Ks Dave Rayner and Mason Crosby have yet to be fazed by inordinate scrutiny devoted to their showdown for the kicking job. Both had attempted more than 60 field goals in team periods after only 10 days of training camp but weren't any worse for the wear in the first preseason game Aug. 11 at Pittsburgh.
Rayner, last year's kicker, put the Packers on the scoreboard with a 32-yard field goal to end the first half. Crosby, a rookie drafted in the sixth round, answered with a 52-yard conversion late in the third quarter to complete Green Bay's 13-9 comeback victory. Two weeks into the preseason, the competition was considered a dead heat.
"We're probably wearing them out a little bit, kicking them too much," head coach Mike McCarthy conceded. "We want to make sure we give them both a chance to win the job. They're both talented. They're both strong-legged. I'm glad they're both here."
Rayner was the front-runner in the battle early in camp but trailed Crosby slightly in the practice environment entering the preseason opener. The Green Bay Press-Gazette has charted the kickers' field-goal attempts since the outset of camp. Crosby made 61 of his first 73 kicks for a conversion rate of 83.6 percent. Rayner was 60-of-75 for 80 percent.
The two combatants also are neck-and-neck with their kickoffs. Rayner reached the end zone twice in the game and had one touchback, while Crosby's only kickoff resulted in a touchback.
WR Donald Driver received a contract extension early in training camp for the second straight year. Driver had about $11 million and an extra year added to his existing contract. He is signed through 2010, all but ensuring that the 32-year-old will play his entire pro career with Green Bay.
Driver is coming off a career-best season, in which he had 92 receptions for 1,295 yards and earned a second Pro Bowl selection. His new deal includes an unusual provision. Driver will reportedly receive a roster bonus of $50,000 for every game he's on the active 45-man roster from this season to 2009, bringing the extra potential earnings to $2.4 million in the three years.
"There's some mechanisms that we've used with most, if not all, of our veteran-type contracts recently," general manager Ted Thompson said. "We feel like sometimes it enables us to address some things that we think are important. Plus, we'd like for Donald to be here for a long time."
RB Brandon Jackson showed in his pro debut Aug. 11 that he is game for taking on a full load at halfback. This year's second-round draft pick hung in for the first three quarters of the Packers' 13-9 win at Pittsburgh, coming to the aid of an injury-depleted position group.
Jackson finished with a game-high 57 yards in 16 carries. Although his per-carry average was a modest 3.6 yards, Jackson redeemed himself after a tough first half against the Steelers' rugged starting front seven. Jackson was held to 14 yards in eight carries in the opening 30 minutes.
"We got him going there in the third quarter," head coach Mike McCarthy said. "I don't know if he had a whole lot of running room in the first two quarters. But, I think he showed what he's capable of doing."
The unusual extended playing time for the starting back the first time out was necessitated by knee injuries that have sidelined projected starter Vernand Morency and P.J. Pope indefinitely and a thigh injury sustained by rookie DeShawn Wynn. Jackson took advantage of some holes that were finally created against Pittsburgh's backups and had runs of 15 and 14 yards in the third quarter.
"I thought he had some nice runs. I thought he played physical. From what I've seen, I thought he did a pretty good job in the pass protection. Brandon needs to play," McCarthy said.
CB Al Harris was held out of the preseason-opening, 13-9 win at Pittsburgh on Aug. 11 because of recurring back tightness. Jarrett Bush started in Harris' place on the right side.
CB Charles Woodson didn't play because of a sore left hamstring. Patrick Dendy started in Woodson's absence on the left side.
TE Bubba Franks wore a protective shield on his helmet in the game. Franks sustained a scratched cornea in practice July 31.
QB Ingle Martin suffered a blow to the head during his first series in the fourth quarter and didn't return. Undrafted rookie Paul Thompson, who wasn't expected to play in the game, relieved Martin for a series.
P Jon Ryan overcame a shaky punt of 37 yards early in the game to average a robust 46.8 yards for six kicks. His net average was a solid 38.2. Ryan used a two-step delivery for the first time in a game and delivered booming punts of 56, 50 and 47 yards later in the opening half and closed with a 55-yarder that just rolled across the goal line for a touchback in the fourth quarter.
G Travis Leffew is becoming a two-way backup. The first-year player hadn't played on the defensive line since high school but lined up at tackle for a couple reps in one-on-one pass-rushing drills in practice Aug. 9. He also was inserted at tackle late in the game.
DE/DT Cullen Jenkins is poised for big things this season. All indications after the first two weeks of the preseason point to Jenkins' having a monster season that will justify his receiving a four-year, $16 million contract on the eve of free agency this year.
Jenkins has been mostly unstoppable on the practice field, particularly in pass-rushing drills. Then, he goes out in the first exhibition game Aug. 11 at Pittsburgh and has an abbreviated performance on par with his dominant late-season outings last year when he was moved into the starting role at right defensive end. Jenkins had two sacks, including forcing a turnover on a strip of the football from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's back side.
Jenkins will continue to slide inside on passing downs. He held up former teammate Najeh Davenport on a third-and-1 run in the first quarter, enabling linebacker A.J. Hawk to swoop in and drop Davenport for no gain.
DT Justin Harrell (first round) seems to be turning the corner after reporting to training camp out of football shape because of his recovery from a ruptured biceps sustained early in his senior season at Tennessee. Harrell lined up with the third-string defense in the preseason opener Aug. 11 at Pittsburgh, playing most of the second half. He pushed past two interior linemen to sack Brian St. Pierre for an 8-yard loss in the third quarter. Harrell was credited with three tackles.
WR James Jones (third round) led all receivers in the game with six catches for 58 yards. All of Jones' receptions were in the first half, delivered by backup quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
FB Korey Hall (sixth round) had the starting assignment in the game with Brandon Miree out because of injury. However, Hall, a special-teams ace, was penalized in punt coverage after the game-opening series for being downfield too early.
LB Desmond Bishop (sixth round) has moved ahead of Abdul Hodge as the top backup to Nick Barnett in the middle. Hodge has been limited in practice because of lingering knee soreness.
RB DeShawn Wynn (seventh round) didn't play in the game because of a strained quadriceps he sustained in practice Aug. 7. Wynn has spent an inordinate amount of time on the sideline thus far, to the displeasure of head coach Mike McCarthy. He reported to camp with a stomach virus.
RB Vernand Morency remains out because of a strained patellar tendon in his right knee. The projected starter figures to be sidelined at least two more weeks.
RB P.J. Pope is expected to be out for at least another week after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery Aug. 6. Pope suffered an injury two days earlier in an intrasquad scrimmage.
FB Brandon Miree and OT Tony Moll didn't play in the game because of neck stingers.
S Marviel Underwood left the game with a hamstring injury.
DE DeVon Hicks didn't play in the game because of a groin injury.
DT Tommie Harris missed the Bears' first preseason game Saturday at Houston with sore knees. He had been limited in practice for the previous several days.
WR Devin Hester's debut as a full-time receiver was fairly mellow, as he caught one pass for 12 yards in the Bears' 20-19 win over the Texans.
WR Brandon Rideau made a strong statement for the No. 6 receiver spot, if the Bears keep that many, with three catches for 43 yards.
RB Cedric Benson led the Bears with 23 rushing yards on five carries and also caught three passes for 11 yards.
QB Brian Griese, after an interception on his first pass, hit four of four passes for 61 yards and a TD on the next series and finished six of seven for 72 yards and a 109.5 passer rating. Grise had been unimpressive at best through most of training camp.
TE Greg Olsen, on the first play from scrimmage, in the first preseason game, caught a five-yard dump-off from Rex Grossman. "We wanted to get him involved quickly," Bears coach Lovie Smith said. "I think he'll make a lot of those catches." Later on the opening drive Olsen had a 12-yard reception for a first down.
Second-round DE Dan Bazuin returned to practice on a limited basis after missing more than a week with a knee injury, but he did not dress for Saturday's game.
Third-round RB Garrett Wolfe got several touches in the first preseason game but was unable to flash much of the magic he showed at NIU. He picked up just 15 yards on seven carries and caught two passes for five yards. He also returned three kickoffs for 59 yards.
Third-round LB Michael Okwo missed most of last week's practice time with a knee injury and did not play in Saturday's game.
Fourth-round OG-C Josh Beekman of Boston College is buried on the depth chart behind a talented and veteran group of starters on the offensive line, but he has a chance to become the top backup at one or more of the three interior positions.
"He's a quick, explosive player," Bears offensive line coach Harry Hiestand said, "and it shows up at both (guard and center)."
Fifth-round CB Corey Graham just missed an interception in the fourth quarter vs. the Texans, but he had three tackles and one pass break-up.
Seventh-round CB Trumaine McBride has already played so impressively that the Bears were content to trade veteran Dante Wesley, leaving McBride as the top backup to starter Charles Tillman.
"It basically lets me know that I'm doing something right, so that really helps my confidence level," McBride said. "I just have to come into the game focused to let people know I can play in this league and to be ready to play in case we get an injury." McBride tied for second on the team Saturday night with 4 solo tackles. Seventh-round OT Aaron Brant, who is a long shot, at best, to make the 53-man roster, missed the preseason opener with a leg injury.
WR Calvin Johnson caught a couple of passes in his exhibition debut Thursday against Cincinnati at Ford Field, but he showed his potential impact on a pass he didn't catch. The Cincinnati defense was so worried about him on one play, wide receiver Shaun McDonald was wide open in the middle of the field for an easy 83-yard touchdown. The Lions won the game, 27-26.
LG Edwin Mulitalo gave up a bad sack in the exhibition opener. The guy just blew right by him. That made Lions fans nervous. Mulitalo was supposed to be a good veteran pickup, a guy who had success in Baltimore. But the Lions have brought in other guys like that in the past and have not had success.
RB T.J. Duckett is supposed to be a good short-yardage, red-zone back -- not to mention a fan favorite, as a product of Michigan State -- but he fumbled on the goal line in the exhibition opener.
CB Keith Smith continues to have a strong camp. He picked off a pass in the exhibition opener and got some time with the first team.
DT Langston Moore continues to stand out and make a case for the fourth defensive tackle spot. He had a sack in the exhibition opener.
DE Corey Smith quietly gets the job done. He made a nice move in the exhibition opener, beating his guy to the outside and stripping the quarterback of the ball.
WR Shaun McDonald looks a lot like Mike Furrey did last season. He's a small, sure-handed guy from St. Louis who knows this system and can be more productive than people realize.
WR Troy Walters seems to be the favorite for the fifth receiver spot. He has been consistent, and his return ability helps him.
QB Dan Orlovsky seemed to be out of favor, standing around and holding his helmet in practice while newcomer J.T. O'Sullivan got all the snaps. But he came back strong -- literally and figuratively -- when he rallied the Lions from a 16-point fourth-quarter deficit in the exhibition opener against Cincinnati. The Lions won, 27-26.
KR-PR Eddie Drummond might not make the final roster because he does not contribute at any of the skill positions.
RB Brian Calhoun (knee) could play Saturday at Cleveland.
TE Dan Campbell (elbow) is practicing and is expected to play one preseason game.
DE Kalimba Edwards (shoulder) and RB Aveion Cason (concussion) suffered minor injuries in the exhibition opener. Cason returned to practice right away. Edwards will need a day or two.
LB Teddy Lehman (shoulder) surprised coach Rod Marinelli with how quickly he returned to practice.
LB Rufus Alexander, the Vikings' sixth-round pick out of Oklahoma, appeared poised to contribute as a special teams player this season.
But that won't happen after Alexander injured his right knee in the Vikings' preseason opener against St. Louis on Friday. Alexander was removed from the sideline on a cart and was on crutches after the game, which the Rams won, 13-10. He suffered a torn ACL and will wind up on season-ending injured reserve.
RB Adrian Peterson, who missed five practices because of a contract holdout, missed five more due to a hip pointer. Peterson, though, appeared to have no restrictions on him during the Vikings' preseason game against St. Louis. He had a team-leading 11 rushing attempts for 33 yards and also caught a pass for 2 yards.
DE Erasmus James is expected to be activated in the coming days from the physically unable to perform list. James has been out since tearing his left anterior cruciate ligament early last season.
WR Billy McMullen was activated from the non-football injury list after missing the first 17 practices of training camp because of a calf strain.
LB Ben Leber returned after missing several practices because of a strained calf.
WR Troy Williamson has continued to struggle with dropped passes at times during training camp practices but he looked good against the Rams. Williamson caught three Tarvaris Jackson passes for 32 yards and did not have a drop.
WR Bobby Wade, who signed a five-year, $15 million free-agent deal with the Vikings during the off-season, caught two passes for 42 yards against St. Louis.
LG Steve Hutchinson missed the Rams game so he could tend to family matters. Anthony Herrera shifted from right to left guard to start in Hutchinson's spot.
DE Jayme Mitchell missed the Rams game because of what coach Brad Childress termed a fractured orbit bone in his left eye.
S Mike Doss suffered a mild concussion in the game and did not return.
FB Tony Richardson did not play against the Rams. There was nothing wrong with the veteran but coach Brad Childress told him to take the game off.
QB Brooks Bollinger does not figure to unseat Tarvaris Jackson for the starting job. Bollinger's best hope to improve his status might come Friday when the Vikings play the New York Jets in New Jersey. Bollinger was traded from the Jets to the Vikings during the preseason last year and because of his familiarity with his former team's defense, coach Brad Childress has said he might let the veteran start.
P Chris Kluwe struggled in the first preseason game, meaning rookie free-agent Alex Reyes might still have a chance.
LB Chad Greenway appears to be fully recovered from the knee injury that ended his rookie year in the opening preseason game in 2006. Greenway has shown great speed for someone coming off a knee injury and appears comfortable in the Vikings' defense. He also made it through the first exhibition game this year with no trouble.
CB Marcus McCauley missed a day of practice last week because of a virus but that has not slowed him down. McCauley worked with the first-team defense in the nickel package during the exhibition opener.
DE Brian Robison was impressive against the Rams, recording a sack and quarterback hurry from the right end position.
WR Aundrae Allison returned to practice after being held out by a hamstring injury. He did not see any action in the first preseason game.
LB Jason Glenn (left knee) had his 2006 season ended by an injury to the same knee. After looking good early in camp, Glenn is now bothered by patella tendonitis and has been using crutches.
QB Tyler Thigpen appears to have a hold on the No. 3 job ahead of Drew Henson. Thigpen played against the Rams, while Henson did not. The rookie completed three of six passes for 29 yards and ran twice for 18 yards.
WR Chandler Williams has talent but is very raw. He receives nearly constant instruction from the coaching staff in practice.
CB Ronyell Whitaker has returned after suffering a sprained ankle but did not play in the preseason opener.
RB Wendell Mathis continues to miss time because of a muscle strain.
DE Khreem Smith continues to be slowed by an ankle/knee injury.
LB John Kerr has been out because of a back injury.