NFC North: Devin Thomas

NFC North links: Marinelli, Tice move on

January, 18, 2013
Chicago Bears

Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli and offensive coordinator Mike Tice won't be back with the Bears next season, reports's Michael C. Wright. New coach Marc Trestman addressed Marinelli's departure during his introductory news conference. "I had a chance to talk to Rod, and we had a good discussion," Trestman said. "He's made up his mind, I believe, to move on. I know to move on." Tice said the Bears let him go.

Trestman was evasive when asked about Brian Urlacher's future with the Bears, reports's Jon Greenberg.

In his interview with GM Phil Emery, Trestman provided a 13-month calendar that started with his first day on the job and ended with a Super Bowl XLVIII parade, reports the Chicago Tribune's Brad Biggs.

Trestman on quarterback Jay Cutler, via Adam L. Jahns of the Chicago Sun-Times: "[Cutler] has shown moments of efficiency, thereby we ought to be able to find the mechanisms to make him more efficient on a play-by-play basis. ... We’re going to work one day at a time in a proactive way with a sense of urgency to get [Cutler] to be the guy that he wants to be and we want him to be.”

Detroit Lions

Wide receiver and kick returner Devin Thomas ended his brief retirement to sign with the Lions, the AP reports.

In an interview with NFL Radio, free-agent-to-be Cliff Avril said he could play in either a 4-3 or 3-4 defensive scheme and that he'd prefer to play somewhere on a natural playing surface. "As far as what I would prefer, I definitely wouldn't mind playing on grass, because playing on turf puts the joints in a bad situation after a few years," Avril said.

A look at the cornerbacks the Lions could consider in April's draft, from Paula Pasche of the Journal Register News Service.

Green Bay Packers

The Packers could be saying goodbye to some household names this offseason. "Receiver Greg Jennings, a two-time Pro Bowl player, is an unrestricted free agent and is unlikely to return," writes Rob Reischel of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "Linebackers Brad Jones and Erik Walden -- two players who started the majority of the season -- are unrestricted free agents. Tight end Jermichael Finley, safety Charles Woodson and linebacker A.J. Hawk are all under contract, but all three could be released due to large salary cap numbers. Donald Driver, the franchise's all-time leader in catches and yards, will probably be gone."

Woodson was initially skeptical about moving from cornerback to safety, writes Weston Hodkiewicz of the Green Bay Press-Gazette.

Minnesota Vikings

Erin Henderson, an unrestricted free agent, would like to stay with the Vikings, writes Charley Walters of the Pioneer Press. "I've called Minnesota home, I have a Minnesota [driver's] license now, everything," said Henderson. "I feel like I've built a pretty good foundation here and come a long way in my years that I've been a part of this organization. And I appreciate the time and effort they've put into me."

Vince Ferrara and Jesse Smithey interviewed safety Harrison Smith and touched on Smith's goals this past season, Adrian Peterson's season and Smith's training camp initiation. Harrison on Peterson: "There’s really not a lot of words that can describe what he does. He’s the most talented guy that I’ve ever seen and he has the best work ethic that I’ve ever seen. He’s just a freak show.”
We're Black and Blue All Over:

Here's what we know: Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher suffered what initially looked like a catastrophic left knee injury in the 2011 season finale against the Minnesota Vikings. The injury was later announced as sprained medial collateral and posterior collateral ligaments, requiring no surgery.

Urlacher didn't participate in the team's on-field work during the offseason, and when he resumed practicing at the start of training camp, he was wearing a brace on the knee. Now Urlacher has missed four consecutive days because of soreness in the knee, and it's possible he won't play in the Bears' preseason opener against the Denver Broncos.

Here's what we don't know: Are the Bears merely being cautious with a veteran who really doesn't need every practice repetition in camp? Or is this an indication that Urlacher hasn't fully recovered from the original injury and could be limited when the regular season begins?

Coach Lovie Smith didn't seem concerned when speaking with reporters Sunday, and in the short term the Bears can move outside linebacker Nick Roach to Urlacher's spot in the middle. But the Bears don't have anything close to an heir apparent on their roster, as they found out when Urlacher dislocated his wrist and missed 15 games in 2009. Their defense is much different when he is not on the field.

Continuing around the NFC North:

CampTour'12: Bears Day 2

July, 27, 2012
BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- Let's roll through some thoughts and observations after watching the Chicago Bears' second training-camp practice:

  • One of the prettiest plays in 1-on-1 drills came when receiver Earl Bennett hauled in a long pass down the right sideline from quarterback Jay Cutler. Bennett used some crafty veteran contact with his left arm to keep cornerback Kelvin Hayden at bay.
  • After fans cheered Bennett's catch, cornerback Tim Jennings turned to the crowd and said: "Hey, we [cornerbacks] play for you guys, too." Jennings drew a laugh.
  • The Bears' three-receiver set has been pretty consistent: Brandon Marshall, Devin Hester and Bennett usually in the slot. When Hester was shaken up briefly during team drills, rookie Alshon Jeffery replaced him on the outside. So that gives you a clear sense of the depth chart as it stands now. If the Bears keep veterans Devin Thomas and Eric Weems for special-teams purposes, and that is quite possible, it will be difficult for 2011 slot receiver Dane Sanzenbacher to make the team.
  • Special-teams coordinator Dave Toub put out some interesting lineups during kickoff-return drills. Bennett was among those manning a front-line position. Two others were rookies, safety Brandon Hardin and tight end Evan Rodriguez. Historically, it's fair to make assumptions about a young player's chances to make the team based on his standing on special teams. In other words, it's looking good very early for Rodriguez, especially. Hardin was already a lock to make the team.
  • We didn't see new defensive tackle Brian Price on Friday, a day after the Bears acquired him in a trade from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, because his physical was not complete. The Bears indicated that should happen Saturday. According to the collective bargaining agreement, however, Price must ease into training camp with three unpadded practices before he can join the team fully. So it will be a bit of time before Price is up to speed.
  • For those interested in such things, during team drills, it was quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates who relayed plays via radio to Cutler. Bates stood next to offensive coordinator Mike Tice during the process.
  • In person, running back Michael Bush proved to be a much bigger dude than I thought he was. The Bears list him at 6-foot-1 and 245 pounds, but when you see him in a T-shirt on rather than a jersey, you could easily mistake him for a linebacker or even a small defensive end.
  • The Bears' first full-pads practice is scheduled for Saturday night. I won't miss it.
I planned out a Chicago Bears-related topic for this week's Blogger Blitz before the team announced a contract extension for linebacker Lance Briggs. That will make for a Bears-centric day on the blog, but as we've always said, these things even out.

The video centers around the Bears' plans to re-focus Devin Hester once again on their offense, possibly at the expense of his role as a returner. Bears coach Lovie Smith indicated as much last month at the NFL owners meetings, as Vaughn McClure of the Chicago Tribune notes. With Eric Weems and Devin Thomas on the roster, it's possible that Hester will work only as a punt returner in addition to receiver, while Weems and Thomas return kickoffs.

I understand the lure, but I feel like we've been down this road before. In 2008 and 2009, the Bears worked hard to work more of his game-breaking skills into their offense. He responded with 51 receptions in 2008 and a career-high 57 in 2009. The tradeoff? He didn't return a single punt or kickoff for a touchdown in either year.

Coincidentally or otherwise, the Bears pulled back a bit on his receiving duties in 2010 and 2011. Since that point, Hester has six returns for touchdowns.

The Bears don't think this is an "either-or" proposition, and they might be right. To this point, however, it has been. What's more important? Getting more offense from Hester or getting a Hall of Fame performance as a returner?

NFC North links: Tough decision for Collins

March, 29, 2012
Chicago Bears

One of the Giants' playoff heroes, wide receiver Devin Thomas, signed with the Bears.

Coach Lovie Smith feels Brandon Marshall's "big, physical presence" was a perfect fit for the Bears, writes the Chicago Tribune's Dan Pompei.

Smith is optimistic that Matt Forte’s contract status will be resolved soon. “My glass is always half-full,” Smith said Wednesday morning, according to the Chicago Sun-Times' Sean Jensen. “Everything you’ve ever heard from us, Matt Forte is our running back."

Detroit Lions

Kyle Vanden Bosch and Stephen Tulloch said the Titans did not have a bounty program when they were with the team, reports the Detroit News' Chris McCosky.

The Lions are in favor of extending the trade deadline by two weeks, but the proposal was tabled until May at the NFL owners meetings.

Wideout Titus Young might be used as a punt or kick returner this season, writes McCosky.

Green Bay Packers

Packers safety Nick Collins will meet with coach Mike McCarthy, GM Ted Thompson, the team doctor and his two agents sometime next week to determine whether it's safe for him to resume his NFL career following the serious neck injury he suffered last season, writes the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel's Tom Silverstein.

The Packers still have plans for veterans Chad Clifton and Donald Driver, according to Silverstein.

If faced with a similar situation in the future, McCarthy would sit Aaron Rodgers again in a meaningless Week 17 game, writes Rob Demovsky of the Green Bay Press-Gazette.

Minnesota Vikings

Emails released by the city of Minneapolis reveal the "behind-the-scenes frustrations and horse trading that preceded a March 1 agreement between the Vikings, the city and the state" to land the new stadium, according to a report by Star Tribune writers Eric Roper and Mike Kassuba.

The Vikings expect star running back Adrian Peterson to begin running soon on his surgically repaired left knee, reports the Star Tribune's Dan Wiederer.

Coach Leslie Frazier would still like to add a speedy receiver, writes Weiderer.