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Manning’s protector expected to return


Peyton Manning’s pocket of protection is about to get an upgrade.

A finally healthy Chris Kuper is expected to return at right guard Saturday when the top-seeded Denver Broncos (13-3) host the Baltimore Ravens (11-6) in an AFC divisional playoff game.

“It would be great,” coach John Fox said after Tuesday’s practice, the exact four words Peyton Manning would use 10 minutes later. “He was voted on as a team captain by his teammates. He’s a guy who’s been in and out of the lineup all year. He’s worked very hard to get back. It was good to see him out there today, and he had a fine day.”

Kuper spent more time on the sideline than on the football field this season and his absence was sorely felt, particularly by Manning.

The anchor of Denver’s offensive line and a seventh-year pro out of North Dakota, Kuper made just five starts at right guard this season and played a half dozen snaps on special teams in two other games, including the season finale against Kansas City.

He missed the first four games after breaking his left forearm in training camp Aug. 14 and he missed five other games with a sprained left ankle, the same one he dislocated and broke in a gruesome scene a year ago.

For overcoming all these tribulations, his teammates Tuesday voted him their 2012 Ed Block Courage Award winner.

Around the league

A person familiar with the situation says Redskins QB Robert Griffin III will have surgery today to repair a torn ligament in his right knee. The surgery will also determine whether he also has damaged the ACL. … Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan has been fired after two season- ending losses. … The Jaguars have agreed to hire Falcons director of player personnel David Caldwell as GM. … T ony Sparano has been fired as the Jets’ offensive coordinator after one season in which the offense ranked among the league’s worst. … The Cardinals have promoted Steve Keim to general manager. … The Eagles will interview former Bears coach Lovie Smith for their coaching vacancy. … Vikings assistants Mike Singletary and Mike Priefer will interview for the Bears head coaching vacancy. … Four college players have decided to forego their senior years and enter the NFL draft: Texas A&M OT Luke Joeckel, Colorado OT David Bakhtiari, California CB Steve Williams and Stanford CB Terrence Brown.


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