We're Black and Blue All Over:
As he pushes through a physically demanding season, Detroit Lions receiver Calvin Johnson hasn't been shy about acknowledging ailments that hadn't previously been made public.
Thursday, Johnson told reporters that he suffered nerve damage in hits he received during a Week 4 loss to the Minnesota Vikings. The ailment has made it difficult for him to grip the ball at times, he said, presumably explaining why he has been credited with anywhere between three and eight drops this season, depending on the statistical service you reference.
"Taking those hits, man, they're real violent," Johnson said. "They definitely have a lot of lingering impact. ... Stuff shooting down your arms and stuff like that."
Earlier this season, Johnson also said he suffered a concussion in that game. The Lions have denied that suggestion, saying he passed all tests during the game and in succeeding days. Finally, Johnson has been dealing with a knee injury that has kept him from practicing over the past two weeks.
Johnson is a smart guy and certainly not prone to saying something he meant to keep private. I don't necessarily think he's making excuses for a season in which he has scored only one touchdown. More simply, he is among a handful of NFL players -- with superstar status and a monster guarantee in his contract -- who are probably less encumbered by their teams' desire to keep injuries secret.
When production goes down in the NFL, it's often due to injuries even when the player doesn't miss game time. That's just a fact of life in this league. Usually, the players receive blame from reporters and fans who don't know the extent of their injuries. In this case, Johnson is in a position to provide us with more context, and he has done just that.
Continuing around the NFC North after a long introduction:
Lions safety Louis Delmas compares the team's defensive backs to Skittles. Via Jeff Seidel of the Detroit Free Press, Delmas said: "Skittles! We might be different colors. We might taste different. But at the end of the day, we are one unit. We stand for one thing."
Lions defensive lineman Nick Fairley faces a trial early next year for his offseason drunken driving arrest, according to the Associated Press via the Detroit News.
Justin Rogers of Mlive.com explores the Lions' reported interest in free agent cornerback Stanford Routt.
Houston Texans rookie defensive end Whitney Mercilus, passed over by the Chicago Bears in the 2012 draft, wants to his prove his worth to the Bears. Dan Pompei of the Chicago Tribune has more.
The Bears have been more than happy with their acquisition of special-teams star Sherrick McManis, writes Mark Potash of the Chicago Sun-Times.
The Bears' run defense will face a big test Sunday night against the Texans, writes Jeff Dickerson of ESPNChicago.com.
Opponents have no concerns about letting the Minnesota Vikings throw, and Tom Pelissero of 1500ESPN.com explores why. Pelissero: "Quarterback Christian Ponder was accurate and efficient enough in the early going to keep the chains moving and help cover the Vikings' flaws -- in particular, a receiving corps that relies almost exclusively on Percy Harvin to turn short passes into long gains. But as defenses have gathered more detailed probability charts, they've choked up on Harvin, increasingly taken away his outlets to tight end Kyle Rudolph and left Ponder waiting for routes that aren't coming open downfield with inferior receivers."
Vikings defensive coordinator Alan Williams wasn't happy with some "loafs" he saw on film in last week's game against the Seattle Seahawks, writes Brian Murphy of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
Vikings coach Leslie Frazier was holding out hope as late as Thursday afternoon that receiver Percy Harvin could practice Friday, notes Dan Wiederer of the Star Tribune.
Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel explores the Green Bay Packers' execution of their decision to add youth to their defense.
The Packers' offensive line is preparing for life without right tackle Bryan Bulaga, writes Pete Dougherty of the Green Bay Press-Gazette.