For the first time in five years, quarterback Rex Grossman isn't No. 1 on the Bears' depth chart. He and Kyle Orton are alternating practice days running the first-team offense, and the competition is expected to extend into the preseason.
Grossman is coming off an inconsistent 2007 season when he was benched early for poor play but performed better when given a second chance, although not well enough to be given the starting job.
"I think I have a little bit of a chip on my shoulder striving to prove myself in this league and get myself over that hump to become a great quarterback in this league consistently," said Grossman, who has often mixed exceptional and horrendous games throughout his first five seasons. "I'm working as hard as I can to get there. There's a lot in front of me, but I feel I can handle everything that's thrown at me."
There has already been unsubstantiated speculation in both directions that the Bears are leaning toward one quarterback over the other, but Grossman is focusing on what he can control.
"It is what it is," he said of the competition. "I'm doing my job and not commenting on anything else. I'm really just focused on me getting better."
Both quarterbacks are working with a wide receiver unit in transition. Veteran free agents Marty Booker and Brandon Lloyd were added earlier in the offseason, and rookie Earl Bennett was drafted in the third round. All three could be major players in a revamped offense, which means both quarterbacks have a lot of on-the-field relationships to work on between now and the season opener. Having to split practice reps could slow the development of that rapport.
"I don't really know yet," Grossman said. "But I have plenty of time. If I feel like I don't have enough reps with somebody, I bring them out here when we're not practicing and we go through stuff. But I don't think it's going to be a problem."
Grossman re-signed with the Bears in the offseason rather than opting for a fresh start elsewhere, mainly because of his familiarity with the organization. But he's playing under a one-year contract, increasing the pressure on him to perform this year, which could determine in which direction his career heads.
"I think anybody going into their last year of their contract or signing a one-year deal it's added pressure on them to have a good season," he said. "And I'm excited about the opportunities if that were the case. Who knows what's going to happen? I've got one thing in mind: that's having a good season this year."
"When you're in a contract dispute, you're viewed as selfish and many different things," said Briggs, who skipped most voluntary offseason work the previous two years while posturing for his deal and can sympathize with Urlacher.
"Even though that is a fact, that you're thinking about yourself, no one else is really going to think about you but you," Briggs said. "No one else is going to take care of you like you. In football, the way things work, if you've outplayed your contract, you've outplayed your contract. It doesn't matter if you've been making a lot of money. You're a marquee player and everyone knows what our marquee player (Urlacher) has meant to not only this team but this city and this organization. Football players know; in this business you know exactly what your value is, and it's time to get a new deal."
Briggs said he doesn't need to offer any advice to Urlacher based on his own, sometimes acrimonious, negotiations.
"I don't really need to tell him anything because he already understands," Briggs said. "He's been in this league a lot longer (three years) than me. So, as far as the business side, he understands probably better than I do."
That situation has been alternated on a daily basis throughout the offseason beginning with organized team activities that started in May.
Unlike last season, Orton is competing for the No. 1 job and has three late-season starts from the previous season to build on. He did not take a single snap in 2006 and came to training camp in 2007 entrenched as the No. 3 quarterback behind Grossman and Brian Griese.
"It's always tough when you come into a season without playing at all the season before," he said. "To get the three games at the end of (last) year and get a lot of work in so far in the off-season, I feel like I'm a better player."
Benson took most of the snaps with the first team during minicamp but is expected to face a training camp battle for the featured role from second-round draft pick Matt Forte'. Despite an offseason arrest for boating while intoxicated and resisting arrest that generated a lot of unneeded notoriety for the veteran, the charges have been disputed by Benson and at least two impartial observers and will be challenged in court. Benson, who suffered a fractured ankle last November, is running and cutting without restrictions, has lost about 10 pounds since last season and seems quicker than he's been in the past.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I feel great. It really hasn't been an issue. I did the rehab; I think it was six weeks. I did it in Arizona with obviously direction from our team. But I feel good, really good." — MLB Brian Urlacher on his offseason neck surgery.
Lions wide receiver Roy Williams missed four consecutive organized team activities recently, but he has what he considers innocent explanations for his absences. He doesn't think they're a big deal, and he says they have nothing to do with his contract situation.
"I'm going to make a lot of money this year," said Williams, who is in the last year of his contract. "You all can look it up. They owe me 5.8 million this year. So why would I be mad? I'm not mad. I'm not missing OTAs because I'm mad at the Detroit Lions."
So why is he missing them?
"I'm missing because my flights got canceled," Williams said.
Williams blamed bad weather near his home in Texas for his three absences last week.
"I tried to get here two days in a row, and I just wasn't coming for one day," Williams said. "I called the coaches. They knew where I was at. So it wasn't a big deal."
What about Monday?
"That was my fault," Williams said. "I booked it wrong. I booked it on the second (of June) instead of the first."
The OTAs are voluntary, according to the collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and NFL Players Association. Williams isn't the only Lions player who has been absent, either. Wide receiver Calvin Johnson and running back Tatum Bell were missing Wednesday.
But attending OTAs is strongly encouraged throughout the NFL, and most players attend.
Williams said he liked to run in the Texas heat and come to Detroit for team work.
"I'm an OTA guy," he said. "I want to be here (for) OTAs."
But he has missed OTAs before and doesn't consider it an issue if established players miss some.
"We know what guys can do, especially the veteran guys," he said. "Calvin's still a rookie, though. But he knows what to do, man. We know what he's going to give us on Sunday, so it's not a big deal that he's not going to be here or if I'm not going to be here.
"We know at some point we're going to be here. We're just not going to be like, ‘Screw OTAs,' or, ‘Screw the Detroit Lions.' We're going to show up and we're going to work hard when we get here."
Williams is willing to talk about a new deal at any time.
"I'm like 7-Eleven, baby," he said. "I'm always open. Even on the field."
But the Lions have not approached him about an extension.
For months, there have been reports and rumors about the Lions looking to trade Williams and Williams wanting to play for the Cowboys. Coach Rod Marinelli said they wouldn't trade Williams, and they haven't. Williams maintains he would like to stay in Detroit.
Asked if he ever went to president Matt Millen, Williams cut off the question by saying: "No. Nope. Nope."
Still, the talk continues.
"I get that all day, especially when I'm back at home," Williams said, wearing a sleeve on his right arm and shoes with the burnt orange of his alma mater, Texas. "Dallas, Dallas, Dallas. Trade Roy Williams for Roy Williams. When are you going to be a Cowboy? I'm going to have to deal with that until I sign something here or become a free agent somewhere else."
When was the craziest time Marinelli called? Late one night in February, when Cody was out to dinner with his girlfriend at a nice restaurant in southern California. "Just when they were putting on the candles," Cody said, laughing. "No."
--The Stanley Cup made a pit stop at Lions headquarters one day before the Detroit Red Wings won it in Pittsburgh.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Twelve-nine? Y'all don't understand. Twelve-nine guaranteed? That's, like, rookie money." — WR Roy Williams, saying he won't get as much guaranteed money in his next contract as WR Terrell Owens just got from Dallas.
GREEN BAY PACKERS
What stands to be the most competitive position battle in training camp won't be lacking for strength.
Incumbent left guard Daryn Colledge and promising challenger Allen Barbre started their showdown back in the dead of winter in the weight room. Both players made significant gains. Barbre reportedly put on 16 pounds of lean muscle mass and Colledge 10 pounds as a prelude to the battle royal that looms later in the summer.
"I think there is going to be some big-time competition come training camp in that group," said head coach Mike McCarthy, referring to a host of young, athletic linemen who will be jostling for starting jobs and roster spots.
Although Jason Spitz has the inside track to retain the starting gig at right guard, it's anybody's guess on whether it will be battle-tested Colledge or inexperienced Barbre emerging on the left side before the start of the season.
The 6-foot-4, 305-pound Colledge, a second-round draft pick in 2006, managed to start 30 of a possible 34 games (including playoffs) his first two years despite playing with fits of inconsistency as a blocker. He's lost his job in the past and had to fight to win it back each of the last two seasons, so being put on the spot again is old hat.
"That's fine," Colledge said of the competition with Barbre. "It's good for us, good for the team, keeps me on my toes. This is definitely not my job to have. I am not a (right tackle Mark) Tauscher or (left tackle Chad) Clifton or (center Scott) Wells yet. But, I'm trying to get to that point. Hopefully, we can push each other to that kind of success. But, for right now, we'll share the reps and work hard."
Colledge and Barbre have worked as the starting left guard on alternating days in organized team activities. The pattern figures to continue in the minicamp later this month and then initially in training camp.
The 6-4, 300-pound Barbre is champing at the bit to win the job. He was a developmental player as a rookie last year after being taken in the fourth round of the draft out of Division II Missouri Southern State. He appeared in only nine games last season, primarily on special teams.
The converted left tackle might be Green Bay's most athletic lineman. Combined with the sturdier frame he has now and a better understanding of the blocking schemes, the much-anticipated, supposedly friendly battle could swing Barbre's way.
"We're good," Barbre said. "We have a good relationship. We don't have no problems. It is what it is. We're just competing."
Herron used a bedpost to wallop one of two alleged intruders during an attempted break-in. The injured suspect was hospitalized, while the other suspect was arrested outside Herron's home.
"Noah Herron used necessary, reasonable and justifiable force in protecting his life and property," Brown County (Wis.) Sheriff Dennis Kocken said in a statement.
The incident occurred six months after Washington Redskins safety Sean Taylor suffered a fatal gunshot wound to his leg during a burglary at his home in Florida.
Herron, 26, continued to practice in organized team activities in the days following his tense ordeal.
"That's a tough situation, and he handled it probably the best he could," head coach Mike McCarthy said. "It's a tough time."
Herron, a versatile backup, is making a comeback this year after he missed the entire 2007 season because of a knee injury.
The removal and delivery of the wooden locker isn't expected to happen until after the Packers have their minicamp later in June but before training camp commences in late July.
"It's frankly an excellent idea that Ted Thompson and the organization had as far as a gift on a personal note to Brett," McCarthy said. "It's been discussed with Brett, and we can talk about it at later date.
"I thought it's a classy move and something that definitely reflects how the Green Bay Packers do business and how they appreciate what Brett Favre has done in his career."
In the interim, the "Favre" nameplate above the locker was removed and replaced with "Packers." Having the Favre name attached to the locker was an unwelcome topic of discussion at the outset of organized team activities in late May for Favre's successor, Aaron Rodgers.
Their mandatory minicamp will be June 17-19, with two practices scheduled on each of the first two days.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I felt the first year (in 2006) that I overworked the football team going into the third preseason game because there were too many continuous days of padded work and the number of two-a-days that we did in that period of time. You have to be very conscious of that, and it's about the flow. Now, we won't have as many practices, but we're at the point with our football team, and we're fortunate we are in Year 3, that we can get things done in walk-throughs and jog-throughs and get out of the classroom." — Head coach Mike McCarthy on the Packers' condensed training camp schedule, which is starting later than usual July 28 because the team doesn't have its first preseason game until it hosts Cincinnati on Monday night, Aug. 11.