Clarence “Ace” Parker, the oldest member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, died Wednesday in Portsmouth, Va. He was 101.
A Portsmouth native, Parker played football, basketball and baseball at Duke, then was a first-round draft choice of the National Football League’s Brooklyn Dodgers in 1937. Instead of pursuing a career on the gridiron, Parker opted to play baseball for Connie Mack and the Philadelphia Athletics.
In his first at-bat, the shortstop hit a home run at Fenway Park, becoming the third player in major-league history to homer in his first at-bat.
He later traded baseball for football, starring for the Dodgers from 1937-41, and winning the most valuable player award in 1940.
That season, the 5-foot-10, 178-pounder threw 10 touchdown passes, ran for 306 yards and two touchdowns, caught two touchdown passes, kicked 19 extra points and shared the league lead with six interceptions on defense. He also punted for the Dodgers, averaging 38 yards per kick.
After the 1941 season, Parker left football to serve in World War II.
He returned after the war with the Boston Yanks in 1945 and finished his football career the following season in the rival American Football Conference playing quarterback for the New York Yankees. Again, he traded shoes and went back to his first love, baseball.
He played and managed in the minor leagues for the Portsmouth Cubs and the Durham Bulls from 1946 to 1952, and then coached football and baseball at Duke from 1947 until 1965. He also worked as an NFL scout for the St. Louis Cardinals and the San Francisco 49ers until his retirement in June 1987.
He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1972.
Phillips to direct Texans
Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips will be Houston’s interim head coach with Gary Kubiak out indefinitely after suffering a mini-stroke this weekend.
Phillips, a former head coach for Dallas, took over after Kubiak was taken to the hospital and he ran Houston’s practice on Monday. Offensive coordinator Rick Dennison likely will take over the play-calling duties.
The team says Monday that the 52-year-old Kubiak suffered a transient ischemic attack at halftime of Sunday’s loss to Indianapolis. He was released from the hospital on Tuesday and is expected to make a full recovery, but there is no timetable for his return to the team.
Houston, which has lost six consecutive games, plays at Arizona on Sunday.
Manuel to play for Bills
The Buffalo Bills’ monthlong shuffle at quarterback is coming to an end after rookie starter EJ Manuel returned to practice Wednesday.
Manuel’s presence on the field, and the expectation that he’ll be ready to step in immediately and start against the Pittsburgh Steelers (2-6) on Sunday, has provided the Bills a much-needed lift.
“Yeah, we’re excited to get EJ back,” center Eric Wood said. “Hopefully, it gives us a boost, offensively.”
And don’t underestimate the importance of Manuel re-establishing stability at a position that was mostly unsettled in the four weeks since the first-round draft pick out of Florida State sprained his right knee.
“He’s the guy that we wanted to be back there, and we’ve got him back there now,” running back Fred Jackson said.
“To get some stability there, a guy that’s going to be there for the remainder of the season hopefully is something that can help this offense move in the right direction.”
The Bills (3-6) were going nowhere in losing three of four without Manuel, who was hurt in a 37-24 loss at Cleveland on Oct. 3.
Bradford surgery delayed
The St. Louis Rams postponed quarterback Sam Bradford’s knee surgery, which had been scheduled for Tuesday, due to swelling.
Coach Jeff Fisher said Wednesday no new date has been set for the procedure to repair a torn left ACL, but anticipated it would be soon. The team previously announced the surgery would be done by Dr. James Andrews, who also operated on the quarterback’s shoulder at Oklahoma.
“It will be in the near future,” Fisher said. “During some of the rehab, he swelled up a little bit, so we just decided to wait. Nothing to be alarmed about.”
Bradford has been exercising to strengthen the knee and quadriceps prior to surgery, perhaps easing the rehab path. He’s also been on his feet a lot at practice and on game days.
The Rams anticipate Bradford, the first overall pick of the 2010 draft, will be back in time for next year’s opener.
“Back in the old days, they’d cast you for half your life,” Fisher said. “Now, you come out of the procedure and they’re already working on the range of motion, so it’s different. That’s why they’re coming back so fast.”
Backup Kellen Clemens makes his third consecutive start Sunday at Indianapolis for the Rams (3-6).
NFL set to investigate
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell appointed a prominent attorney from a New York firm to direct an independent investigation into workplace conduct among the Dolphins amid reports that persistent bullying by guard Richie Incognito prompted tackle Jonathan Martin to leave the team last week.
The Dolphins suspended Incognito indefinitely Sunday night. Martin is with his family in California.
Goodell named Ted Wells, a senior partner in the firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, to direct the investigation.
Around the league
Mario Manningham walked through the San Francisco locker room Wednesday, binder in hand and headed for meetings with the expectation that he will play for the 49ers (6-2) in Sunday’s game against Carolina (5-3), even if coach Jim Harbaugh has yet to formally say so. Manningham is on the active roster again nearly 11 months after a knee injury derailed his season and forced him to the sidelines. …The New Orleans Saints moved linebacker Jonathan Vilma to injured reserve, ending his season — and possibly his career — only three days after he had returned for his first game of this season. … Seattle Seahawks center Max Unger and defensive end Red Bryant did not participate in practice as each went through the mandated concussion protocol after being injured last week against Tampa Bay.