NFC North Update

The June 1st cut date came and went without a lot of news within the division. Training camp is still more than a month off, but June mini-camps are underway. Here is the latest news and notes from each team within the division.

Hot News updates from BearReport.com, PackerReport.com and VikingUpdate.com.

Chicago Bears
Next up?

Will Mike Brown be the next to sign a long-term extension with the team? The team initially offered under $12 million for six seasons, but progress is being made. GM Jerry Angelo told the Chicago Sun Times he expects something "sooner rather than later."

Feels good as a Bill
Left end Keith McKenzie, who's competing for a reserve defensive end spot with Buffalo, said he matches Buffalo's defense better than Chicago's. McKenzie played in Chicago last year, but was cut in-season because he wasn't effective. He said that he just wasn't big enough to play in the Bears' defense. He also wasn't 100 percent following a broken ankle he suffered as a Brown in 2001. He rushed to come back because he was an unrestricted free agent, and that hurt him. “I feel great now,” he said. “I don’t feel quite like I did before I got hurt. I don’t think I’ll ever feel that way because I have a plate in my ankle right now, and it’s not the same. It went through a big trauma when I broke it.”

Time has passed
The Bears needed to tender Christian Peter an offer by June 1st in order to re-sign him before July 22, which means the defensive tackle, will play elsewhere in 2003.

Peter played in 12 games, starting three, but missed the final three games of the year because of injury.

Signs extension through 2011
Brian Urlacher agreed to a nine-year contract, which is reportedly worth more than $58 million including a $19 million signing bonus, The three-time Pro Bowler is now the highest paid defensive player in the game.

Time in Europe would have helped
Last preseason Kenny Christian had seven receptions for an average of 15.9 yards per catch, but the Bears cut him in favor of Jamin Elliot. From there Elliot, a sixth-round pick, bounced back and forth between game day inactive and practice squad experiment before playing in the final two games of the season.

However, Elliot didn’t catch a single ball during the regular season and caught one during the preseason. Time in NFL Europe could have developed Elliot’s game, but the team elected to put him through their offseason workout program.

In April the Bears spent two fifth-round choices on receivers Bobby Wade and Justin Gage, which could spell the end of Elliot’s stretch in Chicago.

Could serve time
Bryan Robinson has been sentenced to 30 days in Lake County jail, 360 hours of community service and 18 months probation stemming from his guilty plea to driving under the influence, a Class A misdemeanor.

There is a chance that Robinson could avoid jail time. He will enter an alcohol treatment program Tuesday in an attempt to have his sentence reduced or commuted.

Robinson will return to court June 27 after completing an in-patient program. If the defensive lineman has to serve the maximum jail sentence there is a chance he could miss the start of training camp, which is July 25.

Part of major question mark
The play of the offensive line, especially the tackles, will be a major factor in QB Kordell Stewart's success. For now, there remain a lot of questions about left tackle Mike Gandy and right tackle Marc Colombo. Gandy never played left tackle until last season, when injuries forced him into that spot. Colombo is not expected to participate in any of the team's mini-camps while he rehabilitates from a dislocated kneecap last season and follow-up surgery after the season. Gandy and Colombo are both 24 as are backups Bernard Robertson, who started last season at left tackle but was replaced, and Steve Edwards. "We like our young tackles," general manager Jerry Angelo said. "The concern is that they're young, and because of the unknown, obviously that concern is not going to go away until they've gotten out there and done it. "They're young, but for the most part, all but one has played, so it's not like we're playing with no experience. They're talented, so it's just a matter of them going out there and doing it."

Green Bay Packers
Works out for Packers

Former Detroit and Carolina CB Terry Fair worked out for Green Bay on Tuesday. Fair broke his ankle three weeks into last season and has not played since.

Takes some snaps with first team defense
Linebacker Torrance Marshall worked a little with the first-team defense during the Packers' minicamp practice today. Marshall had been playing middle linebacker earlier this week on the second team defense. But the third-year pro was given some snaps with the first team, switching with Paris Lenon, during team scrimmages.

First-round pick Nick Barnett is the projected starter in the middle for the Packers, but he has not been able to attend the current minicamp because Oregon State is still in session.

Returns to practice
Tight end Bubba Franks returned to practice today after a bout with bronchitis earlier this week. Franks missed the Packers' first two practices of the minicamp this week.

The Packers did not practice on Wednesday and, instead, went bowling as part of coach Mike Sherman's plan to build chemistry.

Injuries his hand in practice
Wide receiver Donald Driver was unable to finish practice today after injuring his left hand. Driver said he felt numbness in his left pinkie and index fingers. He left practice with his hand wrapped in ice. He said that X-rays taken afterward were negative.

"One of the DBs (defensive backs) tried to punch the ball out at the end (of a play)," Driver said. "It made my wrist and my fingers numb."

Driver, the team's top wideout, told reporters surrounding his locker that he plans to practice tomorrow when the Packers' minicamp resumes.

"I'll be back at it," Driver said. "There's just a little numbness. It gets you nervous at first but everything's OK."

First of Packers' draft picks to sign
Defensive tackle James Lee signed a multi-year contract with the Green Bay Packers today. Lee, of Oregon State, was one of Green Bay's two fifth-round selections in the 2003 NFL draft.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed but it is likely a three-year contract.

Lee played in 23 games for the Beavers, including all 13 games last year but did not start.

Lee is not participating in this week's minicamp because Oregon State is still in session and NFL rules prohibit a player from practicing with a team until school is out.

Likely to practice as a returner
Eric Crouch has been working as a third-string quarterback at the Packers minicamp this week, but he also will get some reps as a return specialist, coach and GM Mike Sherman said. Crouch left the St. Louis Rams last year because he wants to focus on playing quarterback rather than wide receiver or kick return specialist.

The Packers signed the former Heisman Trophy winner in April and were pleasantly surprised with his arm strength and accuracy during the post-draft minicamp. But Sherman wants to review his abilities as a return man as well, probably during the last few practices of the non-mandatory camp.

"He will catch the ball here at some point," Sherman said.

Signed by Packers
RB Lamar Smith, a verteran who played for Carolina the past two seasons, has been signed. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Misses practice with injury
Rookie DeAndrew Rubin did not practice today as the Packers opened their June minicamp because of a hamstring injury. Rubin injured his hamstring at a recent "opportunity session" for rookies and first-year players in Green Bay, according to Packers coach and GM Mike Sherman.

Sherman said Rubin, a wide receiver and kick return specialist from South Florida, was scheduled to undergo a magnetic resonance imaging test. The Packers used their second pick of the seventh round in the recent NFL draft to select Rubin.

Getting back up to speed
Bhawoh Jue, who has been riddled with injuries the past two seasons, took part in drills and plays from scrimmage today as the Packers opened their June minicamp. Jue underwent surgery last November to repair a hernia/groin injury that bothered him since his rookie season in 2001. He also had arthroscopic surgery in January to remove a bone spur on his right ankle.

Coach and GM Mike Sherman was impressed with Jue, who is getting back up to speed at left cornerback. Jue is currently playing behind Mike McKenzie.

"He looks like a different player out there," Sherman said after he watched the team practice in shorts. "He's a lot quicker than I remember him. I thought he did some nice things out there today."

Sherman said Jue will practice a little at safety, where he started five games as a rookie for the injured LeRoy Butler, but cornerback is more his "natural position."

Feels "he was wronged" with drug charge
Defensive end Joe Johnson, charged with marijuana possession in Tift County, Ga., on May 22, says that he did not have possession of the drug nor was he driving the vehicle that was pulled over. In fact, Johnson insists he was not even in the vicinity of the early morning incident.

"(Marijuana) was not possessed by me as an individual," Johnson said. "The affiliation is the vehicle in which the druggs were found in. I am the owner of that vehicle. No possessions were found on me nor was I driving the car. It's an unfortunate circumstance where I am tied to the situation because I am the owner of the vehicle."

Johnson said the incident occurred between stops of a nine-city tour involving Built to Last, a non-profit organization that conducts camps in different cities to benefit underprivileged youth. The 10th year pro says he was actually en route from his hometown of St. Louis to Miami at the time of the incident.

Takes part in some minicamp drills
Guard Marco Rivera, who underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right knee after making his first Pro Bowl appearance in early February, took part in some drills today with the Packers as they opened their June minicamp. Rivera did not participate in the team's post-draft minicamp but has remained in Green Bay this off-season to rehab his knee.

Rivera also suffered torn cartilage in his left knee but played through the injury.

"Today was my first day and I did some plays, but hopefully by next week - Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday - I'll be practicing the whole practice," Rivera said.

Minnesota Vikings
Former Vike signs with Pittsburgh

Offensive lineman Calvin Collins, who was with the Vikings in 2001, has signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Collins worked at guard for the Vikings, but he can also play center. He also spent time with Houston last year.

WR could be in purple again
The Vikings have been impressed enough with the rapport between QB Shaun Hill and WR Matthew Hatchette in NFL Europe that the Vikings will likely sign Hatch to come back to the team once the NFLE season ends. Hatchette has also been with the New York Jets and Oakland.

Vikings a suitor?
The Chiefs released CB Ray Crockett and one source close to Crockett's agent said he believes the Vikings are one of the teams that may be interested in bringing the veteran in.

Will get his shot
The possibility that the Vikings will add a veteran safety after June 1 still exists, but it is not likely. The Vikings are committed to trying to develop second-year man Willie Offord. Still, if Offord were to struggle badly during the June developmental camps, the Vikings may change their minds and go after a seasoned vet.


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