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Former Bear Duerson found dead in Miami home

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Former Bear Duerson found dead in Miami home

Friday, Feb. 18, 2011
Posted 10:13 a.m. Updated 1:20 p.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

Dave Duerson, the Notre Dame All-American safety who went on to win Super Bowls as a member of the 1985 Bears and 1990 New York Giants, was found dead in his Miami home Thursday night at age 50, the Dade County (Fla.) coroner confirmed.

The cause of death was not immediately released.

Its very sad, it really is, said Mike Ditka. Its a sad time to see that. I know his life changed a little bit. I didnt know anything that would be preying on his mind that way. He was a truly nice guy, he really was.

Former teammate Shaun Gayle talked with Duerson from time to time but was at a loss for words Friday.

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I just dont know what to say, Gayle said. Its just such a sad, sad day.

Said Richard Dent, who arrived in the same draft with Duerson: Its just so unfortunate. Im just speechless right now. Its very hard to take.

Duerson, from Muncie,Ind., won his job alongside Gary Fencik despite not being a favorite of then-coordinator Buddy Ryan, who did not let Duerson forget that Ryan considered the absent Todd Bell his better in the deep secondary.

But Duerson, a third-round pick in the Bears legendary 1983 draft, set a record for sacks by a defensive back with 7 in 1986, was voted to four consecutive Pro Bowls from 1986-89 and was named as the NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year in 1987. He was released by the Bears after the 1989 season, played for Bill Parcells with the Giants and finished his career with the Arizona Cardinals from 1991-93.

He was a hell of a football player and we knew that when we drafted him out of Notre Dame, Ditka said. He came at the right time because that was the year that Todd Bell didnt come in.

Dave stepped right in and became a starter and played the position as well as anybody. He was a big part of that 85 defense. Gary was the leader of the secondary and Dave was a leader in his own way. He did a great job with the players association, representing the team and his teammates.

Duerson went into business after football, acquiring several McDonalds franchises and eventually purchased a sausage manufacturer which he renamed Fair Oaks Farms. He was able to more than double the sales of the business, sold his interests and founded Duerson Foods.

That business foundered, however, and ultimately went into receivership in 2006. Duerson subsequently filed for divorce from wife Alicia in 2007 and was forced to relinquish his spot on the Notre Dame Board of Trustees after a domestic battery incident.

Our family asks that you remember Dave as a good, kind and caring man, Alicia told NBCChicago.com. He loved and cherished his family and friends and was extremely proud of his beloved Notre Dame andthe Chicago Bears.

John "Moon" Mullin is CSNChicago.com's Bears Insider, and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information.

2017 Bears position grades: Inside Linebacker

2017 Bears position grades: Inside Linebacker

2017 grade: B+

Level of need: Low

Decisions to be made on: Christian Jones (free agent), John Timu (free agent), Jonathan Anderson (free agent); Jerrell Freeman has reportedly been cut

Possible free agent targets: Demario Davis, Preston Brown, Anthony Hitchens, Avery Williamson, Navorro Bowman, Derrick Johnson

How the Bears rate Nick Kwiatkoski will be the key to figuring out what this unit will look like in 2018. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio thought Kwiatkoski finished last season strong, but strong enough to rely on him in 2018 as the starter next to Danny Trevathan?

The thing with the Bears’ inside linebackers, though: Trevathan makes whoever is playing next to him better. The problem is Trevathan hasn’t been able to stay on the field — he missed time in 2017 with a calf injury and a one-game suspension, and missed half of 2016 after rupturing his Achilles’. Trevathan hasn’t played a full 16-game season since 2013, so durability is an issue for the soon-to-be 28-year-old.

So that leads to this question: Do the Bears need to find someone in free agency, regardless of how they value Kwiatkoski, who’s also missed time due to injuries in his first two years in the league?

Free agency could provide a few options. Demario Davis had a career high 97 tackles for the New York Jets last year and has never missed a game as a pro. Preston Brown had some decent production in Buffalo and also hasn’t missed a game since being drafted in 2014. Avery Williamson may not be a world-beater but has only missed one game in his four years in the NFL.

The Bears could also opt for someone who fits more of a rotational mold, like Dallas’ Anthony Hitchens, or try to lure a veteran linebacker like Navorro Bowman (who played for Vic Fangio in San Francisco) or Derrick Johnson (who Matt Nagy knows from his Kansas City days) to play next to Trevathan and/or Kwiatkoski.

The Bears could opt to keep the status quo and re-sign Christian Jones and John Timu for depth, and enter 2018 with Kwiatkoski and Trevathan as the team’s starters (Jerrell Freeman, who suffered a season-ending injury and then was hit with his second PED suspension in as many years, was cut on Tuesday). Signing a starting-caliber free agent isn’t out of the question, either, but there is a third option for the Bears if they appear to stand pat in free agency: Draft an inside linebacker in April. If that’s the route they go, Georgia’s Roquan Smith could be the guy. But again, those more pressing needs at other positions could mean the Bears don’t burn a first-round pick on an inside linebacker.

With Josh Sitton on his way out, what’s next for the Bears’ offensive line?

With Josh Sitton on his way out, what’s next for the Bears’ offensive line?

The first major move of Ryan Pace’s 2018 offseason hit on Tuesday, as NFL Network reported the Bears will not exercise Josh Sitton’s $8 million option for 2018. 

The move accomplishes two things for the Bears: 1) It frees up about $8 million in cap space and 2) Removes a veteran from the offensive line and creates a hole to fill, presumably by a younger free agent or draft pick. 

The 31-year-old Sitton signed a three-year deal with the Bears after Green Bay cut him just before the 2016 season, and was a Pro Bowler his first year in Chicago. Sitton played 26 of 32 games in two years with the Bears, but him being on the wrong side of 30 was likely the biggest factor here. If the Bears saw his skills eroding, releasing him now and netting the cap savings while going younger at the position does make sense. 

“Going younger” doesn’t guarantee the Bears will draft Notre Dame brawler Quenton Nelson, though that did become a greater possibility with Tuesday’s move. Nelson might be one of the two or three best offensive players in this year’s draft, and offensive line coach Harry Hiestand knows him well from the four years they spent together at Notre Dame. 

There’s a natural fit there, of course, but a few reasons to slow the Nelson-to-Chicago hype train: Would he even make it to No. 8? Or if he’s there, is taking a guard that high worth it when the Bears have needs at wide receiver, outside linebacker and cornerback? Still, the thought of Nelson — who absolutely dominated at Notre Dame — pairing with Hiestand again is tantalizing, and Nelson very well could step into any team’s starting lineup and be an immediate Pro Bowler as a rookie. 

If the Bears go younger in free agency, Matt Nagy knows 26-year-old guard Zach Fulton (No. 25 in Bleacher Report’s guard rankings) well from their time in Kansas City. Fulton — a Homewood-Flossmoor alum — has the flexibility to play both guard positions and center, which could open the door for Cody Whitehair to be moved to left guard, the position he was initially drafted to play (though the Bears do value him highly as a center, and keeping him at one position would benefit him as opposed to moving him around the line again). There are some other guys out there — like Tennessee’s Josh Kline or New York’s Justin Pugh — that could wind up costing more than Fulton in free agency. 

Or the Bears could look draft an offensive lineman after the first round, perhaps like Ohio State’s Billy Price, Georgia’s Isaiah Wynn or UTEP’s Will Hernandez. How the Bears evaluate guards at the NFL Combine next week will play an important role in how they go about replacing Sitton. 

The trickle-down effect of releasing Sitton will impact more than the offensive line, too. Freeing up his $8 million in cap space -- which wasn't a guarantee, unlike cutting Jerrell Freeman and, at some point, Mike Glennon -- could go toward paying Kyle Fuller, or another top cornerback, or a top wide receiver, or some combination of players at those positions (as well as outside linebacker). The Bears were already in a healthy place cap-wise; that just got healthier on Tuesday.