NFC North Notes: Bears, Packers, Vikings

     

Bears

Packers

  • According to ESPN’s Rob Demovsky, Packers LB Blake Martinez did not travel to Canada for Green Bay’s third preseason game because he was seeing a specialist about his back. Martinez’ back had been bothering him during camp, but tests revealed no issues and the linebacker returned to practice Sunday. 
  • Ian Rapoport reports that Packers LB Oren Burks will not require surgery for a pec injury he suffered a few weeks ago and may not be placed on injured reserve. 
  • Packers LB Curtis Bolton says he’s not sure how serious his knee injury is, but it’s not an ACL injury like he previously thought, per the Athletic’s Matt Schneidman. Bolton has ditched his crutches and is undergoing more tests. 
  • The non-football illness Packers S Josh Jones was waived with was hyperthyroidism, which can be dealt with by medication and shouldn’t prevent Jones from playing. (Demovsky)
  • Packers RB Tra Carson is currently ahead of sixth-round rookie RB Dexter Williams for the No. 3 spot on the depth chart, though Green Bay could look elsewhere at the end of the preseason to fill the spot. (Schneidman)
  • Williams has struggled with mental errors and catching the ball, making him a candidate to be released and re-signed to the practice squad. His adjustment to the NFL has been slow according to Packers RB coach Ben Sirmans: “He’s better than he was before but still needs to work, I guess, to hit that plateau that we want when we say, ‘We feel really great about him in this situation.’” 
  • Injured Packers WR Equanimeous St. Brown‘s status is key for bubble receivers Allen Lazard and Darius Shepherd, as if he’s placed on injured reserve, it opens up a spot for both of them. 
  • Former UDFA CB Chandon Sullivan and rookie sixth-round CB Ka’Dar Hollman are also in a tight battle to round out the secondary.
  • Sullivan has impressed while Hollman has been injured, but Hollman has shown enough in his brief appearances that he likely won’t clear waivers if cut. 

Vikings

The Vikings knew they were getting an athletic mismatch tight end when they drafted Irv Smith out of Alabama in the second round this past April. The 6-2, 242-pound Smith has surprised the coaching staff with his blocking ability, however. Still, the transition from college to the NFL is a rough one for tight ends, which is why expectations for immediate production from Smith have been tempered. 

“The transition, it’s not an easy one,” Vikings TE Kyle Rudolph said via ESPN’s Courtney Cronin. “There’s so many factors that go into our production. Wide receivers are paid to catch the football. It doesn’t matter what’s going on with the team, it doesn’t matter what’s going on with the offense, you throw the ball to wide receivers.

“Tight ends, our position has so many different variables that decide production in the pass game. You add all that together — who knows what situation you’re placed in? Are you staying in and protecting more? What kind of routes are you running? Players in college aren’t putting their hand in the ground and expected to block Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter. You’re not running routes against safeties like we go against every day that can actually cover.”

Many thought Smith’s addition was a sign of impending doom for Rudolph. There were several trade rumors and Rudolph actually skipped OTA’s before signing an extension. Not only is his role secure while Smith develops, but Rudolph says he’s excited for what the rookie will do to help him. 

“About this point in (Cowboys TE) Jason Witten‘s career, they drafted Martellus Bennett in the second round,” Rudolph said. “That elevated Jason’s career. He caught more balls in that time with Martellus (Witten had two 1,000-yard receiving seasons in 2009-10). When you have another tight end that can catch the ball, it makes our offense so much more difficult to defend. It allows us to dictate run and pass. When it is pass, they can’t ignore one tight end and cover the other. I think it can give us incredible versatility on offense.”

  • Vikings CB Holton Hill was fined $10,527 for a hit against Seahawks QB Paxton Lynch during their game. (Tom Pelissero)
  • Vikings 2018 first-round CB Mike Hughes was activated from the PUP list Monday, but he and the team are “taking it slow” as he recovers from a severe knee injury that ended his rookie season: “It was a little bit more than the ACL, but I feel good about my recovery. We’re heading in the right direction.” (Andrew Krammer)
  • Hughes said he’s close to returning to full speed: “I feel like I’m there but I also feel like I have an extra gear to get myself rolling. I feel a little bit stronger so hopefully that gear will kick in as I keep working towards that goal. We’ll see.” (Cronin)

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