Broncos make Cutler starting QB

Posted: November 28, 2006

Denver coach Mike Shanahan ended speculation yesterday by officially elevating rookie Jay Cutler to starting quarterback for the rest of the year, sending Jake Plummer to the bench.

"He's our future, he's our present," Shanahan said.

Cutler, the 11th pick out of Vanderbilt in the draft last April, hasn't taken a snap since the preseason.

"I'm excited," Cutler said. "And a little nervous."

Shanahan is hoping a quarterback change can ignite the Broncos' struggling offense. The team is 7-4, but ranks 26th in the league with 171 yards passing per game.

"There's a lot of pressure on a first-year quarterback, no question about it," Shanahan said. "I think this kid can handle it. I think he gives us the best chance to win."

Plummer will be relegated to backup duty for basically the first time in his 10-year career. He's 39-15 as Denver's starter in the regular season, 1-3 in the playoffs.

Cutler said he and Plummer spoke after they were informed of the change in their roles.

"He told me it didn't change anything between me and him and he's going to be here for me," Cutler said.

Plummer wouldn't talk with reporters after practice.

Noteworthy

* Michael Irvin apologized for saying that Dallas quarterback Tony Romo's athleticism must be the result of an African-American heritage.

Irvin, an ESPN commentator who played 12 seasons at wide receiver for the Dallas Cowboys, made the remarks last week on ESPN Radio.

"I do want to apologize for those comments," Irvin said. "They were inappropriate and insensitive . . . I certainly have to know where to draw the line and certainly I needed to draw the line last week and I did not, so I apologize for that."

* New England placed linebacker Junior Seau on injured reserve after he seriously injured his right arm in Sunday's win over Chicago. The 12-time Pro Bowl selection will miss the rest of the season after coming out of a brief retirement to join the Patriots this summer. The team gave no details of the injury.

* Pittsburgh wide receiver Hines Ward had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee and will miss at least one game. Ward, a four-time Pro Bowl receiver, first hurt the knee Nov. 19 against Cleveland - an injury initially called a hyperextension. The injury flared again during the Steelers' loss to Baltimore on Sunday.

* Dallas released kicker Mike Vanderjagt and signed Martin Gramatica as his replacement. Vanderjagt was 13-for-18 on field goals this season.

* San Diego linebacker Shawne Merriman returned from his four-game steroid suspension, flashing a funky haircut and eager to resume pounding on quarterbacks.

Merriman's first game back will be at Buffalo on Sunday.

"I think I'll be a little bit anxious waiting for Sunday to get here, but Sunday I'll be fine, just getting out there, flying around, knocking some heads," Merriman said.

In another matter, Chargers third-string cornerback Cletis Gordon was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving. San Diego police took Gordon, a 23-year-old rookie, into custody in downtown's Gaslamp Quarter about 2:15 a.m., some 10 hours after the Chargers beat the Oakland Raiders on Sunday. His car was impounded, and he was released on his own recognizance later in the morning, a jail clerk said.

* While not confirmed by the Colts, Alan Herman, the agent for Ricky Proehl, told the Indianapolis Star that the 38-year-old wide receiver has signed a 1-year deal with the team. The Colts have been without wide receiver Brandon Stokley for most of the season. Stokley has appeared in just two games, most recently Oct. 8 against Tennessee, when he sprained his left knee.

* Cincinnati running back Chris Perry had surgery for a broken right leg he suffered in the second quarter of a victory over Cleveland on Sunday.

* The NFL moved the Dec. 10 game between the Saints and Cowboys to Sunday night as part of the flexible schedule negotiated in the current television contract. The game at Texas Stadium will begin at 8:15 p.m. Another change for Dec. 10 will have the Buffalo at New York Jets game, originally scheduled for 1 p.m., switched to 4:15.

* The York Giants held a players-only meeting, 1 day after they lost to Tennessee, 24-21, following a fourth-quarter meltdown. The Titans scored all their points in the final 9:35 of the game.

"It was an upbeat meeting," said center Shaun O'Hara, who refused to give specifics.

* Casey Coleman, who did play-by-play for the Cleveland Browns and covered the city's other sports teams for nearly 30 years, died Monday of pancreatic cancer. He was 55. He is survived by his wife, Mary, two daughters, and four stepdaughters. *

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