NFC North News, Notes and Quotes

The Chicago Bears could be entering trade talks soon, the Detroit Lions are trying to keep an open mind about their second pick, and the Green Bay Packers are becoming a more player-friendly organization. Get news, notes and quotes from the Vikings' divisional rivals.


If the Bears are looking for a way to get rid of disgruntled linebacker Lance Briggs and get something of value in return, the Redskins are apparently ready to make it happen.

Briggs has said repeatedly in the past few weeks that he is willing to sit out the season rather than play for the Bears as their franchise player, which prevents the unrestricted free agent from peddling his skills on the open market. The Bears' attitude has been that Briggs can play for them next season or not play at all — and not get paid. But last Monday at the owners' meetings in Phoenix, Ariz., Briggs' agent, Drew Rosenhaus said the Redskins have informed the Bears that they would like to deal their first-round pick, No. 6 overall, for the Bears' first-rounder, No. 31 overall, and Briggs, who is a two-time Pro Bowl player.

After returning to Halas Hall on Wednesday, Bears general manager Jerry Angelo said he was considering the Redskins' offer and working on a counterproposal, which was expected soon. Indications are that the Bears will seek more in return for Briggs, who would be paid $7.2 million as in 2007 as Chicago's franchise player, but who reportedly has been promised a multi-year deal for approximately $7 million a year by the Redskins with up to $20 million in guaranteed money.

With the sixth overall selection, the Bears would likely have the option of selecting Mississippi linebacker Patrick Willis, whose stock is skyrocketing after he ran stunning, back-to-back 4.37-second 40-yard dashes at his pro day. The Bears might also have their choice of several other impact players, including Michigan defensive tackle Alan Branch; Clemson defensive end Gaines Adams, who is considered the best pass rusher available; Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn; and Louisiana State safety LaRon Landry.

But Angelo isn't really anxious to pay the amount of up-front money that a No. 6 pick would demand, and he would probably seek to trade down, maybe into the second half of the first round while adding an additional first-day pick.


  • Bears quarterback Rex Grossman was the NFC offensive player of the month last September, set a franchise record by registering a passer rating of at least 100 in seven games and threw 10 TD passes and three interceptions while leading the Bears to a 5-0 record for the first time since 1986.

    But the 2003 first-round pick also had games where his passer rating was 0.0, 1.3, 10.2, 23.7 and 36.8, casting doubt on his qualifications as the team's quarterback of the future.

    "It bothers you, and now is the time to figure out why that happened and prevent it from ever happening again," Grossman said. "I don't care how good you are, you're going to have a bad game here or there. But I don't want it to be a terrible game, and if it is a bad game, (hopefully) it's a rare occasion."

  • Although the Bears are content to have Cedric Benson as their featured runner after trading incumbent starter Thomas Jones to the Jets, they will seek to add depth at the position, probably on Day Two of the draft.

    Former No. 3 running back Adrian Peterson, a five-year veteran and a standout coverage guy on special-teams, has been a reliable change-of-pace and third-down option on a limited scale in the past, but he might not have the endurance to carry the load for an extended time in the event of an injury to Benson.

    "We feel good about Cedric and Adrian," G.M. Jerry Angelo said. "We still feel we have two quality running backs. That was a part of why we did what we did (with Jones). (But) we'll continue to look for a running back because we want to carry three running backs on the roster."

  • The Bears will open the regular season with a nationally televised game against the defending NFC West-champion Chargers in San Diego, Sunday afternoon, Sept. 9.

    The 3:15 p.m. contest on Fox-TV matches the teams with the best records in their respective conferences. The NFC North-champion Bears were 13-3 and reached Super Bowl XLI, while the 14-2 Chargers were eliminated in the AFC divisional round by the Patriots.

    The game pits Bears offensive coordinator Ron Turner against his brother Norv, the rookie head coach of the Chargers, whose staff includes linebackers coach Ron Rivera, the former defensive coordinator of the Bears whose contract was not renewed after last season.

  • Former Bears wide receiver Curtis Conway is engaged to marry professional boxer Laila Ali, daughter of Muhammad Ali.

    Conway, 36, spent his first seven NFL seasons with the Bears after being selected with the seventh overall pick in the 1993 draft out of USC. He ranks third in franchise history with 329 career receptions and fifth all-time with 4,498 receiving yards.

    Conway spent five more seasons in the NFL after leaving the Bears, playing with the Chargers (2000-02), Jets (2003) and 49ers (2004).

    Ali, 29, is currently a contestant on ABC-TV's "Dancing with the Stars."

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "We feel that we're treating him very good. That's a lot of money he's making on a one-year deal." — Bears G.M. Jerry Angelo on LB Lance Briggs, who says he won't play for the Bears this year as their franchise player.


    For weeks, when discussing the upcoming NFL draft, Lions officials refrained from uttering a standard sentence: "We will take the best player available."

    That seemed to be an indication that they wouldn't take the top player on many draft boards — wide receiver Calvin Johnson, or quarterbacks JaMarcus Russell and Brady Quinn.

    But then came the NFL meetings in Phoenix.

    "We're looking for the best player," coach Rod Marinelli told reporters. "We really are. What we tried to do was fill as many holes as we could through free agency. Now we can go into this draft not just looking to fill needs, but trying to find the best players."

    That could just be a smokescreen, setting up a trade down from No. 2.

    The Lions have made it more difficult for people to figure out what they will do in the draft by filling holes at running back and on the offensive line. If they play it like they could take anyone, it adds to the uncertainty and increases their bargaining power.

    You never know, though. Maybe a trade doesn't work out.

    "You just have to prepare for both," Marinelli said. "If you keep thinking you're going to do something, then you don't, all of a sudden, you have a guy sitting right in front of you. You have to make a decision on who's the right guy for us. I want to make sure we've done our homework on that No. 2 pick and that guy helps us win."


  • The Lions continue to hope that running back Kevin Jones will recover from his serious left foot injury in time to start the regular season. But they continue to be cautious. "Everybody keeps talking that he may have a shot for training camp," coach Rod Marinelli said at the NFL meetings in Phoenix. "We'll see. He's working extremely hard, but you just don't know."

  • Lions president Matt Millen spoke to Chiefs president Carl Peterson at the NFL meetings about quarterback Trent Green, but it is unclear how much interest the Lions have in him. Green played for offensive coordinator Mike Martz. Is Millen doing due diligence? Helping his friend Peterson pump up Green's value? Preparing to fill a hole in case he trades backup Josh McCown to the Raiders?

  • The Raiders have shown interest in Josh McCown. The Lions are listening. It is believed they don't want to trade McCown, but if the Raiders make an offer they can't refuse, they won't refuse it. It is another example of how the Lions control the top of the draft. If they trade McCown to Oakland, the Raiders presumably can take wide receiver Calvin Johnson. If they don't trade McCown to Oakland, the Raiders presumably will take quarterback JaMarcus Russell. The dominoes will fall depending on what happens.

  • Defensive tackle Shaun Rogers didn't report to the voluntary off-season conditioning program right away. But he showed up eventually after speaking with Marinelli.

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "Matt has dreamed of this moment. He can finally make a trade to set up his team for years." — One GM friendly with Lions president Matt Millen, to Sports Illustrated about the upcoming draft.


    Head coach Mike McCarthy indirectly took a few swipes at predecessor Mike Sherman during the NFL owners meeting in Phoenix last week.

    McCarthy, who emphasized a change in culture when he replaced a fired Sherman last year, revealed a telling contrast of the atmosphere within the team's Lambeau Field headquarters before and after his arrival.

    "(Veteran quarterback) Brett Favre comes in my office, and he's walking around and (says), ‘Well, I've never been up here,'" McCarthy said. "If I had one, I had 20 guys tell me that."

    The coaches' offices are on the third level of the renovated stadium, far away from the locker room that is on the basement level. Some players who were with the team when Sherman was coach for six years alluded to his putting distance between himself and players by not inviting dialogue in his office.

    McCarthy sensed that was the case early in his own tenure.

    "Our business is hard enough. To have tension in the workplace, to me, is totally counterproductive in team building," McCarthy said. "Tension, high anxiety, things like that, those are short-term answers to get people to do what you want them to do. That's not positive reinforcement. There should be no walls in your organization."

    As such, McCarthy advocates that his players make the effort to come up to the coaches' wing to discuss matters privately with himself or an assistant.

    "What I don't want is that when they push number three in the elevator, it's, ‘Oh (shoot), here I go, I'm going up to the head coach's office for something negative,'" McCarthy said. "You have to have a lot of personal interaction. I'm not talking about being buddy-buddy, and I told the players that. I'm just trying to promote as much player-coach interaction as possible."


  • Fans will get another big helping of Brett Favre and the Packers with their turkey, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie. A Green Bay visit to Detroit's Ford Field on Nov. 22 will kick off a Thanksgiving Day tripleheader for the league.

    The Packers will be the opponent for the Lions' traditional holiday game for the third time in the last seven years. The NFC North rivals last met on Thanksgiving in 2003, a 22-14 Detroit win.

    "It's a great game. It has a lot of tradition, and we're excited about it," Packers head coach Mike McCarthy said.

    McCarthy envisions that this team won't be hampered too much by playing on a short week. Green Bay had a similar scenario late last season, coming right back from a Sunday win over Detroit and beating Minnesota on Thursday night.

    "I thought our players handled it very well," McCarthy said. "We'll draw from that experience. From a scheduling standpoint, we'll probably stay pretty similar."

  • Although they had a lot of mileage out of their free-agent acquisitions last season, the Packers merited a compensatory pick in this year's draft.

    The league awarded Green Bay the first of 12 extra draft picks to close the seventh and final round of the April 28-29 draft. The Packers will have the 33rd selection in the round and the 243rd overall.

    Based on a formula that takes into account playing time, salary and postseason honors for free agents a team lost and signed the previous year, the Packers were judged to be worthy of a compensatory pick. Green Bay lost center Mike Flanagan, linebacker Paris Lenon, kicker Ryan Longwell and quarterback Craig Nall. It signed defensive tackle Ryan Pickett, cornerback Charles Woodson and safety Marquand Manuel, all of whom were full-time starters.

    The Packers now have nine picks in the draft. They have one selection in each of the first six rounds. They have three choices in the seventh round, including one from the New York Jets for a trade involving offensive lineman Steve Morley.

  • The Packers have three of their four exclusive-rights free agents under contract. Defensive tackle Colin Cole and running back Noah Herron received one-year deals for $435,000. Tight end Tory Humphrey has a one-year deal for $360,000.

    Receiver Carlyle Holiday is the only exclusive-rights free agent not signed.

  • After ranking seventh in the 32-team league for revenue last year, the Packers will be contributors for the second straight year to the revenue-sharing plan, which was formally adopted at the NFL owners meeting.

    Green Bay incidentally is in the smallest market of the major professional sports.

    "In our view, if you're paying for a system that preserves the integrity of the league, that's very important to the Green Bay Packers," team president John Jones said at the owners meeting.

  • Ryan Hawk, older brother of Packers linebacker A.J. Hawk, opened the season March 31 as the starting quarterback for the Green Bay Blizzard of arenafootball2.

    Ryan Hawk starred in af2 last year with 34 touchdown passes in 13 games for Birmingham.

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "There's no scoreboard in March, is there? We are (working on it). It's not like we're going home at noon, you know? If you saw me play golf the other day, you'd know I've been working." — Head coach Mike McCarthy, speaking at the NFL owners meeting March 28 in Phoenix, on the Packers' lack of activity during free agency thus far.

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