NFC North: Matt Gutierrez

NFC North at night

August, 30, 2010
Let's catch up on some administrative and personnel developments Monday:

Chicago Bears: Middle linebacker Brian Urlacher (calf) returned to practice, and it's possible he'll play in Thursday's preseason finale at the Cleveland Browns. The same goes for receiver Earl Bennett, who hadn't practiced in nearly three weeks because of a hamstring injury. Linebacker Lance Briggs (ankle) isn't likely to begin practicing again until next week. Meanwhile, the Bears released quarterback Matt Gutierrez, receiver Zeke Markshausen and defensive tackle Maurice Evans.

Green Bay Packers: As Will Blackmon continues to battle knee soreness, the Packers will give rookie Jason Chery a chance to win the kickoff and punt return jobs in Thursday's preseason finale. Chery returned a punt 75 yards for a touchdown last week against the Indianapolis Colts. Of Blackmon, coach Mike McCarthy said: "Will's just going through a tough spot right now. He's coming off that knee surgery, and especially at his position, it's been tough. Will has put a lot of time into this. He had a very strong offseason, but it's probably not responding the way he would like right now."

Detroit Lions: We discussed the Lions' tenuous linebacker depth earlier Monday, and coach Jim Schwartz added this log to the fire: Middle linebacker DeAndre Levy (groin) might miss the Sept. 12 season opener against the Chicago Bears. It's very possible that the Lions' opening-day starter is on another team's roster at the moment. Schwartz did say that safety C.C. Brown (hand) should be ready to play in that game.

Minnesota Vikings: Coach Brad Childress told reporters that the Vikings are "still trying to get the soreness" out of center John Sullivan's calf and that his status remains uncertain. Childress said that it would "probably be hard" for quarterback Sage Rosenfels to unseat Tarvaris Jackson as the No. 2 quarterback. Rosenfels has a 118.4 rating this preseason. Jackson's is 61.8, but Childress said: "I've seen a growth in Tarvaris."

NFC North weekend mailbag

August, 28, 2010
Another week, NFC North style, has passed on our march to the regular season. All we had was a Pro Bowl receiver undergo surprise hip surgery in one locale, an abrupt change of quarterback plans in another and a message-sending preseason romp in a third. In a fourth, we discussed in detail the task ahead for its most important player.

Things were so crazy I felt like going Alan Jackson and Jimmy Buffett on the whole deal:

I ain't had a day off now in over a year
My Jamaican vacation's gonna start right here
Get the phones for me
You can tell 'em I just sailed away
Pour me somethin' tall and strong
Make it a hurricane before I go insane
It's only half past twelve but I don't care
It's 5 o'clock somewhere

Remember, I read all of your comments directed to the mailbag portal, Facebook or Twitter.

On with it...

Adam of Weston Super Mare, England, writes: Bearing in mind the Sidney Rice injury and a one year window of opportunity with Brett Favre, is there any chance the Vikings offer a second-round pick for Randy Moss? He is a UFA in 2011 so he wouldn't affect their long term plans. The team needs to do something.

Kevin Seifert: Adam's sentiment was expressed universally by Vikings fans, at least those who contacted me, in the wake of Rice's hip surgery. And I'm convinced that's why so many people were disappointed when they instead acquired Greg Camarillo from the Miami Dolphins. It was a nice emergency trade, but it wasn't Moss.

It's true that Moss has suggested this is his last year with the New England Patriots because he hasn't been offered a contract extension. And it's a fact that Vikings quarterback Brett Favre wanted the Green Bay Packers to trade for him in 2007.

But the rest is pie-in-the-sky hopes and dreams. The big issue the Vikings face in dealing for any receiver, be it Moss or San Diego's Vincent Jackson or someone else, is the delicate financial situation they would be in.

Both Moss and Jackson are going to want new contracts. Rice wants a new contract as well, and to this point the Vikings have been unwilling. So do you make a trade for Moss or Jackson, giving them a new deal to ensure tranquility, and then tell Rice to just keep working hard when he returns? That's probably easier said than done.

I do think that most of the facts that led to Moss' departure from Minnesota have dissipated. The organization has changed inside and out, from the owner to the coaching staff to the quarterback. But as of now, it just doesn't seem like a realistic possibility.

Allen of Fishers, Ind., writes: I keep seeing all these posts about Todd Collins and becoming the backup QB for the Bears. Some articles even talk about Dan LeFevour and how he could be the odd man out, but none are even mentioning anything about Matt Gutierrez. The Bears' website shows he's still on the roster but he isn't listed on the depth chart. Do you know the scoop on him? Is he still there? Where does he stand?

Kevin Seifert: Here's there, but the die is pretty much cast. The Bears guaranteed Collins a six-figure bonus to sign a contract this week. He gets that money whether he makes the team or not, so I think most of us agree that he is really going to have to flop not to make the team. There is no way the Bears are looking to throw away a dime, let alone $100,000.

I think they liked Caleb Hanie and planned for him to be Jay Cutler's backup, but Hanie's shoulder injury put them in a situation that was too risky. They needed an experienced and healthy backup behind Cutler.

Sam of Buffalo, Minn., writes: I am extremely happy you are no longer fully covering the Vikings. Even when you were here I thought you to be a little weezle of a man who thought he was so clever in how he rights.

Kevin Seifert: Yep, you got me. I'll make sure to share your insight with my friend Weezy on our way to the Weezer concert.

Andy of Chicago writes: I was wondering ... Chad Clifton, Mark Tauscher, and the Bryan Bulaga/Daryn Colledge left guard competition seem to get most of the discussion in the press. What about Josh Sitton and Scott Wells? Is it a good thing that we don't seem to hear much about them?

Kevin Seifert: Absolutely. Sitton was probably the Packers' most consistent lineman last season and has picked up this summer where he left off. Wells, meanwhile, has had a remarkable career turnaround. Remember last year at this time? He was about to lose his starting job to Jason Spitz. Now, there seems no question that Wells is the Packers' long-term center. That's quite a career turnaround.

Kyle of Southern Michigan writes: Some interesting developments this week. Getting anxious that the strength of the Lions D-line & the possible weakness of the Bears.

Kevin Seifert: I'm guessing you're a Lions fan, making your anxiety a positive thing. But I would imagine Bears fans are a bit anxious about this Week 1 matchup as well. We've still got two weeks to go here, but at this point, the Lions-Bears opener has the feeling of a wild game.

You're right. The Bears have struggled to bring their offensive line together this summer, and the Lions' defensive line has played as well as advertised in the preseason. Put those two together, throw in some typical Week 1 craziness, and you've got the possibility of the Lions stealing a game on the road to start the season. We'll hit this theme a number of times over the next few weeks. For now, we're just planting some seeds. Maybe we'll call it the Anxiety Bowl.

BBAO: Mike Martz is Mr. Optimist

August, 19, 2010
We're Black and Blue All Over:

What's gotten into Mike Martz? When he was hired as the Chicago Bears' offensive coordinator, Martz brought a well-deserved reputation for stubbornness and ornery reactions to the most minor of player mistakes. But as Jon Greenberg of points out, this summer Martz has been "the offensive coordinator from Pleasantville" while praising every aspect of what any realist would consider a work in progress.
Greenberg: "After all, it is the preseason; it's time to tinker and teach. And there's no need to harp on mistakes made by a group of professionals trying to digest a complicated new system. And while the public's hunger for Bears news never takes a vacation -- witness the reportorial scrum around newly signed camp arm Matt Gutierrez, which led center Olin Kreutz to howl with laughter as reporters surrounded him -- there's no need for Martz to open his players up to early scrutiny."

There's no way you could apply this kind of praise to any NFL offense during training camp, whether it's the New Orleans Saints or Indianapolis Colts or Buffalo Bills. Martz is simply using the power of positivity as he races against the clock to prepare for the season opener. More than anything, his players need to feel confident that they're on the right track.

Continuing around the NFC North:
  • The Bears are considering Devin Aromashodu one of their three starting receivers, writes Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune.
  • Martz offered a vote of confidence for injured backup quarterback Caleb Hanie, according to Bob LeGere of the Daily Herald.
  • Check out this chart of the Detroit Lions' revolving door at left guard from the Detroit Free Press. A total of 15 players have started a game there since 2001.
  • The Lions' trade for defensive end Lawrence Jackson puts the status of veteran Jared DeVries in doubt, writes Tom Kowalski of
  • Lions running backs Jahvid Best and Kevin Smith were working in a version of the Wildcat offense Wednesday, according to Tim Twentyman of the Detroit News.
  • The Green Bay Packers might have plucked two Week 1 starters from their draft class, writes Kareem Copeland of the Green Bay Press-Gazette.
  • Packers offensive lineman Bryan Bulaga can earn more than $5 million in incentives over the next four years if he is a starter, according to Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
  • Jim Souhan of the Star Tribune on Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre: "He is the George Lucas of interviews. He produces wildly entertaining shlock, none of which is believable."
  • Tom Powers of the St. Paul Pioneer Press: "What the Vikings should have done Wednesday was to place Brett Favre in one of those Popemobiles and drive him around the Twin Cities so he could smile and wave to his adoring fans from inside the clear, plastic bubble."
  • Alex Marvez of "There may be no tighter locker room bond between a team and its quarterback than the one between the Vikings and Favre."
  • Dan Pompei of the Chicago Tribune: "Favre is unlike any player in the history of the National Football League, so I will not doubt him. But if he's anything like the tens of thousands of players who went before him, his performance is going to start to deteriorate at some point."
  • If you were keeping track at home, the Vikings waived/injured receiver Jaymar Johnson to give them room to reinstate Favre on the roster, as Tom Pelissero of points out.
At long last, we have a temporary backup quarterback in Chicago. The Bears signed free agent Matt Gutierrez on Wednesday, according to Michael C. Wright of, after at least three other veterans turned down their overtures.

We've already discussed the decisions of Trent Green and Todd Collins. A third candidate, veteran Josh McCown, told the New Britain Herald that he also rejected the Bears' interest and will instead play for the UFL's Hartford Colonials.

This isn't so much about the Bears as it is about the very limited opportunity they were offering. With no guaranteed money involved in the contract offers, the Bears were obviously looking for a player to help with training camp drills and simply hold the place for injured No. 2 Caleb Hanie.

If anything, we learned during this episode that the Bears are both committed to Hanie as Jay Cutler's backup and that his sprained right shoulder is not a long-term injury.