Black and Blue all over: The backup's backup

Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert
Yes, Chicago quarterback Kyle Orton refused to rule himself out of Sunday's game against Tennessee. But if everything follows the most likely scenario, with Orton sitting and Rex Grossman starting, the Bears' game day backup would be rookie free agent Caleb Hanie.

A prospect originally destined for the practice squad, Hanie put forth a preseason performance that forced the Bears' hand. Bob LeGere of the Daily Herald points out the highlights.

"I feel like I am ready," Hanie said, according to Brad Biggs of the Chicago Sun-Times. "Am I completely ready to make all the right checks and everything? Probably not. But I think I am ready to get in there, make some plays and make smart decisions."

Orton didn't practice Wednesday and almost certainly won't see the field Thursday. But it's unlikely, as David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune points out, that the Bears will drop the charade of his potential availability for Sunday's game. It's all part of a carefully orchestrated script to keep the Titans guessing.

Continuing around the NFC North:

  • LeGere also notes that receiver Brandon Lloyd participated in all of practice Wednesday for the first time since spraining his knee Sept. 28.

  • Rob Demovsky of the Green Bay Press-Gazette looks at the surprising situation of Packers receiver James Jones, who opened the season as the team's No. 3 receiver but now can't get back on the field after recovering from a knee injury. Jones was a healthy scratch from last Sunday's game at Tennessee.

  • Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel compares contract details between the extensions of Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and Dallas quarterback Tony Romo. Rodgers' deal has a higher average over the first three years, an important benchmark in NFL contracts, but Romo received $10 million more in guaranteed money.

  • Minnesota left tackle Bryant McKinnie said he is still working off the rust from his four-game suspension earlier this season. McKinnie told Sid Hartman of the Star Tribune: "My weight is good; I'm in good shape. It's just getting my confidence back because I haven't been here for a little bit. So certain things I do, I probably lack a little confidence in, but I'm getting it back slowly. I'm just going to continue my progress and work to get better each game."

  • Sean Jensen of the St. Paul Pioneer Press notes the uptick in explosive plays for the Vikings' offense.

  • John Niyo of the Detroit News provides a partial transcript of new Lions quarterback Daunte Culpepper's first interview session. Asked about his conditioning, Culpepper said: "I was coaching my son's [pee wee] team and after practice, believe it or not, I was doing a little running, just in case the opportunity came. I'm not there yet, but I'll be there shortly."

  • Drew Sharp of the Detroit Free Press suggests a politically-themed slogan for the Lions' plans to start Culpepper against Jacksonville on Sunday: "No ... they ... can't."