NFC North player wire

Summary of recent news and notes on individuals within division

GREEN BAY PACKERS
As of mid-July, the Packers had six of their 11 draft picks this year unsigned.

Guard Allen Barbre, a fourth-round choice out of Missouri Southern State, was the latest to sign. Barbre received a four-year deal reportedly worth about $2.1 million. His base salaries are $285,000 this year, $370,000 in 2008, $460,000 in '09 and $550,000 in '10.

Still left to be signed in time for the start of training camp July 28 are first-round defensive tackle Justin Harrell, second-round running back Brandon Jackson, third-round receiver James Jones and the sixth-round trio of fullback Korey Hall, linebacker Desmond Bishop and kicker Mason Crosby.

CHICAGO BEARS
Even though Devin Hester, a seldom-used backup at corner last season, has switched to wide receiver, and backup safeties Cameron Worrell and Todd Johnson left via free agency, the Bears are deep in the secondary.

Starting corners Nate Vasher and Charles Tillman both played well last season, as did nickel corner Ricky Manning Jr. At safety, the Bears started Chris Harris and Danieal Manning in Super Bowl XLI, but both are expected to play behind veteran Adam Archuleta, who was picked up in a trade, and Mike Brown, a Pro Bowl player in 2005, who missed most of last season with a foot injury.

"I think this might be our best secondary since I've been here," said Vasher, who signed a five-year, $28 million contract on June 25 that included $14 million in guaranteed bonus money. "We have a lot of guys ready to play, a lot of athletic guys on the back end and some really smart guys with Adam and Mike, who's always been the leader of our secondary.

"Just to have those guys back on the field with some of the young guys is exciting. I'm excited to see what kind of identity we're going to have this year.

If Lance Briggs is a no-show for the start of training camp, don't expect Bears coaches to pay much attention or show much concern.

"Jamar Williams had an outstanding off-season," Bears coach Lovie Smith said. "I thought he stepped up and let us see some of his skills."

Williams is the presumptive starter on the weak side if Briggs sits out in continued protest over his designation as the Bears' franchise player. Williams was a fourth-round pick in 2006 that showed potential while playing special teams in the first three games of last season before suffering a season-ending chest injury.

Drew Rosenhaus, the agent for Briggs, had an opportunity to discuss his client's situation with Bears management recently. Rosenhaus was at Halas Hall July 3 to finalize the five-year, $10.7 million contract of first-round rookie tight end Greg Olsen, and he used the opportunity to begin a dialogue with Bears G.M. Jerry Angelo regarding Briggs, who is unhappy at being the Bears' franchise player.

Briggs, who would be paid $7.2 million this year, wants a long-term deal, but he and Rosenhaus rejected the Bears' six-year, $33 million offer prior to last season. The two-time Pro Bowler has threatened to sit out the first 10 weeks of the season. No progress in the stalemate was reported, but at least there was some talk.

DETRIOT LIONS
Former Packers QB J.T. O'Sullivan, the NFL Europa co-MVP, signed with the Lions. But at this point O'Sullivan is expected to be a camp arm. Jon Kitna is entrenched as the starter.

Backup Dan Orlovsky is inexperienced, but the Lions likely would not have traded Josh McCown this off-season if they didn't think Orlovsky could do the job. Then there's Drew Stanton. The Lions drafted him in the second round this year and aren't going to keep O'Sullivan over him.

QB Jon Kitna is entrenched as the starter. He threw for more than 4,000 yards last season, but he had trouble with turnovers and struggled in the fourth quarter. The Lions hope he will be better with a better supporting cast. Kitna has no experienced backups.

RB Kevin Jones' status will be one of the big stories of training camp. He is recovering from a serious foot injury. All reports are good, and Jones expects to be ready for the opener. But no one will know for sure until Jones starts running and cutting -- and comes back the next morning.

Former Packers LB Paris Lenon had praise heaped on him by defensive coordinator Joe Barry. Lenon needs to live up to it -- and hold off LB Teddy Lehman, who is behind because he missed so much time with a foot injury.

WR Eddie Drummond's status is uncertain. He hasn't starred since going to the Pro Bowl after the 2004 season. He has been plagued by injuries in his career, and there is concern is isn't running as hard as he can because he's trying to stay healthy. He needs to show some desperation.

MINNESOTA VIKINGS
QB Tarvaris Jackson, barring a meltdown of massive proportions, will be the Vikings' starter when they open the regular season on Sept. 9 against Atlanta. Jackson, a surprise second-round pick in 2006, saw limited playing time last season but did start the final two games of the season. The Vikings lost to Green Bay and St. Louis in those two games; Jackson, who also entered games in relief of Brad Johnson on two other occasions, completed 47 of 81 passes on the season with two touchdowns, four interceptions and a 62.5 rating. He spent the majority of his off-season at the Vikings' complex working with coaches.

OL Adam O'Connor, who started every game at left tackle this spring for Hamburg of NFL Europa, has signed with the Vikings. O'Connor, a defensive end as a college player at William & Mary, can play guard and tackle. He spent time last season with the Carolina Panthers. To make room for O'Connor the Vikings released safety Andre Maddox.

QB Brooks Bollinger's low-key demeanor and knowledge of coach Brad Childress' offense solidifies him as the No. 2 quarterback.

TE Visanthe Shiancoe spent the first four seasons of his career as the backup to Jeremy Shockey with the Giants and has never had more than 12 receptions in a season. That did not stop the Vikings from giving the free agent a five-year, $18.2 million contract that included $7 million in guaranteed money. Coach Brad Childress is confident Shiancoe will be able to fit into the passing game, as well as the blocking scheme. Shiancoe replaces Jermaine Wiggins, who caught 46 passes in 2006 but never did seem to be a favorite of Childress' in the West Coast system.

WR Bobby Wade was signed to a five-year, $15 million contract to primarily work as the slot receiver. He had 33 receptions for 461 yards and two touchdowns last season and those numbers should increase in the West Coast system.


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