The Lions rookies were in shorts, T-shirts and helmets — no hitting allowed — but that didn't keep them from trying to do their best in the first mini-camp of their NFL careers.
"I wanted to show that I'm competitive," said linebacker Ernie Sims, the first-round draft pick. "I feel like I want to go out there and show you all that you got in the first-round draft pick.
"I want to go out there and show my best. I might not be in the best shape, but I want to show you that I'm a ballplayer."
Safety Daniel Bullocks, the second-round pick, had the same thought in mind in his first workouts under Lions coach Rod Marinelli.
"The way I look at it, I want to win every snap I can, whether it's going against a receiver or a running back," Bullocks said. "I want to try to win every competition I can for myself and to be a leader out there on the field."
It has been suggested that third-round pick — running back Brian Calhoun from Wisconsin — might have to develop his receiving skills to play in the slot in order to win a roster spot.
Calhoun transferred from Colorado to Wisconsin as a college player in part to avoid the full-time receiver role, but he said he has no problem if the Lions want him to incorporate receiving skills into the job.
"That's fine," he said. "I think here it would be more about creating matchups, whereas at Colorado they wanted to make it a permanent move. But I have no problem moving around — flanked out, offset or whatever it might be."
A grievance was filed by some of the players after Marinelli's first mini-camp, apparently complaining about the scheduling of off-season workouts. The exact nature of their complaints was not immediately known and the Lions declined comment.
The result was that the Lions lost two days of off-season workouts. During those two days (May 8-9) players were not be allowed to work out at the Allen Park practice facility, but they will be paid for the days.
"We did perform the MRI to make sure the brain stem was intact and it was fine," said Ernie Sims, Jr., father of the Lions' first-round draft pick. "The NFL — all the teams — did it and Ernie's fine.
"It's just that when you've got 230 pounds and run a 4.4 forty and hit like he does, it's going to be difficult. As a matter of fact, Ernie gave more concussions than he took."
In fact, the concussion Sims' parents — Ernie Jr. and Alice — remember best was not one he received but one he delivered — to his younger brother Marcus, when they were high school teammates.
"You'd better ask his mother about that one," said Ernie Jr., laughing.
Alice, a former Florida State sprinter and long jumper herself, recalls the incident well.
"Marcus was a freshman and Ernie was a senior," she said. "I was at work and big Ernie called me and said, ‘Alice, they had to rush Marcus to the emergency room, but he's okay now.' "
The rest of the conversation went something like this:
Alice: "Well, Ernie, what happened?"
Ernie Jr.: "He was running the football and somebody hit him, so he got a mild concussion."
Alice: "Well, who hit him?"
Ernie Jr.: (hesitating) "Ernie."
"So when they came home from camp, I said, ‘Ernie ... son, didn't you see that was your brother running the ball?' He said, ‘Mama, I just saw somebody running with the football, I didn't know it was Marcus,' " Alice said.
"That's when I told him, ‘Son, if you hit my boy like that again, I'm going to break both of your legs,'" she said, laughing.
Safety Daniel Bullocks, the Lions second-round draft pick, is the latest player to be influenced by Sanders.
Bullocks said his only familiarity with the Lions before they drafted him was watching them play their annual Thanksgiving Day on television and from idolizing Sanders as a youngster.
"I was a running back growing up," Bullocks explained. "When I got to high school I started playing quarterback but I loved to see Barry Sanders make moves on people. I just loved his game.
"Some of the moves he made back then, I haven't seen again to this day."
"I guess a source to the building said he saw him stomp out," Marinelli said. "That was a lie.
"It was Tuesday, he went out and looked for a home with his wife. I knew where he was at ... we had other coaches who had to go out and look for homes during the afternoon sometimes. I had two or three guys go in the afternoon, another guy did it in the morning. They left the building during the work time to maybe sign for a home or whatever. That's all it was."
Marinelli denied there had been any kind of disagreement or that Martz was angry when he left the team facility.
Booth Newspapers reported in Friday editions that Martz stormed out of the headquarters. Booth cited "several sources" who confirmed their version of the story, saying also that Marinelli was neither surprised nor upset by the incident and that Martz was back at his desk the next day.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "He's a tough guy, he'll get after you, he won't let you take no plays off, he's going to make sure you get to the ball, he's going to be watching you play in and play out." — Safety Daniel Bullocks on his first impression of defensive coordinator Donnie Henderson
GREEN BAY PACKERS
First-year coach Mike McCarthy already is putting his foot down better than predecessor Mike Sherman did toward the end of his six-year tenure with regard to Brett Favre.
Whereas Sherman excused Favre from participating in off-season workouts last year, McCarthy called on the franchise quarterback to be on hand for the first mini-camp May 5-7.
McCarthy met for almost two hours with Favre in the coach's office on the eve of the mini-camp. They didn't hammer out a schedule for how involved Favre will be in the two mini-camps this month and 14 days of organized team activities in June. Favre probably will be required to take part in most of the sessions, if on a limited basis.
"I'm going to be real smart with his arm," McCarthy said. "He is 36 and looks good. He's in good shape. But we're a long way from playing a game. I'm more worried about the mental and fundamental part than the physical."
It's critical for Favre to be in attendance because McCarthy is installing a variation of the West Coast offense that's been employed since Favre's first year with the team in 1992. Favre didn't let the Packers know until April 25 that he would be coming back for next season and didn't have access to the new playbook until returning for the mini-camp.
"They've done it a certain way for a long time now. He's not learning a new language, but he's learning a new slang version," McCarthy said. "He has to learn just like all the other guys have had to.
"I think any time there's change, there's anxiety. But there's also excitement because everything is new. It's about the challenge. And we all know how he responds to challenges."
Favre was outspoken earlier in the off-season that he wanted to see a team coming off a 4-12 season make significant upgrades, particularly in the interior of the offensive line, before deciding whether to play a 16th NFL season or retire. Many of the team's additions were made to the defensive side, highlighted by the free-agent signing of Pro Bowl cornerback Charles Woodson and the selection of linebacker A.J. Hawk with the No. 5 overall pick in the draft.
Nevertheless, McCarthy is confident Favre is committed to playing for the team next season, which could be his last.
"If he weren't on board, I don't think he would have come back," McCarthy said.
McCarthy, whose expertise lies with quarterbacks, has the challenge of trying to rein in Favre after he threw a league-high and franchise-record-tying 29 interceptions last season.
Veteran Billy Cundiff and waiver pickup Dave Rayner are seeking to fill the glaring hole at kicker created by the departure of Ryan Longwell, Green Bay's all-time leading scorer, to rival Minnesota early in free agency. Special teams coordinator Mike Stock said Cundiff and Rayner were "very accurate" in off-season workouts leading up to the mini-camp.
The Packers released Rhys Lloyd on May 1. Lloyd was a street free agent signed last month.
"We will continue to chart and evaluate these guys as we try to find the right guy," Stock said.
Meanwhile, one-time Canadian Football League standout Jon Ryan is the lone challenger for incumbent punter B.J. Sander, who's coming off a shaky first season that ended prematurely because of a broken left (kicking) leg.
The Packers cut Ryan Flinn on May 1. Flinn was a bartender who replaced Sander for the final two games of last season.
General manager Ted Thompson defended his decision to not take a kicker or a punter with one of the team's 12 draft picks, though he suggested that the search will continue up to the start of next season.
"Our special teams coaches and our staff are comfortable with the fellows that we have," Thompson said. "That doesn't mean that's the way it's going to wind up. But we felt like the people that we have were as good or better than anybody that we could have maybe used a pick on or signed as a college free agent."
Thomas missed six of the last seven games last season because of a strained quadriceps. The Packers had acquired the fifth-year veteran prior to the start of the season in a trade with St. Louis.
Thomas, though, became expendable when the Packers took Ohio State's A.J. Hawk in the first round of the draft April 29. Hawk projects to be the starter on the weak side.
Green Bay also drafted Iowa linebacker Abdul Hodge in the third round, and earlier signed free agents Ben Taylor and Tracy White. Those three, along with returnees Brady Poppinga, Roy Manning and Kurt Campbell, will vie for the other starting spot to complement middle linebacker Nick Barnett and Hawk.
Hawk, taken No. 5 in the first round, is expected to command the most lucrative rookie contract in team history. The deal will be on par with, if not exceed, the five-year, $19.1 million contract, including a $2.9 million signing bonus, given to running back Cadillac Williams by Tampa Bay as the fifth pick last year.
A little more than half of the $12.4 million the Packers presently have in salary-cap space will be absorbed by the contracts for the rookies.
The deal became official May 1. It's a seven-year contract worth more than $39 million, though most of the value is tied into the first few years.
Woodson, 29, received a $4 million signing bonus and a $4.35 million roster bonus. His base salary for next season is $1.5 million. He would count $6.7 million against the salary cap.
The front-loaded structure of the deal spares the Packers from having exorbitantly high salary-cap numbers for Woodson in future years. His cap number in 2007 would be $3.5 million.
His base salaries for the remainder of the contract, which also includes annual roster and workout bonuses, are $1.25 million in 2007, $3.25 million in ‘08, $4 million in ‘09, $5 million in ‘10, $5.5 million in ‘11 and $6.5 million in ‘12.
Running backs Arliss Beach (Kentucky) and Shermar Bracey (Arkansas State), wide receivers Chris Francies (Texas-El Paso) and Calvin Russell (Tuskegee), tight ends A.J. Cooper (North Dakota State) and Zac Alcorn (Black Hills State), offensive tackle Josh Bourke (Grand Valley State), defensive ends Montez Murphy (Baylor) and Jason Hunter (Appalachian State), linebackers Tim Goodwell (Memphis) and Byron Santiago (Louisiana Tech) and safety Tra Boger (Tulane).
Tarvaris Jackson was a popular man when he arrived for the Vikings' mini-camp over the weekend at Winter Park.
The quarterback from Division I-AA Alabama State was a surprise second-round pick by the Vikings in the draft and is considered the heir apparent to veteran Brad Johnson. Though many expected the Vikings to take a quarterback early, it was believed the player would be Jay Cutler, Brodie Croyle or Kellen Clemens.
But the Vikings had secretly targeted Jackson and even traded their two third-round picks to Pittsburgh on the first day of the draft so they could get the final pick of the second round and take Jackson.
"When you see what you want at quarterback, you need to go get it," said Vikings coach Brad Childress, the former offensive coordinator for the Philadelphia Eagles. "That is exactly what I see with Tarvaris Jackson. A guy who is a piece of clay and has all the skills."
Jackson, who began his collegiate career at Arkansas but transferred after two years because of a lack of playing time, put up impressive numbers in starting all 11 games last season. He completed 195 of 320 passes for 2,940 yards with 29 touchdowns and only five interceptions.
Despite his success, Jackson admitted he did not expect to be selected so early.
"I knew (the Vikings) were interested in me, but I didn't know it was going to be in the second round," he said. "I was just happy they think of me like that and have the courage to take me."
Jackson has the talent to become a successful NFL quarterback but does need to work on his mechanics. That started over the weekend as Childress, offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell and quarterbacks coach Kevin Rodgers got their first extended look at him. Jackson also will benefit from the opportunity to learn from Johnson.
One key will be learning the fundamentals of the West Coast offense that Childress will continue installing in his second mini-camp since taking over as coach in January. At Alabama State, Jackson played in a different system.
"We ran a multiple offense," he said. "We pretty much did everything. This year we were more of a spread team, kind of similar to the stuff that the Vikings did when they had (Daunte) Culpepper."
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
With vice president of player personnel Fran Foley having been fired last week after only three months on the job, the Vikings will have to make a decision about how to split up his duties. It's possible a hire could be made or an internal candidate could be chosen to replace Foley. Director of college scouting Scott Studwell would be the most likely choice, if he wants the job.
Another possibility is that coach Brad Childress could assume more responsibility. The Vikings also need to make decisions about other scouts because their contracts are up at the end of this month.