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Week 13 Friday 10-pack

Ben Roethlisberger, Willie Colon

Developers of buildings with more than 13 floors develop triskaidekaphobia when it’s time to apply numbers.  The NFL has no such qualms when it comes to the football season.

So welcome, Week 13.  Unleash your bad-luck powers on as many teams as possible.

I’ll be back in a bit.  I’m trying to fit an open umbrella under the stepladder in my office.

1.  Is Big Ben the drama queen back?

Something strange happened on Thursday.  Not long after a report emerged that Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has a broken bone in his foot, the Steelers issued a statement explaining that he doesn’t.

The disclosure from the team made no sense, especially since it wasn’t required by league rules.  The Steelers must say only whether Roethlisberger practiced on Thursday, and if so whether he fully participated or participated on a limited basis in the session.

So why would the Steelers feel compelled to contradict the published report?

Rewind to January 2005.  After an AFC title-game loss to the Patriots, Roethlisberger claimed that he played with broken toes.  Coach Bill Cowher contradicted him publicly.

And thus was born the legend of Big Ben, drama queen.

Roethlisberger has at times since then embellished an injury or two, and regardless of whether Roethlisberger was the source of the report, the Steelers felt compelled to contradict it.

Of course, there’s also a chance that the Steelers are simply trying to reduce the size of the bull’s-eye on Ben’s foot — regardless of whether he’s exaggerating his condition or not.

2.  It’s finger-pointin’ time again.

When the Chiefs host the Broncos on Sunday, all eyes will be focused on the two head coaches, who punctuated their Week 10 meeting with Kansas City coach Todd Haley sticking a finger in the face of Denver coach Josh McDaniels after a 20-point win by the Broncos.

Haley has tried to downplay the matter, but it’s obvious that he’s not a big McDaniels fan.  (Then again, who is?)  Though some have speculated in the wake of Spygate II that Haley was miffed with conduct that possibly falls within the realm of cheating, it’s generally accepted in league circles that Haley didn’t appreciate the perception that the Broncos were running up the score.

With Denver reeling and the Chiefs peaking, it’ll be interesting to see whether Haley calls off the dogs — and if not whether McDaniels will show an index finger, or possibly a different finger altogether, to Haley.

3.  Beware the Bills.

Vikings fans likely are thinking that their underachieving team will win their second straight game for the first time since November 2009.  Given that the Bills bring a 2-9 record to town makes it tempting to come to that conclusion.

But let’s look at this more closely.  The Bills have pushed three likely playoff teams (the Ravens, Chiefs, and Steelers) to overtime, and Buffalo lost to the Bears by only three points.  The Vikings, after back-to-back bombs against two NFC North rivals, barely beat the Redskins.

With running back Adrian Peterson hobbled and the Minnesota defense not quite as potent as it has been in past seasons, the Bills could give the Vikings fits, just like Buffalo did the last time they came to the Metrodome in 2002, winning 45-39 in overtime.

4.  Could Packers pull off the Trifecta?

After the Packers beat the Cowboys by 38, Dallas fired coach Wade Phillips.  Seven days later, the Packers beat the Vikings by 28, and Minnesota fired coach Brad Childress.

This week, the Packers host the 49ers.  With Green Bay coming off a disappointing loss to the Falcons, the Pack could be ready to smack around the 4-7 49ers.

If the Packers pummel San Fran, could Niners coach Mike Singletary be the next one to go?  It’s unlikely that it’ll happen on Monday, but Singletary likely won’t sleep very well if he’s on the wrong end of a blowout at Lambeau.

5.  Pats have perfect offense for the Jets.

When the Patriots sent Randy Moss packing in October, plenty of people wondered whether coach Bill Belichick had lost his mind.

Six wins in seven games later, we should all be so crazy.

And so instead of seeing Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis match up with and thus shut down singlehandedly the most potent threat in the Pats’ passing game, New England has diluted its receiving corps, scattering a smattering of players on any given snap who are capable of getting open and catching the ball.

What better way to neutralize a defender who is capable of handling on his own a wideout who commands double coverage than to have him cover a guy who doesn’t?

So with the Jets capable of sending pressure from anywhere and everywhere, while Revis shuts down the No. 1 wideout, the Pats have crafted a system that distributes the ball anywhere and everywhere while happily marooning one guy on each play on Revis Island.

6.  What a difference a year makes.

Last year, when the Cardinals hosted the Rams in December, Kurt Warner’s then-current team had nine wins — and his first-former team had one.

This year, the Rams have five and the Cards have three.  More importantly, the Rams finally have found the long-term heir to Warner, while the Cardinals bumble from first-round bust to unwanted veteran to undrafted rookie who has a long way to go to become worthy of washing Warner’s dancing shoes.

And it’s all happened in only one year.

On one hand, it shows that, no matter how dark things get in a given year for a given team, fortunes quickly can change.  On the other hand, it demonstrates how quickly a “good” team can disintegrate.

7.  Prime-time games have big-time implications.

On the surface, the Monday night game between the Jets and the Patriots looks to be the biggest game of the year.  But the Sunday night contest between the Steelers and Ravens has identical implications.

The winner of each game will be on track to earn a bye.  The losers will slide into the wild-card mix, potentially forcing them to go on the road in order to work their way to the Super Bowl.

The gap will be greater if the Jets and Ravens win, since the one-game leads over the Pats and Steelers, respectively, would essentially be two games, due to the head-to-head tiebreaker.  But even if the Patriots and Steelers win, they’ll each hold a one-game lead with four to play.

Though these playoff-atmosphere games won’t have the same win-or-else stakes, the outcomes will have a lot to do with the degree of difficulty that the teams will experience come January.

8.  Bucs can bunch up the NFC field.

Bucs apologists argue that Tampa’s football franchise hasn’t beaten a playoff-caliber team because they’ll played only four of them.  They get another chance this week, when the 9-2 Falcons come to town.

And the Bucs need to win the game not just to show that they can beat a playoff team.  With four losses and five games to play, the Bucs may not get to the playoffs without beating the Falcons now or the Saints in Week 17.

In past years, 9-7 often would be enough enough to earn a wild-card berth in the NFC.  This year, with a glut of good teams at the top of the conferences, six losses could be one too many.

And if the Buccaneers can deliver to the Falcons their first 2010 loss outside the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the door would swing open for the Saints to pull even with Atlanta at the top of the NFC South, setting the stage for a high-stakes chase in the final four weeks.

9.  Still time for losers?

Since 1990, 14 teams with a losing record after 11 games have made it to the playoffs.  Most recently, the 2009 Jets started 5-6, finished 9-7, and made it to the AFC title game.

Of the teams that pulled it off, all but two were 5-6; the others were 4-7.  This year, nine teams entered Week 13 at 5-6 or 4-7.  (The Texans already have fallen to 5-7.)  At least one of the nine definitely will make the playoffs, because 5-6 currently represents the best record in the NFC West.

But here’s the thing.  The top-heavy nature of each conference, with wild-card spots currently held by teams in the AFC with records of 9-2 and 8-3 and in the NFC with records of 8-3 and 7-4, will make it even harder for the 5-6 and 4-7 teams to climb out of their current holes.  They’ll need someone like the 8-3 Steelers or 7-4 Giants to collapse down the stretch to have a shot.  (Actually, in the NFC, the losing teams need two of the three 7-4 teams to fall apart in order to open up the No. 6 seed.)

Bottom line?  Though the NFL has mastered the art of manufacturing hope from January through December, there currently may not be much hope to go around for teams that have been unable to win at least six of their first 11 games.

10.  AFC West could send a pair to the postseason.

For most of the season, most have assumed that the AFC West will send only one team to the playoffs.

And while it’s still likely that only the champion of the division will get a seat at the playoff table, there’s a growing chance that both the Chiefs and the Chargers will qualify.

The 6-5 Chargers have three straight games at home, including a Week 14 showdown against the Chiefs.  They next hit the road for Cincinnati and Denver.

The 7-4 Chiefs host the Broncos, Titans, and Raiders, wrapped around trips to San Diego and St. Louis.  Though K.C.’s path isn’t as easy as it once appeared, both could end up 10-6 or 11-5.  And if the losers of this weekend’s prime-time games commence a free-fall (like the Jets did two years ago when 8-3 became 9-7), both of the top two teams in the West could win berths in the playoffs.

We recommend wagering nothing of value on the proposition, unless you are getting really, really good odds.

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Harbaugh: Jonathan Martin has “done an excellent job of getting the job done”

Jonathan Martin AP

The 49ers’ initial 53-player roster has just seven available offensive linemen — five starters and two backups. One of those reserves is ex-Dolphin Jonathan Martin, who will back up both tackle spots and could also be asked to play guard in a pinch.

In a conference call with media on Saturday, 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh called Martin an “example of someone who’s really earned the position” on the club’s roster.

“He’s been mainly playing tackle, but he has the ability to play guard and going forward that will be something that he’ll continue to learn and be good at,” Harbaugh said, according to an interview transcript from the club. “I feel very good about it. He’s done an excellent job of getting the job done.”

The 25-year-old Martin started seven games for Miami in 2013 before leaving the club amid allegations he had been bullied. He started all four preseason games this summer in place of right tackle Anthony Davis, who sat out the exhibition slate after spring shoulder surgery.

Harbaugh said Martin has transitioned well to life with the 49ers, who acquired him in March.

“It’s all been very good. We’re very fortunate to have him and excited about it,” Harbaugh said.

Harbaugh was non-committal Saturday on Davis’ status for the season opener against Dallas. Martin, who’s started all 23 NFL regular season games in which he’s played, would be the next man up. And given how last season ended for Martin, it’s a nice accomplishment to have earned a backup role for a team that had no starting offensive tackle spots available.

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Michael Sam expects “a long and successful career”

michaelsam AP

Shortly after he was released by the Rams, Michael Sam said he sees today as just a minor setback.

Sam wrote on Twitter that he still believes he’s going to make it in the NFL, even if he didn’t make the Rams’ 53-man roster after today’s final cuts.

“I want to thank the entire Rams organization and the city of St. Louis for giving me this tremendous opportunity and allowing me to show I can play at this level. I look forward to continuing to build on the progress I made here toward a long and successful career,” Sam wrote.

Sam played well enough in the preseason that he has a chance to get picked up on waivers by some other NFL team. If so, he’ll be on a 53-man roster heading into Week One of the NFL season.

If Sam isn’t claimed on waivers, he may be signed to the Rams’ practice squad, or he could end up on another team’s practice squad. So Sam will likely get another opportunity to try to make it in the NFL. Even if he fell short on his first opportunity.

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All 32 teams are down to 53 players

maurkice AP

The toughest day of the year for NFL players on the roster bubble has come and gone, and all 32 teams are now down to the 53-player roster limit.

About 700 players were released, placed on injured reserve or otherwise removed from active rosters today, and we have all their names in our 53-man roster tracker. Those who remain are on 53-man rosters.

But those rosters are not final, and this weekend’s business in the NFL isn’t done: Dozens of waiver claims and free agent signings will happen on Sunday, and that means dozens more players will have to be cut to make room for those players who are changing teams.

And then teams will begin assembling their practice squads, with about 300 of the players who were cut today finding out that they’ll have jobs in the NFL after all, albeit jobs that don’t pay quite as well as active-roster spots.

Bottom line: It’s been a busy day. And it’s just the start of a busy NFL weekend. And just the appetizer for next week’s much more fun NFL weekend.

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Raiders the last team to announce cuts, such that it matters

Oakland Raiders v Green Bay Packers Getty Images

As per custom, the Raiders were the last team to announce their cuts, rolling in three hours after the league’s deadline to submit them.

There wasn’t what you’d call a surprise among the group, though they did cut veteran wideout Greg Little.

The rest of their cuts include wide receiver Seth Roberts, kicker Giorgio Tavecchio, running back George Atkinson III, running back Jeremy Stewart, fullback Karl Williams, guard Lamar Mady, offensive lineman Jarrod Shaw, tackle Jack Cornell, tight end Jake Murphy, tight end Scott Simonson, tackle Dan Kistler, tackle Erle Ladson, defensive end Jack Crawford, defensive end Denico Autry, defensive end Ryan Robinson, linebacker Carlos Fields, linebacker Spencer Hadley, linebacker Bojay Filimoeatu, defensive tackle Ricky Lumpkin, safety Brandian Ross and cornerback Casey Chance.

But hey, they were the last ones to reveal their cuts. So there should be an award or something.

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Kendall James, Kain Colter, Chris Crocker among Vikings cuts

JEROME SIMPSON,KENDALL JAMES AP

Sixth-round pick Kendall James was among the Vikings’ 19 cuts on Saturday, the club announced.

A cornerback from Maine, James is eligible to be added to a practice squad if he clears waivers.

Other Vikings cuts included undrafted rookie wide receiver Kain Colter and veteran safeties Kurt Coleman and Chris Crocker.

The Vikings also parted ways with guard Jeff Baca, defensive tackle Chase Baker, running back Joe Banyard, defensive tackle Fred Evans, defensive tackle Isame Faciane, tight end Chase Ford, wide receiver Donte Foster, linebacker Justin Jackson, center Zac Kerin, cornerback Julian Posey, tight end Allen Reisner, offensive tackle Mike Remmers, defensive end Justin Trattou, tailback Dominique Williams and linebacker Mike Zimmer. The release of Evans was reported earlier Saturday.

The Vikings also announced they had placed safety Jamarca Sanford and offensive tackle Antonio Richardson on injured reserve. The transactions leave Minnesota at the 53-player limit.

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Seahawks cut roster down to 53 players

San Diego Chargers v Seattle Seahawks Getty Images

The Seattle Seahawks terminated the contracts of two veterans, placed one player on injured reserve and waived 20 players to reach their roster limit on Saturday.

The Indianapolis Colts announced earlier in the day they had traded cornerback Marcus Burley to the Seahawks in exchange for a sixth-round pick in 2015. That led Seattle to have to let go of 23 players to get to the maximum of 53 players by the 1 p.m. PT deadline.

Seattle terminated the contracts of cornerback Phillip Adams and offensive tackle Eric Winston. They placed defensive tackle D’Anthony Smith on injured reserve and waived tight end RaShaun Allen, cornerback Akeem Auguste, running back Demitrius Bronson, wide receiver Arceto Clark, quarterback B.J. Daniels, guard Caylin Hauptmann, tackle Nate Isles, center Patrick Lewis, wide receiver Chris Matthews, defensive end Benson Mayowa, safety Terrance Parks, tight end Morrell Presley, quarterback Terrelle Pryor, defensive tackle Andru Pulu, fullback Kiero Small, defensive tackle Jimmy Staten, safety Steven Terrell, linebacker Korey Toomer, wide receiver Bryan Walters and running back Spencer Ware.

Toomer, Ware, Staten and Small are all former Seattle draft picks.

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Cardinals trim roster to 53

Bruce Arians AP

Twenty players were released, one was given an injury settlement and one was moved to injured reserve as the Cardinals got down to 53 on their roster today.

Arizona announced that the following players were cut: RB Zach Bauman, LB Marcus Benard, G Philip Blake, LB Jonathan Brown, WR Dan Buckner, C John Estes, DT Bruce Gaston, WR Brittan Golden, TE Andre Hardy, CB Jimmy Legree, CB Bryan McCann, T Kelvin Palmer, RB Jalen Parmele, DT Isaac Sopoaga, G Anthony Steen, S Curtis Taylor, LB Adrian Tracy, DT Christian Tupou, S Anthony Walters and CB Teddy Williams.

The Cardinals also released tackle Nate Potter with an injury settlement after he hurt his shoulder, and placed safety Eddie Whitley on injured reserve with a broken foot.

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Buccaneers finish up cuts, let Major Wright go

Miami Dolpins v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Getty Images

Safety Major Wright was supposed to be one of the guys to help spread Lovie Smith’s message in Tampa Bay, but he won’t be doing that now.

The veteran safety was one of the final eight roster cuts made by the Buccaneers, as they reached the 53-man roster limit.

Wright was signed in April after spending three years with the Bears, three as a starter. His last year under Smith in Chicago was his best, with four interceptions.

But with Mark Barron and Dashon Goldson starting, they elected to go with some younger players to back up and play special teams.

The Buccaneers also released tight end Cameron Brate, running back Jeff Demps, quarterback Mike Kafka, linebacker Brandon Magee, defensive tackle Matthew Masifilo, wide receiver Solomon Patton and defensive tackle Ronald Talley.

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Packers keep three quarterbacks

Scott Tolzien, Aaron Rodgers, Matt Flynn AP

Reports on Saturday indicated the Packers were only going to keep two quarterbacks on their initial 53-man roster, but those reports have been proven incorrect.

The Packers unveiled their roster on Saturday afternoon and it includes Aaron Rodgers, Matt Flynn and Scott Tolzien. Both Flynn and Tolzien saw time with the Packers offense as they cycled through options after Rodgers was injured. Having two guys on hand will lead to less scrambling if things unfold that way again this year, although one imagines Green Bay would rather just have Rodgers in there all 16 games.

Green Bay got down to 53 players by cutting safety Chris Banjo, wide receiver Kevin Dorsey, linebacker Jake Doughty, tackle John Fullington, center Garth Gerhart, wide receiver Alex Gillett, defensive tackle Carlos Gray, running back Michael Hill, linebacker Adrian Hubbard, guard Jordan McCray, safety Tanner Miller, tight end Justin Perillo, running back LaDarius Perkins, defensive end Luther Robinson, cornerback Jumal Rolle, tackle Jeremy Vujnovich, wide receiver Myles White and cornerback Ryan White.

They also placed tackle Aaron Adams, linebacker Nate Palmer, tight end Jake Stoneburner and defensive tackle Khyri Thornton, a 2014 third-round pick, on injured reserve.

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49ers reach 53-man roster limit

San Francisco 49ers v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Getty Images

The San Francisco 49ers are the latest team to reach the NFL-mandated limit of 53 players on the roster.

San Francisco announced that 19 players were released on Saturday: T Carter Bykowski, TE Asante Cleveland, WR Lance Lewis, LS Kevin McDermott, CB Darryl Morris, G Al Netter, DL Lawrence Okoye, WR Kassim Osgood, T Michael Philipp, NT Mike Purcell, G Ryan Seymour, LB Shayne Skov, RB Alfonso Smith, G Adam Snyder, S C.J. Spillman, LB Chase Thomas, S Bubba Ventrone, WR L’Damian Washington and RB Glenn Winston.

The 49ers also placed cornerback Kenneth Acker and fullback Will Tukuafu on injured reserve.

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Broncos get to 53-man limit, keep just two QBs

Zac Dysert AP

The Broncos have a pretty good quarterback, so they’re only going to keep two.

The Broncos waived third quarterback Zac Dysert, leaving only Brock Osweiler and some guy named Peyton Manning.

Otherwise, the Broncos’ cuts were pretty by the book. They terminated the contracts of five veterans: Tight ends Jameson Konz and Cameron Morrah, cornerback Jerome Murphy and defensive linemen Brian Sanford and Kevin Vickerson.

They also waived 14 other players, placed rookie defensive end Kenny Anunike on injured reserve and kicker Matt Prater on reserve/suspended.

The waived players included: Linebacker Shaqil Barrett, running back Kapri Bibbs, safety John Boyett, linebacker L.J. Fort, wide receiver Bennie Fowler, defensive tackle Sione Fua, safety Duke Ihenacho, guard Ryan Miller, guard Vinston Painter, wide receiver Nathan Palmer, center Matt Paradis, tight end Gerell Robinson, cornerback Jordan Sullen and cornerback Louis Young.

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Browns announce initial 53-man roster

Connor Shaw, Austen Lane AP

South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier said recently that he thought the Browns should put Connor Shaw into the mix for the starting quarterback job.

The Browns may have seen the Gamecocks get steamrolled by Texas A&M on Thursday night or they may have just dismissed Spurrier’s NFL acumen based on his experience in Washington because they decided to move on from Shaw on Saturday.

The undrafted free agent was one of the players cut in Cleveland as the Browns set an initial 53-man roster that includes Rex Grossman as the third quarterback behind Brian Hoyer and Johnny Manziel.

In addition to the previously reported departures of running back Dion Lewis, wide receiver Nate Burleson, running back Chris Ogbonnaya and cornerback Leon McFadden, the Browns also parted ways with defensive back Josh Aubrey, defensive lineman Calvin Barnett, defensive lineman Jacobbi McDaniel, offensive lineman Justin Staples, offensive lineman Reid Fragel, offensive lineman Garrett Gilkey, offensive lineman Donald Hawkins, linebacker Zac Diles, linebacker Jamaal Westerman, tight end/fullback MarQueis Gray, offensive lineman Alex Parsons, offensive lineman Abasi Salimu, wide receiver Willie Snead and tight end Emmanuel Ogbuehi. Cornerback Isaiah Trufant was placed on injured reserve.

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Stephen Hill’s agent disappointed in Ryan and Idzik, thinks Browns will be interested

Stephen Hill, Curtis Marsh AP

The Jets cut wide receiver Stephen Hill, a 2012 second-round pick, on Saturday and Hill’s agent Alan Herman was less than thrilled with the team’s decision.

Herman argued that the team’s quarterbacks and offensive schemes were to blame for his client’s struggles in his first two seasons. Hill had 45 catches and four touchdowns in 23 games for the Jets.

“He didn’t have a chance that first year with that whole Tim Tebow-Mark Sanchez fiasco,” Herman said, via USA Today. “His second year, Geno Smith was learning how to play quarterback. So they never threw the ball deep because they wanted to simplify things for Geno.”

No one will argue that the Jets have had good quarterback situations the last two years, but Hill’s hardly blameless. He had too many drops and too hard a time staying healthy to be a reliable part of any offense.

Hill’s big and fast, though, and that should land him other chances. Herman says he “would think” the Browns will be interested because of Josh Gordon’s suspension and head coach Mike Pettine’s previous relationship with Hill when both men were with the Jets. Herman also told Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer that he thinks Panthers wide receivers coach Ricky Proehl would have a positive impact on his client and much has been made this summer about the thin receiver depth chart in Carolina.

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Giants keep some young projects instead of veterans

Giants Jets Football AP

The Giants cut some big names, but kept some young players who fit their mold of finding talent in unusual places.

They were able to keep undrafted rookie wide receiver Corey Washington and defensive end Kerry Wynn, after explosive preseason performances.

Washington had 10 catches for 155 yards and four touchdowns (three game-winners), setting him up to be the Giants’ next Victor Cruz-level breakout star. Wynn had a pair of sacks, and replaced veteran Israel Idonije.

They’re great stories and that’s what this thing is all about,” Giants coach Tom Coughlin said, via the team’s official website. “Your needs are much deeper than seven picks in the draft or sometimes you’re not in position to help yourself in free agency because of the cap, so this is still the source. And when a young guy comes along and they look like they’ve got a high end, you’re excited about it. Especially when they work hard, they study hard, it’s important to them and they have great desire. You can see it on some of these kids’ faces that this means so much to them, and quite frankly it re-energizes me.”

In addition to the previously reported cuts of veteran quarterback Curtis Painter, fullback John Conner, tight end Kellen Davis and Idonije and placing wide receivers Trindon Holliday and Mario Manningham on injured reserve, the Giants waived-injured tackle Rogers Gaines, placed guard Eric Herman and cornerback Jayron Hosley on reserve/suspended and waived tackle Mark Asper, running back Michael Cox, defensive back Chandler Fenner, linebacker Dan Fox, running back Kendall Gaskins, defensive back Thomas Gordon, tackle Adam Gress, defensive back Bennett Jackson, guard Jamaal Johnson-Webb, linebacker Terrell Manning, defensive tackle Kelcie Quarles, defensive end Jordan Stanton, wide receiver Julian Talley and cornerback Bennett Jackson.

Jackson, a sixth-rounder from Notre Dame, was their only 2014 draft pick released.

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Bears cut Kelvin Hayden, set initial 53-man roster

Kelvin Hayden, Larry Fitzgerald AP

Cornerback Kelvin Hayden re-signed with the Bears after missing the entire 2013 season with a hamstring injury, but he won’t get a chance to play for them in 2014 unless the team has a change of heart.

Hayden was one of the players let go by the Bears on Saturday as they set their initial 53-man roster. The 2005 Colts second-round pick played 16 games for the Bears in 2012 and was competing for a backup cornerback job in Chicago this season, but Sherrick McManis and Demontre Hurst remain on the roster.

The Bears also released safety M.D. Jennings with an injury settlement and released defensive end Austen Lane.

In addition to the previously reported cuts, the Bears also waived wide receiver Josh Bellamy, defensive tackle Brandon Dunn, defensive tackle Tracy Robertson and cornerback Al Louis-Jean.

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