NFC North inside slant

Vikings take chance on FSU defensive tackle Guion; Bears reward kicker Gould; fans remain loyal to the lousy Lions.

Letroy Guion surprised many when he decided to enter the NFL draft.

The defensive tackle from Florida State had started only 14 of 32 games in three seasons and had 66 tackles and 1.5 sacks. His collegiate career ended on a less-than-auspicious note, as he was among 36 FSU players suspended for the Music City Bowl last Dec. 31 because of an academic cheating scandal.

On top of that, Guion failed to impress at the NFL Scouting Combine, recording the worst 10-yard times of any defensive tackle. A quadriceps strain kept him from completing agility tests.

The Vikings, however, selected Guion in the fifth round of last month's draft. Guion admits that off-the-field matters caused him to make a decision that likely came a year early.

"When we grew up, we didn't have everything, and now we struggle," Guion said. "That was the reason why I came out, because I had family issues in my household that needed to be taken care of. I came out because I felt like my potential and everything would be good enough to play in the NFL."   

Guion, who is 6-4, 303, likely will open training camp behind Kevin Williams and Ellis Wyms on the depth chart. He doesn't appear big enough to be considered a candidate to step in and backup Pro Bowl nose tackle Pat Williams.

Asked where Guion might fit, Vikings coach Brad Childress said: "I think we assess that when he comes in the door and see what an ideal weight is. It doesn't necessarily have to be 300 pounds. He may move around better if he is 294 or 295. Big is not necessarily better for us. We just want to make sure he can handle the weight that he has."

Childress and his coaching staff got a chance to look at Guion this month during a three-day rookie minicamp. Guion, for one, knows bulking up will be key to his development.

"I have to add 15 to 20 pounds, my body can take it," he said. "I've got a big frame and I'm sure that it will develop out well."

Bears: Gould gets his gold

The Bears on Monday signed Robbie Gould to the most lucrative contract for a kicker in NFL history, according to his agent, Brian Mackler.

The five-year, $15 million contract extension (including incentives) exceeds the five-year, $14.2 million deal that Josh Brown signed with the Rams two months ago and includes a slightly higher signing bonus ($4.2 million) than the $4 million the St. Louis kicker received.

"It was an offer I couldn't pass up," said the 26-year-old Gould. "It's the right contract. It's fair for both sides. It's a win-win situation. Josh Brown's contract helped a great deal by setting the standard and some parameters. I'm very happy he got his done. It helped me."

Gould, who is entering the final year of his original contract at a base pay of $520,000, is signed through 2013. He is the Bears' field-goal percentage leader among kickers with at least 50 attempts, connecting on 84.8 percent (84 of 99). He has been successful on 99 of 100 extra-point attempts.

Gould is one of the most accurate kickers in NFL history, although he needs 100 field-goal attempts to qualify among the leaders. If he makes his first kick in 2008, he will be the third-most accurate kicker in league history.

"One thing I've always tried to do is be consistent," he said. "The only way I could keep a job here is by being consistent."

Gould says the money won't change him as a player.

In the sometimes-inclement Chicago weather, Gould has converted 39 of 45 field-goal attempts (86.7 percent), the highest accuracy all-time among NFL kickers with at least 20 attempts at the stadium. Gould has hit five game-winning field goals, including a 49-yarder in overtime of the 2006 NFC divisional playoff vs. the Seahawks.

The 6-foot, 183-pounder was signed by the Patriots as an undrafted free agent out of Penn State in 2005 but released. He spent time with the Ravens, where he was released. In an October tryout with the Bears later that season, Gould outperformed several contenders and went on to hit 21 of 27 field-goal attempts as a rookie. When he was summoned for the Bears tryout, Gould was working as a laborer for a construction company owned by a family friend near his home in Pennsylvania.

"It was supposed to be a week-to-week deal," Gould said, "and now it's turned out to be a long-term thing."

Lions: Fans stand by team

Despite their dreadful record in recent years — and a half-century without a championship — the Lions continue to have a passionate fan base in Detroit.

Fans have vented their frustration with president Matt Millen by marching outside the stadium instead of simply staying away. The Lions have sold out every game since moving to Ford Field in 2002.

The Lions are top talk-radio chatter. Stories about them generate a ton of hits on local newspaper Web sites, even in the offseason.

Some are fed up and not coming back, but not many.

The renewal rate for season tickets is approaching 90 percent, according to chief operating officer Tom Lewand, even though the Lions have gone 31-81 over the past seven seasons and just raised prices for most tickets.

"The loyalty that our fans have shown is nothing short of phenomenal," Lewand said.

But the Detroit economy has been tough an all teams, even the successful Pistons and Red Wings, and the Lions have not been immune.

The Lions have introduced the first split-season ticket packages since Ford Field opened. The five-game plans — named for Lions greats Joe Schmidt and Lem Barney — start as low as $230.

Referring to the Lions' owners, Lewand said: "The Fords have always been proponents of affordable options."

Lewand said the Lions sold 50 of the packages by noon the first day.

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