NFC North Notes: Bears, Lions, Packers, Vikings

     

Bears

One of the most fiercely-contested position battles in the NFL is in Chicago for the starting kicker position. The Bears infamously were knocked out of the playoffs on a missed field goal last year and have spent significant energy this offseason trying to find a replacement. Currently kickers Eddy Pineiro and Elliott Fry are on the Bears’ roster battling it out, but they’re not just competing against each other. Chicago had interest in K Kaare Vedvik before the Ravens traded him to to the Vikings and it’s assumed they’re still looking at other kickers around the league. 

“Yeah, it’s a little exhausting,” Pineiro said via Larry Mayer of the team website. “Just every day you feel like, ‘Oh damn, if I miss this kick am I going to get cut? Are they going to trade for somebody else?’ It does get annoying, but I can’t control any of that. What I can control is showing what I can do on the field, and hopefully we get some more opportunities this next week.”

Lions

  • According to DetroitNews.com’s Justin Rogers, Lions DT Damon Harrison continuing to miss practice isn’t a concern given how he didn’t miss a beat despite being traded to Detroit midseason in 2018. 
  • Rogers believes Lions CB Teez Tabor performed well enough before being hurt a couple of weeks ago to secure his roster spot. If the injury continues to linger, Tabor could be a candidate to start the year on injured reserve with a designation to return. 
  • If the Lions don’t turn in-house to replace WR Jermaine Kearse, Rogers says Patriots WR Dontrelle Inman could be an option, as he’s likely on the bubble in New England. 
  • Rogers lists CB Dee Virgin, DL Kevin Strong and WR Chris Lacy as darkhorse candidates to make the final roster. 

Packers

  • According to Tom Silverstein, Packers LB Oren Burks initially thought his pectoral injury and resulting surgery would keep him out for the season. 
  • However, after consulting a specialist, Burks discovered his injury would heal on its own and he’s now day-to-day with no timeframe for a return. 
  • Dr. David Chao says in his opinion “day-to-day” might be too optimistic and week-to-week or month-to-month could be more accurate. 
  • Packers GM Brian Gutekunst told reporters the team was “still kind of working through the exact timeline with Oren,” adding they’re excited to see what seventh-round rookie LB Ty Summers can do. (Ryan Wood)

Vikings

The Vikings drafted RB Alexander Mattison in the third round with the goal of fitting him in as Latavius Murray‘s replacement as a No. 2 running back and complement to Dalvin Cook. Minnesota is obviously high on Mattison given the draft capital invested, but still want to see him improve in pass protection to secure his spot on the field. 

“I’ll try to say this the correct way,” HC Mike Zimmer said via Pro Football Talk. “I think Mattison has got a really bright future. I think the other two guys can help in change-of-pace situations. Mattison is going to have to continually work on his pass protection.”

The other two guys Zimmer references are Mike Boone and Ameer Abdullah, who are competing to round out the back of the running back corps in Minnesota. Pass protection will also be crucial for both in securing a roster spot. 

“[T]he other two guys are smaller guys,” Zimmer said. “If they’re going to be in there on third downs, they’re going to have to block bigger guys, so that’s going to be their deal as well. That part of it, I think we feel like they all can run, they’re all smart enough to run the offense and things like that. But it will come down to third downs and those areas.”

  • Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer writes it’s fair to assume Kaare Vedkik has the inside track to the starting kicker job over Dan Bailey for the Vikings given they just traded a fifth-round pick for him. 
  • Breer says the Vikings are shopping WR Laquon Treadwell and are hoping to recoup a late-round pick.
  • Treadwell said he’s not paying attention to the talk that he’s on the roster bubble: “I really don’t really pay attention to the media. I’m just more on what’s going on in the building … (The media is) a distraction. So I just put it on the distraction list.” (Chris Tomasson)
  • The Vikings hired Andrew Miller as their new COO, replacing Kevin Warren who was hired as the commissioner of the Big 10. Miller previously worked as the EVP for the Toronto Blue Jays. (Twitter)
  • Zimmer said he’s not necessarily opposed to Vedvik handling both kicking and punting duties for the Vikings, but it would be a lot to handle: “It’s probably difficult for a rookie I would think. You’ve got a rookie snapper, and then you’d have a rookie kicker and rookie punter. Then you’d have to find somebody to hold.” (Cronin)

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