NFC North: Shawn Jefferson
There will be a total of at least five departures from the Detroit Lions' 2012 coaching staff, counting Adam Schefter's ESPN report late Tuesday that the St. Louis Rams will hire defensive backs coach Tim Walton as their new defensive coordinator.
Earlier, the Lions decided not to renew the contracts of three offensive coaches: receivers coach Shawn Jefferson, running backs coach Sam Gash and offensive line coach George Yarno. Special teams coordinator Danny Crossman left to join the Buffalo Bills, who are coached by his close friend, Doug Marrone.
The Rams have been trying to hire Walton for two years. Credit goes to the Lions for not blocking his way to a promotion. Still, by definition, the Lions' staff will have a different look in all three phases in 2013.
Continuing around the NFC North:
- The Lions have set up a visit with free-agent safety George Wilson, released recently by the Bills, according to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports.
- Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press wonders if place-kicker Jason Hanson will have the desire to return to play in 2013.
- Anwar S. Richardson of Mlive.com addresses the Lions' five most important offseason decisions, beginning with the pending free agency of defensive end Cliff Avril.
- Former Chicago Bears receiver Johnny Knox, whose contract was terminated Tuesday, will consider all of his options in terms of playing in 2013, according to Sean Jensen of the Chicago Sun-Times.
- Michael C. Wright of ESPNChicago.com looks at the Bears' free-agency options at center.
- Dan Pompei of the Chicago Tribune answers reader questions about receivers, among other topics, in his weekly Q&A.
- Jim Souhan of the Star Tribune on Minnesota Vikings receiver Percy Harvin: "[T]he Vikings can afford to gamble on a 24-year-old player at a position of great need who three months ago was considered one of the most valuable players in the league."
- Vikings tailback Adrian Peterson on Harvin, via KFAN-FM: "To be honest with you, I don't know if we will or not. But me, individually, and giving you my opinion, I wouldn't trade him for nothing."
- West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith watched every snap of Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers' 2011 season on tape, according to Tyler Dunne of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
- Jason Wilde of ESPNMilwaukee.com reviews the Packers' running back situation.
- Former Packers and Vikings quarterback Brett Favre speaks to Jon Saraceno of USA Today about the tornado that swept through his hometown of Hattiesburg, Miss. Favre: "Nobody was killed! Look, everybody here is scratching their heads -- 'Can you believe it?' Amazin'."
Brendon Ayanbadejo has received national attention for his stance on same-sex marriage and the New England Patriots, among other issues. Chicago Bears fans, of course, remember when he was a two-time Pro Bowl selection as one of their best special-teams players from 2005-07.
Ayanbadejo, now part of the Baltimore Ravens, told ESPN 1000 that he hoped to win Super Bowl XLVII in part to represent the Bears team that lost the big game in 2006.
"It's kind of funny, all my Bears boys, all the guys have been texting me and tweeting me, and I'm like, 'Man, I've got you guys, I've got this,'" Ayanbadejo said. "The whole 2006 team, you guys are in my heart, you guys are on my back, I'm going to go win this championship for you guys as well."
Ayanbadejo didn't get through the interview without offering one stark observation, making clear he didn't agree with the decision to fire coach Lovie Smith. He said, "I think Lovie Smith is the best coach of the Bears" and added: "I just don't see how you are going to be able to replace him with somebody who is going to be better."
Continuing around the NFC North:
- Melissa Isaacson of ESPNChicago.com looks at the history of Bears coaches who replace popular predecessors, speaking to Vince Tobin about replacing defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan.
- Jeff Dickerson of ESPNChicago.com looks at five areas the Bears can improve this offseason.
- Detroit Lions coach Jim Schwartz put to rest rumors that he could change the team's defensive scheme. While coaching at the Senior Bowl, Schwartz told reporters the Lions will continue "predominantly" to run the "Wide 9," according to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press.
- The Senior Bowl should give the Lions' staff an advantage come draft time, writes Josh Katzenstein of the Detroit News.
- Schwartz said that the departure of receivers coach Shawn Jefferson had nothing to do with issues involving receiver Titus Young, according to Justin Rogers of Mlive.com.
- Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson via Tyler Dunne of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "I have complete confidence in our coaching staff."
- Right guard Josh Sitton has become the leader of the Packers' offensive line, writes Weston Hodkiewicz of the Green Bay Press-Gazette.
- Three construction firms have submitted bids to build the new Minnesota Vikings stadium, notes the Associated Press via 1500ESPN.com.
- The Star Tribune reviews the Vikings' running back position.
- Via the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Mike Preston of the Baltimore Sun gives big-time credit to Baltimore Ravens left tackle Bryant McKinnie for solidifying the team's offensive line. McKinnie was the Vikings' No. 1 draft choice in 2002.
Minnesota Vikings receiver Percy Harvin will be back at the team's facility for at least one day soon to conduct his exit interview and physical. In speaking to reporters Tuesday, coach Leslie Frazier continued to downplay Harvin's departure from the team after he was placed on injured reserve and said he "coexists peacefully" with the franchise.
The Vikings have a decision to make this offseason on Harvin, who has one year remaining on his contract and thus could be in line for a contract extension. My sense on him remains the same: He might require more personal maintenance than most players, but he also produces more game-changing plays than most players.
That's not uncommon when it comes to building NFL teams. You deal with issues provided there is a reasonable reward. In Harvin's case, there is. He is too good of a player, and at 24 he is too young, to give up on.
Continuing around the NFC North:
- Expectations for the Vikings in 2013 are raised, writes Judd Zulgad of 1500ESPN.com.
- The Star Tribune offers seven offseason topics for the Vikings to consider, including pending free agents.
- Frazier wants veteran defensive players Kevin Williams and Antoine Winfield to return in 2013, according to Ben Goessling of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
- Running back DuJuan Harris could be the Green Bay Packers' unsung playoff hero, writes Tyler Dunne of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
- Packers receiver Jordy Nelson (knee) did not practice Tuesday, notes Jason Wilde of ESPNMilwaukee.com. The Packers' first injury report of the week is due Wednesday.
- The Packers have changed their offensive identity, writes Pete Dougherty of the Green Bay Press-Gazette.
- The Chicago Bears' assistant coaching staff is playing the waiting game, writes Michael C. Wright of ESPNChicago.com.
- Former Bears coach Mike Ditka is glad the team is considering special teams coaches in its coaching search, writes Sean Jensen of the Chicago Sun-Times.
- David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune believes that interviewing Mike Singletary for the Bears' top job is a mistake.
- Justin Rogers of Mlive.com grades the Detroit Lions' special teams.
- The Lions believe that defensive end Ronnell Lewis will be a pass-rushing factor in 2013, writes Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press.
- Lions receiver Nate Burleson told NFL Network, via Josh Kaztenstein of the Detroit News, that he was surprised the team let receivers coach Shawn Jefferson go.
Receivers coach Shawn Jefferson and running backs coach Sam Gash were informed Monday that their expiring contracts won't be renewed. My understanding there is at least one more offensive assistant who also will be leaving, but I don't want to publish his name until it can be confirmed. (The Lions' web site reporter did not refute the departures of Jefferson and Gash.) *Update: Multiple reports confirm offensive line coach George Yarno is the third coach who won't return.
For the moment, I'm aware of no developments regarding any of the Lions' three coordinators -- Scott Linehan, Gunther Cunningham and Danny Crossman -- but I can't say for sure that all three will return in 2013.
A team that loses eight consecutive games and finishes 4-12 in the fourth year of a head coach's tenure is bound to undergo staff changes. Jefferson and Gash are well-respected within the NFL and should have offers to work elsewhere in 2013. Jefferson's work with receiver Calvin Johnson should be obvious to anyone who has seen him grow into a polished receiver.
I'll be back Monday night if necessary, but otherwise have a pleasant and safe New Years' Eve.
Earlier this week, we suggested the Minnesota Vikings have won enough games this season to make coach Leslie Frazier's return in 2013 a given. And because next season is the last year of the original contract he signed as the team's coach, it made sense that some sort of a contract extension would be on the way.
Teams typically don't let coaches enter a season in a lame-duck contract situation, at least ones they believe in. So Sid Hartman's blog item (yes!) for the Star Tribune makes perfect sense: Owner Zygi Wilf authorized an extension earlier this week and the deal could be announced any day.
Frazier is 14-22 since taking over during the 2010 season. But this season he has managed to imprint his vision on a team that is in the playoff race in mid-December. The Vikings have more work to do, but they are trending in the right direction under Frazier.
Continuing around the NFC North:
- Frazier and Vikings receiver Percy Harvin had a previously unreported heated exchange prior to Harvin going on injured reserve, according to Tom Pelissero of 1500ESPN.com.
- The Vikings are looking at using cornerback Chris Cook in nickel packages Sunday at the Houston Texans, according to Ben Goessling of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
- The Green Bay Packers aren't looking to hire any consultants or specialists to help place-kicker Mason Crosby, writes Pete Dougherty of the Green Bay Press-Gazette.
- It doesn't sound as if Packers defensive back Charles Woodson will play Sunday against the Tennessee Titans, according to Jason Wilde of ESPNMilwaukee.com. Woodson is hoping to get some regular-season action before the playoffs begin after breaking his collarbone.
- Packers linebacker Clay Matthews was thankful last Sunday for the pass rush of teammate Mike Neal, writes Tyler Dunne of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
- Opponents are absolving Chicago Bears offensive coordinator Mike Tice of blame for the performance of the offense this season, writes Dan Pompei of the Chicago Tribune.
- Bears defensive lineman Henry Melton believes he is as good as any defensive tackle in the NFL and plans to play Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals, according to Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune.
- Bears linebacker Lance Briggs via Michael C. Wright of ESPNChicago.com: "In my worst nightmare, this is where I imagined we'd be; in my very, very worst nightmare."
- Detroit Lions safety Louis Delmas (knee) is hoping to play back-to-back games for the first time since October, notes Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press.
- Lions receivers coach Shawn Jefferson on receiver Calvin Johnson, via John Niyo of the Detroit News: "[T]he mental aspect caught up with the physical aspect of his game. And when they hit each other, it was just this big explosion. It's like the perfect storm has happened inside him."
- Tight end Brandon Pettigrew (ankle) again didn't practice Thursday, raising the possibility he will miss Saturday night's game against the Atlanta Falcons. Anwar S. Richardson of Mlive.com has more.
It's clear that Titus Young's first unofficial suspension did not catch his attention. So what are we to expect from his second? I don't have my hopes up.
As you probably have heard by now, the Detroit Lions already have declared Young inactive for Thursday's game against the Houston Texans. He was sent home from the team facility for behavior reasons Monday, the second time that's happened in six months, and he probably won't even practice over the next few days.
Those close to the team say Young has been a brooding malcontent for much of this season, routinely lining up wrong and sulking when he's unhappy with ball distribution. His attitude and mental miscues have become "unacceptable," coach Jim Schwartz told reporters, and it sent receivers coach Shawn Jefferson into a sideline rage late in Sunday's 24-20 loss to the Green Bay Packers.
(Schwartz confirmed Jefferson's rage was not directed at offensive coordinator Scott Linehan, despite appearances on television, and said the two have no issues.)
Young is apparently unhappy with a role that has seen him play more snaps (620, via Pro Football Focus) than any Lions pass-catcher besides receiver Calvin Johnson. After 11 weeks of the season, it appears Schwartz is no longer having it.
"When you are a player," Schwartz said, "it's your job to make the team happy, not the team's job to make you happy."
Young is still only 23 years old, but he has a history of behavior problems dating back to a 2008 suspension while a sophomore at Boise State. I've been covering the NFL for 13 years and I can't think of a player who was sent home twice from a practice facility as if he were a child. Young has excellent skills as a receiver and the Lions used a second-round draft choice on him, but I'm not sure he's a good enough player to continue putting up with. His issues are obviously deep-seated and the Lions shouldn't allow him back until he has thoroughly dealt with them.
It's hard to imagine that process taking place in a week's time. Young has now blown the second chance the Lions gave him this spring after he punched safety Louis Delmas during an offseason workout. Rare is an NFL player, especially a non-superstar, who gets three chances with one team. The Lions would have been totally justified in cutting him Monday and it's still possible he'll never play for them again. Sometimes, you have to cut your losses and I think the Lions are as close as they could possibly be without having already done it.
Related: Schwartz said that left tackle Jeff Backus is doubtful for Thursday's game because of a leg injury, spelling the likely end of Backus' 186-game streak of consecutive starts. Cornerback Drayton Florence probably also won't be available after being diagnosed with a concussion.
- Based on everything I've heard and know, receivers coach Shawn Jefferson's sideline outburst was not directed at offensive coordinator Scott Linehan, as Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press reported Sunday night. As bad as it looked television, Jefferson was actually upset with a late mistake by receiver Titus Young and wanted Linehan to bench him. (Linehan did on the final series of the game.) That explains why Linehan didn't respond other than to nod his head in apparent agreement. With that said, I really think Lions coach Jim Schwartz needs to address this publicly. Without context, the incident appears to be an act of public insubordination from a receivers coach to an offensive coordinator. If that were true, it would besmirch the reputations of both men. The only person who can cut off such ill-informed but understandable conclusions is Schwartz. I understand the desire to keep team business in-house, but there is a big difference between public insubordination and a fiery coach angrily reacting to a mistake by a player. Hopefully Schwartz can confirm the true version of events so as to wipe this slate clean. Then, we move on to Young. Suffice it to say, it appears at least one of his coaches is running out of patience with him.ESPN.com
- Assuming the Lions don't run the table, which is what they'll need to do to make the playoffs, there are going to be calls for some kind of change after the season. Those calls will be justified in a general sense; the Lions brought back the same coaching staff and 21 of 22 starters from a 10-6 season but have taken a step back. But finding specific and deserving targets might be hard. I know there is a lot of fan discontent with Linehan, and the truth is that he is in charge of an offense that has not been as sharp as it was last season. I'm not sure we can blame Linehan for quarterback Matthew Stafford's poor accuracy on throws like the one that led to M.D. Jennings' 72-yard interception return for a touchdown. But there was enough miscommunication to suggest something is off. If Linehan ends up being the sacrifice for change, we should note that he and his staff run one of the NFL's top quarterback programs. Every starter Linehan has coached had the best season of their careers under him. That list includes Daunte Culpeper (4,717 yards, 39 touchdowns in 2004), Gus Frerotte (2,996 yards, 18 touchdowns in 2005), Marc Bulger (4,301 yards, 24 touchdowns in 2006) and Stafford (5,038 yards, 41 touchdowns in 2011). Linehan would have job offers before leaving the Lions facility. It's a tough business, but there is as much respect for Linehan around the NFL as there is for anyone on the Lions' staff.
- We are watching defensive tackle Nick Fairley become a beast before our very eyes. Fairley topped last week's four-tackle, one-sack performance by notching a career-high seven tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble. He was facing the Packers' backup left guard, Evan Dietrich-Smith, but he did what a really good player does in that situation: totally overwhelmed him. There's no doubt Fairley benefitted from attention on Ndamukong Suh, who still managed five tackles of his own, but the eye test, at least, told us Fairley had a dominant performance. This stretch gives the Lions an easy answer to one of their main free agency questions this offseason. Given how well Fairley is playing in place of the injured Corey Williams, it's hard to imagine the Lions finding room under their tight cap to re-sign Williams this winter.
Have we seen the last of Jeff Backus in a Lions uniform? I know that's a bit dramatic. All we know for sure is that Backus couldn't finish Sunday's game because of a leg injury and was replaced by rookie Riley Reiff. It's fair to wonder if Backus can recover quickly enough, based on how badly he was limping on the sideline, to play in Thursday's game against the Houston Texans. If he sits, Backus's consecutive-games streak would end at 186. Reiff is the Lions' heir apparent at left tackle. Would it make sense to let him play out the rest of the season, assuming the Lions aren't in playoff contention? Or would you bring back Backus when he is healthy? It's a scenario worth considering.
DETROIT -- Well, lookie what we have here.
The Green Bay Packers' winning streak, extended to five games by Sunday's 24-20 victory over the Detroit Lions, has pulled them within a half-game of the NFC North-leading Chicago Bears. And as we've been discussing for several days, the Packers would technically finish Week 11 atop the division if the Bears lose Monday night at the San Francisco 49ers.
Both teams would be 7-3 at that point, but the Packers would get the tiebreaker (if it were necessary) because of their Week 2 victory over the Bears.
In the big picture, of course, we are headed toward an awesome and unprecedented finish to the NFC North season. There are scenarios in which the Bears, Packers and Minnesota Vikings could all win the division, most simply by winning out. The Bears and Packers will meet Dec. 16 at Soldier Field, and don't forget the Vikings have two games apiece remaining against the Bears and Packers.
I'm making my way back to NFC North blog headquarters. While we can grab a breath, let's take a tour around Monday morning coverage:
- Here is some high praise of Packers coach Mike McCarthy from Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "McCarthy's cutting-edge offense takes advantage of all the rules changes and the strength of his personnel. His demanding, creative coaching has gotten the best from Aaron Rodgers. In moments like these, one should pause to remember just how well-coached the Packers are."
- Jason Wilde of ESPNMilwaukee.com compares the Packers' recent performances to the look of those who are participating in Movember: "Their team's victories might not be particularly stylish -- the latest being Sunday’s rough-and-tumble 24-20 victory over the Detroit Lions at Ford Field -- but they’re adding up to a five-game winning streak, potential control of the NFC North and turning around what could have been a lost year amid a dispiriting start and injuries to key player after key player."
- Rob Demovsky of the Green Bay Press-Gazette: "Three of the biggest plays the Green Bay Packers made on defense Sunday against the Detroit Lions came from Casey Hayward, Dezman Moses and M.D. Jennings.That's a rookie second-round pick, an undrafted rookie and a second-year former undrafted free agent."
- According to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, Lions receivers coach Shawn Jefferson was upset with receiver Titus Young at the end of Sunday's game, prompting what appeared to be an outburst toward offensive coordinator Scott Linehan.
- Mitch Albom of the Free Press: "[Y]ou could feel the weight of the Lions’ deferred 2012 dreams coming down on their heads like a theater curtain that snaps off its rods. They were not supposed to be the last-place team in their division. They were not supposed to lose to Minnesota on the road and then Green Bay at home, the 13th loss in 14 games to the Packers. Those were the old Lions, right? Those were days gone by. These were the days ahead. Weren’t they?"
- Bob Wojnowski of the Detroit News: "The Lions have collapsed, and at the desperate, defining juncture, it was their starry strength that let them down. Something hasn't seemed right with Matthew Stafford and the offense, and on a telling Sunday, it fell apart."
- Stafford looks like "a different quarterback this season," writes Anwar S. Richardson of Mlive.com.
- Michael C. Wright of ESPNChicago.com takes a detailed look at the Bears' matchup with the 49ers, ultimately predicting a 17-13 victory by the 49ers.
- With quarterback Jason Campbell set to make his first start for the Bears, this would be a good game for the Bears' running game to take over, writes Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune.
- The Bears' heavy use of receiver Brandon Marshall is reminiscent of the way offensive coordinator Mike Tice used receiver Randy Moss in the famed "Randy Ratio" offense with the Vikings in 2002. Sean Jensen of the Chicago-Times explains.
- Vikings general manager Rick Spielman on tight end John Carlson, an expensive and minimally productive free agent pickup, via Tom Pelissero of 1500ESPN.com: "I think John Carlson has a lot of football (left) and is a very good football player for us and will be a good football player in the future."
- This link will take you to all three parts of a bye week interview of Vikings coach Leslie Frazier by Dan Wiederer of the Star Tribune.
To be sure, the Lions have not yet been eliminated from playoff contention. But they'll almost certainly need to win all six of their remaining games to qualify, an unlikely scenario that began registering Sunday.
Television cameras caught receivers coach Shawn Jefferson screaming angrily at offensive coordinator Scott Linehan near the end of the game. Receiver Titus Young was on the bench for the final series of the game for reasons apparently not related to any injury. And center Dominic Raiola was morose in the postgame locker room.
Quarterback Matthew Stafford said "disarray is probably not the right word" to describe the team. But the point when NFL teams realize they won't make the playoffs is usually accompanied by emotion and a degree of lashing out. The Lions are no different.
"Anytime you're not successful, nothing's going to look good," coach Jim Schwartz said. "I thought there were times when we hit on things really well, but we didn't do enough to win. Anytime you don't do enough to win, it's going to look that way."
Why the Lions haven't done enough to win this season is a matter that will require deep analysis. They have won only one game, against the 1-9 Jacksonville Jaguars, that didn't require a fourth-quarter comeback. Have they just "missed opportunities here and there," as receiver Calvin Johnson said Sunday? Or do they have deeper issues that will require some difficult offseason decisions?
I'm not sure yet. But I can't say I expected their Thanksgiving Day game against the Houston Texans to be a relatively meaningless game. They're not happy about it, but the Lions are already playing out the string.
Let's take a break from our (relatively) serious coverage of the Minnesota Vikings' stadium bill to note some highly significant intersections of the NFC North and reality television.
First, Green Bay Packers receiver Donald Driver made it through another week on "Dancing with the Stars" and is headed to the semifinals of the competition. I guess that means we'll need to ramp up our "DWTS" coverage. Via Twitter, Driver said: "I want to bring the Mirror Ball to Titletown." The question now is if Titletown is ready for the Mirror Ball.
Meanwhile, EW.com reports that Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh is part of a new celebrity dating show on Fox called "The Choice." New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski is also a cast member.
Whether this appearance fits into Suh's offseason image repair plan remains to be seen.
With that, let's continue around the NFC North:
- The Packers expect to have all of their draft choices signed this week, according to Rob Demovsky of the Green Bay Press-Gazette.
- Packers cornerback Charles Woodson was in Washington, D.C., for the annual White House correspondent's dinner, but he told ESPN 540 in Milwaukee that he has no interest in politics as a post-playing career.
- Free agent running back Ryan Grant canceled a visit to the Detroit Lions because of "economic issues," according to his agent via Jason Wilde of ESPNMilwaukee.com.
- The Detroit Free Press has a look at the cover of "Madden NFL 13" with Lions receiver Calvin Johnson front and center.
- Andy Hoag of Mlive.com has the latest on former Lions receiver Charles Rogers' legal woes.
- Lions receivers coach Shawn Jefferson has some strong feelings on the issue of post-career depression among NFL players, as Chris McCosky of the Detroit News found out.
- The Chicago Bears agreed to terms with two more draft picks, tight end Evan Rodriguez and cornerback Greg McCoy, notes Michael C. Wright of ESPNChicago.com.
- Dan Pompei of the Chicago Tribune thinks the Bears should bring back Tommie Harris as a reserve defensive tackle.
- The Vikings' head athletic trainer isn't ready to say that tailback Adrian Peterson will be ready to play in Week 1, notes Dan Wiederer of the Star Tribune.
- The Vikings hosted free agent linebacker Rocky McIntosh on a visit, according to Judd Zulgad of 1500ESPN.com.
Chicago Bears: Receiver Devin Hester (illness) didn't practice Wednesday but is expected to play Sunday against the San Diego Chargers.
Detroit Lions: Running back Jahvid Best made an appearance at practice Wednesday. He did not participate, but he hadn't been seen anywhere near practice since suffering a concussion last month. Agent Tony Fleming told ESPN's Josina Anderson that Best has been seeing specialists and will be "re-evaluated" when his symptoms subside. Quarterback Matthew Stafford (finger) wore gloves again during practice but was a full participant. Safety Amari Spievey (toe) was among those who did not practice. Meanwhile, Lions receivers coach Shawn Jefferson opened practice with a full-squad breakdown that ended with "[Expletive] them."
Green Bay Packers: Defensive end Mike Neal (knee) is continuing to increase his workload in practice and hasn't been ruled out of Sunday's game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Running back Ryan Grant (knee) did not practice but should be ready for Sunday's game. Linebacker Desmond Bishop and guard T.J. Lang were attending to personal matters Wednesday and didn't practice.
Minnesota Vikings: Guard Anthony Herrera (knee), safety Husain Abdullah (concussion), linebacker Erin Henderson (hamstring) and long snapper Cullen Loeffler (shoulder) all missed practice. The Vikings will wait another day or so before deciding whether to sign an emergency long-snapper for Sunday's game against the Oakland Raiders.
A national eye will be on the Detroit Lions during Saturday night's preseason game against the New England Patriots, scheduled to be televised by CBS. Will the country see the debut of the first high Lions draft choice to get on the field?
It appears possible, at least, that rookie receiver Titus Young will get an opportunity to play. He has made it through most of this week of practice while coming back from a hamstring injury. It's still possible the Lions will deactivate him for precautionary reasons, but Young has shown enough progress this week to make it possible to play.
Here's how coach Jim Schwartz put it, via Philip Zaroo of Mlive.com: "I don't know if he's over the hump yet, but he's close to it. He was able to put a week of practice together and was able to finish practices. We have done a lot ... doing individual, adding a little bit more, doing some 7-on-7, doing a little bit more here and there. But I think he's at the point where he can go out and get through a whole practice and be able to play in a game."
Young has spent most of the summer on the sideline. Whether he plays Saturday night, this week has provided significant encouragement that he will be ready to contribute on some level when the regular season begins.
Continuing around the NFC North:
- Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press profiles Lions defensive line coach Kris Kocurek, who is "intimidating, impossible to please and more than a bit intense."
- Terry Foster of the Detroit News profiles Lions receivers coach Shawn Jefferson, who last year participated in a practice in shoulder pads.
- Chicago Bears safety Major Wright on his glaring missed tackle Monday night, via Jeff Dickerson of ESPNChicago.com: "It's definitely something I can learn from. Taking a better angle, slowing down and breaking down."
- Rick Morrissey of the Chicago Sun-Times on Bears tailback Matt Forte: "Let's start with what Forte isn't: He's not an elite running back. He's not Maurice Jones-Drew. He's not Chris Johnson. He's not Adrian Peterson. He's not going to make something out of nothing along the line."
- Bears receiver Johnny Knox should be starting ahead of Roy Williams, writes Bob LeGere of the Daily Herald.
- Bears left guard Chris Williams worked out this offseason in a barn, writes Vaughn McClure of the Chicago Tribune.
- The Green Bay Packers have quite a battle going on at tight end for roster spots. Lori Nickel of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has more.
- Packers guard Josh Sitton, via Mike Vandermause of the Green Bay Press-Gazette: "I'm really just trying to establish myself as one of the better guys in this league at [my] position."
- Packers running back Ryan Grant should get a heavy workload in Friday night's preseason game against the Indianapolis Colts, notes Jason Wilde of ESPNMilwaukee.com.
- Minnesota Vikings guard Anthony Herrera told reporters he has no concerns about making it back from a torn anterior cruciate ligament, according to Tom Pelissero of 1500ESPN.com.
- The Vikings have a deep group of receivers, according to Jeremy Fowler of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
- Mark Craig of the Star Tribune on Vikings offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave: "He'll accentuate his strengths, but, more importantly, he won't overly expose his weaknesses, which at the moment is an offensive line that has a shaky new left tackle and an ongoing competition at right guard, among other question marks lingering from a poor showing in 2010."
Busy day here in the NFC North. The latest comes from Detroit, where the Lions just announced their full coaching staff.
Coach Jim Schwartz's 18-man staff includes six holdovers from predecessor Rod Marinelli's staff. Here is the full list, with an asterisk (*) next to the holdovers:
- Assistant head coach/defensive coordinator: Gunther Cunningham
- Offensive coordinator: Scott Linehan
- Quarterbacks: Jeff Horton
- Offensive line: George Yarno
- Running backs: Sam Gash*
- Wide receivers: Shawn Jefferson*
- Tight ends: Tim Lappano
- Offensive quality control: Todd Downing
- Defensive line: Bob Karmelowicz
- Assistant defensive line: Kris Kocurek
- Linebackers: Matt Burke
- Secondary: Tim Walton
- Assistant secondary: Daron Roberts
- Defensive quality control: Don Clemons*
- Special teams coordinator: Stan Kwan*
- Assistant special teams: Bradford Banta*
- Coordinator of physical development: Jason Arapoff*
- Strength and conditioning: Malcolm Blacken*
Here is a link to a page with biographies for each coach. I'll have a bit more analysis on this list Thursday. Please don't go blue holding your breath.
We noted earlier Wednesday that Detroit hasn't announced the majority of its new coaching staff, even though some of them apparently are on the job already. But names have been floating around for each job, so for reference, here is one version of new coach Jim Schwartz's first staff as culled from various sources and reports:
Offensive coordinator: Scott Linehan
Offensive line: George Yarno
Running backs: Sam Gash
Wide receivers: Shawn Jefferson
Tights ends: Tim Lappano
Defensive coordinator: Gunther Cunningham
Defensive line: Unknown
Linebackers: Matt Burke
Defensive backs: Tim Walton (or Bob Slowik)
Special teams: Stan Kwan
I don't want to draw too many conclusions because nothing is official yet. But there are a few facts worth noting:
- At least three holdovers from former coach Rod Marinelli's 0-16 team appear to have survived: Gash, Jefferson and Kwan.
- Of the new assistants, two came from the college ranks: Lappano and Walton. (There have also been reports that Slowik would coach defensive backs, so this position is not entirely clear yet.)
- Yarno and Burke received promotions from their previous jobs as assistants in Tampa Bay and Tennessee, respectively. Yarno was the Buccaneers' assistant offensive line coach, while Burke was a defensive assistant for the Titans.
- Youth is balanced by the experience of Linehan and Cunningham, both of whom are former NFL head coaches and have been coordinators for multiple teams.
New Detroit coach Jim Schwartz will retain at least three assistant coaches from predecessor Rod Marinelli's regime, according to David Birkett of the Oakland Press.
The latest name to surface is special teams coordinator Stan Kwan, who will return for a 10th season with the team. (It will be his third as special teams coordinator.) Kwan will join receivers coach Shawn Jefferson and running backs coach Sam Gash as holdover assistants.
It's possible there will be others. When they fired Marinelli after the season, the Lions retained 14 of his 18 assistants for the next coach to consider. Schwartz has hired his own defensive and offensive coordinators -- Gunther Cunningham and Scott Linehan, respectively -- but to my knowledge no other assistants have been formally announced. The team's Web site lists only Cunningham and Linehan under the assistant coach category.
This partial retention falls in line with the Lions' refusal to completely overhaul their operations following an 0-16 season. New president Tom Lewand and general manager Martin Mayhew were both internal promotions. Schwartz obviously came from outside the organization, but it's now clear he'll be inheriting at least some assistant coaches from the previous regime.