NFC North: Curtis Modkins

We're Black and Blue All Over:

Wednesday was a busy day for the Green Bay Packers, and not just because they made linebacker Clay Matthews one of the most highly-paid defensive players in the NFL. They also took the rare step of hosting a restricted free agent, Pittsburgh Steelers nose tackle Steve McLendon, on a visit at Lambeau Field.

(A number of media outlets reported the news, including the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.)

The deadline for signing restricted free agents to an offer sheet is Friday, and the Steelers put McLendon in a favorable position to depart. First, they issued him a low tender that would not require any draft-choice compensation for another team to sign. Also, as AFC North colleague Jamison Hensley notes, the Steelers are down to $800,000 in salary-cap space and would have to make some changes to match any offer the Packers might make.

McLendon has started only one game in his three-year career but apparently was set to take over for veteran Casey Hampton this season. The Packers have a well-known desire and need to beef up their defensive line this offseason. We'll let you know if the Packers ultimately make him an offer.

Continuing around the NFC North:
  • Matthews on the deal, via Weston Hodkiewicz of the Green Bay Press-Gazette: "I think it was important. Giving up so many draft picks right around the Brett Favre trade, and then drafting an (unproven) guy in college and picking him up and having belief and then coming in here and doing my part, and that's helping this team win, be a consummate professional and ultimately being comfortable in the city and everything this organization has to offer."
  • Matthews said he hopes "the next order of business" is signing quarterback Aaron Rodgers to a contract extension, notes Jason Wilde of
  • The Chicago Bears are looking at other ways to use Devin Hester on special teams, including kick coverage, according to Jeff Dickerson of
  • Bears general manager Phil Emery has a clear draft plan, writes Dan Pompei of the Chicago Tribune.
  • Bears defensive end Shea McClellin has added 5 to 7 pounds onto his frame, writes Adam L. Jahns of the Chicago Sun-Times.
  • The Detroit Lions' ideal position for Riley Reiff is right guard, according to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press.
  • Chris McCosky of the Detroit News speaks with new Lions running backs coach Curtis Modkins.
  • Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford on his drop in touchdown passes last season, via Anwar S. Richardson of "Touchdowns, everybody talks about them, and it's a big stat and all that, but as a team, I want to score. I don't care how we get in the end zone. I don't care if I run it in. I want us to score. Obviously, I'd like to throw touchdowns if that means the only way we're going to get to be able to do it. But if teams try to take away the pass from us, we're going to try to run it in."
  • The Minnesota Vikings have purchased a building next to their Winter Park practice facility, an indication they plan to expand their operations in the near future, according to Sid Hartman of the Star Tribune.
  • Tom Pelissero of on the Vikings' cornerback situation: "Drafting a cornerback such as Florida State's Xavier Rhodes, Washington's Desmond Trufant or Houston's D.J. Hayden late in the first round is a possibility, since it's debatable the Vikings even have two-starting caliber players on the roster."
  • Former Vikings cornerback Antoine Winfield had some "angst" about where to sign for 2013, according to Seattle Seahawks general manager John Schneider, via Tim Booth of the Associated Press.

BBAO: Better late than ...

January, 16, 2013
We're Black and Blue All Over:

So that's a first.

I've covered a few coaching changes in my day, but I'm pretty sure none of them broke between the hours of 2 a.m. and 4 a.m., as the Chicago Bears' decision to hire Marc Trestman did Wednesday morning. We're a bit off our blog game as a result, but while we have a moment, let's take a quick tour of non-Bears news in the NFC North:
  • Green Bay Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers, via Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "… My plans are to be here. Again, I think we've got a young defense that's ascending. All the statistics point to that. I feel awful about the way we played [last Saturday] because you want to play your best in that game and we didn't. And I accept responsibility for that. That's my job to make sure that we play better."
  • Capers told reporters Tuesday that the 49ers hurt the Packers' defense more with quarterback scrambles than with the read-option play. Jason Wilde of has more.
  • Packers coach Mike McCarthy didn't talk Tuesday like a man who plans to release tight end Jermichael Finley this offseason. McCarthy, via Pete Dougherty of the Green Bay Press-Gazette: "I really felt Jermichael Finley was a different man, a different player from the bye week on. I had an opportunity to talk to him about that at length in his exit interview, so I feel very good about the way he finished the year. He did some good things Saturday night [at San Francisco]. There was a change in that young man."
  • Detroit Lions running back Joique Bell has some history with new running backs coach Curtis Modkins, notes Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press.
  • Lions long-snapper Don Muhlbach was selected to play in the Pro Bowl, notes Anwar S. Richardson of
  • Minnesota Vikings long-snapper Cullen Loeffler will be at the Pro Bowl as well, but as a guest of teammate Blair Walsh, explains Tom Pelissero of
  • Dan Wiederer of the Star Tribune examines the big picture of the Minnesota Vikings' franchise.
  • Writing in the St. Paul Pioneer Press, former Vikings quarterback Fran Tarkenton notes that he was once considered "a freak" because of his mobility.

Lions complete offensive staff

January, 14, 2013
Let's update our earlier post on the Detroit Lions coaching staff. The team has announced replacements for the three assistant coaches that departed earlier this month. The news leaves only their special-teams coordinator position to be filled; it opened Monday when Danny Crossman departed to join the Buffalo Bills in a similar capacity.

A closer look at the changes:

Coach: Running backs/running game coordinator Curtis Modkins
Came from: Buffalo Bills, where he was offensive coordinator/running backs from 2010-12.
Comment: The Bills ranked fifth in the NFL last season in average yards per rush (5.0) and sixth in rushing yards (2,217).

Coach: Tight ends coach Bobby Johnson
Came from: Jacksonville Jaguars, where he was the tight ends coach in 2012
Comment: Johnson has spent most of his career as a college tight ends or offensive line coach.

Coach: Offensive line coach Jeremiah Washburn
Came from: Was the Lions' assistant offensive line coach from 2009-12.
Comment: He is the son of longtime NFL assistant Jim Washburn.

Coach: Wide receivers coach Tim Lappano
Came from: Was the Lions' tight ends coach from 2009-12.
Comment: Being entrusted with coaching Calvin Johnson is a prized promotion.