NFC North: Lance Brigs
NEW ORLEANS -- I'm bidding farewell this morning to the Big Easy and making the trek back to NFC North blog headquarters. I'll be making a pit stop in Atlanta, which you might not realize is on the way from New Orleans to Minneapolis, and therefore won't be back with you until later Friday afternoon.
But I've got some posts scheduled to publish throughout the day, and we'll start with a quick jaunt around the division:
- Minnesota Vikings receiver Percy Harvin told Andrea Kremer of MSNBC.com that doctors now believe his life-long migraines were caused by sleep apnea, which he is now being treated for.
- Vikings left tackle Bryant McKinnie missed the final series of Thursday night's 14-9 loss to the New Orleans Saints after dislocating a finger in his right hand, according to Tom Pelissero of 1500ESPN.com.
- Jim Souhan of the Star Tribune: "[Brett] Favre lived a charmed existence in 2009. He didn't pay for his belated arrival because the Vikings started the season against Cleveland and Detroit, enabling him to make more warmup tosses than Mariano Rivera. By the time the Vikings began facing real teams, Favre had developed a bond with Sidney Rice and a football version of telepathy with Percy Harvin. Thursday, Favre played as if he had just driven over from his hometown of Kiln, Miss. On his tractor. With a cattail between his teeth."
- Green Bay Packers cornerback Charles Woodson could earn up to $55 million over the next five years as part of his new contract extension, notes Kareem Copeland of the Green Bay Press-Gazette.
- Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel looks at the Packers' punt return and punt coverage teams.
- The Packers' offensive line wants to start strong this season, writes Jason Wilde of ESPNMilwaukee.com.
- Detroit Lions linebacker DeAndre Levy missed practice Thursday, and Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press suggests it's unlikely Levy will play Sunday at the Chicago Bears.
- Chris McCosky of the Detroit News examines the pending matchup between Lions left tackle Jeff Backus and Bears defensive end Julius Peppers.
- Bears linebackers Lance Briggs and Brian Urlacher are excited about playing on the same field together again, writes Michael C. Wright of ESPNChicago.com.
- Vaughn McClure of the Chicago Tribune on Peppers: "Based on the way the five-time Pro Bowl defensive end dominated in the preseason, one would expect his debut to be nothing short of spectacular."
AFC West colleague Bill Williamson lists four teams that could be interested in acquiring San Diego Chargers receiver Vincent Jackson, an expected training camp holdout because of a contract dispute. The Chicago Bears are one of them.
We've been over the Bears' receiver situation numerous times this offseason, watching as other teams chased down veterans while the Bears consistently expressed confidence in their skilled but inexperienced group. Would they pursue Jackson if the Chargers look to move him? History suggests their interest would be tepid, considering their pass on veteran receivers over the past few seasons, but I wouldn't rule this one out.
Jackson has no known connection to Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz, but the Chargers' offensive system has its roots in the same concepts as Martz's scheme. He has put together back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, catching 16 touchdowns over that span, and has only missed one game over the past four years. At 27, he should have a long career ahead.
Just something to think about, as well as a reminder that the player acquisition season never ends.
Continuing around the NFC North:
- Michael C. Wright of ESPNChicago.com thinks the Bears won't want to give up much for Jackson: "Bears general manager Jerry Angelo has said multiple times this offseason that the club is ducking out of the business of giving up high draft picks to acquire talent."
- Bears linebacker Lance Briggs admitted he was upset and hurt when the team released defensive end Alex Brown, according to an interview with Comcast transcribed by Neil Hayes of the Chicago Sun-Times.
- Brian VanOchten of the Grand Rapids Press on Detroit Lions president Tom Lewand: "Lewand needs to provide a full explanation of his actions. He has accomplished too much in such a short time since replacing [Matt] Millen and helping rebuild the franchise. He has helped put the Lions on the right path. He needs to prove he is on the right path."
- Mr. Irrelevant, Lions receiver Tim Toone, will be honored with a tongue-in-cheek banquet Wednesday in Newport Beach, Calif. Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times has more.
- Minnesota Vikings tight end Visanthe Shiancoe wouldn't comment on reports he is seeking a new contract, according to Rick Alonzo of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
- The Vikings don't seem to have much interest in free agent guard Chester Pitts, writes Tom Pelissero of 1500ESPN.com.
- It has been assumed that Green Bay Packers offensive lineman T.J. Lang would be ready for training camp after having surgery in April to repair a fractured wrist. But here's what Lang said recently, according to Mike Spofford of the team's Web site: "I'm expecting to be out there on the field the first day of training camp. My wrist will probably still be bugging me a little bit. I'll probably have to play with a heavy brace, if not a cast, but as long as I'm out there running around, getting more comfortable with the plays and with the position I'll be at, I'll improve pretty quickly."
|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."