NFC North: Ricky Sandoval
Discussion of Chicago's backfield is in full swing. In this interview on the team's Web site, running backs coach Tim Spencer suggests he wants tailback Matt Forte to increase his productivity in terms of yards per carry and yards per catch this season.
At the same time, Spencer said, it will be up to coaches to "watch him." I took that to mean the Bears plan to follow through on their plans to curb his playing time a bit after accounting for being on the field for a large majority of the Bears' snaps in 2008.
That number, according to Brad Biggs of the Chicago Sun-Times, is 84 percent: Forte was on the field for 84 percent of the Bears' plays in 2009. Biggs suggests that number could go down and predicts a solid training camp battle for depth in the backfield.
Kevin Jones seems assured of the No. 2 spot behind Forte, but it's possible that Garrett Wolfe and Adrian Peterson will be fighting for one roster spot. The Bears' first training camp practice is 23 days away. Yee-haw.
Continuing around the NFC North on a quiet midweek morning:
- Jo-Ann Barnas of the Detroit Free Press covered the funeral of Lions director of security Ricky Sandoval, who died last week of pancreatic cancer. Former Lions coach Steve Mariucci gave the eulogy.
- Tom Kowalski of Mlive.com questions whether the Lions really plan to keep veteran Anthony Henry at cornerback or if he will move to safety.
- In a chat on the Web site of the Green Bay Press-Gazette, Mike Vandermause casts doubt on the Packers' situation at backup quarterback. Vandermause: "If [Aaron] Rodgers goes down early in the season, I think the Packers would be hard-pressed to have a winning season with either [Matt] Flynn or [Brian] Brohm at QB."
- Yes, it's a slow period. But I still thought this was interesting. In a Presswire release from the Minnesota Chiropractic Association, Vikings linebacker Ben Leber discusses his lifelong visits to chiropractors. His mother was a chiropractor and he often received adjustments as a child.
I returned from a brief holiday respite Monday morning to read some interesting comments from Minnesota cornerback Antoine Winfield, who for the first time expressed serious doubts about his long-term future with the team.
In an interview with Sean Jensen of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Winfield said he is "unhappy" that his contract has not been extended and said he might move his family to Houston after the season in anticipation of playing elsewhere in 2010. He wouldn't say for sure if he will report to training camp later this month, and in his most pointed comment, Winfield said he wants a resolution -- of some kind -- soon.
Winfield: "If they want me here, they should be able to get a deal done. There shouldn't be a problem. If they don't, then they need to say that and let's work toward a resolution that works out good for everyone."
Does that mean he wants to be traded if the Vikings don't extend his deal? Winfield wouldn't say. But he made clear he doesn't consider the Vikings' contract offer commensurate with their public proclamations of his value to the team.
Winfield made his first Pro Bowl team last season, but the Vikings probably have some concerns about his age (32) and the wear-and-tear of 10 NFL seasons on his 5-foot-9 frame.
Much of Winfield's comments can be read as typical posturing from a veteran in a contract situation. But it's also become clear the Vikings aren't ready to break the bank on his deal, especially considering the possible $10 million-plus contract they likely will give to quarterback Brett Favre later this month. As a result, the situation bears watching.
Continuing around the NFC North on a post-holiday morning:
- Judd Zulgad of the Star Tribune reports that Favre is shopping for a condo in the Twin Cities suburb of Edina.
- Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler has thus far turned down most endorsement opportunities he's received, according to Bob LeGere of the Daily Herald.
- Here's a look at two safeties Detroit has brought in for competition opposite Louis Delmas. Nicholas J. Cotsonika of the Detroit Free Press profiles Stuart Schweigert and Marquand Manuel.
- John Niyo of the Detroit News passes along funeral arrangements for Lions director of security Ricky Sandoval, who died last week from pancreatic cancer.
- Lori Nickel of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel outlines the large task of new Green Bay defensive coordinator Dom Capers. "Probably not a day goes by that I don't spend a little bit of time thinking about this," Capers said.
- Progress has been incremental for Packers backup quarterbacks Matt Flynn and Brian Brohm, writes Rob Demovsky of the Green Bay Press-Gazette. Here's how Packers offensive coordinator Joe Philbin put it: "Well, certainly they're better than they've been."
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.