NFC North News, Notes and Quotes

The frustrated Bears have given up on troubled Tank Johnson, the Lions' coaching toughness shows through with a story of Rod Marinelli wrestling a bear, and – surprise – Brett Favre is evasive about his future. Get offseason news, notes and quotes from the Vikings' divisional rivals.


This time the Bears aren't giving Tank Johnson another chance to con them into believing he's sincere about changing his wayward lifestyle.

Johnson was cut Monday, three days after he was detained by police in Gilberts, Ariz. He was originally stopped for doing 40 miles an hour in a 25 mph zone at 3:30 a.m. Friday and then arrested for "DUI Impaired to the Slightest Degree" but was released without being booked or charged according to police spokesman Sgt. Andrew Duncan, although officials drew blood for a blood-alcohol content test before his release. Those results aren't expected for several days.

Johnson was released from Cook County Jail May 13 after serving 60 days of a 120-day sentence for a probation violation stemming from a gun charge. On June 3, he was suspended by the NFL without pay for the first eight games of the 2007 regular season for violating the league's personal conduct policy. Commissioner Roger Goodell said Johnson's suspension would be reduced to six games if he had "no further adverse involvement with police."

Johnson gave every indication that he would comply with all the terms of his suspension and be back with the Bears after six games.

"The bottom line is I'm a professional," Johnson said, "and anytime you're a professional, you have to deal with adverse situations. I firmly believe that having to sit out for six games is going to only give me time to get better."

But it took the troubled defensive tackle less than 48 hours after the end of the Bears' spring practices to mess that up.

"I want to thank the Bears' organization and fans for their support during this difficult time," Johnson said Monday in a statement issued by his lawyer, Lorna Propes. "I regret that I have to leave Chicago under these circumstances, and wish my friends at the Chicago Bears nothing but the best."

Whether Johnson ultimately serves six games, eight games or even more as the result of his latest transgression, it won't matter to the Bears, who have clearly grown weary of being made to look foolish by Johnson's inability to take advantage of numerous second chances.

"We are upset and embarrassed by Tank's actions last week," Bears general manager Jerry Angelo said. "He compromised the credibility of our organization. We made it clear to him that he had no room for error. Our goal was to help someone through a difficult period in his life, but the effort needs to come from both sides. It didn't, and we have decided to move on."

Angelo was livid last Dec. 16 when, 12 hours after Johnson was arrested following a police raid of his Gurnee home that resulted in six weapons misdemeanors, the former second-round draft pick partied at a River North nightclub where his boyhood friend and live-in bodyguard, Willie B. Posey, was shot to death as he watched. The weapons violations, which stemmed from not having valid Illinois Firearm Owner's Identification Cards, constituted a violation of his probation on an earlier gun charge.

That was the result of Johnson's 2005 arrest after a Chicago nightclub valet reported seeing him with a handgun in his SUV. He subsequently pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge.

While Johnson was in jail, he was visited by several members of the Bears' organization including Angelo, coach Lovie Smith, chairman of the board Michael McCaskey and several teammates.

"A lot of people within our organization gave extra time and energy to support Tank: players, coaches and our front office," Smith said. "We did our best to establish an environment for him to move forward. Ultimately, Tank needed to live up to his side of the deal."

One of those teammates who made repeated visits to Johnson while he was incarcerated was cornerback Nate Vasher, whose five-year contract extension on Monday was overshadowed by the dumping of Johnson.

"As far as (Johnson's) situation now, it's very unfortunate," Vasher said. "Tank is one of my closest friends here in Chicago. It's really hard to see him go through some of the things that he has. But I think the Bears were kind of pushed into a corner because we had been able to support him throughout this whole ordeal. I think you have to be accountable for your actions, and the Chicago Bears had to do what was needed."

Johnson had proclaimed when his suspension was announced that he wanted someday to win the NFL's Man of the Year award and to serve as an example for other players hoping to overcome off-the-field adversity. As recently as three weeks ago, when Johnson spoke following the suspension announcement, teammates and others in the organization were still buying into his con game.

"I am surprised because I was really convinced that Tank had more than thought about the time he did in prison or just every other compromising situation that he has been in, not to jeopardize that any further," Vasher said. "It's disheartening for something like that to happen."

Johnson, 25, had two seasons remaining on his original rookie contract with Chicago, at base salaries of $510,000 for 2007 and $548,750 in 2008. If another NFL team picks up Johnson, he still will have to serve whatever suspension Goodell ultimately decides on, and there is little or no chance Johnson will get any up-front bonus money that won't be tightly bound to a behavior clause.


Detroit Lions 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.


    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.

  • Defensive tackle Justin Harrell is expected to have the green light for a full practice when training camp opens July 28.

    Harrell, the team's first-round draft pick this year, was limited to individual drills during the May minicamps and subsequent organized team activities. The medical staff erred on the side of caution with Harrell, who suffered a ruptured biceps tendon early last season at Tennessee.

    Defensive end Aaron Kampman (knee) and safety Marviel Underwood (knee) also should be ready for the start of training camp after being held out of offseason

  • 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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