NFC North: Ahman Green

A roundup of what's happening on the Green Bay Packers beat.

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Packers running back Eddie Lacy may indeed win the NFL's offensive rookie of the year, an award that will be announced Saturday night in New York at the third annual NFL Honors.

Lacy
But you can't tell from the guest list at the awards program to held at Radio City Music Hall.

Sure, Lacy, fresh off his Pro Bowl appearance, was on the list released by the league on Monday.

But so was San Diego Chargers receiver Keenan Allen, who might be Lacy's top competition for the award. And so was Minnesota Vikings receiver/kick returner Cordarrelle Patterson, who also could be under consideration.

Among the others with ties to the Packers that are scheduled to appear are quarterback Aaron Rodgers, receiver Randall Cobb and former Packers players Mark Brunell, Ahman Green and Sterling Sharpe.

Former Packers quarterback Brett Favre, who appeared on stage at last year's event with Rodgers, was not on the list.

Rodgers will be in New York on Friday to accept the 2014 Bart Starr Award given to one NFL player for outstanding character and leadership on the field and in the community.

Rodgers and Cobb also are among the nominees for the NFL's Never Say Never Moment for their game-winning 48-yard touchdown in Week 17 against the Chicago Bears that clinched the NFC North title. That award also will be presented at the NFL Honors program.

In case you missed on ESPN.com: Best of the rest:
  • In the Green Bay Press-Gazette, Scott Williams got a look at a Coca-Cola commercial that was filmed in and around Lambeau Field and will air during Super Bowl XLVIII.
  • In the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Bob McGinn wrote about Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen's ties to Wisconsin, where he played high school football in a small town in the southwest corner of the state.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- With Super Bowl XLVIII in the New York area, there's sure to be a few Green Bay Packers players spotted in and round the Big Apple next week.

It's a safe bet nobody figured they'd be seeing them in a Broadway musical. However, that's exactly where Packers receiver Randall Cobb and former Packers running back Ahman Green will be playing next week.

They will join the cast of the five-time Tony Award-nominated musical Rock of Ages at the Helen Hayes Theater next week, show producers announced Friday.

Cobb's appearance will come during the 7 p.m. show Tuesday. Green will appear in the matinee show Feb. 1. Detroit Lions running back Joique Bell also will appear in a show Wednesday, and other players are expected to be added to the bill.

There's nothing in Cobb's bio to suggest he has any stage experience. However, he does list listening to music as one of his hobbies.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- It should not have taken the withdrawal of Adrian Peterson for Eddie Lacy to make the Pro Bowl, as the Green Bay Packers rookie did on Wednesday after Peterson pulled out because of an injury.

Lacy was seventh in the voting at a position where six players were selected.

Let’s compare Lacy’s numbers to the running backs originally voted in.

Lacy
Lacy rushed for 1,178 yards, which was more than only one of the six -- Frank Gore of the San Francisco 49ers (1,128). But considering that Lacy missed one full game and more than three quarters of another because of the concussion he suffered in Week 2, then perhaps rushing yards per game is a more telling stat.

In that department, Lacy averaged 78.5 yards per game in the 15 games in which he appeared. That matched or bettered the average of two of the six backs originally voted in -- Gore (70.5 yards per game) and the Seattle Seahawks’ Marshawn Lynch (78.5 yards per game).

If you use 14 games as the divider given that Lacy was injured on his lone carry in the first quarter in Week 2, then Lacy’s average of 84.1 rushing yards per game would surpass one other back originally voted in -- the Chicago Bears' Matt Forte (83.7 yards per game) -- and would nearly match the Kansas City Chiefs' Jamaal Charles (85.8 yards per game).

To be sure, Lacy couldn’t match the Philadelphia Eagles' LeSean McCoy (who led the NFL with 1,607 yards rushing) in total yards or even Peterson (who averaged 90.4 yards per game over 14 games). But Lacy revived a running game that had not sent a running back to the Pro Bowl since 2004 (Ahman Green).

Starter Pack: Favre's time will come

December, 11, 2013
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A roundup of what’s happening on the Green Bay Packers’ beat.

GREEN BAY, Wis. – Rest assured, Brett Favre will one day be inducted into the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame. It just won’t happen in the next class.

The Packers Hall of Fame announced on Tuesday that it would induct running back Ahman Green and tackle Ken Ruettgers next July. Those are certainly two worthy inclusions.

There still may be some work to do before Favre and the Packers’ brass can sit in the same room, although indications of late have been that both sides have started the steps toward reconciliation.

But that has nothing to do with the Packers Hall of Fame. It’s an organization that is independent from the Green Bay Packers; however, the museum is housed in Lambeau Field. In fact, it closed last month for renovations as part of the stadium atrium project and won’t reopen until 2015.

Perhaps that’s the year Favre will go in. He could go into the Packers Hall of Fame then and the Pro Football Hall of Fame the next year (2016), when he is first eligible.

In case you missed it on ESPN.com:
  • Quarterback Aaron Rodgers revealed that he experienced pain in his collarbone after practicing last Wednesday and would need different results in order to play against the Dallas Cowboys this Sunday.
  • On his weekly radio show, Rodgers sounded more frustrated and less certain about his return this season than he had been previously.
  • The Packers made a roster move, activating rookie offensive lineman JC Tretter off the physically unable to perform list and placing receiver Myles White on injured reserve. The Packers would like to see if Tretter can handle playing center.
  • The weekly playing-time breakdown showed snap counts from Sunday’s win over the Atlanta Falcons.
  • For all the news on this week’s opponent, the Dallas Cowboys, check out their team page, led by Todd Archer and with help from others at ESPNDallas.com.
Elsewhere:
On the day former Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith got the job, he said that one of his priorities was to beat the Green Bay Packers.

First-year Bears coach Marc Trestman made no such promises about this rivalry, but it goes without saying that he's eager to end Chicago's six-game losing streak to the Packers.

The last time Chicago beat Green Bay was on Sept. 27, 2010, on "Monday Night Football." The teams meet again in prime time Monday night at Lambeau Field.

ESPN.com's Packers reporter Rob Demovsky and Bears reporter Michael C. Wright break down the matchup.

Rob Demovsky: We all know how much Smith wanted to beat the Packers. He stated as much the day he got the head coaching job. What has Trestman's approach to this rivalry been like?

Wright: Rob, my man, you know that rivalries have to cut both ways in terms of wins and losses for it to be truly considered a rivalry. Counting the postseason, the Bears have lost six in a row and nine of the last 11. So, if anything, this is more Green Bay dominance than a rivalry. But the interesting thing about Trestman is he's a guy who likes to compartmentalize everything. He looks at today rather than the past or the future. So while it sounds cliché, Trestman is looking at the Packers as just another opponent on the schedule. That's just the way Trestman likes to operate, and I think for him it sort of makes things easier.

I keep looking at Green Bay's sack numbers, and I'm a little surprised the club is still in the top 10 in sacks with Clay Matthews out the last three games and other key members of the defense missing time. What is Dom Capers doing over there schematically to keep up the production?

Demovsky: I figured when Matthews broke his thumb, Capers would have to blitz like crazy. Now, he's picked his spots, but he hasn't gone blitz-happy like I thought he might. However, he has been sending different pass-rushers to keep offenses off guard. One game, against the Baltimore Ravens, linebacker A.J. Hawk came a bunch and sacked Joe Flacco three times. Also, they've finally found a defensive lineman with some rush ability in second-year pro Mike Daniels. Three of his team-leading four sacks have come in the past two games.

As long as we're on the topic of quarterbacks, in 2011, backup Josh McCown played a halfway decent game against the Packers on Christmas at Lambeau Field, but he threw a couple of interceptions. What do you expect from him this time around as he starts in place of the injured Jay Cutler?

[+] EnlargeBrandon Marshall
Rob Grabowski/USA TODAY SportsThe Packers have limited Brandon Marshall to 8 catches for 80 yards in their past two meetings.
Wright: Believe it or not, I expect little to no drop-off from McCown in this game. The biggest difference between now and then is that in 2011, McCown joined the team in November, fresh from a stint as a high school football coach in North Carolina, and four weeks later became the starter. So he basically came in cold and still played relatively well. This time around, McCown has become immersed in the offense from the ground level, when Trestman first came on board, and even had some input as the team constructed the scheme. In fact, during the offseason, McCown was holding film sessions with all the club's new additions to teach everyone the new offense. So he's got complete mastery of the offense just like Cutler, which is why McCown came in against the Redskins and the offense didn't miss a beat. Obviously, McCown doesn't possess Cutler's arm strength. But he'll make up for that deficiency with anticipation. I'm quite sure the Bears won't scale down the offense to accommodate McCown at all, because they don't need to. So I expect McCown to play well. I'm just not sure Chicago's offense can keep up with Green Bay's in what I expect to be a high-scoring game.

Speaking of high scoring, the Packers put up 44 points on the Minnesota Vikings. How is Green Bay handling the preparation process for the Bears?

Demovsky: Well, they certainly don't have as much time as the Bears do, considering the Bears are coming off their bye week. But the Packers have gotten themselves into a rhythm. They've won four in a row after their 1-2 start and look like a different team than they did the first three weeks of the season. Mike McCarthy probably doesn't get enough credit nationally, but show me another coach who has stared injuries in the face and hasn't blinked. What other team could lose playmakers like Randall Cobb, James Jones, Jermichael Finley and Matthews and still keep winning? That's a testament to the program he has established here. You can argue with some of his in-game coaching decisions, but you can do that with every coach. What you can't question, though, is the team's preparation.

The Bears, obviously, have had their share of injuries, too, losing Cutler and linebacker Lance Briggs. What's a bigger loss -- Cutler to the offense or Briggs to the defense?

Wright: Well, Cutler's replacement is a veteran in McCown who has plenty of experience and a ton of weapons surrounding him on offense, while rookie Khaseem Greene will likely fill in for Briggs on a bad defense that will also feature rookie Jon Bostic in the middle. From my vantage point, losing Briggs is much more significant. The Bears have already proved to be horrible against the run (ranked 25th), and that issue certainly won't improve with two rookies at linebacker and a defensive line decimated by injury. It's also worth noting that Briggs made all the defensive calls and served as somewhat of a coach on the field for Bostic. Given that Green Bay seems to be running the ball so well, the current situation with Chicago's front seven could be devastating.

Now that the Packers are running the ball so well, how has that changed the way the offense is called? It seems Green Bay runs well regardless of which running back they line up in the backfield.

Demovsky: It's remarkable -- and even a bit stunning -- to see Aaron Rodgers check out of a pass play and in to a run play at the line of scrimmage. That kind of thing hasn't happened around here in a long, long time -- probably not since Ahman Green was piling up 1,000-yard seasons nearly a decade ago. Teams no longer can sit back in a Cover-2 look and dare the Packers to run. Because guess what? The Packers can finally do it. It also has given the receivers more one-on-one opportunities, so it's helped the passing game, too. Right now, this offense almost looks unstoppable.

If the Packers keep playing like this, they might be tough to catch in the NFC North. What are the Bears' prospects for staying in the NFC North race until Cutler and Briggs return?

Wright: To me, this game is the measuring stick for making that determination. But I'm not really confident about Chicago's chances, and that has more to do with the team's struggling defense than Cutler's absence. There have been conflicting statements made about Cutler's recovery time frame. Some teammates think he'll be ready to return by the time the Bears face Detroit on Nov. 4, while Trestman said the plan is to stick to the minimum four-week time frame prescribed by the doctors. Either way, if the Bears lose to the Lions you can kiss their prospects for the playoffs goodbye. The Bears might be able to afford a loss to the Packers because they'll face them again on Dec. 29. But a sweep by the Lions kills Chicago's chances to me because just from what we've seen so far, it appears one of the wild cards will come out of the NFC North with the other coming from the NFC West. Obviously it's too early to predict that, but that's the way things seem to be shaking out.

Without two of his top receivers and tight end Finley, Rogers still hit 83 percent of his passes against the Vikings. Is that success a product of the system, a bad Minnesota defense, or is Rodgers just that good at this point?

Demovsky: The more I see other quarterbacks play, the more I'm convinced it's Rodgers. For example, seldom-used receiver Jarrett Boykin makes his first NFL start two weeks ago against the Cleveland Browns, and he ends up with eight catches for 103 yards and a touchdown. How many catches do you think he would have had if he were playing for the Browns that day? Their quarterback, Brandon Weeden, completed only 17-of-42 passes. That's not to minimize what Boykin did or what players like Jordy Nelson do week in and week out, but Rodgers is special, and special players elevate the play of those around them. Look at what Greg Jennings has done since he left for the Vikings. Now tell me the quarterback doesn't make the receiver, not vice versa.

Speaking of receivers, other than Anquan Boldin, who lit up the Packers in the opener at San Francisco, they've done a solid job shutting down other team's No. 1 receivers -- most recently Jennings and Cincinnati's A.J. Green. How do you think the Bears will try to get Brandon Marshall involved against what has been a pretty good Packers secondary?

Wright: This question brings me back to the 2012 massacre at Lambeau Field on Sept. 13. The Packers bracketed Marshall with two-man coverage, and the Bears struggled tremendously. Shoot, cornerback Tramon Williams caught as many of Cutler's passes as Marshall, who finished the game with two grabs for 24 yards. Obviously, this offensive coaching staff is a lot different than last year's group. So the Bears will go into this game with a lot more answers for that coverage. I definitely see McCown leaning on Marshall and trying to get him involved as early as possible, but the only way he'll be able to do that is for the Bears to establish the rushing attack with Matt Forte so the quarterback can operate off play action. When the Bears go to Marshall early, expect to see a lot of short passes that will enable the receiver to gain some yardage after the catch.

Over the years, Green Bay has been pretty successful at limiting the impact of return man Devin Hester. So I was a little shocked to see the Packers give up a kickoff return for a touchdown to Cordarrelle Patterson. As you probably know, Hester is coming off a pretty strong return game against the Redskins. Do you think the Packers fix the problems they encountered last week, and minimize Hester's impact?

Demovsky: Part of the Packers' problem on special teams has been that all the injuries have created a trickle-down effect. Here's what I mean: On the kickoff coverage until they gave up the 109-yard return to Patterson, they lined up six rookies, two of whom weren't even on the opening day roster. The Packers always have feared Hester, as they should, and in various games in recent years have shown they'd almost rather kick the ball out of bounds than give him any return opportunities. He's one of those special players who make rivalry games so entertaining.

We're Black and Blue All Over:

If you haven't already, you really should check out the extensive statement released Monday by former Chicago Bears linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer, especially in light of the recent suicide of ex-Bears safety Dave Duerson.

As Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune points out, Hillenmeyer -- whom the Bears released Monday -- notes that he hasn't yet been cleared to play in 2011 because of a history of recurring concussions. He insisted that the Bears forced him to sit out most of the 2010 season and expressed gratitude for it.
Hillenmeyer, in part: "Barring some unforeseen turn of events, I don't think there was a set of circumstances where I would have been cleared to play next season anyway. The more we pull back the curtain on the long-term effects of head injury, the scarier it gets for players in my position, who have multiple diagnosed concussions and countless more 'dings' and headaches.

"On one hand, I feel lucky to have been relatively candid about my symptoms compared to some colleagues who do everything they can to conceal their struggles. I can only thank the Bears organization, from the trainers and the doctors up to Lovie [Smith] and Jerry [Angelo], for trying to be proactive in the way concussions are handled. On the other hand, any player who tells you they aren't affected by the tragic stories like Dave Duerson's, that seem to be popping up all too often, are lying."

As unfortunate as the circumstances are, you would hope that players and teams will use the Bears' treatment of Hillenmeyer this season as a baseline for their approach to concussions moving forward. Hopefully Hillenmeyer's status as a reserve player didn't make it easier than if it had occurred with a star. And let's also hope that players follow Hillenmeyer's lead in refusing to hide his symptoms.

Continuing around the NFC North:
We're Black and Blue All Over:

Minnesota Vikings receiver Percy Harvin confirmed to reporters Monday that he is being treated for sleep apnea, a condition that might have triggered his increasing frequency of migraine episodes this summer. Harvin said the diagnosis came when he was hospitalized after an Aug. 19 collapse during a Vikings practice.
Harvin (via Jeremy Fowler of the St. Paul Pioneer Press): "They'd just barge in the room and be like, 'Harvin, you OK?' I'd say, 'I think so.' [They said] 'Well, your heart just wasn't beating.' I was like, 'What do you want me to do?'"

Indeed, doctors determined his heart was stopping and then re-starting during the night, a common symptom of sleep apnea. He now sleeps with an oxygen device and said he feels a "100 percent difference" when he wakes up in the morning.

Whether this cures his migraines, slows them down or merely helps him sleep better, Harvin appears to be in a better place than he was a month ago.

Continuing around the NFC North:
  • Vikings owner Zygi Wilf's enthusiasm hasn't dampened following a Week 1 loss at New Orleans. According to Judd Zulgad of the Star Tribune, Wilf said: "We built a team that we expect to go all the way. We're not holding back right now. ... We pretty much feel that we're all in. We're going to try our best to fulfill our goal."
  • Tom Pelissero of 1500ESPN.com: "Sidney Rice expects to remain on crutches for a couple more weeks, and the Minnesota Vikings' top receiver said on Monday he hasn't set a target date for returning to practice following last month's hip surgery."
  • Lori Nickel of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel lists these veteran agent running backs as available if the Green Bay Packers look for outside help to replace Ryan Grant (ankle): Willie Parker, Ahman Green, Justin Fargas and J.J. Arrington.
  • Because the Packers spent the entire game at Philadelphia in the nickel, A.J. Hawk did not receive a single defensive snap, notes Kareem Copeland of the Green Bay Press-Gazette. Inside linebackers coach Winston Moss: "If I was in that same situation, I would be upset if I didn't play and I was going into an opening game ... and I had a very good preseason. I would have wanted to play. I'm sure a highly competitive guy would have wanted to play. I would use it as -- if I have to do whatever it takes and do more to stay on the field as much as possible, I've got to do whatever it takes. That would be my attitude."
  • The Packers plan to re-sign defensive lineman Jarius Wynn to replace the injured Justin Harrell (knee), confirms Jason Wilde of ESPNMilwaukee.com.
  • The Detroit Lions agreed to terms with former Chicago Bears cornerback Nate Vasher, notes Tom Kowalski of Mlive.com. Vasher could replace injured nickelback Aaron Berry.
  • Lions coach Jim Schwartz called backup quarterback Shaun Hill "one of our biggest offseason acquisitions," writes John Niyo of the Detroit News.
  • Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford on his series of injuries in the NFL: "Pretty perfect hits. Guys dropped me on my shoulder pretty hard both times. I'd call them weird, freaky injuries more than anything." Michel Rosenberg of the Detroit Free Press has more.
  • Bears quarterback Jay Cutler is willing to gain yards on the ground, notes Bob LeGere of the Daily Herald.
  • Michael C. Wright of ESPNChicago.com questions the Bears' decision to match Lions receiver Calvin Johnson in single coverage on the play that nearly beat them Sunday.
  • Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz made a number of concessions Sunday for his still-developing offensive line, writes Dan Pompei of the Chicago Tribune.
  • Sean Jensen of the Chicago Sun-Times: "Devin Aromashodu started the 2010 season the way he ended the 2009 season: as the Bears' hottest receiver."
When the Green Bay Packers needed an emergency running back last October, they signed veteran Ahman Green. It took Green most of two weeks to get into playing shape before he could give the Packers the help they needed.

Should the Packers or anyone else desire another go-around in 2010, Green will be ready to hit the ground, er, running. His decision to sign with Omaha of the United Football League will have him in midseason football shape when the NFL might come calling.

The UFL was smart to schedule its season to end in mid-November, a time when NFL teams are often looking for injury fortifications to their roster. One of the allures for signing up is to be in position to offer immediate help.

In case you missed this transaction, Omaha is coached by former Packers offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski.
My NFC West colleague Mike Sando put together a chart that confirms in quantitative fashion what you might have realized intuitively. The Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers, two of the NFL's better teams last season, have to this point retained the vast majority of players with whom they finished the 2009 season.

Much can change between now and September, but the analysis is especially relevant when compared to the rest of the league. The Vikings' 94.4 percent retention rate is the league's highest, while the Packers' rate of 87.3 ranks fourth.

According to my records, the only players Minnesota hasn't brought back is running back Chester Taylor, cornerback Karl Paymah and offensive lineman Artis Hicks. The Packers' list includes punter Jeremy Kapinos, running back Ahman Green, safety Matt Giordano and defensive end Mike Montgomery. (The Packers' percentage is lower because they had a larger base of players when taking into account those on injured reserve.)

NFC North weekend mailbag

April, 3, 2010
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Chug-a-chug. Chug-a-chug. Can you hear it? That's the sound of our NFC North train gaining steam as we approach the 2010 NFL draft. We're at T-minus 19 days. The intensity of our discussions will continue ramping up until April 22 arrives.

There are any number of places where we can rap about the draft. (Like my flow?) You can hit the mailbag, join us over on Facebook or tweet us on Twitter. Let's see what's on your mind this weekend.

Christopher of Minneapolis writes: Kevin, I gotta ask why you think players have been turning down coming to play for the Vikings. Last offseason, T.J. Houshmandzadeh decided to go to a Seattle team that was obviously in a much worse place than the Vikings at the time in their division. Then this year already two free agents have chosen other teams over us: LaDainian Tomlinson and Tye Hill (not sure how good of an addition he would actually have been). So I'm asking what do you think it is about playing here? We have a an owner that wants to win, a very good team with a good chance at making a deep playoff run. I just don't get why free agents would pass up the opportunity to play here.

Kevin Seifert: Christopher, I think you're looking at only half of a trend. There's no doubt some high-profile free agents/trade candidates have turned down offers from the Vikings in recent years, but there are plenty of others who did not. The list includes quarterback Brett Favre, defensive end Jared Allen, receiver Bernard Berrian and tight end Visanthe Shiancoe. It's not as if no one will come to the Vikings. It's more like some.

If there is a trend, we should look for a common denominator. In the cases you mention, I don't see one. Houshmandzadeh went to Seattle in part because he thought the Seahawks' quarterback position was stronger. Favre was still months away from signing. Tomlinson, meanwhile, is going to play a lot more with the New York Jets than he would have in Minnesota. That's just a fact of life with Adrian Peterson on the roster.

As for Hill, you're right: His decision was a relatively minor one. At best, he would have competed for the nickel job with Benny Sapp. The timing of his decision to sign with Tennessee -- hours after visiting the Vikings -- suggested the visit might have been intended all along to increase leverage with the Titans.

I know there are some issues that might make the Vikings less than attractive to some free agents, from the aging practice facility to their uncertain future in the Metrodome. But I don't see any common thread in the instances you've mentioned.


Via Facebook, Ben of Fort Smith, Ark., writes: I just read that Jared Gaither could possibly be available for a second-round pick. He played very well last year and still has plenty of room to improve. I believe the Ravens use a different blocking scheme than Green Bay does, but do you think it would be worthwhile for the Packers to make a move for him and get the jump on one of the top corners or OLBs in the draft, rather than settle for possibly the fifth-best tackle prospect and then whichever corners or OLBs are left later on?

Kevin Seifert: I've gotten more than a few questions on Gaither, not only from Packers fans but also from those who follow Detroit.

To review: Gaither is Baltimore's 24-year-old left tackle, a player many in Baltimore figured would be a fixture for the next 10 years. The Ravens hedged their commitment, however, by placing only a first-round tender on him as a restricted free agent. That means a team signing Gaither to an offer sheet would only have to give up a first-round pick, and perhaps less if they work out a sign-and-trade deal with the Ravens.

If you're the Packers, you would gladly give up the No. 23 overall pick for a long-term answer at left tackle. The same would probably go for the Lions, who have the second pick (No. 34 overall) of the second round.

But here's the question: Is Gaither a lock to be that kind of franchise player? It's only fair to wonder when the Ravens, who know him best, seem prepared to listen to offers. You could point out that Baltimore has Michael Oher on board and ready to move to left tackle. But if the Ravens trust Gaither's future, it's doubtful they would give up on him regardless. They seem to have some doubts.

It's easy to think that another team's disappointment could be your club's success story. Ultimately, that could be the case with Gaither. But if he's really available, it's fair to wonder why the Ravens don't want to keep him.


Rob of Milwaukee writes: If the rumors are true about the Packers interest in Brian Westbrook, could this mean the end of Ahman Green in Green Bay?

Kevin Seifert: First, I don't have any confirmation that the Packers are in fact interested in Westbrook. General manager Ted Thompson doesn't often have interest in aging veteran free agents, no matter what position or talent level. And as we discussed Thursday, coach Mike McCarthy believes backup tailback Brandon Jackson made significant strides last season.

If the Packers decide they need a veteran in the backfield, I wouldn't at all be surprised if Green -- not Westbrook -- is the choice. Here's what McCarthy said on that topic at last month's owners meeting: "...I like what Ahman Green gave us there at the end of the year. I thought once he got reacquainted with some of the things we do that are different from when he was here earlier, and frankly he did some nice things on special teams once he got comfortable. I mean, he's definitely an option that's potentially out there."


Bryan of St. Marys, Ga., writes: I was wondering if you had heard anything about a possible trade between the Lions and Redskins switching first round picks?

Kevin Seifert: It's certainly being rumored, but like most draft-related intrigue, it's based mostly on circumstantial evidence.

St. Louis seems likely to draft Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford at No. 1 overall. The next-best quarterback is Notre Dame's Jimmy Clausen, who seems to be drawing interest from Washington (No. 4) and Cleveland (No. 7), among other teams.

So if you're Detroit and you want to trade out of the No. 2 pick, you have to hope that multiple teams emerge with a strong desire to draft Clausen. That team could take a chance and deal with Tampa Bay at No. 3, but the only way to ensure Clausen will be available is to trade into the Lions' spot.

To be clear, there is no evidence that we've reached this point yet. But that's what would need to happen for the Lions and Redskins to swap places in the draft.


Chris of San Diego writes: I read that Lance Louis of the Chicago Bears is subject to the NFL conduct policy for a crime he committed prior to being drafted because he pleaded guilty to it a year after he was drafted. Can you explain why he is retroactively subject to NFL rules?

Kevin Seifert: The original incident -- a fight with a former San Diego State teammate -- occurred in November 2008. But from what I understand, the league considers the incident part of its personal conduct policy because the charges were filed after Louis signed with the Bears last summer. That's the distinction, however arbitrary it might be.

With all that said, Louis pleaded guilty to misdemeanor battery, making it unlikely he'll face an NFL suspension. A fine could be in order, however.
If I had even a penny for every time a Green Bay fan has asked about Brian Westbrook or LaDainian Tomlinson or some other possibility to provide depth behind tailback Ryan Grant, well, I'd have many coins. Let's face it: It would be out of character for the Packers to sign a veteran free agent this time of year.

Jackson
But there are other elements at play here as well. Listening to coach Mike McCarthy speak last week at the NFL owners meeting, it sure sounded like he has supreme confidence in Brandon Jackson to handle the job. If a veteran becomes a necessity at some point, Ahman Green might be the first option.

McCarthy said he thought Jackson took a "huge step" last season, specifically in a Dec. 20 game at Pittsburgh.

"I thought against Pittsburgh that his blitz pickup was as good as I've seen since Marcus Allen in the early '90s," McCarthy said. "And his confidence and everything from that game, I thought he took a big step and I'm hoping he can maintain that or take it further as we move on."

My thoughts on this topic have evolved now that Grant has established himself as a legitimate full-time runner. As with Minnesota, the Packers' backup running back is a secondary role that becomes a big deal only if the starter is unavailable. Grant has proved exceptionally durable in three years with the Packers, playing in 47 of a possible 48 games.

The Packers haven't often gotten big-time yardage from a backup running back in recent years, as you can see in the chart below. Last season, in fact, quarterback Aaron Rodgers was their second-leading rusher. Green and Jackson followed with 160 and 111 yards, respectively.


So while you can never rule out the possibility of high-profile addition, most clues -- and common sense -- suggest the Packers will put their faith in Jackson to handle this role in 2010.
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Chicago was one of 28 NFL teams to vote in favor of Tuesday's overtime rules change, but before the vote, Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune presented some compelling Bears-related evidence for maintaining the status quo.

Biggs noted the Bears are 11-3 in the past 10 seasons in overtime, including 8-1 under coach Lovie Smith. They are 4-1 in games ending with a field goal on the first possession of overtime over the past 10 years, and place-kicker Robbie Gould is the third-most accurate kicker in NFL history.

Tuesday was a more pressured environment than I've seen at an owners meeting in quite some time. There were some important and powerful people who really, really wanted this measure to pass.

I'll be spending some time with NFC coaches here Wednesday morning on the final day of the meetings. I'll be back with you mid-morning. For now, let's take a quick spin around the division:

Updating UFA movement in NFC North

March, 15, 2010
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As we head into the second full week of free agency, it's probably a good time to revise our look at each NFC North team's unsigned players. We haven't had a restricted free agent (RFA) receive an offer sheet yet, so we'll limit this post to unrestricted free agents (UFAs) -- who have total freedom to sign with another team.

Chicago Bears
UFAs as of March 5: Linebacker Darrell McClover, defensive end Adewale Ogunleye, running back Adrian Peterson, linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa.
Comment: None have re-signed. The Bears are trying to bring back Tinoisamoa.

Detroit Lions
UFAs as of March 5: Linebacker Vinny Ciurciu, offensive lineman Damion Cook, quarterback Daunte Culpepper, tight end Casey Fitzsimmons, linebacker Larry Foote, tight end Will Heller, cornerback Anthony Henry, cornerback Will James, offensive lineman Jon Jansen, safety Marquand Manuel, quarterback Patrick Ramsey.
Comment: Ciurciu, Heller and Jansen have re-signed. Foote seems likely to return to Pittsburgh.

Green Bay Packers
UFAs as of March 5:
Offensive lineman Chad Clifton, running back Ahman Green, linebacker Aaron Kampman, offensive lineman Mark Tauscher.
Comment: Clifton and Tauscher have re-signed. Kampman signed with Jacksonville.

Minnesota Vikings
UFAs as of March 5:
Offensive lineman Artis Hicks, defensive tackle Jimmy Kennedy, cornerback Benny Sapp, running back Chester Taylor.
Comment: Kennedy and Sapp re-signed. Taylor signed with Chicago. Hicks signed with Washington.

NFC North: Free-agency primer

March, 4, 2010
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Chicago Bears

Potential unrestricted free agents: Linebacker Darrell McClover, defensive end Adewale Ogunleye, running back Adrian Peterson, linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa.

Potential restricted free agents: Defensive end Mark Anderson, safety Josh Bullocks, safety Danieal Manning, linebacker Nick Roach, linebacker Jamar Williams.

Franchise player: None

What to expect: With no picks in the first or second round of next month's draft, the Bears are gearing up for a relatively major jump into free agency. They're expected to bid for defensive end Julius Peppers and possible safety Antrel Rolle and would also like to re-sign linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa. Tight end Brandon Manumaleuna could also be a target. Manumaleuna played for new offensive coordinator Mike Martz in St. Louis.

Detroit Lions

Potential unrestricted free agents: Linebacker Vinny Ciurciu, offensive lineman Damion Cook, quarterback Daunte Culpepper, tight end Casey Fitzsimmons, linebacker Larry Foote, tight end Will Heller, cornerback Anthony Henry, cornerback Will James, offensive lineman Jon Jansen, safety Marquand Manuel, quarterback Patrick Ramsey.

Potential restricted free agents: Defensive end Copeland Bryan, offensive lineman Dylan Gandy, defensive lineman Jason Hunter, offensive lineman Daniel Loper, offensive lineman Manny Ramirez, safety Ko Simpson, linebacker Cody Spencer.

Franchise player: None

What to expect: The Lions aren't likely to be as active as they were last year, but general manager Martin Mayhew said over the winter that he could envision a five- or six-man free agent class. Running back, defensive end and defensive back are all positions they will investigate. They'll also need to find a backup quarterback, assuming Daunte Culpepper moves on.

Green Bay Packers

Potential unrestricted free agents: Offensive lineman Chad Clifton, running back Ahman Green, linebacker Aaron Kampman, offensive lineman Mark Tauscher.

Potential restricted free agents: Safety Atari Bigby, defensive back Will Blackmon, offensive lineman Daryn Colledge, safety Nick Collins, defensive end Johnny Jolly, running back John Kuhn, offensive lineman Jason Spitz, cornerback Tramon Williams.

Franchise player: Defensive tackle Ryan Pickett

What to expect: The Packers will have a demanding offseason filled with difficult decisions. To this point, they haven't re-signed either of their starting offensive tackles. They are clearly approaching injured linebacker Aaron Kampman with caution. And they have a long line of restricted free agents who would like long-term contracts, starting with Pro Bowl safety Nick Collins. The Packers have more than enough to keep them busy, but they haven't dabbled much in free agency in recent years, anyway.

Minnesota Vikings

Potential unrestricted free agents: Offensive lineman Artis Hicks, defensive tackle Jimmy Kennedy, cornerback Benny Sapp, running back Chester Taylor.

Potential restricted free agents: Offensive lineman Ryan Cook, defensive end Ray Edwards, defensive tackle Fred Evans, safety Eric Frampton, quarterback Tarvaris Jackson, fullback Naufahu Tahi.

Franchise player: None.

What to expect: The Vikings are awaiting word from quarterback Brett Favre on the 2010 season, a decision that could impact their offseason plans. They would like tailback Chester Taylor back, but it's possible Taylor will at least test his value on the open market. As a Final Four team, the Vikings will be limited to signing players that have been released by other teams unless they lose one of their own unrestricted free agents first.

Free agency: NFC North

February, 16, 2010
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» AFC Free Agency: East | West | North | South » NFC: East | West | North | South

An early look at the free agency situation in the NFC North.

Note: These projected lists reflect notable unrestricted free agents for each team. The NFL will not issue an official list of free agents until the signing period begins March 5.

Chicago Bears

Unrestricted free agents: Linebacker Darrell McClover, defensive end Adewale Ogunleye, running back Adrian Peterson, linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa.

Key figures: Defensive end Mark Anderson and safety Danieal Manning are two key players who would have joined the list of unrestricted free agents if the NFL weren't on track for an uncapped offseason. The Bears can block both from moving now. Ogunleye is unlikely to return if he's seeking significant money. The Bears want to re-sign Tinoisamoa, even after his injury-shortened 2009 debut. Peterson's eight-year run with the team might be coming to a close.

Culpepper
Jason O. Watson/US PresswireDaunte Culpepper could return to Detroit as Matthew Stafford's backup.
Detroit Lions

Unrestricted free agents: Linebacker Vinny Ciurciu, offensive lineman Damion Cook, quarterback Daunte Culpepper, tight end Casey Fitzsimmons, linebacker Larry Foote, tight end Will Heller, cornerback Anthony Henry, cornerback Will James, offensive lineman Jon Jansen, safety Marquand Manuel, quarterback Patrick Ramsey.

Key figures: The Lions have a total of 20 unrestricted and restricted free agents, a product of the extended roster tryouts they held throughout the 2009 season. The biggest name among their UFAs is Foote, who seems unlikely to return and should be replaced by DeAndre Levy. Culpepper will seek offers on the open market, but it's not out of the question he could return as Matthew Stafford's backup. James had some moments in 2009 and might be worth a return engagement.

Green Bay Packers

Unrestricted free agents: Offensive tackle Chad Clifton, running back Ahman Green, linebacker Aaron Kampman, nose tackle Ryan Pickett, offensive tackle Mark Tauscher.

Key figures: The Packers have a notable list that includes four starters and would have included six more if not for the uncapped year. Clifton will be 34 this summer and Tauscher will turn 33, and it's time for the Packers to begin a succession plan at both positions. T.J. Lang figures as Tauscher's replacement, but Tauscher was actually playing better than Clifton at the end of 2009. Kampman seems unlikely to return as a linebacker in the 3-4, especially while he rehabilitates a knee injury. Pickett could be phased out by B.J. Raji.

Minnesota Vikings

Unrestricted free agents: Offensive lineman Artis Hicks, defensive lineman Jimmy Kennedy, receiver Greg Lewis, cornerback Benny Sapp, running back Chester Taylor.

Key figures: Taylor is perhaps the most valuable backup tailback in the league, considering his abilities as a receiver and third-down converter. He will be 31 when the 2010 season begins, but figures to get some attention if he enters the free-agent market. The Vikings want him back, but probably won't devote a huge salary to him with starter Adrian Peterson approaching the expiration of his contract. Sapp probably made himself some money with a credible replacement of injured starter Antoine Winfield.

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