NFC North: Aaron Rouse
Posted by ESPN.com’s Kevin Seifert
For all you Aaron Rouse fans out there: He’s been claimed on waivers by the safety-needy New York Giants, according to agent Alvin Keels.
The Giants placed starter Kenny Phillips on injured reserve Thursday and likely will slide Rouse into the top backup role at both safety positions. Green Bay released Rouse this week in a surprising shakeup in its secondary. He was subject to waivers because he is a third-year player.
Interestingly, neither of the veteran safeties the Packers have released this season -- Rouse and Anthony Smith -- were able to clear waivers. Both were valuable to someone.
Posted by ESPN.com’s Kevin Seifert
Here’s how Green Bay’s safety situation stacked up after the dust settled Wednesday:
- Nick Collins participated in a portion of practice, providing some hope that he’ll overcome a chest injury and start Sunday’s game at St. Louis. “I anticipate Nick will play,” coach Mike McCarthy said, “but the week [of practice] will answer that question.”
- The surprising release of Aaron Rouse left two candidates to start in place of the injured Atari Bigby: Derrick Martin and Jarrett Bush. Newcomer Matt Giordano, signed Tuesday evening, is likely to be in uniform but wouldn’t be a candidate to start -- yet. Of course, Martin is only two weeks ahead of Giordano on the experience tree, having been acquired Sept. 5 from Baltimore. Regardless, there’s some thought that Martin is the likeliest candidate to start.
Here’s what McCarthy said about the release of Rouse: “I just felt that his ability to be consistent and the growth part of it is one of the reasons that we made the change. But there are other factors involved based on availability, without getting into all of that.”
It’s true, Rouse has been injury-prone throughout his career and there’s no doubt he was sub-par in coverage. But no matter what you think of him, it’s really unusual for a team to release a player who started three days earlier.
Either way you look at it, there’s a comment to be made here about the Packers’ personnel evaluation. It’s one thing to swap out starters after a disappointing loss. But something clearly has gone wrong when, in a span of three days, a player goes from being good enough to start to being unworthy of a roster spot. Either the Packers erred by keeping Rouse on their 53-man roster in the first place, leaving themselves with inadequate depth, or they reacted too harshly to his poor performance against Cincinnati.
The decision leaves the Packers pretty thin heading into the Rams game. Even if Collins starts, he would be one awkward hit from being sidelined again. Should Collins have a setback or otherwise leave the game, the Packers would be left with only one safety -- Bush -- who spent time with them during training camp. Was Rouse really so bad that he couldn’t have provided better emergency depth in St. Louis?
A few of you have wondered if the Packers made him an example after the embarrassment of losing at home to the Bengals -- a reminder to players that similar performances won’t be tolerated this season. I suppose that’s possible, but everything I know about Rouse suggests he was well-liked on a personal level within the organization. It would have been an awfully cold move to single him out. I don’t think that’s the case.
Posted by ESPN.com’s Kevin Seifert
Surprising move coming out of Green Bay this morning: The Packers released safety Aaron Rouse to make room for free-agent safety Matt Giordano, who worked out and signed with the team Tuesday.
Rouse started last Sunday’s game against Cincinnati and was expected to continue replacing injured starter Atari Bigby. Tom Pelissero of the Green Bay Press-Gazette notes Rouse struggled in last week's game, but given the injuries to Bigby and fellow starter Nick Collins (sprained clavicle), it’s surprising to see the Packers shedding any depth at the position.
Giordano spent the past four seasons with Indianapolis. I’ll circle back on this move, and take a closer look at the Packers’ safety situation, once we hear from coach Mike McCarthy later Wednesday.
Posted by ESPN.com’s Kevin Seifert
After Green Bay’s 31-24 loss to Cincinnati, here are three (mostly) indisputable facts I feel relatively sure about:
- The Packers are preparing to play at St. Louis without two significant starters. Left tackle Chad Clifton has an ankle sprain that could sideline him for several weeks, and safety Nick Collins has what coach Mike McCarthy called a sprained clavicle. Clifton is likely to be replaced by left guard Daryn Colledge, with Jason Spitz moving to left guard and Scott Wells playing center. If Collins can’t play, the Packers would be without both starting safeties. Backup Aaron Rouse already is starting for the injured Atari Bigby. That means Jarrett Bush or newcomer Derrick Martin would have to take over at Collins' spot. Collins was one of the Packers’ few bright spots Sunday before he got injured, and there is definitely a dropoff when Rouse enters the game.
- Sunday, I questioned why Packers coaches didn’t give more help to Clifton and Colledge as Cincinnati’s Antwan Odom motored to five sacks. But McCarthy said Monday that he called “heavy-protection” pass plays for the most part and said, if anything, he’s giving his linemen too much help. “I’m not going to go overboard,” he said. “But four of those [six] sacks are totally uncalled for and unacceptable.” McCarthy said some linemen are just getting “flat-out” beat. To me, that paints a worse picture than I thought. I’d rather hear that coaches were slow to make an adjustment, as opposed to the adjustments didn’t work. If your quarterback gets sacked six times while operating behind “heavy-protection” schemes, then you have a fundamental problem that might not be easily solved.
- Inside linebacker Nick Barnett, a prodigious Twitter user, is pledging to stop tweeting until after the season after expressing a few emotional thoughts Sunday night. One of them suggested he isn’t happy with the Packers’ rotation at linebacker. (“Tough game!! Hard to get in The swing of things in a rotation.. Don't know why we are even in a rottion t this point..”) The other chastised fans who were upset that he celebrated after making a tackle. Monday morning, he tweeted: “I am a emotional person and sometimes … With this Twitter thing I forget that everything is public..” As for the linebacker rotation, Barnett should recognize that it’s in his best interest to keep the rotation going. While he was rehabilitating this summer, two other players -- Brandon Chillar and Desmond Bishop – proved they were more than capable of playing his position.
And here’s one question I’m still asking:
How good will the Packers’ 3-4 defense be against the run? Sunday, Bengals tailback Cedric Benson rolled up 141 yards. We’ve heard a lot about Dom Capers’ creative blitz schemes against the pass but not quite as much about its approach to the run. McCarthy said Monday that the Bengals’ offensive line outplayed the Packers’ defensive line Sunday. Does this mean we’ll see rookie B.J. Raji in St. Louis? As of Monday, McCarthy said Raji was still walking with a limp because of a sprained ankle.
Posted by ESPN.com’s Kevin Seifert
Catching up on a newsy day in the NFC North:
Green Bay has lost safety Atari Bigby for at least a month after he sustained what coach Mike McCarthy called a “significant” knee injury Sunday night against Chicago. McCarthy said Aaron Rouse will start Sunday against Cincinnati. I wonder if the Packers have any second thoughts about waiving safety Anthony Smith, who was claimed earlier this month by St. Louis.
I think we can officially label Bigby “injury-prone.” He missed three games in 2006 because of a hamstring injury and was limited to seven games last season by injuries to his ankle, hamstring and shoulder. He signed his one-year tender as a restricted free agent this offseason, a deal worth $1.545 million, and you wonder what his future will hold with the Packers.
Detroit announced it has 4,000 tickets remaining for Sunday’s home opener against Minnesota. Officially, the Lions have until 1 p.m. Thursday to sell them or face a local television blackout. Teams typically apply for at least one 24-hour extension if they are within striking distance.
The Lions also claimed former Kansas City defensive tackle Turk McBride on waivers and released defensive lineman Orien Harris. ESPN's Adam Schefter reports that Chicago also placed a claim on McBride. The Lions had priority because their record was inferior last season.
We had a little action last week in the NFC North, but as expected, the news certainly slowed as all four teams enjoyed some time away from their practice facilities. We got an update on the Williams Wall story, debated the pressure on Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford and argued over the identity of the NFC North's breakout player in 2009. (I say Minnesota receiver Percy Harvin, you say Chicago tight end Greg Olsen.)
But there's always material for the mailbag, thanks to your intrepid participation. Remember, you can contact me through said mailbag, our lightning-fast Facebook page or Twitter. Phones? They're, like, sooooo 2008. I don't even know why I have one.
OK, let's get on with it:
Kevin Seifert: Thanks for the assignment, Brad. Seriously, it's a good idea. As it turns out, the Lions rank last among the four NFC North teams in this category. The Packers lead with 33 players. Of course, these numbers can be skewed based on the total number of draft choices. But over time, it's at least a decent gauge of overall draft success.
Here's the team-by-team breakdown:
2001: 2 (Tackle Jeff Backus, center Dominic Raiola)
2004: 1 (Smith)
2006: 2 (Linebacker Ernie Sims, safety Daniel Bullocks)
2007: 5 (Receiver Calvin Johnson, quarterback Drew Stanton, defensive end Ikaika Alama-Francis, guard Manny Ramirez, cornerback Ramzee Robinson)
2008: 7 (Tackle Gosder Cherilus, linebacker Jordon Dizon, tailback Kevin Smith, defensive tackle Andre Fluellen, defensive end Cliff Avril, fullback Jerome Felton, defensive tackle Landon Cohen)
2000: 1 (Linebacker Brian Urlacher)
2002: 2 (Defensive end Alex Brown, tailback Adrian Peterson)
2003: 2 (Cornerback Charles Tillman, linebacker Lance Briggs)
2004: 2 (Defensive tackle Tommie Harris, cornerback Nate Vasher)
2006: 5 (Safety Danieal Manning, receiver Devin Hester, defensive tackle Dusty Dvoracek, linebacker Jamar Williams, defensive end Mark Anderson)
2007: 6 (Tight end Greg Olsen, running back Garrett Wolfe, guard Josh Beekman, safety Kevin Payne, defensive back Corey Graham, cornerback Trumaine McBride)
2008: 9 (Tackle Chris Williams, tailback Matt Forte, receiver Earl Bennett, defensive tackle Marcus Harrison, safety Craig Steltz, cornerback Zackary Bowman, tight end Kellen Davis, defensive end Ervin Baldwin, linebacker Joey LaRocque)
GREEN BAY PACKERS
2000: 1 (Offensive tackle Chad Clifton)
2002: 1 (Linebacker Aaron Kampman)
2003: 1 (Linebacker Nick Barnett)
2004: 1 (Center Scott Wells)
2005: 4 (Quarterback Aaron Rodgers, safety Nick Collins, linebacker Brady Poppinga, defensive end Michael Montgomery)
2006: 7 (Linebacker A.J. Hawk, guard Daryn Colledge, receiver Greg Jennings, center Jason Spitz, cornerback Will Blackmon, offensive tackle Tony Moll, defensive tackle Johnny Jolly)
2007: 9 (Defensive end Justin Harrell, running back Brandon Jackson, receiver James Jones, safety Aaron Rouse, offensive tackle Allen Barbre, fullback Korey Hall, linebacker Desmond Bishop, placekicker Mason Crosby, running back DeShawn Wynn)
2008: 9 (Receiver Jordy Nelson, quarterback Brian Brohm, cornerback Pat Lee, tight end Jermichael Finley, linebacker Jeremy Thompson, guard Josh Sitton, offensive tackle Breno Giacomini, quarterback Matt Flynn, receiver Brett Swain)
2002: 1 (Left tackle Bryant McKinnie)
2003: 2 (Defensive tackle Kevin Williams, linebacker E.J. Henderson)
2004: 2 (Defensive end Kenechi Udeze, tight end Jeff Dugan)
2006: 5 (Linebacker Chad Greenway, cornerback Cedric Griffin, offensive lineman Ryan Cook, quarterback Tarvaris Jackson, defensive end Ray Edwards)
2007: 5 (Running back Adrian Peterson, receiver Sidney Rice, cornerback Marcus McCauley, defensive end Brian Robison, receiver Aundrae Allison)
2008: 5 (Safety Tyrell Johnson, quarterback John David Booty, defensive tackle Letroy Guion, center John Sullivan, receiver Jaymar Johnson)
Dictionary Guy objects to our use of "apocryphal" in a post about Brett Favre's appearance in the iconic "There's Something About Mary." Writes DG: Think about your demographic for about 5 seconds, then think about whether they know what apocryphal means. If you're not sure about the intelligence of your readers, try reading the comments sections. I have a college degree and I had to look it up. might want to dumb it down at least a LITTLE.
Kevin Seifert: What "college" did you go to, DG? Seriously, I get this type of note more often than you might care to believe -- and I hardly consider myself a wordsmith. My reading of the comments section reveals pretty much what we already know: The world is made up of geniuses, yokels and a lot of people in between. On this blog, we'll cater to everyone. And if you occasionally have to consult a dictionary, by gosh, consider making it a habit. It won't bite you.
VikingJ of Wausau, Wis., writes: Saw an ESPN story yesterday about certain teams allowing seasoned vets to go home during camp and not force them to stay in a college dorm room. You then hear coaches say that training camp is a period to build team unity (whatever that means). What are your thoughts on this subject, and what direction are the NFC north teams taking?
Kevin Seifert: You probably were reading about Washington coach Jim Zorn following in the footsteps of what ex-Baltimore coach Brian Billick once did with the Ravens.
I have often heard veterans complaining about off-site training camps. Some players don't like being away from their families. Many are uncomfortable in tiny dorm rooms and old mattresses, a legitimate concern when you consider how much energy they must expend during practice. For those reasons, I can see how it might help to sleep in your own home and bed. And to me, relationships can be formed during training camp whether you're sleeping at home or in the dorms.
Because let's be clear: Regardless of where you sleep, camp is a daily 18-hour affair. Typically, players are scheduled from about 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. If you're not practicing, you're either eating or in meetings or napping. For that reason, some players would prefer staying and sleeping in dorms because they're the closest thing to them. The long hours wouldn't really give them much chance to see their families anyway.
I'm not aware of a sleep-on-your-own policy in the NFC North. Everyone sleeps in dorms (Chicago, Minnesota and Green Bay) or in a hotel (Detroit).
Jimbo of Chicago writes: Kevin, what's the inside scoop on the other Adrian Peterson? With Matt Forte and Kevin Jones getting the bulk of the carries, and the Bears talking about how they need to get Garrett Wolfe on the field more this year, where does that leave a veteran like AP? Does he even have a spot on this team? Do they really hold a spot for him just to play special teams?
Kevin Seifert writes: Jimbo, there are a couple of interesting factors in play here. First, you wonder if the Bears really would keep four tailbacks on the 53-man roster. If they only keep three, the competition conceivably would be down to Wolfe and Peterson. To me, we'll find out once and for all if the Bears are serious about using Wolfe on offense. That would be the primary reason to keep him over Peterson.
Second, Wolfe showed proficiency as a special teams player last season, leading the team with 21 tackles. The Bears put a strong emphasis on coverage and wouldn't part easily with Peterson. But at least they would know that Wolfe can handle coverage assignments.
Randall of Monoma, Wis., writes: If the Williams Wall wins, why couldn't the Wisconsin legislature pass legislation forbidding the calling of penalties against the Packers in home games at Lambeau Field, as a violation of their employee rights?
Kevin Seifert: Haha. (I think. I'm presuming you're joking.) Randall, of course, is referring to the lawsuit filed by Minnesota defensive tackles Kevin Williams and Pat Williams. Essentially, the players are arguing that the NFL's steroid testing policy violates Minnesota state law. (The NFL contends the policy, which is part of the NFL's collective bargaining agreement, should be subject only to federal laws.)
But I cordially invite the Wisconsin legislature to take a break from its busy schedule to pursue such a law. Just to see what happens. And I'm guessing there would be more than a few legislators willing to take up the issue. Revolution!
Joseph of Fort Meade, Md., writes: As a Bears fan I'm glad to see the "Williams Wall" case delayed. At the end of the day, the NFL doesn't care about the state of Minnesota's stance on drug testing. The wall will lose. So hopefully they can be suspended at a more critical time in the season.
Kevin Seifert: Joseph, you actually bring up a good point. We have no way of predicting how long the legal process will take here. One month? Three months? Six months? Who knows with these things. But if you strictly go by the regular season schedule, the Vikings' first four games might represent the best stretch for them to miss if it comes to that.
None of their first four opponents -- Cleveland, Detroit, San Francisco and Green Bay -- had winning records last season. And from a preseason perspective, at least, the only running game I would fear in that group is the Packers'. If the players' legal case ultimately results in them missing games later in the season, it could play a more important role in the Vikings' playoff aspirations. No doubt.
Assuming the good health of all involved, Green Bay would seem to be set at safety in 2009. Pro Bowler Nick Collins would start at one spot and Atari Bigby would start at the other, with Aaron Rouse in reserve. So why are the Packers so focused on the position in free agency?
Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel explains why free agents Mike Adams and Anthony Smith visited this week: The Packers want a safety with experience in the 3-4 and also know that both Collins and Bigby could be unrestricted free agents after the 2009 season. (Bigby is currently a restricted free agent but hasn't signed an offer sheet.)
Smith had not reached a contract agreement as of Thursday evening, and Adams is making other visits. (UPDATE: Adams returned to Cleveland and signed a three-year contract, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer.) The Packers also have interest in free-agent linebacker Kevin Burnett, but thus far safety has been the primary focus of their activity.
Continuing around the NFC North:
- Burnett could visit Green Bay this weekend, reports Pete Dougherty of the Green Bay Press-Gazette, if he does not strike a deal elsewhere before then.
- How unlikely is it that Chicago pursues receiver Terrell Owens? Writes Brad Biggs of the Chicago Sun-Times: "The Bears would bring back the Honey Bears before they would consider signing Terrell Owens."
- David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune agrees that the Bears' free-agent approach all but rules out a run at Owens or another other veteran receiver: "A team that decides to stay out of the bidding for veteran, quick-fix free-agent offensive help such as Kurt Warner or T.J. Houshmandzadeh doesn't wake up one day and think signing a 35-year-old playmaker is a good idea."
- Sean Jensen of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reviews the Minnesota's remaining options for free agency.
- A Minnesota legislator has introduced a bill that would use revenues from a new casino to pay for a new Vikings stadium, according to Mike Kaszuba of the Star Tribune. The bill is considered a long shot.
- Detroit is looking for another option at backup quarterback, according to John Niyo of the Detroit News. Currently the depth chart has three players: Daunte Culpepper, Drew Stanton and Drew Henson.
CHICAGO -- Green Bay should probably start accounting for the nickel blitz from Bears defensive back Danieal Manning, who has now disrupted two plays by hard-charging the left side of the Packers' line.
The play has given the Bears their best staring field position of the game at the Green Bay 48-yard line.
We've covered Charles Woodson's move from cornerback to safety pretty heavily around here, so it's only fair to point out he likely will be back at cornerback Monday night for Green Bay's matchup against Chicago.
Speaking to reporters Saturday in Green Bay, Packers coach Mike McCarthy indicated that Aaron Rouse will get a chance to start at safety, allowing Woodson to move back to his original position. Rouse has had an inconsistent second season, but the Packers are in the right spot -- i.e., eliminated from the playoffs -- to give him another chance.
Here's what McCarthy said:
"I think it's an important game for all of us. We need to win a football game as a football team. That's our focus. This is another opportunity for Aaron to be the starter, and we could talk about any position. When you get a chance to start, you need to perform. This is a performance business. The players clearly understand that. We talk about job responsibilities and a number of things you need to reiterate during the course of the year, and this is a great opportunity for him to step up. That's pro football. Injuries are part of our game, and we look for him to be impactful, which he has been in spots, but it's the consistency of playing four quarters that's going to be his challenge Monday night."
I generally agree with the sentiment that prompted Woodson's move to safety: The idea of getting your best players on the field. But I've always thought this case was an exception. Woodson's coverage skills are so rare that it seems you deny yourself a big weapon if you move him to the less-taxing safety position.
It's interesting that some members of the Chicago Bears are now admitting how limited quarterback Kyle Orton was upon his quick return to the lineup last month.
Orton's first game back after spraining his right ankle was Nov. 16 against Green Bay, when he completed 13 of 26 passes for 133 yards in a 37-3 loss. Offensive coordinator Ron Turner, for one, said Orton's ankle impacted his play more than coaches realized it would. Here's what Turner said this week, according to Bob LeGere of the Daily Herald:
"We've obviously looked at that tape a bunch, and I don't know if we realized going into it that he was going to be as bad as he was injury-wise. He couldn't move at all. He couldn't push off it to throw. I think his timing and everything else, his confidence right now, is so much better than it was at that time."
Turner's sentiments could be viewed as a defensive mechanism for a quarterback that hasn't been as productive since the injury. But there is no disputing the numbers. We'll get into it in more detail over the next few hours, but Orton's passer rating is 67.8 after the injury as opposed to 90.1 before.
It's more likely Turner's sentiments are genuine, which make them an admission that the Bears overestimated the condition of Orton's ankle prior to the Packers game. Either that, or they decided they would rather have a significantly limited Orton at quarterback than a healthy Rex Grossman. Probably a combination of both.
Let's continue our spin around the NFC North:
- Orton stands to lose $375,000 in escalators if he can't pull his season completion percentage above 60 percent, according to Brad Biggs of the Chicago Sun-Times.
- Green Bay coaches aren't tipping their hand this week about the status of cornerback/safety Charles Woodson, according to Tom Pelissero of the Green Bay Press-Gazette. Woodson practiced at both positions Thursday. It's possible he'll return to cornerback Monday night against Chicago, with Aaron Rouse starting at safety.
- Green Bay receiver James Jones has only recently gotten over the injury hump after spraining his knee during the preseason, writes Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
- Judd Zulgad of the Star Tribune looks at the possibilities of Minnesota tailback Adrian Peterson winning the MVP award.
- Vikings quarterback Tarvaris Jackson on fans hoping for his return to the lineup: "I can't really say what I want to say. That's how it is. That's part of the game. It's a bandwagon type of league." Tom Powers of the St. Paul Pioneer Press looks at Jackson's newfound hero status.
- Detroit coach Rod Marinelli on the increased media attention as the Lions approach 0-16: "This is elevator music to me." John Niyo of the Detroit News breaks down Marinelli's reaction.
- I wholeheartedly agree with this take: Nicholas J. Cotsonika of the Detroit Free Press thinks the Lions need to empty their playbook and take more chances in an effort to avoid 0-16.
Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert
One of a coach's primary responsibilities is to maximize the time his best players are on the field, regardless of position or scheme. That philosophy, for example, explains why Chicago made kick returner Devin Hester a full-time receiver in the offseason.
But where is the appropriate balance between getting those players on the field and maintaining integrity around them?
That question can be applied to the three top teams in the NFC North this season, all of whom have faced quandaries on utilizing some of their best players. And it makes for a pretty interesting "Have at it" question as well. Do you like the way these teams have dealt with this issue? Or do you think they should have been handled differently?
Let's look at some team-by-team examples:
Chicago: Hester was the NFL's top kick returner in 2006 and 2007, and the Bears hoped to capitalize more consistently on his big-play abilities in their offense. Hester has steadily improved as a receiver, but his returning production has dropped off dramatically. Did you think the shift to receiver wiped Hester out as a returner? Other Chicago examples include the use of tight ends Desmond Clark and Greg Olsen. Have the Bears done that enough?
Here's a look at Hester's receiving and return numbers entering the season and in 2008:
Green Bay: The example that stands out is the shift of Charles Woodson to safety, where he replaced the injured Atari Bigby. The Packers inserted nickel back Tramon Williams at cornerback. The move eliminated one of the NFL's best cover men from a coverage-intensive position, but the Packers judged their overall defense to have a better chance with Woodson at safety and Williams at cornerback than if backup safety Aaron Rouse were inserted into the lineup. Did these changes take things too far, considering the 414 passing yards the Packers gave up Sunday to Houston? Another example was the shift of linebacker A.J. Hawk to the middle following the season-ending injury to Nick Barnett.
Here's a look at the Packers' passing defense in Woodson's two starts at safety:
Minnesota: The Vikings have faced a two-year battle to get the most out of their Adrian Peterson-Chester Taylor tailback duo. They've tried a rotation, they've made Taylor their exclusive third-down back and now are working hard to mix things up more on first and second downs. On rare occasions, they play together in the same backfield. Do you like the approach the Vikings are taking now?
Here's is a breakdown of the duo's touches during the Vikings' three-game winning streak:
This is a bit of a nebulous topic, so you can take it in whatever direction you want. Let us know your thoughts, either in the comments section below or in the mailbag, and I'll publish a representative sample, along with my own take, Friday morning. Have at it.
A personnel glitch will leave one of the NFL's top cornerbacks playing safety for the second consecutive game.
Charles Woodson will start at safety against Houston on Sunday, Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy told reporters Wednesday. Woodson will replace the injured Atari Bigby (shoulder) and start ahead of backup Aaron Rouse, who has been dealing with an ankle injury but returned to practice Wednesday.
Nickel back Tramon Williams will start at Woodson's cornerback spot, joining a starting secondary that also includes cornerback Al Harris and safety Nick Collins. The Packers consider that quartet their best four defensive backs, and value their collective presence more than maintaining position integrity.
I can see where the Packers are coming from on this move. I'd rather have Williams starting at cornerback than Rouse starting at safety. But given how hard it is to find top-flight cover corners, it's unfortunate that Woodson has to move out of his best position to compensate for the Packers' lack of depth at another.
It appears Detroit coach Rod Marinelli is taking the possibility of his team going 0-16 quite seriously.
According to Nicholas J. Cotsonika of the Detroit Free Press, Marinelli displayed a team photo on an overhead screen during a Monday meeting. The message was clear: No one wants the caption to acknowledge the 2008 Lions as the first NFL team to finish 0-16. At least one player, running back Aveion Cason, told the Free Press that Marinelli said: "We're not going 0-16."
Marinelli's first opportunity to make good on that statement is Sunday against Minnesota. Many of you will remember that in 2001, an 0-12 Lions team got its first victory of the season over the Vikings at the Silverdome. Cason said that victory was like "winning the Super Bowl."
There is no textbook for how to handle a team that has played so poorly, but from this vantage point it's nice to see Marinelli confronting reality rather than using more of the coach-speak that has grown increasingly bizarre in recent weeks. If nothing else, Marinelli has given a team with no immediate future a tangible focus for the final month of a lost season.
Continuing around the NFC North on a Tuesday morning:
- Lions receiver Mike Furrey (concussion) told several media outlets he was "disappointed and upset" to be placed on injured reserve this week. Furrey insisted he would be ready to play soon and is the second Lions player, along with quarterback Jon Kitna, to indicate he was shelved for the season with a relatively mild injury.
- Green Bay is giving serious thought to leaving cornerback Charles Woodson at safety because of injuries to safeties Atari Bigby and Aaron Rouse, writes Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. In that scenario, Tramon Williams would replace Woodson at cornerback.
- Packers center Scott Wells might miss Sunday's game against Houston because of a concussion, writes Rob Demovsky of the Green Bay Press-Gazette.
- David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune writes that Bears quarterback Kyle Orton is hampered by a lack of talent at receiver.
- After looking at tiebreaking scenarios, Brad Biggs of the Chicago Sun-Times suggests the Bears will have to win their final four games to ensure a playoff spot.
- Patrick Reusse of the Star Tribune compares Minnesota quarterback Gus Frerotte to retired hockey player Dino Ciccarelli, who was known for exaggerating the impact of his opponents' actions in order to draw a penalty. (It's a good read, but difficult to summarize in one sentence).
- Vikings coach Brad Childress said Artis Hicks will retain his starting job at right tackle when he returns from a right elbow injury, writes Sean Jensen of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
Taking a look at the NFC North's biggest injury questions this weekend:
Chicago: The biggest question might be fullback Jason McKie, who was added to the injury report Friday as questionable because of a quadriceps injury. As Brad Biggs of the Chicago Sun-Times points out, the Bears don't have another fullback on the active roster and might need to make a move this weekend if McKie can't play against Minnesota. ... Tight end Desmond Clark (knee) was a limited participant in practice Thursday and Friday and is listed as questionable, but the Bears hope he can play. ... Cornerback Nate Vasher (thumb) was ruled out earlier this week.
Green Bay: There seems to be a decent chance that right tackle Mark Tauscher (hamstring) will get a chance to play Sunday at Carolina. He took some first-team reps in practice Friday and coach Mike McCarthy said he will give Tauscher every chance to play. ... Safeties Nick Collins (knee) and Atari Bigby (ankle) will play. ... Aaron Rouse (ankle) might have a harder time getting on the field. ... Cornerback Pat Lee (knee) and running back DeShawn Wynn (calf) seem unlikely to be available.
Minnesota: Right tackle Artis Hicks (elbow) returned to practice Friday but backup Ryan Cook took most of the reps. Coach Brad Childress said Hicks will be a game-time decision. Childress let it be known that the primary issue for Hicks is pain tolerance, not weakness or potential worsening of the injury.
As the losing continues this season, there have been some media suggestions that the NFL should strip Detroit of its annual Thanksgiving tradition and provide the nation with a more, er, competitive national game. A reasonable person can certainly make the argument that an 0-11 team isn't good for ratings.
Then you can read Drew Sharp's passionate column Wednesday in the Detroit Free Press and understand what the tradition means to those in Detroit. Sharp takes you through the history of the game -- Ford and Chrysler were two of the NFL's original sponsors -- and reminisces about Thanksgiving trips to see the Lions with his father.
Moving or rotating the game would permanently end an NFL tradition, Sharp writes -- not to mention leave the Lions off national television indefinitely. Yes, much of the nation will make fun of Detroit on Thursday, but there is more to it than that:
Everybody gets it in Detroit. This isn't good football. Thanksgiving is just one more occasion when this city stoops over, sticks a bull's-eye on its backside and coaxes another swift kick. But you cannot attach a price tag -- or even a win-loss record -- on that bond between past and present or between father and son.
Continuing around the NFC North on the day before Turkey Day:
- Lions quarterback Daunte Culpepper is looking for a breakout game that proves he should be the team's starter next season, writes Tom Kowalski of Mlive.com.
- Jim Souhan of the Star Tribune notes that Minnesota quarterback Gus Frerotte has become less productive with each passing week, raising short- and long-term questions about a situation that leaves Frerotte backed up by Tarvaris Jackson and John David Booty. Souhan: "The New York Giants running backs have nicknamed themselves Earth, Wind and Fire. The Vikings quarterbacks are more like Pestilence & Famine."
- Sean Jensen of the St. Paul Pioneer Press follows Vikings linebacker Ben Leber and guard Steve Hutchinson during a visit to Minnesota Children's Hospital, Fairview.
- Green Bay right tackle Mark Tauscher had an MRI test on his right hamstring to determine the severity of the injury he suffered Monday night in New Orleans. There is some concern that Tauscher could miss several games, writes Pete Dougherty of the Green Bay Press-Gazette.
- The Packers are also dealing with injuries to several safeties, writes Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Atari Bigby (ankle), Aaron Rouse (ankle), Nick Collins (knee, toe) and Charlie Peprah (calf) are all hobbled.
- Chicago defensive coordinator Bob Babich continues to shuttle between the press box and the sideline during games. Sunday in St. Louis, he was in the press box, writes Brad Biggs of the Chicago Sun-Times.
- Bob LeGere of the Daily Herald thinks the Bears need to ride tailback Matt Forte as hard as they can in December.