We're Black and Blue All Over:
NFL owners and players will be back in mediation Monday in an effort to avoid a lockout by Friday's new expiration of the collective bargaining agreement. But in the event of a work stoppage, we already know of one NFC North team that will veer from its original plans for that event.
As we noted last year, the Chicago Bears wrote clauses into the contracts of assistant coaches that called for a 25 percent pay reduction on the day a lockout would begin along with a team option to terminate the contract altogether with a 60-day notice. But according to Neil Hayes of the Chicago Sun-Times, Bears president Ted Phillips said no changes will occur until September at the earliest.
"We're having no layoffs, no furloughs, no pay cuts until we actually miss games," Phillips said.
Meanwhile, Minnesota Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said owner Zygi Wilf recently assured staff members that there would be no employment changes "at this point" if a lockout began. As the original post pointed out, the Vikings have the option of reducing assistant coach salaries by 75 percent 90 days after a lockout starts.
Again, there is some optimism that another week of negotiating could put the NFL and its players on track for a new CBA, preventing a lockout altogether. Stay tuned.
Continuing around the NFC North:
Defensive tackle should be the Bears' top offseason priority, according to Dan Pompei of the Chicago Tribune.
Receiver Devin Aromashodu's time with the Bears appears up, writes Pompei.
Detroit Lions defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch is arranging group workouts for Lions players, according to Carlos Monarrez of the Detroit Free Press.
The Lions believe they have two internal candidates to start at outside linebacker: Ashlee Palmer and Bobby Carpenter, writes Dave Birkett of the Free Press.
In addition to signing coach Mike McCarthy to a contract extension, the Green Bay Packers also signed their assistant coaches to one-year extensions through the 2012 season. Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has more.
Mike Vandermause of the Green Bay Press-Gazette: "McCarthy's coaching performance in 2010 should go down as one of the best in recent memory. Overcoming a string of devastating injuries and narrow defeats to win a title was nothing short of remarkable. But maybe the best part for the Packers is that McCarthy knows better than anyone that winning a championship guarantees him nothing in terms of future success."
The death of former Bears safety Dave Duerson still haunts two of his former teammates currently on the Vikings' coaching staff: Frazier and Mike Singletary. Jeremy Fowler of the St. Paul Pioneer Press has more.
The Vikings' coaching and scouting staffs are ready for pro days to begin, notes Chip Scoggins of the Star Tribune.