NFL Nation: Aveion Cason
Let's run through our nightly catch-up of today's free agency news around the NFC North. Check back for late-breaking updates:
- Detroit re-signed running back/kick returner Aveion Cason and also signed former Tennessee linebacker Cody Spencer. That makes three former Titans who have joined new Lions coach Jim Schwartz: Spencer, cornerback Eric King and offensive lineman Daniel Loper. Spencer is primarily a special teams player who spent the past three seasons with the New York Jets. Cason has been with the Lions off and on since 2001.
- Minnesota re-signed cornerback Benny Sapp, who served as the Vikings' nickel back after Charles Gordon dislocated his ankle midway through last season. Gordon re-signed last month.
- Green Bay fullback John Kuhn, a restricted free agent, was scheduled to visit Cincinnati. The Packers will have the right to match any offer Kuhn receives.
It appears Detroit coach Rod Marinelli is taking the possibility of his team going 0-16 quite seriously.
According to Nicholas J. Cotsonika of the Detroit Free Press, Marinelli displayed a team photo on an overhead screen during a Monday meeting. The message was clear: No one wants the caption to acknowledge the 2008 Lions as the first NFL team to finish 0-16. At least one player, running back Aveion Cason, told the Free Press that Marinelli said: "We're not going 0-16."
Marinelli's first opportunity to make good on that statement is Sunday against Minnesota. Many of you will remember that in 2001, an 0-12 Lions team got its first victory of the season over the Vikings at the Silverdome. Cason said that victory was like "winning the Super Bowl."
There is no textbook for how to handle a team that has played so poorly, but from this vantage point it's nice to see Marinelli confronting reality rather than using more of the coach-speak that has grown increasingly bizarre in recent weeks. If nothing else, Marinelli has given a team with no immediate future a tangible focus for the final month of a lost season.
Continuing around the NFC North on a Tuesday morning:
- Lions receiver Mike Furrey (concussion) told several media outlets he was "disappointed and upset" to be placed on injured reserve this week. Furrey insisted he would be ready to play soon and is the second Lions player, along with quarterback Jon Kitna, to indicate he was shelved for the season with a relatively mild injury.
- Green Bay is giving serious thought to leaving cornerback Charles Woodson at safety because of injuries to safeties Atari Bigby and Aaron Rouse, writes Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. In that scenario, Tramon Williams would replace Woodson at cornerback.
- Packers center Scott Wells might miss Sunday's game against Houston because of a concussion, writes Rob Demovsky of the Green Bay Press-Gazette.
- David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune writes that Bears quarterback Kyle Orton is hampered by a lack of talent at receiver.
- After looking at tiebreaking scenarios, Brad Biggs of the Chicago Sun-Times suggests the Bears will have to win their final four games to ensure a playoff spot.
- Patrick Reusse of the Star Tribune compares Minnesota quarterback Gus Frerotte to retired hockey player Dino Ciccarelli, who was known for exaggerating the impact of his opponents' actions in order to draw a penalty. (It's a good read, but difficult to summarize in one sentence).
- Vikings coach Brad Childress said Artis Hicks will retain his starting job at right tackle when he returns from a right elbow injury, writes Sean Jensen of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
Mike Mulligan of the Chicago Sun-Times has an interesting column Wednesday about the extended recovery time for Bears receiver Brandon Lloyd, who sprained his knee Sept. 28 and has missed five games -- over a course of six weeks -- for what was originally deemed a 2-4 week injury.
When a player misses more time than expected, it's usually because the injury was worse than the team let on. Most players have non-guaranteed contracts and fear job loss if they don't return as quickly as possible.
But Mulligan writes that the Bears essentially punished Lloyd for taking too much time. Lloyd said several weeks ago that he didn't want to return until he was 100 percent healed -- a rarity for an NFL player -- and the implication is that the Bears lost faith in him.
Here's how Lloyd, who hopes to play Sunday at Green Bay, explained his mindset:
"What I meant is that I want to be able to make the kind of moves I always make -- run the kind of routes and make the kind of cuts. If I don't have that confidence, I'm worthless. If I'm not out here playing how I normally play, what good am I?"
Lloyd was the Bears' leading receiver in terms of yardage when he was injured, and the reality is the Bears still need his playmaking ability. At the same time, Lloyd needs to get back on the field. The Bears took him off the scrap heap, and a sour end to this season could scuttle his final chance in the league.
Elsewhere around the NFC North:
- The Chicago Tribune's Rick Morrissey on Bears coach Lovie Smith: "Smith's everything-is-OK act is so old it orders the early-bird dinner special and is in bed by 9 p.m.
- Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy told Fox Sports Radio that he thinks Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has struggled in part due to a lack of practice time caused by his sprained right shoulder. Bob Wolfley of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has details.
- Rob Demovsky of the Green Bay Press-Gazette traces the struggles of both Packers lines.
- Patrick Reusse of the Star Tribune tells the story of James Wade, the 33-year-old brother of Vikings receiver Bobby Wade, who was shot and paralyzed 17 years ago.
- Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway, a first-round pick in 2006, has emerged as the team's leading tackler in the absence of E.J. Henderson. Sean Jensen of the St. Paul Pioneer Press profiles Greenway.
- Detroit quarterback Dan Orlovsky visited another hand specialist Monday and is leaning against having surgery to repair two fractures and a torn ligament in his right hand. Carlos Monarrez of the Detroit Free Press has the story.
- The Lions re-signed running back Aveion Cason in hopes of boosting their return game, writes John Niyo of the Detroit News.
You can view the Lions' full list of roster moves here.
Biggest surprise: There were no stunners, although the list of departures did include veteran cornerback Kiwaukee Thomas and running back Artose Pinner. In fact, the Lions kept only two tailbacks -- Kevin Smith and Tatum Bell -- after cutting Pinner and placing Brian Calhoun and Aveion Cason on injured reserve. Rookie fullback Jerome Felton could work at tailback, if needed. How committed are the Lions to the run? For now, they are keeping only four receivers.
No-brainers: Linebacker Buster Davis might have tried a little too hard to make the team, hitting harder then necessary during practice and upsetting several teammates and coaches. Quarterback Drew Henson's stay was destined to be short-lived -- the Lions will keep a roster spot for injured quarterback Drew Stanton instead.
What's next: Henson could conceivably end up on the practice squad if the Lions want a scout team quarterback for practice in Stanton's absence. And you have to wonder whether coach Rod Marinelli really will feel comfortable with two true tailbacks and four receivers heading into the regular season. Is he simply waiting to see if anything better is out there?
Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley
Just in from our Stories We Never Imagined In A Million Years department, former Cowboys and Jets quarterback Quincy Carter worked out for the Miami Dolphins on Thursday. The story was broken by Michael Irvin on the ESPN Radio affiliate in Dallas and it was confirmed by Dolphins head coach Tony Sparano on Thursday.
"This isn't going to change," Sparano said. "We're just going to keep flipping over stones and bringing in a lot of people. It's probably not going to change for two or three years."
So are we to believe that Carter was brought in for a ceremonial workout? Sort of a slap on the butt for conquering (at least for the time being) the demons that sent his career spiraling into oblivion. Honestly, I've never met this Bill the Redeemer character. He's definitely sentimental at times, but once you let him down -- especially in such spectacular fashion -- he's done with you.
I would bet all the money left in my Bank of America savings account ($27) that the Dolphins aren't going to sign Carter. Offensive coordinator Dan Henning and quarterbacks coach David Lee are desperately trying to figure out what they have in second-year quarterback John Beck and rookie Chad Henne. To bring in a man whose only recent experience was with the Kansas City Brigade is a reach. And if they are considering signing him, it speaks volumes about their current quarterbacks.
I was sitting in the front row of Bill Parcells' news conference four years ago when he and owner Jerry Jones announced that Carter had been released. It was a stunning turn of events after Carter had helped lead the team to a playoff appearance following three consecutive 5-11 seasons. When a reporter asked whether Parcells would consider bringing Carter back someday, he said yes. I just thought he was being gracious at the time.
Earlier Thursday, a high-ranking member of the organization told me the Cowboys actually considered bringing Carter back a few weeks after he'd been cut in 2004. Vinny Testaverde became the starter that season and was backed up by Drew Henson and a kid named Tony Romo -- in that exact order.
If Carter had remained with the team, the legend of Romo may have never been born. My South Florida crew has gone underground on this topic, but I'll gather a few more details while I'm driving to Los Angeles tonight.
General manager Jeff Ireland, Sparano, Lee and of course Parcells were all around on Aug. 6, 2004, the day Carter answered his hotel-room door at 6:30 a.m. and was summoned to meet with Parcells and Jones.
He woke up reserve running back Aveion Cason to say goodbye and then he left training camp for good. I recall the Dallas Morning News' Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Irwin Thompson driving 80 miles to track down a photograph that a random fan took of Carter as he left the Oxnard campus.
The last I heard from Carter, he was being bailed out of jail by an afternoon radio show in Dallas following another marijuana arrest. In the past year, he spent time in a drug rehab program run by former Cowboys linebacker Hollywood Henderson.
I was pretty surprised -- and pleased -- to hear about Carter signing with an Arena League team, but I was absolutely stunned to hear about his workout Thursday.
I just spent a few minutes talking to Tony Romo about the topic and he was genuinely happy to hear that Carter had the opportunity. He also said it didn't surprise him that much that Parcells would take a look at Carter.
As they transition to a more balanced offense, it's clear the Detroit Lions aren't totally satisfied with their backfield depth.
ESPN.com's Bill Williamson reports the Lions hosted Oakland running back LaMont Jordan on a visit last week, making at least two veteran runners the Lions have looked at this summer. The other was their former tailback, Kevin Jones, who held a workout June 28 near Detroit.
As of today, veteran Tatum Bell is the Lions' most likely starter. Rookie Kevin Smith will get plenty of repetitions in training camp. Other running backs on the roster include Aveion Cason, Brian Calhoun and Artose Pinner.
But after releasing Jones and bidding farewell to T.J. Duckett, the Lions certainly have some questions at the position. It's not clear how much interest the Detroit has in Jordan, who remains under contract with the Raiders. At the very least, however, the Lions are gathering information on their options should their current group prove underwhelming during training camp.
It's an especially critical position for the Lions, who are re-emphasizing their running game under new coordinator Jim Colletto. Bell has experience in Colletto's zone running scheme, having played in a similar system in Denver from 2004-06. Otherwise, the Lions don't have a lot of past production on the roster.