NFC North News and Notes: Jun. 26

Is there a fresh attitude in the Motor City? How are the Packers feeling about their new 3-4 scheme on defense so far? Will we know definitively whether or not Brett Favre plans to come out of retirement and sign with the Vikings? Get the Inside Slant from the NFL experts at Scout.com.

Detroit Lions

Before the Lions wrapped up their offseason program with a mandatory minicamp in late June, head coach Jim Schwartz made a point in a team meeting.

"Patience is no longer a virtue," Schwartz said. "Indoctrination is over."

The Lions have made major changes since suffering the NFL's first 0-16 season.

They replaced Rod Marinelli with Schwartz, and Schwartz installed a new staff, a new philosophy and new systems on both sides of the ball.

They overhauled the roster and used every avenue to do it, from signing free agents, to making trades, to drafting quarterback Matthew Stafford first overall, to making several waiver claims.

From the start of the offseason conditioning program in March to the end of organized team activities in June, Schwartz was more concerned with teaching and learning than performance and evaluation.

But by the final minicamp, he felt the players were in shape and knew what they needed to know to execute.

"We need to get past it now," Schwartz said. "We need to start seeing results on the field."

The Lions haven't had results on the field in a long time. They haven't made the playoffs since 1999. They haven't had a winning season since 2000. They are 31-97 since 2001.

It might be tougher for the Lions to have the usual offseason optimism. But apparently there has been enough turnover that belief is starting to rebuild in the organization.

Owner William Clay Ford Sr. gave a rare interview after a minicamp practice and said he liked what he saw.

"The thing I liked really was the player's attitude," Ford said. "I mean, they're going at it like, you know, we can win, which is great.

"The past is history. Forget about that, and let's just keep our eye on the ball and what's up front, and they're doing that. That would be hard to do for some of the veterans who have been around here, but overall, I'd say it was very good."

Green Bay Packers

Veteran nose tackle Ryan Pickett had a retort this spring for those who believe the Packers' defense will be in for a season of growing pains as it makes the switch from a 4-3 scheme to a 3-4 system.

"Honestly, I think we're going to come out and execute the defense well," Pickett said. "Of course, the longer you play [in the scheme], the better you get, but I think we're going to shock people on how good we play it this year."

With the soap opera that played out last summer with former quarterback Brett Favre long behind them, the offseason focus for the Packers was squarely on the big change in defensive philosophy.

Head coach Mike McCarthy overhauled the coaching staff on that side of the ball, bringing in 3-4 guru Dom Capers as defensive coordinator, and the installations were made in May and June during organized team activities.

"I think it works for us," linebacker Nick Barnett said. "As far as personnel, I think that we fit it pretty good. Teams will have a little bit of trouble preparing for us, I think."

Still, the conversion to the new defense hasn't been smooth.

Capers didn't have his entire projected starting lineup to work with for most of the offseason. Barnett, hard-hitting safety Atari Bigby and versatile lineman Cullen Jenkins were on the mend from season-ending injuries last year. Pro Bowl safety Nick Collins skipped the majority of the workouts, apparently to protest the absence of a contract extension.

Meanwhile, judging by his reluctance to speak publicly, Pro Bowl defensive end Aaron Kampman had reservations about being moved to outside linebacker, where he will be standing up and dropping into coverage on occasion.

Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings have had a relatively quiet offseason when it comes to player procurement of veteran free agents, but that could all change very soon.

Brett Favre is expected to announce before training camp that he is going to end his second retirement to play for the Vikings in 2009.

Favre underwent arthroscopic surgery on a partially torn biceps tendon in his throwing (right) arm in late May. The only sticking point is whether he feels the arm is strong enough for him to play.

Vikings head coach Brad Childress said recently on a Twin Cities radio station that Favre's arm was "pain free" and that the only issues were the endurance and stamina of the arm.

Favre's addition would help solidify the one position that many felt was a question mark for the Vikings. The expectation had been that Tarvaris Jackson and Sage Rosenfels, who was acquired in late February from Houston for a fourth-round pick, would compete for the starting job but neither of them was considered a sure bet to have success.

Of course, the same thing could apply for Favre.

The biggest issue for him will be staying healthy. He will turn 40 years old on Oct. 10 and, despite his iron-man abilities, age certainly could begin to catch up to him. That happened last season when Favre was ineffective late in the season with the Jets after he hurt his arm.

Favre stands to lead a Vikings offense that added a key part by selecting Florida wide receiver Percy Harvin in the first round of the April draft. Harvin joins a unit that includes big-play receiver Bernard Berrian, emerging tight end Visanthe Shiancoe and Pro Bowl running back Adrian Peterson.

All of these pieces mean the pressure will be on Childress to not only repeat as NFC North champions but also get his team deep into the playoffs. The Vikings lost in the first round to Philadelphia last season. Childress is entering the fourth year of a five-year contract, and there have been no known talks of an extension to this point.


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