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    NFL notebook

    Notes: Ben Roethlisberger to start for Steelers

    The Pittsburgh Steelers aren’t taking any chances with their franchise quarterback’s sprained right shoulder and dislocated rib.

    Though the Steelers confirmed Ben Roethlisberger will return to the starting lineup on Sunday against San Diego after missing three weeks due to injury, Roethlisberger will take the field with a little extra protection. Roethlisberger will play with a custom fit rib/chest compression shirt and a layer of Kevlar-lined composite in his shoulder pads to help absorb hits to his clavicle and shoulder joint regions.

    The padding, made by Unequal Technologies, has grown popular. Eagles quarterback Michael Vick wore a similar compression shirt after injuring his ribs a few years ago and dozens of players — including Steelers safety Troy Polamalu and linebacker James Harrison — use Unequal CRT in their helmets.

    Turner, Smith in peril


    Not only will Chargers coach Norv Turner be gone at the end of the season, but general manager A.J. Smith will be fired as well, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.

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    Sources said this week that Chargers president Dean Spanos essentially decided at least a month ago that Turner’s time was drawing to a rapid close. Spanos, sources told the Union-Tribune, has more recently resigned himself to the fact that Smith can’t be kept in the current environment of plummeting performance and fan unrest.

    Turner and Smith both said they have not been informed of their employment status.

    Dean Spanos released a statement in response to the report: “There is only one person in this organization who will make those decisions, and that’s me, and I haven’t shared my thoughts with anyone. I will make evaluations at the end of the season. Anything coming out now — from sources or otherwise — is pure speculation.”

    Keller, Tebow day to day

    Jets tight end Dustin Keller sat out practice for the second straight day with a sprained left ankle, leaving his status for the team’s game at Jacksonville on Sunday uncertain.


    Backup quarterback Tim Tebow was limited for the second straight day with two broken ribs, and might not be able to play against his hometown Jaguars.

    ‘‘I’m still not ready to say I’m comfortable with him [playing] right now,’’ coach Rex Ryan said. ‘‘We’ll see how it goes.’’

    The Jets’ receiving corps may be a bit shorthanded since wide receiver Clyde Gates is unlikely to play after sustaining a concussion against New England on Thanksgiving and rookie Stephen Hill was limited Thursday with a knee injury.

    Kickoffs to be replaced?

    The NFL competition committee will consider replacing the kickoff in the offseason. The league had moved kickoffs from the 30-yard line to the 35 in an attempt to reduce violent collisions. Instead of kickoffs, the ball would be placed at the kicking team’s 30 in a fourth-and-15 situation. Teams could punt or go for it, but if a first down is not made, the opponent would get the ball in great field position. The idea is Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano’s . . . Bills offensive lineman Chris Hairston was placed on injured reserve and will miss the rest of the season with a bone injury in his right ankle. ‘‘It’s a situation where he’s going to probably need surgery,’’ Bills coach Chan Gailey said. ‘‘They could’ve done something and maybe got him back for the last game, but it probably wouldn’t have happened that way.’’ Gailey will shuffle his line and use rookie David Snow and also veteran Sam Young at times to replace Hairston . . . The Bengals signed kicker Josh Brown to fill in for the injured Mike Nugent, who hurt his right calf and didn’t practice Wednesday. The Bengals also waived center Jeff Faine, opening the way for Kyle Cook to return from an ankle injury suffered in the final preseason game.