NFC North News

The Bears are waiting for a big-play wide receiver to step up, the Lions are looking for additional depth and the Packers are stuck in salary-cap jail. We take a look around the NFC North.

David Terrell plans to do something this year that he hasn't done in his first three NFL seasons: take advantage of an opportunity.

With a fresh start under a new coaching staff, Terrell has the opportunity to shed the tags of "underachiever" and "first-round bust" that have accompanied his name.

"I'm still young and everybody here knows what my capabilities are and what I can do," said the Bears' first-round pick in 2001 (eighth overall). "It's like everybody's just waiting for it to happen, waiting for it to explode, and big. I'm waiting and I'm anxious just like them. The opportunity's here now; nothing (more) to be said. I'm going to take advantage of it and take the coaching, and I'm going to run with it."

Terrell almost sounds embarrassed that he's got just 86 career receptions for 903 yards, numbers that other high draft picks put up in one season.

"I was a top 10 pick, and I'm seeing guys like Chad Johnson in the Pro Bowl," Terrell said. "And I'm seeing everybody that I was drafted with excelling besides me. For whatever reason we have to put that aside. It's aside now and I just have to go out and have fun, and with coach Lovie believing in me, it's a great feeling."

Terrell is hopeful that he'll be used as a weapon down the field more than he was in John Shoop's offense, when he frequently caught the ball within a couple yards of the line of scrimmage. Offensive coordinator Terry Shea's scheme is more wideout-friendly.

"It's going to showcase me," Terrell said. "It's going to show what I can do. It's going to get me out there one-on-one with corners, it's going to have me playing receiver again, it's going to have me out there doing my job. It's not going to (be like) Michael Irvin in the slot trying to avoid linebackers that already know what you're going to be running. It's going to be me out there challenging them, and them challenging me, and me winning."

Terrell caught 43 passes last season but for just 361 yards, an 8.4-yard average, which was the worst in the NFL for any wide receiver with 40 or more receptions. The former Michigan all-American's attention to detail and sense of urgency in practice were issues in the past. The former coaching staff hinted that Terrell was not more involved because he didn't earn the privilege of getting the ball on Sunday with his performance during the week. But Terrell wants the new staff to see for themselves in game action.

"All they have to do is put the tape on," he said. "All they have to do is go in and look who's out there blocking, who's out there giving their best effort, who's out there trying to make extra yards, who's out there trying to leave it on the field. I just told them go look at the tape, tell me what you see, tell me which ways I need to work to fit into your offense and I'm going to do that.

"They came back and they told me what to do, and I'm going to do it, and I'm going to have fun doing it because I'm going to be involved, and that's all I want to do. Don't draft me eight and tell me I'm not going to be involved because you went 13-3 the previous year. I'm here to play."

  • John Tait became the highest paid unrestricted free agent in Bears history at 10:40 p.m. Friday after the Chiefs declined to match the six-year, $33.65 million offer sheet the offensive tackle signed with the Bears a week earlier.

    That provided a major upgrade in an area that the Bears found lacking last season. The Bears, with about $16 million left under the salary cap, front-loaded their contract offer with a huge first-year salary, $11.5 million including salary and a roster bonus, so as to prevent the Chiefs from matching. Including a comparatively modest signing bonus, Tait would receive about $16 million in the first year of the Bears' contract. The Chiefs had only about $4 million left under the cap after subtracting the $6,012,000 that Tait would have been paid as their transition player.

  • According to team president and CEO Ted Phillips, the Bears are in the mix to kick off the 2004 regular season with a home game the Thursday night after Labor Day.

    "We won't know for a little bit now, but I think we've got a 50-50 chance of getting that game," Phillips said. "It would be kind of exciting to kick it off on a Thursday night in Chicago on the lakefront with a win."

    The Bears' opponent in the season-opening game could be the Washington Redskins. Other possibilities include the Green Bay Packers, Indianapolis Colts and Philadelphia Eagles.

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "In training camp, we will work the guys hard. I believe in hitting them hard early, and we need to get off to a good start right away. I don't know what's happened in the past, but just give us a chance, come down to (Bourbonnais) and see our training camp, and I think you'll be impressed with what you see." — New Bears coach Lovie Smith to partisans at the team's fan convention.

    NEEDS/DRAFT PRIORITIES: Defensive tackle — UFA Keith Traylor won't be back, and holdovers Bryan Robinson and Alfonso Boone are ordinary players, not the kind of playmakers that Lovie Smith needs for his defense.

    Offensive left tackle — Mike Gandy filled in here for most of the past two seasons, but he's a guard, and he plays left tackle like a guard. 2002 first-round draft pick Marc Colombo may never make it back from a dislocated knee cap suffered in November of that year.

    Wide receiver — The Bears need a complement for Marty Booker, preferably one with big-play capabilities.

    UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (3): OG Corbin Lacina; DT Keith Traylor; WR Dez White.

    RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (2): OT Mike Gandy; DE Joe Tafoya.


    PLAYERS RE-SIGNED: CB Todd McMillon; WR Ahmad Merritt; FB Stanley Pritchett.

    PLAYERS ACQUIRED: RB Thomas Jones; QB Jonathan Quinn; OT John Tait.

    PLAYERS LOST: DE Phillip Daniels; LB Warrick Holdman; QB Kordell Stewart; OG Chris Villarrial.

    MEDICAL WATCH: No updates.

    The Lions have taken three significant steps forward with the signing of guard Damien Woody, cornerback Fernando Bryant and wide receiver Tai Streets, but the free agent season has not been a clean sweep for them.

    As they have added players to the top or middle of their talent pool, they have seen erosion at the lower levels.

    Most damaging was the loss of outside linebacker Barrett Green to the New York Giants. Although he wasn't a Pro Bowl player, Green was feisty, ran well and could be a factor in the defense when he was healthy.

    The Lions can take a chance on starting James Davis, a 2004 rookie who got limited playing time and needs additional time to adjust to the NFL — they can go back into free agency for a replacement or they'll have to draft a linebacker.

    The loss of linebacker Jeff Gooch to Tampa Bay also poses something of a problem. Although he was not a starter, he was a capable backup and one of the best coverage players on Chuck Priefer's special teams.

    Last — but not necessarily least — on the list is the loss of offensive lineman Eric Beverly. The Lions didn't want him back in a starting capacity but he would have been extremely valuable in a backup role because he had experience at both center and guard. If all else failed, he could have started at right guard, across from Woody at left guard.

    With Beverly gone to Atlanta, the Lions are faced with the need for landing at least a journeyman guard in free agency, drafting a starting-caliber guard or playing with an undistinguished backup from last year's team.

    Individually, the moves are not devastating. Add them up, however, and they create unwanted concerns for a 5-11 team that can't afford to lose even its mid-range players.

  • Lions management officials might have been justifiably amused by comments from linebacker Barrett Green when he agreed to a five-year $13.25 million contract terms with the New York Giants.

    Green was quoted as saying he was not comfortable with the Lions and felt the Giants would be the best move for him as an unrestricted free agent.

    Sources say Green turned down a similar offer from the Lions before the start of training camp in 2003 with the understanding the offer would be off the table as the Lions salary cap situation changed.

    When the Lions attempted to re-sign him before the start of free agency, Green apparently indicated he would accept the offer from last summer, but the Lions declined and he became a free agent.

    The decision might have backfired on the Lions in the long run, however, because they don't have a proven replacement for Green, who played primarily on the weak side last year.

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "He's got pretty good speed and he's a very reliable receiver. He's got some nasty in him, too. He's willing to block if we need that." — Coach Steve Mariucci on wide receiver acquisition Tai Streets.

    In all likelihood, the Lions have completed the major part of their free agent shopping after landing guard Damien Woody, cornerback Fernando Bryant and wide receiver Tai Streets.

    Although they have additional serious needs — a starting right guard, a starting linebacker, a running back, a safety and a wide receiver — they probably will have to address at least some of those needs in the draft.

    It is believed they have enough cap room to get back into free agency after the draft — or if a quality player surfaces in the June 1 cuts — but they will have to pick and choose, and hope to find a bargain before they bring out the checkbook again.

    It is questionable whether they will be able to fill all of the holes in the lineup that would enable them to make a significant jump from last year's 5-11 record.

    NEEDS/DRAFT PRIORITIES: 1. Running back. They released veteran RB James Stewart for cap reasons and last year's biggest producer, Shawn Bryson, is a UFA, leaving only second-year RB Artose Pinner. They need a lead back, probably in the draft but might have to re-sign Stewart just to stay respectable for a year; 2. Wide receiver. The Lions released Bill Schroeder after two unhappy and unproductive seasons but they have to find a replacement to line up across from WR Charles Rogers. They added Tai Streets, but still could be in the market for another young player in the draft; 3. Guard. By signing UFA Damien Woody from New England, the Lions are all set at LG but would like to land an experienced starter at RG.

    UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (9): OG Kerlin Blaise; OG Ray Brown; RB Shawn Bryson; QB Ty Detmer; CB Doug Evans; WR Shawn Jefferson; P John Jett; CB Otis Smith; LB Brian Williams.

    RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (7): WR Scotty Anderson; LB Donte' Curry; P Nick Harris; QB Mike McMahon; CB Leonard Myers; WR Reggie Swinton; FB Stephen Trejo.

    EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS (4): CB Chris Cash; S Julius Curry; LS Jody Littleton; OG Josh Lovelady.

    PLAYERS RE-SIGNED: WR Eddie Drummond; DE James Hall; WR David Kircus; DT Kelvin Pritchett; S Bracy Walker.

    PLAYERS ACQUIRED: CB Fernando Bryant; CB Dainon Sidney; WR Tai Streets; OG Damien Woody.

    PLAYERS LOST: OG Eric Beverly; DT Luther Elliss; LB Jeff Gooch; S Corey Harris; WR Bill Schroeder; RB James Stewart.

    MEDICAL WATCH: No updates.


    The free-agent signing frenzy that took the NFL by storm in the first two weeks of March barely raised a murmur in the NFL's smallest city.

    The Packers entered the weekend with $2.76 million of room beneath the cap. At the start of business Thursday, a total of 22 teams had more cap room and nine had less.

    Although close to 80 free agents have found new teams during the first 10 days of the signing period, the Packers haven't signed anyone. The Packers are negotiating with Cincinnati safety Mark Roman, but that's as close as they've come to adding a player.

    "We're fortunate to have our entire starting lineup under contract from last season," vice president Andrew Brandt said. "Any moves we make will be supplemental moves. Our big splash was Chad Clifton."

    Clifton, their franchise left tackle, signed a six-year, $32.35 million deal the night of March 2.

    The Packers tried the big-money signing in March 2002 but defensive end Joe Johnson ($6.5 million signing bonus) blew up in their face. Now they're following a similar path as in 2003, when they signed fullback Nick Luchey on March 9, Navies on March 19 and two players, center-guard Grey Ruegamer and defensive end Chukie Nwokorie, on April 8.

    The combined signing bonuses allocated to those four "second-tier" unrestricted players was $2.375 million. All four made the team.

    "We're trying to be prudent if possible, aggressive if need be," Brandt said. "But also realize this is a long off-season.

    "Sometimes the free-agent market is, quote-unquote, sexier if you sign other teams' free agents. Our standard has been more signing our own free agents. You try to create the best team for the present and be mindful of the future."

  • Lee Remmel, public relations director for the Packers for 30 years, has been named to the new position of team historian. According to team president Bob Harlan, Remmel will make regular appearances in the community to discuss Packers lore and write two regular columns that will appear on the team's website.

    He also has plans to write a book based on his personal history with the Packers.

    In general, Remmel will be asked to do what he has always done best as PR chief: promote the uniqueness of the franchise and keep alive the memory of its storied past.

    "I have done enough of that, some in an official capacity and some not in an official capacity," Remmel said. "I've done it for many years. This just formalizes it."

    As far as he knows, Remmel might be the first official team historian in the NFL.

    "If we're breaking ground, I feel good about that," said Remmel, who will be 80 in June.

    Jeff Blumb will assume direction of the PR department.

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "I know there is a price you have to pay for pushing your body. But at the end, when you think about what you have accomplished and what you have done, the consequences are worth it. I've been able to take care of my family and myself. I got a ring. If I end up in a wheelchair in 20 years, it's worth it. If I end up that way, I'm not going to cry about it. I'll just reflect on all the fun." — NT Gilbert Brown, who was cut by the Packers March 2.

    Friday evening punter Josh Bidwell, an unrestricted free agent, decided to sign with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Packers will turn to Travis Dorsch and either another veteran or a drafted punter.

    Dorsch flopped as the Bengals' fourth-round draft choice in 2002 out of Purdue. The Packers signed him the day before their playoff loss against the Eagles, and he has been working out in Green Bay with special teams coach John Bonamego ever since.

    NEEDS/DRAFT PRIORITIES: The Packers will be looking to improve their shaky defense in the early stages of the draft; They would like to replace Marques Anderson as the starting strong safety; They would like to sign a defensive end to be in the rotation at the least. Possibly, he would take some playing time away from Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila; They need a cornerback, because Bhawoh Jue is the best that's behind Mike McKenzie and Al Harris; And they would like to find the heir apparent to Brett Favre.

    UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (7): S Antuan Edwards; WR Antonio Freeman; CB/S Michael Hawthorne; QB Doug Pederson; DT Larry Smith; OT Marcus Spriggs; TE Wesley Walls.

    UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (not tendered offers): S Bobby Jackson; NT Rod Walker.

    RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (4): CB Bhawoh Jue; LB Torrance Marshall; TE David Martin; DT Rod Walker.

    EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS (4): OT Kevin Barry; RB Tony Fisher; LB Paris Lenon; CB James Whitley.

    PLAYERS RE-SIGNED: OT Chad Clifton; S Curtis Fuller; LB Marcus Wilkins.


    PLAYERS LOST: P Josh Bidwell; NT Gilbert Brown.

    MEDICAL WATCH: LB Na'il Diggs underwent arthroscopic shoulder surgery March 8 in Los Angeles. The surgery was performed by Lewis Yocum, who is known for operating on baseball pitchers.

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