NFL notebook: Heyward-Bey back at practice for Raiders

| Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2012, 8:10 p.m.

Raiders wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey practiced for the first time Tuesday since being hospitalized by a helmet-to-helmet hit against the Steelers.

Heyward-Bey took part in individual drills, running some routes and catching some passes in his first step back.

“We're kind of at that stage, just trying to take the necessary steps,” he said. “We've got a plan for me, and today was step No. 1. And I feel pretty good.”

Heyward-Bey was knocked unconscious Sept. 23 by a helmet-to-helmet hit in the end zone from Steelers safety Ryan Mundy. Heyward-Bey appeared to be knocked out by the hit. He then crashed to the turf headfirst, and his neck twisted awkwardly. He was taken to the hospital for a concussion and sprained neck.

Dolphins sign Gaffney

Wide receiver Jabar Gaffney signed with the Dolphins, who terminated the contract of receiver Legedu Naanee.

Gaffney, 31, had the best season of his career last year with the Redskins, then signed with the Patriots and was released at the end of training camp. He tried out a month ago with the Dolphins, who have been plagued by poor depth at the receiver spot.

Gaffney, who is in his 11th season, had 68 catches for 947 yards and five scores last year. Naanee made only one catch this season.

Jets ink Hilliard

The Jets signed fullback Lex Hilliard and waived wide receiver Patrick Turner.

Hilliard was a sixth-round pick of the Dolphins in 2008 and played under current Jets offensive coordinator Tony Sparano when he was Miami's head coach. The signing gives the Jets depth at fullback with John Conner possibly unavailable Monday night against Houston because of a hamstring injury.

Hilliard has rushed for 130 yards and two touchdowns and caught 26 passes for 210 yards and two touchdowns in 48 NFL games. He spent the summer with the Vikings before being cut and signed with the Patriots in September but was waived two weeks later.

Cutler back to normal?

The Bears' offense appears to be back in sync, even if the same might not be true of quarterback Jay Cutler and his offensive coordinator.

Cutler played one of his most impressive games in his career Monday night in beating the Dallas Cowboys, 34-18, connecting on 18 of 24 passes for 275 yards and two touchdowns.

Even after posting his third-highest career passer rating (140.1), a lot of the postgame attention was again focused on Cutler's sideline behavior.

Cutler at one point sat down on the bench after he obviously had been irritated by confusion on the field regarding a play call the previous series. When offensive coordinator Mike Tice sat down next to him and began talking, Cutler stood up and walked away.

“I don't have to sit by him the whole game, do I?” Cutler said afterward. Then, he accused media members of trying to sell newspapers and asked, “What are we looking for here?”

Told it appeared he'd snubbed his coach, Cutler said, “Just because I walk off and go and get water, it doesn't mean much.”

Unitas' son sends Brees letter

With Drew Brees in position to break Hall of Fame quarterback Johnny Unitas' record for consecutive games with a touchdown pass, Unitas' son sent words of encouragement to the Saints quarterback.

A letter from Joe Unitas, which the Saints posted on a team website, congratulates Brees for tying the record of 47 straight games last weekend in Green Bay.

Joe Unitas said he's a big fan of Brees and wishes him the best Sunday night against San Diego. Joe Unitas said he knows his late father, who set the record between 1956-60, would want Brees to break it.

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