Biggs: Bears to honor Payton at halftime Sunday

The Chicago Bears will honor one of the greatest players in franchise history at halftime of their game on Sunday vs. the Cleveland Browns at Soldier Field.

Walter Payton will be commemorated in a ceremony on the 10-year anniversary of his death. Payton died of a bile duct cancer on Nov. 1, 1999, at the age of 45.

His family, including his mother Alyne, are expected to take part in the ceremony that will include a video tribute. The Payton family will be accompanied on the field by his former teammates Matt Suhey and Dennis Gentry.

The NFL named its man of the year award after Payton following his death.

The Chicago Park District, which owns and operates Soldier Field, refused to allow a statue of Payton to be erected outside the stadium earlier this season. Previously, Payton was the NFL’s all-time leading rusher.

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Biggs: Falcons check out McQuarters, other DB's

Veteran cornerback R.W. McQuarters was one of a handful of defensive backs to get a tryout from the Atlanta Falcons, a league source said.

McQuarters spent the last three seasons with the New York Giants, and won a Super Bowl ring with the team. He’s got skill as a nickel back and has experience on special teams as well.

The Falcons have lost starting cornerback Brian Williams for the season. The tryouts also included another former Giant, Charlie Peprah.

McQuarters has 11 years of experience and made previous stops in Detroit, Chicago and San Francisco. He was a first-round draft pick out of Oklahoma State by the 49ers in 1998.

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Biggs: More trouble reported for Bucs' Talib

One Tampa deejay was suspended for his comments earlier this week that the Glazer family had put the Buccaneers up for sale as a result of losing hundreds of millions of dollars in investments with billionaire thief Bernie Madoff.

The Glazers strongly denied the report and the originator of the story has been suspended indefinitely.

Another Tampa radio host has reported a mutiny of sorts during the Bucs’ disastrous trip across the pond to play the New England Patriots in London. Steve Duemig of 620 WDAE-AM reported on Friday that cornerback Aqib Talib swore repeatedly with the word starting with F at coach Raheem Morris after he blew curfew during the team’s trip. Duemig cited witnesses to the incident in the team’s hotel lobby.

Talib was arrested and charged with misdemeanor battery for allegedly assaulting a cab driver in August. Talib got into a fight with former teammate Cory Boyd at the NFL rookie symposium last year, and back in the spring he got into a fight at practice and in swinging his helmet at teammate Donald Penn he struck cornerback Torrie Cox, a blow that required stitches to close.

So, while it may be an uneventful bye weekend for some members of the Bucs, Talib may have some answering to do soon with Morris, especially if he unloaded on the coach in the hotel as Duemig reported.

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Biggs: Police nab man who stole Aaron Rodgers Dr. sign

We predicted Aaron Rodgers Drive might not make it through the weekend, and thanks to the fine police work of officer Steve Mahoney, one of Green Bay’s finest, the street sign erected Thursday was only down for a matter of hours.

Mahoney arrested a 47-year-old man in the early hours this morning when he was spotted with the street sign in his car, the Green Bay Press-Gazette reported. The newspaper left out the identity of the alleged thief. Green Bay police told the National Football Post that Thomas S. Hodkiewicz was the man arrested.

Mahoney spotted a “strange green glow” coming from Hodkiewicz’s car and when he got closer he noticed that it was the street sign. Mayor Jim Schmitt changed the name of Minnesota Avenue, a short dead-end street, to Aaron Rodgers Drive on Thursday in anticipation of the arrival of Brett Favre and the Minnesota Vikings this weekend. The plan was for the sign to be taken down on Monday and the street renamed Minnesota Ave. Rodgers is supposed to autograph the sign and then it will be donated to a charity.

The report states that Hodkiewicz claimed he took the sign as a joke and was planning to donate it to his own charity, one which he couldn’t identify. Would that be the charity resting inside his pants pocket known as the wallet? He wasn’t identified as a Packers or Vikings fan by police.

Police stated Hodkiewicz smelled of alcohol but passed sobriety tests. Hodkiewicz was jailed, issued a theft citation and given a $366 cash bond. The sign was to be returned to the street post at some point today.

Hooligans plotting action tonight might be wise to put the sign in their trunk. Apparently, a strange green glow will capture the attention of lawmen.

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Weekend Notes: Harris and Woodson must be physical

Will the Packers’ corners be allowed to play their style of football tomorrow at Lambeau Field against Brett Favre and the Vikings? That is the question I have, and that is the key to this entire ballgame and the Green Bay defensive game plan from my perspective.

Al Harris and Charles Woodson have the ability to lock down receivers when they are given some leeway from the refs. They are physical, they use their hands well, and when they can play press without having to worry about seeing a flag, they are one of the better—if not the best—combos of man-to-man corners in the league. As we talked about yesterday here in the NFP Press Coverage Podcast, both Harris and Woodson will have to play a physical brand of football for this Packers defense to stick to their game plan and pressure Favre tomorrow. In the first meeting of the season, Favre had an enormous amount of time to throw the football, the Packers had some busted coverages in the secondary, and we know the rest of the story—as Favre looked almost perfect.

But, I can’t see Dom Capers going into the game tomorrow without a game plan that forces the issue on defense and is one that is purely based off of multiple pressure packages. However, Woodson and Harris need to be able to play their game, because with any pressure package, the production is based off the play of the corners. In saying that, we should know early in the first quarter if the refs are going to let Al and Chuck play some ball. When these two can play physical, they can be dominant.

The Lions host the Rams at Ford Field tomorrow, and despite the jokes about the empty seats and the combined records of these two teams (1-12), this is a must win for Jim Schwartz and Detroit. We talk all of the time about this Lions team becoming more competitive, staying in games and looking like a football team that is gaining confidence and experience. But, the sign of a well-coached team that is getting better is their ability to win the games that they are supposed to win. Detroit is a much more talented football team, and with Matthew Stafford looking to play, this is a game they should win—and need to win.

Can the Eagles model the pressure packages that the Saints and the Cardinals used in the Giants’ last two matchups, where Eli Manning and this offense took a step back? From my perspective, the Cardinals’ game plan on defense was exactly what it takes to frustrate a quarterback like Eli. They showed multiple looks, but more importantly, it was the situations where Arizona showed pressure and then dropped into coverage, with Eli finding himself forcing the ball into tight windows where Cardinals players were waiting to make a play. Philly does have the ability to pressure, but it will be the times that they drop into coverage where I see them making plays in the passing game. With Brian Westbrook a game-time decision for Philly, Donovan McNabb and the Eagles will most likely rely on the big play once again on offense. But it will be their defense that will have to set them up with short fields and easy scoring opportunities.

Reports are saying that Andre Johnson is expected to play when the Texans travel to Buffalo to take on the Bills tomorrow at The Ralph, which will lead to some big plays for Houston once again—but the game plan can’t change for the Texans. Right now, they are becoming a more complete offense that doesn’t rely on the quick strike play of QB Matt Schaub, and when RB Steve Slaton gets up around 20 carries a game, they are able to control the clock and work the ball down the field, which sets up those big plays that they’re known for in the passing game. I don’t see the Bills scoring a ton of points against anyone right now, and Schaub cannot give them field position by being careless with the ball, as Buffalo has intercepted nine passes in their last two games. Control the ball, control the clock and Houston should control this game.

I like Denver’s ability to score points in Baltimore because of their matchups on the outside. The Ravens’ defense has suffered because of the play of their corners. They still are a team that uses pressure to force opponents to get rid of the ball quickly, but their secondary—outside of Ed Reed—isn’t making enough plays on the football. Right now, the Ravens are sitting at 23rd in the league as a defense against the pass, giving up over 241 yards a game. That’s not what we are accustomed to seeing from a Ravens defense and the exact reason why I like the idea of Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal of the Broncos winning their one-on-one matchups outside the numbers—especially against press man coverage.

The Dolphins should have new packages installed in their wildcat offense for their matchup with the Jets tomorrow. In their first meeting, Miami was able to run their power running plays out of the wildcat formation because they were better than the Jets up front, and I expect them to test the New York front seven again tomorrow early in the game, but to also add some new dimensions that cause confusion and force the Jets to play both the run and the pass out of this offense. To do that, however, Miami must utilize the talents of QB Pat White, who could end up giving the Dolphins some positive plays. I like Miami because of this reason. Get him involved and let him make some plays for this Miami offense. It seems like the wildcat has been labeled a gimmick offense in every pro city except Miami, because the Dolphins use this as a lead package while other teams sprinkle it into their game plan.

If the Titans win at home with Vince Young as the starting quarterback, does Jeff Fisher come under fire for not playing the former first-round pick earlier? I don’t see it playing out that way, because neither Young nor former starter Kerry Collins had anything to do with a Titans defense that has unraveled over the last couple of ballgames. If the Titans get their first win tomorrow, it will be because of their defense’s ability to limit the big plays of Jags RB Maurice Jones-Drew and their secondary play on third downs. Young will get the credit, but the defense will be the deciding factor.

Tommie Harris returns to action tomorrow at Soldier Field against the Browns and I am anxious to see what type of production he has after head coach Lovie Smith basically benched him last week. Harris has the talent to make this Bears defense stronger up front, and he is a key member of their front seven when the Bears play their Tampa 2 schemes on first and second downs because he has the ability to penetrate gaps and keep blockers off the Bears linebackers so they can run freely to the ball carrier. Does he show up tomorrow, or is this the gradual end of his time as a Bear?

Can Cowboys WR Miles Austin continue his emergen
ce as Tony Romo’s new big-play threat against the Seahawks on Sunday? Romo has been playing his best football of the season over the last two weeks because he has an outlet that can catch the football and run after the catch in Austin, something that fellow WR Roy Williams cannot provide. I expect Romo to look for Austin again on the outside and for Williams to continue to catch passes in his new role—in the intermediate passing game.

Walter Payton will be honored at Soldier Field during halftime of tomorrow’s Browns-Bears game, marking the 10th anniversary of his passing. For me personally, I will be glued to the TV, because just like any kid growing up in the Chicago area, Payton was an icon, an idol and a hero. I went to my first pro game in 1985 with my old man to see the Bears take on the Colts. I was stuffed in an end zone seat in a complete snowsuit to combat the December weather, and I will always remember the “Walter” chants when Payton broke the 100-yard mark in another Bears winner. He was bigger than MJ, bigger than Ditka and bigger than any baseball player in this town, and, in my own opinion, the greatest football player of all time.

Enjoy the games tomorrow.

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Biggs: Favre not expected to be introduced at Lambeau

Barring a change in a season-long practice by Minnesota coach Brad Childress, Brett Favre will not be announced in pregame ceremonies Sunday at Lambeau Field.

So fans who want to cheer on the longtime Packer or boo the turncoat will have to choose another moment to let their feelings be known.

Teams have the choice of electing how they are introduced—or not introduced—in the officials’ meeting 90 minutes prior to kickoff. Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that the Vikings have been introduced as a team in road games, and Childress isn’t expected to deviate from that. The Packers are planning to introduce their offensive starters, including quarterback Aaron Rodgers, part of a practice in which they rotate between offense and defense for every home game.

Rest assured, the fans will be raucous when they see Favre. Hopefully none will follow on the advice given by ESPN’s Jemele Hill in August: “If you have a shred of pride, you will give Brett Favre the Duracell treatment when he comes to Lambeau Field.” Yes, Hill was imploring fans to throw batteries at Favre. No, that’s not a good idea.

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Biggs: Rams ready to test out WR Gibson

If the St. Louis Rams can get some instant production out of rookie wide receiver Brandon Gibson like the Philadelphia Eagles did from linebacker Will Witherspoon, then the deadline trade between the teams will look like a win-win.

Witherspoon was an instant force in the Eagles’ victory Monday night at Washington with an interception for a touchdown and a sack/strip of quarterback Jason Campbell. The Rams, who have been decimated at wide receiver, believe Gibson is close to being up to speed for the team’s visit to Detroit on Sunday.

Gibson was inactive for his first game with the Rams, but the expectation is he will suit up vs. the Lions as St. Louis (0-7) tries to rise from the ranks of the winless.

“It’s looking positive for Brandon,” Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo. “I thought he did some nice things today, a couple of long balls and had some other plays. As long as he knows how to get lined up, we’ll be OK.”

Gibson was a sixth-round draft pick from Washington State. The Rams also picked up a fifth-round draft pick from the Eagles in the trade.

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Biggs: Lions ready to try Jansen at new position

The Washington Redskins gave Jon Jansen an opportunity to retire with the burgundy and gold in the spring, and he told them he wasn’t done playing.

Now, he’ll get a chance to show there is some football left in his tank at a new position. Jansen is expected to start at left guard Sunday for the Detroit Lions in their game against St. Louis at Ford Field.

It will be the 125th start in Jansen’s career and his first at left guard.

“It’s a great opportunity for me to make a statement and take hold of a position that I think I can,’’ Jansen said. “I’m gonna go out there and give it everything I got. And I couldn’t be more excited. I’ve been excited for two weeks since I found out I’d get a shot at it.”

The Lions had been letting Daniel Loper and Manny Ramirez battle it out at the position that’s been a black hole for them. According to John Niyo of the Detroit News, Jansen will be the 15th starter at left guard since left tackle Jeff Backus’ streak of 134 consecutive starts began. That’s a change every nine games.

“I’ll never consider myself a backup, and I think guys that do are real close to retiring,’’ Jansen, 33, said. “And I’m not at that point yet.”

We’ll see how Jansen does. It’s not a simple transition for a lifetime tackle—Jansen manned right tackle for nearly a decade for the Redskins—to move inside. Guards have to play with more leverage and the action is much more sudden.

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Trufant, Hill set to rejoin Seahawks

RENTON, Wash. (AP) Marcus Trufant will make his season debut for the Seahawks on Sunday at Dallas.

Seattle activated the 2007 Pro Bowl cornerback from the physically-unable-to-perform list Friday. Last week was the first time Trufant had practiced since July, when a disk issue in his back began.

Coach Jim Mora expects Trufant to play mainly in nickel defensive alignments on passing downs against the Cowboys. Josh Wilson and Ken Lucas will again be the starting cornerbacks.

Trufant takes the roster place of Lofa Tatupu. The three-time Pro Bowl linebacker went on injured reserve following surgery this week to repair a torn left pectoral muscle.

Seattle will also get starting outside linebacker Leroy Hill back Sunday.