NFC North: Dwight Smith

Best of NFL: NFC North players

June, 28, 2011
6/28/11
2:00
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Best of NFC: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

As part of Best of the NFL Week on ESPN.com, here are five bests for the NFC North:

[+] EnlargeEarl Bennett
Rick Stewart/Getty ImagesEarl Bennett caught 46 passes for 561 yards for the Bears last season.
Best hands, Earl Bennett: The NFC North has no shortage of elite receivers who have collected Pro Bowl honors, from Greg Jennings to Calvin Johnson to Sidney Rice. None of them displayed the kind of reliability Bennett achieved last season for the Chicago Bears. He dropped only one of the 70 passes thrown his way, according to ESPN Stats & Information, and caught 46. Jennings dropped five of the 122 passes thrown his way. Johnson also had five (on 134 targets). Rice was limited to five games.

Best nickname, B.J. Raji: You've got two kinds of athlete nicknames: The ones they give themselves and the ones bestowed upon them. Last winter, we tried our best to push "The Garaji" or "Raj Mahal," but ultimately what stuck was what Raji himself dreamed up during the Green Bay Packers' divisional playoff game victory over the Atlanta Falcons. After participating in a jumbo offensive package at the goal line, Raji began calling himself "The Freezer." As NFC North fans remember, William "The Refrigerator" Perry rose to cult status in a similar role 25 years ago.

Best tackler, Antoine Winfield: Generously listed at 5-foot-9 and 180 pounds, Winfield needs perfect form and a fearless attitude to bring down ball carriers who sometimes outweigh him by 100 pounds. Winfield has both. He stays low, doesn't fall for open-field moves and wraps up legs as if he is filming a fundamentals video on every play. There aren't many players, whether they're speed- or power-based, who can elude him. Last season for the Vikings, according to Football Outsiders, Winfield tied for the NFL lead with 28 "stops" against the pass.

Best tweeter, Chris Harris: The NFC North is packed with social media mavens. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, for instance, entertains the masses with "Jack Handey" quotes whenever he's sitting in an airport. But Harris is probably the most prolific in our division, using Twitter to post serious thoughts on important NFL issues at one moment and then updating his diaper-changing failures in another. Just as important, Harris interacts with Chicago Bears fans on a near daily basis. Those of us who follow Harris feel like we know him.

Best comedian, Pat Williams: We're still not sure if Williams will return to the Minnesota Vikings, but even if he departs via free agency, he'll leave behind a litany of hilarious moments, both intentional and otherwise. My personal favorite: Upon witnessing then-teammate Dwight Smith arrested in downtown Minneapolis, Williams identified himself as a reserve U.S. Marshal in Louisiana and offered to help "sort things out." It's true: Williams was involved in a reserve Marshal program at the time, but that's still a scene I wish I had been witness to.

Best best (bonus category): Detroit Lions tailback Jahvid Best. Enough said. (Sorry, couldn't resist)
Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

I'm guessing I'm not the only one who got sucked into "There's Something About Mary" on the tube Wednesday night. I've seen it at least 512 times, but it's been a while and I had to laugh when I saw Brett Favre (circa 1998) enter stage left.

It brought to mind a funny, but possibly apocryphal, story that emerged in the wake of Favre's somewhat stiff performance. ("You know I'll always be true to you, Mary.") Responding to some good-natured grief from teammates, Favre eventually said something like, Hey, how many movies have you stunk in?

Indeed. Words to live by.

Sid Hartman of the Star Tribune reports Favre was visited by Minnesota athletic trainer Eric Sugarman on Wednesday. The timing makes sense given Favre's ongoing rehabilitation from surgery to release a partially torn right biceps. But it doesn't really give a clue about the timing of Favre's ultimate decision.

I guess it's possible the Vikings could make an announcement sometime in the next two or three weeks. But I'd be really surprised if Favre makes a public appearance in Minnesota before the start of training camp July 29. I'm not sure he has much incentive to travel north for a press conference and then head back to his home in Mississippi to await training camp. Just my own two bits of speculation.

Continuing around the NFC North:

  • As the media battle for Favre tidbits heats up, Charley Walters of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports the Vikings have customized 40 percent of their playbook for Favre's arrival. (Wait, I thought Favre knew the Vikings' offense so well he could "teach it"?)
  • Jim Wyatt of the Tennessean talks to Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler about his friendship with former Tennessee quarterback Steve McNair. According to Cutler, McNair helped prep him for the 2006 Senior Bowl by teaching him the Titans' offense.
  • Jeff Dickerson of ESPN Chicago takes a look at the free-agent safeties still available should the Bears decide their depth is lacking. The list includes Will Demps and Dwight Smith.
  • Despite indications that Jason Spitz will be Green Bay's new center, Packers offensive coordinator Joe Philbin says that veteran Scott Wells will have a chance to win that job. Mike Vandermause of the Green Bay Press-Gazette spoke with Philbin.
  • Detroit rookie running back Aaron Brown, a sixth-round pick, showed some explosiveness in offseason practices, according to Carlos Monarrez of the Detroit Free Press.
Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

Detroit's mini-purge of players allowed the team to create about $13 million in salary-cap space, bringing its total space to nearly $41 million as of Monday.

That figure likely will change by the time free agency begins at the end of this month. Escalators, adjustments, new extensions and other credits all impact a team's final salary-cap figure. Lions president Tom Lewand recently predicted the team would have around $35 million in cap space when the final figures come in.

Of the six players released, only two -- safety Dwight Smith and practice squad offensive lineman Jon Dunn -- hadn't been previously reported. It's possible the Lions will make more moves in the coming weeks, most notably at quarterback where Daunte Culpepper and Jon Kitna both remain on the roster.

For those interested, here is the approximate breakdown of cap savings for each player the Lions released:

Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

Rick Telander of the Chicago Sun-Times addresses the delicate topic brought forth by Tuesday's Pro Bowl selection announcement: Despite strong popularity with fans, Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher is no longer regarded as a top middle linebacker by his peers in the league.

Urlacher finished second in fan voting among NFC middle linebackers, which counts one-third of a player's total vote. The other two-thirds comes from other players and coaches. While we don't know where Urlacher ranked in those votes, it was low enough to finish the overall voting as the NFC's third alternate.

Writes Telander:

But it is also possible, likely even, that Urlacher is simply reaping the reasoned deflationary status he deserves -- and maybe has deserved -- as a highly hyped and highly paid poster boy in the historic City of Middle Linebackers. Though he was named NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2000 after being snatched out of New Mexico by the Bears in the first round of the draft, Urlacher almost immediately made some folks feel he was being overly promoted because he held down the sacred spot once worked by legendary Bill George, Dick Butkus and Mike Singletary.

Urlacher has had a solid season in 2008, but you need more than solid from a middle linebacker in a Tampa-2 system -- especially when your contract was upgraded by $18 million this summer. Urlacher has always been about making big plays, but this season he has two interceptions, no forced fumbles and no sacks. Outside linebacker Lance Briggs, the Bears' lone Pro Bowl selection, has nearly 40 more tackles than him.

Is it time for the Bears to start a search for a new middle linebacker? Telander:

Every year, a fresh crop of young savages comes out of our colleges, lurching toward the NFL like zombies smelling blood. One day soon, the Bears will be looking at an Urlacher replacement. It is time to see a re-emergence of this city icon, a final late surge, guided perhaps by offseason frenzy from the potential Hall of Fame man in the middle. Either Urlacher does that, or the Pro Bowl kid from the high desert drifts into the sunset.

Continuing around the NFC North on a Wednesday morning:

  • Briggs on his status as the Bears' top defensive player: "I do feel like ... obviously after four Pro Bowls, I'm definitely a big piece of what we do. Whether it's my defense or whose defense it is, that's not necessarily for me to decide right now. I do think that my role, as far as what we do, is definitely bigger." Vaughn McClure of the Chicago Tribune has the story.
  • Bears tailback Matt Forte isn't worried about his injured right big toe, writes Bob LeGere of the Daily Herald.
  • Green Bay cornerback Charles Woodson said Tuesday it is "disappointing" that the Packers defense hasn't played better considering its talent level. Woodson and safety Nick Collins were named to the Pro Bowl. Rob Demovsky of the Green Bay Press-Gazette has details.
  • Collins was at an ultrasound appointment with his wife when he learned the news, writes Jason Wilde of the Wisconsin State Journal.
  • Minnesota linebacker Ben Leber has stepped up in the absence of E.J. Henderson, writes Chip Scoggins of the Star Tribune.
  • Receiver Bobby Wade has been the Vikings' leading receiver since joining the team in 2007, writes Sean Jensen of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
  • Detroit placed three more players on injured reserve Tuesday: Receiver Shaun McDonald (ankle), safety Dwight Smith (ankle) and cornerback Keith Smith (groin). John Niyo of the Detroit News has details.
  • Tom Kowalski of Mlive.com to the Lions fans base: "I firmly believe that once you start rooting for your team to lose, you're no longer a fan."

Another chance for Tarvaris Jackson

December, 7, 2008
12/07/08
7:39
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 Leon Halip/US Presswire
 Tarvaris Jackson led the Vikings to 17 second-half points on Sunday.

Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

DETROIT -- A group of Minnesota coaches and players gathered around Tarvaris Jackson in the locker room late Sunday afternoon. Jackson was grinning from ear to ear, accepting congratulations and slaps on the back.

Someone passed out a final stat sheet.

"One-forty-three!" exclaimed offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell.

No, that figure wasn't the number of interceptions Jackson threw Sunday. He didn't take 143 sacks or make 143 poor decisions or throw a pass 143 feet over someone's head.

Actually, 143.8 was Jackson's passer rating in Minnesota's 20-16 victory at Ford Field. After replacing an injured Gus Frerotte, Jackson led the Vikings to 17 second-half points. His 11-yard touchdown pass to tight end Visanthe Shiancoe proved to be the game winner, an important milestone for a once-banished player who might be asked to quarterback his team to the playoffs.

"[Coaches] have been telling me, 'I guarantee you'll be back in there at some point,'" Jackson said. "That's just how the NFL is. And today it actually happened. I'm just glad we got a win out of it."

Coaches often motivate a disappointed backup with similar rhetoric, but in the Vikings' case it was a very reasonable scenario. Frerotte, 37, has been knocked from four of the 11 games he has started since taking over in Week 3. Sunday, Frerotte never returned after a back contusion forced him to leave the field on a cart in the second quarter.

(Read full post)

A few lineup tweaks from Ford Field

December, 7, 2008
12/07/08
11:43
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Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

DETROIT -- Greetings from a hushed Ford Field. We have a few of lineup changes to bring you as players start warming up:

Put this one in the (history) books

December, 3, 2008
12/03/08
9:33
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Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

Early Wednesday, I started making a list of all the bizarre, you-only-see-this-once bits of drama I covered during nine seasons on the Minnesota Vikings beat.

 
 Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
 Former Vikings WR Randy Moss caught some heat for "mooning" the Lambeau Field crowd.

There was Randy Moss nudging a traffic cop with his car, which was later found to have marijuana in the ash tray.

Onterrio Smith and the Whizzinator.

Dennis Green agreeing to a contract buyout, running practice, and then announcing his departure during his daily media briefing in 2001.

Koren Robinson driving 110 miles per hour down a state highway to make training camp curfew.

Moss "mooning" Lambeau Field during a 2005 playoff game.

Moss declaring a few days later that he would pay the resulting fine with "straight cash," and suggesting that next time he would shake a different body part in front of the crowd.

The Vikings missing their turn in the first round of the 2003 draft.

Personnel director Fran Foley getting fired in 2006 after three months on the job; he had exaggerated his resume and threatened staffers with a "bloodbath" after the draft.

The more time I spent with the list, the more I realized how historically insignificant the suspensions of Pat Williams and Kevin Williams actually were in Vikings off-field lore. It seemed to be standard stuff relative to this franchise.

Until, of course, a Minnesota judge took the unprecedented action Wednesday night of temporarily lifting their suspensions pending further hearings on the topic.

The NFL plans an immediate appeal, and it's conceivable both players will be "re-suspended" as early as Thursday. But as we sit here Wednesday night, about 85 hours before the Vikings' game Sunday at Detroit, no one has any idea what will happen next. Will the NFL's steroid policy be voided? Will the move ultimately force the players to miss a playoff game? Who knows?

This is the type of chaotic sideshow we've never seen in these parts.

Oh, wait. There was the time Mike Tice found out that his contract was set to expire during the 2004 season because of a clerical error. The mistake forced then-owner Red McCombs to pick up his option for 2005 amid rumors he wanted to fire Tice and hire a new coach.

It's rare that a team in the playoff chase must deal with such off-field distractions. Except for the time in 2004 when Moss walked off Washington's FedEx Field prior to the end of a one-score game. Center Matt Birk went after him in the locker room afterwards. Later that day, the Vikings earned a wild-card bid.

You couldn't come up with a story like this if you tried. Two All-Pro players going to court to take down the NFL's steroid abuse policy? Come on. It's almost like a bunch of players deciding to, I don't know, rent some boats on Lake Minnetonka, fly in some out-of-state strippers and have a party.

Oh wait, that's what happened on the Love Boat in 2005.

Birk, a St. Paul native, complained a few days later that the out-of-state invite list was an "insult to Minnesota strippers." For that smart-aleck remark, Birk went nose-to-nose with quarterback Daunte Culpepper and linebacker Keith Newman in what turned out to be heated locker room confrontation.

Ah, we don't mean to make light of the situation. The reputation of two players, not to mention about $1.5 million in salary, is at stake here. Nothing evil happened, right? Just two players trying to make weight. It's not like they were caught in a compromising situation with a naked woman in a downtown stairwell or something.

That was safety Dwight Smith. August, 2006. Remember?

Friday NFC North injuries that matter

November, 21, 2008
11/21/08
5:35
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Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

I haven't heard an outcry since the dissolution of our Friday "Revealed" feature. But just so you know our thinking, it seemed like re-printing the entire Friday injury report was more confusing than helpful. So we've streamlined things a bit and will now tell you, as my NFC West colleague Mike Sando would say, about the "injuries that matter."

So here you go:

Chicago: Receiver Marty Booker (knee) has been declared out of Sunday's game at St. Louis. It will be interesting to see if the injury opens an opportunity for rookie Earl Bennett. ... The Bears also ruled out linebacker Darrell McClover (hamstring) and tackle Fred Miller (shoulder). Everyone else should be available.

Detroit: Receiver Mike Furrey (concussion), center Dominic Raiola (hand), cornerback Keith Smith (hand) and defensive end Dewayne White (calf) all will miss Sunday's game against Tampa Bay. ... Safety Dwight Smith (foot) and guard Edwin Mulitalo (knee) are questionable. Their status will be determined Sunday.

Green Bay: The Packers still have one more day of practice before Monday night's game at New Orleans, but the big question is whether receiver James Jones (knee) will play. Jones was added to the injury report Friday and is listed as questionable. He appeared to re-injure his knee last week against Chicago. ... Cornerback Jarrett Bush (ankle) hasn't practiced all week.

Minnesota: Tailback Adrian Peterson returned to practice, was removed from the injury report and will start Sunday at Jacksonville. Peterson was wearing a wrap on his right knee, but coach Brad Childress said it was nothing out of the ordinary. ... Defensive end Jared Allen (shoulder) was limited in practice but should play. Tight end Garrett Mills (ankle) is doubtful and isn't expected to be in uniform.

Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

The last time Minnesota tailback Adrian Peterson visited Soldier Field, he blew up for 224 yards and three touchdowns. In his return Sunday, however, an entirely different dynamic will be at play.

Peterson enters this game with a case of fumble-itis. He lost a pair of fumbles in last Sunday's 12-10 victory over Detroit and has already matched his 2007 season total by losing three this season. The only NFL tailback with more is Cincinnati's Chris Perry with five.

The Bears, of course, are one of the league's best teams at stripping the ball and their five forced fumbles in 2008 ties them for sixth in the NFL.

Speaking this week to Minnesota reporters, Peterson said he has been "careless" with the ball and knows the Bears will test him to see if he is paying more attention.

"Sometimes you kind of hit yourself upside the head, realize that you need to stop being careless with the ball," Peterson said, according to Kelsie Smith of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. "It was kind of like a little wakeup call."

Overall, Peterson has three 100-yard games this season and ranks third in the NFL with 563 yards.

Continuing around the NFC North this morning:

  • Bears linebacker Lance Briggs isn't sure what the Bears did to slow down Peterson in the teams' 2007 rematch at the Metrodome, other than to play disciplined defense. In that game, Peterson managed 78 yards on 20 carries. Mike Mulligan of the Chicago Sun-Times has details.
  • The Vikings' two leading receivers are both ex-Bears, as John Mullin of the Chicago Tribune points out. Bobby Wade and Bernard Berrian have combined for 47 receptions.
  • One of the first people to recruit linebacker Napoleon Harris to Minnesota was E.J. Henderson, who replaced Harris as the team's middle linebacker after the 2006 season but will miss the rest of this season because of two dislocated toes. Judd Zulgad of the Star Tribune recounts the story.
  • Green Bay safety Atari Bigby hasn't had any setbacks in his return this week from a hamstring injury, and the Packers haven't given up hope that he could play in some capacity Sunday against Indianapolis. Tom Pelissero of the Green Bay Press-Gazette lays out the scenario.
  • Packers linebacker Brandon Chillar, the team's only free-agent pickup during the offseason, has cultivated a role as a matchup player against opposing tight ends. Greg A. Bedard of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel spells out Chillar's unique contributions.
  • Detroit defensive coordinator Joe Barry said he considers the team's defensive performance at the Metrodome last Sunday to be a "standard" for the way it should play the rest of the season. But as Dave Birkett of the Oakland Press points out, not all players agree. Safety Dwight Smith: "You get caught up being 0-4, 0-5, you look for any ray of light. But I don't live that way. We definitely can build from that game, but by no means do I feel like that should be the standard. That should be the floor. That should be the lowest we can play, what we played last week."
  • Lions first-round draft pick Gosder Cherilus on getting benched this week, according to Tom Kowalski of Mlive.com: "I don't know that for sure, but the one thing I know is that I went out there and gave it my best and played very, very hard. I don't have anything to be ashamed about."

Familiarity has its advantages

September, 9, 2008
9/09/08
12:00
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 Scott Boehm/Getty Images
 In his first game with his new team, Minnesota's Jared Allen said Monday's game was "one of the least productive games of my life."

 Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

The ball sailed past Minnesota receiver Bernard Berrian a few times. Once, it hit his feet. Another time, he couldn't adjust quickly enough as the ball was in the air.

On the other side of the ball, Vikings defensive end Jared Allen burst through the line a handful of times, tripped on a couple of plays and ultimately finished with what he called "one of the least productive games of my life."

In Atlanta, a defense stocked with newcomers was bumbling all over the field. The Detroit Lions gave up 21 points in the first quarter to the Falcons and never recovered.

Meanwhile, the Chicago Bears' veteran defense carried it to a surprising victory at Indianapolis. And the Green Bay Packers' homegrown roster proved to be the most decisive team on the field Monday night.

In retrospect, it shouldn't be a surprise that the NFC North teams who largely stood pat in the free-agent market were more prepared to play on the opening weekend of the season. High-profile acquisitions impress the media and whip up fan support, but it is a difficult task to bring a group of new veterans together in time to play your best football in September.

Perhaps that's why the Vikings were surprisingly calm and, in many cases, smiling after their 24-19 loss to the Packers on Monday night. Berrian entered the game with almost no game-speed work with quarterback Tarvaris Jackson. They played one quarter of one preseason game together because of injuries. He ended up catching three of the seven passes Jackson threw his way.

Allen's unofficial stat line was filled with zeros, with the exception of one defensed pass. And yet when we ventured into the Vikings' locker room, you couldn't hear a bowling ball drop, let alone a pin. Players weren't exactly jubilant, but they seemed far from discouraged.

"We're going to be fine, man, really," nose tackle Pat Williams said. "We gave up a few big plays, and that's it. I'm not worried at all. If we can get a little more consistency and not give up big plays, we'll be alright. We've just got to work on a few small things."

(Read full post)

Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

As we compile our notes in Detroit for a Lions-dominated mailbag later this week, it made sense to explore a topical and interesting Minnesota Vikings question.

Erik of Oregon writes: Why don't the Vikings just move Sharper back to free safety and play Boulware or Johnson at SS where they are more suited to play? Sharper was a FS his entire career until he was paired with Dwight Smith, why not just move him back?

Kevin Seifert: Technically, Darren Sharper has been playing strong safety since the Vikings installed the "Tampa-2" scheme in 2006. As counterintuitive as it sounds, the differences between free and strong in this scheme aren't that dramatic.

Intuitively, we all consider the "strong" safety to be a hard hitter -- the guy who plays close to the line, supports the run and takes on tight ends. It also stands to reason that the "free safety" is the center fielder -- the last line of defense against the run and the guy who is allowed to break on the ball when it's in the air.

Sharper has played in defenses like that in the past, but in the Tampa-2 (really, all cover-2 defenses) the safeties essentially split the field in half. One has responsibility for one side, and one for the other.

Coaches will tell you the two positions are interchangeable, but I think that's usually to mask the subtleties of the scheme. There are some differences. But all of this is a very long-winded way of saying it wouldn't change much if the Vikings moved Sharper to free safety and put Tyrell Johnson or Michael Boulware at strong safety.

On a related note, Johnson returned to practice today in Minnesota after sitting out two days with a strained abdomen. Madieu Williams is expected to miss a total of about six weeks but, according to the Star Tribune, he escaped what some doctors thought might be a career-threatening injury to his neck.

A fiery morning with the Lions

August, 13, 2008
8/13/08
12:11
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Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- The Detroit Lions greeted us with the most physical, emotional practice we've seen this summer. (Nothing like that Club Med they're running over in Minnesota. Oh, hi Brad!) This is what the black-and-blue division is supposed to look like.

The two-hour, full-pads affair included three bruising hits from defensive players and one very angry quarterback. Yes, Jon Kitna went bonkers on first-year linebacker Buster Davis after Davis knocked tight end John Owens to the ground during a goal-line passing drill.

Even in full-pads practices, you don't usually see players getting knocked to the ground. It definitely struck Kitna the wrong way.

"Do something, Buster! Do something!" Kitna screamed, over and over, after the play. (We're guessing he meant, "Do something in this league before you start throwing players around in practice.") Getting angrier with each yell, Kitna started walking toward Davis before a few coaches got in his way. Fists never came close to flying, but rarely do you so much as see a quarterback advance in a threatening manner.

(Of course, Davis would have had no choice but to back down. He's trying to make the team as a backup linebacker. His chances would probably decrease slightly if he beat up the starting quarterback.)

Lions coach Rod Marinelli has been preaching mental discipline throughout camp. But he's also a classic tough guy and thus seemed torn over Kitna's response. Marinelli said there is "no doubt" Kitna was protecting his offensive teammates. However, Marinelli added, "I don't like the extracurricular. I don't want that. But I understand guys standing up for each other. But we'll be a good team when we don't have penalties -- when we're tough, we're physical and we don't make mistakes. That's all."

From my vantage point, it all started during an earlier drill when linebacker Ernie Sims planted receiver Mike Furrey after a catch. Safety Dwight Smith, never at a loss for words, was jawing with offensive players for much of the goal-line drill, and Davis popped tight end Dan Campbell before his hit on Owens prompted Kitna's outburst.

Kitna is well-known for his fiery personality, but at least one player seemed surprised by how far he took it Wednesday. Receiver Roy Williams, who didn't practice but was watching from the sideline, said he appreciated Kitna's intent but added: "He probably would have gotten knocked out, so I would have rathered him stay back and be the quarterback."

I was interviewing another player when Kitna spoke to reporters, but here's what he had to say, as reported by Tom Kowalski of Mlive.com:

"I'm not going to get into specifics. That's how competitors are. Today's really the last day [of training camp] and we're ready to start seeing other people on a weekly basis. You usually don't go more than seven days without a game in the preseason, and this is our seventh day -- and we've still got three more days until we play. The guys are just ready to hit somebody else."

Everyone has their own opinion on this sort of thing, but count me in the group that considers it an encouraging sign for the Lions. As an outsider dropping in to get a glimpse of a team with few national expectations, it was nice to see the Lions getting after it. The hitting was great and reflected the toughness Marinelli is trying to install into the Lions organization.

You hope that Kitna will control those emotions during a game, but I would rather see vicious hitting and a quarterback going after a linebacker on 10 out of 10 days -- especially if the alternative is watching a lifeless group slog through another dog day of camp.

We'll bring you more practice observations later today.

Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert
Lynch

It doesn't appear the Detroit Lions are interested in safety John Lynch, who left the Denver Broncos earlier this week. The Lions have been among a handful of teams mentioned as a possible landing point for Lynch because of his close relationship with coach Rod Marinelli dating back to their years with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

"We're not looking right now," Marinelli told reporters Thursday at the Lions' training camp.

Four players are competing for playing time at safety, including: Dwight Smith, Gerald Alexander, Kalvin Pearson and Daniel Bullocks.

Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

A jaunt through the NFC North this morning:

  • Although quarterback Brett Favre has been non-committal on his next move, the Green Bay Press-Gazette reported he will petition NFL commissioner Roger Goodell for reinstatement. The Packers would either have to add him to their roster or release him. "The assumption is that it will be sooner rather than later," the newspaper reported. Listening to Favre's interview with Fox News the past two nights, however, this move doesn't seem to be a certainty.
  • The Wisconsin State Journal offers details of Favre's interview that weren't aired Tuesday night.
  • Minnesota Vikings coach Brad Childress will ride in an F-18 today as part of a public appearance in Duluth, Minn.
  • New Chicago running back Kevin Jones signed a one-year contract but told the Chicago Tribune: "When I show them the type of back I am, then I may be a Bear for a long time." Jones' agent said he "fully" expects Jones to be ready to play when the season begins. (That would be a little less than 10 months after surgery to repair a torn ACL in his right knee.) The Bears' backfield success boils down to a rookie or a miracle recovery, writes Greg Couch of the Chicago Sun-Times.
  • Safety Dwight Smith, who moved from the Vikings to the Detroit Lions in the offseason, realizes he has an opportunity to salvage his career. "The last two teams [Minnesota and New Orleans] basically cut me," Smith said. "I feel like I have something to prove in that sense."

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