NFC North news, notes and quotes

The Bears see cornerback D.J. Moore as a good value in the fourth round. The Lions will have to downplay the pressure on QB Matthew Stafford. And the Packers have plenty of options trying to replace Mark Tauscher. Get the top stories from the Vikings' NFC North rivals.


General manager Jerry Angelo doesn't mind if Vanderbilt cornerback D.J. Moore, a fourth-round pick (119th overall), is referred to as "short," since he is a fraction under 5-9. Just don't call the 192-pound Moore, "little."

"I see him more as short, not small," Angelo said. "But he plays tall. The guy's got incredible leaping ability, and he made an interception against Georgia ... there aren't three guys in the league that can make that interception going up for the ball. He's got some special ball skills, some athleticism.

"You see a lot of tall corners who play small. He's a short corner who can play tall. We've had success with those types of corners when we were down in Tampa. Ronde Barber was like that. We feel he's going to come in and compete."

Moore spent just three years at Vanderbilt, starting nine games as a true freshman, and he picked off 12 passes over the past two seasons. Moore also lined up on offense for 10-20 snaps per game, according to Bears scout Rex Hogan, and he returned punts and kickoffs.

"He's just a special athlete with great ball skills," Angelo said. "I haven't seen a corner with this kind of ball skills since (Nate) Vasher."

Vasher intercepted 13 passes for the Bears in his first two seasons and returned them for 322 yards and two touchdowns. But he has just four picks in the past two seasons for 45 yards.

Bears director of college scouting Greg Gabriel was also impressed with Moore, especially his versatility.

"He's a corner, he's a returner, he's even played some offense," Gabriel said. "He's a rare athlete. He's got great quickness. He's got great ball skills. He was a value pick for us at this pick."

Given the Bears' unsettled situation at right cornerback across from Charles Tillman, Moore could play a bigger role than any of his rookie classmates this season. Vasher has fallen out of favor, and he has missed 20 games due to injuries in the past two seasons. Corey Graham replaced Vasher last season, when he was injured, but neither of them has a lock on the job.

Moore sounds like he's ready for the challenge. He said he came out a year early because he was more than ready to move to the next level.

"I didn't believe I was going to get too much better than what I was," he said. "I felt I was the best cornerback in the draft."

He'll get a chance to prove it with the Bears.


Now that the Lions have made Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft — and a very, very rich man, with $41.7 million guaranteed — all Stafford has to do is live up to it.

That's not going to be easy.

Besides of the usual pressures that face the No. 1 pick, Stafford faces some unique circumstances.

He will be linked to Bobby Layne, the Lions' last great quarterback, because they went to the same Texas high school. He will join a team that just suffered through the NFL's first 0-16 season. And he will play for fans who wanted Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry, stung by the failures of quarterbacks the Lions have taken high in the draft — Chuck Long, Andre Ware, Joey Harrington.

When the Lions unveiled their new logo and uniform five days before the draft, fans chanted "Cur-ry!" and "Don't draft Staf-ford!"

When Stafford was picked, fans booed from the draft party at Ford Field in Detroit to the actual draft at Radio City Music Hall in New York. Just before Stafford came on stage to shake the hand of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, fans at Radio City chanted "Over-rated!"

"You can't try to please everybody," Stafford said. "The No. 1 thing I have to do is go in there and try to work hard for my teammates, my coaches, the owners, the team, and get wins, because winning cures a lot of stuff. Hopefully that's what I can do."

Four days before the draft, general manager Martin Mayhew didn't flinch when asked about the fans' pro-Curry and anti-Stafford chants and how the negative environment might affect the No. 1 pick.

"That's something you try to figure out about these guys before you select them," Mayhew said. "Can they deal with it if things aren't going well? Whether it's Stafford or Curry or whoever it is, we've gone through that process with them. So if things aren't going well, we have a feel for how those players might react."

Stafford met with Lions officials at the NFL Scouting Combine. He visited Lions' headquarters in Allen Park. Lions officials put Stafford through a private workout at Georgia. What did they want to know?

"Everything," Stafford said. "It's extensive. Obviously if you have the No. 1 pick, you've got to do your homework. We talked about anything and everything, to tell you the truth. ... I just was me. If they didn't like me, they didn't like me. I understand that. But I was trying to be as truthful and as honest as I possibly could with them."

Stafford is prepared for the challenge, according to his father, John. In high school, Stafford played in front of 30,000 fans. At 17, he went to Georgia as the No. 1 quarterback recruit in the nation, according to several scouting services. He started as a freshman in the SEC. For three years, he dealt with the scrutiny of media and fans.

"Matthew has always been very mature," Stafford's father said. "He understands the pressures that are associated with it. He genuinely likes people, and I think he'll build relationships with media and fans and everyone else.

"He just understands what the process is. You're not always going to have a whole bunch of supporters. Every one single one of these guys, you're going to have some people who like the pick, some people who don't. He gets it, and he'll move forward from it."


If Mark Tauscher's valuable days in Green Bay indeed are over, the Packers will have as many as five players' lining up the next few months to take over at right tackle.

General manager Ted Thompson hasn't ruled out re-signing Tauscher, an unrestricted free agent who is on the mend from major knee surgery in January, but Thompson didn't sound encouraging when the subject was broached during draft weekend.

"There hasn't been any determination made there. It's still a medical thing - the timing of when he's going to be well, that sort of thing," Thompson said.

When pressed on whether he would entertain bringing Tauscher back if he's healthy, Thompson replied, "I don't think it's a question of want. It's a question of timing and the medical thing."

So, the Packers are proceeding as though Tauscher is out of the picture after he was a starting mainstay since his rookie season in 2000.

Thompson added to the list of potential replacements by taking a pair of tackles on the second day of the draft: Eastern Michigan's T.J. Lang in the fourth round and South Carolina's Jamon Meredith in the fifth.

Both rookies are more natural left tackles, but they had starting experience in college playing right tackle, too.

"That's the coaches' decision in terms of where they are going to play them, but I think both of those guys have shown the ability to play multiple spots," Thompson said.

The flexibility possessed by Lang and Meredith, both of whom might not be starting-caliber this year, gives the Packers insurance down the road at left tackle. Incumbent starter Chad Clifton is entering his 10th season in the league but has only a year left on his contract and has been bothered by chronic knee issues the past few years.

Young holdovers on the roster who will be given a chance to possibly succeed Tauscher are Tony Moll, Breno Giacomini and Allen Barbre. Moll is the most seasoned of the trio and spelled an injured Tauscher for starting stints in the past, though Moll wasn't effective as the right tackle down the stretch last season.

Viking Update Top Stories