NFC North News

The Bears aren't the only team in the division to lose a starter on the defensive side of the ball.

Detroit Lions
Detroit Lions second-year linebacker Boss Bailey will miss much of the regular season while recovering from knee surgery.

Bailey injured his right knee in an Aug. 3 practice. He underwent arthroscopic surgery Wednesday in Athens, Ga., where doctors discovered torn cartilage that had not shown up in previous tests.

"The damage was worse than anyone had realized from the tests," Lions coach Steve Mariucci said. "The doctor immediately repaired it, but Boss will be off the knee for several weeks, and then will be looking at a rehab period on top of that."

Mariucci declined to put a timetable on Bailey's return, but said the Lions hope to have him back this season.

As a rookie in 2003, Bailey won a starting job at outside linebacker and was among the team's leaders in defensive snaps played. He finished with one interception and 1.5 sacks.

Donte Curry is expected to replace Bailey in the lineup.

News & Notes One of the Lions' big concerns going into the 2004 NFL season is the development of second-year wide receiver Charles Rogers.

Rogers, the team's first-round pick (No. 3 overall) in 2003, played only five games before having his rookie season cut short by a broken collarbone during a bye week practice.

The slow recovery - in addition to a number of lesser injuries that limited his practice time in training camp in 2003 - became an unspoken cause for concern among Lions coaches and brass.

Rogers is listed at 6-feet-2 and 202 pounds but he is slightly built and some within the organization were concerned that he might be too fragile to take the pounding that a top receiver gets in the NFL.

So far this season, however, Rogers has held up well. He made it through mini-camp without additional hamstring problems and sailed through the first full week of training camp unscathed.

That doesn't mean coach Steve Mariucci didn't hold his breath momentarily the first time Rogers got entangled with a defensive back and hit the turf during a workout at the Allen Park practice facility.

"When I saw him roll on his shoulder, I couldn't help but think, `Here we go,'" Mariucci said.

Rogers quickly got to his feel and continued with the practice. No harm done.

If he can stay healthy - and if rookie wide receiver Roy Williams attracts some of the double teams that were applied to Rogers a year ago - Rogers could have the kind of productive season the Lions need.

Veteran Earl Holmes got most of the reps at MLB in the opening days of the Lions' training camp but rookie Teddy Lehman, the second-round draft pick out of Oklahoma, is now getting his share of the snaps. Holmes has the experience edge; Lehman has the speed edge. Regardless of who starts at MBL, it is likely Lehman will play in several of the defensive packages.

Tight ends Casey Fitzsimmons and John Owens are both making a case for the backup job behind Stephen Alexander. FitzSimmons got bigger over the offseason and catches the ball well. Owens is primarily a blocker but has improved his receiving ability also. With LCB Fernando Bryant expected to miss at least a week or two of practice with a strained hamstring, Andre Goodman is getting a chance to work with the starting defense. Chris Cash and Rod Babers, both coming off injuries, are also involved in the competition for the nickel and dime positions.

Rookie WR Roy Williams was two days late getting his contract signed but caught up quickly and was impressive in the first week of training camp. He catches the ball well and - at 220 pounds - is sturdy and strong enough to get off the line of scrimmage.

WR Roy Williams is lining up as the split end with the starting offense, catching the ball well and showing a thorough understanding of the offense. ... RB Kevin Jones suffered a minor setback with a tight hamstring that cost him three days of practice. It is not believed serious and he is expected to return to the starting RB job when he's 100 percent. ... LB Teddy Lehman is getting reps at MLB with veteran Earl Holmes and making steady progress. He is getting plenty of looks in nickel and dime packages also. ... CB Keith Smith has stayed healthy and is making a solid showing for himself although with several veterans ahead of him, it is not likely he will get a lot of playing time in the defensive secondary. ... LB Alex Lewis is battling for the weak side linebacker job with second-year veteran James Davis. So far Davis is still running No. 1. ... OT Kelly Butler is working primarily at ORT. He doesn't have extremely quick feet but he hasn't been a washout by any means.

The Lions survived the first full week of camp with only one serious injury - a strained hamstring by starting LCB Fernando Bryant, who is expected to miss at least a week or two of practice and probably part of the preseason. ... Others who missed practice time with less serious injuries include RG Damien Woody (knee) and rookie RB Kevin Jones (hamstring).

Green Bay Packers
Advertisement Defensive tackle Cletidus Hunt didn't appreciate being upbraided in front of his teammates by coach Mike Sherman recently but agreed with the assessment of the coach that there were no hard feelings.

"I mean, I got pretty hostile about the situation," Hunt said. "But it was something I couldn't avoid. I just look at it as another day. We've got everything worked out. The air is pretty clear now."

The coach undoubtedly was upset by the less than tip-top condition in which Hunt reported for training camp Saturday. Sherman then verbally attacked Hunt because of what Hunt deemed a "misunderstanding" regarding his uniform of the day.

Hunt arrived at the afternoon workout in helmet and shorts but apparently was supposed to be in full pads. Hunt knew that he was scheduled to work with strength coach Barry Rubin on conditioning Monday afternoon and apparently assumed he didn't need to be in full uniform.

Sherman had intended otherwise, and an employee was dispatched to fetch Hunt's gear.

Later, for some unexplained reason, Sherman became enraged at Hunt and approached him near where the defensive line was going through a drill with position coach Jethro Franklin. At that point, Sherman shouted at Hunt and the two spoke to each other before Sherman ended the encounter by walking off.

"It wasn't as nasty as it seemed," Hunt said. "Just a lot of head bobbin' and hand movin' but the conversation wasn't that bad. Standing from a distance, it probably seemed like the conversation was pretty bad.

"Actually, he didn't even curse or use profane language at all. He was just saying he was disappointed in me. Why was this or why was that. Just a misunderstanding."

Hunt easily could guess the main reason for Sherman's disappointment. Despite constant reminders from Sherman, defensive coordinator Bob Slowik and Franklin, Hunt didn't hold up his end of the bargain and get in peak shape.

It was Hunt's estimate that he currently was at 80 percent of optimal conditioning. Hunt said he weighed 311 pounds after being told to report between 307 and 312.

"It was just a few things I slipped on," Hunt said. "I'm a big guy, man. It's hard to keep the focus on being in top shape. I know what I've got to do now just putting in the extra time. It won't be long to wait."

Hunt will continue doing cardiovascular work under Rubin's direction on a daily basis.

"The hardest thing about being a football player, whether it's a defensive or offensive lineman, is coming in the trenches being in shape," Hunt said. "It's hard to get in football shape if you're not working out with big guys year-round.

"Everybody can lift weights and run. But when you have force pushing against you and you're pushing against it, it tends to take that extra exertion out of you. It's like pushing a baby stroller and then turn around and you have to push a car that ran out of gas."

Hunt insisted that he reported in better shape a year ago, or six months after he signed a six-year, $25.35 million contract to remain in Green Bay. But Slowik said the coaches weren't thrilled by his conditioning last summer, either.

According to Slowik, that was the reason why Hunt started slowly in '03. He had only one of his five sacks and just 1 1/2 of his six tackles for loss in the first nine games.

Without coming out and saying it, Slowik suggested there was little urgency for Hunt to perform like gangbusters in exhibition games.

"Maybe this is a story for you guys," Slowik said. "For us, our whole focus with him is how do we get him ready to win for us against Carolina (Sept. 13)?"

Mark Roman vs. Marques Anderson for starting SS - They alternate with the No. 1 defense by day. Roman has the lead. He moves a lot better than Anderson. He covers better. And he tackles better. Anderson is a stiff, straight-line athlete who misses too often. Anderson's only advantage is as a heavy hitter at the line.

It's too close to call for now at No. 2 QB between Tim Couch and Doug Pederson. Couch hasn't set the world on fire and Pederson, in limited reps, has been his steady self ... William Henderson and Nick Luchey are competing for the No. 1 FB job but there's no reason to think that Henderson won't retain the job he has held since '96.

C Scott Wells - He was the last of the Packers' six draft choices but after the first week it could be argued that he has been the most impressive. Wells was taken with the fifth to last pick in the seventh round. So far, he has been rock-solid in pass protection, run blocked well and assignment-sure. Mike Flanagan is entrenched as the team's starter but Wells is a cinch to make the club. OL coach Larry Beightol already is willing to say that Wells will be a starter one day.

CB Ahmad Carroll gave up a 71-yard touchdown pass to WR Shockmain Davis in the intrasquad scrimmage. His performance has been hit and miss. ... CB Joey Thomas has spent more time on the sidelines injured than playing. ... DT Donnell Washington plays high too much. ... P B.J. Sander has practiced OK but bombed in the scrimmage ... DE Corey Williams is No. 2 at RE behind Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila. ... C Scott Wells has been a major revelation.

TE Bubba Franks (chest) has missed about four days but will be back soon. ... G Mike Wahle suffered a bad bone bruise in his knee July 2 and won't be ready for another week or two. ... C Mike Flanagan (patellar tendinitis) hasn't practiced yet and won't for another week or two. ... T Brennan Curtin (boil) had it lanced before camp started. His return is undetermined. ... G Mitch White (staph infection) should be back soon. ... QB Craig Nall (hamstring) has been out since the second day ... DE Chukie Nwokorie (hamstring) went out in the third day. ... NT Grady Jackson (knee) is overweight and coming off a knee scope in February. ... DE Ja'Dae McGuire (abdominal strain) is day to day. ...DT Donnell Washington (foot) sat out the scrimmage but should be fine. ... S James Whitley (head) has been out for about five days ... CB Joey Thomas (knee) has been out about five days but should be back soon. ... CB Chris Johnson (stress fracture) hasn't practiced. His return, and future, are uncertain.

Minnesota Vikings
Brock Lesnar wanted to put his World Wrestling Entertainment career behind him. So what did the former WWE champion do on reporting day for Vikings training camp?

He showed up with WWE diva Sable on his arm. The two are a quite an item.

Lesnar, a defensive tackle, was pretty much lost at the start of camp. His first assignment was to huddle with defensive assistant Jim Panagos and learn the proper stance, the most basic fundamental in football.

Players competed one-on-one and in team drills while Lesnar watched for most of the first two days. He finally got some one-on-one work in a passing drill on Sunday afternoon.

"The offensive linemen took it to him today," defensive line coach Brian Baker said. "There wasn't much positive out there, other than the fact Brock has a champion's heart."

Because of the heat and humidity, the Vikings decided to use Lesnar in team drills on Aug. 2, two days earlier than they had planned. Lesnar got his first tackle since 1995, his senior year at Webster High School in South Dakota.

"He made his first tackle; so he got his first kiss," coach Mike Tice said. "He grew up some. We were pleased. He's been working hard."

Lesnar spoke about his first 2 1/2 days of camp and admitted that he isn't a young 27, thanks to the wear and tear of being an NCAA heavyweight champion at the University of Minnesota and sustaining 280 nights a year of WWE slams.

"I felt like I was 60 years old when I woke up this morning," Lesnar said.

Other than a Sable sideline spotting, Lesnar was pretty quiet until Kansas City arrived Aug. 6 for two days of intrasquad practices.

Lesnar incited the first of many brawls between the teams when he ignored a no-contact rule for the quarterbacks and drilled Chiefs quarterback Brock Huard, knocking him out of the drill.

"That's just me, and I don't care what the Chiefs think about it," Lesnar said. "I'm going 110 percent. I'm not going to dial it down. That's the game. We've got pads on. If that's the tempo they want to play, maybe my tempo is a little different."

About 30 minutes after sacking Huard, Lesnar tackled running back Jonathan Smith. Chiefs guard Jonathan Ingram came out of a pack and ran Lesnar over. Lesnar jumped onto Ingram's back and the two ripped each other's helmets off as the sidelines emptied into the skirmish.

Tice loves tough players and doesn't mind fighting. But even he said Lesnar's actions and quotes in the next day's papers were a little over the top.

News & Notes
-- DE Kenny Mixon, who still faces a possible two-week league suspension for violating the substance-abuse policy, said training camp "brings a sense of normalcy back to my life." Mixon was arrested for drunken-driving last Nov. 18. His subsequent conviction was his second since joining the Vikings in 2002. Mixon said he underwent alcohol rehabilitation and has been sober since the night of his arrest. "I have a problem with alcohol; I can't use alcohol," Mixon said. "Once you learn you have a problem, you have to understand it and accept it and deal with it."

-- QB Daunte Culpepper is an upbeat kind of guy. Even more so this year. Asked if the Vikings have a sense of urgency to win the Super Bowl this season, Culpepper said, "We definitely feel it's time. It's time. We feel it's time."

-- Tice said some of the hitting during the practices with the Chiefs was "unnecessary," but added, "I don't want to make a big deal about things that went on because it is football. This isn't golf."

Kelly Campbell vs. Keenan Howry for the No. 4 receiver position. The Vikings don't have many personnel battles going on in camp. In fact, the only competition for a starting position is at weak-side linebacker. But even that hasn't heated up because the early front-runner, Mike Nattiel, missed most of the first week of practice because of a sprained right ankle. Rookie Dontarrious Thomas has handled most of the reps with the first team, with Raonall Smith backing him up. Of more interest currently is the sliding stock of super-fast receiver Campbell. The Vikings belief he has copped too much of a big-time attitude in his third season. Howry, meanwhile, has worked as hard as any player on the team. Howry isn't nearly as fast as Campbell, but the Vikings are using him to motivate Campbell. Campbell already has lost out on the No. 3 receiver spot to Nate Burleson. There are rumblings that Campbell could be surprise cut if he doesn't straighten up. The Vikings signed two free-agent receivers late last week.

The No. 3-4 tight end spots are up for grabs amongst a cast of young players. Ben Steele is one of the better pass-catches in the group. Richard Angulo and Sean Berton are two of the better blockers. And rookie draft pick Jeff Dugan is in the mix, too.

The No. 2 receiver position could get interesting if Marcus Robinson's hamstring injury lingers. Robinson has a history of always being dinged up. If he's out long, second-year pro Nate Burleson could turn up the heat.

Technically, first-round draft pick Kenechi Udeze held out for about 2 1/2 hours. But the defensive end from USC hustled to Mankato in time for the first team meeting. He signed what is believed to be worth more than $8 million over five years, with a $5.1-million signing bonus. Udeze was moved into the starting lineup at right end on the fourth day of camp; Second-round draft pick Dontarrious Thomas, a strong candidate to start at weak-side linebacker, staged a two-day holdout, missing two practices before signing a four-year contract that included a $1.4-million signing bonus. Thomas was the last of the team's draft picks to sign. Thomas stepped into the starting lineup immediately because Mike Nattiel missed most of the first week of camp with an ankle sprain; Fourth-round pick Mewelde Moore has shown exceptional skills as a receiver out of the backfield. The Vikings already have a third-down back in Moe Williams, but the younger Moore is deserving of playing time.

--C Matt Birk has arthroscopic surgery early in the week to repair a sports hernia. He is expected to be sidelined three to five weeks.

--WR Kenny Clark will have season-ending surgery. The Vikings placed him on the waived/injured list and don't expect him to play again.

--LB Grant Wiley tore his right rotator cuff and was placed on waived/injured. The Vikings might re-sign him and put him on injured reserved. If Wiley had been put directly on injured reserve, the Vikings would have lost his roster spot.

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