NFC North: Major Wright

Neil Hornsby over at Pro Football Focus put together a piece Wednesday identifying five teams that could push themselves into the playoffs Insider by identifying and addressing one specific positional need in the upcoming NFL draft.

He pointed to Carolina in 2013 as an example. Headed into last year’s draft, the Panthers needed to fix issues at defensive tackle. They did so by drafting interior linemen Star Lotulelei and Kawaan Short with their first two selections, turning what had been identified as a glaring weakness into a major strength.

For the Chicago Bears, the significant weakness, according to Hornsby, is the safety position.

Horsby writes: “It would be far from unfair to say the worst position group in football last year was the Bears' collection of safeties. Both regular starters were listed in the worst five of our 86 ranked players at the position. Major Wright and Chris Conte combined to give up more than 1,000 yards in the air, and if anything, were worse as run defenders. Both missed more than 10 tackles in that phase alone, and were both in the top 10 for missed tackles overall.”

Obviously, the Bears tried to upgrade the safety position in free agency by acquiring Ryan Mundy, M.D. Jennings, and Danny McCray. But at this point, those players appear to be depth signings, capable of starting games in a pinch. The club needs to raise the talent level, especially now that Conte might end up missing some training camp coming off a shoulder surgery.

Though it’s unclear whether the Bears will address safety immediately with the No. 14 pick, it’s pretty much guaranteed that at some point in the draft the team will take one, possibly even two.

By Hornsby’s rationale, that could be the difference in the Bears earning their first trip to the playoffs since the 2010 season.
CHICAGO -- The Chicago Bears agreed to terms on a two-year contract with safety Ryan Mundy, the club announced.

Mundy appeared in 16 games (nine starts) for the New York Giants last season, where he recorded a career-high 70 tackles, one sack and one interception. The 6-foot-1, 209-pound safety played four years (2009-12) for the Pittsburgh Steelers, starting five combined games during that stretch.

Mundy was selected by the Steelers in the sixth round of the 2008 NFL draft out of West Virginia.

With Major Wright expect to depart via free agency, Mundy should fill one of the Bears’ safety spots in 2014.

Although Chris Conte struggled last season, the Bears will allow the former third-round draft choice to compete for a starting job in the preseason.

Safeties Craig Steltz and Anthony Walters (restricted) are also free agents.

Free-agency primer: Bears

March, 7, 2014
» AFC Free-Agency Primer: East | West | North | South » NFC: East | West | North | South

Key free agents: Charles Tillman, Henry Melton, D.J. Williams, Major Wright, Devin Hester, Corey Wootton, Josh McCown.

Where they stand: The club informed Hester it won't be re-signing him for 2014, but the Bears are making a concerted effort to try to bring back Tillman. Still, there's a chance the economics won't work out, as Tillman could have other suitors willing to pay more than Chicago. The Bears did some work in re-signing free agents, such as defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff, cornerback Kelvin Hayden along with center Roberto Garza, to cap-friendly deals. Negotiations to re-sign McCown have moved along slowly, which means there's a chance the Bears could lose him if another team gives the backup an opportunity to win a starting job. There's interest from both sides in re-signing Williams, and talks are expected to continue over the weekend.

What to expect: At this point, it's unknown where Chicago's pro personnel department has rated its own unsigned free agents against what else is available on the market. So count on the Bears waiting to see what the market value for their own players is before moving to re-sign them, which is actually a smart move that will keep them from overpaying. The Bears aren't expected to overspend on big names in free agency, but general manager Phil Emery has been known in recent years to make a couple of surprise moves. The Bears would like to infuse youth on defense, but that could prove to be a pricey proposition in free agency for a team with limited cap space. They do have the flexibility to free up cash by cutting players such as Julius Peppers, or restructuring Jay Cutler's deal, which includes a base salary of $22.5 million in 2014.
Teams around the NFL can start contacting and negotiating with agents of players set to become unrestricted free agents on Saturday, but deals can’t be executed until Mar. 11 at 3 p.m. CST when new league year starts.

As that date quickly approaches, we take a look at Chicago’s pending free agents, and their chances of returning to the team in the second part of our week-long series.

2014 free agent: Henry Melton

Position: Defensive tackle

2013 statistics: 3 games (three starts); 5 tackles, two quarterback pressures and one fumble recovery.

2013 salary: $8.45M base salary, $4,725 workout bonus -- $8,454,725 cash value.

Outlook: Once the negotiating window opens up on Mar. 8, Melton fully expects to start discussing potential deals with other teams. That expectation comes as a result of talks with the Bears that haven’t quite gone the way Melton’s representatives would have hoped, which is understandable considering he’s coming off a torn ACL, and a recent arrest, not to mention concerns about his level of commitment. Bears coach Marc Trestman has raved about Melton’s rehabilitation, and there’s a desire on the team’s part to bring him back for 2014. But with the team tight against the cap, Melton can’t expect to receive a deal anywhere near the $8.45 million franchise tender he signed in 2014, coming off a Pro Bowl season. Melton will have some suitors, and there’s a chance he could come back to Chicago at a reduced rate.

2014 free agent: Zack Bowman

Position: Cornerback

2013 statistics: 16 games (seven starts); 49 tackles, three interceptions (one touchdown), 10 pass breakups, two tackles-for-loss and three special teams tackles.

2013 salary: $715,000 base salary, $65,000 signing bonus and $5,245.00 workout bonus -- $785,425 cash value.

Outlook: Bowman is expected to test free agency, but the Bears want him to return. At 29 years old with 23 career starts over six seasons, Bowman will probably generate interest from teams in need of depth at the cornerback position. The Bears were pleased with how Bowman performed when he replaced Charles Tillman in the second half of 2013, although it’s unknown if the club is willing to offer the six-year NFL veteran anything above a league minimum contract. Bowman’s leverage would increase if Tillman leaves the Bears via free agency. Bottom line: the Bears are a better team with Bowman on the roster in 2014. It wouldn’t take much to keep him in Chicago, but he is coming off a productive season. That is an important factor to remember.

2014 free agent: Major Wright

Position: Safety

2013 statistics: 15 games (15 starts); 117 tackles (97 solo), two interceptions, 1 pass breakups, and two forced fumbles.

2013 salary: $1.323M base salary and $5,075 workout -- $1,328,075 cash value.

Outlook: After a solid showing in 2012, Wright came into the 2013 season with high expectations, but regressed to the point at which there’s a perceived need at the safety position. While it appears Wright can be salvaged, it’s expected he’ll test the market because the Bears don’t appear inclined to offer anything more than a veteran minimum type of deal. Wright possesses the skillset to be a solid starter for the Bears moving forward. But his lack of consistency has become such a liability the Bears are likely strongly considering replacing him.

2014 free agent: Corey Wootton

Position: Defensive line

2013 statistics: 16 games (15 starts); 31 tackles, 3.5 sacks, five pass breakups, one forced fumble, two fumble recoveries and 4.5 tackles-for-loss.

2013 salary: $1.323M base salary and $5,600 signing bonus -- $1,328,600 cash value

Outlook: The Bears talks with Wootton have likely not surpassed the exploratory phase after the versatile defensive lineman underwent hip surgery in the offseason. It’s simply too early to tell when Wootton will be fully recovered from the procedure, although given Wootton’s work ethic and physical fitness level, he could be ready to return to the field in June. Wootton proved in 2013 that he can be both a viable defensive end and tackle. The ability to bounce inside and line up at tackle should aid Wootton (seven sacks in 2012) when he enters free agency. Wootton is a talented player with impressive size (6-foot-6, 270 pounds) who is extremely well-liked in the locker room. But the Bears will probably wait to see how they address defensive line in free agency and the draft before they make a final decision on the still recovering Wootton. He could be off the market before the draft concludes in early May, but the Bears don’t seem to be in a rush.
INDIANAPOLIS -- Because of everything going on at the NFL combine, we had to push back the Bears Twitter mailbag to Monday.

Sorry for any inconvenience, but the plan is to continue running this feature on Saturdays throughout the offseason.

Let’s get started with this question about safeties Major Wright and Chris Conte:

With the season over and the cupboard bare in terms of Chicago Bears news, I decided to try my first Twitter mailbag to answer some of the questions you guys had.

Throughout the offseason, we'll try to knock out at least one of these per week.

So let's get into this:

Chicago Bears season wrap-up

January, 2, 2014

Arrow indicates direction team is trending.

Final power ranking: 15
Preseason power ranking: 13

Biggest surprise: The Chicago Bears' offensive line didn't exactly set the world on fire, but for the first time in recent memory the group wasn't the weak link of the team. The Bears revamped the offensive line by adding four new starters: Kyle Long, Jordan Mills, Jermon Bushrod and Matt Slauson. The group's efforts, combined with a more quick-hitting passing game, resulted in just 19 sacks for QB Jay Cutler, his lowest total since 11 with Denver in 2008. The offensive line in 2013 displayed more consistency than any at other time in Cutler's time in Chicago, but the group struggled at inopportune times and often was aided by Cutler and Josh McCown getting rid of the ball quickly. Still, this year's group laid a foundation it can build on.

Biggest disappointment: New defensive coordinator Mel Tucker will unfairly take criticism for the defense's failures in 2013. Coming off a 2012 campaign in which the defense ranked No. 5 overall and in the top 10 against the run and the pass, the unit in 2013 surrendered the most rushing yards (2,583) and points (478) in franchise history. Injuries played a major role. They cost the team a combined 72 missed games, 43 among starters alone. In recent history, the defense was the one facet that Chicago could always count on. But that wasn't the case in 2013. What's most surprising is how quickly the defense's decline came after being the team's backbone for so many years.

Biggest need: The defense is badly in need of a total makeover, and the bulk of that work should be done on the defensive line. It's safe to say now that former first-round defensive end Shea McClellin hasn't lived up to expectations and franchise defensive tackle Henry Melton is overrated. The Bears also have to decide whether to move forward with Julius Peppers, who is expensive and starting to show his age (will be 33 on Jan. 18), while finding a way to bring back Corey Wootton. The back end needs help, too. The deals for cornerbacks Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings are up, as is the contract for safety Major Wright. The Bears also need to bring in competition to push underperforming safety Chris Conte.

Team MVP: Running back Matt Forte quietly put together his best season as a pro, accounting for nearly 2,000 yards from scrimmage (1,933) and career highs in rushing (1,339 yards) and receiving (74 catches, 594 yards). Receivers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery may have made flashier plays, but make no mistake: Forte is what makes the offense go. Cutler called Forte the best all-around back in the league, and he definitely made a strong case for it in 2013. A true three-down back, Forte threatened defenses as a runner and a receiver. On passing downs, Forte was also key in the team's protection schemes.

Hester, Peppers unsure of futures

December, 29, 2013
CHICAGO -- Three-time Pro Bowl return man Devin Hester wants clarity on his future with the Chicago Bears.

Hester, who is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent after earning $2,107,523 in the final year of his contract, hopes to hear in the near future if he fits into the Bears’ plans beyond 2013.

“I really want to know right away,” Hester said following the Bears’ 33-28 loss to the Green Bay Packers. “I am the type of guy, I don’t want to go through the whole offseason not knowing where I am going to be at. I want to retire as a Bear. I put in too much hard work here and did a lot of things around here. I am pretty sure the fans want me back, so who knows.”

One of the organization’s most popular players since he debuted in the league in 2006 as a second-round pick out of the University of Miami, Hester said he’s currently in the dark regarding the Bears’ offseason intentions.

“To be honest, I don’t know what’s going to happen,” Hester said. “It really hurts walking off the field knowing that this could be my last time wearing a Chicago Bears uniform. It’s the most hurtful feeling that I have right now. This is where I was born and raised (as an NFL player). It’s not like I played three years somewhere else or six years somewhere else, but I know this is a business.

Everything I had in me I left it all on the field tonight. We just came up short.”

Hester returned a punt 49 yards in Week 17 while also handling five kickoffs for 127 yards. In his first season of being exclusively a return man, Hester finished 2013 with a 27.7 yard average on kickoff returns and 14.2 yard average on punt returns, including an 81-yard touchdown.

He joins a long list of prominent Bears players with expiring contracts. Among the players on the list: quarterback Jay Cutler, cornerbacks Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings, defensive lineman Corey Wootton, safety Major Wright, center Roberto Garza, linebacker James Anderson and left guard Matt Slauson.

The future of veteran defensive end Julius Peppers is also in doubt. Although Peppers is under contract through 2015, he is currently projected to count $18,183,333 against the Bears’ salary cap next season. Peppers lead the Bears this year with 7.5 sacks, but he didn’t look nearly as dominant as he had in previous seasons.

“I’m not sure, I don’t know [what’s going to happen],” Peppers said. “I’m in a contract. You’ll need to talk to a decision-maker about that.”

The Bears failed to extend player contracts for almost the entire season until they re-signed kicker Robbie Gould and fullback Tony Fiammatta in the week leading up to the Packers game. General manager Phil Emery is expected to work quickly in the coming weeks to try to re-sign some of his own free agents that he views as long-term parts of the team.

Briggs targeting Dec. 22 return date

December, 13, 2013
LAKE FOREST, Ill -- The Chicago Bears have ruled out weakside linebacker Lance Briggs (fractured shoulder) for Sunday, but coach Marc Trestman believes the seven-time Pro Bowler is on the mend and could return Dec. 22 versus the Philadelphia Eagles.

Briggs will miss his seventh straight game when the team travels to face the Cleveland Browns, but he practiced this week for the first time since fracturing his shoulder in the Bears’ loss to the Washington Redskins on Oct. 20.

Briggs was officially listed as limited on Thursday and Friday.

“I’d be much more optimistic next week that he [could return],” Trestman said. “He got more work today, and we’ll see how he is doing at the start of next week. But it raises our optimism, certainly.”

Bears safety Major Wright said Friday that the defense is eager to welcome back Briggs. The Bears rank No. 27 in total defense and No. 32 in rushing defense. Briggs recorded 75 tackles, two sacks, two forced fumbles and nine tackles for loss before the injury.

“It’s always fun having Lance around,” Wright said. “We enjoy his leadership and his demeanor. It’s great having him back out there with us running around. We definitely have to get it going and Lance can definitely help a lot.”
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears receiver Brandon Marshall returned to practice Friday and participated fully after the club held him out of Thursday’s workout because of his strained quadriceps.

In addition, safety Major Wright participated fully Friday after being limited the day before, which means it’s likely he’ll start in Monday night’s game against the Dallas Cowboys. Linebacker Lance Briggs (shoulder) did not practice Friday, while quarterback Jay Cutler (ankle) and safety Anthony Walters (groin) took part in a limited capacity.

“Lance didn’t practice today. He was out there running around a little bit,” Bears coach Marc Trestman said. “Jay was limited, you saw that. Anthony Walters was limited, but looks better. Kyle [Long], Major and Brandon all worked. So that was good.”

For Dallas, cornerback Morris Claiborne (hamstring) and receiver Dwayne Harris (hamstring) were held out of practice.

Receiver Dez Bryant (back), linebacker Justin Durant (hamstring), tight end Gavin Escobar (hamstring) and defensive tackle Jason Hatcher (neck) participated full for the Cowboys, along with linebackers DeVonte Holloman (neck) and Sean Lee (hamstring).
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears held out receiver Brandon Marshall (quadriceps) from Thursday’s practice, but the injury isn’t expected to keep him out of Monday night’s game against the Dallas Cowboys.

“He’s got a little bit of a quad,” Bears coach Marc Trestman said. “So we held him out.”

Marshall missed time during preparations last week for the game against the Minnesota Vikings, but the injury didn’t keep the receiver from playing. Marshall caught four passes for 45 yards, while teammate Alshon Jeffery went for a Bears single-game record 249 yards receiving.

Marshall needs just 10 yards receiving on Monday for he and Jeffery to become the first pair of Bears receivers since 1995 (Curtis Conway and Jeff Graham) to each record 1,000 yards in a season.

Trestman ruled out quarterback Jay Cutler, who returned to practice on Thursday, and linebacker Lance Briggs, but safeties Anthony Walters (groin) and Major Wright (hamstring) rejoined the team in a limited capacity after missing Sunday’s game at Minnesota. Trestman said “we’re optimistic” regarding Wright’s status for Monday night. Veteran Craig Steltz replaced Wright in the lineup in the loss to the Vikings.

The team listed rookie guard Kyle Long (ankle) on the injury report, but he participated fully in Thursday’s workout with no limitations.
MINNEAPOLIS -- Chicago's already depleted run defense took another hit Sunday when the Bears listed safety Major Wright among their inactives for Sunday’s matchup against the Minnesota Vikings.

Wright pulled a hamstring during a workout Friday inside the Walter Payton Center and the team listed him as questionable going into the contest. At the time, head coach Marc Trestman said, “It wasn’t a major pull,” and added that “We probably won’t know until game time where he’s at there.”

Wright participated in pregame workouts with director of rehabilitation Bobby Slater and head athletic trainer Chris Hanks to gauge the safety’s ability to contribute against the Vikings before the staff made the decision to make him inactive. The hamstring injury forces Wright to miss his first game since December 2011, and breaks a string of 29 consecutive starts.

With Anthony Walters out due to a groin injury, veteran Craig Steltz takes Wright’s place in the lineup. Coincidentally, Steltz made his last start against the Vikings at the Metrodome in 2011.

“Craig has been around. He knows the position. He knows his assignments,” Trestman said. “He’s not a guy who’s going to make a lot of mistakes.”

Other Bears inactives included quarterback Jay Cutler, linebacker Lance Briggs, offensive linemen James Brown and Jonathan Scott and defensive end Cornelius Washington.

Conte, Bears' D respectable in defeat

November, 10, 2013
CHICAGO -- Despite suffering another key injury this week when defensive end and NFC Defensive Player of the Week Shea McClelln tweaked his hamstring at practice, the Chicago Bears' defense managed to put forth a respectable effort in Sunday’s 21-19 loss to the Detroit Lions.

In the first meeting back in September, the Lions finished with 40 points (one touchdown was credited to the Detroit defense on a fumble return), 387 total net yards and held the ball for 31:49. On Sunday, Detroit managed to compile 21 points, 364 total net yards, and actually lost the time of possession battle to the Bears (31:35 to 28:25).

“We just got back to the fundamentals,” Bears safety Chris Conte said. “We knew we didn’t play well the last time we came out and played against them. We just wanted to improve on that today, and I thought we had a good game plan and good energy on defense today.

“It always hurts to lose, but I think there are things we can take out of this game that are encouraging, and we can see that we can be a really good team. We have a lot of young guys and they are improving and getting better each week. I think you can tell we are starting to come together a little bit on defense.”

Conte, in particular, enjoyed more success versus the Lions than he had in recent weeks. Although Conte did commit at least one obvious mistake in the third quarterback when he took a poor angle and whiffed on Lions running back Reggie Bush in the open field on a play that gained 39 yards, the safety bounced back with a key interception in the fourth quarter.

With the Bears trailing 14-10, Conte picked off an errant Matthew Stafford pass and returned it 35 yards to the Lions' 9-yard line. The Bears eventually settled for a field goal to cut the Detroit lead to one point.

“We were just playing Cover-2 and I was just reading the quarterback,” Conte said. “He put the ball up and I just went up and got it. But I needed to score on that. So I need to help out the offense and score there.”

In addition to the interception, Conte finished the game with three tackles and three passes defensed.

“(Conte) has been in the tank for a little bit,” Bears safety Major Wright said. “With me, I’m trying to motivate him and help him get back together. For me, he came out and had a great game for us, and that is what he needed.”

However, the game ended on a low note for the defense when Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson caught what turned out to be a game-winning 14 yard touchdown pass with 2:22 left on the clock. Johnson beat veteran cornerback Charles Tillman, who appeared to be in man coverage, in the back corner of the endzone for the score. Johnson did end the game with a pair of touchdowns, but he caught just six passes for 83 yards on 17 targets.

“It’s pretty tough (to defend Johnson one-on-one) when you look at his size, look at his speed,” Wright said. “He’s pretty good at catching the ball. You really can’t ask for much more with how this defense played him, not just one guy but all of us.”
Here are a few things to keep an eye on Monday night when the Bears face the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field:

How the game is called offensively: Marc Trestman and offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer maintain the club won’t change the way they’ll call a game with Josh McCown as the quarterback. But Kromer admitted there could be a few subtle changes because of McCown’s involvement in putting together the game plan for Green Bay.

Kromer also said that a strong running game is every quarterback’s best friend, which means the Packers can expect to see a heavy dose of Matt Forte.

"Last week, we continued on the game plan that we had (with Jay Cutler at quarterback), and Josh handled it very well,” Kromer said. "When you have a week to plan, you’re going to have a few things that Josh might like better than Jay, and usually they like it because they feel like they’ll have success, they’re confident before the ball is snapped that something good is going to happen, and that’s important in a quarterback’s mind, and in an offensive line. So we let Josh help us in ways like we let Jay help us in ways (by asking) ‘What do you like best? What are you going to take the snap from center and feel like you’re going to have success with?'"

How Josh McCown handles adversity: Surely, the Packers will find a way to get to McCown and pressure him, and the veteran will sometimes wind up taking sacks or throwing the ball incomplete. What’s important for him is to settle in and get into the flow of the game without making costly mistakes before that happens. So McCown needs to weather Green Bay’s initial storm so to speak, and he’s proven perfectly capable of doing that.

But McCown should know going into this game that he's going to get hit quite a bit.

“I feel like we’ve shown this year with our offensive game plans and our ability to move the ball that hopefully I feel like we’ll be prepared,” McCown said. “I feel like we’ll be ready to put our best foot forward as good as we ever have here in the past. That obviously gives you a comfort level as a quarterback going into this game.”

Special teams: With the defense continuing to struggle, it’s important for the Bears to win the field-position game with big returns and strong coverage on the punt and kickoff teams. The Packers gave up a 109-yard kickoff return against the Vikings last week, and have surrendered kickoff returns of 86, 56 and 51 yards so far this season. Chicago, meanwhile, is coming off a performance against Washington in which Devin Hester busted an 81-yard punt return for a touchdown.

“I think things started to get more consistent towards the Washington game. We still have a lot work left to do,” Bears special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis said. “But I thought overall both the coverage game and the return game were more consistent as we went. Really when you look at it, there are three plays that you’d like to have back, and there were several plays that they made. We just need to make sure we’ve got a lot more positives than negatives in the second half (of the season). These guys have worked, and I think we’ll do that.”

The rookie linebackers: The coaching staff gave the responsibility of play calling to veteran James Anderson, but defensive coordinator Mel Tucker said rookie Jonathan Bostic will also play a role in getting the defense set. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Packers look for ways to keep Chicago in its base defense in an attempt to match up against Bostic and fellow rookie Khaseem Greene as much as possible.

“We’re really not worried about inexperience. It’s next man up,” Tucker said. “Guys have a role to play. Guys know what’s expected. It’s our job to get them ready to play. I feel good about what we’ve done so far in preparation. We’re not worried about experience or inexperience.”

Although there’s no trepidation on the coaching staff’s part, the reality is Bostic and Greene are rookies, and prone to the mistakes that come with inexperience.

The safeties: Trestman and Tucker gave safeties Major Wright and Chris Conte votes of confidence last week, but how the duo plays Monday night should go a long way toward determining Chicago’s success against the Packers.

Quarterbacks have completed 68.8 percent of their throws directed at Conte in coverage, and 77.8 attempts against Wright for a passer rating of 135.2. Obviously, the duo faces one of the league’s best in Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers, but the duo must also do its part in run support against Eddie Lacy and James Starks. Lacy currently ranks No. 1 among all rookies this season in rushing yards (446).

“Major and Chris Conte are playing well,” McCarthy said. “I think they’re going through what we’re going through a little bit with some injuries to their front seven, but they still do a great job of taking that football away, and once they do, they know what to do with it; dangerous defense.”

Packers report: Jones says he's 50/50

November, 2, 2013
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- James Jones’ sprained left knee is feeling better, but he doesn’t know if better will be good enough to play on Monday night against the Chicago Bears.

The Green Bay Packers receiver practiced on Saturday, albeit in a limited fashion, for the third straight day and was listed as questionable on the official injury report.

The previous two weeks, Jones was listed as questionable and doubtful and didn’t play in either game.

“We’ll see how my knee reacts coming in tomorrow,” Jones said after Saturday’s practice. “[Hopefully] get no swelling or anything like that. Felt good, so we’ll see. I don’t know if I’ll go this week, next week, but [it] felt better.

“I’m not a betting man, I don’t know. But if I was a betting man, I don’t know, 50/50.”

Jones has not played since Oct. 13 against the Baltimore Ravens. He did not practice for two weeks but returned to the field on Thursday.

“He did a little more than yesterday,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said on Saturday. “So we’ll see where he is. Frankly, it’s up in the air, but he’s doing everything he can.”

The injury that kept cornerback Sam Shields out of practice on Saturday was to his toes, McCarthy said. Shields got stepped on during Saturday’s practice.

“Frankly, I just held him for precaution,” McCarthy said. “I’m hopeful it’s nothing more than that.”

Here’s the full injury report:


Out – TE Jermichael Finley (neck), OLB Clay Matthews (thumb).

Doubtful – OLB Nick Perry (foot, did not practice).

Questionable – WR James Jones (knee, limited participation).

Probable – LB Brad Jones (hamstring, full participation), CB Sam Shields (toes, did not practice), TE Ryan Taylor (knee, did not practice).


Out – LB Lance Briggs (shoulder), QB Jay Cutler (groin).

Questionable – WR Joe Anderson (abdomen, limited participation).

Probable – LB Blake Costanzo (knee, full participation), CB Charles Tillman (knee, full participation), S Major Wright (knee, full participation).