NFC North: Herb Taylor

About an hour after we noted the Green Bay Packers had turned their attention toward the composition of their roster, the team announced five roster cuts. By far the most notable name was defensive end Anthony Hargrove, a rare free-agent acquisition who learned a few weeks after he signed with the team that he would be suspended eight games as part of the NFL's discipline for the New Orleans Saints bounty program.

Hillis
Hargrove
The Packers had the option of carrying Hargrove on their suspended list once the season began. He wouldn't have counted against their 53-man roster during that time period, but it was also clear that the looming suspension had created a roadblock. The Packers gave him only a handful of snaps in team periods, acknowledging they needed to distribute them instead to players who were eligible to start the season. In many ways, the Packers were forced to move on.

I don't blame the Packers for taking care of the team first. But for what it's worth, I agree with a thought tweeted out this evening by Albert Breer of the NFL Network, who suggested the release "could raise some legal liability for NFL tied to the Saints' bounty situation."

We've spent a lot of time picking through the evidence the NFL presented against Hargrove, most of which was easy to poke holes in. In the end, it was difficult to understand explicitly what exactly Hargrove was suspended for.

A reasonable person could put two and two together and suggest Hargrove wouldn't have been released Friday if he hadn't been suspended. In other words, the bounty discipline has significantly impacted Hargrove's career. We'll see if that leads anywhere from a legal perspective.

Note: The other four players released were receiver Andrew Brewer, safety Micah Pellerin, tackle Herb Taylor and cornerback Dion Turner.
Reviewing Thursday's action at Qualcomm Stadium:

San Diego Chargers 21, Green Bay Packers 13

Preseason record: 0-1

Of interest: Overall, a pretty ugly night for the defending NFC North champions. Two defensive starters departed with injuries, and the biggest concern was the condition of linebacker Desmond Bishop, who left the sideline on a cart because of a right knee injury. The Packers seemed braced for the worst Thursday night. Bishop has struggled with calf problems over the past year, and D.J. Smith is a capable backup, but it's early to start losing presumptive starters. Cornerback Davon House also left with a shoulder injury. … Even in the context of the preseason, the Packers' first-team offense had a rough night. Its three possessions ended in two turnovers and a punt, and overall the Packers had three turnovers in the first quarter alone. Watching Chargers rookie Melvin Ingram smoke replacement left tackle Herb Taylor was a nightmare for anyone associated with the Packers, especially when Ingram slammed into quarterback Aaron Rodgers (2-of-8 for 16 yards) and caused an interception. … Linebacker Nick Perry's bull rush of Chargers veteran Jeromey Clary in the first quarter was encouraging, even if replacement referees penalized his subsequent sack dance. … Safety M.D. Jennings got turned around by veteran tight end Antonio Gates on a 23-yard touchdown reception, and I wasn't a big fan of Jennings' tackle attempt (nor that of fellow safety Morgan Burnett) on Vincent Brown's 27-yard score. … Backup quarterback Graham Harrell (15-of-27 for 135 yards) had some moments, including a 3-yard score to receiver Randall Cobb, but it's clear he needs a lot of preseason playing time to even out his game.

Local coverage (in lieu of BBAO): Coach Mike McCarthy said that Bishop's injury "didn't look very good," according to Jason Wilde of ESPNMilwaukee.com, but that the Packers would "hopefully get some good news as further testing goes on." … Harrell on his performance, via Tyler Dunne of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "Getting a chance to get that many reps -- and get in drive after drive -- is definitely good for me. We'll only get better from it. As the preseason goes on, hopefully we'll continue to improve." … Bob McGinn of the Journal Sentinel wasn't impressed with the evening. McGinn: "You couldn't draw up a more inept start to an exhibition season than the Green Bay Packers' regulars subjected a national cable television audience to Thursday night. Miserable on offense. Feeble on defense. Flawed and mistake-prone on special teams." … Pete Dougherty of the Green Bay Press-Gazette: "The Green Bay Packers were fortunate to get out of this game with Aaron Rodgers upright and intact." … Perry played much of the first half and also drew a holding penalty from Clary, notes Rob Demovsky of the Press-Gazette.
Three items of interest in the Green Bay Packers' preseason opener against the San Diego Chargers, to be televised this evening at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN:

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers' safety: You wonder how long the Packers will play the reigning MVP given their situation at left tackle, where starter Marshall Newhouse is sidelined by a concussion. Veteran Herb Taylor, who has made one NFL start and hasn't played in a regular-season game since 2008, is the likely replacement. Rodgers would probably have played a couple of series if Newhouse were on the field. You don't want to play or coach scared, but are preseason reps important enough to have your franchise protected by a journeyman left tackle?

Playmaking process begins: It'll be fun over the next few weeks to see who among the Packers' defensive newcomers proves to be a playmaker. You can only see so much in training camp practices, but it's a fact that some players take it up a notch under the so-called "bright lights." Rookies such as Nick Perry, Jerel Worthy and Casey Hayward figure to get extensive playing time against the Chargers. Some of their work could come against second- and third-team players, but we'll start to see how they react under pressure of game situations.

Officiating history: Shannon Eastin will serve as the line judge, becoming the first woman to be part of an officiating crew in NFL history. Her achievement will be overshadowed, however, by the ongoing labor dispute between the league and its front-line officials. Eastin wouldn't be in this position without it, and her performance will be heavily scrutinized along with the rest of the league's replacement officials. Privately, NFL coaches and players are hoping for the best, but worried about the worst in a situation that's ideal for no one.
We're Black and Blue All Over:

Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave comes across as your classic mild-mannered schemer, the kind whose brief and measured conversation suggests a man whose mind is always focused on the next play call. But it sounds as if Musgrave and his offensive assistants turned up a verbal assault Monday night on the Vikings' offense, disappointed in its sloppy training camp performance earlier in the day and demanding a better one Tuesday.

By most accounts, Musgrave got what he wanted.

The Vikings had a sharper practice Tuesday and quarterback Christian Ponder offered a glimpse of Musgrave's speech. Via Dan Wiederer of the Star Tribune: "He had a great metaphor of lighting a fire. He finds some unique ways of motivating us. But it works. I'm not going to go into details. It might get some people in trouble. … Let's just say it involved a bucket of water, some leaves and some sticks. It was interesting."

It wouldn't be the first time a coach lit into players during a training camp practice, but it's also a fact that the Vikings are under enormous pressure to improve from their dismal 2011 offensive performance. Sometimes, that can lead to, ahem, a fiery mix.

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

Here's what we know: Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher suffered what initially looked like a catastrophic left knee injury in the 2011 season finale against the Minnesota Vikings. The injury was later announced as sprained medial collateral and posterior collateral ligaments, requiring no surgery.

Urlacher didn't participate in the team's on-field work during the offseason, and when he resumed practicing at the start of training camp, he was wearing a brace on the knee. Now Urlacher has missed four consecutive days because of soreness in the knee, and it's possible he won't play in the Bears' preseason opener against the Denver Broncos.

Here's what we don't know: Are the Bears merely being cautious with a veteran who really doesn't need every practice repetition in camp? Or is this an indication that Urlacher hasn't fully recovered from the original injury and could be limited when the regular season begins?

Coach Lovie Smith didn't seem concerned when speaking with reporters Sunday, and in the short term the Bears can move outside linebacker Nick Roach to Urlacher's spot in the middle. But the Bears don't have anything close to an heir apparent on their roster, as they found out when Urlacher dislocated his wrist and missed 15 games in 2009. Their defense is much different when he is not on the field.

Continuing around the NFC North:
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The Green Bay Packers had only one injured player to monitor this week, promising more healthy scratches than usual for Sunday's divisional game against the New York Giants. In addition to injured linebacker Robert Francois, here is who the Packers deactivated Sunday afternoon:
One notable starting lineup change: As expected, the Packers will start Brad Jones at the right outside linebacker position that was manned all season by Erik Walden.

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