NFC North: Garrett Wolfe

We're Black and Blue All Over:

The Detroit Lions had a busy news day Monday. We noted both the charity of quarterback Matthew Stafford and the poor behavior of receiver Titus Young, but that left out plenty of other tidbits.

Running backs Jahvid Best (concussion) and Mikel Leshoure (Achilles) were both on the field, participating in a limited portion of the Lions' opening organized team activity (OTA) of the offseason. So was rookie receiver Ryan Broyles, who is six months removed from major knee surgery.

Middle linebacker Stephen Tulloch, meanwhile, didn't practice because of knee tendinitis and might not be back on the field until training camp. That's a bit of a disconcerting turn of events for a player so critical to the Lions' 2011 improvement, but keep in mind that Tulloch hasn't missed a game in his six-year career.

Continuing around the NFC North:
We're Black and Blue All Over:

Dhani Jones is a journeyman NFL linebacker who is promoting a book. Why so many people are worked up about his opinion on the best players at his position is beyond me.

As you know by now, Jones did not include Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher among his top 10 and, in an interview with the NFL Network, asked when Urlacher had last gotten off a block. There is no doubt that Urlacher's best days are behind him, and that taking on offensive linemen isn't his strong suit, but I think anyone who watched the Bears last season know he played at a high level.

Jones' comments spurred a Hot Button debate from our friends at ESPNChicago.com. Jon Greenberg put Urlacher at No. 12 on his list. For what it's worth, ESPN.com ranked Urlacher No. 8 in its offseason positional Power Rankings.

Ultimately, I'm on board with Jeff Dickerson's take: "Here's the easiest way to sum up Brian Urlacher's importance at the linebacker position for the Chicago Bears: When he doesn't play, they lose. The Bears went 0-7 without Urlacher running the defense in 2004, and 7-9 in 2009 when a wrist injury sidelined the middle linebacker for roughly the entire season. The following seasons after those injuries, the Bears won the division (2005, '10), due in large part to the play of a healthy Urlacher."

Continuing around the NFC North:
  • Former Bears running back Garrett Wolfe won't face felony charges as part of an arrest in Miami last month, according to Dickerson.
  • With the rules of free agency becoming more evident, Jason Wilde of ESPNMilwaukee.com thinks it is very unlikely that left guard Daryn Colledge will return to the Green Bay Packers. Wilde takes a look at the Packers' free-agent class in the context of the expected rules.
  • Former Packers quarterback Lynn Dickey is still popular among older Packers fans, writes Jon Gast of the Green Bay Press-Gazette.
  • Tom Pelissero of 1500ESPN.com: "Barring a surprise change, 17 players who finished last season on the Minnesota Vikings' 53-man roster or injured reserve would become unrestricted whenever the league year begins, with [Sidney] Rice and [Ray] Edwards the highest-profile."
  • The franchise tag that the Vikings put on linebacker Chad Greenway is expected to translate into the new agreement, writes Judd Zulgad of the Star Tribune.
  • Re-signed cornerback Chris Houston, who will be an unrestricted free agent, remains one of the Detroit Lions' top priorities. Tim Twentyman of the Detroit News has more.
  • Lions players believe they have a tight locker room, writes Carlos Monarrez of the Detroit Free Press.
We're Black and Blue All Over:

For the second year in a row, the name of veteran linebacker Keith Bulluck is emerging in connection with the Detroit Lions.

Bulluck played for Lions coach Jim Schwartz in Tennessee, and the Lions still have a need at the linebacker position. Last year, he signed with the New York Giants because he wanted to play for a team that he thought was ready to win, but this year he is including the Lions among his candidates.
Bulluck on Sirius NFL Radio, via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press: "First and foremost, New York because they gave me an opportunity to come and continue my career, really get healthy, where I needed to be. Detroit. I like what Schwartz is doing up there. Last year, I wasn't prepared physically to play and do the things that they would need me to do, but now I feel I am. New England is always veteran-friendly, and I know, every year, they're in contention of winning.

"Like I say, I want to win, really. At this point in my career, financially, me and my family are fine. But I definitely would like to be in a position to play myself into maybe possibly being one of the top-paid linebackers in the league again. Definitely one of the top players in the league."

Bulluck, however, is 34 and might need a reality check about his career arc. As thin as the Lions are at the position, would they consider him a full-time option? It's more likely he could be paired with another part-time player, but we won't know the answer until the free-agent market opens.

Continuing around the NFC North:
We're Black and Blue All Over:

The Minnesota state legislature has adjourned without addressing the Minnesota Vikings' stadium issue with so much as a single public hearing. So the question now: Will the issue be placed on the agenda for a presumed special session this summer?

Here's what Rep. Morrie Lanning, one of the stadium bill authors, told Mike Kaszuba of the Star Tribune: "It is of course possible if, there is a special session, for this issue to be before us."

The special session will be dominated by a contentious battle to balance the state budget, however. And Lanning noted that several obstacles still must be overcome, including roads and naming rights. He told Dave Orrick of the St. Paul Pioneer Press that public hearings later this summer are possible as well.

One way or the other, it looks like it will take at least another month to find out whether this bill will be passed or if the Vikings will go into the 2011 season as pending franchise free agents.

Continuing around the NFC North:
  • Green Bay Packers running back Brandon Jackson, a pending free agent, feels like it is "wasting my life" to pay attention to the details of the lockout. Kareem Copeland of the Green Bay Press-Gazette has more.
  • Kevin Oklobzija of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle wonders what would have happened if the Buffalo Bills had drafted linebacker Clay Matthews instead of defensive end Aaron Maybin in the 2009 draft. Matthews is the featured speaker at the Rochester Press-Radio Club's 62nd annual day of champions dinner.
  • The Detroit Lions confirmed they have "made some adjustments to our business operation" because of the lockout but would not confirm reports that they have instituted mandatory two-week furloughs for employees, according to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press.
  • Lions offensive lineman Jason Fox is healthy for the first time in two years, writes Tim Twentyman of the Detroit News.
  • Chicago Bears running back Garrett Wolfe, a pending free agent, was arrested over the weekend because of a fight that started over an unpaid nightclub bill of $1,572, according to Neil Hayes of the Chicago Sun-Times.
  • Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune looks at how the Bears have been impacted by the lockout.
We're Black and Blue All Over:

I hope everyone had an outstanding weekend. By all accounts, 14-year-old Joslyn Levell of Morgantown, W.Va., did.

Levell, who has spina bifida and is confined to a wheelchair, was escorted to her high school prom Friday night by Chicago Bears linebacker J.T. Thomas, a sixth-round pick in last month's draft. Thomas' 7-year-old autistic brother rides the same school bus as Levell, and word got back to J.T. Thomas that she was a big Bears fan.

Their story was told in several media outlets over the weekend, including ESPNChicago.com, the Chicago Tribune and NFL.com.
Thomas: "This is just about her being happy. Although that dance might last two or three hours, she might have something to remember for the rest of her life. Anytime you can affect someone's life positively like that, why not?"

And with that, let's start our week.

Continuing around the NFC North:
We're Black and Blue All Over:

It appears the Green Bay Packers and linebacker A.J. Hawk won't be apart long.

Released on Wednesday because of a bloated 2011 salary, Hawk reportedly will re-sign with the team before the expiration of the NFL's collective bargaining agreement (CBA) Thursday night. According to Lance Allan of WTMJ-Ch. 4, Hawk will sign a new five-year contract. Hawk's agent told Rob Demovsky of the Green Bay Press-Gazette that the sides are putting the "finishing touches" on the new deal.

Even if the matter isn't completed Thursday, the Packers won't necessarily lose Hawk. He would be eligible for unrestricted free agency, but the market won't open until after a new CBA is reached. He could always sign the structure of what has been negotiated at that time.

Hawk was scheduled to earn a base salary of $10 million or the value of the franchise tag for linebackers in 2011, whichever was higher. In essence, that salary was written to force the Packers to make a decision on his future this offseason. It appears that decision has been made and is nearly executed.

Continuing around the NFC North on what could our last normal day offseason day for quite some time:
  • Hawk had surgery on his right wrist less than a month ago and won't be ready for football activities until this summer, notes Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
  • Free-agent nose tackle Pat Williams told Tim Yotter of VikingUpdate.com that he won't return to the Minnesota Vikings in 2011.
  • The Vikings are continuing business as best as they can this week, according to the Star Tribune.
  • Jeremy Fowler of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reviews the tenders the Vikings gave to restricted free agents, although those offers are likely to be rendered moot in most cases by a new CBA.
  • Jeff Dickerson of ESPNChicago.com speaks to Chicago Bears tight end Desmond Clark and running back Garrett Wolfe about the impact of the looming lockout on their careers.
  • Bears personnel director Tim Ruskell has some new ideas, according to Dan Pompei of the Chicago Tribune.
  • Among many nuggets in Neil Hayes' Chicago Sun-Times story with offensive coordinator Mike Martz: Bears receiver Johnny Knox "embarrassed" the New York Jets' cornerbacks last season, Martz said.
  • The Detroit Lions would be hurt financially more than most NFL teams by a lockout, writes Tim Twentyman of the Detroit News.
  • Lions cornerback Chris Houston, via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press: "It's business, and with things going right now, every team is kind of trying to take the cheaper road out, which we expected. But at the same time, I feel like if they wanted me as much as they say they did then things would have got done a little bit earlier or right after the season or before this even occurred. But at the same time, it's business from their perspective, and it's going to be business on this end."
  • Tom Kowalski of Mlive.com outlines a way that Nebraska cornerback Prince Amukamara could fall to the Lions at No. 13 overall.

BBAO: Bears 'plan on winning a lot'

September, 7, 2010
9/07/10
7:15
AM ET
We're Black and Blue All Over:

The Chicago Bears held what by all accounts was an interesting Q&A session with 2,000 season-ticket holders Monday night. More than a few fans expressed concern about the Bears' 0-4 preseason and their prospects for 2010, at one point prompting coach Lovie Smith to offer this response (via Sean Jensen of the Chicago Sun-Times):

"We plan on winning a lot of football games this year, and those comments you are making, I think this will be the last time we hear them from you.''

At this time of year, coaches have no choice but to offer positive appraisals of the upcoming season. This is the NFL's happy season, when everyone is undefeated (and also winless). But Rick Morrissey of the Sun-Times writes that fans "seem to know better this time around."
Morrissey: "If Lovie Smith had ever been publicly honest about his team -- like, just once -- maybe more people would believe him when he says everything will be fine. He'd have built up some equity by now. Fans would have disregarded the recently completed winless preseason because, really, what do four exhibition games mean? But when a coach has spent the previous six years insisting everything is swell even when it's not, people tend to withhold the benefit of the doubt. In fact, you'd need the Jaws of Life to extract the benefit of the doubt from many Bears fans."

OK then. As we've touched on a couple of times, I think much of the consternation is emanating from concern that the Bears will open the season with a home loss to the Detroit Lions, losers of 28 of their past 30 games. If that happens, Chicago's floodgates of negativity will truly be unleashed.

Continuing around the NFC North:
  • Bears president Ted Phillips refuted many claims in a recent Forbes magazine report on the Bears' finances, according to Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune. Phillips: "From my perspective, when you have the smallest stadium in the NFL and you are able to even by Forbes' calculation be in the Top 10, I think that shows that we're doing an excellent job of maximizing our revenues from every source possible, maximizing the utilization of all of our resources and being able to have enough resources to compete on the field in terms of competing for player talent."
  • Biggs explores why the Bears' offensive line is in constant transition, noting the team drafted only one lineman in the first five rounds between 2003-07.
  • ESPNChicago.com's Jeff Dickerson: "It's unclear whether or not Garrett Wolfe will have a role in Mike Martz's offense. But one thing that's abundantly clear: the Bears could not afford to live without Wolfe's invaluable contributions on special teams."
  • Longtime Detroit Lions place-kicker Jason Hanson: "Even your average fan can see that we're a better team." Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press has more.
  • New Lions cornerback Alphonso Smith to Chris McCosky of the Detroit News: "It's really good to have a clean slate. I allowed certain individuals back in Denver to form a perception of me, and I paid for it."
  • Lions general manager Martin Mayhew believes the team will be "pretty decent" this season, writes Tom Kowalski of Mlive.com.
  • Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy is taking a risk by planning to use starting cornerback Tramon Williams as a punt returner, writes Rob Demovsky of the Green Bay Press-Gazette.
  • Not only did Packers linebacker Clay Matthews miss a month of practice, but he is also making the switch from right to left outside linebacker, notes Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
  • The Packers believe they have upgraded their punting situation with Tim Masthay, writes Jason Wilde of ESPNMilwaukee.com.
  • Minnesota Vikings cornerback Antoine Winfield said "it would be nice" to add another cornerback, but "that's not up to me." Tom Pelissero of 1500ESPN.com has more.
  • Vikings tailback Adrian Peterson on opponents' attempts to knock the ball from his hands rather than tackle him: "They might not be on the field too long if they continue to do that." Judd Zulgad of the Star Tribune has more.

BBAO: Week 1 begins

September, 5, 2010
9/05/10
11:39
AM ET
We're Black and Blue All Over:

An unusual dynamic will begin playing out Sunday here in the NFC North. While the Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers continue a weekend pause to fortify and finalize their rosters, the Minnesota Vikings will start their practice week in anticipation of Thursday night's season opener in New Orleans.

Sunday's schedule will roughly mirror a typical NFL Wednesday, including a full practice and slate of media interviews. I'll be at the Vikings' facility, where quarterback Brett Favre is among those expected to talk. I'll also keep track of significant roster moves after the noon ET expiration for waiver claims.

In the meantime, let's take a Sunday morning spin around the division.

Chicago Bears cutdown analysis

September, 4, 2010
9/04/10
8:42
PM ET
Check here for a full list of Chicago's roster moves.

Biggest surprise: There were no earth-shattering moments Saturday for the Bears. But it was sobering to see them give up on three members of their 2009 draft class, including defensive end Jarron Gilbert, receiver Juaquin Iglesias and safety Al Afalava. Defensive lineman Henry Melton squeezed onto the roster, and the class did produce two 2010 starters: Receiver Johnny Knox and right guard Lance Louis. Meanwhile, guard Josh Beekman was put out of his misery. The Bears have been trying to replace Beekman for two years and finally released him. Finally, the Bears kept four tailbacks -- Matt Forte, Chester Taylor, Kahlil Bell and Garrett Wolfe. Forte and Taylor are expected to get all of the offensive snaps, but Bell and Wolfe have special teams value.

No-brainers: There was plenty of excitement when the Bears drafted quarterback Dan LeFevour, an Illinois native, but it was apparent early in training camp that he wasn't destined to make the roster. The Bears devoted all of their offensive reps to starter Jay Cutler and then-backup Caleb Hanie. Todd Collins has taken over at No. 2 because of Hanie's shoulder injury, and there was no way the Bears were going to release Hanie and keep LeFevour. You wonder if he won't end up back on their practice squad.

What's next: The Bears are going to have to get their special teams re-situated after releasing Tim Shaw, who led the team with 30 special teams tackles last year. It appears Shaw was released to make room for linebacker Brian Iwuh, who the team believes is more suited for its defensive scheme.

Final arguments: Four on the bubble

September, 2, 2010
9/02/10
4:00
PM ET
Preseason play mercifully will end Thursday night, opening what is really a five-day window for NFL teams to settle on their final 53-man rosters and practice squads. Some teams will begin making cuts as soon as Friday morning. Everyone must be down to 53 by Saturday at 6 p.m. ET, but waiver claims, trades and other player movement could continue as late as next Tuesday before Week 1 practices begin in earnest.

As we approach the NFL's flea market season, let's identify one player who seems most at risk on each NFC North team.

Chicago Bears

Player: Running back Garrett Wolfe
Comment: We've been waiting for Wolfe's speed to translate into regular playmaking for three years, and his time might now be up. Although he's been a good special-teams player in the past, Wolfe is on the wrong side of the Bears' Matt Forte-Chester Taylor tailback tandem. If the Bears keep a third running back, it could be second-year player Kahlil Bell.

Detroit Lions

Player: Offensive lineman Jon Jansen
Comment: Jansen started two games last season as an emergency fill-in and has spent the summer competing with Gosder Cherilus for the starting right tackle job. But if Cherilus wins the job, as expected, the Lions might choose a younger player such as Corey Hilliard as a backup.

Green Bay Packers

Player: Tight end Donald Lee
Comment: The Packers have five tight ends that probably should make the team: Jermichael Finley, Spencer Havner, Tom Crabtree, rookie Andrew Quarless and the veteran Lee. But that's a high number, and you wonder if Lee wouldn't be the odd man out. He's scheduled to make $2 million this season, all of which would be guaranteed if he's on the Week 1 roster. That's premium money for a part-time player.

Minnesota Vikings

Player: Kickoff specialist Rhys Lloyd
Comment: A kickoff specialist is a luxury reserved for only the biggest, most consistent boomers in the NFL. Lloyd, on the other hand, doesn't have a touchback this preseason and has been a big disappointment. It's possible the Vikings will give him time to straighten out, but their health-induced duress at other positions might make his roster spot too valuable.

NFC North Friday injury report

November, 20, 2009
11/20/09
5:49
PM ET
Catching up on the Friday injury report and other NFC North news:

Chicago Bears: It looks like the Bears will be without tight end Desmond Clark (neck) and safety Kevin Payne (back) on Sunday night against Philadelphia. Both players are listed as doubtful. … The Bears also placed running back Garrett Wolfe (kidney) on injured reserve and promoted running back Khalil Bell from the practice squad.

Detroit Lions: Right guard Stephen Peterman (ankle) is lost for the season. He was placed on injured reserve Friday and replaced on the roster by practice squad receiver Eric Fowler. … Linebacker Ernie Sims (hamstring) and safety Kalvin Pearson (hamstring) were ruled out for Sunday’s game against Cleveland. Other players who could be sidelined by injury include linebacker Zack Follett (neck), defensive end Dewayne White (toe) and receiver/kick returner Derrick Williams (hip).

Green Bay Packers: Center Scott Wells (concussion) returned to practice Friday and coach Mike McCarthy indicated he will start Sunday against San Francisco. That’s a good thing, because backup center Evan Dietrich-Smith (ankle) didn’t practice and is questionable for Sunday’s game. … Tailback Ahman Green strained his groin in practice Thursday and is questionable. … It looks like tight end Jermichael Finley (knee) will be available. … McCarthy said that Mark Tauscher will start at right tackle but didn’t rule out a rotation with rookie T.J. Lang.

Minnesota Vikings: It doesn’t look good for cornerback Antoine Winfield (foot) to return to the field Sunday against Seattle. He participated in three days of practice this week, but the Vikings listed him as doubtful for the game. A final determination won’t occur until Sunday, but it appears Winfield will miss his fourth consecutive game. He suffered the injury Oct. 18. … The Vikings also listed receiver Bernard Berrian (hamstring) as questionable, but he is expected to play.

NFC North at night

November, 9, 2009
11/09/09
6:50
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com’s Kevin Seifert

Catching up on Monday’s news in the NFC North:

Chicago Bears: We’ve already filled you in on the apology of defensive lineman Tommie Harris and the hospitalization of tailback Garrett Wolfe. One other nugget: Cornerback Charles Tillman (shoulder) said he will be ready to play in time for Thursday night’s game at San Francisco.

Detroit Lions: The Lions were awarded defensive back Jack Williams through waivers and released cornerback Jason David. … Linebacker Ernie Sims might have suffered a significant hamstring injury in Sunday’s loss at Seattle. Coach Jim Schwartz told reporters that tests were not complete as of Monday afternoon. Safety Louis Delmas (knee) is day-to-day. … Schwartz said he spoke with quarterback Matthew Stafford and receiver Calvin Johnson after television cameras caught them in an unfriendly sideline exchange. “You want to be happy and cheerful and you want to win football games,” Schwartz said, “and there are things that you have to work through and there are going to be times that you need to talk things out and stuff like that. I don’t even see it as being an issue. I know it’s not for the players and I don’t understand why somebody would make an issue ….”

Green Bay Packers: We hit the Packers’ top news in Monday’s Third and One.

Minnesota Vikings: Cornerback Antoine Winfield (sprained foot) did some light work off to the side during practice, coach Brad Childress told reporters. But that doesn’t mean Winfield will be ready to return to the lineup for Sunday’s game against Detroit. Winfield hasn’t played since suffering the injury Oct. 18 against Baltimore.

Third and one: Bears

November, 9, 2009
11/09/09
1:02
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com’s Kevin Seifert

After Chicago’s 41-21 loss to Arizona, here are three (mostly) indisputable facts I feel relatively sure about:
  1. I’ll go into more depth on this Tuesday, but for now I think the Bears’ biggest problem on defense is they don’t have a big-time playmaker. At least, they don’t have one who is consistently making the type of game-changing plays -- sacks, interceptions, touchdowns -- that alter the course of games. That was always the hallmark of their mid-2000’s defenses. Pro Bowl linebacker Lance Briggs has that ability, but he’s been invisible in the Bears’ recent blowout losses. Defensive tackle Tommie Harris has fallen off the deep end. Cornerback Charles Tillman has returned one of his two interceptions for a touchdown and has forced two fumbles, but his impact hasn’t been nearly enough to compensate for his slumping teammates.
  2. The Bears continue to have depth issues in their offensive backfield. Adrian Peterson is back from a knee injury, but it looks like Garrett Wolfe will miss at least a few weeks because of a lacerated kidney. Brad Biggs of the Chicago Sun-Times reports Wolfe will be hospitalized for at least one more day after suffering the injury in Sunday’s game. I’m fully aware that former Pro Bowl running back Larry Johnson is now available, but I don’t see him as a fit in Chicago. There’s no reason for the Bears to take that risk when they aren’t willing to use a second running back. Matt Forte is the only tailback that gets on the field.
  3. There will have to be a tremendous turnaround for Chicago to bring back Harris next season. What’s the upside? Harris no longer makes a big-play impact. He has clashed with the team on his practice schedule, leading to a paid one-week sabbatical. And more than a few teammates were upset with his ejection from Sunday’s game. If nothing else, Harris left the Bears’ defensive line one man short of its usual rotation. Players are used to compensating for injured teammates. But his ejection left his teammates disappointed and perhaps suspicious as well. Defensive end Alex Brown, for one, angrily refused to talk about a player he has defended throughout the year.
And here is one question I’m still asking:
Why does Jay Cutler spend so much time jawing with opponents and officials? I realize Cutler is combative, competitive and ornery. Those personality traits have no doubt played a role in his football success. They feed his aggression and playmaking ability. But I don’t see anything good coming from the verbal volleys. On Sunday, it eventually cost the Bears 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct. More importantly, it sets a chaotic tone for the rest of the offense. If the general is off complaining to referees and taunting opposing players or -- in the case of Cleveland defensive coordinator Rob Ryan -- coaches, there is no one left to lead and organize the troops.

NFC North weekend mailbag

November, 7, 2009
11/07/09
10:00
AM ET
Posted by ESPN.com’s Kevin Seifert

One note before we get into our weekend fun.

Sarcasm is and will be our default tone here on the NFC North blog. Some of you don’t like it, but many of you don’t seem to get it. (Maybe that’s a comment on my limited skills as a sarcasteur, but we’ll leave that debate for another day.)

When I wrote last week that Minnesota’s bye makes it “an awfully difficult chore for me to develop interesting blog items,” I figured most readers would recognize its absurdity and take it accordingly. But I got more than a few notes like this one from someone who claims to be named Johnny Appleseed: “Even if you truly think there is NOTHING to watch with Minnesota on a bye, keep that in your head and print the objective thoughts that filter through that homer head of yours.”

Sarcasm, people. Chill out. Sarcasm.

Ok, let’s get to some questions. Remember, you can reach me via Facebook, Twitter, or the good old-fashioned mailbag.

Steve of Madison, Wis. writes: I can't help but wonder what the difference was that made Garrett Wolfe appear more productive then Matt Forte in that last drive. He was gaining 4-5 yards a carry and was pushing the pile which is no easy feat at his size. Was it the fact that it was garbage time and perhaps the Browns quit on the game, or just that it was the Browns? There just appeared to be a significant difference in their runs. Do you have any logical explanation? And should the Bears look at mixing the run game up more to really provide a change of pace?

Kevin Seifert: I think you said it: Garbage time. There is almost nothing to discern from the point in a game where both sides are just trying to end it. Chicago was trying to run out the clock, and Cleveland was allowing it. It’s like getting excited about an NBA bench player who scores 16 points in the final 10 minutes of a 120-80 blowout. It’s mostly baseless excitement.

With that said, I don’t think you’re off-base in suggesting the Bears at least mix up their backfield rotation. Their original plan to play Kevin Jones behind Forte was scuttled by Jones’ preseason ankle injury, and I can understand their reluctance to put much faith on Wolfe’s shoulders. In three years, he has only 68 carries.

But I also think it’s a bit stubborn to keep pounding away with the same formula when it isn’t working. Forte, of course, should remain the Bears’ starting tailback. But if you’re averaging 58.3 yards per game, as Forte is, it shouldn’t be out of the question to mix it up with more regularity. If the Bears don’t trust Wolfe to run the ball at least sometimes, then he shouldn’t be on the roster.




Matt of Chicago writes: I am amazed at the people coming to Dominic Raiola's defense on his latest (not his first and likely not his last) run-in with fans. His defense -- that he was sticking up for his QB and won't let the fans run him out of town like we did with Joey Harrington -- is pure bunk. The fans were incredibly supportive and in fact it was his own teammates such as Dre Bly that hung him out to dry. The simple fact that there is anyone at all in the stands after what we have endured in the last decade proves our loyalty. Maybe if Raiola focused more on the field and less on the stands there wouldn't be so many disgruntled fans.

Kevin Seifert: You said it better than I could have, Matt. Joey Harrington ran himself out of town with poor play, a shaky attitude and a much-too-sensitive personality. Some might argue that Harrington’s promising career was ruined by Detroit’s losing culture, but I don’t buy that. He’s had multiple opportunities elsewhere to prove he can be a starting-caliber quarterback, and has failed each time.

I’m sure Raiola is just as frustrated as the most disgruntled fan. But after seeing the 25,000-plus empty seats Sunday at Ford Field, he should have been thanking those who did show up. The fact is that fans in every professional city can be unfair, uneducated, rude and even nasty. Absorbing their jeers and cheers is all part of being a professional athlete. Why Raiola thinks Lions players should be treated any differently is beyond me.


(Read full post)

NFC North Underachiever: Matt Forte

October, 21, 2009
10/21/09
11:00
AM ET
NFC: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Posted by ESPN.com’s Kevin Seifert

Taking a look at Chicago’s tailback as part of a larger ESPN.com project:
AP Photo/Dave Martin
Matt Forte's numbers have dropped significantly from his rookie season.

A half-yard per carry. About 19 yards per game. That’s the production dropoff that has taken Matt Forte from NFC North blue-chipper to the division’s biggest disappointment in 2009.

Through five games this season, Forte is averaging 3.4 yards per carry and about 58 yards per game. As one of the NFL’s top rookies last season, he averaged 3.9 yards and almost 78 yards per game. Those numbers might not sound significant, but it’s been alarming for a team that has few personnel options at the position.

Considering that almost 40 percent of his season total came in one game against 1-5 Detroit, Forte in essence has been in a season-long slump. It’s too early to know where this will take us, but there seem to be three options:
  1. The Bears have matched up against an exceptional collection of run defenses.
  2. Chicago’s offensive line is playing worse than imagined.
  3. Forte is simply an average back.

The final explanation is most frightening for the Bears, who lost backup Kevin Jones during the preseason and have never seemed to trust the diminutive Garrett Wolfe. From the moment he was drafted last season, Forte was named the heir to the Cedric Benson/Thomas Jones duo. The Bears haven’t hedged that bet, and so their 2009 fortunes are tied to Forte.

Regardless of the reason the Bears are not getting nearly the production they need from one of their key offensive players. (Note: An earlier version of this post contained an inaccurate number for Forte's receptions this season. He has caught 18 passes.)
Matt Forte game-by-game, 2009
Date Opponent Carries Yards Avg. TD
Sept. 26 Green Bay
25 55 2.2 0
Oct. 5 Pittsburgh
13 29 2.2 0
Oct. 10 Seattle 21 66 3.1 0
Sept. 13 Detroit 12 121 10.1 1
Sept. 19 Atlanta 15 23 1.5 0
TOTALS -- 86 294 3.4 1

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