NFC North Tour: OTA Edition

Breaking down all the news, notes and quotes from the Black & Blue Division, including injury updates, personnel changes and much more.

Detroit Lions

You'd think the big no-show news from the first week of organized team activities would involve defensive end Cliff Avril, who still hasn't signed his $10.6 million franchise tender.

But no, it was second-year receiver Titus Young who stole the headlines.

During a voluntary training session at the Lions' practice facility two weeks ago, words were exchanged between Young and safety Louis Delmas. Young lost his temper and sucker-punched Delmas.

Young has not been to the facility since. The Lions balked at reports that he was banned or suspended, and would not comment specifically on the incident or Young's absence.

"This is the voluntary portion of our offseason," coach Jim Schwartz said. "We're not in mandatory minicamp. I am not commenting on which guys are here and which guys aren't. They are all accounted for. We are aware of the reasons each one is not here or not participating and we will work through these things as we go."

Schwartz would not discuss when Young would be back with the team.

"It's one of those things that happen all the time," said veteran receiver Nate Burleson. "When I played in Minnesota, we fought like every other day and that was the closest team I had been on up to that point. A scuffle that happens once at every eight or nine months here, that just shows you how rare it was -- we don't even do it that often."

Burleson did not see the altercation and he deferred questions about Young's return to Schwartz, who did not address the media on Tuesday. But Burleson was adamant that the incident not be blown out of proportion.

"We have a great team here and we hang out more off the field than we do on the field, and that includes TY (Young)," Burleson said. "When he gets back to work it will be business as usual. We're not concerned. There isn't any cancer on this team or anybody that's dragging us down.

"We have a strong team here that's headed in the right direction."

Nationally, the Lions have a reputation as a talented but immature team. The on-field blowups of Ndamukong Suh, Young and others last year, plus the three marijuana-related arrests this offseason to Mikel Leshoure, Nick Fairley and Johnny Culbreath -- all, like Young, members of the 2011 draft class -- have fueled the reputation.

Burleson isn't buying it.

"I am not going to start questioning the organization and the people they have selected to come here because of a couple mistakes," he said. "In life that is going to happen, especially when you are young. I just hope people don't listen to exaggerated stories and I hope they realize that we all make mistakes."

--Linebacker Stephen Tulloch is not likely to win this battle. He would love to be back on the field when the Lions start mandatory minicamp in June but from the sound of it, the coaching staff is going to keep him out until training camp.

"I feel good," said Tulloch, who is nursing tendinitis in his left knee. "I will miss a couple of OTAs but I will be ready. I've never missed a game in my career. I know what it takes to take care of my body. I know what I need to do to get right and be able to give 100 percent."

The Lions made a five-year, $25.5 million commitment to Tulloch in March, so they want to make sure his streak of 96 straight games played continues. Coach Jim Schwartz estimated on Monday that Tulloch could be out three to four weeks.

"I would like to be there," Tulloch said. "It's hard for me not to be out there with the guys. There is nothing like being out there. I am trying to push to it. They (the coaches) are trying to slow me down and I am trying to speed up."

--Also missing the first two days of OTAs were linebacker DeAndre Levy and safety Amari Spievey.

"There will be guys who miss for a variety of reasons," Schwartz said. "The one thing you don't want to do at this time of year is push through an injury situation. There comes a time when you have to push through, during the season and even in training camp. Now the really important thing is getting right and getting healthy."

--Being banned from the OTAs wasn't the only sanction against wide receiver Titus Young. Young was not among a group of receivers invited to attend the Tigers-Pirates game Friday night (May 18) to watch Calvin Johnson throw out the first pitch. Johnson invited all the receivers to watch the game with him in a suite -- all but Young. It is not known if the invite was pulled by the team or by Johnson himself. Johnson was asked where Young was on Friday and he responded, "We can't talk about that."

--Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh said he hasn't yet pinpointed what he needs to work on following what he called an "indifferent" second season.

"Right now, it's just going through the rough spots and trying to get the rust off," he said. "I haven't defined anything yet that I want to work on, nothing that I saw last year that I was lacking in."

Suh followed up a 66-tackle, 10-sack rookie season with 36 tackles and four sacks. He got more notoriety for his personal fouls and two-game suspension than he did for his work on the field. He was asked, in light of what happened last year, if this was an important season for him.

"It is a very important year for myself," he said. "Every year I want to out-do the previous year. My rookie year was good. Last year was indifferent. This year we have an opportunity to have an outstanding year. But, again, it doesn't really matter because it's a team game. I want to win. That's all I want to do."

--Suh was asked why he decided to take part in the Fox Network's reality dating show "The Choice," which debuts on June 7. "We'll just have to wait and see," he said. "There was no particular rhyme or reason why I went on it. It was just something fun. I enjoyed it."

--Special teams player Don Carey has been taking reps exclusively at safety thus far in OTAs. He played cornerback last season.

--Rookie Riley Reiff, the 23rd overall pick, has worked at left tackle on the second unit through the first two days of OTA. Jeff Backus took all the first team reps.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I don't want to speak for the guys who got busted but it's just too easy to be immature. It's always been that way. You are young and it's the NFL and it's the big time and you got money -- it's just too easy to be stupid." -- Kicker Jason Hanson on the offseason drug arrests of three second-year players.

Green Bay Packers

Aaron Rodgers is starting over in one regard this year.

With four pro seasons as a starting quarterback, a Super Bowl victory and a league MVP award under his belt, Rodgers has been consumed this spring with breaking in a new center.

Scott Wells, the Packers' best lineman last season and Rodgers' trusted delivery man since 2008, bolted the team after eight years to sign with the St. Louis Rams as an unrestricted free agent.

Green Bay general manager Ted Thompson countered by getting another veteran on board so as to not disrupt the high rate of execution by the offense with Rodgers at the helm. That replacement is Jeff Saturday, previously the longtime running mate with another stellar QB, Peyton Manning, in Indianapolis.

The Packers snatched Saturday in free agency, signing him to a two-year deal worth close to $8 million.

The transition from operating with Wells to Saturday has been a work in progress after a little more than a month of the team's offseason program, but Rodgers likes the addition of the 14th-year veteran.

"He's doing good," Rodgers said after the team's first practice session in organized team activities May 22. "It's going to take a little time, I think, (for him) to get used to the cadence variations and some of the little things we do, but he's going to be fine."

Although the vertically oriented and up-tempo nature of the offense run by the Colts when Manning directed it up until he missed all of last season with a neck injury has similarities to the Packers' pass-first scheme, Saturday is learning all over again.

"There's nothing transferrable," said Saturday, referring to the terminology used in Indianapolis and how the verbiage is vastly different in Green Bay's playbook.

For that, Saturday is thankful he hooked on with a team that has an established and highly successful quarterback after the All-Pro center took a pass on following a healthy Manning to the Denver Broncos.

"The thing that probably impressed me most about Aaron when I first got here is he knows all of the offensive-line checks, he knows where to put us, why we're going there," Saturday said. "That's important for a quarterback, to know where every piece fits. And, you feel comfortable that as long as we're on the same page, no matter what the call is, as long as we're all doing it the same way, we can block it up and he can make plays down the field.

"That was the same way with Peyton. As long as we all knew who was responsible for who, we can move the ball up and down the field. They're very comparable in that way."

Saturday, who turns 37 on June 18, will have plenty of time to build a rapport with Rodgers as well as what appears will be only two young backup quarterbacks going into training camp in July.

In the process of signing veteran defensive end Phillip Merling on May 23, the Packers cut two players, including quarterback Nick Hill.

Green Bay had signed Hill, a first-year player who starred in the Arena Football League, after last season ended.

That leaves the Packers with first-year player Graham Harrell and B.J. Coleman, a seventh-round draft pick this year, as the understudies for Rodgers.

A day before the team released Hill, head coach Mike McCarthy didn't seem hung up on needing to have several quarterbacks in camp this summer.

"How many quarterbacks we take to training camp really is (based on) what's going on at the other positions," McCarthy said. "It's always an overall talent evaluation on your roster. We don't have a board that says you take this many players to camp at this position.

"Aaron's an excellent mentor," he added. "He spends a lot of time in the (quarterback) meetings just doing the little things. I feel very good about the opportunity for growth in that room. I'm confident we'll be where we need to be at the quarterback position."

The free-agent loss of Matt Flynn, Rodgers' top backup the last four years, for a starting opportunity with the Seattle Seahawks prompted Harrell to get serious about winning the No. 2 job this year. Harrell has been a developmental player with the Packers since they signed the former Texas Tech standout two years ago. Harrell said on the first day of OTAs he improved his arm strength and put on about 15 pounds of muscle weight in an intense training program at a facility in his native Texas.

--Clay Matthews is indeed back to playing right-side outside linebacker.

After a glimpse into defensive coordinator Dom Capers' future plans came to light by having first-round draft pick Nick Perry line up at left-side 'backer during the rookie orientation camp, the new alignment was unveiled. Perry stayed on the left side, and Matthews played opposite the rookie with the first-string unit on the opening day of organized team activities May 22.

"To me, this is a learning phase and an information phase," head coach Mike McCarthy said. "We're looking at a number of different things. In Nick's specific case, yes, we want to look at (him on) the left side.

"Clay has played both sides now. We want to make sure we create targeting problems with Clay Matthews. But, just like any young player, you do want to have a starting point, and right now, we want to look and see how comfortable Nick is on the left side."

Matthews last played on the right side as a rookie in 2009, when he had 11 sacks (including the playoffs).

The All-Pro player is OK with the position switch because he anticipates he won't be relegated to one spot anyway as Capers tries to revive last season's listless pass rush.

"The misnomer about the position is that we're stuck to one side," Matthews said. "On paper, it's going to say 'left outside linebacker' or 'right outside linebacker.' Really, those positions are interchangeable. So, the faster we can get (Perry) up to speed, the faster we can have some fun moving him around, flying around and making some plays together."

Matthews had a career-low six sacks last season with no help to speak of on the opposite side in Green Bay's 3-4 scheme.

"It's all about mismatches and preferable lineups," he said. "Whenever we can take advantage of that by playing on the right side, left side, in the middle -- wherever you want me to play -- I think we're all about that. So, hopefully, that's the case."

--Veteran cornerback Charles Woodson didn't join the team on the practice field for the opening day of the voluntary OTAs, though he was said to be on hand for meetings and an individual workout.

Woodson made an appearance at the Milwaukee Brewers baseball game the next day, throwing a ceremonial first pitch at Miller Park. He met with reporters before the game and hinted that he won't be getting on the field until the team's mandatory minicamp, which will be June 12-14 after the OTAs end June 8.

The 15th-year veteran reiterated comments he's made the last few years about being receptive to making a position switch to safety. Such a move has been speculated since the Packers released Pro Bowl free safety Nick Collins before last month's draft after team officials were wary about Collins' trying to attempt a comeback from a severe neck injury sustained early last season.

"I've heard all the reports about moving to safety and all this, but I don't think there's any more I can do on the football field than I already do," Woodson said. "I think the only thing that would ever change is just the title -- from being a corner to a safety. But, I'm a football player. I can do anything on that football field, and they can put me anywhere, and they know that.

"All the talk about 'Can he play safety?', I kind of already play safety. So, it wouldn't be that big of a jump."

Charlie Peprah, who started 15 games in Collins' absence, is penciled in as a returning starter. However, Peprah wasn't expected to be available for the three weeks of OTAs after he underwent arthroscopic knee surgery earlier in the offseason.

Capers paired Morgan Burnett, the other incumbent starter, with M.D. Jennings on the No. 1 defense in the first OTA practice. Jennings, who made the team in 2011 as an undrafted rookie and was a key contributor on special teams, intercepted a pass from Aaron Rodgers in the practice.

"It's been really nice to watch him mature with his time," McCarthy said of the 6-0, 187-pound Jennings. "I always watch those guys on the opponent squads obviously offensively when you're competing during the week, and he's an instinctive football player. Now, he's doing a lot better job of communicating. He has very good range. I like our young safeties."

The group also includes first-year player Anthony Levine and a pair of intriguing rookies -- fourth-round draft pick Jerron McMillian and undrafted Sean Richardson, a three-year starter at Vanderbilt.

--Defensive end Anthony Hargrove spoke to Wisconsin reporters on the first day of OTAs for the first time since the Packers signed the eighth-year veteran as a free agent in late March before he drew an eight-game suspension from the league in early May.

Hargrove was one of four players to be punished for their alleged involvement in the New Orleans Saints' bounty program.

The NFL Players Association has filed an appeal of the suspensions on the players' behalf, and a ruling is forthcoming.

Hargrove sidestepped a number of questions that were asked of him in the Packers' locker room regarding the suspension. He had this bizarre reply when asked whether he's confident about winning his appeal.

"I'm confident that I can win on third downs," Hargrove said. "We talk on the field. All I want to talk about is the way I play the game. So, you ask me if I can beat a guy one on one, yeah. You put two on me, we'll see what happens."

Hargrove did acknowledge what he had submitted as a declaration to the league during its investigation of the bounty scandal that he followed the orders of Saints assistant coaches Gregg Williams and Joe Vitt.

"In this business, you're always supposed to do what your coaches tell you to do," Hargrove said. "My response is what it was. Everything that I gave in that declaration outlines exactly what happened. My coaches ask me to do something, I'll do it.

"It's the same way I'm going to be here. If Coach Dom asks me to go out and get the quarterback, I'll get the quarterback. That's just my responsibility as a player."

--Team president Mark Murphy said Donald Driver would be with his teammates for the second week of OTAs after the veteran receiver had a good excuse for skipping the first week.

Driver joined retired Dallas Cowboys running back Emmitt Smith and recently retired Pittsburgh Steelers wideout Hines Ward as football players who won a title on ABC's "Dancing with the Stars" reality TV program. Driver and professional dance partner Peta Murgatroyd procured the mirror-ball trophy as the champions of this season May 22.

"I think people (in Green Bay) are excited to see him," Murphy said. "Obviously, I think all of his teammates will probably give him some good-natured ribbing. But, also, I know everybody's really pleased and happy for him."

That was the extent of what Murphy had to say when he was asked a day after Driver's dance victory about the future of the Packers' current longest-tenured player with the team. Speculation has swirled since the end of last season that Green Bay could part ways with Driver, 37, who is due to make $5 million in the final year of his contract.

The Packers have a deep cast of young and talented receivers, so Driver may be seen as expendable by team management despite his cache as Green Bay's all-time leading receiver and his popularity with fans.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker declared May 23 as "Donald Driver Day" in the state, honoring his accomplishment on the dance show.

Less than a week earlier while he was in Southern California preparing for his final dances, Driver curiously tweeted "I'm a packer for life. It will never change. Go Pack Go!!!!"

In an effort to douse a whirlwind of conjecture that Driver's time in Green Bay was up after 13 years, his agent, Jordan Woy, informed a few media outlets that he and the club would be working out the details of a deal structure after Driver finished the show.

Fellow receiver Jordy Nelson said Driver's uncertain future wouldn't be a distraction for the team the rest of the offseason.

"I think we've dealt with enough stuff," Nelson said. "I know the front office will take care of it when necessary and they're going to do the right thing for the organization."

--The rumor mill of late also has included Murphy, whose name has been floated as a possible candidate for the vacancy at Stanford for athletics director.

Murphy has declined comment on the matter. A Packers spokesman told at least two Wisconsin media outlets, "There's no basis to it."

Murphy replaced the retired Bob Harlan as team president and CEO in January 2008 after he served as a college AD for 16 years at Northwestern (2003-07) and alma mater Colgate (1992-2003).

--Meanwhile, the football side of the Packers front office has undergone some changes since the draft ended in late April.

The team announced May 23 that John Dorsey, its longtime college scouting director, was promoted to director of football operations, and Eliot Wolf was bumped up from assistant director of pro personnel to director of pro personnel. Wolf is the son of retired Packers general manager Ron Wolf.

Also, Brian Gutekunst, who put in 13 years as a college scout for the club, was named to replace Dorsey to lead the college scouting department.

The moves come after football operations director Reggie McKenzie was hired as the Oakland Raiders' general manager in January and assistant director of college scouting Shaun Herock left in early May to join McKenzie as his college scouting director.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We have nine practices (during organized team activities) and three minicamp practices -- 12 opportunities to learn your job. Frankly, if you don't know what's expected of you by June 14 (the last day of minicamp), your chances to make our football team drop drastically." -- Head coach Mike McCarthy, on the importance of the final three weeks of the team's offseason program.

Minnesota Vikings

No team was hurt more by last year's lockout than the Vikings. They had a new coaching staff, a rookie quarterback and a completely new offensive system. So they started behind and never really caught up during a disastrous 3-13 season.

Coach Leslie Frazier is hoping to make up for it this season. He has scheduled the team's training camp to last three weeks, which is two more weeks than they spent in Mankato, Minn., a year ago.

"Last season was obviously difficult to plan because of the lockout. There was so much uncertainty," Frazier told reporters. "I would always like to take our team away for at least three weeks for the team building aspect that I think comes along with being at training camp, but because of the Minnesota State school calendar this is not always possible."

The residence hall that the Vikings have stayed in for years is scheduled for demolition. So no new students are moving into the hall this fall. The players aren't happy about the longer stay, but are willing to suck it up for the good of the team.

"As a player, it stinks," defensive end Brian Robison told the Associated Press. "We all know training camp is a long, grueling process. It's not fun, but it's part of the job."

The Vikings have broken camp before their first exhibition game in each of the past three seasons. But this year, they'll report July 26 and not leave until Aug. 16.

"This year will kind of be like getting back to normal," tight end Kyle Rudolph said. "Last year, it didn't even feel like we were (in Mankato)."

Some of the Vikings' veterans have talked to Frazier about the need to get back to the basics when it comes to training camp.

"You don't think it's that big of a deal until you don't have an offseason program," Robison said. "Being able to be with the guys right now is going to help us tremendously."

--Guard Tyler Holmes signed as a rookie out of Tulsa. He was undrafted in the NFL, but was a CFL draft pick last year. The 6-5 and 308-pounder has the genes to play professionally. At least in the CFL. His father, Richard, is a former CFL standout. Tyler was a first-round pick of Toronto in last year's CFL draft.

--The Vikings haven't had to worry about ego when it comes to former starting left tackle Charlie Johnson. Johnson was moved to left guard to make room for Matt Kalil, the fourth overall pick. "I feel good about it," Johnson said of the move. "Like I said, when I first got in the league, I was kind of a swing guy, reserve doing all that stuff. So I've had work there. I spent 2008 there (with Indianapolis). So I'm good with it."

--The Vikings have five players from Notre Dame on the roster. All five -- center John Sullivan, tight ends John Carlson and Kyle Rudolph, safety Harrison Smith and safety-corner Robert Blanton -- could be starters or key contributors. Carlson was asked about what a team gets in a "Notre Dame" player. Said Carlson: "Wow, that's a loaded question, right? I'd like to think that we're disciplined guys. The mental side of the game is a big part of the game, so the mental preparation is something that we take pride in. I like to think that we're physically gifted enough to play at this level, too. Hopefully the total package."

--Quarterback Christian Ponder is excited that the team has decided to build around with him several moves on offense, including drafting left tackle Matt Kalil and receivers Greg Childs and Jarius Wright, and signing tight end John Carlson in free agency.

"It means a lot to me," Ponder said. "I think that shows that they have confidence in me and trying to establish guys around me on the offensive side. Obviously on the offensive side of the ball we have a lot of improvements to make. We have so many good guys on this team already that can go out and prove themselves, but to add additional guys that bring a lot to the table is really going to help us and help me."

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I wouldn't say elephant in the room. I hadn't been up there so I don't really know. But it was something that was discussed and I had no problem with it. Like I told (offensive line) coach Davidson, coach (Leslie) Frazier, anybody who asked me about it, I just want to win. Last year was not very good. I wasn't used to that and I don't want it to happen again. So if they feel that this is the best thing to make our team better, then I'm all for it." -- Veteran left tackle Charlie Johnson, when asked if the selection of first-round pick Matt Kalil to replace him was the "elephant in the room" before the draft.


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