Vikings Camp Report: Day 4

July, 28, 2014
Jul 28
11:58
PM ET
MANKATO, Minn. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Minnesota Vikings training camp:
  • The Vikings have a day off on Tuesday, and coach Mike Zimmer will use it to meet with his staff and decide which players need more practice snaps and which ones might get less work. It's getting harder and harder to see the team's quarterback competition as anything other than a race between Matt Cassel and Teddy Bridgewater. Cassel and Bridgewater got most of the work in the Vikings' night practice, which was heavy on playbook installation; Cassel again took the first-team snaps, while Bridgewater worked with the second team and Ponder with the third. Cassel hit 5 of his 9 passes and found a wide open Greg Jennings on a nice throw down the right sideline. Bridgewater went 12-for-13, and Ponder went 1-for-2. All three quarterbacks had a dropped pass, which means Bridgewater and Ponder technically didn't miss a receiver all night. But when the Vikings are giving Cassel the work with the starters -- and using much of their remaining time on Bridgewater -- it doesn't say much for Ponder's chances. Bridgewater hit 4 of his 12 completions to running backs, and had to be bailed out by his receivers on a couple throws, but he did a nice job stepping up in the pocket, made a solid throw to Rodney Smith on the run and again connected with Adam Thielen. He's continued to impress.
  • Blair Walsh got his first chance to kick during training camp, and made seven of his eight field goal attempts. His lone miss was from 44 yards out, and Walsh finished the session by drilling a 52-yarder.
  • First-round pick Anthony Barr showed his speed as a pass-rusher in a sack, so to speak, of Cassel during 11-on-11 work. Barr surged through the middle of the Vikings' line on a blitz, getting to Cassel as the play was blown dead (quarterbacks, of course, aren't allowed to get hit during training camp). He's mostly worked with the second team, but has had a handful of first-team snaps. He might have to get past Audie Cole for the starting strong-side linebacker job early in the season, but Barr's size and speed has the Vikings excited about what they're seeing.
  • The Vikings did their first goal-line work on Monday night, and it was easy to see why Zimmer wanted to keep Adrian Peterson out of the session. The Vikings were practicing at "thud" tempo, where defenders initiate contact without taking ballcarriers to the ground, but the drill featured some live hitting, like when Jasper Brinkley drilled Matt Asiata for a loss on the first snap of the drill and the third-string defense hammered undrafted free agent Dominique Williams.
  • The evening practice had a special guest: Vikings owner Zygi Wilf, who is in Mankato for a summit with the team's ownership group, watched the session from the top row of Blakeslee Stadium, sitting with general manager Rick Spielman.

Lions Camp Report: Day 1

July, 28, 2014
Jul 28
8:30
PM ET
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Detroit Lions training camp:
  • The most important and interesting item to come out of the first day of Lions training camp had nothing to do with anything the team did on the field. Instead, it had everything to do with Detroit's decision to table contract talks with Ndamukong Suh until after the season. The Lions said they decided to do this to make sure the focus remained solely on the season ahead, but they also took attention away from the first day of training camp with an off-the-field issue. At least for Detroit, it can avoid daily questions about it from now on.
  • Rookie linebacker Kyle Van Noy had a bit of a rough day. He injured his thumb during the first half of practice, ending the second round pick's participation in the first training camp practice of his career. He didn't seem too bothered by it, though. “I should be out there (Tuesday),” Van Noy said. Lions coach Jim Caldwell seemed a bit less optimistic, saying “we'll see how he goes the rest of the week.” Caldwell said the team wouldn't be able to determine the extent of the injury until Tuesday.
  • The Lions' secondary had a pretty decent first day in 11-on-11 work. Both Darius Slay and Rashean Mathis broke up passes intended for receiver Golden Tate, and the secondary covered well enough on other plays in the full-team periods to force Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford to have to throw dump-off passes to running backs Joique Bell and Reggie Bush instead. It's only one day and they are not in pads yet, but a decent sign for a Lions secondary that needs to put together a few good days early.
  • One of two Lions players who did not practice -- as expected -- was defensive end Ezekiel Ansah. Caldwell said Sunday he did not have a timetable for his return. Ansah spent most of Monday's practice off on the side chatting with folks. When asked about his return, he said he had no idea when he would come back. Another defensive end, Kalonji Kashama, was released by the team Monday.
  • In the battle for receivers not named Tate or Calvin Johnson, both Kris Durham and Kevin Ogletree had nice catches Monday. Ogletree had an impressive catch over the middle -- although he probably would have been drilled by a defensive back had it been a real game. Durham made a nice catch running an out on the sideline as well. In what is expected to be an extremely tight battle, plays like that are going to be noticed every practice.
  • This will be worth paying attention to throughout the first week: Corey Hilliard took snaps at right tackle ahead of LaAdrian Waddle during 11-on-11 periods Monday. Hilliard is more of a veteran than Waddle and Waddle is still expected to win the job, but an interesting small side note on the first day.
BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- In order to win the job and establish himself as the No. 3 receiver behind one of the best duos in the league, all Marquess Wilson has to do is establish the trust of a quarterback who does not exactly hand it out like Halloween candy.

No big deal.

But Wilson put it in simple terms Monday.

[+] EnlargeMarquess Wilson
Jerry Lai/USA TODAY SportsMarquess Wilson believes his offseason training allowed him to become a "a little faster and a little stronger."
“Shoot, every time he throws it to you, you better catch it,” Wilson said of his quarterback, Jay Cutler. “That’s how you’re going to gain his trust, or just get open and pray he’ll throw it to you. But if you show him you can get open, he’ll throw it to you.”

Just get open.

Wilson, who caught two passes for 13 yards in last year’s rookie season, admitted just learning the verbiage of the new offense was easier said than done.

“To be honest, with four games left in the season,” Wilson said when asked how long it took. “[That’s when] it felt like it clicked and I got it more.”

The result of Wilson’s offseason has yet to play out, but the story of Wilson joining Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery to train at the South Florida fitness facility Marshall co-owns has created an aura of high hopes for the second-year player, whether the 2013 seventh-round pick is worthy or not.

“You just have to continue to play your game and be yourself, so you can’t really let the words get to you and worry about what other people say,” Wilson said of the praise dished out by Marshall during the offseason. “I can say ‘thank you,’ but I still have to be myself and do what I do and play football.”

While Wilson is doing what he does, so too is receiver Josh Morgan, who looked good in practice Monday. At 6-foot-1, 220 pounds, Morgan, a six-year NFL vet, is a physical receiver that would fit in nicely at the third receiver spot.

Behind Wilson and Morgan are Josh Bellamy, Michael Spurlock, Armanti Edwards, Terrence Tolliver, Eric Weems and Chris Williams.

But early in camp, many eyes are on Wilson. And while Bears fans may not have been heartbroken to see Earl Bennett go in a salary-motivated move, the pressure is still on Wilson to produce, particularly after the build up from Marshall, who worked similarly with Jeffery after his rookie season.

Wilson said he got “a little faster and a little stronger,” in his offseason work, “which is what Brandon was trying to get me to do.”

Wilson said he and Marshall “are close” in speed, though in head-to-head races, “I only beat him once. That was it.”

And at 6-4, Wilson also fits the current mold of Bears receivers, with Marshall also 6-4 and Jeffery 6-3. The experience of working with Marshall and Jeffery, Wilson said, was a special one.

“Those two guys set a high bar, but everyone pushes for that goal,” he said. “That’s definitely in my mindset, to work as hard as them and do as well as they do.”

After that, gaining Cutler’s trust should be a snap.

And after the first four days of training camp, Wilson said Cutler and his leadership “feels different, more confident.”

“Just the way he’s throwing the rock, you know?” he said. “He’ll sling it in there. He knows where to put it and when to throw it, just slinging it in tight spaces. Or when you’re deep, he knows how much to put on it, which is great.”
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- C.J. Mosley was standing there late Monday afternoon, almost marveling at what his teammate, Ndamukong Suh, had accomplished during the offseason. It had nothing to do with his contract with the Detroit Lions, but the way Suh takes care of himself.

Then, a massive arm wrapped around Mosley. It was Suh, giving his fellow defensive tackle a hug, asking what he was doing and then telling him he loved him. On a day when Suh's stalled and tabled contract talks overshadowed the start of the team's training camp, Suh seemed unbothered by it.

He practiced as usual. He hugged his teammates. When a spectator asked if he could take a picture of him, Suh instead asked if he wanted to be in the picture with him. This is all part of a day for Suh, who was all business when he practiced on the field and didn't want to talk about any of his business off of it.

[+] EnlargeDetroit's Ndamukong Suh
Photo by Leon Halip/Getty ImagesNdamukong Suh went home to Oregon during the offseason, where he put his "mad scientist hat on" to make himself better physically.
What Suh didn't know, though, was Mosley was in the midst of praising his teammate for what he had managed to do in the offseason.

"The man really worked this offseason," Mosley said. "Really worked. Gained 10 pounds of muscle and body fat went down. That's something you should ask him about. The reason it was surprising to me is I've played with great D-tackles.

"Kevin Williams. Pat Williams. Shaun Rogers. I played with a lot of great D-tackles and nobody that I know has worked that hard. I don't know what he did to do that, but nobody has. He was already in great shape."

What did Suh do? He insists it is nothing more than normal. He returned to Oregon for his typical offseason workouts as he does every year and tinkered with his body. He said he found his best masseuse while he was filming the reality television show "American Muscle" with Mike Barwis, an unexpected change to his typical workout regimen.

But this is what Suh does in the offseason and how he trains so he can try to ensure he will not miss a game due to injury for the fifth straight season.

"I feel like there's always a margin for increasing and getting better," Suh said. "I am always going to strive to be the best that I can. That's what I do in the offseason.

"That's why I go home and go in there with a mad scientist hat on and figure out what I can do to better myself physically."

While he is the defensive tackle who receives the majority of the attention, he is one of multiple tackles now in a contract year, joining Nick Fairley and Mosley. Mosley said that shouldn't change anything with how they play or what they do. Suh's contract was not going to distract them anyway, and he expected Suh to be motivated no matter what was going on there.

"We're motivating each other just by playing beside each other," Fairley said. "That's how we motivate each other. I see him make a play, I want to make a play. He sees me make a play, I know he wants to make a play. So, we just feed off each other."

It is a feeding that could turn into an unintentional frenzy on the field for the Lions. While the defensive tackles shouldn't be motivated by contract years, human nature would suggest they can't help but not be. It plays out like that time and time again.

From the way Suh was acting Monday, though, it doesn't seem like he is going to be bothered by it one bit.

Packers Camp Report: Day 3

July, 28, 2014
Jul 28
6:30
PM ET
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Green Bay Packers training camp:


  • Lest you forgot about Sean Richardson when it came time to talk about playing time at the safety position, the third-year pro reminded everyone of his potential on Monday. With the pads on for the first time, Richardson made a play that has rarely been replicated by a Packers safety since the days of Nick Collins or Charles Woodson. During a team blitz period, Aaron Rodgers fired a pass over the middle to Jordy Nelson but Richardson jumped in and snatched the ball away from Nelson for an interception.
  • For the first padded practice of camp, the temperature on Monday morning when things kicked off at 8:20 a.m. local time was just 56 degrees. An hour into the practice, it was not yet 60 degrees, but the Packers took one of their TV timeout regeneration breaks and followed it with one short period followed by another water break. Still, when asked whether it was fun to put the pads on, veteran guard Josh Sitton said, "I mean, fun is a little strong." The practice lasted 2 hours, 26 minutes – or about 10 minutes longer than the non-padded practices each of the first two days.
  • Nose tackle B.J. Raji got off to a strong start in the first one-on-one pass-rushing drill. He won all three of his reps. Of course, when someone wins, it means someone else looked bad. Twice, Raji beat JC Tretter, who is trying to lock down the starting center job. Raji beat Tretter with his quickness on one turn and then overpowered him on another. Tackle Bryan Bulaga also looked good in his first turns since blowing out his knee last camp. He won all three of his reps, including one at left tackle against Clay Matthews.
  • In other odds and ends from practice: Cornerback Davon House had a strip-sack of Matt Flynn and recovered the fumble during the team blitz period. … If you're looking for an undrafted rookie to watch, keep an eye on inside linebacker Joe Thomas of South Carolina State. He's a bit undersized (6-1, 227) but is around the ball often. … In what could be a bad sign for undrafted rookie tight end Colt Lyerla, he was relegated to the scout team that worked against the defense at the start of practice while the majority of the offensive players, including fellow undrafted rookie tight end Justin Perillo, practiced inside the Hutson Center at the start of the session.
  • Outside linebacker Mike Neal said he could be cleared to practice as soon as Wednesday. He remains on the PUP list with a core muscle injury but is scheduled to be examined on Tuesday. He said he reported to camp lighter than ever, at 263 pounds. He played last season at 275, which is about 25 pounds lighter than he was is first three seasons, when he played defensive end.
  • In addition to Neal, others who remained out were: Nick Perry (foot, knee), Jamari Lattimore (illness), Jeff Janis (illness), Letroy Guion (hamstring), and Jerel Worthy (back). Janis made an appearance at practice for the first time in camp.
  • The Packers do not practice on Tuesday. They return to the field on Wednesday at 8:20 a.m. local time.
BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- Churning up a toboggan hill as part of his offseason conditioning program in a suburban Chicago park, Matt Forte apparently stopped long enough only to urge on and, yes, ride his workout partner.

"He killed me," said Michael Ford, one of several Bears running backs vying for the No. 2 spot behind Forte this training camp.

[+] EnlargeKa'Deem Carey
AP Photo/Scott BoehmFourth-round draft pick Ka'Deem Carey is one of four backs with no NFL experience competing for a backup job with the Bears.
"His work ethic is amazing and the things he does in the offseason to get himself ready are brutal. ... But the tradition set before him and with him, we have to hold to the same standards."

Ford and the others are well aware what they are up against -- not just the No. 2 job, which to a large extent, is up for grabs, or in the words of GM Phil Emery just last week, "very unsettled."

But with four of the five backs behind Forte having not had a single NFL carry, they must also be prepared to step into a position that may be de-valued throughout the league but remains a central part of the Bears offense.

Forte's production in 2013 amounted to almost one-third of the Bears' total offense; his career highs in rushing (1,339 yards) and receiving (74 catches for 594 yards) both setting a standard and a making a statement that first-year coach and offensive innovator Marc Trestman was not about to abandon his running back.

"It's important to this offense," said rookie Ka'Deem Carey. "You get out in bursts, you catch some passes, you run, you pass block. They love the running back here, so I landed in the perfect spot."

Carey, selected in the fourth found, will get plenty of competition from Ford, Shaun Draughn, who signed a one-year free agent contract and undrafted rookies Senorise Perry and Jordan Lynch, who might end up with a spot on the practice squad in his first year of transitioning from college quarterback to NFL running back.

"You can tell the way the reps are going, they want to see everybody at their best, so they give you chances out there to make plays and it's up to you to learn the playbook and do it," Carey said Monday, the second day in pads for the Bears.

"With everyone out there, it just makes you better. But we're not selfish. If someone messes up, we'll tell him what he did wrong and we'll learn off his mistakes and we just get better off each other's mistakes."

Carey's speed has been questioned, but more importantly for the former Arizona standout and the others will be their protection skills. Ford, who played in 12 games last season on special teams, likely will contribute the most in the return game.

"It's definitely not nerve-wracking," Ford said of the competition, "because it's always going to bring out the best. If you want to be the best, you have to play the best and you want the best competition at your camp. At least then you know you're going to be battle-tested."

Ford said he prefers not to look at the position as his.

"Even Matt told me he doesn't look at it like that," he said. "He just goes to practice everyday and tries to separate himself from everybody and he tells me to do that, too. ... Just try to get better each and every day."

Bears Camp Report: Day 4

July, 28, 2014
Jul 28
5:05
PM ET
BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Chicago Bears training camp:
  • Expectations are sky high for a Bears offense that ranked No. 2 in the NFL last year in points scored (27.8 per game) and No. 5 in passing yards (267.6 per game), but the opening four days of practice have produced a mixed bag of results from a unit that is expected to return all 11 starters. Monday’s performance was no different. At certain points of the session, quarterback Jay Cutler ran the offensive scheme to perfection, firing completions to wide receivers Brandon Marshall and Marquess Wilson and tight end Martellus Bennett that went for huge gains. On the flip side, Cutler badly underthrew Marshall on a deep route into double coverage that should’ve been intercepted by Bears defenders who were stationed in the area. Veteran cornerback Kelvin Hayden later picked off a deflected Cutler pass in full-team 11-on-11, Hayden’s third interception since the start of camp. There were also batted-down balls at the line of scrimmage and botched snaps from the center to the quarterback that resulted in Cutler describing the offense as “good and bad.” Cutler continued: “That is to be expected taking the time off in July. We’re getting better and better. There’s been some sloppy stuff out there. We’ve got to clean it up. I think the guys are doing a really good job of just recognizing the plays and getting lined up and knowing the concepts and knowing the checks and everything. So if we just clean up some of the little things as we go, we’ll be all right.”
  • The Bears desperately need their top three draft choices to step in and make immediate contributions on defense. First-round pick cornerback Kyle Fuller looks the part and continues to receive extensive reps on the first team in base and nickel with Tim Jennings temporarily sidelined due to a sore groin. Third-round choice Will Sutton got thrown into the fire on Monday at three-technique defensive tackle as the coaching staff decided to give Jeremiah Ratliff a veteran’s day off. Sutton appeared to hold up OK versus the heightened competition. Rookie nose tackle Ego Ferguson flashes the ability to get up-field in one-on-one individual pass-rush drills, but Ferguson has ended up on the ground on at least three separate occasions since the pads came on. Ferguson needs to find the perfect combination of speed and balance to ensure he doesn’t take himself out of the play when games begin for real next month.
  • Fans chanted “Mega-Punt” whenever first-year punter Pat O'Donnell connected with the football on Sunday. Not to be outdone, punter Tress Way won the matchup between the two aspiring kickers on Monday. As a sixth-round draft choice, O'Donnell is considered the favorite to win the job, but Way has proved to those in the organization that he is an NFL-caliber punter. Even if Way is eventually released, he can still make it in the league. Former Bears “camp legs” have found gainful employment in the league: Spencer Lanning (Cleveland Browns) and Ryan Quigley (New York Jets).
  • Most of the wideouts competing for the final roster spots have done little to distinguish themselves. The two exceptions are Eric Weems and Chris Williams. Not only are Weems and Williams natural fits in the return game, they have managed to catch the football in camp. The other reserve receivers have been plagued by drops.
  • Pro Bowl right guard Kyle Long (viral infection) visited doctors on Monday, but the team cannot say if Long will be back on the field when it returns to work on Wednesday. With Long out, the Bears have worked various combinations at guard, with Eben Britton, Michael Ola and Brian de la Puente all seeing time with the starters.
  • Wide receiver Alshon Jeffery (sore foot), receiver Terrence Toliver (toe), safety Chris Conte (PUP) and safety Craig Steltz (PUP) were all spectators on Monday.
  • The Bears are off on Tuesday. The next practice is scheduled for Wednesday at 9 a.m. CT.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- The Detroit Lions were still talking a good game Monday, even as they were announcing what felt like a bad scenario for the franchise when it came to one of its cornerstone players.

The team is tabling contract talks with polarizing defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh until after the season -- a sign that, at the very least, the club and the player are somewhat far from being able to reach a deal that would benefit both sides.

[+] EnlargeNdamukong Suh
Andrew Weber/USA TODAY SportsThe Lions announced they will table any contract discussions with defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh until after the 2014 season.
Considering how confident the Lions have been in the past with getting deals done and how confident they still acted Monday -- both team president Tom Lewand and general manager Martin Mayhew expressed optimism they would sign Suh eventually -- this is a big moment for the two of them.

The two often have said they were confident Suh wanted to be here and the team wanted him here. Mayhew went further, saying Monday that he continually felt at different points that a contract extension for Suh would happen soon. Then the combine passed. The start of the new league year passed. The draft passed.

Training camp arrived and the Lions still had no deal in place, leading them to decide to table the talks once camp began. That brings the Lions to this point, and to a risk for both sides.

For the Lions, another massive season from Suh could push his asking price beyond what he and agent Jimmy Sexton are likely asking for now, making it a very tough decision to try to re-sign him. For Suh, it’s a gamble because if he suffers a significant injury, his asking price could plummet. While there would still be suitors for his services, he would be a question mark for the first time in his career.

There is the school of thought that if Suh wanted to stay in Detroit, he would have reached a deal before the season started, as quarterback Matthew Stafford did prior to the 2013 season. But different contracts and different agents require different time frames, so this is the Lions’ hope now: that the latest snag is just a blip instead of a major sign that Suh will end up somewhere other than Detroit in 2015. He has indicated he would like to return, although often talk is just talk until pen and paper meet.

But Suh needs to do what’s best for him -- and that goes beyond a money angle, because he will be paid well no matter where he ends up. Detroit has a new coaching staff, one he is unfamiliar with. The Lions are a franchise that has never really shown the ability to win consistently -- hence the one winning season and one playoff appearance this century.

So if winning is important to Suh as he enters the prime of his career, it behooves him to see how he interacts with this coaching staff and how he will be used throughout the course of a season. It’s something that could be explained to him by coaches, but until he sees it, he won’t know for sure.

What ends up being best for Suh? The question now is whether Detroit is the answer to that question -- and it is an answer only he will know.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Julius Peppers, all 6-foot-7 and 287 pounds of him, strikes an impressive pose on the practice field.

He stands – literally in some cases – a head above his new Green Bay Packers teammates.

That was unmistakable even in shorts and helmets during the offseason practices.

Put the pads on, like the Packers Monday did for the first time in training camp, and the full-frame image of Peppers was even more impressive.

He looks the part of a pass-rusher worth the $7.5 million signing bonus the Packers forked over as part of the three-year, $26 million free-agent contract he signed in March. He split four reps in his first go-around in the one-on-one pass-rushing drill on Monday, registering two victories.

[+] EnlargeJulius Peppers
AP Photo/Morry GashJulius Peppers is excited about his role with the Packers.
But it looks like the Packers are going to ask him to do more than just rush the quarterback.

And that's fine with him.

He's an outside linebacker now in a 3-4 base scheme after playing the last four years as a defensive end in the Chicago Bears' 4-3 system and before that in Carolina for eight seasons.

There he was on Monday, dropping into coverage against tight end Jake Stoneburner on a crossing route.

Although Peppers would not concede that he needed a change to revitalize his career, which he does not believe needs revitalization, there's reason to think the 34-year-old who is entering his 13th NFL season has a renewed sense of purpose on the field.

"It's fun. It's fun," he repeated. "I'm actually having a lot of fun. I'm enjoying it. It's a little different than what I've been used to in the past. I actually think it fits my skill set better than just being down every play. I'm having fun doing it. I'm just enjoying it."

All that might be fun for Peppers and a way for defensive coordinator Dom Capers to disguise him, but the Packers signed Peppers for one overriding reason: his 119 career sacks, which rank third on the active list.

"He's here to go towards the quarterback; we all understand that," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "But when he does drop, he has great ability and range. And you look at his ball skills, we do a lot of ball skills with the whole team by design, I want everybody to handle the football. He handles the football like an offensive player."

Peppers had only 7.5 sacks last season -- his lowest output since 2007 -- and he chuckled at those who use the word "only."

"You look at my last year, was it one of my better years?" Peppers said. "Probably not, you know, statistically. But if you compare it to a lot of the guys who played last year, it was better than a lot of guys. So I don't really think I need to revitalize anything, just improve upon what I did last year. That's not going to be easy to do. I should be able to do it."

Even if Peppers was only able to replicate his sack total from last season, it would be better than any Packers player not named Clay Matthews since Aaron Kampman had 9.5 in 2008.

"It’s not about really proving anybody wrong," Peppers said. "It's about accomplishing some personal goals, one of which being is winning a world championship. That's the main thing. That's the main motivation. All that other stuff, it's there, but it's not as big as coming in here and helping this team hoist that trophy at the end."

If there's pressure on Peppers to improve the Packers' defense from its 25th overall ranking last season, it might not be even close to what the Bears placed on him last season before they cut him because they felt he wasn't worth the $18 million salary-cap charge.

"You look at our defense right now, there's a lot of high expectations for those guys," Packers guard T.J. Lang said. "The talent that they have, all across our D-line, the linebackers, the defensive backs. It's a group that you look out at, it's impressive to look at 'em. Just the physical stature that Julius has. I mean that alone is intimidating enough for an offense. We've played him eight or nine, 10 times since I've been here. Every time you look at the guy, you're just as equally impressed as the first time you've seen him. He's just a freak. And then you go to Clay out there, who's also proven to be one of the best pass-rushers in the game. It's just an impressive group to look at."
BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- Chicago Bears Pro Bowl right guard Kyle Long met with doctors on Monday to check the progress of his recovery from a viral infection that’s forced the former first-round pick to miss the opening four practices of camp.

Long
Despite Long’s illness, the second-year guard had been present at every training camp practice until Monday’s excused absence. The Bears next workout at Olivet Nazarene University is scheduled for Wednesday at 9 a.m. CT.

“I expect to hear from [Long] and the doctors today, and we’ll get a better idea where he is at,” Bears head coach Marc Trestman said.

The No. 20 overall pick of the 2013 NFL draft, Long started just five games at Oregon before making the jump to the NFL, where he became a permanent fixture in the Bears’ starting lineup last season at right guard, helping the offensive line achieve its lowest sack total (30) since 2008.

But there is legitimate concern whenever an NFL player misses an extended period of training camp.

“Any player, no matter how long they’ve played the game, needs to practice and needs to work,” Trestman said. “It doesn’t matter who they are or at what level they play at. Kyle is missing time and there is nothing we can do about it. When he gets back here, he is going to have to get back into it and make up for some lost time.”

With Long sidelined, the Bears have experimented with different combinations at guard, including Eben Britton, Michael Ola and Brian de la Puente. Ola and de la Puente finished practice on Monday at guard with the starters in a two-minute drill after left guard Matt Slauson sat out the final period for undisclosed reasons.

“It’s been beneficial that we’ve been able to get some of these other guys in there,” Bears offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer said. “We’ve been able to look closer at our rotation, but we hope to get Kyle back as soon as possible.”

In other Bears injury news, cornerback Tim Jennings (quad) was sidelined for a third consecutive day, Pro Bowl wide receiver Alshon Jeffery sat out due to a sore foot and wideout Terrence Toliver is still out because of a bad toe. Veteran defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff was given Monday off by the coaching staff.
MANKATO, Minn. -- The process that led to Kyle Rudolph earning a new contract from the Minnesota Vikings, which culminated in a hug and words of congratulations from general manager Rick Spielman after Sunday's practice, seemed about as devoid of drama and tension as either side could have wanted.

Rudolph
Rudolph made it known at the end of last season he wanted to stay in Minnesota; the Vikings spoke highly of the big tight end and said they wanted the same thing. They hired an offensive coordinator with a history of featuring tight ends; Rudolph responded by taking a more serious look at his offseason nutrition program, dropping 15 pounds and sharpening his technique as a receiver. He said he hoped to get a contract done before the season; the Vikings met with his agents in the Twin Cities on July 15 to begin discussions on a deal.

There seemed to be little chance of the Vikings letting Rudolph get to free agency next spring, not when they had taken him in the second round of the 2011 draft, not when he was one of the only viable candidates for a contract extension before next season. But the toothy smile Rudolph flashed when talking about the contract on Monday let everyone know even an inevitable payoff was sweet.

"Being the organization that took a chance on me out of the draft, being hurt at the time and still drafting me when they did and now giving me this extension, it shows the faith that they have in me," Rudolph said. "Certain people have the opportunity to change your life, and I can't thank Rick and (assistant GM) Rob (Brzezinski) enough for that opportunity."

Now comes the hard part for Rudolph. He will have to play well enough to maximize the value of his contract, which pays him a $6.5 million signing bonus and effectively guarantees his $956,343 base salary in the final season of his rookie deal. The five-year, $36.5 million deal could be worth up to $40 million if Rudolph triggers incentives in the contract, and though another $12 million of the deal is currently guaranteed for injury only, that money will become fully guaranteed by the start of the 2016 league year, coming to Rudolph in separate chunks on the third day of the 2015 and 2016 league years.

But the tight end, as usual, seemed sensible about the contract on Monday. He said he didn't plan to buy himself anything special, adding his only plan was to fulfill a promise to his old strength coach and pay to remodel the weight room at his alma mater, Elder High School in Cincinnati.

As for the Vikings, Rudolph wants to make sure they get a good return on their investment.

"Essentially, if you look at this from a business side, I'm here for the next three years (anyway) because of the last year of my deal and opportunity to be franchised twice," he said. "So they felt like it was important to keep me here for a long time. It instills a responsibility to become one of the veteran leaders in the locker room. We have a lot of young guys on this team and it's weird for me to see that now, four years later I'm one of the veterans in the locker room who have to bring those guys along so we can win football games."
Matthew Stafford will make his season debut for the Detroit Lions on Monday on the field -- and he'll also have two television advertisements doing the same thing.

Stafford appears in ads for DISH Network and they are ... interesting to say the least.

His fiancee, Kelly Hall, co-stars in one ad where Stafford is a surgeon trying to operate with a chainsaw. The second ad has puppets apparently trying to keep Stafford on a mountain.

Here's the ad with Hall. Here's the ad with the puppets.

Enjoy at your leisure.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- In every offseason practice -- whether organized team activities or minicamp -- and in the first two days of training camp, Micah Hyde took all the snaps with Green Bay Packers' defensive starters in a safety tandem with Morgan Burnett.

That, in itself, tells you what coach Mike McCarthy and defensive coordinator think of the second-year defensive back.

[+] EnlargeMicah Hyde
Morry Gash/AP PhotoMicah Hyde showed increased awareness for the ball during the Packers' first training camp practice in pads on Monday.
Then, consider that general manager Ted Thompson used his first-round pick on safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix to fill one of the team’s greatest needs yet the 21st overall selection in the draft had run exclusively with the second-stringers, and you can tell they are serious about Hyde.

But maybe the real competition started on Monday.

The pads went on for the first time, and Clinton-Dix finally got his chance to rep with the No. 1s -- at least for a few snaps. Although Hyde, who played exclusively as a slot cornerback last season as a rookie, continued to take the first snaps at free safety with the starters, Capers paired Clinton-Dix and Burnett for a few snaps and also unveiled a sub package that included all three of the safeties on the field at the same time.

Regardless of who wins the starting job, it appears both will play and either will be an upgrade for a group that not only lacked big plays (it was the only safety group in the NFL last season without an interception) but also big hits.

"I don't know exactly what went on before I was here," Clinton-Dix said. "But I just know they brought me in here for a reason, and that's to win."

The first day in pads was rather tame, but the most vocal member of the defense, Mike Daniels, who said this offseason it was time for the Packers to get mean, can't wait to see Clinton-Dix start hitting.

"When he got drafted, I was walking around my house screaming 'Yes' about five times; I think they showed five clips of him knocking the crap out of somebody," Daniels said. "Some things translate at any level. If guys are going to hit, you're going to hit when you're [waist high], you're going to hit when you're in high school, you're going to hit in college, you're going to hit in the NFL because it's in your nature. Some things don't translate, but toughness translates at any level. So I'm excited. We'll see."

Surely, the Packers would like Clinton-Dix to be their starter, but they might not need him to be right away given how Hyde has transitioned from a slot cornerback last season as a rookie.

Since Hyde let a potential game-changing interception slip through his hands late in the fourth-quarter of the playoff loss to the San Francisco 49ers -- a play he said he will "remember until I'm 50 years old," -- he has shown an increased awareness for the ball. So far in camp, his pass breakup numbers have been high. On Sunday, he broke up a deep ball for Jordy Nelson, who has been catching everything in camp.

McCarthy was succinct in evaluation of Hyde’s transition from cornerback to safety.

"Seamless," he said. "Micah Hyde is a football player. I think you can line him up anywhere. You really can. He's had the offseason to learn the position, to get the communication down where it's so important. He's a playmaker."

Yet if you ask Hyde, he will say, "I'm not there yet."

"I still go out there, I try to play fast, I try to make things easier on myself but at the same time I think it comes with time and it comes with experience," said Hyde, who as a fifth-round pick played more snaps (542) last season than any Packers' defensive rookie. "I think every day I'm getting better and better. Once I make a mistake, I think I learn from it and I just go out there and try to not make the same mistake twice."
Examining the Detroit Lions' roster

QUARTERBACKS (2)
The Lions could keep three players here, but they could just as easily use a practice squad slot on undrafted rookie James Franklin to give the team more flexibility at other spots. If the team keeps Kellen Moore, then the Lions will go with three quarterbacks. Stafford is a lock to start, and it is tough to see Moore unseating Orlovsky as the No. 2.

RUNNING BACKS (6)

Bush, Bell and Riddick are likely locks. If the team believes Owens can play both spots -- he has experience at running back and fullback -- Leshoure could be in trouble. Chad Abram is an undrafted rookie who could steal a roster spot at fullback or end up on the practice squad.

WIDE RECEIVER (6)

This is one of the more interesting positions on the roster. Johnson and Tate are the starters, and Ross will be on the roster as a returner and possibly the No. 3 receiver. If he can handle both roles, that could leave an interesting question for a healthy Broyles. Durham is competing for a spot at outside receiver with Kevin Ogletree and Corey Fuller, who is practice squad eligible. Jones missed the end of spring workouts with an excused absence. Depending what that is, it could open up another spot for a receiver.

TIGHT END (3)

All three will make the roster. All three will have roles in the offense. The Lions know what Pettigrew is -- a good blocker who can make some catches. They need to focus on the development of Ebron and Fauria, two potential defense stretchers in the middle of the field.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (9)

As of now, this is somewhat easy to project. The five starters on the offensive line return from last season. Hilliard will be the swing tackle and Lucas the fourth tackle who is a project. Austin and Swanson can play both guard and center if need be, offering some flexibility for the Lions on the interior. Don't be surprised to see Alex Bullard on the practice squad. He can play any position on the line.

DEFENSIVE LINE (9)

Three of the four starters are set here with Ansah, Fairley and Suh. Both Jones and Taylor offer outside-inside movement for the Lions. Mosley is the team's third tackle, and Tapp could back up Ansah at the open defensive end. Webster and Reid are mostly developmental, but Reid specifically should have a large role on punt and kick blocks.

LINEBACKER (5)

Levy, Tulloch and Van Noy are the likely starters. Palmer can back up at either outside spot, and Whitehead appears to be the backup in the middle. One of the tougher cuts to make would be a potential sixth linebacker between special-teams standouts Travis Lewis and Julian Stanford. One of these two could easily make the roster.

CORNERBACK (6)

Slay, Mathis, Bentley and Lawson are making the team. This probably means there are two other spots for corners -- perhaps even one if the team chooses to go with a sixth linebacker. I went with Vaughn and Greenwood, leaving Jonte Green out of the equation for now. This will be a fluid battle throughout camp. Mohammed Seisay is a potential practice-squad candidate.

SAFETY (4)

Yet another tough roster cut choosing between Abdul-Quddus and DeJon Gomes. As mentioned above, there is easily a scenario where both Abdul-Quddus and Gomes make the squad, especially if the new staff thinks Carey could be an emergency corner as well as the third safety. Jerome Couplin is a practice-squad candidate here with potential.

SPECIALISTS (3)

Martin and Muhlbach are roster locks barring injury. Freese, as of now, should beat out Giorgio Tavecchio, but as mentioned earlier this morning, this will be one of the more intriguing and intense battles of training camp as neither completely stood out in the spring.
Examining the Minnesota Vikings' roster:

QUARTERBACKS (3)
The Vikings could free up some roster space if they carried only two QBs and traded Ponder for a late-round pick at some point, but it seems likely they'll carry three into the season. Ponder could still have some value in an emergency, if the Vikings aren't ready to put Bridgewater on the field and they need someone to fill in if Cassel is injured or ineffective.

RUNNING BACKS (4)
Joe Banyard could push Asiata for the third running back spot, especially if he shows he can fit into the offense as a receiver. Zach Line also will be competing for a spot after a solid training camp and preseason last year.

WIDE RECEIVERS (6)

Vikings general manager Rick Spielman singled out Thielen -- who spent last year on the Vikings' practice squad -- as a player who had improved from last year during the Vikings' minicamp. He could stick as the fifth receiver, and Colter (who got an $8,000 signing bonus) might fit in as a return man if the Vikings look to get Patterson some breaks on kickoffs.

TIGHT ENDS (3)

Chase Ford's broken foot could mean he'll start the season on the physically-unable-to-perform list. It also opens up a spot for the Vikings to put Leonard on the roster; he's only 6-foot-2 and will struggle as a blocker, but his speed (a 4.43-second 40-yard dash at the NFL scouting combine) could make him an intriguing weapon, especially if the Vikings look to flex him out.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (9)

The only starting spot up for grabs might be at left guard, where Yankey could compete with Johnson. Undrafted rookie Antonio Richardson could get a long look at tackle, too, and if the Vikings don't put him on their roster, they'll likely try to sneak him onto their practice squad.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (8)

This might be the deepest position group on the Vikings' roster, and in Mike Zimmer's defensive line rotation, they could all play; Wootton and Crichton give the Vikings a pair of versatile backups who can play inside or outside, and Johnson and Evans figure to be the primary backups at three-technique and nose tackle, respectively. The Vikings will be counting on Floyd taking a big step forward in Year 2.

LINEBACKERS (6)

In Cincinnati, Zimmer had linebacking groups of just six and five players after training camp the past two seasons. If the position is similarly staffed this season, it could mean the Vikings will cut seventh-round pick Brandon Watts. There are plenty of questions at the position overall -- none of the three spots in the Vikings' base defense is completely solidified -- but in Barr, Hodges, Mauti and Cole, the Vikings have some young talent to work with.

DEFENSIVE BACKS (11)

The Vikings will keep one more defensive back than they did last year to add some depth at cornerback in light of all the prolific passing attacks they'll see early this year. Kurt Coleman will have to fight for one of the last safety spots; the Vikings seem to like Exum's potential as a safety, and Blanton got quite a bit of work with Smith in the Vikings' first-team defense during minicamp.

SPECIALISTS (3)

The group returns unchanged from what the Vikings had on their roster last year; Locke punted better toward the end of the season, and has already put in some work getting to know the wind patterns at TCF Bank Stadium.

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