Brown’s calf rehab ‘going well’

PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh Steelers star wide receiver Antonio Brown is inching toward a return from a left calf injury.

Brown hasn’t played since injuring the calf in the first half of a loss to New England on Dec. 17. He posted video of himself working out on a treadmill on Monday. Steelers coach Mike Tomlin says he ran into Brown on Tuesday and believes Brown’s rehab is “going well.”

The AFC North champion Steelers have the week off before hosting a playoff game on Jan. 14. Tomlin says if Pittsburgh had been forced to play this weekend there’s a chance Brown would be in the lineup. Brown led the NFL with 1,533 yards receiving this season despite missing the final 2.5 games.

Pittsburgh has given offensive lineman Mike Munchak permission to talk with the Arizona Cardinals about their vacant head coaching job. Munchak is in his fourth season with the Steelers. He went 22-26 in three seasons as coach of the Tennessee Titans from 2011-13.

QB Palmer retires

PHOENIX — Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer is retiring after 15 NFL seasons.

Palmer, who turned 38 last week, made the announcement in an open letter released Tuesday by the Cardinals. Palmer missed the last nine games of what would be his final season with a broken left arm.

He called his long professional career “the most incredible experience of my life.”

The statement came one day after Cardinals coach Bruce Arians announced his retirement. Arians and Palmer spent the last five seasons together.

Palmer was a Heisman Trophy winner at USC and the No. 1-overall pick by Cincinnati in 2002. He threw for 46,247 yards, 11th-most in NFL history, in a career with the Bengals, Oakland and Arizona.

“When I entered the league, I was a 23-year-old kid,” Palmer wrote. “I’m leaving a 38-year-old husband and father of four with memories and experiences that I will treasure for the rest of my life. And like most things in life, it feels like it all passed in a blink of an eye.”

Acquired by the Cardinals for only a sixth-round pick and a swap of seventh-rounders, Palmer had some of his greatest success in Arizona.

In 2015, he set single-season franchise records for yards passing (4,671) and touchdowns (35) while leading the Cardinals to a 13-3 record, second-best in the NFC. He won his only playoff game that season, in overtime over Green Bay.

Palmer twice came back from significant knee injuries.

“My family and I are beyond grateful for everything the game has given us as well as the love and support we’ve felt from fans everywhere we’ve been. That’s been especially true in Arizona, where we never expected to end up but wound up being such a special place for us.”

Bills fans love Dalton

CINCINNATI — Giddy Buffalo fans are making a surge in donations to Andy Dalton’s foundation, their way of thanking the Bengals quarterback for his role in the Bills’ long-awaited playoff appearance.

Dalton’s foundation reported Tuesday it has received more than $170,000 in donations since the Bengals beat the Ravens 31-27 on Sunday . Dalton threw a 49-yard touchdown pass with 44 seconds left to eliminate the Ravens and open a spot for the Bills.

The Bills got the final AFC wild-card berth and ended their 17-year postseason drought, the longest among North America’s four major professional sports.

Bills fans are thanking Dalton by donating to his foundation. He was surprised and thankful for the reaction by Bills fans.

“I think I’m the hottest guy in Buffalo right now,” Dalton said Monday. “According to my Twitter, I think everybody’s loving us right now. Obviously that’s a crazy fan base and they’re all pretty excited.”

Dalton posted a video on his Twitter account Tuesday expressing his gratitude, explaining his foundation’s work and encouraging more donations.

“Let’s keep it going,” he said.

While the Bills’ long streak of playoff futility is over, the Bengals’ streak continues. They haven’t won a playoff game since the 1990 season, the sixth-longest streak of postseason futility in NFL history. They’ve lost all seven of their playoff games since that season, including an NFL-record five straight first-round defeats from 2011-15.

The Bengals missed out on the playoffs for a second straight season, going 7-9 . They won their last two games, knocking the Lions and Ravens out of the playoff race.

Bradford practicing

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Minnesota Vikings quarterback Sam Bradford returned to practice on Tuesday, two months after a cleanup surgery on his left knee.

Bradford, who led the Vikings to a season-opening win over New Orleans before experiencing pain in the twice-repaired joint, had the latest procedure done on Nov. 7. He was placed on injured reserve the following day, so the team could activate Teddy Bridgewater from the physically unable to perform list. This was the first week Bradford was eligible to resume practicing with the team.

“Sam was out there slinging it, like he always is, so I’m pumped for him to get back,” said Case Keenum, who took over for Bradford and helped lead the team to a 13-3 record.

The Vikings, who have a first-round bye and open the postseason at home on Jan. 14, now have up to three weeks to decide whether to put Bradford back on the active roster for the playoffs. Bridgewater and Kyle Sloter are the current backups to Keenum.

“We’ll just see how it goes and where it’s at,” coach Mike Zimmer said. “I’m not committed to say he’s going to play, so we’ll just see how things go. Things could happen. We win a game, someone gets hurt. You never know what could happen.”

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