Mullin: Little optimism that 2011 will start on time

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Mullin: Little optimism that 2011 will start on time

Thursday, April 14, 2011Posted: 10:55 AM
By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

I was hoping for a little more encouraging answer from somewhere on the panel to my question of Given that a labor settlement is generally expected at some point, whats your pick for the month when we have football again?

The overall issue before the Chicago Chapter of the National Sports Marketing Network on Wednesday was The impact of a Work Stoppage on Sports Business: What Can We Expect and How Do We Prepare? Terry Lefton, editor-at-large for Sports Business DailySportsBusiness Journal, served as moderator for the group.

And the best anyone expected was from Comcast SportsNet Chicago colleague and two-time Super Bowl winner Howard Griffith, whose thought was late August, maybe September. What that would mean is no Bears in Canton, O., for the Hall of Fame game on Aug. 7 and probably no training camp in Bourbonnais.

Judge Susan Nelson has mandated federal mediation but Howard suggested that personalities, specifically NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and players chief DeMaurice Smith, may be more of a factor that is being noted.

Not that either is a problem per se, but both are in their first negotiations with the other side and nobody wants to be the one to go back to his side and say, Well, I got a deal but its not quite the deal we wanted.

(Were not going to spiral off too far here into the latest on the labor matter; I hate writing about it and Im guessing that you hate reading about it. But some particularly interesting thoughts came up at the get-together.)

Mike McCartney, director of football operations at Priority Sports and a former member of front offices with the Bears and Philadelphia Eagles, represents a number of top NFL players and predicted that when free agency does arrive in whatever form its going to be this year, Its going to be crazy.

McCartney, whose prediction of when the impasse breaks was pegged to whether Judge Nelson stops the lockout and the decision is upheld on appeal, also offered that I dont think were ever going to get to an 18-game schedule.

Probably the most pessimistic forecast was from agent Kristen Kuliga of K Sports & Entertainment LLC out of Boston, who voted for October as the seasons starting point. Kristen was very concise on details of the proceedings to this point, and she did candidly note that players do not like the lockout situation but they also arent particularly put out to be missing the offseason programs mandated by some teams.

Bob Dittrich, VP of Client Services for MillerCoors, threw out something a lot of you are only too aware of. What happens with fantasy leagues, now such a big part of the game? Nobody knows whos going to be on what teams, he said.

The hard part in all of this is trying to gauge who may blink first, where a crack might occur. I was told as far back as last season by an NFC team higher-up that he had never seen the owners as unified as they were and appear to still be. And as former Chicago Tribune colleague David Haugh said Wednesday, Its a lot easier to keep 32 billionaires together than 1,900 players.

Strictly speaking

Catch CSNPhilly.com colleague Ray Didinger with Mike Florio on ProFootballTalk Live this morning after 11 a.m.

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.

Jay Cutler is reportedly considering retirement

Jay Cutler is reportedly considering retirement

This is apparently the week of Jay Cutler news.

Reports surfaced earlier this week the Bears are pushing hard to find a trade partner for the enigmatic quarterback, though Ian Rapoport reported the organization informed Cutler in mid-January they were shopping him around.

It seems clear Cutler's time in Chicago has come to an end and an ensuing move is more of a formality at this point.

But apparently Cutler may not even suit up again...for ANY team.

Rapoport reported on NFL Network Wednesday night Cutler is mulling over retirement, even as he's healthy and working out now after shoulder surgery.

"There's no guarantee Cutler even plays in 2017, one of several veterans who are still considering whether they want to play or not play, retire, walk away. A lot of things at play here for Jay Cutler."

Host Dan Hellie immediately followed up, asking for clarification on the retirement part.

"It is a consideration; it's something he's confided in people," Rapoport said. "But Dan, I would say, it's not a surprise for quarterbacks this age. We've heard [Ben] Roethlisberger talk about it; we've heard Tony Romo talk about it. If it's not perfect, if he can't find the team he wants or the contract he wants, it's very easy for Jay Cutler to walk away."

Whoa.

Cutler, 33, has made more than $112 million in his 11-year career and is owed at least another $2 million in 2017, even if he's cut by the Bears.

Bears add another assistant coach to John Fox's staff

Bears add another assistant coach to John Fox's staff

John Fox and the Bears have added another assistant coach.

Zack Azzanni is leaving the University of Tennessee to become the Bears' new receivers coach.

Azzanni has been with Tennessee since 2013 as a receivers coach and passing game coordinator. Prior to that, he spent time at Wisconsin, Western Kentucky, Florida, Central Michigan and six seasons at Bowling Green.

Azzanni was on Urban Meyer's coaching staff at Bowling Green in 2001-02 and also coached Pittsburgh Steelers superstar receiver Antonio Brown at Central Michigan. Under Azzanni's tutelage at CMU from 2007-09, Brown totaled 305 receptions for 3,199 yards and 22 TDs, earning a sixth-round draft selection in 2010.

Curtis Johnson spent 2016 as his first season in the role of Bears' wide receivers coach, but announced he was leaving after the Senior Bowl to take a job with the New Orleans Saints.

It's unknown if Azzanni will get a chance to coach Alshon Jeffery (who is currently a free agent) but the incoming coach will have an important job in molding young receivers like Kevin White and Cameron Meredith.

The Bears also announced the additions of assistant coaches Brandon Staley and Derius Swinton II Wednesday morning:

Staley will replace Clint Hurtt as outside linebackers coach and Swinton will be the assistant special teams coach under Jeff Rodgers.

Swinton is reprising his role he held on the Bears coaching staff in 2015 before leaving to take a promotion with the San Francisco 49ers special teams. 

Hurtt left the Bears to take a position as the defensive line coach with the Seattle Seahawks. Staley spent last season as the defensive coordinator at Division-III John Carroll University, the alma mater of New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and Hall of Fame coach Don Shula.