At the age of 25 with two NFL seasons behind him, Joey Harrington has become the old man of the Lions offense. And he's fine with that.
He has never shied away from taking a leadership role but he found it difficult at times in his first two seasons, especially with the offense floundering as it did.
With so many young players now in the offensive picture for the Lions, Harrington is not only in the position to be the leader but has the experience to lead as well.
"It's actually kind of nice," Harrington said. "The last couple years it's been tough for me to take a leadership role because you've got Bill (Schroeder) and Ray (Brown) and you've got James Stewart, guys who have been around for so long.
"The reality of the situation is that not many guys are going to look to a rookie quarterback for leadership. Now we've got young guys around us - a young offensive line, guys I'm comfortable with now. I feel a lot more comfortable out there. I feel like it's a group of guys I can relate with, a group of guys I can grow with and it's guys I feel good in the huddle with."
Not only are the Lions offensive players younger, it is expected they will be more capable also with the likes of wide receivers Charles Rogers and Roy Williams, running backs Kevin Jones and Artose Pinner.
Harrington, the Lions' first-round pick in 2002, has yet to prove he can be the Lions' savior, although even his most harsh critics admit he has had virtually nothing to work with in his first two NFL seasons.
The Lions receivers struggled to get open and hang onto the football last year and their running game was so anemic (last among the NFL's 32 teams in yardage production) that teams showed no respect whatsoever for the run and focused entirely on shutting down the passing game.
NOTES, QUOTES, ANECDOTES
--Although he's starting his second season with the Lions, running back Artose Pinner is going through his first no-holds-barred minicamp.
A year ago, he was coming off a broken ankle - complicated by ligament damage - suffered in the Senior Bowl game and was limited in what he could do. Even when he played the final three games of the season he wasn't 100 percent physically.
After a full offseason of rehabbing the leg, he was ready to go in the Lions minicamp over the past weekend.
"Actually, I feel like I've gained a couple steps this minicamp," Pinner said. "I felt a lot faster. Sometimes I was a little out of control but as the practice progressed I gathered it all together and got used to my speed again."
Pinner hardly resembles the player he was when he arrived as a rookie out of Kentucky a year ago. He's bigger, stronger and healthier by far. He also has an additional incentive to play well - rookie Kevin Jones, who many expect to win the running back job for the 2004 season.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I thought the veteran guys were going to push me to the side and not try to teach me. But these guys have embraced me and they're trying to help me learn the offense and do things on the field." - Rookie WR Roy Williams on his experience at minicamp.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
Before he even began working out in his first Lions minicamp, guard Damien Woody had changed positions.
When the Lions signed him in the opening days of the free agent signing period, they indicated he would move into the left guard position, which he had played at times at New England.
With the team's inability to land a starting right guard, however, Woody was moved to that side of the offensive line, with utility lineman Matt Joyce taking over - temporarily, at least - the left guard job, with which he is more familiar.
The vacant guard position is the last to be addressed. Last year's fifth-round pick, James Davis, and second-round draft pick Teddy Lehman both worked at the weakside linebacker position, which is another area of concern.
GREEN BAY PACKERS
Quarterback Brett Favre, no shrinking violet when it comes to leading an offense, followed the same path this week when he came time to discuss wayward cornerback Mike McKenzie.
McKenzie has told the Packers that he has no intentions of ever playing for them again.
"He should be here, we expect him to be here and the Packers have the upper hand," Favre said at the start of a week-long minicamp. "He says he wants to be traded and all that stuff, but they don't have to do that. When paycheck time starts coming around and you're not getting one, it's amazing how quickly you start waking up.
"I hope it doesn't come to that. Mike, he's a good guy. He really is, and things like this sometimes give people a false impression of someone's character. I respect him. I think he's an excellent player and he's a good guy.
"Sometimes we don't make good decisions or we have people telling us the wrong things. I don't know what's going on in this case. But he is one of the top corners. I will agree with that. But it will work itself out if he will just come back."
McKenzie signed a five-year, $17.1 million deal in December 2001 and has three years left. During the offseason half a dozen corners received signing bonuses of $7 million or more, and most of them aren't as good as McKenzie. His sign bonus was $3.5 million.
McKenzie is irked not only by his contract but what he regards as slights involving teammates Vonnie Holliday, Nate Wayne and Na'il Diggs. Holliday left as an unrestricted free agent, Wayne was cut and Diggs was retained when the Packers matched a restricted offer sheet from Detroit.
Favre wasn't afraid to take on wide receiver Sterling Sharpe during his brief walkout on the eve of opening day in 1994 and he certainly isn't afraid now to call out McKenzie.
"When you sign a contract, you sign a contract," Favre said. "And we all make a lot of money and sometimes it doesn't seem fair that other guys make more who you know you're better than. But that's the way this business works and as bad as that may seem at times, it will work itself out.
"I hope he realizes that because he will hurt our football team if he's away, and he will really help our team when he's here. I don't know what more the team can do. I think they've done what they're supposed to do."
NOTES, QUOTES, ANECDOTES
--The Packers are high on Tony Donald, a free-agent linebacker in 2003 who was moved to tight end during training camp. Donald is starting at tight end for Amsterdam of NFL Europe League and making an impact.
"As far as pure talent and able to run, he's good," Vice president of football operations Mark Hatley said. "He can flat run. He's learning how to block."
--Just about every team in the league uses what is called the Trade Value Chart to make trades during the draft.
The chart assigns a point value for all 256 selections in the draft. Teams then attempt to make the trades equitable so each of the team involved receives comparable point values.
"Everybody's starting to get it," St. Louis Rams general manager Charley Armey said. "Jimmy Johnson likes to take credit for it but Tommy Prothro developed it.
"Most people trade on their gut. You're trading players, you're not trading numbers. But it's a good guide. Bill Parcells uses it a lot."
For example, the first pick in the draft had a value of 3,000 points. The 256h pick had a value of 0.1 points.
The Packers made four trades during the draft. Their net point differential for the four trades was plus-23.9 points.
Jacksonville had a plus-23 in their first deal with the Packers Saturday but the Packers had a plus-10 in their second trade with the Jaguars. The Packers had a plus-35.5 differential in their deal late Saturday with Washington.
On Sunday, the Packers were plus-1.4 in their deal with San Francisco.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Not only does he have a strong leg but he has the unique ability to directional kick, which is very important. When there's a player like that, go get it." - Director of college scouting John Dorsey on P B.J. Sander, the Ohio State specialist the Packers traded up to draft in the third round.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
On April 22 the Packers signed veteran cornerback Chris Watson, who has played for Denver, Buffalo and Detroit in a five-year career.
Last year, Watson had a decent shot to make the Lions' roster when he had to undergo back surgery late in preseason. The Detroit defensive coordinator in 2003, Kurt Schottenheimer, is now the Packers' secondary coach.
Watson looked good in the first two days of minicamp. He has size and speed. He could compete for a job in a thin secondary.
The Vikings weren't the first professional team to select Mewelde Moore in the fourth round.
In 2000, Moore, then an 18-year-old at Belaire High in Baton Rouge, La., signed a minor-league baseball contract after the San Diego Padres drafted him. The Padres gave him a $250,000 signing bonus, even though they had an idea Moore's heart belonged to football since he also signed a letter of intent to play running back at Tulane.
Moore took the baseball money out of necessity. His mother's bills were a mile high and she was about to lose her home.
"I wouldn't even call what I had in baseball a career, actually," Moore said. "When you play baseball and still go to school to play football every year, you can put two plus two together and figure this guy must want to play football."
Moore played three seasons for Idaho Falls in the Pioneer League. He has a career average of .210 with one home run, 12 RBI and 10 stolen bases.
His playing time diminished when it became obvious football was always going to be his primary goal.
"Pretty much, all I want to do is play football," Moore said. "When I went to bed at night when I was a kid I used to go to sleep with a football in my head and dreamed about playing the game like Walter Payton and Bo Jackson and guys like that on the gridiron. I never thought about picking up a baseball and swinging a bat around."
The 5-10, 209-pound Moore and former Stanford running back Darrin Nelson, who played for the Vikings, are the only players in NCAA Division I-A history with 4,000 yards rushing and 2,000 yards receiving. Moore also is the only NCAA Division I-A player with at least 1,250 yards rushing and 60 receptions in the same season (2001).
Moore could be the eventual successor to third-down back Moe Williams, who turns 30 this year.
"Some people have described Mewelde as a faster Amp Lee, and Amp Lee was a darn good football player for us coming out of the backfield," coach Mike Tice said. "That's Moe's role, as we all know. Moe's getting up there in age, not that this is going to force Moe out or take any reps away from him, but you always try to find (room) for a good player."
Moore will return kicks, even though he returned only five in his career at Tulane. Asked if he has the ability to return kicks, he said, "That's like saying, `Do birds fly?'"
Moore also said there's no question he is done with baseball.
"I'm a Viking," he said. "I'm in purple and gold and that is what I bleed now. That is where I am going to be."
NOTES, QUOTES, ANECDOTES
--The Vikings have decided to keep third-year pro Nick Rogers, their most natural veteran pass rusher, at defensive end despite using their first-round draft pick on Southern California defensive end Kenechi Udeze.
Rogers, who had 15 sacks as an end in his final two seasons at Georgia Tech, was switched to linebacker after the Vikings selected him in the sixth round of the 2002 NFL Draft. He started 11 games at strong-side linebacker in 2002 and five at weak-side linebacker at the end of last season.
--The Vikings had the inside track on Baltimore when pursuing NCAA Division III Player of the Year Blake Elliott as a rookie free agent. Elliott played at St. John's in Collegeville, Minn. Elliott, a receiver, has an outside shot at making the team as a kick returner and coverage specialist. Last year's primary returner, Keenan Howry, lacks speed and playmaking ability. "I am going to make it hard for the Vikings to get rid of me," Elliott said. Said coach Mike Tice: "At the very least, he'll give us competition and excitement in training camp. I think everybody wins."
QUOTE TO NOTE:
"He doesn't get it, does he? Kenechi, I've already anointed you the starter." -- Coach Mike Tice, interrupting first-round draft pick Kenechi Udeze's first press conference when Udeze said he would try to help the team in whatever role it asked of him.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
The Vikings' roster for the start of training camp basically is set. Their interest in free-agent LB Ian Gold, who signed with Tampa Bay this week, disappeared after they selected Auburn LB Dontarrious Thomas in the second round. Gold signed with Tampa Bay.