NFC North news, notes and quotes

The Bears want better play out of the quarterback position, and Kyle Orton thinks he can provide that. The Lions are confident that the acquisition of Julian Peterson really fills two holes. Meanwhile, school is in session in Green Bay, where the Packers are trying to learn a new defensive system. Go in-depth with the Vikings' NFC North rivals.


Evidently Bears quarterback Kyle Orton has thicker skin than Broncos diva Jay Cutler.

Orton has shrugged off Bears G.M. Jerry Angelo's stated desire to "stabilize" the quarterback position.

"It doesn't really mean a whole lot to me," Orton said Tuesday afternoon after the first practice of a three-day minicamp. "I think I'm going to do everything I can and work as hard as I can and be the guy that stabilizes it. I don't think (Angelo) is saying that I'm not going to be the guy. I'm going to be that guy. I think this is my offense. I'm just working as hard as I can to show everybody that it's my job."

Orton's play was exceptional last season through the first seven games. But in Game 8 he suffered a sprained ankle, and after that his production plummeted. Orton threw 10 touchdown passes with just four interceptions before the injury. Afterward he had eight touchdown passes and eight picks. The Bears were 5-3 in the first half of the season and 4-4 in the second half, when, Orton said, his ankle bothered him more than he and the Bears let on.

"I wasn't healthy," said Orton, who missed just one start but was shaky in his first game back, a 37-3 loss to the Packers. "I came out and tried to lead my football team and tried to do whatever I could to win. I'd make the same decision again if it happened. It was unfortunate, and I didn't play as well as I would have liked to. There's always circumstances around that, but I'm happy with what I did trying to go out and play hurt and lead my football team."

Orton rebounded with a solid game against the lowly Rams, but his passer rating was under 50 in three of the next four games.

"My ankle wasn't nearly where it should have been," Orton said. "I was hobbling around, and my entire leg wasn't healthy. That's just how it goes. It's a tough game."

So rather than be offended by Angelo's tough love, Orton has taken the GM's comments in the spirit in which it was intended.

"It's the most important position," Orton said, echoing Angelo's comments. "You've got to get it right, and he's got to know it's right. I think that I'm that guy. I feel like with my work and my play, I'm just going to make him believe that it's right as well and end up being the guy here for a long time."

So, Orton was asked, is it fair to say that this is your football team?

"Until I'm told differently," he said, "that's how I go about it."


The Lions filled a huge hole when they acquired linebacker Julian Peterson from Seattle for defensive tackle Cory Redding and a fifth-round pick.

Wait. Make that two holes.

"From our standpoint," general manager Martin Mayhew said, "it's really a two-for-one type of deal."

Peterson not only addresses the Lions need at linebacker, but he also helps the pass rush. He had only five sacks last season - after posting 91/2 in 2007 and 10 in ‘08 - but Mayhew said last year's statistics did not match the game film.

"When you look at him play last year, you did not see a dropoff in terms of his movement or his ability in space or that kind of thing," Mayhew said. "I didn't see it. We looked at him in 2007. We looked at him in 2008. We didn't see it. We were excited about this guy, and this guy still has the ability to make plays."

Peterson will turn 31 on July 28, about the opening of training camp. But he hasn't missed a game the past three seasons, and coach Jim Schwartz has had his eye on him for a long time. Peterson is the type of big, long-armed, multidimensional linebacker who fits his system.

When Peterson entered the draft in 2000, Schwartz was Tennessee's linebackers coach. He rated Peterson ahead of Keith Bulluck, whom the Titans drafted 30th overall after Peterson went to San Francisco at No. 16.

"Keith never lived it down in Tennessee that I rated Julian a little bit ahead of him in the draft," said Schwartz, who spent the last eight years as the Titans' defensive coordinator. "Those guys are friends. So every time Keith would make a play, he'd bring the ball over to me ... and say, ‘Hey, let's see Peterson do that.' Well, now we've got a chance."

Peterson said he was happy to be in Detroit, despite joining a team that went 0-16 last season. He went to Michigan State and knows football coach Mark Dantonio and basketball coach Tom Izzo. His agent is based in the Detroit area.

"I like the positive things that are going on," Peterson said. "Coach Schwartz is a man of his word, and he's out to right the wrong, so to speak, and change the whole page. I'm very excited about that. We don't bring up the past. We just look towards the future."


School is in session for the players on Green Bay's defense.

The start of the offseason program March 16 kicked into high gear the unit's transition to a 3-4 defense, from a longstanding 4-3 scheme.

"They have to mentally, first of all, learn what to do, what you're going to ask them to do," defensive coordinator Dom Capers said. "So, it's assignment first. Then, it becomes technique or how to do it second."

While strength and conditioning will be emphasized the first couple months with the entire team, the defensive players will ease into the new system by working with their position coaches.

The learning curve will be ratcheted up when organized team activities are held May 26 to June 18, followed by the full-squad minicamp June 23-25.

"Once we got on the field, we'll know how it works. Right now, we're just taking small steps," Pro Bowl safety Nick Collins said.

Equating the adjustment in scheme "to speaking a foreign language" because of the different terminology that will have to be digested and processed by the players, Capers stressed the importance of offseason attendance for the veterans.

Exceptions will be made for players such as defensive end Cullen Jenkins (pectoral), linebacker Nick Barnett (knee) and safety Atari Bigby (ankle) who are coming back from season-ending injuries and won't be at full strength in the spring.

"We'll have to make sure we do a good job of keeping them mentally up on what their assignments are," Capers said. "Anything that we can do with them from a walk-through standpoint or just maybe a teaching progression in terms of technique, to try to get them prepared so when they do go on the field that they'll be prepared to make progress at that point in time."

Collins doesn't foresee the big overhaul of the defense to be a daunting endeavor from a learning standpoint.

"It's football," he said. "If you can't play football on this level, you don't need to be in the league. You've just got to go out there and get the terminology down and just go from there."

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