Burleson gives Bears bulletin-board material

Burleson gives Bears bulletin-board material

Thursday, Dec. 2, 2010
7:07 PM

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

Its not exactly Joe Namath calling his shot with the New York Jets in Super Bowl III but for an NFC North rivalry game, itll have to do.

Detroit wide receiver Nate Burleson, against whom the Bears played when he was a Seattle Seahawk and Minnesota Viking before he became a Lions last offseason, likes his new teams chances against the Bears, winners of four straight, even though the Lions are 2-9 and losers of four straight.

Burleson this week issued what is being construed as a guarantee of a Detroit victory Sunday.when he said on his local radio show, We will win on Sunday.

The Bears supposedly posted the guarantee on bulletin boards, which surprised Burleson, who clarified and tempered his comments substantially, which were hardly inflammatory in the first place.

You can take it as a guarantee, Chicago can take it as a guarantee, they can take it however they want, Burleson said, as reported on MLive.com. We play to win the game, we want to try to win on Sunday, and we think weve got a chance to win.

Not exactly something to start a war of words, and if that in fact does incense the Bears, that may be the bigger surprise.

Deep down every player, I would think you would guarantee a win every week you go into it, said linebacker Lance Briggs. Its good. It should fire them up. I know it definitely fires us up. Weve got it pinned up everywhere in our meeting rooms.

It was none other than Briggs who guaranteed a win in 2004 over Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts. No record of whether that added anything to Indianapolis motivation, but the Colts left Soldier Field with a 41-10 win that day. Im not going to guarantee more wins, he guaranteed.

And guarantee that this will not be the last guarantee made somewhere by someone.

Ive heard it so many times in the last 11 years, said linebacker Brian Urlacher. Its locker room material. If you need to get fired up at this point in the season, somethings wrong with you, but it does add a little more fuel to the fire.

So does pundits and observers showing little or no respect for the Bears or their accomplishments. In fact that may be the one thing that does put some fuel to the Bears fire, and their coach sees to it that they know theyre being disrespected.

The no respect thing I think does provide motivation, Urlacher said. We play on that pretty well. Weve done a good job of it. Coach Smith hypes it up pretty good, and we kind of thrive on that.

"But other than that, if you cant get ready to play and get ready for a game at this point in the season or even at the beginning of the season, somethings wrong. You shouldnt be playing football. Because now they mean a lot unless youre 2-9 or so, then they dont mean as much. But our games mean a lot right now, so we need to be ready to play.

Sick bay

Chances increased Thursday for Nick Roach starting at strong-side linebacker for the third straight game as Pisa Tinoisamoa returned to practice but only on a limited basis. Whenever you have a guy who isnt able to practice on Thursday, theres some concern, said coach Lovie Smith.

The Lions officially lost kicker Jason Hanson to a right-knee injury that has raised questions about his career. Right tackle Gosder Cherilus was unable to practice as well because of a knee injury and defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch was out again with a neck injury.

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.

For Bears, interior OL a good strength to build on for 2017

For Bears, interior OL a good strength to build on for 2017

INDIANAPOLIS — A team coming off a 3-13 season doesn't usually speak of "strengths," if for no other reason than they usually didn't have many, or any at all. The Bears don't entirely see things that way.

A Bears team ostensibly committed to running the football tied for fourth in rushing average (4.6 yards per carry), and rookie tailback Jordan Howard wasn't the only "strength" behind that success, general manager Ryan Pace assessed Wednesday at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. 

"I feel good about what we've done with our offensive line," Pace said. "You look at the interior offensive line [guards Kyle Long and Josh Sitton, and center Cody Whitehair] that we have, you know, I think it's set to be one of the better interior groups in the league.

"Of course there are more pieces we need to add, that's important. I think you can see the value of building a strong offensive line and what it does for the quarterback. In Dallas you have a great example of that."

On the surface, the Dallas example is enticing — the Cowboys went from 4-12 in 2015 to 13-3 in 2016 with the constant being an offensive line regarded as one of the best in the NFL. Four of the Cowboys' five regular starters in 2015 returned in 2016, with left guard La'el Collins the departure after being sidelined three weeks into the year due to a season-ending toe injury. 

First-round running back Ezekiel Elliott was a revelation and, coupled with that offensive line, allowed a soft landing for fourth round quarterback Dak Prescott. Prescott took full advantage of that opportunity, throwing for 23 touchdowns and only four interceptions (in what's been discussed as the best rookie year for a quarterback in NFL history) while pushing the Cowboys to a 13-3 season. 

But as tantalizing as the 2016 Cowboys are, there's a flip side: The 2015 Cowboys still lost 12 games with the same offensive line. So what does that mean for the 2017 Bears?

The running game and offensive line strength is a good start, but it doesn't necessarily mean Pace will over-aggressively pursue free agents to add to the offense with decisions needed at quarterback (Pace described Jay Cutler's status as "fluid") and wide receiver (with Alshon Jeffery set to hit free agency). 

The larger strategy Pace hinted at in Indianapolis, then, is to mix in some veterans through free agency (the Bears do have loads of cap space, after all) but continue to focus on building through young talent. And, to go back to the Dallas example, it's worth noting the two most important pieces the Cowboys added in 2016 were through the draft. 

"There is a delicate balance between being aggressive and being decisive, but being responsible," Pace said. "I think you can always recover from the player you didn't sign; you can't recover from the player that you signed at the wrong price. I think we've got to be conscious of that."

A year after using franchise tag, Bears preparing for post-Alshon Jeffery scenarios

A year after using franchise tag, Bears preparing for post-Alshon Jeffery scenarios

INDIANAPOLIS – About this time last year, Bears general manager Ryan Pace was evincing optimism about progress toward a long-term deal with wide receiver Alshon Jeffery. That eventually faded to black in the form of a franchise tag that secured Jeffery for the 2016 season at a cost of $14.6 million.
 
This year, no optimism, at least not yet. The Bears have not ruled out having Jeffery for a sixth NFL season, but...

...where last offseason was spent deciding upon the best scenario for retaining Jeffery, this offseason is involving scenarios in which Jeffery is not back.
 
"Our approach – starting with [player personnel director] Josh Lucas, [pro scouting director] Champ Kelly, our pro scouts – they've done a great job, and our free-agent board is stacked," Pace said on Wednesday at the outset of the NFL Scouting Combine. "There's options in free agency and in the draft, and we have to see how it'll play out. We'll know a lot more in the coming week; a little over a week from now I'll be able to answer questions a little more directly.
 
"We have plans in place for every one of these scenarios. I feel extremely prepared for this free-agency process that we're about to enter and it gives me confidence with all these different scenarios."

The Bears opted against a second franchise tag, one that would have committed the Bears to $17.5 million for a receiver who missed 11 full games over the past two seasons and portions of others with injuries in 2015. After a season that saw Jeffery total 52 catches and two touchdowns in 12 games, missing four with a suspension for a violation of the NFL's substance policies.
 
Jeffery was not worth what he thought he was last season, based on production vs. cost. While they were unwilling to let the open market factor into Jeffery's value last year, the Bears were not prepared to use the tag again, a move that would have effectively cost the Bears $32 million over two years and still had him head for free agency after 2017 with nothing to show for it.
 
"It was thought-out thoroughly, obviously," Pace said. "I think sometimes when you can't come to a common ground with a player and an agent, sometimes it's necessary to kind of test the market to determine that player's value, and that's really where we're at.
 
"He's a good player and we'll see how it plays out. But I think there are certain instances where testing the market is a necessary part of the process...We're constantly having dialogue with him and that'll continue like it has pretty much always."