NFC North News and Notes: Mar. 6

Will Detroit inevitably pick one of the two defensive tackles at the top of April's draft? Is Jeremy Kapinos to blame for Green Bay's awful special teams? Can Adrian Peterson stop fumbling in Minnesota?

Detroit Lions

So which defensive tackle will the Lions take with the No. 2 overall pick in the NFL draft, Nebraska's Ndamukong Suh or Oklahoma's Gerald McCoy?

DT Ndamukong Suh
Getty Images: Scott Boehm

Not so fast.

"Let's not just stop at defensive tackle," coach Jim Schwartz said.

"By no means is it down to those two guys," general manager Martin Mayhew said.

The Lions very well could take Suh or McCoy, especially if the Rams take Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford No. 1 overall and the Lions stay at No. 2.

But the Lions are wary of paying so much money for a rookie defensive tackle and are considering other options, such as Oklahoma State left tackle Russell Okung and trading down.

"The opportunity to move back is very attractive to us," Mayhew said.

The Lions spent a lot of time at the NFL Scouting Combine with Suh and McCoy, meeting with both players multiple times. They went over Xs and Os with each player.

"Obviously, I think our scheme was a little bit different at Nebraska from what the NFL's asking me to do," Suh said. "But I think I'm a player that can adjust to things and definitely get used to playing and getting off the ball."

Suh played a two-gap system at Nebraska. McCoy played a one-gap system at Oklahoma, more like what the Lions play. Some analysts rank McCoy ahead of Suh because they consider him a better penetrator.

"We played two different defenses, in my opinion," Suh said. "More or less, he had the freedom to penetrate. Me, I was more or less in the scheme of reading and playing through my man and then getting to the ball and disengaging. If I were to be in that same scheme as him or vice versa, I think it would be total opposites as it is right now."

Suh was more productive than McCoy was in college. Suh had 12 sacks, 24 tackles for a loss and 85 tackles last season. McCoy had 14.5 sacks, 33 tackles for a loss and 72 tackles in his entire three-year career at Oklahoma. He had six sacks, 15.5 tackles for a loss and 34 tackles last season.

But McCoy made his case. Why did Suh have more tackles? McCoy said his job was to disrupt plays, while Suh could allow plays to come to him. Why did Suh have more sacks?

"I mean, the Texas game was great," McCoy said, referring to Suh's 4.5-sack effort last season. "That helped. The guy had, like, five sacks in one game. That helps. Up until then, the sack number, we were pretty much neck and neck. But, I don't know, he wanted to win a Big 12 championship, so he went out there and dominated."

McCoy thinks he's well-suited for the Lions' system.

"They're an attack defense, get-up-the-field, penetrate, disrupt-type defense," McCoy said. "That's how we played at Oklahoma. That's how I play. So I think I fit in well there."

Asked to compare Suh and McCoy to Albert Haynesworth, who dominated for Schwartz in Tennessee, Schwartz said it was hard to compare someone coming out of college to "the highest-paid defensive tackle in the league." But in a sense, the Lions must do just that.

Haynesworth signed a seven-year, $100 million deal with the Redskins last year that included $41 million guaranteed. As the No. 1-overall pick, Matthew Stafford received a six-year deal worth a maximum of $78 million with $41.7 million guaranteed. Last year's No. 2-overall pick, Rams offensive tackle Jason Smith, received a five-year deal worth a maximum $61 million with $33 million guaranteed.

In other words, if the Lions draft Suh or McCoy, they will pay him like a Haynesworth before he has ever played an NFL game. That's a big reason why the Lions have let it be known they're interested in a trade.

Mayhew has said it would be tough, that any trade partner would be after a "specific player." But that's why their chances are better if the Rams pass on Bradford. Perhaps a team like the Redskins would want to trade up from No. 4, where the Lions could take Okung.

"We're comfortable staying there and drafting," Mayhew said. "We're comfortable moving back."

Green Bay Packers

The blunt words came first. An alleged harsh action soon followed.

P Jeremy Kapinos
Getty Images: J. Meric

Tired of the inadequacies they put up with the full 2009 season, the Packers gave punter Jeremy Kapinos the boot. The team elected to not give Kapinos a qualifying offer as an exclusive-rights free agent before the March 4 deadline, meaning the first-year player is a full-fledged free agent.

The struggles of Green Bay's special teams, including Kapinos, was a sore subject both general manager Ted Thompson and coach Mike McCarthy addressed with reporters the previous week at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.

"He's a young punter," McCarthy said of Kapinos at the time. "There's some things he can do to improve physically, and my understanding is he's gone about that process already. But he definitely needs to improve."

Kapinos won't get that shot with the Packers to redeem himself for a league-worst net average of 34.1 yards last season. He placed just 15 of his 66 kicks (22.7 percent) inside the opponent's 20-yard line, and he had 10 touchbacks.

"The punting performance was not what it needed to be," McCarthy said. "Too many touchbacks, not enough balls inside the 20, punts that are being returned at a 60-percent clip as opposed to 40, 45, where you would like to be. Those are the things that when you can say that's one individual can improve that, we need to hold that accountable and improve in that area."

Kapinos didn't take the news well, especially his perception of being the fall guy for the Packers' special-teams deficiencies. They were rated 31st out of the 32 teams in the annual special-teams analysis compiled by The Dallas Morning News' Rick Gosselin.

"I assume somebody needs to be held accountable or sacrificed for the net [average] and [inside-the-]20 production," Kapinos said in text messages to the Green Bay Press-Gazette.

"While I do admit I needed to improve and I was at fault for some of it, I won't agree with anyone I was the lone liability," Kapinos added. "I think it's very irresponsible to place the blame on one person. [Special teams] won't improve if that's the philosophy. I would hope there is a sense of accountability across the board."

By not retaining Kapinos, with whom they would have had exclusive rights to re-sign, the Packers have a significant vacancy to fill in the coming weeks. The only punter on the roster is Tim Masthay, a street free agent signed after the season.

Masthay, a Kentucky product, was an undrafted rookie who spent time with the Indianapolis Colts last summer but was out of football during the season.

Meanwhile, the Packers readied for the start of free agency March 5 by submitting qualifying offers to eight of their nine restricted free agents.

Green Bay placed high value on most of them, tendering Pro Bowl safety Nick Collins at the most restrictive first-and-third-round level, nickel back Tramon Williams at the first-round level and four players at the second-round level: safety Atari Bigby, defensive end Johnny Jolly and offensive linemen Daryn Colledge and Jason Spitz.

The Packers are reportedly in talks with Collins' agents on a long-term contract that he has openly desired since last offseason.

"We're working on it and have been some time," Thompson said. "But the cake is not done until it's done."

Green Bay also gave linebacker-turned-tight end Spencer Havner a qualifying offer as an exclusive-rights free agent.

Injury-prone running back DeShawn Wynn was the only restricted free agent not to be tendered. Rather than pay him the tender of $1.176 million, the Packers would like to bring Wynn back at a minimum salary of $545,000.

The Packers have five unrestricted free agents, including nose tackle Ryan Pickett, whom they designated as their franchise player.

Linebacker Aaron Kampman is expected to draw some interest at the outset of free agency, even though he's only three months removed from having surgery for a torn ACL and isn't expected to be ready until training camp in August.

Kampman wasn't keen on being moved from defensive end to linebacker in the Packers' new 3-4 scheme last season, so the Pro Bowl pass rusher could be looking to move on after eight years with Green Bay to find a fit with a team that runs a 4-3 scheme.

"The business part of it I can't control," McCarthy said. "We're trying to keep Aaron Kampman and all our players. I can't control what other teams run on defense or what they come at him with [contract-wise] in a business standpoint. I just focus on trying to get better, and we can make him better. I think our defense will be better next year, and I think he'll have an opportunity to be better."

Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings are conducting an offseason study of Adrian Peterson's fumbling problems. This comes after the Pro Bowl running back finished the season by fumbling twice in the Vikings' overtime loss to New Orleans in the NFC title game.

RB Adrian Peterson
Getty Images: Ronald Martinez

He also had a botched handoff exchange with Brett Favre deep in Saints territory late in the first half that resulted in a costly turnover. The quarterback was charged with the fumble, but Peterson took responsibility.

While Brad Childress indicated the study remains in its early stages, the Vikings coach made it clear he isn't about to tell Peterson to make massive changes in his approach.

"I know there has been a lot said," Childress told reporters at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. "I'm not going to discourage [Peterson] from running the ball with the style that he runs the ball with.

"I'm not attempting to take his spirit or take his heart or any of those things. ... He's a good enough athlete and we're good enough coaches that we'll look at it, and we'll do what we can to rectify it. Usually, when he sets his mind to something, he's pretty good at taking care of that business."

This is definitely business that Peterson needs to take care of in his quest to become of the NFL's top running backs of all time.

Peterson led the league in rushing in 2008 and this past season ran for 1,383 yards with 18 touchdowns. But fumbles remained a major issue for him. In three regular seasons, he has rushed for 4,484 yards in three regular seasons but has fumbled 20 times and lost 13.

Childress said he planned to talk to Giants coach Tom Coughlin at the combine about Peterson's fumbles. Coughlin was the guy who helped New York running back Tiki Barber overcome his fumbling issues by carrying the ball high and tight.

Childress, though, said that Vikings running backs coach Eric Bieniemy will be the key figure in working with Peterson.

"In my mind, he's as good of running backs coach as there is in the National Football League," Childress said. "I feel like he's the best. Hands down, bar none. That would be the guy who will end up implementing it whatever it is we decide needs to be implemented. It may be nothing, it may just be a mental process."

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