Chicago Sun-Times

ESPN picks Tommie Harris as veteran on hot seat in NFC North

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Our friend Kevin Siefert over at ESPN. com had a couple of interesting items on Wednesday that we do not want to overlook. First, as part of a series that included one selection from each division, he named Bears' defensive tackle Tommie Harris as the veteran player on the hot seat in the NFC North.

We think it's an interesting selection and probably a pretty good one. We can't think of a veteran in a critical spot in Detroit other than maybe left tackle Jeff Backus. Seifert points out that Green Bay left tackle Chad Clifton is another potential choice considering the rebuilding taking place on that line. Sticking with that theme, it's probably fair to say the Vikings need a bounce back season from left tackle Bryant McKinnie, but is he on the hot seat?

Harris makes sense for all of the reasons that are outlined. The Bears expected great things from him when they signed him to a $40 million, four-year extension last summer, one that looks more like a $34 million, four-year extension now given the requirements for the de-escalating roster bonus in 2012. Still, there are big things expected of Harris and he didn't exactly deliver in 2008 when he said offseason distractions were an issue at times. The Bears have to generate a pass rush with the front four to effectively run Lovie Smith's scheme and that starts with Harris.

The Bears need a focused Harris and just as important a healthy Harris. The fear is they might not ever get the latter even if the team says he's checked out medically. Harris was held out of the end of the team's minicamp in March. He's never going to be full go on the practice field any longer. It makes us wonder seriously about a key thing general manager Jerry Angelo said about the draft. Let's go back to April 22 and review:

"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. ... We have to do a good job of being more disciplined because we've had some issues.''

Knowing what the Bears do now about Harris and his balky left knee, we wonder if the Bears would do the contract they over again. Perhaps the approach Angelo discussed when referring to the draft carries over to contracts for current players and free agents.

We're not suggesting Harris' knee is to a point where he will not be an effective player. Everyone expects he is capable of returning to dominant Pro Bowl form. But he'll have to be monitored and he's simply not going to be on the field all of the time.

*** Seifert also introduced us to a stat called the forced drop. Apparently that is an uncontested pass that a receiver should have caught. That means the defender didn't break up the pass, jar the ball loose or do anything else to make the play. Picture Jackie Smith in the back of the end zone in Super Bowl XIII for Dallas. Muhsin Muhammad on the goalline vs. New Orleans in 2007. You saw Rashied Davis do it a handful of times last season. We're talking about a plain ol' drop.

Well, this story analyzes how cornerback Charles Tillman was the defender who was responsible, however he can be, for the most forced drops in the league last season with 10. If that's a little confusing, check out Seifert's explanation. Basically, Tillman was the man defending on 10 pure drops last season. What's the old saying? Sometimes it's better for the man you're covering to drop the ball than for you to make the play and miss? Something like that.

*** Sun-Times contributor Matt Bowen, the former Glenbard West standout who played seven seasons in the NFL, summarizes his recent conversation with general manager Jerry Angelo in a good read on NationalFootballPost.com. It's worth your time.

A couple of the highlights:

1. Angelo refers to wide receiver Juaquin Iglesias, the third-round pick, as ``that big guy across the middle.''

2. Angelo reminds Bowen and everyone else not to leave out tight ends Greg Olsen and Desmond Clark when considering the team's wide receivers.

"When you talk wide receivers, you have to count the tight ends," he said, something he discovered when talking with Patriots coach Bill Belichick about the struggles the Patriots had trying to contain Chargers TE Antonio Gates.

3. On Lovie Smith's comment that the Bears landed the top available talent in free agency in defensive line coach Rod Marinelli: "Coaches are harder to find than players," Angelo said.

"If you want to be great, [Marinelli] is a blessing, and if you don't, he is a curse," Angelo said.

4. On the situation at safety in the league as a whole: "It's the poorest-played position in football right now," Angelo said. "It's very hard to find a safety that can tackle high to low.''

We don't know about comparing Olsen or Clark to Gates, or Olsen and Clark to Gates for that matter. But Angelo's point is taken.

*** Bears assistant special teams coach Chris Tabor was inducted into the Benton (Mo.) High School Wall of Fame this past weekend. Here is a video highlight of the event. We've covered some prep football in Missouri when Tabor was an assistant on the Benton staff in 1993, but we saw the team from the other side of town--St. Joseph Central--so we can't provide much more insight than that on Benton.

*** Gene Chamberlain
, who formerly covered the Bears for the Daily Southtown, among other publications, suggests here that the acquisition of wide receiver Anquan Boldin from the Arizona Cardinals would quickly solve the Bears' single biggest position battle. That wouldn't be all he would solve, but the Cardinals are going to have to engage the Bears in conversation first.

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28 Comments

LOL!! 2 Greg Olsens + 2 Desmond Clarks = 1/2 an Antonio Gates. Seriously, I hope Olsen holds on to the football better this season. That game at Carolina was embarrassing.

Tommie Harris is the biggest waste of money on the Bears!!! Anthony Adams played better than Tommie last year at 1/4 the price! So did the rookie Marcus Harrison. Cut Harris and use the money for a WR!! I think his knee is shot!! BEAR DOWN!!

Re: Tillman...I think you mean better lucky than good.

I don't think we've even come close to seeing Olsen's receiving potential. The guy will explode this year.

So you take this: "He's [Tommie Harris] never going to be full go on the practice field any longer."

And you mix it with this: "If you want to be great, [Marinelli] is a blessing, and if you don't, he is a curse," Angelo said.

And what do you get?

One Fine Day at Bears Practice

Marinelli: Push it to the limit, ladies! I'm gunna run you through hell and back!

Harris: Coach, mah legs! I can't feel mah legs!

Marinelli: Shut up! I'm here to turn you girl scouts into men!

Harris: But Coach, mah legs!

Marinelli: Do you have the heart of a champion, maggot!? (Gets in his face.) Do you want to achieve greatness, Susan? You make me sick!

So Marinelli's going to spend his practices yelling at an injured guy on the floor. Point is it doesn't matter how great a motivator Rod is or isn't, he isn't going to get much out of a guy with a mangled knee. Sorry kids, but that's the truth. Let's hope Harrison and Adams take the next step and that the draft picks contribute in some way.

Good point Mike.
I do think our draft picks will be able to produce though.
I'm feeling pretty good about our front 4-8.

You are all missing the point.
We hired an 0-16 looser to coach the line.
It looks like preparations are being made to blame the line again this year for Bear's loses....ak...blame the tackle...blame the pass rush. You guys are being set up by the bears organization for the possible coming up of the plunge.

What the Bears should have done is fire lovie smith and hire a real coach. I hope the best for the bears this next season but if it turns out to be the same, lovie has got to go....and he can take rod and that other want-a-be defensive coordinator with him. Maybe Lovie can land a job elsewhere and get his favorite...Grossman..a job.

I like Tommie Harris. I really do. And I hope he has a great year. But, seriously, if he can't practice by the time training camp ends, it may be time to consider other options. How can you play well if you cannot practice at all?

all the comments are good when it comes to tommie harris. they don't know how to let a player play his last year and see if he's any good. see how much he's worth. you can't live on a player's past
it is what it is his past. right now tommie is a backup stealing time from harrison and adams. if a player can't pratice then he shouldn't start. the mike ditka rule, it still works. we should have traded tommie in the draft for what ever we could get for him last year before the contract extension.the bears let positions get out of hand by not looking ahead of themselves. o line, wide reciever, and d line. let's see two lame d tackles in tommie and dusty. when are we going to learn keep the door open at all times. remember those six championship teams of the bulls, they had roster
change every year and still won. look at new england they use free agency and the draft very well. no one says new england is rebuilding, they just retool and stay on top. i wonder if the bears
can be smart enough to copy that?

"You are all missing the point. We hired an 0-16 looser to coach the line."

You are missing the point. Marinelli is one of the best D Line coaches ever. That doesn't mean he can run an entire football team, ever. Just as not all players can coach, not all line coaches can be coordinators, let alone head coaches. Most probably can't. Many great mid-level managers could never run a corporation. A pitching coach isn't prepared to run an entire ball club. Harris can't play linebacker.

Being terrible at something doesn't mean you can't do anything, it means you can't do that thing. Besides, no one can win with Millen at the GM helm, let alone with that Lions organization. It culminated on Marinelli's watch, but you can't blame him entirely for the failings of an organization that has never seen a Super Bowl outside of their own television.

Oh, and its Loser, not looser.

devil's advocate here- Tommie Harris' stats have been quite consistent over the past four years. believe it or not, he hasn't really fallen off from his '05 and '06 production. problem is- he's not demanding as many double teams anymore, which opens up the rest of the pass rush for the d line.

just remember, tommie harris at 80% is still better than 90% of the linemen out there. picking up gilbert will help him stay fresh this year.

but he is overpaid, don't get me wrong.

Angelo tries to use gile is FA and the draft his biggest problem is three-fold [1] he has gambled on players post-rehab and it has cost. [2] this staff has failed to develop young players and the ones who have done well taper off quickly [i.e. Vasher] [3] to loyal to players falls in love too soon. The Lovie factor he has failed to adapt to the situation he is trying to force a philosophy that is now outdated and he will not even entertain upgrade. Harris should be given a ultimatum if he cannot perform get him fixed put him on the shelf until he can go full tilt then re-evaluate if he can't go let him go.

To me, it seems like Chicago has been adding size to their front four the past two seasons, especially at defensive tackle. In 2008 the Bears took Marcus Harrison 6-3 310lbs in the 3rd, and this past april Chicago took 6-5 290 pounder Jarron Gilbert in the 3rd. I think Chicago wants to get bigger up front, and these draft picks prove it. Gilbert is 290 right now, but give him a season in an NFL gym, and I bet the guy will crack 300. Adding size up front should hopefully make the Bears DT's more effective for the long haul. The problem with these smaller DT's is they tend to wear down as the season goes on.

I also like the fact Chicago is gonna be rotating Tommie Harris with another player [Gilbert] who has good size and great athleticism. The guy had 22 tackles for loss in college and has great quickness off the snap, hopefully he'll be an effective under tackle for the Bears. The fact Gilbert will be roating should help ease him into the NFL also.

Chicago should get a good rotation at the nose position also. With the drafting of Gilbert, Marcus Harrison should be at nose tackle full time now. Anthony Adams is short 6-1, but stout 300lbs, and proved to be very effective at the nose position last season. Adams and Marcus Harrison, who adds nice size to the position at 6-3 310lbs, should make for a pretty good rotation at the nose position for Chicago. I'd also like to see how 3rd year nose tackle Matt Toeaina has been coming along, he looked pretty good during his short stint in 07, and also has nice size at 6-2 311lbs.

If Jarron Gilbert can be effective at the under tackle position, along with the coaching of Rod Marinelli, Chicago should have an improved pass rush from their front four, which will help the entire defense GO BEARS!!

ditto Kevin,

I really liked the way Adams played last year, I would like to see him on the field more this year and yes we just drafted Gibert for a reason, Lovie has concerns about Tommie, you know he has no concerns about Harrison so it must be Tommie on his mind. I have always liked the bigger NT - that doesnt mean they are best suited for Lovies D scheme just my likes, I would like to see Tommie get back to where he was, but if not then we have a nice twosome in Harrison/Adams with the newbie ready to spot play.
I remember Url had great seasons/stats when he had the big boys in front of him under Jauron (sp?)

almost forgot, I am excited about Rod coming in as well, we will see what he can do to motivate Harris and company, but I expect a better pass rush as well as better run stop from the front four

Consider a proofreader before you post Biggs. Although illuminating in content, this was a brutal slog to read.

"We're not suggesting Harris' knee is to a point where he will not be an effective player. Everyone expects he is capable of returning to dominant Pro Bowl form. But he'll have to be monitored and he's simply not going to be on the field all of the time."

Uhh.. why? That's what "everyone" has been expecting for 2 years and it hasn't happened. You're an idiot if you think Harris will all of the sudden, with the same bum knee, reverse age and become the Harris of yesteryear.

Tommie Harris and the entire D will play a lot better this year now that the offense isn't going to go 3 and out 100 times a game. Last year I didn't even have time to get up and grab a frosty beverage from the fridge before the Orton and co gave the ball back. Bears' D will return to top 10 status this year because now they will have an offense that boast a running attack and a passing attack (imagine that) that will eat clock and keep legs fresh on defense so they can run around and make plays.

Relax Bears fans. Last year we were 9-7, and very easily could have won 10-11. ...and we're better this year. Lovie will make better calls on defense, Marinelli will improve the D-line, and oh, yeah there's a new player on the roster who passed for over two and half miles last year. Trust me, once he connects on a couple 50 yard bombs to Hester, Forte is going to have all the room he wants to run. Oh, yeah did I mention he's running behind two mammoth tackles (Pace and Williams).

Bears will make the playoffs this year. Relax Bear's nation.

I don't even know why Anquain Boldens even talked about anymore? I don't think he's going to get traded. I think the Cardnials are going to make the big mistake of holding onto this disgruntal player, and I think that will be the down fall of the team this year. If someone on the bears was that disgruntal for 2 years and the bears couldn't pay him I hope the bears wouldn't wreck the team by holding onto him. I would love for Bolden to come to the bears, but I don't think it's going to happen. I'd rather not hear anything about him if nothing is changing in trade negotiations. It's like hearing about washed up Farve! Is he going to come out with his walker and make the VIKINGS a superbowl team. I think every bears fan would love to see that. What could be better than Farve wrecking his legacy and Packer fans turning on their beloved Q.B.? Bring on Farve and do something with Bolden. Theres got to be better things to talk about besides their soap ophera? wha,wha,wha

You guys were all praising tommie harris his rookie season.he was a great player that year and has had knee probs for the last 2 yrs.....hes a good player did you see how he broke through the line? jees anyway hopefully hell do alot better this yr if not get him into surgery again!!! I saw lots of potetial guys,give him a chance moses....if not get rid of him yes...but hopefully his knee will b better!!!

bottom line with that much money being paid to harris he should practice and perform and should be in the hot seat! one reader from another blog felt perhaps urlacher should play safety for he did so in college.. might not be a bad idea since his pass rushing skills were absent last year.. think the bears arent stupid and if he doesnt perform this year it may be ASTA LA VISTA BABY!! BTW the bears will make the playoffs..

You can't have it both ways.

The Bears have set a policy of paying their own core players and getting them signed early. The players get paid a year or so early and the team gets a better deal than if they let them go all the way into free agency. Hester, Tillman, Vasher, Urlacher, Alex Brown, Kreutz. Most people I've seen on this blog support that.

That policy works very well when the player continues to produce at a level that made the team want to tie them up long term. If they get hurt or slack off, it doesn't work.

The other alternative is to let the players play out their contract year and then risk a bidding war in free agency. Briggs and Berrian come to mind with opposing results.

Neither method works every time, but you can't complain about a player like Harris and then complain when the Bears lose somebody you like to free agency. It doesn't work both ways.

As for Harris, he made his bed too. If his seat gets hot, $34 million will buy a lot of ice.

I seem to recall a great player from my youth on the D line who managed to register sacks from all 4 spots, and is now in the Hall Of Fame. The Danimal was working off bone-on-bone knees by the time he got into the middle of his career, and still practiced every day, and kicked butt on the field on Sundays. That is what it takes to be great in this game, and you see it all the time in the broken bodies of the heroes of yesterday. Is it worth it? Ask Hampton if he would have done things differently to feel better as a middle-aged man. Ask if he would have taken it easier and missed out on a Hall of Fame career to save wear and tear on his knees?

I am consistently disappointed by the candy-a@@ed primadonnas of today's NFL. Say all you want about athletes being bigger, stronger, and faster, but the toughness just isn't there. Surgical techniques, and reconstructive surgery are worlds beyond where they were even 15 years ago, and guys who would have suffered career-ending injuries 25 years ago (Tom Brady) are playing opening weekend 365 days later. Tommie Harris has the ability to challenge Warren Sapp as the best 3 technique of the last 20 years. But he has questioned whether or not he really wanted to play football twice during offseasons since his rookie season. It is obvious to me he does not have the heart to be great. It isn't his knees that hold him back...it's his guts.

He should be on the hot seat...The problem is, he is on a seat, not on the field. Greatness is earned, not granted. Tommie is being paid a lot of money to do what he does, and the team should expect more out of him.

How can a guy be resposible for a pure drop? The Forced drop stat is the dumbest thing I have seen yet. Whats next the Pure Timeout stat, or the forced coin flip stat?

Sorry Tommie but you cannot fix that knee, it's not a tear or a fracture, it's just breaking down, his knee is worn out. Has anyone ever seen Harris in public? He walks with a limp. If you cannot practice full out and you cannot train in the off season full out, then you are not going to be a dominant player. You do not get stronger, faster and healthier by not working out. Harris is just in decline, it's just strange for people to think of him that way becasue he is so young. When he came out of college the knock on hims his health and that he had the knees of a 40 year old.

High motor guys like Harris always have a quick fall off. Once they can't train as much their speed, strength and explosion all give way. He will be a part time player by the end of the season, this is also why they can't move Harrison to the NT position. The Bears are going to have some big problems with the D'line by the end of this year. Harris will continue to decline, and Dusty, Goon, and Anderson may all be gone. Adams and Harrison are nice rotational players but they are not close to what Harris was at his peak. Gilbert is an interesting player but as Brad wrote the Bears may still be considering him at LE in the long run. Without Harris at his best that Line just does not have the talent to be dominant, which means more blitzing and more stacking and more teams hitting you in the middle again this year. Maybe Gilbert and Melton are future stars, maybe not. Angelos draft history suggests one maybe, but not both and at what position will it be?

I am surprised not one person talked about this.
"Angelo refers to wide receiver Juaquin Iglesias, the third-round pick, as ``that big guy across the middle.''"

Looks like they are putting him in the slot, which is a good fit. Looks like Bennett at X, Hester at Z and Iglesias at Y. Bad news is they don't have a single reciever who can play on the line of scrimage and beat the jam. Good news is GB will no longer be pressing our recievers with their new scheme.


I agree with you Joe about the players that just don't seem to have the mind set or discipline of players like Dan Hampton, he was awesome!!

Deputy you seem to have hit on some good points.

Harris seems to have more of an issue with his head than his knees although his knees seem to be a big concern, I agree with Creighton (Anonymous) that will he most likely not live up to his contract.

Maybe, just maybe he will get healthy this year, screw his head on straight, get motivated and help the Bears win a championship. Harris has the ability to do it, but will he, that is the question?

Thank you dahlilama to take it one step farther unfortunately I don't believe Harris will last to the bye week and Lovie not only should move and leave Gilbert at end a big athletic end is hard to find [i.e. Jared Allen, Bruce Smith], Toeina should get a real look at NT with Harrison moving and staying at the under-tackle he is bigger and right now physically more imposing than a 40-50% Harris. Harris needs to go get a real honest medical opinion on his knees see what can be done if he cannot be close to what he was he should hang it up. He is way too expensive to be a one down player.

unless god comes down and gives tommie a new knee, he's through he depends on speed, no knee, no speed, no tommie. pass rush? how about
our corners who play so far away from recievers that qb's can get rid of the ball anytime they want. can't our corners cover recievers
up close. lovie is so scared that our corners get undressed by being off the recievers and teams get first downs easy. how about making the qb hold the ball two seconds longer and allowing the line to get to him. let's see we wouldn't have to blitz as much, more sacks also. although lovie may get the credit for making the defense better, it really will be jay doing it. more first downs, the defense stays off the field, they are rested more and exposed less. lovie gets the credit, but he still has a poor defensive scheme, and is a bad coach. he, exposes urlacker to unecessary punishment. dan hampton, one of the greatest players to play the game. talent and guts. they don't make them like him anymore. tommie
harris isn't on the same planet as dan hampton. oh, the bears will make the playoffs in spite of lovie, not because of him.

ok yur right i remember danimal...and i remember him playing on 2 bum knees..and yes tommie has to b a crybabie just like all the new players...but how do you guys know tommie harris knee is wasted r u a doctor? i can name a few guy that came back from a knee prob to do good for two or three yrs???

There's no way of knowing whether Tommie Harris' knees are worse than
Dan Hampton's were. Harris is no crybaby.

The Bears should have put him on Injured Reserve around the middle of last season. When a guy can only practice one day a week, he has no business starting Sundays.

Had Tommie's knees been rested and evaluated last year,we'd now know if
he can be rehabbed for the coming season. Seeing that the Bears drafted 2 defensive linemen this year, I'd say that management is worried about
Harris' ability to come back.

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This page contains a single entry by Brad Biggs published on May 14, 2009 8:32 PM.

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