Bears

Kreutz: No hard feelings; Urlacher practices

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Kreutz: No hard feelings; Urlacher practices

Friday, Sept. 16, 2011
Posted: 8:53 a.m. Updated: 5:00 p.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com Bears Insider Follow @CSNMoonMullin
Olin Kreutz did not get what he wanted from the Chicago Bears in terms of a final contract. But he is not taking any hard feelings onto the field with the intent of taking them out on the players for a team that drafted him in 1998 and for which he played his entire career until now.

None of those guys Im playing against made a decision me, Kreutz said. And to be perfectly honest and perfectly fair, they made a fair offer to come back and I didnt go back.

Theres no hard feelings.

Kreutzs comments are not surprising. He has always had a sense of whats right and not right, regardless of whether it squares with everyone elses. Indeed, it should be noted by critics fond of bashing the Bears for not paying him, that he considered the Bears offer fair. And he signed for about half the Bears offer to play for the Saints when the Bears pulled their offer off the table.

But if there are no hard feelings, that doesnt mean that there arent strong feelings.

Its hard to say its another football game, Kreutz said. Itll be like playing against your brother or your friend. You probably want to beat them more than you want to beat anyone else.

Im sure seeing them in the beginning will be a little emotional. But they know how I feel about them. I know how they feel about me.

"But that doesnt mean were not going to try to kick each others ass.

Nicks and bruises

With receiver Roy Williams missing a second day of practice with the groin strain suffered against Atlanta, expect Johnny Knox back in the starting lineup opposite Devin Hester.

Running back Marion Barber has been expected to miss his second game with a calf strain from the Tennessee preseason game. He has not played since then, did not practice again Thursday, and Kahlil Bell should get his second game as primary backup to Matt Forte.

Knox lost his No. 1 job to Williams early in camp when the former Dallas CowboyDetroit Lion arrived and started to settle in. But Knox caught 3 passes for 60 yards coming off the bench in the Atlanta game and is a proven deep threat after leading the Bears in receiving yards last season and ranking fifth in the NFL in average yards per catch.
Urlacher returns

Brian Urlacher was practicing again Friday, the final confirmation that the middle linebacker will be in his customary spot Sunday despite the recent death of his mother Lavoyda.

Measuring gauge

A game of some note for Bears fans will be the Philadelphia Eagles going against the Atlanta Falcons in the Georgia Dome. Colleague Ray Didinger at CSNPhilly.com does a very in-depth look at the offense, defense and special-teams situations.

The game is worth checking out because its a future Bears opponent (Eagles) against a team the Bears just finished with, and this is another of those deals that have playoff implications because of potential tiebreakers. Its also a chance to measure the Philly defense and that self-proclaimed Dream Team that the Eagles assembled in the offseason.

You have to love the East Coast media hype, though. The Bears sign five No. 1 draft choices Williams, Amobi Okoye, Chris Spencer, Vernon Gholston, plus a 2007 Pro Bowl tailback (Barber) whos sitting on the bench and get picked to slip backwards from 11-5 to 8-8 or worse by many observers.
Lockout blues

The Bears showed zero negative effects from either the long offseason lockout or players opting to work out pretty much on their own without a lot of wasted energy on group sessions. The Oakland Raiders, with new head coach Hue Jackson, got past the Denver Broncos last weekend in a meeting of two Bears November opponents.

But check out what Bill Romanowski has to say on CSNCalifornia.coms Raiders page about the lockout effects.

Bears going to funeral for Urlacher's mother

As perhaps befitting the second-most senior member of their roster, the Bears will be represented by members from all areas of their organizational family.

The private service for Urlacher's mother will be held on Saturday. The following Bears representatives are scheduled to attend: Chairman of the Board George McCaskey, President and CEO Ted Phillips, General Manager Jerry Angelo, head coach Lovie Smith, linebackers coach Bob Babich and linebacker Lance Briggs.

As a friend, you support your friend, Briggs said. I think everyone in the country right now is sending out their condolences and their prayers to him and his family, so I think thats the best way to support him and help him get through the situation.

In lieu of flowers, the Urlacher family has asked for donations to be made to the following:

Lavoyda Fund
co City of Lovington Youth Center
214 S. Love St.
Lovington, NM 88260

Its just sad, Smith said. Im lucky to be his coach. But our relationship goes a lot further than that. I lost my mother earlier this year, one of the first guys on the telephone with me was Brian...

Were just going to be there to support him in any way that we can and just be there to help him through a tough time. Unless youve been through it, theres no way to make it any better than it is at the time. But hell get through it.

With a little help from his friends.

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.