NFC North Issues

Injured players are recovering, and teams are fine-tuning their rosters as everyone around the NFC North begins to turn their attention to training camp.<p>


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 team1s 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 team1s 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 team1s June minicamp.

Still limited

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."


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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