NCAA

49ers TE Davis practices again after concussion

49ers TE Davis practices again after concussion

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) Vernon Davis is anxious to get back on the field with the San Francisco 49ers and help them build momentum for the playoffs during Sunday's regular-season finale against Arizona.

He still has to be cleared to play first.

Davis practiced in a non-contact black jersey for the second consecutive day Friday and is taking the necessary steps, according to NFL-mandated protocol, to return from a concussion he sustained during last week's loss to the Seattle Seahawks.

The 49ers have a pressing need for their starting tight end to return after the team placed starting wide receiver Mario Manningham on injured reserve early Friday, leaving San Francisco without its second-leading receiver for the rest of the season.

Manningham tore knee ligaments after catching a pass in the third quarter of San Francisco's 42-13 loss at Seattle. Davis was hurt in the first quarter after absorbing a crushing hit from safety Kam Chancellor that dislodged the football from Davis near the goal line. Davis left the game after that play and did not return.

Chancellor was penalized for unnecessary roughness on the play, and Davis said Friday the hit was ``brutal'' and one of the hardest he ever has taken in seven NFL seasons. Davis, who gained clearance from an independent neurologist and the 49ers' team physician to resume non-contact activity Thursday, could be cleared to play if he passes the final step in protocol - contact simulation - before Sunday's game.

``Tomorrow he'll go through the final progression,'' 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said Friday. ``He's on course, but that's something the doctors have full control over.''

When asked if he felt 100 percent recovered, Davis said, ``I'm all right.'' But he made clear his intention to play against the Cardinals as the 49ers look to clinch their second consecutive NFC West title. San Francisco also can capture the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs with a win Sunday and a Green Bay loss at Minnesota.

``I'm thinking I have to be ready for this game,'' Davis said. ``That's the way I'm approaching it. There's a lot on the line. No matter what happens, we have to win this game. So my mind is focused on getting out there and helping my teammates win this game any way I can. I'm ready to play.''

Davis, a Pro Bowler in 2009 who led the 49ers in receptions twice in the past three seasons, has seen his production drop significantly this year, most notably since he recorded a season-high six receptions during a Nov. 19 victory over Chicago.

Davis has just five catches for 56 yards in San Francisco's five games since then.

The Niners figure to get Davis more involved when he does return with Manningham joining backup receiver Kyle Williams on injured reserve. Davis was San Francisco's top receiving weapon in the playoffs last season, when he caught 10 passes for 292 yards and four touchdowns in two games as the 49ers reached the NFC championship game.

``You're definitely right that I want to contribute in that way,'' Davis said. ``My time will come when I'm getting more balls.''

If that time isn't Sunday, and Davis is unable to play against the Cardinals for the first time this season, the 49ers likely will give more playing time to their two backup tight ends, Delanie Walker and undrafted rookie Garrett Celek.

With Davis on the sideline last week, Walker had a season-high four receptions for 54 yards and Celek had a career-high two catches for 41 yards - Celek's first receptions in nine games.

``My job every week is to prove I can play and be the No. 1 tight end,'' Walker said. ``With Vernon down, it just gives me more opportunity to get the ball. I'll take Vernon's (position), and when we go with two tight ends, (Celek) will take Vernon's and I'll do the same role I usually do.''

Offensive coordinator Greg Roman - who since late November has lost three of his regular contributors in Manningham, Williams and running back Kendall Hunter - is prepared to get his other tight ends involved if Davis is held out against the Cardinals.

``They'll probably split different things,'' Roman said. ``Delanie is such a valuable asset as the (No. 1) tight end and also as the second tight end. He can do both and does do both at times. You can build a lot of different formations with him and do a lot of things. It will definitely be a mix and match.''

Wolfpack overcomes 10-minute scoring drought to top Virginia

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Wolfpack overcomes 10-minute scoring drought to top Virginia

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- D.J. Funderburk scored 14 points before fouling out and North Carolina State overcame a second-half scoring drought of more than 10 minutes in a 53-51 victory against Virginia on Monday night.

C.J. Bryce added 13 points for the Wolfpack (14-5, 5-3 Atlantic Coast Conference), including a jumper with 27 seconds left after allowing the shot clock to race to near 0:00. The victory ended an eight-game losing streak against the Cavaliers.

Viginia (12-6, 4-4) used a 15-0 run during the N.C. State scoring drought that lasted 10:13 to take a 46-42 lead, bringing the crowd at John Paul Jones Arena back into the game. But Jericole Hellems hit a 3-pointer for N.C. State with 3:38 left and, after a free throw by Mamadi Diakite for Virginia, Markell Johnson hit a 3-pointer and then Hellems' putback gave the Wolfpack a 50-47 lead.

Johnson and Bryce both missed the front end of one-and-one free throw opportunities, and Kihei Clark hit a pair for Virginia. Braxton Beverly made the first and missed the second for the Wolfpack with 7.2 seconds left, and the Cavaliers Casey Morsell was short on a contested 3 at the buzzer.

Clark led Virginia with 10 points, seven rebounds and five assists.

The Wolfpack had used an 8-0 run to go ahead 42-31. Virginia helped out by going scoreless for more than 6 1/2 minutes. Francisco Caffaro, who had just been inserted into the game, ended the drought with 11:13 left.

BIG PICTURE

N.C. State: The Wolfpack seemed on their way to a solid victory until the drought, during which they were 1 for 8 from the field with five turnovers and repeatedly let the shot clock run down into single digits, forcing bad shots.

Virginia: In the Cavaliers' continuing search for scoring help, freshman Casey Morsell had as many as three field goals for the first time since a 65-56 victory against Navy on Dec. 29. He was 4 for 20 from the field in his last five games. He finished the night 4 for 9 and his buzzer-beater attempt was closely guarded.

UP NEXT

The Wolfpack remains on the road and plays at Georgia Tech on Saturday.

The Cavaliers go on the road and play at Wake Forest on Sunday.

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Despite place in standings, Wizards believe playoffs aren't a pipe dream

Despite place in standings, Wizards believe playoffs aren't a pipe dream

WASHINGTON -- This may be the most realistic and self-aware Wizards team we have seen in a while. It wasn't long ago they had a penchant for talking big about what they believed they could accomplish. Nowadays, knowing where they are in the standings, their expectations are much more measured.

They know they are 12th in the Eastern Conference, even after beating the Pistons on Monday. They know their 14-28 record, which is 14 games under .500 and has them on pace to win 27 total games, isn't good.

But the Wizards are allowed to dream and they say making the playoffs is still something they would like to do.

"That's the goal, that's every day for us. [It's] in the back of my mind," shooting guard Bradley Beal said.

"I watch the games, I watch the standings and everything. We're not talking about it," head coach Scott Brooks said. "If that comes into play [we'll see]. The seventh and eighth seeds, the records aren't great."

There is certainly a case for that. The two teams currently occupying the bottom two playoff spots in the East have sub-.500 records. The seventh-ranked Magic are 20-23 and the Brooklyn Nets are in eighth with an 18-24 mark.

Last season, the Charlotte Hornets held up the Eastern Conference playoff bracket with a losing record as the eighth seed. They went 39-43, not good but still a much better pace than the Wizards are currently on. To win 39 games, they would have to go 25-16 the rest of the way.

Though they have shown some positive signs, going 4-4 in their last eight games, that would require going to a completely different level in the second half of the season. Still, there is no harm in maintaining their goals.

Beal, for one, has envisioned a way it can happen.

"Especially once All-Star hits, that second half is just flying. We have to tighten up and try to get some wins here before the break because that's usually the time when teams like to ease off the pedal a little bit. We have to take advantage of [that], that advantage of our schedule, take care of our bodies, and rally together," he said.

If the Wizards really, really wanted to go for the playoffs, they could try to add some pieces before the Feb. 6 trade deadline. But that should not be expected. In fact, this year's deadline for the Wizards likely won't be affected much at all by the playoff picture.

It's hard to envision them being buyers and they may not be able to be true sellers, either, due to injuries and other factors. Also, there is a belief in the front office that keeping a close distance in the playoff race could be a nice incentive for their young players, that having something to work for later in the season could help their development.

If the Wizards did somehow make the playoffs or even get close, that would be quite the surprise and it would say a lot about the direction of the organization. But in the long-term, it would seem to be more beneficial if they continue on their current course and end up with a top draft pick.

The Wizards right now have the fifth-worst record in the league. That would net them a lot of ping-pong balls for the draft lottery.

It seems likely that's where this season will end. But it doesn't hurt to try.

"We just want to play. We just want to finish the second half of the season playing better," Brooks said.

The Wizards are only 4 1/2 games back in the playoff race. Stranger things have happened.

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