After a disappointing season as you look at the body of the work I was excited the way we were able to finish the last couple of games and beat a couple of good football teams. I feel like that started hopefully our climb back on top for the 2008 season. Since then, for the most part, we have been able to keep our coaching staff in place. We’ve lost one coach, we’ll probably end up losing two coaches, but I feel like we have someone in place to fill all of those positions. Then from there it is about our personnel, No. 1 trying to keep as many of our core players as possible, which hopefully we’ll be able to do. We have a couple issues with that, but we feel like we’re making progress with some of them. And we’ve had to release a couple players that have meant a lot to our ballclub, guys like Fred Miller, Muhsin Muhammad, Darwin Walker, players that played a big part in what we did this past year. But with the new year change comes about. We feel excited about the direction we are going. Of course it is always good to come down to the combine. You feel like you get a chance to look at some other players that will be a part of your ballclub the next year. So, that’s where we are, I’ll take your questions.
HOW IMPORTANT IS IT TO BRING BERNARD BERRIAN BACK?
It’s very important. Players that you’ve brought up, we drafted Bernard, we’ve seen him grow as a person, of course as a player. He’s a very good football player. He’s a 1 receiver. It’s important. Hopefully we can find a way to keep him in Chicago.
IS IT VIABLE TO TAG BERRIAN?
Well, of course we are keeping all options open. Right now, as much as anything, I am just interested in us trying to find a way, however we have to do it to keep him there.
ASSESS YOUR QB SITUATION CURRENTLY?
Well, right now, just like most of our ballclub, we weren’t happy with everything that happened this past year. But right now Rex Grossman is an unrestricted free agent who is out there. We of course would like for him to come back, along with our two other quarterbacks we have right now. Every position we’re trying to improve right now. That’s where we are with the quarterback position and again hopefully we can stabilize it a little bit more coming up.
IS THE WINDOW STILL OPEN FOR YOU TO COMPETE FOR THE SUPER BOWL OR ARE YOU REBUILDING?
Well, we’re definitely not rebuilding. As far as Super Bowl window, it was a long time ago it seems like we played in the Super Bowl. But we like the core of our team still. I feel like we’re close. It’s a fine line between winning and losing. This past season it went the other way for us. The Super Bowl champion New York Giants had an excellent year, we were right in it with them right up until the end. So we feel like we are close. We’ll make a few changes which you do normally and go from there.
DO YOU HAVE MORE HOLES TO FILL NOW THAN A YEAR AGO?
Again, that’s a long time ago thinking about what we talked about then. I know we do have a few things we do need to get taken care of right now though. But I feel like the good part about, I guess not being in the playoffs, is you get a chance to start the process a little bit quicker which we’ve been able to do. It’s been a while, we missed the last couple of Senior Bowls, we were down there watching them this year. So we have some holes but we feel like we are making progress.
HOW DO YOU VIEW THE LANCE BRIGGS SITUATION RIGHT NOW?
Well, just like I said with Bernard, my entire time in Chicago I have been with Lance Briggs. He’s been an All-Pro player for us, how many teams would like to see an all-pro go somewhere else? So, I’m optimistic. My glass is half-full always. Hopefully, that will be the case. I know we have made statements, we realize when you have a player out there like Lance a lot of teams want him. We’re one of them that do.
DO YOU SEE MIKE BROWN RETURNING FOR 2008?
We sure do. Mike is another part of the core. Even though he has missed a lot of games, Mike means quite a bit. I’m a big Mike Brown fan. I always have been. Yes, we would definitely like to have Mike back with us.
WHAT ABOUT RUBEN BROWN?
Ruben Brown has meant a lot to our ballclub, you know a veteran player at the latter part of his career when he came to us. He did a lot for us, but we’re going to go in a different direction with Ruben. I appreciate everything he has done for us, but we are going in a different direction with our offensive line.
DO YOU THINK A FIRST ROUND TIGHT END COMING INTO THE LEAGUE HAS MORE OF A CHANCE OF AN IMMEDIATE IMPACT THAN A WR IN THE FIRST ROUND?
You know that is hard to say. For us, we have a first-round tight end (Greg Olsen) who had an excellent year for us. I’m sure good players in general can make an impact. I think you have to look at each individual player and go from there.
DID YOU GET FEELING THAT PATRIOTS HAD INFORMATION ABOUT RAMS IN SUPER BOWL 36?
No, not at all. Again, I’m having a hard time remembering last year’s press conference. To think back to St. Louis, that’s definitely harder for me. But I recall is that we were beaten by a good football team that year. It was an excellent football game. And that’s about all I remember from it.
PRECAUTIONS YOU TAKE FROM TEAMS STEALING SIGNS?
Signals … we take all type of precautions. You have wristband calls and things like that. I don’t spend a whole lot of time … most of our effort goes into trying to find a way to be successful on the football field doing it the right way. We spend most of our time on that. We have precautions in place to guard against that on game day, and that’s how we’ve always done it.
YOUR RECEIVER CORPS ASIDE FROM BERRIAN?
Whenever you go in a different direction from a player like Muhsin Muhammad, you have to feel pretty good about some other players that you have, and that’s the case with us. Mark Bradley has been very productive when given an opportunity to play. From his rookie year on, he’s fought injuries and things like that. But we fell real good about the direction he’s going. Devin Hester can be a ‘1’ receiver in the league, I truly believe that. So we’re excited about the steps he took this past season and the direction he’s going also. Rashied Davis, good football player. Mike Hass, another good football player. So we feel good about some of our younger receivers. They haven’t come on the scene yet, but we think a few of them can.
DANGERS OF HAVING NO. 1 OVERALL PICK?
I assume there are some dangers involved. You’re getting the best player coming out in the draft, so I guess that has to be good. Hopefully we won’t be in that situation very often that I have to deal with.
WITH TWO CHANGES ON O-LINE, IS O-LINE BIGGER CONCERN THAN QB PLAY?
Whenever you take two starting players out of the rotation, that is cause for concern. If it’s bigger than the play of the quarterback, I don’t know about that. We have a lot of things that we’re trying to improve. But that is a big area of concern right now. We feel like we have a plan to try to combat that a little bit, but we’ve lost two good football players.
LOST TWO STARTERS, BUT WITH TERRENCE METCALF STRUGGLING, NEED MORE THAN 2?
In the offseason you’re trying to improve your ballclub. We’re not saying we have all of those areas taken care of. We’re going to try to bring in as many good football players as we possibly game. Terrence was disappointing at times, but sometimes when you have a while to think about it, you come in in a little bit different situation. He has played good football in the past in spots. Believe me, we’re just not going to stop with that. That’s why we’re down here. Of course there’s free agency and there’s a lot of different ways for us to improve our offensive line.
HOW COMFORTABLE ARE YOU WITH A ROOKIE STARTING ON OLINE?
I’m comfortable with a good football player. You know our history. We play young players. We’ve had success with older players. We’re looking at the player, period, and go from there.
CONSIDER MOVING TAIT TO “NATURAL HOME” ON RIGHT SIDE?
I don’t know if I’d say natural home. Of course he’s played both of them. That’s an option that we have and we’ll keep all of our options open right now. The direction we go with the other position will dictate of what happens with John.
WHY CAN YOU COUNT ON CEDRIC BENSON?
We know more about Cedric right now in that lead position. He didn’t have a good year, and there are reasons why, from the injuries and just his overall play wasn’t what we would like for it to be this past season. I still have confidence in Cedric that he can do the job. I know that he’s a good football player. A lot of times when you have a disappointing year, just like a ballclub, you come back a lot stronger that next year. We’re hoping that will be the case with Cedric, and again, I still say he’s a good football player and he can be productive in our league.
IS HE THE BEARS’ NO. 1 RB?
Right now it would be hard for me to say many guys are No. 1 at their position. You open everything up. I would like for all of our players to think that they’re No. 1 coming in. Again, Cedric, we know what he was able to do. Adrian Peterson was productive and finished the season out strong and I still think Garrett Wolfe has a bright future ahead of him.
WILL TEAMS OVERSPEND IN FREE AGENCY WITH CAP INCREASE?
Again, that’s hard to say too. I hope that’s not the case with us. Hopefully having more money we can get better players in to help us win.
ARCHULETA HAVE FUTURE WITH TEAM?
Adam, just like some more of our players, didn’t have the type of season we were hoping, he was hoping. But he’s still a part of our ballclub and we’re expecting him to come back stronger this year.
HAS RELATIONSHIP WITH PLAYER CHANGED WHEN USE A FRANCHISE TAG?
I’m trying to think now … we haven’t put the franchise tag … I don’t know a whole lot about that. I haven’t been in that situation a lot. But I think players now understand if you put a franchise time on them you’re saying that they’re a good football player, you want them around and you’re going to try to find ways to work something out from there. So I think they understand why you’re doing it. As far as does the relationship change, I would hope it wouldn’t.
DID IT CHANGE WITH LANCE LAST YEAR?
Lance’s situation was a little bit different. Lance Briggs showed up. He missed some work that wasn’t mandatory in the offseason. But when it was time to show up, he showed up. We had the same type of relationship. I’ve communicated with Lance after the season, so I can’t say that that affected anything. All we said, again when you say that, it’s just saying that you really like this player a lot and these are the challenges you have to go through right now.
How much thought do you put into thE COMBINE?
I think this is just a part of the evaluation process. You find out a lot, you have players who know how to answer a lot of the questions, they've been prepped on some of those things but once you get out there you get a chance to see guys running 40s, doing those type of events and you see a guy going through the position drills, that only helps your evaluation process and this is only a part of it. Then you go back and analyze more video, hopefully you have more one-on-one conversations with the guy and go from there.
Theme of the off-season?
I Think 31 teams will say this, it's trying to get back. It's next year about us. Last year, even though we had a good football season we didn't accomplish our goal, to win the championship. This year is the same so it's the same goal, it won't change, our three goals that we've established for our program will be the same and hopefully this year we'll have better success.
What exactly is wrong with him? He had minor neck surgery. And I say minor. As far as when he'll be back, and all of that, whenever you say minor with something, I expect ... Brian finished the season very strong this past year. We expect him to pick up where he left off with another great year.
Fell victim to the From SUPER BOWL to missing the playoffs jinx?
Well last year I was hit with those questions and I talked about how it wouldn';t happen to us but it happened to us. I don't know the reasons why. Teams go through a lot of different things. I just say we didn't play as well as we needed to this past year, don';t know the reason why and really can't spend a lot of time trying to figure it out. We're out of that group now. I',m interested in a team that lost the Super Bowl, didn't make the playoffs the next year then came back and won it the next.
Can't hear, think it's about the increased pre-Combine prep being done these days?
I think any of that, all of that is good. Guys are working out longer, they start their routine earlier which should only make them a better football player. The specialized things that they go through, I think all of that only helps so I think it's a good thing.
AFTER THE EXTENSION, IS ALEX BROWN THE STARTER AT RIGHT END NOW?
Like I talked about Cedric, right now just rather not talk about a lot of the starting positions. Whenever you sign a player, you make a commitment like that, you're saying that you really like that guy a lot. Alex Brown finished the season off strong, he's a good football player. But even last year, even though Mark Anderson started, we talked about three starters. He played a much as ... our three ends all played about the same amount. I think nowadays guys are going .. they would like to see instead of four linemen they would like to see 8, 7 linemen that you can put in the rotation and you feel like they're all starters. Alex is definitely in that group.
DON’T TAKE PLAYERS WHO DON’T WORK OUT AS SERIOUSLY?
Some people do, no I don't. Young kids getting advice from a lot of different places. I would like to see them, we would like to see them, but there are a lot of great players playing in the league right now who didn't work out at the combine. That's just a part of it.
Minority hiring? Look forward to the day when it's not necessary to have the Rooney rule?
Hopefully there will be a time when it isn't necessary but whenever there's a rule in place that gives minority guys an opportunity to get in front of owners to show what we have to get a head job, I think that's good. Eventually yes, times have changed an awful lot, we've made a lot of progress, we have a long way to go, but progress has been made and the Rooney Rule has definitely helped that.
FOLLOW ON SPYGATE?
I don't go into accusations an awful lot. I think it's dangerous to do that. Of course I was aware of what's going on, whenever you have people accusing guys of doing things like that, it's just hard for me to fathom that anyone would do anything like that. Those were my thoughts right away and I trust our NFL office and I'm sure there's something to it, No. 1 that will come out later on, time has a way of taking care of all things and again during that time I was just more interested in watching a great game which I saw and had this picture of the Chicago Bears being back in Tampa next year in that same environment.
HOW DID DEFENSE SUFFER WITHOUT RON RIVERA?
That's hard to say on how someone that was with us the year before. We didn't have as good a year defensively as we'd like. I don't think it had much to do with Ron Rivera. I think it had something to do with the guys that were there, players didn't play as well, coaches didn't coach as well as we needed to just like the rest of our team.
YOUR SAFETY SITUATION AND DO YOU REGRET TRADING CHRIS HARRIS?
With Chris Harris. No, when you make decisions based on the moment, we had at the time a lot of depth at the safety position, now it didn't end up being that way at the end of the year. Chris Harris was a good player, Chris Harris just signed a big contract, that's good. It's always good when players that don't fit in completely with our situation, get a chance to go off and sign a contract like this, so I think it worked out. We feel good about where we are and it really worked out good for Chris.