NFC North Tour: Cutler-led Workouts

Lockout or not, there are plenty of hot news items from the Packers' NFC North rivals. In Chicago, Jay Cutler and the offense will get together for workouts. In Detroit, the Lions already are working out together. And in Minnesota, the Vikings want Christian Ponder to start.

Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler told the Chicago Sun-Times the team's offensive players will soon be getting together for workouts.

Cutler said, "Now is the time for everyone to kind of get together and brush it off, and we're going to do that here in the next couple of weeks. Everything is locked and loaded."

Asked if it could happen this week, Cutler said, "Maybe. We'll see. We're about to do something here soon enough. But no one is probably going to know about it."

Noting that players in attendance will be on the offensive side of the ball, Cutler said, "I mean, those defenders have been in the system for eight years, nine years. "What are they gonna do? What am I going to tell Lach (linebacker Brian Urlacher)? 'Your drop is a little short. Sorry, buddy.' Offensively, we have a lot of room to improve."

Cutler said his knee, which was injured in the team's conference championship game loss to Green Bay, is "good to go. It feels good."

He was also pleased to see the team select tackle Gabe Carimi in the first round of the draft.

"I love it, anytime an offensive guy gets picked," Cutler said. "To me, it's like a new toy we get to play with, so it's fun."

— Running back Garrett Wolfe was arrested early Sunday morning in Miami Beach and charged with retail theft, disorderly conduct, assaulting a police officer and resisting arrest with violence.

The incident occurred when Wolfe allegedly refused to pay a bar bill at a Miami Beach nightclub. His bail was set at $11,500.

According to police detective Juan Sanchez, ''He became aggressive while being ejected by bouncers, and two off-duty officers were summoned. They gave him the opportunity to settle his bill, and he refused. He attacked one of the officers. Both officers suffered minor injuries.''

Wolfe's contract has expired, but with four accrued seasons, he might be a restricted free agent or unrestricted. At a recent charity event in the Chicago area, he talked about electing not to participate in player-organized workouts.

"For a guy like me, there is absolutely no reward for going to work out because I don't know where I'm going to be," Wolfe said. "If I knew I was going to be back with the Bears, it would be a great reward because I'm working with my teammates and we're becoming better as an offense. But I don't have the slightest idea whether I'm going to be back with Chicago or whether I'm going to be with some other team. If you're not under contract, it's all risk."

— Offensive coordinator Mike Martz recently turned down a one-year contract extension with the team because the offer did not include a pay increase. That leaves open the possibility Martz could be a coaching free agent after the 2011 season.

Lions working out together

The Lions are having four workout sessions this week, organized by defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch.

He said, "I'm a firm believer in the things you do in the offseason set you up to have a good season. We had a bunch of momentum at the end of last season and I was really happy about our draft. This is just another step for us. It shows the level of our player commitment.

Matthew Stafford
Mark Cunningham/Getty Images
"The guys are excited about getting back and getting around each other again and getting back to working."

About 30 players were in attendance at Birmingham Detroit Country Day High School. Added Vanden Bosch, "It's good to see that guys are willing to come in, put the team first and really just be accountable to each other. I didn't really know what to expect coming in, but I couldn't really be happier with how things went today. It seemed to go really smoothly."

Said quarterback Matthew Stafford, "You just want to get guys back together, see everybody again, see how everybody's doing. We finished the year with such a great run last year and without being able to come back in the offseason and kind of carry that momentum (over) we've been all in separate places. You want to get back together and realize how we played last year and the talent and the ability that we have coming back."

Stafford played in only three games last season and underwent surgery on his throwing shoulder. He says he now feels "as good as I ever have. I feel like I've done everything I possibly can this offseason to prepare to be healthy and go out there and play. I think if I can stay healthy and the rest of our team can stay healthy, that's a big part of it, we can be pretty good."

— Rookie wide receiver Titus Young is learning quickly about the arm strength of Stafford.

After a player-organized workout Tuesday, he said, "My hands are a little bit sore right now. Put these in an ice bucket real quick.

"It's ridiculous, man. I would think that he had surgery to make his arm stronger, not for anything else. That's what I would think. I heard about the arm, but it's kind of like you never know what you're going to get. I just made sure that I looked it all the way in. It was just a warm-up throw and it was already there."

Comparing Stafford to Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore, Young said, "No disrespect to Kellen, but he's a left-hander and his ball comes out a little bit different that Matt. It kind of feels like a baseball player out there; a pitcher with 90 mph fastballs and things like that."

Frazier hopes Ponder ready to start

Coach Leslie Frazier has said he hopes rookie quarterback Christian Ponder will be ready to start when the season begins.

Appearing on 1500 ESPN Radio, Frazier said, "Ideally, I'd like for him to be ready to go when we play San Diego (in Week 1). That would be the ideal situation — we've got our Matt Ryan, we've got our (Joe) Flacco, we've got our (Mark) Sanchez right here. But because of the uncertainty of the offseason, it's just hard to determine exactly how you want to approach it. So, we need a little more clarity on what this offseason's going to be like."

Frazier admitted, "It would be tough to be able to send him out there against San Diego if we don't start football, if we don't report until, say, mid-August, or three weeks prior to the season. That would be a tough, tough deal for any young quarterback. It's tough enough just getting through OTAs and preseason games, but if we start this thing without preseason games or one preseason game, I think you have to rethink how you approach it. So, that'll probably answer what direction we go - based on when we start football."

Ponder becomes only the third quarterback taken by the Vikings in the first round in their 51-year history, joining Tommy Kramer (1977) and Daunte Culpepper (1999). Ponder had a 22-13 record as a starter in four seasons at Florida State and is known for his intelligence — he earned his undergraduate degree in 2.5 years and obtained his master's degree before his senior season — but also being somewhat injury prone.

Ponder said he's going to work out soon in Florida with Vikings receivers Percy Harvin and Sidney Rice. Harvin usually works out in Tampa and Rice in Miami.

"I hope it happens," he said. "That's something I'm looking forward to. It'd be great to spend time with those guys on the field."

— Defensive end Everson Griffen got some much-needed advice from Frazier four months ago.

Griffen had been arrested twice in a week for alleged public intoxication and resisting arrest, and was planning a party in Las Vegas that was being promoted on Facebook.

That's when Griffen heard from Frazier. Said Griffen, "He said, 'Know what you're here for.' I'm here to play football. I'm here to represent the Minnesota Vikings, and I want to represent them in a good way, not a bad way."

With that, the party was canceled, and Griffen left Los Angeles for Minnesota to be closer to and work out with teammates.

Said Griffen, "I had a little rough stretch. Coaches want me back, and that's the place for me to be. That's not me at all. I'm just trying to make changes. I've got big years coming up. I'm just trying to show the Minnesota Vikings I'm here for good."

— In his boxing debut on May 20, defensive end Ray Edwards won, but it apparently wasn't an impressive showing. Reporters called the fight "ugly" and had "little meaningful action." Fans booed Edwards.

Prior to the fight, Edwards had brazenly talked about having a better future in boxing than with the Vikings because of his contract situation.

Edwards told 1500 ESPN Radio, "I've openly said I won't play for the Vikings, because of the simple fact of my backup is getting paid 70 more percent than I am — there's no way I can do that to myself. I love doing football as well. But if there's nobody that's going to trade for me, I will be definitely focusing on boxing."

With five accrued seasons, Edwards might end up being a restricted free agent. The Vikings would retain their rights with a one-year tender. The backup Edwards was talking about is defensive end Brian Robison, who signed a three-year, $14.1 million contract.

— Defensive tackle Pat Williams told reporters there's a "50-50" chance he will return to the team. A free agent when the lockout ends, Williams had figured his days with the Vikings were ever. However, Williams said he heard from Frazier on the April day the lockout was briefly lifted and was told he is still in the team's plans.

Williams admitted he was "soured" on the club's front office, but indicated during the conversation with Frazier they were able to "get some stuff straight."

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