NFC North Tour: News and Notes

What's up with Cutler and Hester? Who is No. 1 quarterback for Detroit? Favre must get on same page with his receivers after missing most of training camp.

Chicago Bears

Wide receiver Devin Hester has been anointed as the Bears' No. 1 receiver, but he and quarterback Jay Cutler are still going through a learning process that has sometimes been awkward on and off the field.

Hester said he was offended when he first read Cutler's comments about the quarterback's interception in the preseason opener. The pass intended for Hester was thrown into coverage and picked off by the Bills' Leodis McKelvin.

After the game, Cutler said: "Devin's more of a go-get-it guy. He's really not a back-shoulder, jump-up-and-get-it (guy). So you learn from it. We made some mistakes."

Cutler told Hester he didn't mean the comment as a criticism, although that's the way it appeared to some, including Hester, at least initially.

"I was (offended) when I read it, but then he said he didn't say it," Hester said of Cutler. "You can't go with what the papers say. You've got to go to the source and see what really happened, and he told me he didn't say none of that.

"What Jay told me, he said that he didn't mean I wasn't a go-up-and-get-a-jump-ball-type guy, but I was one of those guys you've got to throw it out there and then go get it."

Cutler threw six passes to Hester, who had two catches for 22 yards. To some, it seemed Cutler was shifting the blame for the interception to Hester, but that's not the way the wide receiver is taking it.

"It wasn't no criticism or anything like that," Hester said. "He was saying, 'You are not a 6-foot-8 receiver. You can't go up and get everything. But we know you are the type of receiver if we throw it out there, you'll go get it.' "

Hester said his relationship with Cutler is fine and will get even better as they became more familiar working with each other.

Offensive coordinator Ron Turner said there was room for improvement from Cutler and Hester on the interception.

"(Cutler) got a little bit of pressure, so he slid up in the pocket," Turner said. "Once his rhythm is off, (now) he's got to forget about it, come off (the primary receiver) and take his check-down. He'll learn that with more reps, and it'll be there."

Extra points

— In his last six games against the Bears as the Packers' quarterback, Brett Favre was 1-5, throwing just two touchdown passes while being intercepted 13 times, three of which were returned for touchdowns.

"It seems like that was a long time since we played him," Bears coach Lovie Smith said of the Vikings' new quarterback. "I'm sure he's anxious now to do something about it. He's the quarterback for the Vikings, the NFC North defending champions, and that's enough for our guys to get fired up about him. We know what he means to our game."

—The Bears are deep enough at linebacker that they could cut one or two who wind up playing for another team.

Seven-year veteran Hunter Hillenmeyer — a former Packers draft pick — would rather not leave, but he's fighting for playing time. Pisa Tinoisamoa, Nick Roach and Jamar Williams have been listed as tri-starters at strong-side linebacker, the position where Hillenmeyer started the previous 4 1/2 years until midway through last season when a thumb injury allowed Roach to take his spot. Now Hillenmeyer is the backup to Brian Urlacher at middle linebacker.

"I want to be in Chicago, I don't want there to be any doubt about that," Hillenmeyer said. "But the better you play, the more likely that you're assuring yourself that you're going to be (playing) somewhere. None of the linebackers on our team are in any danger of not (playing) somewhere. I don't want to (leave). I've got a life here, I love it here, but in the NFL, there's such a small window, you've got to do what you can to maximize your time in it."

— Through the spring and into the summer Caleb Hanie heard the awful things people were saying about the Bears' backup quarterbacks, which naturally struck a chord, considering he's Cutler's backup.

Hanie demonstrated some serious mind control over anyone watching the Bears' preseason opener, especially those who contend the Bears need to acquire a more experienced backup. He completed 8 of 11 passes for 87 yards, 1 touchdown and a passer rating of 125.9. In the second preseason game, Hanie was 10-of-18 for 120 yards and a 76.2 passer rating and had a 13-yard TD run negated by a holding call.

— DT Dusty Dvoracek suffered a another torn ACL and will miss all of 2009. He finished his first three seasons on injured reserve, too.

— OG Tyler Reed had microfracture surgery on his right knee and will be lost for the season.

— CB Charles Tillman (back) has increased the intensity of his individual workouts and could be back on the practice field in another week or so.

Detroit Lions


Matthew Stafford
AP Images
It was the day before the Lions' second exhibition.

To that point, rookie quarterback Matthew Stafford, the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft, could do no wrong. He had been praised even after he threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown in the exhibition opener, because he shrugged it off and bounced back with a touchdown drive.

Coach Jim Schwartz was asked about his criteria for when Stafford will play. He has said Stafford will play only when he is both ready and the best quarterback.

Considering what he had shown through three weeks of training camp and one exhibition, wasn't he ready? Wasn't it now simply a question of whether he was the best quarterback?

"He's played one preseason game," Schwartz said. "He's played a few snaps. We have a long way to go to decide if anybody's ready or not."

Schwartz soon seemed prophetic. Stafford started the second exhibition, a 27-10 loss at Cleveland, and promptly threw an interception on his first pass attempt deep in Detroit territory.

Stafford was off-target after that throw as well. He missed multiple receivers and finished 5-for-13 for 34 yards with a 14.6 rating.

Veteran Daunte Culpepper didn't lead the Lions to a score, either. But he looked good in comparison: 10-for-16 for 86 yards.

Stafford has a long way to go. But apparently so does the quarterback competition.

Schwartz said he had not mapped out who would start the third exhibition, and — at least before he saw what happened against the Browns — he dropped a hint that the competition could go all the way into the fourth exhibition.

"You guys don't know how I'm going to approach that fourth preseason game," Schwartz said.

Schwartz used to be the defensive coordinator in Tennessee, and he said the Titans typically played their starters about a full half.

"The thought process there was, if they played a half of football in the third preseason game and then had a cup of coffee in the fourth, that was 17 days since they had really had any real action when they went for the opener," Schwartz said. "So don't be surprised if you see a little different philosophy than maybe you're used to in the fourth preseason game."

The Lions' fourth exhibition is Sept. 3 at Buffalo. A reporter noted the Lions lost quarterback Jeff Garcia to a broken leg four years ago in the fourth exhibition at Buffalo. He could have noted the Lions lost running back James Stewart to a shoulder injury six years ago in the fourth exhibition at Buffalo, too.

"Should I change my plans because something happened to somebody else?" Schwartz said.

Extra points

— Tight end Carson Butler — an undrafted rookie who spent a couple months in Green Bay — and defensive end Dewayne White fought each other before the Lions' exhibition at Cleveland.

"Yeah, I didn't know if that was a good sign or a bad sign," said Schwartz, who has been in the NFL since 1993. "I've never seen that before." White, in his seventh NFL season, said he had never seen that before, either. "Yeah, it did surprise me," White said. "I thought we were just going to go a little bit, and the next thing you know, we're on the ground, tussling."

White declined to say what started it, and Butler did not speak to reporters. But Butler and White scuffled for a bit. Then Butler, a long shot to make the team, threw down White, a starter for the Lions the past two seasons. White said the two might not be finished. "We might go at it," White said. "I'm not saying that we are. But it's going to be bad blood between us, yeah."

— Schwartz said the Lions put safety Daniel Bullocks on the waived/injured list because his knee problem simply did not improve. "It just kept staying the same," Schwartz said. "We needed to get moving on it. It was a situation where it looked like he wasn't going to be able to get on the field for us, so we had to make that move." Bullocks reverted to injured reserve after he cleared waivers. Schwartz declined to comment on whether Bullocks needs another surgery on the knee, after having his ACL repaired two years ago.

Chad Ochocinco — the star wide receiver formerly known as Chad Johnson — moonlighted as a kicker and booted an extra point for Cincinnati. But don't expect Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson to take up kicking anytime soon. "He's got a bruised thumb," Schwartz said. "We don't need a bruised toe."

—Don't expect the Lions to go after Jamaican track star Usain Bolt. "Nobody ever won the hundred meters with somebody standing in their lane," Schwartz cracked. "It's hard. He's such an incredible superstar in his field. So it's hard to speculate how that would translate. I don't know that he's ever played the game of football. There's more to it than just being able to run fast."

— LB Cody Spencer went on injured reserve with a knee injury.

— K Swayze Waters was signed to fill in for K Jason Hanson, who had minor knee surgery but is expected to return relatively quickly.

Minnesota Vikings


Brett Favre
AP Images
And now the real work begins.

Three weeks after Brett Favre told Brad Childress that he had decided to remain retired, the future Hall of Fame quarterback reversed course and jumped at an offer from the Vikings coach to join the team.

Favre was so anxious to get on the field that only three days and 2 1/2 practices after signing a two-year, $25 million contract, he played two series in the Vikings' 17-13 preseason victory over the Kansas City Chiefs at the Metrodome.

It quickly became clear that while Favre might have had little interest in spending two weeks at training camp in Mankato, Minn., it definitely would have benefited him.

Favre's familiarity with the West Coast system run by the Vikings is not in question. He spent 16 seasons directing a similar offense with the Green Bay Packers and at one point this offseason claimed he could teach it.

The issue for Favre is that he's going to quickly need to get himself in game shape and familiarize himself with a group of offensive players with whom he has no experience.

Favre might know what Bernard Berrian, Percy Harvin, Visanthe Shiancoe, Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor are supposed to do, but what he doesn't know are the nuances of how they will execute their assignments.

That's the reason Childress wanted Favre at training camp in the first place. The experience might not be pleasant — few professional athletes probably enjoy living in a college dorm room — but the on- and off-the-field work that is accomplished can be key for laying the groundwork for success once the regular-season starts.

Instead, Favre is going to have to go into hurry up mode in getting prepared for the 2009 season. He looked rusty against the Chiefs, completing 1-of-4 passes for 4 yards. That came as no surprise given that he hadn't participated in actual game-like action since the end of last season when he was with the New York Jets.

"I am probably more concerned right now with just getting my legs in shape," Favre said after the Chiefs game. "They are a little bit sore the last few days just from dropping back and just doing things that you just can't get until you start practicing. My arm is not in game shape. It is just hard to simulate."

After the game, he was asked what it felt like coming onto the field wearing purple instead of Packers' green and gold.

"It felt a little odd after so many years of being on the other side," Favre said. "I thought it was a welcome reception [by the crowd]. I know in the long run it will be judged by wins and losses. I am well aware of that. This is a tough place to play. It's nice to be on the other side."

Extra points

— Steve LaCroix, the Vikings' vice president of sales and marketing, said the team sold 4,000 season tickets and 15,000 individual game tickets in the days after Favre's arrival.

— The Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the CFL added Tarvaris Jackson to the team's negotiation list, giving the Blue Bombers exclusive rights to the player in that league should he be released by the Vikings.

— Robert Francois' stay with the Vikings was brief, but he will go down as a trivia question in team history. The undrafted rookie linebacker out of Boston College was released by the Vikings in order to make room for Brett Favre. Francois wasn't unemployed for long. The Lions quickly claimed him off waivers.

— DE Jared Allen suffered an ankle injury early last week in practice and did not play in the second preseason game against Kansas City. He is expected to be ready for the Vikings' third preseason game on Aug. 31 at Houston.


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