Around the NFC North

Former Vikings and current Bears QB J.T. O'Sullivan won a big honor overseas but still might not hang onto his stateside job, the Lions' Mr. Irrelevant gets treated like a rock star, and the Packers' Mike McCarthy is taking the soft approach to this year's training camp. Get in-depth news and notes from around the NFC North.


Bears allocated quarterback J.T. O'Sullivan of the Frankfurt Galaxy was named co-winner of the NFL Europa Offensive Most Valuable Player award on Thursday.

O'Sullivan, who shared the honor with Cologne Centurions running back Derrick Ross of the Kansas City Chiefs, led the Galaxy to a 7-3 record and a berth in Saturday's World Bowl XL.

O'Sullivan topped NFL Europa with 2,201 passing yards and a 104.8 passer rating and tied for the league lead with 16 touchdown passes.

The Cal-Davis product recorded the only two 300-yard passing games in NFL Europe this season, highlighted by a 374-yard performance in Week Nine against the Hamburg Sea Devils.

O'Sullivan also played for the Galaxy in 2004, ranking second in the league with a 91.9 passer rating while leading Frankfurt to a berth in World Bowl XII.

The 6-2, 227-pounder has spent time with six NFL teams in five seasons, but he has never attempted a pass. His only regular-season action came when he ended a Packers win over the Bears in the 2004 season finale at Soldier Field with two kneel-downs.

O'Sullivan was selected in the sixth round of the 2002 draft by New Orleans. He served as the Saints' third quarterback for all 16 games in both 2002 and 2003.

He was traded to the Packers in 2004 and spent the first nine weeks of the 2005 regular season on the Bears' practice squad before being signed to the Minnesota Vikings' 53-man roster.

O'Sullivan is hoping that his performance in NFL Europa this season earns him another chance in the NFL.

"My attitude toward the situation is that if I'm good enough and I play well enough, there will always be an opportunity there," he said. "I look at this as a great opportunity to show that I can play quarterback and play quarterback well, and give people who make those decisions as much information as you can and play as well as you can play.

"If it happens, it happens. But that's the only way you can approach it while you're here. I'm trying to put the Frankfort Galaxy in the best situation I can to win games."

It is not yet known whether O'Sullivan will be invited to training camp with the Bears.

In responding to a fan's e-mail question on Chicago earlier this week about O'Sullivan, general manager Jerry Angelo said: "We're going to make a determination on his future with us in the next few weeks."


  • The Bears had little to say after DT Tank Johnson was stopped at 3:30 a.m. Friday in Gilbert, Ariz., for speeding. Johnson was alleged to be driving 40 mph in a 25 mph zone, and an officer "made observations that led him to believe Johnson was impaired." Sgt. Andrew Duncan said Johnson was "impaired to the slightest degree."

    He was given a blood test, but the results are not yet known. Johnson has been suspended by the league for the first eight games of the season, but it can be reduced to six for good behavior.

  • LB Lance Briggs, unhappy at being named the Bears' franchise player, was the only no-show at the team's OTAs, and it's unlikely he'll participate in training camp, although he's expected to end his tantrum by the start of the regular season. Coach Lovie Smith realizes the absence of the two-time Pro Bowl linebacker isn't an ideal situation, but he doesn't appear to be fretting over it.

    "Guys have to make decisions based on what they think they need to do as a man," Smith said. "That's what Lance has done. But for us, it's about our team. Guys get hurt, you move on. You have to have a Plan 2 in case any of our players aren't here, and that's what we have. I'm excited about training camp. I hope Lance is there. If he's not, I mean, we've got a season to get ready for."

    Smith said Briggs' backup, second-year player Jamar Williams, has made major strides in the off-season after spending most of 2006 on injured reserve.

  • Coach Lovie Smith doesn't see motivation being an issue when training camp starts on July 27.

    "We went into last season talking about winning the Super Bowl," Smith said. "We didn't. We came up short, so that's our motivation. We know what it's like to play on that stage, (but) we don't know what it's like to win. The Colts have the championship. They have the Super Bowl ring; we don't. That's our motivation; to finish the job this year."

  • First-round pick Greg Olsen impressed during OTAs with his speed and pas-catching ability, but he understands he's still got a long way to go before he contributes at the level the Bears envisioned when they made the Miami tight end the 31st overall selection.

    "I think I've done well," Olsen said after Wednesday's final OTA. "Obviously, I have a lot to improve on. But I think as far as the 14 practices off the bat, I think I did OK."

    Olsen and second-round defensive end Dan Bazuin are the Bears only unsigned draft picks, but Olsen isn't concerning himself with negotiations between the Bears and his agent, Drew Rosenhaus.

    "That's something I'm just letting work itself out," he said. "My job is to come out here and practice and do everything I can and I let everyone else handle that."

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "Jamar Williams had an outstanding off-season. I thought he stepped up and let us see some of his skills." — Bears coach Lovie Smith discussing the replacement for Pro Bowler Lance Briggs, who skipped OTAs to protest his designation as the team's franchise player.


    Go ahead. Call him Mr. Irrelevant. Ramzee Robinson doesn't mind.

    The Lions cornerback didn't like being the 255th — and last pick — in the NFL draft. But for being the last pick, he was flown to southern California and feted for five days.

    He was showered with gifts. He went to Disneyland. He dragged the infield during an Angels game. He was honored at a fancy banquet. And much more.

    "At first, just hearing it, I didn't know enough about it," Robinson said. "But once it was explained to me, and I actually read up on it a little bit and had a better feel for it, I was like, ‘You know what? I definitely need to do that and make sure I go out there and take advantage of it.'

    "Because I can't really say you get that type of attention and that type of treatment, man, for being last. I'm like, ‘Hey, I'm all for it.'"

    A group of people in Newport Beach, Calif., have been throwing a party for the last pick since 1976. Why? Well, why not? They say it's a celebration of the underdog. They say it's about doing something nice for someone for no reason (though it raises money for charity).

    They call it Irrelevant Week, and they call the last pick Mr. Irrelevant. They present him with their answer to the Heisman Trophy — the Lowsman Trophy, a statue of a player dropping a ball with an open-mouthed, oh-no look on his face.

    When Robinson first saw a picture of the Lowsman, he laughed. He has a sense of humor about it. He's happy he wasn't the 254th pick.

    "Oh, yes," Robinson said, laughing. "Exactly. If I had a choice, I would rather be 255."


  • Coach Rod Marinelli once wrestled a bear. Yes, an actual bear. The summer between his junior and senior years of high school, he was cruising with a couple of his buddies — Gary Schram and Don Gomez — when they came upon a crazy promotion in the parking lot of a car dealership in Pasadena, Calif. Marinelli's buddies put up $5 each, and Marinelli climbed into a cage with the bear. "It was cold, the mat was all wet, and this bear was smelly, let me tell you," Schram said. "So we put the money up there, and in goes Rod. Rod did then what he does now: He went in to win. And let me tell you, he had that bear on his back in about 10 seconds."

  • Marinelli was 133 pounds as a high-school freshman (or 130 or 120, depending on who you talk to). But in less than a year, he was huge, something like 200. He was ripped. He loved to hit the weights. "He was solid," said David Manning, Class of ‘68. "It was scary when he took his shirt off."

  • It was quite a Father's Day for the Lions' coaching staff. Defensive coordinator Joe Barry is working with his father (assistant offensive line coach Mike Barry) and father-in-law (head coach Rod Marinelli). Offensive coordinator Mike Martz and offensive assistant Tim Martz are another father-son combo.

  • Mr. Irrelevant? Cornerback Ramzee Robinson has been teased with a nickname before and turned it into a positive. Growing up, teammates turned Ramzee into Rambo. Rambo became Rambino. Rambino become Bino. And Bino stuck. When Robinson got to Alabama, people kept asking him about Bino. Where did it come from? What did it mean? He wanted to come up with something good. At the suggestion of his high school coach, he told people it stood for "Best Is Number One." His sophomore year at Alabama, he started wearing No. 1. "I honestly go by Bino," Robinson said. "It's just that I haven't earned my stripes yet here. Once I — Lord willing — I make the team and when we get into the season, then I'll be correcting people. ‘Hey, man, it's Bino. Not Ramzee.'"

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "I honestly feel like in the end it's going to be a great story in my career, just the way I pursue the game. It's just another thing where I feel like one day down the road I can look back and say I was the last guy picked and still made it. That's my ultimate dream." — Lions CB Ramzee Robinson, on being Mr. Irrelevant, the last pick of the NFL draft.


    Coach Mike McCarthy isn't angling to be a trendsetter. Rather, he hopes an unusual method holds the key to keeping his players better preserved for the long haul of the season.

    A year after introducing evening practices to break up the monotony of two-a-day practices in training camp, McCarthy has ushered in no-Wednesday workouts.

    No practice is scheduled for the first three Wednesdays of August. A practice that won't be open to the public is tentatively slated for the fourth Wednesday, Aug. 22, which falls a day before the team's third preseason game.

    "You hear so much about rest and recovery," McCarthy said. "It's the anti for coaches because you're always trying to do more. (But) when you see the importance of rest and recovery happen on an individual basis like I've watched it throughout the spring, it's obviously very important for our football team.

    "(The new scheduling wrinkle is) really clearly for that reason — about rest and recovery. To do it on Wednesday, right in the middle of the workload, I think is smart, and we're still able to get everything done."

    McCarthy noted that no more than 100 reps would be sacrificed by shutting things down those first three Wednesdays of camp.

    "I've never done it before, never been in places and been a part of it, (but) we put a lot of thought into it and crunched a lot of numbers," McCarthy said. "I feel it will really help our football team, particularly at the end of the year."

    Looking back at his first year as an NFL head coach, McCarthy second-guessed his decision to put the players through too much practice time in the 2006 preseason.

    The particular lesson learned came during a rigorous on-field schedule between the second and third preseason games, when the team had an eight-day lull. The Packers were sluggish in a 48-17 loss at Cincinnati in that third contest, when the starters had their most playing time. Green Bay, in turn, started the season 1-4.

    "We need to start fast. It's been a problem here of late, particularly last year," McCarthy said. "Starting fast is very important. We'll be fresh coming out of training camp, especially with us playing (the final tune-up) at Tennessee on a Thursday night (Aug. 30). So, no excuses."

    McCarthy said the tradeoff for giving the players a break in the middle of the week in camp this year is keeping them on the field a little longer on other days. Practices will run about 2 1/2 hours and longer on some days.

    Training camp begins with an afternoon session July 28 at the team's practice facilities across the street from Lambeau Field.

    The first of seven two-a-days is July 29. On those days, the team will practice in the morning, generally wearing shells, then come back in the evening for full-pads workouts.

    In all, there are eight night practices on the camp schedule, plus a full-pads scrimmage at Lambeau Field on the evening of Aug. 4.

    The last day of open practices for fans is Aug. 28.


  • Quarterback Brett Favre gave no assurances that his popular celebrity softball game, staged each June in Northeast Wisconsin, would continue when he retires.

    If the eighth annual event held June 17 was the final installment, Favre didn't stick around to see its dramatic conclusion. Members of the Packers offense pulled out a 14-13 win in eight innings over their defensive teammates.

    Favre played only the first three innings because of a sore right shoulder he sustained from throwing in the organized team activities earlier in the month.

    Favre addressed the record crowd of 8,597 at Fox Cities Stadium outside Appleton during a break in the sixth inning and thanked them for their support. All proceeds from the softball game go to the Brett Favre Fourward Foundation, which supports disadvantaged and disabled children in Wisconsin and Favre's home state of Mississippi. The foundation has raised more than $3 million in 11 years.

    Following his brief remarks on the field, Favre, wife Deanna and their two daughters quietly ducked out through one of the dugouts.

    The 37-year-old Favre spoke to reporters before the game and was as evasive about its future as he is about his playing career beyond next season.

    "I think the people will support the game, regardless. Whether or not we extend it remains to be seen," Favre said. "It's been great. Every year, (it draws) a lot of people, it's raised a lot of money. It seems to be a good change of pace for (the players') off-season. I don't know. We'll see."

    The presence of Favre, though, generated a total of almost $25,000 for his foundation from two 36-year-old fans who paid to play in the softball game.

    Scott Horack, a Wisconsin native now living in Tampa, Fla., had a winning bid of $14,085 on a weeklong auction on eBay in the spring. Horack played on Favre's team.

    "A dream come true," said Horack, a sales manager for the Raymond James financial firm. "I wasn't going to miss the opportunity."

    David Krapf of Janesville, Wis., was the runner-up in the eBay bidding but worked out an arrangement with Favre's foundation to donate his bid of $9,000 to play on the defensive side. Krapf won the bidding last year, for about $3,000, to play with the offense.

  • The Packers have four of their 11 draft picks this year under contract after signing the seventh-round duo of running back DeShawn Wynn and tight end Clark Harris on June 20.

    Terms of both deals weren't disclosed.

    The club, meanwhile, released three players: running back Arliss Beach, center Pete Bier and defensive tackle Devarick Scandrett.

    Beach was on injured reserve all of last season after signing as an undrafted free agent. He was beset by a concussion, then a high ankle sprain in the preseason last year.

  • Receiver Carlton Brewster returned to Green Bay after a productive season in NFL Europa.

    Brewster, a starter for Berlin, was second in the league with 548 receiving yards and tied for third with 37 receptions in 10 games.

    The Packers acquired Brewster in a trade with Cleveland late in the preseason last year. After being cut before the start of the regular season, Brewster re-signed with Green Bay in October and spent the rest of the season on the practice squad.

  • Tickets for the intrasquad scrimmage Aug. 4 at Lambeau Field sold out within four days after they went on sale June 16.

    The family-oriented event, which has a ticket price of only $8 and features fireworks after the scrimmage, has been a sellout four times in the seven years it's been held since 1999.

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "I just go into it with a mindset of whatever he has us doing, I do it. I don't care. If he's going to kill us, he kills us. If he doesn't, he doesn't. It's his decision; he's going to make that accordingly. Whatever the schedule says, I don't know if that's how it's going to be. I'm not going to set myself for any false expectations. I'm not even preparing to have any Wednesdays off. I'm preparing to go every day, as long as he wants us to go, and when he wants to stop, he'll tell us to stop." — Linebacker Brady Poppinga on head coach Mike McCarthy's training-camp schedule, which calls for no practice on most Wednesdays.

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