Our friend Kevin Siefert over at ESPN. com had a couple of interesting items on Wednesday that we do not want to overlook. First, as part of a series that included one selection from each division, he named Bears' defensive tackle Tommie Harris as the veteran player on the hot seat in the NFC North.
We think it's an interesting selection and probably a pretty good one. We can't think of a veteran in a critical spot in Detroit other than maybe left tackle Jeff Backus. Seifert points out that Green Bay left tackle Chad Clifton is another potential choice considering the rebuilding taking place on that line. Sticking with that theme, it's probably fair to say the Vikings need a bounce back season from left tackle Bryant McKinnie, but is he on the hot seat?
Harris makes sense for all of the reasons that are outlined. The Bears expected great things from him when they signed him to a $40 million, four-year extension last summer, one that looks more like a $34 million, four-year extension now given the requirements for the de-escalating roster bonus in 2012. Still, there are big things expected of Harris and he didn't exactly deliver in 2008 when he said offseason distractions were an issue at times. The Bears have to generate a pass rush with the front four to effectively run Lovie Smith's scheme and that starts with Harris.
The Bears need a focused Harris and just as important a healthy Harris. The fear is they might not ever get the latter even if the team says he's checked out medically. Harris was held out of the end of the team's minicamp in March. He's never going to be full go on the practice field any longer. It makes us wonder seriously about a key thing general manager Jerry Angelo said about the draft. Let's go back to April 22 and review:
"Last year we made a conscious decision and we talked about it as an organization and [college scouting director] Greg [Gabriel] and I spent a lot of time on this too, but yes, we are looking at that and we are going to be more disciplined in our approach to taking players with medical concerns, and I want to emphasize that. ... We have to do a good job of being more disciplined because we've had some issues.''
Knowing what the Bears do now about Harris and his balky left knee, we wonder if the Bears would do the contract they over again. Perhaps the approach Angelo discussed when referring to the draft carries over to contracts for current players and free agents.
We're not suggesting Harris' knee is to a point where he will not be an effective player. Everyone expects he is capable of returning to dominant Pro Bowl form. But he'll have to be monitored and he's simply not going to be on the field all of the time.