Bears GM search begins

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Bears GM search begins

When Ted Phillips was looking 11 years ago for Mark Hatleys replacement to head up Bears personnel, the team president employed a search firm experienced in pro sports executive recruitment.

The firm conducted preliminary interviews with prospects and narrowed the field to 10 candidates. Those were interviewed by Phillips and a list of three finalists developed. One of those was Angelo.

To find Angelos replacement, however, Phillips is running the search himself, with help from coach Lovie Smith.

My feeling is that over the last 10-11 years, my experience, my contacts in the league with other teams, talking to some folks internally, I think we'll be able to handle that search and come up with the right candidate ourselves, Phillips said Tuesday in the aftermath of Angelos exit.

This will be Phillips first solo foray into hiring for this area of NFL operations. He did not hire Hatley, a holdover from Michael McCaskeys time as Bears chairman.

But he was explicit in the first area for considering candidates to take over football operations for an NFL charter franchise.

I think it will be someone with an emphasis on talent evaluation, said Phillips, targeting the No. 1 stated reason for Angelos dismissal. I think well probably lean toward someone who has a talent evaluation background to at least some extent.

Lovie Smith rapport

It will be a hire with a condition: keeping Smith as head coach. The Bears have 11 million committed to Smith over the next two years and they have declared that they believe him to be the right one to stay the course of pursuing and overtaking the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions.

Talent evaluation is going to be key, Phillips underscored, in addition to, chemistry with Lovie; understanding of the coaches; solid character and work ethic and a clear strategy to get us to win a championship.

That will mean getting past Green Bay and Detroit, two teams in the postseason with their best players acquired through the draft.

It's not just the Packers, said Bears Chairman George McCaskey. The Lions finished ahead of us this year, so we need to target them. The Vikings have a good coach; they played us pretty tough just a couple of days ago.

I think we're the only division in the NFL that has had every team in the playoffs sometime in the last three years. So we're one of the toughest divisions in the NFL and we need to close the talent gap in order to compete in the division.

Playoff chase

The Bears are expected in particular to pursue candidates from currently successful programs, meaning ones already in the 2011 playoffs and especially ones with the best draft histories.

The blizzard of names will swirl until the Bears begin to settle on finalist. But sources told CSNChicago.com that Green Bay director of player personnel Reggie McKenzie and Baltimore director of player personnel Eric DeCosta were high on Phillips preliminary list, both with teams in the playoffs on the strength of their organizations draft performance.

The Bears are expected to make a strong play in free agency and with free agency beginning in mid-March it's going to depend on whether there are any candidates on playoff teams as to how long it'll drag out, Phillips said.

Can Deiondre' Hall overcome on- and off-field hurdles to make an impact with Bears?

Can Deiondre' Hall overcome on- and off-field hurdles to make an impact with Bears?

Rookie Deiondre' Hall flashed in the preseason a year ago, leading the Bears coaching staff and fans to believe they found something amidst their trio of 2016 fourth round draft picks. 

He’s hoping to do the same this August after overcoming one physical hurdle, while waiting to see if he can get past a legal hurdle he created for himself.

Let’s start on the field, where, just days after his first NFL interception in the fourth game last season, he sustained an ankle injury in practice, sidelining him for two months. Once his walking boot and scooter were finally put away, he was active for the final four games. But what progress he’d been making on the field was difficult to recapture.

“Just coming off the injury, there was a little rust here and there, but the training staff here’s great and I had to push through it,” Hall said at last week’s minicamp in Lake Forest after he was one of numerous Bears hit by the injury bug, but not one of the 19 who wound up on Injured Reserve. “(I was) getting comfortable with the defense and in myself playing with those guys out there, getting the opportunity in the red zone and making plays. But the injury kinda sucked because I haven’t really had an opportunity to play since Week 5, so I’m not necessarily starting fresh.”

As the offseason unfolded, Hall was informed the coaching staff was going to try him at safety, if not permanently, then as an option for the 6-foot-2, 201-pound Northern Iowa product. 

But Hall’s not totally foreign to the position. He was a free safety his first year in college, then transitioned to outside linebacker/nickel as a sophomore, moved to cornerback as a junior before breaking his hand his senior year, playing through it back where he started at safety. So the decision wasn’t a big deal, especially if it enhances his chances to get on the field. But his preference?

“Defense. Opportunity,” Hall responded. “You get in where you fit in and the more you can do, the better it is for the team. If opportunity presents itself at corner, then I’m at corner. But right now at safety, I’m making strides (there) and keep pushing for that.”

“We’re gonna float him back and forth,” defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said last month, after the Bears signed free agent cornerbacks Prince Amukamara and Marcus Cooper in the off-season, while Bryce Callahan and Cre’Von LeBlanc are expected to battle for slot duty and former first-rounder Kyle Fuller and veterans Johnthan Banks and B.W. Webb hope to impress. “He (Hall) had some experience there in college. When it comes down to picking your team and you’re taking nine or 10 DBs, if someone’s got versatility to play both of those spots, that helps, so we’re gonna see if he’s one of those guys.”

But before Hall gets back to work in Bourbonnais, he’ll find out if he has some other dues to pay. Hall was back at his alma mater’s Cedar Falls campus March 26th when he and a former UNI teammate were arrested outside a bar called Sharky’s. Police had responded to a call, and by the time all was said and done, Hall needed to be tased before being arrested on charges of public intoxication, interference (with an arrest), and disorderly conduct. 

The case was continued late last month and Hall’s jury trial is scheduled for July 11th. Pending the outcome, he could face disciplinary action from the team and the NFL. He’s told his side of the story to Bears management and while expressing remorse for putting himself in the situation, Hall says it wasn’t in character and feels confident in what the outcome will be.

“People make mistakes and the truth always comes out,” the 23-year-old said, adding the situation isn’t weighing on his mind or affected his preparation in off-season workouts. “You gotta let people make their own mistakes. I won’t shed light but the truth always comes out, and (I’ve learned) just don’t take anything for granted.”

“My main focus is football and keep pushing to make strides to become good, and great.”

Bears announce training camp schedule

Bears announce training camp schedule

The Bears released their official training camp schedule Thursday morning. After reporting to Olivet Nazarene on Wednesday, July 26, the first of ten practices open to the public will take place the following day. The Bears will be based out of Bourbonnais for the 16th straight season. Training camp will go through Sunday, Aug. 13 before the Bears break camp and finish the preseason in Lake Forest. 

All practices are tentatively scheduled to start at various times during the 11 a.m. hour with the exception of Saturday, Aug. 13, which starts at 12:05 p.m. Those times are subject to change based on weather, and a varying set of schedules that John Fox and his coaching staff have set up, as they adjust to player and training staff preferences in hopes of reducing injuries. 

Also, new this season, fans wanting to attend practices must order free tickets in advance through the Bears website. Fans will not be allowed in without a ticket, and the first 1,000 fans each day will be given various souvenirs. The practice campus will be open to the public with tickets from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.

Here is the full training camp schedule: