NFC North: Domonique Johnson

The Detroit Lions became the first NFC North team to start addressing the NFL's looming roster cuts by releasing five players and beginning to assess the injuries of two others.

According to Tim Twentyman of the Lions' web site, the players released were: defensive back Domonique Johnson, receiver Chaz Schilens, offensive lineman Derek Hardman, defensive tackle John Drew, and cornerback Ross Weaver. Meanwhile, the Lions will have to decide what to do with running back Montell Owens, who seemed to suffer a serious knee injury Thursday night, and rookie tight end Michael Williams -- who has a broken hand and will require surgery, according to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press.

Owens and Williams could be candidates for injured reserve if their injuries are serious enough. One beneficiary could be undrafted rookie tight end Joseph Fauria, whose unique skill-set had the Lions contemplating whether to open a fourth tight end spot for him.

The biggest name of those released is Schilens, whom the team signed just before camp to provide extra depth at receiver. Since then, however, veterans Nate Burleson and Ryan Broyles have appeared fully recovered from their season-ending injuries. Young players Patrick Edwards and Matt Willis have also pushed for playing time, lessening the Lions' need to hold on to veteran depth.

NFL teams must cut their rosters to 75 by Tuesday and 53 by Aug. 31.

BBAO: John Sullivan's knee

February, 7, 2013
We're Black and Blue All Over:

It's not unusual for an NFL player to undergo offseason knee surgery, as Minnesota Vikings center John Sullivan did last week, via Tom Pelissero of

The type of surgery Sullivan had is not typical, however. A surgeon in the office of Dr. James Andrews performed a microfracture procedure on his left knee that probably will curtail most offseason work. The surgery typically includes drilling small holes in the bone to help spur the healing, or limit the damage of, injured cartilage, and has been associated with serious long-term conditions.

Pelissero reports that Sullivan's injury is not as severe as it could have been, which makes sense considering he did not miss a snap in 2012 on the way to the best season of his career. As always, we'll take our cues on this from the Vikings' offseason action or inaction. If they sign or draft a center, you'll know they are concerned about Sullivan's status. If not, you can assume they think he'll be ready for the start of training camp.

Continuing around the NFC North: