NFC North: Terry Bradshaw
The National Football Post's Greg Gabriel wonders if supplemental draftee Harvey Unga will make the Bears roster.
Breaking down the Bears tight ends.
The Chicago Tribune's Sean Jensen asks the question: Is left tackle Chris Williams ready to make the Pro Bowl?
Cook County Associate Judge Joseph M. Claps called former Bears lineman Tank Johnson a coward while handing down a sentence against a man accused of the 2006 shooting death of Johnson's friend. Claps said Johnson showed "cowardice" for how he acted during the investigation.
Winners have been chosen in an essay contest run by Chicago Bears offensive guard Roberto Garza.
Will 2010 No. 2 draft pick Ndamukong Suh command a bigger deal than 2009 No. 1 pick and teammate Matthew Stafford?
Veteran Dennis Northcutt has to fight off several younger players for the final two receiver spots on Detroit's roster. While Nate Burleson is almost guaranteed a starting job, he has to Lions fourth-round pick Jason Fox is ready to do ... whatever. "They've told me that throughout training camp I'll get reps at both sides," Fox told the Detroit News. "I'm just trying to do whatever I can to help this team. If they want me to play special teams, if they want me to play on the right side, if they want me to play left tackle, I'm going to do whatever it takes to help contribute."
Former NFL quarterbacking great Terry Bradshaw is impressed with Lions quarterback Matt Stafford and thinks the team is "on the right track."
Green Bay Packers
Green Bay was prepared to lose Johnny Jolly. The defensive end was suspended for all of 2010 on Friday.
The Packers have have agreed to a four-year contract with third-round draft pick, safety Morgan Burnett.
Could the Big Ten Football Championship be headed to Lambeau Field?
Four Vikings fans drove 1,100 miles from Minneapolis to Hattiesburg to thank Brett Favre for 2009.
As part of his 20 burning offseason questions, Sports Illustrated's Don Banks has a query about Favre.
Rodgers has thrown for 4,000 yards in a season. He’s been named to a Pro Bowl. He’s led a dramatic fourth-quarter comeback and elevated his career record as a starter above .500. Ultimately, however, the best quarterbacks in NFL history have been judged by their playoff performance.
Sunday’s wild-card game at Arizona will be Rodgers’ first playoff start.
Rodgers acknowledged “you remember the quarterbacks -- Terry Bradshaw, Joe Montana, Tom Brady -- who have won three or four Super Bowls.” He told Wisconsin reporters that achieving such individual status is “not my main focus” but that he would “love to be mentioned in the same breath as guys like that that have won multiple Super Bowls.”
We’ve noted Rodgers’ exemplary season many times on this blog. The book on that body of work has closed, and we’ve now opened a new one. Like many other Packers players, the first page is blank. We’ll start filling it in Sunday.
Continuing around the NFC North:
- Arizona quarterback Kurt Warner has been exceptional against the blitz this season and thus provides a game-planning challenge for the Packers, writes Pete Dougherty of the Green Bay Press-Gazette.
- Many Packers players prefer a warmer setting than the cold January elements at Lambeau Field, writes Lori Nickel of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
- Minnesota receiver Percy Harvin said he wasn’t motivated to prove anyone wrong this season after a positive drug test led 21 teams to pass on him in the draft. Judd Zulgad of the Star Tribune has more from the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year.
- Harvin used Vikings cornerback Antoine Winfield as a schematic sounding board for much of the season, according to Rick Alonzo of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
- It isn’t a lock that Perry Fewell will become Chicago’s defensive coordinator, but he is the top candidate for the job, writes Dan Pompei of the Chicago Tribune.
- Expectations for quarterback Jay Cutler were too high this season, former Bears offensive coordinator Ron Turner said Wednesday on ESPN 1000 in Chicago.
- Detroit coach Jim Schwartz is a big fan of left tackle Jeff Backus, writes Nicholas J. Cotsonika of the Detroit Free Press.
- The Lions are also counting on center Dominic Raiola in the long term, Cotsonika writes.
Let's wrap up the news cycle with some weekend mail. We'll continue our new approach: Less questions = Better (or at least more long-winded) answers.
Joe of Chicago writes: This whole argument about Cutler's record is ridiculous. What was Manning's record after 37 games? (Either one.) Aikman, Bradshaw, Montana?
Kevin Seifert: Cutler's 17-20 record during his first three seasons in Denver has definitely drawn some scrutiny. I haven't put a ton of emphasis on it, most because of Denver's historically bad defense last year. But it turns out that all but one of the quarterbacks you mentioned had better 37-game records than Cutler.
Here's how it broke down: (Feel free to check my work using pro-football-reference.com.)
Although the quarterback is the most important player on the field, ultimately his record is impacted heavily by the team around him. Aikman lost 18 of his first 21 starts on a rebuilding Cowboys team. In 2008, Cutler played with one of the worst defenses in the past decade, as determined by Football Outsiders.
But facts are facts. Cutler's first 37 games haven't gone quite as well as some of the Hall of Famers you named.
Renzo of Dinkytown writes: I've been wondering about this for a while. Does it seem like there is a substantial communication problem between Brad Childress and his players? Adrian Peterson says he wants to go to 230 pounds. Childress responds, Did he say that? I don't think he said that. But he shouldn't do it, and I don't have a problem telling him that. Meanwhile Rick Spielman OKs the weight gain, and Peterson I'm sure is left shrugging his shoulders. Similarly, there were reports that the Vikings plan to work out Ryan Cook at center, but Cook says he has heard nothing of the sort. There seemed to be some kind of similar situation with Matt Birk, where the coaches were never quite clear whether or not they wanted to keep him. Is this normal for a head coach/ franchise?
Kevin Seifert: At the top, I can tell you I was there when Spielman commented on the situation. He definitely chose his words carefully and ultimately deferred to Childress. But I never heard him say it was OK. From body language, at least, I got the impression Spielman was pretty dubious about it but didn't want to speak out of turn.
Many coaches play mind games and/or communicate to their players through the media, but I don't think Childress is one of them. I know he reads everything written about the Vikings, so I'm sure he knew Peterson had been quoted saying he wanted to gain 12 pounds this offseason. My educated guess is that Peterson never spoke to Childress or the Vikings' strength staff about it. If anything, this sounds like a player thinking out loud.
NFL teams give each player a weight guideline, so it's pretty likely that there would be a conversation about such a significant weight gain. Is the onus on Peterson to talk to Childress about it? Or should Childress have sought out Peterson as soon as he read the quotes? Probably the former more than the latter, but either side could have avoided this communications lapse.
In general, I can't tell you how many NFL players have complained about being in a communications blackout. Many players feel in the dark. They don't want to ask how they're doing and coaches don't always confront them. That's probably no different from many workplaces. As for Childress specifically, some situations during his career could have been avoided with better communication. Most of them occurred during his first season. But I wouldn't say his communication with players is substantially worse than other coaches I've covered.
Matt of Frederick, Md., writes: You mentioned in your previous article about passing in the draft that you feel rookie salaries are out of control and probably bad for the league. I wholeheartedly agree, and wonder how you see the possibility of an uncapped year playing into rookie contracts this year. I don't know if I fully understand the ramifications of it. Would players/agents want longer contracts or possibly shorter ones so they might be able to go find one more lucrative in the uncapped year? I only ask because I would expect it to play into contract negotiations, not because I actually foresee an uncapped year
Kevin Seifert writes: Really good question, Matt. There is definitely a general feeling among NFL people that the potential for an uncapped year is going to cause some complications in negotiating rookie contracts. Some teams already were forced to address the issues this offseason when they signed big-money free agents.
Agents always like shorter contracts, even if there is no threat of an uncapped year. The closer a player is to expiration of his deal, the more leverage he has. But keep in mind one change if the uncapped year occurs: Players will need six years of experience, instead of four, to qualify for unrestricted free agency. So there is no new incentive that I can think of for the 2009 rookie class to seek contracts shorter than normal.
As for the impact an uncapped year might have, I refer you to the blog of an anonymous but very astute NFL observer who refers to himself as AdamJT13. (I've linked previously to his analysis of compensatory draft picks.) The main point is that it will be harder for teams to achieve the typical goal of lowering a salary cap figure in the first year of a contract. I won't attempt to explain the minute details, but if you're curious, be sure to check the blog entry.
Brian from East Lansing, Mich., writes: I am a very passionate Lions fan and I thoroughly understand the need for a franchise quarterback. Maybe Matthew Stafford will be great. Maybe he will be a bust but don't we have more pressing issues? I mean Daunte Culpepper will probably do an okay job for us and Stafford won't start right away anyway. So why don't they try and coach Drew Stanton and develop him and see if he is capable? I am sure they haven't given him as good a look as they should. I might be a little biased as I am graduating from State this spring, but I think they should at least see what he can do?
Kevin Seifert: I edited down Brian's question a bit, but I'm especially interested in the Stanton angle. I chided some readers who pushed for the Lions to make Stanton their starter last season. After all, he missed most of training camp because of a thumb
injury and didn't practice at all as a rookie in 2007. On paper, he was woefully unprepared to start last season.
At the same time, I'm a little surprised at how quickly the Lions' (semi-)new regime seems to be writing him off. You figure Daunte Culpepper is going to be on the roster in some capacity, most likely as the starter, and the Lions have said they want to sign another veteran. If they draft a quarterback as well, you wonder if Stanton will even make the roster.
I don't think he should be in the mix to start, but it's a little early to cut ties entirely. After all, Stanton still hasn't gone through a full training camp in the NFL. Scott Linehan will be his third offensive coordinator in three years. And, the Lions made him a high second-round pick and guaranteed him $2.85 million in 2006. How could they already have made up their mind on him?