We're Black and Blue All Over:
Hello there. I hope everyone had an outstanding weekend.
This week will provide ample evidence of how the NFL has earned year-around interest despite a four-month regular season. Monday marks the earliest possible day for NFC North teams to begin the first phase of their offseason workouts, and you can expect them to be covered deeply in most markets and discussed avidly by fans. Sometime soon we'll also celebrate a national holiday when the league announces its full 2012 schedule.
Over the next two weeks, as Mark Maske of the Washington Post points out, most NFL teams will be restricted to strength and conditioning work. Phase Two of the offseason (how official does that sound!) lasts three weeks and allows players to be on the field for drill work but no "team" 11-on-11 scrimmages. That is reserved for Phase Three, which will include up to 10 organized team activities (OTAs) and one mandatory minicamp. Phase Three lasts four weeks, for those of you scheduling out your next few months.
Hold on and get ready for the ride -- if you dare.
Let's take our morning spin around the division:
ESPN's Adam Schefter notes that Chicago Bears tailback Matt Forte won't report Monday to the start of workouts. Forte hasn't signed his franchise tender. Last we heard, Detroit Lions defensive end Cliff Avril, another franchise player, also wasn't planning to attend.
The Bears promoted Chris Hanks to head athletic trainer, replacing Tim Bream, notes Jeff Dickerson of ESPNChicago.com.
Bears safety Chris Conte (foot) has been cleared for all offseason activity, according to Vaughn McClure of the Chicago Tribune.
Former Bears receiver David Terrell was arrested Friday in Chicago on a domestic battery charge. Here's The Associated Press story, via ESPNChicago.com.
Lions running back Jahvid Best (concussion) will be in Detroit for the start of the Lions' program but hasn't been cleared for full football activity yet, notes Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press.
Lions offensive lineman Corey Hilliard, a restricted free agent, is expected to sign his contract tender and participate in the offseason program, according to Birkett.
Pete Dougherty of the Green Bay Press-Gazette looks at possible late-round quarterbacks the Green Bay Packers could consider drafting.
The Minnesota Vikings' stadium bill is set for another committee hearing Monday night. Details for those interested from Mike Kaszuba of the Star Tribune. Supporters are hoping for a voice vote, rather than an official one, to keep the bill moving.
Mark Craig of the Star Tribune profiles Vikings general manager Rick Spielman. Here's a quote from Spielman's brother, Chris: "When he was in school, there were endless piles of binders filled with notes. And he wrote so small. I'd ask him, 'Why do you write so small?' And he's say, 'Because I got a lot to write.'"