We're Black and Blue All Over:
Is today the day? Here's what we know about the inevitable but difficult-to-time end of the NFL lockout: The NFL Players Association executive committee is preparing to meet Monday to sign off on a new 10-year collective bargaining agreement, beginning a process of formal ratification by players. That action would be enough for owners to lift the lockout, opening the door for free agency to begin and training camps to open later this week.
We'll bring you the exact timing of those events as soon as it is official.
It's been fruitless to predict exactly how and when events would transpire during this endgame, but for the first time players are speaking openly about it. Minnesota Vikings guard Steve Hutchinson said Sunday night that "I think there will be some good news coming out [Monday]."
Whenever the lockout lifts, we'll roll out a back-to-work package for each NFC North team. Stay tuned.
Continuing around the NFC North:
Dan Pompei of the Chicago Tribune pens a step-by-step process the Chicago Bears should follow when the lockout ends, beginning with re-signing center Olin Kreutz.
It's clear that Bears tailback Matt Forte wants a new contract. Forte, via Vaughn McClure of the Chicago Tribune: "Any time a player has been producing very well, they're going to come back and say, 'Hey, throw me a bone here.'"
NFL teams almost certainly are already talking to agents about free agency, writes Neil Hayes of the Chicago Sun-Times.
We've never gone hog-wild on this story, so there's no sense in doing so now. But for the record, Bears quarterback Jay Cutler has reportedly split with celebrity fiancé Kristin Cavallari.
Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press: "When free agency opens, presumably this week, the Lions have a selling point few teams can match -- one of the NFL's deepest, most talented defensive lines."
Birkett offers a list of possible cornerbacks and linebackers the Lions might pursue in free agency.
Pete Dougherty of the Green Bay Press-Gazette writes that Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is "among the game's best players and hitting his prime."
Jason Wilde of ESPNMilaukee.com asks what can Rodgers do for an encore to last season.
The Packers must be prepared to lose some players in free agency, writes Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Vikings receiver Bernard Berrian hasn't been given any indication about his future with the team, but he isn't one of the players to receive a playbook this offseason. Tom Pelissero of 1500ESPN.com has more.
The Vikings might need to make some deals to get under the salary cap, including long-term extensions with linebacker Chad Greenway and tailback Adrian Peterson. Judd Zulgad of the Star Tribune has more.