NFC North Notes and Quotes

Easy does it with the running backs in Chicago, the Lions had a relatively good outing with their new defense, and the Packers are no longer feeling safe at safety. Get those stories and a bevy of notes and quotes from around the NFC North.


Running back Cedric Benson said the key to avoiding a recurrence of his slightly dislocated left shoulder will be making sure it's completely healed before he returns to the field.

His MRI on Monday showed no further damage, and Benson said he's not concerned with the shoulder popping out of joint again, "as long as there's no rush to get back out there.

"I think the good thing is that it is preseason, and not THE season," Benson said. "So as long as we let nature take its course, we won't have this problem again."

Benson had never had a serious injury problem of any kind until last season's sprained knee, which kept him out six weeks. He hopes to return to the practice field in some capacity in 2-3 weeks, but don't expect to see him in the preseason.

"(The doctors) feel like it will be back to normal by the time the regular season comes (Sept. 10 at Green Bay)," Benson said. "I'm rolling with what they say."

By that time, it's likely that Benson will have lost his starting job to Thomas Jones, whom he leapfrogged past in the off-season when the incumbent failed to attend "voluntary" workouts. But Jones is probably closer to returning to the field from his hamstring injury than Benson is, although the battle for No. 1 could begin all over again in early September.

"Thomas Jones, we've seen what he can do," Bears coach Lovie Smith said. "And Cedric Benson has gotten a lot of reps."

The job could wind up going to whoever is healthier.

Until then, Benson's rehab consists of ice therapy and electronic stimulation on the shoulder, but he isn't restricted in lower-body weight lifting or cardiovascular work. When he isn't getting therapy, Benson wears a sling on his left arm to facilitate healing the area around the rotator cuff. He says resigning himself to the inevitability of injury in the NFL is still a struggle.

"(The hardest thing) is just accepting it, knowing that you have an injury, and there's nothing you can do about it but let but heal."

Benson has been on the field with his teammates Tuesday, getting mental reps to stay conversant with the playbook.

"I'm trying to make sure I continue to hear the play being called from the quarterback's mouth, just to keep that flowing through my brain and hearing the way he says it and things like that," he said. "I'm trying to just stay in the huddle and continue to hear the plays over and over, just so I stay within the playbook."

The positive MRI news provided Benson a sense of relief but there's still some regret on his part that his current injury occurred in a practice and not a game, even though the collision between him and linebacker Brian Urlacher and safety Mike Brown seemed incidental.

"I felt so much better knowing that it wasn't anything major and I didn't have to have any surgeries or anything like that because I wasn't even playing a game," Benson said. "In practice, you're going against your guys, you're all one unit. You're all reaching for the same goal at the end of the season. You're all in the boat together, so you don't want anything silly to happen out here."

The 23-year-old has managed to at least take a small positive from his injury.

"Some of the pounding is relieved," he said. "I'm going to be lacking two weeks of preparation, but I'm also getting two weeks of recovery. I guess that's the way to look at it."

CAMP CALENDAR: Camp closes after a 10 a.m. practice on Wednesday, Aug. 16.


  • Bears center Olin Kreutz has been working to end his habit of wiggling the fingers on his non-snapping hand just before delivering the ball to the quarterback. Such movements, if they occur within a second of the snap, will be penalized by the NFL this season as a false start.

    "I've got to stop now, I guess," Kreutz said. "It's a pain. I think they're serious about it, but hopefully they're not that serious. I'm trying to stop it. The coaches are watching me. They'll say, ‘You wiggled it twice out of four plays.' We're all working on it.

    The habit doesn't really benefit Kreutz's Pro Bowl-level game, but it had become part of his ritual.

    "I never really thought about it before," he said. "It's not like I worked on moving my fingers. But camp is to work on stuff, so I'm working on it."

    Although the quirk has been part of Kreutz's game for years, he said last year was the first time he heard complaints.

    "Coaches started complaining about it before games and asking me to stop, and I just ignored them," Kreutz said. "I think it was against Tampa Bay the first time I heard about it. The ref came up while I was doing the quarterback exchange before the game, and he was staring at me. I said, ‘Is something wrong?' He said, ‘You have to stop moving your fingers,' and I said, ‘What are you talking about? You want me to take my tape off, too?' "

  • Last year the Bears' defense scored four touchdowns, but players and coaches have set their sights higher this year.

    The goal is 10.

    "Our guys have set some pretty high standards," defensive coordinator Ron Rivera said. "We're looking for a whole bunch of turnovers, a whole bunch of sacks, interceptions and touchdowns. If you can score on defense or put your offense in scoring position, you have a great chance to win. That's something that we talk about and practice every day, trying to strip the ball, trying to intercept the ball. And once we get it in our hands, we want to head toward the opposite end zone and score."

    Cornerbacks Nate Vasher and Charles Tillman each scored on interception returns last season, as did safety Mike Brown and linebacker Lance Briggs.

    Defensive end Wale Ogunleye said he's primed for an even better season than last year, when he had 10 sacks.

    "I really think I'm going to make a lot of strides this year," Ogunleye said. "I've got another year under my belt, and I really don't have to concentrate so much on the plays and learn them; I already have them, so this should be a really good year for us as a defensive line. I think the chemistry between me, Tommie (Harris), Ian (Scott) and Alex (Brown) is going to continue to grow and we're going to just get better."

    This will be the third straight season that the starting four is together.

  • At 6-feet-4 and 212 pounds, Justin Gage has size on his side, but he also is valued because of his versatility and experience.

    Gage is just 25 and has been with the Bears for only four years, but that's longer than any wide receiver on the team.

    "What he's going to become for us is a guy who can play any position," wide receivers coach Darryl Drake said. "He's a guy who can move around, and he's insurance at every position because he's smart and you trust him."

  • Defensive coordinator Ron Rivera said training camps are a lot different than when he played linebacker for the Bears from 1984-92 under coach Mike Ditka.

    Some things just don't happen anymore, like "the head coach yelling a lot," said Rivera, who added that the work was tougher back then, too. "Maybe it was the double (practice) days (with full pads and full contact) and the end the double days with sprints. I know that was a staple of coach Ditka's training camps. We had double days and then we ended them with sprints. A series of sprints. We started with 10 (yards) one day, 20s, 40s, 80s and then 100s, and then we started all over again."

  • Brian Urlacher isn't worried about whether he and fellow linebackers Hunter Hillenmeyer and Lance Briggs have a lofty reputation throughout the league

    "If they don't know us by now, they're probably not going to know us," Urlacher said. "We feel like we've played pretty well together the last (three) years, and we're just getting better every year."
  • Rashied Davis, the Arena Football League's 2005 Offensive Player of the Year, has been a noticeable playmaker throughout training camp. That's a positive first step, but Davis took a leap right into the thick of the Bears' cloudy wide receiver picture Friday night.

    He led the Bears in receiving in their preseason opener with four catches for 91 yards, including a 41-yard TD.

    "It was important to me because I had done some things in practice, so I was anxious to be able to see what I was capable of doing (in a game)," Davis said. "I wasn't nervous; I was just anxious to go against someone else; do it in a real-time situation, and it was fun."

    The touchdown came when quarterback Brian Griese drew the 49ers offside with a hard count, giving the Bears a free play, knowing the worst they could do was pick up 5 yards on the penalty.

    "I knew I had the defense offside," Griese said. "I just gave Rashied a chance to make a play. He ran a great route, ran right by the guy and made a great catch."

    Davis started camp no better than fifth on the depth chart - behind Muhsin Muhammad, Bernard Berrian, Mark Bradley and Justin Gage - but he will be worth watching.

  • RB Thomas Jones is still on the physically unable to perform list after tweaking his hamstring during a physical on the first day of training camp. He is expected to be back on the field next week.

  • C Olin Kreutz did not play in the preseason opener because of an unspecified illness.

  • DT Tank Johnson (quadriceps), who remains on the non-football injury list, has been increasing his workload in individual sessions after practice and could be back before the regular season.

  • WR Bernard Berrian, who had missed several practices with a strained hip flexor, played in the preseason opener and caught one pass for 9 yards.

  • P Brad Maynard, who has been idle for almost the entire camp because of a groin injury, punted twice in the preseason opener for a 43-yard average.

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "We're linebackers. I don't really get into that stuff too much. We just go out there and play hard and have a good time." — Pro Bowl middle linebacker Brian Urlacher, asked if there was a catchy nickname for the Bears' linebacker corps.


    All things considered, coach Rod Marinelli couldn't be too disappointed with his first view of the Lions defense under fire.

    Playing against a solid Denver team in the exhibition opener, the Lions forced four fumbles, recovered two of them, intercepted a pass, racked up four quarterback sacks and made a defensive stand at their own 6-yard line to get a win.

    And, oh yes, they did it without six of their starters - tackles Shaun Rogers and Shaun Cody, end Cory Redding, linebackers Boss Bailey and Teddy Lehman, and cornerback Fernando Bryant. All are recovering from injuries of varying degrees of seriousness.

    As far as Marinelli is concerned, however, his defensive players were only doing what is expected of them.

    "In this defense, if you will just do your job - what you're supposed to do - and create effort and tackle and cancel your gaps, you can be okay," Marinelli said.

    "We had a couple of big plays from a couple of our down guys. That was big."

    Third-team defensive ends Bill Swancutt and Claude Harriott had three quarterback sacks between them (two for Harriott), and rookie linebacker James Hargrave also had a sack.

    All in a day's work, the way Marinelli sees it. And he says the defensive stand at the end of the game is one of the habits he is trying to instill every day on the practice field.

    "I like it, I do," he said, referring to the plays by his defenders in the closing minutes of the game to protect a 20-13 lead. "I was energized in that part of it. You couldn't have a better way to finish - in pressure. I like pressure.

    "Just keep applying pressure to the other guy, apply pressure to the other guy, get in it and perform. We have to execute under duress. Through practice that's all I do - practice and keep doing those things. It becomes the habit you want."

    And for now, at least, it's a start.

    CAMP CALENDAR: Aug. 17 - Break camp; Aug. 24 - Kickoff luncheon, hosted by Economic Club of Detroit.


  • WR Shaun Bodiford, an undrafted rookie receiver from Portland State, has become the feel-good story of the Lions' training camp.

    At 5-feet-11, 187 pounds, Bodiford has been earning his keep by catching the ball well, showing good speed and producing on special teams both as a gunner on coverage teams and as the backup returner.

    He had just one reception for 6 yards in the Lions' opening pre-season game but he has played well enough to draw serious consideration for a roster spot, assuming he maintains his level of play through the remaining weeks until the final cuts.

    Bodiford came from a troubled background in Seattle. He was essentially living on the streets at the age of 13 but got strong direction from Federal Way (Wash.) High School coach Leon Hatch and eventually made his way to Portland State, by way of Butte (Calif.) Junior College.

    Although Portland State coach Tim Walsh says Bodiford has run a 4.41-second 40-yard dash, he was not invited to the NFL scouting combine and went through all seven rounds of the draft without hearing his name called.

    The Lions invited him to a rookie camp in early May and were impressed enough to sign him to a contract.

  • With their season opener less than four weeks away, the fate of Lions former first-round draft picks Charles Rogers and Mike Williams remains uncertain.

    After early indications that both were on the way to working their way into the good graces of coach Rod Marinelli and offensive coordinator Mike Martz, both receivers are listed as third-string. Rogers, the No. 2 pick overall 2003, is listed behind Roy Williams and Glenn Martinez; Mike Williams, the No. 10 pick in 2005, is listed behind Corey Bradford and Mike Furrey.

    Marinelli and Martz have been vague when occasionally addressing the puzzling situation, saying only that players have to make the most of their opportunities as they come along.

    And while Rogers and Mike Williams have not distinguished themselves greatly, the second-string receivers — Martinez and Furrey — haven't been on a Hall of Fame course themselves.

    In the opening preseason game, Martinez caught one pass for 9 yards; Furrey had no catches.

    Charles Rogers caught one pass for 7 yards but also beat the snap count a few plays later for a costly penalty; Mike Williams had an outstanding 24-yard reception but coughed up the ball when he was drilled by a Denver defender on the next throw that came his way.

  • It didn't take Rod Marinelli long to get his first win as an NFL head coach and he didn't even mind that was a preseason game.

    "Like I was saying, I love winning," Marinelli said, flashing a grin after the Lions' 20-13 win against Denver in their preseason opener. "If we're going to go play marbles, I'm going to get you. That's my goal.

    "I cleared the goal up early for the team, that it's winning every snap. Meaning I want every guy to execute to the best of his ability every snap.

    "So really, if it's a preseason game it doesn't matter. It's that moment, that step and all of those things that we're trying to get done. I love to win, yeah."

  • There were a couple of notable surprises when coach Rod Marinelli got around to releasing his first depth chart of the season.

    Most notably, first-round draft pick wide receivers Charles Rogers and Mike Williams were listed as third-string behind starters Roy Williams and Corey Bradford, as well as second-teamers Glenn Martinez and Mike Furrey.

    It was also interesting to note that Casey FitzSimmons was listed as the first tight end ahead of Marcus Pollard, apparently on the effort FitzSimmons had put in on improving his blocking skills.

    The decision by Marinelli and offensive coordinator Mike Martz to play second-year quarterback Dan Orlovsky ahead of Josh McCown is an indication the backup quarterback job is still undecided. It had generally been felt the job belonged to McCown at the start of camp.

  • TE Casey FitzSimmons started ahead of Marcus Pollard in the opening preseason game but suffered what was believed to be a fractured left wrist early in the game, attempting to make a play on pass thrown late by QB Jon Kitna.

  • QB Dan Orlovsky is pushing veteran QB Josh McCown for the No. 2 quarterback job, based on a strong training camp and a solid performance in the opening preseason game.

  • WR Charles Rogers, listed as a third-stringer had just one catch for 7 yards in the Lions' opening preseason game. He also beat the snap count, resulting in a penalty.

  • WR Mike Williams, listed as a third-string receiver, caught one pass for 24 yards but also had a catchable ball jarred loose on a hit a few plays later.

  • S Daniel Bullocks, listed as the No. 2 SS behind Kenoy Kennedy on the Lions depth chart, led the team with seven tackles in the preseason opener. Although he is listed at SS, Bullocks is working primarily at FS.

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "I'm not going to throw them a bouquet of flowers. That's what you're supposed to do, that's defense. That's what I'm used to and that's what we're going to do and we just have to do it better." - Coach Rod Marinelli on the Lions' defensive stop in the final seconds of their 20-13 preseason-opening win against Denver.


    When the Packers released incumbent starting strong safety Mark Roman before the start of training camp last month, the move was made with a strong conviction that the team had not only quantity but quality at the position.

    Three weeks later, what was considered a position of strength is teetering on being a weak link for the defense. There's a greater sense of urgency to get projected starter Marquand Manuel, whom the team signed early in free agency, on the field for the first time in the preseason.

    Manuel's effective replacement, Marviel Underwood, was felled by a potentially season-ending injury to his right knee in the opening defensive series of the Packers' 17-3 loss at San Diego in their first exhibition game Aug. 12.

    Underwood's knee buckled as he was trying to sidestep a low block in the open field on a screen pass. Underwood, a San Diego resident who played at San Diego State, was on crutches after the game.

    The severity of the injury wasn't immediately known.

    Manuel suffered a strained calf while working out about a week before training camp started July 28. The team has been exercising caution with Manuel, who was sidelined for most of the off-season with a groin injury sustained while playing for Seattle in the Super Bowl in February.

    Underwood, drafted in the fourth round last year, filled the void nicely the first two weeks of camp, intercepting five passes.

    After Underwood went out Saturday, rookie Tyrone Culver was summoned to work with the No. 1 unit. Culver, a sixth-round pick out of Fresno State, has a nose for the football and wraps up well. He posted a game-high nine tackles.

  • With Ahman Green being gradually worked into playing shape after making his camp debut Aug. 7, the search for the No. 2 running back is clouded.

    Najeh Davenport was the starter against the Chargers, but neither he, Samkon Gado nor Noah Herron distinguished himself in the battle for a critical position.

    Davenport had the most carries among the group with six but gained only 12 yards. Gado and Herron each had three carries for all of 6 and 4 yards, respectively.

    The Packers' running backs churned out but 23 yards in 14 carries.

    Backup quarterback Aaron Rodgers led the team with 21 yards in three scrambles.

    The struggles in the running game didn't help Brett Favre any. Favre ran the offense for four series in the first half and was under considerable duress dropping back on pass plays. Favre was sacked on back-to-back plays in the second series.

    "We've got a long way to go. We weren't very good," Favre said. "We have to protect better. We have to rush the football better."

    Coach Mike McCarthy is committed to running the football this season, implementing a zone-blocking scheme. McCarthy said he desires a pass-to-run ratio of 53 percent to 47 percent.

    Favre and Rodgers (three) were sacked a total of five times by the Chargers' blitz-happy defense.

    Two of the sacks absorbed by Rodgers were attributed to lost containment by Junius Coston, who relieved Chad Clifton at left tackle late in the first half. That's not encouraging news as the Packers can't be sure Clifton will hold up for the entire season because of a surgically repaired right knee, which flared up early in training camp and kept the veteran out for more than a week.

    The versatile Coston was moved from backing up rookie Jason Spitz at right guard to left tackle when Clifton was sidelined. Coston is raw at his new spot and will take time to get the proper technique down.

    CAMP CALENDAR: Closes Aug. 26. The team will make St. Norbert College in nearby De Pere its living quarters until Aug. 18.


  • In the wake of a scary run-in by starting safety Nick Collins with a retaining wall during the intrasquad scrimmage Aug. 5 at Lambeau Field, the Packers will cover a portion of the concrete path on the perimeter of the field.

    Collins hurt his lower back when his feet came out from underneath him while covering on a downfield pass play along the sideline near the end zone. His momentum took him out of bounds and on to the concrete, where he fell on his back and slid hard into the wall separating the field from the front row of seats.

    "I think they should put some carpet or something over there because a man that's running full speed is liable to hurt himself over there on the concrete," said Collins, who didn't miss any practice time because of the fall.

    Players have been protected at the back of the two end zones in the stadium where carpet is laid over the concrete. It extends to even with the back of the end-zone lines.

    General manager Ted Thompson called on the team's field staff to bring the covering out to the concrete inside the 20-yard lines. Thompson said the work was expected to be completed by the first home preseason game Aug. 19 against Atlanta.

    "As people run corner routes and out routes down in the red zone, that becomes a little bit more dangerous," Thompson said.

  • Hall of Fame quarterback and former Packers coach Bart Starr observed practice Aug. 9 and was invited by first-year coach Mike McCarthy to speak to the team later that day.

    "I'm very big on education," McCarthy said. "I think it's a very big part of what we can put in front of our players and coaches, and to have the opportunity to have Bart Starr come in and talk about the history and tradition (of the franchise), I think that speaks for itself."

    Starr is among a handful of influential people McCarthy is having address his players during the preseason.

    Retired U.S. Marine Corps General Charles Krulak, who served in Vietnam, spoke to the team Aug. 2.

  • Team chairman and chief executive officer Bob Harlan was released from a Green Bay hospital the weekend of Aug. 5-6 after being admitted for what was believed to be gallstones.

    Harlan was able to represent the Packers at the NFL owners meeting last week in Chicago, where Roger Goodell was tabbed as the league's new commissioner.

    However, Harlan didn't accompany the team to San Diego for its preseason opener Aug. 12.

  • Saddled with a 17-3 loss to the Chargers, McCarthy became the first Packers coach since Lindy Infante in 1988 to not win his first preseason game.

    Mike Holmgren (1992), Ray Rhodes (1999) and Mike Sherman (2000) were victorious in their unofficial coaching debuts.

  • Quarterback Brett Favre was supposed to make only a cameo appearance in the opening preseason game Aug. 12, but he played almost the entire first half as the Packers struggled to move the football in a 17-3 loss at San Diego.

    Favre ran the offense for four series, entailing 19 plays. Two of the possessions were three-and-out; another was foiled by sacks on back-to-back plays; and the final series stalled in the red zone when rookie receiver Greg Jennings dropped a fourth-down pass that would have netted a first down.

    Favre completed 5 of 10 passes for 66 yards for a 71.2 passer rating before giving way to Aaron Rodgers late in the second quarter. Favre's longest pass was a 28-yard strike to Robert Ferguson on a third-and-7 play during the quarterback's last series.

    "We've got a long way to go. We weren't very good," Favre said.

  • RB Ahman Green didn't play in the first game and isn't expected to suit up until the third exhibition contest, Aug. 28 at Cincinnati. Green was cleared to practice on a limited basis Aug. 7 for the first time since sustaining a ruptured quadriceps tendon last October.

  • SS Marquand Manuel was the lone projected defensive starter who didn't play in the opener. Manuel has yet to be cleared to practice after suffering a strained right calf a week before training camp started. Manuel's replacement, Marviel Underwood, sustained a potentially season-ending right knee injury in the first defensive series Saturday.

  • LB Brady Poppinga practiced for the first time Aug. 7, albeit on a limited basis, since sustaining a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee last December. Poppinga expects to play in the Aug. 28 game against the Bengals.

  • OL Will Whitticker is out indefinitely after straining his right hamstring in practice Aug. 4. Whitticker spelled an injured Chad Clifton at left tackle early in camp and then was moved back to a reserve guard/tackle role on the right side.

  • Veteran G Michael "Mookie" Moore was signed Aug. 10 to bolster the depth on the line. The 6-foot-2, 318-pound Moore was a fourth-round draft pick of Washington in 2000, starting one game that season. Moore also played for Denver and Atlanta but was sidetracked in 2004 with the Falcons because of a shoulder injury. He didn't play last season.

  • S Atari Bigby, a first-year player, broke his right hand while making a tackle during the team's intrasquad scrimmage Aug. 5. He underwent surgery Aug. 10 but remains hopeful he won't be declared out for the season.

  • Rookie CB Will Blackmon has yet to recover from a broken foot sustained in May and could start the season on the physically unable to perform list.

  • Undrafted rookie LB Byron Santiago was released Aug. 7. Santiago was sidelined from the outset of training camp with a back injury.

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "Winning is the most important. That's what our business is all about. And, we say it over and over again, no excuses. If you put on our uniform, you have accountability to produce, prepare and perform, and that's a mindset that we must always have. Winning in preseason for me is important because it gives you momentum going into the season. So, let's not forget, you're coming off a 4-12 football team, so it's always important to win." — Coach Mike McCarthy on his top priority for the team in the preseason games.

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