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Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford reportedly missed practice this morning with his injured right knee, and it looks more like he will miss his second game since being sacked by Bears defensive end Adewale Ogunleye during the fourth quarter Oct. 4 at Soldier Field.

Ogunleye was fined $7,500 by the NFL for violating the league's horse collar policy, and he said he is appealing the fine. He feels bad for Stafford, who reportedly suffered a dislocated right knee cap, but wouldn't do anything differently on the play if he had it to do over again. Ogunleye spun Stafford to the ground, and replays clearly showed he was grasping the back of the jersey near or at the collar.

"I had him by the front of his jersey and it slipped to the back as he was trying to get away,'' Ogunleye said. "I was very surprised I was fined.


The Detroit Lions are virtually ensured of being without rookie quarterback Matthew Stafford for Sunday's game with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Bears defensive end Adewale Ogunleye will pay for that absence. The NFL has fined Ogunleye $7,500 for unnecessary roughness, ruling that when he spun Stafford to the ground for a sack midway through the fourth quarter he made a horse collar tackle. Ogunleye had the back of Stafford's jersey with his right hand. There was not a penalty called on the play.

Stafford reportedly suffered a dislocated right knee cap, although the injury is not believed to be serious. After missing two days of practice, he reportedly took part in some individual drills today. Still, veteran Daunte Culpepper is expected to start.

We got a lot of questions regarding Orlando Pace and the makeup of the Bears' offensive line and we're going to address that in a separate blog post a little later on. This is our first Q&A since last Thursday, and we will probably do our next one some time over the weekend. Let's get right to it.

Q: I heard you on the radio earlier today suggest that the Bears could trade linebacker Lance Briggs in order to get Jay Cutler. Do you really believe that? He's been their best defensive player since Tommie Harris stopped playing at a high level on a regular basis and I can't think where the Bears' defense would be without him. Tell me you're kidding. April Fools, right?

Chester, Chicago

A: In visiting with Mike Murphy on the WSCR 670-AM, I was trying to make the point that the Bears may have to deal just about whoever the Bears want for Cutler. The Broncos, it's believed, are seeking two first-round picks and a quarterback to start. Who knows if anyone will offer a package like that for Cutler. But there is a chance that Denver could look at Kyle Orton and say, ``no thanks.'' It's hard to say how the rest of the league views Orton, but it's probably safe to say most clubs don't hold him in the same esteem as the Bears do. Predictions of Rex Grossman being a commodity in free agency didn't go over so well, did they? It could be the league frowns on Bears' quarterbacks.

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Another exciting day of free agency is ahead of us. Let's get right into the action.

Q: Jason Taylor just got released from Washington. What are the chances the Bears would consider him as a one- or two-year stop-gap measure as a left end? Adewale Ogunleye is the Bears' most productive end right now as far as rushing the passer, but given the choice between the two, I would take Taylor, who has gotten it done for several years prior to being moved to outside linebacker in the 3-4. As a 4-3 end, there are few that can match his initial quickness off the ball, and his overall athleticism. His decline in production I think is more related to taking him away from the quarterback, not from any loss of talent or work.

Joe F., Parts Unknown:

A: That seems to be the popular thing to do this offseason, find a name player on the market and discuss whether or not he will wear a blue helmet with a C on the side of it this coming season. You don't have to think twice about this one, Joe. Taylor and the Redskins were in negotiations where the team said it was willing to maintain his salary for this season of $8.5 million provided he found the time to go to work in Ashburn, Va., for 75 percent of the offseason program, or roughly eight of the 13 weeks it's in operation. Mind you, this is a player who skipped workouts last offseason to participate in a television dancing show.

Now, let's think about that for a minute. Taylor isn't going to show up for eight weeks and then play during the season for $8.5 million? Does that sound for a second like a player the Bears would consider? They're embarking on what, to date, appears to be the most significant offseason program since the first once Lovie Smith ran in 2004. He's moved up the starting date to March 16--the very first day teams are allowed to begin this activity. He's setting the tone for not just the offseason program but the season itself and the first minicamp practice at Halas Hall is two weeks from today.

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The opening weekend of free agency has come and gone and the Bears added one player in offensive lineman Frank Omiyale, with offers currently out to two others in Kevin Jones and John St. Clair. There are a couple big names still floating out there--wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh is reportedly going to pick his new team some time today--but the fireworks appear to be just about over. Let's get back into the action:

Q: I have a question regarding Matt Cassel. Jerry Angelo has mentioned several times that sitting at the No. 18 pick there won't be an "elite" player available because if that player was "elite" than he would be taken already before the pick. My question is this then--Cassel, regardless if some people think he was just a "system" player with good weapons (Randy Moss and Wes Welker good, that running game...not so much), was an ELITE player in the NFL last year. For the past 20 years the Bears haven't had anything close to an elite quarterback. Why then wouldn't Angelo offer up his first-round pick when he conceded there will be no "elite" players left at pick 18 and grab a guy who was a top five quarterback last year? 

Steve K., New York

A: Fair question. I spoke to a handful of people around the league at a variety of different positions and the consensus was they believe Cassel was a product of the Patriots' system which not only had top talent, as you pointed out, but top coaching as well. The lack of a running game may have contributed to his success, at least his numbers, as Cassel ranked ninth in the league with 516 pass attempts. When you break down the numbers, I'm not sure Cassel was a top five quarterback from last year either. If you're just going by the numbers, I'll take Drew Brees, Philip Rivers, Peyton Manning, Kurt Warner, Donovan McNabb, Jay Cutler, Chad Pennington, Aaron Rodgers (yes, Aaron Rodgers) and maybe even Matt Ryan ahead of him. So, maybe he was a top 10 passer last season.

INDIANAPOLIS--We're getting ready to depart Indianapolis after three days but want to cover a few bases.

*** Showing up at the combine out of shape and announcing he will not work out until the pro day at his school was a bad move by Alabama's Andre Smith. Bolting town early Saturday morning without telling anyone was another strike against Smith. Remember, this is the player who was suspended for the Crimson Tide's bowl game because of illegal contact with an agent. The strikes keep piling up and Baylor's Jason Smith and Virginia's Eugene Monroe are capitalizing quickly.

Both performed well in workouts and on the field Saturday in Lucas Oil Stadium. Jason Smith, a converted tight end, put up 33 reps on the bench at 225 pounds. If Andre Smith doesn't wow scouts at his pro day March 11, he'll fall significantly behind these two.

*** USC quarterback Mark Sanchez, perhaps eyeing an opportunity to gain ground on Georgia's Matthew Stafford, will work out in positional drills today. Sanchez is anxious to answer any concerns scouts may have about his arm strength. With Stafford waiting until his school's pro day to throw for scouts, this is a chance for Sanchez to claim the spotlight. The thing he can't make up here is the lack of experience he has coming out of school with only 16 starts.

The scouting combine begins a week from today in Indianapolis, and two weeks from now teams and agents will be sitting next to their phones waiting for free agency to begin. Let's get right into Four Down Territory.

Q: I've heard that the quarterback crop coming out next year far exceeds that of this year. Could it be that Jerry Angelo has decided to wait until next year to draft that franchise quarterback the Bears so desperately need? Seems to me this would give Kyle Orton one more chance to prove himself. Plus, why waste a draft pick this year on a quarterback that isn't NFL ready when you can see a bumper crop of quarterbacks available next year. Of course, I thought that Atlanta's QB Matt Ryan wasn't that great of a draft pick, and look how that turned out.

Joe, Metropolis, Ill.

A: I think you're trying to play connect-the-dots with the Bears and the quarterback position and as we know that's a dangerous game. Committing to Orton as the quarterback for 2009 doesn't have anything to do with the talent available at quarterback in this draft or next.

The NFL Scouting Combine begins next Thursday in Indianapolis as teams ramp up their preparations for the draft and free agency. The combine is the breeding ground for many free-agent deals. Agents informally shop around with clubs, who are informally doing window shopping, and the parameters for most big deals are hammered out well before free agency opens.

But more on free agency in the coming days. For now, we'll dive into more of Mel Kiper Jr.'s teleconference from Wednesday with more thoughts on quarterbacks Matthew Stafford and Mark Sanchez and where they might fall in the draft.

There is nothing quite like a 25th anniversary and the 2009 draft marks the 25th year Mel Kiper Jr. will be associated with ESPN's coverage of the NFL Draft.

Kiper has the Bears selecting LSU defensive end Tyson Jackson in his latest mock draft, which has been up for a few weeks, and he took time out this morning in a conference call to talk about a realm of different possibilities.

"Wide receiver, offensive line and obviously the quarterback situation has to be cleared up there moving forward," Kiper said when asked what the Bears could potentially target at No. 18 in the first round. "But certainly wide receiver would be the one you have to look at, maybe Percy Harvin if he was there would be someone they have to consider. I just think their defense, which did not get it done in a lot of games, has to be looked at. Tyson Jackson from LSU, a defensive end, would seem to fit kind of the mold of the versatile defensive end they like. I would say Tyson Jackson if not maybe Percy Harvin.''

We outlined a few reasons why Harvin might not be a good match for the Bears in that slot last week. Harvin's cut from the Devin Hester mold and like Hester he played other positions in school. He also comes with some injury baggage, not the kind of thing general manager Jerry Angelo will likely be willing to consider at this pick.

As we pledged to do this offseason, we're not going to take our eye off the quarterback position for long. With that, let's dive right into Tuesday's Four Down Territory and start with a couple of QB queries.

Q: What are your thoughts on Kyle Orton? How much is his dropoff in production in the second half attributed to his ankle injury? Is he the longterm answer at quarterback? How much can he reasonably improve if the wide receiver corps remains so mediocre?

Joe B., Oxford, Conn.

A: If anyone has the answer to this question, Jerry Angelo would like to hear from them. Pronto. Here is the bottom line--Orton will be the starting quarterback for 2009. Even if the club brings in a veteran there isn't going to be any type of derby. Not after the maneuvering the team has done since the season ended to make sure everyone knows it believes in Orton.

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This page is an archive of recent entries in the Matthew Stafford category.

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