BBAO: Packers mull return options

We're Black and Blue All Over:

As we conducted Tuesday's SportsNation chat, rumors were already flying about the Green Bay Packers' interest in former Pro Bowl kick returner Clifton Smith, who was waived over the weekend by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

As it turned out, Smith was in Green Bay for a workout Tuesday but instead signed with the Miami Dolphins, as Jason Wilde of ESPNMilwaukee.com points out. The Packers' level of interest in Smith was unclear given a series of injuries that slowed him last season and during training camp.

Mostly, it was interesting to see the Packers acknowledge their lack of an established player at that position five days before their first game. As we noted Tuesday morning, at this point they are planning to use receiver Jordy Nelson on kickoffs and cornerback Tramon Williams on punts. It's not an ideal situation, but it's also not one worth panicking over. That's one position where players regularly become available on the open market and can be plugged in quickly during the season.

Continuing around the NFC North:

  • Lori Nickel of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel profiles new Packers punter Tim Masthay, who last year at this time was working as a tutor at the University of Kentucky.

  • Green Bay Press-Gazette reporters published their 2010 season predictions Wednesday.

  • Indications are that the Minnesota Vikings will start Husain Abdullah at strong safety and also use him as a cornerback in four-receiver sets Thursday night against the New Orleans Saints, according to the Star Tribune. The Vikings spent most of the summer conducting a competition between Tyrell Johnson and Jamarca Sanford for the position.

  • Former NFL director of officials Mike Pereira on the potential for late hits on quarterback Brett Favre Thursday night: "[Officials] know what happened to Favre before and it's not that they're going to look to protect him any more or any less than they would under normal circumstances. But they are going to watch and make sure that they do everything they can to keep the game under control. There's no doubt in my mind they'll go into the game on Thursday knowing that they've got to keep control of the game right off the bat, which is usually getting physically in between players and get them to settle down." Brian Murphy of the St. Paul Pioneer Press has more.

  • Vikings center John Sullivan (calf) has progressed this week in practices, writes Tom Pelissero of 1500ESPN.com.

  • The Detroit Lions' starting secondary never played together this preseason, notes Carlos Monarrez of the Detroit Free Press.

  • Tom Kowalski of Mlive.com writes of Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford: "He's putting more air under his throws and it looks like his accuracy has really improved."

  • ESPNChicago.com's Michael C. Wright examines the Chicago Bears' offensive line.

  • Mike Mulligan of the Chicago Sun-Times on expectations for Bears defensive end Julius Peppers: "But Peppers is one man. He can rush the passer as well as anyone in the NFL, but he can't simultaneously chase the quarterback, cover a receiver and clean up problems in the deep end of the field."

  • David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune writes that the future of Bears president Ted Phillips should be tied to that of general manager Jerry Angelo and coach Lovie Smith.