Based on what newly acquired safety Adam Archuleta has been told by the Bears, he's been given Mike Brown's job.
"I guess you would say I'm the strong safety on this football team," Archuleta said. "At no point has anybody ever indicated that I would be a backup."
Which means that Brown, a Pro Bowler in 2005, will either be cut or moved back to free safety, where he played his first four seasons before moving to strong safety the past three seasons. Each of Brown's past three seasons has been marred by major injuries, which have sidelined him for a total of 28 games. He's currently rehabbing from foot surgery, which sidelined him for the final 10 games of 2006 plus the postseason.
If he returns to his Pro Bowl form and regains his speed, Brown could be paired with Archuleta in a safety tandem that would be extremely smart and physical but not very swift or effective in pass coverage. Over the years, Brown has developed a knack for big plays, scoring six touchdowns on interception returns of 41, 35, 33 and 16 yards and fumble returns of 95 and 62 yards.
But, if Bears coach Lovie Smith doesn't believe Brown will be at full strength by opening day, the Bears may be reluctant to pay him the $2.5 million he's due in each of the next two seasons to be a backup. Still, Brown's modest total of 14 career interceptions in seven seasons appears exceptional compared to Archuleta's two picks in six years. Archuleta's forte is as a physical presence, and he's always been more effective closer to the line of scrimmage than in coverage.
"The biggest impact that I have on a football field is my underneath stuff," Archuleta said. "If you want to compare apples to apples, I don't think there are many safeties who can do what I do underneath. I haven't gotten a lot of interceptions in my career. There are a lot of factors for that, and obviously that's one thing that seems to be lacking, and I need to find a way to get my hands on more balls. (But) if you look at my career up until last year, if you really truly break down tape, I really don't get beat a lot and rarely was I out of position until this last season in Washington.
"People like to hang their hat on that and say I can't cover. I don't believe it, and I think if you ask Lovie, he doesn't believe it either. Where I make my impact is different than guys who make their impact by playing 20 yards off the ball."
Archuleta's impact was negligible last season after signing a six-year, $30 million contract as an unrestricted free agent with the Redskins, following five stellar seasons with the Rams. He was benched midway through the season due to lapses as a pass defender.
"I'm not going to pretend I went out there and lit it up," Archuleta said. "But at the same time when you look at the performance of the (5-11) team, when you look at the performance of the defense, and then you look at individual performances, I don't think mine was really out of line with what was going on as an organization."
Archuleta, who drew the Bears' interest last off-season, believes he's with the right team now, albeit a year late.
"I think it's a perfect fit; I think it's where I belong," he said. "It really capitalizes on my strengths and allows me to go out and play football the way I'm supposed to play."
Archuleta's especially looking forward to a road game against the Redskins this season.
"It'll be fun," he said. "They could actually see what I'm capable of doing and what I could have been doing in a Redskins uniform."
Defensive coordinator Bob Babich, offensive coordinator Ron Turner, tight ends coach Rob Boras, wide receivers coach Darryl Drake, offensive line coach Harry Hiestand, running backs coach Tim Spencer, defensive backs coach Steven Wilks and strength and conditioning coordinator Rusty Jones will be under contract with the Bears through the 2009 season.
Babich, Boras, Drake and Spencer were all hired in 2004 as part of head coach Lovie Smith's original staff. Turner, Hiestand and Jones came aboard the following season, and Wilks was added last season. Special teams coordinator Dave Toub received a three-year contract on Feb. 15, and on Feb. 23 Hardy Nickerson was hired as the team's new linebackers coach, and Brick Haley as the defensive line coach. Nickerson replaced Babich, who was promoted to defensive coordinator after Ron Rivera was not rehired, while Haley took over for Don Johnson, who was fired.
On March 5, Pep Hamilton was named quarterbacks coach, replacing Wade Wilson; and Charles London replaced Mike Bajakian as the offensive quality control coach. Wilson left to take the same position with the Cowboys, while Bajakian was named offensive coordinator at Central Michigan University.
"Everything coach Lovie taught the linebackers, I hung on every word," Nickerson said. "As a player, you have to trust and believe in your coach and what he's telling you, and I trusted him and believed in him, and the result was four straight Pro Bowls."
"We have a starter at the quarterback position, Rex Grossman," Smith said. "Like we have a starter at Mike linebacker, cornerback and every other position. As we start the new year, we'll have a depth chart, a starting rotation. But from there everyone has to play at a certain level, and I'm expecting that out of Rex and the rest of the starters, also."
"I know a lot of agents, certainly know all of the prominent ones in the business," Angelo said, and because of my relationships with them, I've never really wanted to pick a side, so to speak. And the other reason (is) I never felt that boded well for me. I love football. I've made a living in football all my life, and I can talk for myself. Maybe I left some money on the table with that attitude, but just the perception that I have for myself, I want to make sure it comes across clearly from me."
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I took quite a beating last year. My reputation in all phases took a beating, and there's a great deal of humility that was learned last year, so there's a lot of detractors. But as far as I'm concerned, at certain points in my life I've had detractors, and I've always come out ahead. I definitely have a lot to prove to everybody, but one thing that I have always done is that I'm going to bet on me. I know that none of the outside stuff really matters and I know what I can do and I have a pretty god feeling what I'm going to accomplish." — Bears SS Adam Archuleta
Thirty-one pounds down. Thirty-two to go.
Offensive lineman Damien Woody was 378 pounds when he reported to a weight-loss program at Duke University earlier this off-season. He had slimmed to 347 by the time he reported to the Lions' off-season conditioning program March 19, and he said his goal was to play at 315 in 2007.
Woody said he wanted to return to the Pro Bowl form he had in New England, where he helped the Patriots win two Super Bowls and landed himself a six-year, $31-million contract with the Lions as a free agent in 2004.
"When I first came here, there was a reason why they brought me here," Woody told reporters on the first day of off-season conditioning in Detroit. "They brought me here for leadership purposes. They brought me here because of talent level and everything I could bring to the table.
"My thought process this off-season was getting back to the things that a lot of people saw in me. I definitely want that for myself. I feel I'm definitely capable of doing the things I set out to do here, and that's to help the Detroit Lions win a championship. I don't want to be a part of the problem. I want to be a part of the solution."
The problem is, Woody has said these kinds of things before and failed to live up to his words. When Woody is in shape, he is athletic. But when Woody is overweight, he cannot pull effectively and limits the offense.
If Woody is not in shape, he likely will be cut.
"It's all up to Damien," Lions president Matt Millen told reporters at the NFL scouting combine. "If Damien does what he says he's going to do and what he's been asked to do, then he'll do well. And if he doesn't, then he won't be here."
QUOTE TO NOTE: "With the way the team has gotten better in terms of who's coming and who's going this off-season, I'd say anything less than 10 wins for us would be a disappointment." — QB Jon Kitna, telling the Detroit Free Press about his expectations for 2007.
GREEN BAY PACKERS
If his players are going to suffer on-field burnout, Mike McCarthy will take his chances that it happens now rather than later.
Having been admittedly burned by a demanding schedule he implemented for his first training camp as head coach last year, McCarthy has done an about-face and blocked off the would-be heavy hitting for the spring.
A proactive, nine-week off-season program started March 19 with the intent of getting the players in optimum condition for the football work that will begin in earnest with a full-squad minicamp in mid-May.
"The (next) four months here is the most important time for our football team," McCarthy said. "The most progress we will make as a football team, in my opinion, will come from March, April, May and June."
Attendance for the non-mandatory workouts exceeded 90 percent the first week. Notable veterans such as quarterback Brett Favre, who is recovering from February ankle surgery, and cornerbacks Al Harris and Charles Woodson were no-shows, which was expected given their penchant for working out on their own.
The updated workout program isn't so much labor intensive bent on lifting in the weight room as it is fine-tuning the players' physique on an individual basis. They were tested at the outset for physical deficiencies by doing a series of functional movements, like push-ups and squats. Based on those results, the training staff devised a workout program specific to each player.
During a four-day a week program, players are put through a battery of drills and exercises for core strength, agility and speed. An altitude-training simulator also was set up in the weight room, preparing players to fight the fatigue that invariably sets in at the end of games.
McCarthy is hopeful that the byproduct of getting the players properly conditioned for the long haul of the season is that the team won't start as sluggish as it did last season with a 1-4 record. To that end, McCarthy is planning to tone down the structure of his practices in training camp.
"Training camp to the outside world will look very similar (to last year's). But, I'm just going to be a little smarter with their legs, as far as when that day of rest falls," McCarthy said.
After losing out on Justin Griffith, who signed with Oakland, the Packers had Terrelle Smith in for a visit March 20. The eighth-year veteran was cut by the Browns six days earlier.
Smith has a history with Packers head coach Mike McCarthy, who was New Orleans' offensive coordinator when Smith was there from 2000 to 2003. Smith, in turn, relocated to Cleveland and was a starter the last three seasons.
The 6-foot, 255-pound Smith, who also visited Arizona, would have an opportunity to compete with Brandon Miree to fill the full-time role of lead blocker in the Green Bay backfield.
He suffered a torn ACL in the first week of training camp as a rookie. A shoulder injury derailed him in the preseason last year.
At a projected cost of $2.5 million to $3 million, the organization is installing the DD GrassMaster turf, which is 100 percent natural grass reinforced by synthetic fibers. New drainage and heating systems will be underneath the field.
Freeman and Brooks were the first receiver tandem in team history to attain 1,000 receiving yards in the same season, in 1997.
Brooks and safety LeRoy Butler are this year's Hall of Fame inductees. ESPN anchor John Anderson, a Green Bay native, will present Butler.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I would think Randy would fit in our locker room, and we have obviously discussed this among each other. Anytime you have a guy who can come in and be a huge addition to your team ... if you play with (quarterback) Brett (Favre), you are going to step your game up to play with him." — Receiver Greg Jennings, in an interview with SIRIUS satellite radio, on the team's possible acquisition of Oakland receiver Randy Moss.