Around the NFC North

The Bears believe they got some bargains on the draft's second day, former Lions receiver Mike Williams is glad to be out of Detroit, and the Packers don't seem to be practicing what they preach when it comes to character. Get even more post-draft reaction from around the NFC North.


On the second day of the draft, the Bears went looking for bargains and believe they came away with a couple, including Boston College guard Chris Beekman and Louisiana-Monroe strong safety Kevin Payne.

Beekman was a three-year starter, predominantly at right guard, although he filled in at center for three games last season for an injured teammate. Earlier in the 2006 season, Beekman was moved over from guard every fourth series to play a series at center to give the Eagles insurance in the middle, which they eventually needed.

"He will play both (positions) here," said Bears director of college scouting Greg Gabriel. "He will come in as a backup, and he's going to be able to play both positions. We always look for versatile offensive lineman."

The Bears needed some youth on an offensive line that remains efficient but is getting up in years. Left guard Ruben Brown is 35, right tackle Fred Miller will be 34 next season and left tackle John Tait will be 32. Even though Beekman lasted until the second day (130th overall), the Bears believe he can work his way into a starting job.

"We graded him as that," Gabriel said. "He's a guy who will eventually be a starter. We have some age there. These guys aren't going to be there forever. You have to have guys go through the ranks to be able to step in down the road."

Payne spent his first two college seasons at running back and rushed for 976 yards as a freshman while also catching 41 passes for 488 yards. The 6-foot, 220-pounder became an immediate starter on the other side of the ball and distinguished himself with athleticism and toughness.

"He's a big, strong safety that was physical in the box and a good special teams player," Bears general manager Jerry Angelo said. "We don't really have anyone like him, and Lovie (Smith) and the staff really liked him and what they saw, and we wanted to get a bigger player at that position."

Payne played with Bears safety Chris Harris, a 2005 sixth-round draft pick, at Louisiana-Monroe, and it was Harris' departure that hastened Payne's conversion to defense.

"Actually, the reason why (Louisiana-Monroe head coach Charlie Weatherbie) switched me was because we lost a great player in Chris Harris to Chicago that year," Payne said. "We had also lost about 10 more seniors off the defense, and he felt like we had two pretty good running backs behind me. He felt like I could make a great transition. He came in and talked to me and I accepted that challenge."

Payne has been getting NFL-related advice from Harris since late in the 2006 season.

"Just (telling me about) the speed of the game and to realize every day you have to get better, and every day you have to compete," Payne said. "It's a job, so you have to go out there and be ready for the competition every day. He's been calling me since December and helping me with things that I was going through. Right after I got finished talking with Chicago (Sunday), he called and told me congratulations."


The same day the Lions drafted Calvin Johnson, they traded the wide receiver they drafted in the top 10 just two years ago — Mike Williams. They sent Williams and quarterback Josh McCown to Oakland for a fourth-round pick.

Williams said he told the Lions as long ago as August he wanted out of Detroit and asked for a trade in March. He feels he will have a better shot at success with the Raiders than he did with the Lions. Oakland coach Lane Kiffin was his position coach at Southern Cal in 2002-03 when he was a dominant college player.

"I feel good, man," Williams said. "It's about having a fresh start and going into camp with a fair chance of competing. That's what I'm looking forward to."

Williams felt he never fit in with the Lions. He was the third straight wide receiver the Lions took in the top 10, after Charles Rogers (second overall) in ‘03 and Roy Williams (seventh overall) in ‘04. When the Lions brought in a new coaching staff last year, they hired an offensive coordinator, Mike Martz, whose system didn't suit him.

"When I came to Detroit, they already had Roy and Charles," Williams said. "How did I fit in? Where did I fit in? Martz went on record saying that I didn't really do what he likes to do."

Williams had several issues with the Lions, most notably his weight. He was fined tens of thousands of dollars for being over the Lions' weight targets for him. They wanted him at 230 pounds as a rookie. They wanted him at 220 last year.

Johnson is listed at 239 pounds, but he runs a 4.35-second 40-yard dash. Martz says the issue is having the speed and quickness to beat cornerbacks, not size in and of itself.

"As soon as they gave me the weight, I told them it wasn't fair," Williams said. "When they stuck me with the weight, anyway, I just felt like that they really didn't have an idea where I was going to be or if I could help. By giving me that weight that was very unreasonable, it would justify why they weren't playing me when people would ask, ‘Well, Mike Williams is a top-10 draft pick. Why isn't he playing?' "

The Lions have a different version.

"It was time to move on, but not by our choice," president Matt Millen said. "He never showed up. So this is the best for him, and it's the best for us. And it's a shame because he has great abilities. If he plays to his abilities, the kid's got tons of skills. I wish him the best. We wish him the best as an organization, but it didn't work out here for him."


Even before NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell began cracking down on off-field mayhem and mischief by players with a new personal-conduct policy, the Packers have been careful in recent years to side with guys of high character.

They might be putting themselves out on the contradictory limb, however, with their most notable signing of an undrafted rookie this year.

Former Mississippi linebacker Rory Johnson reportedly received a two-year deal with a signing bonus of $2,500 after teams took a pass in the draft on the talented, yet troubled player.

The 6-foot, 240-pound Johnson was one of the more athletic linebackers eligible for the draft. He was timed at 4.58 seconds in the 40 and has a 38-inch vertical jump. Plus, he was a complementary playmaker on the outside to Mississippi middle linebacker Patrick Willis, who was taken 11th overall by San Francisco.

All of the on-field superlatives about Johnson, though, were diminished by two admissions that he failed tests for marijuana in college — the first at a junior college and the second last year in his only season at Mississippi.

Johnson told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that he no longer uses marijuana and is fully aware of the repercussions for any offenses while in the NFL under its substance-abuse policy.

Taking a chance on a player who doesn't have a squeaky-clean image isn't unprecedented for third-year Packers general manager Ted Thompson.

He signed veteran receiver Koren Robinson, a multiple offender of the substance-abuse policy, early last season. Robinson was suspended for a year only five weeks later for a drunken-driving incident that happened prior to his arrival in Green Bay. The Packers have kept Robinson on the roster and apparently will welcome him back if he's granted reinstatement by Goodell in September.

"We just felt like it was OK to take a chance (on Johnson) as a free agent," Thompson told the Journal Sentinel. "We just feel like the risk there is OK."

Johnson primarily lined up at weak-side linebacker for Mississippi but also has the versatility of moving to end on passing downs. He could vie for a backup spot with the Packers, who are all but set at linebacker with Nick Barnett in the middle, A.J. Hawk on the weak side and Brady Poppinga the returning starter on the strong side.

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