NFC North: Jason Hunter

We're Black and Blue All Over:

My AFC South colleague Paul Kuharsky, who lords over the highly debated and increasingly powerful NFL Twindex, found some humor in a light-hearted Twitter exchange between Minnesota Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder and Blaine Gabbert of the Jacksonville Jaguars.

It started with Gabbert announcing he was headed to the Florida Keys for vacation and continued with Ponder ribbing him for not spending "26 hours out of each day studying the playbook." Gabbert asked Ponder if "u still on your Viking ship from Norway? Or wherever you come from," and Ponder responded that "at least my mascots didn't go from one cat to another..tigers and jags #prrrrrr oh so scaryyy..."

I re-tweeted Ponder's final shot -- "Going to throw and get better with #ChrisWeinke at #IMG while others (@BlaineGabbert) are frolicking in the Keys working on their tan" -- and a few of you wondered if he was serious. As Kuharsky pointed out, it was all in good fun. Hopefully both quarterbacks maintain their sense of humor once they get on the field.

Continuing around the NFC North:
  • Vikings guard Steve Hutchinson, via Albert Maruggi of 1500ESPN.com: "I feel as good as I have since I've been in the league. When you get the time off and you're not getting back into it right away, helmet on and going through those things, your body gets a little more chance to rest."
  • Vikings offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave, speaking to Ted Glover of the Daily Norseman, said he has made "a number of amendments and revisions" to his offense to account for the shorter timeframe he'll have to install it this year.
  • Green Bay Packers guard Josh Sitton on his Super Bowl ring, via D.C. Reeves of the Pensacola News Journal: "People just want to see it. I'm super excited to show everyone because I'm so impressed by it. When we first saw it, my jaw was just to the floor it was so unbelievable."
  • Chicago Bears linebacker Nick Roach defended teammate Brian Urlacher, who has came under some silly criticism from NFL linebacker Dhani Jones, according to Jeff Dickerson of ESPNChicago.com.
  • Stefan Logan appears to have found a home with the Detroit Lions as a kick returner, receiver and running back, writes Tim Twentyman of the Detroit News.
  • Police ruled that former Lions and Packers defensive end Jason Hunter was hit by a knife thrown by his girlfriend on accident in April, according to the Associated Press. No charges will be filed.
Let's all hope for the best following the news that Denver Broncos defensive end Jason Hunter was stabbed Wednesday in Detroit. Hunter played in 42 games for the Green Bay Packers from 2006-08 and 14 games for the Detroit Lions in 2009.

Police have offered no further information.

Hunter had a career-high five sacks for the Lions in 2009.

BBAO: Your Favre-free zone

August, 18, 2010
8/18/10
7:40
AM ET
We're Black and Blue All Over:

Thanks to everyone for their patience during what was a wild Tuesday afternoon in the NFC North. Brett Favre's return to Minnesota forced us to cancel our weekly SportsNation chat, which I promise to make up later this week, and veered us from our division-wide mission for one day.

I'll be at the Vikings' Winter Park practice facility Wednesday afternoon, having taken the team's statement that "media availability with QB Brett Favre is to be determined" as quasi-confirmation that he has in fact been reinstated to the roster. But we'll also resume coverage of the entire division, beginning with our morning spin.

Suamico72 -- who, like me, never sleeps but unlike me is counting consecutive FavreWatch posts -- will be so disappointed.
  • After a few swings and misses, the Chicago Bears brought in free-agent quarterback Matt Gutierrez for a visit as a potential short-term replacement to injured backup Caleb Hanie. ESPNChicago.com's Jeff Dickerson has more.
  • The "turbo" gear of Bears tailback Matt Forte has been evident in training camp, writes Sean Jensen of the Chicago Sun-Times.
  • Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune: "Frank Omiyale's adventure at right tackle has been much smoother than a year ago, when the Bears inserted him at left guard. Omiyale graded out well in Saturday's exhibition opener, and the Bears are hoping that will serve as a building block for the offensive line. He looked more comfortable and natural, even if he's more accustomed to the left side, after struggling to play with proper leverage a year ago."
  • Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press: "Last week in the middle of training camp, when tired legs and body aches were beginning to set in, Turk McBride gave the rest of the [Detroit] Lions defensive linemen a pick-me-up by hanging stuffed monkeys in their lockers."
  • Lions coach Jim Schwartz had to cut Tuesday's practice short because of "an acute personnel shortage in the secondary," according to Chris McCosky of the Detroit News. Here is McCosky's rundown of the injury list: Cornerbacks Jonathan Wade (finger), Dre Bly (thigh), Aaron Berry (hamstring) and Jack Williams (knee), and safeties Louis Delmas (groin), Dante Wesley (unspecified) and Ko Simpson (knee). Safety Randy Phillips also left the field because of dehydration.
  • Rookie Lions defensive end Willie Young flashed enough promise in last Saturday's preseason opener at Pittsburgh to make veteran end Jason Hunter expendable, writes Tom Kowalski of Mlive.com.
  • The Green Bay Packers' fluid situation at outside linebacker has yet to clear itself up, writes Rob Demovsky of the Green Bay Press-Gazette.
  • The Packers passed on signing free-agent tailback Brian Westbrook, who ultimately landed in San Francisco, writes Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
  • Uh-oh. Oft-injured Packers defensive lineman Justin Harrell experienced tightness in his back Tuesday and sat out both practices, according to Jason Wilde of ESPNMilwaukee.com.
The Detroit Lions have already acted upon the injury concern we noted Monday morning. If everything else could only be so orderly....

Seriously, the Lions welcomed middle linebacker DeAndre Levy back to practice on the day they placed his injured backup, Jordon Dizon, on injured reserve. They also signed free agent Lee Campbell for depth and, I presume coincidentally, released defensive end Jason Hunter. As Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press notes, it was Hunter who fell into Dizon's leg Saturday night at Pittsburgh and caused the injury.

Levy returned not a moment too soon. A back injury sidelined him for more than two weeks and put him in catch-up mode as he transitions to his new role as a full-time middle linebacker. He's behind but luckily has enough time to catch up.
We're Black and Blue All Over:

We've seen more denials of interest in St. Louis Rams safety Oshiomogho Atogwe than actual clues of attention, leaving us to wonder about the likelihood of Atogwe fulfilling our dreams and landing in the NFC North.

The Minnesota Vikings aren't interested and won't be pursuing him, according to Judd Zulgad of the Star Tribune. The Detroit Lions, meanwhile, seem iffy at best. Here is analysis from Nicholas J. Cotsonika of the Detroit Free Press and John Niyo of the Detroit News. A key thought from Niyo: "But even in a year with no salary cap, many teams -- including the Lions -- already have spent most of their budget."

We'll keep monitoring it, but to this point: No dice.

Continuing around the NFC North:

  • Vikings coach Brad Childress defended the state of his offensive line, writes Rick Alonzo of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
  • It appears that the legal case of Green Bay Packers defensive lineman Johnny Jolly is going to go worse than originally thought, writes Greg A. Bedard of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "Prosecutors in Houston intend to present evidence that Jolly not only possessed more than 200 grams of codeine, but that he was an active participant in the drug trade from approximately 2006 through May of 2008 during his upcoming trial."
  • Veteran cornerback Charles Woodson is not participating in organized team activities, notes Rob Demovsky of the Green Bay Press-Gazette.
  • Jason Wilde of ESPNMilwaukee.com: "Brady Poppinga was on top of his conversational game Wednesday. In the span of five minutes, he delivered a Biblical reference, drew a bizarre evolution metaphor involving some sort of pterodactyl, slipped into his professional wrestler shtick and used the word 'dude' at least three times. The Green Bay Packers can only hope that the veteran linebacker gets after quarterbacks the way he was attacking the English language."
  • Sean Jensen of the Chicago Sun-Times takes a look at the Chicago Bears' history of signing draft choices early.
  • Vaughn McClure of the Chicago Tribune on the Bears' OTA practice Wednesday: "So much talk has focused on the tight end's diminished role in offensive coordinator Mike Martz's complex scheme, but Wednesday's practice dispelled that theory, at least for a day. [Jay] Cutler's primary targets the entire session were [Desmond] Clark and Greg Olsen, while practice ended with backup Caleb Hanie hitting tight end Kellen Davis over the middle."
  • Detroit Lions defensive end Jason Hunter might get squeezed by the Lions' talent influx at his position, writes Tom Kowalski of Mlive.com.

Lions extend RFA tenders

March, 4, 2010
3/04/10
9:47
AM ET
Detroit has not officially announced its decisions on restricted free agents, but the Detroit News and Mlive.com report all players have been informed of their status.

Of all the RFAs listed in the post immediately preceding this one, only two did not receive a tender: Linebacker Cody Spencer and defensive end Copeland Bryan. According to the News' John Niyo, defensive end Jason Hunter is the only RFA who got an elevated tender. That means the Lions would receive a second-round pick in compensation if they decided against matching an offer Hunter might receive.

Guard Daniel Loper received a low tender. The remaining RFAs received original-round tenders.

NFC North: Free-agency primer

March, 4, 2010
3/04/10
9:17
AM ET
Chicago Bears

Potential unrestricted free agents: Linebacker Darrell McClover, defensive end Adewale Ogunleye, running back Adrian Peterson, linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa.

Potential restricted free agents: Defensive end Mark Anderson, safety Josh Bullocks, safety Danieal Manning, linebacker Nick Roach, linebacker Jamar Williams.

Franchise player: None

What to expect: With no picks in the first or second round of next month's draft, the Bears are gearing up for a relatively major jump into free agency. They're expected to bid for defensive end Julius Peppers and possible safety Antrel Rolle and would also like to re-sign linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa. Tight end Brandon Manumaleuna could also be a target. Manumaleuna played for new offensive coordinator Mike Martz in St. Louis.

Detroit Lions

Potential unrestricted free agents: Linebacker Vinny Ciurciu, offensive lineman Damion Cook, quarterback Daunte Culpepper, tight end Casey Fitzsimmons, linebacker Larry Foote, tight end Will Heller, cornerback Anthony Henry, cornerback Will James, offensive lineman Jon Jansen, safety Marquand Manuel, quarterback Patrick Ramsey.

Potential restricted free agents: Defensive end Copeland Bryan, offensive lineman Dylan Gandy, defensive lineman Jason Hunter, offensive lineman Daniel Loper, offensive lineman Manny Ramirez, safety Ko Simpson, linebacker Cody Spencer.

Franchise player: None

What to expect: The Lions aren't likely to be as active as they were last year, but general manager Martin Mayhew said over the winter that he could envision a five- or six-man free agent class. Running back, defensive end and defensive back are all positions they will investigate. They'll also need to find a backup quarterback, assuming Daunte Culpepper moves on.

Green Bay Packers

Potential unrestricted free agents: Offensive lineman Chad Clifton, running back Ahman Green, linebacker Aaron Kampman, offensive lineman Mark Tauscher.

Potential restricted free agents: Safety Atari Bigby, defensive back Will Blackmon, offensive lineman Daryn Colledge, safety Nick Collins, defensive end Johnny Jolly, running back John Kuhn, offensive lineman Jason Spitz, cornerback Tramon Williams.

Franchise player: Defensive tackle Ryan Pickett

What to expect: The Packers will have a demanding offseason filled with difficult decisions. To this point, they haven't re-signed either of their starting offensive tackles. They are clearly approaching injured linebacker Aaron Kampman with caution. And they have a long line of restricted free agents who would like long-term contracts, starting with Pro Bowl safety Nick Collins. The Packers have more than enough to keep them busy, but they haven't dabbled much in free agency in recent years, anyway.

Minnesota Vikings

Potential unrestricted free agents: Offensive lineman Artis Hicks, defensive tackle Jimmy Kennedy, cornerback Benny Sapp, running back Chester Taylor.

Potential restricted free agents: Offensive lineman Ryan Cook, defensive end Ray Edwards, defensive tackle Fred Evans, safety Eric Frampton, quarterback Tarvaris Jackson, fullback Naufahu Tahi.

Franchise player: None.

What to expect: The Vikings are awaiting word from quarterback Brett Favre on the 2010 season, a decision that could impact their offseason plans. They would like tailback Chester Taylor back, but it's possible Taylor will at least test his value on the open market. As a Final Four team, the Vikings will be limited to signing players that have been released by other teams unless they lose one of their own unrestricted free agents first.
OK class, it's time for one of our final lessons in the new world of an uncapped NFL. Before the free-agent market opens Friday morning, each team must first address its entire list of restricted free agents in one of two basic ways:

1. Tendering a 1-year contract, OR
2. "Non-tendering" the player, essentially cutting ties.


Remember, a restricted free agent (RFA) is a player with four or five years of experience whose contract has expired. Those players are free to seek offers elsewhere, but current teams at least have the right to match that offer and keep the player. Depending on the level of contract tender, the team could also receive draft-pick compensation.

If the player doesn't sign an offer sheet elsewhere, and can't agree on a long-term contract, he plays at the salary in the chart below. (There are slightly higher values for players in their fifth seasons.)


Because of the addition of a fifth year to the RFA list in the uncapped year, an additional 212 players are scheduled to be restricted free agents this offseason. Below is a list of the primary RFAs for each NFC North team.

There have been some reports about individual tenders, but no team has officially released its decisions. That will happen sometime between now and Thursday night. When it does, we'll analyze how easy or difficult it will be for those tendered to move on to another team.

Chicago Bears: Defensive end Mark Anderson, safety Josh Bullocks, safety Danieal Manning, linebacker Nick Roach, linebacker Jamar Williams.

Detroit Lions: Defensive end Copeland Bryan, offensive lineman Dylan Gandy, defensive lineman Jason Hunter, offensive lineman Daniel Loper, offensive lineman Manny Ramirez, safety Ko Simpson, linebacker Cody Spencer.

Green Bay Packers: Safety Atari Bigby, defensive back Will Blackmon, offensive lineman Daryn Colledge, safety Nick Collins, defensive end Johnny Jolly, running back John Kuhn, offensive lineman Jason Spitz, cornerback Tramon Williams, running back DeShawn Wynn.

Minnesota Vikings: Offensive lineman Ryan Cook, defensive end Ray Edwards, defensive tackle Fred Evans, safety Eric Frampton, quarterback Tarvaris Jackson, cornerback Karl Paymah, fullback Naufahu Tahi.

To read all of our award-winning CBAWatch discussion, click here.

Potential 'new' RFAs in the NFC North

December, 31, 2009
12/31/09
12:21
AM ET
Sorry for the light posting Wednesday. Life intervenes sometimes. We’ll be back at full strength Thursday, but for now I wanted to pass along a helpful list dug up by NFC South landlord Pat Yasinskas.

We’ve touched a bit on the potential changes if the NFL goes to an uncapped system in 2010. One is that players would need six years of experience to become unrestricted free agents instead of four. Below you’ll see a list of NFC North players who would be unrestricted in the current system but would become restricted in an uncapped year. Remember, restricted free agents can shop for contracts with other teams but can have those offers matched or else require compensation to depart.

Chicago Bears: Defensive end Mark Anderson, safety Josh Bullocks, defensive end Dusty Dvoracek, safety Danieal Manning and linebacker Jamar Williams.

Detroit Lions: Safety Daniel Bullocks, center Dylan Gandy, defensive end Jason Hunter, receiver Adam Jennings, guard Daniel Loper, safety Ko Simpson and linebacker Cody Spencer.

Green Bay Packers: Safety Atari Bigby, cornerback Will Blackmon, guard Daryn Colledge, safety Nick Collins, defensive end Johnny Jolly, fullback John Kuhn, safety Derrick Martin and center Jason Spitz.

Minnesota Vikings: Tackle Ryan Cook, defensive end Ray Edwards, nose tackle Fred Evans, quarterback Tarvaris Jackson, cornerback Karl Paymah and fullback Naufahu Tahi.

Favre-to-Rice sparks Vikings

November, 15, 2009
11/15/09
2:01
PM ET
MINNEAPOLIS -- There’s been a lot of talk recently about the burgeoning relationship between Minnesota quarterback Brett Favre and rookie receiver Percy Harvin. But fellow receiver Sidney Rice just reminded us that he’s not far behind.

Favre trusted Rice on a jump ball in what amounted to a free play after Detroit linebacker Larry Foote jumped offsides. Rice got away with a bit of a push-off against cornerback Phillip Buchanon but ultimately came down with a 43-yard reception.

That seemed to spark an offense that opened this game in pretty lackluster fashion; the Vikings had only three points to show for two possessions deep in Lions territory. On the play after Rice’s reception, tailback Adrian Peterson muscled his way out of Jason Hunter’s arms and ran away from the rest of the Lions’ defense for a 22-yard touchdown.

It’s 10-0 midway through the first quarter, and frankly, I’m not sure if I see the Lions coming back.

NFC North Friday injury report

October, 30, 2009
10/30/09
5:05
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com’s Kevin Seifert

Getting inside the Friday injury report:

Chicago Bears: The only player unlikely to be available is backup defensive tackle Matt Toeaina (calf), who is listed as doubtful. All other players should be ready for Sunday’s game against Cleveland. That includes defensive tackle Tommie Harris (knee), who had full participation in practice all week.

Detroit Lions: Quarterback Matthew Stafford (knee) and receiver Calvin Johnson (knee) are questionable for Sunday’s game against St. Louis. Coach Jim Schwartz said both players will be game-time decisions, but he spoke positively about each. “Both of them have made a lot of progress over the last couple of weeks,” Schwartz said. Defensive tackle Sammie Lee Hill (ankle) is also questionable but seems to have a decent chance of playing. Defensive end Jason Hunter (ankle) is out.

Green Bay Packers: Tight end Jermichael Finley (knee) and center Jason Spitz (back) are doubtful, meaning they have a 25 percent chance of playing. Not likely for either. That means Scott Wells will start again at center. Left tackle Chad Clifton (ankle) is questionable, but there have been indications that rookie T.J. Lang will make the start. Safety Derrick Martin (hamstring) and defensive end Jarius Wynn (hamstring).

Minnesota Vikings: Cornerback Antoine Winfield (foot) is out of Sunday’s game. The Vikings’ primary question marks are receivers Bernard Berrian (hamstring) and Percy Harvin (illness). It’s a good sign that Harvin returned to practice Friday and he’s likely to have his usual role Sunday. Berrian will be a game-time decision.

NFC North at night

October, 28, 2009
10/28/09
6:00
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com’s Kevin Seifert

Catching up on Wednesday’s news in the Black and Blue:

Chicago Bears: For the first time this season, defensive tackle Tommie Harris (knee) participated in all of a Wednesday practice. It appears the Bears are no longer going to require Harris to practice on a limited schedule every week. … Defensive end Adewale Ogunleye (ankle) sat out of practice. … If the Bears are planning a change at left guard this week from Frank Omiyale to Josh Beekman, no one will say it on the record.

Detroit Lions: Quarterback Matthew Stafford (knee) practiced for the second consecutive day, but coach Jim Schwartz isn’t ready to declare him the starter Sunday against St. Louis. “We’ll wait and see,” Schwartz said. “It’s still a long way to go until Sunday and there’s a lot of hurdles we’ll need to cross before then.” … Receiver Calvin Johnson (knee) again missed practice. So did defensive end Jason Hunter (ankle).

Green Bay Packers: Tackles Chad Clifton (ankle) and Mark Tauscher (knee) got some work with the first team, but it’s unclear whether either will play Sunday against Minnesota. … Tight end Jermichael Finley (knee) did not practice. Coach Mike McCarthy said Finley will be tested Sunday morning to determine whether he can play. It seems highly unlikely he’ll be active. … Safety Derrick Martin (hamstring), center Jason Spitz (back) and center Scott Wells (personal) did not practice.

Minnesota Vikings: Middle linebacker E.J. Henderson (knee) was a surprise addition to the injury report. He played all of Sunday’s game at Pittsburgh but sat out practice Wednesday. So did cornerback Antoine Winfield (sprain) and receiver Bernard Berrian (hamstring).

Last-minute personnel update

October, 18, 2009
10/18/09
11:58
AM ET
Posted by ESPN.com’s Kevin Seifert

MINNEAPOLIS -- Here are some lineup highlights Sunday morning in the NFC North:

NFC North Friday injury report

October, 16, 2009
10/16/09
4:40
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com’s Kevin Seifert


Getting inside the Friday injury report:

Chicago Bears: To little surprise, tailback Adrian Peterson (knee) and linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer (ribs) are doubtful and won’t play Sunday night at Atlanta. Defensive lineman Israel Idonije (knee) returned to practice and has a shot to play. Defensive tackle Anthony Adams (toe) is questionable, as is linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa. But Tinoisamoa is expected to play.

Detroit Lions: Quarterback Matthew Stafford (knee) and receiver Calvin Johnson (knee) are listed as questionable but missed practice Friday and likely won’t play Sunday at Green Bay. The Lions are also likely to be without three other starters: Defensive tackle Sammie Lee Hill (ankle), defensive end Dewayne White (hamstring) and defensive end Jason Hunter (ankle). That could leave Turk McBride and Cliff Avril as the starting defensive ends. Safety Ko Simpson (hamstring) is doubtful.

Green Bay Packers: Korey Hall (calf), tackle Mark Tauscher (knee) and tailback DeShawn Wynn (knee) won’t play. The Packers should have all other players available, including tailback Brandon Jackson (ankle) as the primary backup to Ryan Grant. That also includes left tackle Chad Clifton (ankle).

Minnesota Vikings: Punt returner Darius Reynaud (hamstring) isn’t expected to play Sunday against Baltimore. Receiver Percy Harvin (shoulder) is listed as questionable but should play. If right tackle Phil Loadholt (ankle) can’t play, Artis Hicks would start in his place.

NFC North at night

October, 14, 2009
10/14/09
5:44
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com’s Kevin Seifert


Catching up on a busy day of news in the Black and Blue:

Chicago Bears: Linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer (ribs) was one of four players to sit out practice. It doesn’t look like he’ll be ready for Sunday night’s game at Atlanta. The same is probably true for tailback Adrian Peterson (knee) and defensive lineman Israel Idonije (knee).

Detroit Lions: Quarterback Matthew Stafford (knee) returned to practice and took the first snap with the starting offense, according to this Associated Press account. That increases the possibility that Stafford will make a quick return from a dislocated right knee, but coach Jim Schwartz said no decision will be announced until just before Sunday’s game at Green Bay. … Receiver Calvin Johnson (knee) did not practice Wednesday, and ESPN Insider Adam Schefter reported that Johnson is unlikely to play Sunday. … Including Johnson, eight Lions players missed practice. That list includes six starters: Fullback Jerome Felton (shoulder), defensive tackle Sammie Lee Hill (ankle), defensive end Jason Hunter (ankle), Johnson, safety Ko Simpson (hamstring) and defensive end Dewayne White (hamstring).

Green Bay Packers: Safety Atari Bigby (knee) and tackle Chad Clifton (ankle) both practiced Wednesday and appear on track to play Sunday. … Fullback Korey Hall strained his calf in Monday’s practice, and coach Mike McCarthy said he likely will miss several weeks of action. … Linebacker Brady Poppinga missed practice because he was ill. … Tailback DeShawn Wynn (knee) did not practice, but tailback Brandon Jackson (ankle) did.

Minnesota Vikings: Quarterback John David Booty was waived from the practice squad, and while coach Brad Childress said it is possible he’ll be re-signed at some point, I think you should have a pretty good idea of his long-term future with the team. The Vikings needed an extra practice squad offensive lineman with right tackle Phil Loadholt limited by an ankle injury. .. Receiver Percy Harvin (shoulder) and punt returner Darius Reynaud (hamstring) did not practice.

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