The Green Bay Packers set an NFL record for their stingy play in 1996, allowing just 19 touchdowns in the regular season.
Since then, they’ve sent wide receiver Andre Rison on his way, and lost kick returner Desmond Howard to free agency and tight end Keith Jackson and backup quarterback Jim McMahon to retirement.
So, what do the Super Bowl champions want in the draft?
And for good reason.
Reggie White is 36 and Sean Jones won’t be back, at least not as a starter. Gabe Wilkins, a fourth-round pick in 1994, will step in at his right defensive-end spot, and the Packers want a similar apprentice for White.
“We would hope to be able to do that,” general manager Ron Wolf said. “We’re kind of like a kid in the candy store. You have a quarter and you can only buy two things, but we want to buy six things.”
With middle linebacker George Koonce (knee) on the mend and outside linebacker Wayne Simmons (attitude) on the outs, there should be two new starters joining second-year starter Brian Williams this year.
The secondary appears solid, but No. 3 cornerback Tyrone Williams’ status for training camp is uncertain because he’s in jail for a shooting that happened in college.
Free safety Eugene Robinson will be 34 next month, and strong safety LeRoy Butler should command a $3 million salary after this season. Who’s to say whether the Packers will have that kind of money after two-time MVP Brett Favre signs his new deal?
The Packers own eight picks in the seven-round draft that begins Saturday, including the final pick of the first round.
“I think there will be a quality player at 30,” Wolf said. “I also think there are quality players to pick after that.
“We would like to add to the linebacker position. There are quality players there, but I don’t think they’ll reach 30,” he said.
Smith a key for Vikings
Robert Smith was the key player in the 1993 draft for the Minnesota Vikings, their first-round pick and the future of their running game.
Unsigned and feeling unwanted, Smith will be the key player in the draft for the Vikings once again.
If Smith, an unrestricted free agent whose 1996 season was cut in half by a knee injury, doesn’t sign before Friday, the Vikings almost certainly will spend one of their first three picks on a running back. That probably would mean the end of Smith’s tantalizing yet injury filled career in Minnesota.
Corey Dillon, a 6-foot-2, 220-pound junior from Washington, is the player the Vikings want the most. But he is unlikely to be left when they pick, so a defensive back could be their first-round choice.
Lions look for defense
Bobby Ross wants to turn the Detroit Lions into his kind of team, but first he must solve the problems that cost Wayne Fontes his job. The NFL draft is a way to do that.
With 11 choices at his disposal this weekend, Ross will try to patch up the defense. Detroit allowed an average of almost 335 yards and 23 points a game last season, resulting in a 5-11 record.
A cornerback is considered the Lions’ most pressing need.
Bears have long wait
The Chicago Bears might be sitting out the first several hours of the draft. For the first time since 1978, they don’t have a first-round pick.
The Bears sent their first-round selection to the Seattle Seahawks for quarterback Rick Mirer and a fourth-rounder. The Bears’ first pick is No. 10 of the second round.
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