NFC North: Chris HOvan
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- That's right. The NFC North Winnebago pulled into the Bay late Sunday night, and I'll be at attention when the Packers open minicamp Monday morning.
(Those who make the trip across Wisconsin state Hwy. 29 will be glad to know that the Wausau overpass has been completed. No stoplights now between I-94 and Shawano. Nice.)
I'll be stationed here for the next couple of days to bring you some perspective on the state of the Packers and their transition to a 3-4 defense. I think I have a pretty good idea of what you're interested in, based on your missives during the offseason, but be sure to leave a note in the comments section of this post if you have any last-minute issues for me to address.
The morning practice starts around 11:15 a.m. ET. Look for some early-afternoon updates before the second practice, scheduled at around 4 p.m. ET.
First, let's catch up on the weekend:
- Mike Vandermause of the Green Bay Press-Gazette documents a 10-day trip that Packers receiver Donald Driver and defensive end Aaron Kampman took to Africa in February. Said Kampman: "You get a different reality of the fact there's a lot of need in the world. Everyone can do this. It doesn't just have to be a professional athlete."
- For those interested in the business side of sports, Green Bay reported a $20.1 million profit for 2008, but an investment loss brought its net income down to about $4 million. Here's a take from Chris Jenkins of the Associated Press. Don Walker of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel broke down the numbers here. The Packers release this information because they are a publicly-owned business.
- The key to the Packers' 2009 season, quarterback Aaron Rodgers tells Greg A. Bedard of the Journal Sentinel, is to avoid distractions. "There are always going to be distractions, we just have to manage them. We have so much talent in this room; the only thing that can stop us is ourselves. And we stopped ourselves way too many times last year. If we can limit the distractions, I think we're going to be in a position to make a big run."
- Rodgers isn't likely to be distracted by Brett Favre's arrival in Minnesota, at least not this week. Judd Zulgad of the Star Tribune points out that Vikings coach Brad Childress is on vacation in Alaska, where he is fishing with Philadelphia coach Andy Reid.
- Dan Pompei of the Chicago Tribune talks to former players about new Bears defensive line coach Rod Marinelli. Said Tampa Bay's Chris Hovan: "I'll never forget this quote from him for the rest of my life: 'If I see a little, I see a lot. If I see a lot, I see nothing.' That's the basis of his teachings. He was always on the details."
- Former NFL receiver Peter Warrick, who is playing for an indoor football league in Illinois, would love to play for the Bears, writes the Tribune's David Haugh.
- Tom Kowalski of Mlive.com looks at the positional battles brewing as Detroit opens minicamp this week. New coach Jim Schwartz literally has no depth chart at this point.
As the Brett Favre saga lingered into Green Bay's training camp last summer, there were some observers who wondered if the situation had grown so big that the Packers' equivalent of an owner -- Mark Murphy -- should step in himself and end it.
Individual shareholders own the Packers, but as the Packers' president and CEO, Murphy essentially runs the team. Most NFL owners prefer to allow their staff to make day-to-day decisions, but the magnitude of the issue suggested executive intervention might be necessary.
But other than an ill-fated meeting with Favre to offer a retirement package, Murphy stayed on the sideline and waited as general manager Ted Thompson eventually traded Favre to the New York Jets during training camp. In a Q&A with Pete Dougherty of the Green Bay Press-Gazette, Murphy said he believed it was important to stick to a philosophy whereby "football people make the football decisions."
Here is the full transcript of his answer:
"First of all, it goes back to the principle that football people make the football decisions. There was never real certainty -- was he really coming back? At some point there was, but when that was, I can't remember. It's easy to look back, but I think we managed a difficult situation well. The tough thing is, many people look at it and say, 'You lost this year, so you made a bad decision.' But as I look at it, and both Ted and Mike [McCarthy] have mentioned it, we solidified the quarterback position for the next decade. If you don't have solid play at the quarterback position you don't have a lot of hope for the future. That's what gives me confidence in the future. Not only the way Aaron [Rodgers] played on the field, but also the way he handled the situation off the field were real positives in a season where there weren't a lot of positives. We'll see. Obviously only time will tell, but it has stabilized and solidified that position, which is crucial for the future."
Murphy was in a tough spot. Relatively new one the job, he didn't want to set a precedent for meddling in football issues. But the Favre situation was a once-in-a-career issue. It transcended the team and was threatening to damage the entire Packers brand. And one of Murphy's jobs without question is to protect the brand.
Continuing around the NFC North on NFC championship Sunday:
- Dom Capers spent Saturday interviewing with Green Bay for its opening at defensive coordinator, but is now being pursued by the New York Giants, according to Greg A. Bedard of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
- Tampa Bay defensive lineman Chris Hovan credits new Chicago defensive line coach Rod Marinelli for saving his career, according to Brad Biggs of the Chicago Sun-Times. Said Hovan: "I really don't think the defensive line for the Bears really knows or has any idea what it is getting. He's talked about by a lot of people but until you're in that room with him, you don't know. I put my career in his hands and he took care of me.''
- Carlos Monarrez of the Detroit Free Press profiles new Lions coach Jim Schwartz, focusing on his time at Mt. Saint Joseph High School near Baltimore.
- It appears Kansas City assistant Gunther Cunningham will soon interview for the Lions' defensive coordinator job, according to Adam Teicher of the Kansas City Star.
- Here's a kick in the gut if you're a Minnesota fan: Sunday is the 10-year anniversary of the Vikings' 30-27 overtime loss to Atlanta in the NFC Championship Game. Brian Murphy of the St. Paul Pioneer Press offers a retrospective.
It's taken a while, but it looks like former Minnesota defensive tackle Chris Hovan has grown up during his time with Tampa Bay.
|Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images|
|Chris Hovan is in his fourth season with the Bucs.|
Hovan, who will face his former team Sunday at Raymond James Stadium, left Minnesota after one of the more inexplicable meltdowns in that era of the Vikings. On the cusp of the Pro Bowl in 2002, Hovan got caught up in his persona as a John Randle clone and grew highly frustrated when double teams and other obstacles limited his production. A bizarre, one-sided feud with Green Bay quarterback Brett Favre was also hard to understand.
Hovan fumed and pouted at the same time, leaving the Vikings no choice but to bench a player they once believed would be a centerpiece of their defense for a long time. Hovan signed in 2005 with Tampa Bay, whose one-gap defense proved more appropriate for his style, and abandoned his efforts to play at a high weight. (Ironically, the Vikings switched to the same one-gap style in 2006.)
Instead of playing a step slow at 320 pounds, Hovan is at about 305 pounds. He has started for the Bucs ever since, and according to this story by Ira Kaufman of the Tampa Tribune, Hovan has cooled his volatile personality. He is now married, has three children and understands the mistakes he made with the Vikings. He called his slip in Minnesota "a slow drift" and added:
"If I could do it all again, I wish I had been drafted by Tampa, because it's been such a good fit. When I left Minnesota, I did a lot of soul-searching and then I found my soulmate. I guess life throws you curveballs once in a while."
It was interesting to read the comments of Tampa Bay defensive tackle Chris Hovan, of all people, in a Tampa Tribune story about the Buccaneers' possible interest in Brett Favre. Those with long institutional memories might find it pretty funny to think of Hovan and Favre on the same team.
In 2002, when he was a member of the Minnesota Vikings, Hovan started a war of words with Favre that kept things interesting for several seasons. During one offseason, Hovan hung a Favre jersey in his locker to emphasize how obsessed he was with beating him. The back-and-forth included a shouting match after a game in 2002 and a few condescending retorts from Favre -- who called Hovan an "idiot," among other things.
The rivalry fizzled over time, and Hovan signed with the Bucs after the 2004 season. Hovan no doubt has matured, and this week he passed on a chance to pile on Favre while supporting current starter Jeff Garcia. "Hopefully everything works out for Brett," Hovan told the Tribune. "But right now we have a great guy at quarterback."