NFC North Tour: Lockout Fallout

The big deal among the Packers' division rivals is the lockout is preventing new Vikings coach Leslie Frazier from installing his program. Meanwhile, it's business as usual for the Bears and the Lions are ready for free agency, whenever it starts.

Minnesota Vikings

As a first-year head coach, Leslie Frazier was looking forward to the opportunity to conduct two mandatory minicamps this offseason instead of the usual one that teams are allowed.

Frazier's plan was to conduct the first camp before the draft and thus enable the veteran players to begin adjusting to his system.

Frazier was the Vikings' interim coach for the final six games of last season after taking over for Brad Childress in November — Frazier had been the defensive coordinator before that — but that doesn't mean he won't be making some adjustments from how he ran things before he was awarded the job on a permanent basis.

The offense in particular promises to have a new look, with Bill Musgrave being hired away from the Atlanta Falcons to replace Darrell Bevell as coordinator. Mike Priefer has taken over for Brian Murphy as special teams coordinator.

The Vikings have a new quarterbacks coach (Craig Johnson), offensive line coach (Jeff Davidson), running backs coach (James Saxon) and linebackers coach (Mike Singletary).

But Frazier's plans for hitting the ground running has been put on hold as the NFL work stoppage means teams aren't even allowed to contact their players much less work with them.

Not only will the Vikings lose potentially valuable installation time on the field, but the chance to work with guys in the classroom is gone for now. Months of time potentially could be lost.

"I think the fact that everybody is going to be operating under the same circumstance — you don't want to make any excuses," Frazier said when asked about the issue at the NFL Scouting Combine last month.

Linebacker Ben Leber, an assistant player rep for the Vikings, will be a free agent when the lockout does end. For now, he is simply being patient.

"Nobody wants to be locked out, nobody wants to have a work stoppage," Leber said. "We continue to just say that we want to be playing and we want to negotiate, but sometimes it doesn't seem like the owners are willing to do that."

Chicago Bears

In Wednesday's Chicago Tribune, the Bears ran a full-page ad in the sports section that read: "Despite the current labor situation, we're pushing forward. Doing everything we can to continue to improve. Keeping our heads in the game. We all want football. And when it's back, we'll be ready. Hitting the field with one goal in mind — winning a Super Bowl for Chicago.

"For the latest on the labor situation and the most up-to-date Bears news, visit"

The headline above the message featured the team's logo, a bear's head, followed by the words, "WITH US." Get it? Bear with us.

The day after the NFLPA decertified and the league announced a lockout of the players, Bears president and CEO Ted Phillips issued a statement that read: "We're disappointed in the need to take this step, but it is necessary for the long-term health of our league. Ultimately we believe an agreement will be reached at the bargaining table. As an individual club, our team focus is on our preparation for the 2011 season and we want Bears fans to know we are going to continue to do everything we can within the League rules to prepare for a championship season. Our immediate focus is on preparing for the draft. We also continue to evaluate our team and will be ready to take advantage of all avenues to improve our team once a new collective bargaining agreement is reached.

"Some aspects of this offseason may look different, but our commitment to winning remains the same. We need to build off the success we had in 2010. We are committed to our fan base and appreciate their patience throughout this process. We will do our best to create opportunities for Bears fans to ask questions and keep them informed of what is happening with their team and the labor discussions. We still plan to host fan events this offseason starting with our 'Ultimate Weekend,' which includes our Draft Party and Bears Expo at Soldier Field.

"A deal will get done and we expect to play football in 2011. Our goal remains the same as we prepare to play, bringing a Super Bowl title back to Chicago."

Phillips told team employees that the organization would proceed with a business-as-usual approach in an effort to maintain a competitive edge.

Detroit Lions

The one thing both Lions' players and managers agree upon is that, one way or another, football will be played in 2011.

"What is most important right now is getting ready to play football in 2011," said team president Tom Lewand on March 12, hours after the league imposed a lockout. "Everything we've done is geared toward that; with the way we're preparing for free agency, which isn't taking place right now, to preparing for the draft, which will take place.

"All of our preparations continue and nothing that's happened in the last couple of weeks or the last couple of days has changed that focus. Our hope and expectation is that we will be playing football in 2011."

Defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch, the team's player rep, is so certain that there will be a season that he's organized team workouts at a local health club.

"It's all that we know as players and all that owners know and it's what the fans want, and that's the most important thing," Vanden Bosch said. "At the end of the day, I've got to provide for my family and the owners got to provide for their families, but we're entertainers and we do it for the fans. It would be unfortunate to let fans down because they love the sport as much as we do."

That said, Vanden Bosch supported the union's decision to decertify.

"At this point, there's a lot of players who are potential free agents, and they're still kind of trying to figure out what's next for them," Vanden Bosch said. "There's guys coming out of college that are draft picks — they know the draft is coming up but they're not sure what's next in the process after that. And guys like me who are geared up for what would normally be the start of an offseason program, which is kind of in limbo right now, waiting for somebody to tell us what we can, what we can't do and what's expected of us.

"It's going to be decisions that are made for us, and a lot of things are just going to be decided in court, and we're just going to have to wait for it."

Lewand said the coaching staff has completed all the prep work for free agency, which normally would have been under way.

"We are ready to go on free agency," he said. "We have been geared toward planning for various contingencies and we are ready to see how it is impacted by rule changes or new policies."

Lewand reiterated what general manager Martin Mayhew had said during the NFL Combine, the team will be able to monitor the rehabilitation progress of its injured players. Teams cannot talk directly to the players, however. Among the Lions' players coming off surgeries are quarterback Matthew Stafford (shoulder), linebacker DeAndre Levy (groin), cornerback Chris Houston (shoulder), safety Louis Delmas (groin), kicker Jason Hanson (knee), defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh (shoulder) and right tackle Gosder Cherilus (knee).

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