Wide receiver Juaquin Iglesias, the Bears' third-round pick, isn't yet in quarterback Jay Cutler's "fave five," but the veteran has already reached out to touch the rookie.
"I haven't had a chance to meet with him, but as soon as I got drafted he was one of the first texts I got, which was kind of welcoming," Iglesias said during last weekend's three-day rookie minicamp. "He just said that he's ready to work with me, and he's glad I'm a Bear, just like I'm glad I'm a Bear, and I'm glad to get a chance to work with him. He's a great quarterback, and I'm excited about it."
Iglesias, the 99th overall selection, was a three-year starter at Oklahoma and the Sooners' go-to guy the past two years. Since wide receiver is considered a weakness of the Bears, the 6-foot-1, 210-pound Iglesias will have a chance to contribute immediately, unlike last year's third-round pick, wide receiver Earl Bennett, who failed to catch a pass all season.
"Last year, we had a luxury of having two veteran guys there (Marty Booker and Brandon Lloyd) and we could slow Bennett's progress down some," Bears wide receivers coach Darryl Drake said. "We may accelerate (Iglesias') progress a little."
And, while no one cracks the starting lineup during rookie minicamp, it was a great opportunity for skill-position players to make a good first impression on coaches.
Iglesias, and especially fifth-rounder Johnny Knox, got noticed as much as any of the 43 rookies on the practice field at Halas Hall. Knox, who ran a 4.34-second 40-yard dash at the Combine, was the fastest player on the field, and he might also have the softest hands, a nice combination.
"Some of the guys that stood out, I thought (were) Johnny Knox," coach Lovie Smith said, "and you notice Juaquin Iglesias, too, catching the football."
Devin Hester is the only wide receiver on the Bears' roster guaranteed a position in the starting lineup, so both rookies have a chance to make an immediate impact, either as a starter or as a situational substitute in three- and four-wide receiver formations.
Even though veterans have the weekend off from the voluntary offseason workout program, Hester stopped by to watch the rookies after hitting the weight room.
"Devin's a gym rat," Smith said. "He got a good workout in on his own. This (was) a day that the (veteran) players are off, and he's out here working out trying to get better."
Three of the Bears' draft choices have experienced great success as return specialists, but that doesn't mean they're going to do the same with their new team.
Devin Hester had 11 combined kick-return touchdowns in his first two seasons (2006, ‘07) before slumping last season and losing the kickoff return job to Danieal Manning, who led the NFL with a 29.7-yard average.
So, for now, wide receivers Juaquin Iglesias and Johnny Knox and cornerback D.J. Moore are behind Hester and Manning on the kickoff and punt return depth chart.
"Right now, they're potential backups, the way I see it," said special teams coordinator Dave Toub. "D.J. Moore is probably the most polished right now, and Johnny Knox has potential; obviously his speed is there, he just has to catch more punts. It's hard to do, it takes a lot of work to be somebody you can depend on on a regular basis.
"Juaquin, is really a kickoff returner. He's really a good kick returner when you go back and watch his college tape. But punt return, he really doesn't have a lot of reps there, so he's probably the farthest guy away."
Larry Foote has heard the wisecracks.
He was a starting linebacker on two championship teams in Pittsburgh. But he asked to be traded a couple of weeks after the Super Bowl, and when the Steelers eventually released him, he signed almost immediately with the team that just suffered the NFL's first 0-16 season.
The thing is, that team was the Lions. Is he crazy?
"This is my hometown," said Foote, a Detroit native who also played at Michigan. "All along during my career, this idea was always in the back of my head: What would it be like to play for the Lions? This is a great opportunity, a fresh start in my career, new coaches. I'm just excited and just honored to be here."
This wasn't just about a homecoming. This was about opportunity. Foote felt his role was limited in Pittsburgh, with first-round pick Lawrence Timmons pushing for playing time, and he wants to prove his worth as a three-down linebacker so he can cash in next year.
"I'm going to be valued a little higher than I am right now," Foote said. "I'm looking forward to just having a one-year deal and showing the Lions organization what I can do."
The Lions have an opening at middle linebacker, and Foote is expected to start between Ernie Sims and Julian Peterson. But the Lions drafted DeAndre Levy with the idea of moving him from the outside to the inside, and they made no promises to Foote.
"The point we made with him is the same point we made with every player on the team," coach Jim Schwartz said. "When he does sign on that line, he's not signing as the starting middle linebacker. He's signing to compete for the starting job."
Foote thinks his play will take care of everything. He doesn't think adjusting from the Steelers' 3-4 defense to the Lions' 4-3 scheme will be too difficult, and he doesn't believe the Lions must rebuild.
The Lions have added a lot to a defense that ranked last in the NFL the past two seasons — replacing more than half the starters — and Foote thinks they can improve quickly.
"I always want to win," Foote said. "If you ask my friends and family, if I don't win, I get angry. I want to win by any means. You go to my house and you see holes in the wall right now from video games. I'm a competitor. I want to win. I didn't look at the record. I said, ‘Shoot, I'm going to help them.' "
GREEN BAY PACKERS
The Packers are all for the speculated return to the field — yet again — of former quarterback Brett Favre and his possible next destination with the archrival Minnesota Vikings.
"If Brett wants to play football, he should play football," Green Bay head coach Mike McCarthy said. "If he still wants to play, he should take advantage of his opportunities."
McCarthy made the comments after Favre was released by the New York Jets after the longtime star had retired for the second time in as many years following last season.
In turn, as Favre, 39, issued a statement saying he would remain retired "at this time," the Vikings reportedly took an interest in the newly anointed free agent and were arranging to have a meeting between head coach Brad Childress and Favre at his home in Mississippi.
The news of a potential Favre-Vikings marriage — less than a year after his celebrated 16-year run in Green Bay ended acrimoniously when the Packers traded him to the Jets in training camp — was an attention grabber among some Packers players.
Linebacker Nick Barnett shared his thoughts on the Twitter social-networking Web site.
Barnett wrote that Favre should "do whatever he feels is in his heart" but issued this caveat in his post: "Once he puts (on) that purple, he will become an enemy which is all part of the game. It's hard to imagine him doing that."
Favre's motivation to play for the Vikings apparently is rooted in his dislike for Packers general manager Ted Thompson and his handling of the three-time league MVP after Favre came out of retirement last summer.
Favre would have two cracks at the Packers in the teams' intradivisional matchups during the regular season. The first meeting will be Oct. 5, a Monday night game at Minnesota. The Vikings will come to Lambeau Field on Nov. 1.
Meanwhile, the Packers are planning to stick with the same three quarterbacks from last season entering training camp this summer. That would mean Matt Flynn and Brian Brohm, who were rookies in 2008, will split the reps behind starter Aaron Rodgers.
"We've talked about possibly going again with three this year (in camp) because of the youth of those three guys," McCarthy said.
While the trio spent the first weekend of May together in Louisville, Ky., watching the Kentucky Derby, Green Bay had a pair of undrafted quarterbacks in for a tryout during its rookie orientation camp. Neither Brian Johnson (Utah) nor David Johnson (Tulsa) was signed after the camp, however.
The preliminary plan with the Packers' rookie offensive tackles selected in the middle rounds of this year's NFL Draft is to line up Jamon Meredith on the left side and T.J. Lang on the right.
Those were the spots the newcomers primarily manned during three days of practices in the team's rookie orientation camp May 1-3.
Lang, a fourth-round choice from Eastern Michigan, will be in the mix for the starting vacancy at right tackle with veteran Mark Tauscher still unsigned as a free agent. Lang started at right tackle as an underclassman in college but played the last 26 games at left tackle.
The 6-foot-4, 316-pound Lang also could be moved inside to guard, though the Packers appear to be set with starters Daryn Colledge on the left side and Josh Sitton on the right side.
"He definitely has the strength levels for a young player to come into this league," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "I thought that was very apparent (in the rookie camp). He really reminds me a lot of a number of our current linemen. I really like the way he fits in with that group."
Meredith, who slipped to the fifth round after some draft projections had him going on Day 1, is back at his natural position of left tackle after he ended his tenure at South Carolina at left guard most of last season.
"That's the position (left tackle) we really evaluated him for," McCarthy said. "We want to take a real long look at him at left tackle."
The 6-5 Meredith, who reported to the rookie camp weighing 298, could get plenty of first-string reps at left tackle in the forthcoming organized team activities and minicamp. Incumbent starter Chad Clifton likely will be held out of team drills after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery in the winter.
Still recovering from offseason surgeries are left tackle Chad Clifton (knee), center Scott Wells (shoulder) and Breno Giacomini (ankle), a candidate to start at right tackle if veteran free agent Mark Tauscher isn't re-signed.