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Panthers star receiver says he will be ready to go

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Panthers receiver Steve Smith said his left knee feels "fine" and he expects to play in Sunday's NFC division playoff game against the 49ers. He sprained a ligament in Week 16 and sat out the season finale. Carolina then had a first-round bye.

Smith has been coy all week. On Wednesday, he said there was a 71 percent chance he would play. On Thursday, it was 57. On Friday, he looked at his jersey number and said "89 percent" before adding, "I just randomly pick numbers." He said he went 57 percent Thursday after winning rock-paper-scissors with offensive lineman Jeff Byers, who wanted 62 percent.

"See, I have kids, and he doesn't," Smith said. "I'm well-experienced for rock-paper-scissors."

Chargers: Center Nick Hardwick, who sustained a concussion Sunday, was cleared to practice. But his status hasn't been determined. Also, running back Ryan Mathews, expected to practice after missing Wednesday and Thursday with an ankle injury, sat. He is questionable.

Colts: Receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey was ruled out with a hamstring injury.

49ers: Starting cornerback Carlos Rogers missed this third practice with a sore hamstring, and csnbayarea.com reported he is unlikely to play.

Saints: Starting running back Pierre Thomas, who sat out last week with a chest injury, is expected to play.

Seahawks: Receiver Percy Harvin, who has played one game since offseason hip surgery, was listed as probable.

Around the league: Bucs hire cornerbacks coach

TAMPA — Gill Byrd was hired as Bucs cornerbacks coach. Byrd, 52, spent seven seasons with the Bears under new Bucs coach Lovie Smith: quality control (2006), assistant defensive backs (2007) and safeties (2008-12). He played cornerback for the Chargers from 1983-92. His 42 interceptions remain a franchise record.

Concussions: Two players violated protocol last week, but their teams won't be fined. The league didn't disclose names, but Packers tackle David Bakhtiari re-entered the game despite not being cleared while Saints cornerback Keenan Lewis stayed on the sideline instead of going to a quiet room.

Fine: Eagles cornerback Cary Williams was fined $15,750 for a horse-collar tackle on the Saints' Darren Sproles on the kickoff return that set up the winning field goal last week.

Times staff writer Greg Auman contributed to this report.

Panthers star receiver says he will be ready to go 01/10/14 [Last modified: Friday, January 10, 2014 10:30pm]

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