Bears general manager Phil Emery has to fill one more vacancy he may or may not have anticipated this offseason when Rusty Jones, the team's strength and conditioning coordinator for the past eight seasons, retired Saturday.
''After 28 years in the league, it was time for me,'' Jones told ChicagoBears.com, the team's web site. ''I just feel ... it's time for me at this stage of my life to do other things and enjoy my family.''
Jones, 59, has a stellar reputation in 28 years in the NFL -- the first 20 with the Buffalo Bills, where he was credited with conditioning players to run the Bills' no-huddle offense in the 1990s under Marv Levy, when the Bills won four consecutive AFC championships. He was named the National Professional Strength and Conditioning Coach of the Year after the 2006 season, when the Bears reached the Super Bowl.
Jones was hired by the Bears in 2005, replacing Russ Riederer, who retired suddenly after a 2004 season in which the Bears were plagued by injuries. Brian Urlacher missed seven games with hamstring and leg injuries that season and the Bears lost all seven games.
The Bears had similar injury problems in 2012 -- the Bears lost 20 players to injury in the final six weeks of the season as they slumped out of the playoff picture after a 7-1 start. Urlacher again was at the top of the list. He missed the final four games with a hamstring injury.
But Emery, a strength and conditioning coach for 15 years at the college level from 1982-98, unequivocally said the spate of injuries at the end of the season were not a reflection on Jones or the Bears' conditioning program, and made a point to give Jones a ringing endorsement.
''I think it's just a coincidence of the NFL'' Emery told the Sun-Times on Jan. 1. ''It's a tough, physical game. I have complete trust in Rusty. I've spent a lot of time with him. I've circled back on players -- especially our practice-squad players -- [to see] how our players are progressing.
''I don't have any lack of confidence in Rusty. He's as good as you're going to get. He's at the top of his profession.''
Be that as it may, it will be interesting to see how Emery fills the vacancy. Jim Arthur has been Jones' assistant strength and conditioning coach for the last 11 seasons. Montreal Alouettes offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Pat Meyer, rumored to be a candidate to join Trestman with the Bears, was the strength and conditioning coordinator at North Carolina State in 2005-06, when Trestman was the Wolfpack's offensive coordinator.