NFC North: Terrence Metcalf
Rounding up a few items of note on Wednesday in the NFC North:
- Minnesota re-signed defensive tackle Jimmy Kennedy, whom they originally added late last season during the Williams Wall/StarCaps saga. Once again, Kennedy will give the Vikings veteran insurance if the four-game suspensions of Pat Williams and Kevin Williams -- currently tied up in a Minnesota courtroom -- are ultimately upheld.
- Free-agent linebacker Angelo Crowell visited Detroit. Crowell missed all of last season after undergoing a procedure in September to improve a kneecap condition known as chondromalacia, but is expected to make a full recovery in time for training camp. Crowell visited Tampa Bay earlier this week, according to NFL.com. His older brother is former Lions receiver Germane Crowell, who played in Detroit from 1998-2002.
- Chicago released guard Terrence Metcalf, which was no surprise following the free-agent signing of Frank Omiyale. Metcalf lost his starting job last season to Josh Beekman after suffering a knee injury and then serving a four-game NFL suspension.
Chicago kick returner Devin Hester ranks No. 57 in the NFL with a kickoff return average of 21.8 yards. His punt return average of 6.3 yards puts him at No. 51.
Hester has kept a mostly low public profile while compiling those pedestrian rankings this season, especially amid a transition to receiver that hasn't proved as explosive as the Bears would have hoped. But Hester spoke out this week, according to Brad Biggs of the Chicago Sun-Times. Hester admitted he was frustrated but spoke realistically about culpability:
"It's tough. Not only to myself, to the fans, to the team. I set a high standard for myself, not only for myself, but outsiders, that I'm that guy that's going to take five, six returns to the house, and I haven't taken none. It's tough on me. I don't even like going outside now. I've just got to find that edge and overcome it. I could sit here and say it's my fault, but there are 11 guys out there on the field. I'm not the only one out there. I know at the end of the day I get blamed for the return game."
Some of this issue will have to wait until an offseason postmortem, but there's already a decent argument to be made that the Bears stripped themselves of a huge weapon by trying to apply Hester's game-breaking skills at another position. Instead of having a dynamic returner who makes occasional appearances on offense, they have an average returner and a below-average starting receiver.
That dynamic appears to have been tough on Hester's psyche:
"I've been trying to dodge talking about it, but now I'm going to go ahead and express my feelings. I'm frustrated. It's hard. And I want to get back to where I was, not only as a player but as the home-run hitter. The return game was basically my success in football, and now that it's not there, it's tough, being just that football player that everybody knew about."
It's hard to say what the answer is. With the return of Brandon Lloyd from injury, should the Bears go back to using Hester only in predetermined packages on offense? Or has the damage already been done in terms of focusing on the return game for this season?
Elsewhere around the NFC North on a Thursday morning:
- Guard Terrence Metcalf rejoined the Bears after a four-game suspension for testing positive for a banned amphetamine. Metcalf said he took the supplement to stay awake during a long drive this summer, according to Biggs.
- Green Bay cornerback Al Harris has been particularly focused -- and a bit short-tempered -- since he returned from a lacerated spleen, according to Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Harris will turn 34 next month and might be fighting for his football future in Green Bay.
- Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said he does not believe Minnesota defensive end Jared Allen was trying to hurt him with a helmet-to-helmet hit at the Metrodome two weeks ago, according to Jason Wilde of the Wisconsin State Journal. The NFL fined Allen $25,000 for the hit.
- Minnesota owner Zygi Wilf will accompany defensive tackles Kevin Williams and Pat Williams to their appeal hearing Thursday at the NFL offices in New York, writes Judd Zulgad of the Star Tribune.
- Vikings cornerback Antoine Winfield told Patrick Reusse of the Star Tribune that he is having the best season of his career.
- Detroit signed safety Stuart Schweigert, a former prep star in Saginaw, Mich. Nicholas J. Cotsonika of the Detroit Free Press has details.
- Lions coach Rod Marinelli is second-guessing himself for not signing quarterback Daunte Culpepper earlier this season, writes Tom Kowalski of Mlive.com
As he announced the suspension of a player who hadn't been part of his team's rotation, Chicago coach Lovie Smith painted a somewhat bleak picture Monday for his banged-up defensive backfield.
First: The four-game suspension of offensive lineman Terrence Metcalf isn't an immediate blow for the Bears. Metcalf lost his starting job in training camp after undergoing knee surgery and has been backing up left guard Josh Beekman all season.
Of more critical importance is the state of the Bears' secondary. They finished Sunday's 22-20 loss in Atlanta with two healthy cornerbacks, and Smith couldn't say for sure how many of those who are injured will be ready for next Sunday's game against Minnesota. The status of Charles Tillman (shoulder), Danieal Manning (hamstring) and Trumaine McBride (shoulder) seems completely is up in the air; if anything, it appears Tillman will have a tough time getting onto the field.
The Bears almost certainly will need to push cornerback Nate Vasher (wrist) back onto the field after a two-game absence. Vasher would join Corey Graham and Marcus Hamilton as Chicago's healthy cornerbacks.
With left guard Terrence Metcalf still recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery, Buenning will give the Bears depth at guard and center. Former backup Josh Beekman is expected to start at left guard in Sunday's season opener at Indianapolis.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- As we await the Green Bay Packers' afternoon practice -- it appears a Mike McCarthy news conference is out of the question -- we wanted to update a story line we started monitoring Tuesday morning.
The sky is blue. (No, sorry. It's more interesting than that).
Chicago Bears left guard Terrence Metcalf will, in fact, undergo arthroscopic surgery on his right knee and will miss several weeks, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. The best-case scenario appears to be that Metcalf will be ready for the start of the regular season.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The NFC North waits for no man (or team). The division kept on churning Monday as the Green Bay Packers tried to figure out what to do with Brett Favre. As we await their plan, let's take a look at what else is happening in the division.
- The Chicago Bears are going in the wrong direction in terms of getting their preferred offensive line on the field. Left tackle Chris Williams has missed 11 consecutive days because of a back injury, and now left guard Terrence Metcalf might need surgery on his right knee. Williams was not on campus Monday, and the Chicago Sun-Times speculates he was sent for a doctor visit.
- Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Jim Colletto, who is leading the team's transition to a more balanced offense, wants progress to speed up. According to the Booth News Group, Colletto told the team's offensive players Monday that they weren't mentally tough enough yet to execute a strong running game. Ouch.
- Minnesota Vikings defensive end Brian Robison, who is expected to be part of the team's pass-rush rotation, might need surgery to repair a varicose vein in his left leg.
- Despite denials from Vikings coach Brad Childress, there was at least one casual conversation last week between the Vikings and Packers to gauge interest in a trade for Favre, the Star Tribune reports.
- Packers right tackle Mark Tauscher is entering the final year of his contract but there have been no negotiations for a new deal, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Tauscher, 31, has made 114 starts, including playoff games.