Around the NFC North

WR Marty Booker is used to change as he rejoins the Bears, RB Kevin Jones is experiencing change as he recovers from injury and looks for a new team, and DE Aaron Kampman took time to help others in need. Get intriguing stories from the Vikings' divisional rivals.


If anyone is immune to the possible dysfunctional affects of the Bears' quarterback competition between Rex Grossman and Kyle Orton, it's Marty Booker — a good thing since he's expected to be the go-to guy for whoever wins the job.

Booker has made a career — a pretty successful one — of adapting to whatever situation he's thrown into regardless of who's throwing to him.

In Booker's first two seasons with the Bears, 1999 and 2000, Shane Matthews, Cade McNown and Jim Miller all started games at quarterback. In 2001, it was just Miller and Matthews throwing the ball and Booker caught a team-record 100 passes. The following season, Miller, Chris Chandler, Henry Burris and Cory Sauter all took snaps for a 4-12 team that didn't have much to brag about other than Booker's 97 catches. In 2003, the year before he was traded to the Dolphins for Adewale Ogunleye, Booker caught passes from Chandler, Kordell Stewart and Grossman, including the rookie's first NFL touchdown toss.

The revolving door at quarterback spun even more quickly in Miami.

Cleo Lemon, Trent Green and John Beck each started at least four games last season for Miami. The year before, Lemon, Daunte Culpepper and Joey Harrington all started games. In 2005 it was Gus Frerotte and Sage Rosenfels doing the pitching, and in Booker's first season in South Florida (2004), A.J. Feeley, Jay Fiedler and Rosenfels took turns running the show. None of those nine Dolphins quarterbacks compiled a passer rating of higher than 81.5 in those four years, they had a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 69-77 and they were sacked a total of 160 times.

So Booker isn't stressing over a possible quarterback controversy.

"Dude, in my career I've had like almost 20 different quarterbacks (17 actually), so as far as adjusting to anybody, that's not a problem," he said. "That's the least of everything."

Booker was the Dolphins' leading receiver last season with 50 catches for 556 yards, but he shared the go-to role with, and was sometimes overshadowed by wideout Chris Chambers and tight end Randy McMichael during his first three seasons in Miami.

Although he'll turn 32 during training camp, Booker comes back to the Bears in the same capacity that he left — as the No. 1 receiver.

The Bears lost their top two receivers in the off-season when Bernard Berrian signed with the Vikings and Muhsin Muhammad was released to loosen up the salary cap. Booker was signed to help fill the void.

"Whenever you lose a playmaker it's a little unsettling," Bears coach Lovie Smith said. "But getting Marty Booker back will help."

While the team name is the same, there's no denying that Booker is joining a new Bears team. The only current teammates that Booker played with in his first go-round with the Bears are: Olin Kreutz, Pat Mannelly, Lance Briggs, Brian Urlacher, Alex Brown, Mike Brown, Desmond Clark, Grossman, Hunter Hillenmeyer, Brad Maynard, Jason McKie, Terrence Metcalf and Adrian Peterson. But that's not a problem as Booker sees it.

"It's no different, it's just all this traffic and construction (around Halas Hall)," he said. "It's just a matter of getting in here and learning the plays and getting the playbook down and getting a feel for my new teammates. Whatever's asked of me, I'm ready to do it. I feel good, I'm in good shape and just ready to go."

That doesn't mean Booker expects to duplicate his back-to-back seasons of 2000 and ‘01, when he caught 197 passes for 2,260 yards.

"That was back in my younger days," he laughed. "But if the ball comes my way, I have to catch it, so I'm going to take advantage of every opportunity."

The 6-foot, 210-pound, 10th-year veteran may be a 10th of a second slower in the 40-yard dash, but he has picked up enough knowledge and experience along the way to compensate.

"You learn little stuff," he said. "You learn the different things to make up for the stuff you lost, like speed and physical strength and all that stuff. You get a little bit of the veteran savvy going on. You have to maneuver a certain way, you have to give a little bit of wiggle here and there. There's always things you can come up with that can take the place of all the stuff you lost.

"For me, I think I still got everything, so I don't have to worry about that yet."


  • Middle linebacker Brian Urlacher has boycotted all voluntary off-season activities to get more money than the $18 million the Bears have already offered in a renegotiation of his nine-year, $56.65 contract that still has four years remaining. He did attend last weekend's activities, which are mandatory.

  • Rex Grossman and Kyle Orton, who are competing for the Bears' No. 1 quarterback job, have directed the No. 1 offense on alternate days during the organized team activities.

    Offensive coordinator Ron Turner will be looking for specific attributes from the quarterbacks, but a decision might not be made until well into the preseason.

    "I think the No. 1 thing is decision making," Turner said. "Obviously, they have to have the physical talent to make all the throws, but decision making, accuracy and athletic ability."

  • Shortly after rehabbing a torn ACL in his left knee, Bears' fifth-round draft pick Zackary Bowman suffered a ruptured patellar tendon in his right knee midway through spring practice before his senior season at Nebraska.

    "With the second knee injury, you start questioning yourself like, ‘What did I do? Is it me?'" Bowman said. "But I realized that there was nothing I could do about it. When I hurt both my knees, I was going 100 percent, playing hard and they just happened."

    Because of the severity of the injuries and a senior season that didn't live up to his earlier performances, Bowman plummeted from a possible first-round pick to the 142nd player drafted. But, starting with this weekend's minicamp, Bowman is hoping to prove that he has recaptured his previous performance level. Before the knee surgeries, Bowman was running sub-4.4 40s.

    "I'm getting back to that point," he said. "I feel great. I feel like I felt in 2005. My knees are healthy. It's just about getting them stronger and getting my body to work as one again."

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "For a receiver, I just have to be where I'm supposed to be when I'm supposed to be there and catch the ball for them. It really doesn't matter who is throwing the ball." — Bears free-agent WR Brandon Lloyd on the quarterback competition between Rex Grossman and Kyle Orton.


    Five months after surgery to reconstruct the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, former Lions running back Kevin Jones is running.

    And he isn't just jogging on flat grass.

    He's bursting up hills. He's changing direction — left, right, backward, forward. He looks far ahead of schedule in his recovery, and you have to wonder if he will make the Lions regret cutting him.

    Jones, a first-round pick in 2004 who has suffered two major injuries in two seasons, hopes to show NFL teams that he will be ready for training camp in July and is worth a decent contract. He plans to work out for them June 28.

    "I'm not even worried about my knee," Jones said. "The only thing maybe I have some hesitation about is getting in contact and stuff like that because I haven't done that. But that's just the next hurdle. I've already overcome. As you guys saw today, I was running, sprinting."

    The man working with Jones, Dr. D.S. Ping, has no doubt Jones will be ready.

    "I know the NFL will be shocked," Ping said. "He can go into camp right now, and all he's got to do is learn the plays and just get into more conditioning of football shape in the respect of if they tag him a couple times or what have you."

    Jones suffered a serious injury to his left foot in December 2006. He worked with Ping and came back by Week 3.

    Then he suffered the torn ACL on Dec. 23 against Kansas City and had surgery shortly afterward. Dr. James Andrews of Birmingham, Ala., took part of his patella tendon and reconstructed the ligament.

    Jones said the Lions' doctors told him he would be out about a year.

    "I think they were concerned about my foot and my knee being a factor at the same time, and it kind of just ended on that," Jones said.

    The Lions released Jones in March, even though they had already paid him a $100,000 roster bonus. He said they gave him two reasons: the salary cap and his injuries. He had one year left on his contract and was scheduled to make a base salary of $2.37 million.

    Jones was surprised and disappointed in the decision by president Matt Millen and coach Rod Marinelli.

    "I was upset just because I thought I knew them better than that," Jones said. "I thought Rod and Millen and things like that would give me a chance to come back. Just letting me go when I was hurt kind of pissed me off. But I don't have any animosity. I'll see them again someday on the field or something. I'll take it out then. ...

    "Fair? I'm not going to whine about it being unfair or anything like that. I'm not whining. My focus right now is not even on them. My focus is getting back and getting on a team, getting a chance to start my career over. I'm still young, only 25, so I've got a lot of games left."

    Jones has already visited New England and Tennessee. He said he has received some contract offers, but none good enough. He thinks when teams see how he has recovered, the numbers will rise.

    "I'm not trying to break the bank, but I'm not about to go anywhere just to go, just because there's a team out there and I haven't gotten picked up yet," Jones said. "I know my worth. A lot of the teams know my worth, but they figure, ‘OK, you're hurt right now. We'll bring you in.' They're just going to lowball you. But that's not happening with me.

    "If that's the final thing after they know that I'm healthy and that's all that's out there, am I going to take it? Yeah. I've got to, then at that point. I've still got family to take care of. I'm not going to just sit out.

    "But I'm pretty sure that a team is not going to react that way when they know that I'm working hard and that I've gotten back and I'm healthy and I'm going to be able to contribute. There's no way."


  • When coach Rod Marinelli hired quarterbacks coach Scott Loeffler from Michigan, he remembered he entered the NFL as a longtime college defensive line coach.

    "I didn't coach at this level when I got in this league," said Marinelli, who broke into the NFL as Tampa Bay's defensive line coach in 1996. "When he came and interviewed, he was really sharp, strong, understands what he's teaching and is a very good teacher. That was one thing I wanted more than anything, a guy that could really take a subject, present it on the board and teach well and have a command of the English language. That's really important. He really demonstrated that when he interviewed here."

    Marinelli also was impressed by Loeffler's persistence.

    "I liked that," Marinelli said. "I want a guy that will come after me and be very persistent. That's how much he wants something. He's really a fine young coach."

  • Has Marinelli seen a difference since cleaning out the locker room? "The thing where I see it probably as much as anything is the day-to-day consistency," Marinelli said. "They come out, and they go. I haven't seen a day where ... I'll get on them, but it's more of a mental thing here or a detail there. But the energy they come out with day in and day out, they see what I want, how fast we need to play."

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "A bunch of guys are tight. I just feel it. That really gets tested when we hit adversity. When adversity hits, then we'll see how strong we are. But I believe in my heart we are." — Coach Rod Marinelli, on the Lions' chemistry.


    Aaron Kampman didn't skip the second week of the voluntary organized team activities, but his return to Green Bay from the destruction in which he was immersed gave him pause on what's most important in life.

    The Pro Bowl defensive end and his wife, Linde, were among the hundreds who pitched in to get Parkersburg, Iowa, back on its feet after the tiny town was ravaged by a deadly tornado May 25.

    "As a community, this is a tremendous opportunity to draw close. It's easier to fight back-to-back than on your own," Kampman told the Waterloo-Cedar Falls (Iowa) Courier. "The neat thing is, I was driving through town (May 27), and I saw some American flags raised in the rubble. And I saw hope. You saw people hugging in the streets and pulling together.

    "That's what I'm talking about: Small victories."

    Seven people died in the violent storm — the second deadliest in Iowa since 1950.

    Kampman's hometown, Kelsey, is near Parkersburg. Although Kampman, his wife and their children were unharmed, his 71-year-old grandfather, Claas Kampman, suffered serious injuries when his home in Parkersburg was leveled. Claas underwent surgery but was reportedly in good condition a few days later.

    Aaron Kampman's alma mater, Aplington-Parkersburg High School, took the brunt of the tornado. The school is home to four players in the NFL: Kampman, Denver's Casey Wiegmann, Detroit's Jared DeVries and Jacksonville's Brad Meester.

    Kampman spent his mini-break from OTAs by picking up a chainsaw and assisting with the cleanup efforts in Parkersburg for two days before driving back to Green Bay.

    "The Packers are going to do something (financially to support the recovery efforts)," Kampman said. "This is an opportunity to get as much help (from) all the different circles of influence that people like myself have found themselves in."

    Kampman himself is taking up the cause by working with The Salvation Army in Green Bay to raise funds for Iowa Tornado Assistance. Donations can be mailed to The Salvation Army of Brown County, 626 Union Court, Green Bay, WI 54303.


  • General manager Ted Thompson shook up the front office — in name only.

    Thompson in late May gave some of his right-hand men new titles.

    Longtime club lieutenants Reggie McKenzie, who was the director of pro personnel, and John Schneider, previously the personnel analyst to Thompson, are sharing the title of football operations director. Both McKenzie and Schneider are highly regarded in league circles and have been in the running in the past for GM posts elsewhere.

    Tim Terry and Eliot Wolf, who had been aides to McKenzie, were promoted to the same role of assistant director of pro personnel. Wolf is the son of retired Packers GM Ron Wolf.

    Jon-Eric Sullivan, who was Green Bay's representative for National Football Scouting, now is the team's area scout for the mid-South region.

    Richmond Williams was hired as a college scout and assumes Sullivan's former duties.

    "These title changes are more of an acknowledgment of the various duties these individuals already perform in our personnel department," Thompson said. "Reggie and John, along with our director of college scouting, John Dorsey, will continue to be leaders in player personnel with the Packers."

  • The Packers on May 22 signed undrafted tight end Evan Moore. The 6-6, 237-pound Moore is a converted receiver out of Stanford.

  • The Packers released their training camp schedule May 29.

    Players will report July 27 for physicals and conditioning tests, then take to the field the morning of July 28. The day is the first of five scheduled morning/evening two-a-days in the first two weeks of camp.

    The team has eight evening practices on the docket, including the Family Night Scrimmage at Lambeau Field on Aug. 3 that is expected to be a sellout again.

    The Packers are in the midst of organized team activities, which conclude June 12. Their last on-field work before training camp will be the mandatory minicamp, June 17-19.

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "There's so much devastation, you can't look at the big picture. You've got to look at the small victories. That's been (the residents') rallying cry." — Defensive end Aaron Kampman on the aftermath of the May 25 tornado in Parkersburg, Iowa, which is near Kampman's hometown of Kelsey.

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