We're Black and Blue All Over:
Now that it appears Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher will play Sunday against the New Orleans Saints, public discussion has turned into whether he will play an exceptional game -- even by his standards -- in honor of his mother, Lavoyda Lenard, who died this week. Her funeral is Saturday.
It's a trite and cliché thought and implies that for some reason the player wasn't already performing at his highest level. Jon Greenberg of ESPNChicago.com does a nice job balancing the issue but ultimately suggests Urlacher will have the type of otherworldly game that Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre had after the death of his father in 2003.
Greenberg: "The Bears need vintage Urlacher on Sunday, and I have a feeling he's going to play possessed, like Brett Favre did in 2003 against Oakland on the day after his father's death. It's trite, but so are a lot of televised moments."
Favre threw for 399 yards and four touchdowns in that 2003 game at the Oakland Raiders. It's more difficult for a middle linebacker to pile up revealing statistics along those lines, and in truth it's impossible to predict how a week like this will impact Urlacher's performance. It is easy, however, to imagine Urlacher playing with more than his usual level of emotion.
Continuing around the NFC North:
Dan Pompei of the Chicago Tribune describes the mentality of a Bears locker room that includes five undrafted rookies and 17 players whose contracts expire after this season.
Former Bears center Olin Kreutz, now playing for the Saints, via Mark Potash of the Chicago Sun-Times: "To be perfectly honest and perfectly fair, they made me a fair offer to come back and I didn't go back. There's no hard feelings.''
Jason Wilde of ESPNMilwaukee.com explores the Green Bay Packers' near-perfected art of the back-shoulder pass.
The lockout might have impacted special teams more than anything else, writes Pete Dougherty of the Green Bay Press-Gazette.
The Packers are hoping to get rookie tight end Ryan Taylor (hip) back, writes Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Taylor is an excellent special-teams player.
Tom Pelissero of 1500ESPN.com takes a closer look at new Minnesota Vikings defensive tackle Remi Ayodele.
X-rays on the knee of Vikings middle linebacker E.J. Henderson revealed no structural damage, reports 1500ESPN.com.
Brian Murphy of the St. Paul Pioneer Press explores Percy Harvin's availability for kickoff returns.
Detroit Lions cornerback Alphonso Smith is getting close to playing in a game, according to the Detroit Free Press.
The Lions are built for today's NFL, writes John Niyo of the Detroit News.
Lions defensive tackle Nick Fairley is "champing at the bit" in his bid to return to practice, according to Justin Rogers of Mlive.com.