NFC North: Matt Jones
It always seemed unlikely that Green Bay safety Nick Collins would hold out from training camp, but his agent is now making clear that Collins will report on time this week.
Collins is entering the final year of a contract that will pay him $3.045 million this season, and he missed a chunk of the offseason program as it became clear the Packers were not immediately interested in opening negotiations on an extension. Agent Dave Butz told Rob Demovsky of the Green Bay Press-Gazette that Collins hoped to start some consistent contract dialogue, but that a lack of progress to this point won't be enough to keep Collins away from camp.
Packers players begin moving into their dorm rooms Thursday at St. Norbert College. Their first practice is Saturday.
I'll be hanging around Minnesota's camp in Mankato, Minn., and will bring you a couple of pre-camp (of the non-Hewhoshallnotbenamed variety) a bit later.
For now, let's catch up after a bit of a late start. (Man, those new Fairfield Inn mattresses are nice.)
- The Packers still have to sign both of their first-round picks, but talks are moving especially slowly with defensive tackle B.J. Raji, according to Tom Silverstein and Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
- Regardless of what Chicago linebacker Brian Urlacher might or might not have said about quarterback Jay Cutler, their relationship isn't important from a football perspective, writes David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune.
- Free-agent receiver Matt Jones said in a radio interview that his agent has spoken with the Bears, notes Jeff Dickerson of ESPN Chicago. But did the agent, or the Bears, initiate the call?
- Nicholas J. Cotsonika of the Detroit Free Press offers an in-depth profile of Detroit tight end Brandon Pettigrew, who said he has no problem ceding the limelight to quarterback Matthew Stafford. Pettigrew: "The cameras and all the flashy stuff, that's just not my style."
- Lions coach Jim Schwartz on how he will conduct the team's quarterback competition: "The plan is we don't have a plan," John Niyo of the Detroit News explains.
- The Vikings aren't sure whether first-round pick Percy Harvin will be signed in time for Friday's 9 a.m. practice, write Chip Scoggins and Judd Zulgad of the Star Tribune.
- Businesses in Mankato, Minn., estimate they will lose $10 million in revenue because Brett Favre won't be at the Vikings' training camp. Rick Alonzo and Sean Jensen of the St. Paul Pioneer Press have the story.
One of the most consistent questions I've been getting this week, even on our new and wildly successful Facebook page, has been whether Chicago might pursue free-agent receiver Matt Jones.
(Jones was released by Jacksonville after he violated a court-mandated drug program. He was fined but will not be suspended by the NFL.)
Based on the words of general manager Jerry Angelo, I wouldn't expect the Bears to make a quick move. According to Vaughn McClure of the Chicago Tribune, Angelo sounded pretty neutral on the topic.
"He was a first-round draft pick and he is a very talented player," Angelo said, "but it's case by case. We're not quick to move on any player."
Angelo also said:
"Guys make mistakes, move on and become better people. Some guys have patterns of bad behavior and continue to have those patterns. I'm not saying that about Matt Jones. What I'm saying is we have to do our homework. And then you have to look at what value that person brings to your football team irrelevant of his off-the-field issues."
A more relevant name might be free-agent receiver Plaxico Burress. I'm not saying the Bears are a lock to pursue him, either. But if you're going to take a character risk, you want to have a good chance for a high reward. Brad Biggs of the Chicago Sun-Times examines the Burress possibility.
Continuing around the NFC North:
- As noted, we got great response to the launch of our Facebook page Wednesday. Tell all your friends to click here.
- I'm still not sure whether Minnesota defensive tackle Pat Williams was trying to call out quarterback Tarvaris Jackson for his work ethic the other day on Sirius NFL Radio, but Jackson responded to them Wednesday and vowed to "turn it up a notch" in training camp. Here are reports from Dave Campbell of the Associated Press and Rick Alonzo of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
- Hall of Fame quarterback Fran Tarkenton is scheduled to appear Thursday morning on Twin Cities radio station KFAN-1130, according to Judd Zulgad of the Star Tribune. Let's see if he tempers his recent comments about retired quarterback Brett Favre.
- Pro Bowl safety Nick Collins was among those who did not participate in a voluntary organized team activity on Wednesday, according to Greg A. Bedard of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Collins has missed some of the Packers' offseason program because of what he has termed a family problem.
- Beginning in July 2010, smoking will not be permitted anywhere at Lambeau Field, according to Tony Walter of the Green Bay Press-Gazette.
- Terry Foster of the Detroit News updates the condition of Lions director of security Ricky Sandoval, who is still on the job three years after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
- The Lions claimed cornerback Tra Battle off waivers, notes Nicholas J. Cotsonika of the Detroit Free Press.
Chicago (and Detroit) lost out Tuesday on free-agent cornerback Rod Hood, but the Bears still have hopes of signing linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa amid his continued visits around the NFL.
New England hosted Tinoisamoa on a visit Tuesday, as Vaughn McClure of the Chicago Tribune points out. The Bears have seemed a favorite for Tinoisamoa because of his history with coach Lovie Smith and defensive coordinator/linebackers coach Bob Babich. But it's clear he plans to shop for the best offer before making his decision.
With the Bears, Tinoisamoa would assume an outside linebacker position opposite Lance Briggs. With the Patriots, he might project as an inside linebacker in the 3-4 defense. Stay tuned.
Continuing around the NFC North:
- The Bears traditionally are aggressive in signing their rookie class and this year hope to have everyone under contract by mid-June, according to Brad Biggs of the Chicago Sun-Times.
- Jeff Dickerson of ESPN Chicago suggests the Bears should pursue free-agent receiver Matt Jones.
- In a chat on PackersNews.com, Rob Demovsky of the Green Bay Press-Gazette projects rookie T.J. Lang as the Packers' starting right tackle.
- Minnesota defensive tackle Pat Williams has a history of tongue-in-cheek quotes, so it's difficult to interpret what he really meant when speaking recently about Vikings quarterback Tarvaris Jackson. But here are the words, according to Rick Alonzo of the St. Paul Pioneer Press: "I talk to Tarvaris all the time [and] tell him you have to put in the time. This ain't college no more. This is the NFL. You have to put in more time than you are used to putting in. If you are putting in four hours, you have to put in eight. You have to put in more time than what he's doing. I think if he puts the right time in, he will be a great quarterback in the league." Williams made the comments on Sirius NFL Radio.
- According to a poll performed by Rasmussen Reports, 29 percent of Minnesotans are in favor of the Vikings signing quarterback Brett Favre. Star Tribune maven Paul Walsh updates the story.
- The Detroit Free Press suggests the "cornbread and Kool-Aid" have made their way to ESPN headquarters after a few of us ranked the Lions somewhere other than last in our offseason power rankings. Ouch.
Very quietly, the Detroit Lions are wrapping up their search for a personnel man to join new general manager Martin Mayhew in the front office. One name frequently mentioned in recent days is James "Shack" Harris, the former vice president of player personnel in Jacksonville.
Harris, former Cleveland general manager Phil Savage and former Denver general manager Ted Sundquist have all been mentioned as possible candidates. Although things could change, there have been recent indications that the Lions were focusing in on Harris.
Harris would fit the description of what Mayhew has said he was looking for: An experienced talent evaluator to serve as a second pair of trained eyes. Such an arrangement would lend credibility to a front office that hasn't engendered much lately.
Of course, at this time in the NFL offseason, that's not an easy job description to fill. The vast majority of qualified candidates are locked in with their current teams until after the draft. Typically, teams set the contracts of their personnel executives to expire in May to ensure continuity during this critical time of the season. And because the Lions aren't offering a job that would include final say on personnel issues, teams could block any interview requests for candidates under contract.
That leaves the Lions considering a pool of men who are currently unemployed. It's believed that Savage wasn't interested in joining the team in a subordinate role, but Harris is said to be ready to get back to work.
Harris wasn't perfect during his tenure in Jacksonville, where he shared final authority with coach Jack Del Rio. The Jaguars had some questionable draft choices during his tenure, from receiver Reggie Williams (2004) to receiver Matt Jones (2005), and they misfired last year when signing receiver Joey Porter to a free agent contract.
But Harris has more than a decade of experience in building playoff-caliber teams, something no one else in the Lions' front office can say. Prior to his stint in Jacksonville, Harris spent six years in Baltimore and was part of the Super Bowl championship team in 2000.
Hiring Harris as general manager would have been a suspect move. But bringing him in as a mentor of sorts for Mayhew would seem to be a good fit.