After long wait, Dent earns Hall of Fame entrance

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After long wait, Dent earns Hall of Fame entrance

Saturday, Feb. 5, 2011
Posted 6:39 p.m. Updated 9:15 p.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

Its about time.

That was the feeling of former teammate Ron Rivera, the new head coach of the Carolina Panthers, and probably the sentiment that best sums up the feeling about Richard Dent being elected Saturday to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Dent heard the news from his daughter via phone call and we had some tears over it all, Dent told CSNChicago.com. I had my knee on the floor and my head on the bed. Your heart kind of skips a beat when it finally happens. But it was worth the wait.

He was arguably the greatest player on the greatest single defense in the history of the NFL. And on Saturday the NFL agreed, as Dent joined running back Marshall Faulk, cornerback Deion Sanders, NFL Films legend Ed Sabol, tight end Shannon Sharpe, linebacker Chris Hanburger and linebacker Les Richter, who died last June, in the Class of 2011 for pro footballs highest individual honor.,

WATCH: Former teammate Tom Thayer reacts

Dent was a finalist nine times before finally gaining the necessary votes from the group of electors. But if there were bitter feelings in the past for not being selected, they were nowhere to be found this time.

Its just a great, great feeling, Dent said. It couldnt have been any better, to have your career recognized. And Im so grateful for all of my teammates who were so much a part of everything.

Few once would have projected Dent to reach the Olympus of his game. He never played football before his junior year of high school because he was forced to work to help the family make ends meet. He went on to play at Tennessee State and catch the eye of Bears scout Bill Tobin, who lobbied for the team to grab him in the second round of the 1983 draft.

Then-GM Jim Finks resisted and the Bears finally grabbed Dent in the eighth round along with Iowa defensive tackle Mark Bortz, who would go on to Pro Bowl honors as a guard on the great 1980s Bears teams.

The Bears spent 5,000 on dental work for the 227-pound pass rusher, who wasnt able to add weight because of problems that made eating an ordeal.

What they got for their investment was, now officially, one of the greatest players in NFL history.

Dent joins endtackle Dan Hampton and linebacker Mike Singletary from the great Bear defenses of the era in the Hall of Fame. Walter Payton was enshrined in 1993.

WATCH: Moon on Dent's impact on the game

In 12 seasons with the Bears, Dent accumulated 124.5 sacks in 170 games. In eight of those seasons, Dent finished with more than 10 sacks and finished with a career-best 17.5 in 1984.

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 establishing smash-mouth core with Jordan Howard

Bears establishing smash-mouth core with Jordan Howard

Eric Kush was in some pain after the Bears win over the San Francisco 49ers. But it was a “good” pain, particularly since part of it was inflicted by a teammate.

The teammate was running back Jordan Howard, and the Bears left guard was learning along with his linemates that when Howard is coming, “he’s a-comin’,” Kush said.

“Oh man, sometimes you’re, ‘[groan-groan-groan], and he’ll hit you right in the back, you fall and try to take your guy down with you and stick him in the snow so you’re not the only one getting soaking wet and cold. But Jordan’s a lot fun and we try to kick some butt for him.”

The rookie running back has become more than simply a draft nugget from the fifth round of this year’s draft. Howard has established himself as an integral part of a winning formula of complimentary football, the concept long favored by John Fox, Lovie Smith and coaches who operate from the foundation of a premier running game, impact defense and solid special teams.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

The Bears’ three wins have come this season in the only games in which Howard has been given 20-plus carries: 23 vs. Detroit, 26 vs. Minnesota, 32 vs. San Francisco. Add to those the 3 pass receptions against the Lions and the 4 against the Vikings and the true centerpiece of the 2016 Bears offense is more than a little apparent.

For obvious reasons beyond simply the rushing numbers.

“Especially pass protection,” said offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains. “I think he's taken a big jump that way. When you're young in this league, those are the things that can get grey for you. You run the football, he's obviously a talented player there, but in pass pro, he's made his biggest growth.”

As a corollary to Howard, San Francisco was only the second game this season in which the Bears called fewer than 30 pass plays (the only other time was at Green Bay, when the Bears only ran a total of 45 plays, 27 of them pass plays). In that respect, the snow was viewed as an ally by some in the locker room who have been unhappy at the run:pass balance, which was just 36-percent-run coming into the 49ers game.

“It was one of these games where, with the weather, we couldn’t pass the ball like we normally do —  30 times — so we had to keep it on the ground,” said one member of the offense.

Howard’s breakout game as an NFL ball carrier came against the Lions (23 carries, 111 rushing yards, 3 receptions). The Bears, looking for a breakout of their own in the form of a first two-game win streak in more than a year, are expected to keep it simple — and in Howard’s hands.

“I always expected a lot out of myself,” Howard said. “I didn’t really think that things would happen maybe this soon or this fast. I’m definitely grateful for it.”

Bears looking into Teryl Austin’s past for clues on how Lions will scheme vs. Matt Barkley

Bears looking into Teryl Austin’s past for clues on how Lions will scheme vs. Matt Barkley

The adage “play the man, not the board” seems somehow appropriate for what the Bears are doing to prepare for the Detroit Lions behind quarterback Matt Barkley.

“The man” is Detroit defensive coordinator Teryl Austin, and the Bears have been scouting him as well as his defenses, beyond just Bears games, beyond this season and last, taking in his 2014 Detroit season when Austin prepared defenses for Jay Cutler and Jimmy Clausen.

How did Austin scheme for rookie Carson Wentz when the Lions played (and beat) the Philadelphia Eagles? How did he structure is defense to stop a rookie Teddy Bridgewater when Detroit played Minnesota? (Not very well, apparently, since the Vikings won both games and scored 54 points combined in the two games).

While the John Fox Bears staff went against Austin’s Lions defense twice last year, Cutler was the Bears quarterback. When the Bears beat Austin and the Lions two months ago, it was with Brian Hoyer.

Now the Bears quarterback is Matt Barkley, who has fewer NFL games played (seven) than Cutler has NFL seasons (11), Hoyer (eight), too, for that matter.

“Different defensive coordinators attack young quarterbacks differently,” said offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains. “Some guys blitz, some guys play a bunch of zone. This group on defense there, they have a really good defensive coordinator, they're really smart, they do a bunch of stuff. On the back end, they run all the coverages.

“As a game, we'll have to make adjustments as the game goes and see what their plan to come out is early.”

Coaches and players may talk about how they prepare for a scheme irrespective of which opposing quarterback, running back, linebacker or whatever they will be facing. But in fact, preparations start with who is orchestrating the opponent’s offense or defense – play the man, not the board.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

A risk can be out-thinking yourself trying to anticipate what a coordinator will do. The first point, Loggains said, is to start with your own strengths.

“We definitely look at that,” Loggains said. “As you go in the league long and longer, you face these guys, you see them in crossover games. We always know how a guy attacks a rookie quarterback or attacks a young quarterback, a veteran, or, in Matt's case, a guy who hasn't played as much.”

Evaluations of Barkley’s performance will broaden, particularly now that he is on tape for defensive coordinators to scheme for and scout. And while they are watching Barkley, the Bears are watching them.