Ex-Bears defensive lineman Bryan Robinson found dead at age 41

Ex-Bears defensive lineman Bryan Robinson found dead at age 41

Sometimes news hits a bit close to home.

Former Bears Bryan Robinson – “B-Rob” to teammates and friends – came into the NFL as an undrafted free agent and earned himself a career and a place in Bears' lore. Late Saturday night, the defensive lineman was found dead at age 41 in a Milwaukee motel room.

The Toledo, Ohio, native was pronounced dead at 10:17 p.m. after being found at the Midpoint Motel. Autopsy and toxicology reports from the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner’s office were pending as of Monday morning.

Robinson, who played for the Bears from 1998 to 2003, was one of those individuals who made this job fun for this reporter over the years, even as he went on to play for Miami, Cincinnati and finally the Arizona Cardinals. Grabbing breakfast with B-Rob at the Golden Torch Restaurant in Waukegan was a tradition where the conversations had to do with a lot more than football, and seeing him down the road when the Bears played the Bengals and Cardinals meant something, because you knew what he’d overcome to achieve what he did, playing in a Super Bowl with the Cardinals.

He was an undrafted free agent with the St. Louis Rams who made a mark – literally – for himself when, as a rookie in 1997 broke the jaw of Rams tackle Fred Miller with a punch during a training camp dustup, which Robinson said was the result of a veteran mistreating rookies, something that he vowed he would never do, and didn’t. The Rams cut him at the end of training camp the next year and the Bears picked him up just before the 1998 season. Late that season, he had won a starting job.

His signature Chicago moment came in 1999 in the Nov. 7 “Walter Payton Game,” when Robinson elevated to block a chip-shot field goal try by Ryan Longwell to seal a 14-13 win over the Green Bay Packers in Lambeau Field on the weekend following the death of Payton. At 305 pounds, Robinson didn’t pretend to have a whole lot of vertical, declaring afterwards that, “I think Walter Payton actually picked me up a little bit and boosted me up in the air because I can't jump that high. Walter had a lot to do with it. I know he did.”

Robinson became an integral part of the Bears’ massive defensive front under coordinator Greg Blache, combining with Philip Daniels, Keith Traylor and Ted Washington to anchor a defense that led the Bears to the 2001 playoffs. When Lovie Smith arrived in 2004, Robinson did not fit the new, one-gap defensive scheme and Robinson was cut in the final roster trims, though not before serving as a mentor to then-rookies Tommie Harris and Tank Johnson.

The undrafted defensive lineman carved out a 14-year career for himself, finishing with 24 sacks, 16.5 of those for the Bears, who thought enough of him to accord him their transition tag in 2001 and eventually sign to a $20-millon contract.

Robinson was a character, one of the true tough guys in a sport replete with them. A hush fell over the Bears practice field one preseason day at Halas Hall when he and center Olin Kreutz came out of a pass-rush rep ready to throw down. They glowered at each other for a moment, then burst out laughing, while the rest of the crowd exhaled. Linebacker Brian Urlacher always said that he loved the Blache defensive scheme because he said Daniels, Traylor, Washington and Rovinson never let anyone get near him.

With the assembled media waiting eagerly to interview him as the new defensive end starter outside the dining hall at UW-Platteville on Day 1 of the 1999 training camp, Robinson came out the door and let loose with a verbal blast, declaring that he wasn’t talking to anybody who only wanted to talk with him now that he was a starter and hadn’t had time for him when he was a roster nobody. (Bears PR soothed the waters. Eventually.)

That was the essential B-Rob.

Bears still have much to prove after disappointing loss to Patriots

Bears still have much to prove after disappointing loss to Patriots

 Beating the, arguably, best coach and quarterback pairing in NFL history is a difficult enough task. Trying to do it while allowing two touchdowns on special teams? Good luck. 
The Bears will leave Soldier Field frustrated with their 38-31 loss to the New England Patriots on Sunday for a number of reasons, but top of the list will be Cordarrelle Patterson’s 95-yard kickoff return score and a blocked Pat O’Donnell punt that was raced into the end zone by Kyle Van Noy. A special teams unit that had been solid all year — and forced a fumble on a Patterson kickoff return in the first quarter Sunday — suddenly became a disaster, allowing an uncharacteristically undisciplined Patriots side back into the game, and then ahead in it. 
Add in an inaccurate game from Mitch Trubisky — who completed 26 of 50 passes for 333 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions — and an uneventful afternoon for Khalil Mack and the pass rush, and the Bears had to scratch and claw to hang with New England. 
Interestingly, after all week hearing from Bears coaches and players about how they couldn’t let the Patriots take them out of their own game, it felt like Bill Belichick and Tom Brady did exactly that. Mack frequently dropped into coverage — but so did Leonard Floyd, so maybe it wasn’t all about Mack’s injured ankle. While Brady frequently got the ball out quick, when he didn’t he was rarely pressured. 
And on offense, Taylor Gabriel had the same number of targets (one) as offensive lineman Bradley Sowell until midway through the fourth quarter. Trubisky dazzled with his legs, covering over 70 yards on an eight-yard touchdown run and dancing his way to a 39-yard scramble that set up a touchdown in the third quarter. 
But Trubisky’s struggles were clear, with the second-year quarterback throwing two ill-advised passes that should’ve been picked off in the end zone and then underthrowing Anthony Miller in the fourth quarter, allowing Patriots safety Jonathan Jones to make a tremendous interception. New England drove 96 yards after that pick into the end zone, with Brady taking apart a defense that missed two tackles on a 55-yarder to Josh Gordon, extinguishing any hope the Bears had of a comeback.
While Trubisky did lead a scoring drive after Adrian Amos assisted Kyle Fuller for an interception, cutting the deficit to seven. And Trubisky nearly pulled off a miracle with a Hail Mary to Kevin White, which was completed just shy of the end zone. 
The loss dropped the Bears to 3-3 and heaps plenty of pressure on Matt Nagy’s side to win seemingly-winnable games in the next three weeks: At home against the New York Jets, on the road against the Buffalo Bills and at home against the Detroit Lions. But then again: When the Jets come to town next weekend, it’ll have been nearly a month since the Bears’ last win. How the Bears fare over these next three games will be a clear window into if this team is a legitimate contender or one that faded after a strong start. 

WATCH: Mitchell Trubisky runs like Michael Vick for 8-yard touchdown

WATCH: Mitchell Trubisky runs like Michael Vick for 8-yard touchdown

The New England Patriots defense wasn’t giving Mitchell Trubisky many options through the air, so he decided to take matters into his own hands at Soldier Field.

The young quarterback’s legs were the Bears’ most-effective weapon in the first quarter, as Trubisky led the team with 35 rushing yards on four carries in the opening period of play.

He capped it off with an eight-yard touchdown scramble that had him looking like Michael Vick on the field.

The Bears will need to have a more well-rounded offensive attack to keep up with teams like the Patriots, but Trubisky found what was working in the first quarter.

Perhaps most importantly, he’s been smart and safe with his running, opting to slide and go to the ground on his big plays to avoid any big hits.

His legs continue to make this offense more dynamic, to keep up with top-notch opponents like New England.