Around the NFC North

How will the Mike Martz-Jay Cutler melding work in Chicago? Will WR Donte Stallworth end up with the Lions after being reinstated to the league? How will changes on the Packers coaching staff be handled? Some interesting fodder around the NFC North, along with Hall of Fame notes and disappointments.


There seems to be a lot of concern regarding the potential for head-butting between quarterback Jay Cutler and new offensive coordinator Mike Martz.

But there is also a strong likelihood that the Cutler-Martz collaboration will produce positive results. While both are known to have strong convictions and opinions, sometimes to the point of being stubborn, they are both smart enough to realize that they provide each other with the best chance for success.

Cutler is by far the best quarterback Martz has had to work with since his days with Kurt Warner in St. Louis. And without getting into a Ron Turner-Mike Martz debate, Martz's affinity for, and production in, the passing game can only help Cutler.

Martz, in his role as an analyst with NFL Network, was critical of Cutler's demeanor with the media following the Bears' 2009 season-opening loss to the Packers, when he tossed four interceptions.

For the record, this is the quote about Cutler that caused so much commotion in the weeks leading up to Martz's hiring:

"He just doesn't get it," Martz said. "He doesn't understand that he represents a great head coach and the rest of those players on that team ... somebody needs to talk to him."

Martz said he spoke with Cutler about that when they met in Nashville.

"I addressed that immediately with Jay," Martz said. "The thing I told Jay, and I said this a few days after that show, the thing I felt bad (about) was, I felt like I knew what Jay was (about). I met him when he was coming out in the draft. I felt like I had a pretty good understanding of who he was and the integrity and the dignity that he has and how classy a guy he is, and how he kind of misrepresented himself with that and really that was totally out of frustration for that game.

"He's going to be one of the elite players in this league for a long time, and those are things that he's just going to have to deal with. That was a very difficult situation for him. But (it was) a great experience for him to go through it and now you've just got to take that deep breath before you go in there. As a former head coach, you go through those things and collect yourself a little bit and then go in there. It just did not demonstrate who he really was, and those are all learning experiences for all of us."

  • For the sixth time in seven years former Bears defensive end Richard Dent, the franchise's all-time leading sacker, made it to the finals but not into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

    The final list of 15 modern-era nominees, including Dent, was pared down to 10 by the 44-member Hall of Fame selection committee Saturday morning at the Super Bowl XLIV media center. Dent made the first cut along with center Dermontti Dawson, defensive tackle Cortez Kennedy, wide receiver Andre Reed and tight end Shannon Sharpe and the final five of guard Russ Grimm, linebacker Rickey Jackson, defensive tackle John Randle, wide receiver Jerry Rice and running back Emmitt Smith.

    Dent spent 11 seasons with the Bears and was the MVP of the 46-10 Super Bowl XX victory over the Patriots. In a 15-year NFL career that included brief stints with the Eagles, Colts and 49ers, Dent finished with 137 1/2 sacks, including 124 1/2 with the Bears. Dent, an eighth-round draft pick out of Tennessee State in 1983, had double-digit sacks for five straight seasons from 1984-88 and is six of seven seasons. Dent had 17 1/2 sacks in 1984 and 17 in the Super Bowl season of ‘85.


    WR Donte' Stallworth reportedly was to work out for the Lions after being reinstated by the NFL and released by the Browns. The Lions need help at wide receiver to complement Calvin Johnson. But Stallworth, 29, hasn't played since 2008 and his best season was in ‘05, when he caught 70 passes for 945 yards and seven touchdowns for New Orleans. Stallworth struck and killed a pedestrian while driving drunk in March in Miami Beach, Fla. He pleaded guilty to DUI manslaughter, served less than 30 days in jail and was suspended by the league.

    Commissioner Roger Goodell said he met with Stallworth about six weeks ago. "I wanted to see how he was doing, what he had been focused on during his time away from the game, and I think he's in a better place than he was," Goodell said in his Super Bowl XLIV news conference Friday. "I think he recognizes what he did and the horrific nature and the unfortunate outcome, and I think he's prepared himself to get back in and play."

  • Thirty-eight years since the end of his brilliant career as a Lions cornerback, Dick LeBeau was selected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a senior candidate.

    "There's something to say about longevity and sticking in there and holding onto your dreams," said LeBeau, 72. "But it's just unbelievable. I'm so thrilled, so pleased." LeBeau was long overlooked.

    He was originally drafted in the fifth round by the Browns in 1959 — and released in training camp. He signed with the Lions as a free agent. Playing in the same defensive backfield with Yale Lary, Dick "Night Train" Lane and Lem Barney — all Hall of Famers — opponents figured he was the weak link. But he intercepted 62 passes. He was tied for third all time when he retired after the 1972 season. He is still tied for eighth all time and still ranks first in Lions history.


    Without a public announcement, coach Mike McCarthy made some coaching changes on his staff a few weeks after the season ended Jan. 10. No jobs were lost, but titles and duties were rearranged for some.

    Mark Lovat was promoted from assistant strength and conditioning coach to the top job that was held by Dave Redding last season. Redding, a longtime strength coach in the league, will serve as Lovat's assistant this year after grooming him in 2009 for the coordinator role.

    Curtis Fuller was moved from special-teams assistant coach to a coaching and administrative position. His primary responsibilities will be with the defense.

    Chad Morton, who was a coaching administrator for the team last year, was shifted to assistant special-teams coach.

  • Veteran cornerback Al Harris is providing insights into his recovery from knee surgery by having a video journal called "Road to Truth" periodically posted on the Web site

    Harris has been on the mend for nearly three months since suffering torn anterior-cruciate and lateral-cruciate ligaments in his left knee during the Nov. 22 game against the San Francisco 49ers. Harris underwent surgery Nov. 30.

    He has been doing his recovery work at Atlantic Rehabilitation Center in Miami and feels he's ahead of schedule. The 35-year-old Harris expects to be ready long before the start of training camp.

    "I'm here right now documenting this thing so you out there can know what we have to go through to get back on the field," Harris said of the video journal.

  • Maligned defensive end Justin Harrell is on a rigorous rehab program at the team's Lambeau Field facilities in the early part of the offseason.
    Harrell, Green Bay's first-round draft pick in 2007, hasn't played since Dec. 7, 2008. A recurring back injury flared up in training camp last summer, and Harrell missed the entire season.

    "He is getting close to being fully recovered," coach Mike McCarthy said shortly after the season ended. "There are definitely some targets that he is going to have to hit throughout the offseason, but he is doing very well in the weight room and the rehab part of it. He is going to be here full time."

  • General manager Ted Thompson, head coach Mike McCarthy and their staffs are in draft-preparation mode. A lot of time is spent in meetings the first few weeks of February — studying, discussing and ranking players to be put on the team's preliminary draft board.

    The staff will head to Indianapolis en masse for the draft combine, which will be Feb. 24 to March 2.

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