NFC North News, Notes and Quotes

The Bears' receivers might be "just a bunch of guys," and that might hold true for the Detroit Lions' backup quarterbacks, while the Packers just seem relieved to have the whole Brett Favre thing behind them for now. Get extensive news, notes and quotes from the Vikings' NFC North rivals.

CHICAGO BEARS

Critics would say the Bears' wide receiver corps is just a bunch of guys. The common perception is that they don't have a No. 1 receiver.
But that isn't necessarily a bad thing.

They have one guy, Marty Booker, who has been a No. 1 receiver. He caught a combined 197 passes for 2,260 yards for them in 2001 and ‘02, but Booker has averaged 49 catches and 668 yards in the five years since then. Solid numbers but not go-to-guy caliber.

The Bears have another guy, Brandon Lloyd, who may be in the starting lineup Sept. 7. But he hasn't scored a touchdown in almost three years, he had 2 catches last season, when he missed eight games with a shoulder injury, and he has a reputation for being a character concern.

Then there's the immensely talented Devin Hester, whose greatest value to the team is still as a return specialist. He will be a bigger part of the passing game and probably get a lot of snaps in the starting lineup. But it's doubtful that he can remain the league's best return man while also becoming an every-down receiver. Even wide receivers coach Darryl Drake admits that Hester "is a work in progress," as a pass catcher.

Rashied Davis is pushing for a bigger role in the offense than the past two years, when he had a total of 39 receptions, and that should happen.
Hence the perception of no No. 1.

"I always remind them of what the perception is," Drake said, "and sometimes perception is reality. If you don't like it, you change it."

There's a better chance that the Bears will have several players with 40 or 50 catches rather than one with 80 or 90, but Drake doesn't consider that a negative.

"That's a good thing," he said. "The guys know when they get the opportunity they've got to get in there and get the job done."

The listed starters at wide receiver on the Bears' depth chart may not be as significant as many other teams, since there could be several players who get a similar number of snaps throughout the season.

That was made abundantly clear when the Bears released their depth chart for the preseason opener. At one wide receiver spot, the starter was listed as: Rashied Davis/Devin Hester. On the other side, it was: Marty Booker/Brandon Lloyd.

"We've got, in my opinion, four, five, six guys who have the ability to play," said Drake, who will probably be limited to five wide receivers on game days.

"You can only dress 46," he said. "But the guys who are going to be out there, they're all going to have to play. Again, that's a good thing. You shouldn't have a guy who goes out there and has to play 70 plays a game. That should be split, keep guys fresh, keep guys ready. That's probably what we'll do."

It was assumed when the Bears brought Booker back from his four-year exile to Miami, that he would be their No. 1 receiver - and he might. But it could be Lloyd and Hester on the field when the Bears begin their first possession of the season. It could be Booker and Hester. And when the Bears go with three wide receivers, as they often do, any combination of the top five could be in the game.

"I'm still trying to find that out," Booker said. "Right now we're just out there practicing, trying to get a feel for one another and get a little chemistry going in this offense. Once we get later into preseason games and the regular season, I'll figure out what (my) role is."

If you're any wide receiver on the Bears, it's pretty much the same situation. Sooner or later it will all be sorted out - probably later.


CAMP CALENDAR: Players reported to Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais on July 22, and the first practice was at 3 p.m. on July 23. Camp concludes with a noon practice on Aug. 14.

NOTES

  • Marty Booker has replaced Muhsin Muhammad as the elder statesman among the receiving corps, and while the 31-year-old Booker might not make as much of a show of it, he's a more legitimate mentor to the younger wideouts than his predecessor, who was known for tossing teammates under the bus.

    "Marty's not a real vocal guy, but he leads pretty much by example," wide receivers coach Darryl Drake said. "Guys can go to him, and he's not one of those guys who isn't going to give the guys the time that they need. He knows a few little tricks of the trade as far as it relates to getting open, and he's constantly sharing those things with those guys."

    Booker can be an extension of the coaching staff on the field in the heat of battle.

    "Sometimes that's real important because as a coach, you tell a guy something over and over again, but I'm not out there playing," Drake said. "Sometimes a guy that's out there can give them a little bit more insight or confirm some of the things that I've been telling them."

  • Running back Kevin Jones, who began camp on the physically-unable-to-perform list after off-season knee surgery; and defensive tackle Dusty Dvoracek, who came to camp on the non-football-injury list after straining his calf weight-lifting with teammate Tommie Harris, both participated in Saturday night's practice.

    Both were limited to individual drills in their first practice of training camp and did not participate in 11-on-11 team drills.

    The 6-3, 303-pound Dvoracek is the Bears' best pure nose tackle and expected to reclaim the starting job, which he won last year in camp, only to suffer a season-ending knee injury in the regular-season opener. The former Oklahoma Sooner missed his entire rookie season in 2006 with a foot injury. He was asked if he needs to prove his durability.

    "I'm trying not to even think about it," he said. "I'm just going to go play. If you're trying not to get hurt, you're not going to be playing 100 percent. I just have to go out there and play, and everything else will take care of itself. Obviously, I want to stay healthy, but I'm not going to play tentative to stay healthy. I'll just go out there and let it fly."

    For now, Dvoracek is behind Anthony Adams on the depth chart, but that could change in the coming weeks. Regardless of who's listed first, the Bears like to play a rotation of three or four tackles, so there's a lot of playing time available.

    "I don't really compare myself to Anthony or anybody," Dvoracek said. "I'm just worried about getting myself better."

    The 6-0, 228-pound Jones is a strong inside runner and pass catcher who is expected to provide a solid complement to rookie Matt Forte, but he has a lot of catching up to do.

    "I hope that Kevin gets back to where he was before he got hurt," running backs coach Tim Spencer said. "If he does, he was a pretty darned good back in the NFL. He was an established guy, runs hard, is quick, is fast, big. It would be nice for us to have two guys, a one-two punch like that and have a couple guys who are able to do third-down type things."

  • The defense, supposedly the strength of this year's team, didn't live up to expectations at the start of Thursday night's preseason opener.

    The unheralded Kansas City offense took the opening kickoff and sliced through the Bears for 81 yards on 16 plays and a 7-0 lead.

    "I was not pleased with the opening drive," coach Lovie Smith said. "Our defense cannot allow that to happen. We had them in some third-and-long situations, and we let them out."

    The Chiefs converted on all five of their third-down opportunities, including once on third-and-10 and another on third-and-15, plus Larry Johnson's 5-yard TD run on third down.

    "That won't happen to us a lot this year," Smith promised. "We'll learn from that. We are better than that. I thought after that, we settled down and did some good things."

    The Chiefs had 179 yards of total offense in the first half, during which Bears' defensive starters played all but the final series.

  • Garrett Wolfe's 64 rushing yards (on just 7 carries) Thursday night, including a 42-yard jaunt, were more than double anyone else in the game, and he also caught a 25-yard TD pass.

    "Being (my) second year, you feel much more comfortable," Wolfe said. "I'm allowing my natural ability to take over, and my natural ability is a pretty good ability."

    Wolfe also had a productive preseason in 2007 as a rookie, leading the Bears in rushing yards and receptions. But in the regular season he carried the ball just 31 times for a 2.7-yard average and caught 9 passes, although he averaged 13.0 yards per catch. The NIU product hopes to be more involved in the offense this season, and his Thursday night production should help.

    "I'm very satisfied," the 5-foot-7 Wolfe said. "That's something I wanted to do; come out and be productive and be competitive and not only show my coaches and my teammates that but show the fans that."

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "I feel like I'm going to be better. I feel I'm on a better team with a better offensive line. So the product will be better that I'll be able to put out." — RB Kevin Jones, the former Detroit Lion, who returned to practice Saturday night after starting training camp on PUP following surgery for a torn ACL in his right knee.


    DETROIT LIONS

    The exhibition opener was a big night for the Lions' backup quarterbacks - Dan Orlovsky and Drew Stanton. President Matt Millen has called them gamers, but they haven't played in many games, if any.

    Orlovsky, a fifth-round pick in 2005, has attempted only 17 passes in regular-season action - none since his rookie year - and missed much of the exhibition season last year. Stanton, a second-round pick last year, hadn't played in any kind of NFL game after going on injured reserve early in training camp last year.

    Both looked good. Orlovsky went 8-for-11 for 81 yards. Stanton went 5-for-6 for 27 yards and also ran three times for 29 yards (not counting three kneel-downs at the end).

    Orlovsky knows he needs to perform.

    "I'm not dumb," Orlovsky said. "I know this league. I know it's my contract year. I know they're probably wondering what I can do, if I can be the guy.

    "But it comes down to, I can't make them think I'm the guy unless I think I'm the guy. The 10 other guys on the field aren't going to think I'm the guy unless I think I'm the guy."

    By "the guy," Orlovsky doesn't mean the backup quarterback. He means the starter, at least someday.

    "The guy," Orlovsky said. "The guy who this organization looks to and says, ‘That's our starting quarterback.' That's what I want to be. That's my goal.

    "Is that going to happen? I can't tell the future. But I'm doing everything I can to make them see that, to prepare myself for that moment, so when it comes, I'm ready for it."

    Stanton has a little more time to develop. He is essentially a rookie, and the Lions are expected to be patient with him. He is going back to his old mechanics after former offensive coordinator Mike Martz made wholesale changes last year.

    "I have no idea looking back why all that happened, all the changes that he made," Stanton said. "There's one thing that I still use that he taught me, and that's it.

    "And that was just changing my grip a little bit, and I'm sure just any coach probably would have come along and changed that a little bit, just the difference between an NFL ball and one of those Nike college footballs."

    The NFL ball is shaped slightly differently, a little narrower at the top. Stanton puts his index finger higher on the ball than he did at Michigan State. He has more space between his palm and the ball.

    Stanton essentially started from scratch this off-season. Martz had gone to San Francisco, and the Lions had hired Scot Loeffler as quarterbacks coach.

    Asked about his mechanics now, Stanton said they are "much closer to what I used to be than what Coach Martz had me try to be. Scot's changed some things that really make sense to me, and I feel great doing it.

    "It allows me to put more on the ball and put less stress on my body and get my body in position to make all the throws and get to my checkdowns."


    CAMP CALENDAR: Camp breaks Aug. 18.

    NOTES

  • News flash: Calvin Johnson is good. Johnson looked dominant in the Lions' exhibition opener, catching four passes for 78 yards in two series of work. He missed practice time afterward, but coach Rod Marinelli said he had only a bruised leg.

  • Quarterback Jon Kitna looked comfortable with newly emphasized aspects in the passing game - roll outs, bootlegs and play-action. He went 6-for-7 for 106 yards and a touchdown with a perfect 158.3 passer rating.

  • Balance has been the key word since the Lions fired Mike Martz. In the two series the starters played in the exhibition opener, new offensive coordinator Jim Colletto called seven runs and seven passes. "There's going to be games that we're going to have to be more heavy on the pass, and there's going to be games where we're more heavy on the run," Kitna said. "But while the game is in doubt, like it was tonight early on, we were 50-50. That's a good thing."

  • After a recent practice, Colletto called together his players and sent them a message: It's one thing to talk about running the football. It's another thing to do it. "Running the football is hard, hard work," Colletto said. "And it's painful. And it hurts. Both blocking and running and the whole bit. And that mindset has got to be there. Just because we draw it on the blackboard and it looks good doesn't mean everything's going to work right. Those guys on defense get coached, too, and there are guys in this league who will break you in half on defense. Well, that attitude has to be on offense. A good running team on offense is a vicious, violent group of people. They play with a defensive attitude. We've been so used to doing this stuff all over the field. Let's put them in a box, and let's play. Let's have a war and see what happens."

  • After two years trying fullback under Mike Martz, Casey Fitzsimmons is a full-time tight end again. "It's where I belong," Fitzsimmons said. "I'm not a fullback. I can do some things that a fullback does, but I've been playing on the line of scrimmage my whole life. It's tough for me to go back there. It's a whole different position."

  • The domestic violence charges against safety Kalvin Pearson have been dropped. Pearson was arrested April 26 in Tampa. He was charged with two felonies: aggravated battery on a pregnant woman and domestic battery by strangulation. Assistant state attorney Pam Bondi said Monday that prosecutors decided not to file those charges, but she could not provide details. Pearson still faces a misdemeanor charge of resisting arrest without violence. Bondi said his arraignment is scheduled for Sept. 8 and he does not need to attend.

  • The Lions put linebacker Teddy Lehman on the injured reserve/minor list and reached a settlement with him because of a strained hamstring. Lehman's injury isn't so serious that he will miss the whole season. But it's serious enough that he will miss at least most of the preseason, and NFL rosters are now limited to 80 players with no exemptions. The Lions could not spare the spot. Lehman left Detroit for Tampa Bay as a free agent in the off-season, but the Buccaneers cut him before training camp and he signed with the Lions on July 26.

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "Didn't get enough yards." - Coach Rod Marinelli, on what was wrong with the running game in the exhibition opener.


    GREEN BAY PACKERS

    Green Bay's brain trust took a collective sigh of relief after dealing quarterback Brett Favre to the New York Jets for a conditional fourth-round draft pick next year in the late evening of Aug. 6.

    Yet, as much as management wants all attention to fall back on what the team it has assembled is doing on the field, the fallout from the highly publicized divorce between the league's oldest franchise and arguably its greatest player continues to bubble.

    The Packers took a public-relations hit in the past month for how it handled the soap opera that played out with Favre. The legendary player, who started 275 straight games for the team since 1992 and led it to the NFL title in the 1996 season while winning an unprecedented three league MVP awards, was unceremoniously ushered out of major sports' smallest market after he came out of retirement.

    "It's the strangest thing I've ever seen," Bus Cook, Favre's agent, said after the trade with the Jets was consummated. "I've talked to a lot of people in the league, I've talked to several general managers, and nobody can figure out what the thought process is for Green Bay. But, that's their jobs and for them to figure out. I think Green Bay's loss is going to definitely be New York's gain."

    The Packers welcomed Favre back to the team after he was reinstated from the reserve-retired list by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell on Aug. 3. Favre was added to the 80-man roster the next day, but a series of meetings between Favre and head coach Mike McCarthy, general manager Ted Thompson and president Mark Murphy cemented the club's plan of the previous five months: to move on without its iconic quarterback.

    "It wasn't Brett's fault, and it wasn't our fault, but the relationship got to a point where it couldn't go forward," Murphy said. "Don't try to blame either side. It's like a marriage that ends. Neither party is at fault, but you move forward."

    McCarthy met privately in his office with Favre for four hours the night of Aug. 4 and then for a brief time the next morning, before the team was to practice for the first time since Favre was reinstated and flew from his Mississippi home to Green Bay. McCarthy said having Favre, who had retired in March, rejoin the team on the practice field didn't come to pass because the veteran wasn't fully committed to continue playing in Green Bay.

    "I think Brett's view of what reinstatement meant was different than what my view of reinstatement meant," McCarthy said. "I've said all along, and we talked about this openly, I never thought he was really going to play this year. I thought there was a number of things going through his head; he was in a different mindset for a number of different reasons."

    Without the all-in pledge from Favre, who last month in a national TV interview was outspoken of Thompson's personnel decisions the past few years, McCarthy emphasized that consideration of creating competition between tapped successor Aaron Rodgers and Favre for the starting QB job went by the wayside.

    "I used the reference about the train moving down the track," McCarthy said. "He was welcome to get on the train, but we never really got to that spot because of where Brett was at, as far as everything that had happened."
    Rebuffed in his stated attempt to play another season for the Packers, Favre boarded a private plane and left Green Bay for good on Aug. 6 and waited until the trade with the Jets went down several hours later.

    "I didn't go up there to throw daggers and make it any worse," Favre said upon his return to Mississippi. "It came down to, ‘Are you 100 percent committed to us?' and vice versa, ‘(Are you) 100 percent committed to me?' That answer was, ‘No.'

    "Have I always wanted to be the quarterback of the Green Bay Packers? Absolutely. And, that didn't change. It's just that things had changed. So, if I wanted to play, I think they would've allowed me to play there. But, if you would've been up there, you would've seen the distractions that were going on. I've got too many friends on that team and have too much respect for that organization to allow that to happen."

    Indeed, having Favre in Green Bay, although he wasn't on the field for the duration of his short stay, wasn't healthy for the team. "Fire Ted Thompson" chants were intermixed with those of "Bring Back Brett" at camp practice Aug. 5.

    Meanwhile, some players became increasingly frustrated as the stalemate lingered into Week 2 of camp. Cornerback Charles Woodson suggested that he and other veterans would be confronting Thompson for answers on a situation that allegedly wasn't made clear to the players throughout the lengthy ordeal. Going to that extreme, however, was avoided when the resolution came with the mutual ouster of Favre from the team and the subsequent trade.
    "It's over now. We got the answer that we needed," Woodson said. "Green Bay doesn't want Brett, and Brett doesn't want to be here. That's what we needed. So, now, we move forward."

    How soon the Packers fully recover from the nationally publicized fiasco remains to be seen. They hired former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer to be a public-relations consultant for the interim.

    As for being the GM whose legacy could be defined as the guy who traded away the face of the franchise the last 16 years, Thompson confessed, "I don't think anybody would be comfortable with that. This is, in many ways, sad that this is where it came to. At the end of the day, though, I think all parties involved felt like it was the best solution to a very difficult situation. Hopefully, we can do things going forward that maybe people will not remember that."


    CAMP CALENDAR: With a busy slate of playing their four preseason games in a span of 18 days, starting Aug. 11 against Cincinnati, the Packers have only eight practices left in training camp from Aug. 13 to Aug. 26. Their final two of eight evening workouts on the camp schedule are Aug. 13 and 18.

    NOTES

  • The Packers entered their preseason opener Monday night at home against Cincinnati with as many as five projected starters possibly sidelined because of injury.

    Defensive tackle Ryan Pickett, coping with a sore hamstring, had yet to practice through two weeks of training camp. Fellow tackle Johnny Jolly missed practice time in the second week of workouts because of a hip flexor and lingering soreness from a shoulder injury he sustained last season.
    On offense, halfback Ryan Grant (hamstring), receiver Greg Jennings (knee) and center Scott Wells (back) also were spectators toward the end of the second week of workouts.

    Head coach Mike McCarthy said none of the injuries is serious. Nevertheless, with more than a dozen players unavailable as the Packers prepared Saturday for the exhibition game, McCarthy expressed some concern about what the team has endured in the early going of camp.

    "We've got a bunch of guys nicked," McCarthy said. "We're just running into our fatigue injuries, which most teams run into at this point."

  • Now that he can give his undivided attention to being the first-year starting quarterback of the Packers, Aaron Rodgers is all about getting on the same page with his receiving group.

    Rodgers alluded to legendary predecessor Brett Favre, whom Green Bay traded to the New York Jets on Aug. 6, in explaining the sense of urgency the remaining weeks of the preseason to get the timing down in the passing game.

    "My biggest job, and I think the (offensive) linemen appreciate this when this happens, and Brett did a great job (of it), is getting the ball to the man quickly," Rodgers said. "So, I've been trying to make quick decisions and accurate throws."

  • Since Favre apparently will stay unretired and play football this season, though not in Green Bay after 16 years, the Packers have postponed the ceremony for the retirement of his jersey number indefinitely.

    The festivities were to be held in conjunction with the Sept. 8 season opener against Minnesota.

    "We will retire his jersey in the future," team president Mark Murphy said. "He deserves that. But, it will be at a point when we know he's absolutely done with his playing career. ... It seemed great when we (planned) it at the time, and obviously, it didn't turn out that way."

  • Even without Favre on the team this season, the Packers media guide is as thick as it was last year. The 2008 book is 624 pages, the same as the 2007 publication.

    This year's guide was printed earlier in the summer before Favre reversed course on his March retirement and was reinstated by the league. Whereas a 28-page biography for Favre appeared with the team's tenured players up front in the 2007 media guide, this year's edition includes a 28-page retrospective for Favre toward the back of the book in the team history section.

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "I think a lesson that you learn when you're in this locker room is that this is a career with a short life span. Any day, your job is on the line. We have 80 guys right now; we're going to cut down to 53. Twenty-seven guys will be on the street looking for work. You see a lot of guys come in and out. And, the guys that stick, like Brett, are guys that work hard, that are smart, that put in the time. His career is one that I would love to have - a long career with a lot of success. Hopefully, he can go out on his own terms." — Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers on a lesson to be learned from the soap opera of the past month involving predecessor Brett Favre and team management that culminated with Favre's being traded to the New York Jets on Aug. 6.



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