Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert
We all knew the Detroit Lions were committed to improving their running game this season. But with all the problems they've had in their first two games, it's a little jarring to see reports of their running back tea party Tuesday at team headquarters.
Two weeks after signing veteran Rudi Johnson, the Lions had former MVP Shaun Alexander and ex-Green Bay runner Vernand Morency work out for them. Disgraced former Chicago tailback Cedric Benson also visited.
None were signed, and reports indicated the Lions were merely building an internal scouting report should they need to add a runner in the future. But as John Niyo of the Detroit News points out, the same thing was said the night Johnson arrived for his visit Labor Day weekend.
As it stands, Johnson is backing up rookie starter Kevin Smith. The No. 3 runner is rookie Marcus Thomas, whom the Lions claimed on waivers from San Diego.
From this vantage point, personnel in the backfield ranks pretty low on the Lions' list of concerns. You can only hope the Lions are attacking the rest of their issues with the same tenacity.
Elsewhere around the NFC North this morning:
After losing three of five night games last season, Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy commissioned an internal study to compare his team's performance during day and night games. The results, according to Jason Wilde of the Wisconsin State Journal, were noticeable. They averaged more than four additional penalties at night and had a significantly worse turnover ratio. The Packers play Sunday night against Dallas, the second of four prime-time games this season for a team with an average age of 25.57.
Minnesota probably wishes Carolina receiver Steve Smith was suspended for one more game. The last time he played them, Smith caught 11 passes for 201 yards in a 2005 game. On the first play of the 2001 season, Smith returned a kickoff 93 yards for a touchdown at the Metrodome.
Talk about the impact of big plays: More than a third of the total yards the Vikings have allowed came on four explosive plays. The exact figures, according to the Star Tribune: 220 of 638 yards.
Although the Bears haven't updated the status of kick returner/receiver Devin Hester, the Chicago Tribune reports he should be healthy enough to play Sunday against Tampa Bay.