NFC North Notes

QB Kyle Orton probably considers himself the starter for the rest of the season in Chicago, WR Charles Rogers can't wait to get back on the field in Detroit, and QB Brett Favre has been revisiting history this year. Get news and notes from around the NFC North.

Rookie quarterback Kyle Orton scoffed when asked if he had played well enough to keep the job when Rex Grossman returns from his fractured ankle.

"We're 5-3 and in first place in the division," Orton said. "So I'm just going to wait and let Lovie make the decision."

Grossman has targeted the week of the Nov. 27 Bucs game for his return to the practice field, although that seems extremely optimistic since he's only recently begun jogging.

Orton said he's pleased with the way he's played and the way the season has gone for the team, especially considering the dire predictions after Grossman's injury.

"I'm happy we're in first place," Orton said. "I feel like I've played well, and I've got a lot of confidence in the way I play. I thought going into the season that when I filled in there would hopefully not be any downfall at all at the quarterback position, and I feel like I'm getting better, and that's what I expected out of myself."

Orton's confidence has never appeared to falter, even when things have gone badly. Last week's game was a step back for him, but he came through with a 22-yard pass to Muhsin Muhammad on third-and-5 that set up the game-winning field goal. But he said he didn't need that one play to keep his confidence up.

"You've got to make plays on third downs, and it was a big point of the game," he said. "We needed a big play, and Moose made a nice catch on a nice route. I've got confidence. I don't need one play to give me confidence. I've got plenty of confidence. I'm not going to lose confidence if I throw a bad ball and I'm not really going to gain confidence if it's a good one."

  • WR Muhsin Muhammad thinks it's a lack of focus that has kept the Bears' offense from playing consistently well.

    "If you call a play on two, and the offensive line jumps, or a wide receiver or running back jumps, everybody knew it was on two, so why are you jumping?" Muhammad said. "We know the snap count, they don't. I think that's a lack of focus."

    The Bears had four false start penalties last week in a sloppy 20-17 win against the 2-7 Saints.

    "Every now and then you may have a receiver running a bad route or a running back hitting the wrong hole," Muhammad said. "We all know what to do, but every now and then you lose your focus. From time to time we have a lack of focus and that causes us to play inconsistent."

  • Left guard Ruben Brown practiced Wednesday and should be available Sunday for the first time since he suffered a partially torn chest muscle against the Browns on Oct. 9.

    If he's fully recovered, Brown is expected to regain his starting spot, even though the offensive line has played well with Roberto Garza filling in the past four games.

    "We're always looking to improve," coach Lovie Smith said. "We like what we've done, but if you can improve any area, we'll always do that. We're just anxious to get Ruben back on the field and see a healthy Ruben practicing, and we'll go from there."

    BY THE NUMBERS: The Bears averaged 127.5 rushing yards per game with Ruben Brown at right guard and 134.0 with Roberto Garza. Quarterback Kyle Orton was sacked nine times in the first four games and nine times in the past four.

    Since PK Robbie Gould took over from Doug Brien in Week Five, the Bears have lowered their opponents' average kickoff return from 25.6 yards to 21.9.

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "I don't feel like we're close to putting a complete game together yet. We get better and we have times of spurts where we play great, like a great offense; and then we get spurts where we play real inconsistent." - Bears WR Muhsin Muhammad on the team's passing offense.


    If it were up to Charles Rogers, he would skip all the media talk and go directly to Ford Field for the game Sunday against the Cardinals.

    Rogers, the Lions' first-round pick in 2003, has suffered through a double whammy in recent weeks: He was suspended for four games for violating the NFL's substance-abuse program, and he practiced so poorly last week the Lions didn't even activate him when he was eligible to return.

    "I'm real anxious about it," Rogers said Wednesday. "I really don't want to talk about it. When Sunday comes, I've just got to go out there and show it."

    Rogers got started in that direction with a good first day of practice, which was greeted by encouragement from his teammates and coaches.

    "Chuck did really good, and a lot of people told him that," quarterback Joey Harrington. "It was good to see him running, it was good to see him — I don't know — he looked like a different guy today. And it was good to see."

    Rogers indicated surprise that his practice-field work last week had been viewed as entirely unsatisfactory by the Lions coaching staff, but said he has a better feel for their expectations now.

    "I've got a better understanding of what they're looking for," he said. "I've got a great idea about it, so it's about me putting it together, putting what I think and what they think into one thing, and coming out here and doing it."

  • Two-time Pro Bowl cornerback Dre' Bly will miss at least one more game with the wrist injury he suffered in the Oct. 23 game at Cleveland, but that doesn't mean he isn't already making a contribution to the Lions defense.

    Bly, who had surgery to repair the dislocated bone in his right wrist just days after he was hurt, returned to the practice field Wednesday, wearing a hard cast from his knuckles to just below his elbow.

    And, although he can't do the things that have made him one of the NFL's top interceptors in recent seasons, Bly's presence was appreciated by his coaches and teammates.

    "He brings some life to the table," coach Steve Mariucci said. "He's always yapping. He's got the cast on, but he's still out there playing. He's not supposed to use that arm, but he was.

    "He's getting closer. He changed the cast. The swelling's gone down, so they took the old cast off and put a new, tighter one on. And he's got his mind-set on playing as soon as possible; he's going to have to get a doctor to agree to it."

    Bly relishes his role with the Lions defense and clearly is itching to get back into uniform. He is hoping to be back by the Thanksgiving Day game against Atlanta.

    "Whenever I've been on the field, wherever I was, I brought excitement," Bly said. "I have fun when I'm out there on the field. That's one thing I've always done when I played ball.

    "Today that's what I was doing. My teammates were happy to see me. Actually, the defensive guys — even though I was just doing scout team — called me over to have me break the defense down. That's normally what I do.

    "But it felt good to be back out there, running around. I even got a little winded, but that's to be expected after having two weeks off. But I'm just glad to be back as part of the team and practicing."

  • Joey Harrington, who lost the Lions' starting quarterback job three weeks ago but returned to starting duty at Minnesota because of injuries to Jeff Garcia, might be in line for another start against Arizona on Sunday.

    Garcia missed the first five games of the season with a broken left fibula and sprained left ankle. After starts against Cleveland and Chicago, he had so much pain in those areas he couldn't practice or play.

    In the Lions' first practice of the week Wednesday, Garcia got only a handful of reps while Harrington did most of the practicing with the first offense.

    "(Garcia is) still a little sore, but it was more work than he had a week ago," coach Steve Mariucci said.

    Mariucci said he probably won't choose between Harrington and Garcia until later in the week.

    "It will depend on how many snaps in practice Jeff Garcia will get," Mariucci said. "However, he didn't get many today, and I'm not sure how many he'll get (Thursday)."

    BY THE NUMBERS: 36 — Total of receptions by the Lions' three first-round wide receivers — Mike Williams (19), Roy Williams (12) and Charles Rogers (five) — in the first half of the season. Combined, they rank no better than a tie for 32nd among NFL receivers.

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "Isn't it common knowledge that that position is the most flamboyant? It seems to be the case. There's a flamboyant player at other positions once in a while, but they just seem to be stockpiled at that position." — Lions coach Steve Mariucci on NFL wide receivers.


    Packers quarterback Brett Favre will complete a trifecta on the schedule that has conjured up the building blocks of his ongoing starting streak.

    Two Sundays ago, Green Bay played Cincinnati, the opponent against which Favre relieved an injured Don Majkowski during the first quarter and rallied the Packers to a last-minute win Sept. 20, 1992.

    Last Sunday, the Packers played Pittsburgh, the opponent against which Favre subsequently made his first NFL start Sept. 27, 1992, earning a 17-3 victory.

    Now, the Packers will play the Atlanta Falcons in the Georgia Dome on Sunday, against whom Favre made his first road start on Oct. 4, 1992, losing 24-10. Favre, who had been traded by the Falcons to Green Bay for a first-round draft pick in the 1992 off-season, was 33-of-43 passing for 276 yards and a touchdown with an interception.

    Favre, a second-round draft pick of Atlanta in 1991, has started 213 straight games (233 counting the playoffs).

  • The Packers' last meeting with Atlanta resulted in a momentous 27-7 win for the Falcons on Jan. 4, 2003, in an NFC wild-card playoff game at Lambeau Field. The Packers, who were the league's only unbeaten team at home during the 2002 regular season, suffered their first postseason loss in 14 games on home turf.

  • ReShard Lee was the fourth starting running back of the season for the Packers in their 20-10 loss to Pittsburgh last Sunday. They hadn't had as many as four starting backs in one season since 1998 - Dorsey Levens, Raymont Harris, Travis Jervey and Darick Holmes.

    Lee, though, was quickly benched because of a fumble in the Packers' first series. Undrafted rookie Samkon Gado took over the rest of the game and is slated to make his first NFL start Sunday.

  • Having not played at Atlanta since 1992, the Packers on Sunday will end their longest active stretch without playing an NFC team on the road.

  • Favre has 15 touchdown passes this season and is on pace to extend his NFL record to nine seasons with 30 touchdowns. However, he leads the league with 14 interceptions and is on pace to finish with 28, which would eclipse his career high of 24 in 1993.

  • Favre already has completed passes to 16 receivers this season, the most players to catch a throw from him in a season since 1998, also 16.

  • The Packers on Sunday will play the last of their three indoor games this season. They lost 17-3 at Detroit in the Sept. 11 opener and 23-20 at Minnesota on Oct. 23.

    BY THE NUMBERS: 71.9 - League-worst average of rushing yards per game by the Packers offense this season. The franchise's single-season low watermark is 85.6 in 1990.

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "I prefer him on the bench. I think that's the best place for us in regard to him. He's a great athlete, and he can do great things. When he scrambles around, he's very nerve-wracking for a coach and drives defensive coordinators berserk." - Packers coach Mike Sherman, when asked Wednesday whether he'd prefer to have his team defend Falcons quarterback Michael Vick on the run or in the pocket.

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