NFC North: 2012 Camp Watch NFC

Vikings Camp Watch

July, 24, 2012
7/24/12
12:10
PM ET
NFC Camp Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South Dates

Three thoughts as training camps open around the NFL:

One thing I'm certain of: Receiver Percy Harvin will be at training camp, most likely on time and without incident.

We may never know for sure exactly what caused Harvin's bizarre behavior last month at minicamp. It included an admission that he wasn't happy, a trade request, a skipped practice and finally a straight-faced tweet wondering what all of the fuss was about. But from all indications, Harvin has been talked off the ledge.

Given his history of temperamental behavior, we should provide this caveat: If he doesn't show up at training camp on time, the team will be stunned.

One thing that might happen: Christian Ponder could demonstrate the kind of progress that's reasonably to be expected from a quarterback advancing to his second season. It's no sure bet, however. We noted Ponder's uneven start to the spring, and it's only fair to point out that 2012 represented his first NFL offseason after the 2011 lockout.

Ponder can't be just better in 2012. For the Vikings to continue along the rebuilding path they've set, he needs to be on the way to good.

One thing we won't see: A whole lot of tailback Adrian Peterson. There doesn't seem to be a good reason for Peterson to participate in much, if any, of training camp as he continues his recovery from a torn ACL. Even if he never suffered the injury, he is at the point of his career where it would make sense to limit his camp and preseason repetitions.

As it is, Peterson probably will open camp on the PUP list. There's no telling when he will be activated. All we know is that he wants to play in the Vikings' season opener Sept. 9 against the Jacksonville Jaguars. He doesn't need to be incurring contact in July or early August for that to happen.

Packers Camp Watch

July, 24, 2012
7/24/12
11:40
AM ET
NFC Camp Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South Dates

Three thoughts as training camps open around the NFL:

One thing I'm certain of: I'll need an updated copy of the Green Bay Packers' roster when I watch their defensive practices. There are a bunch of new faces, acquired via free agency and the draft, and many of them could play prominent roles in the 2012 season.

The camp performances of linebacker Nick Perry and defensive lineman Jerel Worthy will determine whether they are immediate starters. Rookie Jerron McMillian will be in the mix for playing time at safety, along with a little-known player named M.D. Jennings. Veterans Anthony Hargrove and Phillip Merling also will be in the mix along the defensive line.

One thing that might happen: A second option could emerge in the backfield. With veteran Ryan Grant still a free agent, we know that James Starks is the starting tailback. Will the Packers ride Starks for as long as he can carry them? Or can they develop another running back to help?

There are high hopes for 2011 draft pick Alex Green, but he has to be considered a wild card as he recovers from a torn ACL. He had three carries last season and hasn't participated in football drills since October.

One thing we won't see: The addition of a veteran backup quarterback, assuming everyone on the roster remains healthy. Presumed No. 2 Graham Harrell drew raves this offseason from the Packers' coaching staff, which as a group holds the only opinion that matters on Harrell's future. There is every reason to believe he will be Aaron Rodgers' backup to start the 2012 season.

There will be plenty of eyeballs focused on Harrell during training camp, but it will take an epic and extended choke job for the Packers to seek a replacement.

Lions Camp Watch

July, 24, 2012
7/24/12
11:20
AM ET
NFC Camp Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South Dates

Three thoughts as training camps open around the NFL:

One thing I'm certain of: We will get at least a glimpse of what the Detroit Lions intend to do with their tailback tandem of Jahvid Best and Mikel Leshoure, albeit a year late. Best (concussion) said earlier this summer that he expects to be cleared for contact in camp, and Leshoure recently tweeted his torn Achilles tendon is 100 percent.

We've assumed that Leshoure will get the traditional inside rushing attempts, with Best working more in the passing game and outside runs. But the truth is we don't know what offensive coordinator Scott Linehan has up his sleeve. It's time to find out.

One thing that might happen: We might actually get back to discussing Ndamukong Suh's performance, rather than his behavior, on the field. As we discussed in May, Suh's run as Public Enemy No. 1 was quickly eclipsed by the New Orleans Saints bounty story, as well as the Lions' own run of arrests.

Meanwhile, Suh did exactly what he needed to in order to begin restoring his professional reputation. With a healthy Nick Fairley providing another interior force, the stage is set for Suh to have an elite season.

One thing we won't see: The opening days of training camp are generally the most optimistic time of an average NFL season. Players are happy to get reacquainted, coaches are thrilled to begin full-pads workouts and fans haven't yet grown cynical about their team's chances to compete.

But something tells me the Lions won't be opening training camp later this week in a good mood. I'm guessing they will be more on the angry and irritable side. An embarrassing offseason climaxed Monday when cornerback Aaron Berry was released following his second arrest in a month. Far too many uncomfortable questions and storylines are circling this team for this to be the last full week of July.

Bears Camp Watch

July, 24, 2012
7/24/12
11:00
AM ET
NFC Camp Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South Dates

Three thoughts as training camps open around the NFL:

One thing I'm certain of: Quarterback Jay Cutler will demonstrate that he is the Bears' quasi-offensive coordinator. And that's not a bad thing.

After three years of surrounding him with ill-fitting talent, the Bears catered to Cutler this offseason and put him in position for his best season with the team. He has his favorite receiver (Brandon Marshall), a position coach he greatly respects (Jeremy Bates) and an offensive coordinator in Mike Tice who actively sought his input in developing the playbook.

Tice will call plays and make final decisions. But Cutler will appropriately have his hands all over the offense, and we should see evidence of that in practice drills and even interviews. That's the best way to get the most out of a talented veteran quarterback in his prime.

One thing that might happen: The Bears might find out they don't have a legitimate left tackle on the roster, the one flaw in efforts to fortify themselves around Cutler. Chris Williams and J'Marcus Webb will compete for the starting job. But to adjust an old saying: If you have two left tackles, you have none.

In an emergency, the Bears conceivably could move 2011 first-round draft pick Gabe Carimi from right tackle, but it's obviously not their preference. Both Williams and Webb have been starting left tackles in winning efforts, but as camp begins it's unclear if either has a long-term future at the position.

One thing we won't see: You never know with these things, but it's hard to imagine anyone complaining about their contract situations now that tailback Matt Forte and linebacker Lance Briggs have received new deals. Briggs requested a trade during training camp last summer, and Forte's disappointment with his status was clear as well.

Middle linebacker Brian Urlacher is entering the final year of his contract but is set to make $7.5 million and has expressed no concerns. Again, sometimes contract disputes rise from nowhere, but for the moment, the Bears' financial dealings appear to be in a happy place.

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