NFC North notes: Jones has something to prove

Oft-injured ex-Lions RB says he's healthy and ready to make Detroit pay for his release, and much more news from around the division.

Five months after surgery to reconstruct the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, former Lions running back Kevin Jones is running.

He isn't just jogging on flat grass. He's bursting up hills. He's changing direction - left, right, backward, forward. He looks far ahead of schedule in his recovery, and you have to wonder if he will make the Lions regret cutting him.

Jones, a first-round pick in 2004 who has suffered two major injuries in two seasons, hopes to show NFL teams that he will be ready for training camp in July and is worth a decent contract. He plans to work out for them on June 28.

"I'm not even worried about my knee," Jones said. "The only thing maybe I have some hesitation about is getting in contact and stuff like that because I haven't done that. But that's just the next hurdle."

The man working with Jones, Dr. D.S. Ping, has no doubt Jones will be ready.

"I know the NFL will be shocked," Ping said.

The Lions released Jones in March, even though they had paid him a $100,000 roster bonus. He said they gave him two reasons: the salary cap and his injuries. He had one year left on his contract and was scheduled to make a base salary of $2.37 million.

"I was upset, just because I thought I knew them better than that," Jones said. "I thought (coach) Rod (Marinelli) and (team president Matt) Millen and things like that would give me a chance to come back. Just letting me go when I was hurt kind of (angered) me. But I don't have any animosity. I'll see them again someday on the field or something. I'll take it out then."

Jones has visited New England and Tennessee. He said he has received some contract offers, but none good enough. He thinks when teams see how he has recovered, the numbers will rise.

"I'm not trying to break the bank, but I'm not about to go anywhere just to go," Jones said. "I know my worth. A lot of the teams know my worth, but they figure, 'OK, you're hurt right now. We'll bring you in.' They're just going to lowball you. But that's not happening with me."

More Lions

-When Marinelli hired quarterbacks coach Scott Loeffler from Michigan, he remembered he entered the NFL as a longtime college defensive line coach.

"I didn't coach at this level when I got in this league," said Marinelli, who broke into the NFL as Tampa Bay's defensive line coach in 1996. "When he came and interviewed, he was really sharp, strong, understands what he's teaching and is a very good teacher. That was one thing I wanted more than anything, a guy that could really take a subject, present it on the board and teach well and have a command of the English language. That's really important. He really demonstrated that when he interviewed here."

- Has Marinelli seen a difference since cleaning out the locker room?

"The thing where I see it probably as much as anything is the day-to-day consistency," Marinelli said. "They come out, and they go. I haven't seen a day where ... I'll get on them, but it's more of a mental thing here or a detail there. But the energy they come out with day in and day out, they see what I want, how fast we need to play."

- Marinelli isn't reading too much into first-round pick Gosder Cherilus' performance at right tackle - or anybody else's performance, for that matter.

"I want to keep emphasizing, it is a teaching camp," Marinelli said. "If you get too excited about somebody in shorts, you've got to be careful because when the pads come in it could be, 'Oh, man,' or you could be excited about somebody and the pads come on and you say, 'Whoa, this guy's pretty good.'"

Bears: Booker is a catch

If anyone is immune to the possible dysfunctional affects of the Chicago Bears' quarterback competition between Rex Grossman and Kyle Orton, it's Marty Booker - a good thing since he's expected to be the go-to guy for whoever wins the job.

Booker has made a career of adapting to whatever situation he's thrown into, regardless of who's throwing to him.

In Booker's first two seasons with the Bears, 1999 and 2000, Shane Matthews, Cade McNown and Jim Miller started games at quarterback. In 2001, it was just Miller and Matthews throwing the ball, and Booker caught a team-record 100 passes. The following season, Miller, Chris Chandler, Henry Burris and Cory Sauter took snaps for a 4-12 team that didn't have much to brag about other than Booker's 97 catches. In 2003, the year before he was traded to the Dolphins for Adewale Ogunleye, Booker caught passes from Chandler, Kordell Stewart and Grossman, including the rookie's first NFL touchdown toss.

The revolving door at quarterback spun even more quickly in Miami.

Cleo Lemon, Trent Green and John Beck each started at least four games last season for Miami. The year before, Lemon, Daunte Culpepper and Joey Harrington started games. In 2005, it was Gus Frerotte and Sage Rosenfels doing the pitching, and in Booker's first season in South Florida, A.J. Feeley, Jay Fiedler and Rosenfels took turns running the show.

Not surprisingly with that history, Booker isn't stressing over a possible quarterback controversy.

"Dude, in my career, I've had like almost 20 different quarterbacks (17, actually), so as far as adjusting to anybody, that's not a problem," he said. "That's the least of everything."

Although he'll turn 32 during training camp, Booker comes back to the Bears in the same capacity he left - as the No. 1 receiver.

The Bears lost their top two receivers in the off-season when Bernard Berrian signed with the Vikings and Muhsin Muhammad was released to loosen up the salary cap. Booker was signed to help fill the void.

"It's no different. It's just all this traffic and construction (around Halas Hall)," he said. "It's just a matter of getting in here and learning the plays and getting the playbook down and getting a feel for my new teammates. Whatever's asked of me, I'm ready to do it. I feel good, I'm in good shape and just ready to go."

More Bears

- Grossman and Orton have directed the No. 1 offense on alternate days during the organized team activities and this weekend's minicamp. Offensive coordinator Ron Turner will be looking for specific attributes from the quarterbacks, but a decision might not be made until well into the preseason.

"I think the No. 1 thing is decision making," Turner said. "Obviously, they have to have the physical talent to make all the throws, but decision making, accuracy and athletic ability."

- Shortly after rehabbing a torn ACL in his left knee, fifth-round draft pick Zackary Bowman suffered a ruptured patellar tendon in his right knee midway through spring practice before his senior season at Nebraska.

"With the second knee injury, you start questioning yourself like, 'What did I do? Is it me?'" Bowman said. "But I realized that there was nothing I could do about it. When I hurt both my knees, I was going 100 percent, playing hard and they just happened."

Because of the severity of the injuries and a senior season that didn't live up to his earlier performances, Bowman plummeted from a possible first-round pick to the 142nd player drafted.

Before the knee surgeries, Bowman was running sub-4.4 40s.

"I'm getting back to that point," he said. "I feel great. I feel like I felt in 2005. My knees are healthy. It's just about getting them stronger and getting my body to work as one again."

Vikings: Edwards eyes Strahan sacks record

Defensive end Ray Edwards figures to be a main beneficiary from acquisition of Pro Bowl right end Jared Allen.

Allen, who led the NFL with 15.5 sacks last season in Kansas City, will command plenty of attention from opposing offenses. Those offenses also will have to be aware of Pro Bowl tackles Pat and Kevin Williams.

All of this means Edwards could stand to be the forgotten man as he moves to left end.

That would be OK with him. Edwards knows he should have an opportunity to have a big year and expects to produce significant sack numbers.

How big? The third-year end has voiced his desire to break the NFL single-season sack record of 22.5 set by the Giants' Michael Strahan in 2001.

That seems like a big-time long shot, but give Edwards credit for setting his goals high.

"It's definitely just my personal belief," said Edwards, who tied for the team lead with 5.0 sacks last season despite missing the final four games after violating the NFL's steroid policy. "Definitely just going out there and working as hard as I worked this off-season and studying film on that guy and studying film on all the great defensive ends. I think I learned a lot to sustain myself and go after the record."

More Vikings

- The Vikings' rookie class will visit the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, on June 23. Rookies from all 32 teams will be making the trip this off-season for the first time. Michael Irvin suggested the idea to commissioner Roger Goodell last summer when the former Cowboys receiver was being inducted into the Hall of Fame.

- With veteran center Matt Birk electing not to attend the Vikings' organized team activities, sixth-round pick John Sullivan out of Notre Dame has been getting the majority of the reps with the first-team offensive line.

- Veteran QB Gus Frerotte continues to make the transition to the Vikings' West Coast system. Frerotte will be entering his 15th NFL season but only once has he played with a team that employed this style of offense. That was in 2000 and 2001 when he was a member of the Denver Broncos.

- Vikings coach Brad Childress not only recently gave the commencement address at his alma mater, Marmion Academy in Aurora, Ill., but he received the school's Marmion Centurian award, which is given to alumni for "exceptional achievement in one's chosen career."

Packer Report Top Stories