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.
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.
Q: Any word on starting nickleback frontrunner??
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
Q: If the Bears go 9-7, which would be a slight improvement, is Lovie (Smith) and company gone then?
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.
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.
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.
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.