Players bought into the motivation

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Players bought into the motivation

The news of the New Orleans Saints having a 'bounty system' that paid bonuses for injuring players on opposing teams shocked the NFL world on Friday. Former Saints' defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and the team could be facing major penalties by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.

Former NFL safety and CSNChicago.com Contributor Matt Bowen played for two seasons with the Washington Redskins under Williams and checked in on SportsNet Central on Saturday to discuss this issue with Chris Boden.

"I was involved in it and I'm not saying it's right, but I also know how it works. It's going to get a little embellished over the next couple days, couple of weeks.

Bowen continued: It's a practice that's been going on for a long time. I would say if you question all 32 teams you would find a little of this in every NFL city."

Bowen talked about the players deserving the blame just as much as the coaches.

"It was mostly player run. I'll take the heat myself as a player. It was something we organized mostly ourselves. I don't think it's a good practice, but I bought into it. It was a motivational tool, all those things are motivational tools; try to get a pick, try to get a big hit and you got rewards for that on the field."

Boden brought up a good point and asked Bowen: If Greg Williams was a great motivator than why were bounties even necessary?

"The bottom line here is I think we all bought into the motivation. From coaching to the players, we all thought about it as more as a way to get more production on the field. Whether that was that big hit, a game changing interception, whatever it was. We used it that way and we kind of advanced the motivation ourselves."

With concussions and season-ending injuries running rampant in the NFL, Bowen explained how violent the game is and how everyone's jobs are the line.

"I don't think it has any place in youth football, high school or college. Defensive football, whatever level you're playing at, you have equipment on. You're going to go after people. You tackle hard, you hit hard, you finish ball carriers to the ground, that's how you play and if you got a little extra incentive in the NFL, so be it. That's how it works."

"Live I've said many times before. This isn't a very nice game. It's a violent game, it's controlled violence, but there are those situations where as a player you kind of toe that line a little bit because it's the business of winning. That's what it is. This isn't everyone gets a trophy, this is win or you lose your job, coaching staffs lose their job as well."

In Week 2 against the Saints, the Bears saw Earl Bennett leave the game with a chest injury. Bennett would go on to miss the next five weeks. In that same game, Gabe Carimi was lost to a season-ending injury. Bowen gave his input on if he thought New Orleans targeted any of the Bears' players.

"No, because I wasn't down in New Orleans. I don't know if they were still doing it or not. Now I do. Now I look back, I'm sure there were guys that were targeted. Target wide receivers, go after Jay Cutler a little bit."

Finally, Bowen was asked if he had any idea what the punishment for Williams, former teams and current players that participated would be.

"I think the NFL is going to come down hard and I agree with them. Coach Williams is going to have to stand up and take the punishment. You might see a loss of draft pick, suspension, fine, whatever it may be, the NFL is going to try to make an example of it and I don't blame them. They need to correct this and this a good way to do it."
Do you agree with Bowen's comments? What do you think the punishments for the Saints and Gregg Williams should be? Let us know in the comment box below.

Releasing Antrel Rolle, Matt Slauson 'improves” Bears' 2016 draft

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Releasing Antrel Rolle, Matt Slauson 'improves” Bears' 2016 draft

No one involved with the Chicago Bears – no one, not players, coaches, media members, front office – had a good feeling on Sunday when the Bears followed through on a couple of anticipated roster moves with the releases of Antrel Rolle and Matt Slauson.

In a quarter-century around this team, both men are on a list of the classiest and most likeable individuals I have had the pleasure to meet and cover, along with Jermon Bushrod, Philip Daniels, Dick Jauron, Jim Miller, Lovie Smith, Chris Villarrial, Big Cat Williams and many, many others too numerous to chronicle here.

But the NFL is about nothing if not what-have-you-done-for-me-lately (which is why signing bonuses and guaranteed money are EVERYTHING in player contracts). So it was apparent as 2015 wound down that seeing Rolle and Slauson in Bears uniforms for 2016 was an extreme longshot.

Ironically, what the releases do, however, is put a brighter shine on the Bears’ 2016 draft. Because GM Ryan Pace now appears to have done a remarkably deft job of drafting simultaneously for both “best-available” and “need.” And that ain’t easy.

(This is not to be confused with a draft “grade” – players who’ve never played an NFL down even in a rookie minicamp do not deserve early “grades” on an NFL scale yet. Check back after weeks 1-3 of training camp.)

What Pace, John Fox and their staffs did in general was draft their preferred “best player available” – to a point. What Pace really did was slide the fluid definitions of “best” and “available” both up (from No. 11 to No. 9 for Leonard Floyd) and back (trading back twice from No. 41 to take Cody Whitehair).

The Bears did not just take the best player available when their turn came; they also moved to a spot where that player made draft-slot sense as well. Was Whitehair the best-available at No. 41? Maybe. Maybe not. But at No. 56, definitely.

Why that matters is because the Bears knew well in advance of this draft that they wanted upgrades at both guard and safety. So at guard, Pace got the best available one (the 49ers already had traded up into the late first round to grab Stanford’s Joshua Garnett at No. 28). And he filled a franchise need for the present and the future, even with Ted Larsen, Kyle Long, Manny Ramirez and Slauson in place. Guard is suddenly a strength on the roster, with upside in Whitehair.

Back in round four, after addressing pass-rush power with D-end Jonathan Bullard in round three, Pace did the same thing – the enviable combo of best-available and need-fill.

A number of safeties had gone already, and the Bears wanted West Virginia inside linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski with their first fourth-round pick (No. 113). Pace stayed with his board and still addressed the safety need, with Miami’s Deon Bush, using a pick acquired from Seattle with one of those round-two trades, and also with Deiondre’ Hall, who projects as a challenger at cornerback but who split time in the Northern Iowa defense at safety and even played linebacker at one point. Again, best-available at a need position.

Net result: The ultimate “grade” of a draft is how good the drafted players turn out to be. But a preliminary grade lies in whether or not a team was able to fill needs that hadn’t been addressed in free agency, which was very much the case at safety before this weekend.

One question that can be asked is whether Slauson at 30, proven at two positions, and knowing the Bears’ system, wasn’t in fact a better interior player than Ramirez, who is three years older and was benched last season by a less-than-distinguished Detroit Lions offense.

And being released May 1 isn’t as advantageous for a player as going on the open market at the outset of free agency, or sooner as in the Matt Forte case. The bigger the window of opportunity for catching on elsewhere, the better.

But both Rolle and Slauson are 30-plus, with some injury history within the last two years. And the reality is that both players would very possibly still be on the market leading into the draft timeframe. Teams look first to see what they can do in the draft before signing aged veterans, which would’ve involved guaranteeing some money. The Bears had both under contract and paid, so they weren’t in the same situation as other teams.

The play of Bush and Whitehair will ultimately vindicate the unpleasant roster moves Pace and the Bears made. But in terms of filling perceived needs and doing it in synch with best-available evaluations, the Bears’ 2016 draft just improved its preliminary “grade.”

Bears depth chart: How the 2016 team is shaping up

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Bears depth chart: How the 2016 team is shaping up

The Chicago Bears will have a very different look when the 2016 season begins.

The Bears made a series of free agent acquisitions and stayed busy by making four trades during the draft, including trading up to the No. 9 spot to draft outside linebacker and pass rushing specialist Leonard Floyd out of Georgia.

CSN's Jim Miller and Dave Wannstedt took an early look at what the Bears' depth chart might look like in 2016 in the video above.

Miller projected the overhauled offensive line could have as many as three new starters. Free agent signing Bobby Massie can slide in at right tackle and second round pick Cody Whitehair can take over at left guard after the Bears released Matt Slauson. Manny Ramirez, another free agent addition, is a possibility at right guard, which would allow Kyle Long to move over to left tackle.

Wide receiver Kevin White is basically a new addition to the offense after missing his entire rookie season with an injury and gives Jay Cutler another option to throw to. Jeremy Langford takes over the bulk of the load at running back with Matt Forte now on the New York Jets.

The defense is where things could be the most different, as laid out by Wannstedt. The front seven looks very different with free agent additions Akiem Hicks, Jerrell Freeman and Danny Trevathan likely to be key players. Floyd could start right away as an outside linebacker and third round pick Jonathan Bullard should figure in as a pass rusher on third downs.

Watch the video for the full breakdown by Miller and Wannstedt.

Jim Miller's projected Bears starting offense:

QB: Jay Cutler

RB: Jeremy Langford

WR: Alshon Jeffery

WR: Kevin White

WR: Eddie Royal

TE: Zach Miller

LT: Kyle Long

LG: Cody Whitehair

C: Hroniss Grasu

RG: Manny Ramirez

RT: Bobby Massie

Dave Wannstedt's projected Bears starting defense:

DE: Mitch Unrein/Lamarr Houston

NT: Eddie Goldman

DE: Akiem Hicks

OLB: Pernell McPhee

ILB: Danny Trevathan

ILB: Jerrell Freeman

OLB: Leonard Floyd

CB: Tracy Porter

CB: Kyle Fuller

FS: Adrian Amos

SS: Harold Jones-Quartey

Breaking down the Bears' 2016 draft class on 'Draft Central'

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Breaking down the Bears' 2016 draft class on 'Draft Central'

With the 2016 NFL Draft in the books, the 2016 Bears are coming into focus.

Sunday night, CSN broke down the weekend that was — a busy one for the Bears, featuring not just the draft but also the addition of a backup quarterback and the subtraction of veterans Matt Slauson and Antrel Rolle.

So where do the Bears stand? Click on the links below to hear from Chris Boden, Jim Miller, Dave Wannstedt and Hub Arkush as they recap the draft and the rest of the Bears' offseason.

— Draft Central: Initial impressions of Bears' draft class

— Draft Central: Scouting first-round pick Leonard Floyd

— Draft Central: Bears move around in Round 2

— Draft Central: A look at the Bears' post-draft depth chart

— Draft Central: Bears release Matt Slauson, Antrel Rolle

— Draft Central: Bears add Brian Hoyer as Jay Cutler backup