NFC North: Marcus harrison
Item: Bears defensive tackle Marcus Harrison still isn't practicing because he reported to training camp 11 pounds overweight.
Comment: I wonder when the Bears' patience with Harrison will run out. While he works on conditioning, the Bears are looking at a host of defensive linemen who could take his roster spot.
Item: Packers tight end Andrew Quarless (hip flexor) returned to practice.
Comment: Not a moment too soon. A couple of young tight ends, D.J. Williams and Ryan Taylor, opened some eyes during the first week of camp.
Item: Packers defensive end Mike Neal participated in his first team drills since major shoulder surgery last fall, according to Rob Demovsky of the Green Bay Press-Gazette.
Comment: That should be a welcome sign for all Packers fans who hope he is ready to take over for the departed Cullen Jenkins.
Item: The Detroit Lions used newcomer Stephen Tulloch at outside linebacker in his debut practice Thursday.
Comment: Tom Kowalski of Mlive.com believes Tulloch eventually will be moved inside. I agree. It makes sense to give him a chance to ease into the scheme before giving him play-calling responsibility.
Item: Minnesota Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said he doesn't consider right tackle Phil Loadholt a possible replacement at left tackle.
Comment: That makes sense. Shifting Loadholt would put another position in flux. As it stands, the Vikings are also using Chris DeGeare at right guard while Anthony Herrera continues his recovery from knee surgery. The only way Loadholt should be a possibility is if current starter Charlie Johnson proves he can't handle the job.
Item: Vikings tailback Adrian Peterson is expected to return Friday from a three-day absence. Peterson's fiancÚ gave birth to a son in Houston.
Comment: His return will give the Vikings their full complement of offensive players for the first time this summer.
Enough about me and that. (For now, at least. I’ll put together a post tracking some of the high points of this journey on Monday. And if the Chicago Bears beat the Seattle Seahawks, we’ll have a post or two about the NFC North’s new role as the epicenter of humanity.)
First things first. We just received the official inactive lists from both teams, and I can report there are absolutely no surprises. As expected, Seahawks linebacker Lofa Tatupu (concussion) has been cleared to play and will start.
The Bears, who listed no players on their injury report Friday, had their usual list of inactive players: Quarterback Caleb Hanie, safety Craig Steltz, running back Kahlil Bell, cornerback Joshua Moore, offensive linemen Herman Johnson and Edwin Williams, tight end Desmond Clark and defensive lineman Marcus Harrison.
OK. I'll be joining NFC West colleague Mike Sando and the rest of our crew over at Countdown Live during the game. Please join us.
- Veteran tight end Desmond Clark was deactivated and is a healthy scratch for the first time in a Bears career that started in 2004. David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune notes Clark dropped a fourth-and-goal pass in Monday night's 20-17 victory over the Green Bay Packers. The Tribune's Brad Biggs notes that Clark has played only 14 offensive snaps this season, so the move probably is related to multiple factors.
- Defensive tackle Tommie Harris was in uniform after the Bears surprisingly deactivated him for the Packers game. Meanwhile, reserve Marcus Harrison was back to inactive status.
- Like Harris, receiver Devin Aromashodu was active after a one-week trip to the inactive list.
Those developments lead to a convenient explanation: With his job/career/reputation on the line, Smith has dropped all loyalties and will stop at nothing to produce a season good enough to ensure self-preservation. That was my thought Monday night after Smith made underperforming defensive tackle Tommie Harris a healthy scratch and brushed aside questions about doing the same for receiver Devin Aromashodu. During a 20-17 victory over the Green Bay Packers, Smith also replaced cornerback Zack Bowman with dime back Tim Jennings.
But how much of that answer is true? Has Smith really overhauled his approach on the way to a 3-0 start?
The reality is that, if anything, Smith has amplified his traditional and core beliefs this season. The biggest change is that Smith appears to be more forcefully demanding adherence.
Let's take a look at this issue from three perspectives -- personnel, offense and defense -- to see what we come up with.
Accountability with personnel
The Bears reacquired safety Chris Harris this spring to settle a position that has been troubled since Harris originally departed in 2007. But his injury-plagued training camp led to an admittedly horrible preseason, and by early September, rumors were already circulating that Smith was angling to push rookie Major Wright into Harris' spot. They rotated in the Sept. 12 game against the Detroit Lions, and Wright's likely ascension was halted only by a hamstring injury the following week.
The same goes for Tommie Harris, whose underperformance the Bears have been trying to address for three years. He has been deactivated for one game in each of the past two seasons, and this year, Smith forced him to abandon a partial practice plan aimed at preserving his knees. But after Harris managed one tackle in the first two games, Smith moved quickly to give two other players -- Matt Toeaina and Marcus Harrison -- an opportunity. The move came on the dramatic stage of "Monday Night Football," but it wasn't out of line with previous approaches. It was just a bit more aggressive.
Meanwhile, angst over Aromashodu's plight seems a bit inflated to me. It's true that he caught a team-high five passes in a Week 1 victory over the Lions, but he also dropped a touchdown pass and is hardly one of the Bears' most indispensable players. And the reality is Bowman's mediocre tackling skills weren't a good matchup for a Packers offense that shifted to a short passing game in the second quarter.
Aromashodu told reporters this week that players "walking on egg shells" won't be productive and added that coaches need to realize "you're not going to be perfect on every play." He has a point, but it's one Smith probably doesn't see much upside to. Smith has long been described as a player's coach, and while quick hooks don't go over well with the player involved, they can actually build credibility with the rest of the locker room because appropriate consequences are being applied.
That's how I would classify the decision to fine tight end Brandon Manumaleuna $22,000 over what appeared to be a misunderstanding of the Bears' regular-season meeting schedule. Similar fines occur more often than you might think, but they are usually kept private. Only an excellent job of reporting from ESPNChicago.com's Jeff Dickerson brought this one to light.
For his part, Smith told reporters this week that his philosophy has never wavered.
"We hold the players accountable on the football field," he said. "We look at what they do on the field, and we play the guys that give us the best opportunity to win. Go back over the video. That's what I've said from the start, that's what we're saying right now. Players realize that, too."
Offensive staying power
At first blush, you look at an offense coordinated by Mike Martz and quarterbacked by Jay Cutler -- the NFL's third highest-rated passer -- and marvel at the shift from Smith's affinity for the running game. Except, when you look at the numbers, you see it is actually Martz who has made a shift.
While their passing game has far outperformed their running game, it hasn't been for lack of trying. As the first chart shows, the Bears are throwing on 56.6 percent of their plays this season. That's actually a significant drop-off from last season under coordinator Ron Turner and not that much different than the two years prior to that.
It's true that the Bears were closer to a 50-50 split during their Super Bowl season of 2006, but I wonder if that ratio would have been different if they had a 2010 version of Cutler behind center.
(For the purposes of that chart, I put half of quarterback runs into the passing category in an unscientific attempt to include scrambles as passing plays.)
What's more, Martz has found a way to get the tight end involved in the passing game, another mainstay of Smith's previous teams. In fact, Greg Olsen has 10 receptions and two touchdowns already. At that pace, he'll finish with a respectable 50-catch, 10-touchdown season.
Back to the future on defense
Take a look at the second chart. After signing free-agent defensive end Julius Peppers and putting longtime Tampa-2 disciple Rod Marinelli in charge of game-day calls, the Bears have returned to the core tenet of that scheme. For the most part, they are depending on their defensive line to provide pass rush and using their other seven players in coverage.
According to ESPN's Stats & Information, the Bears are using an extra rusher on 24 percent of their defensive snaps, cutting their blitzes by about half of their frequency over the past two seasons. And while they have managed only one sack with their four-man rush, you can't argue with the results from a big-picture perspective. Quarterbacks have a 73.6 passer rating when the Bears don't blitz, the ninth lowest in the league, and have scored only one touchdown in those situations.
The Bears are 3-0 for many reasons. One of them, I think, has been Smith's adherence to his core values -- and not the discovery of a new approach.
Friday night's agreement between the St. Louis Rams and quarterback Sam Bradford sets some parameters for the Detroit Lions' negotiations with defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. And here an interesting question: After Bradford received $50 million guaranteed, will the Lions now have to pay Suh -- the No. 2 overall pick of the draft -- more than they paid quarterback Matthew Stafford when they made him the No. 1 overall pick last season?
Remember, Stafford received $41.7 million in a deal that broke new ground for rookie contracts. Bradford raised that total by almost 17 percent. On the other side of the bracket, the Washington Redskins gave offensive tackle Trent Williams -- the No. 4 overall pick -- $36.75 million in guarantees.
So will those figures push Suh past $41.7 million in guarantees? It's an interesting question from a league perspective as we watch contracts for top-drafted players continue to spiral out of control. Suh, meanwhile, appears set to miss the Lions' opening practice of training camp later Saturday. We'll keep you updated.
Continuing around the NFC North on a rainy morning from Bourbonnais, Ill.:
- Lions coach Jim Schwartz believes the team has improved at quarterback more than any other position "because Matt Stafford went through an entire off-season," reports Carlos Monarrez of the Detroit Free Press.
- Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy wants his team to take the next step, writes Jason Wilde of ESPNMilwaukee.com.
- The Packers believe their special teams group is further along than last year at this time, according to Pete Dougherty of the Green Bay Press-Gazette.
- Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel questions whether the Packers should have signed a veteran linebacker in the offseason.
- Minnesota Vikings owner Zygi Wilf referred to Brett Favre as "the starting quarterback of our team," in an interview with the Star Tribune. It's about time someone told the truth.
- Tom Pelissero of 1500ESPN.com considers the possibility that the Vikings will trade quarterback Sage Rosenfels.
- Chicago Bears defensive end Julius Peppers hasn't set any individual sack goals for his first season with the team, writes Melissa Isaacson of ESPNChicago.com.
- The match between Bears quarterback Jay Cutler and offensive coordinator Mike Martz is proving to be a good one so far, writes Mike Mulligan of the Chicago Sun-Times.
- Bears defensive linemen Mark Anderson and Marcus Harrison have tattoos to honor the memory of former teammate Gaines Adams, who died in the offseason. Vaughn McClure of the Chicago Tribune has more.
I think you have a poor pulse on the Bears to think Anderson is in the pressure cooker over Tommie. Worst case scenario, Izzy [Idonije] and [Corey] Wootton can cover LDE. Tommie was suspended by the team 1 game (and the year before), ejected early on another, and makes a heck of a lot more than MA. Who would back up Harris? [Marcus] Harrison? [Jarron] Gilbert? [Henry] Melton? What position is more of a priority in Chicago's scheme? Undertackle or LDE? Not to mention [Adewale] Ogunleye is still out there, although I don't want him. Is there a replacement on the street to replace Tommie?
All good points, jmscooby. In putting together the post, a few things came to mind. First, Harris appeared in our 2009 version of the Pressure Cooker. As we all know, he fell far short of those expectations and, in my mind, took himself off the list of potential playmakers for the 2010 season. I just think it's folly to suggest that, after mostly disappearing for two-plus years, Harris will once again become a player the Bears can count on for consistent disruption inside.
The Bears need more pass rush, whether it comes from the defensive tackle or defensive end. This offseason, the Bears bid farewell to defensive ends Alex Brown and Ogunleye. Tossing Anderson into the lineup suggests the Bears consider him an upgrade. They're counting on him in a way that I don't think anyone can reasonably be counting on Harris: To provide consistent pass rush. And I don't have any illusions that Idonije can be a full-time defensive end, or that Wootton is ready for that role.
That's where I'm coming from, at least. Often I'll respond to individual comments in the comment section, but I thought this one deserved a broader discussion.
Defensive tackle Marcus Harrison, a possible starter opposite Tommie Harris, revealed he lost more than 20 pounds during a recent week-long battle with tonsillitis. According to Jeff Dickerson of ESPNChicago.com, Harrison was limited in Wednesday's practice.
"Before I got sick, the offseason was going great," Harrison said. "I just got to get back used to it. I've been out for a long time, so man, my body just has to get used to it. I lost a lot of weight and stuff, so I just have to get it back.
"I know [defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli] is going to pick it up and make sure I get back to where I need to be. I'm not really concerned about that. I want to get in there and do it. I need to get in there and do it. But coach Marinelli is going to have me ready."
Meanwhile, if you're keeping track of the Bears' search for a left guard: Dickerson reports the Bears were using Josh Beekman strictly at center. That means Kevin Shaffer, Lance Louis and Johan Asiata rotated at left guard.
Green Bay Packers
For those wondering how the Packers plan to stack their cornerback depth, especially considering the shift of Will Blackmon to safety, coach Mike McCarthy heaped effusive praise on second-year player Brandon Underwood.
"I think Brandon Underwood would definitely be a candidate for most improved player from year one to year two so far from what I've seen," McCarthy said. "I think he's really matured in the weight room. He looks very good right now. I know we're only practicing in shorts and helmets, but I think Brandon Underwood is off to an outstanding spring so far. I've been very pleased with what he has shown on film."
Other candidates to back up the initial starting duo of Charles Woodson and Tramon Williams include Pat Lee and Jarrett Bush.
Veteran starter Al Harris, meanwhile, said he had shifted his knee rehabilitation from Florida to Green Bay. Harris wouldn't commit to a return date, according to Rob Demovsky of the Green Bay Press-Gazette, but said his recovery is on schedule.
"I don't want to give any predictions or anything like that, but I'm going to do my part," Harris said. "So if it's up to me, and it's up to me working to get out there, then I'll be out there. But we've got to go with the protocol and do what's right for the team and what's right for me. I'm going to do my part as far as preparing and working to get better."
Many NFL teams routinely flip-flop their corners based on matchups and scheme calls. The Bears have been known to do the same, but generally speaking, they have lined up Tillman on the left side in recent years because most offenses (with right-handed quarterbacks) tend to scheme their first reads in that direction.
We'll discuss the Bears' pass defense in more detail later this week. But according to Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune, Tillman believes the move is permanent. Does that mean the Bears consider Bowman their top cover man? I suppose that remains to be seen. For now, I'll classify it among a series of overt moves the Bears have made to elevate a defense that -- as we discussed earlier this month -- was among the NFL's worst last season in obvious passing situations.
As it stands now, the Bears likely will have turned over more than half of their starting lineup by the time the regular season begins. Here is one look at how their starting lineup might look Sept. 12 against Detroit:
Left end: Julius Peppers*
Defensive tackle: Marcus Harrison/Anthony Adams
Defensive tackle: Tommie Harris
Right end: Mark Anderson*
Outside linebacker: Pisa Tinoisamoa
Middle linebacker: Brian Urlacher
Outside linebacker: Lance Briggs
Left cornerback: Zack Bowman*
Strong safety: Danieal Manning/Major Wright*
Free safety: Chris Harris*/ Wright
Right cornerback: Charles Tillman*
*New starter or different position
Again, we'll touch on this topic again soon. For now, let me know if you think these changes -- along with the promotion of defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli -- will be enough to halt the Bears' defensive slide over the past three years.
Posted by ESPN.com’s Kevin Seifert
This summer, we had a number of Chicago players exalt the work done by new defensive line coach Rod Marinelli. Mark Anderson appreciated the way Marinelli always explained the “why” behind his theories. Alex Brown noted the credibility Marinelli carried through the door, dating back to his years in Tampa Bay. Israel Idonije couldn’t believe how accurately Marinelli could predict the cause and effect of defensive line play.
Yes, expectations were high for a coach the Bears are relying on to restore the dominance of their front four, a development that would allow them to play a more traditional version Tampa-2 defense. So what do we know as the ex-Detroit coach prepares for his former team to play at Soldier Field this weekend?
Marinelli hasn’t been able to coax elevated play out of defensive tackle Tommie Harris, his star pupil. But otherwise, the Bears’ defensive line has increased its production over the same time period last season.
Let’s take a closer look at the production of every lineman who has had at least one sack this year or last year:
1. Alex Brown
2009 sacks: 2
2008 sacks through three games: 2
2008 total: 5
2. Adewale Ogunleye
2009 sacks: 2
2008 sacks through three games: 0
2008 total: 5
3. Mark Anderson
2009 sacks: 1
2008 sacks through three games: 0
2008 total: 1
4. Anthony Adams
2009 sacks: 1
2008 sacks through three games: 0
2008 total: 0
5. Tommie Harris
2009 sacks: 0
2008 sacks through three games: 0
2008 total: 5
6. Israel Idonije
2009 sacks: 0
2008 sacks through three games: 1
2008 total: 3.5
7. Marcus Harrison
2009 sacks: 0
2008 sacks through three games: 1
2008 total: 2
2009 sacks: 6
2008 through three games: 4
2008 totals: 22.5
Again? Wow. Chicago defensive tackle Dusty Dvoracek has suffered another season-ending injury. This time it's a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, according to Brad Biggs of the Chicago Sun-Times.
It's the fourth consecutive year that Dvoracek has suffered an injury that ended his season. The Bears weren't counting on him to be a starter, but the injury is still a blow to their depth as well as another career disappointment for a player who clearly appeals to coach Lovie Smith and general manager Jerry Angelo.
Anthony Adams and Marcus Harrison have been the Bears' top new nose tackles this summer in practice. Tommie Harris and Jarron Gilbert are the top two "under tackles" in the Bears' rotation. Still, this is some unwanted news for the Bears at the start of a new week.
Continuing around the NFC North:
- The Bears don't need Devin Hester to develop into a true No. 1 receiver, writes David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune. Haugh: "One day, Hester may develop into that 85-catch, 1,200-yard receiver that accompanies the No. 1 receiver tag. But, objectively, that day does not look close. Nor does it have to be this season now that [Jay] Cutler is the quarterback."
- Mike Mulligan of the Sun-Times writes that Cutler brings the Bears "a dimension the offense really never has had in the modern era, and it should scare defenses out of the eight- and nine-man fronts the Bears have endured for years."
- Pete Dougherty of the Green Bay Press-Gazette projects Jason Spitz as the Packers' starting center, Josh Sitton at right guard and Allen Barbre at right tackle. All three jobs have been up for competition.
- Rookie running back Tyrell Sutton is giving himself a real chance to make the Packers' roster, writes Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
- Detroit may have a winner in its quarterback derby by default, not achievement, writes John Niyo of the Detroit News.
- The two Lions players who fought before Saturday night's game in Cleveland -- defensive lineman Dewayne White and tight end Carson Butler -- were among the few who played well, writes Carlos Monarrez of the Detroit Free Press.
- Tom Kowalski of Mlive.com wonders why Aveion Cason is still returning kicks for the Lions.
- Minnesota is keeping quarterback Brett Favre on a "pitch count" in practice, writes Judd Zulgad of the Star Tribune.
- The Vikings are hoping to realize a cash-flow boost similar to what Favre brought the New York Jets last year, according to Sean Jensen of the Pioneer Press.
As we review preseason action this summer, I won't pretend to bring you brilliant insight from games I don't cover live. We'll save that kind of thorough analysis for the games that I actually see and conduct interviews at afterwards. (Yes, there was some sarcasm there. Lighten up. It's Sunday morning!)
With that said, it's important to get a feel for every NFC North preseason game in a timely fashion. So while I covered Friday night's Minnesota-Kansas City game, below are some thoughts on the three games that took place Saturday night. I've also included links to the local coverage of reporters who were in attendance as well as some NFL.com video so you can see for yourself.
Chicago 17, New York Giants 3
- Everyone can agree that quarterback Jay Cutler was sharp (8-of-13) and productive (17 points in his first three drives) during his second start of the preseason. He threw well on the run, scrambled once on his own for 12 yards and threw a beautiful touch pass to receiver Devin Aromashodu for 38 yards. Working at times from the no-huddle, the Bears gave their future opponents plenty to think about with their passing performance. Cutler and backup Caleb Hanie combined to complete 18 of 31 passes for 241 yards.
- If you were worried about tailback Matt Forte's hamstring, it didn't look bad Saturday night on a 32-yard touchdown dash up the middle. Overall, Forte finished with 58 yards on nine carries. On the downside, backups Kevin Jones and Garrett Wolfe each lost a fumble.
- Defensive tackle Tommie Harris started but didn't show up in the box score. Fellow defensive linemen Alex Brown, Adewale Ogunleye, Dusty Dvoracek and Marcus Harrison all finished the game with a sack.
Cleveland 27, Detroit 10
- Incredibly, the Lions fought among themselves before the game. Defensive end Dewayne White and tight end Carson Butler were the culprits, fighting long enough that they both ended up on the ground. It's always good to be in a "fighting mood" during pregame warm-ups. But actually fighting? Unheard of. I'm guessing Butler, at least, will have his ticket punched out of Detroit soon.
- Quarterback Matthew Stafford had a tough night. Getting a start as he competes with Daunte Culpepper, Stafford threw an interception on his first pass and later overthrew two wide-open receivers (John Standeford and Adam Jennings) on passes downfield. Overall, Stafford completed 5 of 13 passes. Neither he nor Culpepper led the Lions to a score. We go to Week 3 of the preseason with no better idea of who will win the starting job.
- Let's just say it: Saturday night was terrible all around for the Lions. The special teams gave up two touchdown returns to Cleveland's Josh Cribbs, although one was called back by penalty. And Browns quarterback Derek Anderson picked apart the Lions' defense for 130 passing yards.
Green Bay 31, Buffalo 21
- The Packers' top defense held Buffalo scoreless in the first half and continued to swarm the ball. Safety Nick Collins forced an early interception, and Green Bay got some good pass rush out of its 4-3 nickel alignment. Defensive lineman Johnny Jolly finished with two sacks. The Packers led 21-0 when starters left the game. The only downside: Collins left with a rib injury.
- Quarterback Aaron Rodgers was locked in, completing 8 of 9 passes for 98 yards and two scores. His 5-yard touchdown pass to Donald Driver was an athletic play, and fantasy players everywhere are going to like that he connected multiple times with second-year tight end Jermichael Finley.
- Backup quarterback Brian Brohm got extended playing time because of a shoulder injury to Matt Flynn that isn't deemed serious. But Brohm didn't give anyone reason to believe he can overtake Flynn on the depth chart if everyone is healthy.
ESPN is swarming the NFC North this week. Chris Mortensen and his traveling party are in Green Bay on Tuesday, a couple days after John Clayton spent a day with the Packers. Clayton also visited the Bears in Bourbonnais, Ill., this week and had an interesting take on the skills of quarterback Jay Cutler.
Clayton: Cutler has a double gift. He knows where his receivers like to have the ball placed on throws. Plus, he can deliver those passes to the right location. For example, Cutler said Devin Hester likes lower throws, but the completions work best when he gets the pass off to him quicker. Because split end Earl Bennett played with Cutler at Vanderbilt, Cutler knows exactly the right places to make the most of Bennett's talents. To Cutler, Hester's skills resemble [Eddie] Royal's, and Bennett's is a hybrid of those of Royal and Brandon Marshall.
Over time, most quarterbacks will learn where a receiver likes passes to be thrown. That Cutler is already locked in with Hester, and presumably Bennett and others, is of significant note. His ability to put the ball precisely in those spots ultimately could be what separates him from the NFL field.
In other Bears news, defensive lineman Marcus Harrison was activated Tuesday from the non-football injury list and is practicing with the team. Harrison had been sidelined since reporting at about 10 pounds heavier than his listed playing weight of 312 pounds. Harrison is competing with Anthony Adams for the starting defensive tackle job next to Tommie Harris.
Catching up on Monday's happenings around the NFC North....
Green Bay linebacker Nick Barnett, who is on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list as he rehabilitates his knee, said he expects to begin practicing in time to play in the third preseason game Aug. 28 at Arizona. Here's more from Tom Pelissero of the Green Bay Press-Gazette. Coach Mike McCarthy said Barnett is due for a status check next week. The Packers also have lost defensive lineman Johnny Jolly (sprained right ankle) for about a week, McCarthy said.
In Chicago, defensive lineman Marcus Harrison said he hopes to begin practicing by this weekend, according to Brad Biggs of the Chicago Sun-Times. Harrison has been on the non-football injury list since reporting to training camp overweight.
Here are Jeff Dickerson's daily Bears notes over on ESPN Chicago. Among the highlights: Tailback Matt Forte got considerably more work in team drills Monday. The Bears seemed to have been protecting him after he was slowed by a hamstring injury in the offseason.
In Detroit, quarterback Matthew Stafford made quick work of the Lions defense during a two-minute drill. Stafford had the advantage of working with the first-team offense. Here are accounts of Stafford's performance from Tom Kowalski of Mlive.com and John Niyo of the Detroit News.
As I work my way through training camps this summer, I'll do my best to keep you updated on all the happenings within the division. But I'm also not going to make apologies for focusing on the team I'm visiting that day. That's why you've seen an uptick in Minnesota posts this week, and that's why the pendulum will swing toward Green Bay and then Chicago next week. All's fair in love and war ... also whenever I say it is.
A reasonable compromise, I think, is at least to get caught up on everything by the end of the day. So tonight we debut the Evening Roundup until we figure out a catchier name. On with it....
Detroit's contract agreement with tight end Brandon Pettigrew locked up the final member of the Lions' draft class on the day players reported for training camp. It leaves the division with two unsigned rookies: Green Bay defensive lineman B.J. Raji and Minnesota receiver Percy Harvin.
As of Friday evening, no deal appeared imminent for either Raji or Harvin. None of the players selected between No. 8 and No. 12 are signed, making Raji's slot at No. 9 a bit murky. The holdup on Harvin is less easily explained. But unless something dramatic happens overnight, neither player will be on the practice field Saturday.
The Packers are hoping to use Raji as a defensive end while Ryan Pickett starts at nose tackle. But Packers coach Mike McCarthy hinted that a prolonged holdout could eventually limit Raji's time as an end and, presumably, as an opening day starter.
"Really it depends on when he gets here," McCarthy said. "Because the end snaps are very important for him, especially in base. Just like most teams I would think, you start off with base your first practices and work your way to sub."
MANKATO, Minn. -- At last! The first 2009 training camp practices are upon us in the NFC North. I'll be at Minnesota's, scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. ET. ESPN Chicago's Jeff Dickerson will be in Bourbonnais, Ill., where the Bears are scheduled to practice at 3 p.m.
Dickerson brings us an interesting note from Thursday's reporting day: Defensive tackle Marcus Harrison, who is a leading candidate to start alongside Tommie Harris, will be placed on the non-football injury list because he didn't make weight. Brad Biggs of the Chicago Sun-Times reports Harrison is 322 pounds, about 10 pounds over his listed playing weight.
Dickerson reports Harrison is also facing some personal issues, but coach Lovie Smith has a longstanding policy regarding weight and practice time. Harrison will have to get himself back in shape before the Bears allow him on the field. In the meantime, Anthony Adams and Dusty Dvoracek will see most of the snaps at that position.
Let's continue around the division:
- David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune reports this quote from Bears quarterback Jay Cutler about his relationship with linebacker Brian Urlacher: "I wouldn't go face-to-face with Brian anyway, first of all, but no, that never has happened. I've hung out with Brian away from the facility numerous times and we've always gotten along. There's nothing between us. Let's put that to rest now. There never has been anything between us."
- Smith believes that free-agent quarterback Michael Vick deserves another chance in the NFL, but doesn't have interest in bringing him to the Bears. Biggs has that story.
- In an interview with the Associated Press' Larry Lage, Detroit coach Jim Schwartz said he loves to read but skips books written by women. Schwartz: "I've tried to, but their perspective is different, so I stick with what I like."
- Schwartz said that quarterback Daunte Culpepper was 295 pounds when he took the Lions job, according to John Niyo of the Detroit News. Culpepper is down to about 265 pounds now.
- Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy said he hasn't ruled out re-signing offensive lineman Mark Tauscher, who is still recovering from knee surgery, reports Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
- It's not out of the question that the Packers could have defensive tackle B.J. Raji signed by the time they open practice Saturday. Rob Demovsky of the Green Bay Press-Gazette updates the situation.
- Minnesota quarterback Tarvaris Jackson was asked if he was offended by the team's pursuit of Brett Favre. Jackson's response, as reported by Sean Jensen of the St. Paul Pioneer Press: "Not really. That's part of the game, it's part of the business. I just got to go take care of my part and be ready. I just have to do my thing. I can't control that part of the game ..."
- As of Friday morning, we've received no word that the Vikings had signed first-round pick Percy Harvin. Without an agreement, he'll miss his second day of camp Friday. Chip Scoggins of the Star Tribune writes that coach Brad Childress is concerned about Harvin missing time.