It's on YouTube now, so it must have happened, right?

Well, San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers tried to downplay his animated exchange with Denver Broncos quarterback Jay Cutler on Monday night, which was caught by ESPN's cameras.

Rivers can be seen jawing from the sideline toward Cutler, who had just thrown an incomplete pass on fourth down midway through the fourth quarter of the Chargers' 23-3 victory. Chargers linebacker Matt Wilhelm can be seen mockingly waving toward Cutler.

Asked what he was saying to Cutler, Rivers said: "Nothing. There was really nothing said to him, to be honest with you."

The AFC West champion Chargers (10-5) returned to work yesterday for the first time since winning their fifth straight game and for the ninth time in 11 games.

The quarterback said the trash talk Monday night was "no different than any other game I've ever played in since I was 10 years old. There was nothing unusual going on in that game. Just like anything that gets on the TV, it can be taken any way you want it to.

"There's no animosity from me toward him, whatsoever. I don't know if that's the same on his end," Rivers said.

It certainly wasn't in the Broncos' locker room.

Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey said there's no excuse for what Rivers did.

"And I don't really care for the guy, first of all," Bailey said in a story posted on the Rocky Mountain News' Web site. "He's not a respectable guy right now, because you talk too much trash and do this and that, but you're really not a great player in this league right now."

Cutler was more reserved when he met with reporters yesterday.

"We've talked about it. I'm not going to get into it," Cutler said. "It was an unfortunate situation. They talked a lot and the talk got heated between the two teams. Personally I don't think the teams like each other, which is fine. It's just going to add to it next year. It's going to be exciting."

Chargers coach Norv Turner said he discussed the matter with Rivers.

"I talked to him and he understands where I'm coming from," Turner said.

Noteworthy

* Julius Peppers' disappointing season is over. The Carolina Panthers placed the defensive end on injured reserve with a sprained medial collateral ligament in his right knee. The injury forced Peppers to miss Saturday's loss to Dallas, ending his consecutive games streak at 78.

Peppers finished with only three sacks in 14 games, ending a streak of 3 straight years with at least 10 1/2 sacks. He was not elected to the Pro Bowl for the first time since 2003.

* Raiders defensive tackle Warren Sapp said he does not expect to be suspended by the NFL after being ejected from last week's 49-11 loss to Jacksonville.

Speaking about the incident for the first time, Sapp defended his actions and blamed the officiating crew for the situation that resulted in Oakland getting hit with four unsportsmanlike conduct penalties late in the first half, three on Sapp.

After the game, referee Jerome Boger said Sapp bumped umpire Garth DeFelice during the argument, which was why he was ejected, a claim the seven-time Pro Bowl defensive lineman vehemently denies.

* Tampa Bay placed receiver Maurice Stovall (Archbishop Carroll High) on injured reserve. Stovall, a second-year pro who had 10 receptions for 86 yards and one touchdown this season, broke his right arm during Sunday's 21-19 loss at San Francisco.

* Cleveland signed 13-year veteran Bobby Hamilton to patch up their banged-up defensive line. Hamilton, who won two Super Bowl rings with New England, hasn't played this season. He was waived at the end of training camp by the New York Jets. *