NFC North: Travis Lewis

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Safeties Louis Delmas (knee) and Glover Quin (ankle) were both limited during the Detroit Lions practice on Tuesday, the team's only real practice of the week.

Both, though, should be fine to play Thursday against Green Bay. Delmas said he wasn't concerned the short week would change his typical plan of rest for his knees and that he wanted to go out and practice Tuesday.

Three Lions missed practice -- wide receiver Calvin Johnson (knee), cornerback Chris Houston (foot) and linebacker Travis Lewis. Lewis missed for a personal reason. Johnson said he wasn't concerned about the short week limiting him at all, either.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- The Detroit Lions signed Austen Lane earlier this week as insurance in case rookie Ziggy Ansah won't be able to play Sunday against Chicago.

From the looks of it, he might not.

Ansah missed his third straight day of practice Sunday with an ankle injury, joining right tackle Corey Hilliard (knee) and cornerback Bill Bentley (knee) as guys who have missed every practice this week.

Linebacker Travis Lewis (ankle) returned to practice, as did safety Louis Delmas (knee). Receiver Nate Burleson was out there for the third straight day catching passes.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson may have returned to practice Wednesday, but he did not participate the entire way.

Johnson
Johnson, safety Glover Quin (ankle) and receiver Nate Burleson (forearm) all were limited in practice.

After practice, Burleson would not say he was ruled out for this weekend's game against Chicago. He continues to say it'll be a decision made among himself, doctors, trainers and coaches as to whether he'll play.

Five Detroit players missed practice Wednesday: Ziggy Ansah (ankle), Travis Lewis (ankle), Bill Bentley (knee), Louis Delmas (knee) and Corey Hilliard (knee).
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Wide receiver Calvin Johnson returned to practice Wednesday for the Detroit Lions, but defensive end Ziggy Ansah missed his second straight day with an ankle injury.

Ansah was one of five Lions to miss practice, joining safety Louis Delmas (knee), tackle Corey Hilliard (knee), nickel back Bill Bentley and a new addition, linebacker Travis Lewis.

First practice/injury report of the week comes out at 4 p.m.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Outside linebacker Ashlee Palmer missed practice with an ankle injury according to the Detroit Lions' official practice report Thursday.

He was one of four Lions to miss practice, joining defensive tackle Nick Fairley (shoulder), right tackle Jason Fox (groin) and safety Don Carey (hamstring).

If Palmer were to miss Sunday's game, he would likely be replaced by veteran Rocky McIntosh, although Tahir Whitehead is listed as his backup on the unofficial depth chart.

McIntosh was the fourth linebacker used in Detroit's 34-24 win over Minnesota on Sunday. It also means the Lions now have five healthy linebackers on the roster: starters Stephen Tulloch and DeAndre Levy, McIntosh, Whitehead and Travis Lewis.

Detroit coach Jim Schwartz declined to discuss the injuries to Fairley and Palmer, although he did not Fairley did finish Sunday's game.

Safeties Louis Delmas (knee) and John Wendling (ankle) were limited Thursday. Running back Reggie Bush and defensive end Jason Jones practiced fully.
In the past two days, the Detroit Lions have signed a 34-year-old defensive tackle and a 30-year-old linebacker. They've also made plans to work out a soon-to-be 33-year-old cornerback while also signing a rookie defensive lineman whose checkered past left him unsigned when training camp began.

What in the name of panic is going on here?

I guess the easy answer is that the Lions are disappointed with their defensive personnel at certain positions and have called in reinforcements. In reality, the Lions have essentially acted on contingency plans they put in place before the start of training camp.

Defensive tackle Justin Bannan visited the team in July, as did linebacker Rocky McIntosh. In the interim, the Lions haven't had someone step up as a backup defensive tackle behind Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley. And the two young challengers to the strongside linebacker job, Tahir Whitehead and Travis Lewis, have both looked overmatched in preseason games.

Bannan is likely to have a backup role along with C.J. Mosley, while McIntosh gives the Lions an option besides Ashlee Palmer at that third linebacker spot. And in veteran cornerback Rashean Mathis, who was scheduled to visit Saturday, the Lions could see an option to incumbent Ron Bartell, who has struggled with injuries and has been pushed for playing time by rookie Darius Slay.

*Update: The Lions announced that Mathis signed a contract after his visit. He was set to participate in Saturday's practice in Allen Park, Mich.

Finally, rookie defensive tackle John Drew agreed to terms about a month after the New England Patriots reportedly pulled their contract offer to him. Drew finished his college career at North Carolina Central University after he was kicked off the team at Duke because of a gun-related arrest. The Lions obviously wanted to evaluate their own depth first before signing him.

Reviewing Friday's action at Ford Field:

Detroit Lions 26, New York Jets 17

Preseason record: 1-0

Of interest: The Lions couldn't have asked for a better start from rookie defensive end Ziggy Ansah, who snagged a Mark Sanchez pass on the second series of the game and returned it 14 yards for a touchdown. (To be fair, defensive linemen Willie Young and C.J. Mosley helped bust up a screen play, and Sanchez should have grounded the ball.) Ansah also had one tackle for loss in playing a total of 20 snaps. … New safety Glover Quin just missed a pick-six himself; Jets tight end Kellen Winslow dislodged the ball as he ran by. … Two of the young players competing for the Lions' third linebacker job appeared to make mistakes in the early going. Tahir Whitehead missed a tackle against Winslow, who went on to a 24-yard gain. And Travis Lewis might have been the player who busted coverage on Jeff Cumberland's 26-yard touchdown reception. … There is no doubt you'll hear plenty about Havard Rugland, aka "Kickalicious," after he converted field goals of 49 and 50 yards in the second half. But it was a strong night of kicking all around for the Lions' new-look special teams. Veteran David Akers also was good on both attempts, from 47 and 35 yards, and rookie punter Sam Martin averaged a net of 43.7 yards on three punts and had touchbacks on all three kickoffs. … It's vital for a rookie to get repetitions, and the Lions made sure to get right guard Larry Warford a game-high 53 snaps. That means he played about three-quarters of the game after replacing starter Dylan Gandy.

Local coverage: Ansah on his touchdown, via Kyle Meinke of Mlive.com: "When I caught it, I was like, 'Oh wait, the ball is in my hands. I've got to go that way. I just did." … Drew Sharp of the Detroit Free Press: "It was a good start for the young man, but let's not stamp his ticket to Canton just yet, shall we? Detroit is an overly reactionary sports town -- to both positive and negative developments." … Rugland was so excited about his first field goal that he forgot he had to kick off afterwards, writes Josh Katzenstein of the Detroit News. … Young had another good preseason game, leaving us all to wonder whether he is ready to translate that production to the regular season. Carlos Monarrez of the Free Press explains.

Up next: Thursday at Cleveland Browns
We're Black and Blue All Over:

Reading Chris Houston's assessment of the 2012 Detroit Lions prompted me to re-publish it as a public service message for the 2013 Chicago Bears.

Last year's Lions group had a high number of veterans in contract years. The same goes for this season's Bears team. In speaking with Bob Wojnowski of the Detroit News, Houston minced few words in describing the impact of that situation on a 4-12 season.

Houston: "It left a bad taste, but you can see the chemistry is so much better now. A lot of guys were working for themselves last year. We got a lot of young guys now and they listen, no big egos or nothing. It's going to be a much better year."

Contract situations don't by rule consume a team. The Bears' policy of holding off negotiating until after the season could serve as a motivator. If Houston is correct, however, the motivation it provided those affected with the Lions was not positive.

Continuing around the NFC North:
We're Black and Blue All Over:

I didn't post anything immediately after Tuesday's annual release of the Green Bay Packers' financial report. I know how much you guys love those accounting/stadium/legal posts. But I do want to point out what I believe was the official release of the new capacity at Lambeau Field.

Vic Ketchman of Packers.com notes that the Packers' most recent renovation project -- adding about 7,000 end zone seats -- brings the official capacity to 80,750. That makes Lambeau the third-largest stadium in the NFL behind FedEx Field (home of the Washington Redskins) and MetLife Stadium (New York Giants/Jets).

For those interested, I have a few thoughts on the Packers' financials that will post later Tuesday. Otherwise, don't forget: Today is the day that ESPN.com is scheduled to flip commenting procedures on posts. You'll need to log in via Facebook to leave a comment. Good luck!

Continuing around the NFC North:
  • Packers president Mark Murphy has learned how to relay the same basic message on the eventual retirement of Brett Favre's jersey in many different ways. He reiterated to reporters Tuesday, via the Associated Press, that Favre's jersey will be retired but not this year and he doesn't know when.
  • The Packers' starting running back, to be named later, is the 10th-most important player on their roster, according to Jason Wilde of ESPNMilwaukee.com.
  • Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler on entering the season in the final year of his contract, via ESPN 1000: "I haven't thought about it in a while, actually. I'll probably address it once in training camp, once before the season and that's kind of it. I'm not going to talk about it. That stuff takes care of itself. As long as we're winning football games and I'm playing well, hopefully they keep me around. If that doesn't happen, we'll see how it plays out. I'm not going to be distracted by it. I can't worry about it. I've been in this league long enough. I've seen guys come and guys go. It will work out the way it's supposed to work out."
  • The Bears are expecting big things from tight end Martellus Bennett, writes Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune.
  • Bears tailback Matt Forte is expecting to be used more in the passing game this season, writes Michael C. Wright of ESPNChicago.com.
  • Justin Rogers of Mlive.com: "The Detroit Lions will have several new starters on defense this season, including the outside linebacker spot previously held by Justin Durant. In what figures to be one of the fiercest training camp competitions, veteran Ashlee Palmer will attempt to fend off the challenge of second-year players Tahir Whitehead and Travis Lewis."
  • The Lions' late draft picks are hoping to stand out in training camp, writes Josh Katzenstein of the Detroit News.
  • Jim Souhan of the Star Tribune talks to former Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle John Randle about his love of golf.
  • Vikings cornerback Chris Cook is entering a pivotal season, according to Ben Goessling of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

BBAO: ESPY nominations are out

June, 28, 2013
6/28/13
9:05
AM ET
We're Black and Blue All Over:

The annual ESPY awards, held July 17 and hosted by Jon Hamm, will have plenty of NFC North connections.

The nominees include Minnesota Vikings tailback Adrian Peterson for Best Male Athlete. Peterson was also nominated for Best NFL Player along with Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and Detroit Lions receiver Calvin Johnson. Finally, Johnson was nominated for Best Record-Breaking Performance after setting a new mark for receiving yards in a season.

The ESPYs are the last moment of the dead sports period of summer, at least for me. When they're over, training camp is just around the corner. And you know what that means….

Continuing around the NFC North on a quiet Friday morning:

NFC North Friday injury report

September, 21, 2012
9/21/12
4:45
PM ET
Getting inside the Friday injury report, which is really a Thursday report for one team because of Monday Night Football:

Chicago Bears: We already noted that running back Matt Forte (ankle) has been ruled out for Sunday's game against the St. Louis Rams. Michael Bush will start in Forte's place, and all other players are expected to be available.

Detroit Lions: Tight end Tony Scheffler didn't practice all week because of a calf injury and isn't expected to play Sunday against the Tennessee Titans. He is officially listed as doubtful, as is safety Louis Delmas (knee) and linebacker Travis Lewis (quad). Meanwhile, cornerback Jacob Lacey (toe) turned up on the injury report and is questionable for the game. He was limited Friday, but starting cornerbacks Chris Houston (ankle) and Bill Bentley (concussion) are listed as probable for the game.

Green Bay Packers: Receiver Greg Jennings participated in a portion of Friday's practice despite a setback with his groin injury this week. He told reporters that he thinks he'll be able to play Monday night against the Seattle Seahawks, but the Packers don't have to reveal their injury designations until Saturday.

Minnesota Vikings: Linebacker Erin Henderson (concussion) won't play Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers. He'll be replaced in the base defense by Marvin Mitchell and in the nickel by Jasper Brinkley. Defensive end D'Aundre Reed (calf) is also out, but all other players should be available.

BBAO: Rookie camps complete

May, 14, 2012
5/14/12
7:30
AM ET
We're Black and Blue All Over:

Good morning. Three rookie minicamps over the weekend leaves us with more local links than a person has the right to expect on the second Monday in May. In this post, I've tried to pick out the highlights. Many of them don't relate to rookies, but be aware I'll have a second post up soon that addresses some of the questions we had Friday about these camps.
  • New Chicago Bears offensive coordinator Mike Tice wants players to "play fast" in his scheme, according to Michael C. Wright of ESPNChicago.com. Tice: "We don’t want to be out on the field and have the kids think[ing] too much. We don't want to make it hard for the kids. We want to make sure the kids know exactly what we’re gonna do, when we're gonna call it and why we’re gonna call it. That's our job as coaches. We have some great athletes on offense. We have to put them in a position to show us and show the fans, and show the people that love the Bears, their athleticism and explosiveness. We want to be explosive."
  • Bears special teams coordinator Dave Toub downplayed any possibility other than Devin Hester being his top punt and kickoff returner in 2012. Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune has more.
  • Sean Jensen of the Chicago Sun-Times checks in with former Bears defensive tackle Tommie Harris, whose wife died unexpectedly three months ago.
  • New Bears quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates will have starter Jay Cutler rolling more often than he did under Mike Martz, according to Dan Pompei of the Tribune.
  • Detroit Lions defensive end/linebacker Ronnell Lewis is "nicknamed the Hammer for a reason," writes Bob Wojnowski of the Detroit News.
  • Receiver Ryan Broyles was an "impatient observer" at the Lions' rookie minicamp, notes Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press.
  • Justin Rogers of Mlive.com offers five observations from the Lions' camp, including: "Linebacker Travis Lewis looked very comfortable in the defensive scheme, playing both outside and middle linebacker."
  • Green Bay Packers tight end Andrew Quarless (knee) isn't expected to be cleared to practice when training camp begins, according to Tyler Dunne of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
  • Pete Dougherty of the Green Bay Press-Gazette takes a look at the Packers' current in-house options as a developmental center. He also notes the Packers have three assistant coaches who played center in the NFL.
  • The Packers might not give much training camp work to defensive linemen Mike Neal and Anthony Hargrove, both of whom are suspended during the early part of the season. Jason Wilde of ESPNMilwaukee.com has more.
  • Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton will formally sign the Minnesota Vikings' stadium bill on Monday, according to the Associated Press via 1500ESPN.com.
  • Richard Meryhew of the Star Tribune looks at the challenges of designing, planning and building the team's new stadium in a four-year timeline.
  • New Vikings receiver Jerome Simpson on his recent 15-day jail sentence, via Bob Sansevere of the St. Paul Pioneer Press: "It was terrible. It sucked. Any kids out there, that's a place you don't want to be. Somebody tells you when to wake up, when to make your bed, when to take a shower, when you can have a snack. That's an obstacle you don't want to face. I want all kids to learn not to go down that path and to learn from me."
We're Black and Blue All Over:

Lost in a busy Wednesday of Minnesota Vikings stadium news and Adrian Peterson's impromptu workout was the first public statement from Green Bay Packers defensive end Anthony Hargrove since a declaration he signed about the New Orleans Saints' bounty program was leaked. Here's the full statement:
"I'm disappointed that 'the Declaration' was leaked. The intent of 'the Declaration' was to let the NFL know exactly what happened in March of 2010. Call me naive, but I did not expect them to publicize the fact that I had sent them 'the Declaration.' But since they did, and because they grossly mischaracterized my words, it obviously became a hot item and subsequently was leaked by someone. I do not know who leaked it, but I would have preferred for it to remain private between the NFL and me."

The key words in the statement, as far as I'm concerned, are "grossly mischaracterized." As we have noted, Hargrove revealed in the original declaration only that he was instructed by Saints assistant coaches to deny the existence of a bounty program. The NFL's announcement on Hargrove claimed the declaration "established not only the existence of the program at the Saints, but also that he knew about and participated in it."

I think that leap -- taking an admission of denying existence to mean a confirmation of participation -- is what Hargrove is referring to by "grossly mischaracterized." Hargrove, along with the three other suspended players, are appealing the discipline.

Continuing around the NFC North:
Cleaning out my notebook after the 2012 NFL draft:

It can be difficult to gauge the value of coaching the annual Senior Bowl, but it's worth noting that two of the Minnesota Vikings' draft choices played under their coaching staff for the North team at this year's affair. That included Notre Dame safety Harrison Smith, whom the Vikings traded up to draft at No. 29 overall, and NC Sate linebacker Audie Cole, a seventh-round pick.

In the case of Smith, the Vikings were so convinced of his value after the Senior Bowl that they didn't speak again through the entire draft process. They didn't interview him at the annual scouting combine and didn't invite him to their facility for a pre-draft visit.

"When we got into our meetings and we put our board together and seeing how it was going to develop and knowing that we do need some help on the back end to improve our secondary," general manager Rick Spielman said, "that was the one huge advantage of being able to coach the Senior Bowl because we got to know those players inside and out and know what they are about. How they are in a meeting room. How they are out on the field. Our coaches know what it’s like to coach that player so that was a huge advantage for us and we know exactly what we are getting in Harrison Smith."

We've noted that the Green Bay Packers drafted six defensive players to open the draft. Another trend we noted: The Vikings drafted three pairs of players from the same school.

But we probably didn't spend enough time in the latter stages of the draft pointing out that the Detroit Lions finished the draft by selecting six consecutive defensive players -- including three cornerbacks -- while also drafting three players from Oklahoma.

We should probably chalk up the Sooner connection -- receiver Ryan Broyles, defensive end Ronnell Lewis and linebacker Travis Lewis -- as coincidence. But I wouldn't say the same thing about the defensive trend, considering how poorly the Lions' defense played over the second half of the 2011 season.

The impact of that decision is "yet to be seen," Lions coach Jim Schwartz said. He added: "Drafting them doesn't do anything other than drafting them. They have to play well in preseason and training camp and they have to prove their draft status. So, yeah, it adds more guys to the roster and creates competition and things like that. ..."

With that said, I would think the Lions' cornerbacks should consider themselves on notice. Third-rounder Dwight Bentley is a smallish but feisty corner who had an excellent Senior Bowl against elevated competition. And fifth-rounder Chris Greenwood might have played at Division III Albion, but he is 6-foot-1 and ran the 40-yard dash in 4.42 seconds. Players with those kind of measurables eventually get their opportunity.

The Chicago Bears' decision not to draft a lineman would appear an endorsement of their returning starters. So it's worth noting that coach Lovie Smith refused to say where offensive lineman Chris Williams will play in 2012, calling into question the short- and long-term future of the Bears' No. 1 draft choice in 2008.

First, here's what Smith said when asked if Williams would resume his role as left guard when training camp begins: "I can't tell you that right now. We have options with him. We'll see how it all shakes out. Chris, of course, can do both [guard and tackle]. Right now, we're two weeks into our offseason program. Let us get into it a little more and we'll be able to define some roles a little better."

That's hardly an endorsement for a player who has started at right tackle, left tackle and left guard in his disappointing career. Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune makes some excellent points in suggesting Williams' most likely 2012 destination is a swing backup.

Williams was drafted as a left tackle, but the Bears chose J'Marcus Webb to play there last season and don't appear interested in looking back. Gabe Carimi, the 2011 first-round pick, figures to return at right tackle, making it easy to move Lance Louis back to one of the other guard spots. Louis, Chris Spencer and newcomer Chilo Rachal would be top candidates to start at the other two guard spots.

Everything is subject to change. But clearly there remain some parts in motion along the Bears' offensive line.

I'm sure the Packers have kicked around the idea of signing a veteran backup quarterback, and it could still happen. But after drafting Tennessee-Chattanooga's B.J. Coleman in the seventh round Saturday, the Packers don't appear eager to add anyone else. In other words, former No. 3 Graham Harrell is going to get every opportunity to win that job.

"I don't think you just say, 'I need a veteran backup,'" Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "We have the MVP in Aaron Rodgers as our No. 1, and now we feel that we have three really good candidates to compete for two spots. ... The roster will shake that out."

Those candidates are Harrell, Coleman and Nick Hill, a former Arena Football League player who signed in January.

Some people cringed when the Coleman spoke reverentially about his pre-draft work with and respect for Brett Favre. Coleman seemed oblivious to the hard feelings surrounding Favre's departure in 2008 and his return with the Vikings in 2009 and 2010.

Maybe Coleman was a bit na´ve, but I thought his giddiness was instructive as much as anything and perhaps illustrative of the big-picture way most of the football world view the relationship between the Packers and Favre.

In the big picture, the Packers-Favre separation was a small portion of a two-decade marriage that is destined to be reconciled. We are hypersensitive to that blip because we lived through it on this blog, but not everyone was as affected. If we aren't already, we'll all be closer to Coleman's perspective than we probably ever thought possible.

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NFC NORTH SCOREBOARD

Sunday, 9/21
Monday, 9/22