NFC North News, Notes and Quotes

The Bears are hopeful that Rex Grossman is maturing as a decision-making quarterback, the Lions are hoping that putting grades out for everyone to see helps motivate the players with the playoffs pretty well out of the picture, and the Packers are hopeful that Brett Favre will be ready to return on Sunday. Get news, notes and quotes from the Vikings' NFC North rivals.


Sunday wasn't one of Rex Grossman's prettier performances, but he avoided mistakes against the Jets' blitzing, gambling defense, and he let a strong running game carry the offense rather than forcing the ball on pass plays that weren't available.

It was, the Bears hope, an indication that Grossman has learned from the mistakes of aggressiveness that made the young quarterback's performances so inconsistent. In the three games before the victory over the Jets, Grossman was intercepted eight times and lost three fumbles.

"Throughout this year, sometimes when things were not going well or (the opponent) had the better look, I'd still try to make the play," Grossman said. "That's when you cause turnovers and put your defense in bad situations. So I kind of really stressed to myself to make sure I didn't throw it up for grabs, hit the running back (on short dump-offs), and just move on.

"There were a lot of looks like that, so you try to minimize the damage. That's the best way to go about it."

The Bears totaled just 111 passing yards, their lowest total of the year, and Grossman settled for completing four passes to running backs for a total of 8 yards, while hooking up just twice with Muhsin Muhammad for 29 yards. But wide receiver Mark Bradley turned a short flip into a 57-yard gain and finished with 80 yards on four catches.

"Coach (Ron) Turner (the Bears' offensive coordinator) did a good job of understanding what they were doing after a while and looking for some weaknesses and knowing they were putting their cornerbacks on an island with pretty much no one else to help because they would bring eight players on the blitz," Grossman said. "We had a quick hitch there, and (Bradley) had the whole rest of the field to work with."


  • A week earlier, the Bears used 6-foot-1 Charles Tillman, their big cornerback, to shadow the Giants' 6-foot-5 Plaxico Burress because they liked the matchup rather than having the corners stay on either side of the field.

    Against the Jets' leading receiver, speedy Laveranues Coles, the Bears used Nate Vasher's speed and quickness to match up on him.

    Coles caught eight passes for 80 yards, but his longest reception of the day was just 14 yards.

    "It's a pretty tough job," said Vasher, who got his second interception of the season. "But I think our coaches had a really good game plan for what the Jets like to do, and we just tried to keep everything to a minimum today.

    "The only time we've lost ballgames is when guys get behind us. Slants and curls, things like that, are more or less just kind of annoying. We just have to be sure tacklers when we come up, and that's basically the defense."

  • CB Charles Tillman was briefly sidelined on the Jets' second possession when, while making a stop on RB Leon Washington, he had his bell rung. Tillman lay motionless for a couple of minutes after he was hit from behind, helmet to helmet, by teammate Todd Johnson, who assisted on the tackle.

    Ricky Manning Jr. temporarily replaced Tillman, but the starter was back on the Jets' next series and feeling well enough afterward to catch some trash talk from DE Alex Brown.

    "There was nothing wrong with you," Brown joked. "Man, you laid on the field like you were dead. What's wrong with you? Like you were hurt or something. I can't believe you. You get your wife all worried at home and stuff. I can't believe you. And then two plays later you come running back out on the field."


    With eight losses in their first 10 games, the Lions have literally no chance at making the playoffs but that doesn't mean they have nothing to play for. Coach Rod Marinelli is seeing to that.

    Marinelli is substituting personal demands for the playoff incentive he was hoping the Lions would experience in his first year as their head coach.

    In some ways, his demands and expectations might bring more pressure than the Lions would experience in an actual playoff race. And, although the results might not be quite as immediate or rewarding as a playoff appearance, they might be as important to the future of the Lions' players.

    "I grade," Marinelli explained as the Lions prepared for their Thanksgiving Day game against the Miami Dolphins at Ford Field. "I want to see winning performances. That's how you do it. You put (the grades) up so everybody can see them and these last six, seven games count - big.

    "In my mind, in their mind, this is like playoff football right now. And we've got to learn to play under pressure. We won't learn anything if we just say, ‘OK, guys, we're going to finish this up. Relax and let's just go play.'

    "When you do that, guys will play. But when there's no consequences, it doesn't matter."

    Marinelli's approach is consistent with what he has been preaching and teaching since the start of the off-season workout program last winter. He expects the players to be personally accountable, he expects them to pay the price of hard work and ultimately he expects results.

    The results in his first year have been scant - a 20-17 victory over the Buffalo in the sixth game of the season and a 30-14 upset of Atlanta in the eighth. Along the way, the Lions have been beset with injuries but Marinelli isn't looking for excuses. The Lions had opportunities that were wasted and he finds that unacceptable.

    As a result, he says he will use the remaining six games to measure players and their value for the 2007 season.

    "You're always looking to get better," he said. "You're always looking to improve. My goal overall is each and every game. To me, I'm weighing it as heavily as I can. It's like a playoff to perform; who can do this?

    "I'm going to keep the pressure on them. Last week I wanted to see who could go out on the road and do it. Who could go on the road and play great defense and win a game on the road and do the things we're asking you to do. That's the way to keep the pressure on."

    Although the Lions have struggled in their first season under Marinelli, the past two games - losses to San Francisco and Arizona - have been particularly frustrating because the Lions felt they were capable of winning both games and perhaps salving an element of respectability.

    As it stands now, they appear to be heading for a sixth consecutive double-digit loss season but Marinelli is determined to find a benefit somewhere along the way.

    "So I'm going to keep the heat on these guys, heavier than if it was a playoff run right now," he said.


  • The return of Joey Harrington, the Lions' former first-round draft pick and starting quarterback, has dominated the pre-game hype for the Thanksgiving Day game with Miami.

    Harrington has been the subject of newspaper stories, radio interviews and he participated in the weekly teleconference with Detroit-area media on Tuesday.

    "I would by lying if I said it was going to be just another game," Harrington said, "because I'd be ignoring the obvious feelings. There are going to be some emotions that go through and it's not going to be a sterile game where I walked into Jacksonville or someplace that I had no connection.

    "I spent four years in Detroit and, while all of it might not have been great as far as wins and losses, I really do have good memories about being there. The Ford family gave me my first opportunity in the NFL, I loved playing for Matt Millen. Some of the guys in the locker room, I've made some good friends.

    "So there are going to be some emotions going through there but, that being said, it has to be just another game for me because we - the Dolphins - are in the middle of trying to get back in the playoff race here. We've got something going and we need to continue playing the way we have over the last three games.

    "If I allow myself to get caught up in whatever emotions they may be, whether it's nostalgia or whatever it is, I'm not doing justice to my team and that's the biggest thing I'm happy about: I love the team that I'm on right now. I love the guys in the locker room, I enjoy playing with them, the coaches are great, the city is great and I couldn't be happier than where I am now."

    Harrington was the Lions' first pick in the 2002 draft, the third player taken overall, and moved into the starting job early in his rookie season. The Lions continued to flounder, however, and Harrington - as the face of the team - took much of the blame for the team's shortcomings.

    He was even criticized for his optimistic outlook, being labeled "Joey Sunshine" by his critics. When Steve Mariucci was fired as the coach a year ago, cornerback Dre' Bly publicly blamed Harrington for getting Mariucci fired.

    After several meetings with new Lions coach Rod Marinelli and offensive coordinator Mike Martz last spring, it was mutually agreed it would be best for all concerned if Harrington went to another team. The Lions traded him to Miami, presumably as a backup to Daunte Culpepper, but when Culpepper struggled coming back from knee surgery, Harrington again found himself in the starting role.

    Although he has not been playing brilliantly, Harrington and the Dolphins are 4-6, arriving in Detroit on a three-game winning streak; the Lions, without Harrington, have continued to struggle with just two wins in their first 10 games.

    Incidentally, Bly - his most outspoken critic - has declined to speak to the media this week.

  • Although Harrington had his critics among his former Lions teammates, not all of them felt he was responsible for the team's shortcomings during his four years as the No. 1 quarterback.

    Wide receiver Roy Williams and center Dominic Raiola both backed Harrington during his time with the team, and neither has been critical of him this week.

    Free safety Terrence Holt said he couldn't justify putting the blame for the team's failures entirely on Harrington.

    "I know our quarterback is our leader and we're going to follow him," Holt said. "(But) guys are all accountable so guys could help him out as far as making plays and he could have helped us out as far as him making plays. I think it all works together.

    "I think as a defense we could have done a better job of setting him up, or setting the offense up. So I can't point a finger at him and say he was responsible for any losses. We had so many things going on ... so I like to stay out of that."

    Holt says he is not sure if the Lions' defensive players will benefit from their experience of practicing against Harrington over the past four years.

    "He knows us just like we know him," Holt said. "We can pick up and have some keys vs. him and he can do the same to us. It's just who uses it to the best advantage."

  • RB Kevin Jones, who suffered a sprained ankle early in the Lions' 17-10 loss Sunday at Arizona, remains uncertain for the Thanksgiving Day game against the Miami Dolphins. After a slow start to the season, Jones is averaging 4.2 yards per carry and has scored six touchdowns. He is listed as questionable for the Dolphins game.

  • RB Arlen Harris, who gained 40 yards on 10 carries in his first action of the season Sunday at Arizona, could be in line for more work in the Lions' Thanksgiving Day game against Miami. RB Kevin Jones is nursing a sprained ankle and coach Rod Marinelli was pleased with Harris' performance in the backup role against the Cardinals.

  • DT Shaun Rogers has been listed as out for the Lions' Thanksgiving Day game against Miami. He began working with the team in practice this week but is not sufficiently recovered from arthroscopic knee surgery performed during his four-game suspension for testing positive for a banned substance.

  • PR/KR Eddie Drummond missed the team portion of practice Tuesday because of a concussion he suffered Sunday in the Lions game at Arizona. Drummond has been listed as questionable for the Thanksgiving Day game against Miami. Drummond did not participate in the team portion of practice Tuesday.

  • DT Shaun Cody has been listed as questionable and it appears unlikely he will be ready for the Lions' Thanksgiving Day game against Miami. Cody missed four games with a dislocated big toe and reinjured the toe early in the 17-10 loss Sunday at Arizona. He did not take part in the team portion of practice Tuesday.

    BY THE NUMBERS: 16 - Total points the Lions have scored in the last two Thanksgiving Day games - seven in the 27-7 loss to Atlanta a year ago and three field goals in the 41-9 loss to Indianapolis in 2004.

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "He has a wrench in his hand every day, I think, when he comes to work and every day he's tightening down, tightening down the pressure. He's always applying pressure on the team, on individuals, myself, everybody on this team." - Defensive tackle Cory Redding on Lions coach Rod Marinelli.


    The Packers might have caught a break with quarterback Brett Favre's injury situation, but backup Aaron Rodgers wasn't as fortunate with his.

    Rodgers, last year's first-round draft pick, was ruled out for the rest of the season because of a broken left foot. The injury wasn't revealed until Monday, although Rodgers was given the grim news minutes after the Packers lost to New England 35-0 at Lambeau Field on Sunday.

    An upset Rodgers purposely avoided talking to reporters in the locker room following the game.

    He said Monday that he's not sure when he sustained the fracture of the fifth metatarsal but speculated that it happened when he scrambled one of two times in Green Bay's second series of the third quarter. Rodgers managed to play the rest of the game.

    Rodgers will undergo surgery later this week and be on crutches for six weeks. He expects to be ready for the start of off-season workouts in March.

    Rodgers had relieved Favre with less than two minutes left in the first half Sunday after the league's only three-time MVP suffered nerve damage in his right (throwing) elbow. Favre landed hard on the elbow when he was sacked by linebackers Tully Banta-Cain and Tedy Bruschi.

    Favre lost strength in his right hand and couldn't adequately grip the football as he tried warming up for a possible return to the game early in the third quarter.

    On Monday, the likelihood of a hasty recovery by Favre, who has started 251 straight games, appeared to be good. The Packers don't play again until next Monday night at Seattle.

    "He's got seven days (to recover). I'm pretty sure he'll be able to play," Rodgers said.

    McCarthy indicated it was too soon to speculate on Favre's availability for the next game. Favre was at the team's Lambeau Field headquarters Monday for treatment for both the elbow and a preexisting groin injury.

    "We'll re-evaluate him on Wednesday, but he doesn't seem very concerned about it," McCarthy said. "He's got the strength pretty much back (in the hand), but it's not all the way back. He has 48 hours here. We'll know more Wednesday as far as whether he's going to practice or not. I really don't have a classification for him yet."

    Sunday marked the sixth time that Favre hasn't finished a game because of injury. He managed to play in the next game the five previous instances to keep his iron-man streak intact, which dates to 1992.

    "(The team doctors) think he's going to be fine," McCarthy said. "(Favre's) not very worried about it, which to them is a clear indication because he's been through this so long and they trust his judgment based on their history with him."

    McCarthy said rookie Ingle Martin, a fifth-round draft pick, would be given more reps in practice this week as the fallback if Favre weren't to be cleared for Monday's game, but the Packers also signed former Viking and Saint Todd Bouman as insurance.


  • Green Bay also is dealing with a serious injury on the defensive side.

    Middle linebacker Nick Barnett suffered a broken hand in the game Sunday. McCarthy said the injury occurred when Barnett was involved in a run play toward the end.

    "We're going to try to play him (this week) with a club," McCarthy said.

    Barnett's understudy is Abdul Hodge, but the rookie was activated for the first time Sunday after missing five straight games because of an early-season knee injury.

  • RT Mark Tauscher was scheduled to undergo further tests Monday. Tauscher didn't play in the 35-0 loss to New England because of a pulled groin. He might be sidelined this week as well, as the Packers prepare to play Seattle on Monday night. Rookie Tony Moll started in Tauscher's place Sunday.

  • CB Charles Woodson also was in the training room Monday after suffering a shoulder injury in the game. His status for this week won't be known until Wednesday.

  • TE David Martin was slated for more tests Monday after missing the second half of Sunday's game with a ribs injury. Martin came into the contest with a sore thigh.

  • DT Cullen Jenkins aggravated an ankle injury in the game.

  • LB Ben Taylor aggravated a hamstring injury while playing on special teams.

  • RB Ahman Green will remain on his weekly routine of not practicing on Wednesday as he rehabs his chronically sore knees. With a longer week before the next game, Green is expected to play against the Seahawks.

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