Chicago Sun-Times

July 2011 Archives

From Mark Potash:

Bears general manager Jerry Angelo said he intends to give running back Matt Forte a contract extension, but hinted it might not be done as easily as Forte would like it to be.

''I told [his agent, Adisa Bakari] ... our intent is to do that,'' Angelo said Sunday. ''That's a strong word. When I say intent, then we're motivated to do something. The timetable is yet to be determined. Just be patient. Take care of your job as you already have and continue to do and we're going to do our part.

''But again, it's a negotiation. You've got to find that common ground. That part of it will be a challenge. You're not talking about [an unrestricted free agent], where there's an open market [and] you bid. These extensions are much tougher, because agents normally look at the UFA market to set their counts. But he's not a UFA.

''And that's the challenge. We've got a pretty good track record. Cliff [team negotiator Cliff Stein] is the best. I trust him. Adisa Bakari ... we've dealt with him. He's a very good agent. So I feel optimistic. But again, we'll just let that play itself out.''


Chris Spencer gets two-year, $6 million contract

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The Bears' best offer to Olin Kreutz was one-year, $4 million.

When the veteran center didn't accept, the Bears moved on and prepared to add someone else.

On Sunday, the Bears added Chris Spencer. But the contract he signed is interesting, to say the least.

The Bears gave Spencer a two-year deal worth $6 million, not including some incentives, according to a league source.

Surely, though, those incentives are tied to playing time, and the Bears will gladly pay it -- probably less than $1 million.

Spencer has started at both guard and center. He's played in 80 games, with 70 starts.

And he was the 26th overall pick of the Seattle Seahawks in 2005, and he was selected by current Bears director of player personnel Tim Ruskell.

Here is most of my interview with Olin Kreutz. When I spoke to him, he had just returned from a workout, which means he missed Bears general manager Jerry Angelo's press conference.

I'm publishing it this way, in part, because it's been hectic and, in part, because I wanted you to see the context my questions.

And it's 11:22 p.m.

SJ: How are you feeling?
OK: It's all water under the bridge. It's been talked to death. They made a decision, I made a decision and it's over.

It's not easy. I wanted to a Bear. They know that. To be fair to both sides, it just didn't work.
It's just a feeling that I got. I don't know how to put it. I don't want to railroad anyone on my way out. The whole organization has been great to me. I'm pretty sure they know I've given it everything I've got. We both come out winners. No matter what happens, I would be fine.

You definitely don't want to leave, and railroad an organization, and be bitter. There's just no way I could be bitter about Chicago. Negotiations are never pretty.
I'm going for the best for me, and they're going for the best for them.
Usually, people meet in the middle.
But we couldn't find that middle this time.

SJ: Would you be a Bear if they added $500,000?
OK: The only way I can put it is, I have more than enough money. It's just a feeling I had from them, during the negotiations. Did they want me? I don't know how to put it. Money was the last factor, really.

SJ: Were you bothered by the "Take it or Leave" offer?
OK: That was hard to deal with. That was hard to deal with on Saturday. We had just started negotiating on a Thursday. I would expect that maybe two days to run it by people. You have people you talk to. There are other people you have to talk to in your life.

It just didn't work out.

SJ: Angelo said other options accelerated the process.
OK: I guess, they couldn't wait for me. But there must have been someone else bidding for [Chris] Spencer. So you have to take them for their word.

SJ: What are you going to miss the most?
OK: I'll miss the guys. But, like I say to them every year, guys have to leave teams. I would not want to be a problem in the locker room. They know me.

I will cheer for the Bears, for the rest of my life. They got great coaches there. It's a great organization. I don't want this to be a cloud over anybody's head.

SJ: How did you feel about teammates expressing frustration that you're not coming back?
OK: They have strong leaders in that locker room. [Brian] Urlacher, [Jay] Cutler, [Patrick] Mannelly, [Julius] Peppers. [Roberto] Garza. They'll move on. Their locker room is extremely strong. Sometimes, I think my leadership was overplayed in there.

They'll be fine.

Everyone should know, I'm going to be fine. Don't worry about me.

SJ: What's next? Will you explore signing with other teams or are you going to retire?
OK: Everything is a possibility right now. I would say I'm leaning more toward retirement.

SJ: Why? Weren't you feeling better than you have in years?
OK: The easiest way to put it is, it's always been the Bears. If it didn't work, it didn't work.

I'd like to walk away on my own terms. Maybe this is the hint. I just found out that the Bears don't want me. But I always had a feeling that my time was coming to an end. I did bust my tail this offseason, but I busted it thinking I was going to play for the Bears.

I'm comfortable that, no matter what happens, I'm fine. I can't ask for anything more out of my career.

SJ: What about your unit, the o-line?
OK: The o-line is going to be fine. That o-line, they're a great bunch of guys. They're the hardest working group in that building. They stick together.

My apologies on your comments not being approved

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I'm not sure what happened, but something with Movable Type must have changed.

I wondered why there weren't that many comments from all of you, over the last week or so.

Previously, when you commented on a blog I posted, I would get an email to my Sun-Times account. I would read it, make sure there was nothing profane, then approve it with a click of a button.

At some point, though, something has changed and now I don't get those emails as consistently. I've gotten a couple, which I've approved, but I just noticed there are a bunch.

I will figure out why this is happening, and we will come up with a solution. So, comment away, and Mark Potash and I will check every few hours and approve them. Be patient, though, as we get this figured out, and we still navigate through the most ridiculous stretch I've ever experienced in 13 years of covering the NFL.

Mark and I will post frequently, and we definitely welcome your insights and even criticisms.

The Bears have agreed to terms with linebacker Brian Iwuh on a one-year deal, according to a league source.

Iwuh was a special teams ace last season for the Bears, after being a standout for the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Iwuh and the return of cornerback Corey Graham and the signing of receiver Sam Hurd bolsters one of the team's strengths, the special teams.

Olin Kreutz: Bears or bust

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Olin Kreutz worked hard this offseason, he said, because he expected to be a Bear.

Finding out today that's not going to happen, Kreutz is now seriously contemplating retirement.

"Everything is a possibility right now," he said. "I would say I'm leaning more toward retirement.

"The easiest way to put it is, it's always been the Bears."

Asked if he's too emotional to make a decision now, Kreutz said, "I'd like to walk away on my own terms.

"Maybe this is the hint I needed. I just found out that the Bears don't want me. But I always had a feeling that my time was coming to an end. I did bust my tail this offseason, but I busted it thinking I was going to play for the Bears."

Longtime Bears center Olin Kreutz is represented by Mark Bartelstein, the founder of Chicago-based Priority Sports, one of the country's largest sports representation agencies.

After hearing general manager Jerry Angelo's comments, Bartelstein said he wanted to explain his and Kreutz's side.

"I want people to understand the facts of this thing," he told the Sun-Times.

Bartelstein took exception with Angelo's approach toward the contract talks, and he made clear that Kreutz was willing to take a one-year deal to stay with the Bears, even though he wanted at least two years.

Bartelstein said the Bears first offer was Thursday afternoon, one-year, $3 million.

"He's going to have the same role, the same job, but they're going to ask you to take a 50 percent pay cut?" said Bartelstein.

Last season, based on his long-term contract, Kreutz's annual average was $5.8 million.

But on Friday, Bartelstein said he talked to Bears coach Lovie Smith.

"Lovie said, 'We're not going to talk to another center. I know it's frustrating. Just keep working.
He can't practice until Thursday,' " Bartelstein recalled Smith telling him. " 'Just keep working at it.' "

Bartelstein counter-offered Saturday morning: one-year, $4.8 million.

Then, a few hours later, the Bears called back: one year, $4 million.

And they had one hour to make a decision.

"I knew what Olin's response would be, after 13 years," Bartelstein said. "I talked to him. I didn't even tell him the deadline. After everything he's done for the Bears, he didn't want to have a gun to his head.

"The ultimatum is ultimately what convinced Olin that they didn't want him back. If you value Olin Kreutz, and you're a couple hundred thousands a part, you do something. But you don't say, 'Take it or leave it.' "

Jerry Angelo comments on Olin Kreutz

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Here is a transcript of general manager Jerry Angelo's comments on center Olin Kreutz, who will not return for a 14th NFL season with the Bears.

Obviously, the real disappointing news comes with the loss of Olin Kreutz. I first want to say, from my personal experience of being with Olin, through most of his career, he embodies what a football player is. I have the highest respect for him.

The reason I'm in this business, and why we're all in this business, are because of players like Olin Kreutz.

Great legacy, certainly very, very disappointing, that he chose not to accept our final offer. His decision. He thought about it. We did the best we could do, given that we had a lot to do, and felt that we gave him a fair offer.

He chose to go in another direction. I told him if he thought long and hard on it - and I know he did - I was hoping he may change his mind. His representation, in particular Mark Bartelstein, did a great job. Mark and I had a lot of dialogue.

Obviously, we differed in some areas, in how we see fair, and fair sometimes is a nebulous word. But, very, very sad, very, very disappointing. But I know this in our sport. It's not about any one player. It's not about me. It about he team.

I told Olin, and I told his agent, if we can't get this done, in a certain time frame, then we need to move on, because it is about the team. We can't lose our options.

We talked to a potential player in the morning. Hew as very interested. We wanted to get back with him in the afternoon. Two more teams are now in it, and the price has already gone up.

It's very, very difficult. It's a line we had to walk. We had to make decision. As tough a decision as it is, we have to move on - as a football team. So, again, a great player. A sad day for the Chicago Bears. For all of us.

We wish Olin nothing but the best, he and his family.

ON IMPACT IN THE LOCKER ROOM: It just lets you how revered he was. You could put me first in line on that; he meant a lot to this football team.
But, there comes a time, where there's going to be closure. Nobody lives forever, nobody goes on forever. That's just the nature of the business.

This is the time.

IF $500,000 DIFFERENCE WAS ACCURATE: It was accurate. Again, we negotiated in good faith. They saw it differently, and I have to respect that and they have to respect our position. It's not about one person.
There are a lot of moving parts.
It's a big jigsaw puzzle, on how everything fits. And you have to put value on each piece, and we did, and you have to do your best.
You're not going to win them all. Is it going to be a loss? Yeah, it's going to be a loss.
We have to regroup.

IF SPENCER INTEREST SPEED THINGS UP: Yes. Absolutely, because there were several players, in particular him [Spencer]. Things were moving. There was a dormant period, and now things have picked up. As things pick up, the price of business picks up as well.

CONTINUITY CONCERNS ALONG O-LINE: It will be Bob. Come on? We're not putting our heads in the sand.
It's going to be. But, there's going to be growing pains. We're going to see things we didn't see.
There is some continuity from the experience, that some of the players had, and hopefully we'll see them take a step. But it's hard to predict but that's why we play the game.
We'll see.

ADD MORE PLAYERS ON O-LINE: Hey, it's tough. These offensive linemen are tough to find. We got a good nucleus of young guys with traits we look for, but they got to come together. We can't just run up and down the starting line, get a guy with a few games under his belt, and think that's the answer. They got to come together.

We like our young players. We need to develop some of them. How are you going to develop them if you don't play them? And if you don't play them, then how do they know you believe in them?
It's a Catch 22.

We brought in an experienced center, who is in the prime of his career. That's the best we could do. Everybody has an opinion: they need this, they need that. Well, tell me who you want. Who should we look at? Give me names. Don't tell me about our problems. Give me solutions. I'm in the solution business.

Not identifying the problems. You guys do a great job of identifying our problems. How about a few solutions.

HOW MUCH HE TAKES INTO ACCOUNT, HOW PLAYERS REACT: Hey, I do. But they didn't hire me to be loved. They hired me to make decisions based on what's in the best interests of the team.
That's what it's about, people. Come on? This isn't a wake.

We're sad, but nobody died. We wish him the best. He had a great career.

Long after I'm forgotten, he's going to be long remembered, as well he should be.

Lovie Smith had a healthy respect for the impact of Olin Kreutz on the field and in the lockerroom. But after expressing disappointment that the Kreutz era is over Sunday, the Bears' coach as expected quickly moved on.

''You know how I feel about Olin. He's been a great Chicago Bear,'' Smith said after practice at training camp in Bourbonnais. ''But every year is different, a different team. You have to move on, which we're going to do. We have a good football team and other guys will have to move into that role.

While it was clear to everybody concerned that Kreutz was not the Pro Bowl caliber player he was in his prime, he still was a valuable part of the team on and off the field. So while the Bears somewhat surprisingly moved on and signed former Seattle Seahawks center Chris Spencer to a two-year contract Sunday, the question quickly turned to whether or not the Bears are better
without Kreutz.

''We think we're a good football team with the team we have right now,'' Smith said when asked that question Sunday.

''Chris is a good football player. I can't compare him to Olin. Olin was not an option, didn't work out. This is a good option for us. We're always trying to improve our football team, we need a player and we feel good about him.''

Smith knew there was no avoiding the Kreutz angle Sunday. But he was less willing to lament the departure of the 13-year veteran and six-time Pro Bowl center than the media after practice.

''You can't live in the past,'' he said when asked how disappointed he was that Kreutz and the Bears couldn't come to terms. ''There are other good football players that we had on our team last year, but this is a new year. We can't continue to talk about what's happened in the past. We're talking about now. We're excited about getting a chance to see Chris Spencer on the football field, and today we were better than we were yesterday as a football team. And that will continue to happen throughout [training camp].''

Smith said the move was a team decision.

"Every decision is made as far as personnel, it's not 'Jerry' and 'Lovie.' We make those decisions,'' Smith said. ''We've come to this conclusion. You negotiate and sometimes it just doesn't happen for us. Everyone knows what Olin Kreutz has done for us in the past, and that's quite a bit. But this is a new year, we're going in this direction and we have a good football team.''

The Bears announced that Chris Spencer, a former first-round pick of the Seattle Seahawks, has been signed to a two-year contract.

Bears coach Lovie Smith also said goodbye to Olin Kreutz, the club's center for the last 13 seasons.

The Bears provided Kreutz with its best offer Saturday, one-year for $4 million. But Kreutz declined, and the Bears started to get more aggressive in figuring out a contract with Spencer.

"You know how I feel about Olin," Smith said. "He's been a great Chicago Bear but every year is different, a different team. You have to move on, which we're going to do."

Smith reiterated that the decision not to bring back Kreutz was a team decision, not one made by the front office.

Player personnel director Tim Ruskell drafted Spencer in Seattle, when Ruskell ran the Seahawks. Spencer, though, had a mixed run there, and the Seahawks didn't make any effort to bring him back in the last few days.

From Mark Potash:

Veteran lineman Frank Omiyale said he hasn't heard from Olin Kreutz during negotiations for a new contract.
 
''We haven't seen him yet, so I guess things aren't working out like we're hoping, as quickly as we hoped. But we're still not giving up. We're still hoping it works out. Whatever happens, we want the best for Olin. He's been a great asset to this organization.''
 
Omiyale is upbeat about the prospects of the offensive line even without Kreutz. But like his linemates, he thinks the Bears are better with Kreutz than without him.
 
''Without Olin we definitely have to back to the drawing table and make sure everybody knows their new responsibilities. But I think we'll be OK.''

J'Marcus Webb aiming for Pro Bowl

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From Mark Potash:

Offensive tackle J'Marcus Webb, a seventh-round draft pick in 2010  who became a starter as a rookie last season, is hoping to make even bigger strides this year.
 
''Definitely the Pro Bowl,'' Webb said.
 
The 6-7, 328-pound Webb already is one of the few sure things on the Bears' offensive line at the start of training camp. Every other position is in flux until the fate of center Olin Kreutz is determined.
 
''I've got to improve my strength, my knowledge of the game. And I need to improve myself in terms of staying focused and getting the job done every time -- being more consistent.''

From Mark Potash:

Running back Chester Taylor, a disappointment last season when he gained 267 yards and averaged 2.4 yards per carry with three touchdowns after signing a four-year, $12.5 million contract, doesn't see the signing of Marion Barber as a threat.
 
''I don't wonder nothing,'' said Taylor, who will make $1.25 million in salary in 2011. ''I just feel like they added more depth in the backfield.
 
''You have to have depth in the backfield because anyone can go down at any time. I believe he can help us more than he can hurt us. He did a lot for Dallas. Hopefully he can bring that here, too.''
 
Asked if a three-back attack can work in the Bears' offense, Taylor said, ''It has before. So we'll see.

The Bears didn't make an offer to re-sign former Pro Bowl center Olin Kreutz until Thursday then issued an its best offer Saturday, a source told the Sun-Times.

The one-year offer: $4 million, according to one Bears player.

Asked about that figure, agent Mark Bartelstein said, "I'm not going to talk about the numbers.

"But our goal all along was to get a deal done with the Bears. At this point, it doesn't look like it's going to happen."

Bartelstein, though, did make clear that Kreutz wasn't looking for a multi-year deal, an indication of his willingness to return.

"There are people who think we're looking for a three- or four-year deal and that's not the case," he said. "The Bears know we were prepared for a one-year deal. It's disappointing, because there's nothing more than I want for him to continue his career with the Bears.

"I respect Jerry [Angelo] and he has to do what's best for the Bears. But, at this point, we can't agree on Olin."

Kreutz, who had long insisted he wanted a "fair deal," declined to return for his 14th NFL season for that amount.

Players and coaches, alike, have insisted that Kreutz is needed.

Mike Tice focuses on what he can control

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On the first practice of training camp, Bears offensive line coach Mike Tice was already down to his third option at center.

Fixture Olin Kreutz is unsigned, and last year's backup center, Edwin Williams, cannot practice until Friday because of the new CBA rules for restricted free agents who signed their tenders Friday. That meant Roberto Garza, who started most of last season at right guard, took snaps with the first team offense.

"I can't coach someone that's not here," Tice said. "But I can certainly coach the guys that are here and try to put together the best five quickly, and much more quickly than last year."

Tice said he'd "love to have" Kreutz back but that he understood the "business" of the NFL.

"And what I have to have in place is a plan for us, for my bosses and my peers, that's going to enable us to win if we don't get him back," Tice said. "That's where my mind is at right now."

The starting lineup doesn't mean much now, with players in shorts after an offseason demolished by the lockout.

And while Tice acknowledged that he would have experimented more if he'd had an offseason with these players, he still gave Chris Williams -- the former first-round pick who was drafted as a left tackle -- some snaps at center.

The 6 foot 6 Williams bobbled about three snaps and certainly didn't look polished, which wasn't a surprise to Tice. Williams finished last season at left guard.

"I wanted to give Chris a couple of snaps," Tice said. "We have to develop depth, one way or another, with veteran guys."

Tice tinkered with the lineup plenty last training camp, but he said that won't be as necessary this year. He doesn't have as much time to work with the players and he knows most of them. But, he's still trying to get a handle on first-round pick Gabe Carimi is.

" don't know how athletic Carimi is to decide, 'OK, leave him alone on the left or move him over to the right and switch he and J'Marcus [Webb]?' " Tice said. "The issue I'm running into, not having an offseason, you feel a little less aggressive, as far as making a move."

Asked about the perception that the Bears offensive line needs another blue-chip player, Tice said, "We just drafted a left tackle in the first round.

"I feel like I've always felt. There's three ways to get better. The way I can get them better is coach better. And I can coach the players I have to get better. You can draft more players. We did that. You can bring in free agents. To this point, we have not. Other than that, I'm not sure there are any other ways to get them better.

"I'm going to control what I can control, which is to coach them better."

So can his unit succeed, without adding anyone?

"Soon to be determined," Tice said. "That's why they pay me the big bucks."

Nick Roach signs two-year deal

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The Bears ensured continuity at linebacker by signing former Northwestern standout Nick Roach to a two-year deal worth $4.5 million, including $2 million guaranteed.

Undrafted out of Northwestern, Roach opened his career on the San Diego Chargers practice squad in 2007 but was added to the 53-man roster by the Bears during the season.

Roach had his best season in 2009, when he had 75 tackles in 15 starts with two sacks and three forced fumbles. But he only started six games last season.

Six teams were interested in Roach, but the figures weren't compelling enough to leave the continuity of the Bears.

"It's an opportunity to be the guy," agent Josh Wright said. "He really wanted to remain a Bear, so it would have taken a very special offer for him to leave."

Roach has already arrived here in Bourbonnais but it's unclear if we'll get a chance to speak to him.

Bears re-sign defensive tackle Anthony Adams

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The Bears have agreed to terms in principle on a two-year deal with defensive tackle Anthony Adams.

Adams, 31, is a Detroit native who started all 16 games last season and he's had a pair of sacks in each of the last two seasons.

Adams is widely respected by his teammates. Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs have been among those to insist earlier in the offseason that re-signing him should be a priority.

Could Bears be a player for Amobi Okoye?

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The Houston Texans are actively shopping defensive tackle Amobi Okoye, the 10th overall pick in the 2007 NFL Draft.

If they can't find a trade partner, then the Texans are expected to waive him.

His production has been a disappointment, with only 11 sacks in four seasons.

Not what you expect from a player picked so high.

So why should the Bears be interested?

Well, Okoye was heralded for his athleticism coming out of Louisville. He's flashed that during his career, as well.

Second, the Bears have Rod Marinelli, widely considered one -- if not the best -- defensive line coach in the league. Marinelli also relishes a chance to work with young players with athleticism.

Third, Okoye's price tag is reasonable. He enters the final year of his rookie contract, scheduled to make $2.95 million.

Fourth, he's 24. As in 24 YEARS OLD. And he's not turning 25 until next June.

The Bears have parted ways with former Pro Bowl defensive tackle Tommie Harris. Not that I'm comparing the two players. But, Okoye is extremely athletic for a 315-pound man.

Within the division, I'll bet you Minnesota Vikings defensive line coach Karl Dunbar would also be intrigued. In my years of covering, Dunbar also welcomed a chance to work with young players with potential.

Why are the Texans dumping him? Well, in addition to production, Okoye is also not considered an ideal fit in Wade Phillips' new 3-4 scheme.

Carpe diem: Bears need to sign Kreutz today

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For days now, NFL clubs have been allowed to talk to agents. For days now, NFL clubs have been able to -- taking a page from the NBA -- agree to deals in principle. There was no three-day window, as originally expected, for a club to negotiate with its own free agents.

But days have passed, and, as far as anyone can tell, the Bears haven't aggressively attempted to re-sign Olin Kreutz. His agent, Mark Bartelstein, did not respond to three separate emails over the last two days, to provide an update on his client.

But it's been a whirlwind few days and, once again, the Bears are taking a public beating.

Let's be honest here, folks. You're a tough crowd. That's become evident to me in my year and half covering this team.

While other teams are wheeling and dealing, the Bears have largely been quiet, despite having $34 million in salary cap space.

Bears president Ted Phillips told me last week that the work his staff had done in advance of free agency was "tremendous."

"So my hat's off to them," Phillips said. "I know we're ready, and we have a good plan."

Apparently, the plan was not to jump into it quickly. The Bears have been deliberate, their first deal seemingly agreed to in principle with punter Adam Podlesh. They addressed the tight end position, trading Greg Olsen, dumping Brandon Manumaleuna and signing Matt Spaeth.

They're also expected to sign Sam Hurd and Roy Williams, a pair of former Dallas Cowboys receivers, today.

They've also been signing draft picks, inquiring about other players (Willie Colon, Stephen Bowen, etc...) and fielding numerous calls from agents.

But, as I've warned in the past, the Bears had better not be too coy and play games with Kreutz. Yes, Kreutz and his agent Mark Bartelstein are both on record as wanting to sign another deal with the Bears. Yes, he's given up money to stay.

But the Bears should drop everything and sign Kreutz today.

UPDATE: Negotiations are ongoing but Kreutz was not signed as of Friday night around 9 p.m.

Bears expected to sign WR Roy Williams

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The Bears are expected to sign former top-10 pick Roy Williams, a league source told the Sun-Times early Friday morning. Contract lengths and terms are presently unknown.

Williams provides Bears quarterback Jay Cutler a big target, although the talented receiver has had a tumultuous career.

Williams was a legend in Texas, a native of Odessa who starred for the Longhorns. But after he was selected seventh overall by the Detroit Lions, he had a turbulent run and eventually was traded to the Dallas Cowboys in 2008 for a handful of picks.

He's only had flashes since then, and he's had problems with consistency.

The Bears, though, may be optimal landing spot for Williams.

His best NFL season was in 2006, when he played under Mike Martz, currently the Bears offensive coordinator. Martz had a forgettable run in Detroit, where he served under current Bears defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli, then the Lions head coach. But, Williams was one of the highlights, catching 82 passes for 1,310 yards with seven touchdowns. He was named to the Pro Bowl.

Despite some struggles in Detroit, the Cowboys gave up first, third and sixth round picks in the 2009 NFL Draft for him then rewarded him with a six-year, $54 million contract that included a whopping $26 million in guarantees.

Unfortunately, he scored 13 touchdowns in three seasons and never topped 600 receiving yards in a single season. The Cowboys released Williams Thursday.

At 6 foot 3, 215 pounds, Williams certainly provides the big receiver to complement Johnny Knox, Devin Hester and Earl Bennett. He's also a very smooth runner, but his hands have been inconsistent.

With his future in doubt, during a whirlwind 24 hours, tight end Greg Olsen mostly sat in a dorm room at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, home of the Bears training camp.

"It was weird, because you're sitting around your dorm, with nothing to do, and you don't know what's going on," Olsen told the Sun-Times in a short interview Thursday night. "But I'm glad I can move on and go forward."

On Thursday, the Carolina Panthers traded a third-round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft to the Bears for Olsen then agreed to terms with him on a four-year extension.

Olsen didn't expect this outcome.

On Tuesday, Bears officials told his agent Drew Rosenhaus that they needed a couple days -- based on all the chaos of this shortened offseason -- before they could discuss a possible extension for Olsen, who was scheduled to make $900,000 in 2011.

But on Wednesday night, the Bears informed Rosenhaus that they were looking to trade him.

"It was not something that I expected," Olsen said. "Then things transpired really fast. But, in the end, I think I'm going to a good place. There's no doubt I'm going to miss my teammates, and the city of Chicago has been awesome to me and my family.

"But, the business side of it, this was something that - I guess - was in the Bears best interests, and then once we started down that road, there was no turning back."

Asked if he could have played another down for the Bears, if they hadn't found a suitable trade partner, Olsen said, "I'd be lying if I said I wasn't.

"We went through all that stuff last year, and I was able to put it behind me and move forward. Last year wasn't as serious. But this year was more open and official, that this is what they wanted to do, and something we wanted to pursue. It would be hard knowing that a team didn't want you two times, then playing through it again."

Olsen admitted that his reduced role and opportunities last season "bothered" him.

"There's no worse feeling then not being able to play up to your potential," he said. "Last year, I felt like that was the case."

Still, Olsen said he'll be grateful for his time with the Bears.

"I always had a tremendous amount of respect for Lovie [Smith] and the Bears for selecting me with their first pick [in 2007].

But Olsen is thrilled to be headed to Carolina. He'll reunite with former Miami teammate Jon Beason and former Miami offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski.

"To get back with coach Chud, and what he's done in the past, with tight ends, is going to be huge for my development," Olsen said, "and I'm looking forward to it."

Specifically, Chudzinski coached two of the game's most talented tight ends in Kellen Winslow and Antonio Gates.

Asked about his role, Olsen said, "It's hard to say.

"But, his track record of using guys is pretty clear, and that's encouraging. Now, it falls on my shoulders on how I perform.

"To be honest, I think it's a way to finally get out of the restraints of what our system was, and go to a place that I feel confident is going to utilize my abilities."

The Bears have traded Greg Olsen to the Carolina Panthers for a third-round draft pick.

Olsen was quickly becoming one of the top tight ends in Bears history but how he would fit into Mike Martz's offense has been a question since the offensive coordinator was hired before last season. Apparently, we finally have an answer.

Olsen was one of quarterback Jay Cutler's favorite targets, especially in the red zone. His 20 touchdown receptions in three seasons is second only to Mike Ditka's 34. Although Olsen and Cutler are also close friends off the field, someone familiar with their relationship said he didn't expect the Bears parting ways with Olsen to negatively affect the quarterback.

"Although they have a friendship, Cutler will expect Greg to do whatever he has to do for himself," said the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Olsen caught 41 passes for 404 yards and five touchdowns last season despite playing in an offense that does not highlight the tight end position. It was his lowest total in yards and receptions since his rookie season in 2007. Despite the dip in production, Olsen tied for the team lead with five touchdown grabs.

"I thought after what he did last year they would be OK with who he was as a tight end," the source said. "I don't know if he was OK with it but he made improvements last year and he showed he can play in the offense."

It is not known which player or draft pick(s) the Bears will receive in return for Olsen, whose rookie contract expires after next season.

The losses keep mounting for the Bears, although, in fairness, we're not sure how serious they were about adding two players who were signed by other teams Thursday.

New York Jets receiver Brad Smith agreed to terms on a four-year, $15 million contract with the Buffalo Bills, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN. The former Missouri quarterback was a jack of all trades who ran the ball, was a receiver, an occasional Wildcat quarterback and also returned kicks. He could've developed into an interesting ingredient in offensive coordinator Mike Martz's offense while also filling in for Danieal Manning on kick returns. Manning, a free agent safety, is drawing interest from several others teams and is not expected to re-sign with the Bears.

The Bears had also expressed interested in Cowboys free-agent defensive tackle Stephen Bowen, who agreed to a whopper of a contract with the Washington Redskins for someone who has only started 11 of 32 games the past two seasons. ESPN reported that the Redskins gave Bowen a five-year deal worth $27.5 million with $12.5 million guaranteed.

Manumaleuna released

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Not long after a source confirmed that Brandon Manumaleuna had been released, the Bears confirmed it in an release that stated that the veteran tight end had failed his physical.

The focus for much of the day has centered around Bears tight end Greg Olsen after his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, sent an e-mail to NFL teams last night informing general managers that Olsen was available in a trade. A few minutes later, Rosenhaus sent a second e-mail telling NFL player personnel executives to disregard his first message.

The Bears then signed free-agent tight end Matt Spaeth earlier today. Spaeth is primarily a blocking tight end and is expected to take Manumaleuna's spot on the roster. Martz is also high on tight end Kellen Davis, who raised eyebrows last season as the team's best all-around player at the position.

Manumaleuna, who signed a lucrative free-agent contract with the Bears before last season, was the kind of mammoth blocking tight end essential to offensive coordinator Mike Martz's system. Offseason surgery on his right knee contributed to the 6-foot-2, 295 pounder not being in top shape when he reported to camp and he never made the expected impact.

While being used almost exclusively in a blocking role, Manumaleuna started 13 games and ended the 2010 season with five catches for 43 yards and one touchdown.

The Bears have agreed to terms with former Steelers tight end Matt Spaeth, according to NFL Network's Mike Lombardi, which is the strongest indication yet that Greg Olsen's days in Chicago are numbered.

Spaeth is primarily a blocking tight end who has only 36 receptions during his four-year career. The former University of Minnesota standout won the John Mackey Award in 2006 as the nation's best tight end before being the Steelers third-round pick in 2007.

Stay tuned.

Citing a league source, Pete Prisco of CBSsports.com is reporting the Carolina Panthers will "almost certainly" NOT trade receiver Steve Smith, who would've been a nice fit for the Bears.

Smith had expressed a desire to be traded to a contender after the Panthers fielded the league's least productive offense last season. The San Diego Chargers and Baltimore Ravens were said to be the two teams most interested in acquiring the four-time Pro Bowl performer.

Free-agent wide receiver/special teamer Rashied Davis, who has spent his entire six-year career with the Bears, has signed a one-year deal with the Detroit Lions.

Davis may have had his best all-around season last year. Not only did he emerge as one of the teams' most consistent special teams players but proved he could contribute in offensive coordinator Mike Martz's offense when he made had seven receptions for 63 yards in the regular-season finale against the Packers at Lambeau Field.

With Davis gone, the Bears will likely to be more aggressive in signing free agent Corey Graham, who led the Bears with 25 special teams tackles last season. How valuable was Graham? The backup cornerback recovered an onside kick and downed three punts, including two inside the 5-yard line, in a NFC divisional playoff game win over the Seattle Seahawks.

Graham will also likely draw interest from several teams.


Bears exploring Cowboys DT Stephen Bowen

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The Bears are interested in defensive lineman Stephen Bowen, a largely unknown -- and undrafted -- player from the Dallas Cowboys.

But multiple league sources say Bowen could "surprise" the general public with his eventual contract.

That's because Bowen is a young player who is versatile and could just be reaching his prime.

According to his bio on NFL.com, Bowen is 6 foot 5, 305 pounds, and he has started 11 of 32 games in the last two seasons. But he's been productive, with 4 1/2 sacks and one forced fumble.

Why all the interest?

He's athletic enough to play in either the 3-4 or 4-3 scheme, and he's heralded for his work ethic.

It sounds like Bowen would prefer to stay where he's at. But, the Cowboys are one of the clubs with the least salary cap space, while the Bears have among the most.

"I know Dallas wants me and I'd love to be back," Bowen told ESPN Dallas. "I don't know what's happening and hopefully I'll be back."

In a story first reported by ESPN, the Bears have found a replacement for Brad Maynard after agreeing with Jacksonville Jaguars punter Adam Podlesh to a five-year contract.

Podlesh had a career year in 2011 and was named a Pro Bowl alternate after averaging 43.8 yards per punt.

"I'm extremely excited," Podlesh told the Florida-Times Union. "Obviously it's a very prestigious organization and they're obviously a high caliber team. Looking for a super bowl so I'm excited to be a part of that."

Podlesh was diagnosed with salivary gland cancer in March, 2010, underwent surgery and is now cancer free.

The Bears are obviously not going to bring safety Danieal Manning.

That's likely because the Bears just don't want to make a major investment in that position, especially after drafting safeties in the third round of each of the last two years.

Manning performed well last season for the Bears. But it appears the club doesn't want to invest heavily in the former second-round pick.

One of the most versatile players on the Bears, Manning is drawing interest from several clubs, including the Houston Texans and New Orleans Saints.

The Bears showed interested in free-agent defensive end Jason Babin and then their interest appeared to cool.

Babin has signed a five-year deal with the Philadelphia Eagles, according to Jay Glazer of FOX via ProFootballTalk.com.

Babin would've been a great addition at the right price. The Bears were likely wary of overpaying a player whose 12 1/2 sacks last year were 7 1/2 more than his previous high.

Bears shopping tight end Greg Olsen

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Talk about awkward.

Two days before training camp officially opens, tight end Greg Olsen is believed to already be in Bourbonnais. But he's at the center of a unique drama.

His agent Drew Rosenhaus sent out an email at 7:56 p.m. Wednesday, informing NFL general managers and personnel executives that his client was available via trade.

"The Bears have granted me permission to seek a trade for Greg Olsen," Rosenhaus wrote. "Please let me know if interested.

"Sounds like the Bears will be very reasonable on the compensation in return for Greg."

But at 8:07, Rosenhaus wrote, "Please disregard my previous email regarding Greg Olsen."

The emails were first reported by the Tribune early Thursday morning but was also obtained by the Sun-Times.

Know this: the Bears are indeed shopping Olsen.

There were rumors last offseason that the Bears had a trade in place with the New England Patriots.

But this time, there's no masking the Bears' intention.

The 31st pick in the 2007 NFL Draft, Olsen has 194 catches for 1,981 yards with 20 touchdowns.

Olsen, though, is set to make $900,000 this season, and he'll be a free agent next offseason. Known more for his pass-catching, Olsen was lauded by offensive coordinator Mike Martz but not counted on as a major part of the offense, with his catches, yards and touchdowns dropping from 2009. Historically, Martz hasn't made the tight end a big part of his scheme.

In addition, the Bears are high on Kellen Davis. And while they value Olsen, they may prefer to get a draft pick or another player now instead of risking losing him next offseason without getting anything in return.

Stay tuned as this drama unfolds.

The Bears were definitely interested in Pro Bowl defensive end Jason Babin, although how much is unclear.

But as the prospect of him coming to Chicago cools, the prospect of Babin returning to Philadelphia, where he played in 2009, are heating up

The Bears may have been interested in Babin because of personnel executive Tim Ruskell, who, as team president then, brought him to Seattle via a trade with the Houston Texans. But Babin only played four games in two seasons. He bounced around to the Kansas City Chiefs and Eagles before landing in Tennessee last season.

The Titans were richly rewarded with 12 1/2 sacks. His defensive line coach there was Jim Washburn.

This offseason, Washburn was hired in Philadelphia. During an appearance on Pro Football Talk Live, Babin spoke of his fondness for Washburn.

Why were the Bears interested?

Bears coach Lovie Smith and defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli always say they can never have enough quality defensive linemen, and Babin's work ethic could have been a nice fit. But, ultimately, the Bears probably had a price in mind, hoping they'd get Babin at a discount, and the Eagles -- clearly in need of help on the defensive line -- may have priced them out of the market.

2011 BEARS TRAINING CAMP SCHEDULE:

JULY


Day Date Practice Time (CT)


Saturday July 30 2:30 pm practice (NO PADS)


Sunday July 31 Noon practice (NO PADS)

AUGUST


Day Date Practice Time (CT)


Monday August 1 7:00 pm practice


Tuesday August 2 2:30 pm practice


Wednesday August 3 7:00 pm practice


Thursday August 4 OFF DAY/NO AVAILABILITY


Friday August 5 7:00 pm practice (Soldier Field)


Saturday August 6 2:30 pm practice


Sunday August 7 7:00 pm practice


Monday August 8 2:30 pm practice


Tuesday August 9 7:00 pm practice


Wednesday August 10 2:30 pm practice


Thursday August 11 OFF DAY/NO AVAILABILITY


Friday August 12 NO AVAILABILITY


Saturday August 13 BEARS vs. BILLS


Sunday August 14 OFF DAY/NO MEDIA


Monday August 15 2:30 pm practice


Tuesday August 16 7:00 pm practice


Wednesday August 17 2:30 pm practice


Thursday August 18 7:00 pm practice


Friday August 19 1:30 pm practice


Saturday August 20 BREAK CAMP

Other teams may be entering the picture, perhaps even the San Francisco 49ers, who will have to replace starting center Davis Baas, who has reportedly agreed to terms with the Giants.

The Giants released longtime center Shaun O'Hara on Tuesday.

Re-signing Kreutz is important for the Bears, who may have found themselves with more competition for the 13-year veteran than they expected.

Kreutz has turned down more money to remain with the Bears in the past, and will likely do so again. However, the market may be driving up his value.


The Bears signed rookie quarterback Nathan Enderle and rookie linebacker J.T. Thomas to four-year deals on Wednesday.

Enderle was a fifth-round pick out of Idaho, where he finished his career as the school's all-time leader in pass attempts (1,427). He was second in completions (779), third in passing yards (10,084) and fourth in TD passes (81). A four-year starter, Enderle played 45 games for the Vandals.

The Bears chose Thomas in the sixth round after he was a three-year starter at West Virginia. The two-time, all-Big East pick played in 49 career games with 39 starts.

With those two signed, expect the Bears to turn their attention to signing the rest of his 2011 draft class of Wisconsin tackle Gabe Carimi, Oregon State defensive tackle Stephen Paea and California safety Chris Conte.

Re-signing veteran receiver and special teams ace Rashied Davis may be more challenging than expected.

Davis has spent his entire six-year career with the Bears but is drawing interest on the free-agent market, according to agent Wynn Silberman.

"We've gathered interest from a lot of teams and we're trying to sort through it and make a good decision," Silberman said. "The Bears are definitely in the mix."

Davis is not only one of the Bears most reliable special teams players but proved he can be a contributor in offensive coordinator Mike Martz's scheme when he hauled in seven catches for 63 yards in a regular-season-ending loss to the Packers.

The Bears announced the signing of seven more undrafted free agents, bringing their total Tuesday haul to 26.

Kris Adams, WR, UTEP; Mario Addison, DE, Troy; Tanner Antle, LB, Tulsa; Dom DeCicco, LB, Pitt; Spencer Lanning, P, South Carolina and Trevor Vittatoe, QB, UTEP.

The seventh was Ohio State WR Dane Sanzenbacher, who was mentioned in a previous entry.


He may not be the prized free agent fans were hoping for, and he doesn't have the size (5-foot-11, 175 pounds) many experts believe the Bears need, but if Dane Sanzenbacher can make the half the impact with the Bears he made for the Ohio State Buckeyes during his collegiate career, their search for an impact wide receiver may be over.

Sanzenbacher, who was voted the Buckeyes MVP last season, agreed to terms with the Bears on a rookie free-agent contract Tuesday while nineteen others inked deals. After making 27 career starts at Ohio State, where he finished his career with 1,820 receiving yards and 18 touchdowns, he chose the Bears over 24 other NFL teams because he believes he's a perfect fit in offensive coordinator Mike Martz's offensive scheme. It came down to the Bears and the Cleveland Browns. Even though he's from Toledo, Sanzenbacher chose the Bears.

Sanzenbacher is one of the receivers who isn't overly big or fast but always seems to be wide open and making clutch catches.

"Dane has a monster work ethic," said Ohio State strength and conditioning coach Eric Lichter. "You can't distract him from what he wants to accomplish. His work ethic is over the top. He also has some of the best endurance I've ever seen. He's legendary at Ohio State for finishing miles ahead of everybody else in workouts. He may not be a Ferrari who can hit fifth gear but his four-and-a-half gears can go forever. In the fourth quarter it's like he's fresh. He has an amazing ability to recover."

Notre Dame fullback Robert Hughes, who prepped at Hubbard, Mississippi State center J.C. Brignone and Northwestern defensive tackle Corbin Bryant were also signed.

Hughes is intriguing because he was more of a big tailback than a traditional fullback for the Irish. At 5-11, 245, he was effective in short-yardage situations but did not block often and did not play a lot of special teams, which will be critical to his success in the NFL.

Here's the rest of the list of signees:

Kyle Adams, TE, Purdue; Tressor Baptiste, LB Texas A&M; Antareis Bryan, CB, Baylor; Travis Cobb, WR, Arizona; Josh Davis, T, Georgia; Ricky Henry, G, Nebraska; Mike Holmes, CB, Syracuse; Ryan Jones, CB, NW Missouri State, Alex Linnenkohl, C, Oregon State; Jordan Miller, DT, Southern; Deron Minor, LB, McNeese State; Sean Murnane, DT, Central Michigan; Andre Smith, TE, Virginia Tech; Winston Venable, S, Boise State; Anthony Walters, S, Deleware; Jimmy Young, WR, TCU.

Linnenkohl was considered the third best center prospect by "Pro Football Weekly's Draft Guide" and could eventually be a replacement for veteran Olin Kreutz.

Expect more signings later tonight and Wednesday.

Devin Aromashodu drawing interest from Vikings

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Veterans cannot officially be signed until Friday. But, receiver Devin Aromashodu, who did not receive a tender from the Bears, is being strongly considered by the Vikings.

Aromashodu spent most of the 2011 season in the dog house, after playing significant snaps in the season opener. But, in that game, he played mostly in the slot.

Meanwhile, with an assortment of free agents and holes, the Vikings may not retain receiver Sidney Rice. The Bears have already invested heavily at that position, namely in Devin Hester. In addition, they'll have to give Johnny Knox and Earl Bennett new deals at some point in the not so distant future.

So, it's hard to imagine they could make a serious run at Rice, although indications were that the Bears would be interested if they could get him at a discount. How much? It's unclear.

Aromashodu, though, gives them a big target to add to the mix, headlined by Percy Harvin.

While several teams have decided to hold training camp at their own training facilities in the wake of the lockout, there are several reasons why the Bears prefer to travel to Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais.

The McCaskey family likes their privacy, for one. Opening practices at Halas Hall to fans would greatly increase traffic around team headquarters. There is also little room for public parking in the area and sideline space for bleachers is limited.

"We're excited to be getting back to Bourbonnais," chairman George McCaskey said. "Especially in this situation because we think it will help regroup the team because we haven't had OTAs, we haven't had voluntary workouts. So in terms of building camaraderie, it's better than our facilities [from that] standpoint, and we think actually with the shortened time frame, we think going to Bourbonnais is a better situation."

According to kicker Robbie Gould, there's another advantage to holding training camp in Bourbonnais: "To be honest, there's nothing to do in Bourbonnais other than be in your playbook," he said

Although players won't officially report to training camp at Olivet Nazarene University until Friday, players who want to collect their roster bonuses must show up Wednesday to get their physicals.

That means quarterback Jay Cutler, linebackers Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs, safety Chris Harris, cornerback Charles Tillman, tight end Greg Olsen, defensive end Julius Peppers and running back Chester Taylor may all be in Bourbonnais on Wednesday.

Players have the option of sticking around until Friday. Although there can be no on-field work, they can lift weights and participate in classroom work, although most of the above mentioned veterans will likely get their physicals, pick up their checks and return to Chicago before returning to camp on Friday.


It's rare that a team receives an inspirational speech from a kicker, but that's what union rep Robbie Gould delivered at Halas Hall on Tuesday. Although it was was delivered to the media and not to his teammates, Gould has been communicating with his fellow-Bears on a regular basis this offseason and struck a note that is sure to be repeated when training camp opens in Bourbonnais on Friday.

It's Super Bowl or bust for the Bears in 2011.

"The Chicago Bears wouldn't have re-signed [coach] Lovie Smith to that deal during a lockout if they didn't feel he had the leadership to lead us through an opportunity to win the Super Bowl after a shortened offseason. If you look at the guys we have in our locker room, it's a very veteran-oriented group of guys who have been here, have been around.

"Our leadership is great in our locker room. We're going to be ready to play football. We're going to be ready to make a run in the Super Bowl. We didn't have OTAs. You have to be a professional. All of our guys are professionals. You don't come into this organization unless you're a professional. And if you aren't a professional, guess what, you'll find your way out the door, and I think history speaks for itself.

"We're going to be ready to play football. We're going to be ready to make a run. There's no excuses."

Defensive end Israel Idonije reiterated Gould's belief that the Bears' leadership and professionalism will allow them to easier overcome missing minicamps and organized team activities than other teams.

The fact that they have continuity on the coaching staff, at quarterback and almost all of their key players should return is another plus.

"I don't think we'll be hurt, mainly because we have a core group of guys back, and the kind of guys who have been through this system, played in this system," Idonije said. "This system brings stability to it. This guy knows his job and this guy knows his job. And for the guys who have been added, because everybody else knows what they're doing, the coaches can pay a little more extra attention on bringing those guys up to speed.

"We'll be in great shape. We won't go through a lot of that learning curve, and our path to getting back will be easier than a lot of the other clubs that are kind of rebuilding."

Another critical element will be coaches and training staffs quickly evaluating the physical condition players are in and planning training camp practices accordingly to avoid injuries. Smith has been criticized for not having intense enough training camps in the past, but letting players ease into workouts is likely the wisest choice this season.

"You do the guys a disservice when you say they're just going to fall apart when they start playing," Idonije said. "These guys take this seriously. Despite everything that's been going on, everybody's been working out because guys take their jobs seriously. A part of the fine line is having the coaches in place to really understand their core guys, understand how you pull back in practice a little bit, when it's time to intensify things. As far as that goes, we have a master of that. Coach Smith will do a good job of managing the guys, making sure we're all moving along and managing those practices. So we'll be fine."

Bears chairman George McCaskey said with the lockout over, the focus should be on football.

"The talk should be about what it takes to get back to the Super Bowl, and to win the Super Bowl, instead of all this back business; the business side," he said. "That's what we've been working on, even in the absence of the players, being prepared for the resumption of operations, and getting back to the Super Bowl and winning it. That's what it's about."

The Bears long-standing snapper-holder-kicker troika of Patrick Mannelly, Brad Maynard and Robbie Gould is no more after the Bears informed Maynard that he will not return to the team on Monday afternoon.

On Tuesday, Gould expressed his disappointment in losing the only holder he has known during his record-setting, six-year run in Chicago.

"It's very unfortunate. It really is," Gould said. "I don't get paid to make those decisions, thankfully. You can't discount, one, what Brad Maynard has been able to do for this organization, and two his career here as a Chicago Bear. He has sacrificed a lot. In a time when punters are ... punting ... mostly down the middle of the field, Brad is the best directional punter in the NFL. Obviously if you're punting down the middle of the field, that's not our scheme. Obviously Brad has the leg to do it.

Maynard has been one of the league's most consistent punters during his decade with the Bears and hopes to continue his career with another team. The Bears are expected to sign former Illinois and New York Jets punter Steve Weatherford. Former Texas punter Richmond McGee will also compete for the starting job when training camp opens in Bourbonnais on Friday.

"Would I love to have him back? Absolutely," Gould said. "But unfortunately that's not the decision I have to make. I have to put the ball through the uprights. That's what I get paid to do.
 
"It's a sad day. It really is. Brad has done a lot for me personally. He's done a lot for the organization. I would love to see him back. Hopefully, depending on how things work in free agency, if something doesn't happen the way the organization would like it to, hopefully he would entertain coming back here."
 
Maynard said philosophical differences with special teams coach Dave Toub on where and when to directionally punt the ball during games likely contributed to the team's decision.

"He's helped Dave Toub's career tremendously ...," Gould said. "He'll continue to do it. He's got a lot of years ahead of him. He's a veteran, he knows how to punt, he has done a great job.

The Bears have two of the league's best linebackers in Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs. But, they are looking to add some youth, and one of the players they are looking at is Justin Durant.

A second-round pick of the Jacksonville Jaguars, Durant has 42 NFL starts, after playing at Hampton University. His best season was 2009, when he had 98 tackles, one sack, one interception and one forced fumble.

It's believed the Bears also want to retain former Northwestern standout Nick Roach.

But with only Urlacher and Briggs under contract, they'll need to sign several players.

The Bears aren't expected to make a Julius Peppers type of signing.

But that doesn't mean they don't address the same position.

The Bears have defensive end Jason Babin on their radar, according to a league source, adding another quality pass rusher to one of the team's most important units.

Babin isn't expected to re-sign with the Tennessee Titans, even though he tallied 12 1/2 sacks last season and earned a Pro Bowl spot.

But Babin should have several suitors. In fact, one would be packed with irony.

In 2009, Babin played for the Philadelphia Eagles, but he notched only 2 1/2 sacks in 12 games.

The Eagles let him go, and Babin dominated on an otherwise blase Titans defensive line last season.

So what's the connection?

The Eagles this offseason hired Jim Washburn, who most recently was the defensive line coach for the Titans.

The Eagles are also rumored to be in the market for former Vikings defensive end Ray Edwards. But Washburn could lobby for Babin instead.

The price tag for Babin is unclear, especially since he's 31 years old. But, he perhaps one contract to consider is Kyle Vanden Bosch, who signed a four-year, $26 million contract with the Detroit Lions last offseason that included $10 million in guarantees.

Vanden Bosch is also a former Titan.

Titans head coach Jeff Fisher sounded as if there was a competition going on between the Eagles and Titans for his services.

Tuesday, July 26:

Training facilities open and players may report for physicals and conditioning and strength training

Trades can be made

Rosters are expanded to 90

Teams can sign their own drafted rookies and rookie free agents

Teams can negotiate with free agents

Thursday, July 28

Teams can waive players

Friday, July 29

Bears players report to training camp

Teams can sign all eligible players

Saturday, July 30

First Bears training camp open to public, 3 p.m.

Sunday, July 31

Bears practice open to the public, 12 noon

Monday, Aug. 1

First padded practice, TBA

Thursday, Aug. 4

All teams must be under the salary cap

Friday, Aug. 5

Family Fest at Soldier Field, TBA

Teams can sign all eligible players


The Bears informed veteran Brad Maynard on Monday afternoon that he will not be re-signed by the team when free agency begins Friday, ending the punter's decade-long association with the team.

Maynard said philosophical differences with Bears special teams coach Dave Toub likely impacted the decision.

"I'm not surprised at all," Maynard said. "There was one person there and he and I didn't see eye to eye. I did the best I could with what I was asked to do. There were times I was asked to do things where I told myself there's no way I can do this but I kept my mouth shut and did the best I could."

When asked if that person was Toub, Maynard said: "Yeah."

"They are moving in a different direction," Maynard said. "The speculation is they have had something done for a while now. For them to call me the day before free agency opens, that tells you they probably got something done."

Speculation has centered on free-agent Steve Weatherford, the former Illinois product who punted for the New York Jets for the past two seasons. Weatherford averaged 42.6 yard per punt last year and dropped 42 punts inside the 20-yard line. Maynard averaged 40.1 with 24.

Maynard said undergoing hip surgery before last season coupled with so many cold-weather games late in the year contributed to what was considered a sub-par season.

"I didn't touch a ball until June 25," he said. "I only had three or four weeks to get ready for training camp. I started a little slow. At the same time, I look at the [season-opening] game against Detroit, and I pooch punted four times from within our 42. The numbers started slow just because of field position. Then I started pressing hard to get the numbers up quick. Things added up."

Maynard said he is in the best shape of his career and is looking forward to continuing his career with another team.

"I'm thrilled with my career here," he said. "I had a great time and met a lot of great people. The best time of my career was spent here in Chicago. I'm proud I played with one team for so long. Most guys play three or four years and move on. To play 10 is a great run."

Rank free agents

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Bears free agents

Teams can begin negotiating with their own free agents Tuesday but can't sign them until Friday. Here's a list of Bears free agents. They're listed alphabetically here, but feel free to list them in order of importance as if you were the general manager.


DT Anthony Adams: Solid player and lockerroom favorite who wants to return to the Bears

S Josh Bullocks: Backup didn't challenge for starting spot in 2010

TE Desmond Clark: No reason to come back after being inactive for all but five games

QB Todd Collins: After last season, expect him to retire

WR Rashied Davis: A standout special teams player who proved he can help out on offense

DB Corey Graham: Special teams ace wants to contribute on defense, too

Brian Iwuh: Rock-solid special teamer and backup linebacker

C Olin Kreutz: Unquestioned leader is aging but best available option

DB Danieal Manning: Turned down offer from Bears and will test the market

P Brad Maynard: The kind of steady performer that is not missed until he's gone

LB Nick Roach: Bears would like to have him back but he wants chance to start

LB Pisa Tinoisamoa: Has been strong-side presence when healthy

LB Rod Wilson: May get chance to win job in training camp

RB Garrett Wolfe:Doubtful he will return after failing to find a niche on offense


Here's a primer on what's happened and what's left before we have a fully completed collective bargaining agreement between NFL owners and players.

The final settlement document of 50 pages was completed by the two sides at 3 a.m., EST. Then, the players side put together a PowerPoint to present to the 32 player reps, who were scheduled for a late morning conference call.

That review last 2 1/2 hours (longer than many expected), and it ended with a roll call and a unanimous vote to recommend a settlement to the plaintiffs of the Brady et al vs. NFL case, several of whom were in attendance.

Then, shortly thereafter, there was a joint press conference of the owners and players, at which both sides proclaimed, in assorted ways, that football was back.

Representatives from both sides then scurried away, with many of the players leaving with actual union cards that they will hand out to teammates when they report to training camps. Re-certification was a sticking point, because the owners side believed it could be handled very quickly, via email. But, the NFLPA actually needed about four months to get all the signed cards to decertify, when executive director DeMaurice Smith traveled around the country to visit all 32 clubs.

Re-certification is essential, because there are collectively bargained issues that cannot be discussed until the NFLPA becomes an official union again. Among the keys: the substance abuse policy and the personal conduct policy.

These issues were discussed back in March, before decertification, but they -- technically and legally -- could not have been discussed since then.

So how can players return to the field?

It's an act of good faith, on both sides, because many CBA terms (ie. revenue splits) have been agreed to. On the one hand, the players' trade association has to take institutional steps to become the NFL Players Association again.

"There's still a benefits package that has to be ratified," said Bears kicker Robbie Gould, the team's player representative. "If the owners and players don't agree to the benefits packages, which hopefully is just a formality, then the deal doesn't get ratified and we're back to square."

But, the date they are working toward to have a completely finalized deal is Aug. 4. Then, there will be one final vote of the player reps to approve the entire 10-year agreement.


Now that the lockout is over, expect things to start quickly --- as in warp speed.

Here's a tentative timeline pieced together from several sources:

Starting Tuesday morning, players can start working out a team facilities and classroom instruction can begin.

Trades can be made starting Tuesday.

Drafted and undrafted rookies can be signed beginning Tuesday at 9 a.m. Team can also begin negotiating with their own and other free agents, although they cannot be signed.

As of 3:01 p.m. Thursday, teams can waive or terminate player contracts.

As of 5 p.m. Friday, teams can renegotiate the contracts of their own players.

As of 5 p.m. Friday, teams can sign their own or other free agents.


Bears safety Chris Harris appeared on PFT Live on Monday, where he discussed what's ahead for the Bears. The following quote was lifted from ProFootballTalk.com

"I'm thinking Danieal Manning will probably move on," Harris said. "I got to play with Danieal for two seasons, and it's been a pleasure playing with him. But I think he's gonna test his chances in free agency. I would really love to see them sign Double-A, Anthony Adams. He was a cornerstone for our defense. And he's a great guy in the locker room. He's like the team jokester. Everybody loves Double-A. There's no way you don't like him."

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- NFL players and owners agreed to terms on a 10-year deal in the wee hours of Monday morning, and the pact will be finalized soon in a vote by players.

That, however, is expected to be a formality, and clubs will scramble to start business -- months worth -- Tuesday.

The Bears, meanwhile, are among the teams that will open training camp Friday. Players are expected to report Thursday to Bourbonnais.

Player reps and NFLPA executive committee members started a conference call at 11 a.m. EST. Agents were informed that there would be a conference call to brief them on rules today at 2 p.m.

Among the key points of the deal:

* There is no opt out clause, which players had been pushing for. That means this is a hard 10-year labor deal.

* Clubs will be able to start talking to free agents and sign rookies and undrafted free agents starting Tuesday.

* Clubs can release veterans starting Wednesday, which could be awkward since some teams will open camp Wednesday.

More to come throughout the day.


If you've already purchased Jay Cutler and Kristin Cavallari's wedding present, hold on to your receipt.

People.com is reporting that the reality TV star has called off her her pending nuptials with the Bears quarterback. Evidently, Cavallari was spotted in an Los Angeles lounge on Saturday night sans her wedding right.

Entertainment reporter Billy Bush confirmed the report with the following tweet: "Kristin Cavallari and Jay Cutler engagement is off. Source super tight."

The two began dating in August, were engaged in April and the wedding date had been set for July 7, 2012. They attended a Cubs-White Sox game earlier this month.

Let's hope the break up doesn't leave Cutler too broken hearted. With a resolution between players and owners imminent, it will soon be time for him to report to training camp.

Are you ready for some football?

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After many breakthroughs on Saturday, NFL players aren't resisting the excitement of owners anymore.

A high-ranking NFLPA source told the Sun-Times that the deal is on track to be completed on Monday.

A number of things have to happen without a hitch, from the players' executive committee recommends to approve the 10-year deal, along with the 32 team reps and the 10 players named in the Brady versus NFL lawsuit. Then, more than 50 percent of the 1,900 players has to sign off on the deal, although that's considered a formality.

The NFLPA also has to initiate plans to re-certify.

According to NFL.com, the league year would start Wednesday and training camps would open on Friday. But ESPN.com reported that some clubs could report for camp on Wednesday.


The Pro Football Hall of Fame was the big loser when the NFL announced the Aug. 7 Hall of Fame exhibition game between the Bears and Rams had been cancelled.

Richard Dent will be inducted on Saturday, Aug. 6. Take it from someone who has been there: Watching all the Hall of Famers who return every year be introduced before the induction ceremony is worth the trip.

Visiting the Hall of Fame is something every football fan (especially one with like-minded kids) should do. If you're looking for a weekend get-away, don't hesitate.

That ends the public service announcement. Here's the Hall of Fame's press release in the wake of the cancellation:


Each year the eyes of the sporting world focus on Canton, Ohio as a new class of enshrinees is added to the immortal roll of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. On enshrinement day, thousands turn out and millions more watch and listen as the nationally televised event unfolds. One by one, each newly elected pro football legend takes center stage and shares with his audience his innermost emotions and career experiences in a heartfelt and emotional acceptance speech.

This year will be no different. The annual Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony is not only a moving and inspirational salute to the game's all-time great players, coaches and contributors; it's one of the most spectacular events in all of sports. The nationally televised Enshrinement Ceremony will be held on Saturday, August 6 at 7 p.m.

While several other cities support annual sporting events and ceremonies like the Enshrinement Ceremony, Canton has turned the Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement celebration into a multi-day festival. Although the traditional NFL/Hall of Fame Game has been canceled this year, a full schedule of 17 events over a 10- day period, all designed to celebrate the enshrinement of the newest members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, will proceed as scheduled.

A concert and fireworks, hot air balloon invitational, a food fest and a ribs burnoff, are a few of the events leading up to the big event. Add to that a 2- and 5-mile race, Enshrinees autograph sessions, fan parties, and a fashion show luncheon, that's just a partial list of events.

A highlight moment of the Enshrinement Festival celebration occurs on Friday night at the Enshrinees Dinner, when the Class of 2011 is presented their official Pro Football Hall of Fame Gold Jacket. More than 75 returning Hall of Famers will be on hand to welcome the Class of 2011 on stage in front of the 3,500 in attendance.

Helping to fill some of the void created by the cancellation of the NFL/Hall of Fame Game plans are under way to "enhance" the Sunday evening Fan Appreciation Tailgate event held on the Hall of Fame grounds from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

This year's Fan Appreciation Tailgate Party will include appearances from several returning Hall of Famers including Lem Barney, Mike Haynes, Bob Lilly, Floyd Little, Tom Mack, Randall McDaniel, Billy Shaw, Larry Little, and Joe DeLamielleure. The Hall of Famers will partake in a general "meet and greet" and in an informal question and answer session with the fans. More Hall of Famers are expected to confirm participation later this week.

Admission to the Fan Appreciation Tailgate Party includes beverages (beer and soft drinks) traditional tailgate party food, and a DJ spinning jock jams and party music. Attendees will also receive a souvenir Hall of Fame visor. Tickets to the Fan Appreciation Tailgate Party are $60 per person and are available at online at Profootballhof.com or at the Hall of Fame Box Office between 9:00 a.m.-8:00 p.m. or at Will Call August 5-7.



What follows is the Pro Football Hall of Fame's statement regarding cancellation of the Hall of Fame exhibition game:

"While the Pro Football Hall of Fame is disappointed by the news that the NFL/Hall of Fame Game will not be played, we appreciate the effort that was made on our behalf by the league and players right up until the last minute.

Although the game is an important part of the 10-day, 18-event Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Festival, it is important to remember that the most important event is the Enshrinement Ceremony which will be held on Saturday night August 6 as scheduled.

Obviously, the loss of this year's game will have a significant adverse economic impact on the Hall of Fame and the Canton community. We believe, however, that the long-term stability this new agreement will provide will be beneficial not only to the league and the players, but to the fans and the Pro Football Hall of Fame."


George McCaskey and Ted Phillips attended owners' meetings in Atlanta, Georgia, on Thursday and had this to say about the ongoing process that it is hoped will end the lockout and produce a new collective bargaining agreement.

Owners voted 31-0 (the Raiders abstained) in favor of the proposal to end the lockout.

"It was a long day because there was a lot of information to convey," said McCaskey, the Bears chairman. "It's a very detailed and comprehensive agreement, so there was a lot to go over so that we could make an informed decision on the vote. I thought the information was presented very effectively. I thought the questions that people asked were very good and right on target. In the end, there was a resounding vote for what's good for the game."

Team president Phillips said the agreement will benefit all and hopes players ratify the deal "in short order."

"Even in difficult circumstances, I think both sides have worked together to come to a long-term agreement, and the goal of having an agreement that works for the clubs, the fans and the players has been reached," he said. "I think both sides gave a little bit. It was a tough negotiation but I think one that will serve all sides really well in the long term."
 

Hall of Fame game cancelled

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One of the casualties of the collective bargaining agreement ratified by NFL owners is the cancellation of the Hall of Fame game.

The Bears and Rams were slated to play in the game Aug. 7.

"It was cancelled because of the delay in opening camp. We were supposed to open camp on July 23," Phillips said in a statement. "Obviously, that's not going to be the case any longer, so it made it difficult to prepare for that game. Because we have Richard Dent being enshrined, it's disappointing from that standpoint but probably the most fair given the circumstances of the offseason that every team starts training camp on the same day."

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said there wasn't enough time to play that game.

"We feel that it's important for all 32 teams to be operating with the same number of preseason games and also starting camp at the same date or near the same date," he said. "Unfortunately, we will not be there to play the game this year, but of course the (induction) ceremonies will go on. Hopefully we can all work quickly, expeditiously and get this agreement done."

Finally, a statement from the Pro Football Hall of Fame: "While the Pro Football Hall of Fame is disappointed by the news that the NFL/Hall of Fame Game will not be played, we appreciate the effort that was made on our behalf by the league and players right up until the last minute.

"Although the game is an important part of the 10-day, 18-event Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Festival, it is important to remember that the most important event is the Enshrinement Ceremony which will be held on Saturday night August 6 as scheduled. Obviously, the loss of this year's game will have a significant adverse economic impact on the Hall of Fame and the Canton community. We believe, however, that the long-term stability this new agreement will provide will be beneficial not only to the league and the players, but to the fans and the Pro Football Hall of Fame."


I'm hearing the Bears aren't expected to enter the trade market for Panthers receiver Steve Smith, although that could change, of course. One Bears players who has played with Smith in the past believes he would be a great addition.

"If the opportunity is there, why not?" safety Chris Harris said Thursday on "The Waddle & Silvy Show" on ESPN 1000. "You can never have enough big-time playmakers on your team.

"We have plenty of those on our team now. It definitely wouldn't hurt to have another one."

Harris played for the Panthers for three seasons before returning to the Bears before the 2010 season. He maintains a residence in Charlotte.

Smith has asked to be traded to a Super Bowl contender rather than return to an offense that was the league's least effective last season. The Ravens and Chargers are believed to be interested in acquiring him in a trade.

"I've been working out with Steve during this lockout," Harris said. "He's in great shape. "He's looking just as good as he has been the previous years, so I'm trying to persuade him a little bit if things can go that way.

"But I think we have great receivers in the system that we have right now. They made that thing work last year in the first year [under offensive coordinator Mike Martz]. I figure in the second year they'll really flourish."

Smith, 32, is signed through the 2012 season.


Olivet Nazarene University officials said Thursday they will be ready to host training camp for the Bears as soon as Monday morning.

Tents and temporary fences were already being erected on campus in anticipation of the Bears arrival. When it was announced that NFL players had agreed to a deal that could end the lockout, school officials were relieved. Their greatest fear was that the deal would be scuttled, the lockout would continue and training camp cancelled.

"While we have it down to a science, you still don't want to go through the expense and all the work if it's not going to be used," said Gary Griffin, Olivet's director of alumni relations. "It was a risk but a calculated one.

There is still no word yet on when training camp will start. If the Bears participate in the Hall of Fame game in Canton, Ohio, on Aug. 7 they could open camp as early as Tuesday or Wednesday. If the league decides to cancel that game, they will likely no report to Bourbonnais until the 29th or 30th.

"The pressure comes from not knowing and being afraid we're not as organized as we need to be," Griffin said. "If camp starts Tuesday, I'd like to have a schedule out by now, if not weeks ago."

The Bears don't have too many needs, but they could be in the market for a receiver, veteran backup quarterback and maybe even a returner, if Danieal Manning isn't re-signed.

What if the Bears addressed all three needs with one player?

One person the Bears may have on their radar is Brad Smith, the former Missouri quarterback, a fourth-round pick of the New York Jets in 2006. A remarkable athlete, Smith has been productive at multiple positions.

In five NFL seasons, he's caught 64 passes for 557 yards and two touchdowns, carried the ball 98 times for 767 yards and two touchdowns, completed four passes for 51 yards and one touchdowns and returned 74 kickoffs for 1,968 yards and three touchdowns.

Smith is explosive, and he's listed at 6 foot 2.

How exactly would Smith fit with the Bears?

Well, Bears coach Lovie Smith has always favored athletes who are versatile. Manning is one example.

Brad Smith could help as a receiver, returner, running back and even as a quarterback in the Bears' version of the Wildcat offense.

Surely, Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz would welcome that challenge.

It's unclear what the market would be for Smith's services. But, the Bears have proven they can be creative, to get a player under contract.

Owners optimistic they have enough votes

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ATLANTA - Two NFL owners expressed optimism that the league would approve a new collective bargaining agreement today at a hotel near the Atlanta airport.

But what the players will do is a mystery.

"You can only control what you can control," Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay said. "We're optimistic and trying to do our part. There's a lot of moving parts, but everything's headed in the right direction."

Added Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank, "I'm in favor of getting this deal done.
"It's a win-win for labor and ownership."

Reports widely suggested that players would vote to ratify the new CBA Wednesday, when a representative from all 32 clubs met in Washington D.C. and numerous other players were apprised of contract details on a conference call. But, players only conditionally approved a deal, pending certain stipulations, and what would take place Thursday was unclear.

One prominent player told the Sun-Times that no conference call was scheduled for today and said he was frustrated with being left in the dark.

The league, meanwhile, was more forthcoming with its plan. Owners started a meeting at 10 a.m., which would conclude with a vote. Then, top executives and other key personnel would head to a nearby hotel to get apprised of the new rules at least 90 minutes later. Depending on when the vote takes place, the latter meeting could leak into Friday. Many of the owners, meanwhile, are expected to head to Massachusetts for the funeral of Myra Kraft, the late wife of New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft.

The Bears are represented by George McCaskey and Ted Phillips. General manager Jerry Angelo may not attend but Cliff Stein, the senior director of football administration, is expected here.

The league seems to be putting the proverbial ball in the players' court, based on the optimism of many. That would then put -- fairly or unfairly -- public pressure on the players.

"I don't think there will be any surprises as to what the deal terms are from an ownership perspective," Blank said. "I suspect a great majority of ownership to support the work the league has done."

Bears defensive end Israel Idonije is perfect, when it comes to finishing a tackle.

According to the website Pro Football Focus, Idonije is the only defender with at least 75 tackles over the last three years to not miss even one.

PFF analyzed all defenders with at least 75 attempted tackles, including sacks, over the past three seasons.

On the opposite spectrum, among defensive linemen, Amobi Okoye of the Houston Texans missed one of every eight attempts.

Bears safety Danieal Manning finished second among defensive backs, missing just 27 or one in every 27.57 attempts. And, not surprisingly, cornerback Charles Tillman was eighth among DBs with a miss, on average, every 18.5 tackle attempts.

Only one Bears defender made the dubious list. Lance Briggs had the most missed tackles (48) among linebackers, but his average (7.63) ranked fourth based on his number of tackle attempts. Among all the linebackers who made either list, Briggs finished tied for second with 277 solo tackles.

To see PFF's study, click


Count Lance Briggs among the chorus of Bears players who would prefer to skip the Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio, on Aug. 7.

It now appears certain the Bears will not report to training camp as scheduled on July 22. ESPN is reporting that the team won't open camp until the 26th at the earliest. That means the game against the St. Louis Rams the day after ex-Bear defensive end Richard Dent is enshrined remains very much in doubt.

That's fine with Briggs, who was interviewed on WMVP (AM-1000) on Tuesday afternoon.

"I would hope that they don't try to make that happen," the Bears linebacker said. "I'm happy for Richard Dent but I don't want to risk mine or anybody else's health to play the Hall of Fame game."

Whenever a new CBA is finalized, clubs are expected to get a three-day window to try and re-sign their own players.

The highest-profile Bears free agent is longtime center Olin Kreutz, and he'll gladly re-sign -- for the right deal.

"Olin's spent his whole career with the Bears, and he's turned down a lot of money to stay with the Bears. He loves being a Bear," agent Mark Bartelstein said. "But, the reality is, there was an opportunity before March 1, and [the Bears] chose not to do it, which I understand, because they didn't know what the system would be.

"But if they want to aggressively come and give him a fair deal for who he is - as a player, and a leader and a rock to the organization - then, knowing Olin, he's going to want to get it done," Bartelstein said of the three-day window. "But, he wants to feel good about it. He wants it to be equitable. If not, then those three days will go by fast, and he'll be on the market."

Amid reports that four of the 10 plaintiffs may be serving themselves, Vikings punter Chris Kluwe blasted them for "being that guy" on his Twitter account.

Kluwe doesn't shy away from controversy, and he's endeared himself to his 13,000 plus fans with his passion for music, video games and off-beat insights.

Kluwe wrote earlier today: "Sigh, and once again greed is the operative byword. Congrats Brees, Manning, Mankins, and Jackson for being 'that guy'. #douchebags."

The last part is a hashtag, a popular tool on Twitter to convey sarcasm, emphasize something or make an additional point.

Kluwe didn't back down from his comment, addressing Yahoo! Sports NFL columnist Mike Silver by saying, "Would you prefer I went James Harrison on them?" In that tweet, though, Kluwe noted in a hashtag that hastags don't count.

There are several reports that New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, New England Patriots guard Logan Mankins and San Diego Chargers receiver Vincent Jackson are making separate demands, even though they are among the names representing the 1,900 plus NFL PLayers.

Yahoo! Sports reporter earlier today that Jackson and Mankins wanted to either be free agents or to receive $10 million apiece while Manning and Brees wanted to be exempt from the franchise tag designation. ESPN, however, reported that Mankins has not made that demand.

None of those four players have commented, but they're enduring a bashing. The popular website Pro Football Talk ripped any of the plaintiffs who are "trying to cut their own deals."

"Regardless of what any of the named plaintiffs want or don't want for themselves, the fact that they're trying to get anything for themselves remains highly offensive," the website's founder Mike Florio wrote. "They signed up to represent the class of all players, not themselves."

I'm sure I speak for many, when I say I hope that these four players aren't holding this up in any way.

If they are, that would be absurdly selfish.


Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh said Tuesday he doesn't believe the botched draft-day trade with the Bears was the result of an "honest" mistake, as Bears general manager Jerry Angelo has claimed.

"It was disappointing," Harbaugh said on the "Waddle and Silvy Show" on WMVP (AM-1000). "They can get mad at me if they want, but I'm not buying the mistake thing. It wasn't a mistake. They knew what they were doing.

"They put their guy on the phone. They agreed to a pick. They got their guy on the phone. They recognized he wasn't getting calls from the team behind them, and they basically stalled for over a minute, telling us they had called the trade in. They hadn't called the trade in. They said it was a mistake. Those guys have been doing it for a long time, c'mon."

The Bears and Ravens agreed to swap first-round picks in the April NFL Draft, with Angelo giving up a fourth-round selection to move up three slots to No. 26, but the Bears did not confirm the trade with the league office, as rules require. The Ravens ended up drafting Colorado cornerback Jimmy Smith while the Bears grabbed Wisconsin tackle Gabe Carimi, who they were afraid would be gone if they didn't move up to get him. Both teams getting the player they ultimately wanted is one reason why the Bears didn't feel they had to compensate the Ravens for a mistake they admit they made.

The Bears spokesperson said the team has "moved on."

Harbaugh said he would be hesitant to deal with the Bears in the future.

"They basically just stole [three] spots from us, and that's not OK. That's not something ... it's not ethical, it's not right. And I personally agree with our owner Steve Bisciotti that they should have been held accountable for it. But also it is what it is, they didn't do anything illegal. We were just disappointed with it."


In the latest sign that the lockout is indeed winding down, the Bears announced today that single-game tickets will go on sale at 11 a.m. on July 28.

Tickets can be purchased through Ticketmaster via phone and Internet only. Prices range from $74.00 to $385.00. There is a four-tickets-per-customer limit. There is no limit for exhibition games.

Yet another positive sign came when ProFootballTalk.com reported that the NFL has sent an e-mail to UK fans urging them to buy tickets to the Bears-Buccaneers game scheduled for Oct. 23 at Wembley Stadium. The game would've been played in Tampa if negotiations had not produced a new CBA by Aug. 1.


A limousine carrying former NFL star Jim McMahon has crashed just south of Reno Monday afternoon.

Jim McMahon was hospitalized after the limo he was riding in ran off the road in Pleasant Valley, Nev., according to KOLOTV.com. The website is reporting that the former Bears Super-Bowl winning quarterback was thrown from the back to the front seat when the limo plowed into a field. Neither he nor the driver were believed to have been seriously injured.

McMahon was in the area after participating in the American Century Celebrity golf tournament over the weekend.


Cedric Benson has been released from jail in Austin, Texas, after being arrested for assault, according to the Associated Press.

The ex-Bears running back was arrested on a misdemeanor count of assault with bodily injury involving a former male roommate. It was first reported that the dispute was with a Benson family member but Benson's attorney, Sam Baskett, claims that is erroneous.

Benson, a free-agent after leading the Bengals in rushing in each of the past three seasons, was arrested last summer after an alleged fight in an Austin bar. He was charged with misdemeanor assault for allegedly punching an employee of a bar in the face.

The Bears released Benson, a former first-round draft pick, before the 2008 season.


Expect to hear a lot about the receiver position when the offseason signing frenzy begins, even if it won't be and shouldn't be the Bears' No. 1 priority.

As tantalizing as many of the free-agent receivers might be, players such as Randy Moss, Braylon Edwards, Terrell Owens and Plaxico Burress don't fit offensive coordinator Mike Martz's disciplined scheme. Santana Moss would be the best fit but all signs point to him signing with the Redskins.

Carolina Panthers receiver Steve Smith wants to be traded to a contender and cleaned out his locker at Bank of America Stadium. He had the worst statistical season of his career while playing for the league's least-productive offense last season. At 32, his best years are probably behind him, but he fits Martz's offense, and the Bears have firsthand knowledge of how big an impact he can make after he torched them for 218 yards and two touchdowns in a 29-21 NFC divisional playoff loss in 2005.

Tom Sorensen of the Charlotte Observer, via ProFootballTalk.com, reporting that although the Bears meet Smith's criteria of a playoff contender after advancing to the NFC Championship game last season, his preference is to play for either the Chargers or Ravens.

His preference may not end up being as big a factor as Ron Rivera's. If Smith can be added for a third- or fourth-round pick, General manager Jerry Angelo shouldn't hesitate, but here's another factor: Does the first-year Panthers coach want to give coach Lovie Smith a potentially critical piece of a championship puzzle after the Bears' coach chose not to retain him after the Super Bowl season in 2006?

I'm not saying yes or no, but it's an interesting question.

Mike Martz told the Associated Press that "size doesn't make any difference" in his offense.

"It makes absolutely no difference," the Bears offensive coordinator told the Associated Press. "With Matt [Forte] as a runner and our ability to run the ball, we get a lot of one-on-one coverage, and you have to have receivers that can beat corners one on one. And generally, the guys that can change direction and run fast - those are the kinds of guys that you're looking for.

"If he's a big guy that can do all that, that's a rare find. A lot of times, those guys are more 5-10 guys."

Free agent receiver Plaxico Burress told ESPN 1000 earlier in the week that the Bears were among his top three NFL destinations. But, sources have indicated the Bears don't have a strong interest in him. Burress is 6 foot 5 and has been a tremendously productive player throughout his career. But the last NFL game he's played in was in November 2008.

Martz said he would also like to get the ball more to Devin Hester and that emphasis wouldn't adversely affect the receiver's contributions on special teams.

"We don't want to do anything to diminish that," Martz said.

As for the offensive line, Martz said he assumes center Olin Kreutz will re-sign and that rookie Gabe Carimi can fit in quick. He admitted to the Associated Press that the offensive line was "the biggest issue." But he said Roberto Garza helped the unit run the ball better.

Finally, Martz told the Associated Press that his offense only needed one day to prepare for the preseason opener against the St. Louis Rams.

"You don't do game plans for those games, anyway," he said. "It's not like a regular-season game at all. There's not a whole lot of game preparation. You look at personnel, things of that nature, and clean things up execution-wise. The preparation for preseason games, particularly the first one, is not real hard."

Sort of a strange story published by the Associated Press, without any quotes. Perhaps it will be updated later.

But, the AP story on ESPN.com said that Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz said his unit would only need one day to prepare for the Hall of Fame game Aug. 7 against the St. Louis Rams.

I'm not sure whether that's a reflection of how insignificant that game is or a reflection of Martz's unending glass-half full mindset.

The Bears and Rams were picked for the Hall of Fame game, which means they'll have to play five in the preseason.

The Bears are scheduled to open training camp at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, Ill., at the end of next week.


I keep hearing how the Bears need two weeks of practice to prepare for the Hall of Fame exhibition game against the St. Louis Rams on Aug. 7. While that may be ideal, and while participating teams are allowed to open training camp early in order to have two weeks to prepare, that's not always the case.

The Tennessee Titans opted to delay the start of their training camp in 2009 despite playing in the Hall of Fame game. That year, Jeff Fisher's team reported to camp on July 31st. Tennessee defeated the Bills, 21-18, on Aug. 9.

The Bears are scheduled to report to training camp at Olivet Nazarene on July 22nd. While players and owners must find common ground on a new collective bargaining agreement soon for that to happen, its likely the game would not be postponed even if the Bears didn't report to Bourbonnais until at or around Aug. 1.

For that reason, many Bears veterans are no-doubt hoping negotiations and the start of the new league year drag into the first week of August, because playing a fifth exhibition game is not high on their list of priorities.

While free-agent wide receiver Plaxico Burress thinks he would be a great fit in Chicago, multiple sources have told the Sun-Times that the Bears would only be interested in the former New York Giants playmaker at a bargain basement price, if at all.

Burress told WMVP (AM-1000) on Tuesday that the Bears will be one of this top three destinations when the lockout ends. While Burress would seem to fit the Bears need of a bigger, play-making receiver, he was recently freed after serving almost two years for carrying an unlicensed gun after accidentally shooting himself in the leg in a New York night club. As if character concerns, inactivity and his age (he turns 34 next month) weren't enough to worry about, Burress is not known for running the type of precise routes required in offensive coordinator Mike Martz's offense.

In other words, while he may be the type of receiver that quarterback Jay Cutler would love to throw in a sandlot game, he likely doesn't fit the requirements of Martz's precision scheme.

The fact that the NFL lockout would prevent Cutler and Burress from practicing with each other in the offseason and during a potentially abbreviated preseason could be seen as another detriment.

"Oh without question, without a doubt [the Bears are among my top three destinations]," Burress said on "The Carmen, Jurko & Harry Show" on Tuesday. "My decision making is going to come down to what I said, playing with an elite quarterback, playing with a running game, playing with a great tight end, and Greg Olsen is already that guy, in my estimation he'll be a Pro Bowler this season.

"That's the same situation I went into when I made my decision to go to New York. It's a pretty similar situation."

Burress said he's "a big fan" of Cutler's during the radio interview and that he has received a lot of "love" from Bears fans via social networking sites.

"I can't say where I'm already going," Burress said. "There are a lot of situations for me to go into. It's not solely going to be based on how much I'm going to be making. It's going to be based on me putting myself in a great situation. Me going to a city where I'm going to be embraced by the fans, and going to an organization that I can help and make the other players around me have the impact, go out and score some touchdowns and hopefully win the Super Bowl."


When he was voted into the Hall of Fame, Richard Dent said either his college coach or his daughter would be his presenter at the induction ceremony. The news became official Monday, when it was announced that former Tennessee State coach Joe Gilliam was do the honors.

Dent gives Gilliam credit for developing the football and life skills that made receiving the game's greatest honor possible.

The induction ceremony will be held Aug. 6 at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. The Bears are scheduled to play the St. Louis Rams in the Hall of Fame game the following day, which may be cancelled if the lockout doesn't end soon.


Devin Hester changed his workout routine before last season and was pleased with the results. After not scoring on a kick-or punt return during the 2008 and '09 seasons, Hester returned three punts for touchdowns last season, breaking the NFL record for career kick return touchdowns with a 64-yard punt return against the Minnesota Vikings.

While this offseason has been strange for everyone because of the league-imposed lockout, Hester is following the same regimen that he believes resulted in much of his success in 2010, which means he's spending less time lifting weights and more time training on a track to make sure his legs are in condition to excel as both a returner and a receiver.

That's especially important in an offense designed by coordinator Mike Martz that requires receivers to have explosive speed as well as endurance.

"It's been more running still, more focus on the lower body, just keeping my legs strong and staying in shape," Hester said Thursday after the first day of his two-day kids camp at Lincoln Way Central High School in New Lenox. "That's the nature of our offense. The biggest thing is to come back in shape. That's what me and the guys have been trying to do."

Although Hester has been working out with quarterback Jay Cutler and other offensive skill position players three times a week for much of the offeason, he said the mental and physical reps aren't the same as they would be under the watchful eyes of coaches if organized team activities and minicamps had not been cancelled as a result of the lockout.

He also said Cutler is showing no ill effects of suffering a Grade II MCL tear in a NFC Championship Game loss to the Packers.

"He looks good," Hester said of Cutler. "It's the same Jay."

The Bears offense must continue to evolve if the team is going to contend for a second straight NFC North title this year, let alone compete with the defending Super Bowl champion Packers.

Martz's unit finished 30th in yards and 21st in points scored last season and were anemic against Green Bay in the regular-season finale and in the title game loss, failing to score a touchdowns in six quarters when Cutler was in the game.

"Their offense struggled with us, too," Hester said. "They only put up [24 offensive] points against us. It's a two-way situation. When you have a great defense like they do and like we do it comes down to two or three big plays in a game that determines the outcome."

When the lockout ends and training camp begins, Hester is confident the offense will benefit from experience gained under Martz last season.

"The biggest thing is we're now a year into the system," he said. "We did actually start clicking toward midseason and throughout so that was good. Now the goal is to finish where we started and really pick it up and be more advanced with it."

Matt Forte joins Maurice Jones-Drew on Sirius

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Jacksonville Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew was one of the more critical players of Bears quarterback Jay Cutler, who wasn't able to finish the NFC title game with a Grade II MCL tear.

Interestingly, one of Jones-Drew's close friends in the NFL is Bears running back Matt Forte. This week, Forte made an appearance on Jones-Drew's SiriusXM NFL Radio show, 'Runnin' with MJD.'

"I know you better than, I guess, the general public does. You were stating your opinion. I'm like, 'Hey, that's Maurice. He's an outspoken guy.' He's a little crazy, at times. I like you, but you're a little crazy," Forte said. "I think a lot of times when stuff happens like that maybe sometimes guys should keep their mouths shut. If your opinion may upset a lot of people, maybe it's better off that it not be said.

"You may not want that type of attention drawn toward you. But I think you like that attention so, it was good for you."

Jones-Drew then added, "Nah, I just like to tell the truth."

On the show, they replayed a comment from Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher, who defended Cutler's toughness then added that Jones-Drew missed a couple games late in the season with a knee injury.

"He was telling the truth," Forte said. "We were the most sacked team in the NFL. I don't think in the championship game, he would fake an injury."

Jones-Drew also asked Forte about a new contract.

"I hope the Bears feel I deserve a new contract," Forte said. "This league is based on production, and the last three years, I've produced very well for our offense. I think production speaks for itself."

Finally, asked about not making the NFL Network's Top 100 List, Forte said, "I'm not really bothered too much by it...

"Nobody wins an award for making a top 100 or an extra bonus check."


Bears guard and former Texas A&M-Kingsville standout Roberto Garza will be inducted into the Lone Star Conference Hall of Honor this fall.

Garza has played in the NFL for the past 10 years, the last six with the Bears. He was a two-time Associated Press Little All-America honoree and a first-team All-America selection by the American Football Coaches Association during his collegiate career.

Garza also won the NCAA Division II national title in the shot put in 2000 and finished third in 1999. He also won the conference title in the discus in 1999.

Richard Dent will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Aug. 6 regardless of whether the Hall of Fame exhibition game scheduled for the following day is cancelled because of the lockout.

Longtime Hall of Fame spokesperson Joe Horrigan believes confusion may be a reason why more tickets to the enshrinement ceremony are lagging. According to Horrigan, ticket sales for the practice game between the Rams and Bears on Aug. 7 have also been sluggish, which is likely the result of the ongoing lockout.

If owners and players can't reach a deal in the next week the Hall of Fame Game will likely be the first exhibition game canceled because of the ongoing labor impasse.

"The only thing we can control is that we are prepared regardless of what the magical date might be," Horrigan said when asked if the lockout had to end by a specific date for the Hall of Fame Game to be played. "We'd prefer not to speculate. The fact is, I'm sure there is a date in which it becomes impractical for the league and teams participating."

The Bears are scheduled to open training camp July 23 at Olivet Nazarene University. Since it will take time for a new collective bargaining agreement to be ratified by players and owners, and teams must be allowed to sign drafted rookies and rookie-and-veteran free agents, the lockout will have to end soon for the Bears to start on time.

Olivet Nazarene spokesperson Gary Griffin said the university's staff can be ready to host the Bears on 24 hours notice and will be prepared to handle crowds a few days after that.

"We exist to serve and educate our students and that job continues year-round no matter what happens in the NFL," Griffin said. "If the NFL ends their [lockout] in the net three weeks, we put together a plan for training camp that we've had in effect for 10 years. Everybody knows their job and we get ready like we always do. If the NFL does not end the [lockout] we wait until we hear and get ready when we're supposed to. We're not living under any more strain or pressure than any other year. We're flexible. When your business is to provide an education and living atmosphere for 2,600 college students, being flexible with a pro training camp is pretty easy to do."

If the lockout continues past the first week of August, the Bears may decide to hold an abbreviated training camp at Halas Hall rather than hauling all their equipment to Bourbonnais for a training camp that might only last two weeks. Such a scenario would make it virtually impossible for fans to witness training camp, however, as there is little sideline space or parking at the team's Lake Forest headquarters. Although new grass practice fields were installed this offseason, the wear and tear on the turf from training camp and regular season practices could also be problematic.

Julius Peppers was named the league's 10th best player in NFL Network's Top 100 Series, one ahead of Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and one behind Saints quarterback Drew Brees.

Peppers, who had eight sacks, 54 tackles and two interceptions last season, was one of four Bears players to make the Top 100, as voted on by NFL players. Devin Hester was 32nd, Brian Urlacher 49th and Lance Briggs 92nd.

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was voted No. 1 overall with Colts quarterback Peyton Manning second and Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis third. Ravens safety Ed Reed, Steelers safety Troy Polamalu, Texans receiver Andre Johnson and Jets cornerback Derrelle Revis rounded out the Top 10.

Trainer Mike Bystol of Poliquin Performance Center in Northfield trains a lot of professional athletes, including several members of the Bears.

I was struck by what Bystol told me in a story I did about Olin Kreutz.

http://www.suntimes.com/sports/6266824-606/bears-might-have-competition-for-olin-kreutz.html

Kreutz is healthier than he's been in a while. And, this offseason, he's able to ramp up his training, which he's done with Bystol four to five days a week for nearly the entire offseason.

Bystol gave me a great example, noting that Kreutz couldn't put any weight on a sled they use last offseason. But, this time around, he's slapping 400 pounds on it.

Meanwhile, Bystol also gave me an update on two other offensive linemen, Roberto Garza and Chris Williams.

"Both of them are doing really well," Bystol said. "Garza, strength wise, is the strongest he's ever been. And [Williams] is doing pretty good too."

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