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NFL NOTEBOOK

Notes: Panthers coach warns of more changes

Evaluations will be ongoing in ’12

Panthers coach Ron Rivera said the midseason firing of general manager Marty Hurney sends a succinct message to him and others in the organization that nobody’s job is safe.

Rivera said Carolina’s final 10 games are ‘‘an evaluation process’’ and he hasn’t ruled out firing assistant coaches or cutting players for underperforming.

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‘‘In a situation like this is, when action is being taken, it doesn’t mean the action has stopped,’’ Rivera said. ‘‘By no means is it over.’’

In an e-mail to the AP Tuesday, owner Jerry Richardson indicated he’s still in the beginning stages of finding a general manager to replace Hurney.

‘‘I don’t have enough information to have a meaningful discussion at this time,’’ Richardson said.

For the time being, all personnel decisions will be discussed with director of player personnel Brandon Beane and others in that department. However, Rivera will have final say in all personnel decisions.

Rivera knows the evaluation process applies to him as well.

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Rivera’s seat got a little hotter Monday when Hurney, the man who hired him in 2011, was fired. New general managers tend to like to hire their own coaches and in some cases that person is one in the same.

The underachieving Panthers are 1-5 this season entering Sunday’s game at Chicago and just 7-22 in two years under Rivera. The 50-year-old Rivera is in the second year of a four-year contract.

While Hurney accepted blame for the team’s ‘‘losing environment,’’ he added that he believes the Panthers need to find locker room leaders, a la Tom Brady in New England and Ray Lewis in Baltimore.

Rivera said he’s not quite sure if the problem is leadership or something else.

‘‘There is something we have to find that is missing,’’ he said. ‘‘I’m not sure if it’s a leadership issue, a coaching issue, a playing issue, or a schematic issue. But something is out of whack and we have to fix it.’’

Union after Tagliabue

Citing concerns over a possible conflict of interest in the Saints bounty case, the NFL Players Association sent Paul Tagliabue a letter asking the former commissioner to address its concerns within one day or it will file a formal request that he recuse himself from the case, ESPN reported.

Judge Ginger Berrigan for the US District Court in New Orleans has given the union until 6 p.m. Wednesday to file a motion, the Times-Picayune of New Orleans reported.

Tagliabue was appointed by commissioner Roger Goodell to hear the appeals of Jonathan Vilma, Will Smith, Scott Fujita, and Anthony Hargrove Oct. 30.

Cowboys’ Lee out?

Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee is facing surgery on his right big toe. According to reports, including one on the team’s website, Lee has ligament damage that will require surgery and could end his season. Lee, the team’s leading tackler with 58 stops, was hurt in the second half of Sunday’s win at Carolina. He was on crutches after the game . . . Jay Cutler returned after bruising his ribs, and Brian Urlacher made a key fumble recovery to help the Bears beat the Lions, 13-7, Monday night for their fourth straight win. Cutler was hurt on a sack by Ndamukong Suh and ultimately wound up going to the locker room to have his ribs examined. ‘‘He’s a tough guy,’’ coach Lovie Smith said. ‘‘He was in some pain, but he fought through it.’’ . . . The Redskins released running back Ryan Grant and brought back running back Keiland Williams. Grant was signed last month after a pair of injuries left the backfield depleted behind starter Alfred Morris. The former Packers back appeared in only one game with Washington, rushing once for 5 yards . . . Mike Holmgren would not rule out a return to coaching in the NFL. Holmgren, who is stepping down as Browns president after three years, would not commit to staying for the remainder of this season to work with new owner Jimmy Haslam.

Pouncey to return

All-Pro center Maurkice Pouncey (right knee sprain) is expected to return to the Steelers’ lineup on Sunday, and Rashard Mendenhall (Achilles’) and Isaac Redman (ankle) might do the same. The news is not all good though, as Pittsburgh (3-3) prepares to host the Redskins (3-4). All-Pro safety Troy Polamalu and tackle Marcus Gilbert have been ruled out . . . With Maurice Jones-Drew out with a sprained left foot, the Jaguars signed running back Keith Toston and waived rookie defensive end Ryan Davis. Toston will back up Rashad Jennings, who will start Sunday . . . Arminta Jones, the mother of Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, died in Dallas. She had celebrated her 90th birthday last week . . . The Packers will benefit from an NFL stadium construction program included in the league’s collective bargaining agreement. League owners have approved the Packers’ request for $58 million to renovate Lambeau Field.

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