NFC North news, notes and quotes

Caleb Hanie is still scheduled to be the Bears' backup QB despite a shoulder injury, Louis Delmas looks like he's going to put up with lingering pain in his groin, and Aaron Rodgers' expectations from teammates are getting a bit unrealistic. Get an extensive report from each of the Vikings' NFC North rivals.


Backup quarterback Caleb Hanie says he isn't worried about losing the No. 2 job while his injured right shoulder heals, and offensive coordinator Mike Martz gave him a vote of confidence.

"Caleb is further than I thought he would be," Martz said. "You go through growing pains, and we put a lot of pressure on him trying to get him ready and stress him out a little bit. He went through that phase and he's fought through it real well and he understands what we're doing and he's done a real nice job. I was very pleased with him in that (first preseason) game."

Hanie completed 10 of 17 passes for 148 yards with one touchdown and one interception for a passer rating of 82.5, but his night ended early and painfully when he landed on his throwing shoulder while being sacked.

"There are some things that you don't want to him to do mistake-wise, and he's just got to make those mistakes in the preseason and clean them up," Martz said. "But he understands those things. He is better at this point than I ever thought he would be."

The problem now is that Hanie is in a holding pattern for the foreseeable future, while the backup work goes to sixth-round draft pick Dan LeFevour and street free agent Matt Gutierrez, who was signed Wednesday (Aug. 18).

"I like some of the things Dan LeFevour has done, being able to get more (practice) reps," coach Lovie Smith said. "We've seen improvement from him each day."

But the rookie is still a long way from being ready to play effectively in a regular-season game as his performance in the first two preseason games suggests.

The Bears failed in their attempts to woo veteran quarterbacks Trent Green and Todd Collins, which opened the door for the unheralded Gutierrez. But the Bears didn't have a lot of options.

"We need a quarterback, No. 1," Smith said when asked what Gutierrez brought to the team. "He has some experience, and some of our coaches are familiar with him. I don't know a lot about him right now, but he's a quarterback who's played in the league, we're going to give him an opportunity."

Gutierrez, who was undrafted out of Idaho State in 2007, has thrown just two passes in three NFL seasons. When the Bears called, Gutierrez was home in California contemplating a gig with the Omaha Nighthawks of the UFL. It's possible he could be out of a job as soon as Hanie is healthy, but he could conceivably pass LeFevour for the No. 3 job, which probably means a spot on the practice squad.

"I'm just happy to be here and compete and get on the field and try to learn it as fast as I can," the 6-foot-4 Gutierrez said. "Obviously coach (Martz) has had a lot of success with the offense, and it's for a reason."

Martz says he'll let each quarterback's performance on the practice field and in preseason games determine their fate.

"These guys will define their future in practice," Martz said. "I didn't know Danny or Caleb, and I'm very pleased with both of those guys. It's kind of fun having someone I don't know and am unfamiliar with just kind of come in and see what they do. I like those situations. You let them define who they are every day in practice. I'm looking forward to it."


  • MLB Brian Urlacher suffered a calf injury on the first defensive series of the game and did not return, but both he and coach Lovie Smith said the injury was not serious.

  • S Craig Steltz, who started at strong safety in place of injured Danieal Manning in the preseason opener, suffered an ankle injury in the first quarter and is not expected back until the final preseason game at the earliest.

  • S Major Wright has surgery last week on his left index finger and is not expected back until the season opener.

  • WR Earl Bennett still has not played in a preseason game because of a hamstring injury suffered a week into training camp.

  • LS Pat Mannelly sat out Saturday night's preseason game with a shoulder injury, but he is expected back for Saturday's third game.


    Everybody is sick of talking about it but the topic of starting free safety Louis Delmas' injured groin isn't going away — nor, apparently is the lingering pain — any time soon.

    "I guess it's just something I am going to have to deal with," Delmas said.

    Delmas started training camp on the PUP list and didn't start practicing until the end of the second week. He's taken part in just two padded practices and hasn't practiced yet on consecutive days.

    "You saw him on Wednesday, he can run around at full speed, but he's not at the point where he can put those kind of days on top of each other right now," coach Jim Schwartz said.

    Actually, Delmas said he has yet to even attempt to reach full speed.

    "No, if I did I'd probably miss a week," he said, laughing. "I look forward to turning it loose for the first game (of the regular season)."

    That can't be encouraging. Delmas has been battling this groin injury since June.

    "I felt all right (last Thursday), but not as good as yesterday," Delmas said. "With groin injuries, the best healing process is to give it rest — a couple of days on and a couple of days off. That's the best treatment. A groin injury is never going to heal if you keep aggravating it."

    Schwartz is doggedly sticking to the plan, and to his belief that Delmas will be ready to go in the season opener.

    "The good news is, when he goes he's able to go fast," he said. "He has fresh legs and obviously that's a part of it. But he's not limited when he practices. I would rather him do that and then take the next off rather than have him limping around at practice."

    Schwartz identified Delmas as the top defender on the roster in February. He was a difference-maker as a rookie, but the Lions' roster is devoid of options if Delmas is out for a significant period of time or the injury lingers.

    This has the look of an injury that's going to hover all season, which is at least partly why the Lions' brass is keeping a keen eye on the goings on in Kansas City with safety Jarrad Page.

    Page, 25, remains unsigned and has asked the Chiefs to trade him. The Lions, who have had interest in Page in the past, certainly would be willing to talk should the Chiefs decide to grant his wish.


  • The Lions used Kevin Best and rookie Jahvid Best in the backfield together for a few plays in their 25-20 exhibition win at Denver. "I like the dimension that they bring," Schwartz said. The Lions used five different formations in their first offensive possession.

  • Kicker Jason Hanson (knee) was on the field Thursday afternoon during field goal drills. He wasn't kicking the ball but he was going through the full motion of the kick, including the plant. He had arthroscopic surgery on his left (plant) leg on Aug. 3 and appears he will be ready to start the season.

  • Of course, Hanson may be motivated by the strong showing of kicker Steven Hauschka, whom the Lions brought in last week to replace Aaron Pettrey. Hauschka kicked four field goals — 28, 27, 29 and 27 yards — against Denver Saturday and boomed all six of his kickoffs deep into the end zone.

  • The Lions were so short-staffed in the secondary on Tuesday, coach Jim Schwartz had to cut the morning session short. "It's definitely an issue," he said. "We only did one group of the no-huddle drill at the end instead of two. We stayed with a lot of base defense; we haven't been able to work our nickel packages much. We need to get some of our cornerbacks back." Several of the MIAs did return, including Dre Bly and Dante Wesley, but the Lions had to sign three others.

  • Schwartz was not pleased with the Lions' second-team defense Saturday. They yielded an 80-yard touchdown drive in the final 59 seconds of the first half. And they nearly gave up a winning 80-yard drive in the final 1:52 of the second half. "We did a poor job in both of those two-minute situations from a management stand-point," Schwartz said. "We let guys get out of bounds on that last drive. On the first drive we were biting the cheese on short routes and allowing the deep routes behind — just stuff that's not smart football. Like I said, our backups have to be able to produce because they are going to have to play. They are going to have to respond to pressure situations."

  • Also disturbing to the coaches was the punt coverage unit. They allowed 41 yards on two punts, the worst a 65-yarder by Broncos Perrish Cox. Two of their better special teams players were out, though — gunner Jonathan Wade (finger) and Vinny Ciurciu (unspecified injury).

  • It was an insane week for the secondary — personnel-wise. Early in the week there were eight defensive backs sitting out with various injuries, which triggered a revolving door. On Tuesday, they signed cornerback Jahi Word-Daniels, but he pulled a hamstring halfway through his first practice. He was replaced the next day by veteran T.J. Rushing, who hasn't played in two seasons. On Thursday, they waived Marvin White and signed safety Dave Roach off waivers from St. Louis.

  • The Lions waived veteran DE Jason Hunter on Monday. Hunter was a part-time starter last season but had fallen off the depth chart. He was signed by Denver.

  • Middle linebacker Lee Campbell was signed on Monday to replace Jordon Dizon (knee), who is out for the season.

  • On Tuesday, TE Richard Dickson was released and rookie DL Korey Bosworth was signed. Bosworth, who played at UCLA, is the nephew of former Seahawks linebacker Brian Bosworth.

  • On Thursday, FB Matt Clapp was released.

  • On Friday, OL Roy Schuening was released and rookie OT Noah Franklin was signed.


    As absurd and unrealistic as it sounded, receiver Greg Jennings uttered recently in training camp that Aaron Rodgers is capable of going an entire season without throwing an interception.

    "I always appreciate the kind words from my teammates," Rodgers said. "(But) I really don't think that's possible, though."

    Not that a conscientious Rodgers won't take aim on what would be an astonishing feat for a 16-game schedule.

    If Rodgers' first two dress rehearsals in the preseason are any indication, turnovers by opposing defenses could be few and far between, if any at all.

    On the heels of his first trip to the Pro Bowl, Rodgers is more than ready to get his third season as a starter under way Sept. 12 at the Philadelphia Eagles.

    "He's been excellent; he's been sharp," Packers head coach Mike McCarthy said. "He's doing all of the little things that are necessary to continue to spread the ball around and keep our offense in good looks."

    Rodgers' pinpoint accuracy in a little more than two quarters of action in the preseason thus far has translated to 20-of-24 passing (83.3 percent) for 275 yards, three touchdowns, zero interceptions and a near-perfect passer rating of 154.0.

    "The decision-making has been good," Rodgers said after his 8-for-11, 116-yard, two-touchdown performance in the first quarter of the Packers' 27-24 win at the Seattle Seahawks on Saturday.

    He was on the money on Green Bay's first play, hurling a 56-yard throw to a lunging Jennings down the middle.

    "The way I'm seeing the game is how I want it to be going into the season," Rodgers said. "The checks I make at the line of scrimmage are the correct checks. I'm getting us in good situations. And, accuracy-wise, I'm throwing the ball pretty well.

    "But, it really starts up front — when those guys give me time, we're tough to stop."

    After enduring a league-high 50 sacks in 2009, Rodgers hasn't been dropped once in 38 snaps he's taken in the two preseason games to date.

    Improved protection not only will give Rodgers time to scan the field and take his pick in delivering the football to his arsenal of weapons, but he also could cut down on his seven interceptions of last season, if that is possible.

    "I don't like throwing interceptions. I like throwing touchdowns," said Rodgers, who had 58 touchdown passes to just 20 interceptions his first two years as Brett Favre's successor.

    Rodgers' interception percentage of 1.29 (out of 541 pass attempts) was No. 1 in the NFL last season, when he threw for career highs of 4,434 yards and 30 touchdowns. Rodgers set a single-season team record with 12 games without an interception, topping Hall of Famer Bart Starr's previous standard of 11 in 1964.

    "You take away the two Tampa (Bay) games from the last two years, I've been very good with the ball," said Rodgers, who threw a total of six interceptions in those losses to the Buccaneers. "Thankfully, we don't play them this year, so that might take three away from my season total.

    "But, for me, it's a matter of taking care of the ball, whether I'm running or throwing the ball. If we're not turning the ball over, we feel like we're going to be in just about every ballgame."


  • Will Blackmon made his preseason debut Saturday, four days after he returned to practice following a lengthy stint on the sideline because of soreness stemming from ACL surgery last October.

    Blackmon is making the conversion from cornerback to safety, but his biggest role with the team is as a return specialist. Blackmon had a 12-yard runback on a punt after a Seattle three-and-out to start the game.

    "I think Will will bring us some consistency," said Shawn Slocum, special teams coordinator.

    Slocum suggested Blackmon would be used to return punts and No. 2 halfback Brandon Jackson is the preferred choice for kickoff returns.

  • The back woes cropped up again for defensive end Justin Harrell, whose brief career since the Packers made him their first-round draft pick in 2007 has been marred by one injury after another.
    Harrell didn't practice Aug. 17 because of what McCarthy said was back tightness. Harrell missed the entire 2009 season after chronic lower-back issues surfaced in the preseason.

    "It's training camp. It happens," McCarthy said. "He is definitely a factor when he is in there."

    In fact, any concerns the team had about Harrell's latest setback were appeased when he was cleared later in the week to play Saturday. Harrell returned to action after his wife, Barbie, underwent an emergency C-section to deliver the couple's first child at midweek.

  • While keeping three tight ends is a given, Thompson hasn't ruled out holding on to five guys at the position when the 53-man roster is set.

    "Yeah, that's possible," Thompson said. "It sort of messes up your equation at other spots, but it depends how it works out."

    The quintet of worthy candidates includes Jermichael Finley, Donald Lee, Spencer Havner, fifth-round draft pick Andrew Quarless and first-year player Tom Crabtree, regarded as the group's best blocker.

    Crabtree is leaving nothing to chance by playing with a cast on his left hand after he aggravated a sprained wrist and bruised hand in the preseason opener Aug. 14.

    "Right now, it's just a matter of playing through the pain," Crabtree said.

  • Safety Derrick Martin, one of the team's top special-teams players, was ejected in the second quarter of Saturday's game. Martin appeared to have thrown a punch at the Seahawks' Kennard Cox while blocking upfield on a Seattle punt.

    "I want to see the film," McCarthy said after the game. "The communication (from the officials) was that he punched a player on the Seahawks."

  • The Packers had little reaction to quarterback Brett Favre's belated return to the rival Minnesota Vikings for a 20th NFL season, 16 of which Favre spent with Green Bay from 1992-2007.
    "We're focused on this preseason," Packers QB Aaron Rodgers said. "They're 10 weeks into the regular season away (for the first meeting Oct. 24). It doesn't really have a whole lot of effect on us. We'll meet that when we get down the road a little bit."

  • RB Ryan Grant returned to game action and started Saturday after being knocked out of the preseason opener Aug. 14 with what later was diagnosed as a concussion. Grant missed a couple days of practice before returning at the end of the week.

  • TE Tom Crabtree is playing with a cast on his left hand after tests confirmed he suffered a sprained wrist and bruised hand in the first exhibition game. Crabtree, a first-year player, is making a serious bid for a roster spot.

  • OLB Clay Matthews continues to be sidelined by a left hamstring injury that flared up Aug. 7. Matthews is eyeing a return for the preseason finale Sept. 2 at the Kansas City Chiefs but indicated coming back for the season opener is more realistic.

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