NFC North: Chris Harris

NFC North links: Raiola's contract changes

February, 15, 2013
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Chicago Bears

Former safety Chris Harris retired from playing in the NFL last month. A day later, he was embarking on a new career after the Bears hired him to be their defensive quality control coach. Harris told ESPNChicago.com's Jeff Dickerson that he's ready to get started. "Being a coach will be something to adjust to," Harris said. "But I don't think the players will view me as a buddy just because I was teammates with a lot of them. I was pretty respected when I played here on the defensive side of the football. I don't see that being a problem. I'm just excited to do this."

Coach Marc Trestman has talked with longtime Bears Brian Urlacher and Devin Hester, but he won't comment about their futures with the team, writes the Chicago Tribune's Brad Biggs.

Bears tight ends have had the fewest receptions in the NFL the past two seasons, reports Biggs, so it's no surprise that the team is looking for more production at the position. “We need a tight end that can threaten the defense,” tight ends coach Andy Bischoff said. “We need a tight end that can create stress in the middle of the field, or wherever we place him, because we’re going to line him up next to the tackle and we’re going to line him up outside the numbers and we’re going to line him up in the backfield and we’re going to expect the defense to figure it out."

Detroit Lions

Center Dominic Raiola has agreed to restructure his contract, likely keeping him in a Lions uniform for a 13th season.

Former Bills safety George Wilson visited with the Lions Thursday and left without signing a deal, reports Chris McCosky of the Detroit News. But the free agent was "very optimistic" about his visit. The Lions currently only have three safeties under contract.

The team promoted Marcus Robertson to defensive backs coach to fill the void after Tim Walton left to become the defensive coordinator of the Rams, reports Mlive.com's Justin Rogers.

Defensive tackle Sammie Lee Hill made Pete Prisco's list of lesser-known players who could be good values in free agency.

Green Bay Packers

Greg Jennings tops Sam Munson's list of free agent wide receivers. "If teams are satisfied that Jennings isn’t a durability concern going forward, he should be the marquee receiver and the first guy pursued by multiple teams trying to answer their question at the position. Fast, fluid and efficient with zero character questions, he makes the most sense," Munson writes.

ESPNMilwaukee.com's Jason Wilde takes stock of where the Packers stand at tight end, where the big question is whether Jermichael Finley will be back with the team.

Minnesota Vikings

SI.com's Chris Burke recaps the Vikings' 2012 campaign and looks ahead to what's in store for 2013 season.

The team made some changes to its Norseman logo.

Pro Bowler Cris Carter was back at Vikings headquarters Thursday and thanked the team for its role in overcoming his substance abuse problems. Carter: "Personally, what they did for my life, that changed my life," Carter said. "Besides my mother, there's a lot of people that helped me out but there's not a lot of people that can say that I wouldn't have made the Hall without their involvement. But I can stand here today as a man to tell you if you wouldn't have helped me that day when I came here, that second week in September, I wouldn't have made it."

The Vikings picked up Leslie Frazier's contract option for 2014 instead of giving him a new long-term deal. What does that mean for Frazier's future with the club? Ben Goessling of the St. Paul Pioneer Press explores.
We're Black and Blue All Over:

Good morning. There's nothing like a long weekend in January to offer unfettered snow shoveling time and a deadline-free Pro Bowl watching environment.

While we were gone, Richard Meryhew of the Star Tribune published a story that has reverberated around the Twin Cities sports scene. It detailed the fight between the Minnesota Vikings and its future landlord over the design of their new stadium. Namely, the sides are at odds over how much flexibility the facility should have to squeeze in a baseball diamond for the hundreds of high school and college baseball games it will host during the cold weeks and months of the early spring.

The Vikings are holding firm to a design that would put the right field fence 285 feet and the power alley 319 feet away from home plate. Those distances would allow them to put football seats 44 feet away from the field, a proximity that presumably would sell at a high price, but they fall below standards for college games.

The team's landlord wants a bigger baseball dimensions, pushing back the football seats. An extended dispute could disrupt the timeline to open for the 2016 NFL season.

Gov. Mark Dayton has referred to the $975 million structure as "The People's Stadium" because of taxpayers' $498 million contribution. The idea was to allow Minnesotans access to it whenever football games are not being played, and the Vikings were well aware of that component when they made their $477 million investment. There is surely room for compromise here, but the issue is a reminder that the facility isn't and can't be a football-only stadium. In order to secure funding, the Vikings had to accept a less-than-ideal arrangement. If they wanted their ideal, they could have funded it privately. Groundbreaking is scheduled for October 2013.

Continuing around the NFC North:

NFC North links: Saturday's final snap

January, 28, 2013
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Chicago Bears

New Bears offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer has a history of developing players and getting the most out of them. "You look at the way we have turned our offensive line over," Saints assistant head coach Joe Vitt said. "He has taken Jermon Bushrod as a rookie, now he's a two-time Pro Bowler. You see what he has done with Jahri Evans. You see what he has done with Brian De La Puente. You see what he has done with Zach Strief when Jon Stinchcomb left."

Former Bears safety Chris Harris has decided to call it a career.

Detroit Lions

Carlos Monarrez of the Detroit Free Press: "One year after finishing fourth in takeaway differential, the Lions were second-to-last in the category this season. The ball just never seemed to fall into the defense’s hands. In 2011, the Lions’ defense had 34 takeaways. In 2012, it had 17. 'The turnover ratio is really out of whack and a lot of it is because we didn’t get any,' general manager Martin Mayhew said this month. 'Now, for instance, some of our guys, like a guy like Cliff [Avril], we didn’t play with a lot of leads. And we played with some leads last year, so we had some opportunities really to tee off and get our pass rush going and everybody could just cut loose and just go. We didn’t have as many of those. That may have been a reason for some of the decline in sacks and quarterback fumbles. But our guys in the [secondary] didn’t make enough plays.'"

At a Super Bowl event on Sunday, San Francisco 49ers center Jonathan Goodwin had some kind words for Lions offensive lineman Jeff Backus.

Green Bay Packers

Despite being on the opposing team, Jeff Saturday delivered one final snap to Peyton Manning during Sunday's Pro Bowl. "You know what, man, this is what it's all about. I'll remember this one," Saturday said. "It's been a pleasure. We've had a great time. We had a great run together. I've enjoyed playing with him. He's a class act all the way across the board. I've been very appreciative of the time I got to spend with him in Indy and I know he'll do great things in Denver."

Minnesota Vikings

Tight end Kyle Rudolph claimed MVP honors Sunday in the NFC's 62-35 rout of the AFC in the Pro Bowl.

The Star Tribune's Jim Souhan details the similarities between 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh and Minnesota's Leslie Frazier.
The end of a head coach's nine-year tenure disrupts deep loyalties, cracks comfort zones and quite frankly scares many of the people affected. That's why you're seeing at least some longtime Chicago Bears react emotionally to the firing of coach Lovie Smith.

Kick returner/receiver Devin Hester told reporters Monday that he isn't sure he wants to play for the Bears anymore and might retire. Linebacker Brian Urlacher, meanwhile, questioned "How could you do it to this guy?" during an interview on ESPN 1000 and reiterated that "I don't want to play for another head coach."

A few minutes later, however, Urlacher said, "I'm a Bear, and I want to be here." He added: "We're all mad right now. We just left our head coach right now. They fired him, and we're going to say things that we don't mean."

Hester claimed to have retirement papers in his pocket while speaking to reporters at Halas Hall. We noted earlier how unproductive his season was, both on offense and special teams, and that he is now 30 years old. But you have to assume Hester will cool down on the retirement issue.

He is arguably one of the best returners in the history of the NFL and has time left in his playing window to cement an unprecedented run to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. It would be silly to allow Smith's firing to derail that ambition.

Consider another example of the fear of lost comfort zones. Former Bears safety Chris Harris had this reaction via Twitter: "That Chicago defense you've learned to love so much is about to take a serious hit. During Lovie's tenure they've led league in takeaways." Current Bears cornerback Charles Tillman retweeted the sentiment.

I don't doubt that Smith's defenses were excellent in this area. Indeed, they forced an NFL-high 310 takeaways in Smith's tenure. That’s 27 more than the next-highest team.

But as we discussed earlier, the Bears would be fair to respond: To what end? The job of a head coach is to get to the playoffs and contend for a championship. Smith's teams did that only once in the past six seasons.
So many thoughts are flying through my head at the moment in the wake of the Chicago Bears' stunning trade for Pro Bowl receiver Brandon Marshall.

(Apparently there is plenty of empty space up there.)

[+] EnlargeBrandon Marshall
Steve Mitchell/US PresswireBrandon Marshall, 27, will move to his third division in six seasons.
We'll get to how Marshall fits into offensive coordinator Mike Tice's downfield scheme. We'll hit the disappearance of another excuse for quarterback Jay Cutler, whom the Bears have now paired with his favorite receiver (Marshall) and assistant coach (Jeremy Bates). But my top thought was crystallized by a tweet from former Bears safety Chris Harris:
"What am I missing here....3 pro bowls, five 1000 yard seasons and 27 yrs old"

Indeed, how could one of the best receivers in the NFL be available for a third-round draft pick in 2012 and another third-rounder in 2013? Is new general manager Phil Emery that good of a negotiator? Did the Miami Dolphins, as rumored, feel pressured to ship him out as they recruit free agent quarterback Peyton Manning? Or is there something else about Marshall that we don't know about?

There's little doubt Marshall has had his share of off-field issues, culminating with his August 2011 diagnosis of a condition known as " borderline personality disorder." Cutler criticized him in 2008 after a domestic accident, and multiple Denver media outlets reported Marshall had an intense confrontation with Bates behind closed doors in 2007.

Marshall also has 26 drops since 2008, the third-highest total among NFL receivers over that span.

That's the long and the short of the dirt we can quickly dig up on Marshall. His personality might cause some concern, but he'll have a pretty decent support system in Chicago. So unless there is something further behind the scenes, the Bears got Marshall for a steal. He'll turn 28 later this month, and thus remains in his athletic prime. He made it through the 2011 season without any major offseason issues and his past production with Cutler — 206 completions, 2,796 yards and 13 touchdowns from 2007-08 — is undeniable.

Like Chris Harris, I'm going back through the parameters here and wondering how it all adds up. Did the Bears luck into the circumstances of a new coach (Joe Philbin) willing to clear the decks for his new program? I don't know, and I'm guessing the Bears don't care. More to come.

NFC North free-agency primer

March, 8, 2012
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AFC Free-Agency Primer: East | West | North | SouthNFC: East | West | North | South

Free agency begins Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET

Chicago Bears

Key free agents: Tight end Kellen Davis, running back Matt Forte (franchise), cornerback Corey Graham, quarterback Caleb Hanie, defensive end Israel Idonije, cornerback Tim Jennings, quarterback Josh McCown, safety Brandon Meriweather and receiver Roy Williams.

Where they stand: The Bears will have the most salary-cap space among NFC North teams, upwards of $30 million, and have plenty of potential uses for it. Quarterback Jay Cutler needs more targets in the downfield passing game, whether it's at the receiver or tight end position. And new general manager Phil Emery must start restocking a defense led by four players more than 30 years old: Linebackers Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs, defensive end Julius Peppers and cornerback Charles Tillman.

What to expect: It's widely believed the Bears will be in the running for free-agent receiver Vincent Jackson. But Jackson's price tag could be steep and no one knows if Emery will prove to be a big spender. It seems likely he will re-sign Davis, and Emery should also save some of his cap space to extend Forte's contract. Secondary receiver targets could include Marques Colston. Bears fans are hoping the team will pursue defensive end Mario Williams, but it's hard to imagine the Bears budgeting for Williams two years after breaking their bank on Peppers.

Detroit Lions

Key free agents: Defensive end Cliff Avril (franchise), left tackle Jeff Backus, safety Chris Harris, quarterback Shaun Hill, linebacker DeAndre Levy (restricted), running back Maurice Morris, running back Kevin Smith, quarterback Drew Stanton, linebacker Stephen Tulloch and cornerback Eric Wright.

Where they stand: The Lions are tight against the salary cap after franchising Avril and aren't likely to be big spenders on the free-agent market. They could relieve the situation by reaching long-term agreements with Avril and/or receiver Calvin Johnson, who has a $22 million cap figure for 2012. Tulloch made a big impact last season after signing a one-year deal, but so far the Lions' attention has turned elsewhere.

What to expect: The Lions' best-case scenario is to keep their 2011 core together without mortgaging their future relative to the salary cap. That would mean getting Tulloch re-signed to preserve the linebacker group they upgraded last season by signing him and veteran Justin Durant, moves that allowed Levy to play on the outside. Hill seems likely to re-sign as Matthew Stafford's backup, while Stanton might test the free-agent waters to see if he has a chance to do better than third on a team's depth chart.

Green Bay Packers

Key free agents: Cornerback Jarrett Bush, quarterback Matt Flynn, running back Ryan Grant and center Scott Wells.

Where they stand: The Packers took care of a big challenge by signing tight end Jermichael Finley to a two-year contract last month. They will let Flynn depart for a possible starting job elsewhere and it appears Grant will test the free-agent market. Discussions with Wells haven't led to an agreement, but the Packers often go to the final moments before reaching a deal. There are no obvious internal replacements for Wells, making his return a priority.

What to expect: The Packers will have some flexibility with the salary cap, but general manager Ted Thompson's aversion to veteran free agency is well known. It's been three years since he signed a veteran unrestricted free agent in the offseason. The Packers have needs at defensive line, outside linebacker and possibly at center if Wells leaves. But let's put it this way: Thompson's strong preference is to find depth and future replacements in the draft, not on other teams' rosters.

Minnesota Vikings

Key free agents: Safety Husain Abdullah, receiver Devin Aromashodu, receiver Greg Camarillo, defensive lineman Fred Evans, defensive lineman Letroy Guion, linebacker E.J. Henderson, linebacker Erin Henderson, safety Tyrell Johnson, quarterback Sage Rosenfels, cornerback Benny Sapp and tight end Visanthe Shiancoe.

Where they stand: The Vikings seem poised for a major roster overhaul in their first offseason since Rick Spielman was promoted to general manager. Players like Shiancoe, E.J. Henderson, Camarillo and Johnson all seem poised to move on. There aren't many positions on the team that appear secure.

What to expect: If the Vikings don't plan to draft USC left tackle Matt Kalil at No. 3 overall next month, the first clue will be if they pursue a free-agent left tackle. That seems unlikely. But they'll need to combine their draft with at least a few veteran free agents if they intend to compete for a playoff spot in 2012. Cornerback could be a point of focus, where Brandon Carr and Cortland Finnegan are among those available. Another could be receiver. The Vikings had major interest in Jackson two years ago.
NEW ORLEANS -- There are no major surprises on the Detroit Lions' inactive list for Saturday night's wild-card playoff game against the New Orleans Saints. One minor shift from the recent norm: Cornerback Don Carey is active and cornerback Brandon McDonald is inactive.

That could be a nod toward special teams, considering the Lions secondary will be at full strength with Aaron Berry back in the nickel and Alphonso Smith available to play the dime. McDonald had been active for the past two games while Berry rehabilitated a shoulder injury.

As expected, safety Louis Delmas is active and will start his first game since Thanksgiving Day. That moves Chris Harris to the inactive list; Harris has also been dealing with a back injury.

The rest of the inactives: Quarterback Drew Stanton, running back Joique Bell, linebacker Doug Hogue, guard Leonard Davis and defensive lineman Andre Fluellen.
FROM THE VAST NORTH AMERICAN TRANSIT SYSTEM -- As I make my way down to New Orleans, I figured I'd check in and let you know that the Detroit Lions are as healthy as they've been in some time as Saturday night's wild-card game against the Saints approaches.

It looks like only one player, reserve safety Chris Harris, might not be available for the game. Harris hasn't practiced since Wednesday because of a back injury and is listed on the Lions' final injury report as doubtful.

All other players are either probable or not listed at all. That includes safety Louis Delmas (knee), who hasn't played since Thanksgiving Day, and nose tackle Corey Williams, who missed last week's game against the Green Bay Packers because of a hip injury.

For the Saints, receiver Lance Moore (hamstring) won't play.
Not a moment too soon, the Detroit Lions appear on track to regain the services of a core defensive player.

Safety Louis Delmas, a Pro Bowl alternate who has missed five consecutive games because of a sprained knee, practiced Tuesday and seems likely to start Saturday night against the New Orleans Saints. Coach Jim Schwartz, who rarely gives public injury updates, told reporters that Delmas is "trending in the right direction."

Delmas sprained the MCL in right knee during the Lions' Thanksgiving Day game against the Green Bay Packers and hasn't played since. He had minor surgery Dec. 17 to repair some damage and resumed practicing last Friday.

It goes almost without saying that the Lions have missed Delmas in the interim, having used Chicago Bears castoff Chris Harris and special teams player John Wendling in his place. Never was that more evident than last Sunday at Lambeau Field, when Packers quarterback Matt Flynn torched the Lions defense for 480 yards and six touchdowns.

Speaking Monday, Schwartz made little secret about the benefits of Delmas' pending return: " We've obviously missed him and want to get him back on the field."

Final Word: NFC North

December, 23, 2011
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NFC Final Word: East | West | North | SouthAFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge on Week 16:

Busted rivalry: When the NFL released its schedule this spring, many of us had high expectations for a late-December matchup between the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears. Instead, an injury-devastated Bears team will limp north as a (deserved) 13-point underdog. It's possible the Packers will have clinched home-field advantage even before taking the field Sunday night, if the San Francisco 49ers lose Saturday at the Seattle Seahawks. If not, the Packers will attempt to secure it against a team playing without quarterback Jay Cutler, running backs Matt Forte and Marion Barber, and receiver Johnny Knox. Third-string running back Kahlil Bell is expected to start, pairing with third-string quarterback Josh McCown -- who has a history of helping the Packers' playoff positioning. (See: Noooooooooooooooo!) One other interesting bit of history: The Packers are one of five teams in NFL history to open a season 13-0 and then lose in their 14th game. All four of the other teams lost their 15th game, too. That list includes the 2009 and 2005 Indianapolis Colts, the 2009 New Orleans Saints and the 1998 Denver Broncos.

[+] EnlargeJames Starks
Jeremy Brevard/US PresswireGreen Bay's James Starks is expected to play Sunday against the Bears.
Packers' run game: For several reasons, Sunday night's game would be an obvious target for the Packers to try to enhance their running game. James Starks (ankle) and Brandon Saine (concussion) are expected to return. The Packers will start a makeshift offensive line that likely will include T.J. Lang at right tackle and Evan Dietrich-Smith at left guard; the best way for offensive linemen to get comfortable is via run blocking. And it's also worth repeating that the Bears historically have done a good job limiting Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers' downfield opportunities. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Rodgers has completed only five of 26 attempts on throws against the Bears that traveled in the air 21 yards or more. He's thrown for one touchdown, a game-winner to receiver Greg Jennings in 2009, and two interceptions on those passes.

Detroit's challenge: The Detroit Lions will clinch a playoff spot Saturday if they beat the San Diego Chargers in what will likely be a raucous atmosphere at Ford Field. (There are also several scenarios to clinch this weekend even if they lose. They're noted in this post.) Hopefully everyone knows the Chargers are on one of their annual December rolls. They've won three consecutive games after a six-game losing streak. Since Norv Turner took the head coaching job in 2007, the Chargers are 20-2 in December. This will be no cakewalk.

Big targets: Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers struggled earlier this season, but he has been the NFL's most efficient quarterback over the past three weeks based on Total Quarterback Rating. Rivers has hit a groove with a pair of 6-foot-5 receivers that will pose significant matchup problems for the Lions. Malcom Floyd has 11 receptions for 233 yards and two touchdowns over the past two games, while Vincent Jackson has caught 12 passes for 211 yards and a touchdown. Jackson has been sidelined in practice this week by a groin injury. Lions cornerback Chris Houston (knee) clearly wasn't 100 percent last week against the Oakland Raiders, and the team re-signed Brandon McDonald this week for extra depth. Safety Louis Delmas (knee) also remains sidelined, and backup Chris Harris was cleared Thursday to practice following a concussion.

Make it stop: If you're a big-picture observer, you see ample motivation for the Minnesota Vikings to lose Sunday at the Washington Redskins. One more victory by the Indianapolis Colts, in conjunction with two more Vikings defeats, would give the Vikings an excellent chance to secure the No. 1 overall pick of the 2012 draft. A loss to the Redskins would extend the Vikings' losing streak to seven games, tying a franchise record set in their expansion season of 1961. But I'm not sure what would be worse: tying that record or extending their NFL record of games without an interception, which stands at nine. Redskins quarterback Rex Grossman has thrown at least one interception in his past 10 starts, and he is tied for the second-most interceptions in the NFL (18) despite missing three games this season. Something's got to give.

NFC North at night

November, 29, 2011
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Catching up on some NFC North newsbits as a busy day winds down:

Chicago Bears: Linebacker/special-teams ace Brian Iwuh was waived after suffering a minor hamstring injury last Sunday. An injury settlement will follow. Iwuh had a team-high 14 special-teams tackles this season. The Bears promoted linebacker Patrick Trahan from their practice squad to take his place.

Detroit Lions: Four starters didn't participate in a bonus Tuesday practice: Cornerback Chris Houston (knee), safety Louis Delmas (leg), running back Kevin Smith and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh (suspension). Defensive back Brandon McDonald (leg) also didn't practice. Delmas isn't expected to play Sunday night at the New Orleans Saints and likely will be replaced by Chris Harris. The Lions gave themselves some depth behind Delmas and Harris by promoting practice-squad safety Ricardo Silva. Punter Ryan Donahue was placed on injured reserve to create that roster spot.

Green Bay Packers: Linebacker Erik Walden, arrested last Friday after a domestic incident with his girlfriend, apologized to his teammates and in an interview session with reporters. Walden has not been formally charged.

Minnesota Vikings: The Minnesota state Senate held the first of two public hearings on the Vikings' stadium issue. This hearing centered around site options. The team wants the project built in suburban Arden Hills, Minn. But Vikings officials were encouraged during the hearing to work with Minneapolis officials to select one downtown option for comparison's sake, if nothing else. Meanwhile, the Vikings signed long-snapper Matt Katula to replace Cullen Loeffler, who suffered a fracture in his lower back Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons.

Free Head Exam: Detroit Lions

November, 25, 2011
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After the Detroit Lions' 27-15 loss to the Green Bay Packers, here are three issues that merit further examination:

  1. Head Exam
    Kevin SeifertAfter falling to 7-4 following a loss to the Packers, the Lions take their turn in the examination room.
    Lost in the discussion over Ndamukong Suh's third-quarter ejection was how critical the accompanying penalty and his subsequent absence was. You almost forget that the Lions had stopped the Packers on third-and-3 at their 3-yard line. The Packers probably would have set up to kick a short field goal in hopes of taking a 10-0 lead. Instead, they got another set of downs and ultimately scored a touchdown on John Kuhn's 1-yard run. The penalty cost the Lions four points, and it also opened the floodgates for the Packers' offense. In the end, they scored 20 points with Suh off the field. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers completed 10 of 15 passes when Suh was in the game. Afterward, he hit on seven of nine and averaged 16.9 yards per attempt. According to ESPN Stats & Information, all seven of those completions came against the Lions' four-man pass rush, one obviously watered down without Suh.
  2. As fallout from the Suh incident continues, it's probably only a matter of time that people start connecting Suh's style with the personality and approach of fiery coach Jim Schwartz. That's essentially what Yahoo! Sports' Jason Cole wrote in the aftermath of Thursday's events. Cole made clear that Schwartz wouldn't encourage a player to do what Suh did Thursday. But, Cole wrote, "It's no surprise that Jim Schwartz's Detroit Lions are out of control" and added: "It's also not much of a surprise that the same coach who earlier this season stormed after San Francisco counterpart Jim Harbaugh is now watching his team's best player face a suspension for losing his cool." Schwartz's role in the incident with Harbaugh doesn't excuse Suh for his actions. But I agree with Cole in this sense: The coach sets a tone for his program. If the coach occasionally flies out of control, that's the example for decorum he has set for his players -- consciously or otherwise. The bottom line, according to ESPN Stats & Information, is that the Lions have had more personal fouls called against them since the start of Schwartz's tenure in 2009 than any other NFL team. Patterns always emerge over time.
  3. It's amazing how central running back Kevin Smith became to the Lions offense in such a short time, and that's why the Lions are keeping their fingers crossed on further tests to his right ankle. Smith touched the ball on four of the Lions' first five plays and had 10 touches in just over a quarter of play. X-rays were negative on the injury, and Fox analyst Jimmy Johnson reported on air Thursday that the Lions believe Smith has a high ankle sprain. Starter Jahvid Best (concussion) was at the game, but there is no indication when or if he will return or if he will play again this season. The Lions will have to hope that their extended weekend will give Smith enough time to heal. It's obvious they deem him a preferable option over current incumbents Maurice Morris and Keiland Williams.
And here is one issue I still don't get:
How many defensive starters will the Lions have to replace for their nationally televised Dec. 4 game at the New Orleans Saints? It's quite possible Suh will be suspended. And the Lions finished Sunday's game with half of their secondary sidelined by injuries. Things got so thin that veteran Rashied Davis was pushed into emergency duty as a cornerback. Safety Louis Delmas (knee) and cornerback Chris Houston (knee) didn't return after their injuries, leaving Chris Harris and a combination of Aaron Berry and Brandon McDonald in their respective places. The Saints lead the NFL in total offense (436.9 yards per game) and are second in scoring (31.7).
DETROIT -- There was no scoring in the first quarter of our Thanksgiving Feast here at Ford Field. But there have been two significant injuries.

Detroit Lions safety Louis Delmas left the game with what appears to be an injury to his right leg. Delmas was in obvious pain and a number of Lions medical officials are continuing to examining him on the sideline. Chris Harris has replaced Delmas in the lineup.

The Green Bay Packers, meanwhile, are playing without inside linebacker Desmond Bishop, who suffered a calf injury. Rookie D.J. Smith is playing in his place at the moment. We'll keep you updated.

NFC North Friday injury report

November, 11, 2011
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Getting inside the Friday injury report:

Chicago Bears: Coach Lovie Smith indicated on Thursday that receiver/kick returner Devin Hester would play Sunday, but an ankle injury kept Hester out of practice again Friday. He is listed as questionable. If he can't play, his likely replacements are Johnny Knox (kickoffs) and Earl Bennett (punts). Defensive end Julius Peppers (knee) returned to practice Friday and is probable.

Detroit Lions: It appears that place-kicker Jason Hanson, who injured his left knee in a bye week accident, will be available for Sunday's game. Hanson is listed as probable and the Lions haven't signed a possible replacement. The same can't be said of punter Ryan Donahue (quadriceps), who is listed as questionable but yielded punting duties Friday to newcomer Robert Malone. Donahue could hold for Hanson, but it seems more likely that Malone will punt. Defensive tackle Sammie Hill and safety Louis Delmas, who was added to the injury report this week with because of a foot injury, are questionable. Former Bears safety Chris Harris could replace Delmas in the lineup Sunday if needed.

Green Bay Packers: Everyone participated in practice Friday except two players already ruled out of Monday night's game, left tackle Chad Clifton (hamstring) and linebacker Frank Zombo (hamstring). Defensive end Mike Neal (knee) participated in individual but not team drills.

Minnesota Vikings: Guard Anthony Herrera (knee) is the only player missing practice this week for health reasons. He isn't expected to play Monday night.

BBAO: Lions' Nick Fairley raring to go

November, 10, 2011
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We're Black and Blue All Over:

The Detroit Lions are hoping that rookie defensive tackle Nick Fairley has turned the corner in his recovery from a foot injury that forced him to miss five of this season's first eight games and left him with little first-half impact in 2011.

After resting during a well-timed bye week, Fairley said, via Philip Zaroo of Mlive.com: "I'm feeling real good. The break did a lot for me, especially just being able to sit back and rest up -- get off my feet, let it heal on its own without nothing moving, without doing a lot of walking around or whatever. ... I'm all good to go, ready to go now. Second half, here we go, here we come."

Given their depth at defensive line, the Lions have always been in good position to absorb Fairley's injury and allow for a slow and effective return. They started the season 6-2 without getting much of a contribution from him, but they could be in position to get a second-half boost from their first-round draft pick.

Continuing around the NFC North:

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