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ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Eric Ebron understands there is a level of pressure there now, a level of expectation heaped upon him from the moment the Detroit Lions selected him with the No. 10 pick in May’s NFL draft.

He didn’t necessarily ask for it or expect it, but he appears to be embracing it at least. The extremely confident tight end has no other choice, really. He is going to be looked at differently than the rest of his class. He is going to be called on more.

And if he wants to end up being the NFL’s top rookie when this season comes to a close, he knows he has to produce on a major level -- a level befitting the pick the Lions used on him. His goals, though, go a little bit deeper.

Ebron’s goals encompass the entire state he now resides in.

[+] EnlargeCalvin Johnson and Eric Ebron
AP Photo/Paul SancyaDetroit Lions tight end Eric Ebron (right) doesn't want to let his teammates -- or the entire state of Michigan -- down in his rookie season.
“Everybody has their own individual goals, but my personal goal is really to not let Michigan down,” Ebron said Tuesday as he reported for training camp. “You know, you got picked first, you’re here, it’s about us in this facility that grinds and goes out there in this heat and work to be something great. And it’s about our fans, the people that come out and support us.

“That’s really what I don’t, that’s sort of like my goals. Don’t let Michigan down. Don’t let the team down.”

Ebron knows Detroit’s offensive success this season is going to be somewhat tied to his ability to pick up the offense, to catch passes with regularity and to develop a rapport with quarterback Matthew Stafford.

He also knows his room for making mistakes -- like he did from time to time during spring workouts -- will diminish with every practice leading up to the regular season. He needs to transition his mentality from making mistakes and learning from them to no longer making those errors at all.

He isn’t concerned about his physical condition with any of that. It is all about his mental status.

“I’ve never really worried about my body physically,” Ebron said. “Mentally, it is what it is. It’s the NFL, it’s my first year. I’m going to have migraines. I have Advil sitting in my desk in the tight end room ready to chew on. I’m ready.”

As part of getting ready, Ebron had to do one thing first -- clean out his locker. A Lions coach sent Ebron a picture of his mess of a stall asking if he could keep it neat. The reason for the mess? He was using it as storage.

A lot of storage.

“I had about, a smooth 35 pair of shoes. I had a couple systems for my house, by Sonos. They are some people I deal with, the speakers are incredible,” Ebron said. “I had some customized cleats for the season come through from Nike. The Ebrons ain’t dropped yet. Next year.

“That was it. Just shoes took up most of my locker. Now they in the back of my car.”

They were moved into the same car Ebron is leasing right now as he starts to find a way to navigate in his new world both as a Michigan resident and as an NFL first-round draft pick.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Mike McCarthy and his family got the rare opportunity to pay tribute to a family member who flew a World War II B-17 bomber and in the process, the Green Bay Packers coach couldn't resist taking a "shot" at the archrival Chicago Bears.

McCarthy
McCarthy
Clearly having a little fun with the assembled crowd at Green Bay's Austin Straubel International Airport, McCarthy delivered a mission message shortly before boarding the restored plane.

"All right, let's go bomb Chicago," McCarthy said.

WBAY-TV, the local ABC affiliate, captured the moment.

We know this about McCarthy, he takes the rivalry with the Bears -- and all of the Packers' NFC North foes -- seriously. He and his coaching staff spend a week every offseason preparing for each division opponent.

But this was all fun and games -- and a tribute to a family member. For it was the same type of B-17 plane that the grandfather of McCarthy's wife, Jessica, flew during World War II. The 96-year-old Bob Schneider was on hand to watch his granddaughter and other family members take a ride around the skies over Green Bay.

With McCarthy and family aboard, the plane apparently took off to the south but given that it returned only 30 minutes later, Chicago was well out of range. So no need to worry, this wasn't the start of a border war. Those battles will continue to be fought on the football field.
Jay Cutler can take the Chicago Bears to the Super Bowl, according to future Hall of Famer Brett Favre, who believes the enigmatic quarterback might now be hitting his prime.

Favre
Cutler
Asked on ESPN 1000’s “Carmen and Jurko” show on Monday whether Chicago could advance to the Super Bowl with Cutler under center, Favre said “I think they can,” adding that it appears the Bears are finally starting to put enough talent around the quarterback after focusing for so many years on the defense.

“It goes without saying that Jay has all the tools it takes to be a great quarterback,” Favre said. “And I think the pieces are beginning to be in place. For years their defense had just been so dominating, and it’s time for their offense to really prove their worth. I think Jay can be that guy.”

Chicago’s brass does, too, considering the organization rewarded Cutler back in January with a contract extension worth $126 million. Cutler celebrated his 31st birthday back in April, and although players’ physical skills often start to diminish after the age of 30, Favre pointed to a pair of former MVPs in making a case for the Chicago quarterback.

Asked if Cutler could become a great quarterback after the age of 30, Favre didn’t hesitate.

“Rich Gannon did it. Steve Young did it. Sure,” Favre said. “I think you become a lot wiser as you kind of lose some of your physical abilities. I think at 30 for a quarterback, really, you’re just kind of hitting your prime.”

Perhaps one component of the growing wisdom Favre anticipates from Cutler will manifest itself in decision making. In part, because of supreme confidence in his arm strength, Cutler has gained a reputation for forcing throws into tight windows, which often leads to interceptions.

Favre had the same reputation during his 20-year NFL career, and called his arm strength “a blessing and a curse.” Favre holds the NFL record for career interceptions (336).

“What I mean by that, I had an arm that I felt was as good if not better than anyone,” Favre said. “I wasn’t as fast. I wasn’t as tall. I wasn’t as smart. But I knew I could make the throws no one else could make. I would attempt throws I knew I could get away with. Would it come back to haunt me sometimes? Sure it would. But I played 20 years and sometimes it bit me in the butt. Most of the time, I got away with it. I think had my arm not been as strong, I wouldn’t have attempted those. You get away with it more times than not, but occasionally it gets you. I think that’s just the way really any player plays throughout the league; knowing your imitations, and sometimes, it gets the better of you.”
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- He's afraid of getting booed. He's not afraid of getting booed.

Whichever it is -- and depending on who you believe, it could be either -- the only way to find out how fans will react to former Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre is to actually bring him back to Lambeau Field.

Favre
That's what made it surprising recently to hear Packers president Mark Murphy say the team won’t retire Favre’s No. 4 this season.

In fact, after saying the team and Favre tried to get together for an appearance last season, Murphy said he was not even sure whether Favre will make an appearance in 2014.

If Favre is not concerned about how fans will receive him, which is what he said Monday during an appearance on ESPN 1000 in Chicago, then why delay things any further?

The longer this goes on, the more of an issue it could become.

The time is right to bring back Favre -- if not to retire his jersey this season, then at least to the Packers' family by way of an appearance and introduction during a game at Lambeau. Then retire his jersey and put him in the Packers Hall of Fame in 2015 before he goes into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2016.

Those who are still smarting over Favre's decision in 2008 to unretire and try to force his way back on to the team, or his decision in 2009 to play for the rival Minnesota Vikings, are going to boo whether it's this season or next or the one after that.

Time won't change that, even if it has changed things between Favre and the organization, according to him.

"I do believe time heals wounds in a lot of ways," Favre said Monday in his radio interview. "I'm fine with coming back. I know it's going to be a great ceremony when we are going to do it. It's just a matter of when. From my end, everything’s good."
MINNEAPOLIS -- Former Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe plans to file suit against the team this week, in part to obtain the full report from a six-month independent investigation of his allegations against special teams coordinator Mike Priefer. But Kluwe is employing another tool to pressure the Vikings to release the report.

Kluwe
Kluwe
He started a petition on Change.org, asking the Vikings to release the full 150-page report to the public. The team engaged another law firm to review the full report last week and released a 29-page summary of the investigation on Friday evening. In an interview on Saturday, however, Kluwe said the report contained inaccuracies about Priefer's conduct and called again for the Vikings to release the complete report. As of Monday afternoon, his petition had received about 900 digital signatures.

Kluwe's attorney, Clayton Halunen, said on Saturday that he would start the discovery process the same day he serves the Vikings with a lawsuit. Of the report, he said, "We're going to get that within 30 days (of a lawsuit being filed)."

In the explanation of the petition he wrote on Change.org, Kluwe said the Vikings had promised to release the findings from their six-month investigation, and he called a news conference last Tuesday to criticize the team after it informed him it would not release the complete report. Both the Vikings and investigators Chris Madel and Eric Magnuson released statements the same day saying the team had never made or broken any promises to Kluwe about what it planned to do with the report.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- No one in the media knows more about quarterback play than ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski, a former NFL quarterback himself and a devout watcher of game film.

So it's always interesting to hear what he has to say about Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

Rodgers
Rodgers
By now, everyone knows that Rodgers is one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL.

But what makes him such?

That’s where Jaws comes in.

On Monday, he released his latest quarterback rankings Insider.

It should come as no surprise that Rodgers is No. 3 on that list behind only Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. Considering Rodgers is six years younger than Brady and eight years younger than Manning, there's a good chance he might soon top Jaworski's list.

Here's what Jaworski had to say about Rodgers, 30, as he enters his 10th NFL season:
"Rodgers may get the ball out of his hands quicker than any quarterback in the league right now. He is probably the best off-platform thrower in the NFL and doesn't need functional space to make a downfield throw. Rodgers understands coverages and can torch defenses with his legs, both running the ball and eluding rushers in the pocket. He has elite arm strength and, like Brady, pinpoint accuracy. There really aren't any holes in his game right now."


Earlier this offseason, ESPN.com’s Mike Sando polled league insiders to rank all the starting quarterbacks Insider, and Rodgers tied for first with Manning, Brady and Drew Brees.
A season ago, when colleague Ron Jaworski tabbed Detroit Lions' Matthew Stafford as the 13th-best quarterback in the NFL, there were some questions about why he was so low.

Stafford
Stafford
Stafford is now lower this season.

Jaworski, who ranked 32 quarterbacks, placed Stafford firmly in the middle at No. 16 -- and it has nothing to do with his talent. Jaworski lauds Stafford's arm, saying his physical skills belong in the top 10. But as many have pointed out -- including in this space -- his decisions and certain throws have always been his problem.

General manager Martin Mayhew fired Jim Schwartz and Scott Linehan in part because of this, replacing them with an offensive-minded staff focused on quarterback development. The Lions' hope is Stafford has a strong enough season where he finally climbs into the top 10 on this list, since it was based on last season's production and throws.

Jaworski also took issue with Stafford's accuracy and reading of coverages, common concerns when it comes to the franchise quarterback in Detroit.

Stafford is not the lowest-rated quarterback in the NFC North. Not even close. To find out who is -- check out his rankings at this link Insider.
Tim JenningsAP Photo/Nam Y. HuhTim Jennings, left, expects to be rushing the quarterback more often this season.
We caught up with Chicago Bears cornerback Tim Jennings recently to discuss a variety of topics, ranging from his work with martial arts expert Joe Kim to what he thought of the changes last season made by coach Marc Trestman.

As training camp approaches, here’s something to whet your appetite for Bears football:

Since you’re playing nickel some and you’re expected to do some blitzing, tell us what are you doing with Joe Kim?

Tim Jennings: Joe Kim, he’s supposed to be like a master of kung fu or whatnot. So he works a lot with our defensive line on their pass-rush moves. So I work with Joe Kim now that I’m playing the nickel position. I think I’m going to be blitzing a lot more. So I need to kind of work on some pass-rush moves, man, because I can’t beat everybody with the quickness and strength. So I want to put some more in my repertoire.

With the scheme changing up front, how much do things change for you guys on the back end?

Jennings: It doesn’t really change too much. [Defensive coordinator Mel Tucker] just wants us to be in the position to do our jobs. Really, our success comes from that defensive front, and I think that’s why he’s doing a lot more things to try to create the freedom for those guys to get to the quarterback and create pressure; just let me, Charles [Tillman], and now Kyle Fuller just do our thing.

With all the things this team did with the front this offseason, how much easier will it make your job on the back end?

Jennings: Of course, that’s exactly what I expect. On the back end we just have to do our job, be where we need to be and then the plays will start coming because of the pressure that we’re putting on the quarterback. The throws won’t be as perfect. Then, we could start getting a feel for some things to where we can be there a little bit quicker, where the field starts to shrink. Then, we can start to anticipate things a lot more. I think that’s just the approach that Coach Tucker has taken. Me and Charles, we’re taking that same approach. We just need to do our jobs, be where we need to be, do what we’ve been doing for the past couple of years that we’ve been playing together. With the pressure on the quarterback, if we’re getting to the quarterback, a lot more plays will come for us on the back end. It will work hand in hand. So if we’re where we need to be, we can take some throws away from the quarterback, make him hold it longer. We’ll get a lot more snaps.

Throughout the offseason, you’ve worked some at nickel while Fuller has gone to your spot outside. With camp coming up, do you anticipate any packages where maybe Fuller goes inside to nickel while you stay outside?

Jennings: Right now, I do not anticipate that. I think I’m that guy to move inside. Just the fact that we’re looking at our division, guys we’re going to face and stuff, matchups that we’ll have. We want to make sure the matchup is to where we’ve got the best advantage, where we can be equal with those guys. Maybe if we’re playing Detroit and they move Calvin Johnson inside at the slot, of course we’re going to have Charles Tillman follow him around. We feel like that’s a better matchup. It gives us the best chance to win. So we’re going to move guys around and we’re going to match up. I think that’s why we drafted Kyle Fuller. It was a good move.

Last year, you guys didn’t get the repetitions at practice that you had been used to getting in the past, and we saw what happened. Do you see this team making some changes or tweaks in terms of how you do things at practice this upcoming season?

Jennings: Well, I don’t think we’re going to change that. One thing about coach [Marc] Trestman is he’s big on competition. So he’s going to line up his ones against his ones. He wants to get the best out of both teams, offense, defense and special teams. So the structure I don’t think is going to change. As far as us not practicing [last year], I wouldn’t say all that. I think the reps that we get are quality reps because we compete so much. When I am out there, it’s against our ones. It’s against Brandon [Marshall]. It’s against Alshon [Jeffery]. It’s a way for us to get better. But he’s being smart about the reps knowing that it’s a long, long, long season. It’s big to make sure guys are healthy and ready to go on Sunday. It took me some getting used to when he first got here last year, to really realize what’s going on, why we’re doing things this way. But it’s making sense to me right now in seeing the structure he does things in and the competition he wants from this group is meaningful.
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MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Vikings were scheduled to pay Chris Kluwe $1.45 million in 2013. They paid his replacement, Jeff Locke, $451,048, saving themselves nearly $1 million with a decision that, according to the summary of a six-month investigation released Friday night, most of their decision-makers felt was necessary to upgrade their performance at the position.

Kluwe
Kluwe
Viewed solely through the prism of on-field results, it was the kind of simple, sensible football move teams make all the time. Which makes the Vikings' handling of Kluwe this week even more perplexing.

As the former punter and his attorney, Clayton Halunen, put it Friday, they offered the Vikings the following nonnegotiable terms to settle Kluwe's dispute with the team after the investigation into his allegations against special-teams coordinator Mike Priefer:
  • The team would make the entire 150-page report public, excepting the thousands of citations and footnotes -- some of which contained sensitive personal information -- from investigator Chris Madel's interviews with Vikings players and employees.
  • The Vikings would suspend Priefer without pay for four to eight games for his homophobic remarks and require him to attend sensitivity training.
  • Lastly, the Vikings would donate $1 million to charities supporting gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender-friendly causes.

Halunen might have put additional stipulations on a settlement other than the ones he and Kluwe detailed in interviews Friday night. And it's safe to assume the relationship between the parties was frayed by the end of the process, which couldn't have steered negotiations in a productive direction. But if those terms are correct and complete, it means the Vikings walked away from a settlement -- and goaded Kluwe into threatening a lawsuit -- over a $900,000 difference in the donation amount, a one-game difference in Priefer's suspension and a decision to release a 29-page report on the investigation from a law firm they hired to review it rather than the original, independent report itself.

That seems like a minuscule difference for the Vikings to cover to make the episode go away relatively quietly. Instead, six days before players report to training camp for the first time under new coach Mike Zimmer, the Vikings had a former player threatening a lawsuit and taking to Twitter to detail all the unseemly things he could divulge during that process. The Vikings should know Kluwe well enough by now to realize he's not one to back down, and they decided to provoke him when a little more transparency and contrition might have dispatched the whole thing. From a strictly legal perspective, they might be on solid footing; they've already reprimanded Priefer, and Halunen would have a hard time disproving the Vikings' claim that they cut Kluwe for performance reasons only. We've heard the full report, if released, will contain more material that paints Kluwe in an unflattering light, and Halunen seemed aware of that possibility Friday, after the initial summary included stories of Kluwe's bawdy locker room humor.

"I know there are things in there that are not flattering to my client," Halunen said. "He made jokes every once in a while. I know they’re going to be there."

But doesn't it worry the Vikings that, knowing all this, Kluwe seems intent on charging forward into the muck anyway?

Even the punter sounded perplexed, and slightly bemused, when discussing it Friday evening. "There was a reason I released the original Deadspin piece [on Jan. 2], so it would get handled at the best time of the year," Kluwe said. "The whole goal [was] to avoid this being handled in the football season. It's the same story going into the football season. It shouldn't be."

The Vikings could be standing on principles, or they could be trying to push Kluwe to the brink, hoping he'll accept a less favorable settlement over a protracted legal battle. But let's say players get asked to give depositions, or are even called to testify in court. Is that process -- and the possible PR hit -- worth the risk for the team?

If it's not, it's certainly tantalizing to ask why the Vikings passed on an opportunity to avoid it for roughly the sum of what they'll pay a backup defensive lineman this season. Or, slightly less than what they saved by keeping a rookie punter over a veteran who was about to become a very big thorn in their side.
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)

Ellison's ability to be the "F back" in Norv Turner's offense -- a hybrid fullback/tight end who can catch passes and line up in a number of different spots -- could help him beat out Line and undrafted free-agent A.C. Leonard for a roster spot. Rudolph is looking for a big year, and a new contract before he becomes a free agent next spring.

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.
Examining the Chicago Bears' roster:

QUARTERBACKS (3)

Despite recently signing, Jimmy Clausen quickly gained ground on Jordan Palmer at the club's veteran minicamp and appears poised to unseat the latter for the No. 2 job behind Cutler. The team likes Fales' long-term potential, and it will look to keep him on the roster as a developmental prospect to groom in Marc Trestman's scheme.


RUNNING BACKS (4)

Forte's role in the offense is expected to evolve somewhat, and the team added an interesting between-the-tackles grinder in Carey, who is arguably the most physical back of the entire 2014 class. Fiammetta will stay in his role as fullback, and Ford will contribute mostly on special teams if he can't claim the primary backup role behind Forte.

RECEIVERS (5)

Marshall and Jeffery will get an opportunity to prove they're the league's best duo at the position in 2014. Wilson comes into the season with high hopes and the expectation that he'll grow into the No. 3 role. Morgan and Weems will be pushed by all the young prospects at camp, but their experience and reliability will win out.

TIGHT ENDS (2)

This is a position where it might make sense to add a third player. Bennett clearly is the team's best all-around tight end, while Mulligan excels as an in-line blocker. Zach Miller is more of a receiving tight end than all-around blocker, but if the Bears go with three tight ends, either he or Dante Rosario could get the call.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (10)

The case could be made that offensive line is one of the team's strongest position groups, which is somewhat strange given all the struggles the Bears have experienced in recent years there. The starting five from 2013 return for 2014, and the Bears also have some prime candidates should they decide to reload up front, as Britton and De La Puente are capable of starting.

DEFENSIVE LINE (10)

Look for veterans at the bottom of the roster such as Scott, Lane and Collins to be pushed tremendously by several of the youngsters at training camp. Injuries in 2013 made this position group a weakness, but the Bears made sure to load up on the defensive line through the draft and free agency.

LINEBACKERS (6)

The Bears will have difficult decisions to make here, and we believe Jones, an undrafted rookie, is talented enough to make the team. Khaseem Greene has improved, but it will likely come down to him and Senn for that final linebacker spot, which Senn might win because of his abilities as a special-teamer.

CORNERBACKS (5)

The depth chart here is pretty set in stone, but first-rounder Fuller will definitely see plenty of time on the field.

SAFETIES (4)

Both starting spots are up for grabs, but Conte probably won't be ready for the start of camp. If he doesn't recover quickly, he could wind up losing his roster spot. We've got Wilson making the cut, but his odds are long; he has to prove he's still got something left in the tank.

SPECIALISTS (4)

Williams is the only question mark among the specialists, and he's being pushed hard by Micheal Spurlock, Armanti Edwards and Josh Bellamy.
Examining the Green Bay Packers' roster:

Quarterbacks (3)
The Packers have not kept three quarterbacks on their opening-day roster since 2008, but they might be inclined to do so this season in order to avoid a situation like last year, when Rodgers broke his collarbone. Coach Mike McCarthy is high on Tolzien, who made two starts last season, but Flynn has proved he can win as a backup in Green Bay.

Running backs (4)

The return of Harris, who missed all of last season because of a knee injury, gives the Packers insurance behind Lacy and Starks. Kuhn is valuable both as a fullback and on special teams. It's possible they'll keep a fourth halfback, but the loss of Johnathan Franklin to a career-ending neck injury has left them without a strong in-house candidate for that spot.

Receivers (6)

The Packers often keep only five receivers, but given that they drafted three -- Adams (second round), Abbrederis (fifth round) and Janis (seventh round) -- there's a good chance they will keep six. Abbrederis and Janis will not only have to show they're better prospects than second-year pros Myles White and Chris Harper, but they also could help themselves if they can return kicks.

Tight ends (4)

McCarthy likes tight ends (he has kept five before), and the wild card is undrafted rookie Colt Lyerla.

Offensive linemen (8)

The Packers typically only activate seven offensive linemen on game day, so they can get away with keeping just eight on the roster. Barclay's ability to play all five positions also allows them some freedom. Lane Taylor could be the ninth lineman if they go that route.

Defensive line (7)

Worthy and Guion have work to do to make the roster, but there's room for them if you count Julius Peppers and Mike Neal among the outside linebackers, which is where they lined up more often in the offseason.

Linebackers (8)

There will be some tough cuts here. Second-year pros Nate Palmer and Andy Mulumba both played last year as rookie outside linebackers. It also may be tough for highly touted undrafted rookie Adrian Hubbard to make it.

Cornerbacks (6)

Hayward's return from last season's hamstring injury means he likely will return as the slot cornerback in the nickel package, a role played last year by Micah Hyde (who may primarily play safety this year).

Safeties (4)

The major question here is whether Hyde or Clinton-Dix will be the starter alongside Burnett. Chris Banjo, who played primarily on special teams last season, might be the odd man out.

Specialists (3)

There's no competition at any of these spots.
Jermichael FinleyJeff Hanisch/USA TODAY SportsFree-agent tight end Jermichael Finley has not played since he sustained a bruised spinal cord on Oct. 20 against the Cleveland Browns.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Nothing has changed between the Green Bay Packers and free-agent tight end Jermichael Finley, who is attempting to continue his career following neck fusion surgery last fall, but he is scheduled to meet with team physician Dr. Pat McKenzie for the second time in the last seven weeks.

That meeting will take place today, according to ESPNWisconsin.com.

Perhaps that's why Finley tweeted the following on Thursday morning:

However, an NFL source told ESPN.com that Finley's tweet did not mean the Packers had cleared Finley medically or were in negotiations with him. The source said "there’s nothing going on" with Finley and the Packers in terms of contract talks.

Finley last met with the Packers' medical staff on May 28 in what was described at the time by a source close to the situation as “a formality” because Finley had not checked in with the Packers recently.

According to USA Today, Finley was expected to undergo more tests this week. It is possible Finley's meeting with McKenzie is to review those results.

Finley, 27, has not played since he sustained a bruised spinal cord on Oct. 20 against the Cleveland Browns. That injury left him momentarily without movement or feeling in his extremities. Finley underwent surgery on Nov. 14 to fuse together the C-3 and C-4 vertebrae in his neck. That was the same fusion that former Packers safety Nick Collins had following his 2011 neck injury. The Packers released Collins the following offseason because their doctors, including McKenzie, did not believe it was safe for him to continue his career. Collins has not played since.

The surgeon who performed Finley's fusion, Dr. Joseph Maroon, the Pittsburgh Steelers' doctor, has reportedly cleared Finley for football activities. Since becoming a free agent in March, Finley also has visited the Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots, but neither team offered him a contract.

However, according to USA Today, the Steelers offered Finley a contract that he said included "money [that] ain't what it's supposed to be."

Finley, who completed a two-year, $14 million contract, has a disability insurance policy that could pay him $10 million tax free if he is unable to resume his career.

The Packers don't have a clear-cut starter if Finley does not return. However, rookie third-round pick Richard Rodgers was impressive enough during the offseason practices that he is a strong candidate for the job.

Camp preview: Minnesota Vikings

July, 17, 2014
Jul 17
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NFL Nation's Ben Goessling examines the three biggest issues facing the Minnesota Vikings heading into training camp.

Quarterback: This will be the biggest storyline surrounding the Vikings in training camp until head coach Mike Zimmer settles on a starter. Zimmer and offensive coordinator Norv Turner have pledged to hold an open competition during training camp, though the race really figures to boil down to two quarterbacks: veteran Matt Cassel and rookie Teddy Bridgewater, who both got a significantly larger share of snaps during the Vikings' OTAs and minicamp than Christian Ponder. Bridgewater was impressive in his first work with the Vikings this spring, but unless he's clearly the best of the Vikings' quarterbacks in training camp, Cassel figures to start the season as the quarterback. The Vikings re-signed Cassel so they wouldn't have to rush a young quarterback, and in the process, they created a situation in which they can afford to be patient with Bridgewater. If he's the best man for the job, it doesn't seem likely Zimmer will wait to play him. But if he's not fully ready by the end of camp, there's nothing forcing the Vikings to play the rookie.

Remaking the defense: The Vikings committed $20 million in guaranteed money to defensive end Everson Griffen and guaranteed another $16.95 million to secure the services of defensive tackle Linval Joseph and cornerback Captain Munnerlyn. But until training camp, when players put on pads, cornerbacks play press coverage and there's actual contact at the line of scrimmage, it's difficult to assess where the Vikings are in their effort to rebuild a defense that allowed more points than any other unit in the league last season. Rookie linebacker Anthony Barr only had a minicamp with the team as classes at UCLA kept him out of the team's OTAs, but he'll be a prominent figure as the Vikings plan to use the 6-foot-5 linebacker in several different ways. With questions at linebacker (does Jasper Brinkley start in the middle?) and in the secondary (is Josh Robinson good enough to get significant playing time at cornerback?), the Vikings will have plenty to figure out on defense.

New roles for Peterson, Patterson: At age 29, Adrian Peterson is intent on cruising along with his career at a time when most running backs his age start to break down. In Norv Turner, Peterson has a new offensive coordinator who is intent on using him differently. Peterson will be more involved in the Vikings' passing game this season, as Turner and Zimmer seek to convert some of his carries into receptions, giving him more room to work in the open field and making him less likely to take a pounding. Turner also has big plans for second-year receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, whose emergence late last season made many wonder why the Vikings waited so long to make him a big part of the offense. Patterson, who played mostly at split end last season, moved to different spots during the Vikings' offseason program, and Turner seems interested in getting the explosive receiver the ball as much as he can; general manager Rick Spielman said at the NFL scouting combine in February that Turner already had designed about 10 plays for Patterson. If the Vikings can turn him loose in Year 2, he could emerge as one of the NFL's premier playmakers.

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