NFC North: J.T. Thomas

Most significant move: Despite J'Marcus Webb making 44 starts in 46 career games, including 32 consecutive starts at left tackle over the last two years, the Bears made the decision to part ways with him, even after reducing his salary to the league minimum for a veteran with three years of tenure.

Webb entered the offseason as the starter at right tackle, and stayed in that spot through the early part of training camp. Then, after the preseason opener at Carolina, the club demoted Webb to the second team behind rookie fifth-round pick Jordan Mills.

The demotion put Webb in competition for a backup role with veterans Jonathan Scott and Eben Britton. A five-year veteran, Britton has 30 games of starting experience on his résumé, but also possesses more versatility than Webb because of his ability to kick inside to guard and center. Scott hasn’t played all preseason, and recently underwent a procedure on his knee. But the team is confident that even a dinged-up Scott is more reliable than a fully healthy Webb.

Webb possesses the physical skillset to be a starter in the NFL for several years, but lacks motivation and passion, which is a no-no for general manager Phil Emery and the new coaching regime. The new staff worked diligently to coax out the best in Webb, but couldn’t do it consistently enough for the team to feel confident in the three-year veteran, even as a backup.

Good outing, bad result: Quarterback Jordan Palmer performed well in the preseason finale against Cleveland despite little preparation after signing as an injury replacement for Matt Blanchard. But a 64.7 completion percent and a passer rating of 102.8 with a touchdown pass in his preseason debut wasn’t good enough to keep the Bears from cutting Palmer.

A big part of that was the team’s reported desire to sign a third quarterback with practice-squad eligibility. Palmer doesn’t have any practice-squad eligibility remaining.

What’s next: With the 53-man roster finalized, the Bears will start to build their practice squad. If the club wants to bring back some of the players it cut, it will have to wait until they clear waivers. The Bears will likely be looking to add a few players cut from other teams to their practice squad, too.

Bears cuts: QB: Trent Edwards, Jordan Palmer. RB: Armando Allen. OG: Dennis Temple, Edwin Williams. LB:Jerry Franklin, J.T. Thomas. WR: Brittan Golden, Terrence Toliver, Josh Lenz. OT:J'Marcus Webb, Cory Brandon. DT:Corvey Irvin, Christian Tupou. S:Tom Nelson, Brandon Hardin. LS: Brandon Hartson. CB: Demontre Hurst. TE:Fendi Onobun. FB: Harvey Unga. DE: Aston Whiteside, Josh Williams.

Note: Brandon and Irvin received injury settlements. Hardin was waived/injured, which means if he clears waivers, he’ll revert to Chicago’s injured reserve.
We're Black and Blue All Over:

Welcome to another week of preseason football here in the NFC North. Our CampTour'12 has come to an end, and I'll post a dramatic and emotional retrospective at some point soon. For now, let's move right into one of the most important issues we found coursing through training camps this summer: concussion treatment.

We've already noted evidence of the Green Bay Packers extending or enhancing their post-concussion rehabilitation routine. I think we can make a similar observation about the Detroit Lions, based on what coach Jim Schwartz said Sunday in reference to scratching safety Amari Spievey from last Friday's preseason opener against the Cleveland Browns.

Spievey suffered a concussion in the Lions' playoff loss to the New Orleans Saints, and recurring headaches limited his work in their offseason program. He appeared to have made it through the early portion of training camp without a relapse, and he practiced the day before Friday's game. When Spievey returned to practice Sunday, Schwartz told reporters that the team's medical staff had reacted forcefully when Spievey reported concussion-like symptoms at some point after Thursday's practice.
Schwartz: "[A]ny time that you've had a guy with concussion history, I mean, the way it is now, you know, if they wake up and they have a headache or they're nauseous, we're going to go through a long protocol to make sure it's not concussion-related. We're just extra careful with them. … [T]he way he finished the season you know, that last game with the concussion, we're just going to err on the side of caution when something like that comes up and hopefully it's behind us and hopefully he's back to playing for us."

You can't argue with that sort of heightened vigilance, even if it does make more players unavailable for games. Given the legal ramifications, you can consider it a permanent part of the new NFL.

Time for our morning stroll around the NFC North:
  • Lions receiver Ryan Broyles has realized he can't be Superman in his rehabilitation from knee surgery. Justin Rogers of Mlive.com has more.
  • Schwartz has high expectations for rookie cornerback Bill Bentley, notes Carlos Monarrez of the Detroit Free Press.
  • Chris McCosky of the Detroit News provides a look back at the Lions' preseason opener, noting that quarterback Matthew Stafford's chemistry with other receivers doesn't match what he has with Calvin Johnson.
  • Rookie Casey Hayward has taken over as a starting cornerback with the Green Bay Packers while Davon House recovers from a shoulder injury. Jason Wilde of ESPNMilwaukee.com explains.
  • After 21 players missed Saturday's practice and 19 players sat out on Sunday because of injuries, Packers coach Mike McCarthy said: "I don't know what’s going on, I've never seen anything like it." Pete Dougherty of the Green Bay Press-Gazette has the details.
  • It's not clear when Packers receiver Greg Jennings will return from a concussion, according to Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
  • Here is our discussion on the Packers' decision to sign running back Cedric Benson over Ryan Grant. (ICYMI, of course.)
  • Minnesota Vikings coach Leslie Frazier wants to get a handle on expectations for tailback Adrian Peterson's knee recovery now that he has been added to the active roster. Frazier, via Mark Craig of the Star Tribune: "I want to caution you. I know there are a lot of fans that are very optimistic and excited about seeing him back. But for us, it's just a part of the process. It doesn't mean a whole lot other than he's done a great job in his rehab up to this point. He's done everything he can do on the side, and now it's the next step in the process. It doesn't mean in the future he's going to be lining up with our team in the opening game [against Jacksonville on Sept. 9]. We don't know that."
  • Here is a transcript of Peterson's Q&A with reporters after taking part in his first practice, courtesy 1500ESPN.com. Peterson: "I never doubted that I would be ready."
  • It appears that Vikings rookie safety Harrison Smith could start Friday's preseason game against the Buffalo Bills, according to Jeremy Fowler of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
  • Chicago Bears second-year linebacker J.T. Thomas worked with the first team in practice Sunday because of Brian Urlacher's knee soreness and Geno Hayes' illness. Michael C. Wright of ESPNChicago.com has more.
  • The Bears are back to giving Chris Williams reps at left tackle with the first team, notes Wright for ESPNChicago.com, but J'Marcus Webb has been getting the first turns.
  • Bears defensive tackle Stephen Paea will miss a week or two because of a sprained left ankle, notes Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune. Paea had been coming on strong in the competition to start at nose tackle.
  • Rookie defensive end Shea McClellin appears to be getting comfortable in camp, writes Mark Potash of the Chicago Sun-Times.

BBAO: Working for the weekend

May, 25, 2012
5/25/12
7:10
AM ET
We're Black and Blue All Over:

The vast majority of you pleaded for the continuation of BBAO in responding to last week's suggestion request, so I will of course oblige. The Friday heading into Memorial Day weekend, however, is going to be a bit thin. News is as news does. Or something like that.

On with it ...
  • Rob Demovsky of the Green Bay Press-Gazette covered a public discussion on the early 1990s revival of the Green Bay Packers by Bob Harlan and Ron Wolf. Prior to that point, national media members were suggesting that the team be moved to Milwaukee.
  • The Minneapolis City Council is expected to ratify the Minnesota Vikings' stadium bill formally on Friday, notes Eric Roper of the Star Tribune.
  • Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press: "If Cliff Avril and the Detroit Lions don’t work out a long-term deal this summer, and Avril hits the unrestricted free-agent market next spring, the biggest in-house beneficiary could be Willie Young."
  • Several Lions players, including Young, will compete in a fishing tournament against pro Kevin VanDam on June 12. Chris McCosky of the Detroit News has more.
  • Vaughn McClure of the Chicago Tribune: "Bears linebacker J.T. Thomas likely will be cleared of a misdemeanor drug possession charge before the regular season begins, provided he completes the terms of a deferred sentence."
  • Here is some audio of former NFL tight end Jermaine Wiggins speaking to ESPN 1000 about the Bears' offense under offensive coordinator Mike Tice and how he would handle the Matt Forte contract situation.
We're Black and Blue All Over:

We noted last month that all four NFC North teams faced decisions on their quarterback depth this offseason. The Detroit Lions, specifically, had to decide whether to bring back backups Shaun Hill and Drew Stanton -- both of whom are pending free agents -- or if they would use the positions to help draw down their bloated salary-cap structure.

Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press reports that Hill is likely to return, one way or the other, even if it means taking a "slight discount" to make it happen.

That makes sense for all parties. Hill has a longtime connection with offensive coordinator Scott Linehan, performed well when the Lions needed him in 2010 and understands that he won't get a chance to beat out starter Matthew Stafford. That's a pretty good combination for a backup quarterback.

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

Make sure you take a moment to check out Jemele Hill's column on the efforts of Chicago Bears linebacker J.T. Thomas to raise awareness for epilepsy.

Thomas, a rookie who spent 2011 on injured reserve, gained notoriety in May when he took an eighth-grade girl with spina bifida to her junior prom, recently met a 14-year-old boy who suffers from epilepsy.

I won't spoil the whole story, but let's just say it ended in Indianapolis a few days ago.

Continuing around the NFC North:
The Detroit Lions will be the first NFC North team to get on the field for a training camp practice, and so it makes sense for them to have made signing their draft class a high priority. After a flurry of agreements Thursday afternoon, the Lions are down to one unsigned rookie: First-round pick Nick Fairley.

The Lions have a 10:15 a.m. practice scheduled for Friday morning.

Chicago Bears

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Amid the frenzied free-agent market, NFL teams are trying to get their draft classes signed in time for the training camps they want to open in the coming days. So lets resurrect our annual draft tracker to keep you abreast of who has signed and who is left.

To this point, the Chicago Bears are the only NFC North team with confirmed draft pick signings.

I'll post new versions of this bad boy regularly but not necessarily after every transaction.

Chicago Bears

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Detroit Lions

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Green Bay Packers

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Minnesota Vikings

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This week, we brought to your attention the story of Chicago Bears rookie linebacker J.T. Thomas, who escorted a wheelchair-bound girl to her eighth-grade dance last Friday. Thomas and his date, Joslyn Levell, appeared Wednesday morning on ESPN's "First Take" to tell the story.

Thomas said he wanted to make sure that Levell, who has spina bifida, "felt really special" on her big night. Levell and Thomas' seven-year-old brother, who is autistic, ride the same school bus. The driver helped connect Levell, who is a Bears fan, with Thomas, a sixth-round pick in last month's draft.

Check out the video below.

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:

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Thursday, 11/27
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