NFC North news, notes and quotes

The Bears' biggest move in free agency may have been to trade a player away. The Lions were also being cautious in the initial stages of free agency. The Packers took their usual tact by relying on what they had and even releasing bigger names than they acquired.

Chicago Bears

It happened a year later than most expected, but tight end Greg Olsen is no longer a Chicago Bear.

The Bears confirmed late Thursday that they traded the four-year veteran to the Carolina Panthers for an undisclosed 2012 draft pick.

Olsen was a first-round pick in 2007 and had 18 touchdown catches in the past three seasons. However, he became concerned about his role when offensive coordinator Mike Martz was hired before last season.

Tight ends historically have not been featured in the passing game in Martz's offense. Olsen voiced that concern to the front office and was nearly dealt to New England before the 2010 draft, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Ultimately, Olsen stayed in Chicago and caught 41 passes for 404 yards and five touchdowns, tied for the team lead. But late Wednesday night, agent Drew Rosenhaus sent an email to all NFL general managers saying he had been given permission to seek a trade.

Olsen is entering the final year of his five-year rookie contract.

In Carolina, Olsen will unite with another former Miami (Fla.) tight end, Jeremy Shockey under offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski. Chudzinski was the tight ends coach at Miami (Fla.) from 1996-2000.

Coach Ron Rivera, formerly the defensive coordinator in San Diego, said he coveted a tight end capable of stretching the field as a receiver, as Antonio Gates does for the Chargers.

Olsen and Shockey give the Panthers' developing quarterbacks, Jimmy Clausen and Cam Newton, reliable outlets in the middle of the field. The Panthers also retained 32-year-old Steve Smith, a former Pro Bowl regular, and feature a dynamic running game with DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart.

In four seasons with Chicago, Olsen compiled 194 receptions for 1,981 yards (10.2 ypc) and 20 touchdowns.


  • The Bears' first free-agent agreement announced was with punter Adam Podlesh, who ranked 13th in the NFL with a 43.8 average with the Jaguars last season. He is a good directional punter who dropped 28 punts inside the 20. He replaces Brad Maynard, who averaged 40.1 yards per punt last season with 24 punts inside the 20.

  • Bears first-round pick Gabe Carimi isn't taking back one word of what he said at the Scouting Combine when he claimed he was the best offensive tackle in the draft.

    "What am I going to say?" Carimi said Saturday morning at Halas Hall. "That I don't think I'm the best tackle or (I'm) not going to be the best tackle? No. I assume almost any tackle would feel confident in their own game."

    Four offensive tackles were drafted before the Bears jumped at the chance to take the Wisconsin All-American at No. 29. The match seems to be ideal between the 6-foot-7, 314-pound Carimi and the blocking-challenged Bears, who allowed more sacks than any NFL team last season.

  • It says a lot about defensive tackle Stephen Paea's potential that, even after setting the all-time Scouting Combine record with 49 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press, the Bears' second-round draft pick considers quickness his greatest attribute.

    "I feel like the bench press was something in my back pocket," Paea said. "When I watched the replay, some of the experts, (Mike) Mayock and all of those media guys saying that I'll be a true nose tackle (that was great). But, in my mind, strength is my Plan B. As far as the quickness and stuff, that is what I feel like I can bring to the game."

  • Jay Cutler ended his short engagement to "Laguna Beach," and "The Hills," TV star Kristin Cavallari. They were engaged in April following 10 months of dating.

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "I'm excited to start working together as a team and excited to see the guys. I haven't seen any of the guys forever. So I'm just pumped up about us getting back together as a team and starting to work on the goals that we're going to set for the season." - Head coach Lovie Smith

    Detroit Lions

    As a trendy pick to be a contender in 2011, many thought the Lions would dive head-first into free agency. But the first few days were more about housecleaning than big splashes.

    The Lions picked up a few strategic pieces, including linebacker Justin Durant and wide receiver Rashied Davis. But mostly they focused on signing rookies and retaining their own free agents.

    The first order of business will be to sign free agents already on the roster. Those they moved quickly on, PK Dave Rayner, DT Andre Fluellen, OG-C Dylan Gandy, FB Jerome Felton, OT Corey Hilliard and special teams ace John Wendling.

    Others expected to be a priority include DE Turk McBride, OLB Bobby Carpenter.

    Cornerback Chris Houston is an unrestricted free agent and it's not clear what the Lions intend to do. Clearly, they intend on upgrading the cornerback and linebacker spots through the second phase of free agency.

    "We are as ready as we can be for every contingency and we have been for a long time," Lions president Tom Lewand said during the NFL owners meetings. "Whatever the rules dictate and whatever they are, we will be ready to adjust."

    As Lewand said at the time, the staff has been in place for three years, the core of the team is under contract and there are very few holes -- two most glaring being at cornerback and linebacker.

    "We look at this more like a movie than a snap shot," Lewand said. "We have put ourselves in a position where there are not a lot of moving parts for us. There's not a lot of gaps and we have a lot of guys under contract. There are fewer things we have to prepare for and fewer contingencies we have to be ready for."

    Coach Jim Schwartz, also back at the league meetings in New Orleans, said the team had done most of its homework on free agency back in January and February and had a good idea of the players they planned to target.

    "We (didn't) know what the parameters were, but that doesn't stop the evaluation process," he said. "The evaluation of players is a 24-7, 365-day proposition."

    And as general manager Martin Mayhew said, "We did our work in January and February. We didn't throw away our notes."

    According to reports, they were $16.6 million under the cap, before they re-sign any of their own free agents or rookies. They didn't have enough money to sign an elite cornerback.

    There were also some high salaries on the payroll for 2011 that were expendable -- most notably that of underachieving third wide receiver Bryant Johnson, who was on the books for $3.2 million and was released.

    The Lions will also have a decision to make on veteran kicker Jason Hanson and his $2.1 million salary. Hanson, 41, is coming off knee surgery for the second straight season. The Lions won't capriciously kick him to the curb, but he will need to prove that he still has the same leg strength, or else they will go with the younger and cheaper Rayner.

    Another financial consideration on Mayhew's plate is DE Cliff Avril. He will become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, and most likely, Mayhew will try to sign him to an extension during the season to avoid that.

  • LT Jeff Backus reportedly suffered a pectoral injury, apparently after the Lions' two four-day voluntary workout sessions. Though the injury was believed to be minor, there is a chance he could miss the start of training camp.

  • QB Matthew Stafford has been throwing without pain or any physical difficulty basically all summer. He was at all eight voluntary workouts, looking much bigger and stronger in his upper body, and proclaimed his surgically-repaired right shoulder was "better than ever." About his new physique, he said, "I was down in Pensacola (Fla.) at the Andrews Institute for two and a half months just doing everything they told me to do. The therapists and trainers had me going every day, sometimes twice a day for more than 10 weeks. I had to get better."

  • RB Mikel Leshoure made a strong first impression at the voluntary workouts. "He's a big kid," Stafford said. "He's what I expected to see, and that's a good thing." At 5-11, 233 pounds, with thick chest and legs, he at least has the physical presence of an NFL power runner, they type the Lions have sought for years. He also has the confidence of an NFL power runner. When told the Lions struggled in short-yardage situations last season, he said, "That will change." The Lions still consider Jahvid Best to be their feature back, but in time the Lions hope Leshoure could get 40 percent of the snaps.

  • FS Louis Delmas, by his own admission, played below his standards last year and he won't use a nagging hamstring injury as an excuse. "I just think opportunities present themselves," he said. "I didn't have a great season like I did my rookie year. But I played well enough. We got a couple of wins and I helped my team out. I am satisfied with my performance last year and I think I will do a better job this year." Delmas had surgery on the groin Jan. 14. "That set me back for a couple of weeks," he said. "But I had a great rehab thanks to my training staff and coaches down in Miami and I'm coming back 100 percent."

  • SS Erik Coleman was signed by the Lions before the lockout and is expected to start alongside FS Louis Delmas. "It's really exciting to be here," said Coleman, a long-time starter for both the Jets and Falcons. "This is a very good team to be a part of; very up and coming. I watched their defense, man, and they play with so much energy. It's a pleasure to play with these guys."

  • TE Brandon Pettigrew will come into camp significantly lighter than the 265 pounds he played at last season. "Strength thrills but speed kills," he said. Pettigrew had shed 10 pounds by the end of June. "I wanted to be more on the lean side instead of being as big as I was," he said. "I did it mostly through diet, but I also did more toning work and not as much with the heavy weights." Pettigrew, coming off major knee surgery, played in all 16 games last season and he had a career year with 71 catches and a team record 722 yards. "I picked up the weight too fast (last year)," he said. "I tried to jump right into it and get big and I did it the wrong way. Now I am back to what I was used to. I like being able to move more and I still think I can get it done in the blocking game."

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "There were a lot of questions about the draft and what we should do and what areas we needed to emphasize, but I said from the beginning, you draft the best available athlete on the board. I like exactly what we did. I don't care if it's the position I play or somebody else's. If you get the best athletes then I am going to be in a position to make more plays. We're going to be explosive." -- WR Nate Burleson on the drafting of RB Mikel Leshoure and WR Titus Young

    Green Bay Packers

    All Super Bowl champions experience it - the inevitable paydays players find elsewhere as teams pick away at the league's most talented roster.

    Fortunately for the Packers, they also have an extremely deep roster.

    Offensive linemen Daryn College and Jason Spitz and running back Brandon Jacobs were among those to find more lucrative offers elsewhere.

    And general manager Ted Thompson took an aggressive stance toward keeping the salary cap in good shape by cutting loose a handful of veterans that included linebackers Nick Barnett, Brandon Chillar and Brady Poppinga and defensive tackle Justin Harrell.

    As is Thompson's style, the Packers stayed away from the big-name free agents.

    The focus is squarely back on football for quarterback Aaron Rodgers and his teammates after the 136-day lockout was lifted Monday, when the players reached agreement with the owners on the new collective-bargaining agreement.

    With the good news came word the Packers will kick off training camp Friday, when the players reported. President Mark Murphy said the first practice will be Saturday night at the team's training facility across from Lambeau Field. Per the CBA, the first two practices won't be in pads.

    "I'm ready to play some ball and get the Pack back to the Super Bowl," said tight end Jermichael Finley, who missed most of last season because of a knee injury.

    Finley, one of Green Bay's league-high 15 players on injured reserve at season's close, is so confident the Packers are positioned well enough to avert what has been an all-too-common hangover in recent years for the title holder that he made a declaration.

    "We will be in Indianapolis," Finley said, referring to Super Bowl XLVI next February.

    Green Bay has the luxury of needing to do just some cosmetic work to its roster.

  • MLB Nick Barnett tweeted that Packers GM Ted Thompson informed him that the eight-year veteran would be released. The move was finalized Friday.

    Barnett was behind A.J. Hawk and Desmond Bishop on the depth chart after finishing last season on injured reserve with a wrist injury. Expect the Lions and perhaps the Bears to be interested.

    Barnett was one of the first Packers to report to the team's facilities Tuesday, but left after a meeting with Thompson and tweeted:

    "Just met with Ted, Thanks for the great 8 years. Very blessed 2 be apart of such a great tradition and great fans.. Happy I was..

    "Happy I was able to be here for the great xlv run... I will always keep a Special place in my heart for this team and city..

    "I look forward to the next jungle #Mufasa will roam... :-) let's get it"

  • Third-year cornerback Brandon Underwood can't be sure he will have a future with the Packers. Underwood pleaded not guilty to a disorderly conduct charge in a Brown County (Wis.) courtroom in Green Bay on July 22. The charge stems from an alleged incident that occurred the night of June 16 outside Underwood's Green Bay residence, shortly after the players and team staff received their Super Bowl XLV rings at a ceremony at Lambeau Field.

  • The lockout kept the Packers from being feted as the Super Bowl champions by President Barack Obama at The White House during the offseason.

    Murphy said a team field trip to Washington, D.C., could be lined up in August but cautioned "the president has more important things" to tend to, a reference to the ongoing debt-limit debate on Capitol Hill.

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "Anything that's going on in those workouts, that's not winning games on Sunday. That's going to help a team chemistry, maybe, but that's not winning games on Sunday." -- Quarterback Aaron Rodgers, on why Packers players weren't compelled to organize workouts during the lockout.

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