NFC North News

Ricky Manning Jr. continues to be a sore spot in Chicago, the Lions' Fred Matua is out to prove he can play in the NFL and should have been drafted higher, and Daryn Colledge is one of two second-round picks in Green Bay that could be starting on opening day.


The beginning of Ricky Manning Jr.'s association with the Bears continues to be an embarrassment to him and the team.

The three-year veteran cornerback, who was signed to a $21 million, five-year contract as a restricted free agent late last month, was charged with assault last Thursday for allegedly taking part in an early-morning fight at a restaurant last month that left a man unconscious.

Manning, 25, was charged with one count of assault by means likely to produce great bodily injury, deputy district attorney Karen Murcia said. If convicted of the felony, he faces up to four years in state prison. Manning, who is scheduled to receive $7 million in bonus money this season, is still on probation for an assault in April 2002.

Manning and two former UCLA football players allegedly attacked a man at a Denny's restaurant near the UCLA campus in Westwood. That was two days before the Carolina Panthers declined to match the offer from Chicago, making Manning a Bear. Police said the players then drove off in Manning's SUV but were pulled over by officers soon after when the vehicle was spotted by a helicopter crew. All three were released on $30,000 bail each.

Manning's arraignment, which was scheduled for Thursday, was postponed until May 26. The former UCLA star was arrested April 23, along with former Bruins Tyler Ebell and Maurice Drew.

The 5-foot-8, 185-pound Manning started 23 games from 2003-04, but the Bears expect him to be their third cornerback, playing in passing situations. He has 9 career interceptions, plus 4 more in the 2003 postseason, when he was named NFL defensive player of the week twice.

Although Manning has been advised not to discuss the case, he commented briefly on the day he joined the Bears.

"I can't worry about that," he said. "I just have to focus (on) what is at hand. I can't let something like this let me have a bad off-season or a bad start to a football career in Chicago."

Manning is expected to be at the first two of the Bears' 14 organized team activities Wednesday and Thursday at Halas Hall.

Ebell, 22, and Drew were expected to surrender and be arraigned at a later date, Murcia said. Drew, 21, was taken by Jacksonville in the second round of the NFL draft. The running back attended mini-camp in Florida last month. Ebell played two seasons at UCLA before transferring to UTEP after the 2003 season. He rushed for 536 yards and scored 5 touchdowns in seven games in 2005.


Guard Fred Matua still isn't sure why he slipped all the way to the seventh round of the NFL draft before he was taken by the Detroit Lions. It certainly wasn't for the lack of credentials.

He played on championship teams at Southern California, blocked for three Heisman Trophy winners and has NFL bloodlines running through his family.

There is speculation that his history of injuries — a broken leg in high school, sprained ankles and knees in college, and a hernia surgery — might be responsible for his draft day disappointment but Matua says he is no longer looking back.

"All that does is just build up fire for me," Matua said. "Of course I'm disappointed I didn't get drafted quite a bit higher but — you know what? — I'm here in Detroit with the Detroit Lions and I love it here.

"I love the guys, my o-line coach (Larry Beightol) and coach (Rod) Marinelli. It's been fun and I'm glad I've been chosen by this team. Hopefully, I can make the most of this opportunity."

Matua is considered a tough, blue-collar prospect more likely to make it on grit than natural talent, but he came to the Lions with a strong recommendation from his college line coach, Pat Ruel, and was on the line that provided protection for Carson Palmer, Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush on a team that was virtually invincible running into Texas in the Rose Bowl at the end of last season.

Matua is one of several young linemen being moved into the competition for the left guard and right tackle jobs with the Lions. He is not expected to challenge immediately for a starting position but he has experience at both guard and center, and the Lions hope he will develop into an NFL-caliber lineman.

And Matua admits he isn't enthused about the prospect of being a long-term backup player.

"I don't like sitting on the bench," he said. "Hopefully, I can get the offense down well enough to help this team. That's my main goal. Whatever I can do, I'm going to try to do."


General manager Ted Thompson's first draft class in 2005 yielded two starters on opening day — free safety Nick Collins and right guard Will Whitticker.

It's not out of the question the Packers will have three rookies in the starting lineup to kick off next season Sept. 10 against Chicago. That hasn't happened in Green Bay since 1988.

First-round draft pick A.J. Hawk already has been anointed a starter at linebacker, presently on the weak side in the 4-3 scheme.

Yet, not a month into their pro careers, the second-round tandem of offensive lineman Daryn Colledge and wide receiver Greg Jennings has made a favorable first impression. Both players, who were taken five picks apart, are in the running for starting spots to be had.

Colledge was a four-year standout at left tackle for Boise State. The Packers, though, projected the 6-foot-4, 299-pound Colledge as a guard and moved him to the inside from the get-go without fail on the newcomer's part.

"He's exactly what we thought he was on film at Boise State. We're very excited about him," head coach Mike McCarthy said. "Very athletic, and, obviously, that's what we're looking for in our linemen — the big-boned, athletic type that has ability."

Colledge already reminds some of former Packers left guard Mike Wahle. That's the position at which Colledge has been lining up with the No. 1 offense in the minicamps this month as the Packers seek to solidify the position after not sufficiently replacing Wahle last season.

McCarthy is employing a zone-blocking scheme, which requires relatively leaner linemen who are light on their feet to get out in space. Colledge said 75 percent of Boise State's play calling involved zone blocking.

"He definitely fits the bill for that body type for that type of lineman to play in that system," McCarthy said.

Jennings, likewise, caught his new coach's eye in the early going. The Western Michigan product outperformed veterans Robert Ferguson, Rod Gardner and Marc Boerigter, the contenders for the No. 2 role opposite Donald Driver, in the post-draft minicamp.

"Very impressed with Greg. He's really stepped right in. It's not too big for him, which sometimes happens to a rookie," McCarthy said. "I think he's made the transition, as far as the speed of the game."

The 5-11 Jennings doesn't measure up to the tall standards McCarthy likes to have with his receivers. Jennings, though, compensates by getting in and out of his breaks quickly and is relentless in churning out yards after the catch.

Jennings also has emerged as a leading candidate for punt-return duties.

"He seems very comfortable catching the football, both in the receiving aspect and the punt-return aspect," McCarthy said.

The last rookie receiver to get an opening-day start for the Packers was Robert Brooks in 1992.

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