NFC North Notes: Work Stoppage

The Sports Xchange looks at free agent LB Keith Bulluck's fondness of Detroit, the lack of player workouts in Green Bay and the leadership already shown by Minnesota rookie QB Christian Ponder.

Detroit Lions

Linebacker Keith Bulluck will be a free agent when the lockout ends, and he named three teams he would consider joining: The New York Giants, Detroit Lions and New England Patriots.

Bulluck played 10 seasons with the Tennessee Titans before signing with the Giants last season. He played 13 games, and started eight, and said he will only continue playing if he's an every-down participant.

"(A full-time role) is the only way I'm playing football next year," Bulluck said previously in the offseason. "This (2010) is the first time I've ever, since my rookie year and my second year in the league, come on and off the field. I'm someone that needs to be on the field all the time. That's just how I feel, so yeah, that's the only way I'd play football next year."

His reasons for singling out those three teams is:


LB Keith Bulluck
Tom Hauck/Getty

"First and foremost, New York because they gave me an opportunity to come and continue my career, really get healthy, where I needed to be," Bulluck said on SiriusXM Radio. "Detroit. I like what (coach Jim) Schwartz is doing up there. Last year, I wasn't prepared physically to play and do the things that they would need me to do, but now I feel I am. New England is always veteran-friendly, and I know, every year, they're in contention of winning.

"Like I say, I want to win, really. At this point in my career, financially, me and my family are fine. But I definitely would like to be in a position to play myself into maybe possibly being one of the top-paid linebackers in the league again. Definitely one of the top players in the league."

Schwartz was his defensive coordinator in Tennessee, and Bulluck said he can see similarities between the Titans of tghen and the Lions of now.

He said, "In Tennessee, we always had horses up front. We had (Albert) Haynesworth, and we had Tony Brown, Robaire Smith, a plethora of guys that will get it done. Now they have two big first-rounders (Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley), and with Kyle (Vanden Bosch) up front, I know his veteran leadership is definitely going to have his D-line in order. For them to be taking up double teams and have the linebackers run sideline to sideline, I think that's very important."

Bulluck said he loves Schwartz's "desire to win."

He said, "I remember one year, I think it was his first year as a coordinator, we got beat real bad in Minnesota, and the look that he had on his face, he felt like he let down like the whole state of Tennessee. And some of our losses, when our defense didn't play so well, I can see it in his eyes.

"As a football player or as an athlete, you can look into a competitor's eyes and see what's going on, at some point, and I know that he's definitely a competitor. He worked his way up to be one of the top coordinators, and now he's trying to be one of the top head coaches, rightfully so. Someone like Schwartz ... he's going to give it his all, so it makes the players want to give it their all."

Green Bay Packers

Linebacker A.J. Hawk says there's a good reason the team didn't have workouts during the lockout that included big numbers of players.

Said Hawk, "We haven't had any full team workouts. We've had small groups of guys here and there working out together. The great thing about Green Bay is we're not banking on having any rookies coming in and play. We're not putting in any new schemes. For us the main thing is making sure everyone is coming into camp in shape and on time. We have a lot of guys who are accountable and take care of their bodies this whole summer."

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers also told Sporting News he's fine with the Packers not getting together for player-organized workouts this summer, even if the defending Super Bowl champions are in the minority as a team not getting together during the lockout.

"The reasoning is guys' schedules and the risk/reward -- which (head coach) Mike McCarthy hit on (at the team's ring ceremony)," Rodgers said.

Rodgers said he's following the same training regimen he would during any offseason and expects that most of his teammates are doing the same.

Like many players, he said he believes the lockout will end soon.

"Everybody has a sense it will end soon. It's just a matter of how soon is soon," he said.

Minnesota Vikings

Rookie quarterback Christian Ponder tried to gather his teammates for workouts at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., so they can practice with the new playbook.

Ponder got a copy the day after the first round of the draft, and proceeded to go to Kinko's and make numerous copies.

Said Ponder, "You see all these other teams doing workouts, and we were one of the few teams that wasn't doing anything. Somebody had to get the ball rolling. I thought as a quarterback, it was up to me to do it. A lot of the veteran guys I reached out to were all gung-ho and excited about it. Everyone was good to me.


QB Christian Ponder
Sean Gardner/Getty

"It's huge to start getting that bond going, and as a quarterback, you've got to be comfortable with all the guys around you. To lead and to influence, you have to get to know them personally. I'm excited about getting to know everybody. These are my teammates, and this is my family for as many years as I'm here."

"To work with your teammates, that's when you build camaraderie," wide receiver Greg Camarillo said. "It's something you can't do on your own. You have to be around the guys to get that going. ... Just to start getting on the same page. I can learn (Ponder's) style as a quarterback, he can learn my style as a receiver. ... We can start getting a feel for each other, so that when we finally do get started, it's not Square 1 and we're a little ahead of the game."

Noting the new offense being implemented by offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave, Camarillo said, "We're at an extra disadvantage because it's a new offense. We haven't had a chance to hear the coaches' philosophies on things. Basic things may sound simple, but when you get a whole bunch of plays and a whole bunch of routes, you're learning a new language."

Ponder was glad to get on the field, rather than just studying the playbook. Prior to players being there, he was working with IMG's Chris Weinke on installation of the offense.

He said, "It's been huge for me. It's one thing to look at the playbook on your own and try to study it. Once you get out on the field and do it, do the whole process, that's when you start getting comfortable. I won't be as comfortable until I start going live against some defenses, but this is as good as it gets."


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