In quick-hitting fashion, let's roll through the news items that occurred during our quiet time last week:
Item: An NFL investigation revealed Friday that the New Orleans Saints ran a bounty program to reward hits on opposing players. Among other things, it established a $10,000 reward if a player knocked Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre out of the 2009 NFC Championship Game. Favre was pummeled in the game, absorbing two illegal hits and a third the league later acknowledged should have been penalized.
Comment: The Vikings have been privately fuming about the Saints' aggression toward Favre for two years, starting with a next-day complaint to the NFL. But for the team and its fans, this story has done nothing but dredge up a disappointing memory. The outcome of the game won't change. If anything, it raises the respect I have for Favre, who at age 40 didn't miss a snap in the game despite an organized and incentivized opposition determined to knock him out. Given what we're now learning, it should rank as one of the proudest moments of his career.
Comment: This has been the likeliest scenario since contract discussions broke off last summer, a strategy so obvious from a club standpoint that it transcended their general manager transition. The Bears owe Forte a relatively affordable $7.7 million or so in 2012. Why turn down that opportunity when the likes of Marshawn Lynch are getting $18 million guaranteed from the Seattle Seahawks? The Houston Texans, meanwhile, agreed to a five-year deal Monday morning with tailback Arian Foster. The next move is Forte's. If the Bears don't modify their offer, will he stay away from offseason workouts and/or training camp?
Item: The Vikings announced a plan last week that would put a $975 million stadium near the current Metrodome site.
Comment: This was an important step toward securing a new facility, mostly because it has the backing of two important Minnesota politicians: Gov. Mark Dayton and Minneapolis mayor R.T. Rybak. The Vikings will be responsible for raising $427 million, plus $11.5 million annually in operating costs. But the project has two huge political hurdles remaining: approval from the Minneapolis City Council and the Minnesota state legislature. At the moment, a majority of city council members favor a voter referendum to approve the city's $150 million up-front contribution. State legislators advocated for a voter referendum during the debate over a failed proposal from suburban Arden Hills, Minn. Add it all up, and to me the Vikings have just crossed the 50-yard line in this process.
Comment: The cost of the tag will be around $11 million, but it might be necessary if the Lions are as committed to keeping Avril on their roster as they say they are. If the deadline passes without a long-term deal, Avril would be eligible to depart via free agency next week. Teams generally don't allow established pass-rushers to leave without compensation, but the Lions are in a tight salary-cap situation.
Comment: My bad for not asking McCarthy that question during an interview session last month at the combine. As we've discussed, moving Woodson to safety requires an adequate replacement as a starting cornerback. McCarthy can't count on nickelback Sam Shields to make that jump yet.
Item: Packers receiver Donald Driver will participate in this season's "Dancing With the Stars" on ABC.
Comment: I'm sure Driver will have a blast and the appearance will raise his national profile. But it won't change the fact that his future with the Packers remains uncertain. He has already said he would take a pay cut to remain with the team, but it's possible the Packers will release him outright to create room for younger receivers.
Comment: Hawk originally grew his hair out in college as a tribute the late Pat Tillman, so I'm sure this decision didn't come lightly. But those who have participated in Locks of Love know how much it means to those who benefit from it. Kudos to Hawk for seeing the big picture.
Comment: Adams was relegated to part-time status in 2011, playing just under 26 percent of the team's defensive snaps. Omiyale proved to be one of the worst free-agent signings of former general manager Jerry Angelo's career, failing as both a guard and tackle after signing a four-year contract worth $11.5 million in 2009.