Black & Blue Review

The Detroit Lions are thankful for a much-needed break, in Green Bay first round pick A.J. Hawk is busy playing catch up, while the Vikings are happy about a slimmer version of a starter. Get the latest news and notes from around the NFC North.

Wide receiver Roy Williams will spend time at home in Texas, fullback Cory Schlesinger plans to take his family camping in South Dakota and quarterback Jon Kitna will enjoy the great outdoors in the Seattle area.

But none of them -- or their Lions teammates -- presumably will be far from their playbooks and conditioning programs during the six weeks between the end of organized team activities and the start of training camp in late July.

"Me and my family, we like to be outdoors," Kitna said. "I'm from Seattle so we go back home and spend some time camping, going to the ocean, stuff like that. There's a lot of fun involved in the next five weeks.

"My theory is to get my work done early in the morning and then I've got the rest of the day to have fun."

Most of the players feel a mental break -- after 3 1/2 months of off-season workouts -- is vital for their mental well-being as they go into five months of training camp, pre-season games and 16 regular season games.

"It's always been the way I've done it in my 11th year in the league," Kitna said. "We've always had a five- or six-week break before camp opened. I know teams are starting to try to go to the middle of July with their off-season stuff and then just take like two weeks off.

"I think (the longer break) is good. It gives you time to get away, refresh and when you come back guys are excited again."

Even as he's getting refreshed and excited to come back, however, Kitna won't be far from the playbook Mike Martz has given him.

"It's going to go with me," he said. "It'll be with me wherever I go. You protect that like you protect the Bible."


  • Coach Rod Marinelli calls it his "do right rule" and says he expects the Lions to understand it and abide by it, not only when they're working in Allen Park but when they're spending time at home during the off-season.

    "I don't care where you come from, I don't care (about) your background," Marinelli explained. "Most people know right from wrong. Okay? Men know that, and women.

    "Be on time; do right. Stay out of trouble; do right. Okay? You don't have a list from here to there of what the rules are. I just ask them to do right and I explain what 'do right' is in detail. And that makes sense to them; you eliminate problems that way."

    The Lions have not had major behavioral problems in recent years but there has been a general lack of discipline in regard to workout habits, conditioning and approach to the game.

    Marinelli has created a new atmosphere with new rules. And anything not covered by the rules apparently falls under the heading of the "do right rule."

  • Wide receiver Roy Williams says he will have to practice some self-denial if he is going to return to training camp July 27 at the 209-pound weight limit Lions offensive coordinator Mike Martz has set for him.

    "I'm 215 right now, they want me at 209," Williams said at the wrapup of the Lions' OTAs. "I don't know if I'm going to get there in this four or five-week period but I'm going to try my best.

    "You've got to be in really good condition here. We did a two-minute drill today and we know what kind of condition we have to be in. We're not there yet."

    The solution?

    "I guess cut back on my cookie-dough ice cream and Doritos and things of that nature," Williams said, laughing. "And try to eat more grilled chicken. I haven't been 209 since my junior year in high school."

    Williams said he started the 2005 season at 212 pounds and finished at 217. Although the weight reduction won't be easy, he is enthused about getting into the best possible shape for the upcoming season.

    "Last year I was excited to play this game but this takes it to a whole other level," Williams said. "This offense that we're running, the team we're capable of being, with all the weapons we have, it gets you really excited. I wish the pre-season started next week."

  • Lions quarterback Jon Kitna says he has never been a motorcycle rider but he is sympathetic with Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who suffered severe injuries in a motorcycle accident last week.

    "It's unfortunate," Kitna said. "You're on such a fine line as an athlete. You don't want to live in a bubble but there's always (something). Certain guys like to go play basketball; bad things can happen doing that. Certain guys like to water-ski, snow-ski, ride wave runners; bad things can happen.

    "People like to go play softball. Bad things can happen but you have to be ready to accept those consequences. It's hard because you don't want to have to live in a bubble, you want to be able to live a semi-normal life. It's the choices you make."

    Kitna says he never got interested in motorcycles as a youngster, in part because his brother suffered a broken leg in a riding mishap.

    "I like to ride four-wheelers with my kids but we're just cruising," he said.

  • Although coach Rod Marinelli was pleased with the off-season workouts that ended last week, he says it was only a start and that no starting jobs have been won or lost.

    "We're getting a pretty good feel right now with them but the key is to get into the pads," he said. "I think it's going to happy pretty quickly ... but it can change pretty quickly also. It's a process.

    "The worst thing you can do in the off-season work is to start making decisions mentally and you disallow a man to make the progress because you've already mentally put him as a backup. So I try not to do that. Some of these players are going to look different in pads. Some will be better, some will be worse."

    In particular, Marinelli will have to settle on a starting left guard, right tackle and the pecking order for the receivers, including first-round picks Roy Williams, Charles Rogers and Mike Williams.

    It is expected the Lions will have to cut four or five players before the start of training camp.

    His degree secured, if not in hand, rookie linebacker A.J. Hawk's train of thought now is all football, all the time.

    The Packers' top draft pick rejoined the team June 12 after being away for more than a month because of school commitments at Ohio State. Hawk completed his course work to earn an undergraduate degree in criminology in four years.

    The graduation ceremony was June 11, but Hawk purposely skipped it so he could get back to Green Bay a couple days earlier. He took a crash course in studying everything he had missed before taking to the field again in organized team activities.

    "I don't have to worry about writing papers; it's all football," Hawk said. "I know it's all-day football, but I know there are a lot of people who would love to be in this situation. So, I'm going to try to make the most of it."

    Hawk's introduction to pro football after being taken fifth overall in the draft was fleeting. He participated in the team's three-day post-draft mini-camp, then was barred by league rule from a second mini-camp later in May and the first seven of 14 OTAs until school was out at Ohio State.

    Despite being away for an extended time, Hawk didn't miss much from a schematic standpoint. The second mini-camp was a review of the first for players. Linebackers coach Winston Moss sent Hawk a DVD with footage of those practices and kept in regular contact with the prized newcomer.

    "I had to break down all the plays and see the defense we put in and really go through and get it down on paper," Hawk said.

    As for the batch of OTA practices he missed, Hawk said he had to get caught up on only three packages that were installed, primarily in the red zone and near the goal line.

    "Other than that, he's in good shape," defensive coordinator Bob Sanders said. "He had very, very good recall" of the earlier material.

    The Packers need Hawk to be sharp because they're counting on him to be the starter from the outset on the weak side and complement middle linebacker Nick Barnett.

    Hawk was determined to get situated in Green Bay from the get-go. His fiancée, Laura Quinn, sister of Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn, quickly found a house while Hawk was at team headquarters a day after he was taken in the draft.

    Hawk said Laura has enrolled at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay this summer to complete a degree in communications.


  • By the looks of it, the Packers could have two rookies filling the guard spots when the Packers open the season Sept. 10.

    Daryn Colledge, a second-round pick out of Boise State, has been firmly entrenched at left guard the last six weeks. Jason Spitz, a third-round choice out of Louisville, moved into the No. 1 spot at right guard this past week.

    "Spitz has done very well since he's been here," head coach Mike McCarthy said.

    McCarthy and offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski, however, haven't settled on a starter at right guard. They're giving equal opportunity to second-year Junius Coston and Spitz to win the position.

    Coston had been manning the spot since the post-draft mini-camp and continued to do so during the first seven of 14 practices in the team's organized team activities this month. Spitz apparently will have first dibs for the entire second half of the OTAs, which conclude June 21.

    "That whole inside group is very young," said McCarthy, also referring to center Scott Wells, a third-year player. "We're looking at everybody. We've talked about getting the best five on the field, and we're continuing to give individuals the opportunity to fight for those positions."

    Meanwhile, the Packers have been cautious throughout the off-season in not putting left tackle Chad Clifton in harm's way. Clifton underwent minor knee and ankle surgeries shortly after last season ended. The trusted protector of quarterback Brett Favre's blind side is expected to be ready for the start of training camp July 28.

  • The organization endured a mild scare when newly elected president John Jones underwent open-heart surgery in Green Bay on June 11.

    Jones, 54, is expected to make a full recovery and will possibly be back on the job within a month.

    The publicly owned team's board of directors formally approved last year's appointment of Jones to succeed Bob Harlan as president May 31. Harlan, who has been president since 1989, will continue as chief executive officer until he retires next May after turning 70.

    Jones, a former sportswriter, has been with the Packers since 1999 as chief operating officer. He's the 10th president in team history.

  • The Packers will commemorate the induction of the late Reggie White into the Pro Football Hall of Fame this summer.

    They will show a video tribute during the annual shareholders' meeting July 19 at Lambeau Field.

    Former general manager Ron Wolf will be on hand for the season opener Sept. 10 to help unveil White's name on the Lambeau Field facade inside the stadium.

    Jermaine Wiggins won't say how much weight he has lost since the end of the season -- he continues to be listed at 260 pounds by the Vikings -- but the tight end appears to have shed significant weight from his 6-foot-2 frame.

    That's not a bad move considering Wiggins is hoping to be a focal point in coach Brad Childress' West Coast offense. Wiggins has displayed good hands since joining the Vikings as a free agent in 2004, leading the team in receiving each of the past two seasons. (He had 71 catches in 2004 and 69 last season).

    His conditioning, however, was another matter and a source of plenty of good-natured jokes in the locker room.

    Although Childress likely found nothing funny about his top pass-catching tight end being soft in the middle, Wiggins claims the weight loss was his idea.

    "It's just something that I did on my own," he said. "I feel like I want to get to that next level. I wanted to come in (to camp) in the best possible shape. I know this offense is going to get the ball to the tight end and have a chance to make plays. That has been my mindset. I want to help this team get to that next level, which is winning a championship."

    A speedier Wiggins certainly has a good opportunity to become a main target for quarterback Brad Johnson as the Vikings make the transition from a vertical offense to one that will rely on plenty of short passes to move down the field.

    "I think it's a key to any offense," Wiggins said when asked if his being quicker was a key to the offense.

    One question Wiggins isn't going to answer is how much weight he has lost. "If I tell you everything I can't keep you guessing, right?"


  • While former coach Mike Tice had all the Vikings players report to training camp on the same date, Brad Childress will run things differently. Rookies and selected veterans will report on July 27 to Mankato, Minn. The remainder of the veterans will be due in on July 30 and camp officially will open on Aug. 1. The only scheduled evening session will be Aug. 4 when the Kansas City Chiefs visit Mankato for a practice. The Vikings' last practice in Mankato will be Aug. 17 and the team will break camp the next day.

  • Receiver Troy Williamson, who has been sidelined for much of the on-field activity this off-season after having surgery to remove an abscess from his left hip, was evaluated by a doctor late last week.

  • Punter Chris Kluwe hasn't punted this off-season after undergoing surgery to repair the ACL in his right (punting) knee. That has enabled rookie free agent John Torp (Colorado) to get all the work. Still, coach Brad Childress doesn't seem overly worried about Kluwe.

    "I'm not concerned right now from the standpoint that his rehab has progressed," Childress said. "You have to kind of go with that protocol. He's been diligent about that. Obviously, he's a proven commodity kicking the football. There's not a lot of data on how guys come back from ACL's on kicking legs, so we'll just have to see."

  • The Vikings are setting themselves up to have plenty of training-camp competition at the receiver spot.

    The team signed free agents Kevin Kasper and Josh Davis last week, giving them 15 receivers on their roster.

    Kasper, a sixth-round draft pick of Denver in 2001 out of Iowa, has played in 38 career games and caught 24 passes in four NFL seasons. He has added value because he can return kicks. Kasper, 6-1, 197 pounds, did not play in the NFL last season and was recently released by the Seahawks after signing in January.

    The 6-1, 190-pound Davis, a one-time standout at Marshall, spent the final seven weeks of last season on the practice squad with New Orleans. Davis finished his career as the Mid-American Conference's all-time leading receiver with 306 catches for 3,889 yards and 23 touchdowns.

    The Vikings also signed free-agent defensive end Khreem Smith, who helped the Chicago Rush win the Arena Football League title this season. Smith led the team with eight sacks and 10 tackles for loss. He played college football at Oklahoma State and will be reunited with Vikings defensive line coach Karl Dunbar, who held the same job at Oklahoma State when Smith played there.

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