NFC North Hot News

The teams around the division have concluded their first offseason camps of the year. We've got updates from around the NFC North.

Hot News updates from, and
Detroit Lions
Mooch trying to keep expectations reasonable

Lions coach Steve Mariucci says he is going to try not to pile undue pressure on his new quarterback-receiver combination -- Joey Harrington and Charles Rogers -- by comparing them to other NFL players. "What I'm going to attempt to do as best I can is not compare players with other players, especially Hall of Famers and Pro Bowlers and veterans," Mariucci said. "There might be some comparisons in body type and in measureables, but you're talking about a couple of young, talented players with a huge upside and a lot of learning to take place and a long way to go. "I know this: We've got a couple of talented young players ... I like the potential that is there. A long way to go and I'm sure they're going to put in the work to go there."

Drops one, but shows outstanding speed
Reporting from Mini-Camp: Charles Rogers may be everything as advertised. The Michigan State product, selected 2nd overall in April by Detroit, showed incredible speed and quickness during Friday's non-contact mini-camp session. Rogers dropped his first ball from quarterback Joey Harrington, but didn't miss any after that.

Torches defensive backs during drills
Reporting from mini-camp: Lions' wide receiver Bill Schroeder torched several Lions' DBs during Friday's mini-camp session (non-contact), including free-agent acquisition Dre' Bly. Schroeder demonstrated outstanding speed and didn't have any difficulty catching passes.

Starts at strong side in mini-camp
Reporting from Mini-Camp: Rookie linebacker Boss Bailey started at strong side linebacker in non-contact drills Saturday. Bailey showed incredible speed, but also looked lost on several plays (not uncommon for rookies). Lions' coaches pulled Bailey to the side on several plays to tutor the youngster.

Green Bay Packers
Set to receive college degree

Running back Ahman Green will receive his diploma from the University of Nebraska on Saturday. Green made a promise to his parents and himself to finish his undergraduate studies when he was drafted by the Seattle Seahawks in 1998. At the time, he was 73 credits shy of his geography degree.

"This is something I can always use at any time, and I can use it as a tool to help shape my kids and my younger family members," Green told the Associated Press.

Still recovering
Coach Mike Sherman said DL Chuckie Nwokorie (knee contusion) might be ready to participate by the final minicamp June 2-11.

Likely to start at strongside linebacker
The Packers envisioned Hannibal Navies playing middle linebacker when they signed him as an unrestricted free agent in March. But with Na'il Diggs playing the weakside linebacker position in place of the departed Nate Wayne, Navies was moved to the "Buck" (strongside) position for the team's recent post-draft minicamp.

"That was Diggs' spot there before," defensive coordinator Ed Donatell said. "With him moving to 'Will' (weak side), we put the next most experienced guy (Navies) in that spot. That's one he's more familiar with. We talked to him and he felt comfortable being put in that spot."

First-round draft pick Nick Barnett and third-year pro Torrance Marshall will compete to start at middle linebacker.

Set to visit Pack
Free agent safety Sammy Knight, who received a contract offer from Miami this week, is also expected to visit Green Bay in the coming days. The visit was delayed by the birth of his daughter, Samone, last week.

Shows that he has a 'live' arm
Eric Crouch showed last week that he might have a strong enough arm to play in the NFL. Crouch participated in Green Bay's recent post-draft minicamp as a quarterback and quieted the critics who feel his arm is not strong enough to compete at this level.

"He gets rid of the ball quickly, has a pretty live arm," said Packers coach and general manager Mike Sherman. "I was pleased with him and his knowledge of the offense."

Brett Favre agreed.

"The knock on him is he's short and wasn't in a passing offense in Nebraska, but I was very surprised how much heat he had on the ball and how well he threw it," Favre said.

Exhibits more confidence, speed
Wide receiver Robert Ferguson was impressive in Green Bay's recent post-draft minicamp, Packers coach and GM Mike Sherman says. Ferguson reported to camp at 212 pounds after weighing less than 200 at the end of last season. With the added muscle, Ferguson also is faster than he was last year and displayed much more confidence.

Ferguson will be battling Javon Walker for the right to start opposite Donald Driver for the Packers this season.

"I saw added quickness in speed from Robert Ferguson," Sherman said. "I thought that was very evident from the first time he took off at the line of scrimmage against pretty good corners. Al Harris is a heckuva cover corner. They went against each other all the time. I thought Robert got some good work with Al. That was a battle for both of them."

Pack hopes he's something special
The Packers haven't had a return game since the day in March 2002 that Allen Rossum signed with Atlanta as an unrestricted free agent. In the seventh round, they took a shot on wide receiver DeAndrew Rubin, who comes to the Packers much more highly regarded than Joey Jamison did in 2000 and at a much cheaper price. Rubin, a punt and kickoff returner from South Florida, was drafted with the first of three compensatory selections in the seventh round. Jamison, a fifth-round pick three years ago from Texas Southern, didn't make it past the second week of training camp before being released. Coach Mike Sherman indicated that the Packers had Rubin ranked with cornerback Terrence McGee of Northwestern (La.) State and wide receiver Keenan Howry of Oregon as the top combination return men in the draft. "The difference between Rubin and Jamison is a fifth-round choice compared to a compensatory seventh," Sherman said. "I wanted to take a shot at him. Whether he's someone I'll feel confident in, I can't say that." Rubin, who also started 18 games at wide receiver, is with the perfect team. Only Buffalo had a worse return game than Green Bay last year, and the best returner that the Packers' personnel department could turn up in the last four months had been wide receiver Gari Scott, who didn't even play in 2002. "Gari Scott is a great kid," Sherman said. "Good punt returner. Little loose with the ball." Scott returned punts and kickoffs at Michigan State from 1997-'99 and was Philadelphia's fourth-round pick in '00 before bombing out. Four of the top seven or eight return specialists in the draft went in the fourth round. The Packers traded their fourth-round pick in the move up for defensive tackle Kenny Peterson. The list included running back Domanick Davis of Louisiana State (Texans), cornerback DeJuan Groce of Nebraska (Rams), McGee (Bills) and cornerback Asante Samuel (Patriots). Howry went in the seventh to Minnesota.

Impresses coach in minicamp
Jamal Reynolds weighed in at around 258 pounds for the Packers' post-draft minicamp, up about 10 pounds from his weight last year. He also showed a quicker burst off the line of scrimmage, which provided hope for coach and GM Mike Sherman. Reynolds, selected by the Packers with the 10th overall pick of the 2001 draft, has, thus far, been a bust.

"He showed a good burst off the ball, had some pretty good pressures at times, and great effort at times," Sherman said. "I'm encouraged by that."

Packers keeping in touch
It appears that the Green Bay Packers will re-sign nose tackle Gilbert Brown. Packers coach and general manager Mike Sherman said on Sunday that the team has been in touch with Brown's agent.

The Packers drafted James Lee to play nose tackle this season. Brown, entering his 10th season, is an unrestricted free agent but remains unsigned. "Gilbert brings an awful lot to our nose position and some experience that we don't have right now, that's for sure."

Minnesota Vikings School before work
LB Raonall Smith has been excused from Friday's morning minicamp practice so he can take a final exam at Washington State University.

Holding out hope
DL Willie Howard continues his comeback attempt. He has not played in a game since injuring his right leg in a game Dec. 2001, but despite not being cleared to practice yet, he told the Minneapolis Star Tribune, "I have to feel good about it," he said, "or I'll never make it back on the field."

Shaping up for No. 9 money
A source with the Panthers said the team is expected to have to sign offensive tackle Jordan Gross as the No. 8 player in the draft -- with No. 8 signing bonus money. That could be a sign that the Vikings may be able to get away with paying defensive tackle Kevin Williams a signing bonus for the No. 9 pick.

Health problems cause release
The Vikings released offensive lineman Lorenzo White after he failed his physical. The Vikings claimed White as a free agent last year when their training camp depth on the line dwindled.

Coming on strong in NFL Europe
Vikings punter Nick Murphy was named the NFL Europe Special Teams Player of the Week for his performance in the F.C. Barcelona Dragons' 17-10 win over the Scottish Claymores on Sunday.

Murphy averaged 45.5 yards on six punts in helping the Dragons improve to a league-leading 4-1 record. He had a long kick of 54 yards in a game where the field conditions were affected by rain. Murphy was originally signed by the Vikings as a rookie free agent last April out of Arizona State, was released prior to the 2002 season and will try to compete with 2003 draft choice Eddie Johnson for the punting duties this year.

Murphy is tied for the NFL Europe lead with a 42.2 average this season. He has seven kicks inside the 20-yard line and a long of 62 yards.

Vikings QB Shaun Hill earned Offensive Player of the Week honors last week in Europe.

A new Coach Walsh?
It's looking more unlikely that wide receiver Chris Walsh will return in a playing capacity this season. If he doesn't receive a free-agent offer from another team, VU has been told he will be offered a coaching position with the Vikes.

Bear Report Top Stories