franchise quarterback received the long-awaited good news at the same time as the rest of his teammates Thursday.

“This is a fun day for me, but I think the focus needs to be on this game and the opportunity we have to win the division,” Rodgers said.

Soon enough. But the spotlight for now is squarely on the return of one of the NFL's most irreplaceable players.

“Obviously he's missed a few weeks, but I think he'll be fine. He's been able to practice the last couple,” receiver Jordy Nelson said. “I think he'll give us a big boost, and we'll still have to go out and play good football.”

Running back Eddie Lacy is hobbled by an ankle injury, though coach Mike McCarthy is optimistic about the rookie's chances to go Sunday.

“I feel Eddie is in good place,” McCarthy said. “I expect him to play.”

O'Brien, Texans to meet?

Penn State coach Bill O'Brien agreed to an interview with the Texans, NFL Network reported.

O'Brien, the former Patriots offensive coordinator, had his NFL buyout reduced from $13 million to $6.5 million. The Texans already have interviewed former Bears coach Lovie Smith as they seek to replace Gary Kubiak.

Dickerson placed on IR

The Lions put tight end Dorin Dickerson on injured reserve, four days after he didn't immediately tell the team's medical staff he had a concussion during a game against the Giants.

Dickerson, a former West Allegheny and Pitt star, told reporters Sunday he was unconscious after a kickoff return during the 23-20 overtime loss. Dickerson said he should have reported the concussion but thought he could play through it.

He ended up dropping a pass and getting called for holding at the beginning of the Lions' only drive in overtime, leading to them punting.

Also, the Lions signed Carlin Isles, a member of the U.S. rugby team, as a wide receiver to their practice squad.

NFL: ACL injuries down

NFL told its health and safety advisory committee that ACL injuries were down through 13 weeks of the season.

In a memo to the committee sent earlier this week and obtained by the Associated Press, there were 30 ACL injuries in games through the preseason and first 13 weeks of the schedule. There were 39 such injuries in 2012, 35 in 2011, 37 in 2010, and 31 in 2009.

There was an increase in MCL injuries from 74 in 2012 to 89 in games this season through 13 weeks. But there were 106 MCL injuries in 2011, 89 in 2010 and 103 in 2009.

Kitna donating salary

Jon Kitna will earn $53,000 to serve as the Cowboys' third-string quarterback for one week, and he plans to donate that money to the Seattle-area high school where he is a coach.

The 41-year-old Kitna was running the scout team at Lincoln High School in Tacoma, Wash., when he heard about Cowboys starter Tony Romo's injury. He'll suit up Sunday as the backup to Kyle Orton if Romo can't play.

Rams dispute state taxes

Attorneys for the Rams filed a tax appeal with the state of Missouri, seeking a refund of about $400,000.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported the Rams also asked the state to forgive an additional $445,000 in unpaid taxes.

Around the league

The Bengals sold out their entire regular-season home schedule for the first time since 2009, ESPN reported. ... Titans running back Chris Johnson, who needs 50 yards to reach 1,000 yards for a sixth straight season, said he won't consider a pay cut. Johnson is due $8 million in 2014, part of $29 million due over the next three seasons.

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