Chicago Sun-Times

July 2008 Archives

Brett Favre is not the only future Hall of Famer who doesn't look to be welcomed by the Bears.

They do not have interest in adding veteran safety John Lynch, who mutually parted ways with the Denver Broncos. Lynch and Bears coach Lovie Smith have a close relationship dating back to their days with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers but Smith said he's not looking for a reunion with Lynch. The 16-year veteran has said he will need a perfect situation to continue playing.

That opportunity will not come here even though the Bears have more questions at safety than any other position on defense.

Two days after former NBA referee Tim Donaghy was sent away for 15 months for his association with gamblers in putting the fix on basketball games, Ed Hochuli, an NFL referee for 19 years, said he doesn't see it being a problem in his sport.

Hochuli said too many checks are in place in the NFL, including background checks given to officials every two years that include a check of financial information. NFL officials are forbidden from going to cities where there are casinos during the season without permission from the league office. Perception, Hochuli, said is primary in maintaining integrity. But certainly some it was shattered for all sports by the Donaghy case.

"I would imagine that for a lot of people it definitely caused pause for concern,'' Hochuli said. "All officials in any sport I know were upset by that, the integrity issue. We're all about integrity. It's the most important thing we have to maintain because people have to trust that you're calling a fair game. Sort of clouded us all.

"Now I can't comment on other sports, but I can tell you in the NFL that I just can't imagine that sort of thing happening, not just because of the integrity but because of the scrutiny we are under. Instant replay. The fact that you can fix mistakes through instant replay is big. Because if there is somebody that was doing that, you have the opportunity to fix it. The grading system that we've got, because we have one game a week the league is able to grade with a tremendous amount of scrutiny the officials on every play. And if an official was making mistakes, he'd be fired. We have officials who are let go every year because of grades. And so that is another significant check on that sort of thing."

Ed Hochuli is a man of many Web sites.

Google away to see for yourself.

The attention he receives--Charles Barkley once came up to him in Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix to introduce himself--is mind boggling to him. Hochuli, who has worked two Super Bowls, is known for his descriptive penalty explanations and bodybuilder arms.

"I am mystified by that quite frankly," he said. "I really am. It's funny and I get a kick out of it. I don't know why it is. I don't know why there is sort of this cult stuff and the number of people I hear from and people on the street that come up. It just kind of blows me away. I mean, I'm not anything special. The players are the special ones. They have the talent. I don't have any talent. I'm just an administrator.

"I think it started with [CBS analyst] Phil Simms. It was a really, slow boring game and they had nothing to talk about. He circled my arms [on the telecast] and started talking about my arms. I've kidded him many times about starting the whole thing."

A report in the St. Petersburg Times says the Dallas Cowboys are still interested in Tampa Bay quarterback Chris Simms.

If the Bucs will lower their demands from a mid-round draft pick. That seems like a steep price to pay for a quarterback who:

1) Hasn't played since 2006;
2) Is coming out of contract after this season;
3) Is scheduled to earn $2 million this season.

NFL referee Ed Hochuli and members of his crew will visit camp in the coming days to go over rule changes and rules the league office has decided need to be emphasized this season. Hochuli has served as the referee for two Super Bowls and is well known for his fitness regimen.

Catching up following another busy afternoon ...

-- In case you didn't see it earlier, center Olin Kreutz was removed from the physically unable to perform list after his Achilles tendon checked out in a physical. He practiced for the first time in a warm afternoon workout.

"It's nice to get Olin back in,'' offensive coordinator Ron Turner said. ''Olin's a leader of this team, not only a vocal leader but just a leader by example. He's a great football player, so you miss that part of him, but we miss his leadership in the huddle, so it's nice to get him back out.

"I could see every day he was itching more and more to get out here. But he's also very smart. He's a veteran. He knows he's got to take care of his body and get himself right. Again, it was great to get him out here."

Chances are good the Bears will get one mandatory piece back today in their efforts to rebuild the offensive line.

Six-time Pro Bowl center Olin Kreutz will take a physical before practice this afternoon at 3. If his repaired Achilles tendon checks out, he will be removed from the physically unable to perform list and cleared to participate, at least partially, in practice.

Kreutz has missed the first six days of training camp and seven practices as he mends. He underwent a procedure to clear up a minor injury that has bothered him for years a week before camp. He did some running on the side on Monday and there were no setbacks with that work. This would give him more than a week to prepare for the preseason opener Aug. 7 vs. Kansas City at Soldier Field.

Picked up an interesting tidbit talking football in the coffee shop with Jim Miller and Howard Balzer of Sirius NFL Radio this morning.

They got together with running back Kevin Jones for an interview that was played this morning, and Jones told them one of the things the Bears want him to do is drop 10 pounds while he's on the physically unable to perform list.

Following a whirlwind negotiation to get a deal done for Devin Hester, agent Eugene Parker thinks both parties did the best they could in what proved to be a unique situation. There was no comparable contract to work off of so the Bears and Parker were navigating uncharted waters in working to come to a resolution and that respected Hester's ability as the game's best return man and his potential as a wide receiver.

"This was the best attempt to try to capture Devin Hester,'' Parker said. "Cliff Stein and Bobby DePaul really did an excellent job. You can say what's his position? His position is playmaker. He makes plays. To try to fit him in within the traditional standard of a position, it was a challenge. It really was."

Look for Hester to be wearing plenty of Under Armour during press conferences from now on. The $40 million, four-year extension he inked isn't the only contract he did this month. Two weeks ago he signed a deal with the shoe and apparel maker.

BOURBONNAIS, Ill.--Now we will see first hand the magical healing powers of a new contract.

Bears coach Lovie Smith said Saturday night that wide receiver and prized return man Devin Hester looked ready after he caught some punts on the side during practice.

Hester may indeed be ready now that the star is on the verge of signing a new contract, a source close to the negotiation told the Sun-Times. It is expected to be finalized soon and Hester will sign a six-year deal which adds four new years for him. He was signed through 2009. The breakthrough is expected to be announced soon. It comes two days after Hester reported to training camp following a brief two-day holdout to prove his point that he was serious about getting a new contract and getting it soon.

Devin Hester did more than just stand around Saturday night at practice. He fielded some punts from the Jugs machine at the start of the session on the side. He was not in full uniform.

Maybe some of his standing around was productive though. He spent about five minutes chatting with general manager Jerry Angelo on the sideline.

He wasn't just watching during team drills either. Hester walked to the offensive huddle to hear the call on a handful of plays, one of them a bubble screen to Rashied Davis off of a play fake.

``I really don't know,'; he said after practice when asked about his situation. ``I'm still in the process of negotiating and hopefully it'll be done. Like I said, we're close to it. Hopefully in time I'll be out there.''

Hester is on the non-football injury list with a hamstring pull and is not expected to practice until he receives a new contract.

First-round draft pick Chris Williams is sidelined for a second consecutive day with a back issue and might not be back on the field until some point next week.

The offensive tackle was injured halfway through the second practice of training camp on Thursday. He skipped Friday's fully padded session and was a bystander Saturday morning. He's expected to skip the evening practice at Ward Field also. Williams was moving around slowly.

Devin Hester has arrived at Bears' training camp and he has a curiously timed, maybe even luckily timed hamstring pull.

The club failed him on his physical and placed him on the non-football injury list meaning he cannot practice until he passes a physical.

Hester made it clear Wednesday when his two-day boycott began that he was concerned about getting injured before he secured a longterm contract. There's no fear of that if he's not suiting up. He also doesn't have to fear a $15,000 daily fine, which he would have had he stayed away from camp.

Practice is set to get underway in about 30 minutes. We'll see if newcomer Devin Hester is on the field. The Bears will be in full pads for the first time. It's also worth watching to see if rookie offensive tackle Chris Williams suits up a day after leaving practice with back spasms.

*** Cornerback Charles Tillman figures to get involved for the first time also.

*** It's Rex Grossman's day to work with the first team offense.

*** We'll Twitter some updates from the practice field and then Hester is set to meet the press on the field following practice.

To clear room for Devin Hester on the 80-man roster (he was on the reserve-did not report list), tight end Marcus Stone was placed on waivers, his agent John Owens said. The undrafted rookie from North Carolina State has 24 hours to clear. That leaves the Bears with four tight ends on the roster--veterans Desmond Clark and Greg Olsen, second-year player Fontel Mines and rookie fifth-round pick Kellen Davis.

BOURBONNAIS, Ill.--Devin Hester's resolve to sit out the entire 2008 season, if necessary, to get a new contract ended after two days of training camp.

The wide receiver arrived at training camp happy teammates reported at breakfast this morning, in time for a morning weightlifting session and today's 3 p.m. practice.

Hester shows up after accruing roughly $30,000 in fines for missing two days of practice.

It was interesting to watch veteran free safety Mike Brown work on his back pedal over and over again with assistant defensive backs coach Gill Byrd Thursday afternoon. Long after nearly every rookie had done his due diligence of carrying the shoulder pads of veterans off the field, Brown was still working.

Byrd, a the career leader in interceptions for the San Diego Chargers who retired 15 years ago, explained it was the nuances of the game they were drilling, not the scheme.

Looks like Twitter is down for cyber repairs ... so a chance to report a couple notes that got lost in technology.

*** Cornerback Charles Tillman arrived at training camp Thursday after missing the first two days of practice. He has been excused for personal reasons.

*** Rookie left tackle Chris Williams suffered only back spasms. He's doing better and there is a possibility he will be on the practice field Friday. That was good news for the Bears, who got a scare when he walked off to the locker room during practice.

Rookie first-round pick Chris Williams left the practice field during a one-on-one pass-rushing drill.

He was taken to the training tent and then to the locker room and coach Lovie Smith revealed he has a back injury.

It's not how the Bears wanted things to start with their prized selection.

Dusty Dvoracek was upbeat Thursday morning while discussing his latest setback--a calf injury he suffered two weeks ago working out with teammate Tommie Harris.

The former teammates at Oklahoma were getting ready for training camp doing some defensive line drills, including resistance training with bungee cords. Dvoracek was placed on the non-football injury list Wednesday and will not be eligible to practice until he passes a physical.

Brandon Lloyd and Marty Booker ran with the first team at wide receiver Wednesday when Devin Hester was absent.

Today, the Bears will go through punt return drills for the first time.

Nathan Vasher, you're up. The veteran cornerback will be the first to field punts. He's been a backup for Hester the last two seasons. While he's yet to return a punt in a regular season game, he did return one during preseason last year. Vasher was an All-American choice as a punt returner at Texas in 2001 and holds some Longhorns records, a proud distinction considering he followed Eric Metcalf at the school. Metcalf is one of the best returners in NFL history.

With his flowing dreadlocks, from a distance he looked like Devin Hester walking into the dining hall at Olivet Nazarene University Thursday morning.

It wasn't the holdout wide receiver but another pass catcher.

Ryan Grice-Mullen is here for a free-agent workout today. The Hawaii wide receiver went undrafted in April and was signed by the Houston Texans. He was released June 13 and never participated in OTA's because of a leg injury. The Bears can check out to see if he is healthy now.

There is at least one person happy with Devin Hester's decision to no-show training camp on Wednesday, exceedingly happy.

That would the player who was going to go on the chopping block before the start of the first practice of the summer. When first-round draft pick Chris Williams signed his contract in the hours leading up to practice, it put the Bears at 81 players under contract, requiring them to release one to reach the league maximum of 80. That one player was spared as the team was able to place Hester on the reserve-did not report list.

Joe Theismann visited with Tom Waddle and Marc Silverman Wednesday morning on AM-1000 and shared some thoughts on the Bears. If nothing else, Theismann is opinionated.


THEISMANN: I think you can. I think because both of them have a body of work already, Kyle has a body of work; Rex has a body of work. I mean, they've both played for the Bears over the last three years in some way, shape or form. So you look at the performance of the football team over that period of time, so you have a starting point. And then what you do, it goes into open competition; completions, moving the football team, command of the huddle, all those things will play in. Efficiency of handoffs, all the little things that you really will get graded on that you can actually look at and physically right down numbers and say 'OK, you completed more passes in the red zone, you completed more passes here, the offense looked good under your command, the offense struggled under your command.' And you sit down and start to evaluate it, and that's basically what you're going to wind up doing.

You did not think it was possible, did you, that the Bears could come up with a way to upstage their quarterback derby.

Boy, did they. With linebacker Brian Urlacher present, and rookie first-round pick Chris Williams delivered on time, the franchise still found a way to have the QB shootout take a back seat.

Are you armed with your list of storylines?

Practice begins at the top of the hour as the Bears kick off the 2008 season.

Brian Urlacher will put his repaired neck and back to the test.

Mike Brown will start what is an essential summer for him.

Marty Booker puts on a Bears helmet in front of fans for the first time in four years.

Rookie Chris Williams should be here on time to participate.

Oh yeah, a couple of quarterbacks will have their every move scrutinized.

There's that and a lot more. We'll do the best we can to bring some updates via Twitter from the sidelines. Then we'll have a recap or two this evening. Check back often. The weather is perfect. A great summer afternoon for football.

If traffic isn't too bad getting from his suburban home, Chris Williams just might be on the practice fields in Bourbonnais in time for practice here in two hours.

The first-round pick agreed to terms on a five-year contract and is expected to sign it when he arrives at Olivet Nazarene University.

Here's some good news for a former Bear--Doug Plank has a job coaching in the NFL.

The man who the 46 defense was named after was hired Tuesday by the Atlanta Falcons as a special assistant for first-year coach Mike Smith.

If Devin Hester is looking for a boost in his bid for a new contract--he's next in line now that Brian Urlacher is signed, sealed and delivered--how about his status as a starting wide receiver?

Offensive coordinator Ron Turner said Tuesday that Hester and Brandon Lloyd will likely start with the first team at practice today. The duo did quite a bit of that during the offseason program and Turner said they'll probably get the nod ahead of Marty Booker and the long list of others including Mark Bradley. Hester is hoping to be paid top dollar as a receiver and this is a start.

There probably is not a current Bears player with a closer attachment to Brett Favre than Brian Urlacher. Few players have been around as long as Urlacher and the two have long held great respect for one another. Urlacher, as you can imagine anyone signing an $18 million, one-year extension, was in a chipper mood when he arrived tonight. Urlacher said he feels great and was grateful he could reach a resolution with the club on his bid for a new deal.

Among the things Urlacher discussed was Favre's situation, and his hope that No. 4 suits up for someone this season:

Playing catchup at the start of training camp. It happens every summer and takes a few days to get things lined up.

New running back Kevin Jones has been a popular man on campus. Jones is expected to begin the summer on the physically unable to perform list as he rehabs his way back from the ACL injury he suffered in December.

``Hopefully I can come in and get the starting job and be the Bears running back,'' Jones said. ``But right now it's come in and show that I'm healthy. That's the No. 1 goal, and then I'll go from there."

Buckle in because here we go on another football season.

The blog was a dream not a reality when training camp opened last summer. Now with a revamped look (the staff tells us it's easier to manage now as well) and some more handy technology gadgets, we've ready for kickoff. To prove it, we've got half our bags packed with an eye toward a morning getaway to Bourbonnais.

We've also embarked on a new effort using Twitter. It's a handy resource to send out quick updates from the practice field, game, Halas Hall or wherever. You can subscribe at and receive the updates just as fast as they're sent out via text message or IM. It's free. Our handle on Twitter is cst_bears. Check it out.

Twitter will not replace the work done here but accompany it. Our goal is to have a few updates a day with recaps, news, etc.

Thanks for checking in and we'll set the date for a mailbag column soon. Hope to see you in training camp.

The new deal for Brian Urlacher, an $18 million, one-year extension, puts him in position to earn $40.6 million over the next five seasons.

Here is how the money breaks down:

And then there was one.

With Brian Urlacher agreeing to a reworked contract on Monday, the eve of training camp, all that's left to do for the Bears is sign first-round draft pick Chris Williams. It's expected Williams will be in camp on time, but there was never a guarantee things would be done for Urlacher.

By agreeing to terms with the face of the franchise on an $18 million, one-year extension, the Bears have taken a large step toward trying to build some harmony in the locker room after negotiations that were ugly at times this offseason. Urlacher will receive a $6 million signing bonus and has his base salary bumped up by $1 million each of the next four seasons. The $1 million bumps are not contingent on play time, which is how the club's original offer was structured.

No word yet on whether wide receiver Mark Bradley will be ready to go when the Bears hit the practice fields for the first time Wednesday.

Bradley missed the bulk of the offseason program after tweaking his right knee in voluntary workouts leading to arthroscopic surgery in May.

At the time, the club announced he was questionable for the start of training camp. For his part, Bradley vowed he would be ready when things kicked off. It's fair to say it is important for Bradley to be involved early. He was essentially handed a starting job after Bernard Berrian set sail for Minnesota in free agency and Muhsin Muhammad was released. But after making just six receptions last season, and really being only marginally involved because of injuries since his rookie season in 2005, Bradley doesn't have much room for error.

If you're putting the finishing touches on your plans to visit training camp starting Wednesday, go ahead and start thinking about your travel plans for 2009.

The Bears recently came to agreement with Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, Ill., on a two-year agreement to extend the team's stay there through next summer. This will be the team's seventh year at ONU. Because of state law, the school and sign only two-year contracts with the organization. They've had mutual options for a third year in the past and it's unknown if there is one in place now.

Bears sign RB Jones

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Training camp convenes a week from today at Olivet Nazarene University and it will be good to see the fine people of Bourbonnais, Ill., again soon.

The Inside the Bears staff is going to swing back into action soon and we’ll have a few reports between now and then starting with news that the Bears have agreed with running back Kevin Jones on a $605,000, one-year contract.

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