NFC North News, Notes and Quotes

The Bears have an expensive secondary, the Lions are hoping some unusual therapy will help a running back return to full strength for the season opener, and the Packers offense came together for at least one game this preseason. Get news, notes and quotes from the Vikings divisional rivals.

The six-year, $41 million contract CB Charles Tillman said he signed shortly before training camp began put him in a much higher tax bracket, but the fifth-year veteran said it hasn't changed him.

"I don't think it changed me as a person, as a player or as a teammate," he said. "I'm going to come out here and work hard every day. I'm going to go full speed. I'm trying to get better, trying to help the team win. I'm going to do my small part.

"I feel that I've still got to pay my dues. Obviously I must have done something right for the Bears to come in and re-sign me, so I just have to keep doing what I've been doing in the past and that's just work hard and pay the price."

Paying for anything is a lot easier these days for Tillman, who said he doesn't believe he and Vasher, who recently signed a five-year, $28 million deal, have to justify their salaries.

"I don't think we have to prove anything to anybody," Tillman said. "I just think he needs to go out there and play well, I need to go out there and play well and the rest will take care of itself."

  • Bears coach Lovie Smith is more confident in the depth of his roster than at any time in his four years as the Bears' head coach.

    "It's the deepest one we've had," he said. "We have to see how it turns out, but we talked a lot about getting our 53-man roster as strong as we could. I would definitely say that is the case. We have good backups. You want to get in a situation where, if you have injuries, it's not a big drop-off. I think we're getting closer to that."

  • Neither CB Charles Tillman nor WR Devin Hester held a grudge a day after their tiff at the end of a practice last week.

    "I think y'all are hyping it up more than really what it is," Tillman said of the tussle. "Don't instigate nothing. It wasn't nothing extra; it wasn't none of that. It was just two guys competing and got caught up in the moment, which is uncalled for by him and myself. It shouldn't have happened. We're over it, it's in the past, there's no hard feelings. Everything was left on the field. That's it."

    Hester missed practice the next day with a tender hamstring unrelated to his skirmish with Tillman. The fleet wideout believes he's benefited from practicing against Tillman's physical style during camp, since that will be one tactic that opponents use to neutralize his speed in the regular season. But last week it went too far.

    "It got a little too physical," Hester said, "and there's only so much that can happen. But, at the same time, we're trying to better each other and get prepared for the season.

    "He gave me an apology. We're teammates, we're brothers, and we're both on the same team, so we're going to see each other every day. At the end of the day, I stated, ‘My bad.' "

  • FS Mike Brown didn't get to play in Super Bowl XLI because of a foot injury that required surgery, and he has no desire to watch a replay of the Bears' 29-17 loss.

    "Every time we see a clip of it, we're all groaning," Brown said. "We don't like looking at it. Very rarely will we even turn it on, even when we're watching film for corrections or anything. We've seen maybe 10 plays of it, just to see what we could have done better and things like that. I know I haven't watched the full game over again. Why? Why would you want to see that?"

  • DE Mark Anderson continues to show that he's more than the impact pass rusher who led the Bears with 12 sacks last season as a rookie.

    When the offense tried to get slick during one of the final training camp practices with a reverse to Devin Hester, Anderson sniffed it out and was there for what would have been a 10-yard loss in a full-contact situation.

    "Devin Hester is a heck of an athlete; Mark Anderson is, too," coach Lovie Smith said. "We expect plays like that from Mark, and of course we know he's capable."

    Despite common perception, Smith said Anderson, a fifth-round draft pick, has always been an effective player vs. the run.

    "We gave him a limited number of reps (last season), and he was productive with it, and I think playing more will only get a lot more big plays from him," Smith said. "I think it's a misconception that he can't play the run (just) because he's such a good pass rusher."

  • The Bears and Olivet Nazarene University officials are currently negotiating an extension with the second three-year agreement coming to a close with Saturday's final training camp practice, which is closed to the public and the media.

    There won't be any debate about the success of the 2007 camp, considering the total attendance figures have been at least equal to and perhaps superior the first year, previously the most popular, when an estimated total of 130,000 attended.

    "Some feel it's been equal to that; some feel that it's been more," said ONU's training camp liaison Gary Griffin. "It's kind of hard to know for sure. I just know based on parking and on how early fans have been getting here (often 2-3 hours before practice starts), it definitely rivals the first year."

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "Bernard (Berrian) and Devin (Hester) are going to score a lot of points as I see it this year. Both are definitely deep threats that can do a lot with the football." — Bears coach Lovie Smith.

    BATTLE OF THE WEEK: Defensive end — Alex Brown came to camp as an angry man, having lost his starting spot on the right side to mark Anderson, but he seemed in a much better mood after Friday's penultimate practice.

    "You know what, I'm fine," he said. "We've got a great team here. We'll all play; the coaches have shown that, and we'll see what happens after that."

    Brown should get plenty of snaps, filling in for Anderson and DE Adewale Ogunleye in what is expected to be a three-man rotation. Brown, who at one point seemed to be coveting a trade, is optimistic about the Bears' chances of taking the final step this season.

    "I want to win the Super Bowl," he said, "and to go anywhere else, I don't think there's another team out there that can beat us. We'd have to stop ourselves. At every position we've got somebody that can totally take over a game and dominate (on) offense, defense and special teams. So we've got chance. There's some things you can't control, (like) injuries, but we've been fortunate to get out of training camp (so far) without any injuries."

    OTHER BATTLE FRONTS: Slot receiver — With all the attention on Devin Hester's conversion to wide receiver and the addition of rookie TE Greg Olsen plus the competition between Muhsin Muhammad and Bernard Berrian for top billing in the passing game, Rashied Davis has been almost invisible.

    Like Hester, Davis made the cornerback-to-wide receiver switch in 2006 and finished fourth on the team with 303 receiving yards on 22 catches, including the game-winning touchdown against the Vikings with 1:54 left on Sept. 24. But, with Hester pushing for playing time behind Berrian and Muhammad, Davis isn't guaranteed of anything this season.

    He caught just one pass for two yards in the first preseason game, and even in practice, it seems that half the passes are directed toward Hester or Olsen with just an occasional toss to Davis.

    "I had a feeling that was going to happen," the former Arena League MVP said. "You never know. Anything can happen. You just have to be prepared if it does happen. Hopefully (in a worst-case scenario) another team wants you, and you go on and try to play."

    But it doesn't sound like the Bears are ready to let Davis get away, even if he isn't one of the marquee players. Undersized at 5-9, 187, Davis' skill set still makes him perfectly suited to play in the slot as a third receiver in passing situations, a niche he carved out last season.

    "Rashied Davis is a football player," Bears wide receivers coach Darryl Drake said. "He's demonstrated the ability to make plays in that particular position. He's very, very hard to cover with his quickness, and he can make breaks really fast. You want a guy in there that can do those particular things. With the things that we do in our offensive scheme, and the quick moves that that inside guy has to make, we've got the ideal guy in there right now in Rashied."

    PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Bernard Berrian made back-to-back crowd-pleasing grabs in front of another large crowd of sweaty onlookers during one of the Bears' final training camp practices last week. Berrian displayed his vertical leaping ability to snag a bullet from Rex Grossman that appeared to be way overthrown. On the next snap, the fourth-year wide receiver streaked past CB Charles Tillman and ran under a perfectly thrown deep ball from Grossman. A day earlier, Berrian got far enough behind SS Adam Archuleta that he was able to slow down and wait at the goal line for another Grossman bomb one play after Devin Hester hauled in a 65-yard TD pass. After scoring, Berrian ran to the goalpost and dunked the ball over the crossbar as another crowd of several thousand applauded. "They love to see us throw the ball deep, and I like seeing the ball thrown deep," coach Lovie Smith said. "On the other side, of course, defensively, we can't give up those type of big plays."

    ROOKIE REPORT: While TE Greg Olsen continues to impress with his pass catching and ability to stretch the field, his fellow rookies did not enjoy an impressive week. ... DE Dan Bazuin is still struggling to make up for lost time and overcome a pair of knee injuries that kept him out of OTAs and much of training camp. ... LB Michael Okwo is nowhere close to Jamar Williams when it comes to challenging for the top backup job. ... RB Garrett Wolfe remains in the plans as a change-of-pace guy, but he hasn't blown anyone away yet, although his quickness is impressive. ... CB Trumaine McBride has been one of the surprises of camp, but he spent the final training camp practices in a walking boot, hobbled by an injured toe.


    Offensive coordinator Mike Martz is optimistic RB Kevin Jones will return from his foot injury for the regular-season opener Sept. 9 at Oakland. "I think we're all optimistic about that," Martz said. "I think Kevin is, too. We'll see. It doesn't mean he is. He's making good progress, and we're all anxious to have him back."

    Jones sought some unusual therapy for his foot in the offseason. Maybe three times a week, he would drive about an hour, go down into an Asian man's basement and undergo heat acupuncture.

    "It's not conventional or traditional," Jones said with a laugh. "I just was willing to try kind of like anything because I was, you know, hurting. ... That's one of the reasons why my recovery is speeding up so good."

  • Is there a leader in the backup QB battle between J.T. O'Sullivan and Dan Orlovsky? "Oh, I'm not concerned about that in the least," Martz said. "They're both playing so good, I could care less about it. We don't have to make that decision for a long time. I'm not even worried about it. I don't even think about that, to be honest with you."

  • WR Calvin Johnson has pleased Mike Martz to date.

    "He's done a good job," Martz said. "He's pretty close right now. For a guy with all the information swimming around in his head, he's really on top of everything. I'm kind of amazed at him, really. Every day he just amazes you. He just does. He's pretty special."

  • Defensive coordinator Joe Barry is encouraging competition. "The depth chart that we have posted in the locker room, it's on paper," Barry said. "I printed it off my computer. It can be changed. It can be altered. It's not carved in stone. It's not carved in wood. So every day is an audition. Every day is a job interview. ... Nothing motivates a player more than the guy that's behind him. ... I don't want guys to get comfortable in their roles. It's all about competition, and that's definitely what we're in right now."

  • Commissioner Roger Goodell visited Lions headquarters and praised the direction of the organization. He also praised defensive line coach Joe Cullen for turning around his life after two arrests last year — one for driving in the nude, one for drunken driving. Coach Rod Marinelli explained why he stuck by Cullen: "I just knew it was the right thing to do. I knew it. You have to try to do right. To everybody else it may look wrong. I don't care. In my heart, I felt that was the right thing to do. I make my decision and I move on; got cotton in my ears and go forward. He's doing great, he really is doing good, he really is and boy that's a great feeling when you can see a man change his life. The game of football is important to him, and he's changed his life."

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "Oh, it feels good to play against the best. They won it last year, and I want to see what they got." — LB Ernie Sims, on playing the Super Bowl champion Colts in Indianapolis in the Lions' third exhibition.

    OTHER BATTLE FRONTS: Eddie Drummond still isn't getting work at receiver, but he continues to be the main return man. ... Offensive coordinator Mike Martz says he isn't worried about the backup quarterback job because J.T. O'Sullivan and Dan Orlovsky are playing so well.

    PLAYER OF THE WEEK: QB Jon Kitna — He played the entire first half of the second exhibition, and his passer rating was 121.1. He went 12 for 16 for 137 yards and a touchdown. "He was very, very good with the ball, extremely good with the ball, putting it on target well," Marinelli said. "I thought our offense really had a nice tempo and a nice pace to it."

    ROOKIE REPORT: WR Calvin Johnson continues to impress and likely will be a starter soon. ... DE Ikaika Alama-Francis got a start on the right side with Kalimba Edwards (ankle) injured, but will mostly play on the left side. ... S Gerald Alexander showed up with an interception in the second exhibition. ... LB Johnny Baldwin is showing the raw athleticism the Lions liked when they drafted him, but he needs to learn the defense better. ... CB A.J. Davis seems to be struggling. ... CB Ramzee Robinson has progressed but has a long way to go. ... OL Manny Ramirez seems stout.


    QB Brett Favre and the No. 1 offense made a quantum leap in the space of a week.

    After failing to pick up a first down and having a net gain of only three yards in four possessions during the preseason opener Aug. 11 at Pittsburgh, the top unit carved out some success in the Packers' 48-13 annihilation of Seattle on Aug. 18 at Lambeau Field. It racked up 112 yards and scored three times in four series before Favre stepped aside for Aaron Rodgers in the second quarter.

    "Just rhythm and timing," said head coach Mike McCarthy, touching on the difference for the starting group in its second go-around. "We had the three-and-out (in the first possession), but I thought they finally got into a rhythm. And, just like anything, when you're running the football, it makes your play-action game so much more successful."

    While Favre started to click with his receivers, completing seven of 12 passes for 74 yards and a touchdown, rookie Brandon Jackson settled in as the starter at halfback for the second straight game.

    Jackson was more assertive than the previous week with his first cut in the zone-blocking scheme and hit holes hard. He averaged 4.2 yards in 13 first-half carries and put the Packers ahead to stay at 10-3 with a 1-yard touchdown plunge.

    "I just feel a lot more comfortable now," Jackson said.

    Projected starter Vernand Morency has yet to play in the preseason because of a knee injury, and his return by the final exhibition game Aug. 30 at Tennessee is questionable. Consequently, Jackson, a second-round draft pick, would be in line to be the opening-day starter.

    Fellow rookie James Jones, meanwhile, continues to make plays and has the No. 3 job locked up, if not possibly moving up to the No. 2 role by the end of the preseason. Favre hooked up with Jones for a 16-yard touchdown at the outset of the second quarter, the last of 21 plays initiated by the quarterback.

    Maligned tight end Bubba Franks also was a catalyst in the passing game early on, with four catches for 30 yards.

    "We executed better. Last week, we didn't execute very well," Favre said. "Guys made some plays. Bubba got involved. We had a better tempo. We just made plays. There's no secret to it."

  • Second-year CB Jarrett Bush helped his cause for winning the nickel cornerback job with two interceptions in the Aug. 18 game against Seattle.

    Bush, though, was kicking himself afterward because he dropped what should have been a third pick in the third quarter.

    "I was sick to my stomach when that happened," Bush said. "I've got to make that play. It was just a mistake. I'll try to make it next time."

    LB Nick Barnett hinted that the drop could be a costly one in the pocketbook for Bush.

    "I think they've got a little fine system," Barnett said of the defensive backs. "We're happy he (intercepted the) two. (But) whatever that little dance he was doing on the sideline, I'm sure that made him tired. It's probably why he missed that third one."

  • The electric performance against the Seahawks on a rainy night was one for the Packers' illustrious record book.

    Green Bay last racked up 48 points in a preseason game on Sept. 5, 1938, when it blitzed the Cedar Rapids Crush 75-0 in Ironwood, Mich.

    The 48 points, though, were the most produced by the Packers against an opponent from the National Football League in any preseason game.

  • The Packers come off the big victory on a short week of prep time for their next opponent.

    They had single practices scheduled for Aug. 20 and 21 before they host Jacksonville in a nationally televised game Aug. 23.

    Green Bay ends the preseason schedule Aug. 30 at Tennessee.

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "I go out there and play football. All of the proving is done to me. I feel like I will never have to prove myself. It feels good to kind of be on the same page with (quarterback) Brett (Favre), just to get his confidence level back up. Mine has always been up. Just to get his back up with me, it felt pretty good." — Bubba Franks, who had a co-game-high four catches for 30 yards in the Packers' 48-13 win over Seattle on Aug. 18. Franks, a three-time Pro Bowl tight end, is coming off his worst season as a pro.

    BATTLE OF THE WEEK: Will Blackmon vs. Greg Jennings vs. David Clowney vs. James Jones vs. Charles Woodson for the primary return job — In the wake of a potentially long-term knee injury sustained by top kickoff returner Shaun Bodiford to start the preseason game Aug. 18, Blackmon literally went a long way toward probably wrapping up the dual role of kickoff and punt returner. The second-year cornerback ripped off an 83-yard kickoff return in the first quarter, setting up a go-ahead, 1-yard touchdown run by Brandon Jackson in the 48-13 rout of the Seahawks. On his next touch of the football, Blackmon had a 16-yard punt return. "He fields the ball good. He has a knack for getting loose. He's a powerful kid," special teams coordinator Mike Stock said. The speedy Blackmon essentially is a redshirt freshman in the league after being limited to four games last year because of foot and rib injuries. Punt-return candidates Jennings and Woodson are injury prone, so the team wants to preserve them for their respective starting duties at receiver and cornerback. Likewise, the team prefers not to expose rookie Jones, who has emerged as the No. 3 receiver. Stock said Woodson could be used on punt returns on a situational basis. Clowney is as fast as Blackmon but has yet to stand out on kickoff returns to this point, and the rookie receiver isn't a good bet to make the team right now.

    OTHER BATTLE FRONTS: Jarrett Bush vs. Patrick Dendy vs. Will Blackmon vs. Frank Walker at nickel cornerback — Bush should have the inside track for the job after building on a solid preseason with two interceptions in the Aug. 18 win over Seattle. His ball skills are a cut above the others. However, he dropped a gimme third interception in the game. ... Dave Rayner vs. Mason Crosby for kicker — The two combatants had plenty of opportunities to work on their extra-point kicks in the 48-13 pounding of the Seahawks. Crosby was given first chance in a field-goal situation and made his only attempt, from 37 yards. Rayner later converted a chip shot of 24 yards. Both were equally strong, as usual, on kickoffs. So far, rookie Crosby has a slight edge on incumbent Rayner after each has kicked more than 100 field goals in team situations at practice. ... Donald Lee vs. Bubba Franks for the starting tight end job — Perhaps Franks is ready to reclaim the starting job he lost after seven years. Able to see better after scrapping a protective shield he had been wearing in practice because of a scratched cornea, vintage Franks was on display early in the last game, catching three passes from Brett Favre and picking up two first downs in just one series. Franks finished with four receptions for 30 yards, a week after he dropped the only pass thrown his way. Lee, meanwhile, didn't have a catch in making a second straight start.

    PLAYER OF THE WEEK: S Atari Bigby made a greater impact in three plays against Seattle on Aug. 18 than starter Maquand Manuel did all of last season. Bigby's play means Manuel could be on the way out, not only from the starting role at strong safety but from the team altogether. Bigby is relentless and explosive playing up near the line, which enabled defensive coordinator Bob Sanders to turn him loose as a blitzer against Seahawks QBs Seneca Wallace and David Greene. Bigby, lined up with the linebackers, had a 10-yard running head start to gain liftoff from the ground and fly down on a helpless Wallace in the pocket, forcing a fumble that was returned for a touchdown by LB Tracy White. Bigby had two sacks and a quarterback hurry by halftime. "He definitely stood out," head coach Mike McCarthy said. Bigby started receiving some reps ahead of Manuel with the No. 1 unit earlier in the week, signaling perhaps the beginning of the phasing out of Manuel.

    ROOKIE REPORT: DT Justin Harrell (first round) continues to be listed as a starter on the depth chart, but he's no better than fifth at the position. Harrell continues to run with the second- and third-stringers and had only one tackle with a pass breakup in the Aug. 18 preseason win over Seattle. ... RB Brandon Jackson (second round) started for the second straight game and was highly productive with 13 carries for 54 yards, including a 1-yard touchdown, in playing just the first half. Jackson was decisive in making the first cut on most of his runs and accelerated through a few holes. ... WR James Jones (third round) had 58 receiving yards for the second straight game, hauling in four passes. Jones led the scoring barrage against the Seahawks with two touchdown receptions — a 16-yard catch-and-run on a throw from Brett Favre and a nifty 7-yard grab in the back of the end zone on a low throw from Aaron Rodgers. ... G Allen Barbre (fourth round) is entrenched as the No. 2 left guard. He has added value as an athletic special-teams contributor. ... FB Korey Hall (sixth round) started for the second straight game in place of an injured Brandon Miree. Hall played more than he was slated for because fellow rookie Ryan Powdrell suffered a knee injury in the second quarter. ... LB Desmond Bishop (sixth round) remains ahead of Abdul Hodge as the top backup to MLB Nick Barnett. ... K Mason Crosby (sixth round) is statistically ahead of incumbent Dave Rayner in training camp thus far, based on field-goal attempts. Crosby made his only field-goal try, from 37 yards, in the Aug. 18 game. ... RB DeShawn Wynn (seventh round) missed his second straight game because of a strained quadriceps. The injury has kept Wynn out since Aug. 7.

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