NFC North Update

The Bears are busy with their June mini-camp, as are the other teams in the division. At this point teams are hoping to stay healthy, while evaluating their offseason acquisitions.

Hot news gathered from our divisional sources:, and (News listed oldest to newest)


Weight a concern
The Vikings have had Jeremy Allen concentrate solely on the fullback position. He and rookie James Lynch are considered the top candidates for the role. Lynch's biggest issue, though, could be his weight. He is listed at 5-11 and 271 pounds, but could be a little over that weight right now. He and Allen -- who is 241 pounds -- are both strong lead blockers with receiving capabilities. Perhaps the biggest key to making the fullback position work, however, will for either Allen or Lynch to prove they are capable in pass protection, although on third down that role could be filled by veteran situational player Moe Williams.

Concentrating on FB
The Vikings have had Jeremy Allen concentrate solely on the fullback position. He and rookie James Lynch are considered the top candidates for the role. Lynch's biggest issue, though, could be his weight. He is listed at 5-11 and 271 pounds, but could be a little over that weight right now. He and Allen -- who is 241 pounds -- are both strong lead blockers with receiving capabilities. Perhaps the biggest key to making the fullback position work, however, will for either Allen or Lynch to prove they are capable in pass protection, although on third down that role could be filled by veteran situational player Moe Williams.

Career likely over
He worked hard, tried harder. But the devastating injury Willie Howard sustained late in his rookie season of 2001 will likely end his career. "It's tough," coach Mike Tice said. "Because he's such a great kid." Howard, a defensive tackle drafted in the second round out of Stanford in 2001, was coming on strong when he sustained a torn anterior cruciate ligament, a sprained medial collateral ligament and a broken fibula when Tennessee lineman Brad Hopkins rolled up the back of his leg. Howard played during the 2002 preseason, but spent the season on injured reserve.

Big deal, big donations
Quarterback Daunte Culpepper announced Monday that he will donate $50,000 per year of his recent 10-year contract extension to the African American Adoption Agency. Culpepper was adopted as an infant and has supported the agency as a spokesman since entering the league in 1999. He hosts the AAAA's annual holiday party each season and its celebrity golf tournament fundraiser the past two seasons. This year's tournament is June 16 at Rush Creek Golf Club in Maple Grove.

Surgery on the horizon
Punt returner Nick Davis injured his shoulder in an early developmental camp practice, and after getting medical opinions on the slight separation he will have surgery later this month. Davis returned 24 punts for a 7.9-yard average last year, and he began the 2002 season as the kickoff returner as well. He will be challenged in training camp by rookie Keenan Howry, along with D'Wayne Bates and Kelly Campbell.

Getting more reps
A number of players have excused absences this week, including linebackers Greg Biekert and Henri Crockett. That means second-round draft choices E.J. Henderson (2003) and Raonall Smith (2002) are practicing as part of the first-team base defense at middle and weakside linebacker, respectively.

Getting players for tourney
Vikings quarterback Daunte Culpepper is hosting his third annual golf tournament to benefit the African American Adoption Agency (AAAA). The Daunte Culpepper Celebrity Golf Classic will take place on Monday, June 16, 2003 at Rush Creek Golf Club located at 7801 Troy Lane in Maple Grove. Culpepper has donated his time and efforts to AAAA since joining the Vikings in 1999.

Also scheduled to join Culpepper are coaches John Tice, Scott Linehan, Brian Baker and Chuck Knox Jr. Among the current players scheduled to play include: Michael Bennett, Doug Chapman, Kelly Campbell, Mike Rosenthal, Kenny Clark, Cedric James, Larry Ned, John Avery and others. Alumni scheduled to play include: Mike Morris, Leo Lewis, Chris Doleman, Mike Merriweather, Marlin Brisco, and Greg Coleman. Entertainer Tommy Davidson will also participate.

At the conclusion of the golf event awards and a silent and live auction will take place. To contact Rush Creek call (763) 494-8844.

Earns NFL Europe honor
Punter Nick Murphy was named to the All-NFL Europe League Team on Thursday. Murphy, playing for the F.C. Barcelona Dragons, led NFL Europe in punting with a 42.4-yard average. He punted 68 times for 2,886 yards and tied for first in the league with 15 punts inside the 20-yard line. Murphy had a long punt of 68 yards, which was the longest punt during the 2003 NFL Europe season.

Murphy originally signed with the Vikings as a rookie free agent last April out of Arizona State. He was released at the end of the preseason, but re-signed with Minnesota on Jan. 14. The All-NFL Europe League Team was selected by the NFLEL coaching staffs, media, and by fans voting online.

Strong in NFL Europe, locally
Quarterback Shaun Hill attended the final two developmental camp sessions. Hill led NFL Europe with 2,256 passing yards for the Amsterdam Admirals. His 13 TDs was second in the league. He had a strong two days of practice locally as well before the Vikings' spring camp sessions ended.

Gets released
Backup quarterback Kevin Thompson was one of two cuts Thursday. The other was St. Cloud State TE Matt Huebner. Huebner was behind a deep and talented group at tight end, and Thompson lost out to Shaun Hill and Juston Wood in the battle for the third QB spot. Hill is likely to earn that spot, and the Vikings need to trim the roster to 80 players by the start of training camp and have one more cut to make.


Signed to help return game
The Packers keep trying to remedy their big hole at kick returner, and signed with Antonio Chatman. Although a mere 5-9 and 177, Chatman broke the Arena Football League record for all-purpose yards during the 2003 season. Playing for the Chicago Rush, he accounted for 3,678 yards in 18 games, or more than 200 per game.

Will be limited early in training camp
Offensive lineman Mark Tauscher feels he will be ready to practice with the Packers on a limited basis when training camp opens in mid-July. Tauscher is recovering from knee surgery to repair torn ligaments last September.

He told reporters Monday that he has been running and working out with no major setbacks in recent weeks. He hopes to practice at least once a day when two-a-day practices begin, and play in the third or fourth preseason game.

Cornerback injures knee
Al Harris left practice early on Monday after injuring his left knee. But Harris was in the locker room afterward and the injury did not appear to be serious.

Joins team for practice
Offensive lineman Jamil Soriano re-joined the Packers for their June minicamp after missing practices last week. Soriano was unable to practice last week because Harvard's spring semester was still in session.

NFL rules prohibit rookies from taking part in a second minicamp until school is out. Soriano took part in the Packers' post-draft minicamp at the end of April.

Returns to practice
Rookie DeAndrew Rubin has returned to practice with the team. The Packers' second of four seventh-round draft picks missed all four practices in the team's minicamp last week because of a hamstring injury, but he took part in practices Monday and today.

Rubin participated in some drills but was limited. He is competing for a spot as the team's fifth wide receiver and return specialist.

Coach impressed with development
Craig Nall's performance in NFL Europe this spring did not go unnoticed by Packers coaches in Green Bay. Mike Sherman and his assistants kept a close eye on Nall, who led NFL-E in passing for the Scottish Claymores.

"Watching him in Europe, he certainly has demonstrated some qualities you look for in your quarterback," said Packers coach and GM Mike Sherman. "I think he has shown that he has leadership capability. He was microphoned during the game, and I've always been on him about his demeanor, playing a little bit faster, like Brett (Favre) does. I think he's improved that. I think he has improved his accuracy."

Nall will be competing against Doug Pederson for the top backup spot behind Brett Favre when training camp begins.

Sits out of practice again
Javon Walker, who twisted his knee and ankle during practice on Monday, did not practice today as the Packers concluded their June minicamp. Walker also sat out of practice on Tuesday.

The injury is minor, according to coach and general manager Mike Sherman.

Named to All-Europe team
Craig Nall, NFL Europe leader with a 95.9 passer rating, today was named as the quarterback of the All-NFLEL team, voted for by a combination of NFL Europe coaching staffs, media and fans voting online at

Nall threw for 2,050 yards with 18 touchdowns and seven interceptions in 10 games.

Stands out
Cornerback Chris Johnson, selected by the Packers with the first pick of the seventh round in the April NFL draft, was among the most impressive of Green Bay's rookies in the team's recent minicamp, coach and GM Mike Sherman said.

Johnson lined up at left cornerback with the third team defense. He probably will get a chance to return kickoffs in the preseason because of his speed. Johnson was clocked under 4.2-seconds in the 40-yard dash prior to the draft.

"Late-round draft pick but has come here – not just from the physical standpoint but from the mental standpoint – has picked up things extremely fast," Sherman said. "Has a long way to go. We have a lot of football to play before we make the final evaluations, but he has done a very good job to this point, and has showed some maturity as well. I'm excited to see how he continues to progress."

Johnson injured his hamstring in practice on Tuesday and did not practice Wednesday.

Works out w/ Packers
WR Willie Jackson had a tryout with the Packers on Wednesday following the team's final minicamp practice. If signed, Jackson would most likely compete for the fourth, and possibly the third, receiver spot.

Flanagan not moving
Coach Mike Sherman said Mike Flanagan will stay at center during training camp despite tackles Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher still recovering from injuries. Flanagan started seven games at left tackle after Clifton was hurt last season. As he waits for offensive tackles Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher to complete their recoveries from serious injuries, Sherman plans to keep Mike Flanagan at center during training camp.

Nickerson retires
Linebacker Hardy Nickerson Thursday annouced that he will retire from football. Nickerson played 16 seasons in the National Football League, including last year with the Green Bay Packers.

Akili Smith signed
QB Akili Smith has agreed to terms on a deal with Green Bay after also visiting New Orleans and the N.Y. Jets. Terms of the deal were not immediately known.


McDougle getting motivated
Three years into his NFL career, tackle Stockar McDougle has decided it's time to get serious about his job. "I just figured it was time to grow up and really apply myself, not only on the field during the season but in the off-season as well," McDougle said during a recent Lions minicamp. "I really dedicated myself to my diet and my conditioning." Those off-season efforts have paid off in a 25-pound weight loss for McDougle, who was listed last year in the Lions press guide as 6-feet-6, 367 pounds. McDougle has started 22 games in three seasons and has missed considerable playing time because of injuries. At times, his intensity and committment to the job have been questions by Lions coaches and front office. His sudden awakening in reducing his weight and getting into shape have been warmly welcomed by team president Matt Millen and new coach Steve Mariucci, who expect McDougle to be the starting right tackle when the Lions open the 2003 NFL season. One of the factors in McDougle's conditioning binge might have been the fact his younger brother, Jerome McDougle, was drafted in the first round by the Philadelphia Eagles. Stockar and Jerome grew up competing against each other and the competition has just moved to another level. "He's always callling me and telling me what he's doing," Stockar said. "I'll be taking a nap and he'll call me. `What you doing? Taking a nap? I'm working, baby, I'm working.' That's what he would tell me. "I guess you could say we motivate each other. I do the same type of thing to him but it's all in fun. It's just brotherly love." According to the NFL's scheduling formula, the Lions and Eagles will meet in the 2004 regular season, and there's a good chance the McDougle brothers will be lining up against each other. Stockar is a right offensive tackle and Jerome is a left defensive end.

Lazarus aiming for return
Defensive lineman Shawn Lazarus has a patellar tendon injury and the Lions are hoping he will be ready for the start of training camp.

Getting limited action
WR Az-Zahir Hakim is running and catching passes but is being held out of situations in which he could get tangled up with a defender.

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