NFC North news, notes and quotes

The Bears are learning a new offense that takes time, a couple of former Vikings are joking around in Detroit, and the Packers are taking it slow with their first-round draft pick. We take a quick trip around the NFC North with news, notes and quotes.


The Bears' offense has been behind the defense throughout the offseason, but with good reason.

"In fairness to the offense, it's a new offense and there are going to be growing pains because of that," general manager Jerry Angelo said on the team's web site. "It's going to be a process."

While Mike Martz is installing a new offense, the Bears will continue to run the same defense they have since 2004, even though Rod Marinelli has been promoted from defensive line coach to coordinator.

"Defensively, we've been playing the same system for a long time," Angelo said. "We're doing some different things this year with Coach Marinelli, but basically it's the same scheme, and our players have a familiarity with it. We're also doing a better job breaking on the ball. That's been a real point of emphasis, and takeaways and interceptions are a big part of that. The defense has been doing a real good job. But that's not to say that the offense isn't progressing. It's just going to take more time. I have a lot of confidence in what coach Martz and our offensive coaches are doing with our players."

  • Safety was a weakness for the Bears last season, when that position produced just one interception, so the Bears traded for Panthers safety Chris Harris and drafted Major Wright in the third round, which was their top pick.

    Now they're standing pat, even though the Rams' O.J. Atogwe is a free agent.

    "He's a good football player," Angelo said. "We've evaluated him, and we like him. But at this point, we're set. We drafted Major Wright and traded for Chris Harris. We also have Danieal Manning, Craig Steltz and Josh Bullocks, all of whom have started in this league. We have five pretty good safeties, four of whom have a goodly amount of experience within our scheme. We feel good about that position."

  • Danieal Manning has been at free safety for 39 of his 42 starts with the Bears in his first four seasons, but he's working at strong safety this offseason.

    "I'm just getting familiar with being in that position, making calls, making adjustments and for the most part just getting your body right, getting all the tools down before training camp," Manning said. "You want to have all this learning stuff behind you."

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "Oh yeah, it spins every day. It's like a pop quiz every day you come in. We go home and study like we've got a test coming up the next day." — WR Devin Hester when asked if learning Mike Martz's voluminous playbook has his head spinning.


    Wide receiver Nate Burleson jokes that backup quarterback Shaun Hill's short-arm delivery is "like from ‘A League of Their Own.'" Coach Jim Schwartz says "it doesn't always look pretty." And it takes some getting used to, as the Lions discovered after acquiring Hill to be the backup quarterback.

    "It's funny," said Burleson, who once played with Hill in Minnesota. "Some of the guys who have been here, they talk about when the ball's in the air from Hank, they're expecting it faster, so their hands are jumping towards the ball. Because with Matt (Stafford), you turn your head, and that ball's coming."

    Hill said: "Guys don't drop a lot of my balls. But at the beginning, they were. It was more because they were expecting (Stafford's fastball) instead of being able to attack the ball. It did take a little bit of time, but with working with everybody as much as we have, it's come around."

  • Running back Kevin Smith said he wasn't necessarily happy to have two days off. He has been out with a torn knee ligament and expects to return to team drills on a limited basis next week. "Maybe ... it was an advantage for some other guys, because they were doing the OTAs," Smith said. "I was sitting there reading the script. I do individual, read the script — chewing sunflower seeds. They probably wanted a little break."

    Smith didn't seem concerned in the big picture, pointing out OTAs are voluntary, unlike the mandatory minicamp. "What happens when they cancel OTAs?" Smith said. "What's the big deal?"


    Though it likely will preclude a desired starting job at the outset of the season, top draft pick Bryan Bulaga should have the luxury of having a one-track mind when the Packers shift from offseason work to training camp in late July.

    The coaches are keeping Bulaga at left tackle for the here and now. That means the former Iowa standout, taken No. 23 overall in the April draft, will continue to play second fiddle to 11th-year veteran Chad Clifton.

    "I think that's probably a little bit more helpful — I get to focus on one position and one position only," Bulaga said.

    While being groomed as Clifton's successor, Bulaga can't be ruled out from sliding over to right tackle should veteran incumbent Mark Tauscher falter in the preseason.

  • Mason Crosby and his scrutinized right leg can rest easy.
    Packers head coach Mike McCarthy announced June 16 that the team won't be bringing in another kicker to challenge Crosby in training camp.

    "We're committed to Mason," McCarthy said. "He's done a good job in the offseason. He's outstanding in the strength and conditioning aspect of it. Very technical, he's a professional from that standpoint. And, we look for him to have a very productive year."

    The vote of confidence in Crosby, who has been the team's kicker since his rookie season in 2007, comes in the wake of a career-worst 75 percent accuracy on field goals (27-of-36) in 2009.

  • As for punter, another sore spot last season, the two-man battle between young prospects Tim Masthay and Chris Bryan won't be decided until the preseason.

    "I would say it is still a dead heat," McCarthy said. "Frankly, I want to see both Tim and Chris punt in games."

    Masthay was with the Indianapolis Colts briefly in the preseason last year as an undrafted rookie out of Kentucky. The Packers signed Bryan, a veteran of his native country's Australian Rules Football, this offseason.

    "I think it is going to be a very good competition," McCarthy said. "I definitely like the talent level of both the punters, and we'll definitely go into training camp and let these guys slug it out."

    The winner figures to pull double duty as the team's holder on kicks.

    MEDICAL WATCH: Tight end Jermichael Finley and rookie running back James Starks were back on the field for the final week of organized team activities after previously missing some time because of knee and hamstring injuries, respectively. ... Players who have been sidelined all or most of the offseason and aren't expected to be cleared for the June 21-23 minicamp include cornerback Al Harris (knee), receivers Donald Driver (knee) and Brett Swain (knee), linebacker Nick Barnett (knee), offensive linemen Jason Spitz (back) and T.J. Lang (wrist), tight end Spencer Havner (shoulder) and safeties Will Blackmon (knee) and Derrick Martin (ankle). All of them, with the exception of probably Harris, should be ready for the start of training camp July 31.

    QUOTE TO NOTE: "When he's out there, you've got to make sure you know your checks and your reads. So, that makes you study your playbook extra hard at night." — Rookie safety Morgan Burnett, on having Charles Woodson on the field after the veteran cornerback skipped most of the team's voluntary OTAs.

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