Chicago Sun-Times

July 2010 Archives

Many were alarmed when two Pro Bowl veterans were not participating in only the second practice of training camp.

But Bears coach Lovie Smith said it was his decision to sit Brian Urlacher and Olin Kreutz.

"We had a couple of guys we kept out," Smith said Saturday night. "They should be good to go tomorrow."

Smith said Urlacher was not held out because of his wrist or back.

Overall, Smith said he was pleased with the first fully padded practice.

"Set the bar a little bit," he said. "We have a long way to go. Thank God we don't have to play tomorrow or anything like that."

The practice wasn't nearly as action-packed as Friday night, when there were highlight plays made on offense and defense.

Running back Matt Forte slid to haul in a downfield pass from Jay Cutler, and receiver Devin Hester stretched out of bounds to bring one in from Caleb Hanie.

Defensive tackle Anthony Adams barreled into the backfield and would have either gotten a sack or a pressure on Cutler, who tossed the ball out of bounds (obviously, defenders are not allowed to hit the quarterbacks).

Meanwhile, Craig Steltz stepped in for Chris Harris, who tweaked his back in a light morning workout. It's unclear how long Harris will be out, but Steltz will get a chance to make some sort of impression with the starters.

Bruce coming to work with Bears receivers

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Former St. Louis Rams receiver Isaac Bruce has already worked with Devin Hester.

But now Bruce is going to be coming to work with all the Bears receivers at Olivet Nazarene University.

Bruce is expected to come to Bourbonnais on Tuesday, Bears coach Lovie Smith said, as part of the NFL Minority Coaching Fellowship. Bruce is expected to remain for the duration of training camp.

Bruce starred for Mike Martz in St. Louis, and Bears coach Lovie Smith also knows him well, having been the Rams defensive coordinator three seasons.

Hester told the Sun-Times Thursday that he had 16-plus workouts with Bruce in South Florida in July.

Bruce gave him a lot of confidence, prompting Hester to say he expected to have a "breakout" season and that he would "shock a lot of people."

UPDATE: To get more insight on this, pick up a paper or check online in the morning.

http://www.suntimes.com/sports/football/bears/2554786,CST-SPT-bearnt01.article

Bears host event for local kids

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Although it's Saturday, Olivet Nazarene University was buzzing with students today.

That's because the Bears hosted about 1,000 local children for a Back to School Fair.

Along with 35 community organizations, the Bears provided the children from low-income families a back to school kit and a number of important services, including dental care, physicals, immunizations, eye tests and hair cuts. In fact, Miss Illinois, an aspiring optometrist, performed a few eye exams with her tiara on.

Bears coach Lovie Smith, mascot Staley, and players such as Rashied Davis, Tommie Harris, Israel Idonije, Brad Maynard and D.J. Moore made appearances.

"It was a great success," said Marge Hamm, the director of Bears Care. "It was satisfying for people in the Bears family to see these kids get what they need. It was a special way to spend the day.

"It's all positive."

The Bears actually rescued this event.

Catholic Charities sponsored the Back to School Fair until state funding dried up two years ago. The Bears stepped up and now co-sponsor the event with Catholic Charities and Team Smile.

Last year, the organizations provided an estimated $300,000 in goods and services.

Wootton mended and in the mix

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Former Northwestern defensive end Corey Wootton slipped to the fourth round because of a knee injury.

Now, Wootton said he's already back to 100 percent, and he's pushing to be a part of the d-line rotation.

"I feel great," he said today.

It's been a long road for Wootton since tearing multiple ligaments in his right knee at the 2008 Alamo Bowl. Once projected as a possible first-round pick, Wootton's knee was a concern for a lot of NFL teams.

But the Bears felt confident he could fully recover.

Wootton said he's felt 100 percent since the team's final O.T.A. practices in late May.

While all the attention is on Mark Anderson and Israel Idonije, Wootton will be watched closely at training camp, with coaches trying to determine if he's able to contribute right away.

Wootton said his challenge is consistency.

"In college, you could get away with not being as consistent," he said, noting the disparity of athleticism in the players. "But if you're inconsistent in the NFL, you'll get beaten."

If the first practice of training camp is any indication, the Bears offense is going to be fun to watch this season.


This year's camp t-shirt has two ferocious grizzly bears biting and clawing giant footballs above and below the words: Monsters of the Midway.

It's more than just something to wear as players shuffle around Olivet Nazarene University in their flip-flops between practices. It reflects coach Lovie Smith's desire to return the Bears to their rough-and-tumble roots.

Bears players seem to be embracing it.

It's quiet here at Bears' camp this morning. Cool, spitting rain. First practice isn't until 3 p.m. I know some of you prefer to read stories here, so here's a copy of the piece I wrote for Friday's editions. Also be sure to check out Sean Jensen's piece on Devin Hester. It's very insightful.

BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- It's unavoidable, even if some players wish it wasn't. It's the biggest question looming over Olivet Nazarene University as the Bears begin training camp, even if the person it directly involves would rather talk about his optimism for the coming season instead of what could happen if that optimism proves blind.

Will this season be Lovie's last stand?

BOURBONNAIS --- The best-case scenario for the Bears involves Tommie Harris shedding his injury-prone label, which is exactly what both the former Pro Bowl defensive tackle and coach Lovie Smith expect him to do this season.

Players mindful of Smith's future, Cutler said

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Bears quarterback Jay Cutler said no one is immune from pressure this season. But, Cutler backed head coach Lovie Smith and noted that his future is on his mind.

"Lovie is one of the best coaches I've been around, and I know that everyone on this team has a great amount of respect for him as he does for us," Cutler said, adding that his coach treats players well. "I know that some of the guys who have been here longer than me definitely have a lot of ties with him and want to go out there for him and play well.

"You never know what's going to happen this year, if we don't go out and perform, if Lovie is to stay or not. So, that's definitely a question that - I'm sure - is in the back of everyone else's mind. But we can't worry about it. We have to play hard, and if we do that, everything else will take care of itself."

Cutler pulled up about 20 minutes ago, and he chatted with reporters for about five minutes.

Other highlights from him:

* On what he wants to see: "How much information everyone retained."

* Cutler said Mike Martz told him that they will continue to install more things to keep everyone "on their toes."

* On the mood of this training camp from last year: "I think everyone is a little more comfortable. A little bit older, a little bit more mature, offensively, and there's a little bit of a sense of urgency and a sense of excitement, on the offensive side of the ball."

* On the importance of training camp practices: "I got to take as many reps as I possibly can, with this group, and this offense, because that's what it's about. It's about seeing things. You're going to make mistakes, especially with this offense. It's just repetition, and seeing it over and over again. That's the name of the game."

* On if he has something to prove: "I think everyone does. I definitely do. I think this offense does, as a whole. It's a young group of guys. There's been some ups and downs. Some guys have been successful, some guys haven't been successful. Everyone should have a chip on their shoulder, which is a great thing. A sense of urgency to go out there and play well."

I'm packing and heading to Bourbonnais this morning. I'll be Tweeting (still a fairly new concept for someone with such a stone-age mentality) throughout the day (bynhayes). Here's a copy of what ran in today's editions for those of you who missed it:

Most NFL teams have a lot to prove when they report to training camp, but that's especially true about a Bears team that likely will be dismantled if the playoffs remain out of reach for a fourth consecutive season.

General manager Jerry Angelo and coach Lovie Smith already have been given notice: Win or else. But they aren't the only ones with much at stake. For the entire Bears organization -- from ownership to administrators to coaches to players -- the buck stops in 2010.

The Bears look like the third best team in the NFC North heading into training camp, which opens Friday in Bourbonnais. The good news is, in today's NFL, the difference between a division champion and a third-place finisher can be a few injuries and poorly timed turnovers.

With that in mind, here's the Bears' to-do list during their visit to Olivet Nazarene University, the things they absolutely must accomplish to call training camp a success.

As players prepare to report to Bourbonnais for the start of training camp, here's a position-by-position look at the Bears on paper before the pads start popping. It might be fun to compare what we think we know about before training camp to what we find out during the preseason and regular season.

Here goes, a brief position-by-position analysis based what we saw last year, improvements that have been made during the offseason and how they might project this season. Basically, it's my gut talking. Yours may see things differently.

It was Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Fouts who said Jay Cutler's greatest strength -- his strong arm -- might be his biggest weakness in first-year offensive coordinator Mike Martz's new offense.

''I totally agree with that,'' Cutler said in an exclusive interview with the Sun-Times. ''In the West Coast [offense], you can see it and let it fly. But this system is total trust. You have to trust the receivers. You have to trust the call. You have to trust the spots. If you don't, if you don't let it fly when it's supposed to, it's going to be an interception.

What follows is Glenn Beck's apology to Brian Urlacher, as lifted from the Fox News website. Here's the link: http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,597622,00.html

Conservative talk show host Glenn Beck called Brian Urlacher a "neo-Nazi."

So, imagine me standing in the back of at large party boat waiting to talk to Jay Cutler before his "Vegas Night Charity Cruise" debarks from Navy Pier on Thursday evening, as beautiful model-type girls in party dresses walk past.

Tough assignment.

The Jay Cutler Foundation charity event benefitted kids with juvenile diabetes. Finally, No. 6 comes on board, dressed to the nines.

Montana thinks Martz can help Cutler

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Don't count Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Montana among those who thinks Jay Cutler can't thrive under Mike Martz.

"Mike's done a tremendous job on the offensive side of things, especially with quarterbacks having success under him," Montana said on Waddle & Silvy on ESPN 1000. "His offense kind of plays right into Jay's strengths.

"I think it will be fun to watch how the two of them will develop together," Montana said. "How he gets Jay to mold into his offense. He likes to throw to ball down field a little bit, and that's one of Jay's strengths."

Montana said he likes Cutler's arm strength, but he said that can be a double-edged sword.

"Sometimes you think he can just fit everything in there instead of taking something underneath because you think the window's a little small but, 'I can get through there,' " Montana said. "And you just have to let the offense play a little bit. You have to remember there are other guys around you and just try to find the guy that's open."

The Chicago Bears are the 13th most valuable sports team in the world, according to the 2010 valuation by Forbes magazine.

Eight other NFL clubs were ranked ahead of the Bears ($1.08 billion), including the Dallas Cowboys at No. 2 with a value of $1.65 billion. The world's most valuable sports team is the English soccer club Manchester United ($1.83 billion), which is currently owned by the Glazer family. They also own the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (12th, $1.09 billion).

The NFL dominates the list of top 50 franchises with 19 of the league's 32 teams valued at $1 billion or more, according to Forbes.

In the past, teams have taken exception with the magazine's valuation. But Forbes is a well-respected publication that takes numerous factors into account.

In its brief comments about the Bears, Forbes said the team's revenue was $241 million. The magazine also highlighted the club for "successfully" marketing to season ticket holders via emails with video and personal delivery.

The NFC East remains the richest division in the NFL. All four clubs were ranked in the top 11: Cowboys second, Washington Redskins ($1.55 billion) fourth, New York Giants ($1.18 billion) seventh and the Philadelphia Eagles ($1.12 billion) 11th.

The Bears NFC North opponents weren't valued so high. The Green Bay Packers ($1.02 billion) were 22nd, the Detroit Lions ($867 million) were 36th and the Minnesota Vikings ($835 million) were 40th.

Locally, the Chicago Cubs were ranked 46th, with a value of $726 million.

To check out the full list, starting with the Bears, click on the following link
http://www.forbes.com/2010/07/20/most-valuable-athletes-and-teams-business-sports-sportsmoney-fifty-fifty-teams_slide_14.html

The Bears signed running back Harvey Unga to a four-year contract on Wednesday and released defensive tackle Jimmy Saddler-McQueen and receiver Vic Hall.

The Bears selected Unga in the seventh round of the supplemental draft. BYU's all-time leading rusher is expected to compete with Kahlil Bell, Garrett Wolfe and rookie free agent Brandon Minor for a roster spot behind Matt Forte and Chester Taylor, who are almost assured of splitting time in the backfield this season.

Saddler and McQueen were rookie free agents signed after the draft.

As Sean Jensen mentioned in an earlier post, Steve Sabol of NFL Films believes Walter Payton is the best all-around running back in NFL history.

The Bears have agreed to terms with former Rutgers quarterback Mike Teel, according to Teel's agent, Neil Schwartz.

NFL Films president high on Bears

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NFL Films president Steve Sabol apparently has a lot of respect for the Bears.

As a guest columnist for Sports Illustrated NFL writer Peter King today, Sabol listed some superlatives, and prominent Bears were mentioned throughout his piece. And his opinion means something: he and his father Ed created and nurtured NFL Films into the ultimate documentarian of professional football.

When I visited the headquarters in January, I was impressed at the number of Emmys throughout the building. It seemed there were so many, people used them as door stops and paper weights.

Anyway, Sabol picked Dick Butkus as the game's greatest defensive player and Walter Payton as the game's greatest running back.

Of Butkus, Sabol wrote: "A force of unmanageable proportions, he was Moby Dick in a goldfish bowl.

"His career as the middle linebacker for the Chicago Bears stands as the most sustained work of devastation ever committed on a football field by anyone, anywhere, anytime."

On Payton: "Jim Brown was the greatest ball carrier, but no one ever played the position of running back as completely as Payton.

"He was a crushing blocker. I saw him lift blitzers off their feet. When it was required, he was an effective decoy who followed through convincingly on all his fakes. He once led the Bears in kickoff returns. He's Chicago's all-time leading receiver. When he threw passes, he completed most for touchdowns. The Bears threw enough interceptions for Payton's skill as a tackler to be noticed and, in addition to all of that, he missed only one game in his entire career. And when he retired in 1987, he had carried the ball more times for more yards than any player in history."

Sabol also named Gale Sayers the "most thrilled ball carrier" and Brian's Song as his favorite football movie.

Check out the column at http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2010/writers/steve_sabol/07/16/mmqb/index.html?eref=sihp

NFL Films president high on Bears

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NFL Films president Steve Sabol apparently has a lot of respect for the Bears.

As a guest columnist for Sports Illustrated NFL writer Peter King today, Sabol listed some superlatives, and prominent Bears were mentioned throughout his piece. And his opinion means something: he and his father Ed created and nurtured NFL Films into the ultimate documentarian of professional football.

When I visited the headquarters in January, I was impressed at the number of Emmys throughout the building. It seemed there were so many, people used them as door stops and paper weights.

Anyway, Sabol picked Dick Butkus as the game's greatest defensive player and Walter Payton as the game's greatest running back.

Of Butkus, Sabol wrote: "A force of unmanageable proportions, he was Moby Dick in a goldfish bowl.

"His career as the middle linebacker for the Chicago Bears stands as the most sustained work of devastation ever committed on a football field by anyone, anywhere, anytime."

On Payton: "Jim Brown was the greatest ball carrier, but no one ever played the position of running back as completely as Payton.

"He was a crushing blocker. I saw him lift blitzers off their feet. When it was required, he was an effective decoy who followed through convincingly on all his fakes. He once led the Bears in kickoff returns. He's Chicago's all-time leading receiver. When he threw passes, he completed most for touchdowns. The Bears threw enough interceptions for Payton's skill as a tackler to be noticed and, in addition to all of that, he missed only one game in his entire career. And when he retired in 1987, he had carried the ball more times for more yards than any player in history."

Sabol also named Gale Sayers the "most thrilled ball carrier" and Brian's Song as his favorite football movie.

Check out the column at http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2010/writers/steve_sabol/07/16/mmqb/index.html?eref=sihp

Devin Hester has been preparing for this all-important Bears season by spending more and more time with former Rams great Isaac Bruce.

Answers to your questions

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1)
Q: Sean, do you think Chris Williams has the potential to develop into a Pro Bowl LT this season? I thought he showed tremendous promise and improvement, once he was moved over from the right side to the left side...coincidentally, it seemed like the pass protection was much better in the last few games of the season while he was the starter at LT.
Commenter: Michael S.

A: Chris Williams was the 14th overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft. To get drafted that high, an offensive tackle has to have ideal size and athleticism.
Williams has shown flashes of his potential, but he also hasn't shown any consistency. After playing on the right side, the Bears shifted him to what they consider his natural side - the left - and believe he can thrive there.
One NFC personnel executive told me Tuesday that there's no question Williams has the necessary athleticism to be an elite player. But, the executive told me that Williams obviously hasn't played consistently enough to make him believe he'll get to that level.
It doesn't happen often, especially along the offensive line, but players sometimes do make the Pro Bowl very early in their careers. Jake Long of the Miami Dolphins and Joe Thomas of the Cleveland Browns did so as rookies in 2007 and 2008, respectively, although one was the No. 1 overall pick and the other was No. 3.
But Williams is entering his third NFL season, and I think there are several factors that could help him have a breakout season. Most notably, his quarterback (Jay Cutler) has already been a Pro Bowl selection. Pro Bowl offensive tackles often protect Pro Bowl quarterbacks.
Second, the Bears run offense should be much improved, behind Matt Forte and Chester Taylor. Pro Bowl offensive linemen often block for Pro Bowl running backs.
Lastly, Williams has spent the entire off-season working at left tackle, and the Bears have anointed him the starter, empowering him to really focus on the position.

2)
Q: Sean, do you think Brett Favre will be back in purple this season? If so will you root for Da Bears or the Vikings when they play twice this year?
Commenter: Brando

A: I know I covered the Minnesota Vikings for 10 years but that does not mean that I'm a "fan" of the team.
I haven't been a "fan" of any particular NFL team since the late 1980s, when I rooted for the San Francisco 49ers. After I emigrated from South Korea, I lived in California for several years and became a fan of 49ers like Ronnie Lott, Jerry Rice, Joe Montana and Roger Craig. It didn't hurt that they were winning championships, either.
But then those players retired and finished their careers elsewhere, and my interest in a particular team faded.
I do, however, absolutely love the NFL, and I enjoy watching all of the games. I feel fortunate to write about the league and all of its characters, and I look forward to covering the Bears for such a loyal and passionate fan base.
Getting back to your original question, I do fully expect Brett Favre to return this season. He had ankle surgery, and all of the subtle - and not so subtle - signs this off-season point toward him playing again. Even his comments at the ESPYs Wednesday seemed as if he was leaning toward making another championship run.
I'd be shocked, honestly, if he didn't play. I suspect he's only hemming and hawing to try and get out of two-a-days in Mankato, where the Vikings hold training camp.

3)
Q: Since the Bears are technically "on break" before training camp, how many of the players are still at Halas Hall working out and having meetings? I know they are not supposed to have formal meetings or anything, but many teams around the league have informal sessions, especially when there is a new system being installed.
Commenter: Joe F.

A: A handful of players are working out at Halas Hall but the vast majority are taking a break before the training camp storm. Then, per NFL rules, there is a 10-day "dead" period prior to the report date of training camp, where no coach can be in the presence of any player.
Players, however, are allowed to work out at the facility, on their own during that time.

4)
Q: What is stopping Danieal Manning from capably filling the free safety position (with Harries at SS)? We all know he has the range and athleticism. Word is he has bad 'instincts' but hasn't four years of NFL experience helped with that?
Commenter: Zach

A: Manning remains one of the team's most athletic players, and he's showcased his versatility throughout his tenure. But, that athleticism and versatility has actually hurt him.
He's been pressed into different roles and that has prevented him from really focusing on a particular position. Despite what many believe, the Bears think Manning is better suited to play strong safety, where he's currently penciled in as the starter. The Bears want to give him a fair chance to keep the job.
Meanwhile, veteran Chris Harris is atop the depth chart at free safety.
But, there are some players behind them anxious to make an impression. Craig Steltz, I'm told, can play both safety spots, and he could be a factor. Al Afalava, Josh Bullocks have started NFL games, and third-round pick Major Wright also can't be discounted.

5)
Q: Sean I see Garrett Wolfe as a 1,000+ yard back - if only the Bears give him a chance! Remember how he led the nation in rushing in college? Total beast! Let him do his thing!
Commenter: Kevin B.

A: Kevin, are you Garrett's agent? Just kidding.
I don't think you can get too caught up with his numbers at Northern Illinois. They have to be kept in perspective, based on the level of competition.
The Bears may have been a bit overzealous, selecting him in the third round of the 2007 NFL Draft. Other than Minnesota's Adrian Peterson, the other running backs drafted from 2007 haven't really distinguished themselves.
Wolfe's had a few moments. But, overall, not enough to compel the coaching staff to figure out ways to get him the ball.
The team, though, hasn't given up on him, and they still believe he has all the tools to be a productive player. But with so many players at the position now, Wolfe will really have to step up in training camp to remain on the roster.

6)
Q: Regarding the league's thought of adding two regular season games: first of all, I am against it. I think there would definitely be more injuries, and the quality of the game would suffer slightly more at the end of the season and the playoffs.
Would there still be only one bye week?
My suggestion is cutting off one pre-season game, and starting the season one week earlier. Keep it at 16 games, and have two bye weeks per team.
This would, more than likely, prevent some injuries, and make the last month of the season that much better.
What do you think?
Commenter: Ryan

A: I think four pre-season games is overkill. More games, of any sort, mean more injuries. Cut it down to two. Veterans certainly wouldn't have a problem with it, since all players get paid the same amount of money during the pre-season.
While covering the Vikings, I often watched them spend two practices working against the Kansas City Chiefs. I think players can be evaluated in that setting, so maybe teams could figure out ways to partner up with another club for a morning practice and then have an evening scrimmage at a college.
As for the regular season, I'm a traditionalist, so I'd rather keep 16 games, with one bye. But, if the owners and players agree that 18 games would be better, than I think that's something worth pursuing. Again, many players wouldn't mind because it means more paychecks.

7)
Q: Now that the Bears have the new supplemental draft BYU tailback Harvey Unga what are your thoughts as to what if anything he will bring to the table for the Bears?
Is he a superb special teams guy? 6-1 and 244 pounds is pretty good size; he may pack a load when he hits someone. Who knows? With 4.65 speed, he may be a good outside linebacker candidate.
Commenter: dahlillama

A: The Bears visited with Unga at Halas Hall, and they came away impressed.
They think he's bright, and he was extremely productive at BYU. Most important, perhaps, he brings a different flavor, so to speak, to their group. The five running backs currently on the roster weigh between 185 pounds (Wolfe) to 218 pounds (Matt Forte), according to the team's official roster.
Unga is almost 30 pounds heavier. He's obviously not as fast, but he shows potential as a bruising back. In addition, the team's encouraged by his ability to catch passes.
Besides, I'm not convinced that the Bears will keep a fullback just for the sake of having one.
Unga seems excited about the opportunity, though, and he embraces the idea of making the team via special teams.

8)
Q:
Please explain to all of us why everyone is so "high" on the Green Bay Packers this year. They benefited last year from a third place schedule, their special teams rank near the bottom of the league, their offensive line gave up 51 sacks last year, their secondary is old and often injured, they have no linebacker depth, their receivers are old, they didn't have one significant win last year and lost twice to Minnesota with two "gifts" from the Bears or they could have been at .500, and their so called "great, young defense" got trounced in the playoffs against Arizona, showing us all what they really are. Help, I don't get it!
Commenter name: Omay

A: Aaron Rodgers.

Devin Hester has been busy working out with former St. Louis Rams Pro Bowl receiver Isaac Bruce in Florida. But he's going to take some time to teach aspiring players at two football camps.

The first is with one of his sponsors, Red Bull. It will take place Saturday at Grant Park from 10 a.m. to noon for athletes ages 15-18. The clinic will focus on teaching athletes to integrate agility into their workouts. Campers will get a free lunch and t-shirt. For more info, visit http://devinhester23.com.

Then, on Sunday, he will host the Devin Hester Football Clinic from 9 a.m. to 12:30 at Naperville North High School for boys and girls ages 7-14.

This clinic will emphasize fundamental football skills. Participants will get an autographed camp photo and a gift bag that includes a t-shirt. For more information, visit http://DevinHesterCamp.com.

Johan Asiata heads into training camp as the starting left guard with Josh Beekman nipping at his heels. During an interview with ChicagoBears.com senior writer Larry Mayer, offensive line coach Mike Tice sounds off about his expectations for the line and why he believes the unit will be much improved this coming season.

Here's the link: http://www.chicagobears.com/news/NewsStory.asp?story_id=6888

Harvey Unga's first child was born on the Fourth of July. He's getting married today. Thanks to the Bears, the former Brigham Young running back now has a job to support his young family.

If the Bears make the playoffs it could be one of several factors that could conceivably cost Josh McDaniels his job with the Broncos, according to Mike Klis of the Denver Post via ProFootballTalk.

Questions, please

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As Neil mentioned last week, this is the quiet before the proverbial storm. But I'm game to answer some of your questions. I will post answers on Friday.

Hope everyone is well.

Q: What's up with Jarron Gilbert? I see more news about the North Pole than I do about Mr. Gilbert. What does your crystal ball say about Gilbert for the 2010 season? Will he beat out Tommie Harris (Lovie's pet) or will he beat out someone at defensive end? How do you think he will do in 2010 and at what position? --- Dahlillama

On his Twitter account, Bears safety Chris Harris asked Arizona Cardinals Pro Bowl receiver Larry Fitzgerald Jr. about his workouts at the University of Minnesota.

Fitzgerald responded by saying, "all u gotta do is just get here and show up ready to work..."

Fitzgerald, a Minneapolis native, has hosted a series of July workouts at the University of Minnesota for NFL, college and even high school players, inviting luminaries such as Cris Carter, Michael Irvin and Jerry Rice to offer their insights.

Notable receivers such as Brandon Marshall, Greg Jennings and Sidney Rice have participated. Former Notre Dame receiver Golden Tate was on hand Thursday.

This year, Minnesota Vikings quarterback Tarvaris Jackson accepted Fitzgerald's invitation to throw to players. A few defensive players have also shown up, including Vikings starting safeties Madieu Williams and Tyrell Johnson.

Fitzgerald will continue the workouts next week and all the way until players start to report to training camps.

UPDATE: Harris, in a later exchange with Fitzgerald on Twitter said, "Okay I'm gonna have to come out there n get a week in."

In his latest bi-monty interview with ChicagoBears.com senior writer Larry Mayer, Bears general manager Jerry Angelo discusses Mike Martz's offense, the team's upcoming training camp schedule and even where LeBron James would play if he were a football player.

He even said he thinks James would make a great tight end, but he would still have to be a blocker first in Martz's offense (I made up the last part).

Nothing earth-shattering, but here's the link: http://www.chicagobears.com/news/NewsStory.asp?story_id=6865

Illinois defensive tackle Joshua Price-Brent had a "very good workout" in front of NFL scouts on Wednesday, according to NFL.com's Gil Brandt.

Players and coaches are relaxing at swanky resorts, living their own private Corona commercials before subjecting themselves to the hellish monotony of training camp.

It's perhaps the quietest time of the year on the NFL calendar, but I'm still taking your questions. In honor of the NFL's vacation season, I promise to answer them poolside.

ESPN ranks the Bears 23rd in the NFL in its "Ultimate Standings," which supposedly measures how NFL franchises "give back to the fans in exchange for all the time, money and emotion the fans invest in them."

Answers to your questions

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1)
Q: Everyone seems worried about our offensive line. How much of this is a scheme problem versus a personnel problem? Last years' scheme left much to the imagination. Your thoughts.
Tripper

A: Based on last season, I think it's completely warranted for people to be concerned about the Bears offensive line. But, with that said, the Bears believe they have the right players in the right positions and that the players are a year older.
To start with, Pro Bowl center Olin Kreutz had surgery in January to remove a bone spur near his Achilles, and he participated in a limited fashion in the team's last couple O.T.A. sessions.
In addition, the Bears believe Frank Omiyale is suited better to play right tackle than guard and that Chris Williams will thrive at left tackle.
The Bears are also intrigued by Johan Asiata, a young athletic lineman who got plenty of snaps with the first-string offensive line this off-season.
The Bears didn't splurge on the position, either in free agency or the draft, which makes clear that they have confidence in the unit. Given their investment in Jay Cutler, the Bears aren't blind to the importance of an offensive line.
Is their assessment accurate? Only time will tell. For now, I'll reserve my opinion until at least I see the guys in pads at training camp.

2)
Q: Any word on starting nickleback frontrunner??
LoboGradBearFan

A: Corey Graham sure looked good - in shorts. He stood out, making a lot of plays on balls and intercepting a few. Veteran Tim Jennings is solid insurance, and draft pick Josh Moore doesn't appear as if he will be an immediate contributor on defense. But the x-factor is Danieal Manning, who is currently atop the depth chart at strong safety.
If somebody behind him steps up, then Manning - arguably the most athletic player on the entire team - may shift back to nickel.

3)
Q: We have heard many reports as to how Cutler is picking up Martz's system. And I understand that the starter gets the bulk of the snaps. But how has Caleb Hanie looked in the OTA's and mini camp? There hasn't been much talk in the past few weeks about bringing in a veteran QB like there was right after the draft. Other than Lovie saying something a couple of weeks ago that bringing in a veteran is still a possibility. That was before (Marc) Bulger went to the (Baltimore) Ravens. Has Hanie done anything to sway Martz one way or the other?
Gearheadboy

A: The sense I get is that the Bears will not close the door on adding a veteran quarterback. That they didn't make a serious play for Bulger, who will be a backup in Baltimore, should be encouragement for Hanie. But, my guess is that, before training camp, Martz is going to take a long, hard look at all the snaps Hanie took throughout the off-season.
In the couple of sessions I watched, I can't say I was overly impressed by Hanie. But, Martz's system is obviously difficult to get a handle on, and Cutler had his share of growing pains, too.
There are still a few veterans on the proverbial street, including Josh McCown, who is not under contract to a UFL team.

4)
Q: I haven't been hearing much about a new CBA and was wondering what the major hurdles are in negotiations? Has anyone suggested draft money modifications more in line with what the NBA does? With JaMarcus Russell being the huge bust he was I can't see the justification for paying unproven players such large sums.
808 Bears

A: You are right. It has been quiet. But, the uncertainty is one of the main reasons teams have been reluctant to give players lucrative extensions. It's the great unknown. Besides, why would owners commit cash, if there's the possibility of a work stoppage in 2011?
Fox Sports reported Wednesday that NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith said he and NFL Comissioner Roger Goodell are working toward a six-year deal. But, the two sides still have a long way to go.
One of the major sticking points is the NFL's refusal to provide the NFLPA detailed financial records for its teams. The union feels that information is essential in order to justify asking players to take a pay cut.
Meanwhile, Goodell has expressed an interest in reining in rookie salaries, but the NFLPA isn't going to give that up easily. It's a key bargaining chip. While many veterans complain about it, the reality is the rookie deals keep raising the salary bar, so to speak. Proven stars can justifiably ask for more money than the top draft picks.

5)
Q: If the Bears go 9-7, which would be a slight improvement, is Lovie (Smith) and company gone then?
Shaun

A: I don't think it comes down to a record. For instance, 9-7 may be good enough to win the division or a playoff spot. Then, anything is possible.
Then again, 9-7 might not be good enough to punch a ticket to the postseason.
I do think there's definitely an expectation from everybody at Halas Hall for the 2010 Bears to make the playoffs. Anything short of that would be a disappointment, which would surely result in changes throughout the organization.

6)
Q: What Bear do you think has the best chance to be a first time Pro Bowler this season?
Bear Down in Naples

A: I wonder if Chris Williams could somehow put it all together quickly and make Cutler look good. And given the offense, I also wouldn't be surprised to see one of the running backs really blow up.
But I'm going to go with cornerback Charles Tillman. He's been awfully good the last few seasons, especially at forcing fumbles, and I think he's the sort of opportunistic player who may be able to really take advantage of the team's potentially excellent front seven. I think he's well-regarded around the league, and he may get the benefit of the doubt, assuming the Bears defense is among the league's best.

7)
Q: My question is why did the Sun Times hire you Sean when you use to be a Vikings beat reporter. In my opinion Inside the Bears have lost its luster and INSIDE info on the Bears sense Brad has left. The news you post is not only on every other NFL based site but it is almost always a day old.
Brando

A: Ah, I saved the best for last.
I try - like Denny Green - to travel on the high road. I've posted many comments critical of me on the blog. I have no problem with people taking issue with something I post.
But I cannot stand idly by when someone attacks me.
I'm not going to even bother pointing out the countless mistakes in his "question," which lacks a question mark, like my friend Gregg Doyel of CBS Sportsline might do. Nor, am I going to dredge up and obsess about some regrettable comments he's made on this blog in the past (like on Michael Turner or Lance Briggs).
Instead, I will try to answer the question as honestly as possible.
The Sun-Times hired me because they liked the way I covered the Minnesota Vikings. You'd have to ask my editors specifically what appealed to them, but I pride myself in my versatility, having earned awards for breaking stories, features and even a series.
It seems Brando is implying that the fact that I covered a rival of the Bears is a knock against me. Well, I covered the Green Bay Packers for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel before I worked at the St. Paul Pioneer Press and that didn't seem to be an issue.
Let me highlight that: I worked of the Journal Sentinel and Pioneer Press. I didn't work for the Packers or the Vikings.
That might explain why I often wrote stories that the Vikings were thrilled to see in print but other stories they wished had never seen the light of day.
Brando is entitled to his opinion that Inside the Bears has - as he says - "lost its luster." And I agree with him that Brad Biggs is good. That's why Biggs and I often communicated, when I covered the Vikings. I might fetch a quote for him or provide him an injury update, and vice versa.
But I do think Brando is way off base in his assertion that the news I post is "on every other NFL-based site."
I've had plenty of stories unique to the Sun-Times, although I believe it would be absurd to list them. And I can assure you that I will continue to vigorously pursue stories that you can only find at the Sun-Times.
Again, I've got no problem with banter and people having differing opinions. But, I do think people should be more courteous and respectful to one another.

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