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.

Bullard a prime example of how, why and where Bears can improve

Bullard a prime example of how, why and where Bears can improve

This Bears rebuild has taken longer than expected. Ideally, in year three of a GM/head coach tandem, they should be contending for the playoffs. 

That’s not to say the 2017 Bears can’t. It’s just unlikely. They don’t have enough players opponents have to gameplan for. They don’t have the depth to overcome key injuries. When franchises get on a winning roll, it’s when they have enough of those studs on both sides of the ball, and have the depth to avoid as many emergencies as possible. And that happens when second- and third-year players make a jump in their play.

Offensively, we saw an impressive jump by Cam Meredith, but another left leg injury still have us wondering exactly what Kevin White is, and how good he can be. Jeremy Langford’s growth was stunted by his ankle injury. Second-year center Hroniss Grasu missed the entire year. On the defensive side, we never got to see if Kyle Fuller could’ve proven his first-round status in his third year. Safety Adrian Amos started another full season, but is now in a battle to do the same a third straight year. We can see star qualities in Eddie Goldman, but how much of a difference-maker can he be by remaining on the field? We’ll learn the same about Leonard Floyd if he can do that this fall. And there are a handful of other second-year players we’ll be watching, from Deon Bush to Deiondre Hall to Cre’Von LeBlanc. There’s also 2016 third-round pick Jonathan Bullard, who learned what it took to become a 3-4 defensive end in the NFL.

“It was okay. I got about 17 snaps a game,” Bullard said of his rookie season during last month’s minicamp. “That’s not what I wanted coming in. But it is what is. I want to move on to the next year and hopefully be able to help this team in a big way.”

Rookie seasons for every player lay the groundwork. How high their ceiling goes starts to get established in year two, between the player’s effort, and getting coached-up correctly.

“They asked me to gain a few pounds. I was like 282 last year, and right now I’m at 296, so hopefully that helps me, said Bullard. “I’m just trying to make all this solid and not lose my burst that got me here. So I’m looking forward to it. I got a year under my belt now, I know what they expect. I’m gonna be ready.”

Part of Bullard taking things upon himself was hooking up with a former defensive end, from the same alma mater, who happens to be fourth in franchise history in sacks (albeit in a 4-3 scheme): CSN’s very own Bears analyst, Alex Brown.

“We saw each other at the Florida spring game and we kind of linked up and put in some work at his facility down the road,” Bullard explained. “We’ve met up quite a few times, just working on little things. He’s just trying to give me a better understanding of the game, and some of the veteran things he knows that I want to incorporate into my game.”

So what kind of a teacher is Alex?

“He’s alright. I make him him jump in there. I tell him he’s not that old.”

And while Pace didn’t make the big splash in free agency as he tries to match up salary with his grades for players, Bullard has to prove he’s now better than last year’s starter, Mitch Unrein, as well as a hungry fellow former Gator, Jaye Howard, who was brought in on a “prove it” one-year deal after being cut just before the draft by Kansas City.

“As far as him being a Gator, it’s exciting. But it’s a competition. He’s gonna come in and try to win the starting job, and I’m gonna do the same. It’s just gonna have to be a friendly competition when training camp comes, and may the best man win.”

Let this, and many other Bourbonnais battles, begin.

Bears linebacker Jerrell Freeman saved a man's life at an airport

Bears linebacker Jerrell Freeman saved a man's life at an airport

Jerrell Freeman played hero at an Austin airport on Sunday.

The Bears linebacker was grabbing a bite to eat before his flight to head back to Chicago for training camp when he noticed a man choking.

Freeman said an older lady tried to perform the Heimlich maneuver on the man but didn't have enough strength. That's when Freeman stepped in, and after a couple attempts, saved his life.

“I grabbed him and tried to squeeze the life out of him,” Freeman told the Chicago Tribune. “You’ve got to push in and up. So I did that and he started throwing up what he was choking on. I asked him if he was all right and he shook his head like ‘No!’

“I grabbed him again and hit him again with it. And when I put him down the second time, his eyes got big. He was like, ‘Oh, my god! I think you just saved my life, man!’ It was crazy.”

Freeman tweeted a picture after it happened:

Freeman, 31, said he had never done the Heimlich maneuver before, but his mom is a nurse and had talked to him about it. He just did what he heard, and thankfully it worked.