We're Black and Blue All Over:
Good mid-morning. I got fired up and posted early Tuesday morning on the vehement defense that Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers once offered for now-disgraced Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun, but I'm told there are three other teams in the NFC North that merit daily coverage as well.
So we'll begin (again) today with news that the Detroit Lions are continuing to acknowledge their lack of depth at receiver, a topic we've discussed in several SportsNation chats and in two separate posts last week. Via Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com and others, the Lions have scheduled three veteran receivers for workouts this week: Laurent Robinson, Steve Breaston and Chaz Schilens. Robinson, who apparently has been cleared after suffering multiple concussions last season, worked out Monday for the New York Jets.
Once again, the fact is the Lions are thin at receiver behind Calvin Johnson. Nate Burleson has recovered from a broken leg that ended his 2012 season, but he will turn 32 in August and has played all 16 games of a season only once since 2007. Ryan Broyles is recovering from his second torn ACL in as many years, and Mike Thomas is entering his first full season with the team after arriving last year via trade with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The Lions pursued free agent Darrius Heyward-Bey in free agency and it's clear they recognize this need hasn't gone away. We'll see if they believe it is acute enough to bring in a veteran off the street on the eve of training camp.
Continuing around the NFC North:
Undrafted rookie Steven Miller will get the first chance to win the Lions' return job when training camp opens Friday. More from Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press.
Indeed, the Lions made wholesale changes to their special teams this offseason, writes Chris McCosky of the Detroit News.
Justin Rogers of Mlive.com looks at the Lions' competition at cornerback opposite veteran Chris Houston.
Receiver Randall Cobb is the fourth-most important player on the Packers' roster, according to Jason Wilde of ESPNMilwaukee.com.
Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel wonders if the Packers' defensive line will be broken up for salary-cap reasons after this season. McGinn: "Big men Ryan Pickett, B.J. Raji, C.J. Wilson and Johnny Jolly all have contracts expiring at season's end, and pass rusher Mike Neal will become an unrestricted free agent in March as well. Mindful of upheaval ahead, general manager Ted Thompson prepared by selecting defensive ends Jerel Worthy, Mike Daniels, Datone Jones and Josh Boyd in the first five rounds of the past two drafts. For now, however, it's steady as she goes."
Jones should give the Packers an added dimension, writes Pete Dougherty of the Green Bay Press-Gazette.
Wilde on Rodgers' predicament: "We have all, to varying degrees, had friends let us down. Some of us have been the ones who let their friends down. Such moments can end friendships or, in some cases, lead to relationship growth. It’s all in how those friends handle the aftermath."
The Minnesota Vikings will report to training camp as a playoff team with much higher expectations than last season, writes Chip Scoggins of the Star Tribune.
Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder will play well enough to eliminate any chance that tailback Adrian Peterson might have of rushing for 2,500 yards this season, according to Bob Sansevere of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
Jeff Dickerson of ESPNChicago.com on the Chicago Bears' defense: "Are there still questions about the defense? Sure. But if the veteran leaders can find a way to keep themselves on the field and if the Bears can locate a consistent pass rush up front to complement Peppers, then new defensive coordinator Mel Tucker should be able to keep the Bears' defense among the NFL's elite."
Dan Pompei of the Chicago Tribune doesn't see the Bears making a quick run at re-signing quarterback Jay Cutler during the season. Pompei: "My read is it will take more than four to five games for Cutler to prove he is worthy of being paid like one of the best quarterbacks in the game -- which is likely what it would take to sign him. "
Former Denver Broncos general manager Ted Sundquist on Cutler and the Bears, via Adam L. Jahns of the Chicago Sun-Times: "It just didn’t seem like under Lovie [Smith] that the emphasis was there to get [Cutler] the things that he needed to succeed. And that's just me and that may not be fair. Maybe they were trying to do everything they could. But at least this year, from the outside looking in, [Cutler] is the focal point. From that perspective, I applaud the Bears because I think that's what you have to do."