We're Black and Blue All Over:
We're entering the Wild West portion of our Lockout'11 offseason, the part when players of at least some teams plan to show up for work Tuesday morning after U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson ordered the lockout lifted. According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, players will be treated courteously if they show up but the NFL has instructed teams not to open their weight rooms or engage in any contract discussions.
Not every team will face that uncomfortable situation, however. According to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, Detroit Lions player representative Kyle Vanden Bosch is advising teammates to "hold tight" and not report until the situation is more structured. As of early Tuesday morning, the league was still trying to come up with a plan for how to conduct business while its attorneys seek a stay to resume the lockout while they appeal Nelson's verdict. For players, showing up for work would trigger workout bonuses that can pay hundreds of thousands of dollars.
ESPN legal analyst Lester Munson called Monday's ruling "a critical win for the players" and suggests they are well on their way to permanently overcoming the owners' lockout tactic. If that's the case, we could soon be headed toward the resumption of the NFL offseason under rules imposed by the owners.
As it turns out, the Minnesota Vikings had previously scheduled a news conference Tuesday afternoon with vice president of player personnel Rick Spielman and coach Leslie Frazier to discuss that little draft thing I hear is coming up. I'll be sure to head over there and give you a sense for what at least one NFL facility is like on this potential day of chaos.
Continuing around the NFC North:
The Lions could draft a defensive lineman in the first round with an eye toward the future, writes Birkett.
Tim Twentyman of the Detroit News: "Wide receivers not named Calvin Johnson or Nate Burleson combined for 21 receptions, 240 yards and zero touchdowns last season for the Lions."
Tom Kowalski of Mlive.com would love to see the Lions select Missouri defensive end Aldon Smith.
Linebacker is definitely a position of need for the Chicago Bears, writes Michael C. Wright of ESPNChicago.com.
Neil Hayes of the Chicago Sun-Times: "The Bears might not be as interested in using a first-round pick to protect quarterback Jay Cutler as many assume. With Tommie Harris gone, it could be argued that defensive tackle is an even greater need, especially with the importance of the 'three-technique' tackle in coach Lovie Smith's cover-2 scheme."
Mike Mulligan of the Chicago Sun-Times reports that Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz, like special teams coordinator Dave Toub, recently turned down a contract extension because it didn't include a raise.
Pete Dougherty of the Green Bay Press-Gazette wonders if the Green Bay Packers will have the opportunity to draft Alabama running back Mark Ingram.
Jason Wilde of ESPNMilwaukee.com on the Packers' need for an outside linebacker: "While undrafted rookie free agent Frank Zombo and midseason pickup Erik Walden both did good things that encouraged the coaching staff after season-ending injuries to Brad Jones and Brady Poppinga, none of the four have shown enough to guarantee a starting job. If Packers GM Ted Thompson can land a true complementary rusher for Matthews, he will."
Minnesota Vikings linebacker Ben Leber, technically a free agent, told the Associated Press (via Tom Pelissero of 1500ESPN.com) that it makes sense for players to "let the dust settle" before making their next step.
The market value for Vikings receiver Sidney Rice is unclear, writes Pelissero.
Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder might be the third-best quarterback in the draft, writes Jeremy Fowler of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
Chip Scoggins of the Star Tribune looks at five players the Vikings could draft with their No. 12 overall pick.