Around the NFC North

After the Jay Cutler trade left the Bears shorthanded with draft picks, they didn't get their early targets. The Lions didn't appease their fans on draft day. The Packers saw a chance to grab another first-round linebacker and weren't going to be denied. Now that you've had time to digest the Vikings' draft, get the reaction from players and coaches on the other NFC North draft picks.


After all the anticipation and all the projections, the Bears traded completely out of the first day of the draft.

They swapped their only Saturday pick (49th overall) to the Seahawks in exchange for Seattle's early third-round pick (68th overall) and their early fourth (105th overall). That left the Bears with nine picks on Sunday, including the seven they originally had at 99, 119, 140, 154, 190, 246 and 251. Only two other times in franchise history have the Bears not had a pick in the first two rounds, 1978 and 1970.

While they were not feeling the draft, the Bears at least discussed the availability of disgruntled Pro Bowl wide receiver Anquan Boldin with the Cardinals.

"It just didn't come together," said general manager Jerry Angelo, who called the deal dead. "I felt if it was going to happen, it would happen (Saturday)."

Angelo said earlier the Bears would target a wide receiver in the draft, but they didn't believe Georgia's Mohamed Massaquoi was a good value at 49 after seven other wide receivers were selected — eight if you count West Virginia quarterback Pat White, who projects to wide receiver.

Massaquoi went 50th to the Browns. Ohio State wide receiver Brian Robiskie was a player the Bears hoped would fall to them, but there wasn't much chance of that. He went 36th, also to the Browns.

"Unfortunately, the players that we targeted at 49 did not fall to us, and we weren't in a position to move up," Angelo said. "We just didn't have enough to be an attractive candidate given what people were doing to move up in the draft."

The Bears had already given up their first- and third-round picks this year and next year's No. 1 for quarterback Jay Cutler on April 2. The highest 2009 pick they could have swapped Saturday was their own fourth-rounder (119th overall) because their late-third-rounder (99th overall) was a compensatory pick, which couldn't be traded.

"So, rather than put a square peg in a round hole and take somebody that we feel we can get (Sunday), we picked up another pick," Angelo said.

Angelo also admitted that the Bears were also targeting pass rushers, but the Panthers ended the free-fall of Florida State's Everette Brown at No. 43. Brown was considered a first-round talent by many evaluators. Connor Barwin, a workout warrior from Cincinnati, who led the Big East in sacks last season in his first year as a defensive end, impressed Angelo. But the Texans plucked him at No. 46.


  • General manager Jerry Angelo admits that he was surprised Abilene Christian wide receiver Johnny Knox was still on the board when the Bears took him early in the fifth round with the 140th overall pick.

    "I thought he would be gone in the fourth round given the speed, the workout, (and he) had a real good (Texas vs. the Nation) all-star game," Angelo said. "Obviously the speed factor played heavily when we saw him on the board there in the fifth."

    Knox ran a 4.34 40-yard dash at the Combine, but he played just two years at Division-II Abilene after two years at Tyler Community College. Bears coach Lovie Smith did not share the opinion of those who downgraded Knox because he didn't play "big-time" college football.

    "I know a little bit about (Tyler) because it's close to my hometown (Big Sandy, Tex.)," Smith said. "It is a big-time junior college; let's get that on record. We got a chance to see Johnny at the Combine with all the big-school guys. I didn't know a lot about him until I went to the Combine. He caught the ball well, and he looked like he was one of the guys from one of the bigger schools."

  • Fourth-round defensive end Henry Melton and sixth-round safety Al Afalava both had DUI's during their college careers.

    "We checked into it," general manager Jerry Angelo said. "It was earlier in their careers. Afalava is married and has two children. (He made a) dumb mistake (February, 2008). Melton, again earlier in his career (June 2007). We talked to both of them about it. Their coaches say it was very uncharacteristic of who are they are as people. We're fine with that."

  • Third-round pick Jarron Gilbert's father, Daren, played four years as an offensive tackle for the Saints after being a second-round draft choice (38th overall), one pick after the Eagles took quarterback Randall Cunningham.

    The 6-5, 288-pound defensive lineman has gotten some good advice from his father over the years.

    "His favorite line is, ‘It's never as bad as it seems, and it's never as good as it seems,' " Gilbert said."Those are some of the things I take from him. He always just stresses to me to control what I can control. You can't put too much emphasis on the other stuff because it'll drive you crazy."

  • The Bears signed nine undrafted rookie free agents the day after the draft: guards Johan Asiata (UNLV) and Dennis Conley (Hampton), safety Dahna Deleston (UConn), running back Tyrell Fenroy (Louisiana-Lafayette), linebacker Mike Rivera (Kansas), wide receiver Eric Peterman (Northwestern), fullback Will Ta'ufo'ou (Cal) and defensive back Woodny Turenne (Louisville).

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "Everybody in our division got better today. We might not have gotten better today, but we got better a few weeks ago." - GM Jerry Angelo after the first day of the draft, when the Bears didn't have a pick, partly because they had traded their first-rounder to the Broncos on April 2 as partial payment for QB Jay Cutler.


    The fans booed more than the No. 1 pick, Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford, at the Lions' draft party at Ford Field. They booed the No. 20 pick, Oklahoma State tight end Brandon Pettigrew, even more loudly. Some even walked out.

    Sick of watching a defense that ranked last in the NFL the past two seasons — and gave up 517 points last season, second most all-time — fans wanted the Lions to address the gaping hole at middle linebacker.

    It was one thing when the Lions passed on Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry to take Stafford. It was another when they passed on Southern Cal linebacker Rey Maualuga to take Pettigrew.

    But general manager Martin Mayhew had said repeatedly the Lions would take talent over need in the draft and wouldn't be afraid to go offense with his first two picks. Pettigrew was rated in the top 10 on some teams' boards, while Maualuga fell all the way to No. 38.

    It's not like Pettigrew doesn't fill a need, though. Tight end is a big part of offensive coordinator Scott Linehan's system. Michael Gaines struggled after signing with the Lions as a free agent last season and was rel
    eased after the draft.

    "Brandon Pettigrew is a guy we think the world of — a really good blocker, big, physical presence in the run game and a big target for our quarterbacks," Mayhew said.

    The Lions held their breath when Philadelphia traded up to No. 19. When the Eagles took Missouri wide receiver Jeremy Maclin instead of Pettigrew, the Lions were thrilled.

    "If you're going to run the football, which we're going to do, you need a guy that can block the edge, and he's a guy that can do that," coach Jim Schwartz said. "He's a really, really big target in the passing game. He's got really soft hands, reliable hands. Not necessarily a vertical threat down the field, but he's going to be a good target in the red zone and gives a big target."

    Schwartz said one of the things that impressed the Lions in their research was how Pettigrew handled Texas defensive end/outside linebacker Brian Orakpo, who went to Washington at No. 13.

    "It was a challenge," Pettigrew said. "I'm a competitor, and I felt like I had to get after him. If I didn't get after him, he was going to get after me."

    So it was complete domination?

    "Yeah, it was complete domination," Pettigrew said with a laugh. "No, don't tell him I said that. It was a good battle."


  • Stillman defensive tackle Sammie Lee Hill, a fourth-round pick, once helped pull a man out of a burning building. Hill was driving some teammates home after a film session in August 2007 when he spotted a house fire. He turned around to see if anyone needed help. A woman standing outside said her father was in the house. The players took off their shirts, put them over their faces, held onto each other and dragged the man out.

    "Honestly, I was scared," said Hill, who is listed at 6-4, 330 pounds. "I was the biggest one out of everybody. I probably was the most scared one. But I just felt like if I was in that situation, where I needed somebody to help my mom and dad, I would want them to do it. That's more what I was thinking about."

  • Wisconsin linebacker DeAndre Levy, a third-round pick, had surgery on a staph infection and cyst on his lower back during his senior year of high school - and played a football game that night.

    "They just closed it up that day, so it was, like, leaking a little bit," Levy said. "I had a patch over it. It was bleeding a little. It was kind of nasty, when I think back on it. But you don't really think about that when you're on the field."

  • Penn State wide receiver/return man Derrick Williams, a third-round pick, was doing a media conference call right after he was drafted when his phone buzzed. It was Lions wide receiver Bryant Johnson. Again. "That's Bryant texting me," Williams said. "He's texting me left and right now. He says, ‘Don't worry. I got you.'" Johnson, a fellow Nittany Lion, is one of Williams' mentors. Both are from the Baltimore/Washington area. They met when Johnson was a senior and Williams was being recruited, and they grew close the following year. They often work out together.

  • Texas Christian running back Aaron Brown wasn't surprised when the Lions drafted him in the sixth round Sunday. Although he wasn't invited to the NFL Scouting Combine, he performed well at his pro day and caught the
    attention of the Lions, who invited him to team headquarters for a visit. He met with running backs coach Sam Gash and others. "Out of all my visits, they made me feel a lot more welcome than a lot of guys have," said Brown, who will return for rookie minicamp Friday through Sunday. "I felt just really good about my experience there."

    Brown has a history of injuries and off-field issues. He was suspended for all but one game his senior year of high school for a graffiti incident. He said it was "just some stupid stuff ... to intimidate the incoming freshmen." He served a three-game suspension his senior year of college for violating school policy. "They asked me about it, and I told them the truth," Brown said of the Lions. "I've learned my lesson. ... That's really not me."

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "Obviously the reason we selected Delmas ahead of Rey is we had Delmas rated higher on our board." — Coach Jim Schwartz, on why the Lions passed on Southern Cal linebacker Rey Maualuga at No. 33 for Western Michigan safety Louis Delmas. Many analysts had Maualuga going to the Lions at No. 20.


    No sooner had the Packers traded up to take Clay Matthews with the second of two first-round draft picks April 25 than the coveted linebacker from Southern California received his marching orders.

    First-year outside linebackers coach Kevin Greene, who carved out a reputation as one of the game's most dominant linebackers, is taking Matthews under his wing.

    "The workload of an outside ‘backer in a 3-4 (scheme) is tremendous," Greene said. "I gave him the three basic job descriptions for an outside ‘backer in the 3-4. That is, he's got to cover like a big strong safety, he's got to play the run hard at the point of attack, and he's got to rush the passer like a defensive end weighing about 285 pounds. He's got to be a booger; he's got to be a bear."

    Packers general manager Ted Thompson thought so highly of Matthews that he traded his second-round pick and two third-round choices to the New England Patriots to grab him at No. 26 overall.

    Thompson sees a tremendous upside in the 6-3, 245-pound Matthews, who started his college career as a walk-on safety and blossomed into a productive starter last season at USC.

    "The more you watch him, the more natural he looks as a player," Thompson said. "He's always on his feet. He has great hips and balance. He can use his hands effectively against offensive linemen and running backs. He can run. He had a great 40 (time of 4.6 seconds) at the combine. He can move in space. He can do the things that anybody looks for in a defensive player."

    What's more, Matthews has unrivaled bloodlines as he begins his pro career. He is a third-generation NFL player, following grandfather Clay and father Clay Jr., as well as uncle Bruce Matthews, a Hall of Fame offensive lineman.

    Clay Matthews is projected to start at right outside linebacker in Green Bay's new 3-4 system. He feels ready for the challenge at the highest level.

    "I think I'm a terrific athlete, and I definitely have confidence in my
    abilities," Matthews said. "Right now, I need to start learning the playbook and get in there and start working out and letting them know that I'm here to stay and that I'm here to win the starting position."

    The indoctrination for the likes of Matthews and nose tackle B.J. Raji, the No. 9 pick in Round 1, began May 1-3 when the Packers held a rookie orientation camp.


  • With the draft in the books, the Packers are ramping up their offseason program.

    A rookie orientation camp May 1-3 at the team's indoor practice facility kicks things off on the field. The practices are confined to the rookie class, first-year players and players brought in on a tryout basis.

    "We did this last year, and it's been very, very productive for us," head coach Mike McCarthy said. "Sometimes, teams go with the mandatory minicamp with everybody after the draft. We have gone to the rookie orientation format, and I think it's been excellent for our younger players.

    "It gives us a chance to introduce these young players to the Green Bay Packers organization. When you have the minicamp in my opinion, you have so much going on, football being the priority, they don't really take in the other aspects of coming to work at the Green Bay Packers that's important when they come back" later in the month.

    Voluntary organized team activities for the full squad will be May 26 to June 18. The mandatory minicamp will follow June 22-24.

  • Among the unsigned players who will be getting a look-see in the rookie camp are quarterbacks Brian Johnson, formerly of Utah, and David Johnson, who played at Tulsa.

    They were invited on a tryout basis and will get ample opportunities to line up behind center because the three quarterbacks on the Green Bay roster — Aaron Rodgers, Matt Flynn and Brian Brohm — aren't participating.

    Brian Johnson was an efficient passer for Utah in its 13-0 season last year, completing 68 percent of his throws with a 3-to-1 ratio for touchdowns (27) to interceptions (nine).

    David Johnson put up big passing numbers at Tulsa last season, throwing for more than 4,000 yards with 46 touchdowns and 18 interceptions.

  • McCarthy was looking forward to get a first glimpse of more than some of his players in an on-field setting.

    The rookie camp also is a debut of sorts for several assistant coaches. McCarthy turned over nearly the entire defensive staff after last season and added highly regarded coaches such as Dom Capers as defensive coordinator, Mike Trgovac as defensive line coach, Kevin Greene as outside linebackers coach and Darren Perry as safeties coach.

    When asked whether he would be watching his staff as much as the players during the camp, McCarthy responded, "Probably so. Probably more than I did last year."

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "I think our defense is improved from last year to this point for a number of different reasons. I think we are adding a scheme (3-4) that is going to give us some more versatility. Our current players that have been here for the offseason program have taken advantage of the time with the coaches ... and then the ability to add a full draft class with a number of defensive players I think definitely helps us." — Head coach Mike McCarthy on the state of the defense after the unit struggled last season.

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