NFC North: Lorenzo Booker

NFC North Friday injury report

September, 7, 2012
9/07/12
5:22
PM ET
Getting inside the NFC North's Friday injury report:

Chicago Bears: The big news is that punter Adam Podlesh (hip flexor) was listed as probable, meaning he'll likely be available to punt Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts. Rookie Ryan Quigley remains on the roster at this point as a backup. Tailback Lorenzo Booker (head) is questionable, but all other players should be available Sunday.

Detroit Lions: Safety Louis Delmas (knee) and cornerback Chris Houston (ankle) are listed as doubtful and aren't expected to play Sunday against the St. Louis Rams. The real question is whether either player will play in Week 2 against the San Francisco 49ers. Often players will participate in the usually light Friday practice if they are targeting the following week for a return to the field. Neither Delmas nor Houston practiced at all Friday.

Green Bay Packers: To no surprise, the Packers ruled out running back James Starks (toe), cornerback Davon House (shoulder) and linebacker Jamari Lattimore (ankle) from Sunday's game against the 49ers. All other players should be available.

Minnesota Vikings: We noted earlier that tailback Adrian Peterson (knee) is questionable for Sunday's game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Vikings ruled out three players: Receiver Jarius Wright, linebacker Marvin Mitchell and safety Andrew Sendejo, all of whom have sprained ankles. All other players, including tight end John Carlson (knee) and guard Geoff Schwartz (abdomen) should be available. The Jaguars will be without starting outside linebacker Daryl Smith, who suffered a groin injury in practice this week.

NFC North Wednesday practice report

September, 5, 2012
9/05/12
5:20
PM ET
Getting inside our first Wednesday practice report of the 2012 regular season:

Chicago Bears: Linebacker Brian Urlacher (knee) was a full participant. It's likely he'll take one of the next two days off from practice. Punter Adam Podlesh (hip flexor) was a limited participant and has a chance to play Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts. Safety Chris Conte (shoulder) was a limited participant as well. Running back Lorenzo Booker (head) did not practice.

Green Bay Packers: Nose tackle B.J. Raji (ankle) participated in a limited portion of practice and doesn't appear at risk for missing Sunday's game against the San Francisco 49ers. Tight end Tom Crabtree (shoulder) and cornerback Davon House (shoulder) were limited. Running back James Starks (toe) was ruled out, but coach Mike McCarthy said he has started running during rehabilitation workouts.

Detroit Lions: As we discussed earlier, cornerback Chris Houston (ankle) and safety Louis Delmas (knee) were the only players who missed practice. Delmas has missed five weeks' worth of practice, and it's hard to imagine him being rushed back Sunday against the St. Louis Rams with only two days of on-field preparation. And that's assuming he returns Thursday.

Minnesota Vikings: Safety Mistral Raymond (back) practiced and was not listed on the injury report, so it appears he is on track to start Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Tight end John Carlson (knee) and nose tackle Letroy Guion (knee) were full participants. Tailback Adrian Peterson (knee) was listed as a limited participant. Receiver Jarius Wright (ankle), linebacker Marvin Mitchell (ankle) and safety Andrew Sendejo (ankle) did not practice.

NFC North links: Raji's injury not serious

August, 31, 2012
8/31/12
9:45
AM ET
Chicago Bears

The Chicago Tribune's Brad Biggs takes a look at eight players on the bubble as teams prepare to trim their rosters to 53 players Friday night.

Which players might have helped themselves earn a roster spot in the Bears' 28-20 win against the Browns Thursday night? Running backs Armando Allen and Lorenzo Booker, and quarterback Josh McCown came through with strong performances, writes ESPNChicago's Jon Greenberg.

Detroit Lions

Cornerback Alphonso Smith wanted to get into Thursday night's preseason finale any way he could, so he talked secondary coach Tim Walton into letting him play safety. Smith wouldn't shy away from playing more at the position in the future, according to Carlos Monarrez and Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press. "I would accept the role at dime, nickel, corner, right corner, safety, strong safety. It doesn't matter, just any way I can help this team," Smith said.

What's coach Jim Schwartz's guiding principle when it comes to deciding which players make the final 53? "Talent," Schwartz told Birkett. "Good players. If you were going to keep nine at a position and you've got 10 Pro Bowlers, well, keep 'em. Keep 'em. Go light at a different position."

Schwartz on the play of cornerback Jonte Green, a rookie sixth-rounder, in Thursday night's win against the Bills: "Yeah, he looked suspiciously like a rookie," Schwartz said via Anwar S. Richardson of mlive.com. "He made a couple of plays, did some good things. Also had a couple of bad-technique plays where he allowed some plays that, quite honestly, he shouldn't allow in the coverage that he's in."

Green Bay Packers

The ankle sprain B.J. Raji suffered on the first play of Thursday night's preseason finale against the Chiefs doesn't appear to be serious enough to sideline the nose tackle for long, reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Tom Silverstein and Tyler Dunne.

After struggling through the first three preseason games, Graham Harrell might have finally put to bed the speculation over what the Packers are going to do at the No. 2 quarterback spot. Harrell had the maximum passer rating of 158.3 Thursday night after completing 13 of 15 passes for 223 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions, writes ESPNMilwaukee.com's Jason Wilde.

Minnesota Vikings

Five architectural and engineering firms -- including the company that designed new homes for the Minnesota Twins, Wild and University of Minnesota football team -- have submitted renderings and plans for the Vikings stadium, reports the Star Tribune's Richard Meryhew.

The Star Tribune's Dan Wiederer breaks down how he'd pare the roster to 53.

Whether running back Adrian Peterson plays in Minnesota's Week 1 matchup with the Jaguars could be a game-time decision.

Say farewell to the 2012 preseason

August, 30, 2012
8/30/12
10:46
PM ET
I didn't have all four NFC North preseason games playing simultaneously in front of me Thursday night. But I'll be darned if the very first thing that happened Thursday night wasn't Green Bay Packers defensive tackle B.J. Raji's ankle injury on the first play from scrimmage at Lambeau Field.

The injury is not believed to be serious, but it underscored the worst fears of the most meaningless night of live-action games on the NFL calendar. A review of the highs and lows from Thursday night is below. And good riddance to you, Mr. Preseason you. ...

Chicago Bears 28, Cleveland Browns 20

Final preseason record: 3-1
Of interest: The Raji injury made the Bears look awfully smart for sitting all 22 starters for this game. And in some cases, second-team players rested as well. … Third-string quarterback Josh McCown started and looked sharp enough to quell any questions about whether the Bears should hold a roster spot for him, at least in my opinion. He played the entire game, completing 20 of 29 passes. ... In a Super Bowl-or-bust year, why take a roster risk at quarterback? … Tailback Lorenzo Booker (81 yards on 15 carries) was having a more productive night than the player he's competing with for the No. 3 running back job, Armando Allen, before he departed because of a head injury and Allen ripped off a 49-yard run. … Receiver Dane Sanzenbacher put a nice exclamation point on his bid for a roster spot with a 30-yard touchdown reception.

Detroit Lions 38, Buffalo Bills 32
Final preseason record: 2-2
Of interest: The Lions played many of their starters for the first series and were up 28-10 at halftime of this affair. That included a crisp seven-play drive by the first-team offense, ending in Matthew Stafford's 24-yard touchdown pass to Calvin Johnson. Stafford finished the preseason with 26 completions in 37 attempts for 360 yards, three touchdowns, one interception and a 116.9 passer rating. … Johnson had nine receptions for 178 yards and two scores in the preseason. … Tailback Mikel Leshoure gave the Lions something to look forward to when his two-game suspension ends, rushing for 43 yards, catching a 33-yard pass and scoring on a 2-yard run. … Quarterback Kellen Moore, fighting for a roster spot, rebounded from a number of early drops to complete 17 of 30 passes and also score the game-winner on a 1-yard run.

Green Bay Packers 24, Kansas City Chiefs 3
Final preseason record: 2-2
Of interest: Coach Mike McCarthy said after the game that he did not have "a high level of concern" for Raji's ankle injury. … Thank you, Graham Harrell, for ending the drama -- real or imagined -- around the Packers' decision to name you their No. 2 quarterback. In about two full quarters of play, Harrell compiled a perfect 158.3 passer rating: 13 completions in 15 attempts for 223 yards and two touchdowns. His 27-yard pass to tight end Jermichael Finley was crisp, his 54-yard completion to Tori Gurley had plenty of arm and overall everyone should feel much better about the Packers' depth behind starter Aaron Rodgers. … Running back Alex Green displayed his open-field running skills by turning a short pass into a 17-yard scoring play. … Cedric Benson's first-play fumble, recovered by the Packers, will make a few people nervous.

Houston Texans 28, Minnesota Vikings 23
Final preseason record: 1-3
Of interest: The Vikings sat almost all of their starters, and the biggest point to take from this game is the continued inconsistency of backup quarterback Joe Webb. The Vikings managed only three points with him on the field. Third-stringer Sage Rosenfels missed receiver Devin Aromashodu on one deep pass but hit him on another for a 59-yard touchdown. … Rookie receiver Jarius Wright was having a huge night (six receptions for 122 yards) before departing with a foot injury. Among his catches was a 59-yard touchdown from McLeod Bethel-Thompson. … Running backs Matt Asiata (43 yards on seven carries) and Jordan Todman (76-yard touchdown run) competed hard for the No. 3 running back job.
In which we look ahead to Thursday's much-anticipated four-fecta of Week 4 games to end the NFC North's preseason schedule:

Detroit Lions
Opponent: Buffalo Bills
Location: Ford Field
Time: 7 p.m. ET
Personnel notes: Lions coach Jim Schwartz hasn't ruled out the possibility of using healthy starters, but whether quarterback Matthew Stafford will be a part of that group is unknown. Stafford practiced this week after injuring his left hand in Saturday's preseason game at the Oakland Raiders. … Regardless, running back Mikel Leshoure figures to get substantial work in his second NFL game. He's set to serve a two-game suspension to start the regular season, so he'll have plenty of time to rest up. … For better or worse, this game will provide an ample look at the Lions' secondary depth given injuries to Chris Houston (ankle) and Bill Bentley (shoulder).
Focal point: It's not yet clear whether the Lions will use a roster spot on rookie quarterback Kellen Moore or try to get him through waivers and onto their practice squad. Moore was always going to be a developmental player, and the Lions have typically had a No. 3 quarterback under Schwartz. But this could be an opportunity to add depth at another position. Moore could help himself with a strong showing Thursday.

Green Bay Packers
Opponent: Kansas City Chiefs
Location: Lambeau Field
Time: 7 p.m. ET
Personnel notes: Starters might play a series before giving way to reserves and players in competition for spots. … The Packers would like to settle soon, if not Thursday night, a number of positions on their defense. Will Jerel Worthy or Mike Daniels be the nickel defensive tackle next to B.J. Raji? Who will start at cornerback in the base? Jarrett Bush, Sam Shields or Casey Hayward? What about at the second safety position in the nickel? Jerron McMillian, M.D. Jennings or Anthony Levine?
Focal point: It would be late at this point to turn back now, but backup quarterback Graham Harrell could give everyone a better feeling about his competency with an even performance Thursday night.

Minnesota Vikings
Opponent: Houston Texans
Location: Reliant Stadium
Time: 7 p.m. ET
Personnel notes: Coach Leslie Frazier has ruled out most starters, including quarterback Christian Ponder. … It's expected that strong-armed McLeod Bethel-Thompson will get the majority of playing time at quarterback. … Someone can still win the punt return job with a strong showing Thursday night, be it Marcus Sherels or rookie Jarius Wright.
Focal point: The third running back on most teams don't get much action, but the Vikings' competition for that job has taken on significant meaning as Adrian Peterson continues his recovery from major knee surgery. It's not yet clear who will open the season behind Peterson and Toby Gerhart. Matt Asiata, Jordan Todman and Lex Hilliard are all in the mix and should get plenty of work Thursday night.

Chicago Bears
Opponent: Cleveland Browns
Location: Cleveland Browns Stadium
Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
Personnel notes:
Most starters are expected to either sit or get minimal playing time. … The Bears will find out how much depth they have, or don't have, at safety as Chris Conte continues to be sidelined by a shoulder injury and backup Brandon Hardin now sits on injured reserve. … There is also a competition going on for the No. 3 running back between Armando Allen and Lorenzo Booker.
Focal point: The Bears failed in an attempt to claim punter Spencer Lanning as insurance against Adam Podlesh's hip flexor. That puts rookie Ryan Quigley in the spotlight Thursday. Can he do enough to replace Podlesh in Week 1 if needed?
We're Black and Blue All Over:

Running back Kahlil Bell's departure Thursday from the Chicago Bears wasn't completely unexpected. Bell was playing behind two well-paid veterans, Matt Forte and Michael Bush, and backups Armando Allen and Lorenzo Booker have been impressive in training camp. The timing, however, was unusual and in the end reflects the bad blood that can be a part of the NFL's restricted free-agent (RFA) system.

RFAs are rarely pursued on the free-agent market because of compensation that would be due to the original team. Usually, they are left with no choice but to sign a one-year tender offer. As an undrafted player with three years of experience, the Bears tendered him at $1.26 million.

That's a nice salary for a third-string running back in exchange for losing the chance to sign elsewhere. Recently, however, the Bears made the perfectly legal request that he take a pay cut to $700,000, according to Vaughn McClure of the Chicago Tribune. The value was slightly more than the veteran's minimum for a fourth-year player, but it essentially robbed him of his rights as a RFA. Against what was probably his better judgment, Bell denied the request and asked for his release, according to the Tribune.

In the end, this episode won't impact the Bears' fortunes in 2012. But I would imagine the NFL Players Association would seek ways to stop teams from in essence preventing a player's movement in the offseason, in exchange for a higher salary, and then cutting back that salary a few months later.

Let's continue around the NFC North, noting that we addressed the Green Bay Packers earlier Friday morning:
  • Melissa Isaacson of ESPNChicago.com profiles Bears rookie receiver Alshon Jeffery.
  • At least at the beginning of the season, the Bears plan to use rookie defensive end Shea McClellin when opponents are in obvious passing downs, writes Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times.
  • Rookie Kellen Moore is now one of three quarterbacks on the Detroit Lions' roster after the release of R.J. Archer and appears to be on his way to a roster spot, writes Anwar S. Richardson of Mlive.com.
  • Hopes are high for the NFL debut of Lions running back Mikel Leshoure, who hasn't played in a game since Dec. 29, 2010, notes Carlos Monarrez of the Detroit Free Press.
  • Lions receiver Titus Young on offensive coordinator Scott Linehan, via Josh Katzenstein of the Detroit News: "He's about one thing, and that's ballin'. You always want a coach to be about ballin', not all that other stuff. By coming to meetings and stuff, I know one thing's on his mind, and that's getting his playmakers the football and winning."
  • Receiver Michael Jenkins is hoping to be a starter for the Minnesota Vikings in the absence of Jerome Simpson, writes Bob Sansevere of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
  • Vikings defensive coordinator Alan Williams, via Dan Wiederer of the Star Tribune: "We can be a top-10 defense. We just have to make sure as a coaching staff, we're in tune to making sure guys are detailed about carrying out their assignments."
  • It appears pretty likely that Vikings tight end John Carlson is going to miss the entire preseason after spraining his knee July 31, according to Tom Pelissero of 1500ESPN.com.

 

BBAO: Kassim Osgood and the Lions

August, 23, 2012
8/23/12
7:10
AM ET
We're Black and Blue All Over:

Detroit Lions coach Jim Schwartz wasn't happy with the team's special-teams coverage groups in last Friday's preseason game against the Baltimore Ravens. Schwartz threatened to bring in new players, and it appears the Lions have followed through.

Veteran Kassim Osgood, a three-time Pro Bowler on special teams, tweeted Wednesday night that he had signed with the Lions. Osgood earned Pro Bowl honors in 2006, 2007 and 2009 while playing for the San Diego Chargers and spent the past two seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Osgood, 32, is also a wide receiver. But if he makes the team, it will be as a multi-phase special-teams player. For the time being, he helps alleviate a talent drain caused by John Wendling's ascendance to starting safety and Stefan Logan's ankle injury, among other developments.

Continuing around the NFC North:
 
Reviewing Saturday's action at Soldier Field:

Chicago Bears 33, Washington Redskins 31

Preseason record: 1-1

Of interest: On an overall positive night for the Bears, three players encountered injuries worth monitoring. Punter Adam Podlesh suffered a hip flexor while trying to catch Redskins returner Brian Banks and will have an MRI on Sunday. Safety Chris Conte left the stadium with his right arm in a sling after suffering a shoulder injury, and rookie safety Brandon Hardin was carted off the field because of an apparent neck injury. Hardin was able to move his arms and legs and never lost consciousness. … Quarterback Jay Cutler's first action was productive. He completed four of his first five passes, including a 41-yarder to receiver Brandon Marshall on their first live play together in five years. … Rookie receiver Alshon Jeffery continues to suggest he'll be ready to contribute right away, turning a throw over the middle from Jason Campbell into a 34-yard gain and catching a team-high three passes. … Michael Bush's pair of red-zone touchdowns further strengthened the idea that he will be the Bears' red zone and short-yardage back. … Defensive end Israel Idonije had 2.5 sacks, including a forced fumble against the Redskins' Robert Griffin III. … It was a wild night on special teams. The Bears gave up a 91-yard scoring return to Banks, but Lorenzo Booker had a 105-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and Eric Weems also had a 48-yard return. Place-kicker Robbie Gould hit a 57-yard field goal with 31 seconds remaining to account for the winning margin.

Local coverage: Podlesh thinks he'll be ready for the start of the season, according to Sean Jensen of the Chicago Sun-Times. … Coach Lovie Smith didn't think that Conte's injury was too serious, and the Bears are crossing their fingers on Hardin. Vaughn McClure of the Chicago Tribune has more. … The Bears can live with how their offensive line played Saturday night, according to Dan Pompei of the Chicago Tribune. … It appears Jeffery has earned the trust of the Bears' quarterbacks, writes Michael C. Wright of ESPNChicago.com. … Melissa Isaacson of ESPNChicago.com: "This is a different Jay Cutler, with a different offensive coordinator and a different Bears team around him. ... Cutler and his new receivers showed the first glimpse of a passing offense that will be able to stand up to the better defensive backs while finally taking its place in a new NFL that isn't all that new anymore." … The Bears took a hard look not only at left tackle, between J'Marcus Webb and Chris Williams, but also at left guard between Chris Spencer and Chilo Rachal, according to Jeff Dickerson of ESPNChicago.com.

Up next: Friday at New York Giants

NFC North links: Offensive line questions

July, 18, 2012
7/18/12
9:11
AM ET
Chicago Bears

Michael C. Wright and Jeff Dickerson of ESPNChicago.com cite left tackle as the team's biggest question mark heading into training camp.

Running back Lorenzo Booker has agreed to a one-year deal with the Bears. He spent the past two seasons with the Vikings.

Detroit Lions

Continuing his look at upcoming training camp battles, Justin Rogers of Mlive.com looks at the one along the offensive line featuring Jeff Backus, Gosder Cherilus and Riley Reiff.

Following his DUI arrest last month, cornerback Aaron Berry will enter a diversionary program for first-time offenders.

Green Bay Packers

Martin Hendricks looks back on the career of Jim Flanigan Jr., who spent seven seasons with the Bears and a memorable one in Green Bay.

Jay Cutler over Aaron Rodgers? Yes, that's what Bears wideout Earl Bennett said.

Minnesota Vikings

Getting more out of its linebackers remains a priority this season for Minnesota.

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton had some strong words when asked about the Vikings' recent string of off-field incidents. "Idle time is the devil's play," said Dayton, describing the NFL's six-month offseason. "It means that young males who are heavily armored and heavily psyched as necessary to carry out their job are probably more susceptible to being in bars at 2 o'clock [in the morning] and having problems. It doesn't excuse it. It just says this probably comes with it."

NFC North Quick Hits: Monday

March, 12, 2012
3/12/12
6:06
PM ET
I have no idea if this is our last post of the day or if we'll have five more before we call it a night. That's how crazy the NFL news cycle is at the moment. But we've had a collection of newsbits hit the wire in the past few hours, so let's bring them all together while we have a moment — in quick-hitting fashion, of course.

Item: The NFL has taken $36 million in salary cap space from the Washington Redskins and $10 million from the Dallas Cowboys for two-year-old contract violations.
Comment: Each NFC North team will receive $1.6 million in additional cap space as a result. Yee-haw!

Item: The Detroit Lions released tight end Will Heller.
Comment: Heller was due a roster bonus of $200,000 and would have received a base salary of just under $1 million in 2012. As cold as it sounds, you don't need to pay your third tight end that kind of money.

Item: The Chicago Bears issued a low tender of $1.26 million to running back Kahlil Bell, a restricted free agent.
Comment: The Bears have the right to match any contract offer Bell might receive, but they would get no compensation if he departs. At this moment, he appears in line to be Matt Forte's primary backup in 2012. Marion Barber isn't expected back.

Item: The Vikings aren't expected to tender linebacker/special teams ace Kenny Onatolu, according to Jeremy Fowler of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
Comment: The fate of the Vikings' other restricted free agent, running back Lorenzo Booker, has yet to be learned.

Item: The Green Bay Packers are entering into their final hours of exclusive negotiating with center Scott Wells, a pending free agent.
Comment: The Packers have a history of last-minute agreements, but Wells might feel compelled to test his market value before being satisfied with what the Packers have offered.

Item: I can't count how many people have asked for updates on the status of Packers left tackle Chad Clifton and receiver Donald Driver.
Comment: If either player has restructured his contract and/or been informed of his release, it hasn't been made public. That's all I can tell you at this moment.

Mailbag: A note on RFA tenders

March, 12, 2012
3/12/12
9:45
AM ET
With NFL free agency set to begin Tuesday, David of Colorado Springs brings up a fair point: "Why haven't we heard much about RFA tenders this year?"

David specifically wants to know how it relates to the Detroit Lions, who need to shave more than $11 million in cap space before Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET, but it's worth taking a broader look at what is almost always a drama-less segment of free agency.

RFAs -- "Restricted Free Agents" -- are players who have accrued three years' experience in the NFL. They are eligible for a new contract, but teams can restrict their access by requiring draft-pick compensation for them to move on and receiving the right to match any deal a player receives. Rare is the case when a third-year player is valuable enough to merit a lucrative contract and a draft pick, and a result, RFAs usually don't change teams.

So the only news when it comes to RFAs is typically whether they were issued a tender or not. The level of the tender is mostly an issue of the salary cap.

In 2012, according to NFL.com, there are three levels of RFA tenders. A player who requires a first-round compensation will get a tender (and cap number) worth $2.742 million, according to NFL.com. Second-round tenders are worth $1.927 million in cap and cash, and tenders that include right to match only are worth $1.26 million.

The Lions have two significant RFAs: Linebacker DeAndre Levy and defensive tackle Sammie Hill. You would think both would get at least a second-round tender. Would another team give up a second-round pick to acquire either player? Probably not, and every cap dollar will matter this year to the Lions. But they could ensure both players' return beyond a doubt by giving them first-round tenders at a combined additional cost of $1.63 million.

The NFL typically announces tender levels on the day free agency begins, and we'll pass along what we find out before then. Other key RFAs in the NFC North include Chicago Bears running back Kahlil Bell, Minnesota Vikings running back Lorenzo Booker and Vikings linebacker/special-teams ace Kenny Onatolu.

Wrap-up: Raiders 27, Vikings 21

November, 20, 2011
11/20/11
8:15
PM ET
A few thoughts on Sunday's festivities at the Metrodome:

What it means: The Minnesota Vikings dropped to 2-8, tied for the second-worst record in the NFL, amid a gloomy first-half performance and a second-half surge that fell short as they lost 27-21 to the Oakland Raiders. Soon it will be time to start projecting the Vikings' draft position. As of this moment, it would be no worse than No. 4 overall.

PetersonWatch: Tailback Adrian Peterson didn't return after a scary injury to his left ankle, but X-rays showed no fracture, according to coach Leslie Frazier. Peterson is expected to undergo an MRI on Monday. It's impossible to overstate what the loss of their best player, even for a game, would mean to the Vikings. For now, their backup running backs are Toby Gerhart (24 carries this season) and Lorenzo Booker (four).

Mistakeball: Left tackle Charlie Johnson jumped offsides on the first play from scrimmage. Rookie quarterback Christian Ponder threw three interceptions, including one in the end zone and one near the goal line. The field-goal team botched placement of a 49-yard attempt. Booker lost a fumble on a kickoff return. That litany of mistakes, among others, dug a hole far too deep. That extended an embarrassing stretch of getting outscored 72-14 between the start of their Week 10 loss at the Green Bay Packers and the fourth quarter of Sunday's game.

Pass protection: Ponder had a shaky performance but faced a heavy rush for the second consecutive week. He scrambled for 71 yards on five carries, a good way to limit opposing blitzes, but at some point you need to have time to make plays in the pocket. The Raiders had five sacks. Offensive line has already emerged as one of the Vikings' top priorities for this offseason.

What's next: The Vikings travel to the Georgia Dome next Sunday to play the Atlanta Falcons.

NFC North Friday injury report

October, 28, 2011
10/28/11
4:15
PM ET
Getting inside the Friday injury report for Week 8, remembering that half of the NFC North has a bye:

Detroit Lions: Quarterback Matthew Stafford (ankle) worked with the first-team offense for the second consecutive day Friday. The Lions listed him as questionable for Sunday's game, but it appears only a significant setback would prevent him from playing against the Denver Broncos. Rookie defensive tackle Nick Fairley, who tweaked his surgically repaired foot and did not practice this week, is listed as doubtful. Defensive tackle Sammie Hill (ankle) is questionable and, as expected, running back Jahvid Best (concussion) has been ruled out. All other players should be available.

Minnesota Vikings: As expected, right guard Anthony Herrera (knee) was ruled out for Sunday's game against the Carolina Panthers. He'll be replaced by veteran Joe Berger. Three players were listed as questionable: Receiver Percy Harvin (ribs), cornerback Antoine Winfield (neck) and running back Lorenzo Booker (concussion). The general consensus is that Harvin will play, Booker probably won't and Winfield is truly a 50-50 proposition. All other players should be available.

BBAO: Martz agrees with Cutler's take

October, 14, 2011
10/14/11
7:05
AM ET
We're Black and Blue All Over:

On Thursday, we noted a plea from Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler to adjust an offense that has left him under pressure too often in the passing game. So it's worth nothing that offensive coordinator Mike Martz responded in kind.
Martz, via Jeff Dickerson of ESPNChicago.com: "He's right. We're working on it. He's absolutely right. We've talked about it as a staff and we've addressed this issue. Until we get stabilized a little bit on the offensive line ... The same thing happened to us last year, if you remember. Once we got stabilized there ... In an ideal world, you'd like to have all those guys play just like you had in the opener, and things went well, but that's not the case. So we've got to make sure that we're giving him a chance with some of those quicker throws and things. There's no question about that."

Is it as easy as that? And would the Bears broadcast their plans so clearly to Sunday night's opponent, the Minnesota Vikings? In some instances, the obvious answer is unavoidable. The Bears won't have success against the Vikings' pass rush if they operate the same way they have in recent weeks. So the Vikings most likely would anticipate quicker releases anyway.

Continuing around the NFC North:
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- As we discussed in Tuesday's Stock Watch post, Minnesota Vikings receiver Percy Harvin was on the field for 30 of the team's 65 offensive plays in last Sunday's 24-20 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. For the season, Harvin has played about half of the Vikings' snaps (57 of 111), according to video tracking from Tom Pelissero of 1500ESPN.com, and on Wednesday it seemed fair to ask coach Leslie Frazier why.

[+] EnlargePercy Harvin
AP Photo/Andy KingPercy Harvin has been on the field for less than half of the Vikings' offensive snaps this season.
The Vikings' offense, after all, has scored only 30 points through two games and ranks No. 27 among NFL teams in total yards. Wouldn't it make sense to have your most explosive pass-catcher on the field more often?

"We know what Percy is capable of doing," Frazier said. "He's a big-time playmaker, whether it's on kickoff return or playing wide receiver. It's just a matter of our using his strengths for our greatest advantage, for our team's greatest advantage, picking our spots when we do that. I think we're taking the right approach with Percy, with his reps and the packages we use him in. It's the right approach."

Frazier didn't really explain why it's the right approach, but he did rule out a few reasons. He said coaches have no concerns about Harvin's downfield run blocking, saying: "He's a very good run-blocker [and is] surprising some of those linebackers and [defensive backs] when he comes back and cracks." Frazier also said there are no concerns about Harvin's health, including migraine headaches that plagued him in 2009 and 2010 but appear to have subsided this year.

"We have certain packages where we want to feature him," Frazier said, "and not necessarily overuse him, but use him to help our football team."

I would understand that sentiment if the Vikings were using Harvin as a full-time kickoff and punt returner, as the Chicago Bears essentially do with Devin Hester. But Harvin is splitting kickoff return duties with Lorenzo Booker. Marcus Sherels, meanwhile, is returning punts.

I can't discount the possibility of some unknown and pressing explanation for making Harvin a part-time player, perhaps one that Frazier prefers to keep to himself. Absent of that wild card, however, I just don't get it.

At the very least, Frazier and offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave appear too caught up in building a scheme and constructing a template for future success. On some teams, it might make sense to use Harvin as a multi-purpose returner/receiver/running back for use in selected packages. But on this team, now and in the foreseeable future, Harvin is one of the top two scoring threats on the roster.

The Vikings' new offense deserves some patience as it plays catch-up from a lost offseason. But the Vikings also merit scrutiny for letting one of their best players stand on the sideline far too often during a 0-2 start.

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