NFC North Notes

The Bears are getting back one of their former starting quarterback and the Packers are likely to make a change on the offensive line. Get those stories and more notes from the NFC North.


In individual drills during Wednesday's practice inside the Walter Payton Center, Rex Grossman displayed quicker footwork and better agility than at any time since he suffered a fractured left ankle on Aug. 12.

"I expected to get better every week, and I've made improvements the last month each week," Grossman said before practice. "I don't think this week will be any different."

For the first time since he was hurt, Grossman is not on the weekly injury report, and he hasn't lost any arm strength, but his status as the No. 3 quarterback has not been upgraded.

"Really nothing has changed there," offensive coordinator Ron Turner said. "He's still getting a lot of reps, (No. 2) Jeff (Blake) is getting reps, and we're trying to evaluate where Rex is. He's getting better everyday. (But) as of right now, I would say, ‘No change.'"

But that could change before game time if Grossman's mobility improves from last week, when his ability to escape the pocket was questionable at best.

"Probably late in the week we'll talk about it and see where he is," Turner said. "He looked better (Wednesday). He's moving a lot better. He's looking more and more comfortable."

Grossman said last week was a thrill just to suit up, even if he didn't get in the game.

"Even though I was third string, I was pumped up," he said. "I was excited for the game, just to be back out there and back out there with your teammates. It was just fun to be out there."


  • RB Cedric Benson ran for the first time since suffering a sprained right knee on Nov. 13 but did not practice Wednesday. He is out for this week but might be back the following Sunday.

  • CB Rashied Davis is expected to assume the punt-return duties this week from Bobby Wade, but the change has not been announced yet.

  • WR Bobby Wade is second in the NFC with a punt-return average of 9.9 yards, but because he's fumbled seven punts this season, he could lose his job this week to Rashied Davis.

  • CB Jerry Azumah, who went to the Pro Bowl after the 2003 season as a kickoff returner, is averaging just 22.9 yards this season. He averaged 29.0 yards in 2003.


    After tinkering with a rotation at the two guard spots during the 19-14 loss at Philadelphia last Sunday, coach Mike Sherman announced Wednesday that Grey Ruegamer will get the start over rookie Will Whitticker at right guard for Sunday's game at Chicago.

    It marks the first time Whitticker, a seventh-round draft pick, has been displaced from the lineup since winning the job in the preseason.

    "We needed to change it up. It wasn't effective enough," said Sherman, citing the impact inconsistent blocking has had on the team's offensive woes, particularly with the running game.

    The Packers rank second from the bottom in the league with averages of 3.1 yards per carry and 75.5 rushing yards per game.

    Samkon Gado was held to 10 yards in eight carries in the second half against the Eagles after he churned out 101 yards in 18 attempts the first 30 minutes.

    "Though the first half, we did rush the ball halfway decent; we didn't in the second half necessarily. Just (lack of) production," Sherman explained for the second line change in four weeks.

    Backup center Scott Wells was moved to left guard to replace an ineffective Adrian Klemm and has started there the last three games.

    The versatile Ruegamer, a seventh-year veteran, will make his first start of the season. He started 12 games in place of an injured Mike Flanagan at center last year. Ruegamer played at both guard spots in the last game, spelling Whitticker for a couple series and relieving Wells for one.

    Sherman emphasized that the switch at right guard shouldn't be construed as an indictment against the play of Whitticker, though the coaches have been critical of him the last couple weeks for not consistently finishing blocks. Whitticker was overmatched against Minnesota All-Pro tackle Pat Williams in the Nov. 21 defeat.

    "We still have high hopes for Whitticker," Sherman said. "He's still going to play in the game (Sunday). He's still going to play this season. We're giving him a little bit of a break as a starter. Ruegamer has worked hard. We'll just see how the game goes - how Ruegamer is handling himself - and we'll switch it up (if need be)."

  • The Packers apparently are going to stick with Andrae Thurman as their primary kickoff returner for Sunday's game, though the young receiver had a costly fumble late in the game against the Eagles that led to an insurance field goal.

    Thurman handled most of the reps in practice Wednesday. Punt returner Antonio Chatman and starting cornerback Ahmad Carroll took a handful of reps. Carroll said he would be employed on returns only in an emergency situation.

    Running back ReShard Lee, who's handled the bulk of the kickoff duties the last six games, didn't practice because of a rib injury he aggravated on a return early in the last game and was placed on injured reserve. Lee fumbled on the same play, and the Eagles promptly capitalized with a touchdown.

    Kickoff returns have been a sore spot for the Packers all season. They rank last in the league with an average of 19.3 yards.


  • TE Bubba Franks is progressing from the fallout of the hard hit he took from Brian Dawkins in the second quarter of the loss against the Eagles last Sunday. Franks was taken off the field on a stretcher and spent the night in a Philadelphia hospital for precautionary reasons. Franks sustained back pain, and tests done upon his return to Green Bay revealed a mild concussion. The three-time Pro Bowler hasn't been ruled out, though, from playing Sunday at Chicago. "We'll just play it out the rest of the week. We're going to take that day by day," Sherman said.

  • S Jeremy Thornburg was placed on injured reserve Wednesday. The special-teams ace sustained a separated right shoulder while covering a kickoff early in the last game. Coach Mike Sherman said surgery is a possibility for the rookie.

  • OLB Robert Thomas participated in a full-fledged practice Wednesday, albeit on a limited basis, for the first time since he suffered a strained quadriceps in the Nov. 13 win at Atlanta. The weakside starter is questionable for Sunday.

  • Coach Mike Sherman said a decision on whether Cullen Jenkins or Colin Cole will start Sunday at defensive tackle beside NT Grady Jackson, won't be made until the end of the week. Cole got the nod over Jenkins for the first time this season in the last game.

  • DT Corey Williams missed another practice because of a torn calf that has kept him out the last three games. The backup is questionable for Sunday.

  • With Jeremy Thornburg going on IR, the Packers had two spots open on their 53-man roster. They filled them by re-signing safety Todd Franz and signing rookie running back Noah Herron off Pittsburgh's practice squad.

    Franz, a fourth-year veteran, had been out of football since the Packers released him right before the start of the regular season. Franz suffered a shoulder injury during the preseason.

    Herron was a seventh-round draft pick by the Steelers out of Northwestern. He appeared in two games at the outset of the season and then was on Pittsburgh's practice squad the last two months.

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