NFC North News and Notes: May 28

Do the Lions have any leverage in contract talks with Julian Peterson? Can Johnny Jolly retain his starting job in Green Bay? Is Brett Favre all but guaranteed to return to the Vikings after ankle surgery?

Detroit Lions

Lions linebacker Julian Peterson said he has not heard about his contract since general manager Martin Mayhew spoke with his agent, Kevin Poston, early in the offseason.

LB Julian Peterson
Getty Images: Jonathan Daniel

"As far as I know, they just had a nice conversation," Peterson said. "I'm still here. We'll see. I want to stay here."

Peterson was a Pro Bowl alternate last season. But he wasn't as consistently productive as he has been in the past. He turns 32 in July, and he is due a $7.5 million salary in 2010.

At the NFL Scouting Combine in February, Mayhew said he had spoken to Poston. He stressed that he hadn't used the word "cut." Asked if he had used the word "restructure," he said he couldn't remember.

But Mayhew also said he thought Peterson was "the kind of player who's going to be an even better player when he gets better players around him." And asked if Peterson could come back at his current number, he said it was possible.

Since then the Lions have let Larry Foote leave as a free agent and traded Ernie Sims, and they have acquired Ndamukong Suh, Kyle Vanden Bosch and Corey Williams.

Peterson is now alongside DeAndre Levy and Zack Follett at linebacker. The Lions are high on Levy, a third-round pick last year, but he has started only two games in the middle. They are giving a shot to Follett, a seventh-round pick last year, but he has started zero games and has a lot to prove. They could make another move, but if this trio starts Sept. 12 at Chicago, Peterson must be the anchor.

Adding Suh, Vanden Bosch and Williams to the front four should help.

"I think that's the same with a lot of other people," coach Jim Schwartz said. "You put better players around them. They get some attention. Maybe you get less opportunities, but your production increases. Julian's always been a guy that can find his way to the passer, but it makes it a little bit easier when you have some of those other guys rushing."

Peterson shouldn't have to play defensive end as often as he did last year to help the pass rush. The Lions can use him in situational pass-rushing packages and as a blitzer, helping create or take advantage of mismatches. In theory, when Peterson attacks the QB now, it will be because the Lions want him to, not because they need him to.

"You'll see him moving around," Schwartz said. "You'll see him rush the passer from a lot of different places. It won't necessarily be as a defensive end with his hand in the ground."

The Lions could approach Peterson again before the regular season starts. But unless they are willing to cut or trade him, they would have no leverage. And it should be noted there is no salary cap this year.

Asked if he had any nervousness or felt in limbo at all, Peterson said: "I've been around too long. It is what it is, at times. You can't worry about that. You've got to go out here and do your job. Everything else will take care of itself."

Green Bay Packers

Johnny Jolly, the Packers' estranged defensive end, is having anything but a jolly offseason on and off the field.

DE Johnny Jolly
Getty Images: Jamie Squire

No sooner did Jolly seem to be on the outs with the starting job he held the last two years, when the Packers shifted nose tackle Ryan Pickett to Jolly's spot at left end, than Jolly found himself in hot water in the court of law.

A district court judge in Harris County, Texas, reprimanded Jolly on May 21 for actions unbecoming of an individual who is facing a felony drug charge.

The much-delayed jury trial in Jolly's case stemming from his July 2008 arrest in Houston for possession of codeine is scheduled to begin June 1.

The fifth-year pro could be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison if convicted and is a candidate to be disciplined by the NFL for a violation of its substance-abuse policy.

A return to football has yet to happen for Jolly since the Packers' 51-45 overtime loss at the Arizona Cardinals in an NFC wild-card playoff game Jan. 10. The restricted free agent has stayed away from Green Bay, refusing to sign the qualifying offer from the team.

The Packers evidently aren't waiting on Jolly and a resolution to his seemingly never-ending legal situation. They took to the practice field in organized team activities, which started May 17, with a new-look starting defensive line of Pickett and incumbent right end Cullen Jenkins bracketing B.J. Raji, the team's top draft pick in 2009 who was deemed ready to play nose tackle on a full-time basis.

If and when Jolly returns to the team, he would have to try to unseat the veteran Pickett to jump back into the starting lineup.

The notable position switch for Pickett is part of a renewed emphasis for the Packers with their defensive line. They bolstered the depth by selecting two ends in the April draft: Mike Neal (second round) and C.J. Wilson (seventh) and also have Justin Harrell, their 2007 first-round pick, back on the field after he missed the 2009 season with a chronic back injury.

"There's always room for good football players, especially big guys," defensive coordinator Dom Capers said. "You can come up short with big guys in a hurry. Hopefully, if our young guys develop and Justin comes along, that will be a good problem to have."

For Jolly to factor in the mix, he will have to emerge from his pending trial unscathed. The pressure already is on for him to be on his best behavior.

Mike Anderson, the district court judge who is presiding over the case, scolded Jolly during a pre-trial hearing May 21 because of a promotional flier for a party that Jolly allegedly hosted at a Houston nightclub earlier in the month. A picture of Jolly was on the flier.

Jolly's $10,000 bond prevents him from using drugs or alcohol.

Anderson imposed further restrictions on Jolly, who must submit a hair sample for additional drug testing, adhere to a 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew and not attend establishments where drugs or alcohol are used.

"I had better not see any more fliers like this," Anderson told Jolly, who attended the hearing.

Jolly's response: "Yes, sir."

Minnesota Vikings

Any doubts about whether Brett Favre would return for a 20th NFL season likely were erased with the news the quarterback had elected to have arthroscopic surgery on his left ankle.

QB Brett Favre
Getty Images: Elsa

Favre ended his second shot at retirement last August to sign a two-year, $25 million contract with the Vikings and proceeded to have one of the best years of his career.

He threw 33 touchdowns and a career-low seven interceptions, as the Vikings won the NFC North with a 12-4 record and advanced to the conference title game.

Favre made it clear after that heart-breaking overtime loss to New Orleans that he wasn't sure if he would return. Given the way he played, it was hard to believe he would walk away.

It's a well-known fact Favre is averse to surgery, but it probably helped that he underwent a procedure to repair a partially torn biceps tendon in his throwing arm last spring and returned to post such impressive numbers.

Favre, 40, also had surgery twice previously in his career on the same ankle for what amounts to some cleanup work. He has said on his website that the ankle bothered him in 2009 and it did not help matters when the Saints continually hit him in the title-game defeat.

He was nearly forced from the game in the third quarter when he took a high-low hit from New Orleans' Remi Ayodele and Bobby McCray.

The projection is that Favre will need four to six weeks of rehab, but the reality is that there is almost no chance he's going to be at training camp when the Vikings report to Mankato in late July. It's a huge long shot Favre will show up in Mankato at all.

He likely will follow the same schedule he did last year, when he joined the Vikings in the latter part of August and got work in the second and third preseason games. This would allow him time to rehab on his own and not hurry things.

Vikings' coach Brad Childress doesn't seem to have any problem with a similar scenario playing out and Favre's teammates made it clear at the end of last year they would welcome him back, even if they didn't see him at two-a-days.

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