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General manager Jerry Angelo said that the Bears have red flags now that they have lost six of seven games entering this afternoon's meeting with the St. Louis Rams.

But he's not panicking at this point, and vowed to fix the mess the 4-7 club has fallen into during a season that began with such huge expectations.

Speaking with WBBM play-by-play voice Jeff Joniak on the station's pregame show, Angelo addressed some of the issues plaguing the team. He was not asked about the status of coach Lovie Smith, who is 20-23 since losing Super Bowl XLI.

"We do have red flags,'' Angelo said in the interview. "Those flags were made by us. There will be some inventory like there is at the end of the year, there will be plenty enough time for that. Right now, I want to focus on the now, this afternoon, playing good football. We're paid to win. We have 16 games. We want to win each one of those games so we want to stay focused on the season."

"[Things] are exceptionally rough and we're all disappointed given the fact that we had high expectations. There is still a glimmer of hope and we'll always play on that as long as there is. We're in a poor state right now, obviously, we need a win badly. That doesn't ever lose our focus in terms of what we have to do now."

Asked what his message to fans would be, Angelo said not to lose hope.

"I have been in this league a long, long time. Believe me, I will never live without hope,'' he said. "There might be situations that look hopeless but it certainly is not that way internally. We will come out of this better for it. I promise you that. Sometimes things don't work out according to plan. Doesn't mean the plan was bad. The plan was solid. It just didn't work. We'll go back and we'll re-visit the things that didn't work, fix the things that didn't work, and when you do that you will be better for it.

"Can I sit here and tell you exactly what? I can't do that right now. There will be time to do it. I promise this to our fans, and I know this in my heart of hearts, we will be better through this ordeal. I do promise you that, and there will always be hope. It will not be false hope."

Jarron Gilbert is ready to go.

That is what Bears general manager Jerry Angelo announced earlier today on the team's Web site.

The rookie third-round draft pick from San Jose State, who was the team's top pick after the Jay Cutler trade and after Angelo traded down and out of the second round, has been active for only two of the 11 games so far. He didn't get on the field in one of the two that he dressed for, but the team is confident he has made strides on the practice field.

"When we drafted Jarron Gilbert, we drafted the value of his position. We did not draft a need,'' Angelo said. "Because of that, he's having to wait his turn. There are [players] ahead of him. You normally dress seven defensive linemen, but we've been dressing eight, so it's hard to get him active. He's ready to go. I'm anxious to see him. The coaches feel he's ready to play and deserves to play. It's just a matter of numbers on game day."

MINNEAPOLIS--As bad as the Bears' running game has been this season--the joke going around this week was they no longer get off the bus running, they get off a minivan running--they're going to have to be able to throw the ball this afternoon against the Vikings to have success.

That means they're going to have to keep the pocket clean for quarterback Jay Cutler, and that's something the offense has struggled to do this season against pass rushers far less accomplished than the Minnesota front four. Jared Allen leads the NFL in sacks since being drafted in 2004 with 68. He's got 10 1/2 this season and terrorized the Bears for 4 1/2 last season. The thinking in getting Orlando Pace--and it's not like general manager Jerry Angelo had a bounty of options when John Tait surprised the team by surprising--was that he'd definitely improve pass protection.

Pace played a solid game last week vs. Philadelphia's Trent Cole, a compact, high-energy guy that some figured would give the lumbering Pace fits. Now, the bar is raised with Allen, the Vikings' right end. Pace has some familiarity with him. The Rams and Chiefs, where Allen came from, play every year in preseason. Pace has faced him once in the regular season in 2006 in a game in which Allen had two sacks of St. Louis quarterback Marc Bulger.

"Jared is having a good year,'' Pace said. "I've played him a few times. You know he's a guy who is going to give a lot of effort on every play. He's going to keep coming. So you have to really block him to the whistle. But he's having a really good year. He's a younger guy [when I played him before], so he probably gotten a lot better.''

Running back Garrett Wolfe is expected to miss the remainder of the season with a lacerated kidney.

Wolfe was hospitalized for three nights following the Arizona game on Nov. 8, and while the hope was that he would be able to return before the end of the season, that's not a possibility. Wolfe is expected to make a complete return, though, and general manager Jerry Angelo expressed a desire to see him receive more opportunities last week.

"He's a great kid and it's unfortunate,'' Angelo said. ``I was hoping he would start integrating more into the offense and [offensive coordinator] Ron [Turner] was using him more in practices, and he's done a good job on special teams. I wanted to see him take another step as a runner.''

The Holy Cross and Northern Illinois product had 22 carries for 120 yards this season, ranking him second behind Matt Forte. He caught two passes for 12 yards, but his most prominent role was on special teams. He's tied for third with nine tackles, eight of which are solos.

NBC-5 WMAQ caught up with announcer Bob Costas today to speak with him about being turned down by the Bears for a story Sunday night on "Football Night in America.'' The team was asked to supply quarterback Jay Cutler, coach Lovie Smith and general manager Jerry Angelo and was denied.

Costas and NBC will continue with plans to do a story on the quarterback and his struggles of late for the Bears leading into the network's broadcast of the game with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Here is a transcript of the interview supplied by NBC-5. We thank them for the heads up.

Q: Did you see the Sun-Times article today and what were your thoughts on it?

Bob Costas: Well, I'd rather that I and NBC not be the center of the story and I don't think that we are. And I don't think this is particularly a big deal. If let's say Jay Cutler had been removed as the starting quarterback and Lovie Smith had refused to talk about a specific move or something comes up with the commissioner of the league won't address a certain issue, then I think you have reason for complaint. In this particular case, I certainly don't take it personally. It's obvious that they have decided that there is nothing that they can add to it. What else can they say? The team has been playing poorly. Cutler had an especially bad game last time out. There isn't that much more that can be said about that, so they've decided that anything that they say just adds to the noise and they'll just out there and play on Sunday and let that be their answer. So, I understand. I don't have any particular problem with it.

Q: Did it bother you that the Sun-Times seemed to put you out in front of the story?

BC: I certainly don't take it personally. I think the answer would've been the same if it was Monday Night Football or if the request had been made by CBS or by FOX or whomever made the request. It's just the particular point in the Bears' season. I don't know Jay Cutler that well, but I've talked with him before and interviewed him a couple of times, seems like a nice young guy. I don't have any problem with him whatsoever and I'm sure at a different juncture either this season or next season, we'll sit down and talk again when the circumstances are different.

Q: Does it make you uncomfortable to be part of the story? I know broadcasters like to describe the story, not actually be a part of it.

BC: Yeah, you'd prefer not to be, but occasionally it happens because you can't control how other people decide to view it, but I don't think it's a terribly big deal.

SAN FRANCISCO--Jerry Angelo said that Tommie Harris is being evaluated for next season and the future beyond just like every player on the roster.

The defensive tackle caught the general manager off guard when he punched Arizona's Deuce Lutui on the fourth play of the game Sunday and was ejected. It was another bizarre chapter in the recent history of Harris, who was suspended for a game last season and was benched earlier this season by coach Lovie Smith.

"All the guys are being evaluated for next year, OK,'' Angelo said. "And you know what I am talking about. I am not going to make him out to be a target. He's got to play and do the things we know he can do that he has shown in spurts. It's not that he can't do it. We want to see the consistency.''

Harris earned a $6.67 million roster bonus this season and the has a $2.5 million roster bonus for 2010 that is due in June. He hasn't played to the level the Bears want to see, although Angelo said he has shown enough glimpses to leave the organization hopeful he will out it together again.

"It is old news [the ejection] and I don't want to labor it, he said what he said, he's apologetic,'' Angelo said prior to tonight's game. "It's certainly not in his character to do something like that. It wasn't in college, it wasn't here. We've never had any examples of that by him. That really came out of left field for everyone, in terms of what he did, the timing of when he did it, it's a bad incident. The league will I am sure fine him.''

Lovie Smith was exasperated when asked if there will be changes on the offensive line, particularly at left guard where it is believed Josh Beekman took reps with the first team on Wednesday.

"We don't want to give the opponent an advantage. We want them to wonder what we're going to do, like you are right now,'' Smith said. "That's the way it's been throughout. So it's not like there's something new that I'm coming up with right now.

"OK, I'm not going to talk about anything personnel-wise. To me that's pretty clear. If that's all you want to talk about there's nothing else to talk about."

General manager Jerry Angelo announced that he expected some potential changes in personnel on the team's Web site this morning.

"I don't want to go too far into this, but certainly there are things that need to be corrected and things that we need to do better,'' Angelo said. "Do we need to look at some personnel? Yeah, we do. There's some of that going on as you'll see Sunday. But we can't overreact. I feel very confident that Lovie [Smith] and his staff see that and will get the wrongs righted. We're going to focus on what we can control, and that's Sunday's game against Cleveland."

CINCINNATI--I'm pushing off to the airport here very soon but I wanted to put together some contrasting takes on the situation involving Tommie Harris and why he did not play Sunday in the 45-10 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.

That's because this story is becoming more bizarre. I wrote about it here in the print and online edition of the newspaper but want to use this space to tie together the comments by the men involved and let their words speak.

First, here is what we know: Harris did not practice any day last week. Coach Lovie Smith said following the loss at Atlanta that Harris was dealing with soreness in his chronic left knee. He was listed on the injury report all week, and was classified as doubtful Friday afternoon when the final report came out.

Harris did some work on the field at Paul Brown Stadium about two hours before kickoff, not unlike work rehabbing players do from time to time before games even when they're not playing. It didn't look to be anything too rigorous. He was in shorts and a T-shirt. Anyway, let's back up to last week first.

General manager Jerry Angelo appeared on WSCR 670-AM last Thursday morning, before Harris had missed his second practice of the week, and was asked about the player:

"Tommie is healthy. That is not an issue,'' Angelo said.

"We've seen the flashes during the games. So I feel good he has the physical traits to continue to be a top rusher and really that is what we're looking for Tommie to do. On Sunday, we haven't seen the consistency, I think he would say the same thing. Parts are there but again the tape is the tape. We'll continue to coach him and monitor him. Hopefully we're going to see the things he can do on a real basis for four quarters.''

Jerry Angelo took the high road when it came to comments made by Warren Sapp about the Bears' general manager Wednesday morning on the Mully & Hanley Show on WSCR, 670-AM.

Sapp, who was drafted in the first round by the Buccaneers in 1995 when Angelo was the director of player personnel, said he wasn't a fan of him and asserted that Angelo didn't trade for quarterback Jay Cutler as much as the Denver Broncos gave him away. Sapp said Cutler will be the perfect quarterback for the Bears when the weather turns at Soldier Field this winter.

"I'm not an Angelo fan. He was in Tampa the whole time I was there,'' Sapp said. "Trust me we had discussions about different things, no, no thank you, you all can have him.

"Trust me, we were discussing players, this player, that player, because I was [there] in the beginning back in '95 when we were building the thing, you know before Mike Alstott, before [Warrick] Dunn, you know Karl "The Truth" [Williams], all the players we were picking up when [Tony] Dungy was there, and I was watching the evaluation. I had conversations so trust me, you all can have him.''

Sapp said Angelo was averse to making drastic moves and he "just [did] enough to not get noticed and not get fired.''

The Bears have won three division titles since Angelo arrived in 2001, although it's fair to debate the impact he had on the first one in '01. Since 2005, a year after Lovie Smith was hired as coach, the Bears are tied for the second-best record in the NFC at 43-26.

It was with a smile that Jay Cutler said congratulations to Eli Manning and Philip Rivers as they pulled down blockbuster contracts this summer, and the Bears quarterback was able to smile about his own deal on Wednesday.

Cutler signed a $30 million, two-year extension Tuesday night that gives him protection against the possibility of a lockout in 2011, something he said is on the minds of all players. The Bears, according to general manager Jerry Angelo, didn't plan on addressing a deal with Cutler during the season as he was signed through 2011 on his rookie contract when they traded for him with the Denver Broncos.

But agent Bus Cook approached the team and they quickly found some common ground that made sense for both parties.

"We felt given the uncertainty of the CBA, given the fact we had the cap room, this was a good time for us because what it does for us is it helps our planning going forward,'' Angelo said. "This will not impede us to not do anything we need to do in free agency moving forward. In fact, it's going to help us now because there's real clarity because Jay was always in the plans. It was just when we were going to do it and how much it was going to ... the cost. All that got resolved in a timely manner.

"We're very very happy with that. I know Jay is happy with that. He made it very clear he wanted to be a Bear. Money was never an issue when we made the trade with him."

Cutler had a $12 million roster bonus due in 2011, money that wasn't guaranteed. In the extension, he moved a lot of money forward in the deal--he'll pocket $16 million this season--and protected himself at a time when no one can predict the future between the owners and players.

"I think every player in the league is probably concerned with that because we don't know what is going to happen, is there going to be a lockout or what's going to happen?'' Cutler said. "You know, the (players association) is advising everyone to save money. So any money you can get before that point is going to be good for any player.''

The Jay Cutler contract extension on Tuesday night sets the quarterback to be on board for the same length of time as general manager Jerry Angelo, who is also signed through 2013. The Bears took advantage of their surplus of salary cap this season--they had nearly $20 million available when the season began--and applied a chunk of the space to this season's cap.

Cutler gets some security with $20 million of the $30 million in new money guaranteed, and that was significant for him with the chance of a lockout in 2011 when he had a $12 million roster bonus due. If he plays like the Bears believe he is capable of--and they think the sky is the limit--they'll be back to the bargaining table before this deal is done. Cutler is now set to make roughly $50 million over the next five seasons and elite quarterbacks are already in the neighborhood of $15 million per year. But with two years after this one remaining on his rookie contract, Cutler didn't have a lot of leverage. Remember, his contract is one thing he never talked about in wanting out of Denver as a 25-year-old Pro Bowl performer.

So where does this leave the Bears? Well, they have a quarterback to build around longterm right now, and early results show things are working well with his young wide receivers Johnny Knox and Earl Bennett. Are there any players the Bears would seek an extension with now during the remainder of the season? It's possible, you can't rule anything out, but it looks unlikely at this point.

Let's review when contracts are up for the team:

2009: DE Mark Anderson, S Josh Bullocks, S Danieal Manning, LB Darrell McClover, DE Adewale Ogunleye, RB Adrian Peterson, LB Nick Roach, LB Tim Shaw, LB Pisa Tinoisamoa, DT Matt Toeaina, LB Jamar Williams

Comment: With the possibility of an uncapped year hanging over the game, the Bears will be able to control most of these players (if they want to) if there is not an extension of the CBA. The only players coming out of contract who are ensured of being unrestricted free agents are McClover, Ogunleye, Peterson and Tinoisamoa. Coach Lovie Smith has been excited about Manning, but we haven't seen a lot from him on defense so far. As often as the Bears have gone hot and then cold on him, it might make sense to take the chance at a one-year tender on him to wait and see some consistency. Of course, the revolving door at safety will not stop until the Bears get some players they can plug in and count on. Ogunleye is an interesting case. Angelo said the trade for Gaines Adams didn't have anything to do with Anderson or Ogunleye. It's a situation where Ogunleye, 32, will probably test the market. He's known to like Smith, he likes the team and he's a captain. The Bears would probably have an opportunity to match an offer if they wanted. The guess right now is they might. Roach will be a restricted free agent. Anderson could return on a one-year tender if he plays well, and he'd actually earn more than Adams in 2010 with a tender.

ATLANTA--Time will tell, but it could prove to be one of the most productive scouting trips of general manager Jerry Angelo's career.

He was headed to Tampa last week to scout the South Florida-Cincinnati game, and after some initial discussions with Buccaneers general manager Mark Dominik, who was groomed for a time under Angelo, they agreed to meet face-to-face. That is how the trade on Friday for defensive end Gaines Adams got done with the Bears shipping out their second-round draft pick in 2010 for the No. 4 pick in the 2007 draft.

Angelo understands that Adams, who will not be active for tonight's game against the Falcons, is being labeled a bust in Tampa. They said the same thing about Cedric Benson, who he drafted fourth overall in 2005.

"I have seen situations like that,'' he said. "You get a few position coaches and a scheme change, the fourth pick in the draft, big fish bowl not living up to expectations. Hey, I have been part of it. We've seen it. We feel very strongly about our scheme, we feel very strongly about our coaches, we feel very strongly about the way we evaluate players. We did all of our due diligence and we felt like we're going to make this happen. There are risks to a draft pick, there is risk to this. I'm just hoping he is coming in here wanting to be a great player. If he is, I feel like we have all the tools to facilitate him coming to fruition.''

Angelo understands it probably didn't make the guys already in the Bears defensive line room happy. Adams will join a rotation that right now is Alex Brown-Adewale Ogunleye-Mark Anderson. It's not that he's unhappy with any of those players, and, yes, Ogunleye and Anderson could both return next season.

"I'm sure I didn't make any friends over this with the defensive line,'' Angelo said. "But I like them all. I just feel like you can't have enough of them. Unlike the offensive line, you play a lot of defensive linemen. We have a rotation. It's a pretty good rotation. He is hopefully another player that is going to add to the mix. It starts with the front, you know that, both on the offensive and defensive lines. I just felt like the value of what he does was too great not to take advantage of this opportunity.

"I'm not anticipating us doing anything with anybody other than what they are already doing. We just got another guy to be in the mix. It's a second-round draft pick. Does he have to be special? He doesn't have to be special. He has to be a good rank-and-file player we can win with. His position, and I can't minimize this, has tremendous value in our scheme. That had a lot of weight in our decision. These guys aren't easy to find and when you get an opportunity to potentially get one, you act on it."

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