NFL Nation: Mike Montgomery

The Green Bay Packers will have one of their two starting defensive ends for Sunday’s game against the New York Jets.

Cullen Jenkins (calf) is active and expected to play. But Ryan Pickett (ankle) is inactive, meaning C.J. Wilson will start in his place. New defensive linemen Mike Mongtomery and Howard Green are both active.

Meanwhile, the Detroit Lions will have middle linebacker DeAndre Levy in the starting lineup for only the second time this season. Ashlee Palmer will start at outside linebacker for the injured Zack Follett.
The Green Bay Packers made it official Friday, placing linebacker Nick Barnett on injured reserve because of a wrist injury suffered Oct. 3. ESPN's Adam Schefter reported Barnett's season was over a few days later, but Barnett spent some time investigating all of his options before finally deciding on major surgery Wednesday.

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Barnett
There is every reason to believe Barnett will seamlessly pick up his career next season, much like Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher did after suffering a similar injury in 2009. But for the rest of this season, the Packers are looking at the likelihood of Desmond Bishop serving as one of their two inside linebackers when they run their base 3-4 scheme.

The Packers used Barnett's roster spot to re-sign veteran defensive end Mike Montgomery, who spent five seasons with them before signing with the Minnesota Vikings as a free agent this spring. The Vikings released him last month, but with the Packers he'll provide depth behind injured defensive ends Ryan Pickett (ankle) and Mike Neal (shoulder).
Perhaps you've seen this report from ESPN's Adam Schefter: Green Bay has re-signed left tackle Chad Clifton to a three-year contract that includes $7.5 million guaranteed.

Clifton
Clifton
The deal came amid reports that Clifton was visiting Washington, which is looking for a new left tackle following the retirement of veteran Chris Samuels. Did the visit loosen the Packers' purse strings? Or did Clifton merely realize he didn't want to leave Green Bay? Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel suggested the latter rationale earlier Friday. We might never know the truthful answer to that question, but in the short term it means the Packers won't be transitioning their left tackle position in 2010.

As we've discussed recently, the Packers are in a difficult situation. Clifton has struggled at times during the past two years and is nearing the end of his career, but the Packers have no obvious replacement on their roster. I don't think anyone considers T.J. Lang a short- or long-term answer at the position. It's possible the Packers will draft a starting-caliber left tackle next month, but obviously there are no guarantees.

Now the question is whether the Packers will re-sign right tackle Mark Tauscher or whether they will turn the position over to Lang. Part of the difficult situation is that Tauscher might have more career longevity than Clifton -- but the need to retain the incumbent was more acute at Clifton's position.

I have a feeling that this post wouldn't be complete without the near-obligatory "stay tuned."

Two other quick Packers notes from Friday: The team released defensive end Mike Montgomery and safety Matt Giordano.

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

Houston Texans

Charles Robinson ranks Houston at the top of his list of teams that could be next year's Arizona Cardinals.

The Texans looked at Green Bay defensive end Mike Montgomery, but aren't expected to make an offer, writes John McClain.

Alan Burge contemplates a healthy Chris Brown.

Indianapolis Colts

Jeff Saturday ranks as the top signing of a player over 30, according to Matt Sohn. John Oehser found the story.

Mike Chappell takes questions, like why didn't the Colts tender Freddy Keiaho?

Jacksonville Jaguars

Gene Frenette asks if Matt Jones is worth the trouble?

Tennessee Titans

Is this audio unearthed by Jim Wyatt going to help the Titans in their pursuit of tampering charges against Washington?

Terry McCormick ponders what areas the Titans need to work on most.

Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

Let's change things up a bit Thursday morning and lead off our coverage with some multimedia. In the video below, you'll see Jim Rome's eight-minute interview Wednesday with Detroit coach Jim Schwartz on ESPN.

A couple of highlights:

  1. Schwartz said the Lions have refurbished their weight room and "changed up" the locker room at their practice facility. "Basically," he said, "[players] can step in the first day and say, 'Wow, things are different around here'"
  2. On Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford: "He still has some hoops to jump through for us." Asked to be more specific, Schwartz said: "We need to spend some time with him on the board, talking football, on a little more in-depth basis."

Here's the full video:

And now, let's march around the NFC North:

  • New Bears safety Josh Bullocks is the twin brother of Detroit safety Daniel Bullocks, notes Brad Biggs of the Chicago Sun-Times. The total value of the one-year deal Bullocks signed Wednesday is $1.2 million, with $525,000 guaranteed.
  • Bob LeGere of the Daily Herald: "At the end of the 2008 regular season, [Bears coach] Lovie Smith said his team was close. Whatever it was Smith thought his team was close to, they're farther away from it now than when they started."
  • Alabama left tackle Andre Smith might have fallen past Green Bay's No. 9 overall pick after struggling during his Pro Day on Wednesday. Pete Dougherty of the Green Bay Press-Gazette delves into the situation.
  • Here's one story we missed Wednesday: Packers defensive end Mike Montgomery is mulling the team's offer to return to Green Bay. Bob McGinn and Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel have the story.
  • John Sullivan, Minnesota's heir apparent at center, has been in regular touch with predecessor Matt Birk since Birk signed last week with Baltimore. Here are stories in the Star Tribune and St. Paul Pioneer Press after a series of interviews Sullivan gave Wednesday.
Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

One of the more interesting questions entering free agency was whether Green Bay general manager Ted Thompson would accelerate his usual plodding approach in order to re-stock the Packers' roster for its transition to a 3-4 defense. The answer has been a resounding no.

Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel offers a good overview of what the Packers have -- and haven't done -- in the first four days of the market. Here it is in a nutshell: "Their strategy appears to be to take their time and make sure they don't overbid for players who would have to compete to become starters."

This has led the Packers to have casual conversations with the agents for defensive ends Igor Olshansky (San Diego), Marques Douglas (Baltimore) and Mike Wright (New England). But no visits are scheduled. It's possible the Packers will schedule a visit soon with free agent safety Michael Adams (Cleveland). None of these players are game-changers but could contribute to a winning team.

Like it or not, that's the approach Thompson has taken once again in 2009.

Continuing around the NFC North on a Tuesday morning:

  • Two Packers free agents, defensive end Mike Montgomery and fullback John Kuhn, are beginning to take visits, according to Pete Dougherty of the Green Bay Press-Gazette. Montgomery is in Atlanta and Kuhn was in Arizona.
  • Judd Zulgad and Chip Scoggins of the Star Tribune examine the situation around Denver quarterback Jay Cutler, who would like to be traded.
  • Minnesota special teams ace Heath Farwell has scheduled a visit with New England, according to Zulgad.
  • Vikings defensive end Jared Allen will participate in a USO trip to U.S. bases in the Persian Gulf this week. Allen's younger brother recently joined the Marines, according to Sean Jensen of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
  • Detroit has scheduled a visit with free agent offensive lineman Daniel Loper, according to Nicholas J. Cotsonika of the Detroit Free Press. Meanwhile, the Lions lost fullback Moran Norris to San Francisco.
  • Bob Wojnowksi of the Detroit News would like to see the Lions pursue Cutler: "It's such a no-brainer, I shouldn't even waste your time on it. It's also probably a complete pipe dream, a nasty little tease, an unrealistic notion."

  • David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune offers a similar sentiment for the Bears: "At some point [returning to the Super Bowl] will require bigger and bolder moves, and prying Cutler away from Denver would be one that could cement [Jerry] Angelo's legacy in Chicago."
Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

A subtle but interesting dynamic has evolved this week in Green Bay, where the Packers' coaching staff has made a big push to involve everyone in practice -- even those who traditionally get a pass because of chronic injuries.

The latest is left tackle Chad Clifton, who as Jason Wilde of the Wisconsin State Journal points out, fully participated in Wednesday and Thursday practices this week for the first time all season. Clifton has sore knees that generally benefit from rest during the week, but his uneven play this year has left him in need of more practice time.

Here's how offensive coordinator Joe Philbin described Clifton's situation:

"We need a little more continuity. That's one of the things we feel like has maybe slowed us down a little bit. We want to be smart, obviously. We're not going to grind the guy so he's taken out in an ambulance out to the field on Sunday so he can play. But continuity is important, and we believe in practice."

Indeed, when Clifton sits out a drill, the Packers have to shuffle several other positions to replace him. It's something the team has lived with for a while -- Clifton's nickname at times has been "The Big Lamborghini," because he was too valuable to use except on weekends -- but the Packers' 4-5 record and their critical matchup against Chicago dictated otherwise this week.

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers (shoulder) has stepped up his practice repetitions this week as well.

Elsewhere around the NFC North:

  • The Packers aren't sure who will start at right end against the Bears. Rookie Jeremy Thompson will start if he is healthy, reports Tom Pelissero of the Green Bay Press-Gazette. Otherwise, Mike Montgomery likely will get the nod.
  • Chicago coach Lovie Smith seemed to hint that quarterback Kyle Orton (ankle) will be ready for Sunday's game, according to Nick Hut of the Northwest Herald.
  • Bob LeGere of the Daily Herald has the lowdown on Tommie Harris' locker room rant. "I think a lot of people don't know what they're talking about," the Bears' defensive tackle said.
  • There are no indications of movement on the appeal for defensive tackles Kevin Williams and Pat Williams, who reportedly are fighting a suspension for taking a diuretic banned by the NFL. Judd Zulgad of the Star Tribune lays out the situation.
  • Vikings receiver Sidney Rice has three touchdowns among his five receptions this season, but Sean Jensen of the St. Paul Pioneer Press writes the team would like to involve him in more non-red-zone plays.
  • Terry Foster of the Detroit News takes a look at the Lions' remaining schedule and concludes: "The Lions already are on the path to 0-16."
  • Quarterback Drew Henson cleared waivers and re-signed with the Lions practice squad, reports the Detroit News' John Niyo.
Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Justice has more important priorities than the NFC North. And so there was no recourse Sunday for the Green Bay Packers, who lost their hold on the division lead even while taking the league's top team to overtime.

 
 Doug Benc/Getty Images
 Aaron Rodgers' two turnovers cost the Packers.

The Packers gave the Titans (8-0) arguably their toughest game of the season, amassing nearly 400 offensive yards and coming within 10 yards of position for a potential game-winning field goal. But when Rod Bironas' 41-yard field goal split the uprights with 9:36 left in overtime -- lifting the Titans to a 19-16 victory -- the Packers had no choice but to accept their 4-4 record and a one-game deficit in the NFC North.

(We'll save the Chicago Bears first-place status story for another day, upon further inspection of their comeback victory against Detroit.)

"We're a good team," Packers cornerback Charles Woodson said. "But the reality is we're 4-4. What you take from this game is that close ain't good enough. ... These are the type of games that test teams and let you know exactly where you are and where you aren't. We're a good team but not good enough to get over that hump right now."

Two Packers mistakes and a late spurt from Titans rookie runner Chris Johnson were the only differences between the teams Sunday. Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers committed two turnovers, one an interception in the end zone and another a fumble that Tennessee recovered on the Packers' 17-yard line. The Titans converted the latter mistake into a 22-yard field goal midway through the third quarter.

"That gave them three points," Rodgers said. "And that's the margin of victory. You can't do that. That makes me very disappointed in the way I played."

The Titans didn't commit a turnover, but they also didn't take control of the game until overtime. Green Bay limited them to 57 offensive yards on their first six possessions of the second half, and it wasn't until late in the fourth quarter that Johnson found his footing.

Johnson gained 50 of his 89 rushing yards on the Titans' final two drives, putting Bironas in position for a pair of attempts. (His 47-yarder at the end of regulation hit the right upright.)

The Packers had twice battled back from six-point deficits, and more than a few Packers players were convinced the overtime coin toss decided the game.

"It might have been different if we had won the coin toss," linebacker Brandon Chillar said. "Not to make excuses, but that's how it is. ... I'd like to play them again and see what happens."

(Read full post)

Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

If you believe in curses, this week is big for you. Because one of the all-time hexes in sports is about to expire.

As the Detroit News' Bob Wojnowski details in this entertaining column, the Lions are poised to emerge from a 50-year hex allegedly dispensed by quarterback Bobby Layne on the day he was traded to Pittsburgh. On Oct. 6, 1958, Layne supposedly said the Lions "would not win for 50 years."

The Lions had won the 1957 NFL championship. But since trading Layne, the franchise has made only nine playoff appearances and won only one postseason game. Wojnowski brings readers up to date on the failures, tragedies and other "unfathomable" events over that span.

The Lions will be burdened for one more game, Sunday's matchup against Chicago, before the curse is lifted. In a twist of hope available only in Detroit, Wojnowski writes:

In a few days, the Curse of Bobby Layne will be gone, too, which supposedly will lift the shroud and allow the once-proud Lions to frolic again with football's best. Laugh if you must. But if you've never believed in curses, it wouldn't hurt to start now.

Jaunting around the NFC North on a Thursday morning:

  • Lions receiver Roy Williams is hoping to "exploit" the Bears' injury-depleted secondary on Sunday, Davis Haugh of the Chicago Tribune writes.
  • Cornerback Nate Vasher is not expected to play Sunday after having a surgical procedure on his right hand, writes Brad Biggs of the Chicago Sun-Times. Fellow cornerback Charles Tillman missed practice Wednesday because of an injured shoulder.
  • Minnesota quarterbacks Gus Frerotte and Tarvaris Jackson combined for 274 gross passing yards Sunday at Tennessee. Amazingly, that was the Vikings' highest total since coach Brad Childress took over in 2006. Judd Zulgad of the Star Tribune did the research.
  • Sean Jensen of the St. Paul Pioneer Press writes the Vikings are typically successful when they have at least 30 carries in a game. They are 8-1 in those games over the past two seasons.
  • Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers (sprained shoulder) alluded to the possibility of taking pain-killing medication in order to play Sunday against Atlanta. Pete Dougherty of the Green Bay Press-Gazette has details.
  • Mike Montgomery will get the first opportunity to start at right defensive end for the Packers after the season-ending injury to Cullen Jenkins, writes Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

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