NFC North: Dom DeCicco

Vikings Camp Report: Day 14

August, 13, 2014
MANKATO, Minn. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Minnesota Vikings training camp:
  • After throwing three interceptions during Monday's practice, Teddy Bridgewater was picked off twice more on Wednesday afternoon, by Mistral Raymond and Gerald Hodges. Bridgewater finished the day 12-for-17 in full-team drills, including a pass he threw away and a deep ball Adam Thielen dropped with a step on the defensive back covering him. Matt Cassel, who was again listed at the top of the Vikings' depth chart on Wednesday and appears to be solidly at the front of the Vikings' quarterback race, hit 12 of his 14 throws, with his only incompletions coming on drops from Kyle Rudolph and Matt Asiata. Christian Ponder went 6-for-8, with Shaun Prater breaking up one pass.
  • Linebacker Dom DeCicco will have surgery on his hip on Thursday. He was one of three players not to practice on Wednesday, joining Robert Blanton (hamstring) and Chase Ford (broken foot). Blanton started doing some drills on the side, as he tries to get back in time to compete for the Vikings' starting safety spot alongside Harrison Smith. Ford was also doing some running on Wednesday. Josh Robinson, who has been battling a hamstring injury, also visited the trainer's tent early in practice.
  • Cassel connected with Greg Jennings on the play of the day, hitting a long throw down the sideline to the receiver, who was covered well by Marcus Sherels. The quarterback and the receiver connected on both of the passes Cassel targeted for Jennings.
  • Defensive tackle Shamar Stephen, who has won praise from coach Mike Zimmer, defensive coordinator George Edwards and defensive line coach Andre Patterson, got some first-team snaps at nose tackle on Wednesday. He'll get a chance to make his case with Linval Joseph still out because of a gunshot wound, and it seems like Stephen has a good shot at a roster spot; Patterson said on Wednesday the former Connecticut tackle is much better than his seventh-round draft status would indicate.
  • Running back Chuck Foreman, who played on three Vikings Super Bowl teams in the 1970s and still has the third-most rushing yards in franchise history, was spotted on the sidelines watching Vikings practice on Wednesday.

Vikings Camp Report: Day 12

August, 10, 2014
MANKATO, Minn. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Minnesota Vikings training camp:
  • Coach Mike Zimmer said the Vikings came out of Friday's preseason opener relatively healthy, but the Vikings were missing several players at practice on Sunday afternoon. Defensive tackle Tom Johnson and linebacker Dom DeCicco weren't on the practice field, and safety Mistral Raymond (who suffered a concussion during Friday's game) was doing work on the side with safeties Robert Blanton and Jamarca Sanford, who missed Friday's game with hamstring and back injuries, respectively. Defensive tackle Linval Joseph, of course, was not practicing after a stray bullet struck him in the calf in a nightclub incident on Saturday morning. On a more positive note, cornerbacks Josh Robinson and Marcus Sherels returned from hamstring injuries, and tight end Chase Ford (broken foot) was once again out of a walking boot.
  • The Vikings began their practice outside, but had to move indoors for the first time during training camp thanks to a jagged bolt of lightning off to the west of their practice field. That turned Sunday's session into a glorified walk-through, and the Vikings were only able to do so much work inside the Minnesota State field house. Zimmer said he hadn't written practice schedules for this week until after Friday night's game, and the Vikings will have to resume the work of drilling their mistakes once they get back outdoors on Monday.
  • Zimmer wasn't thrilled with the way the Vikings' secondary played the run, particularly on Darren McFadden's 23-yard burst at the end of the first quarter. Safety Antone Exum had a shot at McFadden at the Raiders' 29, but came down with inside leverage and couldn't fight through McFadden's stiff arm to bring him down until the Raiders' 43. "I tell our guys all the time that long runs are typically because of the perimeter run force," Zimmer said. "We did not do a good job when the safety was coming downhill on that play, so we ended up giving him 14 more yards on that run than we should have."
  • Wide receiver Adam Thielen continued to win praise for his work on special teams, after returning three punts for 53 yards and making a tackle for a 4-yard loss on a punt at the end of the first half. Thielen was visibly upset he didn't score on his second return, which went for 26 yards, but special teams coach Mike Priefer said that was just a matter of Thielen making one more move. "He is probably disappointed that he didn’t score on the one, but that’s something that a young punt returner, that’s a mistake they are going to make," Priefer said. "He saw the seam and he just went for it full speed. He’s got to kind of dip and go to the outside or widen them and go back inside but it was a very, very well-blocked play." Priefer said Sherels is still entrenched as the Vikings' punt returner, but with Sherels fighting a hamstring injury, it's not bad for the Vikings to have another option they trust.
  • Rookie defensive tackle Shamar Stephen did well in Friday's game, Zimmer said. He wound up with five tackles in the game and showed some nice push up the middle on a couple run plays. With Joseph likely to miss some time, the seventh-round pick could see some more opportunities.

We're Black and Blue All Over:

Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher confirmed Tuesday night that he isn't likely to participate in organized team activities (OTAs) -- and probably not veteran minicamp, either -- as he rehabilitates a sprained knee suffered in a Week 17 game against the Minnesota Vikings. Urlacher told reporters that he expects to be ready to start training camp, a completely reasonable schedule that nevertheless highlights one of the few holes on the team's roster.

Namely: Who would play for Urlacher if he was injured during the regular season?

According to's Jeff Dickerson, second-year linebacker Dom DeCicco -- an undrafted free agent in 2011 -- will take the majority of snaps during the offseason. If nothing else, the Bears should know at the end of the spring whether DeCicco is capable of filling in for Urlacher in a regular-season environment, or whether they would need to look elsewhere. Finding a long-term replacement for Urlacher, 33, remains one of the most important challenges facing this franchise.

Continuing around the NFC North:
  • Urlacher, via Vaughn McClure of the Chicago Tribune: "It's getting better. I'm on schedule, so I feel good. At this stage, I know the defense pretty well. I'm not worried about being out there and not knowing what I'm doing.''
  • Bears receiver Brandon Marshall on his reunion with quarterback Jay Cutler and quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates, via Sean Jensen of the Chicago Sun-Times: "That just doesn't happen in sports. You don’t have a Pro Bowl receiver and a Pro Bowl quarterback and one of the most talented minds in football in Jeremy Bates back together. It just doesn't."
  • Mike Freeman of thinks the Detroit Lions can contend for the Super Bowl -- "[b]ut only if this team can harness what is an amazing lack of self-control. The Lions remain one of the least disciplined teams in football."
  • Bob Wojnowski of the Detroit News: "Dumb stuff happens in football, as in life. But the Lions have too much at stake now to be dealing with it, way too much to gain and way too much to lose. The spate of player incidents -- mostly minor -- is not a sign of a rambunctious team losing its way. But it's a pointed reminder that young talent is unpredictable, and a warning that the Lions' rough edges still need work."
  • Lions cornerback Chris Houston isn't ready to be anyone's mentor, writes the News' Chris McCosky.
  • Lori Nickel of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel covered the MACC Fund charity event in Milwaukee headlined by Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
  • Packers coach Mike McCarthy on his 2012 team, via Mike Vandermause of the Green Bay Press-Gazette: "This is clearly the most experienced football team in conjunction with the most talent that I've had a chance to coach."
  • Tom Oates of the Wisconsin State Journal: "The Green Bay Packers’ all-defense, all-the-time draft has already achieved one of its goals. The six rookie defenders have supplied a jolt of energy for a defense -- and a team -- that might have grown a little complacent after following up its victory in Super Bowl XLV with a 15-1 regular season in 2011."
  • Packers linebacker Clay Matthews on moving to the right side, with rookie Nick Perry taking over on the left side, via Jason Wilde of "The misnomer about the position is that we're stuck to one side. On paper, it's going to say 'left outside linebacker' or 'right outside linebacker.' Really, those positions are interchangeable, so the faster we can get [Perry] up to speed, the faster we can have some fun moving him around, flying around and making some plays together."
  • Packers defensive end Anthony Hargrove didn't have much to add about his role in the New Orleans Saints' bounty story after Tuesday's OTA, according to Tyler Dunne of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
  • The Packers' defensive additions in the draft were "expected" and "necessary," according to linebacker Desmond Bishop via Rob Demovsky of the Press-Gazette.
  • Dave Campbell of the Associated Press looks ahead at the Minnesota Vikings' three-week stay for training camp.
  • The Vikings have signed a total of seven of their draft picks, according to Jeremy Fowler of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

Chicago Bears cutdown analysis

September, 3, 2011
Check here for a complete list of the Chicago Bears' roster moves.

Surprise move: The Bears have now bid farewell to three locker room stalwarts: Center Olin Kreutz, receiver Rashied Davis and now tight end Desmond Clark. The Bears released Clark as part of Saturday's roster cutdown, deciding to keep undrafted rookie Kyle Adams instead. Clark said via Twitter that "I played my butt off but sometimes it's more about the business." The Bears indicated that he was released with an injury. Regardless, intentionally or otherwise, the Bears have at least temporarily created a player leadership void.

No-brainers: After last week's communication fiasco, there was little doubt that running back Chester Taylor would be part of this cutdown. The Bears need only two tailbacks behind starter Matt Forte, and those roles will be filled by Marion Barber and Kahlil Bell. They also kept fullback Will Ta'ufo'ou. I don't know if the Bears entered training camp planning to keep undrafted rookie receiver Dane Sanzenbacher, but his quick ascension as a slot receiver was obvious by the midpoint of the preseason. Quarterback Jay Cutler loves throwing to him.

What's next: The Bears' depth at linebacker is a little scary. They kept only five at the position, with Brian Iwuh and undrafted rookie Dom DeCicco as the reserves behind Lance Briggs, Brian Urlacher and Nick Roach. You would think the Bears would at least scan the waiver wire for additional depth, especially with Briggs nursing a knee injury. And with Barber and Bell having suffered preseason injuries, the Bears might check out emergency running back depth as well.