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.
If the Bears fail to qualify for the playoffs yet again, a reckoning could be coming, and it could lead to sweeping changes. Here are the 10 with the most to lose:
10. Mike Tice
He wanted to be an offensive line coach again. The Bears obliged. Based largely on his assessment of a unit that was a major disappointment last season, the offensive line was not addressed in free agency or the draft. Tice firmly believes he has the talent necessary to field a formidable offensive line. Now all he has to do is prove it.
9. Mark Anderson
The defensive end had 12 sacks as a rookie in 2006 and has 9 1/2 since. This should be his last chance to prove he's not a one-year wonder.
8. Rod Marinelli
Smith trumpeted his arrival as the biggest acquisition of the offseason only for the defensive line to be inconsistent and often lackluster last season. Now he has been elevated to defensive coordinator for the first time in his career. Plus, he's the coach most responsible for motivating Peppers and Harris, who everybody agrees will provide the foundation for the defense. It's time for him to back up Smith's glowing praise.
7. Mike Martz
He spent last year as an TV analyst and would likely have remained one if Smith hadn't offered him this job after an awkward search. He has routinely gushed about Cutler and his young receiving corps this offseason. He claims tight end Greg Olsen will have a prominent role even if that hasn't been the case with tight ends in his offense in the past. Not only will Martz be hugely important to the success of the Bears this season but he has done nothing but raise the stakes since he arrived.
Fairly or unfairly, a reputation for taking plays off has dogged him. He claims it's not true. He'll have a great opportunity to prove it once and for all because the Bears defense dearly needs their coveted free agent to make a difference and fans and the media will be examining his every move through a microscope.
5. Brian Urlacher
Is he still one of the league's great linebackers or is No. 54 slowing down? After missing 15 games in 2010 with a broken bone in his wrist, the answer will be forthcoming, and could decide whether he remains the face of the franchise or is replaced in visibility and jersey sales by Jay Cutler or Peppers.
4. Tommie Harris
You can't consider someone an elite defensive tackle when he hasn't approached that level for three straight seasons. It almost unrealistic to think that he can be that player again given his injury history. Another average season and the Bears will have to cut their losses. They may look back and wish they had done it sooner.
3. Jay Cutler
The team's franchise quarterback has yet to play like one --- in Chicago, anyway. He'll have to dramatically reduce his league-high 26 interceptions for this team to make a playoff run.
1t. Jerry Angelo
How the many players on the roster who have yet to prove themselves perform will help determine whether Angelo could be part of the solution.
1t. Lovie Smith
If the Bears lose three out of their first four --- which is plausible considering they play the Lions, at the Cowboys, the Packers and at the Giants in the first month, it could get ugly quick for a coach who has lost the confidence of the fan base since leading the Bears to the Super Bowl.