NFC North: Mike Furrey
Furrey has previous connections to offensive coordinator Mike Martz, assistant head coach Rod Marinelli and head coach Lovie Smith.
Furrey spent last season with the Cleveland Browns, catching 23 passes for 170 yards and no touchdowns.
Let's take a look at what tickled your fancy this week. Remember, you can contact me in so many ways it's silly.
First off, there's the mailbag.
Then you've got our ceiling-breaking Facebook page.
We have Twitter for those who tweet.
You can even call me. My direct line is 555-0004.
Now, on with it:
On the aforementioned Facebook page, Zack asks about AccuScore's simulation of 10,000 NFC North seasons with and without Brett Favre. I provided the projected records for each team in both cases, but Zack wanted to know how many division titles each of the four teams won over those 10,000 seasons.
Kevin Seifert: I answered on Facebook but I should probably share the results on the blog itself. Remember, AccuScore created digital profiles of every player and coach in the NFC North and then ran 10,000 "seasons" through is computer based on the actual schedule of each team.
According to AccuScore, here were the results when Favre was the Vikings' quarterback:
- Minnesota won 42 percent of the seasons
- Green Bay won 30 percent
- Chicago won 28 percent
- Detroit won 0 percent.
- Green Bay won 34 percent of the seasons
- Minnesota won 34 percent
- Chicago won 32 percent
- Detroit won 0 percent
That's right. The fellas at AccuScore didn't have the Lions winning the NFC North title in any of the 20,000 total simulations run. I guess there's always next year.
Justin of Los Angeles writes: Kevin, in all the Chicago wide receiver talk, one name I haven't heard is Brandon Rideau. He was great last preseason and probably should've made the roster. He's now in his second year. He knows the system as well as Earl Bennett and is more talented than Rashied Davis. Yet he is getting NO publicity. Are the Bears even considering this guy? I think he is a major sleeper.
Kevin Seifert: Rideau has certainly been a fan favorite since the preseason last summer, but you're right, there hasn't been much buzz about him this spring. If anything, he's been overshadowed by the sheer number of young receivers the Bears are trying to get a look at.
If anyone created a spring buzz, it was rookie Johnny Knox. I didn't witness any of the Bears' organized team activities. But those who did, including Brad Biggs of the Chicago Sun-Times, report that Knox caught some eyes with his blazing 4.3 speed. Things could change once the pads come on, but it seems Knox got a lot of the same kind of attention Rideau did last year.
Zack of Kansas City writes: Your post about choosing the top ten building blocks from the division got me thinking: What about the coaches? So, what's your NFC North dream team of coaches look like? For me, I start by putting Lovie Smith at D-coordinator. Offensive coordinator: Joe Philbin. D-line: Rod Marinelli. O-line: Pat Morris. Special Teams: Dave Toub. I'm not partial to any of the head coaches, but if I have to chose, it's Mike McCarthy.
Kevin Seifert: Wow, interesting question. Maybe it's something I should consider for a future post. Nah, let's do it here. One rule I'll establish: A coach's current job description can't change. So, no picking Lovie Smith for defensive coordinator. OK, here's my first-blush list, subject to change. I'm leaving a few blank pending further thought and your feedback. I'll expand and explain during a post next week.
Head coach: Lovie Smith (CHI)
Offensive coordinator: Scott Linehan (DET)
Quarterbacks: Tom Clements (GB)
Running backs: Eric Bieniemy (MIN)
Wide receivers: Jimmy Robinson (GB)
Offensive line: TBD
Defensive coordinator: Leslie Frazier (MIN)
Defensive line: Rod Marinelli (CHI)
Linebackers: Fred Pagac (MIN)
Special teams: Dave Toub (CHI)
Joseph of High Point, N.C. writes: How do the Packers look at the Favre situation with Minnesota in regards to the charges of tampering last year? It seems very apparent (last year as well) that by the rules of the NFL, Minnesota should be guilty of tampering.
Kevin Seifert: I think the Packers want that whole episode behind them, so I'm not sure they would pursue tampering charges. But your question brings up an interesting conspiracy theory that we might never get resolved. (It's the only one of our five questions that Joe Buck didn't ask Brett Favre last Monday night.) Namely: Did Favre follow an elaborate pre-meditated scheme to get to the Vikings against the Packers' wishes?
As you might recall, over the winter we discussed the seemingly preposterous path Favre would need to follow to make himself eligible to sign with the Vikings. As the 2008 season ended, he was still under contract with the New York Jets, and the Jets remained under the terms of "poison pill" trade language that would have required them to send multiple first-round picks to the Packers if they ever traded Favre to an NFC North team.
So the only way for Favre to get to Minnesota was to somehow get out of his contract. Given the Jets' investment in him, it was unlikely they would simply release him with no return. I thought he might have to force the Jets' hand by threatening to file for reinstatement, backed by a salary cap figure that was too large for the Jets to handle.
Instead, the Jets drafted his replacement in April and then granted Favre's request to be released from his contract. That move made Favre a free agent.
As for tampering, the question would be whether Favre had contact with the Vikings before he was released. Did he seek that release because he knew the Vikings wanted to sign him? For me, however, the juicier question is whether Favre retired in February not because he thought he was finished playing, but because he hoped the Jets would move on wi
thout him and eventually consent to an enabling release.
Short of mind-reading, I don't know if we'll ever know the full answer. But it's the kind of thing that keeps we conspiracy theorists in business.
Rob of Winnipeg writes: Can you tell me why the Lions felt they needed to get rid of Shaun McDonald and Mike Furrey? I know their numbers were way down, but other than Calvin Johnson, everybody's numbers were way down. Was it a locker room thing or was this just a move to make this Calvin Johnson's team?
Kevin Seifert: Both players had ties to former offensive coordinator Mike Martz and were probably best suited for his kind of passing offense, which the Lions dumped two years ago. Furrey spent a good part of last year at odds with the team over his health, and his fate seemed sealed when the Lions placed him on injured reserve.
McDonald has signed with Pittsburgh and could still be a productive player. But I think he got caught up in the team's desire to move on from its past. The Lions also seem interested in adding size at receiver. McDonald, at 5-10 is significantly smaller than newcomers Bryant Johnson (6-3) and Ronald Curry (6-2).
John Tait's likely retirement puts Chicago in serious shopping mode for a right tackle over the next few months. Brad Biggs of the Chicago Sun-Times suggests the Bears will need to make a strong push to re-sign veteran John St. Clair, an impending free agent whom they aren't believed to have shown much interest in at this point.
The top tackles of the draft are likely to be off the board when Chicago's No. 18 overall pick arrives in the April draft. That means the Bears probably can't count on a rookie stepping in as an immediate starter and therefore need to have a veteran contingency plan at the position.
Bob LeGere of the Daily Herald also supports the St. Clair re-signing.
If you're interested, we'll bring you a list of free agent right tackles a bit later Monday. For now, let's continue around the NFC North:
- David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune has a suggestion for bait to acquire Arizona receiver Anquan Boldin: Middle linebacker Brian Urlacher. Haugh: "Though Urlacher may have reached the point where his value to the Bears is higher than it would be in a trade, it can't hurt to ask whether Urlacher is still untouchable. My sense is that question would not inspire a unanimous answer at Halas Hall."
- Minnesota quarterback Gus Frerotte tells the Star Tribune's Sid Hartman that he wants a chance to win the Vikings' starting position if he returns. Frerotte: "A lot of people say, 'Why wouldn't you want to go back there and, if you're not starting, just stand there and watch?' But it's not about that for me. I played a lot with those guys, so I can still play."
- Minnesota team officials are asking the Minneapolis City Council to allow them to sell more billboards in and around the Metrodome, according to Michelle Bruch of the Downtown Journal.
- Former Detroit receiver Mike Furrey told a national radio audience that the Lions would anoint Daunte Culpepper their starter in 2009. Later, Furrey backed off the certainty of that comment in an interview with Carlos Monarrez of the Detroit Free Press.
- Tom Kowalski of Mlive.com also refutes Furrey's information.
- Pete Dougherty of the Green Bay Press-Gazette looks at the Packers' relatively light set of looming decisions on their pending free agents.
Detroit's mini-purge of players allowed the team to create about $13 million in salary-cap space, bringing its total space to nearly $41 million as of Monday.
That figure likely will change by the time free agency begins at the end of this month. Escalators, adjustments, new extensions and other credits all impact a team's final salary-cap figure. Lions president Tom Lewand recently predicted the team would have around $35 million in cap space when the final figures come in.
Of the six players released, only two -- safety Dwight Smith and practice squad offensive lineman Jon Dunn -- hadn't been previously reported. It's possible the Lions will make more moves in the coming weeks, most notably at quarterback where Daunte Culpepper and Jon Kitna both remain on the roster.
For those interested, here is the approximate breakdown of cap savings for each player the Lions released:
Monday is the first day of 2009 that NFL teams can start manipulating their rosters in anticipation of the Feb. 27 roster compliance deadline. That's a fancy way of saying players can start negotiating contract extensions with their existing teams and clubs can start releasing players. NFL front offices have opened for business.
Some NFC North teams will be busier than others. David Birkett of the Oakland Press has added two names to the list of players the Detroit Lions are expected to release: Guard Edwin Mulitalo and tight end Dan Campbell.
That brings the total number of soon-to-be-released Lions veterans to four, including receiver Mike Furrey and cornerback Leigh Bodden. It's possible there will be others. We'll keep you updated.
Continuing around the NFC North:
- Jerry Green of the Detroit News believes Lions coach Jim Schwartz will do a good job -- if the team's front office and ownership leaves him alone.
- Broadcaster John Madden, for one, agrees with Chicago coach Lovie Smith's decision to call the majority of the Bears' defensive signals in 2009. Brad Biggs of the Chicago Sun-Times has the story.
- Pete Dougherty of the Green Bay Press-Gazette looks at the Packers' salary-cap situation -- they were $19 million under the cap and are expected to get at least $6 million in adjustments and credits -- and what they might do with the room.
A couple of notes from Detroit, which is certainly dominating the Super Bowl week news in the NFC North:
- In a conference call with Detroit-area reporters, new offensive coordinator Scott Linehan admitted he has an "affinity" for quarterback Daunte Culpepper, whom he coached in Minnesota from 2002-04. But Linehan insisted that connection won't play a role in his evaluation of the Lions' crop of quarterbacks. Here was the key quote: "I don't think it is at all fair to the other quarterbacks on the roster or to the head coach, the division of our personnel and our franchise, that we let ... a tie to a player affect our ability to make the right decision, and at this point, it's way too early to make any decision about any player." Culpepper has a $2.5 million roster bonus due in March.
- Receiver Mike Furrey told reporters he has been informed he will be released next month. Furrey spent much of 2008 at odds with the Lions over his health and ultimately ended the season on injured reserve. He is one of what could be a sizable group of veterans who will be dismissed this offseason.
Catching up on some news around the NFC North on Thursday evening:
Chicago: Defensive end Adewale Ogunleye and defensive tackle Anthony Adams missed practice for the second consecutive day Thursday. As Vaughn McClure of the Chicago Tribune points out, the Bears already are thin along the defensive line after a season-ending arm injury to nose tackle Dusty Dvoracek. You would expect to see Mark Anderson and rookie Marcus Harrison get any playing time vacated by Ogunleye and Adams, respectively.
Detroit: Sunday's game against Minnesota will be blacked out on local television, the Lions' fourth blackout of the season. ... The Lions are getting short on receivers. They placed Mike Furrey on injured reserve earlier this week, and Shaun McDonald suffered an ankle injury Wednesday in practice. It seems likely that Keary Colbert, who signed earlier this week, will be active and play a prominent role. ... The starting defensive ends Sunday will be rookies Cliff Avril and Andre Fluellen.
Green Bay: Center Scott Wells hasn't practiced this week because of a concussion he suffered last Sunday against Carolina. But coach Mike McCarthy told reporters he anticipated Wells being cleared on Friday. Barring a setback, that means Wells will play Sunday against Houston. ... The team promoted linebacker Spencer Havner from the practice squad after Chicago tried to sign him Thursday, according to the Green Bay Press-Gazette.
It appears Detroit coach Rod Marinelli is taking the possibility of his team going 0-16 quite seriously.
According to Nicholas J. Cotsonika of the Detroit Free Press, Marinelli displayed a team photo on an overhead screen during a Monday meeting. The message was clear: No one wants the caption to acknowledge the 2008 Lions as the first NFL team to finish 0-16. At least one player, running back Aveion Cason, told the Free Press that Marinelli said: "We're not going 0-16."
Marinelli's first opportunity to make good on that statement is Sunday against Minnesota. Many of you will remember that in 2001, an 0-12 Lions team got its first victory of the season over the Vikings at the Silverdome. Cason said that victory was like "winning the Super Bowl."
There is no textbook for how to handle a team that has played so poorly, but from this vantage point it's nice to see Marinelli confronting reality rather than using more of the coach-speak that has grown increasingly bizarre in recent weeks. If nothing else, Marinelli has given a team with no immediate future a tangible focus for the final month of a lost season.
Continuing around the NFC North on a Tuesday morning:
- Lions receiver Mike Furrey (concussion) told several media outlets he was "disappointed and upset" to be placed on injured reserve this week. Furrey insisted he would be ready to play soon and is the second Lions player, along with quarterback Jon Kitna, to indicate he was shelved for the season with a relatively mild injury.
- Green Bay is giving serious thought to leaving cornerback Charles Woodson at safety because of injuries to safeties Atari Bigby and Aaron Rouse, writes Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. In that scenario, Tramon Williams would replace Woodson at cornerback.
- Packers center Scott Wells might miss Sunday's game against Houston because of a concussion, writes Rob Demovsky of the Green Bay Press-Gazette.
- David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune writes that Bears quarterback Kyle Orton is hampered by a lack of talent at receiver.
- After looking at tiebreaking scenarios, Brad Biggs of the Chicago Sun-Times suggests the Bears will have to win their final four games to ensure a playoff spot.
- Patrick Reusse of the Star Tribune compares Minnesota quarterback Gus Frerotte to retired hockey player Dino Ciccarelli, who was known for exaggerating the impact of his opponents' actions in order to draw a penalty. (It's a good read, but difficult to summarize in one sentence).
- Vikings coach Brad Childress said Artis Hicks will retain his starting job at right tackle when he returns from a right elbow injury, writes Sean Jensen of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert
Let's get caught up on a busy Monday of personnel moves in the NFC North:
Chicago: Defensive tackle Dusty Dvoracek will miss the rest of the season because of an arm injury, Bears coach Lovie Smith told reporters Monday afternoon. Dvoracek made it through 12 games this season after foot and knee injuries limited him to one game in his first two NFL seasons. It's likely the Bears will use veteran Anthony Adams and rookie Marcus Harrison to replace him.
Detroit: The Lions signed free agent receiver Keary Colbert and placed veteran Mike Furrey (concussion) on injured reserve. Furrey has tried several times to resume practicing since originally suffering the injury but has been experiencing dizziness. ... Coach Rod Marinelli said the status of backup quarterbacks Drew Stanton (concussion) and Dan Orlovsky (hand) is uncertain but that Daunte Culpepper will remain the starter.
Green Bay: The Packers announced the release of punter Derrick Frost, whose inconsistency had become a maddening topic for fans, but did not immediately indicate who will replace him. Coach Mike McCarthy did say that backup quarterback Matt Flynn will become the holder for placekicker Mason Crosby, suggesting the Packers aren't searching for a permanent replacement at punter. ... The Packers also lost special teams contributor Kenny Pettway (knee) for the season and promoted two members of their practice squad, defensive tackle Alfred Malone and cornerback Joe Porter.
I haven't heard an outcry since the dissolution of our Friday "Revealed" feature. But just so you know our thinking, it seemed like re-printing the entire Friday injury report was more confusing than helpful. So we've streamlined things a bit and will now tell you, as my NFC West colleague Mike Sando would say, about the "injuries that matter."
So here you go:
Chicago: Receiver Marty Booker (knee) has been declared out of Sunday's game at St. Louis. It will be interesting to see if the injury opens an opportunity for rookie Earl Bennett. ... The Bears also ruled out linebacker Darrell McClover (hamstring) and tackle Fred Miller (shoulder). Everyone else should be available.
Detroit: Receiver Mike Furrey (concussion), center Dominic Raiola (hand), cornerback Keith Smith (hand) and defensive end Dewayne White (calf) all will miss Sunday's game against Tampa Bay. ... Safety Dwight Smith (foot) and guard Edwin Mulitalo (knee) are questionable. Their status will be determined Sunday.
Green Bay: The Packers still have one more day of practice before Monday night's game at New Orleans, but the big question is whether receiver James Jones (knee) will play. Jones was added to the injury report Friday and is listed as questionable. He appeared to re-injure his knee last week against Chicago. ... Cornerback Jarrett Bush (ankle) hasn't practiced all week.
Minnesota: Tailback Adrian Peterson returned to practice, was removed from the injury report and will start Sunday at Jacksonville. Peterson was wearing a wrap on his right knee, but coach Brad Childress said it was nothing out of the ordinary. ... Defensive end Jared Allen (shoulder) was limited in practice but should play. Tight end Garrett Mills (ankle) is doubtful and isn't expected to be in uniform.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- We arrived here Saturday night amid a few snow flurries, but Sunday morning it's mostly sunny with temperatures around 30 degrees. The wind chill is dipping to about 20 degrees, which means this should be a pretty typical November day Lambeau Field.
We'll update you on all the news once we get in place at the stadium, most importantly to ensure that Chicago still plans to start quarterback Kyle Orton against the Packers. For now, however, let's take a spin around the division:
- Jason Wilde of the Wisconsin State Journal examines whether quarterback Aaron Rodgers has regressed in midseason. Rodgers has a 113 passer rating in the Packers' four victories and a 79.6 rating in their five losses.
- Rob Demovsky of the Green Bay Press-Gazette contrasts the divergent ways Chicago and Green Bay have traditionally built their teams. Quarterback is an afterthought in the Bears' blueprint, while it's the centerpiece for the Packers.
- David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune contacted all nine of the Bears' opponents this season to solicit opinions on middle linebacker Brian Urlacher's play. Haugh's conclusion: "Their comments reinforced the opinion here that a bigger problem could lie with a defensive scheme that fails to maximize Urlacher's skills more than a real drop-off in those skills."
- Although Kevin Payne is not a true free safety, the Bears need him to play like one Sunday against Rodgers and the Packers. That observation and more in matchups from Brad Biggs of the Chicago Sun-Times.
- Minnesota tailback Chester Taylor insists he has accepted his subordinate role in the Vikings offense -- especially since he has been so productive as a third-down back, writes Chip Scoggins of the Star Tribune. Taylor: "I'm a team player, and I just want to win. People probably think [I'm upset] because when they first brought me here I was running the ball, and I started the whole year. Then they brought Adrian [Peterson] in so people figure any running back who's gone from first string to second string is going to be upset. But Adrian has earned his spot. It's not like he's doing bad. He's helping our team win and that's all that matters now."
- Here's an unfortunate statistic: The Vikings have 22 sacks at home and three on the road, according to Rick Alonzo of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Too bad they play Sunday at Raymond James Stadium.
- Detroit receiver Mike Furrey (concussion) didn't make the trip to Carolina and won't play Sunday, writes John Niyo of the Detroit News.
- Drew Sharp of the Detroit Free Press wonders if the city will lose one of its sports franchises to attrition, mentioning the Lions as a possibility.
|Kevin Terrell/Getty Images|
|Wide receivers Calvin Johnson (81) and Roy Williams (11) will be happier with a balanced offensive attack in Detroit.|
Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert
Calvin Johnson nodded his head vigorously. Roy Williams brought up the subject before we could ask. Yes, in a twist of intuitive irony, the Detroit Lions' big-time receivers couldn't be happier about the team's decision to re-emphasize the running game this season.
More than anything, Lions coach Rod Marinelli envisions the shift as a vehicle for toughening his team. But a natural by-product, both receivers said, should be more opportunities for big plays in the passing game. If all goes well, Williams figures the change will help he and Johnson form one of the top-three receiving duos in the NFL.
"My thing this whole preseason is just for us to run the football," Williams said by phone this week. "I just want us to get that ground game established so we can finally pull the safeties down into the box and give us some chances. In recent years, nobody has ever done that because we couldn't run the ball. That wears on you."
Yes, Williams faced more than his share of double teams in two years under former offensive coordinator Mike Martz. Things fell far out of balance last season, when the Lions attempted the fewest number of running plays (324) in the NFL while throwing the fourth-most passes (587). That combination made them easy to defend despite the gaudy passing numbers Martz's offense produced.
Even with 4,216 passing yards last season, the Lions ranked 16th among NFL teams in points per game (21.6) and 19th in total yards per game (322.9) Neither Williams nor Johnson so much as led the team in receiving, as opponents paid them premium attention while taking their chances with Shaun McDonald (79 receptions) and Mike Furrey (61).
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- The Detroit Lions greeted us with the most physical, emotional practice we've seen this summer. (Nothing like that Club Med they're running over in Minnesota. Oh, hi Brad!) This is what the black-and-blue division is supposed to look like.
The two-hour, full-pads affair included three bruising hits from defensive players and one very angry quarterback. Yes, Jon Kitna went bonkers on first-year linebacker Buster Davis after Davis knocked tight end John Owens to the ground during a goal-line passing drill.
Even in full-pads practices, you don't usually see players getting knocked to the ground. It definitely struck Kitna the wrong way.
"Do something, Buster! Do something!" Kitna screamed, over and over, after the play. (We're guessing he meant, "Do something in this league before you start throwing players around in practice.") Getting angrier with each yell, Kitna started walking toward Davis before a few coaches got in his way. Fists never came close to flying, but rarely do you so much as see a quarterback advance in a threatening manner.
(Of course, Davis would have had no choice but to back down. He's trying to make the team as a backup linebacker. His chances would probably decrease slightly if he beat up the starting quarterback.)
Lions coach Rod Marinelli has been preaching mental discipline throughout camp. But he's also a classic tough guy and thus seemed torn over Kitna's response. Marinelli said there is "no doubt" Kitna was protecting his offensive teammates. However, Marinelli added, "I don't like the extracurricular. I don't want that. But I understand guys standing up for each other. But we'll be a good team when we don't have penalties -- when we're tough, we're physical and we don't make mistakes. That's all."
From my vantage point, it all started during an earlier drill when linebacker Ernie Sims planted receiver Mike Furrey after a catch. Safety Dwight Smith, never at a loss for words, was jawing with offensive players for much of the goal-line drill, and Davis popped tight end Dan Campbell before his hit on Owens prompted Kitna's outburst.
Kitna is well-known for his fiery personality, but at least one player seemed surprised by how far he took it Wednesday. Receiver Roy Williams, who didn't practice but was watching from the sideline, said he appreciated Kitna's intent but added: "He probably would have gotten knocked out, so I would have rathered him stay back and be the quarterback."
I was interviewing another player when Kitna spoke to reporters, but here's what he had to say, as reported by Tom Kowalski of Mlive.com:
"I'm not going to get into specifics. That's how competitors are. Today's really the last day [of training camp] and we're ready to start seeing other people on a weekly basis. You usually don't go more than seven days without a game in the preseason, and this is our seventh day -- and we've still got three more days until we play. The guys are just ready to hit somebody else."
Everyone has their own opinion on this sort of thing, but count me in the group that considers it an encouraging sign for the Lions. As an outsider dropping in to get a glimpse of a team with few national expectations, it was nice to see the Lions getting after it. The hitting was great and reflected the toughness Marinelli is trying to install into the Lions organization.
You hope that Kitna will control those emotions during a game, but I would rather see vicious hitting and a quarterback going after a linebacker on 10 out of 10 days -- especially if the alternative is watching a lifeless group slog through another dog day of camp.
We'll bring you more practice observations later today.