Behind Enemy Lines: NFC North Update

With training camp approaching quickly, takes a look at what is going on with Detroit's division rivals, including insider looks at the Chicago Bears, Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers. Grossman growing on Lovie Smith, Packers' do away with former 1st round pick, and a Vikings' rookie update. Much more inside.


There will be jobs won and lost during Lovie Smith's first minicamp, and some of them will be starting jobs at positions that will be crucial to the success of the new regime.

Smith has a good idea of who will be competing for certain jobs after three minicamps and 14 OTAs, but he claims he hasn't made any permanent decisions yet.

"I think that's all we've done right now is really establish who will be competing for the different jobs," Smith said. "You can't really move the depth chart around too much until the guys get in pads. We're anxious to get in pads and see exactly where they are then, but we have good competition at a lot of positions."

Smith listed offensive left tackle, cornerback and wide receiver as positions that are up for grabs, but he should have also mentioned strong safety.

At left tackle Qasim Mitchell gets first crack at the job, but if he can't handle it, Mike Gandy could be switched back there from his natural guard position or John Tait could move over from right tackle.

At cornerback, Jerry Azumah and R.W. McQuarters will again battle to start opposite Charles Tillman. Both have had their moments in the past, but both have also had costly coverage and tackling lapses, too.

At wide receiver, David Terrell needs to play with much more urgency and attention to detail or he will disappear down the depth chart behind second-year players Justin gage and Bobby Wade, free-agent pickup Daryl Jones and rookie Bernard Berrian.

The strong safety position is a tossup between Mike Green, who is better in coverage, and Bobby Gray, who is a more physical presence against the run.

"We have a lot of competition that's going to happen once we get to camp," Smith said.


--Rex Grossman has grown on coach Lovie Smith since he took the Bears' job. "When we started we liked him," Smith said. "We like him a lot more now. Just him going into the huddle; he knows what's going on. A lot of different reps. That only makes you better. He feels a lot more comfortable. The team knows exactly what he can do. He's made excellent throws out here."

--Bears quarterbacks coach Wade Wilson played nearly two decades in the NFL, but that isn't the reason he was hired to be offensive coordinator Terry Shea's right-hand man.

"I don't ever believe that that's the X factor involved," Shea said. "Your quarterback coach has to generate some tremendous trust between himself and the quarterbacks, because when all the bullets start flying, that quarterbacks coach and/or coordinator, better be construed as being a very supportive coach and he better be there in terms of the trust factor. That's much more important than 20 years in the NFL."

QUOTE TO NOTE: "As long as I'm the coordinator here, that's one of my passions is to coach the quarterback, and so I will be involved. But (quarterbacks coach) Wade (Wilson) is obviously a great component to that." -- Offensive coordinator Terry Shea on what his involvement will be with the tutelage of quarterback Rex Grossman



QUARTERBACK: Starter -- Rex Grossman. Backups -- Jonathan Quinn, Craig Krenzel, Ryan Dinwiddie.

RUNNING BACKS: Starters -- RB Thomas Jones, FB Bryan Johnson. Backups -- RB Anthony Thomas, RB Brock Forsey, RB Rabih Abdullah, RB Adrian Peterson, FB Jason McKie.

TIGHT END/H-BACK: Starter -- Desmond Clark. Backups -- Dustin Lyman, John Gilmore, Robert Johnson.

WIDE RECEIVERS: Starters -- Marty Booker, David Terrell. Backups -- Justin Gage, Bobby Wade, Daryl Jones, Bernard Berrian, Ahmad Merritt.

OFFENSIVE LINE: Starters -- LT Qasim Mitchell, LG Rex Tucker, C Olin Kreutz, RG Ruben Brown, RT John Tait. Backups -- T-G Steve Edwards, T Aaron Gibson, G-T Mike Gandy, G-T Terrence Metcalf, C-G Josh Warner.

DEFENSIVE LINE: Starters -- LE Michael Haynes, LT Alfonso Boone, RT Bryan Robinson, RE Alex Brown. Backups -- T Tommie Harris, T Tank Johnson, E Joe Tafoya, E Claude Harriott, T Tron LaFavor, T Ian Scott.

LINEBACKERS: Starters -- SLB Joe Odom, MLB Brian Urlacher, WLB Lance Briggs. Backups -- Bryan Knight, Hunter Hillenmeyer, Leon Joe.

DEFENSIVE BACKS: Starters -- CB Charles Tillman, CB Jerry Azumah, FS Mike Brown, SS Mike Green. Backups -- CB R.W. McQuarters, S Bobby Gray, CB Nathan Vasher, CB Todd McMillon, CB Brock Williams.

SPECIAL TEAMS: PK Paul Edinger, P Brad Maynard, LS Pat Mannelly, H Maynard, KOR Jerry Azumah, PR R.W. McQuarters.


Bob Harlan, perhaps the most revered man in Packerland, was inducted into the Packer Hall of Fame.

Harlan, 67, was the lone enshrinee this year and the 131st since the hall was created in 1970. For the first time, a sitting NFL commissioner will be at the induction dinner, in the person of Paul Tagliabue.

A native of Des Moines, Iowa, Harlan joined the Packers as a contract negotiator under Dan Devine in 1971. He replaced Robert Parins as president in 1989 at a point when the franchise was at low ebb.

Within two years, Harlan fired personnel director Tom Braatz, hired GM Ron Wolf and then stood back and encouraged Wolf when he came to him with the ideas of hiring Mike Holmgren as coach and trading for Brett Favre.

Harlan remains down to earth and prefers remaining out of the limelight. He continues to answer his own telephone and likes to surprise groups touring renovated Lambeau Field by making himself available to them.

It was Harlan who went door-to-door for votes in 2000 when a referendum asking Brown County voters to support a sales-tax referendum to fund the $295 million renovation passed by a mere 52-48 margin.

Today, the Packers are riding high, having posted a record of 126-66 in the last 12 regular seasons, best in the NFL during that span. That success flew in the face of the conventional wisdom that a small-market franchise such as Green Bay would flounder with the advent of unfettered free agency in 1993.

"The last time the Packers had a streak like this was 1934 to 1947," Harlan said. "That's remarkable. In an era when we were supposed to fall, we stayed strong."

The renovation of Lambeau has drawn raves from club officials around the league. The Chiefs are using Lambeau as a model for their proposed renovation of Arrowhead Stadium. Representatives of the New York Giants visited Green Bay recently. Officials from the Rose Bowl were in town in early July.

"He's done it with great ability, great dignity and classiness," Chiefs president Carl Peterson said.


--Kenny Peterson, a third-round pick in 2003, didn't do much as a rookie and now must play to expectations.

Peterson might be strictly a three-technique tackle and an undersized one at that (6-3, 295).

"He's the smallest of the group, so his game is probably more finesse," director of pro personnel Reggie McKenzie said. "But this year he has a better understanding. He's trying to use his hands and plays smarter, not just letting guys get into his body."

--The Packers' trade of defensive end Jamal Reynolds to Indianapolis for a late-round draft choice was voided when the Colts didn't like the looks of his back or left knee and failed him on their physical.

Green Bay then promptly cut him.

Reynolds, the 10th player picked in the 2001 draft, had three sacks in three seasons. He played 147 snaps in eight games as a rookie, 132 in eight games in 2002 and 111 in six games in '03.

He wasn't an instinctive player and sometimes didn't know how to play the defense. He couldn't win with speed, power or persistence and wasn't strong enough to play the run.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "He has hand quickness. I think he's an athlete. He has power. I think he can play three positions." -- Director of pro personnel Reggie McKenzie on rookie DL Corey Williams.


The Packers created an opening for former Steeler Jason Gildon by cutting defensive end Jamal Reynolds after he failed his physical in Indianapolis to void a trade.

Still, Gildon hasn't made up his mind. If he picks Green Bay he would back up at outside linebacker in the 4-3 and join Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila at end in the 4-1.


QUARTERBACKS: Starter -- Brett Favre. Backups -- Tim Couch, Doug Pederson, Craig Nall.

RUNNING BACKS: Starters -- RB Ahman Green, FB William Henderson. Backups -- RB Najeh Davenport, RB Tony Fisher, FB Nick Luchey, RB Dahrran Diedrick.

TIGHT END/H-BACKS: Starter -- Bubba Franks. Backups -- David Martin, Steve Bush, Tony Donald.

WIDE RECEIVERS: Starters -- SE Robert Ferguson, FL Donald Driver. Backups -- Javon Walker, Carl Ford, Antonio Chatman, Scottie Vines, Frank Rice, Devin Lewis.

OFFENSIVE LINE: Starters -- LT Chad Clifton, LG Mike Wahle, C Mike Flanagan, RG Marco Rivera, RT Mark Tauscher. Backups -- T-G Kevin Barry, G-C Grey Ruegamer, T Steve Morley, C Scott Wells, T Brennan Curtin, G Atlas Herrion.

DEFENSIVE LINE: Starters -- LE Aaron Kampman, NT Grady Jackson, 3T Cletidus Hunt, RE Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila. Backups -- LE Chukie Nwokorie, 3T Kenny Peterson, NT James Lee, DT Donnell Washington, LE Corey Williams, 3T Cullen Jenkins.

LINEBACKERS: Starters -- SLB Hannibal Navies, MLB Nick Barnett, WLB Na'il Diggs. Backups -- WLB Marcus Wilkins, SLB Paris Lenon, MLB Torrance Marshall, MLB Armegis Spearman, WLB Steve Josue.

DEFENSIVE BACKS: Starters -- LC Mike McKenzie, RC Al Harris, SS Darren Sharper, FS Mark Roman. Backups -- FS Marques Anderson, CB Ahmad Carroll, CB Michael Hawthorne, CB Joey Thomas, CB Chris Johnson, SS James Whitely, SS Bhawoh Jue, FS Curtis Fuller.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Starters -- K Ryan Longwell, P B.J. Sander, H Doug Pederson, LS Rob Davis. Backup -- P Travis Dorsch.


For a team that is counting heavily on this year's rookie class, the Vikings are amazingly calm considering only one of their rookies is signed and the other seven aren't expected to sign until right before training camp starts July 30.

Rob Brzezinski, the team's vice president of football operations, said he doesn't expect any holdouts. He said negotiations so far have gone according to the usual schedule.

Two years ago, the Vikings' first-round draft pick, Bryant McKinnie, missed eight games because of a holdout. Last year, the only holdout was fourth-round pick Onterrio Smith, and he missed only a few practices.

Kevin Williams, last year's No. 1 pick, signed early and was in camp on time. He went on to have an excellent season with 10.5 sacks, including three in the season finale at Arizona.

This year, the Vikings are counting on 20th-overall pick Kenechi Udeze to start at right end and cure their weak outside pass rush. They also foresee second-round pick Dontarrious Thomas seriously competing with smallish second-year pro Mike Nattiel for the starting weak-side linebacker job.

Third-round pick Darrion Scott is expected to provide key depth at left end and tackle.

Nat Dorsey, the first of two fourth-round picks, is a huge left tackle from Georgia Tech. He will back up McKinnie.

Mewelde Moore, the second fourth-round pick, is the only rookie to sign so far. The running back from Tulane will return kicks and work as the heir apparent to Moe Williams as a third-down back.

Fifth-round pick Rod Davis and sixth-round pick Deandre' Eiland are needed for depth. Davis, a linebacker from Southern Mississippi, can play in the middle or the strong side. Eiland, a cornerback from South Carolina, is important because the cornerback position was weakened when Denard Walker and Eric Kelly forced the Vikings to release them.

Even seventh-round pick Jeff Dugan, a blocking tight end from Maryland, might make the team. There is no experienced depth behind the Vikings' top two tight ends, Jim Kleinsasser and Jermaine Wiggins.


--TE Jim Kleinsasser already has the fourth-highest total of catches by a tight end (123) in team history. He needs 43 to move past Joe Senser (165). The top two are Steve Jordan (498) and Stu Voigt (177).

--On paper, the Vikings look thin on the offensive line behind the five starters and versatile backup Lewis Kelly. Coach Mike Tice, a former offensive line coach, begs to differ. He loves practice squad players Adam Haayer and Adam Goldberg and said rookie Nat Dorsey has a lot of promise. "I love our offensive line," Tice said. "Everyone is saying we don't have any depth. I don't know that anyone that's writing that has ever coached the line before."

--The Vikings haven't participated in a playoff game since the 2000 NFC Championship game. But that didn't stop CB Antoine Winfield from believing his best chance to reach the playoffs was leaving Buffalo for Minneapolis this offseason. "The Vikings were one play from the playoffs last year," said Winfield, referring to the last-second loss in the season finale at Arizona. "I haven't been to the playoffs since my rookie season. I want to get back to that and hopefully get to the Super Bowl."

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Even if you're fast, you can't play fast unless you know what the hell you're doing." -- Head coach Mike Tice, talking about the importance of his young linebackers learning the defense.



QUARTERBACK: Starter -- Daunte Culpepper. Backups -- Gus Frerotte, Shaun Hill, Matt Kegel.

RUNNING BACKS: Starter -- Michael Bennett. Backups -- Onterrio Smith, Moe Williams, Larry Ned, Mewelde Moore, Butchie Wallace.

TIGHT END/H-BACK: Starters -- Jim Kleinsasser, Jermaine Wiggins. Backups -- Sean Burton, Richard Owens, Kane Anderson, Ben Steele, Jeff Dugan, Richard Angulo, T.J. Cottrell.

WIDE RECEIVERS: Starters -- Randy Moss, Marcus Robinson. Backups -- Nate Burleson, Keenan Howry, Kelly Campbell, Kenny Clark, Lane Danielson, Omar Jenkins, Ben Nelson, Derrick Williams, Aaron Hosack.

OFFENSIVE LINE: Starters -- LT Bryant McKinnie, LG Chris Liwienski, C Matt Birk, RG Dave Dixon, RT Mike Rosenthal. Backups -- T Adam Goldberg, Adam Haayer, OL Lewis Kelly, T Nat Dorsey, G Anthony Herrera, T Alan Reuber, C Cory Withrow.

DEFENSIVE LINE: Starters -- RE Kenechi Udeze, T Chris Hovan, NT Kevin Williams, LE Kenny Mixon. Backups -- RE Lance Johnstone, RE Nick Rogers, E Chuck Wiley, DL Billy Lyon, NT Steve Martin, DL Darrion Scott, T Jeff Womble, T Spencer Johnson.

LINEBACKER: Starters -- MLB E.J. Henderson, SLB Chris Claiborne, WLB Mike Nattiel. Backups -- LB Keith Newman, WLB Dontarrious Thomas, MLB Max Yates, SLB Raonall Smith, LB Rod Davis, LB Grant Wiley.

DEFENSIVE BACKS: Starters -- LCB Antoine Winfield, RCB Brian Williams, FS Brian Russell, SS Corey Chavous. Backups -- CB Ken Irvin, CB Rushen Jones, FS Willie Offord, SS Tyrone Carter, CB Deandre' Eiland, CB Rhett Nelson, CB Jermaine Mays, CB Horace Willis, S Ben Nauman.

SPECIAL TEAMS: K Aaron Elling, K Dan Orner, P Darren Bennett, P Eddie Johnson, LS Brody Liddiard, LS Cullen Loeffler, PR-KR Keenan Howry, KR Mewelde Moore, KR Larry Ned, PR Kelly Campbell.

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