NFL news roundup: Lovie Smith interviews in Houston, Randall Cobb practices


The Houston Texans could be drawing closer to finding the third head coach in team history.

Lovie Smith was fired by the Chicago Bears in 2012, and it appears the former head coach's absence from football will be brief. He was in Houston on Monday, reportedly meeting with the Houston Texans about their coaching vacancy.

Texans owner Bob McNair has voiced his desire to find an experienced coach, rather than make a splashy hiring of an up-and-comer, or a hot college coach. This should come as no surprise to those following the team's history. Both Dom Capers and Gary Kubiak were longtime NFL assistants before taking over the head job in Houston.

Smith appears to be the ideal candidate for a defensive-minded team looking for experience. He had a .563 record in Chicago, leading the Bears to a Super Bowl in 2006 and making the playoffs on two more occasions.

Randall Cobb returns to practice

The Green Bay Packers continue their unlikely playoff push after weathering the storm without quarterback Aaron Rodgers. He's drawing closer to a return, along with wide receiver Randall Cobb, who practiced Wednesday for the first time since his injury.

Cobb fractured his fibula in Week 6 after being hit by rookie safety Matt Elam. Initially it was unclear whether Cobb would be able to return to the field in 2013, but the receiver said his leg has healed and now it's about getting in football shape.

The Packers are in dire need of an offensive playmaker, but it appears they'll need to wait at least one more week on Cobb. He is not expected to play in Week 16 against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Larry Fitzgerald practices

Larry Fitzgerald returned to practice Thursday, one week removed from sustaining a concussion against the Tennessee Titans. He was on the field late to try to recover an onside kick when he was hit by Jackie Battle and left the field.

All signs point to Fitzgerald being available for a vital Week 16 matchup against the Seattle Seahawks. The Cardinals are in must-win mode to keep their playoff hopes alive, and few players are more important to the team than Fitzgerald.

Players voice support for Rex Ryan

New York has missed the playoffs for three straight years, but players are standing behind Jets head coach Rex Ryan. Linebacker Calvin Pace spoke publicly about his desire to see Ryan return in 2014.

"As a player, man, I truly believe Rex is the guy for this team," linebacker Calvin Pace said to Serby. "He's the guy to lead this organization."

The 2013 season was largely hurt by problems at the quarterback position. Mark Sanchez was lost prior to the season, eventually needing shoulder surgery, which thrust rookie Geno Smith into the starting role. Smith has shown flashes this season, but it hasn't been enough to ensure the Jets finish with a winning record.

Victor Cruz out for remainder of season

Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz took a hard hit when he caught a high pass in a Week 15 loss to the Seattle Seahawks. He was hit while catching, falling heavily on his head and sustaining a knee injury.

Early reports indicated he sustained a concussion, but it's the knee injury that will keep him out for the rest of 2013. Cruz had surgery on Thursday to clear up his left knee, forcing him out for the remainder of the season.

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