We're Black and Blue All Over:
During the lockout, the NFL has prohibited any contact between team officials and players. Except when it doesn't.
An example of the latter occurred Tuesday, when Green Bay Packers CEO/President Mark Murphy set out on a five-day bus caravan with three players: guard Josh Sitton, linebacker Desmond Bishop and quarterback Matt Flynn. The league exempts charitable events, such as the Packers' sixth annual Tailgate Tour, from its lockout rules.
Packers coach Mike McCarthy and general manager Ted Thompson saw the players off on the bus, apparently making small talk, but Murphy made clear he wouldn't avoid the topic of the lockout during the bus ride.
Murphy: "I'm going to interact with the players. We'll have a good, open discussion. Obviously with my background having been a player, having worked for the union and been a player rep, I can talk a lot about the issues. So I'm looking forward to it."
This exception would be objectionable if McCarthy or other football officials were taking the trip. They are not. The NFL Players Association might fear the potential for propaganda talk from Murphy, but I doubt they have anything to worry about considering all three players -- Sitton, Bishop and Flynn -- are smart and unlikely to be swayed.
Continuing around the NFC North:
Jason Wilde of ESPNMilwaukee.com speaks with the players involved. Sitton said it was "a little awkward" to see offensive line coach James Campen, whom he hadn't spoken with since the Super Bowl.
Kareem Copeland of the Green Bay Press-Gazette checked in with the tour in Marquette, Mich.
If Minnesota Vikings owner Zygi Wilf is planning commercial development around a proposed stadium in Arden Hills, Minn., he didn't say so Tuesday. Tom Pelissero of 1500ESPN.com has more.
Tom Powers of the St. Paul Pioneer Press on the stadium issue: "It all comes down to political guts, one way or the other. It is the job of elected officials to decide how to spend our money, to figure out what is a good deal and what is a bad deal. It's cowardly to try to pass off tough decisions on an already polarized constituency. They have to decide whether this is right for the state and then act accordingly. Then they'll be graded during the next election."
Ramsey County out-hustled a passive Minneapolis political base to make this deal with the Vikings, writes Patrick Reusse of the Star Tribune.
Tom Kowalski of Mlive.com isn't sure if it is important for Lions players to gather this week for workouts.
Michael C. Wright of ESPNChicago.com explores the Logan Mankins question and whether the Chicago Bears would consider signing him.
Missed this the other day: Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune checks in with Bears center Olin Kreutz, who is awaiting free agency.