Through the spring and into the summer Caleb Hanie heard the awful things people were saying about the Bears' backup quarterbacks, which naturally struck a chord, considering he's Jay Cutler's backup.
Even those Bears watchers giddy over the acquisition of Cutler worried that if, heaven forbid, The Chosen One were injured, the team's fortunes would be in the hands of a novice. That much is true. Hanie didn't throw a pass last year as an undrafted rookie out of Colorado State, and No. 3 Brett Basanez threw just 11 passes in three years with the Panthers.
"I hear all the rumors, but you just have to ignore them and go about your business and worry about what you can do," the 6-foot-2, 225-pound Hanie said. "If you go out and play well, then they're going to want to keep you. That's what I intend to do, and that's what my goal has always been. The only way you can control what they're thinking is by your play."
Hanie demonstrated some serious mind control over anyone watching the Bears' preseason opener, especially those who contend the Bears need to acquire a more experienced backup. He completed 8 of 11 passes for 87 yards, 1 touchdown and a passer rating of 125.9.
Performing well in the preseason is nothing new for Hanie, who was a long shot last year in training camp but impressed enough in the preseason (82.1 passer rating) to make the team.
In the second preseason game, Hanie was 10-of-18 for 120 yards and a 76.2 passer rating and had a 13-yard TD run negated by a holding call.
DE Adewale Ogunleye was disappointed to hear the news that former Giants wide receiver Plaxico Burress accepted a two-year jail sentence as part of a plea agreement Thursday for attempted criminal possession of a weapon.
"It's a tough situation," Ogunleye said Thursday afternoon. "I'm probably going to give him a call now, but it's a tough situation."
Ogunleye and Burress worked out together this past offseason in Miami and have known each other since they competed in the Big Ten at Indiana and Michigan State, respectively. Burress was indicted earlier this month on two counts of criminal possession of a weapon and one count of reckless endangerment after he accidentally shot himself in the thigh at a New York nightclub. He faced a minimum of 3 1/2 years in prison if he were convicted of those offenses.
"It's double-sided," Ogunleye said. "Inner cities are tough. The crime rate here in Chicago and New York is high, and they've got to have very strict gun rules. I guess he just made a poor decision, and it's really affected him now."
Ogunleye said Burress' sentence might deter others, including NFL players, from making the same mistake.
"I don't think there's a lot of players really running around with guns," he said. "I live in a lot of places. I'm from New York, I live in Miami, I play in Chicago, and I don't think a lot of guys would walk around with guns on them like that. So I don't know. But I know everybody, if you're living in the state of New York, right now you know not to bring guns anywhere into the city."
Talk about making an impact.
Lions safety Louis Delmas, the first pick of the second round in the NFL draft this year, had experienced only two fully padded practices before starting in an exhibition at Cleveland.
The first one came on the fourth day of training camp, and afterward, his left knee swelled up in a meeting. That kept him out for more than a week.
The second one came just three days before the Browns game, and in the middle of it, he smoked fellow rookie Aaron Brown with a hard hit. Brown ran to his left to catch a swing pass. Delmas smacked him and separated him from the ball.
Coach Jim Schwartz immediately approached Delmas. He told him the hit was unnecessary and crossed the line. But he didn't seem too upset, and defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham couldn't hide his true feelings.
"You shouldn't do that in practice, but I turned around and smiled," Cunningham said. "I loved every second of it. Boy, he blew him up. That's the kind of tackling we hope to get out of him."
Brown wasn't upset.
"To be honest, the hit didn't even hurt," Brown said. "It was just surprising that I was laid out like this — and boom. When I got up, the only thing that was really bothering me was my face mask was kind of twisted."
As Delmas spoke to reporters in the locker room, his long hair tied back, Brown walked behind him and playfully slapped the ponytail. Brown smiled over his shoulder. As the reporters laughed, Delmas ducked into the showers.
But that's the only way Delmas has been ducking. The Lions have been going through some physical practices, and Delmas had been itching to be a part of it.
"Putting on pads, going full speed out there," Delmas said, "I just want to hit anybody right now, just to get myself back into game-type situations."
Delmas said he definitely needed to adjust to the NFL after playing at Western Michigan.
"The speed of the game is the biggest thing for me," Delmas said. "It was an eye-opener coming into (offseason workouts), coming into training camp, the speed of the game in practice. So I'm anxious to see what it's going to be like in the game."
But Delmas seemed ready to start against the Browns.
At the end of offseason workouts, Schwartz said Delmas had mastered the extensive defensive system maybe as quickly as he had ever seen a young defensive back do it.
And since Delmas has returned from the knee injury, Schwartz has praised him for how he stayed engaged in meetings and practices while sidelined.
"He has a remarkable aptitude for the game," Schwartz said. "He picks concepts up really quickly.
"There's not much that's too big for him when you step up — whether it's stepping up with the rookies, stepping up with the vets, stepping up in a training camp practice."
GREEN BAY PACKERS
Packers linebacker Brady Poppinga is well-versed in being an expectant father. He has two young children.
Drawing off that knowledge, the typically loquacious Poppinga resorted to baby talk to explain the rebirth of a suddenly omnipotent Packers defense.
Poppinga dispensed with these words of wisdom when asked after the Packers' 31-21 exhibition victory over the visiting Buffalo Bills on Aug. 22 whether people should be getting excited about the stifling play of the defense after two preseason games:
"It's way early, man. It's a process, and we are at the beginning stages of the process. It's like a baby. You go and do an ultrasound, then you're getting excited that the baby is going to be born the next day. But, in fact, you know the baby is going to develop, it's got to grow all of the necessary, survival attributes in order to live in the womb.
"It's sort of the same thing with us right now. You get excited, yeah, you want it to be at that elite level right now, but it's early. We just have to continue to progress and continue to allow the process to work for us over time."
By the time the Packers take to the field for the season opener Sept. 13 against the Chicago Bears at Lambeau Field, the growth and development of the baby that is the new 3-4 defensive scheme under first-year coordinator Dom Capers will have just about gone to a full term of nine months after it was conceived shortly after last season ended.
"I think we've made progress," Capers said. "We just have to stay on course and continue to work."
Capers couldn't have asked for a better dress rehearsal at the midway point of the four-game preseason schedule.
The attacking defense has nine takeaways, including five against the Bills. After shutting out the Cleveland Browns from start to finish in a 17-0 win Aug. 15, the Packers held Buffalo scoreless until Ryan Fitzpatrick's 9-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jonathan Stupar with 1:09 left in the third quarter against a collection of second- and third-stringers.
The shutout streak was an impressive 103 minutes, 51 seconds.
"It's the second preseason game, so we don't want to get too excited," linebacker Aaron Kampman said. "The reality of football is the preseason doesn't mean anything, but it's an indicator of the fact that I think we're flying around, we're grasping the scheme and we're trying to make some plays, and those plays are being made right now. It's showing up big."
Kampman and his fellow starters were on the field together for the first four series against the Bills. The Packers had three takeaways in that span and didn't allow Buffalo's starting offense to get past midfield in any possession.
"We've got a bunch of ballhawkers on our team," Poppinga said.
He had an interception on a Trent Edwards pass that was deflected by safety Nick Collins in the game-opening drive. Poppinga later recovered a fumble caused by defensive end Cullen Jenkins on an open-field hit of running back Fred Jackson on a pass play.
Sandwiched between those turnovers was a sack of Edwards and forced fumble by defensive end Johnny Jolly.
The Packers turned those miscues into a 21-0 lead early in the second quarter. They buffaloed the Bills' no-huddle offense with a heavy dose of Capers' unpredictable, zone-blitzing scheme.
Green Bay finished the game with three forced fumbles and two interceptions. The Packers had four interceptions in the conquest of the Browns the previous week.
"I think we're off to a good start defensively," head coach Mike McCarthy said. "The takeaways, I think we have something special as far as the production.
"I think the guys are playing with a lot of confidence. They seem very comfortable in the scheme. The disguise part of it has gone very well. We're playing with more vision to the football than we did in the past. We're off to a good start."
A bigger test for the Packers' defense and where it stands in the nine-month process of delivering a healthy, bouncing, impregnable scheme will occur Friday night, when the Packers go on the road for the first time to play the Arizona Cardinals' high-powered offense.
Quarterback Matt Flynn shrugged off a sprain of his throwing shoulder that he incurred on a big hit by Buffalo Bills defensive end Copeland Bryan in the fourth quarter of the Packers' 31-21 preseason win Aug. 22.
Flynn said it wasn't "a big deal," although the injury kept him out the rest of the game.
Having a healthy Flynn backing up starter Aaron Rodgers is paramount for the Packers because Brian Brohm isn't inspiring confidence for being able to lead an offense were an emergency to occur.
Brohm's preseason struggles, which date back to his rookie season in 2008, continued in extended playing time against the Bills. Head coach Mike McCarthy gave Brohm a rare shot to be the No. 2 QB, and the results weren't good.
Brohm had his first pass batted away — one of two he had knocked down — and also had an interception when he overthrew receiver Jordy Nelson by five yards. The 2008 second-round draft pick completed 12 of 19 passes but for only 83 yards. His passer rating was a sickly 51.0.
Brohm's only saving grace came after he returned to action to replace an injured Flynn. Brohm directed a 13-play, 75-yard drive that ended with a 3-yard touchdown run by Tyrell Sutton late in the game.
"He didn't have the production that you're looking for until the last drive," McCarthy said of Brohm.
Flynn, if healthy, is clearly ahead of Brohm for the No. 2 job.