NFC North News, Notes and Quotes

The Bears are supposed to have an open quarterback competition, but will they really? The Lions have been trying to debunk trade rumors, and the Packers' players are still coping with the retirement of Brett Favre. Get news, notes and quotes from the Vikings' NFC North rivals.

CHICAGO BEARS

Bears offensive coordinator Ron Turner moved quickly to correct an apparent misstatement by recently acquired free-agent wide receiver Brandon Lloyd, who said he had been told that Rex Grossman was the Bears' No. 1 quarterback.

Actually the Bears have portrayed the quarterback competition as an even-up battle between Grossman and Kyle Orton.

"Brandon said that he assumed it was going to be Rex," Turner said. "I just want to clarify that. You guys know the situation. It's an open competition. Both guys have been told that. When I talked to Brandon about the quarterback situation, I talked about both guys, about Rex Grossman and Kyle. I feel we've got two guys that can get the ball to all of our receivers."

Maybe Lloyd really did misspeak, or maybe the Bears' quarterback competition won't be as even as coaches say.

  • Rex Grossman was just a rookie in Marty Booker's last year with the Bears, but they have some history together. Booker caught Grossman's first touchdown pass.

    "I think Rex has done a real good job there," Booker said. "He's gotten a lot of backlash about injuries and staying healthy. But I think Rex is a good player. The time I was there, I really liked Rex. Unfortunately, I had to leave, (but) I thought we would be a good connection. By coming back, hopefully we can get that connection rekindled."

    First Grossman will have to win a battle with Kyle Orton for the starting job, but quarterback uncertainty is nothing new to Booker. In the past two seasons, he has caught passes from Cleo Lemon, John Beck, Trent Green, Daunte Culpepper and Joey Harrington.

  • Neither Bears coach Lovie Smith nor offensive coordinator Ron Turner will divulge a timetable for selecting a starting quarterback, even if one exists, but both insist the candidates will compete on a level playing field.

    "Both guys are going to have an opportunity to show what they can do, working with the No. 1s, working with the No. 2s, getting equal reps," Turner said. "We'll just see who comes out and runs the offense the best and the most consistently."

  • Restricted free agent wide receiver Rashied Davis, who caught 17 passes as a part-time slot receiver last season, has drawn interest from several other teams and could be leaving soon. Since he was given the lowest tender offer by the Bears ($927,000) and was not drafted, they will receive no compensation for his loss.

  • The Bears have yet to make a move toward rebuilding an offense line that was subpar last season and has since lost the services of two veteran starters, right tackle Fred Miller (released) and left guard Ruben Brown (not re-signed).

    Only a few free agents who might be able to help remain on the market, and the Bears have yet to express an interest in any of them.

    Nothing has been done to improve the weak running back situation.

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "Rex Grossman is the starter. Coach Ron Turner (offensive coordinator) and coach Lovie (Smith) think very highly of him." — Recently acquired wide receiver Brandon Lloyd (mistakenly) discussing the Bears' quarterback situation, which coaches have said is up for grabs between Grossman and Kyle Orton


    DETROIT LIONS

    Trade rumors continue to swirl around wide receiver Roy Williams. President Matt Millen has said he will listen to any offer for anyone, but the Lions want to keep Williams.

    At the NFL scouting combine, coach Rod Marinelli said he wanted Williams to team with Calvin Johnson the way Plaxico Burress and Amani Toomer teamed for the New York Giants. "I know the rumors are out there, but no," Marinelli said. "Those two guys together, I want to see those guys where they can really impact the game."

    So Marinelli doesn't see a scenario where Williams is not back with the Lions?

    "I don't," Marinelli said. "I'm very confident he's here. Very confident."

  • The Lions have revamped the weakest part of the team — the secondary. They have released Fernando Bryant; kept Travis Fisher and Keith Smith; and added Leigh Bodden, Brian Kelly, Dwight Smith and Kalvin Pearson.

    But they still have some big holes to fill on defense. They lack two key pieces of the Tampa Two — an elite pass rusher and a middle linebacker who can cover a ton of territory.

    They also need to solidify the right side of their offensive line at a time when they plan to run the ball more. And running back vaulted up the need list with the release of Kevin Jones.

  • Linebacker Boss Bailey left the Lions as a free agent, joining Pro Bowl brother Champ in Denver. He signed a five-year contract worth as much as $20.5 million with $4.1 million guaranteed, despite not living up to expectations in Detroit. The Lions drafted Bailey in the second round in 2003. The 6-foot-3, 235-pounder showed a lot of athleticism but didn't make enough plays. When coach Rod Marinelli arrived in 2006 and installed the Tampa Two defense, the Lions tried to move Bailey to middle linebacker because they liked his running ability and thought he could cover a lot of ground. It didn't work. Bailey moved back to the strong side, and the Lions are still looking for a middle linebacker.

  • Running back Kevin Jones was cut in a surprise move. Jones is rehabbing from knee surgery, and it hasn't been known whether he'll be healthy in time for training camp. In four seasons with the Lions, he rushed for 3,067 yards on 750 carries with 24 touchdowns.

  • Defensive end Kalimba Edwards, who has 26 career sacks, was cut by the Lions. Even with Edwards coming off a highly disappointing 2007 season in which he had just 3.0 sacks, it's a bit of a surprise move considering Detroit's dearth of pass rushers.

  • New defensive tackle Chuck Darby went to South Carolina State, the same school that produced former Lions defensive end Robert Porcher. "He's a legend," Darby has said. "Robert Porcher is someone I've always looked up to and someone I always wanted to play like in college. He's a good person and a good player."

  • Tight end Michael Gaines says he's bringing energy to the Lions. "I have a lot of energy, and also in the running game I'm known to block pretty well," Gaines said. "We have some great running backs, so we need to get it going. So I'm just bringing me and all my energy and my skills."

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "It wasn't like teams were outplaying us or beating us. We just gave it away in a number of instances. I think the (2008 team) is going to be better." — QB Jon Kitna, telling the "The Huge Show" about last year's 1-7 finish.


    GREEN BAY PACKERS

  • Receiver Donald Driver had a selfish reason for wanting Brett Favre to come back for another season.

    In his nine-year pro career with the Packers to this point, all with Favre as the starting quarterback, Driver has positioned himself as one of the club's most prolific pass catchers. Driver has 503 receptions to rank third in team annals. He trails No. 2 James Lofton by 27 and leader Sterling Sharpe by 92.

    Unfortunately for Driver in his pursuit of the record, Favre informed the team in early March he was retiring.

    "It would've been a great duo to do that," Driver said. "But, now, I've got to do it with A-Rod."

    A-Rod is Favre's heir apparent, Aaron Rodgers, who will finally get his chance to be the full-time guy under center after three years in wait as a first-round draft pick.

    Driver said he learned of Favre's retirement shortly after the news broke on the morning of March 4 while in Mexico with his wife to mark their wedding anniversary. Driver received a text message on his cell phone from a friend and was surprised by Favre's decision.

    "I'm going to miss him a lot," Driver said. "We go back (nine) years. ... When I first walked in here in 1999, I was so star-shocked when I saw him. He threw me my first ball, I ran up to him and gave him the ball back. He smiled and said, ‘Donald, you're going to get plenty more of those.' That's the thing that I'll miss more about him — just his character, the way he plays the game."

  • Upon returning home from the getaway and digesting what Favre had to say in his farewell news conference March 6 in Green Bay, Driver said he believes his former teammate when he said he's done playing. What's more, Driver doesn't expect to see Favre return for any team-related functions at least initially next season, which Favre suggested that he would.

    "In his interview I was laughing because he was talking about coming back (to be an honorary guest) for the coin toss," Driver said. "The first thing I said, ‘He ain't coming back for no coin toss.' He's going to be a ghost. I think that's the thing, that he has to get away from the game for a while."

  • TE Bubba Frank has agreed to a one-year, $1.7 million deal with the Jets. Franks has been slowed in recent years by knee problems, but remains a strong blocking tight end and the Jets hope he will provide a receiving threat opposite starter Chris Baker as well.

  • Head coach Mike McCarthy rounded out his coaching staff March 7 by hiring Joe Whitt Jr. as defensive quality control coach and Mondray Gee as a strength-and-conditioning assistant.

    Whitt was Atlanta's assistant defensive backs coach last season.

    Gee was a strength-and-conditioning assistant with Detroit the last seven years.

  • The Packers begin their offseason workout program March 17, with the arrival of the quarterbacks and their first- and second-year players. The older players will report for workouts March 31.

  • Other than the well-chronicled retirement by quarterback Brett Favre, the purported retirement by long snapper Rob Davis and the trade of defensive tackle Corey Williams to Cleveland for a second-round draft pick this year, the Packers have been quiet in the offseason thus far.

    They're well-armed with salary-cap room of about $30 million, thanks in big part to Favre's walking away from a $12 million salary this year, but GM Ted Thompson isn't in a rush to make any acquisitions from the available pool of free agents. The only activity that could happen between now and the draft in late April is landing a quarterback to back up new starter Aaron Rodgers.

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "I don't think there is any doubt that he will go down as the greatest player in the history of this wonderful organization, and his accomplishments for the Packers will be treasured forever. I always told people I thought it was such an honor to watch him play, and I said, ‘You know we're all going to look back someday and say how fortunate we were to see Brett Favre and this wonderful career and that the last time he went down the tunnel, it would be a sad day for the Green Bay Packers but it would also be a sad day for the National Football League,' and I truly feel that way. He brought enthusiasm to the game, almost a child-like atmosphere, and he had fun doing it. I think fans appreciated that. It took some of the professional out of the NFL, and sometimes, I think we need that - having a good time playing. Greatest competitor I've ever been around." — Retired Packers chairman of the board Bob Harlan on the legacy of retired quarterback Brett Favre.


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