Chicago Sun-Times

January 2010 Archives

Sunday appears to have come and went with no new news on the Bears' continued quest to find a replacement for offensive coordinator Ron Turner.

Tebow Experiment Begins

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If Jerry Angelo hadn't traded for Jay Cutler last offseason he would be trying to solve the same complex puzzle so many others have been trying to solve.
He would be trying to solve the riddle that is Tim Tebow.

Tebow Experiment Begins

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If Jerry Angelo hadn't traded for Jay Cutler last offseason he would be trying to solve the same complex puzzle so many others have been trying to solve.
He would be trying to solve the riddle that is Tim Tebow.

Martz talking to Bears today about coordinator job

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FT. LAUDERDALE, Fla. - Former St. Louis Rams head coach Mike Martz is interviewing for the Bears offensive coordinator job today, and the club may make a decision on the vacancy in the coming days.

The Bears confirmed that Martz arrived at Halas Hall this afternoon for an interview.

Martz had spoken to Bears head coach Lovie Smith early in the process, but he finally got an interview today. Minnesota Vikings quarterbacks coach Kevin Rogers is believed to have made a strong impression on the Bears during an interview Thursday, and he or Martz could compel the Bears not to wait for any assistants on the two Super Bowl teams.

New Orleans Saints tight ends coach Terry Malone and Indianapolis Colts assistant head coach/ receivers coach Clyde Christensen were believed to be candidates for the Bears coordinator position.

If the Bears choose not to wait, however, the decision may not necessarily be a two-horse race. There is believed to be at least one other candidate that the Bears have been exploring.

There's been no shortage of drama in the club's search to fill their vacancies.

The Bears lined up an interview with USC offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates, but he cancelled and accepted a job with the Seattle Seahawks. Meanwhile, their top choice for the defensive coordinator post, Perry Fewell, accepted the same job from the New York Giants.

As for Martz, he and Smith have plenty of history; Smith was Martz'a defensive coordinator in St. Louis. But Martz will have to prove several things today. First, that he isn't going to ignore running the ball, which is essential in Chicago yet goes against the grain of his track record. And second, that he can co-exist with his players and coaches, particularly assistant head coach Rod Marinelli, who fired Martz when he was the head coach of the Detroit Lions.

Road Trip: Senior Bowl

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If there is ever going to be a Handshake Hall of Fame it should be in Mobile, Ala., site of the Senior Bowl, the NFL's ultimate schmoozefest.

Some comedy from Ochocinco

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I know the bulk of you only care about the Bears coaching search. But here's something to take the edge off.

A few of us talked to Chad Ochocinco, the Cincinnati Bengals talented and hilarious receiver.

Here are some highlights:

* On what he would want to change about the game: "I would like to have the fun back in the game, a little bit, as long as the players (don't let) it get disrespectful. You have kids watching. As long as you do things within the rules an don't disrespect the opponent, they should let us have fun."

* On practicing field goals and punting at the Pro Bowl:

"I'm loving it. I'm loving it. This is good for me, to fight for a new contract with the Bengals. We can save a lot of money by having me be a receiver and a kicker and a punter. I mean, why not?"

* On what he's learning from Miami Dolphins kicker Dan Carpenter: "Actually, I'm teaching him. His leg swing, he wasn't pointing his toe and he wasn't following through.

"I had to tell him to adjust his hips. Work on his hips. I'm sure that's going to help his percentage."

* On his longest field goal today: "My longest? I think about 58. You guys probably weren't here yet. I got here about 7 o'clock in the morning."

(The longest I saw was about 30 yards)

* On if he will punt Sunday in the Pro Bowl: "I'm doing everything. This also helps me for next year's Pro Bowl, when they get a kicker and punter, there's no need to pick anybody, when I can pay all three positions.

* On Deion Sanders challenging him at practice: "Deion had an opportunity to play me - I forgot what year it was - but I did him very wrong, when he played with the Ravens.

Peterson says ball security will be an off-season focus

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After I talked to Bears rookie receiver Johnny Knox, I ran into Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson.

Before joining the Sun-Times, of course, I covered the Vikings, including each of Peterson's seasons.

He said he's still not over his team's overtime loss to the New Orleans Saints last Sunday ("Three points away from playing in the Super Bowl; it's tough," he said).

But he made some strong comments on several other topics.

Most notably, he said securing the football was something he was going to focus on during the off-season. Peterson lost six of seven fumbles during the regular season then fumbled twice against the Saints, although the Vikings recovered both of them. A lost one, though, was credited to Brett Favre, even though it was a fumbled exchange between him and Peterson.

"There's like a rap sheet that's out there now," Peterson said. "Guys would rather hit the ball than tackle me. I put it on myself. That comes with the way I run. It's something I'm going to focus on, as far as switch it up a little bit, and carry it higher, or what not. But there's some things I'm going to correct."

Peterson downplayed the criticism he's taken for his fumbles.

"It's part of the business," he said before pausing. "I don't know. If you ask 32 teams if they'd like to have me on their team, let's see what they say."

Peterson said it was an honor to play with Favre this season and hopes he returns in 2010.

"It would mean a lot," he said. "You (saw) what he did this year."

As for himself, Peterson said he plans to come back "bigger, stronger, faster."

"A better player he said. "Come back the best player I can possibly be.
"Come back with a beast mentality."

Cignetti Sticks With Pitt

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Frank Cignetti, we hardly knew ye.

Olin Kreutz's agent said a Tribune report claiming his client underwent Achilles tendon surgery that will require four to six months of rehabilitation is exaggerated.

Saints assistant could be on Bears radar

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Here's a new name to add to the Bears mix for offensive coordinator: Terry Malone.

The Bears cannot talk to him yet because Malone is the tight ends coach of the New Orleans Saints, the NFC champions. But Malone has been the tight ends coach the last three seasons, and he was an offensive coordinator and offensive line coach at the University of Michigan, where he coached Minnesota Vikings All-Pro guard Steve Hutchinson.

Bears eye Cignetti

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Frank Cignetti is the latest name to emerge in the Bears' search for an offensive coordinator, according to two sources.

Pep Hamilton not bitter

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Bears quarterbacks coach Pep Hamilton was let go after a disappointing 2009 season. But Hamilton, who is at the Senior Bowl, didn't take issue with the Bears decision.

Asked what happened, Hamilton said, "They made a change."

Asked if he was disappointed, Hamilton said, "It's disappointing because we're not playing in the Super Bowl.

"This (changes) is a part of it."

Hamilton, who had been the Bears quarterbacks coach since 2007, didn't say anything negative about Jay Cutler, either.

"Real good player," Hamilton said. "Real talented player, who has a very promising future."

Something tells me he's trying to take the high road on both topics.

Hamilton said he's currently looking for a new job.

Bears receive permission to speak to Rogers

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The Bears were spurned the last time they asked an NFC North team to interview their quarterbacks coach.

The Green Bay Packers turned down their request to talk to Tom Clements for the Bears offensive coordinator post.

But the Bears have received permission from the Minnesota Vikings to speak to quarterbacks coach Kevin Rogers about their vacancy, according to sources with knowledge of the situation.

It's believed Rogers will do the interview later this week.

Rogers is under contract to the Vikings through next season, and Vikings coach Brad Childress can decide whether to grant or deny the Bears request. But Childress -- a former quarterbacks coach -- has generally allowed his assistants to interview for promotions.

Rogers drew interest from the University of Miami last year, and he's well-respected, most notably for his work with Donovan McNabb while at Syracuse. In Minnesota, he's worked with Tarvaris Jackson and Brett Favre in 2009.

Rogers is a good communicator, with a strong knowledge of the position and NFL offenses.

A website called Football Scoop is reporting that Syracuse head football coach Doug Marrone has "great interest" in bringing Rogers back to the Orange.

Tuesday officially became the darkest day of the Bears coaching search thus far. Losing Jeremy Bates to Pete Carroll and Seattle is one thing, even if the Seahawks have less talent than the Bears. Having Rod Chudzinski decide to remain in San Diego stung. The Bears are not believed to have gotten back to Ken Zampese and he will remain in Cincinnati.

Jackson cancels interview with Bears

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The Bears suffered another setback in their search for an offensive coordinator.

The Baltimore Ravens granted the Bears permission to speak to quarterbacks coach Hue Jackson. He was scheduled to talk to the Bears today at Halas Hall but did not catch his flight to Chicago Monday night.

Instead, Jackson is believed to be on the verge of accepting the same position with the Oakland Raiders. He had a lengthy interview with the Raiders last week, reportedly for the head coach position. But, Tom Cable still remains the head coach, and Jackson is expected to become the Raiders offensive coordinator.

One appeal for Jackson may be California. He is from Los Angeles, and he played football and basketball at Pacific.

USC offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates also cancelled an interview with the Bears, opting instead to follow Pete Carroll to the Seattle Seahawks.

Knox Makes Pro Bowl

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Johnny Knox will participate in next Sunday's Pro Bowl in Miami, the league confirmed today.

Bears looking to interview Baltimore's Hue Jackson

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The Bears are believed to be seeking permission from the Baltimore Ravens to speak to quarterbacks coach Hue Jackson for their offensive coordinator opening.

Jackson has been widely credited for the quick development of quarterback Joe Flacco, the 18th overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft. Jackson, the Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator in 2007, joined the Ravens when John Harbaugh was named head coach.

Jackson has a strong reputation as a coach, and his experience includes coaching both receivers and running backs in the NFL.

The Oakland Raiders reportedly interviewed Jackson for their head-coaching position last week, according to multiple reports. But since he's under contract to the Ravens, Jackson would need the club's approval to interview for the Bears job, even though it represents an obvious promotion.

Teams can deny permission for any employee under contract, except for those who are under consideration to be a head coach or general manager.

Jackson played quarterback at Pacific in the 1980s, and he also played basketball there.

Winfield re-injures foot; will not play in Pro Bowl

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Minnesota Vikings cornerback Antoine Winfield will not play in the Pro Bowl next week, according to a source with knowledge of the situation.

Winfield re-injured his right foot late in Sunday's 31-28 loss to the New Orleans Saints in the NFC Championship game. The injury is believed to have occurred on the second to last play of the game, when he tackled receiver Robert Meacham after a 12-yard gain.

Winfield is a two-time Pro Bowl selection.

How long Winfield will be out is uncertain. But the Vikings have gotten terrible news at the position, with the other starter, Cedric Griffin, believed to have suffered a torn ACL.

Vikings Griffin may have torn two knee ligaments

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Minnesota Vikings starting cornerback Cedric Griffin is expected to get an MRI soon. But the team fears he has a torn ACL and possibly a torn MCL, as well, according to a source with knowledge of the situation. Griffin suffered the injury on the opening kickoff of overtime, when Pierre Thomas gained 40 yards. Griffin was tended to for several minutes on the field. Rookie Asher Allen replaced him and was flagged for a holding penalty on the Saints' game-winning drive. The play was on third down.

Griffin faces a significant recovery time.

Will the Bears talk to any Viking assistants?

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Two more teams were eliminated from the playoffs, which means there's a deeper pool of candidates for the Bears to look at to round out their coaching staff.

But, I don't see any obvious candidates from the New York Jets.

The Minnesota Vikings, meanwhile, have a couple coaches I think the Bears should put on their radar.

First, former Bears cornerback Leslie Frazier isn't an option since he's under contract through the 2010 season. But the Vikings defensive coordinator had his unit playing pretty well on Sunday, holding the high-powered Saints offense to 257 net yards and limiting them to three-for-12 on third downs.

I mentioned defensive line coach Karl Dunbar, who has overseen an outstanding unit that features three Pro Bowl players. But Dunbar was with the Bears in 2004, coaching the same position, and it's unclear if Lovie Smith would want to bring him back.

But there are two other candidates I think the Bears may at least think about, if only for a moment.

The first is Fred Pagac, the Vikings linebackers coach. As I mentioned before, Pagac is very well respected in Minnesota. He was key, several sources have told me, in the transition from Mike Tomllin to Frazier. In addition, Pagac coached with Smith at Ohio State in 1995. Pagac hasn't been a coordinator in the NFL, but he was at Ohio State from 1996 to 1999. In 1998, his unit led the nation in rushing defense, was second in pass defense and fourth overall.

Pagac also entered the NFL as a tight end with the Bears in 1974 and was the winner of the Brian Piccolo award.

The other assistant is Joe Woods, the Vikings defensive backs coach. He's 39 years old, and he hasn't been a coordinator either. But Tomlin tried hard to bring Woods to the Steelers.

Woods has grown up in the Tampa Two defense, having coached with the Buccaneers in 2004 and 2005.

Given his age, Woods could be of interest to Smith. He has the insight and understanding of the scheme, and he has a solid reputation for teaching young defensive backs. But, Smith might be able to shape Woods a little bit more than a coach with tons of coordinator experience.

Finally, let's not forget about Indianapolis Colts defensive backs coach Alan Williams, who I mentioned right at the beginning. Since the Bears have waited this long, they might as well wait another week and try to talk to him, too.

Saints should give Cutler/ Bears a gift basket

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A fruit basket just doesn't seem enough.

I don't know what a colloquial way to say thank you is, but the New Orleans Saints should bust out that term and send popular chef Emeril to Halas Hall to cook the Bears' next meal.

The Saints beat the Minnesota Vikings 31-28 at the Louisiana Superdome. The Saints were, in many ways, outplayed by the Vikings, who had 475 net yards and possessed the ball for nearly 37 minutes.

So how big do you think home-field advantage was in Sunday's NFC Championship game?

By losing their final three games of the season, after a 13-0 start, the Saints needed help to hold onto the No. 1 seed, and the Bears obliged with a 36-30 victory Dec. 28 at Soldier Field.

Bears quarterback Jay Cutler had a very good performance, completing 20 of 35 passes for 273 yards with four touchdowns and one interception.

Who knows if the Saints would have still lost the season-finale to the Carolina Panthers, or the Vikings would have won the finale against the New York Giants. But, the Vikings had a small window to claim the No. 1 seed -- and home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs -- was slammed shut by their NFC North opponent.

Saints should give Cutler/ Bears a gift basket

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A fruit basket just doesn't seem enough.

I don't know what a colloquial way to say thank you is, but the New Orleans Saints should bust out that term and send popular chef Emeril to Halas Hall to cook the Bears' next meal.

The Saints beat the Minnesota Vikings 31-28 at the Louisiana Superdome. The Saints were, in many ways, outplayed by the Vikings, who had 475 net yards and possessed the ball for nearly 37 minutes.

So how big do you think home-field advantage was in Sunday's NFC Championship game?

By losing their final three games of the season, after a 13-0 start, the Saints needed help to hold onto the No. 1 seed, and the Bears obliged with a 36-30 victory Dec. 28 at Soldier Field.

Bears quarterback Jay Cutler had a very good performance, completing 20 of 35 passes for 273 yards with four touchdowns and one interception.

Who knows if the Saints would have still lost the season-finale to the Carolina Panthers, or the Vikings would have won the finale against the New York Giants. But, the Vikings had a small window to claim the No. 1 seed -- and home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs -- was slammed shut by their NFC North opponent.

Pete Carmichael's name has been mentioned here as an intriguing possibility to become the Bears' next offensive coordinator.

Cowher: Jerome Who?

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Bill Cowher might not be pining for the Giants' job, after all.

Bears Say Farewell To Adams

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Jay Cutler, Brian Urlacher, Devin Hester, Tommie Harris, and Alex Brown were among a large contingent of Bears' players, coaches, front-office personnel and support staff that attended the funeral for defensive end Gaines Adams at Rock Springs Baptist Church in Easley, S.C., on Friday afternoon.

As expected, Chargers assistant Rob Chudzinski interviewed for the Bears' vacant offensive coordinator position with coach Lovie Smith at Halas Hall on Thursday.

Saints' Waters Mourns Adams

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Anthony Waters told the New Orleans Times Picayune's Mike Triplett that he "broke down" when he heard that Gaines Adams died of cardiac arrest due to an enlarged heart on Sunday morning. The Saints linebacker was Adams' roommate when they both played at Clemson and they remained close after launching their NFL careers.

The Bears have received permission to speak with Chargers' assistant head coach/tight ends Rob Chudzinski, according to a knowledgeable source.

Chudzinski is expected to interview with coach Lovie Smith and perhaps even recently hired offensive line coach Mike Tice at Halas Hall today.

Rich Gannon is convinced Paul Hackett would be an ideal candidate to become the Bears' next offensive coordinator and/or quarterbacks' coach.

Bears Interview DeBord

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Seahawks tight ends coach Mike DeBord interviewed with the Bears for a similar position on Tuesday, according to a source knowledgeable with the situation.

Gaines Adams' original autopsy concluded that the 26-year-old defensive end died of cardiac arrest as the result of an enlarged heart. A second autopsy requested by the family was performed at a different medical facility on Tuesday morning and produced the same conclusion, according to a source knowledgeable with the situation.

Bears' coaches, players and front-office personnel will take a private plane provided by the team to Gaines Adams' funeral, which has been scheduled for 1 p.m. (EST) Friday in Easley, S.C.

Funeral arrangements for Bears' defensive end Gaines Adams are as follows.

Chudzinski seems a long shot in Chicago

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San Diego Chargers assistant head coach Rob Chudzinski seemed an ideal candidate for the Bears to interview to become their offensive coordinator.

But it just doesn't appear to make any sense for Chudzinski to leave the Chargers, especially after the club announced the signing of head coach Norv Turner to a three-year extension Monday.

Indications are Turner values Chudzinski insight and intelligence.

Chudzinski could have picked from three different coordinator positions last off-season. But he chose the Chargers, accepting the title of assistant head coach. With that came additional duties that Turner said freed him up to do other things.

Chudzinski is under contract through 2010. Given his situation, it doesn't make sense to leave the Chargers' 10th ranked offense, which includes numerous stars, to work with an unproven Bears offense with some question marks. In addition, Lovie Smith certainly doesn't have the same job security as Turner.

If the Chargers are good again in 2010 -- and there's no reason to doubt that -- then Chudzinski could have his pick of coordinator jobs or may be even become a head coach, a job some believe is inevitable.

The business of football marches on in the wake of Gaines Adams' tragic death Sunday.

Frazier steers clear of Bills questions

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Former Bears cornerback Leslie Frazier certainly didn't hurt his cause to become an NFL head coach.

His Minnesota Vikings defense dominated in a 34-3 victory over the Dallas Cowboys.

Frazier, the Vikings defensive coordinator, interviewed for the Buffalo Bills head-coaching vacancy, the only job available right now.

After Sunday's game, though, Frazier did all he could to avoid talking about anything other than the Vikings.

Asked if he's heard from the Bills, Frazier said, "You know.

"The only thing I'm really focused on right now is the NFC Championship game. In the meantime, enjoy this for a little bit then on Monday we got to get ready for that NFC Championship game."

At that point, my former Pioneer Press colleague Bob Sansevere noted that the game certainly didn't hurt his resume, Frazier again switched gears and added, "Yeah, the most important thing now is to get our guys ready for that next one."

I wondered earlier today if Frazier might even consider the Bears defensive coordinator job. But, I'm told that Frazier is under contract with the Vikings through the 2010 season, so he'll return to Minnesota if he doesn't get the Bills job.

Memorials to Adams

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"Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family of Gaines Adams during this sad day. It is a tragedy to lose someone at such a young age and our entire organization is deeply saddened by this news." --- Buccaneers co-chairman Joel Glazer.

Bears' defensive end Gaines Adams, 26, died this morning of an enlarged heart, a Greenwood County deputy coroner said. He'd been taken to the emergency room at Self Regional Hospital in Greenwood, S.C., and died at 7:20 a.m. Chicago time.
An autopsy showed he died of cardiac arrest caused by an enlarged heart, and the death was ruled natural, said Deputy Coroner Marcia Kelley-Hays said.

By Neil Hayes
nhayes@suntimes.com

Bears' defensive end Gaines Adams died this morning after he was taken to the emergency room at Self Regional Hospital in Greenwood, S.C., according to the Greenville News in South Carolina and the NBC affiliate there. Adams was 26.


Bears' defensive end Gaines Adams died this morning after he was taken to the emergency room at Self Regional Hospital in Greenwood, S.C., according to Greenwood County Coroner James T. Coursey. He was 26.

Add Chan Gailey to the list of candidates to become the Bears' next offensive coordinator, which means the Bears could add a third former NFL head coach to their coaching staff.

Should the Bears pursue Boldin?

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Arizona Cardinals receiver Anquan Boldin was inactive for today's game with an injury. And although he's a three-time Pro Bowl receiver, it's fair to say he wouldn't have been able to change the outcome of the Cardinals 45-14 loss to the New Orleans Saints. He doesn't, after all, play on defense.

After the game, Boldin seemed resigned to the fact that he'll be a Cardinal next season, since he's under contract through the 2010 season.

"I can't do anything one way or the other," Boldin told the Miami Herald. "I go to them and request a trade, it don't matter. I'm under contract for another year. So no matter what I say or do, that won't change anything. I'm under contract for another year. So whatever happens, it depends on what the Cardinals want to do."

But the reality is, the Cardinals may be ready to move Boldin. They have their $40 million man, Larry Fitzgerald, and they have watched the emergence of Steve Breaston and, more recently, Early Doucet.

The Bears obviously could use a No. 1 receiver, and Boldin certainly would fit the bill. In fact, he'd be a nice complement to Devin Hester and Devin Aromashodu. Boldin, who turns 30 next October, definitely has a few quality seasons left in him, and he's the sort of active and reliable receiver who could become a safety blanket for quarterback Jay Cutler.

But the question is what the Bears could give the Cardinals in return.

Even if they had a first-round pick, the Bears certainly wouldn't give one up for Boldin, especially since he'll also require a new contract.

But would the Cardinals bite on the third-round pick?

Or, would the Cardinals be interested in a player?

The problem is, the Bears aren't exactly rich at any position.

Given the significance of the 2010 season, though, I fully expect the Bears to pursue a veteran receiver. Another option, albeit a risky one, is Antonio Bryant. He's very, very talented, but he's had to defend his actions throughout his career.

Bryant, though, made nearly $10 million last season, which means he'll have to take a significant pay cut no matter where he goes.

Other possibilities:

* Would the Bears be willing to wrest Brandon Marshall, who clearly has issues with head coach Josh McDaniels, from the Denver Broncos? Certainly, that would please Cutler.

* Would the Bears take a risk on Terrell Owens, who had inconsistent quarterback play in Buffalo?

* Maybe Derrick Mason of the Baltimore Ravens could give them a quality season or two?

This may not be overwhelming, folks, but that's the reality of the market.

For many, the only silver lining in the Bears' decision to retain general manager Jerry Angelo and coach Lovie Smith was the possibility that Bill Cowher might reprise the role of Da Coach after next season.

Tice hired as offensive line coach

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The Bears have hired former Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Tice as the team's offensive line coach.

While general manager Jerry Angelo insisted the team is taking their time hiring coaches, the Bears quickly added Tice, one of the league's most respected offensive line coaches.

After playing tight end for 12 NFL seasons, Tice worked his way up the coaching ranks with the Vikings, starting as a tight ends coach and ascending to head coach before his ouster after the 2005 season finale.

Tice developed several key offensive linemen, most notably former sixth-round pick Matt Birk, who developed into a perennial Pro Bowl center.

Tice has spent the last four seasons in Jacksonville, working under former Vikings teammate Jack Del Rio.

Fewell to Giants... Now what?

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Perry Fewell spurned the Bears and selected the New York Giants.

Who will the Bears turn to next?

We know the Bears want to keep running their Tampa-Two based defense because coach Lovie Smith said as much in his wrap-up press conference.

Here is a look at a few possibilities, including assistants from two of the playoff teams that use the scheme:

Joe Barry -- The Tampa Buccaneers linebackers coach, Barry has an ace in the hole: he's assistant head coach Rod Marinelli's son-in-law. Smith appears to put stock in knowing the people with whom he will work, and he gushes about how much he values Marinelli's opinion. Unfortunately, Barry's only two seasons as a defensive coordinator were under Marinelli in Detroit, and they were an utter disaster. The Lions ranked last in 2007 and 2008.

Mark Carrier -- The Baltimore Ravens secondary coach starred for the Bears at safety from 1990 to 1996, earning three Pro Bowl selections. Carrier doesn't have a ton of coaching experience, but the Ravens pass defense has ranked 6th, 20th, 2nd and tied for 8th in his four seasons there. Might be ideal if Smith and assistant head coach Rod Marinelli intend to be very involved.

Karl Dunbar -- The Minnesota Vikings defensive line coach, Dunbar is considered ready to become a coordinator. He's an excellent motivator and capable of pushing all players, including elite ones. Jared Allen, Pat Williams and Kevin Williams are all Pro Bowl players for him. Dunbar also worked under Smith in 2004, and coached Tommie Harris his rookie season.

Herm Edwards -- He knows the defense, and he's got the credentials. He was the assistant head coach and defensive backs coach for five seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers before serving as the head coach of the New York Jets and the Kansas City Chiefs. Edwards is presently an NFL analyst for ESPN.

Fred Pagac -- The Vikings linebackers coach, Pagac is an old-school coach full of colorful sayings and stories. He has picked up the defense since joining the Vikings in 2006, and he coached with Smith at Ohio State in 1995.

Alan Williams -- The Indianapolis Colts defensive backs coach was a long-time assistant under Tony Dungy. Just 40, Williams has developed quite a resume in the last eight seasons. Last season, the Colts pass defense allowed six touchdown passes, the lowest in league history during a 16-game season, and he helped develop sixth-round pick Antoine Bethea into a Pro Bowl safety.

Giants announce hiring of Fewell

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The Bears are back to square one in their search for a defensive coordinator.

Perry Fewell decided to become the defensive coordinator of the New York Giants instead of the Bears, a Giants spokesman confirmed to the Sun-Times.

"I am ecstatic to come to work for the New York Giants," Fewell said in a statement issued by the team. "It's a good football team with good defensive players, and it is a franchise known for defense."

ESPN reported this morning that Fewell was telling people he was going to choose the Giants instead of the Bears. But a source close to the situation told the Sun-Times no decision had been made around lunch time.

The Giants issued a press release announcing the decision around 6 p.m., CST.

"I expect Perry to bring the same qualities that I expect from myself," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said in a statement. "I want him to be firm, fair, honest and demanding. My expectation is that he will solidify and unify our defense and be an outstanding teacher. I want energy, enthusiasm, toughness and to make the necessary corrections and game adjustments.

"Perry is a teacher and a leader and I thought he did an outstanding job of displaying great leadership as the interim head coach of Buffalo this season."

Fewell had worked with Coughlin and Lovie Smith of the Bears. In recent days, ESPN had reported that Fewell, who was believed to be the top choice for both clubs, was headed to the Bears.

The Bears are not believed to have interviewed anyone else for their defensive coordinator position. So far, they have interviewed Cincinnati Bengals quarterbacks coach Ken Zampese and Jacksonville Jaguars assistant head coach Mike Tice for positions on the offensive staff.

Asked to describe his defense, Fewell said, "Disciplined, attacking, aggressive, eleven hats to the football."

Fewell, the Bears defensive backs coach in 2005, had been the Buffalo Bills defensive coordinator since 2006. Midway through the 2009 season, he was elevated to interim head coach after the ouster of Dick Jauron.

Fewell interviewed for the Bills vacancy last week, and he can still accept that position if it is offered to him at a later time.

Source: Fewell has not made a decision

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Perry Fewell has not committed to any job, a source with knowledge of the situation told the Sun-Times.

But Fewell is evaluating initial offers from both the Bears and the New York Giants, and is doing his due diligence on both clubs. Since he's never worked for the Giants, Fewell may be doing more legwork on that particular club.

As someone in a similar position, perhaps Fewell was calling around to see what it would be like to live in New Jersey/ New York? The job is one thing, but he does have a wife and two sons to think about, as well.

A native of North Carolina, maybe Fewell isn't a big fan of the New York metro area? He certainly wouldn't be the first person not drawn to the hustle and bustle of the Big Apple.

Meanwhile, the Chicago Bears are based in Lake Forest, IL. Since he was the Bears defensive backs coach in 2005, Fewell already knows what the area is like.

ESPN reported this morning that Fewell had made a decision and planned to inform both clubs of his decision. ESPN, however, also made clear that the matter was not finalized.

Something else to consider: even if he accepts one of the coordinator positions, Fewell could still later be hired as the Buffalo Bills head coach. The Bills defensive coordinator since 2006, Fewell was named interim head coach midway through the season, when the club fired Dick Jauron. Fewell interviewed for the head coaching position shortly after the season ended.

While he's considered a long-shot, Fewell remains a candidate for the Bills opening, along with Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier. New York Jets offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer turned down an interview opportunity with the Bills.

Peter King of Sports Illustrated reported on Tuesday that the Bills may have given up on Bill Cowher and Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh.

The process has been a slow one, which would seem to indicate that the Bills may be waiting on an assistant from one of the teams in the playoffs.

And with no other opening, the Bills aren't really competing with anyone for candidates.

Fewell picks Giants, according to ESPN

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Perry Fewell, who interviewed to be the defensive coordinator of the Bears and New York Giants, has picked the NFC East team, according to ESPN.

A few days ago, ESPN reported that Fewell would likely take the Bears job.

Fewell, the Bears defensive backs coach in 2005, interviewed for the Bears coordinator job on Monday.

Tice to interview with Bears Thursday

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Former Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Tice arrived in town and will interview for an assistant coaching position with the Bears Thursday, according to a source with knowledge of the situation.

It is unclear if Tice is interviewing for the offensive coordinator job, but he has a strong background working with offensive linemen and tight ends. All three positions are vacant.

I highlighted Tice on Tuesday because he makes a lot of sense for the Bears. They clearly need to improve along the offensive line, but they may not have the resources to upgrade on the unit through free agency or the draft. That puts a premium on a coach who can teach, and Tice is one of the league's best.

Tice, presently the Jacksonville Jaguars assistant head coach and tight ends coach, would give the Bears another former head coach from the NFC North. Bears assistant head coach Rod Marinelli, who oversees the defensive line, was the former head coach of the Detroit Lions.

A former NFL tight end, Tice is credited with the development of perennial Pro Bowl center Matt Birk, a former Viking sixth-round pick who is now with the Baltimore Ravens.

While in Minnesota, Tice helped Jeff Christy, Todd Steussie and Korey Stringer earn Pro Bowl spots. Tice, who also had hall of fame guard Randall McDaniel on his unit, then developed Birk into a Pro Bowl player after Christy departed via free agency.

Zampese starts interview today

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The Bears started the interview process for their offensive coordinator search with another assistant with whom Lovie Smith has worked.

Cincinnati Bengals quarterbacks coach Ken Zampese worked with Smith in St. Louis with the Rams in 2001 and 2002.

Zampese's interview with Smith is expected to end Wednesday.

The Bears interviewed Perry Fewell to be the team's defensive coordinator on Monday, and they are awaiting a decision from him. But the Bears may be moving to fill the offensive coordinator slot at a slower pace.

Fewell also interviewed with the New York Giants for their defensive coordinator opening last week.

Closer look at a few more o-c candidates

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Here's a closer look at some coaches who could be on the Bears radar for the offensive coordinator opening:

1) Tom Clements -- The former Notre Dame star has all the motivation in the world to become the Bears offensive coordinator. First of all, it would be a promotion, since he's currently the Green Bay Packers quarterbacks coach, working with Aaron Rodgers,and he would get a chance to work with another talented player (Jay Cutler). Clements also isn't too risky because he was the Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator in 2004 and 2005.
Most impressively, Clements helped Elvis Grbac and Kordell Stewart make Pro Bowl rosters. The Packers on Monday denied the Bears request to speak to Clements.

2) Bill Musgrave -- Former NFL quarterback has most notably helped the development of two current NFL starters: Matt Ryan and Matt Schaub. The latter he worked with at the University of Virginia, the former the last two seasons with the Atlanta Falcons. Ryan, the third overall pick in 2008, has started 30 games, completing nearly 60 percent of his passes for 6,356 yards with 38 touchdowns and 25 interceptions. Musgrave also has NFL experience as an offensive coordinator.

3) Paul Hackett -- What coaching position hasn't he held? He's been an NFL quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator. But Hackett may be most famous for preceding Pete Carroll at USC. In fact, Hackett recruited Carson Palmer, who now stars for the Cincinnati Bengals. Hackett also was the head coach at the University of Pittsburgh.

4) Mike Tice -- He was ousted after leading the Minnesota Vikings to a 9-7 record in 2005, and he landed in Jacksonville, where he is currently is the assistant head coach/ tight ends coach. Tice doesn't have offensive coordinator experience, but he's widely respected for understanding blocking schemes and developing offensive linemen -- most notably perennial Pro Bowl center Matt Birk. Tice could be eager if Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio, who is scheduled to meet with Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver this week, is fired.

5) Mike Martz -- Lovie Smith knows what Martz brings to the table, having worked with him in St. Louis. Martz coordinated one of the best offenses in NFL history with the Rams, and he helped turn Kurt Warner from an NFL scrub into a potential hall of fame quarterback. Martz, though, is believed to be an outside candidate at this point.

Bears denied chance to speak to Green Bay's Clements

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The Bears didn't look far in their search for an offensive coordinator.

After being informed that USC offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates cancelled a scheduled interview, the Bears' request to speak to former Notre Dame star quarterback Tom Clements was quickly rebuffed by the Green Bay Packers.

Clements, who led the Fighting Irish to a national title in 1973, practiced law in Chicago for five years before joining Lou Holtz's staff at Notre Dame in 1995. Since then, he's earned a reputation for developing quarterbacks, most recently Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay.

Rodgers was selected to the upcoming Pro Bowl, and he completed 28 of 42 passes for 422 yards with four touchdowns and one interception in a 51-45 loss to the Arizona Cardinals Sunday.

Bates was scheduled to interview on Tuesday but cancelled to follow USC coach Pete Carroll to Seattle.

Carroll was introduced as the new head coach of the Seattle Seahawks Monday afternoon, and Bates will reportedly be his offensive coordinator.

Bates was interested in re-uniting with Jay Cutler, with whom he worked closely in Denver, but he opted for more security with Carroll and the Seahawks, ESPN reported.

Meanwhile, the Bears entertained Buffalo Bills defensive coordinator Perry Fewell for the same position on Monday. Fewell, who was the Bears defensive backs coach in 2005, is considered the favorite for the Bears defensive coordinator position.

Smith must deal with an obvious obstacle

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Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith downplayed any concern about drawing interest for his coaching vacancies.

"There is an opportunity for you come here to help us do some good things. We have a good nucleus of players here, that they all see," Smith said last Tuesday. "I think an offensive guy would want to come here and have a chance to work with a Jay Cutler, and have a chance to mold some of the young receivers and get the offense back on track.

"I think a defensive guy would want to come here and coordinate a defense with a guy like Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs, and guys like that, and fix some of the third downs. I think he is going to look at it and he's not going to see a lot of big holes; he's going to look at us tightening up a couple bolts to get back. Somebody will want to do that."

Yes, somebody will surely want those jobs.

But there's one challenge that Smith can't promise: his long-term future.

Smith will get paid $11 million whether he coaches the Bears through the 2011 season or not.

But the coveted candidates may not want to join the Bears staff, even if they sign a two-year contract. In essence, they may have only one year to prove results. And in the event Smith is let go after the 2010 season, it's quite a risk for a new assistant coach to hope that they can vie for the head coaching position or impress the new guy.

Given the choice, most assistants are going to pursue jobs with some security.

ESPN reported that was one of the reasons Jeremy Bates passed on a chance to re-unite with Cutler. According to ESPN, "long-term security with (Pete) Carroll was a major factor in his decision to join the (Seattle) Seahawks rather than the Bears.

But, people who know Smith may be more inclined to take that risk. Someone like former Bears defensive backs coach Perry Fewell, who is interview with Smith today, or former St. Louis Rams offensive coordinator and head coach Mike Martz.

Smith must deal with an obvious obstacle

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Bears coach Lovie Smith downplayed any concern about drawing interest for his coaching vacancies.

"There is an opportunity for you come here to help us do some good things. We have a good nucleus of players here, that they all see," Smith said last Tuesday. "I think an offensive guy would want to come here and have a chance to work with a Jay Cutler, and have a chance to mold some of the young receivers and get the offense back on track.

"I think a defensive guy would want to come here and coordinate a defense with a guy like Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs, and guys like that, and fix some of the third downs. I think he is going to look at it and he's not going to see a lot of big holes; he's going to look at us tightening up a couple bolts to get back. Somebody will want to do that."

Yes, somebody will surely want those jobs.

But there's one challenge that Smith can't promise: a long-term future.

Smith will get paid $11 million whether he coaches the Bears through the 2011 season or not.

But the most coveted candidates may not want to join the Bears staff, even if they sign a two-year contract. In essence, they may have only one year to prove themselves. And in the event Smith is let go after the 2010 season, it's quite a risk for a new assistant coach to hope that they can vie for the head coaching position or impress the new guy.

Given the choice, most assistants are going to pursue jobs with some security.

ESPN reported that was one of the reasons Jeremy Bates passed on a chance to re-unite with Cutler. According to ESPN, "long-term security with (Pete) Carroll was a major factor in his decision to join the (Seattle) Seahawks rather than the Bears."

But, people who know Smith may be more inclined to take that risk.

Someone like former Bears defensive backs coach Perry Fewell, who is interview with Smith today, or former St. Louis Rams offensive coordinator and head coach Mike Martz.

The domino effect of Benson fiasco

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Former Texas running back Cedric Benson proved why he was a top-five draft pick on Saturday.

Against the league's top-ranked defense, Benson set a Cincinnati Bengals postseason record with 169 rushing yards on 21 carries. While the rest of the offense was flat, Benson helped keep his team in a game they ultimately lost 21-14 to the Jets.

That Benson is a Bengal and not a Bear is arguably one of the reasons the Chicago franchise has fallen on hard times.

It's easy to say the Bears wasted the fourth overall pick in 2005, when, in June 2008, they released Benson, who missed all of training camp due to a contract holdout and who had a couple of notable off the field incidents.

The 2005 NFL Draft class was not an overwhelmingly good one, especially in the first round. But DeMarcus Ware (11th overall) hasn't disappointed the Dallas Cowboys, and the Green Bay Packers are just fine with their 24th pick, Aaron Rodgers.

Hindsight being 20-20, the Bears could have traded down, collecting more picks, and taken Frank Gore, who went in the third round.

But back to reality.

The decision to take Benson triggered two other things: giving away Thomas Jones and selecting Matt Forte.

The New York Jets stole Jones from the Bears, swapping second-round picks so the Bears could move up from 63rd to 37th. In exchange, the Jets have gotten 3,833 rushing yards and 31 total touchdowns from Jones.

Although they dumped Benson after selecting Forte, the Bears still needed to spend that second-round pick in the 2008 NFL Draft because Benson had been so inconsistent.

If they could take the best player available, perhaps the Bears may have taken receiver DeSean Jackson, selected five spots behind Forte.

Again, hindsight is 20-20.

But the point is, the Benson mess has left the Bears in a mess.

An O-C maybe worth considering

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Came across a link to a story that made me think this guy should be someone the Chicago Bears should consider as offensive coordinator.

And Craig Johnson's credentials are hard to ignore.

You could argue -- quite strongly, in fact -- that he saved Vince Young's career and salvaged the Tennessee Titans decision to select the former Texas quarterback third overall in the 2006 NFL Draft.

Young was teetering toward the "bust" label, when the Titans decided to start Kerry Collins ahead of him. But Young, after Collins got the team off to an 0-6 start, finished 8-2 and nearly got the Titans into the playoffs.

Titans offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger certainly deserves credit. But not as much as Johnson, the Titans quarterbacks coach.

"Coach Johnson was in my corner a whole lot, just motivating me and keeping me focused a lot and keeping me informed of what was going on," Young told the Nashville City Paper for a story published on Dec. 6.

Johnson, who also worked with the late Steve McNair, focused on encouraging Young and helping boost the young quarterback's confidence.

"I tried to be there and give him confidence and let him know that I had a lot of confidence in him at the time, and that when he came back, he would get things done," Johnson told the City Paper.

Young, at times, looked like a total disaster. So if Johnson could help turn him around, I think that gives him quite a bit of credibility.

Bears schedule interview with Fewell

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Former Chicago Bears defensive backs coach Perry Fewell will interview for the team's defensive coordinator position on Monday, according to a source with knowledge of the situation.

Fewell, the Bears defensive backs coach in 2005, is interviewing today with the New York Giants for their defensive coordinator position.

He left the Bears organization to become the Buffalo Bills defensive coordinator in 2006, and he was elevated to interim head coach when Dick Jauron was fired midway through the 2009 season.

Fewell has already interviewed for the Bills head coaching position, but he is being hotly pursued by two coaches with whom he's working in the past.

Fewell was the defensive backs coach for Giants head coach Tom Coughlin in Jacksonville from 1998 to 2002; he worked with Bears head coach Lovie Smith in St. Louis in 2003 and 2004 and then in Chicago in 2005.

It appears both the Giants and Bears are aggressively pursuing Fewell, even though he remains a candidate to be the Bills head coach. The Bills were reportedly in Minnesota today to interview Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier.

Chicago Bears offensive coordinator Ron Turner said during a radio interview today that Jay Cutler was saddled with immense expectations.

"He came into a difficult situation with the expectations as high as they were," Turner said on ESPN Radio in Chicago, via Pro Football Talk. "As soon as he got here everybody said 'Jay Cutler is here,' and now the expectations went through the roof.

"I don't know if that was realistic with the issues we had on the offensive line and with the young receivers. We all knew it was going to take some time. I'm not sure anybody else did. I think there was a huge weight on his shoulders to come in and really produce at a high level."

That may well be the case. But, its hard not to have huge expectations for a player who cost the team a veteran starter, two first-round picks and -- AND -- a third-round pick.

Cutler flashed his potential throughout the season. But, he wasn't consistent enough, as his league-high 26 interceptions would suggest.

I haven't watched all of the Bears games. But, from what I saw, I never felt Turner really understood how to use receiver Devin Hester.

Instead of aimlessly sending him down the field, Turner should have been pushing plays that get him the ball quickly and empower him to generate yards after catch. That also would spared Cutler a few more blows.

Additionally, I found Turner to be extremely predictable. I think Cutler threw so many red-zone interceptions because they kept dialing up the same plays, over and over!

But, maybe I'm crazy...

Martz responds to Armey comments

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Former St. Louis Rams head coach Mike Martz said he is "just stunned" by the negatives comments made about him by Wednesday.

Former Rams general manager Charlie Armey ripped Martz in an interview with ESPN Chicago.

"Working with him, he never expressed that. I thought things were really good, but I guess that's why things ended up the way it did," Martz told the Sun-Times this afternoon. "If he felt that way, he never expressed that.

"He was very amiable. He was very complimentary."

Armey, though, was very critical of Martz, who has expressed an interest in becoming the Chicago Bears offensive coordinator and working with quarterback Jay Cutler.

"I don't think Martz would work well with Jay Cutler at all," Armey told ESPNChicago.com. "He's a terrible . . . coach, and he would ruin that kid like he ruined Kurt Warner and drove him out of St. Louis.

"He's the worst thing that could happen to any young quarterback."

Martz, who helped develop Warner into a perennial Pro Bowl quarterback, insisted that he and the quarterback still have a good relationship.

"I'm proud of the relationship I have with Kurt. Not just how I helped him, but how he helped me," Martz said. "We were always pressing the envelope."

Other offensive coordinator candidates for the Bears include USC offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates and University of Minnesota offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch.
Both have worked with Cutler.

Colts assistant could be good fit as D Coordinator

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As Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith considers candidates to run his defense, he may want to exercise some patience so he can strongly consider a coach on a playoff team.

Alan Williams was a long-time assistant under Tony Dungy, working both with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Indianapolis Colts. Williams is now wrapping up his eighth season as the defensive backs coach of the Colts.

Williams, 40, obviously knows the Tampa Two defense, which Smith made clear Tuesday he wants to keep running here with the Bears. But Williams also has the coaching chops that Smith could be coveting.

Last season, the Colts pass defense allowed six touchdown passes, the lowest in league history during a 16-game season, and he helped develop sixth-round pick Antoine Bethea into a Pro Bowl safety.

But his most impressive coaching effort may have been this season. Pro Bowl safety Bob Sanders, one of the defense's top players, played in only two games, and cornerback Marlin Jackson only played in four.

Yet the Colts pass defense, which ranked 6th last season, finished a respectable 14th in 2009. One of the keys has been the emergence of Jacob Lacey, an undrafted free agent out of Oklahoma State who has intercepted three passes, including one he returned for a touchdown, and defended 13 other passes. Lacey has started nine of the 16 games he's played this season.

Smith indicated on Tuesday that he wasn't in a rush to make a decision. But he's expected to at least have informal talks with Perry Fewell, the Buffalo Bills defensive coordinator who was the Bears defensive backs coach in 2005.

But Smith would not be allowed to speak to Williams until after the Colts season ends. The Colts (14-2) are considered one of the Super Bowl favorites.

Salary cap: How did the Bears get here?

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A few thoughts from me on my package about the Chicago Bears salary cap health. Yes, they are not in optimal position.

But, truth be told, the Bears really couldn't avoid the situation.

After advancing to Super Bowl XLI during the 2006 NFL season, the Bears had every reason to lock up the likes of Brian Urlacher, Tommie Harris, Lance Briggs and the team's two cornerbacks, as well as the dynamic and multi-faceted Devin Hester.

Those defensive players were key to a unit that ranked first in the NFL with 44 take-aways and fifth overall.

Yet since then, regardless of the reasons, only Briggs has continued to produce at an elite level.

The league executives I spoke to both told me that general manager Jerry Angelo and chief contract negotiator Cliff Stein have done a solid job with the deals they've doled out. While the numbers for some of these players are high, they were market-value contracts that were necessary to retain them.

Believe me, general managers and contract negotiators aren't afraid to rip their colleagues for bad deals that ultimately hurt everyone, such as the seven-year, $50.5 million contract the Oakland Raiders handed -- literally handed! -- underachieving defensive tackle Tommy Kelly in 2008. That deal included $18 million in guarantees, or about $1 million for each of his sacks in six NFL seasons.

The Bears are in a tough spot, and it's easy to second-guess them now, after three consecutive seasons out of the playoffs.

But imagine the uproar had the Bears NOT re-signed the likes of Tommie Harris, Brian Urlacher, Devin Hester and Lance Briggs.

The dollars and sense of Pace

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Chicago Bears offensive tackle Orlando Pace said he hasn't made any decisions about his future.

"It was a rough season for everybody," Pace said. "You just never know. Guys just got to get back to work and see how it goes.

Asked directly if he's planning to come back, Pace said, "I have to reevaluate everything and take everything into account and see what works for me."

Pace said he hasn't made a decision. But the Bears may make one for him.

The Bears signed him to a three-year, $15 million deal last April, but the seven-time Pro Bowl tackle was benched after starting the team's first 11 games.

Pace is scheduled to make $3.75 million next season. But, the Bears structured his deal to protect themselves. If they release him, the Bears would only take a salary cap hit of about $666,000, a modest amount for a player of his pay scale.

Ogunleye on his return: "50-50 either way"

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Chicago Bears defensive end Adewale Ogunleye finished the season on the injured reserve and is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent.

"At the end of the day I'd love to be here in Chicago. I love the city," said Ogunleye, 32. "The fans are the best in the country but I don't beg. I know the kind of player I am. I'm a great leader, great defensive end and I still have a couple years left in the tank and wherever I go I'm going to be an asset.

"Hopefully, it's here. I pray it's here. If not, that's the way the business goes.

 My gut tells me 50-50 either way.

"

That estimation, though, is very generous -- unless he's willing to give the Bears a big discount.

Ogunleye made nearly $5 million this season, but his last standout season was in 2007, when he had nine sacks.

Ogunleye has 42 sacks in the six seasons since the Bears acquired him from the Miami Dolphins in a trade for receiver Marty Booker in 2004.

The Bears certainly got the better of the trade, since Booker only had modest success with the Dolphins.

Ogunleye was placed on injured reserve after a small fracture in his fibula suffered Dec. 20 in Baltimore.

Tillman said he should be fine in four to six weeks

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Chicago Bears cornerback Charles Tillman said his bruised lung and cracked ribs should be fully recovered in about four to six weeks.

"I've never experienced an injury like that, of that magnitude," Tillman said. "It was definitely a little shock for me."

As he was trying to tackle Minnesota Vikings tight end Visanthe Shiancoe Dec. 28, Tillman was struck by Bears safety Craig Steltz. Tillman was attended to by doctors and trainers on the field for several minutes. Then, he was taken off the field on a stretcher and hospitalized.

Tillman said he too was alarmed by the seriousness of the situation.

"When it initially happened, it hurt. It hurt like hell. I almost cried, it hurt so bad," he said. "But I didn't."

Tillman likened the symptoms to an asthma attack.

"Or, for those who don't have asthma, a fish out of water, gasping for air," he said.

Asked how much longer he can play, Tillman said, "I can go another five, six."

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