NFC North Notes

The Lions are dealing with limited bodies at wide receiver. The Packers have lost another player for the season, while the Vikings need to bring in outside help.

If there was one commodity the Lions didn't expect to run out of -- especially after just four games of the season -- it was wide receivers.

That's where they find themselves, however, with Charles Rogers sitting out a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's substance abuse program, Roy Williams nursing a quad injury, backup receiver Eddie Drummond limping on a shin bruise and hyper-extended left knee, rookie Mike Williams playing with hamstring and back pain, and Scottie Vines limited by a sprained ankle.

That leaves them with one reasonably healthy receiver -- veteran Kevin Johnson -- as they begin preparations for the game next Sunday against the Carolina Panthers.

"We have to address possibly the receiver situation," coach Steve Mariucci said. "We probably will add a practice squad player or two for legs, for practices' sake. And then we have to determine if we will add another receiver to be active on the 53 (man roster). That will be determined as we go."

Rogers' suspension was announced last week by the NFL, and he has three games remaining to serve. The other injuries -- to Roy Williams, Mike Williams, Drummond and Vines -- occurred during the 35-17 victory over Baltimore on Sunday.

Through the first four games, Johnson has been the most productive of the Lions receivers with 13 catches for 110 yards, followed by Roy Williams with 12 catches for 187 yards and a touchdown.

Mike Williams has been slowly but surely working his way into a greater share of the work load, although he has just five receptions for 32 yards and one touchdown in his first four NFL games.

Although Mariucci mentioned no candidates by name for a possible promotion to the 53-man roster, former Lion David Kircus, who was cut before the start of the regular season, is available as a free agent and Glenn Martinez is currently on the practice squad.


  • All things considered, the Lions can consider themselves fortunate.

    After all of the ups and downs of the first four games of the season, they are still atop the NFC North with a modest 2-2 record.

    As cornerback Dre' Bly put it: "This is football. You never know what is going to happen. I'm just blessed to be in the North division right now. I'm glad."

    The character and personality of the team are still being formulated.

    Their offense has been in a season-long funk. Quarterback Joey Harrington's production has been subpar and their running game has been well below expectations.

    Their defense has taken it on the chin trying to stop running back Thomas Jones of Chicago and Baltimore's dynamic duo -- Jamal Lewis and Chester Taylor.

    Yet the Lions have managed to win as many games as they have lost and -- considering the problems facing Green Bay, Minnesota and Chicago -- a .500 winning percentage might be good enough to win the North.

    "Defensively, we know if we go out there, make plays and force turnovers, we have a great chance of winning because we are doing our job," Bly said. "I can only control what we do defensively and we did our job (in the 35-17 win over Baltimore).

  • One of the reasons the Lions signed defensive back R.W. McQuarters last summer was for the versatility he brought to the defensive secondary, but even they might have underestimated his value.

    McQuarters, a cornerback by trade, is being used primarily as the nickel back in their defensive packages, but he is also capable of playing free safety. But they knew all of that before they signed him.

    Since the start of the season a month ago, McQuarters has also filled in for Pro Bowl punt and kick returner Eddie Drummond and, most recently, volunteered to play wide receiver when the Lions were running dangerously low at that position during their 35-17 win over Baltimore on Sunday.

    "R.W. McQuarters volunteered his services at wide receiver (Sunday) in the fourth quarter," coach Steve Mariucci said. "And - you know what? – he grabbed me in the hallway again today. He's capable of it.

    "I remember when we were preparing for the draft. He played a game at Oklahoma State where he had 81 snaps -- at receiver, he played the whole game at corner, and returned punts and kickoffs. All in the same game."

    McQuarters was also a basketball player during his first two seasons at Oklahoma State, another indication of his athletic ability.

    "The kid's got great athletic confidence and skills. He was serious about saying, 'Hey, I can play receiver if you'll let me.' If we don't add another receiver, I may very well start teaching him what our formations are, and a couple routes," Mariucci said.


  • LS Don Muhlbach, who missed the Lions game Sunday against Baltimore with a sprained MCL, is still in a brace, an indication they might have to go with backup LS Joe Maese in their game next week against Carolina.

  • DE James Hall, who played only a handful of plays Oct. 2 at Tampa and missed the entire game against Baltimore on Sunday, is expected to see a specialist this week regarding the strained groin muscle he suffered in the Sept. 18 game at Chicago.

    The deeply wounded Packers will gladly take a bye this week.

    Never mind they finally gained their first victory of 2005 with a scintillating performance for the recent ages. Green Bay took out four straight weeks of frustrating defeats on the Saints, thrashing them 52-3 Sunday at Lambeau Field.

    Yet, despite producing their highest point total in 22 years and most-lopsided win in 39 years, the Packers still haven't been able to shake the injury bug that's undermined the season thus far.

    Najeh Davenport, making only his second career start in place of Pro Bowl halfback Ahman Green, suffered a season-ending broken ankle. The injury occurred in the closing minutes of the first half, after Davenport had rushed for 54 yards and two touchdowns on just 12 carries.

    "It's a huge blow," said Tony Fisher, who was the featured back in the second half. "Najeh's a big part of our running game, a big part of our team, and to lose him was really tough. But, it gives somebody an opportunity to step up and just be ready to play."

    Such is the unfortunate running theme for the Packers, who will be off until visiting NFC North rival Minnesota on Oct. 23.

    Amazingly, the Packers put on a clinic against the Saints despite missing five starters and having a couple of others playing at less than 100 percent.

    The Packers have had to make do without Pro Bowl receiver Javon Walker after he sustained a season-ending torn ACL in the opener.

    Rookie receiver Terrence Murphy also had his season end prematurely because of a neck injury suffered in the Week 4 loss at Carolina.

    Pro Bowl tight end Bubba Franks has essentially been out of commission the last three games with a bruised left knee, though he did make a cameo appearance in Sunday's contest.

    Besides Green, Pro Bowl center Mike Flanagan was sidelined after undergoing surgery last week to repair a hernia. Both players are aiming to return for the next game. Getting Green back is all the more critical with Davenport done for the year because Fisher and recently signed ReShard Lee are the only other options presently on the roster.

    Left tackle Chad Clifton (ankle) and right tackle Mark Tauscher (arch) also should benefit from the time off this week.

    "The NFL was good to us to plan the bye at this point to get the guys back," coach Mike Sherman said.

    The suddenly spry defense, though, will have to get by without strong-side linebacker Na'il Diggs for at least another month as he recovers from his second torn medial collateral ligament this season.

    Nevertheless, the Packers' wounded psyche fostered by their first 0-4 start since 1988 received a much-needed injection of pain killer right before the bye.

    "When you have enough frustration, it explodes. And, we obviously exploded (Sunday)," kicker Ryan Longwell said.


  • Despite making a cameo appearance in the second quarter Sunday, there's no telling whether TE Bubba Franks will be ready to assume a full-time role for the Oct. 23 game.

    After saying Franks had a bruised left knee that kept him out of the losses to Tampa Bay on Sept. 25 and Carolina on Oct. 3, coach Mike Sherman revealed Monday that the Pro Bowl starter also has a sprained MCL.

    The normal recovery time for MCL injuries is four to six weeks.

    David Martin and Donald Lee have adequately filled the void with Franks out, each catching a touchdown pass in each of the last two games.

  • C Mike Flanagan also is questionable to play in the next game. His availability will depend on how quickly he recovers from surgery a week ago for a sports hernia, which kept him out of the game Sunday.

    "I can't do anything for seven days after the surgery, and seven days won't be until (next) Wednesday," Flanagan said. "I just have to see what kind of rehab there is and how it responds.

    "There's a fine line -- (the doctors) said you can play in as much pain as you want, but once you get that acute pain, that's when it starts tearing again, so that's when you have to back off."

    Emerging second-year pro Scott Wells started in Flanagan's place Sunday. Sherman emphasized that Flanagan will regain the starting spot once he's deemed healthy to play.

    In an attempt to find out what has been ailing his 1-3 team, coach Mike Tice brought in retired NFL assistants Jerry Rhome and Foge Fazio during the Vikings' bye week to evaluate the offense and defense, respectively.

    But if things can be worked out with Rhome's pension, it appears his stint might be far more than temporary.

    Rhome, who spent 32 years in the NFL as a player and assistant before retiring, could end up serving in a role that would essentially make him the Vikings' offensive coordinator and enable current coordinator Steve Loney to return his focus to the offensive line.

    "If I had a vision of what I would like to work out, it would be Jerry in the booth talking to me on the phones calling the plays and Steve working with the line," Tice said.

    Loney actually recommended to Tice that contacting Rhome might be a good idea on Oct. 2 as the Vikings flew home after a 30-10 loss to Atlanta.

    At that point, Loney was unaware that Rhome and Tice had a relationship that dated to Tice's rookie NFL season in 1981. Rhome was one of the Seattle Seahawks coaches who suggested Tice be moved from quarterback to tight end.

    Tice doesn't seem to have any concerns about Rhome having to pick up the Vikings offense in quick order.

    "He knows the lingo," he said. "This is the same terminology that was here when he was (a Vikings assistant) in 1994. Same terminology when he was with the Washington Redskins, which is what the terminology is, for the most part. ... Like I said, at one point, he was known as one of the gurus at quarterback in the league. He brings a wealth of knowledge. And confidence. And that's what we need. I think he'd be a great addition."


  • WR Nate Burleson, who has missed the past two games because of a sprained posterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, also is bothered by an injury to his right shoulder, according to coach Mike Tice. "The shoulder is holding him back now, not the knee," Tice said. It's unclear if Burleson will be able to play Sunday at Chicago; he did not practice Monday. Burleson claims the shoulder won't be a problem.

  • QB Daunte Culpepper sat out much of Monday's practice to rest his sore knee. Culpepper said he plans to practice Wednesday. "It's getting better," he said.

  • FS Darren Sharper took part in much of Monday's practice and is expected to play Sunday at Chicago after missing two games because of a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee.

  • DE Spencer Johnson sat out practice Monday and could miss Sunday's game in Chicago because of a medial collateral sprain in his right knee. With starting left end Kenechi Udeze (knee) out for the season, Johnson might have gotten his second consecutive start if he was healthy.

  • DE Lance Johnstone returned to practice Monday and is expected to be able to play against the Bears. Johnstone, who suffered a partially torn right pectoral muscle against New Orleans in Week 3 and missed the Vikings' loss at Atlanta the following Sunday, could end up seeing extensive time with Kenechi Udeze out for the season and Spencer Johnson also hurting.

  • As expected, OL Adam Goldberg was working with the first team at right guard in Monday's practice. He's expected to replace rookie Marcus Johnson as the starter, although both should see playing time Sunday.

  • CB Brian Williams remains out of practice because of a sprained left knee he suffered in Week 3. Williams' chances of playing Sunday appear remote at best.

  • RB Moe Williams sat out most of Monday's practice and will test his sore knee on Wednesday or Thursday.

  • Bear Report Top Stories