NFC North Hot News

The Vikings plan on honoring a former player when the Bears come to Minnesota. Meanwhile, other NFC North Division teams continued to tweak their training camp rosters.

Hot News updates from LionsFans.com, PackerReport.com and VikingUpdate.com.

LIONS

No concerns

The Lions have hopes that their second-round draft pick -- outside linebacker Boss Bailey of Georgia -- will be one of the steals of the draft.

While most teams were in open admiration of Bailey's speed and all-around athletic ability, he was passed over through the entire first round of the draft apparently because of concern over two previous knee injuries and his somewhat unimpressive tackling skills. Bailey has no reservations about his knee injuries.

"I had two ACLs," he said. "One was in '97 and one was in 2000. I played two full seasons, no games missed and I've been fine."

The Lions will work with Bailey over the pre-training camp part of the summer to increase his strength in hopes he will become their full-time starting strongside linebacker and a three-down player.

"I feel like I'm a guy you definitely want in there on passing downs because I have the ability to go cover guys, just be out there in coverage and use my speed," he said. "Kind of cover the field. "First and second down, I think my intensity carries me a long way with making big hits on the running back."

Rogers impressing Mariucci

Lions' rookie wide receiver Charles Rogers hasn't disappointed head coach Steve Mariucci thus far.

There was not much of a question about the talent of rookie wide receiver Charles Rogers. While rumors circulated through the league prior to the NFL draft that Rogers could possibly be tainted goods, the Lions have been pleased with the rookie following the team's latest mini-camp.

"Charlie (Rogers) has been hampered a bit with a hamstring, but he has been putting in the time with the offense and is learning our offensive scheme daily," Steve Mariucci said. "The hamstring has slowed his on the field progress, we expect he will be ready to be a full-go when training camp starts next month. We haven't had any issues with Charlie, he has been everything we expected and we have high expectations for him."

Latest releases

Division III standout receiver Todd Fry, who was signed following the NFL Draft as an UDFA, was released by the Detroit Lions June 26. Fry left Washington & Jefferson as the school's career reception leader (186 grabs). The receiver position remains incredibly deep in Detroit, and Fry likely won't be the last WR to depart.

The Lions also placed undrafted rookie free-agent Rob Vian on waivers prior to releasing Fry. The 6-4, 316 lb Boise State product plays both the tackle and guard position.

VIKINGS

Carter to join Ring of Honor

One of the Vikings objectives for the month of July is to re-sign Cris Carter -- and then let him retire.

For the last couple of months, word has circulated that the Vikings might be interested in signing a veteran wide receiver to do the job Cris Carter was doing prior to last season.

It now looks like Carter will be the guy they sign. One of the Vikings' objectives heading into training camp is to sign Carter to a ceremonial contract, let him retire as a member of the Vikings and schedule a jersey retirement for the home opener Sept. 14 vs. Chicago.

With the retirement of his No. 80, Carter would become a member of the Ring of Honor, which is a team hall of fame.

Such signings are not uncommon for stars who will go into the NFL Hall of Fame as a player for one team, even though his final playing action was with another. For example, RB Roger Craig ended his career with the Vikings. However, before leaving the game, he signed a contract with the 49ers and then retired as a member of their organization.

Such a move would be fitting, since Carter will become the first player of the "post-Purple People Eaters" era to go into the Hall of Fame as a Viking.

Lingering injury a concern

It appears defensive lineman Talance Sawyer's lingering knee problem could linger a little longer. He had surgery to repair some cartilage damage in the knee early last season and spent the rest of the season on injured reserve.

Sawyer had hoped to be ready by training camp, but that may not be the case. As a result the Vikings â€" who like his pass-rushing ability â€" may wait to re-sign him. Depending on how long it takes for his knee to recover, Sawyer could be a late-camp addition if there is an injury.

Impressive so far

The defensive line is perhaps the most difficult position to judge in non-contact drills, but Kevin Williams has shown every bit of the quickness that caused his draft stock to rise quickly in April. Indeed, he has looked so good the Vikings are expecting to let him play some end as well to keep him on the field more often. At a minimum, the third-down pass rush will improve. A quick start by Williams would open things up for Chris Hovan, who saw more double teams than any other Vikings lineman last year.

PACKERS

Running backs signs

Free agent running back/fullback Adam Tate signed with the Green Bay Packers, the team announced. Tate was the second-leading rusher for the Frankfurt Galaxy in NFL Europe this season. Tate rushed for 207 yards on 53 attempts (3.9-yard avg.) and scored two touchdowns in the 10-week spring league. The Galaxy finished with a 6-4 record and beat the Rhein Fire in World Bowl XI last Saturday. Tate also caught 10 passes for 87 yards (8.7-yard avg.).

Tate, 25, signed as an undrafted rookie with the Jacksonville Jaguars in April of 2002. He was placed on waivers late in training camp last year and was out of football until the NFL Europe season began.

Tate is a longshot to make the Packers 53-man roster. Ahman Green, William Henderson and Najeh Davenport are locks to make the team. The other two spots will be up for grabs between veteran Lamar Smith, Nick Luchey, Tony Fisher, Reggie White, Jerry Westbrooks, Tommy Collins, and Tate.

Tate split time at running back and gained 1,479 yards rushing in 320 attempts over two seasons at the University of Utah. He had 19 rushing touchdowns, which ranks seventh on the school's all-time list, including 12 as a senior in 2001, third on the university's single-season list.

Return specialist added

The Green Bay Packers today added NFL Europe standout Brian McDonald to their pool of return specialists. Green Bay, which ranked near the bottom of the league in punt and kickoff returns last season, will be looking at a handful of candidates when training camp opens next month.

McDonald averaged 27.8 yards on 14 kickoff returns for the Frankfurt Galaxy in NFL Europe this spring, ranking second in the league behind the Rhein Fire's Kendall Newson (28.7-yard avg. on 15 runbacks). He returned five punts for 43 yards (8.6-yard avg.).

As a receiver, McDonald caught 19 passes for 312 yards (16.4-yard avg.).

McDonald played for the Louisville Fire of the AFL2 in 2001 and set the league record for all-purpose yards with 3,289. He signed with Philadelphia as a free agent in January of 2002 and was allocated by the Eagles to play for Frankfurt. He finished the '02 season as the league's third-ranking punt returner (27 for 289 yards, a 10.7-yard avg.) and tied for 16th in pass receptions with 23 for 310 yards.

McDonald will be competing in training camp against free agents Antonio Chatman, Gari Scott and Erwin Swiney; draft picks DeAndrew Rubin, Carl Ford and Chris Johnson; and third-year pro Robert Ferguson for the right to return punts and kickoffs this season. The Packers had the worst punt return unit in the NFL in 2002, averaging just 4.2 yards per return. The Packers were 26th overall in kickoff returns with a 20.4 yard return average. In 2001, the Packers also finished near the bottom of the league. What are the odds?

Akili Smith did absolutely nothing during his four seasons in Cincinnati to make anyone think he could one day be the successor to Brett Favre in Green Bay. Then again, the Packers didn't have anything to lose. Thus, Smith signed a one-year contract with the Packers for a bargain-basement price that reportedly included a signing bonus of $15,000.

Now he will enter a crowded backup quarterback picture that includes old standby Doug Pederson, who is 35; second-year man Craig Nall, who is coming off an outstanding season in NFL Europe; and Eric Crouch, a former Heisman Trophy winner from Nebraska who quit last summer when the St. Louis Rams tried to make a wide receiver out of him.

"Talent-wise and stuff, when he came out of Oregon he showed a lot of talent in the workouts," Packers vice president of football operations Mark Hatley said. "You could see (in his workout for the Packers June 10) that he's still a very good athlete. There's a lot of things Akili brings to the table that you're excited about having. "Obviously, we're happy with Doug, and Craig had a heck of a season over in NFL Europe and Eric has done a nice job for us. He's progressed faster than we thought that he might."

Favre, who will turn 34 in October, has hinted that he might retire, perhaps as early as January 2004. The Packers didn't have a chance to draft one of the top four quarterbacks this year and went for Smith, who was the third player picked in 1999. Smith, 6-2 1/2 and 230, was drafted so high almost solely on the basis of his outstanding season for the Ducks in '98. He averaged 314 yards passing per game, throwing 32 touchdowns and merely eight interceptions. His offensive coordinator in '98 was Jeff Tedford, who also has developed Trent Dilfer, David Carr, Joey Harrington and Kyle Boller.

Smith, however, was a complete bust in Cincinnati. He played in 22 games in all, starting 17 and finishing with a 3-14 record. His career passer rating was 52.8. "Every time he got in a game he seemed overwhelmed," a personnel director for an AFC team said last week. Hatley said the Packers weren't concerned with Smith's numbers in Cincinnati. "I don't think you try to (explain his past struggles)," Hatley said. "I think you try to bring him and coach him up and see if he can fit into your system.


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