Chicago Sun-Times

Smith: Bears, Idonije, are getting better

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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.

The roster is far from set. More changes are coming, and not only because the NFL draft is scheduled for later this month.

"The process continues each day," Smith said before signing autographs and posing for photographs on the campus of one of Illinois' oldest childcare agencies.

"We're looking at people. We're looking at veterans. Players are coming available every day. We'll evaluate all of them. We're preparing right now for the draft, looking at workouts, evaluating film. We have time still. We don't have to play tomorrow."

Smith was talking specifically about the safety position, which remains an area of need, but most of the questions Tuesday related to the defensive line.

It was fitting that Idonije was the being honored because his name has been very much in the news of late. The Bears released veteran defensive end Alex Brown last week, which means Idonije, who played tackle last season, will not only move to end but will likely play a much bigger role.

"First off, it was really hard to let a player like Alex Brown go but it's a new year and we're going in a different direction," Smith said. "[It] allows us an opportunity to release a player like Alex because of what we feel about what Izzy can do, and not only Izzy Idonije but Mark Anderson. Mark Anderson did some good things [last season]. We've got some other young players, too. Henry Melton is coming back, Jarron Gilbert. So we have some other options but it still won't be the same without Alex being there."

Idonije weighed as much as 290 while playing tackle last season but said he expects to report to camp weighing between 260-265 this season.

"You're asking the wrong guy," Idonije said when asked if he expects to compete for a starting job in training camp. "For me, the situation hasn't changed. I'm going to come to camp in great shape and be ready to play and compete like every year. Every year I've been here there has been serious competition on the d-line. There are always young guys. Things aren't over yet. The draft hasn't happened yet. For me, my focus and situation hasn't changed --- come in and work and where the chips fall is where they fall."

The Ed Block Courage Award is given to players, who are voted on by their teammates for being role models of inspiration, sportsmanship and courage.

Idonije has been has been delivering aid and medical care to his home country of Nigeria for three straight years as part of the Israel Idonije Foundation's CARE Africa program. This year, the veteran donated more than a thousand pairs of shoes to the underprivileged.

The Ed Block Courage Award Foundation is based in Baltimore and is dedicated to improving the lives of neglected children.

"It was incredible," he said. "The medical team we took and all the shoes we donated. I can't even begin to start telling you all the things that happened and all the stories. It was another great year and we're looking for another great year in 2011."

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Yeah whatever who cares. Neal I herd from a relaible source that the Rams will trade Atogwe to the bears for Olsen and a 5th rounder. Angelo cant pass this up. Olsen will be a ttotal failure in Martzs offense anyway sense he cant even block so I would even do it for Olsen and a 2nd rounder oh wait we dont have a 2nd nevermind.

But first we have to cut Manning to free up cap space and then we can sign Atowge to alongterm 7 year contract. That will solidify the safety spot for yrears to come. Wow I am a genus.

ANyway here sthe story. No need to thank me I do this al l the time.

Izzy is a great cat, but I really like him better at under tackle than at DE. He has never had great body lean for an end, but at Under Tackle he was a poor man's Kevin Williams, he didn't play the run that well but was more disruptive than Harris. Yet they want to move him again because of what? You have no depth at Under Tackle and Harris is bad.

Izzy 322 snaps 2 Sacks, 4 hits, 13 pressures and 11 tackles.

Harris 628 snaps, 3 sacks 5 hits, 10 pressures and 18 tackles.

I really don't think Izzy is a true starter but he is a great backup and swing man. But Harris is just lousy these days, Izzy and Anderson both played the position in nickle downs cause Tommie can't disrupt the pass and he is suppose to be a pass rusher. They should have let him stay at Under Tackle and at least get used to one position, he isn't really fast enough for an end and again his body lean. Let him focus on Under Tackle. And of course their are the penalties, Izzy had 1, Harris had 5 and was ejected once. Hell Anthony Adams played 100 fewer snaps then Harris and was almost as disruptive and far better against the run. The guy who is suppose to be the most disruptive player on the line in the T2 is the least disruptive and lives in a fantasy world where he claims to be getting doubled and tripled on every down. To bad nobody else can find any of these doubles or triples on film. I Think Harris gets confused when he lines up over the guard and sees a Tackle to his left and a center to his right and figures that is a triple team.

Neil or Sean, whenever I've seen Idonije play I thought to myself that he is loaded with talent. That being said, do you think he didn't start at DE the years before due to Alex and Wale's contracts? Because be it on STs or the defense, this guy just seems to make things happen.

Congratulations to Idonije for exceptional work for a great cause. He deserves this recognition and thanks for being a superb individual and outstanding player for the Bears in many various roles.

Now Mr. Idonije lets see how you do at left defensive end, I hope you have a great and healthy year with 10 sacks and a recovered fumble for a touchdown against the Cheeseheads.

Wow. I agree with every single thing you just said.....just don't go and get a big head about it....hahaha.

Lucky for Lovie, Idonije will be a solid contributor wherever he is continually rotated around to. Too bad the Bears aren't going to deal Harris AND Olsen. Seems like a good way to get some more draft picks, or at least some other players who could actually make an impact. Heck, players who would be consistently solid would even be an improvement (especially in the case of Harris).

Say it with me: "Israel Idonije is our quarterback." Feels good on the tongue.

Izzy is important for the Bears in that he represents a specific type of success story for the team. Idonije started as an incredible athlete and physical specimen, but he had almost no football skills. The Bears got him as an UFA after Cleveland cut him. They have taught him the game and he has developed into a valuable player on defense and special teams. Basically they got a good player for nothing.

In order to build a team that can compete for a championship, it is vital that the Bears make this kind of player aquisition work for them in the next couple years. They don't have enough talent, and they don't have the draft choices to get "ready made" players with elite talent. Developing raw athletes like Knox, Melton, Gilbert, and Louis is about the only way they can turn this deal around.

Izzy proves that they can. I don't know if they will.

Lovie is the stupidest,most ineffective coach in the NFL

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This page contains a single entry by Neil Hayes published on April 6, 2010 3:44 PM.

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