Hot news gathered from PackerReport.com, BearReport.com, LionsFans.com and VikingUpdate.com.
Absent from practice
Instead of being at Halas Hall with the rest of his teammates, Brian Urlacher spent some time in his home state of New Mexico hosting a youth football camp. The middle linebacker was excused from practice in order to attend the event.
Spends time with ball
R.W. McQuarters has the ability to make something happen when he has the ball in his hands, but being a defender limits his chances.
The Bears drafted Bobby Wade in the fifth round with the intent of making him the team's punt and kick returner. However, McQuarters is getting reps returning punts in case the team needs a big play.
Should be ready for training camp
Marc Colombo is missing the team's June practices because of injury. With training camp still more than a month away there is no reason to rush Colombo back from a severe knee injury. He should be ready to go when the Bears head to Bourbonnais on July 24.
Third-down back in the making
Bears running back coach Earle Mosley recently told Bear Report that there is a back on the roster that can offer a change of pace, but would not reveal which player he was referring to.
Maurice Hicks is the lightest back on the roster at 200 pounds. While not a fulltime player in NFL Europe for the Scottish Claymores, Hicks caught six balls in 10 games and averaged 7.4 yards per carry with four rushing touchdowns.
Hicks returned from Europe in time to participate in the team's June minicamp.
TE John Davis only did some light running during practices as he continues to rehabilitate from offseason back surgery.
Coach hopes injury doesn't linger
A number of players were unable to participate fully in the final days of minicamp because of injuries. Among them were first-round draft pick Charles Rogers and second-year running back Luke Staley, who were both limited because of pulled hamstrings. If they are healthy, both players could play a significant role in the Lions' 2003 NFL season. Rogers is likely to start and Staley could be an ideal third-down back because of his receiving skills and understanding of the passing game. Mariucci is hoping that none of the seemingly minor injuries develop into lingering problems.
"I think we've got seven weeks to healthy-up, to get stronger and get in better shape," he said. "I think many of those hamstrings were fellows who had not been in our offseason program and so their conditioning level isn't like the rest of the guys. They found out they need to be in better shape.
"It's different than just running a fast 40 or testing at the combine and then having the muscular endurance that you need to practice against pros for a couple hours. When we get into two-a-days, it's certainly going to be a factor.
"We've got to increase our muscular endurance and our fitness level, but we need to be a stronger team, too."
GREEN BAY PACKERS
NFL Europe star signed
WR/KR Brian McDonald has been signed after finishing second in kick returns during the recently completed NFL Europe season. McDonald returned 14 kickoffs for Frankfurt, averaging 27.8 yards.
Not wasting time after being cut
Cut by the salary-cap strapped Titans on Wednesday, MLB Randall Godfrey was scheduled to meet with Jacksonville on Thursday. Seattle, Green Bay and Philadelphia are also believed to be interested in signing Godfrey, but the Jaguars might have the inside track because he played for the University of Georgia and is from Valdosta, Ga.
Claimed off waivers
Kicker Owen Pochman, who missed all of last season with a knee injury, was claimed off waivers from the Giants and signed a one-year, $300,000 contract. He was the Giants' kickoff specialist two seasons ago, and could conceivably handle those duties for the Packers with Ryan Longwell serving as the field goal kicker.
Placed on waivers
Zak Kustok, who signed with the Packers on Feb. 7 and participated in the team's post-draft and June minicamps, was placed on waivers today. The former Northwestern University starter originally signed with the Miami Dolphins as an undrafted free agent April 26, 2002, but was released when the roster was reduced to 65 players in training camp.
Doug Pederson, Craig Nall, newly acquired Akili Smith, and Eric Crouch will be competing for backup spots behind Brett Favre during Green Bay's training camp this season.
Plans to be ready by camp
DE Chukie Nwokorie suffered a sprained knee on the first day of the first minicamp in April and has been out since. He says he'll be ready for the start of training camp in July.
Headed for open market
The Vikings' attempts to trade center Cory Withrow have failed and, barring any late trade offer by a team in the next month or so, the Vikes are content to let him play out his contract and become an unrestricted free agent in 2004.
Chooses Jags over Vikings
Former Minnesota WR Matthew Hatchette, who just completed a season in NFL Europe, decided not to re-sign with the Vikings and instead is headed to Jacksonville. Hatchette, who received a one-year, $550,000 deal with a $25,000 signing bonus, chose the Jaguars because he'll get a chance to compete for the No. 3 spot with Donald Hayes, Micah Ross, Kevin Lockett and Jimmy Redmond.
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