NFC North News and Notes: June 18

Is Kevin Smith still in line to be Detroit's primary ball carrier? How many veterans will now be absent from Green Bay's minicamp? Does Sage Rosenfels have a place on Minnesota's depth chart anymore?

Detroit Lions

Running back Kevin Smith has every reason to be pessimistic. He suffered a torn knee ligament Dec. 13 at Baltimore. The Lions traded up to draft explosive running back Jahvid Best in the first round April 22.


RB Kevin Smith
Getty Images: Larry French

But Smith looks at things his own way. He hopes to be practicing fully when training camp opens in late July, and he looks at Best as a complement, not just competition.

Smith, a third-round pick in 2008, had surgery not long after he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. He has been moving around well in offseason workouts, but only in individual drills, wearing a baseball cap.

Now he plans to put a helmet on again. He said he will tiptoe back into team drills at next week's mandatory minicamp, about six months after surgery to repair a torn knee ligament.

"I'm not going to do much, but I'm definitely going to do some team stuff," Smith said. "This is the first time I've done that. I've been doing individual and just building up.

"I'm almost six months. I'm not even six months yet. There's been a guy that reinjured his ACL. Lord willing, I'm definitely not trying to be that guy. So I'm just going to take it slow."

How much will Smith actually do?

"If I can gauge it, probably six plays. Probably three in 7-on-7 [passing drills], three in team running [drills], shut it down," Smith said. "I've got a big camp ahead of me. That's when I can start getting back into it."

How much does Smith hope to do when training camp opens in late July?

"I hope to be practicing," Smith said. "I don't see why I'm not going to be practicing. put it that way. So my hope is more to stay consistent and keep going and not have any step-backs. That's the tricky thing, because I can run around.

"I just played basketball the other day, and I was pretty nice. So I feel good. It's a blessing, but I've been working hard. I've been rehabbing hard."

Smith credited Jason Arapoff, the Lions' coordinator of physical development, saying: "He pushes me every day. I'm good where I'm at, so I've just got to make sure I keep going forward and don't take a step back."

Despite his injury, Smith has blogged at smith34.com that he wants to "get back into the race" next year with the other running backs in his draft class: Chris Johnson, Rashard Mendenhall, Matt Forte, Tim Hightower, Ray Rice, Jonathan Stewart, Darren McFadden, Steve Slaton and Felix Jones.

"Down the road, they're going to be talking about this draft class of running backs as one of the best, and I want to be part of that conversation," Smith wrote.

At least Smith seems to understand he's not part of that conversation now. He rushed for 976 yards as a rookie. He rushed for 747 in 13 games this season. He has only three 100-yard games in his career. He already had a long way to go to before the injury. Now it's going to be even harder because of his knee.

"This season did not go as well as we had hoped," Smith wrote. "I didn't come in and play as well as I had anticipated, and as a team we definitely did not make the strides I thought we would make."

That's a big reason the Lions drafted Best. But Best has said that Smith has been supportive.

"He's probably like my big brother right now," Best said. "He's just giving me pointers. He's just staying on me, making sure I know what I'm doing when I'm out there."

Green Bay Packers

As much as coach Mike McCarthy has been extolling a high rate of participation by players in the offseason program this year, the Packers won't be close to full strength for their June 21-23 minicamp.


S Atari Bigby
Getty Images: Jonathan Daniel

As many as 10 players who have been in medical rehab mode this spring – among them receiver Donald Driver, linebacker Nick Barnett and cornerback Al Harris – aren't expected to practice.

Add to that extensive no-dress list defensive end Johnny Jolly and possibly safety Atari Bigby.

McCarthy said June 16 during organized team activities that he has excused Jolly from the mandatory minicamp. The news came two days after Jolly signed his one-year tender as a restricted free agent.

Rather than get Jolly up to speed in what will be a review of the entire playbook that was installed during the OTAs, the team feels the incumbent starter would be better served to stay away from football as he awaits going to trial on a felony drug possession charge. The repeatedly delayed start of the trial is scheduled for July 30, the same day Green Bay's players are to report for training camp.

"There's a lot going on, and he needs to focus and make sure he has everything in line," McCarthy said. "These decisions that are going to be made legally will affect every aspect of his life, most importantly his personal life and then his professional life."

Even if he's not convicted, Jolly could be suspended by the league for violating its personal-conduct policy.

The Packers presumably saved themselves another potential headache when cornerback Tramon Williams, a restricted free agent, also signed his one-year tender by June 15.

Any unsigned restricted free agents past that deadline are liable to have their original qualifying offers reduced by their teams, who only have to pay the player 110 percent of his base salary in 2009.

The Packers have one such player with Bigby. His tender was $1.76 million, and by not signing it, Bigby won't be out much money (roughly $55,000) should the Packers reduce the offer to the "110 percent" stipulation.

The loss in salary would have been more substantial for Williams and Jolly had they not signed, upward of $2 million for both players. Williams' base salary in 2010 will be $3.043 million, while Jolly will earn $2.521 million.

While an unsigned Bigby risks losing his starting job to impressive rookie Morgan Burnett, Williams should report to the team for the minicamp and will have a shot to step in as a starter with Harris still rehabbing his surgically repaired knee. Harris may not be ready for the start of the season.

Minnesota Vikings

Are the Vikings close to parting ways with Sage Rosenfels?


QB Sage Rosenfels
Getty Images: Scott Boehm

It certainly seemed that way after the veteran quarterback saw almost no work in the team's minicamp practices on Saturday and Sunday last week. Rosenfels, in fact, received no snaps in 11-on-11 or 7-on-7 drills on the final day of the camp.

Asked about the situation with Rosenfels, coach Brad Childress said: "Just rotating him around a little bit. We try to expose all those guys to all situations, and it wouldn't be uncommon for you to see here or in training camp where you're trying to expose two quarterbacks and shutting [another] guy down for a day.

"I really wouldn't make anything of that other than we were trying to expose those other three quarterbacks to some of that red-area stuff and some of that blitz stuff yesterday."

Rosenfels, however, refused to comment after both the Saturday and Sunday practices, and it was clear he was less than thrilled to have not only fallen behind Tarvaris Jackson but also rookie Joe Webb.

Webb, who the Vikings took in the sixth round out of Alabama-Birmingham, got many of the second-team reps throughout the weekend.

Webb's rise as a quarterback with the Vikings is interesting, considering the expectation was that he would be moved to wide receiver and only is playing quarterback because the Vikings were so impressed by what they saw from him when he threw some passes at the end of their rookie minicamp.

It appears Childress would like to go with a quarterback depth chart that would include Brett Favre, Jackson and Webb. That would leave Rosenfels as the odd man out.

Rosenfels had been obtained from Houston for a fourth-round pick after the 2008 season and was expected to compete with Jackson for the starting job in 2009. That, of course, was before Favre arrived.

The key question is: What would the Vikings be able to get for Rosenfels? Obviously, the Vikings won't have much leverage because teams will know Rosenfels has fallen down the depth chart.


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