NFC North: Matt Bowen

We're Black and Blue All Over:

The Green Bay Packers' limited use of free agency over the years means we should pay attention to every scheduled visit by a veteran to Lambeau Field. At the moment, at least, former New York Giants defensive lineman Chris Canty is set to drop by at the end of this week, according to many reports, including Pete Dougherty of the Green Bay Press-Gazette.

The Packers had interest in Canty four years ago, but he declined a visit because the Packers wouldn't make an offer first. Canty has several other suitors, including the Kansas City Chiefs and Tennessee Titans, but this go around he is listening to the Packers.

If nothing else, the Packers' decision to host a visit indicates they will once again be aggressive about improving their defensive line this offseason. They tried to do that last spring, signing veteran Anthony Hargrove and drafting Jerel Worthy and Mike Daniels. But Hargrove was suspended eight games by the NFL and later released, while Worthy suffered a serious knee injury in Week 17 and might not be ready for the start of the 2013 season.

Continuing around the NFC North:
  • The Packers' safety position is in limbo, writes Tyler Dunne of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
  • Josh Katzenstein of the Detroit News thinks the Detroit Lions should pass on BYU pass-rusher Ezekiel Ansah and draft a "polished pass-rusher" in April. That's assuming the Lions allow defensive end Cliff Avril to depart via free agency and re-sign cornerback Chris Houston.
  • Justin Rogers of Mlive.com takes a look at the free-agent market at cornerback from the Lions' perspective.
  • Mississippi State cornerback Johnathan Banks is one of the draft-eligible cornerbacks claiming he could cover Lions receiver Calvin Johnson, notes Carlos Monarrez of the Detroit Free Press.
  • Chicago Bears linebacker Nick Roach on his pending free agency, via Jeff Dickerson of ESPNChicago.com: "I'm just looking to be fairly compensated for whatever my role is going to be. I've never been the kind of guy looking to break the bank, or make a statement. That's not me. I just want fair pay for the job I'm going to be called on to do. The most important thing is knowing the organization respects you and the job you do. Then it's up to the agent and the organization to make it happen. But the big thing is having the respect of your employer. That respect is usually reflected in the type of offer that is eventually made."
  • Former NFL player Matt Bowen reviews 10 draft choices who could help the Bears for the Chicago Tribune.
  • Bears defensive tackle Henry Melton on being named the Bears' franchise player, via Sean Jensen of the Chicago Sun-Times: "It just feels good to be thought of so highly. Been a long road, and now just want to get a long-term deal done and remain a Bear for years to come."
  • Tom Pelissero of 1500ESPN.com thinks it is unlikely the Minnesota Vikings will franchise right tackle Phil Loadholt by Monday's deadline.

BBAO: All even after Week 2

September, 17, 2012
9/17/12
9:00
AM ET
We're Black and Blue All Over. (We're also on Facebook and Twitter.)

SAN FRANCISCO -- And then there were four … 1-1 teams in the NFC North.

Through two weeks, it's all even in our fair division. As we consider the possibilities for the 2012 title, we should probably be thankful that the San Francisco 49ers remain firmly entrenched in the NFC West. They 49ers have already tossed aside the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions -- Sunday night's Lions column here for those who missed it -- and now they've got their sights set on the Minnesota Vikings in Week 3 at the Metrodome. Yeesh, that's a good football team.

I'm making the trek back to NFC North blog headquarters here Monday morning and will be out of pocket for a bit during the time-zone switch. (It's a temporal anomaly thing. Don't try to figure it out.) I've got some posts scheduled to publish in the meantime, and I'll be back live with you at some point Monday afternoon.

While we have a moment, let's take a brief tour around divisional coverage:
  • Vikings defensive end Jared Allen on the Indianapolis Colts' game-winning drive, via Tom Pelissero of 1500ESPN.com: "That was embarrassing. Yeah, I don't know. I've got nothing to say."
  • Chip Scoggins of the Star Tribune on the matchup between the Vikings' Christian Ponder and the Colts' Andrew Luck: "Sunday's matchup featured two teams on the ground floor of rebuilding projects that revolve around a pair of young quarterbacks. Luck looks like the real deal. The Vikings are still trying to figure out if Ponder is, too."
  • The Vikings are asking receiver Percy Harvin to shoulder a heavy load, writes Brian Murphy of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
  • Mitch Albom of the Detroit Free Press on the Lions' attempt to run to victory Sunday night: "This was a calculated gamble by coach Jim Schwartz and his staff. It didn't work. Ground control is going to favor a team with a bona fide running back and a tenacious defense. The 49ers are that team; the Lions are not."
  • Chris McCosky of the Detroit News: "The Lions don't want to hear this, but they really can't muster much of an argument against it. They still are not ready for prime [time]."
  • The Lions' special teams were the only group to grade out higher than a D+ in grading from Justin Rogers of Mlive.com.
  • Chicago Bears offensive lineman James "Big Cat" Williams on quarterback Jay Cutler's shove of left tackle J'Marcus Webb, via David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune: "That was very disturbing to me. I realize [Cutler] is one of the faces of the franchise but certain lines you just don't cross. Bumping a player is one of them. I played with a group of guys who, I don't think, would have taken that. I can't say I would have.''
  • Former NFL player Matt Bowen on Cutler's leadership for the Tribune: "He displayed a lack of respect toward a young teammate and a negative attitude that was obvious to anyone watching. He showed sloppy footwork, poor decisions in the pocket and questionable throws that seemed, well, somewhat expected of Cutler in that situation."
  • The Bears' defensive performance has been overshadowed by discussion of Cutler, writes Mark Potash of the Chicago Sun-Times.
  • Packers coaches remain confident in tight end Jermichael Finley, notes the Green Bay Press-Gazette.
  • Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers was rewarded for making a number of lineup changes between Week 1 and Week 2, writes Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
  • The Packers expect to have receiver Greg Jennings (groin) and defensive end C.J. Wilson (groin) for their Sep. 24 matchup with the Seattle Seahawks. Jason Wilde of ESPNMilwaukee.com has more.
We're Black and Blue All Over:

The Minnesota Vikings' training camp at Minnesota State University, Mankato, has grown shorter in recent years because of scheduling conflicts related to the school's fall semester. Those conflicts have been eliminated for 2012, however, opening the door for the Vikings to have a full three-week camp on the campus this summer.

The team has announced it will report July 26 and break camp on Aug. 16.

For those curious, the Vikings have had to break camp early in recent years because the dormitory rooms they use in Gage Hall need to be cleared for incoming students. Those dormitories are being "retired" and won't house students this fall.

Continuing around the NFC North:
  • The Vikings are "quietly thrilled" about how little commitment they had to make to sign receiver Jerome Simpson, writes Tom Pelissero of 1500ESPN.com.
  • The question of quarterback Christian Ponder's aptitude will hang over the Vikings for some time, writes Patrick Reusse of the Star Tribune.
  • The Detroit Lions did not immediately sign German receiver Christian Bollmann after a Wednesday workout, according to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press.
  • Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford is working to fight childhood obesity, according to the Detroit News.
  • Rookie safety Alonzo Lawrence is ready for a fresh start with the Lions, notes Justin Rogers of Mlive.com.
  • Chicago Bears receiver Brandon Marshall won't face NFL discipline if New York City police don't charge him after a March incident outside a nightclub, according to Dan Pompei of the Chicago Tribune.
  • Writing for the Tribune, former NFL player Matt Bowen had no problems about the uncertainty Bears quarterback Jay Cutler expressed this week with his offensive line. Bowen: "I have no issues with these comments and I really don't see this as Cutler calling out his offensive line. Not even close. This is much more about the quarterback telling his guys they need to play with some accountability as pros."
  • Charlie Peprah considers himself one of the Green Bay Packers' starting safeties, writes Weston Hodkiewicz of the Green Bay Press-Gazette.
  • Packers coach Mike McCarthy was impressed with safety Jerron McMillian during last weekend's rookie minicamp, McCarthy told Sirius radio via Jason Wilde of ESPNMilwaukee.com.

BBAO: Ticket prices up in Green Bay

February, 10, 2012
2/10/12
7:15
AM ET
We're Black and Blue All Over:

To date, 50 percent of the NFC North has elevated ticket prices for 2012. The other 50 percent, to my knowledge, hasn't made its plans public.

The Green Bay Packers' prices will rise from $3 to $5 per ticket, depending on location, as Jason Wilde of ESPNMilwaukee.com notes. Last week, the Detroit Lions announced a 7.9 percent hike in prices, their first since 2007.

I hope no one is surprised by either move, especially after NFL teams largely kept their prices steady during last season's lockout. The Packers have a season ticket waiting list of 90,000 people, giving them extraordinary leverage when it comes to setting prices. And the Lions had actually lowered some prices in recent years before selling out all of their home games during their breakthrough 2011 season.

It's simple economics, and it wouldn't be surprising to see the Chicago Bears and Minnesota Vikings follow suit. Stay tuned.

Continuing around the NFC North:
Many of you are no doubt familiar with Matt Bowen, a former NFL safety who spent two seasons with the Green Bay Packers. He is now based in the Chicago area and writes for the National Football Post.

In his most recent blog post, (hat tip to Sidelion Report), Bowen recounted his week at the LeVar Woods Football Academy in Iowa this summer. The week included an impromptu race against Detroit Lions defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch: A 300-yard shuttle drill often used as a conditioning test.

Bowen is 34. His playing weight was 207 pounds. Vanden Bosch is 32 and 278 pounds.

In all fairness, Bowen hasn't had to worry about being in football shape for five years. Regardless, the race was no contest. Lions coach Jim Schwartz can rest assured that at least one of his players is in pretty good shape with training camps scheduled to open in a month or so.

We've been discussing the possibility of our ascent to the Epicenter of Humanity for two weeks. We've noted how rare a Green Bay Packers-Chicago Bears playoff game is, how the current rivalry among the franchises is more about respect than hatred and spent most of our time on the X's and O's of the matchup.

All along, I knew that talented ESPN.com writer Wayne Drehs was working on a lengthy piece on the meaning of this rivalry to fans and some of the past participants. That story posted earlier Friday.

You can read how current Packers radio voice Wayne Larrivee has handled his history as the former play-by-play man for the Bears, why the Brat Stop in Kenosha, Wis., has such a key role and, most important, how former NFL safety Matt Bowen locked himself out of the Packers' team hotel before a game against the Bears in 2002.

It's worth your read.

More in a bit.
We're Black and Blue All Over:

I guess everyone wants to make Hall of Fame running back Gale Sayers eat crow now that the Chicago Bears are one step away from the Super Bowl. After all, it was Sayers who expressed serious doubts in May about the Bears' prospects in 2010.

Appearing this week on ESPN 1000, Sayers said he was "very surprised" about the Bears' season but stuck to his guns. "I told it like it was," he said.

I happen to agree. What Sayers said in May was perfectly justified and defensible at the time. He noted that quarterback Jay Cutler didn't do his job well in 2009, questioned linebacker Brian Urlacher's potential for elite play as he approached age 33 and doubted the Bears' depth at receiver and defensive back. A big part of the team's success this season has been the answers it produced at each question mark. But the questions themselves were fair.

Sayers offered a reasonable analysis at the time, one advanced by many others. Sayers' status as a former player didn't rob him of his right to free speech. The only mistake he made was forgetting that anything can happen in the NFL. Anything.

Continuing around the NFC North as the NFC Championship Game approaches:

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NFC NORTH SCOREBOARD

Sunday, 9/21
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