NEW YORK – The rule that negated using replay to confirm a Houston Texans touchdown “may be too harsh” and will be re-examined immediately, said Ray Anderson, the NFL director of football operations.

Anderson, also co-chairman of the competition committee that suggests rules changes to owners, said a change could come this year. The NFL traditionally resists changing rules during a season.

“We will certainly discuss the rule with the competition committee members, as we do all situations involving unique and unusual circumstances, and determine if we feel a change should be recommended to ownership,” Anderson said in a statement.

“Not being able to review a play in this situation may be too harsh, and an unintended consequence of trying to prevent coaches from throwing their challenge flag for strategic purposes in situations that are not subject to a coaches’ challenge.”

Anderson added the NFL is not bound by past events when a rule is proved to have loopholes, and a 15-yard penalty for throwing a challenge flag on a play automatically reviewed might be enough. For now, throwing the challenge flag also eliminates the use of replay. All scoring plays otherwise are reviewed.

49ERS: Coach Jim Harbaugh expects quarterback Alex Smith to be medically cleared to play by Saturday but didn’t announce who will start at quarterback Sunday at New Orleans.

Harbaugh said it serves no purpose to his team and organization to let anybody know his decision.

CHIEFS: Receiver Dexter McCluster, while delivering a free turkey and canned goods to a humble home on Thanksgiving Day, got an unexpected scolding from an elderly woman.

“She said, ‘I’m praying for you guys. Hopefully you guys can win a game soon,’ ” he recalled. “I told her we’re working hard. She said, ‘Well, work harder.’ “

FALCONS: Linebacker Sean Weatherspoon and cornerback Asante Samuel returned to practice in a limited role.

Another defensive starter, nose tackle Peria Jerry, missed his third straight practice with a quadriceps injury.

BEARS: The status of quarterback Jay Cutler going into the weekend remains uncertain because of a concussion, although Coach Lovie Smith said he’s optimistic about Cutler’s return.

Cutler, who missed Monday night’s 32-7 loss to San Francisco, is listed as questionable against Minnesota.

Whether he plays in Sunday’s game hinges on passing a test from an independent neurologist Saturday.

CHARGERS: San Diego placed left tackle Jared Gaither on injured reserve, ending an unproductive season for a player expected to shore up a shaky offensive line.

Gaither played in only four games this season. He missed almost all of training camp and the first three games with a back injury. He injured his groin late in a loss at New Orleans and played in only two games since.

JETS: Coach Rex Ryan insisted that quarterback Tim Tebow “100 percent” could have played in the lopsided loss to New England, despite two broken ribs.

The Jets found out two days before the game Thursday night that Tebow’s sore ribs were actually fractured when results from an MRI exam and CT scan were released. Tebow was active for the game but Ryan kept him on the sideline and intended to use him only if the Jets “absolutely have to.”

STEELERS: For the first time in seven weeks, safety Troy Polamalu was on the practice field.

Polamalu has played in only five quarters this season due to a strained right calf. He hadn’t practiced since two days before an Oct. 7 victory against Philadelphia, leaving in the first quarter when he re-aggravated the injury after sitting out the two prior games.

VIKINGS: Minnesota likely will be without receiver Percy Harvin again this weekend because of his sprained left ankle.

Harvin was listed as doubtful for Sunday’s game at Chicago. He tried to test his foot with some pre-practice work Friday, but Coach Leslie Frazier said he couldn’t put much weight on it.

BROWNS: Cornerback Joe Haden, who has had a strained abdominal muscle, practiced and may be able to play against Pittsburgh.

The only Browns not participating in practice were defensive backs Dmitri Patterson and Ray Ventrone. Patterson has missed five games with an ankle injury and Ventrone has a calf problem.