NFC North: Artose Pinner
You can view the Lions' full list of roster moves here.
Biggest surprise: There were no stunners, although the list of departures did include veteran cornerback Kiwaukee Thomas and running back Artose Pinner. In fact, the Lions kept only two tailbacks -- Kevin Smith and Tatum Bell -- after cutting Pinner and placing Brian Calhoun and Aveion Cason on injured reserve. Rookie fullback Jerome Felton could work at tailback, if needed. How committed are the Lions to the run? For now, they are keeping only four receivers.
No-brainers: Linebacker Buster Davis might have tried a little too hard to make the team, hitting harder then necessary during practice and upsetting several teammates and coaches. Quarterback Drew Henson's stay was destined to be short-lived -- the Lions will keep a roster spot for injured quarterback Drew Stanton instead.
What's next: Henson could conceivably end up on the practice squad if the Lions want a scout team quarterback for practice in Stanton's absence. And you have to wonder whether coach Rod Marinelli really will feel comfortable with two true tailbacks and four receivers heading into the regular season. Is he simply waiting to see if anything better is out there?
Saturday is the NFL's official roster cutdown day. But the best story might be that of Chicago Bears cornerback Charles Tillman, who revealed Friday that his personal absences from training camp this summer were due to the serious heart condition of his six-month-old daughter, Tiana.
As David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune writes, Tiana Tillman was rushed to a Chicago-area hospital May 20 because of an enlarged heart. She was kept alive with a device known as a Berlin Heart -- an external pump that maintains blood flow in cases of a damaged heart -- until finally receiving a heart transplant July 31.
Tiana must remain on medication for the rest of her life, but Tillman said: "She'll be a normal kid. She can ride a bike, play little league soccer if she wants to. I'm optimistic. This has made us stronger as a family."
At a news conference Friday, Tillman urged citizens to register as an organ donor. Sounds like a noble cause to us.
Moving back on the field in the NFC North:
- In addition to the players listed on Friday's post, the Chicago Sun-Times reports the Bears have told long-snapper Thomas Gafford he will be released.
- Gafford could return to the Green Bay Packers, whose current long-snapper, J.J. Jansen, was diagnosed Friday with a sprained lateral collateral ligament in his left knee, according to the Green Bay Press-Gazette. The injury isn't serious, but it's not clear whether Jansen can recover in time to play in the Sept. 8 season opener against Minnesota.
- Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel offers a position-by-position analysis of the Packers. It includes this highlight: "Matt Flynn clearly was the second-best passer in camp." Flynn and Brian Brohm were competing for the No. 2 quarterback job behind starter Aaron Rodgers.
- In addition to the players listed on Friday's post, the Star Tribune reports the Vikings will also release linebacker Rufus Alexander and David Herron.
- Six of the Detroit Lions' eight draft picks are expected to make the team, according to the Detroit Free Press.
- Running back Artose Pinner hopes his performance Thursday night -- 78 yards on 23 carries at Buffalo -- convinces the Lions he is worth keeping on the roster for insurance purposes.
For most of this summer, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Green Bay Packers linebacker Nick Barnett was facing a one-game NFL suspension -- likely the season-opener against the Minnesota Vikings -- for his role in a 2007 incident at an Appleton, Wis., bar.
Barnett, however, appealed the ruling, and the NFL informed him Wednesday that it had reduced the punishment to one game check for violating the league's personal conduct policy. Barnett will pay $155,882, but the Packers will not be faced with opening the season without their middle linebacker.
"I know the rules they set," Barnett told the Journal Sentinel. "Now we move on, and I play [in the opener], and my pocket's a little lighter. But I still get to play."
There has been some concern about the NFL's appeals process under the personal conduct policy, mostly because the same person who levies the punishment -- commissioner Roger Goodell -- ultimately has responsibility for the appeal as well. But in this situation, Barnett's legal case reflected an apparently small role in the incident: He had two charges of disorderly conduct reduced to one minor violation.
The NFL reacted accordingly.
Moving around the NFC North as preseason week No. 3 officially begins:
- Mike Vandermause of the Green Bay Press-Gazette blames "Brett Favre separation anxiety" for the summer's small crowds at Packers training camp.
- The Chicago Bears will play most of their starters into the third quarter Thursday night against San Francisco. Brad Biggs of the Chicago Sun-Times wonders what it would happen if a Bears castoff -- 49ers starter J.T. O'Sullivan -- outshines newly-named Bears starter Kyle Orton.
- David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune asks: "Will somebody on offense besides [third-string quarterback] Caleb Hanie do something worth bringing up on the drive home after the game?"
- Detroit Lions receiver Roy Williams on perceived jealousy issues with teammate Calvin Johnson: "As long as we win, I swear to God, that's all that I care about, is winning. If I don't get the ball, then that's fine. If we lose and I don't get the ball, then that's a problem."
- Veteran Artose Pinner has made a late push to make the Lions roster.
- Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell on quarterback Tarvaris Jackson's sprained knee: "He has a legitimate injury. He's pushing hard to get back."
|Rob Tringali/Sportschrome/Getty Images|
|Tatum Bell was unhappy with his role in the Lions' offense in 2007.|
In a story published Wednesday in the Detroit News, Bell reiterated his distaste for Martz and his offense. And although he appears to have fallen behind rookie Kevin Smith -- and possibly veteran Artose Pinner -- on the Lions' depth chart, Bell said his underwhelming preseason performance is not all his fault.
According to Bell, the Lions -- and Martz in particular -- never gave an explanation for why he received 15 carries in the season opener against Oakland (he rushed for 87 yards) and only 29 carries thereafter before he was essentially benched for the season.
Here's what Bell said in Wednesday's News:
"I am glad Martz is gone and you can tell him I said it, too. I think he played me. He was not honest with me as a man or as a coach and my position coach [Wilbert Montgomery] didn't have anything to say either. Nobody was telling me stuff."
Later, Bell added:
"I was so happy to get out of here after the last game. Playing for Martz last year, I hated it. You don't understand how hurt I was sitting on the sidelines and not getting that many carries. I mean, I started the season with like 15 carries and then I got like five carries [actually nine] against Minnesota. I know they are a good run-stop team, but that shows you we're scared of them. That ticked me off. How many starting running backs do you know get five carries in a game?"
Bell planned to leave the Lions during the offseason but returned only after Martz's departure. Coach Rod Marinelli promoted offensive line coach Jim Colletto to offensive coordinator and committed to a more balanced offense. But after opening training camp as the No. 1 running back, Bell hasn't impressed many observers; He has 17 yards on 12 carries in two preseason games.
Of his performance, he told the News:
"I had a bad game against the Giants but it just wasn't me. It was the line, too. The past game I ran a little better but there were no holes, so it looks like there's no running game. But if we keep pushing the issue as a group, we are going to get it going. I have had a solid camp and hopefully it translates into a good season."
That evaluation might well be accurate from a technical standpoint, but it probably won't win Bell many friends on the team. Even if it's true, no one appreciates a tailback speaking publicly about having no running room.
Bell's roster spot appears safe at this point, but there's reason to wonder if he -- and the Lions -- wouldn't be better off making a clean break at the end of the summer.
As they transition to a more balanced offense, it's clear the Detroit Lions aren't totally satisfied with their backfield depth.
ESPN.com's Bill Williamson reports the Lions hosted Oakland running back Lamont Jordan on a visit last week, making at least two veteran runners the Lions have looked at this summer. The other was their former tailback, Kevin Jones, who held a workout June 28 near Detroit.
As of today, veteran Tatum Bell is the Lions' most likely starter. Rookie Kevin Smith will get plenty of repetitions in training camp. Other running backs on the roster include Aveion Cason, Brian Calhoun and Artose Pinner.
But after releasing Jones and bidding farewell to T.J. Duckett, the Lions certainly have some questions at the position. It's not clear how much interest the Detroit has in Jordan, who remains under contract with the Raiders. At the very least, however, the Lions are gathering information on their options should their current group prove underwhelming during training camp.
It's an especially critical position for the Lions, who are re-emphasizing their running game under new coordinator Jim Colletto. Bell has experience in Colletto's zone running scheme, having played in a similar system in Denver from 2004-06. Otherwise, the Lions don't have a lot of past production on the roster.