Whispers from around the NFL
Pro Football Weekly is hearing whispers that the rift between Marty Schottenheimer and A.J. Smith is slightly overstated.
• The Bears expect to have the entire starting defense intact for this week's playoff game. SS Mike Brown (calf) and SLB Hunter Hillenmeyer (thumb) could have played last week had Chicago been involved in the wild-card round. Hillenmeyer will wear a soft cast but had a pin in his thumb removed.
• A national television report that indicated there is virtually no communication between Chargers general manager A.J. Smith and head coach Marty Schottenheimer was overstated, according to our sources in San Diego. But that does not mean there is a smooth relationship there. We're told the two don't get along well, and if Smith had executive power, Schottenheimer probably would not be the coach. Team president Dean Spanos made it clear recently that Schottenheimer's job is not in jeopardy, but he did offer a warning shot of sorts, indicating that the playoffs are a must for 2006.