NFC North Update

Marcus Robinson leaves the Windy City for Baltimore, Kordell "surprised" at Grossman pick, Favre pissed about retirement questions, plus Vikings info. Insider insight from our division affiliates in Green Bay, Minnesota, and Chicago -- all inside.

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Robinson a Raven
The Ravens hosted free agent wide receiver Marcus Robinson on Wednesday, and not only gave him a physical but had him workout as well.

"I just ran pass routes, basically, and caught some balls," said the former Chicago Bear wideout, who tore a pair of knee ligaments during the 2001 season. "I had the knee surgery and they wanted to see if [I] could run, see if [I was] limping, see what kind of shape [I¹m] in. I can¹t say, right now, that I¹m in shape to play, but definitely they can see that I¹m coming along strong."

The Ravens had reserve quarterback Anthony Wright, a teammate of Robinson's at South Carolina, throw the ball to him during his workout. What they saw from the 6'3 215 pound Robinson impressed the Ravens. "He looked good. He¹s strong, he¹s physical," said Ravens receivers coach David Shaw. "He¹s got good hands. He¹s not in season shape, but he¹s getting back from that knee injury and he¹s feeling pretty good."

Robinson has previously visited with the Cardinals, 49ers and Raiders and was scheduled to visit with Green Bay, but Baltimore signed him before he could get away.

Bears excited about Grossman
The Bears say they had Rex Grossman rated higher than Kyle Boller on their draft board, and much of that was based on his production as a three-year starter. They discounted his lack of height, pointing out that he found passing lanes playing behind a big o-line at Florida. They also liked his toughness, arm strength and confidence. There is no pressure to play right away since Kordell Stewart is expected to be the starter for at least one year.

Shepherd¹s solid campaign
Edell Shepherd spent the majority of his rookie season on the Bears practice squad. The receiver was signed as an undrafted free agent out of San Jose State but made enough of an impression to keep around. Now Shepherd is putting up numbers in Europe. In Week 4 he caught two passes for 46 yards and one touchdown against the Scottish Claymores.

On the year, Shepherd has 14 receptions for 205 yards and a touchdown, which put him among the league leaders. He is making a bid for the Bears fourth receiver spot. Come training camp he¹ll be competing with Ahmad Merritt, Jamin Elliot, Elijah Thurmon and fifth-round draft picks Bobby Wade and Justin Gage.

Safety Damon Moore has been released. He played in six games last season.

Stewart surprised by QB selection
Kordell Stewart knows he will be the Bears¹ starting quarterback this year, but when he signed there were reports that the team gave him assurances they would not select a quarterback in the first round.

Well, that was when the Bears had the fourth slot. The team changed their tune when Rex Grossman was on the board at the 22nd pick.

"We thought they would draft a Chris Simms or Dave Ragone in the second or third round, so it was a surprise that it was Rex Grossman in the first round," Stewart¹s agent, Leigh Steinberg, told the Chicago Tribune.

GM Jerry Angelo did call Stewart before the team chose Grossman to let him know of the situation.

Let the best man win
David Terrell seemed like a can¹t-miss product coming out of Michigan two years ago, but since being drafted by the Bears with the 8th pick in the 2001 draft he was been anything but stellar.

An inconsistent rookie season was followed up by an injury-shortened sophomore campaign. Terrell will have to pick things up as the Bears selected two receivers, including Justin Gage, who could push the former Michigan receiver for playing time.

Brown becoming a leader
Alex Brown came into the league with questions about his work ethic but quickly erased that label by working hard enough to earn a starting role. Now, Brown is taking on more responsibility as he called the Bears¹ first-round pick, Michael Haynes, hours after he was drafted.

Despite the fact that the two will be competing for playing time, Brown offered congratulations to the rookie and a helping hand upon his arrival to Chicago.

Center signs with Bears
Vanderbilt center and two-time captain Jamie Byrum signed a free agent contract with the Chicago Bears Monday.

Byrum, a native of Grove City, Ohio, becomes the third Commodore to sign a free-agent deal since the NFL draft concluded Sunday. Previous Vanderbilt players to ink contracts were cornerback Rushen Jones with the Minnesota Vikings and wide receiver Dan Stricker with the New England Patriots.

Commodore middle linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer was the only Vanderbilt athlete selected in the NFL draft, taken by the Green Bay Packers in the fifth round.

Byrum was a four-year offensive line letterwinner for the Commodores and earned 34 consecutive starts since the 2000 season. The durable player participated in all but 15 offensive plays for Vanderbilt last year and received a "winning" blocking grade of 80 percent or higher in 11 of the team¹s 12 games. He shared or won VU¹s "Offensive Lineman of the Week" honors 11 times during the 2002 season.

Byrum is scheduled to participate in Chicago¹s rookie camp starting this Friday and will attempt to compete for the Bears¹ backup center role behind six-year veteran and former Pro Bowler Olin Kreutz. The Bears roster currently does not include a second center and the team did not select a player at the position in the recent draft.

Shared Piccolo Award
Defensive ends Phillip Daniels and Alex Brown were named on Thursday as winners of the Brian Piccolo Award for their contributions to the 2002 Bears. The award, which is voted on by the players, is presented annually to a rookie and veteran who best exemplify the courage, loyalty, teamwork, dedication and sense of humor of Piccolo. The former Bears running back died in 1970 at the age of 26 from embryonal cell carcinoma.

Despite a nagging ankle sprain that slowed him much of the season, Daniels led the defensive line with 64 tackles and was second on the team with 5 1/2 sacks. He also provided guidance and on-the-field coaching to young players like Brown, who started nine games after being drafted in the fourth round. He was the team's leading rookie tackler with 49, tied for the team lead with 3 fumble recoveries and was fifth with 2 1/2 sacks.

"He proved all of his critics wrong," defensive coordinator Greg Blache said of Brown, "including this one." Brown slipped in the draft because he had a reputation as a player who didn't always practice hard, but there was never any evidence of that last season. The Piccolo fund has raised more than $6 million since 1970, helping raise the cure rate for that particular cancer to 95 percent. In 1970, the disease was 100 percent fatal.

More surgery means move to right side
Because OT Marc Colombo required a second arthroscopic procedure on his left knee, pushing back his target date to return to fell activity from June 1 to July 1, he will open training camp at right tackle. Colombo, last year's No. 1 draft pick, 29th overall, was originally slated to open training camp as the starting left tackle after starting there five times in 2002. After he dislocated his patella, Mike Gandy stepped in and started six games at left tackle, even though he had never played there at any level. With Colombo's latest setback, Gandy, who was to be the starting right tackle, will open training camp as the starting left tackle.

Bears draft Wade in fifth
The Chicago Bears drafted Arizona wide receiver Bobby Wade in the fifth round. Wade was the 139th player selected, going a little later than some originally thought. Wade has seen his stock rise in some expert¹s eyes as of late.

Wade is a good possession receiver who runs great routes and is dangerous in the open field. He is also a very good punt returner. He will most likely be a slot receiver for Chicago.

There are concerns with his height and speed. While Wade is very quick, he is not a burner. At only 5-10 he lacks the height that scouts now look for in receivers.

Plays GM
Phillip Daniels admitted that he wanted to see the Bears draft Kentucky defensive tackle Dewayne Robertson. The two have been working out together over the last three weeks at a training facility in Atlanta.

"He's big and he's fast and I think that he can make an immediate impact on this team," Daniels said of Robertson. "We need somebody with athletic ability who is going to come in here and go all out. I think he will keep a level head, learn fast, and do well."

When the Bears traded out of the No. 4 spot, they also traded away any possibility of drafting Robertson.


Resting sore ankle
Oft-injured cornerback Bhawoh Jue has been watching from the sidelines this week as many of his teammates practice. Jue recently underwent surgery to remove bone chips from his ankle. He also had hernia surgery last fall. He was placed on injured reserve in October of last year.

Jue is expected to compete for a chance to start at right cornerback against Al Harris when training camp opens in mid-July.

Sitting out of minicamp
Pro Bowl guard Marco Rivera is sitting out of the post-draft minicamp as a precautionary measure. Rivera underwent arthroscopic knee surgery in early February. He played the latter half of last season with torn medial collateral ligaments in both knees. He was named to his first Pro Bowl last season.

Punter Josh Bidwell has re-signed with the team. Terms of the contract were not released. Backup TE Tyrone Davis also has re-signed with the team. Terms of that deal were not released.

Favre tired of questions
Brett Favre put his foot down, and from now on will decline to answer any questions from the media regarding his retirement from football. The future Hall of Fame quarterback told reporters today that he will not answer any more questions regarding the issue simply because he still is uncertain how much longer he will continue to play football.

Favre said the steady questions about his retirement throughout the season last year were an "annoyance" but not a distraction. He said he feels great and is in good shape but is uncertain how much longer he will play football. One thing is certain, he doesn't want to talk about when he is going to hang it up.

"Just leave it alone," Favre said. "I don't know. I really don't know. I hope that it's not injury that forces me out. If I can still play the way I'm capable of playing and able to compete the way I feel I can compete, we'll just see. We'll leave it at that, and at the end of the season, I won't be fielding all those questions again."

Veteran center re-signs
Center Frank Winters and the Packers agreed to a contract. Terms of the deal were not released, but it is likely for one season.

Winters, 39, is entering his 17th season as a pro. He has been with the Green Bay Packers since 1992 when he was acquired as a Plan B free agent. Last year he played in 16 games and made 10 starts because of injuries to other linemen. He also started in Green Bay¹s playoff game against the Atlanta Falcons.

Recovering from pulled hamstring
Safety Marques Anderson is not expected to participate in Green Bay's post-draft minicamp because of a pulled hamstring. Packers coach and general manager Mike Sherman said today that Anderson pulled his hamstring two to three weeks ago and will be working out on his own.

Anderson was one of the top rookies in the league last year, starting in the team's last 11 games and playoff game against Atlanta. He finished with four interceptions and scored two touchdowns.

Rehabbing shoulder
Defensive tackle Rod Walker will not participate in the Packers' post-draft minicamp. Walker underwent minor shoulder surgery this off-season and has been working out with trainers to regain strength.

Walker played in 13 games last year, starting in five. He also started in Green Bay's playoff game against Atlanta. Walker is expected to be ready in time for the start of training camp in mid-July.

Pederson will get chance
Veteran quarterback Doug Pederson was re-signed by the Green Bay Packers. Coach and general manager Mike Sherman indicated at his post-draft press conference Sunday that Pederson will get an opportunity to compete for the backup job behind Brett Favre against third-year pro Craig Nall.

Pederson is entering his 11th season. He was Brett Favre's primary backup in 1998 and 2001 as well.

Unlikely to be back with the Pack
Veteran offensive tackle Earl Dotson was not invited to the team's post-draft minicamp and is not in Green Bay's plans for this season, according to a report. Dotson played in 14 games for Green Bay last year, starting 11 at right tackle, after Mark Tauscher suffered a season-ending knee injury in Week 2.

Dotson is entering his 11th NFL season and was a regular starter at right tackle from 1995-99.

"I think we'll probably go without trying to re-sign Earl," director of pro personnel Reggie McKenzie told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "That's the plan. I think he wants to play but I really haven't had any contact with Earl."

Top passer in NFL Europe wins another
Quarterback Craig Nall, property of the Green Bay Packers, threw for three touchdowns in the Scottish Claymores' 34-17 win over the Berlin Thunder. The Claymores improved to 2-2 with the victory.
Nall leads all quarterbacks in NFL Europe in yardage, accuracy rating and touchdown passes.

Will debut at QB this week
Former Heisman Trophy winner Eric Crouch, the St. Louis Rams' third-round pick last year as a wide receiver, will play quarterback in his debut with the Packers in minicamp this week.

"I can't believe how he went through waivers and no one claimed him because of the athlete that he is," coach Mike Sherman said. "He's certainly someone we can work with. "He also can run around in practice and challenge our defense while he's developing in our system. One thing I wanted to get done in free agency was find a running quarterback who could give our defense a look in practice."

Moved to strongside linebacker
Third-year pro Torrance Marshall will play behind Na'il Diggs at the strongside linebacker position, Packers coach/GM Mike Sherman said. Sherman drafted Nick Barnett with the Packers' first-round pick and signed Hannibal Navies in March to improve Green Bay's linebacking corp.

Marshall played a variety of positions, including fullback, last year after failing to beat out Hardy Nickerson for the starting middle linebacker job. Marshall was playing at weakside linebacker behind Nate Wayne near the end of the season, but now has been moved to the 'Buck' linebacker position.


Plenty of opportunity to impress
Third-round draft pick Nate Burleson is an accomplished receiver who gives the Vikings some depth at a position that had a lot of questions heading into the draft. Thanks to an injury to their top running back, the folks at Nevada went to a pass-happy scheme last year, and the result was Burleson -- whose older brother Kevin just finished his basketball career at the University of Minnesota -- catching a NCAA-best 138 passes, just four short of the all-time single-season record. Burleson is not a burner, but he is very quick out of his cuts, allowing his separation.

And he comes to the Vikings at a good time. After Randy Moss, D'Wayne Bates and Kelly Campbell -- whom the Vikings don't feel is big enough to be an every-down receiver -- the Vikings have a lot of questions at WR. Derrick Alexander and Kenny Clark are coming back from injury, and veteran Chris Walsh has yet to be re-signed.

Burleson is acquainted with Vikings offensive coordinator Scott Linehan; Linehan was at Washington when another of Burleson's brothers played there, and Linehan recruited the younger Burleson out of high school before leaving Washington for Louisville. Burleson is perhaps the most polished receiver in the draft, able to play all three receiver positions. "We think he's a perfect fit for us," Linehan said. "I think he's a guy who can develop into a battle for the No. 2 spot."

Browns lose out to Vikings for free agent
Huge offensive tackle Adam Goldberg from Wyoming decided to sign with the Minnesota Vikings after weighing offers from the Browns and four other teams. Goldberg also got offers from the 49ers, Giants, Jets, and Redskins. It was expected that Goldberg would have an opportunity to get drafted but received six offers within a half-hour of the draft ending on Sunday.

Steal of a pick?
Second-round LB E.J. Henderson doesn¹t fill a huge need, but he was too good a value to pass up. The Vikings had him among the top 20 players in the draft and as clearly the best linebacker. Henderson, though, may have slid a bit because of a back injury that required surgery a year ago. Still, this gives the Vikings two Butkus Award winners on the same roster -- Chris Claiborne is the other one -- and the best middle linebacker in the draft.

He is not exceptionally fast, but he is instinctive enough to make up for it. He is a hard hitter and a sure tackler, which will allow him to contribute right away on special teams. He will be inserted in the middle behind veteran Greg Biekert, who will tutor the young player, preparing him to start, as early as the 2004 season. "He's smart, he's physical, he runs good enough," said Scott Studwell, the Vikings' director of college scouting. "We feel, all of a sudden, we've taken this linebacker corps and built it into a very strong unit."

Vikings may have interest in LB
According to the Mississippi Clarion-Ledger, Jackson State linebacker Elgin Andrews has worked out and received some phone calls from the Browns and Vikings. Andrews was not selected in last weekend's draft and hopes to get a chance to play as a rookie free agent.

Chaos aside, he's who team wanted

Despite the draft-day mayhem, fact is, the Vikings got the player they wanted in the first round in Kevin Williams. And that is more than just spin. Talking to several sources who took part in the draft preparation process, the Vikings decided that Dewayne Robertson and Williams were the two best players for them in the first round, the two players who fit their need for a defensive tackle who could take pressure off Chris Hovan with a strong pass rush. Robertson went No. 4. So the Vikings were ready and willing to take Williams when their pick came up.

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