When Lovie Smith met with the media early in the weekends NFL Scouting Combine, he offered high praise for a number of his defensive linemen. Julius Peppers, obvioiusly. Defensive tackles Henry Melton and Stephen Paea. And Amobi Okoye, with whom the Bears had contract talks late last season and likely will have re-signed before the outset of free agency.
Not included in Smiths discussion were tackle Anthony Adams and end Corey Wootton. The former was inactive for much of the season either for reasons of injury or performance decline. The latter suffered through a second season of disappointment due to nagging injuries.
Omission from those kinds of even casual run-throughs is never a good thing and Adams became an early offseason roster move with his release after five seasons in Chicago, according to multiple sources.
The veteran nose tackle was signed as a free agent from the San Francisco 49ers in 2007 and was a 16-game starter in 2010, grading out behind only Peppers among defensive linemen, according to coaches.
He was re-signed to a two-year deal once the lockout lifted last summer but was sidelined with a calf injury for most of preseason and eventually was replaced as a starter by Matt Toeaina.
The Bears are looking hard for a pass rusher at defensive end, putting Woottons future sharply in question, with Chauncey Davis showing some flash late in the season and Israel Idonije a steady veteran who is a free agent but wants to remain a Bear.
No one steals thunder quite like the NFL.
On a day when the NHL is planning to publicly announce how their season will return, it's being reported that the NFL may take a significant step towards their own reopening – and soon.
Yahoo Sports' NFL columnist Charles Robinson is reporting that NFL coaches may return to team facilities as early as next week, and the league has its eyes on OTAs in mid-to-late June:
The sources told Yahoo Sports that if coaches resume their in-house work next week, minicamps including players could be scheduled as early as June 15 or as late as June 27, depending on COVID-19 data and whether a handful of franchises get a “go ahead” signal from state governments to resume full operations. Resuming full operations and getting a minicamp scheduled would represent the league's biggest step to date toward keeping the 2020 NFL season on track for a regularly scheduled fall kickoff.
Robinson's source adds that 'June 15 and June 27 are the dates that have been identified as potential full-squad minicamp windows,' and the 'key hurdle' is the timeline in which California governor Gavin Newsom begins to reopen the state. Newsom has already expressed a willingness to have professional sports team return under strict and specific guidelines.
The news is a good sign for the return of the NFL on a normal schedule – a reality that's looked increasingly likely over the past couple weeks.
Kevin White's time in the NFL didn't produce many highlights, and the former first-round pick's time in Chicago was mostly spent trying to heal from a variety of different serious injuries. The physical toll left White in a bad place, and he openly admits in an interview with our Bears Insider JJ Stankevitz that it affected his preparation at times:
Because it’s like, if this guy is good, how the hell is he inactive? How? How is that possible? It’s the seventh pick overall, how is that possible? What, does he not know the playbook? Can he not run routes? Is he not getting open? None of that. It was none of that. None of that. Now I would say at times I did check out, where it was like we’re running this, we’re running Pacer, we’re running — I was like, I’m not playing, why — there’s no reason for me to know in and out anymore. When I knew in and out it was like oh, this is the game, this is the plan, now you get to … Kevin, what do we have on here? I don’t know. Y’all figure it out. It kind of got to that, I was so mad and angry I didn’t know, you know what I mean, at times, everyone’s (here) for a purpose and I’m like, I don’t care.
It's eye-opening to see a former player be this candid about his time in the league, and easy to imagine that terrible injury after terrible injury eventually sapped White of the passion-for-preparation that so many NFL veterans say is needed to succeed. You can listen to the entire 45+ minute conversation on the latest episode of the Under Center Podcast: