Black & Blue Review

The Lions are employing the tactic of using a visual image in their locker room, Brett Favre is back to needing to study a playbook that could confuse him and the Vikings are working overtime to implement two new schemes.

The only thing missing in the Lions' locker room now is a sledgehammer.

The rock — and the attendant message — is there as a constant reminder from new coach Rod Marinelli and his staff of what they expect of the Lions players.

If the Lions are going to improve on last year's 5-11 record and their five-year record of 21-59, they're going to have to keep pounding the rock.

The rock — roughly two feet across and a foot thick — appeared unannounced recently at the team's headquarters in Allen Park. It sits on a blue equipment trunk. On one side of the rock is a blue plaque with the team logo and a reminder: "NOT GOOD ENOUGH."

The Lions players make an occasional wisecrack bout the rock. "That is my mold for my helmet," joked fullback Cory Schlesinger recently after a workout.

But they understand Marinelli's point and they are taking it to heart.

"I think that's kind of what the organization was lacking the last few years," Schlesinger told the Detroit Free Press. "That's a very good visual image of what we need to do as an organization.

"We need to sit there and pound, pound and pound. It's going to take awhile to break that baby but we're going to break that rock, and when we do that, that means we're winning."

The rock is not new to Marinelli. He used a similar ploy — with good results — to get the attention of his defensive linemen when he was a position coach with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

"It's just that believe that you've got to keep pounding, that if you believe it, it's going to crack," Marinelli has explained in the past. "On the outside, it looks all the same but, inside, it may be crumbling. So you never know what snap's going to break it, what swing's going to break that rock."


  • Mike Williams, who was criticized during his rookie season for being late for meetings and lackadaisical in his approach to workouts, apparently is still less than diligent in his work habits.

    The Lions' second-year wide receiver was dismissed from the final two days of the team's mandatory mini-camp, and sources say it was for the same reasons that got him into disfavor with the previous coaching staff.

    Coach Rod Marinelli declined to get into specifics, saying only that Williams had been excused because of a team issue, but reports surfaced that Williams was late for at least one hamstring treatment and missed a meeting before being sent home.

    Williams was back at work in the organized team activities the following week. "He's here working and that was the whole thing," Marinelli said. "He's here and he had a good start this week, very good."

    Williams would say only that he had been working out during the off-season and would not let the incident overshadow all of the work he had done.

    The Lions took Williams in the first round of the 2005 NFL Draft. He caught 29 passes for 350 yards and a touchdown but was criticized for being overweight, out of shape and did not practice or prepare well.

    He has been bothered by a hamstring injury during the off-season workouts, but said he had committed himself to losing weight and getting in better condition.

  • Two Hall of Famers and one Hall of Fame could-have-been who wore the same number during their Lions career got a chance to spend some time together at the Lions' annual charity golf outing.

    The players — running backs Barry Sanders and Billy Sims, and defensive back Lem Barney — all wore the number 20, which was retired by the team in 2004.

    Sanders and Barney are both members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio; many feel that Sims would have been a Hall of Famer also if he had not blown out a knee in a career-ending injury midway in his fifth season with the Lions.

    The three players were listed as "The Roaring 20s" and honorary co-chairmen of the 16th annual Detroit Lions Invitational golf tournament.

    "The three of us always have a good time when we're together," Sanders told The Detroit News. "It's a natural fit."

    Sims was the only one of the three who wore 20 before joining the Lions. He wore it at Hooks (Texas) High School and also at Oklahoma, where he won a Heisman Trophy. Barney wore No. 26 at Jackson State but was assigned 20 when he was drafted by the Lions in 1967 and Sanders, who wore No. 21 at Oklahoma State, inherited the number 20 after being drafted in the first round in 1989.

  • The Lions coaches aren't saying which of their players has done the best job in the off-season conditioning program, but the consensus among the players is that it must be one of the defensive backs.

    Kick and punt returner Eddie Drummond said his vote goes to second-year cornerback Stanley Wilson.

    Running back Kevin Jones said he believes safety Terrence Holt is in the best shape of any of the Lions players.

    And cornerback Fernando Bryant has a perfect explanation of why he and his teammates in the secondary are the best-conditioned players on the roster.

    "We do more running than anybody," Bryant said. "The wide receivers kind of rotate a little bit but if you're a DB, you're in there for your reps."

    And who would be the least-conditioned player on the team?

    "I don't want to mention any names," said one player, laughing, "but it's got to be one of the big boys."

    Interpret that as one or several of the offensive linemen.

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "The best feedback is non-verbal. The best feedback is going out and doing it; that's the feedback I look for." — Lions coach Rod Marinelli on the feedback he's getting from Lions players to his tough off-season workout program.

    Brett Favre has ditched the personal trainer. The veteran quarterback could use a translator, however.

    Favre has put aside his indifference toward the monotony of off-season practices by committing to the Packers' three weeks of voluntary organized team activities. The workouts, a total of 14, started May 31 and wrap up June 21.

    Despite 16 years in the league and a spot waiting for his bust in Canton, Ohio, Favre acknowledged that he needs as much practice time as he can get. He's admittedly struggling to comprehend the foreign language that is first-year head coach Mike McCarthy's variation of the West Coast offense.

    "I'm actually going to study when I go home (after the OTAs)," Favre said. "I'm going to have them send me some stuff and turn my little night light on."

    Much of the terminology in McCarthy's adaptation of the system run by the Packers since Favre's first year in 1992 is Greek to the NFL's only three-time MVP.

    "It's a big challenge," Favre said. "‘Strong right' last year was something totally different than ‘Strong right' this year. So, when I hear, ‘Strong right,' I'm thinking it's something from last year or the year before or the year before that.

    "For the most part, the concepts are the same. As you're watching, you go, ‘OK, I recognize that play.' I do, too. But, it's getting out of the huddle that's the problem."

    Favre suspects it will take him until the start of training camp in late July to grasp the new language. The coaches aren't concerned.

    "He's a smart guy. It's different (with the terminology) all around the league, but it all means the same thing," offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski said.

    Favre will balance the at-home studying in Mississippi with resuming conditioning workouts that he delved into for three weeks prior to the OTAs. After working religiously with a personal trainer most of last off-season, Favre is adhering to a regimen outlined by Rock Gullickson, the Packers' first-year strength and conditioning coach.

    Favre, 36, said he's done more weight training than he has in previous years and also is running more. He's determined to atone for his worst season as a pro, when he threw a league-high and club-record-tying 29 interceptions as the Packers went 4-12.

    "I woke up some days this off-season and said, ‘The hell with working out the way I did last year. A lot of good that did.' But, that's not the right way to do it," Favre said. "The bottom line for me is I want to be the best I can be, so how far am I willing to go?"

    Favre, who has been limited to about 30 throws a practice in the OTAs, said he will throw on his own for a few weeks before training camp commences.

    "My arm is not where it needs to be yet," he said.


  • DT Donnell Washington's nonexistent start to what shaped up to be a promising NFL career ended June 9.

    Head coach Mike McCarthy announced after practice during the team's organized team activities that Washington had been released. Washington was a third-round draft pick (72nd overall) by Green Bay in 2004 but never played a down in a regular season game.

    "Quite frankly, we're kind of excited about some of the fellas we have at that position," general manager Ted Thompson said. "We wish him well; we wish it would have worked out here. But, this gives him a chance to go hook on with another team."

    Washington was signed through 2007.

    The mammoth Washington, who's listed at 6-feet-6 and 328 pounds, got himself into some hot water with the new coaching staff when he reported for the post-draft mini-camp in early May out of shape. Washington was kept off the field for the entire camp.

    He was cleared to practice in the second mini-camp later in the month. He also participated in the first five of the Packers' 14 OTA practices, but was conspicuously missing on the field June 8 and 9 before McCarthy broke the news.

    Both Thompson and McCarthy downplayed the impact Washington's earlier conditioning issue played in releasing him.

    "Not very much at all," Thompson said.

    McCarthy said he never gave Washington an ultimatum to shape up or he'd be shipped out.

    "This is professional sports, and we just went in another direction," McCarthy said.

    Washington missed his entire rookie season in 2004 because of a foot injury sustained early in training camp. He was activated for only one game last season but was kept on the sideline.

    The Packers, under then-head coach and general manager Mike Sherman, traded up 14 spots to take Washington in the third round of the 2004 draft. Cornerback Joey Thomas, whom the team selected two spots before it grabbed Washington, was cut by Green Bay early last season.

  • The Packers reached the midway point of their OTAs on June 9 with four prospective defensive starters still missing.

    Cornerbacks Al Harris and Charles Woodson and nose tackle Ryan Pickett haven't reported for the voluntary sessions. There was no indication that any of them would show up when practice resumes June 12.

    Meanwhile, McCarthy expects rookie linebacker A.J. Hawk to be on the field June 12. Hawk, the fifth overall pick in the draft, completed his studies at Ohio State and was to graduate June 11.

  • Director of pro personnel Reggie McKenzie took the high road after he learned June 4 that he was passed over in favor of Denver assistant general manager Rick Smith for the GM post with Houston.

    It was the first time McKenzie, 43, was in the running for general manager with an NFL team. He has been in the Packers' front office since 1994 and served in his current position the last 10 years.

    "It was a great experience for me. It was my first interview, and I felt like I was in a win-win situation," McKenzie said. "I'm happy to be back here. Disappointed at first (to not get the job), like any competitive person would be, but I'm still glad to be back here in Green Bay."

    McKenzie figured Smith had the inside track to the job because of his previous working relationship with new Texans head coach Gary Kubiak during their time in Denver.

    "If you're working with a guy and you feel comfortable and you trust his work, I'm pretty sure you're going to go to bat for him, too. I would, especially if he's good at what he does," McKenzie said.

  • The team released safety Jeremy Thornburg on June 5 after he failed a physical.

    Thornburg, a second-year player, missed the final month of last season because of a shoulder injury. He hadn't participated in any off-season workouts this year.

  • Former Packers treasurer John Underwood on June 8 was appointed by commissioner Paul Tagliabue to an NFL committee on revenue-sharing distributions.

    The Packers are one of eight teams with representation on the panel, which will be chaired by Tagliabue. The committee will determine the standards for appropriating money in the league's new supplemental revenue pool.

    The pool is funded by the 15 highest-revenue teams, of which the Packers are one, for potential distribution to the other 17 teams.

    Underwood is an emeritus member of the Packers' board of directors.

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "Our first practice is going to be a padded practice. We're not coming back here, running around here in underwear for three days trying to make sure everybody's in shape. We've taken care of that part of it now." — Head coach Mike McCarthy on hitting the ground running as he conducts his first training camp, which starts July 28.

    New coach Brad Childress has limited media access to the Vikings' Organized Team Activities (OTAs), but the one session he did open last week provided a good indication of how seriously his players are taking the off-season program.

    With the Vikings installing new offensive and defensive schemes, all 87 players on the roster were present for last Wednesday's workout. Keep in mind the 14 OTAs are optional and usually, for a variety of reasons, there are a few players absent.

    "This is a copycat league, and if one team has players putting in 22 hours a day, you want to make sure your team is putting in 23," Vikings free safety Darren Sharper said. "That's just the way it is in the league now."

    Sharper is among the defensive players adjusting to the "Tampa 2" scheme that defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin brought with him from the Buccaneers.

    Childress already has conducted his two mandatory mini-camps -- he was allowed an extra session as a new coach -- and the Vikings will close their off-season workouts with another non-mandatory mini-camp from June 19-21. That's non-mandatory in name only.

    While Tomlin has been trying to mold the defense to his liking, Childress has put himself in charge of taking the Vikings' offense from vertical to West Coast.

    Veteran quarterback Brad Johnson is familiar with the new system from his time in Tampa Bay and appears at ease running an offense that is based around a short-passing game.

    Johnson also knows the importance of having all of his teammates present for these workouts. The repetitions gained in the OTAs should pay off when the Vikings report for their first training camp under Childress late next month in Mankato, Minn.

    "Everyone is working hard throughout the league, and everyone got better in free agency," Johnson said. "The biggest deal is you have to hone your fundamentals and be ready for all the schemes and schematics that come up during the regular season. That's why it's good to see everyone here working hard."


  • Vikings coach Brad Childress made his first comments about the hire of Rick Spielman as vice president of player personnel following a recent workout. "I've known Rick for a long time and knew what kind of person he was, a good person, and I'm excited to be working with him," Childress aid. "I'm very excited."

    Spielman, of course, replaced Fran Foley, who lasted only three months as the VP of player personnel before being terminated. Childress and Spielman will have the biggest say in pro personnel matters.

    The Vikings also finalized their scouting staff, adding Paul Roell, who spent the past 15 seasons as a scout for the Indianapolis Colts. Roell replaced John Fitzpatrick as a Vikings regional scout. The Vikings re-signed their other nine scouts whose contracts expired June 1. Paul Wiggin and Jeff Robinson remain with the organization but were given new titles. Wiggin, who had been senior consultant-pro personnel, and Robinson, the former director of pro personnel, are now listed as pro scouts.

  • Starting right guard Artis Hicks, obtained in a draft-weekend trade from Philadelphia, is having to make an adjustment after playing on the left side with the Eagles. Asked about what he must work on, Hicks said: "Just stepping with the opposite foot from what I've been doing the last four years. You try to program yourself to step with this foot, put this hand there and when you change teams you are with a different coach, different philosophy. You've got to kind of erase what you've been taught in the past."

  • Cornerback Dovonte Edwards, who made the Vikings last season as an undrafted rookie, has been working as the second-team kickoff returner behind backup running back Mewelde Moore. Koren Robinson, who made the Pro Bowl last season for his work on kick returns, didn't get any reps. Robinson is expected to be the Vikings' top receiver, meaning he might only see limited duty on kick returns.

  • Receiver Troy Williamson, recovering from surgery to remove an abscess from his hip, was present but did not practice last Wednesday. He might be ready for a portion of the Vikings' final mini-camp. Running back Ciatrick Fason also sat out because of an injury to his right hamstring.

  • The Vikings signed free-agent defensive tackle Ross Kolodziej to a one-year contract. The former Wisconsin Badger spent the past two seasons with the Arizona Cardinals, starting a career-high 14 games in 2005. He also posted career-highs in tackles (39) and sacks (three).

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "He's a big guy who comes from Philadelphia, so he knows (Brad Childress') system. You don't have to teach him where to go. He knows where to go, and he catches the ball. It was a great pickup because he can play right away." - Quarterback Brad Johnson on receiver Billy McMullen, who was acquired from the Eagles and is wearing Randy Moss' old number (84).

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