Around the NFC North

Greg Olsen's start to the season isn't quite what the Bears had in mind. The Lions are trying to overcome a substantial Lambeau losing streak. And the Packers offensive line is suffering a little more.


As far as Pro Bowl campaigns go, Greg Olsen's is off to a sluggish start.

The Bears traded for Jay Cutler on April 2, and by April 3, there was already speculation that Olsen was destined for greatness and would be a frequent visitor to the Pro Bowl in years to come. Common opinion was that a Pro Bowl quarterback like Cutler was all a talented tight end like Olsen needed to realize his immense potential and start putting up Tony Gonzalez numbers — or at least numbers in that ritzy neighborhood.

However, through the Bears' first four games, Olsen has 10 catches for 94 yards, a pace that would leave him with 40 receptions and 376 yards, not nearly enough to get to the Pro Bowl or warrant comparisons to Gonzalez.

Olsen doesn't blame his slow start on trying to live up to the hype, and he's still confident he can achieve the greatness that's been predicted for him.

"I feel that I have that type of potential and that type of ability," the 6-foot-5, 255-pound Olsen said. "Things have to go your way sometimes and (you have to) get the breaks. But I feel good overall about how my game's been through the first quarter of the season.

"I know a lot of the other stuff gets looked past — the run-blocking, pass-blocking, stuff like that — but I'm not really too concerned about all the stuff that gets said. I feel good about where I'm at and just have to continue to not press and, when the chances come, just make the best of them."

Apparently opposing teams also figured Cutler would be looking to Olsen frequently, what with the lack of respect that the Bears' wide receivers received early in the season. Olsen has been attracting more attention than ever from opposing defenses.

"I'd say it's a significant upgrade, especially from my rookie year," Olsen said. "But that happens. A lot of guys around the league get different attention and different looks each week, and you just have to adjust and take what's there. (Against the Lions), we were able to score a lot of points. At the end of the game, it's not about how many catches and the stats. When the plays come your way, make them, and the rest of the stuff takes care of itself. I'm not too worried about stats around here."

But Bears offensive coordinator Ron Turner is concerned about getting the ball into Olsen's hands, whether he's lining up as a traditional tight end, split outside like a wide receiver or in the fullback position, all of which he's done this year.

"He can do a lot of things," Turner said. "He and I talked last week. We've got to get him more balls in the passing game. Having him be able to do so many things is a luxury. We can line him up out there, and they don't know if he's going to line up as a wide receiver or line up as a tight end or at the fullback and be a lead blocker. So that definitely gives us the ability to do a lot of things."


The mood is darker for the Lions as they prepare to play Sunday at Green Bay. They haven't beaten the Packers on the road since 1991 — 18 straight games, including the playoffs — and they could be without their top young offensive stars.

Quarterback Matthew Stafford and wide receiver Calvin Johnson did not practice Thursday because of knee injuries, not a good sign.

Daunte Culpepper and Drew Stanton took the snaps at quarterback.

"Right now we're just planning on any scenario," offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said. "Obviously all three took work (Wednesday), and we gave a number of reps obviously to Daunte and Drew (Thursday). Just getting ready. Status quo. The same. We'll wait till Sunday for where we're going to be officially."

Stafford suffered what was reportedly a partially dislocated right kneecap Oct. 4 at Chicago. He sat out Sunday against Pittsburgh.

He was listed as limited in practice Wednesday. Asked if he took any reps, Linehan said: "Yeah, he worked probably half the practice. From my understanding, he's getting better. He's feeling better than he did last week."

Stafford said Wednesday that he was improving, but he was concerned about swelling and unsure whether he would be able to play.

Stafford and coach Jim Schwartz declined to comment Thursday.

Johnson left Sunday's game against Pittsburgh with a right knee injury and did not practice Wednesday, either.

Asked if he was improving, he said: "Yeah, definitely." But asked about his availability for Sunday, he said: "We're still playing it by ear."

Winning Sunday would be huge for the Lions. It isn't because of their losing streak in Wisconsin.

"I don't think there's any special motivation for the team, because too much of the team doesn't have attachment to it," said kicker Jason Hanson, who joined the Lions in 1992. "But for people who have watched the Lions and have been here, it's one of those that's like, ‘They're not a good team, and here's one of the stats that says it.' Once we're good enough, it'll just take care of itself."

The Lions were close Sunday in a 28-20 loss at Pittsburgh. But at 1-4 — having lost 27 of their past 29 games — they're tired of being close. They would like to go into their bye week as winners.

"Being competitive is, whatever," Hanson said, making a face. "Monday's still the same, whether it was competitive or not, when you lose. We need to start winning. We need to start winning on the road. We need to start winning at these places where we haven't won. It would be good. Hopefully the guys are focused on it."


Undrafted rookie Evan Dietrich-Smith starting at center for the Packers on Sunday?

Don't count on it, but Dietrich-Smith was quarterback Aaron Rodgers' caddie in practice Thursday after the Packers had their top two centers drop out early in a workout that was held outdoors on a cold, damp day in Green Bay.

Both Jason Spitz and Scott Wells were subsequently added to the injury report with back and hamstring injuries, respectively.

Coach Mike McCarthy said the issues arose in individual work before team drills.

"I don't think they're serious, but we felt that we needed to send them (to the training room), let the trainers work on them," McCarthy said.

The setbacks come just as the Packers were getting well again, at least from a health standpoint, with their offensive line, which has been mostly responsible for Rodgers' league-high 20 sacks in the first four games.

Left tackle Chad Clifton returned to the field earlier this week and was a full participant in practice Thursday for the first time since he suffered a badly sprained ankle in Week 2. Provided Clifton responds well to that work in pads and is fine Friday, he should be back in the starting lineup for Sunday's game against the Lions.

That would allow Daryn Colledge to return to left guard after he replaced Clifton the last two games. Colledge is expected to play despite suffering a knee sprain in the Packers' last game, Oct. 5.

Spitz, who moved from center to left guard when Clifton was out, presumably will be back at the former position Sunday if his back is OK.

Although the Packers re-signed veteran Mark Tauscher earlier in the week, Allen Barbre will remain the starter at right tackle for at least one more game. Tauscher is being brought along slowly in practice this week, nine months after he underwent surgery for a torn ACL in his left knee.

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