Third-round pick Major Wright is coming into a wide open position battle at safety, which means he should have plenty of opportunities over the next four months to prove he belongs in the starting lineup opening day.
"Everybody competes for jobs in training camp," said Bears defensive backs coach Jon Hoke when asked about Wright and fifth-round cornerback Joshua Moore. "There are no givens, so they're in the mix just like everybody else. We play the best football players. So, if they're up to speed and they're playing good, they'll play."
Just stepping on the practice field at Halas Hall for this weekend's three-day rookie minicamp has been a thrill for Wright, but he's got a long way to go before he can compete for the starting job at free safety, where he will get his first chance.
"I was like, 'Wow, my dream's come true,'" he said. "I dreamed about this when I was younger and it's here. Now I just have to go out and hustle and just stay focused."
At Florida, Wright exhibited the skills to play strong safety, which has traditionally been more of a run-support role, and free safety, which often requires good ball skills and coverage ability.
"We're going to play him at free to begin with," Hoke said. "In this system they have to be able to do both jobs, so he'll learn both but he has characteristics (for both). He's a ball guy, he's obviously got excellent speed from the times he ran, and he plays fast, but he is a physical guy also."
He's trying to learn everything he can from defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli, who will continue to work extensively with the defensive linemen, as he did last year as the defensive line coach.
"I've already learned a lot," the 6-foot-6, 270-pound Wootton said. "Coach Marinelli is a great coach. He's teaching a lot of pass-rush technique, a lot about get-off, and I'm just trying to be a sponge and absorb everything."
"We threw the ball maybe five, 10 times a game," the sixth-round draft pick out of Central Michigan said. "So I didn't have a lot of offers coming out of high school. But obviously I landed in the right spot. I was in a great situation being able to play for four years, and it's led me to at least have a chance to play at the next level."
With Jay Cutler under contract through 2014, LeFevour's prospects for early playing time with the Bears are bleak, but he's OK with that.
"I haven't waited to play since my true freshman year back in 2005," he said. "But that's part of the territory. My first goal is to make the team. I have some other goals in mind before I start thinking about being a No. 2 or No. 1 quarterback on this franchise."
"I just missed teaching," Martz said. "That's how I was raised, as a teacher basically. I just missed teaching and coaching the details. That part of the game is so much fun. But it was a good break for me."
Martz is considered an excellent, though strict teacher of quarterbacks, but he says the process also helps him learn more about the game.
"I think as a teacher in this game you learn something from everybody that you coach," he said. "You take something away from it. When you feel like, 'OK, this is the holy grail for this position or whatever that might be, then you probably should retire. I always learn something from these guys. We're always trying to make them better. That's the challenge of coaching at this level."
The Lions entered the offseason with a goal of helping quarterback Matthew Stafford, the No. 1 overall pick in the draft last year, hoping more weapons, better health and another year of experience would lead to a big leap in his second NFL season.
After the 2009 season ended, coach Jim Schwartz was asked to categorize Stafford's progress. This was the first thing he said: "We need to do a better job of supporting our quarterback."
The Lions have added offensive weapons like wide receiver Nate Burleson, tight end Tony Scheffler and running back Jahvid Best, while bolstering the defense with linemen like Kyle Vanden Bosch, Corey Williams and Ndamukong Suh.
"Now all of a sudden it's not just about the quarterback," Schwartz said in an interview on ESPN Radio. "He can hand it off to a Jahvid Best, and he can go 70 yards for a touchdown. He can throw a short pass to Nate Burleson, and he can go a long way with it also. And then defensively, if we can stay in games and not have to play catch-up, then that's going to help a young quarterback also."
Stafford suffered three injuries as a rookie -- knee, shoulder, shoulder aggravation -- and threw 20 interceptions. But Schwartz pointed out all three injuries came when the Lions were trailing in the fourth quarter and many of the picks came when the Lions put Stafford in bad situations.
"It was basically taking hits because he was trying to do something that he shouldn't have to do being down 17 points with four minutes left or something like that," Schwartz said. "So staying healthy's important for him, and that will help him take care of the football. A lot of our turnovers occurred on third-and-extra-long, and then in the fourth quarter of games when we're trying to play catch-up.
"So if we can play with the lead a little bit, improve our defense, I think we can help Matt out."
Stafford is healthy now and has been spending extra time working with the wide receivers, tight ends and running backs. It shows in OTAs.
"He's been zipping the ball the whole off-season," Schwartz said after one practice. "That's what we like about him. He does have a live arm. He's feeling a little bit better and a little bit better, and he's progressing from just dropping and throwing to moving around a little bit and things like that. ... They're starting to have a little bit more communication and a little bit more just rapport with all those players."
Stafford also has been developing chemistry with teammates off the field. He went to the Masters this spring with guard Stephen Peterman and center Dominic Raiola, for example.
"I know as a rookie when I came in, you don't know anybody," Peterman said. "You haven't played with anybody. So you have your guard up a little bit. You're kind of walking around on eggshells.
"Even though you're a top pick and you're going to play, you've got to find your groove. Coming from college to the NFL, it's a whole different scene. You're still intimidated a little bit.
"But now he looks confident. He's a great guy, a good guy to hang out with, and I think it's going to be great for us."
"He's got an irritated foot," coach Jim Schwartz said. "We just put him in the boot for a little while. He'll probably be back soon. Nothing big. Just a little bit of irritation."
GREEN BAY PACKERS
With the window possibly closing on his future as a starter with the team, guard Daryn Colledge jumped through in the nick of time.
Colledge, a restricted free agent, ended his would-be offseason boycott by signing his tender from the Packers on May 10. The one-year deal is worth $1.759 million.
The move came a week before Green Bay begins its organized team activities, the first chance for the Packers to have close to a full squad on the field for the first time since last season.
Colledge's hold on the starting job is tenuous. He had been staying away from Green Bay and working out on his own the past couple months as an unsigned player, so any more missed time with the voluntary OTAs starting would have been to his detriment.
Colledge purportedly was upset that the Packers tendered him at the second-round level, where he was drafted in 2006, and weren't inclined to offer him a contract extension.
Now that he's signed and back in Green Bay with his teammates, Colledge will have a fight on his hands to try to stay in the lineup after starting 63 games (including playoffs) his first four seasons.
Head coach Mike McCarthy previously announced that Colledge will be in competition with Jason Spitz for the job at left guard. The two happen to be good friends.
While Spitz also is considered in the mix at center -- he lost the starting spot to Scott Wells after suffering a season-ending back injury early in the 2009 schedule -- Colledge should benefit by having only one position on which to focus the rest of the offseason.
Colledge previously was the stand-in for injury-prone left tackle Chad Clifton. The Packers took out an insurance policy for Clifton by drafting former Iowa standout Bryan Bulaga in the first round this year.
"Daryn Colledge has lost his starting position (at guard in the past) and has bounced back every single time," McCarthy said. "I have a lot of respect for Daryn as a man, the way he attacks his profession, and his opportunity to go out there and play at one position will definitely help him. I think it would help anybody, and Daryn would attest to that."
Colledge's quest to stay the starter at left guard also could be aided as soon as OTAs by the health situations of Spitz and T.J. Lang.
Spitz, who underwent back surgery Nov. 11, may need to be limited in the forthcoming workouts, if not held out altogether.
Lang, who is penciled in as Mark Tauscher's backup at right tackle but also could factor in the battle at left guard, is sidelined indefinitely after undergoing surgery on his left wrist April 5. Lang likely won't be ready until training camp starts in late July.
The Associated Press invoked an unprecedented revote for the award May 12 after the league suspended original winner Brian Cushing, a linebacker for the Houston Texans, for the first four games of the 2010 season because of a positive drug test last season.
Cushing retained the honor, though the 18 votes for him in the recount were significantly fewer than the 39 he received from the 50-member panel of media types in January.
Buffalo Bills safety Jairus Byrd remained runner-up with 13 votes, and Matthews was again No. 3 in the balloting with 10 votes. Matthews previously received three votes.
"10 votes?? C'MON MAN!!" Matthews wrote on his Twitter account, though he congratulated his former USC teammate Cushing for winning the award again.
The team planned to bring in former Texas Tech standout Graham Harrell for a workout this week.
The 6-foot-2, 223-pound Harrell recently had a tryout with the Cleveland Browns during their minicamp. The Browns also gave Harrell a brief look-see after he wasn't drafted last year.
Harrell was released last month by the Saskatchewan Roughriders of the Canadian Football League. He was on the Roughriders' injured list last season.
Green Bay's depth behind Rodgers and third-year backup Matt Flynn is thin. Chris Pizzotti was on the practice squad the final month of last season, and the team signed former South Dakota standout Noah Shepard as an undrafted player this spring.