NFC North Update

Signings came in a flurry this week for all four teams in the NFC North, while a number of divisional players were also placed on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list. Insider divisional notes from our NFC North sources.

CHICAGO BEARS
Haynes agrees to six-year deal
DE Michael Haynes, the 14th overall pick in the draft by Chicago, has agreed to a six-year deal.

Grossman agrees to five-year deal QB Rex Grossman, one of Chicago's two first-round draft picks, has agreed to a five-year deal.

Columbo not ready for action Starting offensive tackle Marc Colombo is being held out of the early sessions of training camp due to a slow recovery from knee surgery. Indications coming from the team to The Insiders are that Columbo may not be ready to participate in camp practices until possibly mid-August.

Highest draft pick to sign deal The Bears inked fourth-round pick Ian Scott to a four-year deal hours before players were due to report to Bourbonnais for the start of training camp. The fourth-round selection (116th overall) is the seventh of 12 draft picks to sign and is the highest overall choice to agree to a deal with the team. The advanced age of Ted Washington (35) and Keith Traylor (34) along with Bryan Robinson facing a possible suspension from the league could force Scott into duty as a rookie.

Signs four-year deal The Bears have agreed to terms on a four-year contract with fifth-round draft pick Tron LaFavor. The defensive tackle received a $112,000 signing bonus. LaFavor (5th round, 171st overall) was a part-time starter at defensive tackle throughout his four-year career at the University of Florida (1999-2002), starting 13 of 44 games played and recording 112 tackles with three sacks, 13 tackles for losses, three fumble recoveries, two passes defended and one interception. The 6-2, 290-pounder started nine games as a junior, recording 42 tackles and improved his stops his senior season despite only three starts in 12 games, making 51 tackles with two sacks, five tackles for losses, one fumble recovery and one pass defended.

Underrated talent Warrick Holdman will never get the publicity that Brian Urlacher does, but he was greatly missed when he was lost for the season with torn knee cartilage in the fourth game. With Rosevelt Colvin gone, Holdman will be expected to play a bigger role. Holdman has great speed and range, can rush the passer, play the run and drop into coverage.

Judge goes lenient A judge gave DT Bryan Robinson credit for 17 days he spent in a rehab center and suspended the remaining 13 days of his jail sentence as long as he completes 300 hours of community service. It stems from Robinson pleading guilty to his second DUI arrest in a year last month, and he still faces a possible suspension by the NFL.

GREEN BAY PACKERS
Wisne sits out with calf injury
Offensive tackle Jerry Wisne sat out of practice this morning nursing a sore calf that he injured during the morning practice on Wednesday. Wisne is the top backup to starter Chad Clifton on the left side of the line. Rookie Brennan Curtin took Wisne's place with the second-team offense during scrimmages.

Bothered by hip injury Nose tackle James Lee was held out of practice again this morning because of a hip injury. Lee also missed practices on Wednesday after suffering the injury early in the team's first full-squad practice on Tuesday. "I was concerned that it was low back pain," said Packers coach Mike Sherman. "Sometimes that can be degenerative pain, or a disk, something like that." Rookie Kenny Peterson took Lee's spot with the first- and second-team defenses during scrimmages this morning.

Practicing at both tackle positions Kenny Peterson, Green Bay's third-round draft pick in the NFL draft last April, has been practicing at nose tackle and defensive tackle (three technique) during the Packers' first two days of practices. Peterson is expected to back up Cletidus Hunt, but Hunt has been ill. Veteran Gilbert Brown has yet to sign a contract, which has provided an opportunity for the coaches to see how Peterson performs at nose tackle. "He's going to learn out here on the field," said defensive line coach Jethro Franklin. "He's going to get his butt kicked at times and there will be other times when he kicks butt. It's a learning process. When we get into preseason games, it's going to be even more so. The whole thing's going to be a learning experience, and he's going to get better because of it."

Misses second straight day of practices Cletidus Hunt did not participate in training camp practices Wednesday because of strep throat and gastritis. Hunt also missed the opening day of Green Bay's full-squad practices Tuesday. Hunt is the team's starter at defensive tackle. He signed a six-year, $25.5 million contract that included a $6 million signing bonus in February.

Fails physical, placed on PUP Steve Warren, a top backup at nose tackle, failed his physical and was placed on the Packers' physically unable to perform list. Warren has been bothered by a lower back and hamstring injury. He will not be eligible to come off the PUP list until he passes his physical.

Leaves training camp Eric Crouch, signed by the Packers this off-season, left Green Bay's training camp prior to the first full-squad practice. Coach Mike Sherman said he was "disappointed" that Crouch left. Sherman said Crouch spoke to him last night and said he was leaving for "personal reasons." Crouch was attempting to make the Packers as a quarterback, but he was a longshot. Green Bay signed free agent Akili Smith in June, which likely further diminished Crouch's chances of earning a roster spot. The Packers had intentions of using Crouch as a punt returner in practices and preseason games as well as developing him as a quarterback, Sherman said.

Linebacker issues apology Linebacker Torrance Marshall, suspended by the NFL for the first four regular-season games this season because of a substance abuse violation, made a brief statement to reporters after the Packers' first full-squad training camp practice today. "I want to apologize to the coaching staff, my teammates, the organization and fans for the situation I'm in," Marshall said. "I assure you I'm making progress in that situation. I had two good minicamps, and I want to continue that in training camp, focus on doing that. I will go out of my way to make sure I'm taking care of business so I'm mentally and physically ready, so when I come back I can contribute right away." Marshall will not be allowed in Green Bay's facilities from Aug. 29 until Sept. 30. He is will be eligible to be activated for the Packers' Oct. 5 home game against the Seattle Seahawks.

MINNESOTA VIKINGS
Busy Vikings sign punter Johnson
The Minnesota Vikings have agreed to terms with rookie sixth-round draft pick, punter Eddie Johnson. Johnson is expected to be the Vikings starting punter in the 2003 season.

Vikings get Williams signed The Minnesota Vikings have agreed to terms with first-round draft selection, defensive lineman Kevin Williams from Oklahoma State.

Wide receiver signs deal The Vikings have signed third-round draft choice Nate Burleson. The wide receiver was selected by Minnesota with the 71st overall pick in the 2003 NFL Draft out of the University of Nevada, where he finished with 248 catches for 3,293 yards and 22 TDs during his three-year career. He is expected to compete for the No. 3 spot in training camp, which starts this weekend. Burleson had 138 catches in 2002, which is the second-best single-season reception mark in NCAA history. He finished the season with 1,629 yards receiving and 12 TDs and led the nation in receptions per game (11.5) and receiving yards per game (135.8). He was a finalist for the Biletnikoff Award, given to the nation¹s top receiver, and was an All-WAC selection and a second-team All-America choice by The Sporting News and CNN/SI.

Released Former second-round pick Willie Howard has been released by the Vikings. The defensive tackle never fully recovered from serious knee and leg injuries in 2001.

Wait-and-see mode The Vikings will know in a month if running back Michael Bennett will be gone for the year. Last Tursday Bennett had a procedure done to the stress fracture in his foot. He had some bone marrow, mixed with a protein to promote growth, injected into the fracture to prompt healing. Bennett will wear a cast for the next month, and test performed upon its removal will determine whether the procedure worked. If it does, Bennett will begin a running and rehabilitation program immediately. If not, he will have a more serious surgery and miss the entire season.


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