NFC North: programming note

Only one thing separates NFL veteran minicamps from organized team activities (OTAs). Minicamps are mandatory, meaning players under contract can be fined for missing them. OTAs are voluntary, which means players are subject only to public criticism and shaming if they choose to train elsewhere.

So if there is any time to pack up the NFC North Winnebago and travel during the offseason, it's now. We'll start this week with the Green Bay Packers' minicamp, which I plan to cover on Tuesday and Wednesday. I've got a few blog items in mind, but by all means let me know what you're hoping to learn via the mailbag.

And just to provide advance warning: I'm off next week because of a previously-scheduled commitment, leaving me unable to attend either the mandatory minicamps of either the Chicago Bears or the Detroit Lions. Our friends at ESPNChicago.com will have the Bears' minicamp swamped, and I'll do everything I can to catch up on the Lions' when I return June 17. After that, it's off to the Minnesota Vikings' minicamp from June 18-20.

I'll check in when I arrive in Green Bay this evening.
As promised, here is a reminder and an important programming note.

At noon ET, I'll join the rest of ESPN.com's NFL divisional bloggers, along with ESPN scout Matt Williamson, to reveal our 2013 mock draft. We'll do so in a live chat module that will appear here on the NFC North blog. You're free to join in the discussion, or if you prefer, you can use the hashtag #bloggermock to have your tweets pulled into the conversation.

I'll let you know via Twitter (@espn_nfcnblog) when one of the NFC North teams is choosing and then I'll announce it afterwards. When we're done, I'll post my picks and an explanation for those who couldn't join us.

The uncertain timing of this event makes our usual SportsNation chat tricky. There is also media availability for Minnesota Vikings general manager Rick Spielman at 2:30 p.m. ET if I can make it. So in the end, we'll be pushing back and rolling the chat into several other opportunities for interaction we have later this week. I'll keep you updated.

Looking forward to having you join us in a few hours.

NFC North programming note

March, 22, 2013
3/22/13
8:00
AM ET
Phew. We've made it through the NFL scouting combine, free agency and the and owners meeting in the span of about five weeks. So with the draft still a month away, it's time to back away for a spell and re-charge the batteries. Have a great week. You'll be in good hands. Back with you April 1.
The NFL's free agency template changed in more ways than one this year. Not only did we have an odd three-day negotiating period last weekend, but we also will have league executives and coaches gathering for the annual owners meeting just six days after the opening of the market.

So on Saturday, I have the unenviable task of traveling to Phoenix to keep up with news. I may or may not be mad about that. There is still a foot of snow on the ground just outside the window here at NFC North blog headquarters.

My plan is to blog Sunday through Wednesday from the meeting, which will include some league-level news but for our purposes is most important for the access to NFC North executives, general managers and coaches. In some cases, this will be the last time we check in with them before the draft.

I'll monitor Saturday's news as best I can and pop on the blog when necessary. Have a pleasant morning regardless.
INDIANAPOLIS -- For media purposes, the NFL scouting combine is a wrap. Players will continue working out for the next few days, but interviews are complete and most team officials are returning to home base.

I'm going to do the same, and barring late-breaking news, I'll be back with you Monday morning. There is plenty left in my notebook after access to all eight NFC North general managers and coaches, and as draft season ramps up, we'll start trying to connect the players we saw this weekend to specific teams.

For the time being, here is a handy one-stop link to the majority of my posts and videos from Indianapolis. Leftovers can be tasty sometimes….

NFC North Sunday programming note

January, 6, 2013
1/06/13
1:00
PM ET
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- OK. It's time to start the trek back to NFC North blog headquarters. I feel reasonably confident I've left you with enough to chew on for the balance of the day.

My game column from late Saturday night/early Sunday morning suggests the Green Bay Packers have transformed into the kind of team they need to be in order to defeat the San Francisco 49ers in the divisional playoff round. I offered some further "Quick Take" thoughts on the matchup as well.

The Minnesota Vikings, on the other hand, concluded an uplifting season in bizarre fashion. I more or less accepted their explanation for why quarterback Christian Ponder couldn't play but questioned whether they should have been surprised by his condition. We also scrutinized their game plan with backup Joe Webb, who is an able runner but had no passing accuracy after becoming the first player in NFL history to start a playoff game without throwing a pass in the regular season first.

The Chicago Bears' coaching search is also updated in all its glory as it extends into a second week.

I'll check in when I return to HQ for any news. Otherwise, we'll be back to our full blogging slate -- complete with Free Head Exams for the Packers and Vikings -- on Monday morning. Have a great afternoon.

NFC North Week 16 programming note

December, 21, 2012
12/21/12
12:30
PM ET
Where to go? What to do?

Follow the Green Bay Packers' pursuit of home-field advantage in the playoffs?

Witness the Chicago Bears' attempt to end a 1-5 slump and remain in the playoff hunt?

Join Adrian Peterson's chase of the NFL's single-season rushing record?

Or should I chase Calvin Johnson's hopes of eclipsing the record for receiving yards in a season, a mark more likely to be broken this weekend?

In the end, we decided that a central location would provide the best environment to monitor all four NFC North angles in Week 16. So I'm hunkering down at NFC North headquarters, where I'll watch the Detroit Lions' game Saturday night against the Atlanta Falcons and then be in position for the quick turnaround to Sunday's games at Lambeau Field, Reliant Stadium and University of Phoenix Stadium.

I'll have wrap-ups of all four games on the blog as soon as possible, along with any contextual posts as needed. We'll see where it takes us.

NFC North Week 15 programming note

December, 14, 2012
12/14/12
12:30
PM ET
Things are starting to get serious around here. Three NFC North teams remain in contention for the playoffs, and Week 15 will bring us the first -- and possibly only -- opportunity for a team to clinch the division title.

That's why I'll be at Soldier Field for Sunday's game between the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears. This will be the ninth Packers-Bears game I've covered since we started the blog in 2008, and I've seen two Bears victories: The second matchup in 2008 and the first of 2010, both at Soldier Field.

Sunday, I'll keep an eye on the Minnesota Vikings' game at the St. Louis Rams, which is also a 1 p.m. ET kickoff, as well as the late game between the Detroit Lions and Arizona Cardinals. Full coverage from Packers-Bears II, along with wrap-ups on the Vikings and Lions, will be posted to the blog before I leave Soldier Field. Let's have some fun, huh?

NFC North Week 10 programming note

November, 9, 2012
11/09/12
12:15
PM ET
We're not above taking one for the team here on the NFC North blog.

There is little doubt that the game of the week, probably in the entire league, will include one of our teams Sunday night at Soldier Field. A pair of 7-1 division leaders -- the Chicago Bears and Houston Texans -- will match up in a primetime affair. Of course, our corporate cousins at ESPNChicago.com will have the game blanketed from a Bears perspective.

So to ensure maximum league-wide coverage, I'll be at the Metrodome for the early game between two NFC North teams. The Detroit Lions are hoping to push their record above .500 for the first time since Week 1, and the Minnesota Vikings are hoping to halt a two-game losing streak before their season is scuttled.

Regardless of where I am Sunday, I'd like to continue our recent practice of posting a slideshow Monday morning with your photographs of the weekend action. I also add my own Instagram submissions (kevinseifert_espn). The easiest thing to do is tweet them to me, whenever convenient to you, at our NFC North twitter account (@espn_nfcnblog). Be creative!

NFC North Week 9 programming note

November, 2, 2012
11/02/12
12:30
PM ET
I'll be honest. There aren't any sparklers on the NFC North's Week 9 schedule.

The Chicago Bears will play at the 3-5 Tennessee Titans. The Detroit Lions are headed to play the 1-6 Jacksonville Jaguars. The Minnesota Vikings will travel to play the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field, where the Seahawks haven't lost since, I think, 1983.

So I'm headed to Lambeau Field this weekend to see if the Green Bay Packers can make it four victories in a row after a 2-3 start. The Arizona Cardinals have lost their past four games after a 4-0 start, and the Packers would love to get to 6-3 entering their bye.

I'll spend most of Sunday's game in our "Countdown Live" chat while also monitoring the happenings in Jacksonville, Fla., and Nashville, Tenn. We'll have full coverage from Green Bay, our friends at ESPNChicago will handle the Bears, and I'll have wrap-ups on the Lions and Vikings on the blog before the end of the day.

NFC North Week 7/8 programming note

October, 19, 2012
10/19/12
12:30
PM ET
Based on my records, we've never in the history of the NFC North blog attempted a plan quite like what we're staring at now: Three games in five days.

Much like Evel Knievel, I'm lowering my head and pressing the accelerator to the floor. (Or something like that.)

I'll be at the Metrodome on Sunday for the Minnesota Vikings' clash with the Arizona Cardinals.

Then it's off to Chicago, where I'll be in place for ESPN's "Monday Night Football" matchup between the Detroit Lions and Chicago Bears.

Then it's back to NFC North blog headquarters for a quick regroup before returning Thursday night to the Metrodome for the Vikings' next game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

I feel fortunate that three games over five days will require only two short flights, but I still see this as an adventure of sorts. I've even created an Instagram account (kevinseifert_espn) to chronicle it, as long as I can figure out how to use it. So come along and let's have some midseason fun here in the Midwest.

NFC North Week 6 programming note

October, 12, 2012
10/12/12
12:20
PM ET
I made a decision a few weeks ago to pick up with the Detroit Lions when they returned from their bye, and I'm sticking with that plan despite a pair of other interesting Week 6 games in the NFC North. So here's how Sunday will work:

I'll be at Lincoln Financial Field to see if the Lions can right themselves against the Philadelphia Eagles after a 1-3 start and remain competitive in the division. They're already three games behind the Chicago Bears and Minnesota Vikings in the win column, and the Vikings could make it four if they defeat the Washington Redskins in the late afternoon game.

I'll have full coverage of Lions-Eagles, and will also wrap up the Vikings' result in Washington, D.C. Then I'll put myself in position to catch as much of Sunday night's matchup between the Green Bay Packers and Houston Texans as I can on television. A wrap-up post will appear on the blog shortly after the game ends.

I don't think I could have gone wrong on picking games this weekend. They're all important in their own ways, and we'll account for them accordingly.

NFC North Week 5 programming note

October, 5, 2012
10/05/12
12:15
PM ET
We've got three NFC North teams in action Sunday while the Detroit Lions take their bye.

The Chicago Bears will visit Jacksonville, where a flotilla of ESPNChicago.com reporters will provide full coverage. The Green Bay Packers, a team we've seen three times in four weeks, will visit the Indianapolis Colts. So I figured Week 5 would be a good one to stay close to NFC North headquarters.

I'll be at the Metrodome for the Minnesota Vikings' late-afternoon matchup with the Tennessee Titans. (Remember, the game was moved to 3:25 p.m. local time because of the Twin Cities marathon.) By the end of the day, we'll have wrap-ups posted on the action in Indianapolis and Jacksonville as well as full coverage of the Vikings' attempt to push their record to 4-1.

Until then….

NFC North Week 4 programming note

September, 28, 2012
9/28/12
12:30
PM ET
Until shortly before midnight Monday, I was struggling to decide which NFC North game to cover in Week 4.

The Minnesota Vikings were fresh off a surprising victory over the San Francisco 49ers, a result that made Sunday's matchup with the Detroit Lions more interesting than it once appeared. There would, of course, be the Chicago Bears' prime-time game at the Dallas Cowboys on ESPN's "Monday Night Football."

And then everything cleared up -- just as Seattle Seahawks receiver Golden Tate was credited with a 24-yard game-winning touchdown to send the Green Bay Packers to 1-2. I'll be at Lambeau Field this Sunday to chronicle what we'll call the "Goodell Bowl," a matchup between two teams -- the Packers and New Orleans Saints -- who have felt aggrieved by commissioner Roger Goodell's policies in recent months.

We'll see how the Packers bounce back from Monday's disappointment, and if they can salvage the first quarter of the season against a Saints team trying to prevent an 0-4 start to its season.

I'll arrive early enough to watch Vikings-Lions and post a wrap-up Sunday afternoon. Meanwhile, our friends at ESPNChicago.com and ESPNDallas.com will have Monday's game covered more than adequately for you. Let's see what happens this week.

NFC North Week 3 programming note

September, 21, 2012
9/21/12
12:30
PM ET
My early-season goal is always to see each NFC North team at least once in the first few weeks, and we'll accomplish that goal by covering Sunday's Metrodome matchup between the Minnesota Vikings and San Francisco 49ers.

Through three weeks, I will have seen the Green Bay Packers twice and the Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions and Vikings once apiece. I will have also covered the 49ers three times. So it goes when you're at the mercy of the NFL schedule-maker.

One word on the Packers' game Monday night at the Seattle Seahawks. I typically cover Monday Night Football games that include NFC North teams, but in this case, I'll monitor the game from NFC North blog headquarters.

By my count, there are 12 prime-time games on the NFC North schedule this season. I've already done two of them, but it's neither physically nor fiscally possible to do all of them. Frankly, if there are some to be skipped, I would rather do them come early in the season than late. I hope you understand.

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