NFC North: Caleb King

We're Black and Blue All Over:

News that Detroit Lions running back Jahvid Best will be cleared for football activities in June was not unexpected but still odd for its timing.

Best has been recovering from two concussions suffered last season. The Lions have maintained optimism about his return while noting it is impossible to project a timetable on his recovery. So general manager Martin Mayhew's announcement means one of two things:

Either Best has already passed the medical tests required for full participation and the Lions are simply waiting until next month to put him on the field. Or, the timing of his progress suggests his recovery will be complete next month. The latter is not quite as definitive.

Ultimately, though, the big-picture news is that it continues to appear likely that Best will be ready when the Lions begin their serious on-field preparations for the 2012 season.

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

Good morning. We saw an initial review of the 2012 draft Sunday from ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr., and I'm sure we'll continue to hear more and more analysis throughout the week. Few, if any, of it will be more meaningful or direct as what Green Bay Packers cornerback Charles Woodson said after seeing his team select six defensive players to start the draft.

While attending the White House Correspondents dinner in Washington, D.C., Woodson told Craig Gilbert of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "There's always talk about Green Bay just drafting the best available player. But I think this year that tells you that that's not the case. We drafted what we needed. And we needed a whole lot of help on defense. Anybody who watched our season last year understands that."

Noting that Packers general manager Ted Thompson traded up three times to draft specific defensive players, Woodson added: "You see? And everybody says he doesn't do that. And he did it. That tells you that we're going to win another championship. I don't believe we needed much, but I think we got more than we needed and that's even better."

I think we know by now that Woodson isn't prone to giddiness. Maybe it was the atmosphere at the exclusive D.C. event, but it's notable when a player like Woodson strongly approves of a team's approach.

Continuing around the NFC North:
  • Thompson took some rare risks with defensive end Nick Perry and defensive lineman Jerel Worthy, writes Bob McGinn of the Journal Sentinel.
  • One of the Packers' undrafted free agents played college basketball, notes Rob Demovsky of the Green Bay Press-Gazette.
  • Jason Wilde of ESPNMilwaukee.com thinks that Graham Harrell will be the Packers' backup quarterback in 2012.
  • Bob Wojnowski of the Detroit News: "Say whatever you wish about the [Detroit] Lions' draft. Seriously, go ahead and say it. Odd. Smart. Confusing. Aggressive. Tepid. After a few years of no-brainer picks, the Lions let us do a little head-scratching. But at least their strategy and dominant body part didn't change: They stuck to what their heads told them."
  • Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press takes a closer look at the three Oklahoma players the Lions drafted.
  • The Lions created competition at several positions with this draft, notes Anwar S. Richardson of Mlive.com.
  • Jeff Dickerson of ESPNChicago.com has the list of 11 undrafted rookies the Chicago Bears signed.
  • Dan Pompei of the Chicago Tribune on the Bears' draft approach: "They ended up not selected an offensive lineman or a defensive tackle because of the way the draft broke. The Bears took players at other positions who were graded higher, which is the way you are supposed to do it."
  • The Minnesota Vikings' stadium bill is caught in a larger political showdown as the scheduled end of the session approaches, writes Mike Kaszuba of the Star Tribune.
  • Jeremy Fowler of the St. Paul Pioneer Press: "Between more than a dozen unrestricted free-agent signings since mid-March and last week's 10 draft picks, the Vikings' first step in the rebuilding manual is clearly stated: Stockpile affordable talent, create as much competition as possible and hope for the best."
  • Tom Pelissero of 1500ESPN.com has the latest on Vikings running back Caleb King, who remains jailed after a violent incident over the weekend in the Twin Cities.
We're Black and Blue All Over:

I've finally finished a roundabout return to NFC North headquarters and appreciate you sticking with us during a lighter-than-usual Tuesday. Although none were surprises, some pretty significant names in the division have been placed on injured reserve in the past few days.

The list begins with Minnesota Vikings tailback Adrian Peterson (knee). He was replaced by practice squad running back Caleb King.

Tuesday, the Chicago Bears shelved quarterback Jay Cutler (thumb) and running back Matt Forte (knee). Cutler was scheduled to have the pins removed from his thumb this week but obviously wasn't going to be ready to play Sunday against the Vikings. He will end up missing the Bears' final six games, while Forte will have sat out their final four.

The Vikings, meanwhile, also placed guard Steve Hutchinson on injured reserve for the second consecutive season. He missed last week's game against Washington because of a concussion and was replaced on the roster by running back Jordan Todman, who was on the San Diego Chargers' practice squad and was signed with an eye toward training camp in 2012.

Continuing around the NFC North:
The best thing we can say about Week 4 of the preseason is that it's over, at least here in the NFC North. The next time one of our teams is on the field, it will be for real. In between, roster cutdowns from 8o to 53 will take place. The deadline is Saturday evening.

A quick rundown of Thursday evening's activity, which featured four fun but meaningless victories:

Chicago Bears 24, Cleveland Browns 14
Final preseason record:
2-2
Of interest: Only a handful of Bears starters played. One of them, defensive tackle Henry Melton, registered an encouraging sack of Browns quarterback Seneca Wallace in the first quarter. ... It was interesting, but probably not newsworthy, that Chris Spencer started at center alongside the rest of the Bears' first-team offensive line. Just a night off for veteran Roberto Garza. ... Backup quarterback Caleb Hanie took a step in the right direction, completing 7 of 10 passes for 83 yards and dropping a perfect pass into the far corner of the end zone for a 19-yard touchdown to receiver Johnny Knox. ... Tailback Chester Taylor started but managed 27 yards on 10 carries in what was presumably a showcase stint. But an injury to tailback Khahlil Bell might change the Bears' plans for Taylor, depending on its severity.

Detroit Lions 16, Buffalo Bills 6
Final preseason record: 4-0
Of interest: Most starters played one series. ... Quarterback Matthew Stafford threw a 39-yard pass to receiver Calvin Johnson on the game's first play, allowing Stafford to finish the preseason with this line: 25 completions, 33 attempts, 395 yards, five touchdowns and a 154.7 passer rating. ... Receiver Maurice Stovall produced a nice final argument for a roster spot, downing a punt at the Bills' 8-yard line and catching a 16-yard touchdown pass from Shaun Hill in the first quarter. ... Running back Jerome Harrison was untouched until the end of his 47-yard run in the first quarter. ... Rookie punter Ryan Donahue got the first punt of the night, for whatever that's worth, and averaged 44.0 yards on four punts. Veteran Nick Harris averaged 51.5 yards on two punts.

Green Bay Packers 20, Kansas City Chiefs 19
Final preseason record: 3-1
Of interest: Some starters, including quarterback Aaron Rodgers, played one series. Rodgers' final pass of the preseason was an 8-yard touchdown to tight end Tom Crabtree. Rodgers finished the preseason with 37 completions in 47 attempts for 395 yards and four touchdowns for a 130.1 passer rating. ... Tailback Ryan Grant's 23-yard run to start the game came after strong blocks from tight end Andrew Quarless and right tackle Bryan Bulaga. ... Linebacker Vic So'Oto has put on a late charge for a roster spot. Thursday night, he had 1.5 sacks, a forced fumble and a 33-yard interception return for a touchdown. ... Not that it's a big concern, but quarterback Matt Flynn had one of the ugliest lines you'll see: two completions in 10 attempts for 12 yards and an interception, good for a 0.0 passer rating.

Minnesota Vikings 28, Houston Texans 0
Final preseason record:
2-2
Of interest: Nearly every starter sat out this game. Rookie quarterback Christian Ponder put on an unexpected display of his scrambling ability, running for 61 yards on eight carries, before leaving midway through the third quarter. Some were nice improvisational plays. A few were necessary when blitzers came free. And a few came after the point when he should have thrown the ball. All in all, however, Ponder left the Vikings with a positive impression after completing 10 of 16 passes for 83 yards, including a 5-yard touchdown to tight end Kyle Rudolph. ... With their top three running backs sidelined, the Vikings gave a workout to rookie Caleb King, whom they signed last month after no one selected him in the supplemental draft. King finished with 62 yards on 19 carries, including two touchdown runs.
We're Black and Blue All Over:

We all know most NFL players stay on the field when they suffer mild injuries. But over the weekend, two from the NFC North pushed through in quite unbelievable fashion before getting a serious postgame diagnosis.

We've already discussed Green Bay Packers linebacker Frank Zombo, who fractured a shoulder blade during pregame warm-ups but still saw significant action in the Packers' preseason game against the Arizona Cardinals. Zombo could miss the season.

Now, as Tom Pelissero of 1500ESPN.com reports, we know that Minnesota Vikings guard Scott Kooistra suffered an injury to the C-2 vertebrae near the top of his spinal cord after starting against the Seattle Seahawks. As of Monday night, he was hospitalized in stable condition in the Seattle area. The Vikings, who might have called upon Kooistra as their starting right guard while Anthony Herrera rehabilitates his knee, have already placed him on injured reserve.

And you think preseason football doesn't mean anything to anyone? Wow.

Continuing around the NFC North:

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NFC NORTH SCOREBOARD

Thursday, 9/4
Sunday, 9/7
Monday, 9/8