THE CHICAGO BEARS control their playoff destiny and their best defensive player appears to be on track to return this week. That would be Lance Briggs.
The Bears remain optimistic he will be ready to play at Philadelphia on Sunday night after he practiced yesterday on a limited basis.
The seven-time Pro Bowl linebacker is trying to work his way back from a small fracture in his left shoulder and help the Bears lock up a playoff spot that appeared to be slipping beyond their reach just a few weeks ago.
That has changed in a big way. And they could be getting a big lift, assuming Briggs returns.
"We'll see where he is," coach Marc Trestman said. "It's still day to day. Like I said to you the other day, I'm optimistic he'll play. How much? We'll see how he feels. I'll be able to better answer that question after Friday's practice and it may even go into Sunday. He did get some work today and I did talk him afterwards and he said he felt pretty good, so we'll see where he is tomorrow."
Briggs declined to comment. He hasn't played since Oct. 20.
The Bears held receiver Brandon Marshall out of practice because of soreness in his quadriceps and hamstring, but Trestman said he'll practice today.
The Bears lead the NFC North at 8-6, with Green Bay (7-6-1) and Detroit (7-7) trying to stay in the race.
* Seattle cornerback Brandon Browner was suspended indefinitely by the NFL for violating the league's substance-abuse policy. The suspension is the second in two seasons for Browner.
Browner, whose suspension is effective immediately and without pay, issued a statement vowing that he would continue to fight his suspension and sounding resigned that his career with the Seahawks was over.
Browner was injured in Week 10 and hasn't played since. He filed an appeal of the suspension while injured and the Seahawks were waiting for an answer from the league. He is in his third season with the Seahawks and was a Pro Bowl selection in 2011. He was to become a free agent after the season and could file for reinstatement after 1 year.
* Washington linebacker London Fletcher, who has never missed a game in 16 NFL seasons, announced that he plans to retire at the end of the year. He is 38.
Also, the team acquired Robert Griffin III's college center, claiming J.D. Walton off waivers from the Denver. To make room on the roster, the Redskins waived receiver Lance Lewis.
* Pittsburgh linebacker Terence Garvin was fined $25,000 for his hit on Cincinnati punter Kevin Huber in the Steelers' victory over the Bengals on Sunday night. Huber sustained a broken jaw and a cracked vertebrae when Garvin decked him near midfield during Antonio Brown's 67-yard punt return for a touchdown. Garvin was not penalized on the play. Huber is scheduled to have surgery on his jaw tomorrow and is out for the year.
* St. Louis defensive end Eugene Sims said he has been fined $7,875 for a hit on New Orleans' Darren Sproles, and that he is appealing.
* New Orleans announced that Shayne Graham is the replacement for kicker Garrett Hartley, released after missing two field goals, and that Terron Armstead will get his first start at left tackle Sunday at Carolina.
* Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco will wear a brace on his left knee Sunday against New England, a precautionary move in the wake of the injury he sustained Monday night in Detroit.
* Super Bowl organizers say they are prepared to deploy thousands of trucks and tons of salt to prevent snowy weather from interfering with the NFL's championship game Feb. 2 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.
* Buffalo quarterback RJ Manuel was ruled out for Sunday's game against Miami because of an injury to his left knee suffered against Jacksonville.
* Matt Schaub will start at quarterback for Houston against Denver in place of the injured Case Keenum. Schaub's last action in Houston came when he took over late in a game Nov. 17 as Keenum was struggling. The home crowd booed him so loudly when he entered the game that the offense was forced to use a silent count.