Around the NFC North

The Tank Johnson decision is still looming in Chicago, one of Detroit's defensive tackles is showing a refreshing attitude, and questions have arisen about how Brett Favre's comments will sit with his teammates. Get news, notes and quotes from around the NFC North.


Tank Johnson met with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell last Wednesday to discuss the legal problems that landed the Bears' defensive tackle in jail, but there was no immediate decision on a suspension from the league.

NFL spokesman Randall Liu said he did not know how long the meeting lasted, who else attended or any other details, including when the Bears could expect a league decision on a suspension, although the team anticipates a ruling soon. Speculation is that Johnson could receive a sentence of eight games or more from the league.

The meeting took place in New York at an undisclosed location and came three days after Johnson was released from the Cook County Jail, where he served 60 days of a 120-day sentence for violating probation on a weapons charge.

Johnson participated in the team's full-squad weekend minicamp that began Friday.

In December, police raided Johnson's Gurnee home and found six unregistered firearms — a violation of his probation on an earlier gun charge. That charge stemmed from Johnson's 2005 arrest after a Chicago nightclub valet reported seeing Johnson with a handgun in his SUV. He subsequently pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge.

Johnson could become the third player suspended by Goodell in little more than a month for off-field behavior. In April, Goodell suspended Titans cornerback Adam "Pacman" Jones for the entire 2007 season and Bengals wide receiver Chris Henry for eight games before introducing a strengthened personal conduct policy.


  • According to Bears defensive end Alex Brown, the trade rumors that have been swirling around him recently arose from Brown and his agent, Joel Segal, requesting permission to seek a trade.

    "We're just trying to see what's out there," Brown said on Sirius Satellite last week. "It's not the Bears. They don't want to get rid of me. I think I'm a very good guy. It's just sometimes you kind of want to test to see if there's something else out there for you. If it were up to me, I'd get a new contract here and play the rest of my career here. We're handling this in a real low-key fashion and that's the way we want to keep it."

    Brown signed a five-year, $15 million contract prior to the 2005 season that runs through 2009. He had career-best seven sacks last season.

  • Five-foot-seven running back Garrett Wolfe isn't the only vertically challenged Bears rookie.

    Florida quarterback Chris Leak measured an eighth of an inch short of six feet tall at the scouting combine in February, which is a big (or little) reason why he went undrafted two months later, even after leading the Gators to a national championship. Bears coach Lovie Smith isn't counting him out, though, and says he isn't concerned with Leak's lack of stature.

    "He's been that same height most of his career; all of his career you could say," Smith said. "He got a scholarship at the same height, won a national championship at that same height. As you can see by our quarterbacks and by our football team, height never has been a big deal for me. Just ask Garrett."

    Starting quarterback Rex Grossman has only marginal height for an NFL quarterback at 6-1. Leak threw a national record 185 TD passes in high school and threw for 15,593 yards, second best in prep history. He started 47 games at Florida and set school career records for completions (895), passing yards (11,213), total offense (11,350 yards), 200-yard passing games (33) and attempts (1,458).

    "You go to his track record," Smith said. "He's led his team to a national championship, so you know he's a good leader. He's thrown a lot of passes, played a lot of people, and started a lot of games, so that tells you a lot. We've been able to see some of that. He does have a good arm and he picks it up fairly quick."

    Actually, one of the knocks on Leak was that he wasn't a very outgoing leader, and that he lacked the arm strength to be effective on anything longer than intermediate routes. But he's impressed Smith at first glance.

  • First-round draft pick Greg Olsen was fortunate to have his older brother Christian with him during the recent rookie minicamp, and not just because it provided the tight end with a familiar quarterback throwing him the ball. It was also beneficial off the field.

    "I was lucky I was able to work with my brother (because) this was actually his offense in college, so he knew a lot of it," Greg said. "So before we came in, I had a playbook, and he was able to teach me a lot of stuff because this terminology to me was like Chinese. They could've been speaking a different language.

    "But to him it made a lot of sense. Any time you study with someone who knows it already and they can kind of teach you in layman's terms rather than just reading it out of a book, it always makes it easier. He's a quarterback, and they know a lot more than the rest of us. They're supposed to know a lot more than me."

    Christian Olsen, who played sparingly at Virginia, was one of about two dozen players who received tryout invitations for the weekend.

  • Bears offensive coordinator Ron Turner doesn't consider 5-foot-7 running back Garrett Wolfe's lack of height a drawback to what his role will be.

    "It doesn't matter at all," Turner said of the height shortcomings. "For what you do in this league and what he's going to be asked to do; not at all."

    Turner's more focused on the many things that Wolfe can do, all of which he witnessed at last weekend's minicamp.

    "He's got really good hands," he said. "Good acceleration. All those things we knew, all the things we thought."

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "Playing football is the easy part; it's about knowing where you're going. If you know where you're going, you'll get there faster instead of second guessing yourself." — Bears third-round rookie RB Garrett Wolfe, who on May 15 became the first 2007 NFL draft pick to sign a contract.


    Defensive tackle Shaun Rogers didn't participate in the Lions' mandatory minicamp because of shoulder and knee rehab. But he was a big story just because he was there — smiling and speaking.

    "I'm happy to be here," said Rogers, breaking his usual silence with the media. "It's always good to have a job in this economy. I'm just happy to be working."

    The Lions need a happy Shaun Rogers. He can be one of the most dominant players in the NFL at his position. He is a two-time Pro Bowler. But he hasn't always played up to his potential, often taking plays off and acting sulky and surly.

    Last season was his worst in the NFL. He followed a dominant performance in the opener with five pedestrian performances. Then he served a four-game suspension for taking a banned dietary supplement. He had knee surgery during the suspension and didn't come back when he was eligible to play again.

    "Sometimes things happen that you can't control, and sometimes you're humbled," Rogers said. "It's always a good thing to be humble and level-headed. So I take it in stride and come back and prepare like I prepared last year, and the year before, and the year before that."

    Rogers didn't show up at the start of the voluntary off-season conditioning program in March. But after speaking to coach Rod Marinelli, he came a week later. Marinelli has spoken glowingly about Rogers since and emphasized how important the defensive line is, saying the front four has to drive the franchise.

    "I just feel high expectations will bring about more prosperous things," Rogers said. "The higher you set the bar and the closer you can get to it, the higher you achieve. I'm happy that he has so many expectations for me. I'm not going to do anything but try to live up to them."

    Defensive coordinator Joe Barry joined the Lions in January. He has given Rogers a clean slate.

    "I live in the now, and I only know the happy Shaun Rogers," Barry said. "I don't know anything about him from the past. I don't care. My job right now is to make sure that Shaun Rogers has the best season of his career in 2007, and that's all we're worried about."


  • OL Damien Woody said he weighed 338 pounds. That means he has lost 40 pounds this off-season but still has 23 to go to reach his goal of 315. He says he's eating a lot of fruit and vegetables. "I think the most important thing is, I feel good," Woody said. "I feel good about where I'm at and the direction I'm going. I'm just going to continue to work." He'd better. He is competing not just for a starting job, but for a spot on the roster.

  • WR Calvin Johnson, the second overall pick in this year's draft, made the most impressive play of minicamp — a one-handed grab during one-on-one drills with defensive backs. "I'm sure that he'll continue to surprise us all the time with what he can do," offensive coordinator Mike Martz said. Quarterback Jon Kitna praised Johnson after just one practice. "He doesn't have a quizzical look on his face," Kitna said. "Coming out of the huddle, bam, he's out there. You see guys who've been in it for a year and they still have that kind of ‘I'm not quite sure what I'm supposed to do' look, but he doesn't have that. So he's either fooling us or he knows what he's doing."

  • Defensive coordinator Joe Barry was Tampa Bay's linebackers coach before coming to Detroit and knows the Tampa Two defense intricately. He thinks the Lions are just fine at middle linebacker. "Teddy Lehman and Paris Lenon will be great in our system," Barry said. "I promise you. They've got everything we need."

  • LB Ernie Sims struck back at smack-talking defensive end Kalimba Edwards. He stuffed Edwards' equipment in his locker — along with a 12-foot python. Sure enough, Edwards got a surprise. "He was scared as all know what," said Sims, an animal enthusiast who has had all kinds of pets, from spiders to snakes to dogs. "It was funny. The whole team was laughing. I said, ‘I told you I was going to get the last laugh.'"

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "All year last year, going through some of the struggles we went through, guys going down with injuries, guys having to play maybe when they weren't ready to play. ... (Offensive coordinator Mike Martz) kept assuring me that he was going to fix it. And they fixed it." — QB Jon Kitna, on his supporting cast.


    Brett Favre was quoted as saying he would have given a nice portion of his $11 million salary this year to ensure that the Packers acquired receiver Randy Moss with a guaranteed $3 million contract.

    Favre won't have to part with any of his money because general manager Ted Thompson took a pass on a long-speculated trade with Oakland, who ultimately dealt Moss to New England last month.

    Favre was none too pleased with how things unfolded and aired his frustrations during his charity golf tournament May 12 in Mississippi.

    "That would have been a steal," Favre said of getting Moss for the $3 million in exchange for a fourth-round draft pick, which is all the Patriots gave up on draft weekend.

    "I know what we could have signed him for; we could have gotten him for less money than New England did. He wanted to play in Green Bay," Favre added. "For the amount of money we could have paid him, it was well worth the risk. The last thing I want to do is start anything. But, I think he would have been a great addition."

    Favre told the Packers before the Super Bowl that he would be returning for a 16th season as their quarterback. He did so with the belief that Thompson would address shortcomings on offense, including a need for a deep-threat receiver.

    The combination of not landing Moss nor one of the top receivers in the draft and losing featured back Ahman Green to Houston in free agency soured Favre's outlook for next season.

    "You throw a Randy Moss, you throw a Donald Driver and you throw a Greg Jennings on the field at the same time and go a three-wide-receiver set, I think that's pretty intimidating," Favre said. "We lost out on that, and it's a shame because I know we could have had him."

    So upset was Favre that he reportedly sought a couple days after the draft to be traded from the team. Favre, though, said he never requested a trade.

    Still, after he reconsidered a decision to skip the team's mandatory minicamp May 18-20 and showed up for the practices, Favre might have to mend fences with teammates. The report of his wanting out of Green Bay and insinuations he made a week earlier about the makeup and direction of the team could be grounds for a divisive locker room as the club goes forward into next season.

    On May 18, before the first minicamp practice, a defensive Favre didn't anticipate the situation getting sticky.

    "I'm not going to stand up in front of ‘em. ... We're fine," he said. "I don't know what they say when they go home. But, you show me where I said anything about the guys I play with. I want you to show me. Not once did I say anything about the guys I play with.

    "Now, if it keeps being brought up — these statements that you guys (the media) are making — then maybe they start believing it. But, I believe in these guys.

    "The guys in this locker room, I think they can play. I really do. Never once did I think they couldn't play. We're inexperienced (but) there's some really good talent there."


  • By no fault of his own, rookie running back Brandon Jackson wasn't with the team for the mandatory full-squad minicamp May 18-20.

    Jackson was all but required to be in Los Angeles for EA Sports' 2007 Reebok NFL Rookie Premier. The annual promotional function included 30 skill players on offense who were taken on the first day of the NFL Draft last month.

    Jackson earned $12,000 for the weekend appearance, but he wanted no part of it. The second-round draft pick wanted to be in Green Bay for the minicamp.

    However, the NFL Management Council ruled that Jackson either had to be at the Rookie Premier, as mandated in the collective-bargaining agreement, or sit out the minicamp.

    "They literally locked him out of camp," Jackson's agent, Gary Wichard, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "The team is not allowed to have him. I think it's ridiculous."

    Jackson's absence could set him back as a prime contender for the starting halfback spot. Jackson participated in the team's rookie orientation camp two weeks earlier. Team personnel, though, were eager to get a better gauge of the former part-time starter at Nebraska with the veterans on the field.

  • The Packers have five quarterbacks on the roster after signing undrafted free agent Paul Thompson from Oklahoma.

    The club plans to look at Thompson as strictly a quarterback, the position he played as the Sooners' starter only last season after primarily being a receiver.

    The 6-foot-4, 215-pound Thompson is an intriguing prospect for his size, mobility and his efficiency (22 touchdowns to just 11 interceptions in 2006).

    Thompson could stick beyond the minicamp and the organized team activities in June and compete with incumbent third-stringer Ingle Martin and undrafted rookie Jerry Babb in training camp.

  • Head coach Mike McCarthy cut the number of intended practices from five to four during the three-day minicamp.

    McCarthy and the coaching staff first delved into a review of the 2006 season with the team on the morning of May 18 before getting the players on the field in the afternoon.

    A mostly youthful squad salvaged an 8-8 season by winning its last four games last season.

    "As I've experienced in past clubs that I've worked with, a lot of times you never really get to go back and correct the things as a whole with your football team," McCarthy said. "We (addressed) the positives (and) the negatives (of last season) and the direction and focus for 2007."

  • The team's preseason scrimmage, which has been a sellout the last three years, will be held Aug. 4 at Lambeau Field.

    Tickets, priced at $8, will go on sale June 16, beginning at 10 a.m.

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "He only wants the team to be better, with experience, not thinking that they're not talented because I know that he feels they are. I know that Brett is very happy in Green Bay. I know that he loves the fans here. We both do." — Deanna Favre on husband and Packers quarterback Brett Favre during her appearance in Green Bay on May 16 for a breast cancer awareness speaking engagement.

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