ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- James Ihedigbo hasn’t played in two weeks. He didn’t even travel to Buffalo for the Detroit Lions' preseason finale against the Bills.

If you listen to the Lions’ starting safety, though, he is not concerned.

“I’m just resting,” Ihedigbo said Monday. “Getting ready for Monday night. That’s what really the mindset going in is.”

It’s a curious statement, because Lions coach Jim Caldwell indicated after Thursday’s preseason finale that Ihedigbo had stayed behind to receive treatment. Typically, that indicates an injury of some sort that needs to be healed.

Prior to practice Monday, Caldwell declined to give an update on Ihedigbo and said to wait for the injury report, the first one being released Thursday.

Ihedigbo said he was told by the Lions’ coaching staff to remain behind in Michigan instead of heading to New York.

“I just do what I’m told and that’s what was told to me,” Ihedigbo said. “And that was the best thing for our team and that’s what I do, whatever the best thing for my team.”

Ihedigbo is expected to be a starter at strong safety opposite Glover Quin. If Ihedigbo can’t play for some reason, either rookie James Couplin or veterans Don Carey or Isa Abdul-Quddus will pick up the start.

Abdul-Quddus started for Ihedigbo against Buffalo.

As of now, Ihedigbo insists he’ll be ready to play against the Giants.

“Yeah, of course,” Ihedigbo said. “It’s Monday night.”
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- The Detroit Lions still have a week to go until they open the season against the New York Giants, but they have slowly begun preparing for the team that knocked them out of playoff contention last season.

Lions coach Jim Caldwell said practices Monday and Tuesday would be more focused on improving things they need to work on instead of game-planning, but that they might sneak some things into preparation as well.

Here's other things from Monday's open portion of practice:
  • Safeties James Ihedigbo (undisclosed) and Don Carey (hamstring) sat out practice along with linebacker Kyle Van Noy (abdominal). All three were out there and Van Noy appeared to be moving OK for having had core muscle surgery less than a week ago.
  • Nick Fairley took some reps with Ndamukong Suh during position drills, but so did C.J. Mosley. Mosley started the last two preseason games at tackle. Fairley is listed as first on the depth chart.
  • Also at practice but not participating was wide receiver TJ Jones, who is on the PUP list.
  • New numbers: Mohammed Seisay is now wearing No. 39, Jerome Couplin is No. 24 and George Johnson is No. 93.
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The first time MarQueis Gray played at TCF Bank Stadium, he was a quarterback for the University of Minnesota. He ended his career with the Gophers as a wide receiver, and his next game at the stadium will presumably come as a tight end for the Minnesota Vikings as the next step in a career arc that's already doubled back on itself.

The Vikings claimed Gray off waivers Sunday, reuniting him with offensive coordinator Norv Turner after he spent the 2013 season with the Cleveland Browns. Gray was released Saturday and quickly drew the Vikings' interest because of his familiarity with Turner's system.

"I believe he had a big say so in me coming here," Gray said of Turner. "I believe he's trusting me a lot to be here. I've just got to make sure I do my part and uphold all the great things he's said about me."

Gray appeared in 12 games for the Browns last season, catching two passes and rushing six times but mostly working as a blocking tight end. That part of the game -- and the physical toll it exacts on his body -- remains the biggest adjustment after his time as a quarterback and receiver, he said.

"I've mainly tried to bulk up my strength. That's the main focus since I switched to tight end," he said. "I've been able to catch. It's just the blocking aspect I'm getting used to."

The Browns used at least two tight ends on 466 plays last year, according to ESPN Stats and Information. That was the fourth most in the league, and with Rhett Ellison the only other tight end on the Vikings' roster behind starter Kyle Rudolph, Gray could find work as an H-back if he proves able to handle the full scope of the offense. He got to work re-acclimating himself to Turner's offense after going through training camp with new Browns coordinator Kyle Shanahan and was still trying to brush up on it after a day of travel to the Twin Cities Sunday and about three hours of sleep Sunday night.

When Gray gets into the locker room for the Vikings' home opener Sept. 14, though, he shouldn't feel out of place at all.

"I probably thought (I'd be back) as an away opponent, not as a home (game)," he said. "I can't wait to be back on that field."
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Monday afternoon, Detroit Lions coach Jim Caldwell said he would not speak on who some of his starters were until the team released a depth chart.

The Lions have done that, and potentially revealed some opening-game starters. This, however, remains an unofficial depth chart that the Lions media relations staff puts together, not one given out by the coaching staff.

Here are some of the notable things:
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- After nearly four months of evaluation, a handful of injuries and the release of two veterans over the weekend, the Minnesota Vikings still apparently haven't settled on a starting safety opposite Harrison Smith -- at least not one coach Mike Zimmer was comfortable sharing on Monday.

"I don't know yet," Zimmer said when asked who will start next to Smith in the Vikings' regular-season opener against St. Louis on Sunday. "We'll see."

Robert Blanton has been atop the depth chart since the Vikings released their first one during training camp, and seems like the logical pick to start next to his former Notre Dame teammate. Blanton missed part of training camp with a hamstring injury, but came back before the Vikings' third preseason game against Kansas City and seems healthy now.

"He's a smart guy," Zimmer said. "Sometimes when you make the transition from corner to safety (as Blanton did), it takes those guys a while, but he's a smart guy. You have a little bit more athletic ability, usually."

Smith said he won't be affected in any major way by who starts next to him on Sunday, and was coy when asked if he knew who the starter would be. It seemed like Smith's partner might be 34-year-old Chris Crocker, who came out of retirement for a third consecutive year to play for Zimmer and started a pair of games next to Smith in training camp.

The Vikings, however, released Crocker on Saturday, along with Kurt Coleman, when they concluded they "had a lot of the same guys," as Zimmer put it.

However short his time was with the Vikings, though, Crocker helped Smith's development in the team's defense.

"He was like having a coach in the locker room, in the meeting room, on the field," Smith said. "In between plays, he'd say, 'Hey, Harry, watch out for this coming up here,' and he was right most of the time. Even though he was only here for a little bit, I learned a ton from that guy.

"Just having that time with Crocker was good. I kind of had Antoine (Winfield) to look to when I was a rookie, just to see how a pro prepares. I never really had a safety to look at who was an old, old guy -- I called him the 'old man' every day. He kind of showed me again what it was like to be a professional and to really understand the game."

Should the Vikings start Blanton on Sunday, his experience in coverage will likely be a big part of the reason he's got the job. The Vikings will put their safeties in man coverage much more often than they did in their old regime, and Blanton seemed to separate himself from competition during the team's OTAs and minicamp because of his coverage skills.

"It's going to be fun for us (safeties)," Smith said. "We get to do pretty much everything, all levels of the defense: down near the line, dropping down like linebackers, playing deep, covering man-to-man. We get to do pretty much everything."
ALLEN PARK, Mich. – Jim Caldwell came into Detroit in January and from the outset has tried to instill discipline and accountability in hopes of turning the LIons from one of the perennial losers in the NFL to a consistent winner.

He has been around winning franchises before, so he surmises he has seen what it takes to win. And he said Monday that he believes this Detroit team has similar characteristics to the winning squads he has coached before.

So how does he plan to do finish this rehabilitation of the Lions' image from 0-16 in 2008 to their current competitive-but-not-quite-enough state?

[+] EnlargeJim Caldwell
Carlos Osorio/AP PhotoJim Caldwell has been charged with finding the spark that will turn the Lions from also-rans into contenders.
“It all depends on me,” Caldwell said. “I’m responsible for each and every little thing that goes on in this program. Bar none. Wins and losses. Conduct. Every single phase. Offense, defense, special teams, it all runs through me.

“So there is not anything that I don’t have responsibility for that doesn’t fall upon my shoulders.”

That includes the positive -- no players arrested this offseason -- and the negative -- same old penalty issues at times during the preseason. It includes making sure his players understand what is expected of them, what is allowed and what is prohibited.

On the field, that will rely on both a successful run game and stopping the run along with cutting down on the aforementioned penalties and on turnovers, which was a major issue for the Lions in 2013.

Off the field, it is a little bit different than when he was a college coach at Wake Forest and sold parents and guardians of prospects that he would be monitoring everything in their child's life during his time in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Now he’s dealing with NFL players, so he treats them as the men they are.

This has been mentioned multiple times by various players since Caldwell’s hire, and the players are appreciative of that.

“We still hold them to the same standards that anybody else would working for any other company. That they are still responsible for their own personal conduct, that we don’t hold their hand outside of this building,” Caldwell said. “I think it is our responsibility to make sure that we educate them and we do that on a daily basis. We talk about everything that comes up, every instance.

“Today we’ll discuss in detail the new policy the NFL just released in terms of domestic violence. We will talk about it in detail and that’s our responsibility to make certain that we do that and if we don’t do that, that’s my problem. That’s my fault.”

Caldwell has been straightforward with his players since the beginning of his tenure, and there’s little reason to think he won’t be when it comes to how he expects players to act on the field and off.

As far as the domestic violence policy instituted by the league -- where a first offense could be a six-game suspension without pay and a second offense could be anywhere from a year-long suspension to a lifetime ban -- Caldwell seems in favor of it.

“My thoughts are just like anything else with the NFL decides is best for the league,” Caldwell said. “That there are rules we should enforce and make certain we should enforce. We should support them wholeheartedly and make certain that our team understands them explicitly from top to bottom and even the spirit of the rules.

“So I’m certainly in favor of it and thus will express that to the team.”
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears coach Marc Trestman wants to wait a couple more days before making a decision about whether to keep Marquess Wilson on the active roster.

With the receiver expected to miss the next month, the Bears can free up a spot on the active roster Tuesday at 3 p.m. by placing Wilson on the injured reserve with a designation to return.

“I think I could better answer that after Wednesday’s practice, and it’s simply because there’s a lot of technical CBA rules involved in this thing,” Trestman said. “I think that to bring clarity to it, I’d rather give you that answer as we move through the week.”

If the Bears decide to place Wilson on the injured reserve with a designation to return, he won’t be able to participate in practice until Week 7 and won’t be eligible to play until Nov. 9, when the team travels to Green Bay coming off its bye week.

If Wilson remains on the active roster, he’ll continue to occupy a spot the team could use to bolster another position. But the positive side of that is Wilson could return to action as soon as he recovers instead of waiting until Week 7 just to be eligible to practice.

Every team is allowed to use the IR with designation to return only once per year. The Bears used their short-term IR designation last season on Charles Tillman after he suffered a triceps injury during a November loss to the Detroit Lions.

The team might opt to use the short-term designation on Wilson given the presence of veteran receiver Santonio Holmes, who is now expected to take on the No. 3 role. Now that the Bears are in game-planning mode, the playbook will be narrowed significantly for the Week 1 matchup against Buffalo, which would give Holmes a better opportunity to fully absorb the aspects of the system the team will utilize against the Bills.

“At this point, there’s no comfort level [in the offense],” Holmes said. “Still learning the system, working my way into one of the core guys for this team, and I still have a lot to learn. [I’m] spending a lot of time with Coach [Mike] Groh learning the offense, going over plays, formation, personnel and things like that on a daily basis to keep me caught up with the team.”
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears coach Marc Trestman drew laughs Monday attempting to repeat the word “trepidation” in response to whether he feels any regarding the defense, as the club prepares to open the regular season against Buffalo.

While the defense performed average to below average most of the preseason, Trestman remains unconcerned about the unit’s ability to get the job done once the season kicks off.

[+] EnlargeMarc Trestman
Patrick McDermott/Getty ImagesCoach Marc Trestman is hoping that the Bears' defense can build cohesion in the coming weeks.
“I don’t feel that word trepi, trepi … what was it again?” Trestman asked, smiling. “Trepidation? If it’s more than three syllables, I’m out of business. I don’t feel that trepidation. The whole defense wasn’t together at one time during [the preseason]. We’re going to have to come together. It’s going to be a process working together, getting to know each other, how each other works. But the talent level’s there.”

The Bears revamped the defensive line by adding Jared Allen, Willie Young and Lamarr Houston in free agency, in addition to drafting defensive tackles Will Sutton and Ego Ferguson. The club also signed several players to compete for two open spots at safety, and used its first-round pick to select rookie cornerback Kyle Fuller.

But throughout the preseason, the entire group hasn’t performed together. Allen played in only the club’s second preseason outing against the Jaguars after missing the opener due to family reasons and exhibition contest No. 3 due to a bruised shoulder. Safety Chris Conte didn’t make his preseason debut until Aug. 22.

The Bears held out all the starters on defense for the preseason finale at Cleveland.

“There's always concern, but I think we're going to have our guys hyped up, ready to go,” cornerback Tim Jennings said. “It's a full game. We're not going to just play a quarter here, two quarters here. We're going to play a whole 60 minutes of football. So this first one is a good test to see where we're at. It's still hard to tell [how good we can be] because we were missing Jared Allen some games. We finally are going to get everybody back together and play a whole game. We played one quarter, two quarters here, and Seattle was a tough test for us. It lets us know that we still have some work to do and we've got to get it together and work hard this week and see what we have for Buffalo.”

Trestman declined to name the starters at safety, saying, “We’ll talk more about that on Wednesday,” while Conte hasn’t yet been cleared to play after suffering a concussion on Aug. 22. Meanwhile, veteran linebacker Lance Briggs missed Monday’s workout with Trestman saying his absence was excused.

“We think the talent level is in a place right now where we’ve got a chance to go out each and every week, get better and improve,” Trestman said. “That’s what we’re going to try and do as we work through this week of practice and the start of the season.”
LAKE FOREST, Ill. – Chicago Bears veteran linebacker Lance Briggs was excused from the first regular season practice by coach Marc Trestman, who said Briggs cleared the absence with him.

Trestman declined to elaborate on Briggs’ whereabouts, but the linebacker is scheduled to open up a new restaurant Monday in his hometown of Elk Grove, California.

“I had communication with him three weeks ago about it,” Trestman said. “We talked about it. And I excused him for personal reasons. So this is not something that happened yesterday or the day before. He contacted me a couple weeks ago and I said, ‘Yeah, you can go.’ That was it.

“I’m not going to speak for him with what he’s doing today. I can tell you that I excused him and that this is something that now took place a long time ago. Where he’s gone is between him and the reasons that he had to go. But it was good by me.”

Minus Briggs, wide receiver Marquess Wilson and quarterback David Fales (shoulder), the Bears had a full roster on the practice field Monday, including safety Chris Conte who participated on a limited basis.

However, Conte has yet to be fully cleared to return from the concussion he suffered in the third preseason game on Aug. 22. That leaves the starting safety combination still somewhat of a mystery heading into Sunday’s Week 1 game versus the Buffalo Bills, although Ryan Mundy and Danny McCray spent the bulk of the summer working together on the first-team.

“I think we’re going to still wait and see [on safety],” Trestman said. “We’re rotating the guys around. And we’ll talk more about that on Wednesday. And we’ll get them started in the right direction. I’d just rather wait another day-and-a-half. But we’ve got four guys that we moved around. Chris got work today, so we have to see where he is as well going into Wednesday’s practice.”

The Bears are off on Tuesday. The first official injury report of the regular season is due on Wednesday.

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears coach Marc Trestman provided a little insight Monday on how the staff put together the final 53-man roster.

The Bears plan to start the regular season with five running backs for the first time since 2012, after keeping four at the position last season. For the fourth consecutive season, the Bears elected to keep eight offensive linemen.

Asked about the decision to go heavy on running backs, Trestman said, "I think part of the reason running-back wise is their value to special teams. We’ve got a couple of linebackers who don’t play special teams. So we picked it up with running backs, which not only can give us return ability, but gunner ability and return ability as I said. Playing on the punt team like Shaun [Draughn]. Shaun can be a three- or four-core guy. So that’s part of the reason why they made the football team, was not only their ability to play offense, but their ability to bring value, special-teams wise."

As for the count along the offensive line, Trestman provided a similar explanation. The Bears typically dress seven offensive linemen on game days.

"We just thought those were the best eight for right now, and where we've got them, and the guys who can contribute most," Trestman said. "When we get to numbers, it’s not just about that group. It’s about how we fill out the 46 on a game day and the 53 overall. So those numbers, could we have had nine or 10 [offensive linemen]? We certainly could have. But the roster filled out the way it did because of the connectivity that we have with all different phases, special teams and defense."
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Second-year right tackle Jordan Mills missed the entire preseason as the Chicago Bears took a conservative approach to his rehabilitation from offseason foot surgery, but the expectation is he’ll be ready to play Sunday when the club hosts the Buffalo Bills in the season opener.

Mills participated in practice at Halas Hall on Monday, and later compared his absence to riding a bike, saying, “You never forget how to ride it.”

“I had to knock a little rust off, and once I got in, it’s like I never left,” Mills said.

Mills missed two weeks of work due to soreness in his left foot before returning to practice on Aug. 20. But he was held out of all the club’s preseason outings. Mills underwent surgery back in January to repair a fractured metatarsal in his left foot, and the team has since brought the tackle along slowly.

As a rookie last season, Mills started in all 16 games but left the season finale against the Green Bay Packers after the first series due to the foot injury. Throughout the preseason, Mills continues to express optimism about his availability for the Sept. 7 opener, and on Monday nothing had changed.

With the team taking such a cautious approach in bringing him back, Mills hinted on Monday that he wouldn’t have missed so much time had the preseason been the regular season.

Asked how ready he is to start the regular season, Mills said, "I'm very ready."

“If I had to [play], I would have,” Mills said. “But if the trainers felt [I] needed to sit out, I would’ve tried my best to get back in. But we have a great training staff, and they’re here for my best interests. So if I had to sit out, I’d sit out. But I would’ve fought every chance I got to get back on the field.”

Given all the time Mills has missed, it’s natural to question whether Chicago’s offensive line will hit the field against the Bills as a cohesive group. Offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer said last week that Mills’ absence along with others along the offensive line gave the staff extra opportunities to evaluate potential backups.

“The positive of that is it has given us an opportunity to give reps to other players, and it has opened the door for them,” Kromer said.
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Defensive tackle Linval Joseph, who was hit in the left calf by a stray bullet in an Aug. 9 nightclub shooting in Minneapolis, returned to practice for the first time since the shooting on Monday, working out with the Minnesota Vikings as they prepare for their season opener on Sunday.

Joseph had said last week that he would be ready for the start of the regular season, and his participation in practice on Monday would suggest he's still on track to play, as would the Vikings' decision to cut nose tackle Fred Evans and start the season with only rookie Shamar Stephen backing up Joseph.

Offensive tackle Phil Loadholt was also back at practice on Monday, nine days after bruising his ankle in a preseason game against Kansas City. Wide receivers Adam Thielen and Rodney Smith, as well as linebackers Anthony Barr and Gerald Hodges, also returned from injuries.

The Vikings were without fullback Zach Line at practice, and linebacker Michael Mauti left early. Tackle Mike Harris, whom the Vikings claimed off waivers on Sunday, was watching practice on Monday.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears signed long snapper Jeremy Cain to the 53-man roster Monday, the team announced.

Cain replaces long snapper Brandon Hartson, who the team waived Sunday. Bears head coach Marc Trestman said following the preseason finale in Cleveland that the club wasn’t entirely pleased with its long-snapping situation.

The Bears brought three long snappers to Halas Hall to participate in a 14-player workout Sunday: Cain, Luke Ingram and Casey Kreiter.

Cain apparently did enough to impress the coaching staff.

Cain has appeared in 83 career games with the Bears, Tennessee Titans and Jacksonville Jaguars, with 75 of those appearances coming at long snapper. Cain served as the long snapper for two games last season in Chicago. This marks Cain’s third stint with the Bears.

The Bears also announced their 10-player practice squad Monday: wide receiver Josh Bellamy, center Taylor Boggs, defensive tackle Brandon Dunn, cornerback Isaiah Frey, guard Ryan Groy, linebacker DeDe Lattimore, cornerback Al Louis-Jean, cornerback Terrance Mitchell, defensive tackle Roy Philon and wide receiver Rashad Ross.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- There was a time not too long ago when the Green Bay Packers were perennially the NFL's youngest team.

They held that distinction in each of coach Mike McCarthy's first four seasons (2006-09).

Not anymore.

Although the NFL waits until after Week 1 to calculate official ages of opening-day rosters because transactions will continue throughout this week, did its own calculations after last weekend's final roster cuts, and the Packers came in as the sixth-youngest team in the NFL with an average age of 25.62. In those same rankings, the Packers also were the sixth-youngest team last season and the fifth-youngest in 2012.

The Rams were the youngest team this season with an average age of 25.01, and the Raiders were the oldest at 27.0.

The rest of the NFC North checked in this way: Vikings (No. 5, 25.58), Lions (No. 21, 26.34) and Bears (No. 30, 26.72).

The Packers have only six players age 30 or older with Julius Peppers (34) being the oldest, by three years over John Kuhn (31) and Tramon Williams (31). Aaron Rodgers, Jarrett Bush and A.J. Hawk all are 30.

Nine rookies made the Packers’ final cuts, with Davante Adams and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix being the youngest at 21.
Here’s a look at the Detroit Lions roster as of Monday morning. The team practices later on Monday, so most, if not all, of these guys should be there.

Thoughts: If I’m Orlovsky, I’m at least a little concerned Moore is still around, from a competitive standpoint. Moore outplayed Orlovsky during the preseason and if the Lions kept him around, he could end up at least pushing Orlovsky for the No. 2 spot. Either way, between Orlovsky and Moore, Stafford has two smart quarterbacks to lean on when it comes to other eyes for in-game adjustments.

Thoughts: A practice squad running back is almost certainly coming, especially since all three backs have had some sort of injury issues. That would be the biggest argument for Detroit keeping a fourth back, and the waiver wire could still come into play here. But otherwise, a strong position group.

Thoughts: Owens can play running back if needed as a hybrid. Collins is a true fullback. Owens is a special-teams ace, so he’s not going anywhere and part of the reason the team kept two fullbacks.

Thoughts: Will be interested to hear what Jim Caldwell says about why they kept who they kept. The Lions have height and speed in their receiving corps now. Fuller can run, as can Ogletree, and both can be deep threats off the bench. Andrew Peacock is a practice squad guy here and could be a slot receiver down the road.

Thoughts: These were always going to be the three tight ends the team kept. No surprises here.

Thoughts: The first three players were always going to be on the roster. Lucas was given a tough challenge by Michael Williams, who is on the practice squad as he continues to learn the position. The Lions are hoping Lucas can turn into what Waddle became last season.

Thoughts: This shows a ton of confidence in Swanson to play either guard or center if there is an injury. Of course, the Lions didn’t have a ton of other options. Developmental lineman Rodney Austin had a bad camp in his third season, and the Lions chose to look elsewhere other than Garrett Reynolds. This is a position where Detroit could make a move early on to give some more stability.

Thoughts: After the midpoint in camp, these five were going to be on the roster, as Johnson turned into the epitome of play your way onto the team. Darryl Tapp was cut but could end up back in Detroit sooner than later. The Lions have to like their rush options here with Ansah, Johnson and Taylor, but could be stronger against the run.

Thoughts: All four of these guys are going to be in the team’s tackle rotation, and you can add Jones in here during nickel situations. Strong group, especially if Fairley ends up playing better.

Thoughts: This is going to be five for the short term at least as Van Noy recovers from abdominal surgery (and might be headed to short-term IR). Whitehead was one of the surprises of camp and is on track to start Monday night against the Giants. Palmer can play both outside positions, Lewis is in the middle and a special-teams stalwart.

Thoughts: Still not a strong position group. If Mathis or Slay get hurt, watch out, as Bentley is more of a nickel/slot corner and Lawson is not ready for the big time yet. That leaves Vaughn, who is good as a depth cornerback. This is an area in which the Lions could still use an upgrade, although none of those upgrades was among the other players in camp.

Thoughts: Like George Johnson, Abdul-Quddus and Couplin played their way onto the Lions. This is a good, not great, group of safeties, but if Couplin improves rapidly, he could really make a strong push to play sooner than later. He has a future and at worst will be a special-teams contributor.

Thoughts: I’ve got none. Lions are set here.