Around the NFC North
Lost amid the excitement of draft weekend and the days leading up to it was a changing of the guard among the Bears' hierarchy.
Michael McCaskey, who has been the Bears' chairman of the board since 1999, will retire from that post at the conclusion of the 2010 season. He will be replaced by his younger brother, George McCaskey.
Michael McCaskey's association with the Bears, the team that his grandfather George Halas founded, goes back a long way.
He attended his first game as a baby at Wrigley Field, went to training camps at St. Joseph's College in Rensselaer, Ind., as a boy to watch Halas coach the team and, as a college football player, he ran pass patterns in training camp for quarterbacks Billy Wade and Rudy Bukich.
The oldest of Ed and Virginia McCaskey's 11 children, the 66-year-old McCaskey served as Bears president and CEO for 16 years, assuming those positions on Nov. 11, 1983, two weeks after Halas (Virginia McCaskey's father) died. Michael McCaskey became the Bears' chairman of the board in 1999, a position which he will relinquish to his 54-year-old brother George at the conclusion of the 2010 season.
"The primary goal here is to ensure an orderly transition," Michael McCaskey said. "My mom and I are both in good health, but you never know what's coming next. That can turn in a minute. We lost Walter Payton (to liver disease in 1999), and that certainly affected me. Walter said it very well. He said, 'Tomorrow's not promised to anyone.'
"This is a part of our planning to make sure that things are in order. I hope it doesn't happen anytime soon, but my mom's going to pass away at some point. I will pass away. It's going to happen to all of us. So let's have a good succession plan in place."
George McCaskey has worked as the Bears' senior director of ticket operations since 1991 and has served on the team's board of directors since 2004. He'll spend the next year learning more about other aspects of the organization, such as finance, marketing and information technology.
"In another life I was a business professor," Michel said, "and that's one of the challenges for an organization, to find a way to have an orderly succession and to hand the baton off to someone else in a way that leaves the organization strong and able to continue pursuing championships. (George) is a terrific choice. He's smart and hard-working."
From time to time over the years, the topic of selling the franchise has been posed to Michael and the other McCaskeys, who would realize a financial windfall as a result of such a transaction. But Michael McCaskey said the possibility of selling the Bears was never mentioned while the succession plan was being discussed by the family.
"We intend for our family to own the Bears as long as you care to think about it," Michael McCaskey said. "The Halas/McCaskey family intends to be running the Bears well into the future, so you need to have a good succession plan and a good way to carry it out. This will give George a transition year and leave the Bears in position to do what we've always tried to do, which is to pursue championships."
George McCaskey added: "We could sell and make piles of money. But that's not as important as winning championships."
His critics will remember Michael for his role in the botched hiring of Dave McGinnis to succeed Dave Wannstedt as the Bears' head coach in 1999. The signing was announced before McGinnis agreed to terms, and he eventually declined the job, forcing the Bears to construct a Plan B, which resulted in the hiring of Dick Jauron. But on Michael McCaskey's watch the Bears also won Super Bowl XX, and played in Super Bowl XLI, which they lost to the Colts 29-17, and qualified for the playoffs 11 times.
The chairman of the board has almost nothing to do with the day-to-day management of the football team; president and CEO Ted Phillips will continue to oversee that area of the operation.
But the chairman of the board is responsible for the board, which has the ultimate legal responsibility for the franchise.
"The way we've structured it," George McCaskey said, "is that the chairman is also responsible for being the singular person who represents the Bears at the league level. I think the No. 1 job duty is to serve as the owner's representative in league matters."
The chairman attends league meetings and votes for the organization on matters from rules changes to labor policy.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Whatever you did in the past has no bearing on today. That's the biggest difference. They've got to learn a whole new way of offense, a different way of looking at things. Everything is different, no matter what your background or how successful. He's come here obviously with a completely open mind, which is terrific. So he's very, very easy to coach. He's like a sponge. He's trying his best if he doesn't do it right. He's a long ways away." -- Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz on rookie quarterback Dan LeFevour, a sixth-round pick.
One spot is set. Louis Delmas will start at safety for the Lions in 2010. But the other three? We'll see.
"The one area that we probably still have more work to do is the secondary," Lions coach Jim Schwartz said. "It is wide open in a lot of areas. ... We've got a lot of guys who have played a lot of football in the NFL, and they're all at that stage where they need to grab hold of a starting position and hold onto it and not just be a part-time player or a bit player."
Delmas, a second-round pick last year, bounces around like he did as a rookie. But the rest of the group is filled with fresh faces and question marks.
The Lions have six safeties competing for the spot alongside Delmas. They just signed C.C. Brown to go along with Marquand Manuel, Jonathan Hefney, Marvin White, Daniel Bullocks and Ko Simpson. Bullocks has missed two of the past three seasons with a knee injury. Simpson is still sidelined by a knee injury.
Eight players are in the mix at cornerback, highlighted by four off-season acquisitions: Chris Houston (trade with Falcons), Amari Spievey (third-round pick), Jonathan Wade (free agent) and Dante Wesley (free agent). Eric King (shoulder) and Jack Williams (knee) are returning from injuries.
"I like where we are from a competition standpoint," Schwartz said. "What'll happen is, the further we go, there's going to be some guys that are going to need to separate themselves from that pack."
At safety, Manuel and Hefney have played alongside Delmas in the two organized team activities open to the media. Hefney is intriguing, listed at 5-feet-9, having played in the CFL.
"He's got really, really good quickness," Schwartz said. "A lot of times, in our secondary, we're looking for, like, four corners across the back end, guys that have corner-type ability. He has that. He's not the biggest guy in the world, but he's done a really good job of picking up what we do and covering ground, and I think his quickness and his range is one of the things that the coaches have liked about him."
At corner, Houston has perhaps the best hold on a starting job.
"He's a corner that doesn't have a lot of fear," Schwartz said. "He'll get up and press, and he's been the way going back to college. He was a press corner in college, didn't play very much zone. He's comfortable up there, does a really good job with his hands and his feet at the line of scrimmage.
"He's not the biggest guy in the world, but he's got good range and you need to have a little bit of that fearlessness in you to be a corner, to be able to challenge and not just play soft all the time, and he doesn't. He gets up and challenges receivers."
Wade fits that description, too, and has made a good impression on the coaches to this point.
"Jonathan's done a nice job in coverage and relishing those one-on-ones," Schwartz said. "He's done a good job there. We're really working on a lot of different techniques in the secondary, and that's one that he's excelled at so far."
QUOTE TO NOTE: "His head went from being down, looking at something, to looking up and saying, 'Really?' It's sort like a dog when you say, 'Hey, where's the squirrel?'" -- Lions coach Jim Schwartz, on recruiting free agent Kyle Vanden Bosch by telling him defensive tackle Corey Williams was coming via trade.
GREEN BAY PACKERS
With no great waves to ride in Green Bay, the next best thing is to surf the Internet.
Scouting and forming initial impressions of obscure players hundreds and even thousands of miles away has been right at the fingertips of the Packers' personnel department, thanks to the video-sharing Web site YouTube.
"It's a wonderful thing," Chris Bryan said.
Bryan, a rookie punter, is on Green Bay's roster after scouts and, ultimately, general manager Ted Thompson first liked what they saw of the 28-year-old from Australia on YouTube.
A nearly six-minute video of the left-footed Bryan punting away in a January workout on an Australian soccer field includes distances and hang times with musical accompaniment from the Johnny Cash song "The Wanderer."
"We sent the (Web) link to the clubs we thought needed a punter," Bryan said. "Obviously, we're not going to send them to the guys that have got good punters."
The Packers, who signed Bryan in March, have a vacancy after not re-signing Jeremy Kapinos.
After playing professionally for five years in Australian Rules Football, Bryan is battling another young prospect, Tim Masthay, for the punting job.
"We're not going to pull the wool over your eyes," Bryan said of his audition clip on YouTube. "If I can't do it, I can't do it. I'm not going to come over here and not be any good. The proof is there."
The Packers also were turned on to undrafted rookie receiver Shawn Gore via YouTube, on which there is a compilation of game highlights from his final season at Bishop's University in Canada last year.
The 6-foot, 200-pound Gore signed with Green Bay after having a tryout during its post-draft rookie orientation camp.
"I'll be sending postcards because I don't plan on coming back," Gore, a Toronto native, wrote on his Twitter account.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Right now, I'm on a mission. I'm going to prove everybody wrong. Those who doubted me, here I come." -- Rookie running back James Starks, the team's sixth-round draft pick who missed the entire 2009 college season at Buffalo because of a shoulder injury.
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