NFC North news, notes and quotes

The Bears are getting a couple of key offensive players back as the team returns to full strength, the Lions are still uncertain when or if they will get Jahvid Best back, and one Packers player says he's learned his lesson. Go around the NFC North with reports and notes from of the Vikings' division rivals.


Chicago Bears

It's a safe bet that the Bears will never be healthier than they'll be Monday night when they face the Eagles.

What remains to be seen is how the newly recovered players will be assimilated into the lineup.

Rookie offensive right tackle Gabe Carimi and wide receiver Earl Bennett will both be active in Philadelphia for the first time since Week 2, when Carimi suffered a partially dislocated kneecap and Bennett went out with a bruised chest. They were the only two Bears unavailable because of injury against the Vikings in Week 7.

"We have our 53-man roster, for the most part, intact right now," coach Lovie Smith said after his team returned to the practice field Tuesday afternoon following a four-day weekend. "This is the group we started the season with, that we wanted to win football games with. To have everyone eventually get in their role that we started off with is big. Most teams can't say that halfway through the season. We're in pretty good shape."

When the season began, Carimi was in a starting role, but there's no guarantee he'll get his job back immediately. Lance Louis has performed well the past two games after moving from right guard to right tackle, and Chris Spencer has done the same filling in at right guard.

"We don't have to make any of those decisions yet," Smith said. "We'll let (Carimi) tell us exactly how far he's come along."

Carimi says he's fine with that.

"I just have to keep on playing hard," he said. "The stability (of the knee) is fine, the pain's low, so everything's coming along good."

Bennett was off to a slow start, catching just three passes for 20 yards before he was injured early against the Saints. But he was second on the team last season with 561 yards and third with 46 receptions. This is his fourth week back on the practice field, so he's itching to get back into the action after being held out the past two games.

"The coaches just thought I wasn't ready to go," he said. "That's what it came down to. Just have to live with it and keep going, but nothing will hold me back from Monday's game."

As the No. 3 receiver last season, Bennett was often on the field as much as the two starters, but it's a more crowded position this year, with Devin Hester and Roy Williams (when he's been healthy) starting, Johnny Knox playing a lot and rookie Dane Sanzenbacher stepping into Bennett's spot in the slot and playing well.

"He's a starting (caliber) receiver," Smith said of Bennett. "We don't have to wonder what he can do, we've seen him in just about every situation. Whatever we've asked him to do, from returning punts for touchdowns to (playing) the slot receiver, (he's done)."

NOTES

  • QB Jay Cutler is averaging 243.1 passing yards per game, which would be No. 1 in franchise history for a full season.

  • RB Matt Forte leads the NFL with 1,091 yards from scrimmage and is fifth in the league with 96.0 rushing yards per game. He leads the Bears with 38 receptions and 419 receiving yards.

  • RB Marion Barber has a team-high three rushing touchdowns on just 23 carries.

  • TE Kellen Davis has two touchdowns on just eight catches and now has six career TD catches on just 18 receptions.

  • WR Devin Hester is second on the team and first among wide receivers with 21 receptions.

  • WR Roy Williams has 13 receptions (for 190 yards), on pace for a 30-catch season. He has not had more than 38 receptions in a season since 2007.

  • WR Johnny Knox is second on the Bears with 348 receiving yards and is averaging a team-best 18.3 yards per catch. However, he has yet to score a touchdown.

  • WR Earl Bennett is practicing with full participation for the third straight week and is expected to play Monday night against the Eagles for the first time since suffering a bruised chest in Week 2.

  • NT Anthony Adams has 3 1/2 of his 10 1/2 career sacks vs. the Eagles in just seven games.

  • CB Charles Tillman has forced three fumbles in just four career games vs. the Eagles.

  • CB D.J. Moore, the Bears' nickel back, is tied for fourth in the NFL with seven interceptions since 2010. He has returned two of those picks for touchdowns.

  • WR Dane Sanzenbacher is averaging just 9.1 yards on his 19 receptions but leads the Bears with three touchdown catches.

  • RB Armando Allen was signed to the Bears' practice squad, with which he spent the first four weeks of the season. The undrafted rookie free agent spent training camp with the Buccaneers.

  • WR/RS Devin Hester in one of just 10 players in NFL history with over 2,000 receiving yards, punt-return yards and kickoff-return yards and one of just two active players, along with Wes Welker.

  • MLB Brian Urlacher has 21 interceptions since entering the league in 2000. Among linebackers, only Ray Lewis (24) has more.


    Detroit Lions

    Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford has held up his end of the bargain through the first half of the season — meaning, he's stayed healthy.

    Almost as if to quiet those who'd label him fragile, he posted a season-high rating of 130.8 Sunday at Denver, playing on a sprained right ankle.

    "We expect so much of him and rightfully so," coach Jim Schwartz said. "When he has a game where he completes 50 percent of his passes with no interceptions, we're saying he was off. And it's true. The standard is so high for Matt and our offense; that was an off-day for him."

    Stafford struggled against the 49ers and Falcons, but overall, he's been superb. He's the fifth leading passer in the NFL. The offense he runs averages 29.9 points a game (fourth in the league) and the passing offense ranks 10th.

    Against the Broncos, in just three quarters of work, he threw for 267 yards and three touchdowns. He also broke off a 21-yard run.

    "He was able to move, he was able to scramble," Schwartz said. "I mean it wasn't 100 percent, but I thought he threw well and he was able to make a lot of different kind of throws. There wasn't anything that he wasn't able to do in the game."

    The important thing to Stafford was the offense got back to dictating the pace of play.

    "We just wanted to come out and play like us — with attitude and tempo," he said. "We hadn't really done that the previous couple of weeks. We needed to go out and not worry about what they were going to do, just execute."

  • There is one potentially rain-bearing cloud hover over the Lions as they enter the bye week with a 6-2 record — the status of starting running back Jahvid Best.

    He's missed two straight games and still hasn't been cleared of his post-concussion symptoms. He has had two concussions in three months. And on Monday, coach Jim Schwartz couldn't definitively say whether or not he expected Best to be back after the bye week.

    "We'll see," he said. "You can't have a timetable on these things. We've gone through it with Justin Durant and Tony Scheffler. Some come back quickly and some last longer."

    Scheffler, whose concussion against the Bears was serious enough to warrant a trip to the emergency room, missed only one game. Durant, who didn't have a history of head injuries, missed three weeks.

    "The one thing we will be sure to do is be objective and listen to the people who are the experts in these decisions," Schwartz said. "Like I've said a hundred times, it's not something you can put tape on or tough out. We have to be conservative."

    When asked if there was a point where he'd consider putting Best on injured reserve, Schwartz again deferred.

    "That would be listening to the people who know more about these things than me," he said. "You evaluate every player on a week-by-week basis."

    Best, because he hasn't been cleared to return to practice, hasn't been made available to the media, per NFL rules. On his Twitter account, though, he posted this last week:

    "Thanks for your Tweets and prayers. I'm taking everything one day at a time."

    The Lions signed free-agent running back Eldra Buckley after Jerome Harrison (brain tumor) went on injured reserve. His primary role has been, and is expected to continue to be, on special teams.

    Maurice Morris and Keiland Williams have handled the bulk of the running game in Best's absence. The two combined have rushed for 177 yards (4.2 per carry) in the last two games.

    NOTES

  • QB Matthew Stafford has thrown 19 touchdown passes and only four interceptions this season.

  • RB Maurice Morris continues to be Mr. Reliable. It is no coincidence that the Lions have averaged 4.2 yards per carry the last two games with no negative yardage runs. Morris won't make the spectacular plays that starter Jahvid Best will and he's not the receiving threat, but the run game will always be efficient.

  • TE Brandon Pettigrew had a good first half — he's on pace for 80 catches and 720 yards — but his talent is so big, he leaves you wanting more. He bailed the offense out with an 11-catch, 112-yard game in Minnesota, but he's also had three games where he was invisible. The drops are still an issue and, surprisingly, he's had a couple of poor blocking games. There is another level he needs to get to.

  • TE Tony Scheffler just catches touchdowns. Well, not really, but he has 10 catches and three touchdowns. He hasn't been the down-field threat the Lions maybe expected, but he is money in the red zone. It will interesting to see if they use him as the slot receiver more in the second half because of Nate Burleson's struggles.

  • WR Calvin Johnson is seemingly setting records with every catch. His 11 touchdowns in eight games has only been done by one other receiver — Randy Moss. He is third in the NFL with 804 yards on 47 catches and has had four straight 100-yard games.

  • WR Nate Burleson will be the first to tell you that he expected more from himself. Only 26 receptions for 245 yards and one touchdown — that's well below the standard he's set over a nine-year career. In his defense, there were a couple of games where he wasn't targeted much. But there were too many others where he either couldn't get open or didn't make the plays.

  • KR-PR Stefan Logan can't do much about the kickoff returns. The only team that kicked to him regularly was Atlanta and he averaged 28 yards on five returns. But he's been far too cautious on punts, calling for fair catches when there appeared to be room several times. He's not been the threat he was last season.

  • DE Cliff Avril was down on himself early because his tackle and sack totals were down, but he broke through Sunday with two sacks, and a forced fumble that he returned for a touchdown. He's got five sacks through eight games and has created plenty of pressure off that left edge.

  • DE Kyle Vanden Bosch has been revitalized. Perhaps one of the smartest moves coach Jim Schwartz made was limiting Vanden Bosch's reps during the week. He's been fresh and feisty on game day, as evidenced by his five sacks and two forced fumbles. He has erased any questions about his age (33) or ability to come back from neck surgery.

  • DE Lawrence Jackson had 6.5 sacks in 32 games with Seattle. In 19 games with the Lions, he has 9.5.


    Green Bay Packers

    Facing an interconference opponent such as the San Diego Chargers, who are on the Packers' schedule Sunday, happens as often as a presidential election — every four years.

    In the run-up to the impending matchup at San Diego, however, Green Bay's read on the Chargers may be as insightful as it would be getting ready for a division opponent.

    The coaches not only had an extra week to get a jump on San Diego in the midst of doing their self-scout work during last week's bye, but many of them were tuned in until late Monday night watching the Chargers' overtime loss at the Kansas City Chiefs.

    "It's good to watch the Monday night or Sunday night game if you're playing that opponent that week or even a week or two out," Packers head coach Mike McCarthy said. "You find out a little bit about the pulse of how they're playing, especially since they (were) playing Kansas City the second time (this season). We had an opportunity to evaluate their first game against Kansas City. You get a lot of information out of division opponents when they play each other, particularly a second time."

    What looked to be a sexy midseason matchup when the schedule came out last spring now sets up well for the Packers to build on their league-best 7-0 record coming out of the bye.

    The Chargers are slumping. They have lost two in a row as well as their hold on the AFC West lead, falling into a first-place tie with the Chiefs and Oakland Raiders at 4-3.

    Besides the detailed coaches, the Green Bay players who took time out to watch the Chargers' late-game collapse Monday surely picked up on how their next opponent is struggling at the moment.

    "Game film is your best tool to learn from, but it's always good to watch the TV copy," Packers safety Charlie Peprah said. "You kind of get a feel for the game flow, the emotions, how they're calling the game, how players react. It's just a different point of view."

  • Happy to be back on the field, nickel back Sam Shields said he learned a painful lesson the last time he was seen in action.

    Shields joined his teammates on the practice field Monday as the players returned from a six-day hiatus for the bye week. Shields had been sidelined since he suffered a concussion in the third quarter of Green Bay's win over the St. Louis Rams on Oct. 16 at Lambeau Field.

    The injury occurred when Shields intercepted a pass from the Rams' Sam Bradford in the end zone and then tried to run it out, only to get pasted by St. Louis receiver Brandon Gibson while still in the end zone.

    "Everybody said I should've went down (after the interception)," Shields said. "I should've, but things happen. I'm ready to go.

    "It's a learning process," he added. "Next time, I'll go down. In my mind, I wasn't thinking about all that. I was thinking about scoring. But, making the right decision is going down and letting the offense go and score."

    The team's medical staff cleared Shields to resume football activities before the players were excused for the bye week following meetings Oct. 24, a day after Green Bay beat the Minnesota Vikings to improve its NFL-best record to 7-0.

    Barring a setback this week in practice, Shields is expected to be OK to play Sunday, when the Packers will play at the San Diego Chargers.

    Head coach Mike McCarthy didn't let the players' first day back on the job go to waste Monday. He had them practice — and in pads — for nearly 90 minutes outside with the temperature in the 40s.

    "It sends a message to your ballclub, letting us know that, 'Vacation is over now. It's time to get back to work,'" receiver James Jones said. "Get back to doing what we know we've got to do, and that's preparing for the San Diego Chargers."

    The players will have their customary day off Tuesday, then practice Wednesday through Friday before leaving for San Diego on Saturday.

    McCarthy said he would put the team through two padded practices this week. It will be the one and only time Green Bay will have more than one padded practice in a week this season.

    Under the league's new collective-bargaining agreement, teams are allowed to have a total of just 11 padded practices in the first 11 weeks of the regular season — and two padded practices are permitted in only one week during that time frame.

    NOTES

  • CB Sam Shields practiced Monday as the team returned from the bye week. The nickel back missed the last game after he suffered a concussion in the second half of the Oct. 16 win over the St. Louis Rams. Shields should be able to play Sunday, when the Packers will play at the San Diego Chargers.

  • LT Chad Clifton has missed the last two games because of a partial tear to his right hamstring, and his availability for the short term, not to mention the rest of the season, is up in the air. An update on Clifton's status isn't expected from head coach Mike McCarthy until Wednesday at the earliest. Marshall Newhouse has been the fill-in starter for Clifton.

  • OLB Frank Zombo returned to practice Monday and participated on a full-time basis. Zombo missed the last game before the bye because of a hyperextended knee. He has appeared in only one game this season, missing the first five games because of a broken shoulder blade.

  • DE Mike Neal has yet to be cleared by the medical staff for a return to the field. The second-year player and projected opening-day starter hasn't played a down in 2011 after he suffered cartilage damage in his left knee during training camp and then underwent surgery Sept. 13. It's unclear whether Neal will play this season.

  • FS Morgan Burnett still will wear a club-like cast on his broken right hand. He practiced with it Monday. Burnett has played with the hand covered the last two games.

  • WR Greg Jennings is back practicing this week after he sustained a bruised right hand in the pre-bye win at the Minnesota Vikings on Oct. 23. Jennings finished that game and should be good to play against the Chargers. Jennings leads the team with 42 catches for 677 yards and five touchdowns.

  • QB Aaron Rodgers comes out of the bye as likely the top candidate to win league MVP honors this season. Rodgers is a runaway leader among quarterbacks with a passer rating of 125.7, more than 21 points ahead of second-place Tom Brady of the New England Patriots. Rodgers also is the league leader for touchdown passes (20) and completion percentage (71.5). He ranks third with 2,372 passing yards.

  • TE Jermichael Finley is tied with WR Jordy Nelson for second place on the team with four touchdown receptions. Finley, however, has only 10 catches for 128 yards and one TD in the last four games.

  • WR Donald Driver has only 13 catches for 107 yards and two touchdowns this season as his playing time has been greatly diminished despite still being a starter. Driver is on pace to have his lowest receiving numbers in 10 years.

  • RB James Starks is averaging nearly 13 carries for 56.8 yards the last four games after he had a season-worst five yards in 11 carries in the Week 3 game at Chicago.

  • RB Ryan Grant has run for a total of just 72 yards in 25 carries the last three games after returning from a one-game absence because of a bruised kidney.

  • K Mason Crosby is one of only four kickers who have attempted at least 10 field goals this season and made all of them. Crosby is 14-of-14, tying Josh Scobee of the Jacksonville Jaguars for the most makes among those who are at 100 percent for accuracy.


  • Viking Update Top Stories

    \r\n\r\n","mobileBody":" It's a safe bet that the Bears will never be healthier than they'll be Monday night when they face the Eagles. What remains to be seen is how the newly recovered players will be assimilated into the lineup. Rookie offensive right tackle Gabe Carimi and wide receiver Earl Bennett will both be active in Philadelphia for the first time since Week 2, when Carimi suffered a partially dislocated kneecap and Bennett went out with a bruised chest. They were the only two Bears unavailable because of injury against the Vikings in Week 7. \"We have our 53-man roster, for the most part, intact right now,\" coach Lovie Smith said after his team returned to the practice field Tuesday afternoon following a four-day weekend. \"This is the group we started the season with, that we wanted to win football games with. To have everyone eventually get in their role that we started off with is big. Most teams can't say that halfway through the season. We're in pretty good shape.\" When the season began, Carimi was in a starting role, but there's no guarantee he'll get his job back immediately. Lance Louis has performed well the past two games after moving from right guard to right tackle, and Chris Spencer has done the same filling in at right guard. \"We don't have to make any of those decisions yet,\" Smith said. \"We'll let (Carimi) tell us exactly how far he's come along.\" Carimi says he's fine with that. \"I just have to keep on playing hard,\" he said. \"The stability (of the knee) is fine, the pain's low, so everything's coming along good.\" Bennett was off to a slow start, catching just three passes for 20 yards before he was injured early against the Saints. But he was second on the team last season with 561 yards and third with 46 receptions. This is his fourth week back on the practice field, so he's itching to get back into the action after being held out the past two games. \"The coaches just thought I wasn't ready to go,\" he said. \"That's what it came down to. Just have to live with it and keep going, but nothing will hold me back from Monday's game.\" As the No. 3 receiver last season, Bennett was often on the field as much as the two starters, but it's a more crowded position this year, with Devin Hester and Roy Williams (when he's been healthy) starting, Johnny Knox playing a lot and rookie Dane Sanzenbacher stepping into Bennett's spot in the slot and playing well. \"He's a starting (caliber) receiver,\" Smith said of Bennett. \"We don't have to wonder what he can do, we've seen him in just about every situation. Whatever we've asked him to do, from returning punts for touchdowns to (playing) the slot receiver, (he's done).\"
  • QB Jay Cutler is averaging 243.1 passing yards per game, which would be No. 1 in franchise history for a full season.
  • RB Matt Forte leads the NFL with 1,091 yards from scrimmage and is fifth in the league with 96.0 rushing yards per game. He leads the Bears with 38 receptions and 419 receiving yards.
  • RB Marion Barber has a team-high three rushing touchdowns on just 23 carries.
  • TE Kellen Davis has two touchdowns on just eight catches and now has six career TD catches on just 18 receptions.
  • WR Devin Hester is second on the team and first among wide receivers with 21 receptions.
  • WR Roy Williams has 13 receptions (for 190 yards), on pace for a 30-catch season. He has not had more than 38 receptions in a season since 2007.
  • WR Johnny Knox is second on the Bears with 348 receiving yards and is averaging a team-best 18.3 yards per catch. However, he has yet to score a touchdown.
  • WR Earl Bennett is practicing with full participation for the third straight week and is expected to play Monday night against the Eagles for the first time since suffering a bruised chest in Week 2.
  • NT Anthony Adams has 3 1/2 of his 10 1/2 career sacks vs. the Eagles in just seven games.
  • CB Charles Tillman has forced three fumbles in just four career games vs. the Eagles.
  • CB D.J. Moore, the Bears' nickel back, is tied for fourth in the NFL with seven interceptions since 2010. He has returned two of those picks for touchdowns.
  • WR Dane Sanzenbacher is averaging just 9.1 yards on his 19 receptions but leads the Bears with three touchdown catches.
  • RB Armando Allen was signed to the Bears' practice squad, with which he spent the first four weeks of the season. The undrafted rookie free agent spent training camp with the Buccaneers.
  • WR/RS Devin Hester in one of just 10 players in NFL history with over 2,000 receiving yards, punt-return yards and kickoff-return yards and one of just two active players, along with Wes Welker.
  • MLB Brian Urlacher has 21 interceptions since entering the league in 2000. Among linebackers, only Ray Lewis (24) has more. Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford has held up his end of the bargain through the first half of the season — meaning, he's stayed healthy. Almost as if to quiet those who'd label him fragile, he posted a season-high rating of 130.8 Sunday at Denver, playing on a sprained right ankle. \"We expect so much of him and rightfully so,\" coach Jim Schwartz said. \"When he has a game where he completes 50 percent of his passes with no interceptions, we're saying he was off. And it's true. The standard is so high for Matt and our offense; that was an off-day for him.\" Stafford struggled against the 49ers and Falcons, but overall, he's been superb. He's the fifth leading passer in the NFL. The offense he runs averages 29.9 points a game (fourth in the league) and the passing offense ranks 10th. Against the Broncos, in just three quarters of work, he threw for 267 yards and three touchdowns. He also broke off a 21-yard run. \"He was able to move, he was able to scramble,\" Schwartz said. \"I mean it wasn't 100 percent, but I thought he threw well and he was able to make a lot of different kind of throws. There wasn't anything that he wasn't able to do in the game.\" The important thing to Stafford was the offense got back to dictating the pace of play. \"We just wanted to come out and play like us — with attitude and tempo,\" he said. \"We hadn't really done that the previous couple of weeks. We needed to go out and not worry about what they were going to do, just execute.\"
  • There is one potentially rain-bearing cloud hover over the Lions as they enter the bye week with a 6-2 record — the status of starting running back Jahvid Best. He's missed two straight games and still hasn't been cleared of his post-concussion symptoms. He has had two concussions in three months. And on Monday, coach Jim Schwartz couldn't definitively say whether or not he expected Best to be back after the bye week. \"We'll see,\" he said. \"You can't have a timetable on these things. We've gone through it with Justin Durant and Tony Scheffler. Some come back quickly and some last longer.\" Scheffler, whose concussion against the Bears was serious enough to warrant a trip to the emergency room, missed only one game. Durant, who didn't have a history of head injuries, missed three weeks. \"The one thing we will be sure to do is be objective and listen to the people who are the experts in these decisions,\" Schwartz said. \"Like I've said a hundred times, it's not something you can put tape on or tough out. We have to be conservative.\" When asked if there was a point where he'd consider putting Best on injured reserve, Schwartz again deferred. \"That would be listening to the people who know more about these things than me,\" he said. \"You evaluate every player on a week-by-week basis.\" Best, because he hasn't been cleared to return to practice, hasn't been made available to the media, per NFL rules. On his Twitter account, though, he posted this last week: \"Thanks for your Tweets and prayers. I'm taking everything one day at a time.\" The Lions signed free-agent running back Eldra Buckley after Jerome Harrison (brain tumor) went on injured reserve. His primary role has been, and is expected to continue to be, on special teams. Maurice Morris and Keiland Williams have handled the bulk of the running game in Best's absence. The two combined have rushed for 177 yards (4.2 per carry) in the last two games.
  • QB Matthew Stafford has thrown 19 touchdown passes and only four interceptions this season.
  • RB Maurice Morris continues to be Mr. Reliable. It is no coincidence that the Lions have averaged 4.2 yards per carry the last two games with no negative yardage runs. Morris won't make the spectacular plays that starter Jahvid Best will and he's not the receiving threat, but the run game will always be efficient.
  • TE Brandon Pettigrew had a good first half — he's on pace for 80 catches and 720 yards — but his talent is so big, he leaves you wanting more. He bailed the offense out with an 11-catch, 112-yard game in Minnesota, but he's also had three games where he was invisible. The drops are still an issue and, surprisingly, he's had a couple of poor blocking games. There is another level he needs to get to.
  • TE Tony Scheffler just catches touchdowns. Well, not really, but he has 10 catches and three touchdowns. He hasn't been the down-field threat the Lions maybe expected, but he is money in the red zone. It will interesting to see if they use him as the slot receiver more in the second half because of Nate Burleson's struggles.
  • WR Calvin Johnson is seemingly setting records with every catch. His 11 touchdowns in eight games has only been done by one other receiver — Randy Moss. He is third in the NFL with 804 yards on 47 catches and has had four straight 100-yard games.
  • WR Nate Burleson will be the first to tell you that he expected more from himself. Only 26 receptions for 245 yards and one touchdown — that's well below the standard he's set over a nine-year career. In his defense, there were a couple of games where he wasn't targeted much. But there were too many others where he either couldn't get open or didn't make the plays.
  • KR-PR Stefan Logan can't do much about the kickoff returns. The only team that kicked to him regularly was Atlanta and he averaged 28 yards on five returns. But he's been far too cautious on punts, calling for fair catches when there appeared to be room several times. He's not been the threat he was last season.
  • DE Cliff Avril was down on himself early because his tackle and sack totals were down, but he broke through Sunday with two sacks, and a forced fumble that he returned for a touchdown. He's got five sacks through eight games and has created plenty of pressure off that left edge.
  • DE Kyle Vanden Bosch has been revitalized. Perhaps one of the smartest moves coach Jim Schwartz made was limiting Vanden Bosch's reps during the week. He's been fresh and feisty on game day, as evidenced by his five sacks and two forced fumbles. He has erased any questions about his age (33) or ability to come back from neck surgery.
  • DE Lawrence Jackson had 6.5 sacks in 32 games with Seattle. In 19 games with the Lions, he has 9.5. Facing an interconference opponent such as the San Diego Chargers, who are on the Packers' schedule Sunday, happens as often as a presidential election — every four years. In the run-up to the impending matchup at San Diego, however, Green Bay's read on the Chargers may be as insightful as it would be getting ready for a division opponent. The coaches not only had an extra week to get a jump on San Diego in the midst of doing their self-scout work during last week's bye, but many of them were tuned in until late Monday night watching the Chargers' overtime loss at the Kansas City Chiefs. \"It's good to watch the Monday night or Sunday night game if you're playing that opponent that week or even a week or two out,\" Packers head coach Mike McCarthy said. \"You find out a little bit about the pulse of how they're playing, especially since they (were) playing Kansas City the second time (this season). We had an opportunity to evaluate their first game against Kansas City. You get a lot of information out of division opponents when they play each other, particularly a second time.\" What looked to be a sexy midseason matchup when the schedule came out last spring now sets up well for the Packers to build on their league-best 7-0 record coming out of the bye. The Chargers are slumping. They have lost two in a row as well as their hold on the AFC West lead, falling into a first-place tie with the Chiefs and Oakland Raiders at 4-3. Besides the detailed coaches, the Green Bay players who took time out to watch the Chargers' late-game collapse Monday surely picked up on how their next opponent is struggling at the moment. \"Game film is your best tool to learn from, but it's always good to watch the TV copy,\" Packers safety Charlie Peprah said. \"You kind of get a feel for the game flow, the emotions, how they're calling the game, how players react. It's just a different point of view.\"
  • Happy to be back on the field, nickel back Sam Shields said he learned a painful lesson the last time he was seen in action. Shields joined his teammates on the practice field Monday as the players returned from a six-day hiatus for the bye week. Shields had been sidelined since he suffered a concussion in the third quarter of Green Bay's win over the St. Louis Rams on Oct. 16 at Lambeau Field. The injury occurred when Shields intercepted a pass from the Rams' Sam Bradford in the end zone and then tried to run it out, only to get pasted by St. Louis receiver Brandon Gibson while still in the end zone. \"Everybody said I should've went down (after the interception),\" Shields said. \"I should've, but things happen. I'm ready to go. \"It's a learning process,\" he added. \"Next time, I'll go down. In my mind, I wasn't thinking about all that. I was thinking about scoring. But, making the right decision is going down and letting the offense go and score.\" The team's medical staff cleared Shields to resume football activities before the players were excused for the bye week following meetings Oct. 24, a day after Green Bay beat the Minnesota Vikings to improve its NFL-best record to 7-0. Barring a setback this week in practice, Shields is expected to be OK to play Sunday, when the Packers will play at the San Diego Chargers. Head coach Mike McCarthy didn't let the players' first day back on the job go to waste Monday. He had them practice — and in pads — for nearly 90 minutes outside with the temperature in the 40s. \"It sends a message to your ballclub, letting us know that, 'Vacation is over now. It's time to get back to work,'\" receiver James Jones said. \"Get back to doing what we know we've got to do, and that's preparing for the San Diego Chargers.\" The players will have their customary day off Tuesday, then practice Wednesday through Friday before leaving for San Diego on Saturday. McCarthy said he would put the team through two padded practices this week. It will be the one and only time Green Bay will have more than one padded practice in a week this season. Under the league's new collective-bargaining agreement, teams are allowed to have a total of just 11 padded practices in the first 11 weeks of the regular season — and two padded practices are permitted in only one week during that time frame.
  • CB Sam Shields practiced Monday as the team returned from the bye week. The nickel back missed the last game after he suffered a concussion in the second half of the Oct. 16 win over the St. Louis Rams. Shields should be able to play Sunday, when the Packers will play at the San Diego Chargers.
  • LT Chad Clifton has missed the last two games because of a partial tear to his right hamstring, and his availability for the short term, not to mention the rest of the season, is up in the air. An update on Clifton's status isn't expected from head coach Mike McCarthy until Wednesday at the earliest. Marshall Newhouse has been the fill-in starter for Clifton.
  • OLB Frank Zombo returned to practice Monday and participated on a full-time basis. Zombo missed the last game before the bye because of a hyperextended knee. He has appeared in only one game this season, missing the first five games because of a broken shoulder blade.
  • DE Mike Neal has yet to be cleared by the medical staff for a return to the field. The second-year player and projected opening-day starter hasn't played a down in 2011 after he suffered cartilage damage in his left knee during training camp and then underwent surgery Sept. 13. It's unclear whether Neal will play this season.
  • FS Morgan Burnett still will wear a club-like cast on his broken right hand. He practiced with it Monday. Burnett has played with the hand covered the last two games.
  • WR Greg Jennings is back practicing this week after he sustained a bruised right hand in the pre-bye win at the Minnesota Vikings on Oct. 23. Jennings finished that game and should be good to play against the Chargers. Jennings leads the team with 42 catches for 677 yards and five touchdowns.
  • QB Aaron Rodgers comes out of the bye as likely the top candidate to win league MVP honors this season. Rodgers is a runaway leader among quarterbacks with a passer rating of 125.7, more than 21 points ahead of second-place Tom Brady of the New England Patriots. Rodgers also is the league leader for touchdown passes (20) and completion percentage (71.5). He ranks third with 2,372 passing yards.
  • TE Jermichael Finley is tied with WR Jordy Nelson for second place on the team with four touchdown receptions. Finley, however, has only 10 catches for 128 yards and one TD in the last four games.
  • WR Donald Driver has only 13 catches for 107 yards and two touchdowns this season as his playing time has been greatly diminished despite still being a starter. Driver is on pace to have his lowest receiving numbers in 10 years.
  • RB James Starks is averaging nearly 13 carries for 56.8 yards the last four games after he had a season-worst five yards in 11 carries in the Week 3 game at Chicago.
  • RB Ryan Grant has run for a total of just 72 yards in 25 carries the last three games after returning from a one-game absence because of a bruised kidney.
  • K Mason Crosby is one of only four kickers who have attempted at least 10 field goals this season and made all of them. Crosby is 14-of-14, tying Josh Scobee of the Jacksonville Jaguars for the most makes among those who are at 100 percent for accuracy.
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