Around the NFC North

The Bears' veteran tight end isn't too worried about a rookie offering more competition for him; in Detroit, the tight end position is called the most complicated one of the field; and in Green Bay a number of veterans were missing from the Packers' OTAs. Get the news and analysis from around the NFC North.


Tight end Desmond Clark calls last season the best of his eight in the NFL, but it didn't prevent the Bears from using their first-round pick on Miami tight end Greg Olsen.

The 6-foot-3, 249-pound Clark shrugs it off like a 180-pound cornerback.

"The beat goes on," said Clark, who was third on the team with 45 receptions and 626 yards and tied for the team lead with 6 touchdowns. "People come; people go. People get older; they bring in younger. That's how this NFL works. If you understand that, there's nothing to get frustrated about."

Clark averaged 13.9 yards per catch last season, tied for best in the NFL among tight ends with the Falcons' Alge Crumpler. It was also the highest average of any of his six full NFL seasons, but the pass catching was only part of what made 2006 his best season, according to Clark.

"I probably had better stats as far as catches out in Denver (1999-2001), but I was a much better blocker this (past) year than when I put up 51 catches (in ‘01) out in Denver."

The competition between Clark and Olsen should be one of the more interesting battles of training camp. The rookie's 4.5 speed in the 40 is rare for a tight end, but Clark isn't conceding the job.

"You never know," he said. "We're all working for that starting gig. He's going to do everything he can to get the most playing time. I'm going to do what I've got to do to try and hold my position. We've both got special skills that complement each other. I don't really look at it as adversaries. I look at it as two components of this offense that are going to help this offense become more potent."


Eric Beverly is behind Dan Campbell at the traditional tight end spot. Casey FitzSimmons and Sean McHugh are also listed as tight ends (most of the time, anyway).

But Lions offensive coordinator Mike Martz calls them fullbacks, and they really play more of an H-back role.

"It's the most complicated position that we have, and it takes a special guy," Martz said. "It means he has to be able to line up as a fullback in that formation, line up as a tight end in a nickel and line up as a ‘move guy' with two tight ends. So he's got to do everything."

Veteran Marcus Pollard played the position last season but didn't really fit the system. Now Pollard is in Seattle, and FitzSimmons and McHugh are competing for playing time.

FitzSimmons impressed Martz in training camp last season but suffered a broken wrist. Fitzsimmons looks good now, catching the ball well during off-season practices.

McHugh made an impression last season. He has been running with the first team a fair amount this off-season.

"You saw him last year," coach Rod Marinelli said. "I mean, he did a heck of a job. He came out of nowhere. We gave him an opportunity. The guy has been in the weight room. He's at 270 pounds. ... That's a 270-pound lead blocker that can catch the ball. He's a smart guy.

"Casey is the same way. Those are two big, athletic men back there for us. We really like them."

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I'm expecting this to be a good team — a very good team. We've just got to stay the course right now." — Coach Rod Marinelli, repeating what he has said often this off-season.


Although as many as six of his possible 11 starters on defense weren't involved in the first few practices of organized team activities, head coach Mike McCarthy didn't get worked up about the conspicuous absences.

End Aaron Kampman, tackle Justin Harrell and safety Marviel Underwood were out because of injury issues.

Kampman, a first-time Pro Bowl player last season who had a career-high 15.5 sacks, is on the mend from arthroscopic knee surgery in April. His return seems more likely for the start of training camp in late July.

The medical staff is being cautious with Harrell, this year's first-round draft choice. He is limited to individual drills as he works his way back from a ruptured biceps tendon sustained early last season at Tennessee. Harrell said he feels ready to do everything in practice but is accepting of the decision to possibly keep him out of harm's way until the start of training camp.

"The more confident they feel in me going out there and doing things, the more they'll let me do," Harrell said at the outset of the Organized Team Activities, which started May 30.

Underwood, who figures to challenge incumbent strong safety Marquand Manuel, also has been hopeful of getting on the field for significant work during the OTAs but might not make his 2007 debut until training camp. The third-year player suffered season-ending torn knee ligaments in a preseason game last year.

Meanwhile, cornerbacks Al Harris and Charles Woodson, nose tackle Ryan Pickett and tackle Corey Williams were no-shows as the voluntary OTAs got under way.

Harris and Woodson also skipped the workouts last year, while Pickett missed some of them.

As much as McCarthy would like to have 100 percent participation from players for non-mandatory practices, he's not letting the notable absences become a distraction.

"As far as the individuals who are not here, No. 1, it is voluntary," McCarthy said. "No. 2, I have no concerns because the individual plans are in place, and I feel very good about the progress we made as a football team, both individually in the particular position groups and more importantly as a team throughout the spring."

Woodson is notorious for staying away from any offseason team functions he's not required to attend. He's again working out on his own at a complex in Houston. McCarthy has had few qualms, if any, with Woodson's approach.

"If you look at Charles this year compared to last year, he's a lot further ahead in his training," McCarthy said. "He had a very strong medical report, which I was glad to see, specifically with the injuries that he played through last year with the knee and the shoulder. He's in very good shape and excited about the season."

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Personally, I'm very fond of John Jones. I think he's an excellent man, a wonderful family man. You feel for people. Anytime there's a change professionally, it's never easy. But, professionally, it's part of our business. But, he's a good man. He'll always be a good man." — Packers head coach Mike McCarthy on club president John Jones, who was placed on administrative leave by the organization May 26 because of management concerns. McCarthy first joined the team as quarterbacks coach in 1999, the same year Jones was hired in the front office.

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