The last thing Jerry Angelo wants to go through again is a recurrence of the Chris Williams' situation. The Bears' general manager says the team will take a "more disciplined'' approach to considering players this weekend with medical issues or red flags.
The organization drafted Williams 14th overall last year knowing that he had a "stabile herniation'' in his back. Putting Angelo and the team at ease in the decision process was Williams' history at Vanderbilt. He hadn't missed games and his practice history was nearly spotless. The back wasn't an issue ... until training camp began. Williams looked like a hobbled old man arriving and leaving practice for two weeks. The club said the issue was muscular at first, that he had spasms. It didn't get better. Then, it was announced he'd had surgery. Turns out the surgery was on the same disc that had a "stabile herniation." As Angelo and trainer Tim Bream explained, you can have an injury to a different part of the disc and it can be completely unrelated to the previous "stabile herniation."
A firestorm erupted and the bottom line was Williams' rookie season was essentially wiped out. He played on special teams and in garbage time in the second half of the year. The team believes he'll be no worse for the wear moving forward.
"Last year we made a conscious decision and we talked about it as an organization and [college scouting director] Greg [Gabriel] and I spent a lot of time on this too, but yes, we are looking at that and we are going to be more disciplined in our approach to taking players with medical concerns, and I want to emphasize that,'' Angelo said Tuesday. "There are in my opinion more players and it was asked about what makes the draft more difficult, that's one of them, there just seems to be more wear and tear on players. Maybe it's the way we evaluate them, we're so finite at the combine.
"There's probably almost, they tell me between 1,200 and 1,500 MRI's taken at the combine which is an inordinate amount. I mean we all have something wrong with us but so we know these players and there's just more things about a player from a medical standpoint that we're being exposed to but we have to do a good job of being more disciplined because we've had some issues. But I go back to Rex Grossman, never missed a game, never missed a practice. I look at Cedric Benson same way, never missed a game, never missed a= practice. They had great physicals coming out, but they were hurt almost the goodly part of their career here in Chicago so some of it's bad luck.''
Grossman and Benson are not the only players who have been injured here. Defensive tackle Dusty Dvoracek, who had medical issues coming out of Oklahoma, has been on injured reserve three straight seasons. Medical concerns dropped cornerback/safety Zack Bowman to the fifth round last year. He spent most of the season on injured reserve. Former wide receiver Mark Bradley had some knee issues coming out of Oklahoma. He had knee issues his entire time with the Bears. Airese Currie was only a fifth-round pick in 2005, but he came with an injury. He was hurt through his entire time here.
It's a violent, physical game. Players collide in ways humans are not supposed to meet. Injuries happen. The Bears are hoping they can minimize their injury risk.