NFC North: John Russell

Obstacles to a new Minnesota stadium emerged within hours of Monday's official legislative announcement. None was bigger than that of Gov. Tim Pawlenty, whose signature would be required for any bill to be enacted.

Pawlenty, and later his chief spokesman, made clear he won't approve any new state taxes as part of the bill. That would seem to put into jeopardy one of the bill's main financing tools: "User fees" on jerseys, hotel rooms, rental cars and the like. Pawlenty said: "We're not going to be raising or dealing with state taxes to subsidize that."

According to the Star Tribune, spokesman Brian McClung added: "We remain opposed to any stadium plan that includes tax increases, including the hotel tax, jersey tax, and rental car tax in one of the plans unveiled today. The governor continues to believe the team needs a local partner to be successful in their effort."

And House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher also expressed significant reservations: "I don't think that I'm going to do anything extraordinary here for this bill," she said. "I'm not sure that this bill is ready for prime time."

Some of this is no doubt political posturing. But there isn't much time; the state legislature adjourns May 17.

Continuing around the NFC North:
The NFC North mailbag filled up this weekend with questions, rants and general accusations. Why didn't I offer more coverage of the four rookie minicamps? Why didn't I write more about the one I attended in Minnesota? Why didn't I write less about it? Why didn't I break down Michael Neal's first step? Jahvid Best's eye-hand coordination? Major Wright's backpedal?

Consider it a lesson learned for me. I'm still not sure how I could have dealt better with four camps going on at once, but I do know you shattered my belief that rookie minicamps carry little appeal to the mass audience. (Although I wonder how many of you would change your mind after you saw how basic most of the drills and plays are. Just because you crave conclusions doesn't mean we should draw them if they don't exist.)

Anyway, I'll put down this revelation in my book for next year. For now, I'd like to leave you with a lasting impression from the local reporters who attended minicamps -- using our ESPN network of bloggers where possible.

The Vikings don't make this post because they closed all but about 30 minutes of their camp. While they did institute the first pool report in modern-day rookie minicamp history for Friday's practice, the efforts of said pool reporter were hampered by the limited roster he was provided. The Vikings wouldn't identify the nearly 30 players who participated on a tryout basis. This isn't punishment. It's just an acknowledgement of too little information to write anything useful.

Chicago Bears (via Jeff Dickerson of ESPNChicago.com)

In addition to all the rookies and tryout players, a few second-year guys participated in the minicamp, one of the most notable being cornerback Woodny Turenne. Turenne flashed some impressive skills during training camp last summer, and has continued to improve this offseason according to those present at the voluntary workouts. It's a crowded group after the Bears signed Tim Jennings and drafted [Joshua] Moore, but Turenne has potential to make a contribution in this league at some point in his career.

Detroit Lions (via Nicholas J. Cotsonika of the Detroit Free Press)

Perhaps no one needs to go home and study his playbook more than Best.

The Lions traded up to nab Best No. 30 overall because they think they can use him in several ways to make an immediate impact. ... "We threw just about everything we have at him, didn't spoon-feed it, didn't do just a little bit," [coach Jim] Schwartz said. "We did just about everything because he's a guy that when he does come back, he needs to assimilate right away into the offense. We can't slow the offense down for where he is. So we moved him around a lot, exposed him to a lot of different things."

How did Best handle it? "He sort of got his feet under him as the weekend went on," Schwartz said. "He started off maybe a little bit lethargic, then all of a sudden just exploded, and you can see what you saw on film with him. He obviously has speed. He obviously has instincts and quickness and those kind of things."

Green Bay Packers (via Jason Wilde of ESPNMilwaukee.com)

While the Packers could still add a veteran [linebacker] via trade or the waiver wire later this summer or during training camp, for now, [Tim] Knicky, [Frank] Zombo and [John] Russell are in prime position to earn a roster spot as an undrafted free agent. "We're definitely looking at that position," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said after Sunday's final practice. "I like all their attitudes and their energy, and I like the way they competed in the one-on-one drills. Every one of them flashed in some of the team drills. You can see why they were productive football players in college. I think all three of those guys have a chance." The 6-foot-4, 251-pound Knicky started his college career as a walk-on at Stephen F. Austin but developed into an effective pass-rushing defensive end, registering 12.5 sacks as a senior last season despite a sprained ankle. At his pro day, he ran a solid 4.63-second 40-yard dash. ... "That's a strong suit of my game -- speed off the edge," Knicky said. "I can get back in coverage fine and do all that, it's just getting the concepts down and knowing where to go and when to do it, that's the hardest part coming from just being a D-lineman and now you're a linebacker. You've got to do all that stuff."

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