Sports

Pats, 49ers each place eight into Pro Bowl

Tom Brady is one of eight Patriots picked to start in the Pro Bowl. (Associated Press)
Tom Brady is one of eight Patriots picked to start in the Pro Bowl. (Associated Press)

Tom Brady is one of eight Patriots and Patrick Willis one of eight 49ers to make the Pro Bowl, the most on each roster.

Defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay (14-1), led by starting quarterback Aaron Rodgers, and Baltimore (11-4), led by veteran linebacker Ray Lewis, have seven apiece for the Jan. 29 game in Honolulu, the NFL announced Tuesday.

Brady is one of seven starters from New England (12-3). The others are receiver Wes Welker, tight end Rob Gronkowski, defensive tackle Vince Wilfork, defensive end Andre Carter, and guards Brian Waters and Logan Mankins all are starters for the AFC from the Patriots. Special teamer Matthew Slater is the other New England representative.

Linebacker Willis, DE Justin Smith, cornerback Carlos Rogers and tackle Joe Staley will start for the NFC from the 49ers (12-3), who had only Smith and Willis make the Pro Bowl last year.

Green Bay’s Rodgers is the starting NFC quarterback, backed by record-setting Drew Brees of New Orleans (12-3).

Fourteen teams from each conference were represented, with St. Louis (2-13) and Washington (5-10) drawing blanks in the NFC, Buffalo (6-9) and Tennessee (8-7) shut out in the AFC.

Seahawks safety Earl Thomas will start for the NFC. (Story, B1)

49ers release Edwards

Braylon Edwards became a disappointment during an injury-plagued year during San Francisco’s resurgent 2011 season.

The struggling wide receiver was released by the 49ers on Tuesday, three months after undergoing surgery on his right knee that limited him.

Edwards had 15 catches for 181 yards and no touchdowns in eight games with five starts for the NFC West champion 49ers (12-3) after receiving a $3.5 million, one-year contract in August. That gave him a fresh start under coach and fellow Michigan man Jim Harbaugh.

Bears’ Cutler, Forte on IR

The Chicago Bears placed quarterback Jay Cutler and running back Matt Forte on injured reserve, meaning they will miss the season finale at Minnesota this week.

The moves were hardly surprising given Chicago’s recent struggles.

The Bears (7-8) have lost five straight since Cutler broke his right thumb late in a win over San Diego on Nov. 20, and things took another bad turn two weeks later when Forte sprained the medial collateral ligament in his right knee against Kansas City.

Cutler, who was scheduled to have surgically inserted pins removed Tuesday, threw for 2,319 yards with 13 touchdowns and seven interceptions.

Forte finished with 997 yards rushing and 490 receiving.

Roethlisberger may play

Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin believes injured quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and center Maurkice Pouncey both have “a shot” to play in Sunday’s regular season finale at Cleveland.

“It is our intention right now that if those guys are healthy enough to practice and prepare, then we will play them,” Tomlin said Tuesday.

Given the way backups Charlie Batch and Trai Essex handled themselves in a 27-0 win over St. Louis on Saturday, the Steelers (11-4) may not need Roethlisberger or Pouncey to hurry back from their badly sprained left ankles to keep the team’s hopes of an AFC North title alive.

Batch played effectively against the Rams, passing for 208 yards while showing there’s still some life in his 37-year-old legs. He extended plays with his mobility and even threw the ball downfield.



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