NFC North: Buster Davis
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?
We shut things down Thursday night at halftime of the Chicago Bears' third preseason game. But it appears their defense fared no better at the start of the third quarter in a 37-30 loss to the San Francisco 49ers.
After a first half in which they allowed 248 yards, the Bears gave up a 62-yard drive to struggling 49ers quarterback Alex Smith. Overall, Chicago surrendered 425 yards, including 160 on the ground during a wholly uninspiring night for its defense.
Here's what defensive coordinator Bob Babich said about the display, according to the Chicago Sun-Times:
"Yeah, I'm very disappointed. We're very disappointed in our play tonight. We are a very good defense. We are going to be a dominant defense. We just need to make sure when we go out and play that we play at that level. We need to make sure the guys are in the right spots, and that all starts with me."
The poor defensive showing, however, didn't totally overshadow a promising start from quarterback Kyle Orton three days after he was named the Bears' permanent starter. Orton completed 10 of 17 passes for 147 yards and two touchdowns, including a nicely-placed 21-yard strike to receiver Rashied Davis.
Here's how Chicago Tribune beat writer David Haugh put it: "As many questions as the defense raised, Orton answered a bigger one in a convincing manner."
Elsewhere around the NFC North:
- Green Bay Packers safety Aaron Rouse, whose 6-foot-4 frame makes him a pretty scary defensive back, will be relegated to special teams status again this season, writes Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
- Jason Wilde of the Wisconsin State Journal offers a Packers roster analysis. Among those he considers on the bubble: Running backs Vernand Morency and Noah Herron, tight end Tory Humphrey, defensive end Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, defensive tackle Justin Harrell and cornerback Jarrett Bush.
- Tom Kowalski of Mlive.com provides a similar analysis on the Detroit Lions. His bubble players include running back Tatum Bell, right tackle George Foster and linebacker Buster Davis.
- Minnesota Vikings coach Brad Childress on how he is handling quarterback Tarvaris Jackson's knee injury: "I do not want to insinuate with him that he's not a tough guy or has to play injured. He has to be able to have some of his faculties. He's got to be able to protect himself."
- Vikings receiver Bernard Berrian is expected to play Saturday night against Pittsburgh after missing the team's last preseason game because of turf toe.
Through no fault of his own, the Green Bay Packers' top draft choice is having a hard time finding room for himself on a crowded playing field.
Jordy Nelson has proved an intriguing prospect on the practice field, combining a tight end's body with a receiver's speed. But the No. 36 overall pick of the draft is stuck behind at least three veterans -- Donald Driver, Greg Jennings and James Jones -- while fighting Ruvell Martin for the No. 4 job.
The Packers use plenty of multi-receiver sets, and their No. 4 receiver gets on the field quite a bit. But Martin has had a good training camp as well and at 6-foot-4 is a big target in the red zone.
Nelson had two receptions in the Packers' preseason opener, while also returning four punts for 31 yards; he'll get another opportunity to impress the coaching staff in Saturday night's game at San Francisco. Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel examines the obstacles Nelson is facing to get on the field.
With three NFC North teams scheduled for preseason action Saturday night, here is a tour around the division:
- Nelson isn't the only rookie buried on the Packers' depth chart, writes Tom Pelissero of the Green Bay Press-Gazette. Fourth-round offensive lineman Josh Sitton is the only rookie with a legitimate chance to start.
- The Press-Gazette offers five things to watch for during tonight's game, most notably whether Matt Flynn can overtake Brian Brohm for the No. 2 quarterback job.
- Brad Biggs of the Chicago Sun-Times and David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune offer previews of the Bears' game Saturday night at Seattle. Topic No. 1 in Chicagoland: Whether Rex Grossman or Kyle Orton can separate themselves in the team's quarterback derby. Coach Lovie Smith has said the competition will go down to the wire, but it would still be nice to see one of the contestants take charge before then.
- After spending the offseason trying to improve their pass defense, the Minnesota Vikings gave up four touchdown passes in last week's preseason opener against Seattle. Judd Zulgad of the Star Tribune points out the Vikings used only 15 of the 50 coverages in their playbook. At the same time, the team wants to have a better showing Saturday night at Baltimore.
- Linebacker Buster Davis, whose aggressiveness nearly incited a fight with Detroit Lions quarterback Jon Kitna last week, will be battling for a roster spot Sunday night at Cincinnati, writes Nicholas J. Cotsonika of the Detroit Free Press.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- The Detroit Lions greeted us with the most physical, emotional practice we've seen this summer. (Nothing like that Club Med they're running over in Minnesota. Oh, hi Brad!) This is what the black-and-blue division is supposed to look like.
The two-hour, full-pads affair included three bruising hits from defensive players and one very angry quarterback. Yes, Jon Kitna went bonkers on first-year linebacker Buster Davis after Davis knocked tight end John Owens to the ground during a goal-line passing drill.
Even in full-pads practices, you don't usually see players getting knocked to the ground. It definitely struck Kitna the wrong way.
"Do something, Buster! Do something!" Kitna screamed, over and over, after the play. (We're guessing he meant, "Do something in this league before you start throwing players around in practice.") Getting angrier with each yell, Kitna started walking toward Davis before a few coaches got in his way. Fists never came close to flying, but rarely do you so much as see a quarterback advance in a threatening manner.
(Of course, Davis would have had no choice but to back down. He's trying to make the team as a backup linebacker. His chances would probably decrease slightly if he beat up the starting quarterback.)
Lions coach Rod Marinelli has been preaching mental discipline throughout camp. But he's also a classic tough guy and thus seemed torn over Kitna's response. Marinelli said there is "no doubt" Kitna was protecting his offensive teammates. However, Marinelli added, "I don't like the extracurricular. I don't want that. But I understand guys standing up for each other. But we'll be a good team when we don't have penalties -- when we're tough, we're physical and we don't make mistakes. That's all."
From my vantage point, it all started during an earlier drill when linebacker Ernie Sims planted receiver Mike Furrey after a catch. Safety Dwight Smith, never at a loss for words, was jawing with offensive players for much of the goal-line drill, and Davis popped tight end Dan Campbell before his hit on Owens prompted Kitna's outburst.
Kitna is well-known for his fiery personality, but at least one player seemed surprised by how far he took it Wednesday. Receiver Roy Williams, who didn't practice but was watching from the sideline, said he appreciated Kitna's intent but added: "He probably would have gotten knocked out, so I would have rathered him stay back and be the quarterback."
I was interviewing another player when Kitna spoke to reporters, but here's what he had to say, as reported by Tom Kowalski of Mlive.com:
"I'm not going to get into specifics. That's how competitors are. Today's really the last day [of training camp] and we're ready to start seeing other people on a weekly basis. You usually don't go more than seven days without a game in the preseason, and this is our seventh day -- and we've still got three more days until we play. The guys are just ready to hit somebody else."
Everyone has their own opinion on this sort of thing, but count me in the group that considers it an encouraging sign for the Lions. As an outsider dropping in to get a glimpse of a team with few national expectations, it was nice to see the Lions getting after it. The hitting was great and reflected the toughness Marinelli is trying to install into the Lions organization.
You hope that Kitna will control those emotions during a game, but I would rather see vicious hitting and a quarterback going after a linebacker on 10 out of 10 days -- especially if the alternative is watching a lifeless group slog through another dog day of camp.
We'll bring you more practice observations later today.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- We're heading out soon for what promises to be another interesting day at Green Bay Packers training camp. Team president Mark Murphy has a meeting scheduled for Wednesday morning with quarterback Brett Favre and agent James "Bus" Cook in Hattiesburg, Miss., while NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is expected to rule on Favre's reinstatement request.
The Packers are hoping it never comes to the point where Favre feels compelled to report to camp, but it seems the earliest that circus could begin is Friday. (The Packers have no practice Thursday).
Wednesday morning's practice will last until about 10:45 a.m. CT, and then we'll head to the Packers' locker room for interviews before jumping back on the blog. Until then, a quick jaunt around the division:
- Mike Vandermause of the Green Bay Press-Gazette pleads with the Packers to do whatever it takes to keep Favre from reporting. "A civil war involving the only publicly owned franchise in pro sports would break out," he writes. (The war analogy might take it a bit further than reality, but it's fair to say that Favre's presence in camp wouldn't be conducive to traditional team-building.)
- Most players expressed neutral feelings about Favre's potential return, but receiver Donald Driver's were a bit stronger. "My love for him is different than any other guy in the locker room," Driver told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "I'm glad he signed the papers and decided to come back for another year." (Driver was speaking before Murphy boarded the plane in an attempt to convince Favre otherwise).
- Chicago Bears center Olin Kreutz practiced Tuesday for the first time this summer after his sore Achilles tendon was deemed sufficiently healed.
- Minnesota Vikings quarterback Tarvaris Jackson is still trying to learn when to throw the ball away. "That is the biggest thing I have to get over," Jackson said. "I can't save every play. Once I get that down, I think I will be OK." Jackson threw several interceptions in Tuesday morning's practice.
- During a film session, Detroit Lions coach Rod Marinelli repeatedly showed a clip of fullback Jerome Felton knocking the helmet off linebacker Buster Davis during a block.