NFC North Notes

The June 1st cut date came and went without a lot of news within the division. Training camp is still more than a month off, but June mini-camps are underway. Here is the latest news and notes from each team within the division.

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Detroit Lions
Takes himself out of last part of practice

Rookie receive Charles Rogers pulled himself out of the latter part of the day two mini-camp practice Tuesday, due to tight hamstrings. Rogers has yet to sign with Detroit, and is likely doing it for a security precaution.

Suffers separated shoulder
Lions' rookie cornerback Chris Kern, an undrafted rookie free agent, seperated his shoulder during day two of the voluntary Lions mini-camp. He is listed as day-to-day.

Former Wolverine misses second day
Lions' rookie defensive lineman Shawn Lazarus, who signed with Detroit as an undrafted free-agent out of Michigan, was at day two of mini-camp with a brace on his left knee, assisted by crutches. It's unknown when he'll be able to return.

Misses second practice due to hamstring injury
Lions' second year running back Luke Staley was held out of Tuesday's practice due to a pulled hamstring suffered on Monday. He's listed as day-to-day.

Returns for Day One of Mini Camp
Receiver Scotty Anderson, who was injured in a brawl outside a Houston, TX nightclub, returned for the first day of the Detroit Lions voluntary minicamp. "His brother told him, 'hey, get to camp,' which was comforting in his mind, to know that his brother felt well enough to say that and feel that way," said Lions head coach Steve Mariucci.

Will battle for strong side job
Rookie outside linebacker Boss Bailey, the Lions' second-round draft pick, is getting an education at the strongside linebacker position in offseason workouts at the team's practice facility in Allen Park, Mich. Veteran Brian Williams, who is coming back from a broken leg suffered early in the 2002 season, will compete for the starting job but is not yet ready to go full speed so Bailey is getting plenty of work. "My goals are pretty simple right now," Bailey said. "I'm trying to take baby steps and not reach out too far. My goal right now is just to be healthy going into training camp and being a starter. "If I can become a starter, I think that's a big jump, so I'm just trying to keep it simple right now."

Green Bay Packers
Works out for Packers

Former Detroit and Carolina CB Terry Fair worked out for Green Bay on Tuesday. Fair broke his ankle three weeks into last season and has not played since.

Takes some snaps with first team defense
Linebacker Torrance Marshall worked a little with the first-team defense during the Packers' minicamp practice today. Marshall had been playing middle linebacker earlier this week on the second team defense. But the third-year pro was given some snaps with the first team, switching with Paris Lenon, during team scrimmages.

First-round pick Nick Barnett is the projected starter in the middle for the Packers, but he has not been able to attend the current minicamp because Oregon State is still in session.

Returns to practice
Tight end Bubba Franks returned to practice today after a bout with bronchitis earlier this week. Franks missed the Packers' first two practices of the minicamp this week.

The Packers did not practice on Wednesday and, instead, went bowling as part of coach Mike Sherman's plan to build chemistry.

Injuries his hand in practice
Wide receiver Donald Driver was unable to finish practice today after injuring his left hand. Driver said he felt numbness in his left pinkie and index fingers. He left practice with his hand wrapped in ice. He said that X-rays taken afterward were negative.

"One of the DBs (defensive backs) tried to punch the ball out at the end (of a play)," Driver said. "It made my wrist and my fingers numb."

Driver, the team's top wideout, told reporters surrounding his locker that he plans to practice tomorrow when the Packers' minicamp resumes.

"I'll be back at it," Driver said. "There's just a little numbness. It gets you nervous at first but everything's OK."

First of Packers' draft picks to sign
Defensive tackle James Lee signed a multi-year contract with the Green Bay Packers today. Lee, of Oregon State, was one of Green Bay's two fifth-round selections in the 2003 NFL draft.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed but it is likely a three-year contract.

Lee played in 23 games for the Beavers, including all 13 games last year but did not start.

Lee is not participating in this week's minicamp because Oregon State is still in session and NFL rules prohibit a player from practicing with a team until school is out.

Likely to practice as a returner
Eric Crouch has been working as a third-string quarterback at the Packers minicamp this week, but he also will get some reps as a return specialist, coach and GM Mike Sherman said. Crouch left the St. Louis Rams last year because he wants to focus on playing quarterback rather than wide receiver or kick return specialist.

The Packers signed the former Heisman Trophy winner in April and were pleasantly surprised with his arm strength and accuracy during the post-draft minicamp. But Sherman wants to review his abilities as a return man as well, probably during the last few practices of the non-mandatory camp.

"He will catch the ball here at some point," Sherman said.

Signed by Packers
RB Lamar Smith, a verteran who played for Carolina the past two seasons, has been signed. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Misses practice with injury
Rookie DeAndrew Rubin did not practice today as the Packers opened their June minicamp because of a hamstring injury. Rubin injured his hamstring at a recent "opportunity session" for rookies and first-year players in Green Bay, according to Packers coach and GM Mike Sherman.

Sherman said Rubin, a wide receiver and kick return specialist from South Florida, was scheduled to undergo a magnetic resonance imaging test. The Packers used their second pick of the seventh round in the recent NFL draft to select Rubin.

Getting back up to speed
Bhawoh Jue, who has been riddled with injuries the past two seasons, took part in drills and plays from scrimmage today as the Packers opened their June minicamp. Jue underwent surgery last November to repair a hernia/groin injury that bothered him since his rookie season in 2001. He also had arthroscopic surgery in January to remove a bone spur on his right ankle.

Coach and GM Mike Sherman was impressed with Jue, who is getting back up to speed at left cornerback. Jue is currently playing behind Mike McKenzie.

"He looks like a different player out there," Sherman said after he watched the team practice in shorts. "He's a lot quicker than I remember him. I thought he did some nice things out there today."

Sherman said Jue will practice a little at safety, where he started five games as a rookie for the injured LeRoy Butler, but cornerback is more his "natural position."

Feels "he was wronged" with drug charge
Defensive end Joe Johnson, charged with marijuana possession in Tift County, Ga., on May 22, says that he did not have possession of the drug nor was he driving the vehicle that was pulled over. In fact, Johnson insists he was not even in the vicinity of the early morning incident.

"(Marijuana) was not possessed by me as an individual," Johnson said. "The affiliation is the vehicle in which the druggs were found in. I am the owner of that vehicle. No possessions were found on me nor was I driving the car. It's an unfortunate circumstance where I am tied to the situation because I am the owner of the vehicle."

Johnson said the incident occurred between stops of a nine-city tour involving Built to Last, a non-profit organization that conducts camps in different cities to benefit underprivileged youth. The 10th year pro says he was actually en route from his hometown of St. Louis to Miami at the time of the incident.

Takes part in some minicamp drills
Guard Marco Rivera, who underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right knee after making his first Pro Bowl appearance in early February, took part in some drills today with the Packers as they opened their June minicamp. Rivera did not participate in the team's post-draft minicamp but has remained in Green Bay this off-season to rehab his knee.

Rivera also suffered torn cartilage in his left knee but played through the injury.

"Today was my first day and I did some plays, but hopefully by next week – Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday – I'll be practicing the whole practice," Rivera said.

Minnesota Vikings
Former Vike signs with Pittsburgh

Offensive lineman Calvin Collins, who was with the Vikings in 2001, has signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Collins worked at guard for the Vikings, but he can also play center. He also spent time with Houston last year.

WR could be in purple again
The Vikings have been impressed enough with the rapport between QB Shaun Hill and WR Matthew Hatchette in NFL Europe that the Vikings will likely sign Hatch to come back to the team once the NFLE season ends. Hatchette has also been with the New York Jets and Oakland.

Vikings a suitor?
The Chiefs released CB Ray Crockett and one source close to Crockett's agent said he believes the Vikings are one of the teams that may be interested in bringing the veteran in.

Will get his shot
The possibility that the Vikings will add a veteran safety after June 1 still exists, but it is not likely. The Vikings are committed to trying to develop second-year man Willie Offord. Still, if Offord were to struggle badly during the June developmental camps, the Vikings may change their minds and go after a seasoned vet.

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