The critiques and probings for the last couple of months have all been on players how they have performed, how they project to perform, how they measure and so on.The Bears have done all of those analyses but the one they did before the process ever started will matter more than that of any pass rusher, wide receiver or anyone else in this draftPhil Emery.This is the first time Emery is in charge of a draft and that was the chief area of operations for which he was hired. He kept the scouting staff and head coach and that staff in place after his hiring. A reasonable conclusion from that is that the Bears are not suddenly going to morph into some completely unrecognizable drafting organization.The area scouts here are as fine as youre going to find in the NFL, Emery said. They know how to go about their job.So Im excited to see how we do as a group and as a team in attacking the question of whose the best player thats going to help us now, at each level, each spot in the draft, at each one of our picks, that brings us closer to a championship.The overly simplistic assessment of Emery is that he comes from the fuzzy notion of a Patriot Way of building teams. Emery never worked for New England but he worked under twogeneral managers Thomas Dimitroff in Atlanta, Scott Pioli in Kansas City who did but have not achieved a fraction of the New England success on their own.Thats not enough automatic insight, that somebody worked for somebody who worked someplace else. The keys to a persons future so often lie in the past and Emerys does not fit conveniently into the Patriots way. (Besides, pretty much any Way probably works if you find Tom Brady in a sixth round sometime).Finding a Bears Way?Lovie Smith is quick to correct any reference to the Mike Martz offense or the Tampa-2 defense, speaking only in terms of the Chicago Bears offense. He and Emery also will be about the business of a Bears Way now.Emery was with the Bears longer than with any other organization (1998-2004), a consideration in his hiring as general manager. And its a suggestion that he has more schooling in the Bears Way under Mark Hatley and Jerry Angelo than any other.Emery gives due credit to that Patriots Way but also to the others hes been part of over the past 15 or so years.In terms of taking from my past, in terms of process, I learned a little from everybody along the way, Emery said. Its a long process but the important thing is that you can draw it to a conclusion in a positive way and get to the players that you are most orientated to, that you feel are going to do the most for your football team, impact playmakers, the producers.The Emery BearsNo high draft picks are made in a vacuum, although degrees of control can vary from Piolis control style in Kansas City to Angelos consensus approach. So blaming or crediting one individual for a pick hit or miss is rarely accurate.Emery began in the NFL under Hatley and was the Bears area scout for the Northeast in 1998-99. During that time the Bears drafted Curtis Enis No. 1 out of Penn State, someone who fooled everyone from Joe Paterno on down (or up, depending on your JoPa feelings). Deride the Enis pick if you like, but Bill Belichick (New England) and Tom Coughlin (Jacksonville) were working the Bears in an effort to trade up to get him.They also selected Jerry Azumah from New Hampshire in the 1999 fifth round, converted him to cornerback and ended up with a Pro Bowl kick returner. Somebody gets some credit there for seeing a college tailback (and Walter Payton Award winner) who could convert to the other side of the ball. From 2000-2004 Emery was the area scout for the Southeast. The Bears picked wideout Dez White from Georgia Tech and tight end Dustin Lyman from Wake Forest in third rounds (2000); in 2002 cornerback Roosevelt Williams from Tuskegee and guard Terrence Metcalf from Mississippi (more South than Southeast) were selected in the third round of the 2002 draft.Alex Brown was a fourth-round hit out of Florida that year.After the Bears traded down and took Floridas Rex Grossman in 2003, Charles Tillman came in the second round in 2003 out of Louisiana-Lafayette. Safety Todd Johnson and Ian Scott, both from Florida, were hits in that draft.As with Enis, the Grossman pick can be ridiculed (and has been). He was also the starter in a Bears Super Bowl appearance and is still going in the NFL (Washington), so fairs fair here.The pressure has been on Emery since he arrived and he has handled that deftly with 10 roster additions via free agency and trade. If the pressure vise is squeezing him now, it isnt apparent.Im having a blast actually, Emery said with very obvious relish. Im having a good time. Im having the time of my life. Its a great city, great fans. Im enjoying every second of it.
Sometimes the passage of time makes things a little sweeter.
Josh Sitton had been selected to three Pro Bowls while a member of the Green Bay Packers. At the end of training camp last year, the Packers abruptly released Sitton.
On Monday, Sitton was named to his fourth Pro Bowl, replacing former Green Bay teammate T.J. Lang. At age 30, this Pro Bowl was special.
"It's a great honor, always a goal of mine every year," Sitton said via conference call. "It's an honor to me and to the guys I play with, the guys helping me along...
"I would say just the age thing, the older you get, the more you appreciate them. You can't play at a high level in this game so the whole age thing makes it even more special."
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When the Bears were forced to go into Week 1 of the 2015 season with a shuffled offensive line, the situation wasn't ideal; Pro Bowl guard Kyle Long moving to right tackle as a hurried fill when neither Charles Leno nor Jordan Mills were an answer.
The 2016 season also began with an unexpected and significant shuffle, but this time with one that immediately bumped up the quality of the line. GM Ryan Pace moved quickly to sign Sitton after his release by the Green Bay Packers, a step that bumped rookie Cody Whitehair from guard to center, where he earned All-Rookie honors from the Pro Football Writers Association of America.
"It was challenging for sure," Sitton said. "It was something I haven't had to do for quite some time but it was stimulating being thrown in and needing to learn the offense in four or five days."
Sitton, who signed a three-year contract worth as much as $21 million with $10 million guaranteed, joins rookie running back Jordan Howard as the two Bears scheduled to play in the Pro Bowl. He started 12 of 13 games in 2016, missing time with an ankle injury but being a strong presence in a line that ranked No. 8 in sack percentage while getting Howard to a franchise-record 1,313 rushing yards even with a rookie center and a group that never played a game together before Week 1 in Houston against the Texans.
"I think we can only get better, now that we'll have an offseason together," Sitton said. "We'll see what we can do."
The Bears have another Pro Bowler.
After initially getting shut out on the Pro Bowl roster, the Bears have since had two players named as injury replacements with guard Josh Sitton now joining running back Jordan Howard.
Sitton was named as an injury replacement Monday afternoon for Packers guard T.J. Lang, who left Sunday's NFC Championship game early.
This will be Sitton's third straight Pro Bowl and fourth career honor.
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The 30-year-old offensive lineman signed with the Bears before 2016 after the Packers released him.
Sitton played in 13 of the Bears' 16 games including 12 starts, helping to anchor the Bears' line when healthy.
Howard replaced Cardinals running back David Johnson on the NFC Pro Bowl roster earlier this month.