Following are several whispers we've heard around the NFC North:
• The Lions are thin at linebacker. DeAndre Levy is out for now, and Landon Johnson has a concussion. With the prospect of special-teamers Ashlee Palmer and Isaiah Ekejiuba being forced onto the field on defense, the team re-signed veteran LB Vinny Ciurciu on Thursday. The eighth-year veteran played nine games for the Lions last season but was waived in the final cutdown this year. The LB situation got so bad in Week Five that S John Wendling had to play a few snaps at linebacker. The coaches are praying that Levy, who has had a lost second season thus far, can return soon.
• The Vikings are really hoping that FS Madieu Williams' shoulder holds up. Although Williams is not a blue-chip starter, the team isn't feeling great about its other safeties right now, and neither Tyrell Johnson nor Jamarca Sanford is a great fit at free safety. So you probably would see Sanford enter the lineup at strong safety if Williams couldn't play, with SS Hussain Abdullah moving to free safety.
• Although it was greatly overshadowed by the significant knee injury suffered by TE Jermichael Finley in Week Five, the season-ending knee injury that struck special-teams ace Derrick Martin in the same game will have a big impact on the Packers, too. With the need being great for somebody to step up and replace Martin as the new special-teams leader, team insiders believe the best possibilities, in no particular order, are FB Korey Hall, reserve DB Jarrett Bush and rookie TE Tom Crabtree.
• Bears TE Desmond Clark has been a healthy scratch for two games in a row, but some say he still might be the team's most complete tight end. Clark, who started 99-of-105 games for Chicago from 2003-09, is clearly frustrated with his declining role. Offensive coordinator Mike Martz has said the Bears haven't had room for Clark because he doesn't contribute on special teams.