LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Jared Allen's streak of 113 consecutive starts ended Sunday when he missed Chicago’s loss to the Green Bay Packers because of pneumonia. But the five-time Pro Bowl defensive end returned to the practice field Wednesday, saying, “Hopefully, I’ll be back up by this weekend” as the Bears prepare to face the Carolina Panthers.

Allen said he felt sick during Chicago’s win over the New York Jets on Sept. 22, but wasn’t diagnosed until two days later with pneumonia. Because of the illness, Allen lost 15 pounds, from 254 down to 239.

The Chicago Bears list Allen at 270 pounds.

“Just due to being sick, not really eating for a few days, sweating, fever; all that good stuff,” Allen said. “I feel good now, just trying to get back. I’ve been having good workouts the last couple of days; just progressing, steadily going up. I went out and did individual [drills] today, then did a nice sprint workout on the treadmill [and it] felt good. I’m more concerned about recovery time. Everything feels good right now. I think it’s just eating, rehydrating and getting all that weight back on.”

Allen stepped onto the scale before eating Wednesday and weighed in at 241 pounds. Allen expects the weight to “come back in the next day or so,” saying “it’ll get back and I’ll be ready to go.” Allen spent a couple of days taking medications before the fever from pneumonia broke, he said.

Before the Bears' game Sunday, Allen traveled to Soldier Field to meet with team doctors and was ultimately instructed to go home. Without Allen, Chicago lost 38-17 to the Packers as Aaron Rodgers threw four touchdown passes and finished with a passer rating of 151.2 against a virtually nonexistent Bears rush.

“It was brutal. It was miserable, especially [with it being] the Packers,” Allen said. “I’ve played through a lot of things, and there are just certain things that you can’t do. Trust me, it was a long-fought battle whether I was going to be able to give it a go or not. It’s one of those things that you don’t want it to come back and then end up in the hospital. So after talking to doctors, my wife and everybody, we felt that was the best plan of attack. And it was. I wouldn’t have been worth anything out there.”

Allen’s illness serves as just the latest in what has been what the defensive end calls an “interesting” turn of events through the first four games of the season. Allen missed time in the preseason to attend the birth of his daughter, in addition to being held out of the team’s third preseason game with a bruised shoulder.

Asked if he’s back to normal, Allen said, “I’m trying to. Not right now, obviously. I’m still a little light. I haven’t gotten in that rhythm or that groove of what I’m used to playing in. But you know, it’s not anybody’s fault. Preseason is preseason. I didn’t do much in preseason in Minnesota, either. I was sad I missed this game because coming out of the San Fran[cisco] game and then the New York game, I felt like I was really starting to get in the rhythm of this defense and where we were at. Even though I didn’t get [Jets quarterback] Geno [Smith] on the ground, I had some really good rushes in the fourth quarter. I really felt my game was where it needed to be going into that week. I still feel that.”

Right now though, Allen said the main goals are to regain weight and strength while building up stamina for his expected return Sunday against the Carolina Panthers. Through the first quarter of the season, Allen has contributed 11 tackles with no sacks.

“I’m looking forward to this next 12 weeks,” Allen said. “I’m like, ‘What else can happen, right?’ I’ve got the injuries out of the way, got the sickness out of the way. Let’s go have fun.”
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears received encouraging news on the health front Wednesday with the return of five previously injured/ill starters to the practice field in advance of Sunday's road game in Carolina.

Headlining the group is wide receiver Brandon Marshall (ankle), who's been battling a sore ankle since Week 1 that's limited his production the two weeks to three combined catches versus the Jets and Packers.

Marshall practiced without restrictions on Wednesday for the first time in recent memory.

"It was good to get him [Marshall] back out there at full speed," Bears head coach Marc Trestman said.

Meantime, defensive end Jared Allen (pneumonia), defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff (concussion), center Roberto Garza (ankle) and left guard Matt Slauson (ankle) were limited on Wednesday, a positive development since all four players were inactive in Week 4.

Allen said he is confident about his chances of suiting up this weekend against the Panthers. However, the defensive end did acknowledge he lost about 15 pounds during his illness, and checked-in on Wednesday morning at 241 pounds, approximately 13 pounds below his normal playing weight of 254.

The statuses of Garza, Slauson and Ratliff remain unknown for Week 5, but Trestman confirmed that Garza and Slauson will return to the starting lineup whenever they are medically cleared.

"That's the way we are going," Trestman said.

Left tackle Jermon Bushrod (knee) and cornerback Sherrick McManis (quadriceps) were also listed as having limited participation.

Safety Chris Conte (shoulder) had full participation.

Four players sat out Wednesday: linebackers Lance Briggs (knee), Shea McClellin (hand) and D.J. Williams (neck), and safety Ahmad Dixon (hamstring).
GREEN BAY, Wis. – The Green Bay Packers won't have receiver Jarrett Boykin for Thursday's game against the Minnesota Vikings and might not have him beyond then, either.

The groin injury Boykin sustained in practice last week turned out to be more severe than originally thought. Boykin also missed last Sunday's game against the Chicago Bears.

"I don't know if he's going to be ready for Miami," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said, referring to the Oct. 12 game against the Dolphins.

Boykin began the season as the No. 3 receiver, which is essentially a starting spot considering how much the Packers use three wideouts. However, he has only two catches for 17 yards in three games.

In Boykin's absence against the Bears, rookie Davante Adams played 37 of 52 snaps and caught two passes for 18 yards. In his last three games, Adams has nine catches for 79 yards. Fellow rookie Jeff Janis also made his debut against the Bears, but played only one snap and was not targeted.

"Davante has been doing a good job," McCarthy said. "He's taking advantage of his opportunities. I would think they would tilt the coverage to Jordy [Nelson] more this week than we've seen. With that, Davante will probably have more opportunities. Jeff is ready to play. He's doing all the little things. We'll see if he gets some time tomorrow night."

For information on the Vikings' injury situation, including quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, check out Vikings reporter Ben Goessling's latest report.

Here's the Packers' full injury report:

WR Jarrett Boykin (groin)

LB Sam Barrington (hamstring)
DT Josh Boyd (knee)

LB Brad Jones (quadriceps)
G T.J. Lang (not injury related)
OLB Clay Matthews (groin)
OLB Mike Neal (hip)
MINNEAPOLIS -- While the Minnesota Vikings still haven't decided whether quarterback Teddy Bridgewater will play on Thursday night against the Green Bay Packers, they've made plans to be without linebacker Chad Greenway for a second straight game.

Greenway, who is dealing with a broken rib and broken hand, was ruled out for Thursday's game, after he saw his 90-game starting streak come to an end on Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons. Greenway's absence means Gerald Hodges will again start at weak-side linebacker against the Packers.

Greenway and tight end Kyle Rudolph -- who is expected to miss a total of six weeks after sports hernia surgery last week -- are the only Vikings players who will definitely miss the game. Bridgewater was listed as questionable with a sprained left ankle.

The seven other players on the Vikings' injury report -- Captain Munnerlyn, Jerick McKinnon, Josh Robinson, Michael Mauti, Brandon Watts, Rodney Smith and Jerome Felton -- were full participants in Wednesday's practice and are probable for Thursday's game.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Before getting into thick of the Chicago Bears' next matchup at the Carolina Panthers, let's first take a look at the team's first-quarter report card after a 2-2 start:


Jay Cutler has completed 65.8 percent of his passes for 10 touchdowns and four interceptions. He's shown more discipline and better command of the offense, but costly turnovers have been an issue. If Cutler maintains his current level of efficiency, he'll set a career high in passer rating for the second consecutive season. Cutler currently ranks third in completions (102), ninth in yards (1,006) and is tied for second in touchdowns, and his passer rating is currently 94.7. Grade: B

Running back

Matt Forte finally broke through for his first 100-yard rushing performance against the Green Bay Packers and is currently tied for eighth in rushing yards (258), first in receptions at his position (24) and third in yards from scrimmage (452). Rookie Ka'Deem Carey is becoming more of a factor in the offense as well, and the Bears have employed formations that feature both backs in the game at the same time. Both backs average at least 4 yards per attempt. Grade: B+

Offensive line

Injuries in the season opener to center Roberto Garza and Matt Slauson gave cause for concern, but their replacements Brian de la Puente and Michael Ola have performed well. The group has given up eight sacks through the first four games. According to Pro Football Focus, every offensive lineman graded positively in run blocking against the Packers. Grade: B-

[+] EnlargeMartellus Bennett
David Banks/Getty ImagesThe offseason work tight end Martellus Bennett put in is paying off for the Bears.
Tight end

Martellus Bennett ranks second in catches (29th) among tight ends, fourth in yards (295) and is tied for second in touchdown receptions (four). Bennett put in the work during the offseason to prepare for a more significant role, and he appears to have developed a strong rapport with Cutler. Bennett has scored a touchdown in all but one game, while averaging 7.25 receptions. Grade: A


Injuries have led to slow starts for Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall, who have combined for 36 receptions and six touchdowns through four games. But the duo is gradually getting back to full speed. The club's complementary targets such as Santonio Holmes and Josh Morgan haven't received many opportunities to showcase their talent, but they're plenty capable. Grade: B-

Defensive line

The Bears revamped the defensive line in the offseason with the additions of Jared Allen, Lamarr Houston and Willie Young in addition to drafting Ego Ferguson and Will Sutton. But the group certainly hasn't met expectations as the Bears rank 20th against the run while contributing just eight sacks (linebacker Shea McClellin is responsible for a sack as well). For the Bears to gain any level of consistency on defense with the style they play, the defensive line needs to step up its game, shut down the run and pressure the quarterback. Grade: D


The Bears are tied for fourth in the league in takeaways (eight), and rookie Kyle Fuller deserves credit for his team-high- three interceptions and two forced fumbles. Fuller became the only NFL player in the past 20 years with three interceptions and two forced fumbles in the first three games of the season. Obviously, Charles Tillman's season-ending triceps injury hurts the position. But the Bears are in decent shape with Fuller and Tim Jennings. The Bears need better play from the nickel corner spot. Grade: B-


Chris Conte gave up 46 yards on two catches and a touchdown against the Packers and missed a couple of tackles but for the most part has performed well (two interceptions). Ryan Mundy has been a solid run defender, and provided one of the team's takeaways with his pick-six Sept. 22 against the New York Jets. Overall, the safeties still need to play a little better. But they've been much more consistent than they were in 2013. Grade: C+


Shea McClellin entered the season as the starter on the strong side but has been on the shelf recently with a broken hand. Perhaps that's somewhat of a blessing in disguise as it has enabled the Bears to upgrade the overall athleticism of the starting lineup by replacing McClellin with Jonathan Bostic. The group lacks consistency in terms of gap integrity and pass coverage but is tracking positively. Grade: C-


Coach Marc Trestman caught heat for the club's clock management in the second quarter to Green Bay, and you have to admit the Bears committed a few unnecessary penalties in the defeat, not to mention the thrown challenge flag that resulted in a lost timeout. Trestman deserves credit for suspending Bennett during training camp, because the move resulted in a positive change for the tight end. And you can't deny this Bears team did manage to pull together back-to-back road wins against strong opponents. Grade: C+


The consecutive road wins at San Francisco and New York followed by the stinker at home against Green Bay point to a lack of consistency in every facet of the game, and while injuries at key positions have been an issue, Chicago's situation plays out every week all over the league. So there are no excuses here. Ultimately, the Bears will be in decent shape in the second half of the season if they can finish the second quarter headed into the bye with a record of .500 or better.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears signed cornerback Teddy Williams to the active roster off the Arizona Cardinals’ practice squad on Wednesday and waived linebacker Terrell Manning.

Williams (6-foot-1, 207 pounds) played in 10 games over two seasons with Indianapolis (2012) and Arizona (2013), contributing on offense at receiver, on defense at cornerback and on special teams.

Williams came into the league with the Dallas Cowboys in 2010 and spent the majority of that season and 2011 on the team’s practice squad.

Williams broke his ankle as a senior at Tyler (Texas) John Tyler High School and decided to pursue track at the University of Texas-San Antonio, finishing his career as the school’s only four-time all-America selection.

Williams won nine conference titles (five indoor championships and four outdoors) and was named the Southland Conference’s Indoor Athlete of the Year (2009-10) and Outdoor Outstanding Track Performer (2008-10). He set school records in the 55-meter dash, 60-meter dash, 100 (9.90 seconds), 200 (20.60) and 400-meter relay.

Manning played in two games for the Bears, primarily on special teams.
GREEN BAY, Wis. – Aaron Rodgers is usually at his media best when he's asked to explain his jocular lines or unusual gestures, which was the case when he discussed the pre-snap smoking motion he occasionally uses in games.

TV cameras caught him doing it again in Sunday's 38-17 win over the Chicago Bears, and a couple of listeners to his ESPN Milwaukee radio show asked host Jason Wilde to ask Rodgers about it.

"That was just a tribute to Jay Cutler, because there's that 'Smoking Jay' website," Rodgers said on Tuesday's show. "So I was just doing a tribute to Jay there."

Rodgers said it in a way that made it completely unclear whether he was joking or not.

"That's what it was," Rodgers insisted before backing down. "I don't know. I don't remember."

Then Rodgers said it's a dummy signal used in the no-huddle offense.

"You know, like, smoking dope; you're a dummy if you smoke dope," Rodgers said.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Linebacker Stephen Tulloch missed the first game of his career on Sunday when the Detroit Lions beat the New York Jets.

Now, he's done with surgery on his torn left ACL as well.

The linebacker, who was injured celebrating a sack of Aaron Rodgers against Green Bay last month, sent an Instagram message on Wednesday morning that he had surgery on the knee and deemed it successful. The injury garnered enough attention for its somewhat bizarre nature that it ended up as part of last week's Saturday Night Live Weekend Update sketch.

Tulloch had been the player manning the middle of the Detroit defense the past four seasons, where he had more than 100 tackles in each of his first three years.
Welcome to Around the Horns, our daily look at what's happening on the Vikings beat:

In the Minnesota Vikings' calculations about whether Teddy Bridgewater will play on a sprained left ankle Thursday night in Green Bay, there's this to consider: The game-time forecast calls for temperatures in the low 60s, with an 80 percent chance of rain. That means if the Vikings are going to play Bridgewater, they'll have to be reasonably confident he can play on a wet surface at Lambeau Field.

The Vikings could get a chance to test that out during a light practice Wednesday, when it's supposed to be raining in the Twin Cities. Bridgewater was scheduled to do some running and flexibility exercises for his ankle Tuesday. Wednesday would be his chance to do some throwing and see if he's able to plant on his left foot when he delivers. He'd also get another chance to work in wet weather; Bridgewater played without his gloves during the Vikings' final preseason game on a rainy night in Nashville.

Talking about the game on Wednesday, Bridgewater certainly sounded like a man who planned on playing Thursday night. "It’ll be very exciting to be out there on Thursday," Bridgewater said. "You talk about Lambeau Field, the history and the tradition behind that stadium. It’s going to be a great feeling just being able to play in that facility with all of the history that’s behind it."

Then again, the last time the Vikings were preparing to play a night game in Green Bay, they led everybody to believe Christian Ponder was ready to start their 2013 NFL wild card game, only to start Joe Webb. It's worth keeping that in mind, too.

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GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Coach Mike McCarthy tried and tried to get the Green Bay Packers running game going with Eddie Lacy last Sunday at Soldier Field, neglecting James Starks in the process.

It was the second time in four games this season that Starks failed to carry the ball.

"James Starks should touch the football every single game," McCarthy said Tuesday. "That will not happen again."

So expect Starks to have some kind of role in Thursday's game against the Minnesota Vikings. Considering he has averaged 5.0 yards per carry on his limited (15) attempts this season, perhaps that could jump-start a running game that has sputtered through the first four games.

The Packers stuck with Lacy exclusively against the Bears. He carried a season-high 17 times but managed just 48 yards despite scoring his first touchdown of the season. For the season, he has averaged just 3.0 yards per carry on 53 attempts. With 161 yards at the quarter pole, he is on pace for just 644 yards -- or a little more than half of what he gained last season when he was the NFL's offensive rookie of the year.

The result is this: The Packers have the 28th-ranked rushing offense in the NFL so far. If you think yards per carry is a better measure because the Packers have run only an average of 55.75 plays per game, well, the Packers aren't much better in that area, either. They rank 26th at 3.5 yards per rush.

And, according to running backs coach Sam Gash, his backs have gotten just about all they can.

"Right now, we're getting what's there," Gash said. "There are times where sometimes the runner might be a little quick getting a feel for certain plays and stuff. But right now, you don't see the production and stuff that's there, but we're trying to be as effective as we can."

One play from Sunday's game demonstrated the Packers' struggles in the run game. On second-and-7 from his own 45-yard line in the second quarter, Lacy took a handoff and angled off left tackle, at which point he ran into the back of tight end Andrew Quarless, who was blocking linebacker Jonathan Bostic and was stopped for just a 2-yard gain.

"Anticipating," Gash said of what went wrong on that play. "That's getting a feel for things and guys hitting and holding their ground and different things like that. It's just the runner for getting a feel for how things are. Once we get everybody on the same page, I think it's going to be very nice to see."
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Count Josh Sitton among those not enamored with the NFL's Thursday night package.

Two days before his Green Bay Packers play the rival Minnesota Vikings at Lambeau Field, the veteran guard didn't hold back when asked about the quick turnaround after the Packers' 38-17 win over the Chicago Bears on Sunday.

"It sucks, man," Sitton said Tuesday. "I hate it. Felt like crap today. Probably feel like crap on Thursday. I think it's stupid."

Sitton called the Thursday package, which airs on CBS and NFL Network, a money grab by the league.

"That's what this league is about, is about making money, which is fine," Sitton said. "I like to make money as well. But, yeah, it's tough on your body, tough on your head."

Every NFL team is playing at least one Thursday game this season. The Packers played two because they opened in the NFL's annual kickoff game against the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks. But unlike this week, the Packers had a full week to prepare following their preseason finale the previous Thursday.

The Packers held a 90-minute practice on Tuesday, which is normally the player's day off.

"Tuesdays is typically the day that your body feels the worst," Sitton said. "I know for us in the offensive line room, that's what we always talk about. The second day, you always feel like crap. It's tough getting out there on the practice field today. But, like you said, everybody's got to do it. I’m glad we got it in Week 5 instead of Week 11 or 12 or whatever."

Coach Mike McCarthy said the players will take part in another practice on Wednesday. When asked whether it was going to be a half-speed, walk-through practice, Sitton said: "It better be."

Although Sitton may have been one of the few players to verbalize it, quarterback Aaron Rodgers said on his ESPN Milwaukee radio show late Tuesday afternoon that he thinks other share Sitton's viewpoint.

"I think that's usually the consensus," Rodgers said on the show. "I barely got touched last week, so I don't really have any complaints, but the guys who have contact every, single play, it's tough on their bodies. I think it's even tougher playing on Thanksgiving because then you're 10, 11 weeks into it and then you have to play a short week. This maybe a little bit easier since we're only four weeks in but every week you get into this thing you're banged up.

"Like we always say, it’s a 100-percent injury rate in this league. Everybody has injuries they deal with. It's just the severity and ability to play through them if that's possible. It's tough on the bodies, but we have a nice little break after this. Hopefully we can take care of business, get to 3-2 and have a nice relaxing weekend."

Thursday's game closes out a stretch of three straight NFC North games that began on Sept. 21 at the Detroit Lions.

"It’s been really tough," Packers veteran linebacker Julius Peppers said. "I don't know who came up with the schedule like this to put these games in a 10-day span like this, but we're getting through it."

It's actually three games in 12 days. It probably only feels like three in 10 days.
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- While Teddy Bridgewater and Chad Greenway again did not participate in the Minnesota Vikings' practice on Tuesday, cornerback Captain Munnerlyn returned from a suspected case of food poisoning.

Munnerlyn practiced in a limited capacity for the Vikings, who are preparing to play the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on Thursday night, and it appears the cornerback will be ready for the game after sitting out on Monday.

Cornerback Josh Robinson (hamstring) and running back Jerick McKinnon (ankle) were again limited, and linebacker Michael Mauti (foot), wide receiver Rodney Smith (hamstring), linebacker Brandon Watts (knee) and fullback Jerome Felton (knee) were full participants.

If Bridgewater does any throwing in practice, it would likely happen tomorrow, but the Vikings could easily list him as questionable on their final injury report and give themselves until Thursday night to let Bridgewater's ankle heal. They've been giving first-team snaps to Christian Ponder all week, and if they're confident in Bridgewater's ability to handle the game plan for Thursday -- which Mike Zimmer indicated he was -- they could buy him more time to recover.

The Vikings will also have to determine whether Greenway has recovered enough from a broken hand -- and more importantly, a broken rib -- to play Thursday night. Zimmer said the team would get a better sense of Greenway's status on Wednesday; if he can't go, Gerald Hodges would likely start again at weak-side linebacker.
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- For all the heat they were able to put on Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan on Sunday -- getting pressure on 23.3 percent of his dropbacks, according to ESPN Stats and Information -- the Minnesota Vikings only sacked Ryan once, on a blitz from Anthony Barr in the fourth quarter.

The rest of the day saw Ryan eluding chances to bring him down, doing some solid work once he escaped the pocket. He hit all four of his throws outside the pocket on Sunday, throwing for 34 yards and a touchdown and converting a 3rd-and-20 when Barr stepped up and left room for Ryan to find Julio Jones for a first down.

Some of those plays might have turned into sacks, or additional pressure on Ryan, Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said, if the Vikings had done a better job of rushing the quarterback as a team.

"It’s part of us being a team rush; we’re not individual rushers," said Zimmer in response to a question about defensive end Brian Robison missing several sacks on Sunday. "He’s done a good job and we haven’t helped him enough with some of the other guys, not because they’re not trying or they can’t rush. It’s because, like I said before, we are rushing as individuals. It’s no different than any other part of defense. You play good as a team, you know where you’re supposed to be at and then good things happen for other people and consequently good things happen for you.

"Guys feel like they can beat guys one-on-one. The hard part is getting them to understand that we will all have a lot more success, including the individual, if we will do it the right way, and we haven’t done it the right way the last couple of weeks."

The Vikings old Cover-2 scheme gave defensive linemen plenty of chances to rush upfield, but Zimmer's scheme mitigates those opportunities with more calls for linemen to engage blockers and collapse the pocket. Defensive ends typically don't accumulate big sack numbers in Zimmer's scheme -- in fact, only two defensive ends (Geno Atkins and Michael Johnson, both in 2012) posted double-digit sack totals in a season when Zimmer was the defensive coordinator in Cincinnati. Getting the Vikings to grasp the scheme changes has been an ongoing process in Minnesota, and it appears Zimmer isn't fully satisfied with the results yet.

"We have actually pressured OK; what we haven’t done is rush smart," Zimmer said. "We have to rush a lot smarter and same thing with this quarterback. If we give him an opportunity to get out of the pocket a lot of times, a lot of bad things happen.

"(It's) usually when a quarterback moves a little bit and you miss a sack. (We might have sacked him) if we had been a little smarter on the other side, or the push was a little bit better in the middle or we don’t run by the quarterback. It shows up (on film) pretty easily, really."
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The three-year apprenticeship Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers served before taking over the starting job from Brett Favre -- and the tumultuous circumstances in which Rodgers eventually succeeded Favre -- is a key piece of the quarterback's story that now looks like an anachronism.

Of the quarterbacks taken in the first round since the Packers selected Rodgers in 2005, only Brady Quinn went two years without starting at least 10 games in a season, and young QBs like Russell Wilson and Andrew Luck led their teams to the playoffs as rookies.

The Minnesota Vikings had initially planned to take a more cautious approach with Teddy Bridgewater -- at least at the beginning of the season -- until Matt Cassel's broken foot made Bridgewater the starter by Week 4. Now, after an electrifying debut as a starter on Sunday, Bridgewater is trying to return from a sprained ankle in time for his first prime-time game against Rodgers at Lambeau Field Thursday night.

Would Rodgers have been ready, had he been put in the same situation as a rookie?

"Definitely not as prepared as the guys are now," Rodgers said Tuesday. "The guys coming out now are a lot more prepared than maybe myself and Alex Smith and Jason Campbell, the three guys who went in the first round in 2005. We’re all still in the league and still playing, but definitely, you look at some of the guys who have been starting the past few years, they’re a lot more prepared.

"I think the coaching at the high school level and the college level, the exposure guys are able to get, makes them a little more prepared. The schemes they're running in college gives quarterbacks the freedom to read and do more things at the line of scrimmage. Obviously, we've seen some guys step in the last few years and really play well in their first, second and third years."

Bridgewater had plenty of responsibility in his offense at Louisville, and it was that experience that led many analysts to call him the most NFL-ready quarterback in this year's draft class. He's won rave reviews from Vikings coaches about his ability to understand the team's offense, to the point where coach Mike Zimmer said Tuesday that Bridgewater is able to get ready for Thursday's game without the luxury of many practice snaps.

"He is pretty mentally sharp on all of his stuff," Zimmer said. "He was out here today at the walk-through. He’s fine mentally. He’s good."

That's an assessment usually reserved for veteran quarterbacks. And while there are certainly more nuances Bridgewater will have to learn, there's little doubt he's appeared comfortable in the Vikings' offense so far. That preparedness has made one of the game's great quarterbacks take notice.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- If Green Bay Packers fans didn't like what Ryan Longwell once said about Green Bay's dining scene, they probably won't be happy when they hear what Greg Jennings likes most about his new life in Minnesota.

In a conference call Tuesday with reporters at Lambeau Field, the former Packers receiver called the educational system in Minnesota "a step up" for his family, which includes his wife and four children. Jennings, whose Vikings visit the Packers on Thursday night, did say there are "great educational systems" in Green Bay, as well.

[+] EnlargeGreg Jennings
Benny Sieu/USA TODAY SportsGreg Jennings makes his second trip to Lambeau Field Thursday night as a member of the Vikings.
"We're excited to be here, and not just because of what football affords and presents but because of everything else that comes with it," Jennings said.

Jennings made several references to his spirituality during the 15-minute conference call, and during his tenure with the Packers, he made his religious beliefs well known. His father is a pastor in his hometown of Kalamazoo, Michigan, and his mother is a missionary, according to his biography on the Vikings' website.

While in Green Bay, Jennings' children attended the private Wisconsin International School, which closed its doors and filed for bankruptcy in July, more than a year after Jennings left town.

Nearly a decade ago, Longwell irked Packers fans on his way out of town. When the kicker signed with the Vikings in 2006, he told reporters: “Every town in America has an Applebee's restaurant. In Green Bay, Applebee's was about as fancy as you got. When my wife, Sarah, and I would get a baby sitter, a nice date night was Applebee's. In Minnesota, I'm sure there will be plenty of options before Applebee's comes into the rotation."

Jennings, a two-time Pro Bowl receiver during his seven-year career in Green Bay, was booed by Packers fans in his return to Lambeau Field last season, his first with the Vikings.

"It's important for fans to understand who I am and what I represent,” Jennings said. “And I don’t think that No. 1, I don’t hate or dislike anybody, so I would hope and my desire would be that no one hates or dislikes me, but that’s just not the society we live in.

“You know, I'm a faith guy, man. So my faith, family and my career. If I continue to humble myself and show perfect love, man, it eliminates a lot of things. And that's all I can show, and control obviously, is what I do. I can't control or concern myself with what others may say or think or feel. Everyone has a right to their own opinion."



Thursday, 10/2
Sunday, 10/5