NFC news, notes and quotes

After a big opening week in free agency, the Bears are lacking draft ammunition. The Lions included a bottle of expensive win in their free-agent courtship. And Aaron Kampman is finally admitting frustration with the Packers' switch in defenses last year.


The NFL draft starts on Thursday night (April 22) this year, at least for teams with a first-round pick. But the Bears won't make a selection until late Friday night when they have the 12th pick in the third round, 76th overall.

Local draft fans would love the Bears to trade up and get in the game a little earlier, but that's unlikely.

"I just don't feel we have enough (trade ammunition) to be able to do that," Bears general manager Jerry Angelo said. "Those top 40 picks are really coveted by most teams. It's very difficult to get teams to move out of those positions so, in all likelihood, that's not going to happen. We really don't have enough to offer teams, and once teams get fixed on filling their needs and on players (they like) it's very tough to have them move. I've been in their shoes, and I wouldn't do it."

  • Assistant coaches Mike Martz, Rod Marinelli and Mike Tice have all been head coaches in the NFL, which might cause a head coach in a win-or-else situation to glance over his shoulder.

    But Lovie Smith says that's not a concern.

    "It's a great thing," Smith said. "This is the staff that I wanted. I looked at lot of people, the more the better. We're trying to bring expertise. We're bringing a wealth of knowledge and experience to the group. It's my responsibility to get the best possible guys, period.

    "If I had another position (open) and there was another former (head) coach out there that fit that criteria, I would jump on him, too."

  • There were great expectations for six-time Pro Bowl linebacker Brian Urlacher heading into last year's training camp, but they were dashed by a season-ending dislocated wrist in the first game.

    General manager Jerry Angelo said the still-rehabbing Urlacher, who hasn't been selected for the Pro Bowl since the 2006 season, still can return to that elite level.

    "He's in good health," Angelo said. "He was in real good health last year going into the season. He had a real good off-season. But he had a freak injury unfortunately that shut his season down. We're very optimistic getting him back that he's going to be a very good player for us."

  • Based on his recent lack of production — just three interceptions in three years — since signing a five-year contract extension for $28 million before the 2007 season, Nate Vasher was expected to be cut.

    His 2010 base salary is $2.95 million, but the Bears have already paid him $12 million in bonus money, so they've borne the brunt of the financial commitment.

    "He's on the roster," general manager Jerry Angelo said. "We paid him his money, so it doesn't behoove us to let him go (now). We're going to take him to training camp. He didn't get a lot of playing time last year, as we all know. When he did play he looked OK to me. We like him. No reason to do anything with him. If something happens in free agency, us wanting to do something, then we'd probably have to reassess our roster. But right now it's business as usual."


    Lions coach Jim Schwartz said he needed help choosing a bottle of wine to bring to defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch's house at the opening of free agency.

    "My knowledge of wine begins and ends with Boone's Farm," Schwartz said. "But I know some people that know a lot about wine, and I brought a bottle that was going to get his wife's attention."

    For the record, it was a 2005 Opus One Cabernet.

    "If you want to make a statement, if you want to let people know how important they are, you don't go in half-(way)," Schwartz said. "You go in with some guns blazing."

    Schwartz didn't only bring the wine for Vanden Bosch's wife, Lindsey. He brought three stuffed-animal lions for their kids — daughter Payten, almost 5, and twin sons Bastian and Case, almost 3. He brought T-shirts, too.

    Schwartz said he was inspired by the aggressiveness and guts Jets coach Rex Ryan displayed last year, when he showed up at linebacker Bart Scott's house at the opening of free agency. Ryan had been Scott's defensive coordinator in Baltimore, as Schwartz was Vanden Bosch's defensive coordinator in Tennessee.

    "I think it only works if you have a relationship with the player," Schwartz said. "If I had never met Kyle before, it would have been very awkward. You would have shown up, we would have spent 10 minutes and then you would have been gone. ... If it's somebody else, maybe they're pretending they're not home, turning the lights out."

  • Though Schwartz's relationship with Vanden Bosch helped the Lions pursue him in free agency, Schwartz stressed that it wasn't the reason the Lions signed the defensive end to a four-year, $26 million deal that will pay him $10 million in the first year. "We were very careful of not letting that affect our judgment," Schwartz said, "and I actually played a little possum on this one." Schwartz said he didn't say much when general manager Martin Mayhew raved about Vanden Bosch in December and other Lions officials concurred in personnel meetings. He didn't want to influence anyone. "I let everybody speak, and then I sort of closed it out," Schwartz said. "And I had guys coming up to me afterwards, ‘Whew, thank goodness. I didn't think you liked him. You didn't mention this guy for six weeks.' "

  • Schwartz scoffed at Vanden Bosch's declining sack stats — 12 in 2007, 4 1/2 in ‘08 and three in ‘09 — because they don't tell the whole story. Vanden Bosch was limited by a groin injury in ‘08 and looked fine on film to Schwartz in ‘09. "A lot of people talk about declining production. They can't read between the lines," Schwartz said. "Sacks isn't the final determination of how effective a player is. I think you can get a little too stat-happy when you say, ‘He's a declining player because he had three sacks.' He rushed the same as I always remembered him rushing."

  • Before wide receiver Nate Burleson and the Lions came together on a contract, they sized up each other up Nov. 8 at Seattle's Qwest Field.

    Burleson ran out to return a punt as the Lions' Calvin Johnson was getting up off the ground. "I was kind of like, ‘Hey, big man, you all right?' " said Burleson, who's 6-foot, while Johnson is 6-5. "And he stood up, and it just ... he kept ... he kept going. Before I knew it, I went from the ground to looking up. I went to the sideline. I was talking to Deion Branch. I was like, ‘Man, have you stood next to that guy? He's huge.' " The Seahawks smothered Johnson that day, limiting him to two catches for 27 yards, even though the Lions targeted him nine times. Burleson led the Seahawks with seven catches for 75 yards in their 32-20 victory, and Schwartz saw what offensive coordinator Scott Linehan had seen for a long time. "All of a sudden I knew what Scott was talking about," Schwartz said. "You watch the way he gets open on every single play — the suddenness that he plays with, his ability to play inside and outside, natural instincts for the game."

  • The morning of March 4, Schwartz watched every snap Burleson played to make sure the Lions wouldn't have buyer's remorse. Then he spoke to offensive coordinator Linehan. Schwartz already was headed to Nashville, Tenn., to woo defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch. He suggested Linehan go to Seattle to woo Burleson. So Linehan got on a plane. Linehan, Burleson and Burleson's dad, Alvin, went to dinner at Daniel's Broiler in downtown Seattle. Burleson was touched by the gesture. He ate a Caesar salad and some sea bass, then agreed to a five-year, $25 million deal that includes $11 million guaranteed. "I just skipped on desert," Burleson said. "The contract was dessert."

  • Cornerback Jonathan Wade doesn't want to be typecast as a backup and special teams player after signing a one-year deal with the Lions. He wants to compete for a starting job. "I am looking forward to proving I belong," Wade said. "It's been a quiet three years for me, and I want to do something about that." Wade, 25, was a third-round pick out of Tennessee in 2007. The Rams drafted him when their coach was Scott Linehan, now the Lions' offensive coordinator. He started the first four games. But then he was demoted to nickel back, and then he was benched. He was inactive for the first time in his career late in the season. Finally, the Rams declined to make him a qualifying offer as a restricted free agent, putting him on the open market. "It's not that they may have anything personal against me," Wade said. "But it was very obvious that I must not have been the type that they were wanting to build with."


    It took a change of address for Aaron Kampman to finally acknowledge publicly that he wasn't happy with the Packers' decision to move him from defensive end to outside linebacker in their new 3-4 scheme last season.

    Kampman's eight-year stint with Green Bay, highlighted by two Pro Bowl appearances, ended when he signed a four-year, $24 million contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars on March 7. Kampman, who was an unrestricted free agent, received a $10 million signing bonus.

    He said the Packers also made him an offer, but staying put in an undesirable situation turned him off.

    "I think, for me, the better fit was down here," Kampman said after signing with the Jaguars. "I think that the direction of that organization (the Packers) maybe didn't include me as much as it had in the past. So, I think it was the right time for me to make this transition."

    Kampman will return to his natural position of defensive end with the Jaguars, who run the 4-3 scheme that was a longtime fixture in Green Bay until the overhaul in 2009.

    Kampman never aired his displeasure with his role change last year, but it was evident by his uncommonly subdued exchanges with reporters that he felt out of place.

    He opened up about the matter after leaving the Packers in his rearview mirror.

    "I'll just say this, I like to go forward," Kampman said. "There are a lot of nuances at outside linebacker. I'm a guy who likes to work on his craft and hone it down to the minutest detail. I was doing seven-on-seven in practice rather than one-on-ones. Normally, when I break down film, I look at offensive tackles and I study them to the T, but (as a linebacker) I had to break down receivers and running backs. It was a more difficult transition in that sense."

  • The loss of Kampman and the re-signing of free-agent left tackle Chad Clifton overshadowed a couple other transactions the Packers made in the first week of free agency.

    They cut defensive end Michael Montgomery and safety Matt Giordano, both of whom rarely contributed as backups last season. Montgomery was a sixth-round draft pick by the Packers in 2005.

    Green Bay signed receiver Charles Dillon, a street free agent. The 6-foot, 202-pound Dillon had a cup of coffee in training camp with the Indianapolis Colts in 2008 and had a dual role of receiver and kick returner with the Spokane team in arena football last year.

  • The felony drug possession case for defensive end Johnny Jolly was again put on hold. His pretrial hearing, which had been rescheduled to March 8, was pushed back to March 25 in Houston.

    Jolly, a starter who is a restricted free agent, was arrested in July 2008 and charged with possession of at least 200 grams of codeine.

  • The Packers, who begin their offseason program March 15, set their dates for team workouts. Rookie orientation will be held after the NFL Draft from April 30 to May 2. Voluntary organized team activities will be May 17 to June 17. The mandatory minicamp will be June 21 to 23.

    Training camp is slated to start in late July.

  • The team will have an alternate third uniform to use for home games, beginning next season. The uniform was going to be unveiled during Packers Fan Fest at Lambeau Field on March 12 and 13.

    It is patterned after a uniform the Packers wore in their first decade of existence in the 1920s with a navy blue jersey and khaki pants.

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