Bears

Phillips: No hard feelings, never team vs. players

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Phillips: No hard feelings, never team vs. players

Tuesday, April 26, 2011
Posted: 1:13 p.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

The Bears are scheduled to play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in London on Oct. 23. But the venue for that game hinges on the labor impasse between NFL owners and players being resolved by Aug. 1, per the league.

So, in the wake of Mondays court ruling in Minneapolis at least temporarily halting the owner-imposed lockout, have the Bears gone ahead with their plans for that London game?

We have to work on that soon, Bears president Ted Phillips said Tuesday, laughing.

Whether owners and players are laughing by then remains problematic, but at least there was a tiny trickle of movement Tuesday.

The gates to the grounds around Halas Hall were open Tuesday for the first time since the lockout descended over the NFL as that ruling by Judge Susan Nelson in Minnesota granted an injunction to halt the locking out of players by teams.

But only a small handful of players kicker Robbie Gould and defensive linemen Israel Idonije and Matt Toeaina, plus Piccolo Award winners Anthony Adams and JMarcus Webb -- made the trip to Bears headquarters, since the weight room and locker room and other areas of the building werent generally open and operating player-wise.

Phillips and Cliff Stein, senior director of football operations and general counsel, met with the players casually and the first day of the post-injunction era passed with neither incident nor fanfare.

The judges decision will be appealed and other elements of the situation, such as a possible start to free agency, remain unsettled.

So we just said to the players that until we get some clarification, youre welcome in but were not opening the building for business just yet, Phillips said. Hopefully we will be soon.

The labor situation has had its scratchiness in charges and counter-charges by representatives of both sides. But if there is any underlying acrimony, it was not evident Tuesday.

There arent any hard feelings, Phillips said. Its never been about the team vs. the players. We love the players. Theyre what make the game great and were hoping that as soon as both sides can get a collective bargaining agreement worked out, then well be able to get back to playing football, which is what both sides want...

Right now I think everyones looking for clarification. I think the players are; the clubs are. Hopefully well get some clarification from the courts soon and well go from there.

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.

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. 

Bears cut ties with linebacker Jerrell Freeman

Bears cut ties with linebacker Jerrell Freeman

The Bears began their slew of offseason moves by releasing inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.

Freeman, 31, signed a three-year, $12 million deal with the Bears in 2016.

In his first year in Chicago he amassed 110 tackles in 12 games but was suspended four games for PED use. He played in just one game lsat season before suffering a pectoral injury that placed him on IR. He then tested positive again for a performance-enhancing drug, resulting in a 10-game suspension that bleeds over into 2018 for two more games, wherever he winds up.