Detroit LionsAfter losing an NFL-record 30 games over two years, the Lions have looked everywhere in an attempt to upgrade their talent level. They have not been afraid to explore players who have had character issues.
The Lions looked into trading for cornerback Antonio Cromartie, whom the Chargers eventually shipped to the Jets. They're looking into signing cornerback Adam "Pacman" Jones, an unrestricted free agent attempting a comeback, and defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove, a restricted free agent from the Saints. All of those players have had off-the-field issues.
Coach Jim Schwartz pointed out that people mature and that Academy Awards have been won telling the stories of "somebody being high, going all the way down to the bottom and then getting back again." One example he cited was wide receiver Cris Carter, who had addiction problems early in his NFL career with the Eagles but overcame them with the Vikings. Carter has been a Hall of Fame finalist.
"Should you not have been interested in Cris Carter when he went to Minnesota?" Schwartz said. "Well, he proved that you should have been. There's been a million of them."
But the Lions have taken a practical approach in these situations, trying to weigh risk and reward.
"We haven't just taken a blanket, 'Hey, look, we're not messing with that at all,' or, 'We're ignoring that, and we're signing them strictly on football,'" Schwartz said. "There's obviously a balance to it."
Everyone has been involved, all the way up to owner William Clay Ford and vice chairman Bill Ford Jr. Mayhew said they definitely had talked to the Fords about Jones and his workout.
"Those are football decisions, and Jim and Martin are going to make them," Ford Jr. said. "I'm not going to comment, because it's all hypothetical now. I think you have to take it on a case by case."
Ford Jr. said Mayhew and Schwartz run all personnel decisions by ownership, as a courtesy. He said Mayhew, Schwartz and Sheldon White, the vice president of pro personnel, "will know those people and their character far better than I will."
Mayhew said the Lions have unusual insight into Jones and Hargrove. Schwartz was the Titans' defensive coordinator when Jones played for them in 2005-06. One of Mayhew's old teammates is former NFL star cornerback Deion Sanders, who has been working with Jones. Mayhew is also friends with Hargrove's agent, Phil Williams, who once represented him.
"In both those guys' case, we have a little bit of history with both those guys," Mayhew said. "So we have a little bit more information I think than some other people might have."
Mayhew said he would not be rushed into anything. Despite a report at ProFootballTalk.com that the Lions had agreed to terms with Jones, the Lions are taking their time.
"It was like, 'Huh?'" said Ray Savage, Jones' agent. "We have a couple trips scheduled to a couple teams. I talked to Martin and I talked to the Detroit Lions, and there is interest. They're kind of dragging their feet a little bit. I'm trying to get them a little bit more information so they can make this thing happen. But we've not talked numbers or anything yet."
Knowledge goes both ways. Though Schwartz has firsthand knowledge of the talent that made Jones the No. 6-overall pick in '05, he also knows about Jones' off-the-field problems. Jones was suspended for the 2007 season and part of the '08 season. He did not play in '09.
"There's something to be said for 'clean slate,' but he obviously doesn't have one, you know?" Schwartz said. "He's at a little different point in his career, everything that's gone on. There's going to be more scrutiny with him. I mean, if he gets a parking ticket, it's going to be news. And he needs to understand that, and I'm sure he does. And the team needs to understand that.
"Clean slate sounds good and probably should be the case, but he's probably not in that category."
Green Bay PackersMike McCarthy likes the depth the Packers have at cornerback. The caveat for the head coach is those players need to be healthy, which is a big if with the 2010 season five months away.
"I think our board looks good on paper, if you look at all the names up there, but you've got three corners coming off of major knee [injuries], two of the three coming off major knee surgeries," McCarthy said.
At the center of the uncertainty quotient is Al Harris, a 12-year NFL veteran and two-time Pro Bowl selection.
McCarthy, going off the input from the team's medical staff, isn't so sure that Harris will be ready for the start of the season. Harris suffered a torn ACL and MCL in his left knee in a game Nov. 22 and underwent season-ending surgery eight days later.
Harris has been doing rehab work at a facility in his native South Florida the past two months. After being optimistic at the outset of his recovery that he could be back on the field in six months, Harris, 35, recently suggested the knee isn't close to being fully healed.
While documenting his rehab in a video journal on the National Football Post Web site, Harris said the knee was at "50 percent" as he struggled to complete an agility drill.
Harris has been able to do straight-line running and some cutting drills.
"Proof is coming soon," Harris said.
How soon is up in the air.
McCarthy hasn't ruled out Harris not being in uniform opening day, but the coach is hopeful of having his trusted starter from the get-go to pair with Charles Woodson, the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
"I wouldn't bet against Al," McCarthy said. "It's like anything. You can't ever just put a timetable on a knee injury because they are all a little different. His was significant, just using (team doctor) Pat McKenzie's words."
Blackmon, the team's explosive kick returner, played in only three games last season before undergoing surgery for a torn ACL in his left knee in late October.
Lee, a second-round draft pick in 2008, was on injured reserve all of last season after playing in only five games as rookie when he also suffered a knee injury.
Since the position is a bit fragile, the Packers could look to take a cornerback in the high rounds of the April 22-24 draft.
"I don't think you ever have enough corners or pass rushers, regardless of what scheme you play in," McCarthy said. "Our board looks as good as it's been on paper. But, those questions really will be answered in training camp."
Minnesota VikingsFor the second consecutive year, the Vikings have signed a former Green Bay Packer. This year's addition, however, isn't exactly of the same high-profile nature of the team's marquee signing of 2009.
Last August, quarterback Brett Favre ended his second attempt at retirement in late August and agreed to a two-year, $25 million contract with Minnesota. This time, the Vikings signed defensive end Michael Montgomery to a one-year contract for approximately $630,000.
A sixth-round pick by the Packers in 2005, Montgomery becomes the second player the Vikings have signed since free agency opened. Kickoff specialist Rhys Lloyd was signed to a two-year pact worth $545,000 per season.
Montgomery comes to Minnesota after failing to fit into the Packers' new 3-4 defensive scheme last season and also battling injuries. Montgomery's agent, Blake Baratz, said it was important to get his client back into a 4-3 defense.
Montgomery will be expected to back up both end positions, but the reality is that starting right end Jared Allen rarely comes out of games.
That means the 6-5, 282-pound Montgomery will see most of his time either behind left end Ray Edwards or inside in passing situations, where he can provide a rushing presence. He could end up competing with Brian Robison for playing time.
"I'm excited and ready to get rolling," Montgomery said. "Minnesota has a great tradition, and this is an [excellent] opportunity."
Montgomery, 26, had his best season in 2008, when he recorded 59 tackles and 2.5 sacks in 14 games and made the only eight starts of his career.
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