Bears

View from the Moon: Big guys getting special notice

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View from the Moon: Big guys getting special notice

Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2011
9:33 PM
By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

Size does matter. The NFL knows it and now some of the big guys are getting special notice.

In a year of traditional cover boys like Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Peyton Manning being in the playoffs, Sports Illustrated picked New England Patriots massive nose tackle Vince Wolfork as the cover art for its Jan. 10 playoff preview issue with the headline Mass Obstruction.

One of the Bears big guys couldnt be happier, except that Sports Illustrated should be just the beginning..

There should be more fat guys on magazine covers, including myself, defensive tackle Anthony Adams declared. All of us unsung heroes, which usually are fat guys, we need more coverage.

And lets go beyond Sports Illustrated. Lets go GQ. Rolling Stone. We need to be on the covers of all those. Take our helmets off, smile. Big guys. We are the next big thing, literally and figuratively.

What you also have to like about Adams is that he knows something of the history behind his lot in Chicago. This is where William Perry made being a fat guy fun for the NFL on a Monday night in 1985 against the Green Bay Packers in Soldier Field.

Among Fridges accomplishments was catching a TD pass coming out of the backfield. And while the Bears likely will not radically alter their playbook, Adams wants the word out there that hes got some game as a receiver. The playoffs might just be that time to unleash him.

Or at least hell unleash himself on the imaginations of defensive coordinators preparing for the Bears.

Thats why we havent done it, Adams said of his deployment as a fullbackreceiver. Preseason, all that, you dont to show too many people because then theyll start game-planning for it and we dont want that.

Ive just got to make sure I report when I go in.

Shrinking margin of error

ESPN analystformer coachformer player Herman Edwards offered some succinct playoff points that bear directly on the heart of the Bears playoff chances.

Jay Cutler is one of the Bears who have never been to the playoffs. How a JMarcus Webb or Johnny Knox or Major Wright handle the pace, stresses and everything else of the postseason is important. Cutlers conduct in the playoff crucible determines all.

The most important thing is how does the quarterback handle it, Edwards said Wednesday. How does he handle the playoff atmosphere? Youre playing teams in the playoffs with double-digit wins, they do some things well that got them where they are.

Meaning that Cutler may have skirted disaster at times with performance gaffes against the Minnesota Vikings, Detroit Lions or the Dallas Cowboys. Chance of that happening now are minute.

It goes back to the quarterback, Edwards said The younger you are Cuitler is finishing his fifth NFL season, you dont want to put that much on him.. The little things that happen to you, that you maybe get away with in the regular season, you wont win those games in the playoffs.

Anything but THAT!

Wide receiver Earl Bennett and wife Rekeshia are expecting a baby arrival at any time and that gives him a little more anxiousness than thinking about the playoffs. Actually, its not the coming in general of his little one that has Bennett concerned.

Bennett has dealt with surly safeties, ill-intentioned linebackers and vicious cornerbacks but the thing that intimidates him: Hes prepared to do some diaper work with the baby but I cant change poop, Bennett confessed. Thats my only thing. I told my wife, Everything else, fine. But not that.

Well, then heres the deal, Earl. Youre going to have to negotiate.

Bennett, along with Cutler, Knox, Devin Hester and others, has grown a distinctive full beard. The group plans to keep the beards as long as the Bears play through the postseason.

The trouble is, Rekeshia doesnt like it at all, Bennett said. She doesnt like it. I told people that Im not going to cut mine for a year but well see how far that goes. Shes been trying to persuade me.

The beard for poop duty? Hmmm. I dont like Bennetts and the beards chances, but as a veteran of facial fuzz, Im pullin for ya, Earl.

Knox, Im not so sure. Cutlers beard is OK, kind of a rough-hewn thing that gives him a little chin character. Hester, pretty good too. Knox, though, has kind of Mennonite thing going, which isnt at all bad (Im a Pennsylvania guy so the Amish and Mennonite looks, very solid), except that hes a thin wisp of a guy from Texas. And he runs waaay too fast for a Mennonite.

Johnnys beard is ridiculous, Bennett said, then gave up a couple even less-fortunate mates. Devin Aromashodu and Rashied Davis, they cant grow beards.

And you have to think that somewhere, Rekeshia Bennett is smiling.

Love that time off

Center Olin Kreutz has been to postseasons, three times as a matter of fact, and each time (2001, 2005, 2006) hes had the luxury of the Bears enjoying the bye week. Kreutz was given a Veterans Day exemption from practice Wednesday, and, when you play as long as Ive played, Ill take a layoff anytime they got one, he said laughing.

CSNChicago.com and Comcast Sportsnet analyst Jim Miller, a former Bears teammate of Kreutzs, was at Halas Hall Wednesday and walked through the locker room on his way out. Did he walk? Kreutz said, laughing. He usually limps now, doesnt he?
Talking Bears

I'll visit with Mac and Spiegs on "The Danny Mac Show" on WSCR-AM 670 Thursday at 10 for our usual weekly Bears check-in.... Planning on a 4:40 p.m. appearance on "Bears Blitz" on Comcast Sportsnet Thursday, with old beat buddy Larry Mayer. Larry came on the Bears beat the same year (1992) that I did, meaning we've shared Da Coach and we both speak fluent Wannie. Larry does great work at ChicagoBears.com so should be a good time with Billy Jack and Jiggs tomorrow.

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.

Bears roster lacks veteran cut candidate

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USA Today

Bears roster lacks veteran cut candidate

The Bears battle for the 53-man roster doesn’t have many contentious positions entering training camp.

Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy brought back largely the same roster from their breakout 2018 season, finding replacements for the few players gone in free agency.

Outside of kicker, the entire starting lineup is pretty much set for Week 1, and the main competitions to stick with the team are at the bottom of the depth chart.

It leaves the roster with no notable veterans that stand out as candidates to be cut. ESPN’s Jeff Dickerson was asked to name one for an article, and he couldn’t come up with any.

He mentioned Taquan Mizzell, who made the move from running back to wide receiver this offseason, but as Dickerson pointed out “Mizzell is hardly a well-known commodity around the league.”

Former third-round pick Jonathan Bullard hasn’t lived up to his draft status, but the Bears have seemed comfortable keeping him around in a backup role.

The Bears roster has very little fat to trim. The only other player who could potentially qualify is cornerback Sherrick McManis, since the team has so many young players at his position, but he’s been working at safety to increase his value, and he’s one of the team’s best special teams contributors.

The trim down from the 90-man roster shouldn’t have too many significant surprises, which is why so much of the attention this offseason continues to go to the kicker position.

Alex Bars is ready to take his shot with Harry Hiestand and the Bears

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USA Today

Alex Bars is ready to take his shot with Harry Hiestand and the Bears

Alex Bars was cleared to practice last week, allowing him his first chance to put on a helmet since tearing his ACL and MCL Sept. 29 while playing for Notre Dame. The undrafted guard was able to participate in veteran minicamp, allowing him to shake off some rust before his real push for a roster spot begins in training camp next month. 

Many speculated Bars would’ve been as high as a mid-round draft pick if not for that devastating knee injury. It didn’t take the 6-foot-6, 312 pound Bars long, though, to decide where he wanted to go after not being picked in April’s draft. Call it the Harry Hiestand effect. 

Bars played under Hiestand’s tutelage at Notre Dame from 2014-2017, and said he always wanted to wind up with the Bears to work with his former coach — just as 2018 top-10 picks Quenton Nelson and Mike McGlinchey hoped to as well. 

“I remember talking about that, because they both wanted to play for him,” Bars said. “They understand where he can take you and how phenomenal a coach he is, so they both wanted that. And I’m just the same way.”

While Nelson transformed the Indianapolis Colts’ playoff-bound offensive line and McGlinchey showed plenty of promise with the San Francisco 49ers, the reunion of Bars and Hiestand carries some intriguing possibilities for the Bears. Bars has always had upside — he was a four-star recruit out of Nashville in 2014 — and getting to work with Hiestand may be the best way to tap into that potential. 

“He knows me very well, I understand his technique very well,” Bars said. “So having that connection, that player-coach connection all four years through college is huge.”

Hiestand called Bars after his injury last fall and offered some words of encouragement, which only furthered Bars' wish to play for his former college coach in the NFL. 

"That meant everything," Bars said. "He cares so much off the field as well as on the field. That’s who he is."  

Bars wasn’t able to participate in OTAs or rookie minicamp, but Hiestand doesn’t see that as putting him in a tough spot to make the Bears' 53-man roster. And there will very much be an opportunity for Bars to make a push during training camp, given 10-year veteran Ted Larsen only has $90,000 in guaranteed money on his one-year contract. 

It may not be the more eye-catching roster battle during training camp, but the Bears hope they can find interior offensive line depth through competition in Bourbonnais. And Bars, now cleared to practice, will get his shot. 

“He’ll have the chance because he’s smart, he understands the technique, he knows what to do,” Hiestand said during OTAs, when Bars hadn’t practiced yet. “He’s learning the offense even though he’s not doing it. But when we put the pads on that’s when you make or don’t make the team.” 

It’s often unfair — yet far too easy — to place high expectations on undrafted free agents. For every Cameron Meredith or Bryce Callahan who gets unearthed, there are dozens of anonymous players who struggle to stick on an NFL practice squad. 

But Bars is among the more important undrafted free agents on the Bears given his connection with Hiestand and the position he plays. While Kyle Long is healthy, he hasn’t played a full season since 2015, underscoring the Bears’ need for depth on the interior of their offensive line in the immediate future. 

And the Bears would save a little over $8 million against their 2020 cap if they were to make the difficult decision to cut Long in a year. If Bars develops into the kind of player plenty in the NFL thought he could be before his knee injury, that would make releasing Long a little easier to swallow at Halas Hall. 

For now, though, Bars is just hoping to make the Bears. Anything else is a long ways away.

“I’m excited to be here, thrilled for this opportunity and it’s all about productivity,” Bars said. “Just need to be productive and prove you belong on this team.”

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