Vikings Camp Report: Day 7

August, 1, 2014
Aug 1
8:20
PM ET
MANKATO, Minn. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Minnesota Vikings training camp:
  • The Vikings had a hard, physical practice on Thursday, and Friday's high of 87 degrees made it the hottest day of training camp so far. Coach Mike Zimmer said he anticipated the team's practice level might drop off a bit on Friday afternoon, and he was correct. Asked to describe the day, Zimmer said, "Sloppy. I didn't think we were as precise as we've been on both sides of the ball. The effort was good, but we've got a lot of things in, so some of the stuff runs together for them. We're making way too many mistakes, though, for my liking, so we've got to keep working it, getting this stuff right."
  • Anthony Barr has continued to impress in practice, to the point where Zimmer said on Friday the rookie has a "strong" chance to start at linebacker. "I probably would have said that after the first minicamp," Zimmer said. "His alignments are just a tiny little bit off, so if he'll fix that, he's got good power when he punches, he did a couple nice things in that move-the-ball (drill). He's blitzing well. He's still got to learn some of the rush things in this league. But for the most part, he's advancing as well as expected."
  • The sloppy play certainly extended to the quarterbacks on Friday: Matt Cassel threw an interception to Kurt Coleman early in 11-on-11 work and had another pass batted down by Linval Joseph. Teddy Bridgewater went 10-for-17 (though one of his incompletions was called back for defensive holding) and was intercepted for the second straight day by Derek Cox, who stepped in front of a pass intended for Adam Thielen and returned it for a touchdown. "We gave them a lot of different looks on defense today, too," Zimmer said. "That's part of the evaluation. It's not to line up there in the same look every time, and they know where they're going before the ball (is snapped). It's great for a young quarterback like this to see some of the things we do on defense, because that's what people are going to do to him, early in the year anyway, if he's the guy. For me, if I'm the defensive coordinator, I'm going to give you a bunch of different looks." Christian Ponder went 5-for-5.
  • Zimmer unveiled a new toy on Friday: a siren he set to sound after five seconds at the end of every play near the conclusion of practice. He had used the tactic in Cincinnati to remind players they needed to go hard for at least that long on every play. "We can't block this guy and stop," Zimmer said. "Let's block him, keep blocking him, stay on him, stay on him, stay on him. Basically, finish."
  • Considering the overall feel of the day, it's appropriate that one of the Vikings' hydraulic camera cranes crashed into the chain-link fence at the back of their practice fields, leaving a sizable dent in the fence. After some effort, the Vikings were able to get the crane moved and in position to film the team's next drill. "Sloppy off the field, too," Zimmer deadpanned.

Packers Camp Report: Day 6

August, 1, 2014
Aug 1
8:15
PM ET
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Green Bay Packers training camp:
  • Rookie tight end Colt Lyerla on Friday had his best showing since he was signed following a tryout during rookie orientation camp in May. He caught two touchdown passes during team drills, although both of them were on the shaky side. On the first one, Matt Flynn's throw during a red zone period appeared to catch Lyerla by surprise when it hit him in the hands, but he hung on. The second, also in a red zone drill, he juggled while falling down but managed to secure the pass. Out of football since leaving the University of Oregon team last October, perhaps it was to be expected that Lyerla might start slow. "The ball skills and the timing, the hand-eye coordination, all those things, who's throwing you the ball, the timing of the route and so forth, he's been away from it for a while," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "But he's done a great job physically getting himself ready for this. I think he's in excellent shape. He's a young guy that needs reps, like a lot of rookies. I'm sure the time off didn't help him."
  • It was an up-and-down day for another tight end, Brandon Bostick, who has had a strong start to camp. He caught a pair of touchdowns -- an 8-yard fade from Scott Tolzien over Jarrett Bush and 3-yarder from Aaron Rodgers -- but in between he fumbled during a drill in which the offense was charged with running out the final four minutes of the game. Bush caused the fumble, which was recovered by rookie safety Charles Clay.
  • Kicking for the first time since Day 1, Mason Crosby once again made 7 of 8 attempts. His only miss was wide right from 40 yards. He made a pair of extra points that were 33-yard kicks (where PATs will be attempted from in the first two preseason games) and also was good from 36, 43, 45, 50 and 53 yards. He is 14-of-16 so far in camp.
  • In other odds and ends: Despite cutting his weight to a career-low 263 pounds to play outside linebacker, Mike Neal played several snaps at defensive end out of a three-point stance. When Neal played strictly end his first three seasons, he weighed around 300 pounds. … Receiver Gerrard Sheppard, claimed off waivers from the Baltimore Ravens on Wednesday, had two noteworthy plays. He nearly blocked a punt and later caught a deep pass against rookie cornerback Ryan White. … In a practice that lasted only two hours and 11 minutes, there were no one-on-one pass blocking/pass rushing drills.
  • In the medical report, there's finally some clarity on rookie receiver Jeff Janis' illness. He said he experienced severe abdominal pain on the eve of training camp and was taken to the hospital, where he was diagnosed with shingles. He said he expects to be cleared to start practicing next week. Others who missed practice were safety Tanner Miller (ankle), center Corey Linsley (shoulder), receiver Jared Abbrederis (knee), defensive tackle Letroy Guion (hamstring) and defensive end Jerel Worthy (back). Safety Morgan Burnett (ankle) returned after missing Thursday's practice.
  • The Packers will host their annual Family Night event at Lambeau Field on Saturday. Instead of a scrimmage, this year is just a regular practice. Activities in the stadium begin at 5:30 p.m. local time, followed by warmups at 6:30, player introductions at 7:30 and the actual practice to follow.

Lions Camp Report: Day 5

August, 1, 2014
Aug 1
8:00
PM ET
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Detroit Lions training camp:
  • Rough day for the first-team offense during a two-minute drill situation. Defensive ends George Johnson and Darryl Tapp -- neither of whom is expected to be a first-team defender this season -- had touch sacks of Matthew Stafford. Stafford and the offense also went three-and-out on one possession with the quarterback being forced to throw away multiple passes when no one was open. Not surprisingly, Ndamukong Suh was also causing havoc up the middle. The second team fared better, scoring a touchdown and having Giorgio Tavecchio also make a 41-yard field goal to close practice. Jim Caldwell didn't seem too concerned, though, with any of the issues the first-team offense was having.
  • Why not? Well, the first-team offense still has Calvin Johnson, who made two exceptional catches Friday to show why he is the top receiver in the game. He grabbed a touchdown in 7-on-7 after the play was whistled dead, but the way he plucked it was exceptional. There was another play in which a Stafford pass looked like it was headed nowhere, then Johnson came out of his break, dove perfectly on the low ball and caught the ball in front of Chris Greenwood in 11-on-11. It was one of those plays that no defensive back can do anything about. And that has nothing to do with Greenwood, as other cornerbacks will attest to.
  • This was perhaps the best day for Detroit's kicking competitors thus far. Combined, Nate Freese and Tavecchio went 11-for-11, including Tavecchio's 41-yarder to end practice in a two-minute situation. Both also made field goals from 53 yards during a special teams section of practice. Meanwhile, Sam Martin is having a great camp punting. He continually boots punts of more than 65 yards and appears stronger than his rookie season already.
  • Among the defenders who stood out was rangy cornerback Mohammed Seisay. The Nebraska product, whom I wrote about more in depth here, is still a longshot to make the roster. However, with uncertainty in the final one or two cornerback spots, a strong camp could make him a consideration. He read a pass to tight end Eric Ebron perfectly during one-on-ones and broke the play up well. He wasn't the only defensive back to grab attention, as Darius Slay continued to have a strong camp, including a good pass breakup in the one-on-one session.
  • Mentioned Kevin Ogletree on Thursday and he put together another good practice, but Corey Fuller is starting to catch some notice as well among wide receivers. He caught a long pass in the two-minute drill from Dan Orlovsky after easily beating Greenwood. He also had nice catches during the receiver-vs.-defensive back session on both Nevin Lawson and Cassius Vaughn. He is a much more confident player than he was a season ago and looks like a completely different one -– an assessment he said he agreed with following practice.
  • The Lions return to practice at 10:30 a.m. Saturday for their final day of the first week before taking Sunday off. Like Friday, Saturday is expected to be a fully-padded practice.

Bears Camp Report: Day 7

August, 1, 2014
Aug 1
3:50
PM ET
BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Chicago Bears training camp:
  • The Bears cut practice 30 minutes short, and perhaps that spurred extra effort from the players on Friday as it was easily the club’s most spirited workout of training camp. The defense outplayed the offense by far, and at the end of a tight red zone drill, Bears coach Marc Trestman made sure to congratulate the unit for its strong performance. The defense fit well against the run, but on passing downs the front four pressured Jay Cutler on numerous occasions, forcing him to throw the ball away multiple times. “Today in the tight red zone, the defense amped it up,” Trestman said. “We had some contested throws, knockdowns, some real good plays defensively.”
  • Veteran defensive end Trevor Scott hasn’t received much publicity throughout camp, but he’s proven deserving over the first several days of camp. In addition to size and physicality, Scott showcases a plethora of pass-rushing moves on a day-to-day basis that could make him a contributor to the rotation up front. One staffer called Scott “the real deal so far” at camp. A seventh-year veteran, Scott played four years in Oakland before joining the New England Patriots and later Tampa Bay. He’s logged 16.5 sacks over six NFL seasons.
  • One good way to get an idea of how the 53-man roster will shake out is to pay attention to special teams as this is the facet of the game that often determines some of the final spots. The first-team kickoff return unit on Friday consisted of Danny McCray, Jonathan Bostic, Jordan Senn, Khaseem Greene, Brock Vereen, Tony Fiammetta, Scott, Matthew Mulligan, Dante Rosario, Josh Bellamy and Eric Weems.
  • Some of the stars from inside drills pitting offensive linemen against defensive linemen in one-on-one matchups included David Bass, Nate Collins, Will Sutton, and Ego Ferguson. Despite Sutton’s reputation as a finesse rusher, he bull-rushed Ryan Groy to get into the backfield. Ferguson, meanwhile, appears to possess plenty of strength, but enhances it by rushing with solid leverage.
  • Veteran linebacker Lance Briggs broke up two Cutler passes during team drills. Briggs’ second breakup resulted in a McCray interception. The INT represented the first all training camp by a safety working with the first-team defense.
  • The Bears held out Charles Tillman and Alshon Jeffery from practice with Trestman calling their inactivity a “coach’s decision.” Chris Conte (shoulder), Craig Steltz (groin) and Kyle Long remain out. Long will return to the practice field Saturday at Soldier Field. Center Roberto Garza was also excused from practice for personal reasons.
  • Chicago holds its annual Family Fest workout Saturday at 6:45 p.m. CT at Soldier Field.
BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- Undrafted out of Florida State, Chicago Bears rookie linebacker Christian Jones would seem to face long odds to make the roster.

But at this point, perhaps it would be a surprise if Jones doesn’t make the team.

“He’s a work in progress,” Bears coach Marc Trestman said. “You can see what he looks like out there. He’s a big, strong man who can run all day. He’s in great condition. He continues to learn and grow, and he’s certainly in the hunt each and every day to make the football team.”

Jones thrust himself into that position by continuing to impress during workouts, going all the way back to the offseason, organized team activities and minicamps. In fact, by the time the Bears took the field for their last minicamp back in June, Jones had worked himself up the depth chart to the second team.

The question now is whether Jones can maintain the momentum. Through the first seven practices, Jones appears to be one of the most athletic linebackers on the team, and probably the only true strongside linebacker at the position.

“He’s showing he deserves the opportunity to work and practice, and it’s fun to see because he’s coming from a long way to put himself in this position,” Trestman said. “The athleticism is there. The explosiveness is there. The burst is there. The physicality is there. It’s evident that he’ll play that way. It’s just the learning process; there’s just so much for a young guy to know.”
BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- Five-time Pro Bowl safety Adrian Wilson received his opportunity Friday to run with the first team at Chicago Bears practice, but the move shouldn’t be seen as an indication the team has narrowed its search for starters at the position.

The Bears want to see multiple combinations occupying the two open safety jobs, and they’re making sure none of the candidates become comfortable with the rotation. There’s a chance the Bears will open practice Saturday night at Soldier Field with a different combination on the back end.

Wilson
“The rationale is that it’s an open competition and we’re gonna move people around,” Bears coach Marc Trestman said. “I think what Adrian’s done is he’s kind of worked himself back into playing football, and we’ve kind of just stood back and allowed him to acclimate himself to not only what’s going on in the classroom, but get his feet underneath him on the field. He continues to get a little better each and every day.”

Out of football for the entire 2013 season, Wilson seems to be gaining a level of comfort in Chicago’s scheme, and the staff has noticed that the safety’s conditioning has improved. As each day passes, Wilson appears to play faster, and members of the staff think he still has the ability to play safety in the NFL.

Wilson still needs to impress with strong performances in the upcoming exhibition games.

“[Defensive coordinator] Mel [Tucker], [defensive quality control coach] Chris [Harris] and [secondary coach] Jon [Hoke] felt it was time to move him up there and get a day’s practice,” Trestman said. “We’ll look at the tape and see how he did, and continue to move people around.”

Wilson played opposite Danny McCray with the starters when the Bears opened up team drills and remained with the No. 1 defense throughout the day. With both safety jobs up for grabs, the Bears have utilized several combinations at the position. Ryan Mundy and rookie Brock Vereen have taken snaps with the starters, as have McCray and M.D. Jennings.

Chris Conte and Craig Steltz will also be a part of the competition when they return from the physically unable to perform list.

Conte has been the starter at free safety for the majority of the last three seasons and is a favorite to win a starting job in 2014, provided he returns healthy after undergoing offseason shoulder surgery. Steltz, meanwhile, has been sidelined with a groin injury.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- During a drill early in a training camp practice this week, Green Bay Packers running back Eddie Lacy was running routes against inside linebackers and safeties.

He popped free and caught a pass over the middle.

Lacy
To hear coach Mike McCarthy tell it, at the end of the play Lacy turned to his coach and said: "Man, I did this drill all last year and never got open."

So when people ask what Lacy can do to follow up his first NFL season – when he rushed for 1,178 yards, won offensive rookie of the year honors and was the best thing that's happened to the Packers' running game since Ryan Grant of 2007-08 – the answer might be found in that kind of detail.

McCarthy said early in the offseason that he wanted Lacy, and the rest of his running backs, to become proficient on all three downs so the offense don't have slow down to put a designated third-down back in the game. A significant part of that involves pass protection, but it also could put Lacy in position to become a bigger factor in the passing game.

Lacy caught 35 passes for 257 yards (a 7.3-yard average) last season, the most by a Packers running back since Tony Fisher had 48 catches for 347 yards in the 4-12 season of 2005. The last Packers back to reach 50 receptions was Ahman Green in 2003, when he had the exact same average as Lacy did last season.

It's not exactly Randy Moss receiving numbers, but last season Lacy started calling himself "Moss" when he caught passes in practice, and people keep bringing it up with him.

"I'm thinking that’s starting to get a little out of hand," Lacy said. "But I mean, I'm a pretty decent catcher."

That said, Lacy's game is still going to be based on the power he packs on his 5-foot-11, 230-pound frame. It was on display Friday, when he ran over cornerback Tramon Williams during a team drill.

"We're not going to line up and feature Eddie in the passing game," McCarthy said. "He still needs to be standing back there behind the quarterback getting the ball, running with his shoulders square."

Vikings wake-up call: Day 7

August, 1, 2014
Aug 1
9:45
AM ET
MANKATO, Minn. -- Setting up the day at Minnesota Vikings camp:

Today's schedule: The Vikings have their normal routine of a 10:30-11:30 walk-through and a 3 p.m.-5:10 p.m. practice at Minnesota State University. Defensive coordinator George Edwards and special teams coordinator Mike Priefer are scheduled to talk to reporters after the morning walk-through.

More observations from Thursday's practice:
  • The Vikings have been doing extensive work with Xavier Rhodes, their talented second-year corner who still seems to be learning to trust his instincts in coverage. Rhodes is expected to be the Vikings' top cover corner this year, and while coach Mike Zimmer's defense typically doesn't ask corners to travel across the field with one receiver, Rhodes will undoubtedly see his share of difficult matchups this season. On Thursday, he drove on a route early in practice, but dropped an interception for the second consecutive day. Later, in a seven-on-seven red zone drill, he showed good technique against Jerome Simpson, playing with inside leverage that forced Matt Cassel to make a difficult throw to the back corner of the end zone, but Rhodes turned a split-second late for the ball and tried to swat it, rather than hitting Simpson's hands as he leaped to catch it. Defensive backs coach Jerry Gray explained to Rhodes afterward that he'd played the right technique in coverage, but he just needed to force the ball out, rather than trying to recover by batting it away. It was a vivid snapshot in what's been a camp full of learning for Rhodes.
  • Zimmer continued to mix and match players in his first-team defense, giving Tom Johnson some work with the top unit at 3-technique tackle and rotating Jamarca Sanford, Mistral Raymond and rookie Antone Exum in the safety spot opposite Harrison Smith with Robert Blanton out because of a hamstring injury. Zimmer said he will release the Vikings' first formal depth chart sometime next week, and at certain positions it's probably dangerous to assume too much about a pecking order, when the Vikings are trying to get a look at a handful of different players in a variety of roles. ""Really, it's just about figuring out what guys can do," Zimmer said. "The more you can do, the more value you have to this football team."
  • The Vikings are experimenting with first-round draft pick Anthony Barr in a number of different ways. He's played linebacker in their dime package, has rushed from a defensive end position in the nickel, in addition to his normal work at linebacker in the base defense. He'll have to be able to hold up in coverage as a linebacker, but Zimmer's had no complaints there so far. "Coverage is great. He moves well. He’s got a good idea," Zimmer said. "Somebody was telling me that he takes copious notes in the meetings. He’s got pages and pages of them as we talk, so he’s very, very into trying to learn what we’re trying to do and teach. He’s got a lot of raw, athletic ability that helps in the coverage aspect of things. There’s times when he may pull off of somebody a little bit too soon that he’s got to do better at. But for the most part, I’ve been very pleased with that."
They said it: "I would say the sky's the limit, but there's no ceiling to his potential. There really isn't. If he's willing to put in the time, the potential is there. He has everything he needs. He's starting to mature as a player, as an individual, so his success is going to shoot straight through the roof. I'm excited. I told him this, and maybe it was a little premature, but I told him, 'At some point, I'm going to tell my kids I played with Cordarrelle Patterson.'" --Wide receiver Greg Jennings on Patterson.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Will Sullivan calls the drill Blood in the Water, and it does not matter whether you're Darrelle Revis or Davon House, the assignment is the same.

It's you against the receiver, mano a mano. Just you, him and the ball.

"If you get beat in the drill, you stay in there until you figure out what you did wrong and you make it right," said Sullivan, the overseer at Sullivan PROformance training center in Phoenix. "I don't care who you are.

[+] EnlargeGreen Bay's Davon House
Benny Sieu/USA TODAY Sports"I'm a lot more confident," Davon House said, "playing with more swagger I guess you could say, so it makes things a lot easier."
"So House comes in -- no one knows who he is -- and we keep him in the drill until he gets it right."

For three-and-a-half weeks last month before House returned for the start of his fourth NFL training camp with the Green Bay Packers, he worked out with Revis and nearly a dozen other college and NFL players under the guidance of Sullivan, who has been Revis' personal cornerback coach the last eight offseasons.

After training with Revis & Co., House has gotten it right on the Packers' practice field more often than not.

Take the two-minute drill during the Packers' training camp practice Wednesday. It was second-and-goal at the 1-yard line, and quarterback Aaron Rodgers made one of his favorite throws, the back-shoulder fade, to wide receiver Jordy Nelson.

House was there to break up the pass, but he might not have made the play two or three years ago.

"Two or three years ago? No," House said. “But now I'm a lot more confident, playing with a lot more swagger, I guess you could say, so it makes things a lot easier."

Confidence can be found in any number of places, but House found it on Revis Island.

"For me, he was just so patient," House said when asked what he learned from working out with Revis. "Just how patient and how balanced he was and how controlled he was. His confidence level is top-notch. I guess you could say kind of like how you see [Rodgers play quarterback], so smooth, and he makes everything look so easy. That's how Revis was."

The time with Revis and Sullivan might end up being a defining moment in House’s career.

"If he doesn't have his best year as a pro," Sullivan said in a phone interview, "I'd be surprised."

That does not mean House will become a Revis clone. In fact, Sullivan believes in teaching techniques designed to help a player excel in whatever scheme his respective team runs.

"It's not the 'Shutdown U' program where it's my way or the highway," Sullivan said. "It's my job to learn what is it that the Green Bay Packers are asking from House and what are the techniques that make him successful."

And House, according to Sullivan, soaked it up.

"I started calling him 'The Computer,'" Sullivan said. "I said, 'You're like a human computer because you process information very, very well.'"

This is not the first time House has started fast in training camp. A 2011 fourth-round draft pick, he was on his way to winning a starting job in his second season until he sustained a shoulder injury in the preseason opener at San Diego. He missed the rest of the preseason and the first six games of the regular season. By then, Sam Shields had taken hold of the job and has never relinquished it.

So far in camp, the 6-foot-1, 195-pound House has worked regularly as the No. 3 cornerback on the outside. Because he has not yet become versed in playing in the slot -- something he plans to work on with Sullivan in the future -- he's not an option as a nickelback or dime back. But his long, physical style lends itself well to covering the bigger outside receivers the Packers typically face in the NFC North, such as Detroit’s Calvin Johnson and Chicago's duo of Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery.

"Davon House is clearly having his best year here as a pro -- just what he's done in the offseason, some of the things he's focused on, things he knew he could improve on," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "You saw that since April. He's a big, long, strong corner. He does a lot of good things. I love that whole secondary, just our depth, competition. And I think Davon is off to an excellent start."

With House in the final year of his rookie contract, it's time for him to carry that to the regular season. If he does, he could be in line for a starting job next year if the Packers decide not to re-sign veteran Tramon Williams.

However, cornerback might be the deepest position on the roster with Williams, Shields, House, Casey Hayward, Jarrett Bush and rookie Demetri Goodson.

"So how do I get on the field?" House said. "Make plays. Catch picks. Should've done it last year."

Now, thanks in part to Sullivan and Revis, he believes he can.

Vikings Camp Report: Day 6

July, 31, 2014
Jul 31
7:40
PM ET
MANKATO, Minn. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Minnesota Vikings training camp:
  • For the first time in Vikings training camp, we've seen an interception in full-team drills. Actually, there were two of them on Thursday, both coming off rookie Teddy Bridgewater. First, Audie Cole made what might have been the play of the day, jumping in front of a pass to the flat and picking it off with what would have been a clear lane to the end zone. Then, Derek Cox snatched away a short pass intended for Adam Thielen in a 2-minute drill. Matt Cassel was nearly picked off, as well, when Xavier Rhodes made a nice play to drive on a sideline throw intended for Jerome Simpson. He got his hands on the pass, but couldn't bring down the interception.
  • Captain Munnerlyn returned to team drills on Thursday, and got some work in the Vikings' base defense opposite Xavier Rhodes. The Vikings will need to see if Munnerlyn can play in their base defense, as opposed to only the nickel package, but they were treating him like a member of their top base defense on Thursday. Cornerback Josh Robinson had also returned from a minor hamstring injury that caused him to leave early on Wednesday. Tight end AC Leonard, who left Wednesday's practice with a headache, did not return on Thursday.
  • Adrian Peterson got most of the day off, with Matt Asiata and Jerick McKinnon getting most of the first-team work at running back. Asiata, to me, looks quicker through the holes than he was last year, when he averaged 3.8 yards on 44 carries. He could get some carries in relief of Peterson this year, and he's big enough to be a forceful downhill runner if he can do a better job of getting through the line with some speed this season.
  • Cordarrelle Patterson got his first work of camp on kick returns, after sitting out the first four practices with a minor foot injury. The Vikings have worked a number of other return men in his place -- Marcus Sherels, Thielen, Jarius Wright and McKinnon among them -- as they try to figure out who can take over if Patterson has a bigger role in the offense. But once he got back in his familiar position on Thursday, Patterson gave a brief reminder of what made him an All-Pro return man last year: He hit a hole on the left side of the Vikings' wall and surged down the sideline for a nice return.
  • Referee Carl Cheffers and his crew were in town for their first day of work with the Vikings on Thursday. They met with the media to outline rule changes this season and were scheduled to meet with the Vikings on Thursday night before doing some more work with the team on the practice field the rest of the week. In his presentation to the media, Cheffers spent a good deal of time covering the NFL's 2014 officiating points of emphasis: Cracking down on illegal hands to the face and taking a stricter view of contact between cornerbacks and receivers. He also covered the league's new replay policy, which will involved NFL vice president of officiating Dean Blandino in reviews. Officials will now be able to talk to the league office in New York, as well as other members of the officiating crew, via a "Janet Jackson headset," as Cheffers called it. Referees will still wear stadium microphones on their lapels, and both microphones will need battery packs. Of course, they'll carry a flag and a bean bag, and -- as everyone does in 2014 -- they'll carry a pager.

Lions Camp Report: Day 4

July, 31, 2014
Jul 31
7:30
PM ET
ALLEN PARK, Mich. – A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Detroit Lions training camp:
  • Referees were at practice Thursday and seemed to throw several flags throughout the session. Lions coach Jim Caldwell said the officials will be around for a few days to help the players become aware of new rules. The specific area of emphasis, Caldwell explained, is pulling of the jerseys. “It’s really going to affect everybody, you know,” Caldwell said. “It used to be if you grabbed a jersey and you restricted a player, if they saw the shoulders turn a little bit or maybe his stride changed, they would throw the flag. “But now, it’s any tug of the jersey, regardless of what it does to you and the quarterback can be looking over there and the foul can occur behind him and they still are going to throw the flag. So there’s a huge emphasis on that. Those are some of the things we have to make certain we get accustomed to.”
  • Red zone was a focus of Thursday’s practice. On both fields, there was a significant period dedicated to work 20 yards from the end zone and in. Quarterback Matthew Stafford was fairly sharp during this period, highlighted by a leaping touchdown catch by receiver Kris Durham in coverage. It was a catch with a high degree of difficulty by Durham, who was rotating in on the same field along with the majority of the players who have been running with the first team.
  • Speaking of the offense, this was the sharpest the offense has looked throughout the first four days. There were still some throwaways and dump-downs, but Stafford had a pretty good day, completing a large majority of his passes throughout the practice session. Eric Ebron, whose drops have been chronicled here the past three days, had a very nice catch at one point as the ball was headed out of bounds. That is the positive part of why the team drafted him in May.
  • Rookie Kyle Van Noy appears to be starting to make an impact. The linebacker worked with the first-team defense during portions of Thursday’s practice and is starting to push to replace Ashlee Palmer at the SAM spot. After the draft, general manager Martin Mayhew indicated they believed Van Noy would be a starter pretty quickly. Tahir Whitehead also caught Caldwell’s attention, and while he isn’t a starter, the head coach said the third-year pro out of Temple continually shows up well on film. He won’t supplant Stephen Tulloch, but that, plus his special-teams ability, should put him in a good spot.

The Lions return to practice Friday at 3:30 p.m. for a practice open to the public.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Michael Williams has another setback.

Williams
Williams
Williams, who is in the process of adding weight as he transitions from tight end to offensive tackle for the Detroit Lions, has an undisclosed injury, one serious enough for him to miss Thursday's practice.

"Not a long-term thing," Lions coach Jim Caldwell said. "A few days, maybe."

Williams declined to discuss the injury but said missing any time does hurt him.

"It's a setback just from getting reps on the field, which is the most important thing," Williams said. "But I'm still here learning. I feel like I'm more of a student of the game when I'm out, when I'm hurt, so I have to focus more because that's all the time that I have then."

Williams said he gained 15 pounds -- up to 298 pounds -- as he attempts to make the switch. His goal for the 2014 season is between 305 and 310 pounds. At that weight, he then needs to see if his speed remains somewhat similar.

What did he eat to put on all that weight?

"We in Alabama at the time, so it's just whatever you kill, that's what you eat," Williams said. "Nah, it's a joke, man. It was just good, home-cooked food."

Williams was one of four players to miss practice Thursday. Defensive end Ezekiel Ansah and wide receiver TJ Jones remain on the active physically unable to perform list, and offensive lineman Alex Bullard also sat out.

The Lions also made a move Thursday, releasing receiver Cody Wilson and singing defensive end Kris Redding out of Wake Forest.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. – Kevin Ogletree wakes up mornings and heads to the practice facility. The Detroit Lions will be practicing later in the day, but Ogletree is in the midst of a fairly difficult competition for a spot at wide receiver on the 53-man roster.

So he knows his conditioning is critical, both in practices during training camp and late in games during the regular season. So he goes on a quick run, 10 minutes on the treadmill and trying to reach around a mile-and-a-half.

[+] EnlargeKevin Ogletree
AP Photo/Ann HeisenfeltKevin Ogletree has impressed the Lions during camp with his route running and smarts.
Conditioning became his focus during the offseason. He didn’t worry about his route running or his hands – both of which have been reliable in the past – before. He wanted to get his own heart rate up to keep his chances for making the team up as well.

“You can get really far if you’re in better condition than the guy across from you on third down, you know,” Ogletree said. “Two minute drive, late in the game, if you’re feeling better, if your legs are fresher, blood vessels are opened up a little bit more, you train for that.”

The training has worked early on. Ogletree has been one of the standouts of the first few days of training camp. He has consistently been with the first group along with Golden Tate and Calvin Johnson, potentially giving him the inside track to not only a spot on the roster, but a decent role in an offense that should have a lot of passes to go around.

Ogletree caught the attention of offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi early during spring workouts, but then the St. Albans, New York, native had an impacted wisdom tooth requiring surgery. The tooth was deep enough that Ogletree had all four wisdom teeth removed, forcing him to miss a week as he was starting to make an impact

Placing himself in position for a role was part of his decision to return to Detroit in the first place. He and re-signing running back Joique Bell were the only deals the Lions made on the first day of free agency, the day before the team signed wide receiver Golden Tate.

Coming back to the Lions, which picked him up after Tampa Bay released him in the middle of last season, was a priority.

“I knew that this was a place that a receiver would beg to be at with Matthew (Stafford) and the rest of the guys we have on offense,” Ogletree said. “Just to have a role on this offense would be the best thing I could ask for.”

Lions coach Jim Caldwell, who places an emphasis on sure-handed receivers, seems impressed with him early and confident enough to move the 6-foot-1 Ogletree both inside to the slot and outside. In his career, Ogletree has a decent drop rate, dropping only 4.3 percent of his targets. That career number is the same as the NFL average in 2013.

How he runs his routes has also caught the eye of coaches and Johnson, who specifically mentioned how smooth Ogletree’s routes are.

“Really has a good understanding of the position,” Caldwell said. “Works at it. Quiet. Hardly says a word, but I really like what we’ve seen from him thus far. He’s been catching the ball consistently, so we anticipate that’s going to carry over.”

If it does carry over, that could put Ogletree in a good position in a tight position battle.

“There’s no animosity toward one another. I’m encouraging Corey (Fuller),” said Kris Durham, one of the receivers he is competing with. “I’m trying to help him get right. Same with Kevin to me and Corey to Kevin. We all want to help each other because we want to become the best player we can to help this team win.”

So how does Ogletree plan to beat the rest of the competition for a job? He won’t let on. Just watch him, he says.

“I’ll show you,” Ogletree said. “I’ll show you.”

Bears Camp Report: Day 6

July, 31, 2014
Jul 31
4:35
PM ET
BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Chicago Bears training camp:
  • Safety Adrian Wilson seems to be gaining a level of comfort in Chicago’s scheme, which in turn has resulted in the veteran playing somewhat faster. But don’t be fooled by Wilson’s seemingly average workout pace as some within the organization believe he’s “practicing like a veteran,” meaning he’s expending as little energy as possible just to make it through camp and into the preseason games. For Wilson, the exhibition games are where he’ll make his mark, and that’s when people within the organization expect the safety to go full bore. Considering he’s currently in a backup role, expect Wilson to receive significant snaps late into the games against mostly backups, and he’ll need to play well -- nearly dominate -- before the staff feels comfortable enough to put him into the mix for one of the starting jobs. The coaching staff hopes Wilson pans out because if he does, it gives the Bears an intimidating force on the back end they haven’t had in several years.
  • The Bears pumped in the music as usual for the individual portions of practice, but when the team simulated some live situations, staffers piped in crowd noise through the public address system. The extra noise didn’t seem to affect execution on either side of the ball.
  • Strangely, Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, and Matt Forte seemed to drop more passes in one day Thursday than they had throughout all of training camp. Jeffery and Forte each dropped two passes with the former making up for it by hauling in a long ball late in practice between two defenders. Chris Williams, a candidate to become the club’s primary punt returner and a backup receiver, muffed a punt and also dropped a pass.
  • Despite Marshall's drop, he made perhaps the catch of the day in a goal-line drill. With Demontre Hurst draped all over him, Marshall made a spinning one-handed grab for a touchdown. Marshall receives points for difficulty on this one as he caught the touchdown with his left hand.
  • Just before the start of practice, the Bears announced they signed offensive lineman Graham Pocic to a one-year contract and waived receiver Terrence Tolliver with an injury settlement. Pocic signed with the St. Louis Rams in 2013 as an undrafted free agent out of the University of Illinois.
  • Non-participants at practice Thursday included safeties Craig Steltz (groin) and Chris Conte (shoulder) along with guards Kyle Long and Eben Britton (hamstring). Long has been cleared to return to practice, but won’t be back in pads until the club’s night workout Saturday at Soldier Field. Britton wasn’t on the field with teammates as he spent all of the practice rehabilitating inside with athletic trainers.
  • Jermon Bushrod, Stephen Paea, Austen Lane, and Jordan Mills were the stars of one-on-one drills featuring offensive linemen against defensive linemen. Paea made the most impressive move of the day, using a swim move to blow past Roberto Garza in just one step.
  • The Bears practice again Friday at 9 a.m. CST.
BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- For all the changes made on the defensive side of the ball, the key to the unit’s overall success might hinge on the health of 12-year veteran linebacker Lance Briggs.

Briggs
The linchpin of the defense, Briggs started strong in 2013, but ended up appearing in a career-low nine games because of a shoulder injury that kept him on the inactive list for two straight months.

 One of the best linebackers in franchise history, Briggs was voted to seven straight Pro Bowls from 2005-2011 where he developed the reputation as one of the hardest hitting linebackers in the league.

At 33-years old, can Briggs still elevate his game to a Pro Bowl level?

“I don’t know. I’ve lost a couple of steps,” Briggs said with a smile on Thursday. “Now sometimes I have to fall into a tackle. If I’m lucky, a tackle will fall, and I’ll put my hand on him and get credit for it. That’s where I’m at in [this] stage of my career.”

The Bears believe otherwise. The organization feels Briggs is the best striker on the defense and will look to the 12-year veteran to help lead a revamped unit that includes other proven older players such as Jared Allen, Charles Tillman, D.J. Williams, Tim Jennings and Jeremiah Ratliff.

“If [Lance] is playing at full-strength the way he started last season, we’re going to be a much better football team all around,” Bears head coach Marc Trestman said. “What he can do ripples through the entire team.”

Of course, there is the issue of Briggs’ expiring contract.

 In the past, Briggs has gone public in expressing his displeasure with contract negotiations. He famously predicted he would never play another down for the Bears after the club slapped Briggs with the franchise tag in 2007. Briggs eventually signed a six-year extension in March, 2008 that the club later re-worked in 2012 to include another year and more guaranteed money.

However, Briggs said on Thursday he does not plan to make his contract a talking point this season.

“I’m not talking about a contract. I’m talking about playing football,” Briggs said. “I just want to play football. I’ve seen a lot of guys come and go. I’m here. I’m happy. I’m just appreciative.

“In a matter of one day, I learned that the coach that I’d been coached by for the last years was going to gone, and that whole staff was going to be gone. Everybody that I was used to everyday was going to be gone. The guy who I shared a room with for 10 years was going to be gone. A lot of the guys that I had built relationships with were gone. There’s some new guys coming in and filling up those numbers and those lockers. That’s life. That’s the way it is. It’s business.”

Briggs later reiterated that he wants to finish his career in Chicago.

“The only time I might not retire as a Bear was the time when I said I’d never put on a Bears’ uniform again,” Briggs said. “And I haven’t said that again since that time. So, of course [I want to retire as a Bear].

“I’m a Bear. I’m a true Bear. This is Year 12. I’ve given my blood, sweat and tears and my heart to the city and playing for this team. When it’s all said and done, I’ll retire a Bear.”

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