Chicago Sun-Times

April 2010 Archives

It was a blustery afternoon, with the wind blowing passes off course. Both Dan LeFevour and Juice Williams played in spread offenses in college and are learning the fundementals of receiving a direct snap and taking five-and seven-step drops under the direction of exacting Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz for the first time. They were learning a foreign offense and working with receivers they met the day before. They were also understandably nervous while receiving their first taste of professional football.

Bears officially hire Ruskell

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It's finally official: the Bears have finally hired Tim Ruskell.

The team announced in a press release that Ruskell has been hired as the team's new director of player personnel, reuniting him with Bears general manager Jerry Angelo.

The two worked together for 14 years in Tampa, where they helped return the Buccaneers to relevance and drafted players who were key to the franchise winning Super Bowl XXXVII over the Oakland Raiders in January 2003.

"First and foremost, Tim brings a wealth of knowledge to the organization, both in personnel and how things are done at every level," Angelo told the team's website. ""He's experienced everything.

"He's been in three different organizations and had success in all of them. I think he's going to be a real good addition. We worked together for 14 years, and I think the commonality that we share in terms of how to build a football team will bode well not only for me but for the organization."

Ruskell spent the last five seasons as president of football operations and general manager of the Seattle Seahawks. But, in December, he resigned from the position. John Schneider, formerly of the Green Bay Packers, was hired as the Seahawks general manager in January.

In his five seasons, the Seahawks won the NFC West three times, and they advanced to Super Bowl XL, before losing to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Before Seattle, Ruskell worked in Atlanta under former Bucs general manager Rich McKay. In 2004, when he was the team's assistant general manager, the Falcons advanced to the NFC championship game.

Ruskell started his scouting career in the CFL in 1983, with the Saskatchewan Roughriders, then he headed to the USFL for two seasons before joining the Bucs as a regional scout.

In 1992, he was promoted to college scouting director then replaced Angelo in 2001 as director of player personnel.

UPDATE: Lovie Smith comments on Ruskell.

"When guys come in, of course, it's about them blending in with what we want to do," Smith said. "Tim, of course, is comfortable with that. He'll be a great addition to our staff and I'm looking forward to working with him."

There are 54 players competing at the Bears' rookie minicamp, that began on Friday and continues Saturday and Sunday. Draft picks and rookie free agents are in attendance, as are a handful of second-year players such as receiver Eric Peterman, fullback Will Ta'ufo'ou, cornerback Woodny Turrene, linebacker Kevin Malast, guard Johan Asiata and tight end Kevin Brock.

Anderson signs tender

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Mark Anderson signed his one-year tender offer from the Bears. As always, terms were not disclosed.

My take on Ruskell's role and title

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It's been long rumored that the Bears will hire former Seattle Seahawks executive Tim Ruskell.

Odds are, it will become official in the near future. But here's some insight into what his title and role may be, if it comes to fruition.

Although the title isn't nearly as impressive as his last (president of football operations), Ruskell will likely become the Bears director of player personnel. He'll work right underneath Bears general manager Jerry Angelo, with whom he has worked closely in Tampa.

Angelo ousted Bobby DePaul (director of pro personnel) and he opted not to renew the contract of Greg Gabriel (director of college scouting), so Ruskell would presumably take the authority of both of those positions.

Angelo and Ruskell worked together with the Buccaneers from 1987 to 2000, and Ruskell replaced Angelo as the Bucs director of player personnel.


...And my answers to your questions

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I tried to answer as many questions as possible, especially since several questions were related.

Sean

Commenter name: ICE CUBE

Q: Why do most of the secondary guys who perform at arguably an above-average level get dooked on the next year by the coaching staff? (Zackary) Bowman better watch out this year. He is next on the list.

A: I think it's very clear that the Bears want to win now and snap their playoff drought. I can't get past Smith mentioning at the Combine that the safeties only managed one interception last season.
That obviously isn't enough.
Al Afalava is athletic, but he didn't make enough impact plays last season.
Ditto for Josh Bullocks.
Craig Steltz has played well, when he's been in games.
In fact, as crazy as it sounds, he could be the man to beat at free safety.
At strong safety, I think it's widely presumed that Chris Harris walks into the starting job. But, Bears coach Lovie Smith may keep Manning at the top of the depth chart there and make Harris earn the job.
That may well happen but, out of respect, Manning could get the first crack.

Commenter: Tom K.

Q: Will the Bears try and get some value and trade Manning to a team in need of a kickoff return guy? He has tried both safety positions and nickel to little success. Rather than release him, why not try and get a late round pick for him than nothing at all.

A: I definitely think Manning has some value, given his versatility and return ability. But, no team stepped up and attempted to sign him to an offer sheet, which would have cost them a third-round pick. If the Bears lower the price, there would probably be interest. But, Manning may be too valuable to the Bears because of his versatility.
He's got good cover skills, which is why he was effective as a nickel cornerback, but he didn't assert himself as a free safety. My guess is, coach Lovie Smith wanted to move him to strong safety because it's a more instinctive position. The knock on him, according to one NFC scout, is that he isn't very good at reading and reacting.
In an ideal situation, the Bears would probably want to start Chris Harris and Major Wright.
Given what Manning brings, I'm not sure the Bears would be interested in giving him up for a fifth- or sixth-round pick.

Commenter: Shaun

Q: Why does everyone just think its a (given) that the Bears are going to end up in third place again this season? They added lots of talent and are clearly going to be better. Minnesota hasn't done anything to improve much and (Brett) Favre is another year older. Packers haven't made any key additions I can think of. I think they'll be every bit as good as those two if not better.

A: I'm not sure who "everyone" is, but I don't think there's any question that the Bears are better now than when the season ended in Detroit. Julius Peppers is a game-changer, and the Bears have upgraded at every position of need, except on the offensive line.
But, the Bears do have some serious ground to make up. The Vikings should have at least reached the Super Bowl, while the Packers swept the Bears in 2009. Meanwhile, there's also no question that the Detroit Lions have gotten markedly better this off-season.

Commenter: Dave M.

Q: Is there a more dysfunctional front office that garners more disrespect from the national sports writers and local sports writers than the Bears?

A: Yes. The Bay area teams. The Oakland Raiders are the model of dysfunction in the NFL, and the San Francisco 49ers endured a strange sequence of events in which their general manager, Scot McClouhan, leaving the team about a month before the NFL Draft.
Meanwhile, two other candidates have seemingly been fixed: the Washington Redskins and the Cleveland Browns.
I don't know how to term the Bears, but Smith and Jerry Angelo certainly have made a lot of changes to a staff they put together.
I would offer two other teams, though, that could be interesting to watch: the Philadelphia Eagles and the Jacksonville Jaguars. It appeared there was a power struggle on what to do with Donovan McNabb, and Jags coach Jack Del Rio has been involved in a lot of rumors, from him potentially leaving for USC to his job being in danger.

Commenter: deputydawg

Q: Are the Bears going to find a veteran guard or are the satisfied with (Lance) Louis, (Josh) Beekman and (Johan) Asiata? And (J'Marcus) Webb was a tackle in college (but) does his talent line up as a tackle or a guard in the NFL?

A: I would not rule out the possibility of the Bears signing a veteran, if one comes along at the right price. My colleague Neil Hayes brought up a good candidate in Justin Smiley, who could be released by the Miami Dolphins at some point.
But, I also believe that the Bears are confident offensive line coach Mike Tice can work with the current group of players and field a good unit. The lone available spot seems to be left guard, and you are right that Louis, Beekman and Asiata are candidates. But, I also wouldn't rule out the possibility of the Bears giving veteran offensive tackle Kevin Shaffer a chance to compete for the job. Shaffer certainly is tough enough to play inside, and he's certainly a good enough athlete.
Louis certainly has upside, but he's more raw and unproven than Beekman, who is the sort of player Tice likes: scrappy and smart.
I also wouldn't sleep on Asiata, a player with potential.
When they line up during mini-camp in a few weeks, I would guess Beekman would be there. And if not him, then Asiata.

Commenter: Bearstradamus

Q: Why pick Dan LeFevour in the draft after investing all that money in Jay Cutler, especially with problems at guard and Olin Kreutz getting another year older? Is Cutler not who that thought he was?

A: Quarterback obviously is a premium position. And while the Bears didn't intend to draft a quarterback, they simply thought LeFevour was too good to pass up when he was available in the sixth round. His selection doesn't reflect on Cutler or even backup Caleb Hanie; in fact, I hear new offensive coordinator Mike Martz has been impressed with Hanie.
But, LeFevour is a very good athlete with tremendous intangibles. The Bears will probably work on his mechanics and consistency then, eventually, figure out a way to get him on the field in certain packages.
There's nothing wrong with adding new wrinkles to an offense.

Commenter: Greg

Q: With (Jason) McKie gone, who is projected to be the starting fullback between Eddie Williams and Will Ta'ufo'ou? I don't know much about either. Is it an open competition? Is there something one is better at than the other?

A: First of all, kudos on spelling Will's name right!
As for your question, I would assume the Bears would keep just one of the fullbacks, especially after signing Brandon Manumaleuna, who can line up in several spots. I hear that Ta'ufo'ou and Williams are similar type players, although neither is overly aggressive. It may come down to which one can bring more on special teams.

Commenter: Dave

Q: Why is Sean Jensen still working for the Sun-Times, if he has absolutely no journalistic skills?

A: Well, I guess my honeymoon at the paper is over.
All I can say is, I blame the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University for my "journalistic skills," or lack therof, and I've managed to fool three major newspapers for the last dozen years!
Also, why didn't you include your email address like everyone else?

Commenter: chibears76

Q: With (Jamar) Williams traded, will Tim Shaw - the Beast - get a chance to prove he deserves regular playing time in LB rotation?

A: Tim Shaw has a role on this team, but I don't think it's lining up on defense. I believe the Bears see him as a seventh linebacker, reserved only for emergency situations.
Word is, he's aggressive but late to the ball.

Commenter: dahlillama

Q: Looks like good ole Halas Hall is losing it with all of the infighting going on. Is it possible for (Roger) Goodell to fine the Bears for being such a dysfunctional group that could have turned Jerry Rice, Joe Montana and many other superstars into average football players?

A: No, Goodell has enough on his plate.

Commenter: Paul M.

Q: I rather liked (Kevin) Payne and think he was worth more than the Bears got for him. Is (seventh) round carved in granite?

A: Yes, that is carved in stone. If he makes the Rams' 53-man roster, the Bears get a seventh-round pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. That's not great value, since Payne was a fifth-round pick. But, the Bears are prescribing to the thinking that a seventh is better than nothing.

Commenter: Will R.

Q: With the Bears still needing line help, have they expressed interest in getting Flozell Adams or any other big lineman in to help protect (Jay) Cutler?

A: No, as far as I know, they have not expressed interest in Flozell. Yes, as you point out, it is eerily similar to Orlando Pace.
I think the Bears are quite content and confident with their starting tackles, Chris Williams and Frank Omiyale.

Commenter: Joe F.

Q: Any thoughts about Lance Louis as a blocking tight end? He is basically the same size as Manumaleuna, and was a tight end in college, so he has the foundation in route running, albeit limited. Seems like a very Martz thing to do, as tight ends have never been featured players in his offense.
Along that line, what is going to happen with (Desmond) Clark, (Greg) Olsen, and (Kellen) Davis? None of the three are especially adept at blocking, even though they were our best receiving options over the last two years.

A: No, I don't think they will move Louis back to tight end. They have enough of those. But, you make an interesting point: maybe in goal line situations, they could bring Louis in as an extra lineman. Hmmmm....
Anyway, I don't think all those tight ends are going to survive.
It depends on how they count, but the Bears may consider Manumaleuna a swing player.
They may not be convicted on which player to get rid of yet, and they also may be holding out hope that another team may get desperate and trade for one of them.
And, no, Olsen isn't on the block.
It'll be interesting to see what they do with Davis. He's got plenty of upside, given his size, and he did catch three touchdowns last season. Interestingly, one scout told me Davis is a younger version of Clark: good, but not great athlete, who isn't a very good blocker but, overall, he's effective and productive. And since he's just 24, I'm not sure they'd want to just give him away.
I also wouldn't discount Richard Angulo, who Tice has given a chance in both Minnesota and Jacksonville.
Obviously, Tice isn't the tight ends coach with the Bears, but he apparently sees something in the 6 foot 8 tight end.
I think Clark is fighting an uphill battle, either way, but the Bears did pay him a bonus, which means they still haven't made a final decision.

Payne traded to Rams for draft pick

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The Bears have traded safety Kevin Payne to the St. Louis Rams for a 2010 draft pick, the team announced.

Originally a fifth-round pick of the Bears, Payne started 22 of 32 games played over three seasons, recording 195 tackles, four interceptions, 10 passes defended and one sack.

Payne was made expendable after the Bears traded for Chris Harris on Tuesday.

UPDATE: Bears would get a seventh round pick, if Payne makes the Rams roster.

Submit your questions

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Just another quiet week at Halas Hall, right?

There have been a lot of changes, both to the roster and to the front office. I suspect you care more about the former than latter. But, fire your questions to me, and I'll answer some of them by Friday.

Sean

He is a small, athletic guard --- not a mauler --- who excels in pass protection, which could make him a good fit for Mike Martz's offense.

Harris officially returns to Chicago

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The Bears called upon a familiar face to upgrade their depth at safety.

They traded linebacker Jamar Williams to the Carolina Panthers for safety Chris Harris, originally a sixth-round pick of the Bears in 2005.

Harris, of course, was traded to the Panthers in 2007 for a fifth-round pick. That selection ended up being cornerback Zackary Bowman, who started 12 games last season and intercepted six passes.

The Panthers, meanwhile, got eight forced fumbles from Harris in 2007, which prompted them to give him a contract extension. But he's only had four more in the two seasons since, and he managed five interceptions for the Panthers.

In February 2008, Harris signed a five-year deal worth about $13 million. This season, he's due to make about $2 million, then $2.45 in 2011 and $2.9 million in 2012, the final year of his current contract.

Frankly, those aren't ridiculous figures for a starting safety.

It's unclear what the Panthers gave Williams, who was a restricted free agent.

Ruskell on the radar

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Bears general manager Jerry Angelo didn't wait long to clean house.

Just two days after the draft concluded, Angelo has informed college scouting director Greg Gabriel that his contract will not be renewed. Also, the door has been opened to potentially hire longtime Tampa Bay Buccaneers colleague Tim Ruskell, according to a source.

The timetable is unclear but it's likely to happen quickly.

Ruskell resigned from his post as the president of football operations for the Seattle Seahawks in early December.

Bears area scout Chris Ballard could be in line for a promotion.


Sources have confirmed that the Bears will not renew the contract of college scouting Greg Gabriel, paving the way for general manager Jerry Angelo to hire ex-Seahawks general manager Tim Ruskell, which could happen by the end of the week.

Chris Harris is "tweeting" about a return to Chicago.

The odds of the Bears signing free agent guard Alan Faneca seem increasingly remote.

NFL Network's Mike Mayock is one of the most respected draft analysts, and he provided tremendous insight heading into the draft.

On Thursday, Mayock nailed six of the top 10 picks, and he also had the Cincinnati Bengals taking tight end Jermaine Gresham 21st overall.

Unfortunately, he lost his voice late Saturday, and he couldn't be on the NFL Network set Sunday. Instead, he posted his insight on NFL.com.

Anyways, Mayock told me in an e-mail (naturally), that the Bears were fortunate to get defensive end Corey Wootton in the fourth round.

"He had excellent value in fourth round," Mayock wrote. "First- or second-round tape in '08. Very average in '09.

"If healthy and regains burst, could be good starter," Mayock wrote.

The Bears medical staff believes Wootton's knee is structurally sound.

"He passed everything, and we gave him a very good grade," general manager Jerry Angelo said Saturday. "Sometimes you'll give a player a passing grade - there's a concern, a yellow flag or a red flag - he had no flags in terms of his medical concerns with us.

"He's healed; he needs to continue to get stronger, particularly in his quad area," Angelo said. "He's 15 months out. We think that these next couple of months, he's going to get a lot stronger. Hopefully, he goes to camp at 100 percent."

Wright sells himself

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Bears third-round pick Major Wright visited with Mully and Hanley on The Score this morning.

His mindset on talking to teams was simple.

"I basically just went in there and just told them about Major Wright, my childhood, me growing up, me playing for St. Thomas (a well-known private school in Ft. Lauderdale), me playing for University of Florida," Wright said.

He talked about his leadership potential and addressed his character.

"I've never been arrested," he said. "I don't drink, I don't smoke, so you know I look at that as a figure too."

Here is the official list:

Angelo leaves door open on Faneca

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Bears general manager Jerry Angelo didn't shut down the possibility of signing nine-time Pro Bowl guard Alan Faneca.

Faneca, 33, reportedly was released today because he refused to take a pay cut and because the New York Jets drafted guard Vladimir Ducasse in the second round.

"I don't know who would not consider Alan Faneca, if you had a need at the offensive line," Angelo said. "Again, we'll look into some things, like we did before the draft."

He was referring to Rob Sims, the guard who eventually was traded to the Detroit Lions. The Bears were among the teams interested in acquiring him in a trade with the Seattle Seahawks.

The Bears offensive line is clearly a concern after the improvements made around the NFC North, most notably the Detroit Lions selection of Ndamukong Suh with the second overall pick. The Green Bay Packers have a solid unit, and the Minnesota Vikings have arguably one of the best in the league, featuring three Pro Bowl linemen.

Faneca's skill has diminished, which is one of the reasons the Jets released him. The Bears may be stinging from their gamble on Orlando Pace, another highly decorated offensive lineman who didn't pan out. But, if they believe Faneca can improve their unit, then they should make a push to sign him.

Angelo also didn't close the door on signing a veteran quarterback, even after taking Dan LeFevour in the sixth round. The Bears already have Jay Cutler, Brett Basanez and Caleb Hanie on the roster.

There isn't a time in my lifetime when I wouldn't have applauded the Bears drafting Dan LeFevour --- until now. The reason is obvious: Jay Cutler. I'm not sure general manager Jerry Angelo made the wisest decision when he made the Central Michigan quarterback his choice in the sixth round, and it has nothing to do with LeFevour's ability.

Just because the Bears have made their final selection in the 2010 NFL Draft doesn't mean they are done acquiring talent.

Bears catch the "Fevour"

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The quarterback position wasn't a glaring offensive need like, say, offensive line. But, the Bears obviously couldn't pass up a chance to take a quarterback they liked -- one with local ties.

Dan LeFevour starred at Central Michigan, breaking numerous national records in 51 starts, but he played his prep football at Benet Academy near his hometown of Downers Grove.

LeFevour was projected as a potential second-round pick, but he dropped to the Bears in the sixth round.

"This is a process you can't control," LeFevour said, noting how badly quarterbacks want control. "It's a little bit aggravating at times. But you have to realize it's all going to work out."

Still, LeFevour said it's a "dream come true" to play for the Bears.

"I've been watching the Bears for quite a few years," he said.

His favorite player was the late Walter Payton, even though the legendary running back retired before LeFevour was born. Still, he thought enough of the Bears great to hang his jersey in his room.

LeFevour is one of the most intriguing prospects in this draft. While he didn't play at a major school, the MAC is a respected conference, producing players like Ben Roethlisberger and Chad Pennington, and he was effective as a passer and runner, piling up 15,853 total yards.

He runs a very respectable 4.6 in the 40-yard dash, and ESPN analyst Mel Kiper said he's got a stronger arm than Pennington.

It will be interesting to see what the Bears do with their depth chart.

Lovie Smith said at the NFL owners meeting he was open to adding a veteran, highlighting how that player might be a nice sounding board for starter Jay Cutler.

But, Cutler is now backed by Caleb Hanie, Brett Basanez and now LeFevour.

Since they invested one of their few draft picks in LeFevour, the Bears certainly are going to give him time to develop. And if he shows anything in the pre-season, the Bears likely will not be able to slide him onto the practice squad, especially since he was projected to go higher in the draft.

That means Hanie and Basanez may be battling for the final spot.

Smith has said several times that the club likes Hanie, but he hasn't given any indication about how he -- or anyone else -- feels about Basanez.

The x-factor, of course, is if the Bears were to add a veteran like Marc Bulger.

NU's Wootton not moving too far away

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Since he was slated as a first-round pick toward the end of the 2008 season, Northwestern defensive end Corey Wootton certainly has to be disappointed that he didn't go until the fourth round in this year's NFL Draft.

But Wootton thinks more about his future, and he's thrilled to be joining the Bears.

"Everything happens for a reason," he said. "I'm just excited for the opportunity."

Wootton didn't complain, and he didn't express any regret about rushing back from his major knee injury to play for the Wildcats last season. Even though he projected he played at 70 percent, Wootton was still a key part of the defense, particularly down the stretch.

"I feel like I'm 90 to 95 percent," he said. "Somewhere around there."

He was hopeful that he would be 100 percent by training camp. If that's the case, then the Bears potentially got a steal since he was expected -- even with his knee injury -- to go as high as the second round in this year's draft.

"I'm thrilled for Corey," said Wildcats head coach Pat Fitzgerald said. "We obviously have a close relationship with the Bears, and he is joining a terrific organization with some outstanding coaches. Corey's best football days are still ahead of him."

One person close to Wootton is thrilled.

"I would love it if he got drafted by the Chicago," Lori Hackman, Wootton's mother, told the Sun-Times in February. "We love Chicago."

The Green Bay Packers surrendered a third- and fourth-round pick to the Philadelphia Eagles to move up and select Georgia Tech safety Morgan Burnett.

But in a press conference with reporters, Packers general manager Ted Thompson said he was not aware of the Bears' interest in Burnett.

"I didn't even know they were picking," Thompson said. "I just knew that there was a long list of names... We had these slot charts in each round and on my slot chart we were way down here and the pick was way up there and I wanted to move up there because I didn't think he would get there.

"If I was a better gambler or poker player, maybe I could have waited out, but we felt strongly that he would be a good addition to our team."

Urban Meyer on Major

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Florida coach Urban Meyer certainly will miss new Bears safety Major Wright.

"Major looks the part of a football player, and he has a locker room personality that draws teammates and others to him," Meyer said in a statement. "He will contribute at the next level because he is a versatile player who will be a valued teammate."

Wright was well-liked by his teammates... except when he was hitting them.

"I get hit by Major Wright in practice all the time," cornerback Joe Haden said in 2008. "He doesn't try to. He just blows up the receiver and I'll be in the way. He tried to hit Chris Rainey one time and he knocked my helmet off because I got there a second before him.

"I just laid out for a second, thinking, 'If he hits everyone else like this, I don't know how they keep getting up.'"

Kudos to ... Anonymous?

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All hail. The only noises Anonymous should hear are our knees followed by our palms hitting the floor. He correctly predicted the Bears would select Florida safety Major Wright with the 75th pick in the draft.

Bears take S Major Wright from Florida

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The Bears targeted four players with their third round pick (75th overall), and they landed one of them, general manager Jerry Angelo said.

The last one.

The others were off the board. But, the Bears were quite satisfied to get Wright, who will be penciled in as a free safety.

Does he want to be the starter?

"With me, I'm looking to come in and work my butt off for the coaches," Wright said in a conference call. "Wherever they need me at, I'm going to go out and play."

Asked if Wright could start, Angelo said, "No, it's not beyond the realm.

"But, I think it's easier said than done. Even though he has the athletic traits, there's a lot that goes with the position."

Smith has said Danieal Manning will be atop the depth chart at strong safety, but he declined to say who would be at free safety when asked tonight.

You hate to talk about rookies being one of the starters right away. But when you pick a player, he's our first draft pick. We're expecting big things from him.

"Right now, we're not penciling anyone in as a starter," he said. "We don't talk about starters at this time of year."

Smith said they targeted Wright, who ran a 4.48 in the 40-yard dash. Wright left with one year of eligibility remaining with the Gators.

He did win a national championship while there.

Jerry Angelo said earlier this week he doesn't expect to find a starter when he begins making his picks in rounds three through seven later tonight.

The Bears positions of need are obvious: safety, offensive line and cornerback.

To that end, the Bears can't be wholly disappointed with how the first round went.

Nine defensive linemen went in the first round and six offensive linemen, four of which were tackles.

Remarkably, only seven quarterbacks, receivers and running backs went in the first round, so you can expect a run of those in the second.

Five cornerbacks were taken in the first but the only surprise may have been Patrick Robinson of Florida State, who, by several accounts, appears as if he were headed to Minnesota early in the second.

The point is, the Bears should have some reasonable options with their first choice. If they really have their eye on a particular player, the Bears have some flexibility to move up by packaging later picks. For instance, giving up their third- and fourth-round picks would get them to about the 29th pick in the second round.

Another interesting option might be to package the picks in the third, fifth and sixth round. That would get to the bottom of the second, where the Super Bowl teams (New Orleans and Indianapolis) might be willing to listen to offers.

The latter option may work so the Bears could -- in an ideal scenario, perhaps -- get a safety at the bottom of the second then get the best-available guard in the fourth. That would leave them with a seventh-rounder.

Loss of Gaines in spotlight again

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The passing of Gaines Adams in January was obviously a tragic loss for the Bears.

The club -- particularly defensive line coach Rod Marinelli -- had high hopes for Adams, the fourth overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft.

The Bears believed that the athletic Adams just needed some refining, which is why they shipped their second-round pick to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

But the Bears never got a chance to see if Adams could fulfill their expectations. Instead, they lost a valuable draft pick -- one that could have helped them address a glaring need at safety.

The Bears would have picked 10th in the second round, a solid enough position to land one of the more highly-respected safeties in this draft class.

Earl Thomas and Eric Berry were taken early. But, no other safeties were selected after, and players like Taylor Mays (USC), Nathaniel Allen (South Florida), Morgan Burnett (Georgia Tech) and Chad Jones (LSU) are still available. With that pick, if the Bears coveted one of them, they could have packaged another pick to move up and get him.

But the Bears instead will have to wait until the 12th pick in the third round, where they can still get a quality player, albeit with far more questions.

Among the players who could be available: Major Wright of Florida, T.J. Ward of Oregon, Reshad Jones of Georgia, Kam Chancellor of Virginia Tech and Robert Johnson of Utah.

Live draft blog

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Technology is amazing.

Got NFL Network on NFL Mobile app of Verizon Droid, ESPN on my iPad and trying to get Fox Radio to listen to Jay Glazer on my iPod Touch.

* St. Louis Rams took Sam Bradford with the top pick. When possible, quarterback is the way to go, especially when you need as much as the Rams.

* LOL. Thought the fans were booing the Lions pick of Suh. But, Mayock saying they're "Suhing."

* Wow. What a hug McCoy just laid on Roger Goodell. As emotional as I've seen a player in a while.

Will be interesting to see who ends up being better: Suh or McCoy. They'll forever be linked.

* Somewhere, Donovan McNabb smiles. Trent Williams the pick of the Redskins.

Rich Eisen says picks 1-4 all from Big 12.

* Trent Williams on Oklahoma having three of the first four picks.

"It says a lot about our program."

Yeah, that last season was a huge disappointment.

* And they are cartwheelin' in Seattle. Okung falls to them, potentially replacing one of the best LTs of his era, Walter Jones.

* If Suh is going to be as good as advertised, the Bears definitely need to upgrade their interior line. Vikings have the Williams Wall, and there's been reports they might be going after Haynesworth, too!

* The Bills have a lot of needs. Very, very surprised that they took C.J. Spiller. Doesn't bode well for Marshawn Lynch, who was the 12th overall pick in 2007. But, they need playmakers, so maybe they're thinking two-headed monster.

* First major head-scratcher: Cal defensive tackle Tyson Alualu. Very surprising that they didn't trade down. Consider the Broncos got a fourth-round pick to leap-frog Miami Dolphins. Alualu was projected to go lower.

Jury will be out.

* Dolphins trade the 12th pick to San Diego, which was at No. 28. Chargers select Ryan Matthews, a running back from Fresno State.

* Kyle Orton, Brady Quinn and now Tim Tebow. The latter obviously is a developmental player. But, the Broncos gave away several picks to the Ravens. Great move by Ravens.

* Tim Tebow the 25th overall pick of the Denver Broncos, who gave up quite a few picks to get him.

Tebow: "I want to thank coach McDaniels for believing in me, and I'll do everything I can to prove him right."

Based on his past, I'm sure Tebow will do everything possible to fulfill that promise...

Bill Holland is a regular reader and contributor who recently posted a comment about how he believes the Bears will take Utah safety Robert Johnson with the 75th pick.

Verizon to the rescue?

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Last week, I agreed to integrate a Verizon Wireless smart phone, equipped with a new NFL Mobile app, into my draft coverage.

Verizon and the NFL struck a four-year partnership, and one of the major highlights appears to be live-streaming of the very popular NFL RedZone, which tracks multiple games and shifts to one in particular when a team is inside an opponents' 20-yard line.

I've never had a chance to watch NFL RedZone, since I'm usually busy when it's on.

But I had a more pressing reason to hope Verizon could come through for me today.

The Bears don't have a first-round pick, so I won't be watching the draft tonight from Halas Hall. But I realized about an hour ago that where I planned to watch the event from doesn't have cable.

Uh-oh.

That's where the Motorola Droid comes in.

I will watch the NFL Network via the phone's NFL Mobile app, which, by the way, doesn't cost a cent.

That's how I will be tracking tonight's draft, which could be one of the most interesting in years.

I will post on a Live Blog here and post on my Twitter account (skjensen). Feel free to shoot me questions or comments at either.

Jerry Angelo told reporters Wednesday that he was hoping to come away from one of the deeper drafts in memory not with three starters but with three players who will dress and contribute on game days.

Bears chairman Michael McCaskey announced Wednesday that he will retire after the 2010 season and be replaced by younger brother George.

Restricted free-agent Jamar Williams signed his one-year tender with the Bears on Wednesday. Terms were not disclosed.

It comes with a twist this week.

Here is the 2010 Bears schedule and a quick comment about each game. Thoughts?

The NFL schedule won't be released until 6 p.m. tonight but here's a sneak preview.

Mike Martz said Tuesday that quarterback Jay Cutler is so smart it can be "intimidating."

Roach signs tender

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The Bears signed restricted free-agent linebacker Nick Roach to a one-year tender, the team announced Monday. Terms were no disclosed.

Safety Danieal Manning hasn't been among the players to participate in the voluntary workouts at Halas Hall.

But his decision to report Monday morning was a surprise to many, including his agent.

Manning was unhappy with the $1.176 million, original-round tender the Bears offered him, which saved the club about $500,000. Had a team signed him away, the Bears would have received a third-round pick.

But that window has passed.

While he's still not signing his tender, Manning called agent Russel Hicks a few days ago and told him he wanted to head to Halas Hall.

"It was his decision. He just said, 'I'm in Chicago, over the weekend.' He said he was going in," Hicks said. "I was like, 'All right.'

Manning will sign a waiver that protects him, in case he gets injured while working out.

"We're still trying to see what type of contract is best for Danieal and best for the Bears," Hicks said. "We want to go in one direction, they want to go in one direction.

We'll just have to meet in the middle."

The Bears now have exclusive negotiating rights with Manning until June. The club could trade him for anything, but Manning would have to sign his tender first.

Hicks, though, expressed confidence that something will be worked out with the Bears.

"Unless they trade, he's going to be with the Bears next season," Hicks said. "I think we'll get something done.

"I'm confident we'll get something before then (June)."

More than anything, Hicks said, Manning just wanted to be around his teammates.

"He misses those guys," Hicks said.

Manning has been a versatile player for the Bears since being selected in the second-round of the 2006 NFL Draft, starting 40 games.

The NFL will release the regular-season schedule on Tuesday, April 20, at 6 p.m. CST

The Patriots have three second-round draft picks and need a tight end. The Bears have lots of tight ends and no second-round pick.

Harris thinks Idonije is sharp and versatile

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Bears defensive tackle Tommie Harris had a funny line when asked about Israel Idonije transitioning to full-time defensive end.

"Remember when you were a boy scout," Harris asked me.

(Actually, I do!)

"He's like a Swiss Army knife," Harris said of Idonije. "He can be whatever you want him to be, and he does great at it.

"That guy can do whatever he puts his mind to."

Meanwhile, Harris has been doing his part to help humanity.

He went on a two-week mission trip to Uganda with players from his alma mater, Oklahoma. He was joined by Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson and Baltimore Ravens receiver Mark Clayton as part of a group called Pros for Africa, which included Sooner alums who are work in a range of occupations, including medicine.

The primary goal was to build water wells.

"I been so many times, and I remember what it was like for my first time," Harris said. "So to see Adrian's face, and Mark's face, to see the shock of how different it is from where we live...

"The highlight was seeing the smile on the kids' faces," Harris said. "We brought filter straws, that the kids can drink (water) anywhere. They went crazy over them straws."

Harris also attended two events over two days in Minneapolis to benefit Carol Fitzgerald, the late mother of Arizona Cardinals All-Pro receiver Larry Fitzgerald who died of breast cancer in 2003. Then, on Monday night, Harris attended a fundraiser hosted by his Bears teammate Lance Briggs.

Brian Urlacher is 100-percent healthy and ready to fully participate in offseason workouts and training camp, Bears general manager Jerry Angelo said on the team's website Wednesday.

Julius Peppers appeared on the "Mully and Hanley Show" on WSCR (670-AM) this morning and said the Bears defense can be dominant.

You got questions? Hopefully, I have answers!

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The NFL Draft is fast approaching. And even though they don't have a pick in the first or second rounds, there's still a buzz about what the Bears will do, especially since they didn't address one of their glaring needs: safety.

Will they spend their top pick on a safety, or will they go with the best available player?

Will the Bears package picks and move up?

Fire your questions to me.

Here's a copy of the Bears official release:
 
The Chicago Bears have combined two exciting fan events into one Ultimate Weekend as the 2010 Bears Miller Lite Draft Party presented by Chase and 2010 Bears Expo Presented by Chase will be held on Friday, April 23, and Saturday, April 24, respectively at Soldier Field.

Tinoisamoa re-signs with Bears

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The Bears re-signed linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa to a one-year deal, the club announced today.

Tinoisamoa opened the season as the starting strongside linebacker, but he suffered a knee injury in the season opener at Green Bay.

He returned in Week 6, against the Atlanta Falcons, but he suffered another knee injury that sidelined him for the remainder of the season.

He finished the year with five tackles and one forced fumble.

A former second-round pick of the St. Louis Rams, Tinoisamoa is athletic and versatile but durability has been a concern.

Tinoisamoa turns 29 in July, and he obviously wanted a one-year deal in hopes to cashing in next off-season.

But, he'll have his work cut out for him to start alongside Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs; Nick Roach played pretty well in his absence, and he'll start training camp atop the depth chart at strongside linebacker.

Bears rank 25th in pass protection

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Assessing the effectiveness of pass protection is one of the most difficult things to determine in football. But Pro Football Focus has come up with a formula, and they ranked the Bears 25th out of 32 teams.

Their formula factored in everything from total pressure (a combination of sacks, hits and hurries) to the number of pass plays and the number of blockers per play.

The Bears were last in the NFC North. The Green Bay Packers were just ahead of them, at No. 24, the Detroit Lions were 20th and the Minnesota Vikings were eighth.

Here is what PFF said about the Bears:

* "The Bears were one of the teams that had only a couple of guys play well, whilst the others struggled and left their offense dead in the water. The "couple of guys" in this case were center Olin Kreutz and right guard Roberto Garza, with the rest being various shades of poor. None was worse than Orlando Pace and it was a huge mistake believing he had much left in the tank (he didn't)."

* "Amazingly, as poor as a right tackle as Chris Williams was, he may end up being a success story if he can keep up his late-season form. Through the first 10 weeks of the season he was dreadful, giving up five sacks, eight hits and 24 hurries and throwing his hat in the ring as one of the worst pass protectors in the league. However, he did well against the Eagles in Week 11, did a reasonable job the next game (in Minnesota, of all places) and was then moved to left tackle to replace Pace, where he performed very creditably indeed."

* "Other players who have to step up their game are Matt Forte, who stayed in to block a league-leading 152 times but was among the top five worst pass-protecting backs last year (two sacks, a hit and 15 pressures); and Greg Olsen, who may be a decent receiver but struggles with all aspects of blocking. That has to be a huge concern considering the offense Mike Martz is expected to implement."

Here is the link to the analysis.

http://www.profootballfocus.com/articles.php?tab=articles&arc=&id=151


TSN offers one reason why the Bears shouldn't NOT pursue Marc Bulger. Interesting reading. Here's the link: http://www.sportingnews.com/nfl/article/2010-04-09/marc-bulger-could-bring-headaches-chicago-bears

Olsen breaks silence; has no issues

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Greg Olsen broke his silence on his personal Twitter account.
"So far I have a great feeling about my role this year," he wrote. "I have no desire to play anywhere but in Chicago. That was purely media speculation."

He added he would put his pass blocking against any other tight end.

"Those reports have been blown out of proportion," he wrote.

Olsen said Brandon Manumaleuna a was a great addition, noting how well he complemented Antonio Gates.

As for his goals: "Win division and make deep playoff run to SB. finish in top 5 in catches
and TDs."

Bears Pro Bowl linebacker Lance Briggs is encouraged by the addition of Julius Peppers and the return of Brian Urlacher.

He can even live with the departure of defensive end Alex Brown and cornerback Nathan Vasher.

But Briggs is still hoping for one more player: a veteran safety.

"I am excited with what we have right now. But I still think we need a safety, a veteran safety, to help our defense," Briggs said. "But, to me, I'm excited to work hard and prove ourselves."

Briggs said it's "unfortunate" that Brown and Vasher are gone. But, on a personal level, he's excited for them.

"We've made some moves, and we've made our team better. It's part of the business. You hate to see those guys go, but I'll be happy and proud when I see them do their thing," Briggs said.

Specifically, Briggs said he was looking forward to seeing Brown and Peppers starting opposite one another.

"It would have been a big year for Alex. But, when you sit back and think about it, we do have Israel (Idonije) and Mark Anderson, and you plug Peppers in there with the guys in the interior.

"It's got a chance for something special," he said. "Just bringing Peppers in allows us to do some things."

Urlacher's wrist seems recovered, Briggs said.

"It's good to see everybody," he said.

Finally, Briggs said he's pleased with the elevation of Rod Marinelli as the defensive coordinator.

"I'm pumped. I think Rod is a guy I respect a ton - and we all do," Briggs said. "He's a tough cookie, and I like to say he's a guy who is in the foxhole with you."

Brown signs with defending Super Bowl champs

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Alex Brown didn't need long to find a new home.

He signed a two-year contract with the New Orleans Saints, according to a league source, confirming a story first reported by ESPN.

Brown, who had six sacks in each of his last two seasons, was released by the Bears last week.

The Saints were the first team Brown visited.

Shoot us the questions about the Bears you want answered and I will answer them in our weekly Q&A gallery that will appear on the website on Friday.

Speculation about who is and is not attending voluntary --- emphasis on voluntary --- workouts at Halas Hall have been swirling, to which I can only say:

It's April. Relax, everybody.

The Bears are a better team now than they were at the end of last season. That was a point coach Lovie Smith emphasized while speaking with media members before defensive lineman Israel Idonije was presented with the Ed Block Courage Award during a luncheon at Maryville Academy in Des Plaines on Tuesday.

Former Bears defensive end Alex Brown will visit with the Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints on Tuesday, according to a league source.

Several teams have expressed interest in Brown, who was released by the Bears last week. Brown also has a visit set up for Thursday.

An interesting possibility is the Carolina Panthers, a team looking to add depth after Julius Peppers signed with the Bears at the start of unrestricted free agency.

Brown had six sacks in each of his last two seasons with the Bears. But he was set to make $5 million in 2010. The Bears tried to trade him before releasing him late last week.

Is Bulger an option for the Bears?

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The short answer is absolutely.

Bears coach Lovie Smith made clear at the NFL owners meeting last month that he'd be open to adding a veteran quarterback to the roster, along with Jay Cutler and Caleb Hanie.

After being released by the St. Louis Rams, Marc Bulger is looking for a new NFL home. And appealing as it is for him to reunite with Mike Martz, Bulger's first priority is to land somewhere he could get some playing time, even a chance to start.

That obviously wouldn't happen in Chicago.

The Arizona Cardinals and Pittsburgh Steelers could be the more attractive options, according to a league source.

Bulger could compete with Matt Leinart in Arizona to replace Kurt Warner. And Pittsburgh would be appealing because it's home for Bulger, and the Steelers are enduring drama with Ben Roethlisberger.

As for the Rams, they are obviously looking to move on.

By releasing him Monday, the Rams shed $8.5 million in salary and paving the way to use their No. 1 overall pick on Sam Bradford. The Rams also signed veteran A.J. Feeley last month. In a statement released by the team, St. Louis coach Steve Spagnuolo wished Bulger well in the future.

Monday also happened to be Bulger's 33rd birthday.

Ouch.

Bulger has seen his yards-per-average attempt fall in each of the past six seasons while his completion rate has fallen in five straight, which may have something to do with the Rams inability to protect him.

But his experience playing under Martz would make him a natural fit if he can't find a team that gives him a better chance to compete for a chance to actually take a snap or two.

"It wouldn't be a bad thing if we end up with a veteran," Smith said at the NFL owners meeting on March 24, "and that has nothing to do with Caleb Hanie.

"We think Caleb is a heck of a football player. But, when you do go with two quarterbacks, it is a little scary each week. You never know."

Sometimes a veteran backup can serve as a sounding board for a player such as Cutler.

"Probably more so than any other position, you can have even an older veteran around," he said, "because unless there's an injury, it's not like he's going to be physically beat up every day."

So much for Rob Sims landing in Chicago.

The Bears have not yet hired Tim Ruskell, according to a team spokesperson.

We still don't know how Greg Olsen will fit into Mike Martz's new offense. But one thing Martz should know --- if he doesn't already --- is that the Bears tight end is a reliable pass catcher.

Jay Cutler is the face of the offense. Brian Urlacher is the face of the defense, even if he did miss all of the 2009 season with a wrist injury. Lance Briggs has become the team's best and most consistent player, which is a role Urlacher can win back with a productive 2010 season. Center Olin Kreutz is an unquestioned leader.


The Bears should send a 2011 first-round pick and perhaps an additional conditional pick to the Broncos for receiver Brandon Marshall. That's just one of five moves that Mike Florio of profootballtalk.com and The Sporting News believes should be made before the draft.

Bears a player for Seahawks' Sims

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The Bears are one of four teams believed to be interested in guard Rob Sims.

Sims, a restricted free agent who signed a tender today, is on the trade block, and the Seattle Seahawks are expected to ship him to the highest bidder.

the Bears, Philadelphia Eagles and Detroit Lions are in the mix. But there's another intriguing team: the Cleveland Browns.

The Browns are now run by Mike Holmgren, the former head coach of the Seahawks. Few know Sims better than him.

To read more and find out an obstacle for the Bears, check out this link.

http://www.suntimes.com/sports/football/bears/2136302,CST-SPT-bearnt02.article

We open up the Bears mail bag

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Per your request, we're planning to do a regular mail bag in which Neil and I answer questions from readers.

Here's the first installment, which posted earlier today.

http://www.suntimes.com/sports/football/bears/2135492,bears-mailbag-question-answers-040110.article

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