NFC North News, Notes and Quotes

The Bears drafted a tight end looking to meeting high expectations, the drafting of Calvin Johnson has his new teammates in Detroit dreaming of the possibilities, and the Packers got a stong-legged field goal kicker that provided value in the late rounds. Get the news, notes and quotes from the Vikings' divisional rivals.


The challenge of playing football at the highest level isn't likely to intimidate Greg Olsen, the Bears' first-round draft choice.

Olsen is the first tight end the Bears have drafted in Round One since 1961, when they took Mike Ditka, who became the first player at the position elected to the Hall of Fame and is a living legend in Chicago. But great expectations are nothing new to Olsen. At Miami he followed world-class tight ends like Bubba Franks, Jeremy Shockey and Kellen Winslow Jr. He relished the challenge then, flourished in the situation and is ready for the next step.

"It was a big attraction," he said of the tight end legacy at "The U." "If you're worth your salt and you're a tight end, that's the place you go. But it's not the place you go if you're not ready for the expectations that the position and the school bring. You can't just go there and be another guy.

"There are big shoes to fill, and the expectations there (are) if you don't catch 60 balls a year, you're a failure. I love that. I like that competition, and I like the expectations. I took a lot of pride in trying to carry that tradition on."

Olsen contributed almost immediately as a redshirt freshman, catching 16 passes for 275 yards and a 17.2-yard average, while backing up Kevin Everett, who was a third-round pick of the Bills the following year. After two more years as the Hurricanes' starter, Olsen was ready for the NFL after his junior season.

Olsen didn't struggle while stepping into one of the nation's highest profile programs because he already had plenty of experience dealing with expectations after having played football for his father, Chris, at Wayne Hills (N.J.) High School. Greg played for two years in high school with his older brother, Christian, who the Bears signed Sunday night as an undrafted free agent.

Chris Olsen's teams haven't lost a game in more than two years, and he has a no-nonsense approach to the game and his players, especially when they're related to him.

"He's tough," Greg said. "If you ask any of his players, he's your intense, in-your-face type of coach. That's just his method, and for as bad as it is sometimes, you love it because it works. He truly cares about his players, and he'll do anything for them. He's a very intense guy, but he's developed an unbelievable program. They haven't lost since 2004."

Asked the worst thing about being the coach's son, the Bears' tight end of the future drew a blank.

"I don't think there are any," he said. "I think I'm extremely fortunate that I had that opportunity to work with him. He's an unbelievable coach and a great teacher. He's a great dad."

There are other benefits, especially from Olsen's perspective.

"I would say the best thing was that it brought me around football from an early age. So I know how things work, I know the game fairly well. I just think that has all helped me develop as a player mentally and physically."

Of course, as in most coach-son relationships, the coach is generally more demanding on his child than on anyone else. Which, again, wasn't a problem for Olsen. And it certainly wasn't a problem for his father.

"He had to be harder on us because he was our dad -- and he didn't have to answer to the parents," Olsen said, with a smile. "He could do whatever he wanted with us. He could get on us as hard as he wanted because (even) our mom couldn't really complain much. So he didn't have to worry abut parents getting on him -- although he didn't really care (much about that) to begin with."

So tough coaching wasn't anything new to Olsen when he got to Miami, and it's not going to be anything he can't handle at the pro level.

"I'm used to it," he said. "That's been what I've grown up on. That's just his method, and I love him for it. You can't ask for a better father, a better coach to learn from."

So, while Olsen appreciates the significance of coming to the same team with a legacy that includes Iron Mike, he won't shy away from any comparisons.

"That's some company to be in," Olsen said. "But it's something that I'm used to. Going to Miami to play tight end, you've got some big shoes to fill from the first day you sign and you step on campus. Ditka is a Hall of Famer. (I'm) following big footsteps. Keeping your legacy is something that I've had experience with, and hopefully it goes well."

Bears general manager Jerry Angelo is confident Olsen will thrive as a Bear. The team's draft architect neglected to select any of the several talented tight ends available in the 2006 draft, but he couldn't wait to pull the trigger on Olsen.

"It certainly was a position that we had been targeting for the last several years," Angelo said. "We really weren't comfortable with the (other) people that we looked at, although there were a lot of good players in the last several years. We felt that Greg was really the fit that we were looking for. Our coaches, our scouts, everybody was in consensus that he was the pick for us.

"We had opportunities to trade out of the pick, to move down, but we felt that Greg's value, not only as a player but as a person and what he represents off the field and certainly on the field, was what we want to represent for our football team and our organization."


--Bears first-round draft pick Greg Olsen said that the lewd rap song that he recorded as a freshman, along with some other Miami teammates, wasn't a concern of the Bears or of other teams at the combine.

But the tight end has been criticized in print and over the air since he was selected with the 31st overall selection, and he agrees the rap was ill-advised but that it's in his distant past.

"That was something that was a long time ago, back in freshman year," Olsen said. "Nothing really ever came of it. It was a stupid thing back in college that happened and we kind of all moved on from that."

Unfortunately for Olsen, a lot of people, especially women, find the lyrics particularly demeaning and misogynous.

--If coaches have decided on which side of the ball Devin Hester will play this season, they aren't saying.

In addition to his NFL-record six kick-return touchdowns in 2006, Hester played limited snaps as an extra cornerback but could be more valuable to the team as a receiver/running back.

"I don't think we're in a situation yet where we have to make those hard decisions," coach Lovie Smith said. "We (just) want Devin here becoming a better football player. Right now, that's lifting, running, catching the ball. Whether he takes a couple backpedal steps and catches the ball or runs forward to catch it isn't that important right now. Those kind of decisions are always easy in the end. We'll always put players in position where they can best help the football team. It's not like you have to make drastic moves like that yet."

--With the trade acquisition of Adam Archuleta giving them a surplus of talent at safety the Bears are considering switching Danieal Manning to cornerback.

Manning, a second-round draft pick last year, started 14 games as a rookie at free safety but has enough speed to play cornerback. If Manning makes the move, the Bears still have 2005 Pro Bowler Mike Brown returning from last season's foot surgery and Chris Harris, who started seven games last season and 13 games as a rookie in 2005.

"A guy like Danieal, who can do different things for us, I don't know for sure where his perfect position is yet," coach Lovie Smith said. "But we have time to figure it out. I just know that he's going to play for us somewhere. I think he could easily play corner. He could play either one of the safety positions. It's going to be fun watching him grow, and let him tell us by his play exactly where we need to play him."

--Trading for Adam Archuleta provides a big, physical, in-the-box run stopper. He'll either take over for injury-prone Mike Brown or force the Bears to move Brown to free safety.

"They're both excellent football players," said Smith, who was the Rams' defensive coordinator during Archuleta's best seasons. "Both of them are competitors. We think both fit in our system. I'm excited about seeing them have a chance to play together."

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We're at the bottom of each round -- you can't get too excited. I don't think they're going to be dusting off a spot in Canton quite yet for anybody (we drafted), but we do feel good about the players that we got." -- Bears G.M. Jerry Angelo.


Quarterback Jon Kitna campaigned for Calvin Johnson, telling the media the Lions should take the best player in the draft. Wide receivers Roy Williams and Mike Furrey campaigned for Calvin Johnson, telling president Matt Millen the Lions needed another weapon.

Now that the Lions have drafted the star wideout second overall, Kitna, Williams, Furrey and their teammates are imagining the possibilities. Furrey said Johnson was "the final piece" to open up the offense.

Kitna said offensive coordinator Mike Martz was playing with "half a deck" last season. Among other issues -- such as injuries on the offensive line -- Martz couldn't find a reliable third receiver, let alone a fourth. He had to pare down the playbook as a result.

"Mike's one of those guys where he has to trust you -- you're going to be there at the right time, you're going to give everything you have," Furrey said. "Otherwise, he'll try to pick another play."

Teams would double-team Williams and Furrey, and they would force the Lions to run in the red zone. Martz could do only so much.

"I remember times in a game him saying, 'Look, this half of our stuff we can't call. We've got to stick right here,'" Kitna said. "It just limits him for a guy who's so creative."

Martz should not be limited any longer. The Lions have added Johnson, Shaun McDonald and Marcus Robinson at receiver, not to mention George Foster and Edwin Mulitalo on the offensive line and Tatum Bell and T.J. Duckett at running back.

The Lions won't have to keep tired receivers on the field. They will be able to go three- and four-wide regularly. Teams won't be able to double-team like they did before. That opens up the passing game, and that should help open up the running game.

Kitna said the Lions needed to pressure teams by scoring a lot of points and giving their Tampa Two defense a lead. Furrey said he expected the Lions' offense to start resembling the Rams' offense when it was known as the "Greatest Show on Turf."

"It's going to be wild," Furrey said. "I'm just glad I know the offense, because there's going to be a lot of plays going in. It'll be fun."


--President Matt Millen had discussions with several teams interested in wide receiver Calvin Johnson, including Tampa Bay, Washington, Atlanta, Denver and Dallas. But when the Lions were on the clock, he said, the phone didn't ring. So the Lions were content to take the consensus best player in the draft, even though it was the fourth time in five years they were taking a wide receiver in the top 10. "We couldn't be more thrilled with the choice of Calvin Johnson," Millen said. "Calvin Johnson's going to be a big part of getting us to where we want to go."

--People gush about Johnson's attitude almost as much as they do about his talent. He showed why at his introductory news conference when asked about being called the best player in the draft. "If I'm the best player, I want to stay the best player," Johnson said. "So I've got to go out there and work even harder at my trade. I'm ready to work hard. I'm ready to get things started here."

--The day the Lions introduced Johnson, he threw out the first pitch at a Detroit Tigers game. He received a warm ovation from the crowd at Comerica Park. Many people stood. "Great fans out here," Johnson said. "I hear the fans are great, and they showed it."

--Now that they have traded Josh McCown, the Lions don't have an experienced backup behind Jon Kitna. They have Dan Orlovsky, a fifth-round pick in 2005, who has 17 NFL throws -- none since his rookie year. Then they have second-round pick Drew Stanton. "Yeah, it's a little concern," Millen said. "Absolutely. But I also know that the guys, they have a bunch of ability behind him, too. I'm a little more comfortable than I have been." The Lions think the short-term risk is worth the long-term potential of Orlovsky and Stanton. McCown was in the last year of his contract.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Definitely I set high expectations for myself. I expect to go out there and have a great year, try to achieve rookie of the year." -- WR Calvin Johnson, after the Lions drafted him second overall.


Baseball has the big boppers. The lead-up to the 2007 football season for the Packers will feature the sturdy strikers.

Out of its 11 picks in the recent draft, the club might have reaped its best value with the last of three selections in the sixth round. Colorado's Mason Crosby was generally rated as the best kicker coming out of college but tumbled from a possible first-day choice to being the third kicker taken.

The Packers had last used a draft pick on a kicker in 1997, when they chose Brett Conway in the third round. Although they were pleased with Dave Rayner's first year of handling all place-kicking duties as a pro, team officials expect Crosby to challenge the incumbent for the job.

"It's all about competition," special teams coordinator Mike Stock said.

Rayner and Crosby are in the same mold. They're able to boom away on kickoffs and field goals with powerful right legs, though they're erratic with accuracy. What's more, both were taken in the sixth round -- Rayner going to the Colts in 2005, when he served as their kickoff specialist before being released when Adam Vinatieri was signed last year.

Crosby probably has better range than Rayner does, having benefited from kicking in the thin air at Colorado. He connected from 71 yards in warm-ups before a game but also nailed a 58-yarder in a game at Miami, the longest at sea level in NCAA Division I-A history without using a kicking tee.

"In a game, I feel confident I can make one from 65," Crosby said.

As the first step toward outperforming Rayner in the coming months, Crosby will have to regain his confidence. He made only 19 of 28 field-goal tries last year, including 2-for-9 accuracy from 50-plus yards. Crosby subsequently struggled in pre-draft auditions for scouts.

Rayner, meanwhile, will have to win back the trust of the Green Bay coaching staff. He tailed off the second half of last season, making just 14 of 20 field-goal attempts. Five of the six misses in those last eight games were from 40 yards and closer.

"I thought he could have done a little bit better," Stock said of Rayner's field-goal percentage of 74.3, which was 26th in the league.


--The Packers didn't take a quarterback in the draft for the first time since 2004, but they planned to take a long look at two rookies in the team's first minicamp.

Jerry Babb, a four-year starter at Louisiana-Lafayette, signed as an undrafted free agent. In turn, the Packers invited three-year Wisconsin starter John Stocco for a tryout at their rookie orientation camp, held May 4 to 6.

Babb and Stocco were to be the only quarterbacks on the field for the camp, designed to provide individual attention to the rookies and select first-year players before the full squad convenes in two weeks.

The 6-foot-2 Babb broke Jake Delhomme's completion records at Louisiana-Lafayette, including passing accuracy (56.9 percent) as he threw for more than 6,200 yards. Babb was as productive pulling the ball down and running, gaining 1,600-plus yards and scoring 19 touchdowns.

The 6-foot-1 Stocco is on the short side for a quarterback and doesn't have a strong arm, but he managed the game well at Wisconsin and proved to be a winner with a 29-7 record.

"He's won a ton of games in a big-time conference (Big Ten), and certainly with the connection being at the University of Wisconsin, we think he deserves a good look," Packers general manager Ted Thompson said.

Babb, and possibly Stocco if he's signed after his audition, would compete with second-year quarterback Ingle Martin for the No. 3 job behind Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers.

--Besides Babb, Green Bay reportedly signed six undrafted free agents before the rookie camp: linebackers Rory Johnson of Mississippi and Juwan Simpson of Alabama, fullback Ryan Powdrell of USC, guard Pat Murray of Truman State and defensive linemen Daniel Muir of Kent State and Larry Birdine of Oklahoma.

The Packers also were expected to have Alabama-Birmingham fullback Corey White, Eastern Illinois safety Tristan Burge, cornerback Chris Anzano of Division II Pace and basketball standout Joe Werner of Division III Wisconsin-La Crosse in for tryouts during the camp.

Werner hasn't played football since his sophomore year in high school but, at 6-6 and 260 pounds, is intriguing as a tight end prospect.

--Following the rookie orientation camp, the Packers' offseason schedule will pick up with a mandatory full-squad minicamp May 18 to 20.

The team then will conduct organized team activities, starting in late May and spread over about three weeks.

In a departure from previous years, most of the practices will be off-limits for fans. Only six of the OTAs -- May 31 and June 4, 7, 11, 14 and 18 -- are scheduled to be open for public viewing at one of the team's two outdoor practice fields across from Lambeau Field.

The club announced that the players' reporting date for training camp is July 27. The first practice will be held in the afternoon of July 28.

--With the majority of the roster excused from the first minicamp, a few veteran players hopped on a bus for the second annual Green Bay Packers Tailgate Tour from May 1 to 4.

Rodgers, linebacker Nick Barnett and tackles Mark Tauscher and Kevin Barry accompanied team chairman Bob Harlan on the four-day trip across Wisconsin. The stops included Superior, Eau Claire, McFarland and Racine.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Hopefully, some of those guys, in a couple of years, the fans will know who they are. That will be a good thing." -- General manager Ted Thompson, who was taken to task by Green Bay supporters for some of his draft picks this year, including first-round defensive tackle Justin Harrell.

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