Dent: 'This is my time to shine'

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Dent: 'This is my time to shine'

Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2011
2:47 p.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

Seeing Richard Dent standing at a Halas Hall podium Wednesday, to honor his selection last weekend as a member of the Hall of Fame, was somehow personal. And it should be.

It was obviously personal for Richard, who suffered through slights the more than half-dozen rejections he received in the form of not receiving enough votes for induction. I was very, very thirsty for it, the Colonel acknowledged, as he seemed to reflect that he was the first Hall of Fame selectee from Tennessee State, a small school with a distinguished history of turning out NFL-grade players over its more than 100 years.

I dont take that lightly, Richard said, noting that he is leaning toward his college coach, Joe Gilliam Sr., to be his presenter in Canton next August. Of course, hell have to work that out with daughter Mary, a student at Valparaiso who also would like the honor of presenting her Dad.

Dent never took anything lightly about his craft, and thats part of what was running through thoughts Wednesday. One of the most memorable stories Ive had the pleasure of doing was a two-part package on the art of the pass rush, which was done nearly a couple decades ago with Richard sitting down over a long period of time and describing in intricate detail how he did what he did.

He described foot angles (his and offensive linemens), leverage, weight transfer, hands all of the elements that went into his becoming one of footballs all-time greats at his craft, with 137.5 sacks.

These years later you appreciate even more what defines greatness, and it is far more than simple talent. If you become a student of the game, Dent said, the game becomes easy.

Dent laughed Wednesday recalling a recent phone chat with Mike Singletary, who insisted that Dent never studied. I told Mike that some of us just have a gift, Dent said, laughing.

That gift included Dent playing some defensive back at practice, to maximize his legendary agility and speed. Gift? Amazing how gifted people also seem so often to out-work everyone else.

Pass rushing is like pitching baseball, Dent told me. You throw balls; you throw strikes. You set people up.

If the game seemed easy for Dent, part of that was because of that unseen work. He once told me that the best offensive tackles he ever saw were Lomas Brown, longtime Detroit Lion, and teammate Jimbo Covert, partly because they studied him so well too.

I played against all the great tackles, Dent said Wednesday, and no disrespect to anyone, but Jimbo Covert was the best I ever faced.

He once said that after facing Covert all week in practice, games were easy.

A road with turns

To see Dent honored at Halas Hall was a time to exhale as well. He and the Bears had a rough parting back in 1994, with the Colonel earning free agency by reaching a sack incentive in 1993, then being told to stay away from the Bears weightroom facilities because he was a distraction.

The Bears held the door open for Dent to re-sign until the night before the 1994 draft, when they decided they could wait no longer and instead drafted John Thierry to replace Dent.

The Bears even brought Dent back briefly during the 1995 season, a return that lasted all of three games in part because he kiddingly referred to defensive line coach Clarence Brooks as Rook, which the coach didnt take well to. At times Dent made unhappy, frustrated comments about the Bears seeming lack of support for his Hall of Fame case.

The Super Bowl MVP honor that Dent accomplished in XX was the capstone of a season that nearly didnt happen. He, Singletary, Todd Bell and Al Harris were on track to be holdouts prior to the 85 season. Singletary felt that promises were made and broken by management. Dent was coming off an epic 17.5-sack season, had a year on his contract but wanted an insurance policy to protect him against an injury in the course of the 85 preseason.

Dent and Singletary made their peace with the Bears and entered into history. Bell and Harris became unfortunate footnotes to that season.

Not alone

But all of that was pleasantly in the past, in closed chapters of Richard Dents football life. NFL justice was finally served with his selection and one of the high points of Richards time Wednesday was the long, long accounts of people who helped him, and who would say vice versa.

There was Covert, Singletary, Dan Hampton, Steve McMichael and so many of his teammates. One he unfailingly mentions is Mike Hartenstine, from whom Richard learned so much about the use of hands that became part of Dents excellence.

You can never get here by yourself, Richard said. This is the first award for my career, and it doesnt get any better than this.

Life can get cloudy sometimes, but I guess this is my time to shine.

Amen.

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.

Good or better? Why offseason moves are making 2017 Bears better

Good or better? Why offseason moves are making 2017 Bears better

Improvement typically comes in incremental steps, not leaps. And the Bears of 2017, based on what they have done at a handful of positions, the latest being Thursday’s signing of wide receiver Victor Cruz, fit that template.

The clear organizational commitment is to build through the draft, even if injuries have undermined some otherwise apparent upgrades to starting lineups on both sides of the football. But if there is a “theme” to what GM Ryan Pace is doing to muscle up a sluggish roster, it is that the Bears are willing to take flyers on veteran players – with additions like four veteran wide receivers with injury and issue histories – that arguably point to a win-now mindset while draft picks develop and contribute.

Jaye Howard and John Jenkins. Make the defensive line “better?” Than Jonathan Bullard and Will Sutton, probably. But “good?” Mmmmm…..

The game-one tight ends last year were Zach Miller-Logan Paulsen-Gregg Scruggs. Now they’re Miller-Dion Sims-Adam Shaheen (based on a second-round draft choice). “Good?” Maybe, maybe not. “Better?” Obviously, based on Sims alone.

Mike Glennon-Mark Sanchez-Mitch Trubisky. Bears “better” at quarterback? Than Jay Cutler-Brian Hoyer-Matt Barkley, probably. “Good?” Mmmmmm…..

The decisions to sign Glennon and Sanchez to the quarterback depth chart have sparked their shares of understandable cynical skepticism. But Kirk Cousins and Jimmy Garoppolo were not available in trade, so the Pace decision was to gamble on upside with Glennon over the known quantity of Brian Hoyer (the preference of some coaches) and certainly Jay Cutler, for whom “potential” and “upside” no longer applied.

Add in the aggressive draft of Trubisky and the result was three possibilities of hits on a quarterback (Sanchez and Connor Shaw being combined here as a pair entry in the hit-possibility scenarios). All three were deemed an improvement over Cutler and/or Barkley.

The results may not vault the Bears all the way up to “good” at the pivotal position for any franchise. But “better” is sometimes all you can realistically manage.

Taking a wider-screen look at wide receiver in this context… .

Coach John Fox has cited the need for the Bears to establish the ability to get yardage in bigger chunks. Accordingly, all four of the veteran wideout signings this offseason – Cruz, Rueben Randle, Markus Wheaton, Kendall Wright –  have posted yards-per-catch seasons of 14 or longer.

All four won’t be on the opening-day roster, but all four offer the promise of major impact. Cruz, Randle and Wright have had seasons of 70 or more receptions, and Wheaton topped out at 53 in 2015 with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Randy Moss, Terrell Owens and Jerry Rice weren’t available, so “good” was hard to achieve in an offseason in which Alshon Jeffery and Eddie Royal were expected departures long before their exits. But are Cruz, Randle, Wheaton and Wright, with Kevin White and Cameron Meredith, a “better” starting point than Jeffery, Royal, White, Bellamy, etc. of a year ago?

Obviously. But players with even moderately established NFL “names” (like Cruz, Randle, etal.) are typically available for a reason; teams do not routinely give up on talent. And none of the four come without significant shadows on their NFL resumes, whether for injury or other questions.

Cruz missed most of 2014 and all of the 2015 season, and hasn’t played a full season since his Pro Bowl year of 2012.

Randle was described as a head case by scouts and was so bad that he was let go in the Eagles’ cutdown to 75 last year, followed by disparaging comments from those in and around the organization.

Wheaton flashed promise in his 2014-15 opportunities as a part-time starter but played just three games before a shoulder injury landed him on IR last season.

The Tennessee Titans thought enough of Wright, their 2012 first-round draft choice, to pick up his fifth-year option going into las season. But by week 14 he was benched for tardiness and was a healthy DNP in game 16, announcing after the game that he already knew he was not in the Titans’ plans for 2017.

The prospect of the Bears going from 3-13 to “good” borders on fantasy. But if being among the NFL’s busiest this offseason hasn’t propelled the Bears to that level, the results point to “better.” At this point, that’s something,.

How big of an impact will Victor Cruz have on the Bears?

How big of an impact will Victor Cruz have on the Bears?

The Bears inked Victor Cruz to a one-year deal on Thursday, adding another receiver to an already crowded corps.

But it never hurts to add a veteran one to a young group, especially with a new starting quarterback.

Cruz is 30 years old and isn't the same Pro Bowl-caliber player he was before missing the entire 2015 season with a calf injury, but he surely has a lot left in the tank and can serve as a great mentor for the Bears receivers.

Just how big of an impact will he have on his new team? See what the SportsTalk Live panel had to say in the video above.