We're Black and Blue All Over:
A report that Chicago Bears kick returner Devin Hester has joined the Tennessee Titans' Chris Johnson in racing a cheetah -- ! -- merits a review of Hester's unique situation entering training camp.
Hester threatened retirement in the wake of the firing of coach Lovie Smith but later re-committed to the team under new coach Marc Trestman. But Trestman has removed him from the receiver group and made him a full-time returner, a relatively unusual luxury in today's NFL. Trestman and general manager Phil Emery have been careful to say that Hester must win a spot on the roster, which is technically the case for every player but not usually something verbalized about someone who has been one of the best in football history at his position.
Hester is due to earn $2.1 million and count nearly $3 million against the Bears' salary cap. If he proves to be the dynamic returner of old, those figures might not be a problem. But if he's not? That's what training camp is for, I guess.
Continuing around the NFC North:
Adam L. Jahns of the Chicago Sun-Times looks at four training camp battles for the Bears.
There is more to like about this Bears team than you might realize, writes Dan Pompei of the Chicago Tribune.
Bears rookie offensive lineman Kyle Long on the possibility of starting right away, via ESPN 1000: "Put yourself in my shoes. I wasn't allowed to go to OTAs. I haven't seen anyone else on our offensive line. They are all NFL players so obviously I have a tremendous amount of respect for the other guys in the offensive line room. I'm looking forward to getting to work with those guys, great vets like [Roberto] Garza and [Jermon] Bushrod."
Justin Rogers of Mlive.com looks at the Detroit Lions' training camp battle between Mikel Leshoure and Joique Bell.
The Lions' defense appears strong up the middle but may be balky on the edges, writes Chris McCosky of the Detroit News.
The Green Bay Packers' secondary is faster than ever, writes Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Linebacker Clay Matthews is the third-most important player on the Packers, according to Jason Wilde of ESPNMilwaukee.com.
The Packers have opted for durable linebackers Brad Jones and A.J. Hawk on the inside, writes Pete Dougherty of the Green Bay Press-Gazette.
The 2013 Minnesota Vikings season is all on Christian Ponder, says Bob Sansevere of the St. Paul Pioneer Press in a podcast.
The Vikings have reached a crossroads, writes Dave Campbell of the Associated Press via the Star Tribune.