Here are the latest Whispers we're hearing from our sources throughout the NFC:
• We hear the prospect of a long-term future in Green Bay for talented but tempestuous TE Jermichael Finley is not looking good at all unless he very soon starts reaching the heights of top-tier NFL tight ends such as Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski. As it stands, while Finley still has his top-tier moments, he continues to fall far short of the Packers’ expectations, with the team definitely in a “wait and see” mode as far as possibly extending the two-year, $14 million deal Finley signed in February. We also hear Finley’s agent, Blake Baratz, hardly helped matters when he genuinely ticked off a lot of Finley’s teammates with his recent tweet that Packers QB Aaron Rodgers was not a great leader.
• While neither Brian Quick nor Chris Givens has made much of an impression in the Rams' WR corps up to now, we hear Givens is probably a bit further along than Quick, despite being drafted two rounds later this past April. “I think Givens is a guy who we’ve tried to get involved more and more each week,” Rams QB Sam Bradford said. “I think he’s improved each week. He’s gotten more comfortable with the role that has been given to him.”
• While the Rams would have much preferred the big-bodied presence up front of first-round DT Michael Brockers the first three weeks of the season, we hear they were surprisingly pleased by the efforts of former undrafted rookie Jermelle Cudjo and ex-Bill Kellen Heard in place of Brockers while he was recovering from a high ankle sprain suffered in the preseason finale. “Cudjo is a nice story,” one daily team observer said. “He may have played his best game as a Ram against the Bears (in Week Three). Heard didn’t show much in the first two games, but, he made some big stops against the Bears. It will be interesting to see if they decide to keep five tackles when Matt Conrath (knee injury) gets healthy.”
• Our 49ers sources quickly agreed that the team’s listless 24-13 loss to the supposedly inferior Vikings in Minnesota was probably the team’s weakest effort up to now under Jim Harbaugh. Said one source: “That was the first time I’ve seen them get really beaten on both sides of the line of scrimmage.”
• Buccaneers CB Myron Lewis is struggling to carve out a spot on defense, and he did not earn any points with head coach Greg Schiano by being called for unnecessary roughness in the fourth quarter of Tampa Bay’s Week Three loss to the Cowboys. The penalty earned Lewis harsh words from Schiano as the third-year corner walked to the sideline after the play. A source said Bucs CB Anthony Gaitor’s nagging hamstring injury might be the only reason Lewis is still on the roster.
• PFW asked veteran Falcons C Todd McClure for his take on rookie OG Peter Konz’s progress this season. Konz, a second-round pick, failed to beat out Garrett Reynolds in a preseason competition for the starting job at right guard, but McClure said he sees a lot of potential in Konz. “He’s a guy that can learn,” McClure said. “(He’s) a guy that works. He fits in nice with this offense. … He’s coming along well.”
• Lions RB Kevin Smith started the first two games, but he barely played in Week Three upon Mikel Leshoure’s debut. Moreover, Joique Bell, not Smith, got work late in the game in relief of Leshoure. Of Smith’s role, Lions offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said: “It’s really hard. The game plan is going to be the factor for him, you know. If we’re using single-back looks on a number of occasions, there’s only going to be one in there. … If he plays five plays and he can give us five great plays. If he plays 50 he’s going to give us his all. I think it’s just a matter of him waiting for an opportunity that may come up for whatever reason and be ready to go.” The physical Bell, Linehan said, “(is) going to be kind of a game closer and a guy that’s going to be able to be fresh in the fourth quarter.”
• The Vikings like rookie WR Jarius Wright’s athleticism, but they likely don’t trust him at this point, which is one reason why he has not been active this season. He likely needs to be able to contribute on special teams and improve in practice to change that.
• The Cowboys feel better about TE Jason Witten after a nightmarish start of the season. They expect the old Witten to return for good for the rest of the season. Returning too early from a lacerated spleen likely was one reason why he struggled early, but there might have been other, non-physical reasons that contributed to his start.