NFC North News

One player recently cut by the Bears landed back in the division and it appears another could travel down the same path.

The June cuts have begun and, although the Lions will be paying close attention, early indications are that their interest will be limited to adding at least one body to what is already a reasonably deep set of cornerbacks.

Team president Matt Millen met with former New England cornerback Ty Law last month and brought in former Chicago cornerback R.W. McQuarters for a visit to the Lions' Allen Park headquarters last week.

"I can't imagine we would have room for both of them," coach Steve Mariucci said. "First of all, we like our corner situation right now. I think we're better than we were a year ago when we're all out there healthy.

"We're pretty deep there in some ways but you're always looking to add a player to your team if you can."

Two-time Pro Bowler Dre' Bly and last year's free agent acquisition Fernando Bryant are seen as the likely starters at cornerback, although Bryant's position might be in danger if the Lions sign either Law or McQuarters.

They Lions like two young corners they have landed in the last two drafts -- Keith Smith in 2004 and Stanley Wilson in this year's draft. They are expected to compete with veterans Chris Cash and Andre Goodman for the nickel and dime roles.

Law, 31, is a four-time Pro Bowl player and would be a valuable addition to the defensive secondary if the Lions can afford him, which appears to be the case.

Law is recovering from a broken foot and subsequent surgery, however, and the Lions are waiting and watching his rehab work to make sure he's 100 percent before they begin negotiations.

McQuarters has the ability to be a nickel back and a Pro Bowl quality punt returner. The Bears cut him because of depth at the position coupled with his $3.05 million base salary.

Fred Graves has found a way to get his receivers' attention in his first season as the Lions' wide receivers coach.

Graves is using a system he says he developed during his 19 years as an assistant coach at Utah. He is lobbing bricks instead of footballs for Charles Rogers, Roy Williams and Mike Williams to catch.

"If I balled up a piece of paper or if I take a tennis ball or even a football, and I toss it to you, in your mind you say, 'Oh, I dropped it.'

"But if I toss you a brick, I don't have to say anything because in your mind this thing is going to hurt. So you always get hands and eyes coordinated together and, basically, that's the drill."

Roy Williams said the brick drill is great for helping players develop concentration.

"You're going to catch the brick," he said. "You're not going to let the brick hit you in the stomach or drop it on your toe, you're going to catch it."

-- After two sometimes frustrating seasons as a backup, Terrence Holt is getting a chance to win the Lions' free safety job.

Although his speed was questioned coming out of North Carolina State, Holt seems to have a way of getting to the football and making plays. He demonstrated as much with an interception early in the Lions' current two-week minicamp.

Coach Steve Mariucci isn't promising Holt the job but he has liked what he has seen so far.

"He didn't get to play a lot last year but now he's lining up there as the one safety with Kenoy (Kennedy)," Mariucci said. "And he's doing a good job. He's a vocal guy, he's a headsy guy and he's getting better with practice. All those sort of things add up, they're good for him."

Holt had three interceptions as a rookie when the Lions were hit by a batch of injuries in their defensive secondary. He got significant playing time at cornerback and started the final two games at free safety in 2003.

He got very little playing time last year, however, lining up behind Brock Marion at free safety. The Lions released Marion this spring, however, and Holt is the leading candidate for the job unless the Lions go after a free agent before the start of training camp.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "He called him Coach Carter. He really works us out pretty hard. He brought a new attitude to this football team, especially the wide receivers. And we want to work for him." -- Wide receiver Roy Williams on new receivers coach, Fred Graves.

Quarterback Brett Favre showed up at mini-camp last week in street clothes for about the last 15 minutes of practice. He was in town for his celebrity softball game.

Coach Mike Sherman excused Favre from this mini-camp just as he did the post-draft mini-camp.

"I just want him busting the door down when he get here at the end of July," Sherman said. "That's the most important thing for me is that he comes here and he's excited. This is his 15th season. He's been working out with this personal trainer and we get reports that he's having a heck of an off-season.

"He's in great shape, so everything's going great physically. He feels great. He's on a special diet. When I talk to him he has an enthusiasm in his voice of a guy that's 22 years old instead of 35 years old. I think it's working, and I'm excited about the fact that he's excited about the season and can't wait for it to start."

Favre was introduced to his heir apparent, Aaron Rodgers, on the field. He also joked with teammates curious about intensive "core" workouts with a personal trainer have done to his physique.

"He's definitely lean," running back Ahman Green said. "He looks good. I can't wait to see him move around in the pocket and scramble as he does when he's trying to make time for himself to get the ball to the receivers."

Wide receiver Javon Walker and tight end Bubba Franks joined defensive tackle Cletidus Hunt as no-shows at mini-camp.

Walker is holding out in hopes that the club will renegotiate the final two years on his contract. Franks, a transition free agent, has yet to sign his tender.

Running back Najeh Davenport recently fired agent Michael Harrison and hooked up with Drew Rosenhaus, who took on representation of Walker early in the year. Davenport has one year left on his deal.

"Any time you have somebody on your side that has a lot of respect, it can't hurt," Davenport said. "(Rosenhaus) explained to me that everybody has a different situation. For Javon to be doing what he's doing now, holding out to get a new contract, that's Javon's situation. It's a good time to do that because he has a lot of leverage. I ain't nothing but a second-string tailback."

"I just turned 50. You sit in al those funeral parlors, Masses and services, you do a lot of thinking. I've had all these little wake-up calls, saying, hey, get things straight, get things straight. You realize, the bottom line, what really matters, is the relationships you have with people. That really matters, and I want to improve those." -- Coach Mike Sherman.

Don't be surprised if one of Zygi Wilf's first moves as new Vikings owner is to extend the contract of Vice President of Football Operations Rob Brzezinski.

Brzezinski, one of the more respected young executives in the league, is in the final year of his contract. He has had offers to leave the Vikings and would be an attractive free agent if not signed to a long-term deal.

Extending Brzezinski's contract could set up an interesting dynamic within the organization if Wilf doesn't also extend the contract of head coach Mike Tice. Tice, who is the lowest-paid head coach in the league at $1 million, and his assistants are in the final year of their contracts.

It's uncertain whether Wilf will commit to Tice long-term immediately or wait for him to prove himself in 2005. Tice led the Vikings to the playoffs and a wild-card victory at Green Bay in 2004, but he also let the past two division titles slip away, and was involved in an embarrassing Super Bowl ticket-scalping scandal this off-season.

Tice said he isn't concerned about his contract status. He said he welcomes Wilf's evaluation of the team's management-by-consensus approach.

"I don't want to speculate on contract extensions or any of that stuff," Tice said. "If anything, there is going to be an initial feeling-out process. This is a very successful man that certainly knows how to run businesses. He's going to come in and evaluate.

"What's his timeline? I don't know. A week? A year? That's up to Mr. Wilf, not Mike Tice."

Wilf's $600 million purchase from Red McCombs is expected to close in the middle of June.

Steve Loney is still trying to adjust to his new role as offensive coordinator without letting it affect his job as offensive line coach. "It is different because now I'm watching all 11 positions, but still have to handle those five," Loney said. "During practice I try to create the tempo and the discipline of the offense, and coach the offensive line during practice and then in meetings. That's where I can make my mark on this offense."

-- The Vikings, especially coach Mike Tice, aren't known for being kicker-friendly. Last summer, they tried to improve in that area when they brought in renowned kicking specialist Doug Blevins for training camp. It backfired when kicker Aaron Elling lost his confidence and ultimately his roster spot following a horrendous preseason game against the 49ers.

"When I hit a wall and couldn't get out of it, Doug was telling me stuff, (special teams coach) Rusty Tillman was telling me stuff, Coach Tice was telling me stuff," Elling said. "Everyone had their two cents. It was just chaotic."

Elling returned to the team as a kickoff specialist until breaking his leg midway through the season. He is competing with Paul Edinger for the kicking job this season.

-- Safety Corey Chavous and nickel back Brian Williams missed their second consecutive developmental camp this week. Chavous is unhappy with his contract, which pays him $1.9 million in base salary in its final season. Williams, who signed a one-year, $1.43 million tender as a restricted free agent, remains upset that the team signed Fred Smoot to take his starting position at right cornerback. WR Kelly Campbell and RB Moe Williams were excused from the "voluntary" workouts for personal reasons. The Vikings will bring in former Bears cornerback R.W. McQuarters for a workout. The move probably is a scare tactic aimed at Brian Williams.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "As a matter of fact, I was coaching with the Kansas City Chiefs in the Vikings' last game at (Metropolitan Stadium in 1981). That day, with the wind chill, was like five below (zero), clothes were frozen, and the field was frozen. Those conditions are tough to play in. I tell you what; I wouldn't mind a stadium like that with a retractable roof." --Defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell, when asked about new owner Zygi Wilf's desire to build an open-air stadium for the Vikings.

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