GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The immediate reaction when a player gets hurt is to bring back an aged veteran to replace him, but the Green Bay Packers should – and likely will – resist that temptation.

Raji
General manager Ted Thompson would have a couple of those options to replace starting nose tackle B.J. Raji, who has a torn right biceps and learned on Saturday that he will miss the entire season.

But don't look for the Packers to bring back Ryan Pickett, who teamed with Raji on the defensive line the past five seasons. The same is likely the case for Johnny Jolly, who was the third member of the starting defensive line in Green Bay last year.

Both Pickett and Jolly are out of work and available, but neither fit what the Packers want to do on defense this season. Defensive coordinator Dom Capers aspires to be quicker across the front line, which means they have to get younger. Pickett will turn 35 in October, while Jolly turned 31 in February. Also, Jolly is coming off a neck injury that required fusion surgery.

A year after the Packers started a three-man defensive line that combined to weigh 1,000 pounds -- with Raji at 337, Pickett at 338 and Jolly at 325 -- this season they planned to pair Raji with Mike Daniels (305) and Datone Jones (285).

The Packers signed former Minnesota Vikings backup Letroy Guion to play behind Raji, but Guion has yet to practice because of a hamstring injury.

That leaves former fifth-round pick Josh Boyd, who replaced Raji after his injury on Friday against the Oakland Raiders, as the most likely replacement. It would mean the starting defensive front would feature a pair of second-year players (Boyd and Jones) and a third-year pro (Daniels). The Packers also are high on undrafted rookie Mike Pennel, who likely would have made the team even before Raji’s injury.

While the Packers lose a starter in Raji, he's not a full-time player. Last season, Capers used his base 3-4 defense on just 252 of 1,015 snaps (24.8 percent). Raji was slated to see some playing time in the nickel package, but Daniels and Jones are the primary duo in that package. Raji would not have played at all in the dime defense.

For Raji, the injury comes at the worst possible time. The 28-year-old former first-round pick signed just a one-year, $4 million contract this offseason with the hope that he could improve his stock with a strong season and parlay that into a bigger deal next offseason.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Coach Mike McCarthy should just go ahead and call off the competition for the Green Bay Packers' backup quarterback job and demand that general manager Ted Thompson keep both Matt Flynn and Scott Tolzien on the roster.

Tolzien
Flynn
Flynn
Maybe Thompson will feel as though he cannot afford to use three roster spots on quarterbacks. After all, he hasn't done so since 2008, and even then it was only because he wasn't ready to give up on second-round pick Brian Brohm.

But he also hasn’t had three worth keeping like he does now.

Given how close the competition is behind Aaron Rodgers, the safe thing to do would be to find a place for Flynn and Tolzien, especially after what the Packers went through last season when Rodgers broke his collarbone and missed seven starts.

The Packers need three quarterbacks to practice anyway, and since Tolzien has run out of practice squad eligibility, it’s the roster or bust for both backups.

Rodgers won’t play in Thursday’s preseason finale against the Kansas City Chiefs, so expect Flynn and Tolzien to get a long look. But even McCarthy would not go so far as to say it’s a winner-take-all situation for the backup job.

“Well, we’ll see,” McCarthy said after Friday’s preseason game against the Oakland Raiders. “I’m not going to make statements like that.”

Based on game production alone, Tolzien might have closed the gap on -- and possibly even overtaken -- Flynn. Against the Raiders, Tolzien threw the ball with the kind of zip that Flynn does not always show, and he completed 8 of 11 passes for 107 yards and a touchdown. But he also was the beneficiary of a diving catch by Chris Harper for a 27-yard gain and a juggling catch by Alex Gillett for a 15-yard touchdown.

“I’ve been in games where all of those have been incompletions, and tonight, guys were making plays on the ball,” Tolzien said. “The line was protecting, so there were a lot of guys doing good things.”

Meanwhile, Flynn completed just 4 of 10 passes for 37 yards and had a screen pass go terribly wrong and turn into an interception.

However, Flynn was undone by scores of mental errors and fundamental mistakes.

“We had one decent drive, one when I was in there, and it was OK,” said Flynn of the 12-play, 34-yard drive that led to a field goal. “But we’ve got to clean up the mistakes. We’re having some missed opportunities.”

For the preseason, Tolzien has blown away Flynn in nearly every statistical category. His passer rating is 104.9 to Flynn’s 61.9. His completion percentage is 68.4 percent to Flynn’s 47.8. His yards per attempt is 8.9 to Flynn’s 5.7, which supports the argument that Tolzien has a stronger arm and therefore is better throwing the ball down the field.

But Flynn’s history cannot be discounted.

Tolzien did not produce a single victory in three appearances last season, and after Flynn scratched out a tie after McCarthy pulled Tolzien against the Vikings, the veteran backup went 2-2 before Rodgers returned. He also spent his first four NFL seasons (2008-11) as Rodgers' primary backup before leaving in free agency.

And even if Flynn's numbers and production have not translated into preseason-game success, his practice-field performance has not slipped.

"Every year, you've got to prove to the coaches that you deserve a spot and you've earned a spot," Flynn said. "I don't think they just give out spots or anything like that because of what you've done. But I feel really good about what I've done this camp. I think I've had one of, if not the, best camps that I've had since I've been a professional. That entails a lot of things besides just what's going on out there. I'm proud of what I've done. I don't have any regrets."

Maybe Thompson won't be able to part with his 10th linebacker or sixth receiver or fifth tight end, therefore making it impossible to keep three quarterbacks.

But it would be a mistake to let one of them walk away, because if something happened to Rodgers again this season, they might need both of them again.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- James Jones and Charles Woodson have seen the Green Bay Packers' offense at its finest.

Both played on the 2007 team that reached the NFC title game with Brett Favre at the helm.

Both played on the 2010 Super Bowl-winning team with Aaron Rodgers at quarterback.

And both played here in 2011, when Rodgers set an NFL single-season record for passer rating (122.5) and set franchise records for touchdowns passes (45), passing yards (4,643) and won the league's MVP award.

Even they came away impressed with what they saw on Friday at Lambeau Field.

Playing for the visiting Oakland Raiders, the two former Packers watched in person as Rodgers and his offense put the final touches on their preparation for the Sept. 4 season opener at the Seattle Seahawks.

In six series against the Raiders, Rodgers led three touchdown drives -- two of which were capped by touchdown passes -- that laid the groundwork for a 31-21 preseason victory.

"Man, they looked goooooood," said Jones, who signed with the Raiders this offseason. "They looked like they were in midseason form. A-Rod is the man in that offense. They're doing a lot of quick games, giving the receivers a chance to get the ball in their hands, make some plays for Aaron. But they looked good. They looked real explosive."

Running the no-huddle, Rodgers and the No. 1 offense got off 39 plays before exiting with 5:58 left in the second quarter. If they managed to keep up that pace for an entire game, it would equate to 97.5 offensive plays. For comparison’s sake, the Denver Broncos led the NFL last season, averaging 72.3 plays per game.

The Packers' goal for this season is to run 75 plays per game. The way things looked on Friday, they might just achieve that.

"The no-huddle is a beast," said Woodson, who won the NFL defensive player of the year award as a member of the Packers in 2009. "It keeps a defense on its heels. When you have a quarterback as smart as he is, he's able to pick up what you're trying to do. They kept us off balance that first drive and went down and scored very easily."

What stood out to both Jones and Woodson was the fact that the Packers have a running game to go with Rodgers' arm. Reigning NFL offensive rookie of the year Eddie Lacy and DuJuan Harris combined for 92 yards on just 18 carries (an average of 5.1 yards per carry).

"They finally brought in a running back who can do some damage," Woodson said, referring to Lacy. "It's going to be tough for some people."

Said Jones: "They're going to put that pressure on defenses to line up and be able to get in the right coverage to stop A-Rod, and they can run it now, too, with Lacy and DuJuan and James [Starks]. They've got a good ballclub. I'm happy for them."

Rodgers almost certainly won’t play in Thursday’s preseason finale against the Kansas City Chiefs, so this was the final rehearsal before they take on the defending Super Bowl champs in the NFL’s opening game.

"I think we're ready," Rodgers said. "I think it's been a good preseason. We scored some points, moved the ball. We saw what we wanted to see out of our skill players and the offensive line. We have 13 days to the game."
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- B.J. Raji seems to think the arm injury he sustained in Friday's preseason game against the Oakland Raiders is not serious.

At least that's what he conveyed to Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy.

Raji
"He's pretty confident about it," McCarthy said after the Packers’ 31-21 victory.

But even McCarthy did not sound sure.

Raji is scheduled to undergo more tests on Saturday.

"That's why you do the tests," McCarthy said. "We'll see what the tests say tomorrow."

Raji played parts of the first two defensive series and then did not return. The nose tackle's last play was a 1-yard run by Raiders running back Darren McFadden, and Raji did not appear to injury himself on that play. He was replaced by second-year pro Josh Boyd.

Raji remained on the sideline for the remainder of the first half and had a long, protective sleeve on his right arm, which he did not use during the game. He had ice on his upper arm after the game.

If Raji's injury is serious, the Packers could turn to Ryan Pickett, who played for the Packers from 2006 to 2013. He was not re-signed this offseason and remains unemployed. So does Johnny Jolly, who returned to the Packers last season after serving a three-year NFL suspension, but Jolly plays defensive end and not nose tackle.

The only other injury the Packers announced was to rookie cornerback Demetri Goodson, who sustained a concussion.
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SEATTLE -- The Chicago Bears' first-team offense moved the ball a little, putting up the only fight the starters showed all night.

But the defense churned out a stinker, giving up 31 first-half points as the Seattle Seahawks' starters dominated the Bears 34-6 on strength of a pair of Russell Wilson touchdown passes and a 7-yard run.

Here are some other thoughts on the club's third preseason game:
  • Perhaps the trip West sapped Chicago's energy, because the Bears looked decidedly slower than Seattle in all three phases. It was apparent on the opening kickoff. Percy Harvin opened with a 39-yard return, and punctuated the run back by running over Ryan Mundy, who appeared to be letting up at the end of the play. "It was all three phases of our football team: the return game, our cover game, our run defense," Bears coach Marc Trestman said. Seattle marched 61 yards on seven plays after Harvin's return with Marshawn Lynch running through a Shea McClellin arm tackle at the end of a 7-yard scoring run. The Bears applied pressure on the drive, but Wilson scrambled for short gains or bought enough time to find open throwing lanes. Chicago's defense looked noticeably slower than Seattle's offense, which converted all four of its third downs in the opening quarter.
  • The defense compounded playing poorly with mental errors. On third and 4 from Seattle's 37 in the first quarter, the Bears squandered an opportunity to force a punt by giving the Seahawks a freebie first down on Jeremiah Ratliff's encroachment penalty. Three plays later, after Willie Young had already sacked Wilson for a 9-yard loss, Lance Briggs gave Seattle another gift by hitting the quarterback late and drawing a 15-yard penalty for unnecessary roughness. "We had penalties that continued drives, and we didn't finish drives offensively," Trestman said. Wilson eventually capped that drive with a 7-yard scramble around the end as Briggs hopelessly gave chase.
  • Mundy and Danny McCray continued to take repetitions with the first-team defense, but maybe that changes moving forward. Chicago's defensive struggles appear to involve mostly the safeties and the linebackers.
  • Chris Conte saw his first action of the preseason, entering in the second quarter. Conte laid a big hit on Luke Willson in the end zone to stop what would have been a touchdown. The next play, Wilson hit Jermaine Kearse for a 12-yard score. Conte suffered a concussion in the third quarter.
  • Jon Bostic and McClellin struggled again, but so did Briggs. It wouldn't be a surprise to see Chicago's linebacking corps come under fire internally from the staff after such a dismal performance.
  • How bad was Chicago's defense? It allowed the Seahawks to rack up 17 first downs in the first half while converting all seven third downs. Wilson hit on 13-of-17 for 174 yards and two touchdowns for a passer rating of 147.7.
  • The first-team offense wasn't much better. It converted 2-of-5 on third downs as Jay Cutler suffered two sacks, tossed an interception and finished the half with a passer rating of 64.0.
  • No clarity was gained in the search for a No. 3 receiver as Josh Morgan didn't do much to separate himself (two catches for 40 yards in the first half). New signee Santonio Holmes caught one pass for a 7-yard gain in the third quarter, but the Bears limited his exposure as he learns the playbook.
DETROIT -- When the Detroit Lions hired Jim Caldwell, one of the biggest things preached was how he was going to cut down on penalties and errors, long an issue for the team under former coach Jim Schwartz.

Yet three games into Caldwell’s tenure with Detroit -- and, to be fair, this wasn’t a game that counted -- penalties can once again be considered a worry with the Lions.

[+] EnlargeNdamukong Suh
Leon Halip/Getty ImagesNdamukong Suh's unnecessary roughness on Chad Henne was one of 15 penalties committed by the Detroit Lions on Friday.
If this was considered a dress rehearsal, consider the Lions in need of at least one major revision. Detroit committed 15 penalties for 131 yards on Friday night against Jacksonville, racking up more yards in miscues than they did passing against the Jaguars.

And it left Caldwell obviously concerned, especially considering how focused he has been on accountability.

“This game is not a perfect game, obviously,” Caldwell said. “But it is an issue, like I said. We can take about three or so. If you get beyond that, it’s an issue. No, we haven’t seen a rash of 15 in a practice, but we’ve certainly seen some. But within our normal limits.”

In Detroit’s first two games, the Lions had 16 penalties for 106 yards -- still more than Caldwell would like, but somewhat manageable considering it is the preseason and starters were barely playing. Then Friday came and went and 15 penalties later, there was no way Caldwell was going to be happy.

And it showed.

He was fine with picking up a 13-12 win over Jacksonville, but those penalties cropped up again and again. There were the personal fouls, including one from defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh on quarterback Chad Henne, and mental errors and almost everything else in between.

“I’m concerned about it, yes,” Caldwell said. “Absolutely. Fifteen is way too many.”

Actually, the Lions committed 16 penalties, but one of the five holding calls they were whistled for was declined. Detroit was also flagged for offsides twice and once each for an illegal block, roughing the passer, offensive pass interference, a false start, illegal contact, intentional grounding, unnecessary roughness, illegal use of the hands, and a facemask.

Penalties and how often officials have been throwing flags has been mentioned as an issue throughout the league during the preseason, however players don’t seem completely concerned about it yet. But it is certainly something to keep an eye on for the Lions considering their history of committing these types of gaffes.

In some ways, after all, this is a tune-up for officials as well as players.

“We definitely have to cut them down, but this preseason is like any other preseason that’s ever been in the league with penalties,” cornerback Rashean Mathis said. “We have to take that into account, that we’re not the only team. Almost every team in the league is getting penalized like this.

“We have to see the things that we can correct, the self-made penalties. The non-aggressive penalties, as we call them. We have to correct those, because 15 penalties, you can’t win like that in the regular season, and we know that.”

That’s something Caldwell will likely preach to his players over the next two weeks. An effort that resulted in a one-point win in August likely would produce a loss in September, October, November or December.
GREEN BAY, Wis. – After Casey Hayward dropped out of practice on Tuesday, Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy said they were just being smart with their cornerback, given his hamstring problems of a year ago.

Three days later, Hayward remains out. He will not play in Friday's preseason game against the Oakland Raiders.

Hayward had not missed any practice time this summer before Tuesday. Last season, he played in only three games because of recurring hamstring problems that first popped up before training camp opened.

Here's the full list of Packers who will not play Friday:
The NFLRank project rolled into Friday with Chicago Bears linebacker Lance Briggs coming in at No. 56, as ESPN continued to list the top 100 players around the league on offense and defense.

The latest rankings grouped players between Nos. 60 through 51. Charles Tillman checked in at No. 66 in the project on Thursday, while tight end Martellus Bennett made the list on Tuesday with a No. 82 ranking. Defensive end Lamarr Houston became Chicago’s first defender to crack the top 100 (No. 80)

Having earned Pro Bowl recognition on seven consecutive occasions, Briggs finds himself in unique company considering the only Bears with more trips to the league’s annual all-star game since the merger are Mike Singletary (10) and Brian Urlacher (eight).

Interestingly, Briggs ranked one spot above Seattle linebacker Cliff Avril. The Bears face the Seahawks on Friday night at CenturyLink Field in preseason game No. 3.

Briggs played just nine games last season, but finished with 10 stuffs -- a tackle of a rusher for negative yards, according to STATS LLC -- which tied for seventh most in the NFL. Since coming into the league in 2003, Briggs has collected and NFL-high 81 stuffs for 197.5 lost yards.

With 1,501 tackles over his 11-year career, Briggs ranks No. 2 in franchise history behind Urlacher. Briggs moved past Singletary last season, and posted 87 stops despite playing in just nine games.
DETROIT -- The Detroit Lions will be without one defensive starter and a key defensive reserve Friday night against Jacksonville.

Safety James Ihedigbo and linebacker Kyle Van Noy will be sitting out against the Jaguars along with rookie wide receiver TJ Jones.

More interesting, though, might be some of the starter replacements. Isa Abdul-Quddus will start at safety in place of Ihedigbo instead of Don Carey, perhaps signifying Abdul-Quddus' move up the depth chart. Tahir Whitehead is starting at Sam linebacker in place of Ashlee Palmer in another surprising move.

Corey Hilliard will be at right tackle over LaAdrian Waddle, perhaps a sign that the vet could end up winning that job. Also, Devin Taylor will start at defensive end in place of Ezekiel Ansah. Ansah is active and is expected to play, but will likely be limited in his snaps.
Lacy
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- It did not take Eddie Lacy long to enter into the NFL's consciousness.

By his fourth game as a pro last season, the Green Bay Packers running back had posted his first 100-yard game. By season's end, he was one of the league's most recognizable – and productive – running backs.

And 1,178 rushing yards later, he finds himself well within the top 100 offensive players in ESPN's #NFLRank project. When the next set of 10 players was unveiled on Friday, there was Lacy at No. 60.

It was Lacy's hard-charging running style that perhaps made him so popular with fans and respected by opposing defenses. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Lacy had the fourth-most yards after contact in the NFL last season with 531. He also was the only rookie with more than 1,000 rushing yards and at least 10 touchdowns in 2013.

The top-50 players on each side of the ball will be announced next week.

Here's a look at the Packers in the rankings so far:

Defense
No. 95: CB Sam Shields
No. 81: DT B.J. Raji

Offense
No. 77: G Josh Sitton
No. 66: WR Randall Cobb
No. 60: RB Eddie Lacy
MINNEAPOLIS -- The absence of defensive tackle Linval Joseph, after a stray bullet clipped his left calf on Aug. 9, will apparently linger into a second preseason game. Joseph doesn't figure to play Saturday night against the Kansas City Chiefs, and hasn't practiced with the team since he was shot as an innocent bystander at a Minneapolis nightclub following the Vikings' first preseason game.

"I know he’s here working every day. He’s a true pro," defensive coordinator George Edwards said. "He’s staying up on what’s going on. From that aspect of it, I haven’t been given word when he will be back."

[+] EnlargeShamar Stephen
AP Photo/Charlie NeibergallSeventh-round pick Shamar Stephen has taken advantage of a big opportunity in Minnesota Vikings camp.
Joseph's absence has necessitated extra playing time for some of the Vikings' other defensive tackles, however, and one in particular -- seventh-round pick Shamar Stephen -- seems to be taking advantage of it.

Stephen played 42 snaps last Saturday against Arizona, getting the second-most playing time of any Vikings defender. He received first-team snaps at nose tackle and lined up in both the nose and three-technique spots. He's won praise from coach Mike Zimmer, Edwards and defensive line coach Andre Patterson, and the Vikings seem to think they could have a steal in the former Connecticut tackle.

Stephen has done a solid job at the point of attack -- to the point where Pro Football Focus ranked him the third-best run-stopping defensive tackle so far in the preseason -- and he's handled a broader assignment than he figured to have through this point with the Vikings.

"We played him at the three-technique, we played him at the nose, and for a guy who really hadn’t got a lot of reps at the three [technique],we thought he did a good job of what we were asking call-wise, technically, fundamentally," Edwards said after the Vikings' first preseason game. "He held up pretty good in there."

The Vikings could hold out several starters in their final preseason game on Thursday at Tennessee, but Joseph figures to play if he's ready. Stephen could continue building on his preseason resume, especially if the Vikings don't want to risk exposing him to waivers by trying to put him on the practice squad. Stephen, the 220th overall pick, could sneak onto the bottom half of the roster.
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The Minnesota Vikings were in the market for a veteran backup quarterback a year ago, believing they needed a steady alternative to Christian Ponder after their first playoff appearance in three years was short-circuited by a disastrous outing from Joe Webb. The Cleveland Browns were looking for the same thing, as new offensive coordinator Norv Turner sought stability behind young starter Brandon Weeden.

Both teams set their sights on former Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel, who had needed just four years to go from the ranks of promising young starters to the discard pile. Cassel was seen at that point as an insurance policy who could lend some stability in a pinch -- and was paid as such -- but both Vikings general manager Rick Spielman and Browns offensive coordinator Norv Turner hung onto the thought that in the right system, the 31-year-old was still capable of more.

[+] EnlargeMatt Cassel
Drew Hallowell/Philadelphia Eagles/Getty ImagesMatt Cassel seems likely to open the regular season as Minnesota's starting quarterback.
"He'd had some struggles in Kansas City, but he went to the Pro Bowl one year with them," Spielman said. "He came through that whole system with Tom Brady (in New England). That kind of set him apart -- not only the abilities he had, but the experience and the knowledge."

Seventeen months later, as Cassel returns to Kansas City for the Vikings' preseason game this weekend, he has taken a circuitous -- and sometimes bizarre -- route back to the fraternity of NFL starting quarterbacks. It involved a season where Cassel led the Vikings to their first victory of the year, was named the starting quarterback for the next game -- and was deactivated a week later once the Vikings decided to start Josh Freeman two weeks after signing him. The stench of the quarterback situation clung so closely to coach Leslie Frazier that the Vikings fired him after a 5-10-1 season, hiring Mike Zimmer to replace him in January. And after the Cleveland Browns dumped coach Rob Chudzinski and his staff after just one season, Turner -- the offensive coordinator who wanted Cassel in Cleveland -- was hired to work with him in Minnesota.

That chain of events took Cassel from being an afterthought in October to the quarterback the Vikings determined they couldn't lose this spring. He will make his third start of the preseason on Saturday night in Kansas City, and though he hasn't been named the team's starter yet, all signs point to him being on the field for the regular-season opener Sept. 7 in St. Louis. He has developed a productive working relationship with rookie Teddy Bridgewater, intent on paying forward the favor Brady did for him as a young quarterback, and he has a two-year, $10 million contract after opting out of his original 2014 deal in February. As he heads back to Kansas City, Cassel does so in the middle of an impressive reboot of his career.

"We ask a lot of our quarterbacks, and he's able to handle it, plus more," said quarterbacks coach Scott Turner, who was the receivers coach in Cleveland when the Browns were pursuing Cassel in 2013. "He's done a great job of learning the system and really just kind of owning it."

Cassel might have the starting job in his grasp at the moment, but his grip on it is tenuous at best, thanks to Bridgewater's presence. The Vikings didn't trade up to select Bridgewater in the first round in order to keep him on the bench forever, and if Cassel struggles, it could expedite the process of making Bridgewater the starter. Spielman, though, said Cassel, who is now 32, has a unique understanding of his role as a mentor.

"That's what makes Matt so special," Spielman said. "Some guys would probably not be as positive about that situation, but Matt understands where he's at in his career. Even when we signed Matt here, we laid everything out. I don't like to sit there and BS people; this is the circumstance they're coming in. Matt understood everything. There was no question he was going to come in here and compete, regardless, to be our No. 1 quarterback. We're very fortunate to have a Matt Cassel, not only from the ability to play, but also, if that role does reverse, the ability to be a mentor and bring that young one along. That's a hard combination to find."

Cassel is 17-for-22 with a touchdown pass in the preseason, and seems more confident in his role with the Vikings -- to the point where Zimmer has mentioned the need to remind Cassel that while his suggestions are welcome, they don't represent final decisions. In whatever role he's playing, though, the Vikings seem grateful to have him.

"Matt wants to start and play; so does Teddy, and so does Christian," Scott Turner said. "Matt's doing everything he can to prepare himself to be the best player he can possibly be, and that's as far as it goes. I think he understands that Teddy's here, and we think he's going to be a very good player in this league someday. He's not looking into the what-ifs down the road, and I think you've got to commend him for that."

Vikings Thursday practice report

August, 21, 2014
Aug 21
3:40
PM ET
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Some observations from the Minnesota Vikings' practice Thursday afternoon:
  • Peterson
    Peterson
    The Vikings were still without running back Adrian Peterson, who missed practice again Thursday after being gone for personal reasons Wednesday. Peterson wasn't going to play in Saturday's game against the Kansas City Chiefs but is expected to travel to the game with the team. Defensive tackle Linval Joseph, who is still recovering from a bullet wound to his left calf, and linebacker Brandon Watts, who is out with a leg injury, weren't seen at practice. Cornerback Jabari Price and linebacker Gerald Hodges were on the field but were not participating.
  • Much of the Vikings' work again consisted of scout-team offensive snaps against the first-string defense, which meant another busy day for Christian Ponder. The third-string quarterback went 7-for-12, throwing one interception in 11-on-11 work. Matt Cassel hit 11 of his 15 throws and Teddy Bridgewater went 5-for-7. Cassel didn't divulge the Vikings' game plan for Saturday night but said he "expect(s) to play a lot" against the Chiefs.
  • Blair Walsh has hit 47 of 50 kicks in team periods since the Vikings started training camp, according to special-teams coordinator Mike Priefer, who said he wasn't concerned about a pair of Walsh misses from beyond 50 yards in the Vikings' first two preseason games. "I think he may have missed one from 50, or maybe none, in practice," Priefer said. "If it was one of those deals where he was shanking the ball, I'd be concerned. But he's hitting the ball well. There's a couple things he needs to do with his follow-through, to straighten that out. We've already gone back and looked at a couple game tapes from his rookie year and last year. It's one of those things he's just got to continue to focus on his follow-through and the other little small attributes that make him such a great kicker, compared to other kickers in this league."
  • Priefer said the Vikings used 42 different players on special teams in last Saturday's preseason game against the Arizona Cardinals as coaches try to evaluate whose special-teams contributions should help them win a roster spot. The Vikings will start to use more consistent special-teams units on Saturday against Kansas City as they prepare for the start of the regular season. They'll also try to get Cordarrelle Patterson a kickoff return or two, Priefer said.
  • The moment of the day in practice came when Chad Greenway dropped an interception and angrily kicked the ball into the trees just east of the Vikings' practice field. The ball got stuck in a tree, and several minutes later, Greenway walked into the woods with another football in his hand to perform the old throw-one-ball-into-the-tree-to-knock-the-other-one-down trick. "Didn't you guys do this as a kid?" Greenway said. Seconds later, he emerged with both footballs, proclaiming it'd only taken him one shot to dislodge the one he'd kicked into the tree.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Michael Williams is trying to think less. It might sound odd as he is in the midst of transitioning from tight end to offensive tackle, but understand his logic.

He was a processor at Alabama, needing to understand everything he saw and then making calls and decisions off those reads. As he moved to tackle, he discovered he no longer had to make the calls.

He still had to recognize the actual calls so he could understand and adjust his assignment, but the decisions no longer rested with him.

[+] EnlargeMichael Williams
Andrew Weber/USA TODAY SportsMichael Williams, drafted as a tight end in 2013, is "going to play tackle in the NFL," according to Detroit Lions offensive line coach Jeremiah Washburn.
"I’ve always been a player to actually think about stuff while I’m doing it," Williams said. "But I think I have to retool my mind to just go."

So far, he has. Williams initially made the position switch prior to spring workouts to elongate his career, now in its second season with the Detroit Lions. He saw more long-term stability at tackle, didn’t mind the blocking much to begin with and had a body that could add weight while not losing his speed.

Even with the weight gain, his footwork has apparently remained. While he is still in his infancy of playing offensive line, the way he made the move impressed his coaches with his movement and ability to take contact.

"That one is unique in itself," Lions coach Jim Caldwell said. "Offensive linemen and defensive linemen, I think you have to go through a psychological metamorphosis to go in there and play from where you’ve been previously, particularly if you were outside those particular areas.

"This guy has done it and he’s done a nice job within it and he’s getting better every week."

Whether that progression continues in Detroit might depend a lot on what happens over the next two weeks. Williams missed almost a week of the preseason because of injury, yet when he returned, he ended up as a second-team tackle against Oakland last Friday.

He had a positive grade from Pro Football Focus against the Raiders, including one of the highest pass-protection grades on the team.

The transition has been hardest in protecting Detroit’s quarterbacks. Run blocking as a tight end is similar to run blocking as an offensive lineman. But on pass plays before, he would be running routes, not staying in trying to keep defensive ends from annihilating his quarterback.

Pass protection movements are less instinctual than mauling an opponent against the run. It requires more balance and leverage, which has been tricky.

"Anyone can kick back and do it and make it look good," Williams said. "But when you get to the top of that set and you have a 300-pound man rushing you, you kind of have to have some kind of balance to punch him, so as long as you are doing that and have balance at the top of your sets, you’re doing pretty good.

"It just takes a while to get that, and I’m trying to get it."

It is something that takes linemen years to master, and Williams is trying to accelerate the process enough to have a chance at a roster spot. With the balance and pass-protection movements, he is still "50-50 on that," when it comes to how natural it is.

This is expected and why, if Williams does not make the roster and clears waivers, he could be a strong candidate for a spot on the Lions' practice squad to see if he can continue to develop as a tackle.

"He’s going to play tackle in the NFL. He is, at some point. I don’t know when, but he will," Lions offensive line coach Jeremiah Washburn said. "There’s just not a lot of tackles out there with his kind of speed and balance.

"He’s going to continue to get technique and Bobby Johnson has been working with him a lot, with his pass-pro technique. I’m excited to see what happens to him."

Where that happens is the question.

Packers Camp Report: Day 18

August, 21, 2014
Aug 21
2:30
PM ET
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Green Bay Packers training camp:
  • Fans and reporters got their first look at what coach Mike McCarthy's new day-before-a-game practice looks like under his revamped weekly schedule. The session lasted just 58 minutes and featured 54 plays from scrimmage during designated 11-on-11 team periods. It also included a special teams period and individual drills. The entire practice was conducted without pads or shells -- just helmets, jerseys and shorts. McCarthy plans to continue this practice all season. It's the first time in his nine years as head coach that the Packers have practiced the day before a game. In the past, the final session wrapped up about 48 hours before kickoff. The six periods in the practice were: stretching, ball drills, last eight plays of the game, no-huddle, game situations and a 30-minute team period that was cut short with 8:32 still left on the clock.
  • During the game-situations period, a scenario had the Packers trailing 26-24 with 22 seconds left on third-and-7 at the defense's 35-yard line. After Aaron Rodgers threw an incomplete pass, Mason Crosby came on for a 53-yard field goal that he missed wide left. In all, Crosby was just 2-of-4 in the period. His other miss was from 38 yards wide left. He was good from 33 and 43 yards. After starting camp by making 28 of his first 30 kicks (93.3 percent), Crosby has made 17 of his past 22 (77.3 percent) in practice, giving him a camp-long mark of 45-for-52 (86.5 percent). He also has made all three of his field goals in preseason games.
  • Neither McCarthy nor the players were available to the media after practice, so there were no injury updates. However, cornerback Casey Hayward did not participate for the second straight session. After sitting out Tuesday's practice, a day off on Wednesday apparently was not enough to get him back on the field. All McCarthy has said about Hayward is that the team was being smart with him, given his past injury history. Hayward missed all but three games last season because of recurring hamstring problems.
  • Others who did not practice and appear unlikely to play on Friday against the Oakland Raiders were: running back Rajion Neal (knee), center Jordan McCray (shoulder), linebacker Joe Thomas (knee), guard/tackle Don Barclay (knee), receiver Jared Abbrederis (knee), tight end Brandon Bostick (lower leg) and defensive tackle Letroy Guion (hamstring).
  • Rookie tight end Colt Lyerla, who was placed on injured reserve on Wednesday, had his salary officially reduced to $303,000, according to ESPN Stats & Information salary data. Had Lyela made the team, his salary would have been $420,000, but he had what was called a split salary in his contract that calls for his pay to be reduced in the event he landed on injured reserve. That is common among undrafted rookie contracts.
  • After Friday's game against the Raiders (7 p.m. local time at Lambeau Field), there will be only be only two more training camp practices open to the public. They are Monday (11:45 a.m.) and Wednesday (10:15 a.m.)

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