NFC North Notes and Quotes

A full-strength Bears defense meant a dominating performance, an unlikely source is leading the Lions in receptions, and Packers GM Ted Thompson defended the character of Koren Robinson. Get news, notes and quotes from the Vikings' division rivals.


For the first time since the preseason opener, the Bears' defense was at full strength for the season opener, and the group gave every indication that it was ready to take the next step after a sometimes-dominant campaign in 2005.

Strong safety Mike Brown (Achilles), defensive end Alex Brown (shoulder) and cornerback Nate Vasher joined the rest of the starters, and the result was the first shutout of Brett Favre in his 14-year Packers career. Mike Brown and Vasher, both of whom made the Pro Bowl last season, had played in only the preseason opener, and Alex Brown, a Pro Bowl alternate, missed the preseason finale.

"We're a pretty good defense with everyone on the field," coach Lovie Smith said. "It was good to see Mike Brown back out there leading the defense. He was able to make it through the game without any trouble."

Alex Brown had one of the Bears' three sacks and two other quarterback hurries, despite suffering a separated shoulder on Aug. 25. His shoulder popped out of joint, but team trainers were able to manipulate it back into place. Brown predicted then that he'd play in the opener, but hardly anyone believed him.

"When they put it back in, it felt OK," he said. "It hurt a little bit, it was a little weak, but we have good trainers here they helped me get back. I don't like being out. I don't like missing games. If I can go, I will. If I was going to hurt the team by being out there, then I wouldn't have played."

The Bears allowed just 267 total yards in the 26-0 blanking of the Packers and forced three turnovers. This week in their home opener, the Bears face a Lions offense that was No. 27 in yards last season and No. 28 in scoring.

"It makes a huge difference when you have those type of players," defensive coordinator Ron Rivera said. "We're talking about Pro Bowl players and near-Pro Bowl players. Any time you've got your full complement of starters out there you should have some success and that's what we've got."


  • QB Rex Grossman's opening-day performance was the most productive of his four-year, 10-game NFL career, as he threw for 262 yards with a passer rating of 98.6. As usual, Grossman did an excellent job of avoiding sacks, getting dropped just once.

  • RB Thomas Jones appeared somewhat rusty after getting just 11 preseason carries. Jones averaged 3.0 yards (63 yards on 21 carries) and caught one pass for no gain.

  • TE Desmond Clark gave the Bears several reasons to continue utilizing him in the offense. He had five catches for 77 yards after the team spent much of training camp and the preseason talking about its plans to feature the tight end more this season.

  • WR Muhsin Muhammad had his first 100-yard day as a Bear and believes that having Rex Grossman back as the starter will make him more productive than last season, when he slumped to 64 catches and 750 yards with rookie Kyle Orton pressed into service because of injuries.

  • WR Bernard Berrian had just one catch, but it was for a 49-yard touchdown, doing what he does best, running past defenders.

  • FS Chris Harris left the game in the second half with a sprained ankle and did not return. Coach Lovie Smith believes he will be able to practice this week.

  • LB Hunter Hillenmeyer suffered a mild concussion but is expected back this week, although he's likely to be listed as questionable on the injury report.


    A year ago, Mike Furrey led the St. Louis Rams in interceptions; one game into the 2006 season, he is leading the Detroit Lions in receptions.

    Unusual? Maybe to an outsider looking in but certainly not to Furrey, who came to the NFL three years ago from the Arena League as a receiver, switched to free safety a year ago and is now a slot receiver in the Mike Martz offense being run by the Lions.

    "Whatever it takes," Furrey said. "Whatever. I'm on a journey right now and every time I go out there I just try to give it everything I have and leave it at that."

    Furrey, 29, is obviously a gifted athlete, although he was ignored in the NFL draft after a record-setting college career at Northern Iowa. He spent parts of two summers in camp with Indianapolis and the New York Jets but got his only playing experience in the XFL and AFL before landing a roster spot with Martz and the St. Louis Rams in 2003.

    After modest production as a receiver in 2003-04, Martz asked Furrey to move to defense. He did and started the final 11 games of the season at free safety, leading the team with four interceptions, including one he returned 67 yards for a touchdown.

    The idea originally was for Furrey to play on the Rams special teams and be both the fifth safety and fifth receiver, thereby saving Martz a roster spot on game days.

    "I went through OTAs and then some summer stuff, and they told me I had a chance to start if I wanted to go over there," he explained. "For me, I don't care what I'm doing as long as I'm playing, having fun and they said the word ‘start.' I said, ‘I'll be over there tomorrow.' "

    When Martz was hired by Detroit, Furrey made the move also. He lost about 20 pounds — from 210 to 190 — to move back to wide receiver and caught five passes for 55 yards in the Lions' season-opening 9-6 loss to Seattle.

    He says he uses the knowledge he gained as a defensive back to help him this year as a slot receiver.

    "That has been my biggest advantage - understanding what defenses do, where they're coming from and what they're disguising," he said.


  • QB Jon Kitna completed passes to eight receivers in a 21-for-37 performance in his first game as the Lions starter. He was unable to generate a touchdown but he had five passes of 15 yards or more, including three of 31 or more, which is a step up from the last year's anemic production in the West Coast passing offense.

  • RB Kevin Jones had 80 yards total offense in the Lions' season opener but only 35 of them (on 14 carries) came from the running game. Jones caught five passes for the other 45 yards, an indication that he has a grasp on the receiver role that offensive coordinator Mike Martz wants from his RBs.

  • TE Dan Campbell was signed by the Lions primarily to help them run the football as a blocking TE but his 30-yard reception was the team's longest play from scrimmage in the 9-6 season-opening loss to Seattle. The 30-yard catch was the longest of Campbell's seven-year NFL career.

  • WR Roy Williams was disgusted with himself after what he considered a subpar performance in the Lions' season-opening 9-6 loss to Seattle. He gave up on a deep post route thinking the ball was going to another receiver and he said his blocking was one of the reasons the Lions were unable to get their running game going. He finished with three catches for 36 yards.

  • WR Mike Furrey, who had four interceptions from the free safety position with St. Louis a year ago, seems to have made the adjustment back to WR in his first season with the Lions. Furrey, playing the slot, led the Lions' receivers with five catches for 55 yards in the season-opening 9-6 loss to Seattle.

  • DT Shaun Rogers got very little practice time and no preseason game action because of a shoulder injury but it didn't seem to bother him in the season opener against Seattle. Rogers sacked Seahawks QB Matt Hasselbeck twice and also blocked a Seattle field goal attempt. In his six NFL seasons, Rogers has eight FG blocks and one PAT block.

  • DE James Hall, whose QB sack total dropped to five in 2005 after a career-best 11.5 in the previous season, got off to a fast start on the 2006 season with two sacks against Matt Hasselbeck in the Lions' season opener. Hall also gave the Lions one of their two blocked field goals.

  • MLB Boss Bailey, who missed most of training camp and the preseason recovering from off-season ankle surgery, might soon be ready to take over the starting MLB job if his play off the bench in the season opener is an accurate indicator. Paris Lenon started at MLB but Bailey made four tackles and played impressively coming off the bench.

  • CB Fernando Bryant, who has missed 20 games because of injuries in his first two seasons with the Lions, turned in a solid performance in his first game back at the starting LCB position. He broke up two passes and made eight tackles as the Seahawks threw to his side of the field frequently in the season opener.

  • P Nick Harris, who led the NFL with 34 punts inside the opponents' 20-yard line last season, landed his first punt of the 2006 season inside the Seattle 20, extending his streak to 19 consecutive games with a punt inside the 20.


    Conservative to a fault, Ted Thompson has played it close to the vest in his two years as general manager. With the exception of luring cornerback Charles Woodson with a seven-year, $39 million contract in April and a few other less-lucrative free-agent pickups, Thompson has been diligent about reshaping the roster with young players culled through the draft and the waiver wire.

    So, the news Monday night that the Packers agreed to terms with troubled wide receiver/kick returner Koren Robinson on a two-year contract was out of character for Thompson. The perception is he acted out of desperation a day after the Packers were humiliated 26-0 by Chicago in the season opener at Lambeau Field.

    Thompson insisted the risky addition of Robinson wasn't a knee-jerk reaction to the Packers' first shutout defeat in 15 years.

    "We've been thinking about this for some time," said Thompson, who met with Robinson at length in Green Bay on Sept. 3. "It wasn't appropriate before (to sign him). It became appropriate now."

    By waiting until after the first week of the season to sign Robinson, a vested veteran in his sixth year, the Packers won't be out his full minimum-base salary should they part ways at any point the rest of the season.

    Thompson expects Robinson to play Sunday against New Orleans. Robinson will do so, however, with a shroud of uncertainty hanging over him. He faces a possible one-year suspension by the league.

    Robinson's latest strike in a productive career tainted by alcohol-related problems off the field occurred Aug. 15. Trying to make it back to the Minnesota Vikings' training-camp headquarters in Mankato, Minn., to beat curfew, Robinson led police on a high-speed chase. Police clocked Robinson going 104 mph in a 55-mph zone, and they arrested him after he registered a blood-alcohol content of 0.11 in a field sobriety test that was administered.

    The Vikings subsequently cut Robinson, who earned selection to the Pro Bowl last season as a kickoff returner.

    The league has yet to make a determination on whether Robinson violated its substance-abuse policy for the third time, which would warrant the one-year suspension.

    After his meeting with Robinson the previous week, Thompson is optimistic the 26-year-old will be on his best behavior in Green Bay.

    "This is a good kid," Thompson said. "I'm not making excuses; he's made some mistakes. But, this is a good kid. He is a good character guy, for all intents and purposes."

    Robinson said Monday he's already receiving treatment for alcohol abuse but refused to discuss his legal situation.

    "I'm not a bad guy at all. I feel like I'm a good person," he said. "I think that everybody that knows me and has contact with me, interviewed me, played with me, coached with me, they'll tell you I have a good heart. I feel like I have an infectious attitude and personality. So, I wouldn't say I'm a bad person at all. I know I'm not. I'm far from that."

    Thompson was Seattle's vice president of football operations when it selected Robinson with the ninth overall pick in the 2001 draft. The Seahawks cut him last year after he was arrested for drunken driving.

    Robinson faces two court dates in the next five weeks stemming from both arrests the last couple years.

    The Packers are thin at receiver and have a big need on kickoff returns. Pending the decision by the league regarding Robinson's playing status, he will be given the opportunity to contribute in both roles.

    "He is an all-football guy," Thompson said. "He loves to practice. He loves to play the game. He's looking very much forward to playing in Green Bay."


  • LG Jason Spitz suffered a bruised thigh in Sunday's season-opening, 26-0 loss to Chicago. Spitz, one of two rookies starting at the guard spots, played the entire game. He underwent tests Monday to determine the severity of the injury. It's not known whether Spitz will miss any time this week.

  • FB William Henderson was deactivated for only the third time in his 12-year career. Henderson underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right knee Aug. 21 and didn't return to practice until Sept. 4.

  • RB Ahman Green was a bright spot in his first regular-season game since he sustained a ruptured quadriceps tendon last Oct. 23 in a game at Minnesota. Green gained 110 yards in 20 carries, marking his first 100-yard game since a 145-yard effort against the Vikings on Nov. 14, 2004.

  • QB Brett Favre was on the losing end of a shutout for the first time since he assumed the reins in Green Bay in 1992. Favre also didn't have a touchdown pass for the fifth time in the last six games, dating to the final month of last season. He's thrown 12 interceptions, including two in the fourth quarter Sunday, with only one touchdown in that stretch.

  • WR Donald Driver accounted for nearly half of Favre's 15 completions with seven catches for 96 yards. The pair's longest connection was for 24 yards to open the second half.

  • WR Greg Jennings didn't have a smashing rookie debut. After leading the league in the preseason with 328 receiving yards, the second-round draft pick didn't have a reception until he had a 5-yard catch in the closing seconds of the game.

  • TE Bubba Franks didn't have a catch Sunday. The Pro Bowler was employed frequently as a blocker to try to alleviate pass-protection problems for the line with rookie guards Spitz and Tony Moll. Franks missed the last four games of the 2005 season because of neck and back injuries. He hasn't had a reception since last Nov. 21 against Minnesota.

  • LDE Aaron Kampman was one of the few productive players for the defense, which was exploited by the Bears' passing game. Kampman logged seven tackles and a game-high four quarterback pressures, including a sack of Rex Grossman in the second quarter.

  • MLB Nick Barnett led the defense with nine tackles. Barnett also had a leaping interception of a pass from Grossman to the back of the end zone in the first quarter. Barnett set a franchise record with 194 tackles last season.

  • WLB A.J. Hawk, the No. 5 overall pick in the draft this year, had a so-so debut. He registered five tackles and a quarterback hit in full-time duties. Hawk stayed on the field, along with Barnett, in passing situations as the Packers were content to go exclusively with a nickel alignment.

  • FB Vonta Leach was released by Green Bay to create a roster spot for WR Koren Robinson.

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