NFC North news, notes and quotes

General manager Jerry Angelo said the Bears were in the Jay Cutler sweepstakes to win it. The Lions weren't able to land Cutler, leaving them with a slew of draft picks and speculation that the No. 1 pick could be a quarterback. The Packers, however, haven't done much in free agency, leaving them to concentrate on training with a new strength who is riding the players hard.


At long last, the Bears have a Pro Bowl quarterback.

General manager Jerry Angelo pulled the trigger Thursday afternoon on the Bears' biggest off-season move in recent history, acquiring disgruntled Pro Bowl quarterback Jay Cutler from the Denver Broncos for their first- and third-round draft picks this year and their first-round pick in 2010, along with quarterback Kyle Orton. The Bears will also get Denver's fifth-round pick this year. Cutler had recently requested a trade as the result of what became irreconcilable differences with the Broncos' new head coach Josh McDaniels.

"It all came together unexpectedly," Angelo said. "We had plenty of time to think about it, and I came to the conclusion, after talking with (head coach) Lovie (Smith) and (team president and CEO) Ted Phillips that we needed to pursue this. And, (we said) ‘If we get in it, we're getting in it to win it.'"

Cutler was voted to his first Pro Bowl last season, equaling the number of Pro Bowl appearances by Bears quarterbacks in the past 44 years.

Angelo has tried a variety of ways to bring a franchise quarterback to Chicago. He drafted Cade McNown and Rex Grossman in the first round, Orton in the fourth round and Craig Krenzel in the fifth round. He brought in other teams' free agents like Brian Griese, Chris Chandler and Jonathon Quinn, and castoffs like Kordell Stewart and Chad Hutchinson. None of them panned out.

But now the Bears have the closest thing to a franchise quarterback since Sid Luckman in the 1940s. The scenario that brought Cutler to the Bears was rare, not only for a Bears franchise perennially beset by quarterback problems but in league annals.

"It's the first time for me," said Angelo, a 30-year veteran of the NFL. "When you just look at the history of the league, I can't recall a situation quite like this. All we did was reacted to a situation that we felt would benefit our football team."

A couple hours later, the Bears got some protection for Cutler when they agreed to terms with 33-year-old, seven-time Pro Bowl offensive left tackle Orlando Pace on a three-year contract.

"I feel like Jerry and those guys are really making big steps," Bears wide receiver Devin Hester said on Sporting News Radio shortly after the trade was announced. "They're going out and doing whatever it takes, and they're shocking me. The moves they're making are incredible, and we're striving to be a Super Bowl team."

In Cutler, the Bears get one of the top young quarterbacks in the NFL and one of the strongest arms in the league, but they also get a player who comes with some baggage.

Cutler's petulant behavior in his last weeks in Denver turned off a lot of football purists who wondered why he considered himself above being traded or even having his name mentioned in trade talks. Cutler essentially forced a trade when he boycotted the Broncos' off-season weight-lifting program after finding out that McDaniels had discussed the possibility of trading him to acquire ex-Patriot Matt Cassel without notifying him. Cutler then refused to communicate with either McDaniels or Broncos owner Pat Bowlen, officially requesting a trade through his agent, Bus Cook.

"I don't personally have any concerns with that," Angelo said of Cutler's petulant personality. "We did a lot of work going all the way back to his time at Vanderbilt. We felt that he's a very good person, a good leader. He had some things that happened in Denver. We recognize those, but we treated them as just speed bumps, part of the growing process. He's highly competitive, he's highly emotional. That just comes with the territory."

Cutler's production on the field has been prolific, and that made him attractive to at least several NFL teams, including the Bucs, Lions, Jets, Browns, 49ers and Redskins. Last season Cutler threw for 4,526 yards, trailing only the Cardinals' Kurt Warner and the Saints' Drew Brees. Cutler was seventh in the NFL with 25 touchdown passes, but he also was intercepted 18 times, more than anyone in the NFL except for Brett Favre, who was picked off 22 times.

Although he's only 25, Cutler has already started 37 games, including all 16 in each of the past two seasons, compiling a passer rating of 87.1 with 54 TD passes and 37 interceptions.

Orton, 26, has started 33 games, including 15 last season, compiling a career passer rating of 71.1 with 30 touchdowns and 27 interceptions. Ironically it was Orton's appeal to the Broncos that swung the deal in the Bears' favor, according to Angelo. Their only other quarterbacks under contract, Chris Simms and Darrell Hackney, who have thrown a combined total of 2 passes in the previous two seasons.

Cutler grew up as a Bears fan in Santa Claus, Ind., and will be reunited in Chicago with two former Vanderbilt teammates; wide receiver Earl Bennett and offensive tackle Chris Williams.

"He's like everybody, a little bit in shock, excited," Angelo said. "He's a big Bears fan, grew up a Bears fan, and he's excited to be here in Chicago."

In Cutler's senior season at Vanderbilt, Bennett caught 79 passes as a freshman.

"Jay was a great quarterback in college," Williams said last month at the Bears' minicamp. "I enjoyed playing with him, and he threw a lot of touchdowns so it was fun in college."

Although Cutler could benefit from his previous relationship with Bennett, he will have some adjustments to make. Last season he threw to Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal, possibly the best young wide receiver tandem in the NFL. They combined for 195 receptions and 2,245 receiving yards last season for the Broncos.

That won't be the case with the Bears. Aside from Hester, who caught 51 passes last season for a team-best 665 yards, the Bears are short on talent. Last year, the combined total of the five other wide receivers currently on the Bears' roster — John Broussard, Devin Aromashodu, Davis, Brandon Rideau and Earl Bennett — was 35 catches and 445 yards, all by Davis.


Matthew Stafford? Mark Sanchez? Will one of them fill the void at quarterback for the Lions?

As soon as the Broncos announced Cutler was on the trading block, the Lions were one of the first teams mentioned. They already inquired about him in February. Instead, Cutler went to the Chicago Bears.

The Lions didn't have a starting quarterback to send to Denver as a replacement for Cutler, unless the Broncos liked Daunte Culpepper. The Lions have the No. 1 pick, but the No. 1 pick is difficult to trade because of the rookie contract involved. They had four more picks in the first 82, but they didn't sound eager to part with them.

"We said all along we want to build this team through the draft," Lions president Tom Lewand said, declining to speak about Cutler specifically because of NFL tampering rules. "A lot of teams say that. But the ones who are disciplined about that approach actually do it. So we have to be cognizant of that goal and that philosophy and have the discipline to stick to that.

"That doesn't mean you don't make trades. But it means you do so with the recognition you're giving away the opportunity to add to your core through the draft and the recognition that it's the most important way to construct a foundation."

Stafford, often compared to Cutler, went through a private workout for the Lions on campus at Georgia. By all accounts, he was impressive. The next day, the Lions had Sanchez make some extra throws for them at Southern Cal's pro day. By all accounts, he was impressive, too.

Lewand said he is still working on contract parameters with multiple candidates for the No. 1 pick.

"From our standpoint, it's about making the right decision, not when you make it," Lewand said. "So whether that decision gets made a week from now or shortly before the draft, it's less important than getting the decision right."


Dave Redding, the Packers' new strength and conditioning coordinator, has zero tolerance for players who feel like taking a load off their feet.

"We have a no-sit-down rule," Redding said. "If you get caught sitting down, you're doing sit-ups. If you argue, it's 10 more. So, it's called ‘Give me 20.'"

With the well-traveled, no-nonsense Redding in charge of the team's training operations, the players haven't had a second to even think about sitting since their nine-week offseason workout program began March 16.

Redding and his assistants demand constant movement from their charges, be it in the weight room at Lambeau Field, in the gymnasium or on the indoor practice field.

The workouts - held four days a week and alternating between strength, agility and position-specific conditioning drills - are done in less than two hours.

"We don't stop and pause. We keep moving," Redding said. "So, in between sets of everything we do, they're doing more activity, with trainers, core work or if they have any (injury) issues that they've had in the past."

To keep players from slacking off in the weight room, assistant strength and conditioning coach Mark Lovat took pencils and chart cards out of their hands and has their workouts projected on a video screen. Similar to reading off a menu board at a fast-food restaurant, the players can pick from a list of five to seven lifts or exercises to do that day.

"It gives us more volume of what we're doing," Redding said. "It gives (the players) more variety. This gives them ownership in what they can design to do their own thing. Ownership is important. If you give me ownership in something, I'm going to work harder at it."

Underlying goals of Green Bay's workout program, which is heavier on free weights than it was in the past, are resilience and longevity for the players on the field. The Packers endured a slew of nagging injuries of the muscle-pull variety last season.

"We're going to peak in nine weeks," Redding said. "We're going to be at a point where they're going to be at new strength levels, new capacities, new endurance and hope they gain the durability and flexibility and the mindset to be ready for a hard, long season."

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