NFC North news, notes and quotes

The Bears have been getting their draft picks under contract, the Lions are getting their draft picks used to NFL competition, and the Packers are still trying to get something out of their 2007 first-round pick. Get news, notes and quotes from the Vikings' NFC North rivals.


The Bears made it three draft-pick signings in four days when fourth-round defensive end Corey Wootton agreed to a four-year contract last Wednesday that is expected to be worth $2.3 million, including a $500,000 signing bonus.

Wootton, the 109th overall selection, is expected to contribute in a rotation at defensive end that will have Julius Peppers starting at one end and Mark Anderson and Israel Idonije competing for the starting job at the other end. Wootton started 49 of 53 games at Northwestern, with 156 tackles, 19.5 sacks, 38 tackles for losses, four interceptions, three forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries.

In 2008, he was first-team All-Big Ten when he had 10 sacks before suffering torn knee ligaments in the Alamo Bowl. He rushed his rehab to get back on the field last season but was never at 100 percent, although he is expected to be at full speed well before the start of training camp on July 30.

Wootton is the third of the Bears' five draft picks who have agreed to terms. Offensive tackle J'Marcus Webb (seventh round) signed on Sunday, and cornerback Joshua Moore (fifth round) signed Monday. Only third-round safety Major Wright and sixth-round quarterback Dan LeFevour remain unsigned among the Bears' 2010 draft picks.

  • Restricted free agent safety Danieal Manning signed his one-year tender offer of $1.176 million Wednesday.

    Manning, the last of the Bears' unrestricted free agents to agree to terms, was unhappy that he was tendered at the "original-round" level, and he skipped the first three weeks of voluntary team workouts in protest.

    He has started 40 games in four years with the Bears, including 37 at free safety, but he will be competing for a starting job this season at a crowded position. In 2008, he led the NFL with a 29.7-yard kickoff-return average. Manning's 11 kickoff returns of 40-plus yards over the last two seasons (2008-09) are tops in the NFL.

  • Backup quarterback Brett Basanez was waived Wednesday. The native of Northwest Suburban Arlington Heights spent the first 16 weeks of last season on the on the practice squad and was elevated to the active roster for the final contest but did not play.

    Basanez originally entered the NFL with the Carolina Panthers as an undrafted free agent out of Northwestern in 2006. But he became dispensable when the Bears drafted Central Michigan quarterback Dan LeFevour in the sixth round. LeFevour also played his prep football in the Chicago suburbs.

  • Protecting quarterback Jay Cutler will always be a priority, and the left guard spot is open since last year's starter, Frank Omiyale, has been moved to right tackle. Josh Beekman is the favorite to start but veteran tackle Kevin Shaffer could get a cursory look. Lance Louis, a seventh-round pick in 2009, could also figure in the equation sometime down the road, but he is, at present, still considered a bit of a project.


    Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, the No. 2 overall pick in the draft, struggled in his first practice against an NFL starting guard, going against Stephen Peterman.

    "Peterman's definitely a vet, and he knows what he's doing and really knows this offense," Suh said. "He definitely has quick feet, strong guy, and he's more schooled in being able to pick up on things. You can't give off little tips like you did in college. You have to really disguise your stuff, because they start to pick up on those things and those tendencies that you do. So things of that sort, they're a lot more schooled in that area. Strength-wise, do I feel I can push him around? Not necessarily push him around, but I feel I'm strong enough to beat him to the quarterback or I wouldn't be at this level. So I did it a little bit, but he's still a great player. He's going to recover quickly if I beat him, if I don't make sure I close and get back to the quarterback and make sure it's no doubt that I don't give him any leeway or no air."

    Some of the rookies, including rookie running back Jahvid Best, are still learning what NFL conditioning is all about. Suh seems to be an exception.

    "In my eyes, it's not very different," Suh said. "Not at all. The only thing that I notice that we do a little bit more here is we use kettle bells a little bit more. I think the kettle bell is the only big difference I see from my college strength and conditioning coach and this strength and conditioning coach. I think if we had the opportunity and the leeway to do that at Nebraska we would do it, but I think it's a little bit harder, too much of a broader group."

  • Right tackle Gosder Cherilus returned to the field about a month after having arthroscopic surgery to remove debris from his right knee. Cherilus went through individual drills, but not team drills. "He's doing fine," coach Jim Schwartz said. "He didn't have something that was going to be long-term. He's back in drills and things like that. He's still not back full, but he's making good progress."

  • Linebacker Zack Follett sold a piece of his artwork for $1,000 during a live auction at the Lions' charity bocce tournament. It was a Lions logo he had cut out of wood and painted gold, then mounted on a piece of canvas painted like a football field. In one end zone was the word "RESTORE." In the other were the words "THE ROAR." "Just because I think this year will be a better year for the Lions," Follett said. The bidding started slowly, but picked up. "At first, I was like, ‘Man, this thing's going to go for, like, a hundred bucks,' " Follett said. "It should have started at one dollar."

  • Coach Jim Schwartz sat down for a few minutes with Red Wings Hall of Famer Ted Lindsay at the bocce tourney. "Any time you have a chance to talk to a guy that's got ‘HOF' next to his name, that brings some pretty good street cred," Schwartz said. "We were just talking sports in general. He follows not only the Red Wings but the Lions. We were just talking about the relationship that the guys on the teams used to have." Lindsay doesn't go to Lions games, but he roots for them. "They seem to be on the track of elevating themselves," Lindsay said, "and that's wonderful to see."


    Defensive end Justin Harrell likely is on a short leash to make it to a fourth season with the Packers after the team's 2007 first-round draft pick missed more games than he played the last three years because of an assortment of injuries.

    Harrell, who was sidelined the entire 2009 season with chronic back trouble, has been an able participant with the team in offseason workouts and appears to be in the good graces of the coaches, who are waiting for him to finally contribute on a regular basis.

    "Justin Harrell is definitely in our plans," head coach Mike McCarthy said. "Justin has gone through a number of medical hurdles that he's had to clear, and that will be no different as he goes through (the ongoing organized team activities), and hopefully, he stays healthy through that, and when he gets into training camp, that will be another hurdle.

    "That's the one I'm sure Justin is looking forward to, and we all are, because you never really know with a lower back, particularly with defensive linemen, until he gets into the trench work and you get into the padded practices."

  • A position battle has been declared in organized team activities, which started May 17, with defensive coordinator Dom Capers giving Brady Poppinga a chance to challenge Brad Jones for the starting job at left outside linebacker.

    The vacancy was created when veteran Aaron Kampman bolted for the Jacksonville Jaguars in free agency.

    Then-rookie Jones was an adequate starter for an injured Kampman late in the 2009 season.

    Poppinga was a starter in the past but couldn't keep then-rookie Clay Matthews, a first-round draft pick, from taking over the spot at right outside linebacker early last season.

  • Will Blackmon, another young prospect who's been derailed by injury, is completing his recovery from knee surgery early last season by learning a new position.

    The Packers moved the fifth-year player from cornerback to safety early in the offseason.

    Blackmon, who excels as a punt returner, expects to be ready for the start of training camp in late July.

  • The grooming process is under way for rookie Bryan Bulaga at left tackle. The team's first-round draft pick is working for the first time with veteran starter Chad Clifton, whom Bulaga is projected to replace down the line, in the OTAs.

    "Bryan Bulaga will play tackle in this league. I don't have any question about that," said McCarthy, reaffirming the team's decision to have the former Iowa standout work behind Clifton this year, rather than possibly contend for a starting spot at another position. "If we had any question about that, he probably wouldn't be here in Green Bay."

  • The Packers added another Harrell to the roster with the signing of free-agent quarterback Graham Harrell (no relation to Justin) on May 19.

    Graham Harrell, a former college standout at Texas Tech, had a workout with the team on the same day. At his request, Harrell was cut by the Canadian Football League's Saskatchewan Roughriders last month so he could try to latch on with an NFL team.

    Harrell was on Saskatchewan's injured list last year after not being signed by the Cleveland Browns following a tryout as an undrafted rookie.

    Green Bay reportedly released Chris Pizzotti with the signing of Harrell to maintain a quarterback depth chart of four players.

  • Tight end Jermichael Finley plans to join Packers receiver Greg Jennings and several other skilled players in the league at Arizona Cardinals wideout Larry Fitzgerald's passing camp in Minneapolis this summer.

  • In a change from previous years, McCarthy is giving players a week off from on-field work during the OTAs. They won't practice the week of May 23.

    OTA practices will resume June 1 with three practices a week in a Tuesday-to-Thursday format for three straight weeks.

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