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Packers hope Reynolds will pressure passers

By BRUCE LOWITT

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 22, 2001


It figures the Lombardi Award winner would end up in Green Bay. Now the question is how often Jamal Reynolds will end up in the Buccaneers' backfield.

Bucs will get two good looks in 2001 at the Florida State defensive end, voted the top college lineman last season.

Then they'll probably say farewell for a while to Reynolds. And Vikings rookie running back running back Michael Bennett of Wisconsin, who replaces the retired Robert Smith. And a couple of former Michigan teammates, Bears wide receiver David Terrell and Lions offensive tackle Jeff Backus, NFC Central first-round draft picks Saturday.

Barring a sudden reverse, the NFL's black-and-blue division no longer will have black, red and pewter. With the realignment expected for 2002, the Bucs will leave the NFC Central for the new NFC South Division with Atlanta, New Orleans and Carolina.

That will be then. This is now. And the Packers picked Reynolds to strengthen a pass rush whose sack leader was defensive end John Thierry with 61/2 sacks. The consensus is that Reynolds may have been the best pass rusher in the draft, but is not an every-down player.

The Packer picked 10th in the first round because of the trade that sent No. 2 quarterback Matt Hasselbeck to Seattle, where former Green Bay coach Mike Holmgren plans to start him. With their second pick, the Pack gave No. 1 quarterback Brett Favre another potential target, wide receiver Robert Ferguson of Texas A&M.

At No. 8, two places ahead of the Packers in the first round, the Bears' attention was on their offense -- what there was of it last season. Chicago got into the red zone (inside opponents' 20-yard line) a league-low 26 times and scored a league-worst 11 touchdowns from there.

In his final two seasons, Terrell scored 21 touchdowns -- once every 61/2 times he caught the ball.

"He brings some red-zone production to our football team and that was an area we were going to focus on going into the draft," Bears personnel chief Mark Hatley said. "We'll be able to get more points on the board and that'll help us on both sides of the ball."

Chicago coach Dick Jauron added: "We wouldn't plug him in right now as the starter on Day 1. We fully expect him to compete. Clearly we drafted him that high (because) we think he's got the ability to take the job."

The Bears stayed with offense in the next round, taking Anthony Thomas, who set Michigan career records for rushing (4,472 yards) and touchdowns (55).

He could become the successor to James Allen, an unrestricted free agent after 2001.

Allen gained 1,120 yards last season but scored just two rushing touchdowns.

Backus is the fourth offensive lineman taken in the first round by the Lions in the past five years. At Michigan last season, he anchored the offensive line that allowed just 18 sacks and opened the holes for Thomas to break those records.

With the retirement of Smith, a speedy running back, the Vikings drafted Bennett, one of the fastest players on the board when their first-round turn came at No. 27.

"We got a gift," coach Dennis Green said. "We're always ready for that gift. Fortunately, this year that gift was a position we needed."

-- Information from other news organizations was used in this report.

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