Chicago Sun-Times

Fast talking: Bears trying to lure Tait from retirment but planning without him

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INDIANAPOLIS--Nothing's over until John Tait decides it is, to borrow loosely from John "Bluto" Blutarsky, surely an offensive lineman at heart.

General manager Jerry Angelo said Saturday afternoon that coach Lovie Smith and offensive line coach Harry Hiestand have spoken with Tait on more than one occasion in the hope of talking him out of retirement. The Bears know Tait, who informed them last month he planned to walk away from the game after 10 seasons and with one more year remaining on his contract, didn't enter into the decision lightly.

"John has said he's going to retire,'' Angelo said. "In all likelihood that's probably going to happen. But that's not a certainty yet until the paperwork is turned in. That door isn't 100 percent closed. We've got to look at that. We're talking to John St. Clair. We certainly like [St. Clair]. We've got to create some opportunities there for us. We'll just have to in positions where you potentially have a need let it play itself out. We'll see how things unfold."

The upshot of it is Angelo said it is possible the Bears draft offensive tackles in the first round of consecutive drafts for the first time in more than three decades.

*** If you didn't already know that Charles Tillman would not be making the transition from left cornerback to free safety, you do now. Smith shot so many holes in the notion you'd think he was a machine-gun toting gangster.

"You guys need to tell me something, just so I can learn,'' Smith said. "How you can take that corner, it's so hard finding a corner, and put him at free safety?

"He's our No. 1 corner. Charles Tillman is a cornerback for us.''

Switching Tillman to free safety wouldn't solve an issue, a longstanding one, in the secondary. It would only transfer the problem. The Bears would then have a gaping hole at cornerback.

Smith also said you would have to factor the health of Tillman's shoulders into any type of decision like that. Tillman will not be ready for the mandatory veteran minicamp in three weeks at Halas Hall.

*** Angelo said Smith wants Danieal Manning to remain at nickel back which will allow him to continue as the kickoff returner.

"I like what he was able to do at the nickel position,'' Smith said. "He made a lot of progress. That is a tough position to play. We put a lot of time into Danieal getting that down.''

*** Angelo didn't rule out re-signing veteran running back Kevin Jones, who will be an unrestricted free agent. Because he played for the minimum-salary benefit he cannot sign a contract with the Bears until Friday. But expect Garrett Wolfe to get the first shot at being the back who shares some of the load with Matt Forte.

*** Asked if there was a solution to the safety problem in free agency, Angelo started talking about Craig Steltz, the fourth-round pick from last year that the Bears hailed as being a "starting caliber'' player. The problem is Steltz is strictly a strong safety in the eyes of most and Kevin Payne is in that role.

"We have somebody to line up there,'' Angelo said. "We have Steltz, so to say it's a need is premature. We do have somebody. We like Craig. I thought he did a nice job when he did play last year. He did a very good job on special teams. Why do I bring special teams up? Because players that usually show on special teams, when their number's called usually play well too.

"Danieal, we put a lot of time into him last year at nickel and from what we hear in our meetings, Lovie would like to keep him there. But he's still counted as a safety. So we do have players there. Obviously Payne's there. In my number counts, we have three safeties. There are going to be more positions that we're going to have to look at this year in the draft and free agency and we'll just see what we can accomplish, if nothing else create better depth and/or competition if we can't get a for sure, frontline player so-to-speak."


***
Angelo didn't care for a question about Bob Babich's status on the coaching staff given the performance of the defense over the last two seasons and considering that Ron Rivera was effectively fired after Super Bowl XLIII.

"This isn't the time to get into that,'' Angelo said. "I'm looking where we're at now and moving forward. If you want to live in the past and talk about that, you could ask that question. This is not a time to address those things. We made decisions on players, we made decisions on coaches, we moved on. Is every decision we make a right decision? I can't say that. It's a tough business, but e very decision we make is in the best interest of the football team going forward. So anything we've done in the past was done in our best interest looking at it collectively from the organization and the football team."

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6 Comments

Well it looks like o-line in round 1 and then receiver or safety in round 2 based on these comment, I did look at the lineman running sprints today on the NFL network, how boring it must be looking at guys 300-350 lbs run 40 yd as slow as you can possibly do so and still get paid a million bucks from some teams.....AHH the NFL you got to love it......Tait must really be planning on leaving he's been beat up pretty bad and this is a blow, plus with all the cash that's been thrown around in FAgency so far to these guys we might have to over pay just to keep St. Clair......I see some guys who could help build depth late, a guy we also might want to look at for the interior o-line is Eric Wood- 4 yr starter from the Ville, he is primarily a center but could swing to guard until Olin hangs em up which won't be long now......I think we need to bring in some guys to compete for the line this year that don't have all the measurables and let Hiestand shake out the best of the bunch to re-build from within, as much as I hate to say it we might not draft a receiver on the first day, time to start looking for the next Joe Horn, Wes Welker, Harry Douglass type on day two right now for help there........

They need to offer Tait another year with the understanding he is the swing tackle. He would cost the same as St.Clair, but Tait is a much better player who really could play either position for a couple games. I like St. Clair, but to me he is a career backup who could handle right tackle or guard, but is a turnstile at left tackle.

There isn't much doubt the Bears are going into next season with at least one, and probably two, green kids at tackle. That's good. We all know they have to get younger and more talented at O-line. They may as well bite the bullet and do it. However, having a player like Tait in the background would make me feel 100% better about the first part of the season.

Angelo is a bunch of hot air! there are no safeties worth the first 3 rounds and there are several offensive lineman that were tackles could be great guards. The draft is full of them and not to stockpile would be a big mistake. You already have one starter at QB and two young backups who need some time the only way to go for a QB before round four is if the guy you really want is sitting there and it would still be a gamble on a weak class. In 4 and 5 Louis Delmas safety and Jaron Gilbert DE might be there and could be steals for a defense that needs a infusion of youth. The reciever problem might be solved in-house if Rideau is given a chance to get on the field, two straight pre-seasons he was the most productive big play reciever and never got a chance to play on Sundays. WAKE UP ANGELO AND LOVIE.

I wish my life were that easy! NO questions about my past decisions! Wow I have no past mistakes at all and if I maybe, might do - they were in my best interests.
I would not offer Tait anything even as backup as he was old last year, he did nothing except get pushed around, he knows its time to give up the cleats, he knows he didn't have it against the opposing DE's and when a player knows that, then it's time. He does not want the embarrassment of getting pushed around again, he has too much pride for that as he was a great player and for a once great player to get pushed around is not a good feeling. Let the man retire with good feelings about his career Jerry, don't push him to stay just to satisfy your own expectations.
It does look like JA goes Tackle in the first, but he may trade down, and it looks like he is gonna sign St.Clair as well.

I don't know why some keep saying that Steltz is strictly a SS. To me he looked a lot better intercepting a pass in the Lions game than getting run over by ryan grant at the GB game. But thank God Manning's staying at nickel, cause he's not that good a FS, maybe physically gifted, but not the smartest cookie around. He looked impressive as a nickel back...... scary combination of speed and strength to blitz, cover, and defend the run.

MS I like Tait but he needs to retire for his health more than anything his ankles are shot. St. Clair has been healthy, he hasn't been good, but he's been healthy. He's fine as a swing tackle but I would prefer to have had palyers developing at the position like most teams do rather than no actual backups. The Bears were one injury away from having Miller start at Tackle last year.

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This page contains a single entry by Brad Biggs published on February 21, 2009 6:20 PM.

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