NFC North: Mike Brown

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Concluding our Q&A with Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer (here's part 1 and part 2):

What has your working relationship been like with [general manager] Rick [Spielman] and the Wilfs?

Zimmer: Really good. Really good. I don't talk to Mark and Zygi all that much -- every Monday after the game we talk, after the game, I see them and stuff like that, and sometimes before the game, but that's really about it. But they've been, with everything, anything I've asked for, they've been accommodating. Rick has been really good. We'll sit down and talk; we'll watch film together, we'll watch the game tape after the game together. It's actually been pretty easy. That part has been easy.

[+] EnlargeCordarrelle Patterson
AP Photo/Jim MoneCordarrelle Patterson has had problems playing at a consistently high level.
Was that a big adjustment for you -- being more involved in the higher-level stuff with management?

Zimmer: Not too much, because in Dallas, Jerry Jones was pretty involved. And then in Cincinnati, I met with Mike Brown every Monday. He was involved in all the draft meetings and everything. He was at practice every single day. It really wasn't that much different.

At least watching from the outside, it seems like your working relationship with Rick is pretty good -- it seemed like you were kind of able to say, 'Here's what I need to be successful,' and he was able to go get it. Is that how it's worked?

Zimmer: Yeah, and he's said, when he goes on the road now and looks at these college guys and stuff, even now, in watching how we play and the things we do, I think he's getting a better idea of what we need. Everything happened so fast before the draft -- getting here in January and all that, and trying to evaluate. Now, [Scott] Studwell and George Paton and Rick, when they're watching the tape and seeing how we play, the things we do and the techniques we're teaching, I think they have a good idea of that. It's never going to be 100 percent agreement on everything, but from watching the defensive players for so long, I have a good idea -- now, I'm wrong a lot, too, and we all are -- but I think the core characteristics that we're looking for in guys are easier to spot when you've been watching the tape.

In terms of getting all the pieces you need and guys that are perfect fits in your system, is it hard to expect that to happen in a year? Do you think it takes a couple cycles of player acquisition to get everything you need?

Zimmer: I don't ever look at it like that, because I think I'm a pretty good coach, and I can coach guys into doing it. Like, Josh Robinson, I think he's had a pretty good half so far. I think when guys learn the techniques we're trying to teach, they can improve. That's all I've ever tried to do, is improve players -- whoever they are, whoever we have at the time -- and then worry about the next year and figure out how we can get other guys in here. My job is to take each player and make them better every day.

You mentioned Cordarrelle [Patterson] a little bit [in your Tuesday news conference]. Is he still figuring out what you guys want from him, or is it a matter of being consistent in practice every day? What's the summary of where he's at right now?

Zimmer: It's not so much the consistency in practice, because I think he's doing a lot of good things in practice. It's maybe the consistency in the game a little bit more. That's really it -- it's being consistent, running the same route all the time, being at the same depth, running the same release, so that everybody is on the same page. That's really what it's about.

When he got here, of course, he hadn't played a lot of football. Is it something that just takes time for him to learn all the nuances of the game?

Zimmer: Yeah, and it's different for every player. Anthony Barr is coming here as a young guy that's learned a lot of things in a short amount of time, and some guys take a little bit longer. That's always how it's been. I've had some really great players that, in their third year, they start really coming on and figuring it out -- guys that have probably played more football than [Patterson] did. As long as they work, and they want to do the things the right way, and continue to do it good -- and I think he does. That's why it was good last week [against Tampa Bay] that he had some success. We've just got to keep trying to get him maintaining the consistency level.

You've mentioned you haven't been paying a whole lot of attention to Adrian Peterson's legal status. If he comes back, is it hard to put him back in the system when it's been this long?

Zimmer: I think it all depends on the guy a little bit. Each person is different. I've had a player tear his Achilles, and the first day back, he remembers everything and how to do it. And then you have other guys that will come back, and you have to re-teach their steps and technique -- everything. I think everything's different with every player.
In retrospect, the Chicago Bears' 25-day search for a general manager played out exactly as they said it would. Team president Ted Phillips made clear he wasn't looking to turn the organization upside down after firing Jerry Angelo on Jan. 3. No, as we discussed at the time, the Bears wanted someone who could bring a better hit rate as a talent evaluator.

Kansas City Chiefs executive Phil Emery emerged as a favorite early in the process because of his unique qualifications under those criteria, and for that reason it was far from surprising to hear that the Bears hired him Saturday.

Emery spent seven years as a Bears scout from 1998-2004, making him relatively familiar with the inner workings of Halas Hall and unlikely to pursue a massive overhaul. He was part of a Bears scouting department that drafted eight future Pro Bowlers, from receiver Marty Booker to linebackers Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs to safety Mike Brown and cornerback Charles Tillman. Later, he drafted receiver Roddy White and quarterback Matt Ryan, among others, as the Atlanta Falcons' director of college scouting.

Emery surely will bring his own tone and vision to the Bears' front office. But initially, at least, he'll do so by assimilating the existing infrastructure and minimizing the side effects of transition.

The Bears have missed the playoffs in four of the five seasons since their appearance in Super Bowl XLI. But whether you agree or not, Phillips said he thinks the team has suffered from inconsistent talent evaluation rather than larger-scale issues. So in essence, he has swapped one longtime scout-turned-general manager for another in hopes of getting better results.

Phillips said Jan. 3 that the Bears needed to close the "talent gap" that exists between the Bears and their two most competitive NFC North rivals, the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions. In many ways, the decision to bring back Emery reflects the Packers' hiring of general manager Ted Thompson in 2005.

Thompson spent eight years with the Packers in various personnel roles between 1992 and ‘99 before returning as general manager in 2005. Emery brings a similar reputation as a blue-collar scout and workaholic who figures to spend a good portion of his years on the road personally scouting college players.

Thompson, of course, had the authority to remake the Packers franchise as he saw fit. Much of the front office remained intact, but he fired coach Mike Sherman after one season and hired Mike McCarthy in 2006. The Packers won Super Bowl XLV with a 53-man roster that included 49 players acquired after Thompson's arrival.

That's a tough ideal for Emery and the Bears to pursue, but I wouldn't be surprised if it comes up at some point during Monday's news conference to introduce him formally. The Bears wanted a low-key leader who would focus on talent evaluation and, like Thompson, stay below the radar. By all accounts, Emery fits that bill.

Chicago's safety roller coaster

April, 27, 2010
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Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune has dutifully chronicled the Bears’ near-constant upheaval at safety during the Lovie Smith regime. According to Biggs, there have been 41 lineup changes at safety since the 2004 season. That’s an astounding average of one for every 2.3 games.

The Bears thought so highly of their safety depth that they traded the promising Chris Harris to Carolina before the 2007 season. On the occasion of his reacquisition Tuesday, I thought I would give you a look at who has manned the Bears’ safety positions during his absence.

The bottom line: eight different starters for two positions over three years. Quite simply, that illustrates incredible turnover. Here you go, with games started in (parenthesis):

NFC North: Wrapping up Act II

April, 23, 2010
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EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Sorry about the choppy posting this evening. This draft format is new for all of us, and I decided to slow down a bit and wait until I had decent information on each draft pick before writing anything. So with that said, let's make a thorough rundown of Friday's second and third rounds from an NFC North perspective.

Green Bay general manager Ted Thompson executed a significant trade upwards for the third consecutive year, perhaps permanently altering his reputation as a conservative collector of surplus picks. "I know," Thompson joked to Wisconsin reporters. "I'm going to have to stop this."

This year, Thompson moved up in the third round to select Georgia Tech safety Morgan Burnett, a playmaker who had 14 interceptions in three seasons with the Yellow Jackets. The Packers don't have an immediate need at safety, but at the very least Burnett gives them an option should starter Nick Collins or Atari Bigby suffer an injury. It also gives the Packers flexibility as Bigby's unrestricted free agent year approaches.

"I think he's got all of the ingredients we look for to play safety," Thompson said. "I think he has the ability to be a dual guy and be the kind of guy that you are looking for that is athletic enough to cover down and can still come up and make tackles."

In this report Insider, Scouts Inc. suggests Burnett has above-average ball skills but marginal run-support ability.

Chicago also nabbed a third-round safety that could be playing a prominent role within the next year. In fact, coach Lovie Smith told Chicago reporters "it is safe to say" that Florida's Major Wright will be in the mix for a starting job at free safety in 2010.

"Being our first pick, I would say that he assumes he is going to come in and play quick," Smith said. "There is a long ways to go before you put a rookie in the starting lineup. We feel good about some of our players that we have here right now, but we don't have the depth here that we need."

Smith suggested that Wright could eventually provide the back-end leadership once supplied by former Bears safety Mike Brown.

"Tim Tebow did an awful lot for Florida on the offensive side of the ball," Smith said, "and I think [Florida coach] Urban Meyer would talk about Major doing some of those same things as far as being the fighter, the guy that is vocal, the guy that players look to for a bit of that leadership. That's what we are looking for a little bit, we are looking for a guy -- we have had a great guy in the past in Mike Brown, a big hitter, played the pass well and was a quarterback back there -- Major has done some of those things."

How happy is Wright to be with the Bears, a team where he could play almost right away? Check out what he told Chicago reporters: "I literally ran down the street and just lay in the middle of the road and started crying."

Wow.

Detroit addressed arguably its more glaring need with the No. 66 overall pick, selecting Iowa cornerback Amari Spievey. As of now, Spievey conceivably has a chance to start right away. That could change if the Lions sign veteran Adam "Pacman" Jones, but to this point Chris Houston is the only surefire starter Detroit has at cornerback.

General manager Martin Mayhew said the Lions were attracted mostly to Spievey's toughness and sound tackling skills.

"It's hard nowadays to find corners who are really solid tacklers, who are really physical players and this guy plays the game that way," Mayhew said. "I think he'll fit into our defense very well. He'll come in, I think, from day one and be a good player on special teams and compete for a chance to get a lot of playing time."

The Packers project Purdue defensive lineman Michael Neal as an end in their 3-4 scheme, based on what line coach Mike Trgovac told Wisconsin reporters. Neal gives the Packers some flexibility as they wait out Johnny Jolly's much-delayed trial on federal drug possession charges in Houston, but he'll also be an upgrade from the end rotation the Packers used last year.

New Minnesota cornerback Chris Cook was suspended from school in 2008 because of poor grades. He spent the year working at a Sears warehouse, he said, "putting refrigerators and stoves and washing machines and dryers on the back of trucks and unloading trucks, taking trash out to the dump and everything."

Virginia allowed him back in school last year, and he was determined not to let the opportunity pass by.

"It killed me that I had to sit out for a year," he said. "I won't say it benefited me, but I feel like it made me a smarter person and a stronger person, having to deal with that situation."
Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

Chicago coach Lovie Smith revealed a pair of interesting and unexpected depth chart maneuvers Wednesday morning on the team's Web site.

  1. Danieal Manning, and not second-year player Craig Steltz, will open training camp with the first team at free safety. Steltz will compete with Kevin Payne for the strong safety job and replace Manning at free safety in the nickel package, Smith told ChicagoBears.com writer Larry Mayer.
  2. With Charles Tillman sidelined after back surgery, second-year cornerback Zackary Bowman will work with the first team. There had been some speculation that Corey Graham would move back to cornerback from safety, but Smith said that Bowman stood out during spring practices. Tillman is expected to return as the starter in time for the regular season, but Bowman's ascendance gives you a good idea of where the Bears' depth chart stands at this point.

Manning started 29 games during his first two seasons as the Bears dealt with injuries to veteran Mike Brown. Twenty-six of those starts came at free safety. But Manning wasn't considered a strong cover man during that period. Steltz finished offseason workouts as the No. 1 free safety after Brown's departure, and it was expected that he would compete with Graham for the starting job.

The Bears' plan to use Steltz in the nickel is unusual and reflects Manning's limited coverage ability. But Smith has personally coached the nickel group in the past and it's clear he is calling these shots.

In the big picture, these developments mean the Bears have plenty of evaluative work to do when training camp opens Friday. They're going to get a good idea of what they have in Bowman, and they should find out once and for all if Manning can be a starting-caliber safety or if he is destined to be a subordinate defensive player along with his role on kickoff returns.

Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

It will be interesting to monitor the fallout of a surprise injury to Chicago cornerback Charles Tillman, who recently had back surgery and will miss at least the early portion of training camp. Here are reports from ESPN Chicago and the Chicago Tribune.

At this point, Tillman is expected to return in time for the Bears' regular-season opener against Sept. 13 at Green Bay. But back injuries are particularly difficult to predict, and Tillman's surgery comes at a time when the Bears had thinned their cornerback group to provide more help at safety.

Coach Lovie Smith's original idea was to move Corey Graham, who started nine games last season at cornerback, to safety in hopes he would win the starting job vacated by the departed Mike Brown. But without Tillman, the Bears have only one veteran cornerback remaining -- and Nate Vasher is himself returning from a wrist injury that limited him to eight games last season.

At some point in camp, the Bears are going to have to make a judgment call on Tillman's recovery. If Tillman is on track for a full and timely recovery, Graham can probably remain at safety. But if Tillman's back remains a question as the season grows closer, the Bears might have to abandon the experiment and return Graham to cornerback.

That would leave the Bears with second-year player Craig Steltz at safety and either Zack Bowman, D.J. Moore or Danieal Manning at nickel back. It's only fair to note the Bears' early-season schedule includes matchups against receivers Greg Jennings and Donald Driver of the Packers, Santonio Holmes of Pittsburgh, T.J. Houshmandzadeh of Seattle and Calvin Johnson of Detroit.

Regardless of the extent, it's an unexpected complication for a coaching staff that is hoping to revitalize its defense.

Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

Thursday was a busy day by the NFL's standards in July, and hopefully we can catch up here on Friday. We had a major contract extension, the signing of a draft pick, another installment of the Brett Favre saga and a head coach speaking at a political fundraiser.

Yes, Chicago's Lovie Smith briefly addressed the crowd at an event Thursday night for President Barack Obama, the longtime Chicago resident. Here's part of what Smith said, according to this account on Politico.com:

Smith: "I'm honored to be a part of the welcoming group to welcome home my favorite son. I have the audacity of hope that the Chicago Bears will some day be visiting the White House giving the president a Chicago Bears football to toss around on the South Lawn."

(One of Obama's books is entitled "The Audacity of Hope.")

Continuing around the NFC North:

  • Vaughn McClure of the Chicago Tribune checks in with Bears safety Craig Steltz, who will get the first opportunity to replace safety Mike Brown in the starting lineup.
  • Tom Kowalski of Mlive.com wonders if Detroit has wasted the talents of place-kicker Jason Hanson.
  • Lions linebacker Ernie Sims on the team's new defense: "I just like the position that the coaches put me in. It's enabling me to go out there and have fun and fly around and hit people." Carlos Monarrez of the Detroit Free Press has the full story.
  • Pete Dougherty of the Green Bay Press-Gazette examines the Packers' looming competition at right tackle.
  • Tom Powers of the St. Paul Pioneer Press: "To get an idea of how important Antoine Winfield is to the Vikings, consider this: He continually has challenged authority, been outspoken, and rubbed against the grain. And yet he has just agreed to another long-term contract from an organization that loathes all of the above."

NFC North training camp preview

July, 21, 2009
7/21/09
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Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert
 
  AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh
  Quarterback Jay Cutler and the Bears will need a young receiver to step up in camp.

Chicago Bears
Training camp site: Olivet Nazarene University (Bourbonnais, Ill.)

Campfires
The only Bears receiver with a guaranteed job is Devin Hester. Otherwise, the position is wide open. Veterans Earl Bennett and Rashied Davis will compete with rookies Juaquin Iglesias and Johnny Knox for the Nos. 2, 3 and 4 receiver positions. If general manager Jerry Angelo doesn't like what he sees, the Bears could pursue a proven veteran later this summer.

The free safety position is also wide open as the Bears replace the departed Mike Brown. Craig Steltz ended spring practice atop the depth chart, but he'll have to battle converted cornerback Corey Graham. Former New Orleans starter Josh Bullocks is also on the roster as a third, if distant, option.

Although the Bears hope it never matters, they'll have to sort out their depth behind new quarterback Jay Cutler. Unproven Caleb Hanie is set to battle free agent Brett Basanez in a competition that, like receiver, could ultimately give way to a veteran from outside the organization. Hanie, however, is a favorite of coach Lovie Smith and will get every opportunity to win the job.

Camp will be a downer if ...
... the Bears realize this summer that they haven't given Cutler enough weapons. While young players don't always develop on a convenient timetable, it should be pretty clear by mid-August if the Bears have enough mature depth at the receiver position. Adding a veteran at the end of the summer is an imperfect solution and would limit his chances to develop a rapport with the new quarterback.

Division Camp Previews
Tuesday: NFC North | AFC North
Wednesday: NFC East | AFC East
Thursday: NFC South | AFC South
Friday: NFC West | AFC West

MORE
Camp battles: AFC | NFC

Schedule: Training camp dates

The best-case scenario is if Bennett can parlay his familiarity with Cutler -- they were college teammates at Vanderbilt -- into a quick claim on the No. 2 job. That would lessen the pressure on the rookies and relieve the need to rely on Davis, who isn't a starting-caliber receiver. But if Bennett stumbles, the domino effect could significantly diminish the Bears' passing attack early in the season.

Camp will be a success if ...
... Smith can lay the groundwork for a revived defense. Smith has taken over as the de facto defensive coordinator and will call most defensive signals during games. He'll need to restore the Bears' core values -- producing a pass rush with the front four and making big plays in the secondary -- in order to meet the standard his defenses set earlier this decade.

It might be difficult to judge the success of this venture during camp and even in the preseason; Smith isn't likely to give away too much from a schematic standpoint before the regular season begins. But make no mistake: The origin of any improvement must come during technique and drill work in training camp.

O-verhaul
Quietly, the Bears shook up 60 percent of their offensive line this offseason. Center Olin Kreutz and right guard Roberto Garza are the only returning starters. Chicago is hoping that left tackle Orlando Pace, left guard Frank Omiyale and right tackle Chris Williams can breathe some life into a group that grew stale last season.

Pace is the short-term key. Injuries have caused him to miss 25 games over the past three seasons. His health and conditioning will be monitored carefully in training camp. It will be interesting to see if the Bears also work Williams at left tackle -- his natural position -- as a contingency should Pace suffer another injury.


Detroit Lions
Training camp site: Team facility in Allen Park, Mich.

 
  Rashaun Rucker/zuma/Icon SMI
  The Lions would like Daunte Culpepper to earn the starting quarterback job ahead of Matthew Stafford to start the season.

Campfires
No Black and Blue battle will be more scrutinized than the competition between Lions quarterbacks Daunte Culpepper and Matthew Stafford. Conventional wisdom suggests Culpepper will win the job as long as he maintains his offseason conditioning level. But coach Jim Schwartz has said Stafford will start as soon as he meets two criteria: when he is ready and when he surpasses Culpepper as the team's best option.

Stafford's status as an underclassman suggests he faces a steep learning curve this season. That, along with Culpepper's familiarity with offensive coordinator Scott Linehan's scheme, imposes a two-pronged challenge for Stafford to win the job in training camp.

Another rookie, safety Louis Delmas, appears to be one of the few locks to start in the secondary. You would assume Phillip Buchanon will win one cornerback spot, but the other two starting roles seem wide open.

Anthony Henry could start at cornerback, or he could move to safety. Other safety candidates include Daniel Bullocks, Marquand Manuel, Kalvin Pearson and Stuart Schweigert. The competition will be wide open as the Lions look for defensive backs who are aggressive and eager for contact.

Camp will be a downer if ...
... every player on the roster suffers a season-ending injury on the first day of camp. Otherwise, there is nowhere to go but up for a team that went 0-16 last season.

Seriously, there is one position where Detroit is keeping its fingers crossed. The Lions signed 36-year-old nose tackle Grady Jackson to help tighten their run defense and also keep offensive linemen off their talented trio of linebackers. But Jackson missed all of spring practice after undergoing knee surgery in February. Jackson is as important as any player the Lions acquired this winter and he needs to get at least some practice time in training camp to ensure he will be ready for the season.

Camp will be a success if ...
... Culpepper can win the job outright, rather than become the starter simply because Stafford isn't ready. If Culpepper can recapture some of his previous magic with Linehan, the Lions will have a much better chance to be credible in Schwartz's first season.

And despite the protestations of modern-day thinkers, Stafford can only benefit from some time on the sidelines. That doesn't mean he should sit for three years. But rare is the quarterback who can start -- and succeed -- on day one. A rejuvenated Culpepper is the first step in the Lions' rebuilding project.

Linebacker city
Through trade and free agency, the Lions have put together a competent group of linebackers in Julian Peterson, Larry Foote and Ernie Sims. It will be interesting to watch defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham experiment with ways to utilize their playmaking skills.

Cunningham has said he plans to blitz 40 percent of the time this season. Peterson could make some big plays if he has maintained the athletic skills of his prime. The same goes for Foote. We'll get a good idea of how much each player has left in the tank this summer.

(Read full post)

Posted by ESPN.com staff

Chicago Bears

  • A review of the Bears' two biggest personnel changes on defense: the addition of linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa and the departure of safety Mike Brown, from Brad Biggs of the Chicago Sun-Times and Bill Barnwell of Football Outsiders.
  • Packers wide receiver Donald Driver said in a national radio interview that the Bears' weakness is at receiver. Driver: "[The Bears] have the running back, they have the offensive line and they have a great defense. But you're going to have to need receivers to make plays down the field, and they don't have that right now."

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers
Minnesota Vikings
  • Brett Favre has been stepping up his workouts and admitted that time is "running out" for him to make a decision on whether to resume his career with the Vikings.
  • Coach Brad Childress appears willing to wait on Favre to make a decision.
  • Vikings receiver Sidney Rice wrote on his blog that he worked out recently at full speed without his knee brace and was pain-free.
Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

Detroit owner William Clay Ford spoke publicly for the first time since the team began its post-Matt Millen overhaul last fall. Nicholas J. Cotsonika of the Detroit Free Press provides a handy transcript of the session's highlights.

Two things stood out to me the most:

  1. Ford confirmed he has settled a dispute with Millen on the apparent buyout of his contract.
  2. He admitted that commissioner Roger Goodell offered advice and suggestions for replacing Millen. Instead, Ford promoted two internal candidates to fill the role: General manager Martin Mayhew and team president Tom Lewand.

Ford said Goodell initiated the discussion and they had "three or four conversations" about the jobs.

Ford: "Yes. He offered any help that he could. He was great about it. I said, 'Well, I could use all the help I can get. I'm certainly not going to turn my back on you or anybody.' Then he mentioned a few names, and I investigated those. He couldn't have been nicer about it or really more helpful."

Ford was asked whether he looked into the names Goodell provided.

Ford: "I did check into it, and nothing against any of his suggestions, but I felt I had the right combination here. So why go through the agony of bringing somebody totally new in that to learn what everything was about here? As long as it was in place, I didn't have any problem with it."

To me, it's interesting and not entirely typical for Goodell to insert himself into a process at that level, unsolicited. No doubt, the commissioner thought the Lions could use some help in forging their new path. As has been his policy for most of his tenure, Ford followed his own road.

I don't have anything in particular to nitpick about the job Mayhew and Lewand have done thus far. But it's only natural to question whether the team is headed in a better direction when its essentially under incumbent leadership.

Continuing around the NFC North:

  • Brian VanOchten of the Grand Rapids Press: "The signs of progress are everywhere on the practice fields and in the locker room at the Detroit Lions' mandatory minicamp. No, seriously."
  • On the second day of their minicamp, the Lions practiced through 89-degree temperatures, writes Terry Foster and John Niyo of the Detroit News. Coach Jim Schwartz: "We embrace it. We are not going to move practices indoors. The last time I checked when 1 o'clock Sunday rolls around and if it is 90 degrees and hot and humid, you still have to play the game. They are not going to move it."
  • Who's next after Green Bay receiver Greg Jennings signed his contract extension? Safety Nick Collins and left guard Daryn Colledge, suggests Tom Pelissero of the Green Bay Press-Gazette.
  • In total, notes Greg A. Bedard of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the Packers have 10 players who are entering the final year of their contract in 2009. Seven are starters.
  • Communication is key in the Packers' new defensive scheme, writes Rob Demovsky of the Press-Gazette.
  • Chicago cornerback Charles Tillman spoke to ESPN 1000 radio about the departure of safety Mike Brown, who signed Wednesday with Kansas City. Tillman: "I'm going to miss him. What else can I say? Everybody knows what Mike Brown stands for, the kind of player he is. I hope he goes to Kansas City and I wish him nothing but the best. I hope he has a great season and a great career there."
  • Retired safety Rodney Harrison has no love for retired quarterback Brett Favre. Speaking on the Dan Patrick radio show, Harrison said: "From the player's I've talked to, a lot of them seem to think Brett Favre is pretty selfish. Each and every offseason bringing so much attention to himself. It's just really a disappointment to hear that time and time again. If you've been in the league 13, 14, 15 years or so you know if you want to play. The circus shouldn't have to go on for three to four years. It's just a disappointment. Then the media they're just so caught up and in love with Brett Favre ... It's ridiculous because a lot of guys are doing good, positive things in the National Football League and those keep things keep getting overlooked."
Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

Many of you have been interested in the future of former Chicago safety Mike Brown, whom the Bears decided not to re-sign this offseason.

According to Adam Teicher of the Kansas City Star, Brown has agreed to terms with the Chiefs. Under new coach Todd Haley, Brown will have a chance to beat out incumbent safeties Bernard Pollard and Jarrad Page for a starting job.

More than anything, Brown could provide locker room leadership for a young team in transition.

Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

Many of you have asked about the future of former Chicago safety Mike Brown, who the team decided against re-signing this offseason. Brown has begun making free-agent visits, most recently Monday at Cleveland.

Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports Brown toured the Browns' practice facility. The team's interest is unknown, but it's likely Cleveland would be looking for veteran depth behind starters Abram Elam and Brodney Pool.

Brown has also visited Kansas City. He is 31 and has a well-documented past of injuries. But Brown did manage to start 15 games last season and might not be done with his career.

Continuing around the NFC North:

  • The Bears had two punters in for workouts Tuesday, according to Brad Biggs of the Chicago Sun-Times. Derrick Frost and Richmond McGee both kicked for team officials.
  • Bears defensive tackle Tommie Harris on the troublesome left knee that has forced him to sit out much of the team's organized team activities: "That's how injuries go: one minute up, next down. You just hope the up comes faster than the down." Vaughn McClure of the Chicago Tribune has the story.
  • Judd Zulgad of the Star Tribune reports Minnesota was believed to be in contract negotiations with the agent for quarterback Brett Favre this week. I think that is a likely explanation for why the Vikings have temporarily suspended their pursuit of Favre.
  • Agent Bus Cook declined comment to Rick Alonzo of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
  • Green Bay tailback Ryan Grant is focusing on explosiveness this offseason, writes Tom Pelissero of the Green Bay Press-Gazette.
  • Detroit coach Jim Schwartz will serve as the honorary starter for the Lifelock 400 on Sunday at Michigan International Speedway. Here's the press release.
  • Tom Kowalski of Mlive.com writes there are consistency problems with right tackle Gosder Cherilus.
Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

Chip Scoggins and Judd Zulgad of the Star Tribune report that Minnesota cornerback Antoine Winfield did not attend Tuesday's voluntary organized team activity.

Normally, you can't get too excited when a player skips a voluntary workout. But the absence comes immediately after Winfield missed the Vikings' mandatory minicamp to attend the funeral of a close friend's mother last weekend. Coach Brad Childress acknowledged Winfield was at the funeral but would not discuss whether the absence was excused.

Childress also made clear that all veterans had been "invited" to attend this week's OTAs. It's well-known that Winfield is entering the final year of his contract and has yet to reach an agreement on an extension. Are the two issues connected? Winfield deserves the benefit of an opportunity to explain before we jump to any conclusions. But the evidence, at least, is mounting.

Continuing around the NFC North:

  • Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty joked Tuesday that he will sign an executive order for Twins catcher Joe Mauer to play quarterback for the Vikings in light of the indecision of retired quarterback Brett Favre. It's at the beginning of the video here. (Mauer once turned down a scholarship to play quarterback at Florida State.)
  • Charley Walters of the St. Paul Pioneer Press checks in with former Green Bay offensive lineman Jerry Kramer.
  • Green Bay safety Atari Bigby on the effect of his ankle injury last season: "Every step hurt. Every step. Walking around, not even on the field -- I mean, just like walking in the mall, walking from my couch to the bathroom." Tom Pelissero of the Green Bay Press-Gazette traces Bigby's comeback.
  • Former Chicago safety Mike Brown will visit Kansas City, according to Brad Biggs of the Chicago Sun-Times. It's believed to be Brown's first free-agent visit since the Bears told him this winter that they did not plan to re-sign him.
  • Lions coach Jim Schwartz on the best golf advice he's ever received: "Go out, and when you hit a good shot, enjoy it and be happy. And when you hit a bad shot, tell yourself, 'You know, I'm really not that good,' because if you think that you're good, every bad shot you hit, you're going to get frustrated." Nicholas J. Cotsonika of the Detroit Free Press reports.
  • Will the Pontiac Silverdome be a prop in a future Steven Spielberg movie? Kathleen Gray of the Free Press looks into it.
Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

Chicago is far from set at the safety position, but the Bears didn't seem to have any interest in bringing former starter Brandon McGowan back for depth purposes. McGowan agreed Tuesday with New England on a two-year contract, according to ESPN's John Clayton.

McGowan opened last season as the Bears' nickel back but missed the final 14 games after dislocating his left ankle. He has since recovered, and after bidding farewell to veteran Mike Brown, the Bears have at least one open starting safety job. It does not appear they considered McGowan an option, however.

During rookie minicamp last week, coach Lovie Smith floated the possibility of moving cornerback Corey Graham to safety if veteran Nate Vasher returns to form. That arrangement would still leave the Bears needing a nickel back, but either Danieal Manning or rookie D.J. Moore could fit into that role. Regardless, it's clear that McGowan did not.

Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

During his pre-draft news conference Tuesday, Chicago general manager Jerry Angelo issued this plea:

"Don't beat us up too badly if we don't [draft a wide receiver]."

Which brought up this fair point: We've spent so much time discussing the likelihood of the Bears grabbing a receiver in the second round (No. 49 overall) that we've overlooked the other possibilities. Namely, safety.

Kevin Payne figures to start at one safety position, but the departure of Mike Brown has left the Bears with a hole at the other spot. (For now, we're assuming that free-agent signee Josh Bullocks might not be a long-term solution.) As a result, Jeff Dickerson of ESPN Chicago suggests they will draft two safeties this weekend.

Could one of them be at No. 49 overall? The safety position generally is not as highly-valued as receiver, which means the Bears should have a much better chance at acquiring one of the draft's best safeties than they would in getting a top receiver.

For some help in gauging the safety market, let's turn to ESPN analyst Todd McShay -- who published a seven-round mock draft Tuesday. You'll need an Insider subscription to view the entire draft, but I can tell you McShay had three safeties coming off the board in the seven picks before Chicago's turn arrived in the second round.

Here's how it went:

No. 43 overall: San Francisco takes Western Michigan's Louis Delmas
No. 46 overall: Houston takes Missouri's William Moore
No. 47 overall: New England takes Alabama's Rashad Johnson

Given that scenario, McShay gave Penn State receiver Derrick Williams to the Bears at No. 49. (Georgia's Mohamed Massaquoi was off the board at this point, but Ohio State's Brian Robiskie was still available.) Oregon safety Patrick Chung then went to Dallas at No. 51, and the next safety didn't come off the board until McShay gave Wake Forest's Chip Vaughn to Denver in the third round. (No. 84 overall, ironically one of the picks Chicago gave the Broncos in the Jay Cutler trade.)

I won't pretend to suggest whom the Bears might like in this group or what they might do if McShay's scenario materialized. Would they try trading up a few spots? We will have to wait and see how it plays out. But if nothing else, this exercise should give you some idea of what issues the Bears will be facing Saturday as the second round unfolds.

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