The Chicago Bears benched quarterback Jay Cutler and plan to start Jimmy Clausen against the Detroit Lions on Sunday, a person with knowledge of the situation confirmed Wednesday evening. ESPN first reported the news.

The move, which comes in the death throes of a season in ruins, is a seismic shift for an organization that has exalted Cutler as its franchise quarterback.

In January, general manager Phil Emery signed Cutler to a new seven-year, $126.7 million contract that includes $54 million guaranteed.

Cutler, however, leads the NFL with 24 turnovers. His inconsistency is a big reason the Bears are 5-9.

McDonald cut

Defensive lineman Ray McDonald was released Wednesday by the San Francisco 49ers amid an investigation by San Jose police into McDonald on suspicion of sexual assault.

General manager Trent Baalke said CEO Jed York and coach Jim Harbaugh also were involved in the decision.

San Jose police said that they were investigating McDonald on suspicion of sexual assault. This is the second time in recent months that McDonald has been the subject of a police investigation.

Last month, the Santa Clara County (Calif.) District Attorney's Office announced that it declined to file charges against the defensive lineman in a domestic violence investigation stemming from his Aug. 31 arrest.

Air raid

Frustrated fans again took to the air against the Jets. Another banner-toting plane calling for the ouster of embattled New York general manager John Idzik circled the field during practice for several minutes Wednesday in Florham Park, N.J.

The banner, which appeared during the early portion of practice, read: "PENALTY FLAG DAY 12/21 FIREJOHNIDZIK.COM" in 5-foot capital red letters. The message was a reminder that the fan site has been issuing about 10,000 yellow towels - deemed "penalty flags" - at New York- and New Jersey-area bars, urging owner Woody Johnson to "clean house" by firing Idzik, team president Neil Glat, and senior personnel executive Terry Bradway.

Newton practices

Cam Newton returned to practice Wednesday eight days after a horrific-looking automobile accident left him with two fractures in his lower back.

Whether he starts Sunday for Carolina against the Cleveland Browns remains unclear. Panthers coach Ron Rivera said the team put Newton through a "rigorous" rehab schedule and will wait to see how much soreness the fourth-year quarterback has on Thursday.

Vick nearly debt-free

When Michael Vick filed for bankruptcy protection in July 2008, his only income came from mopping floors at 12 cents an hour in the early morning hours at Leavenworth prison.

Less than seven years later, Vick is weeks away from paying off the majority of the nearly $18 million he owed his creditors, according to ESPN.com

In the five-year period (2010 to 2014) in which he agreed to go on a restrictive budget to pay back his creditors, Vick earned more than $49 million during four seasons with the Eagles and one with the New York Jets.

Vick said he could have filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy instead of Chapter 11, which he ultimately chose. The former would have meant most of his debts would have been forgiven.

"I didn't want to stiff people who never stiffed me," Vick told ESPN.com.