NFC North News

The Packers are busy trying to familiarize Tim Couch to their offense, while Detroit has a crop of talented young receivers that will need to mature in a hurry for the Lions to be competitive.

Detroit Lions
The Lions are likely to be extremely young at wide receiver next season but they should be extremely talented also.

There is little doubt if the team is to improve on last year's 5-11 record (as well as the 3-13 of 2002 and 2-14 of 2001), those young receivers - Roy Williams and Charles Rogers - will have to develop and deliver quickly.

That might be expecting a lot, considering the circumstances.

Rogers played only five games last year in his rookie season before suffering a broken right collarbone and there is still concern regarding the slow-healing injury that eventually landed him on injured reserve.

Williams, by most estimations, is farther along in his development than Rogers was at the same time a year ago, but the transition from college football to the NFL can be a rocky, unpredictable one under even the best circumstances.

It would be unrealistic to expect Anquan Boldin-type production (101 catches for 1,377 yards) from a young player, but if the Lions could count on Rogers and Williams for 60-75 catches apiece, they will have taken a major step in improving coach Steve Mariucci's West Coast offense.

The addition of Tai Streets gives Mariucci an experienced, dependable third receiver to work with the youngsters, but the veterans providing depth - Scotty Anderson and Az-Zahir Hakim - has been spotty.

Any way you look at it, that leaves the major burden of production on quarterback Joey Harrington's ability to get the ball to the young receivers.

Notes, quotes, anecdotes
--The offseason has not been a good time for the Lions and the law.

It started approximately a month ago when safety Brock Marion was charged with two felonies involving the alleged theft of a conversion van.

And last week linebacker/special teams player Donte Curry was charged with four misdemeanors, including DUI and having an open container of alcohol in his vehicle.

Police in Covington, Ga., reportedly found Curry, 25, asleep at the wheel of his 1998 Ford Expedition with his foot on the brakes at a traffic intersection. Police said his blood alcohol content was 0.195, well above the legal limit of 0.08.

Police could not awaken Curry so they blocked the vehicle to prevent it from lurching into the intersection, then climbed through an unlocked door to turn off the car and awaken Curry.

Curry spent six hours in jail and was cooperative before posting a $1,300 bail, police said.

Curry recently signed a one-year contract with the Lions. He is a backup linebacker and one of the team's top special teams players.

QUOTE TO NOTE
"As long as we're winning games, ain't nobody going to get greedy. We haven't been to the playoffs since '97, why are we going to argue about who's getting balls? We're trying to win." -- Wide receiver Charles Rogers on questions regarding how quarterback Joey Harrington would distribute the ball between Rogers and rookie Roy Williams.

Strategy and personnel
The Lions will keep an eye on defensive tackle Dana Stubblefield as he continues rehabbing from ankle surgery, with the possibility of signing him before they get to training camp. Their only other serious need is for depth on the offensive line but they don't appear to have any serious candidates lined up for signing.

Green Bay Packers
The fate of defensive end Jamal Reynolds figures to be determined within the next month when coach Mike Sherman must decide whether to pay him a roster bonus of $217,250 due in July.

As the 10th player selected in the 2001 draft, Reynolds has been an unmitigated bust with three sacks and 15 tackles. He came out of Florida State billed as the savior for a moribund pass rush. The Packers continue to struggle mightily in this department and Reynolds has become almost a forgotten man.

In the two mini-camps this year, Reynolds did show slight improvement. He looked quicker off the ball and, at least, was able to beat inexperienced tackles with some regularity in one-on-one pass rush drills.

Several members of the organization gave Reynolds some praise after the first camp and there might be some sentiment on Sherman's staff to take another look at him in training camp.

"I'd like to see Jamal in pads," director of pro personnel Reggie McKenzie said. "You want to see big guys and how they move in shorts. But your speed guys, you want to see them in pads."

McKenzie's impression was that Reynolds had improved in one of his most glaring areas of weakness. In the past, once a tackle nullified his initial charge and took away his angle to the quarterback, Reynolds looked like someone who was stuck in wet cement.

"When you talk about change of direction, I think he's much better," McKenzie said. "You see him put his foot in the ground and come underneath."

At 6-3 and 255, Reynolds also has struggled against size. Bigger tackles have been able to engulf him and stand their ground.

Since taking on the role of both coach and GM in 2001, Sherman has released four of 21 draft picks, but none higher than fourth-round pick Bill Ferrario.

Whatever decision that Sherman makes on Reynolds, the coach insists that he's not so stubborn that he's unwilling to come to grips with a mistake.

"My philosophy is much like Ron Wolf's," Sherman said. "If you make a mistake in personnel, you try to fix it as soon as you possibly can. In the present status of the league, it's not quite that easy. There are financial commitments and acceleration with the cap. But as soon as you can fix it, you want to fix it."

Notes, quotes, anecdotes
--New quarterback Tim Couch is involved in a learning crash course with quarterbacks coach Darrell Bevell that will carry him all the way up to the first full-squad practice Aug. 2.

"It's a little overwhelming," Couch said. "It's a thick playbook; there's a lot to learn. It's something that I'll need to learn."

Couch said as many as five teams - among them Chicago, Detroit and San Francisco - expressed interest in him after his release by the Browns.

"But none of them was any better than this situation," Couch said. "There's a special feeling you get when you come to play at Lambeau Field.

"I've been the first pick for a franchise and had that pressure of being a franchise player. Following Brett would be, I think, a good thing. There's only one Brett Favre; no one can come in and be Brett Favre. So, I'm not going to try to live up to that.

"If that point does come and I am the starter here, then I would just come in and be myself and I know I can win games, and that would be good enough."

QUOTE TO NOTE
"I'm not afraid to play a rookie. Some coaches are, but you know I'm not." - Offensive line coach Larry Beightol.

Strategy and personnel
The Packers continue to show interest in former Pittsburgh pass rusher Jason Gildon but there is heavy competition. Gildon also has visited Buffalo and Cincinnati. The Packers would like Gildon, who turns 32 in late July, to play end opposite Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila on passing downs.

Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings expect one of their shortest players to take them a long way on defense.

That's why they gave 5-9 CB Antoine Winfield $35 million, including $12 million as a first-year roster bonus, to leave Buffalo for Minneapolis.

"I really don't see this as pressure," Winfield said when asked about being labeled a shutdown corner by coach Mike Tice. "I'm just going to do the things I've done up to this point that brought success my way. I'm going to challenge receivers, come up and make tackles. Just play well."

Winfield gained the reputation as a shutdown left cornerback, but has only six career interceptions. And his height -- or lack thereof -- isn't ideal, as anyone who has watched him defend Randy Moss in practice can attest.

"I really am 5-9," said Winfield, defending himself when someone suggested he might actually be shorter. "I just got measured."

Only SS Tyrone Carter is shorter among Vikings players. He is listed at 5-8. RB Michael Bennett also is listed at 5-9.

But Carter and Bennett won't be asked to cover tall receivers such as Detroit's Charles Rogers one-on-one. Winfield will.

"I'm very excited about the opportunity," Winfield said. "We have a good offense. That takes a lot of pressure off of our defense. This team was one play away from making the playoffs last year. I haven't been to the playoffs since my rookie year. I want to get back to that."

Notes, quotes, anecdotes
--P Darren Bennett held a benefit golf tournament in San Diego last week. It raised $100,000 for the fight against muscular dystrophy, which his 8-year-old son, Will, has.

--Coach Mike Tice isn't making any predictions on his team's record or whether it will make the playoffs this season. But he said he is encouraged heading into training camp. "I like the passion we have," he said. "And I am pleased with the intelligence level of this team."

QUOTE TO NOTE
"He's taking up a roster spot, and we needed to add another receiver." -- Coach Mike Tice when asked if TE Steve Farmer was released because of his involvement in a fight outside of a Minneapolis bar two weeks ago.

Strategy and personnel
The Vikings continue to search for a role for once-promising linebacker Raonall Smith. Smith, a former second-round draft pick who hasn't lived up to his draft-day hype, has been moved from the strong side to the weak side.

The Vikings say the weak side is his natural position. He will back up either rookie Dontarrious Thomas or second-year pro Mike Nattiel.


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