<
>

Black and Blue all over: Non-Favre edition

Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert
You always have to be careful when a team suddenly starts raving about the performance of a player who has replaced a teammate that is holding out. The sentiments might be genuine, but often these public proclamations are intended primarily to get the holdout into camp.

So went the dilemma we faced last week while listening to Green Bay Packers coaches praise the improvement of second-year running back Brandon Jackson -- who moved up to the first team while starter Ryan Grant held out for a contract extension. Coaches said they fully trusted Jackson in blitz situations, noted his new patience in screen plays and pointed out he opened the 2007 season as their starter before being sidelined by a shin injury.

For his part, Jackson confirmed he had put on about eight pounds of muscle during the offseason and reported to training camp at about 220 pounds. To our eyes, at least, he appeared to be an effective low-to-the ground runner whom defensive players could easily lose sight of behind the offensive line. Jackson knew that Grant's holdout would end sometime, but he also wasn't conceding the starting job, either.

"With him back or gone, I still feel comfortable about my abilities," Jackson said. "I'm getting my fair share of reps and just trying to take advantage of it."

Grant ended his holdout Saturday night, and his new four-year contract - worth between $18 million and $31 million, based on incentives -- indicates the Packers plan for him to remain the starter. But it will be interesting to see whether coach Mike McCarthy and his staff find a place for Jackson after getting an extended look at him during the first week of camp.

One possibility might be as a third-down back. Unlike most young players, Jackson is an exceptional pass blocker and isn't a liability against the blitz. Although he is closer to 5-8 than his listed height of 5-10, Jackson is more than willing to stick his nose in the chest of a linebacker.

"That's from playing at Nebraska," said Jackson, a second-round draft choice in 2007. "Their motto was, 'If you don't block, you don't play.' I was the third-down back there, too. Just coming in here, it gave me a head up on the blocking. It's more mental and attitude. You've got to go out there with attitude if you want to block."

Will that attitude be enough to get Jackson on the field regularly this season? We know there are bigger issues going on right now in Green Bay, but playing time in the Packers backfield should start getting more interesting this week.

Touching base with the other NFC North teams:

  • Chicago Bears nose tackle Anthony Adams was recently reunited with his father, who spent 24 years in prison, writes David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune. Adams has been working with the first-team defense while presumptive starter Dusty Dvoracek rehabilitates a calf injury.

  • Two years ago, Minnesota Vikings coach Brad Childress ran the most physical training camp we've ever seen. He's lightened up a bit since then. The Vikings have been in full pads only twice over the first 14 practices and have a day off Sunday, according to Chip Scoggins of the Star Tribune. "It's a beautiful thing," said veteran cornerback Antoine Winfield.

  • Vikings punter Chris Kluwe considers himself one of the world's top 100 Guitar Hero players, according to Rick Alonzo of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. (With accompanying video.)

  • Detroit Lions coach Rod Marinelli created a circus-like atmosphere at practice Saturday to help his team, mired in the dog days of training camp, deal with distractions.