NFC North: Dorsey Levens
Bob Holtzman's piece on the hundreds of former NFL players suing the NFL over concussion-related issues includes an interview with former Green Bay Packers running back Dorsey Levens. Last summer, Levens produced and starred in a play in Atlanta about an ex-football player who is losing his mind. Levens has also produced a documentary ("Bell Rung"), featuring 10 current and former players talking about the issue. It's all thought-provoking stuff.
The state of Minnesota's government shutdown will obviously keep the Minnesota Vikings' stadium proposal on the back burner for the time being. Negotiations have continued on closing the funding gap between the team and state on a $1.057 billion proposal to build in suburban Arden Hills, but they won't be resolved in a public fashion until state leaders agree on a budget that would re-start the state government.
The best-case scenario for the Vikings: The new budget would include the Vikings' stadium bill and would be approved during a special legislative session called this summer by Gov. Mark Dayton. The worst case: The stadium issue gets lost in the political fight and the Vikings enter the 2011 season as presumptive franchise free agents.
Here is one twist we must remember: Either the Vikings or Ramsey County can now opt out of the memorandum of understanding for this project, to which they were bound until June 30. The Vikings have shown no interest in doing so, but it's already clear that some forces who would like to see the stadium built in downtown Minneapolis are already mobilizing.
Sid Hartman of the Star Tribune notes that some people still prefer the Farmers Market site near Target Field. Earlier this week the Star Tribune published an op-ed piece written by Dave Albersman, a local urban planner who wrote: "Locating the new Vikings stadium in the Farmers Market area would build on the vitality of Target Field and would begin to realize the vision described in the Downtown East/North Loop Master Plan."
Continuing around the NFC North:
- The Vikings had serious interest in free agent safety O.J. Atogwe in February before he signed with the Washington Redskins, according to Judd Zulgad of the Star Tribune.
- Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers isn't worried about players' decision to work out individually rather than as a group this offseason. Rob Demovsky of the Green Bay Press-Gazette has more.
- Jason Wilde of ESPNMilwaukee.com: "If Dorsey Levens' post-football acting career continues to grow the way it has on stage of late, the former Green Bay Packers Pro Bowl running back and aspiring thespian will someday be known for more than just the awful horn-rimmed glasses he wore in his uncredited role as a Xavier football coach in 'We Are Marshall.'"
- Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh on his pairing with rookie Nick Fairley, via Doug Farrar of Yahoo! Sports: "I think we'll be able to be a great tandem. Hopefully, it can be like it was at Nebraska in my senior year, with myself and Jared Crick, and him coming and being a real impact guy. He relieved pressure off of me I relieved pressure off of him, and we became a dominant unit inside."
- Jeff Dickerson of ESPNChicago.com checks in with rookie quarterback Nathan Enderle, who began working out with Bears receivers this week.
- Sean Jensen of the Chicago Sun-Times wonders if it is truly a slam dunk that center Olin Kreutz returns to the Bears.
- Bears guard Roberto Garza hosted a skills camp in his hometown, notes Eladio Jaimez of the Valley Morning Star.
In spite of the lockout, coach Lovie Smith is under the assumption that his players are working out like they normally would this time of year.
Larry Mayer of ChicagoBears.com says Auburn quarterback Cam Newton may be the riskiest pick in this year's draft.
Tom Kowalski of mlive.com goes deep in the draft as he answers questions from readers.
Jamie Samuelsen says he thinks the Lions will win a title before the Pistons.
Green Bay Packers
Former Packers running back Dorsey Levens is now focused on his post-football life as an actor.
Kicker Mason Crosby has committed to play in the 22nd annual American Century Championship celebrity golf tournament July 12-17.
Charley Walters of the Pioneer Press says dealing for quarterback Donovan McNabb to be the Vikings' starter in 2011 "makes the most sense."
With the first minicamp canceled, the Vikings have been able to put even more focus on the draft.
Posted by ESPN.com staff
- Is a pass-rusher the Bears' greatest need heading into training camp?
- Much has been made about the Bears' lack of star power at receiver. But is a Pro Bowl wideout a prerequisite to winning the Super Bowl? This breakdown says that's not necessarily the case.
- The Lions have signed another draft pick, this time coming to terms with sixth-round choice Aaron Brown.
- Packers cornerback Al Harris says he thinks the Lions can win eight games this season.
- Tom Kowalski of mlive.com says the addition of Julian Peterson gives the Lions credibility.
- Former Packers Dorsey Levens and Antonio Freeman don't have a problem with Brett Favre's desire to come back and play for the Vikings. In fact, Levens says he wants to be in Green Bay for that game. Levens: "I think it will be crazy. I'm going to do everything in my power to make sure I get there to see it firsthand."
Posted by ESPN.com staff
- A review of the Bears' two biggest personnel changes on defense: the addition of linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa and the departure of safety Mike Brown, from Brad Biggs of the Chicago Sun-Times and Bill Barnwell of Football Outsiders.
- Packers wide receiver Donald Driver said in a national radio interview that the Bears' weakness is at receiver. Driver: "[The Bears] have the running back, they have the offensive line and they have a great defense. But you're going to have to need receivers to make plays down the field, and they don't have that right now."
- Terry Foster of the Detroit News says the Lions don't need to worry about receiver Calvin Johnson getting in trouble with the law.
- The Lions might take Kentucky DE Jeremy Jarmon in Thursday's supplemental draft, suggests John Niyo of the Detroit News.
- Safety was a primary consideration when the Packers built their new training camp practice field.
- Dorsey Levens, set to enter the team's Hall of Fame, reflected on his career with the Green Bay Press-Gazette's Mike Vandermause.
- Brett Favre has been stepping up his workouts and admitted that time is "running out" for him to make a decision on whether to resume his career with the Vikings.
- Coach Brad Childress appears willing to wait on Favre to make a decision.
- Vikings receiver Sidney Rice wrote on his blog that he worked out recently at full speed without his knee brace and was pain-free.
Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert
The two newest nominees to the Packers Hall of Fame added some credible voices to a growing theory about Green Bay's surprising downturn this season.
Former tailback Dorsey Levens and former receiver Antonio Freeman said Wednesday they were surprised at how distracted the Packers appeared during training camp while in the midst of a messy divorce from quarterback Brett Favre.
According to Jason Wilde of the Wisconsin State Journal, Levens said:
"I really didn't know what to expect. I knew the whole Brett Favre situation was going to loom heavy. I didn't know how the players would react, how the fans would react. It was a circus, to be quite honest, going up there in training camp and all the hoopla surrounding Brett and that situation."
"It was more [of a distraction] than I expected. I knew it was pretty major. ... Talent-wise, I think they have a ton of talent. I think the whole ordeal of Brett Favre leaving might have had an effect on it. Next year, going forward, it'll be fresh. Maybe some of those distractions will be out of there and people will be more content and settled in with the fact that, 'Hey, [Aaron Rodgers] is our guy, we're going forward.'"
Again, few people have attributed the Packers' 5-9 record to a drop-off in quarterback play. But you can't easily measure the impact of the bizarre circumstances surrounding Favre's departure. Specifically, players arrived at training camp without knowing whether Rodgers or Favre would be their starting quarterback. And then they practiced for nearly a week before the team finally traded him to the New York Jets.
In Levens and Freeman, you have two respected veterans who were a part of some of the Packers' most successful teams in recent history. They know what a productive training camp looks like. Their observations on this season's camp should be considered accordingly.
Levens and Freeman will be inducted to the Packers Hall of Fame at Lambeau Field next summer.