Mullin: O-line depth, Urlacher back at Halas

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Mullin: O-line depth, Urlacher back at Halas

Thursday, Sept. 15, 2011
Posted: 9:32 a.m. Updated: 11:11 a.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com Bears Insider Follow @CSNMoonMullin
For reasons very much apart from football, it was good to learn a little while ago that Brian Urlacher is at Halas Hall Thursday morning. Sometimes work is indeed a good place to get away from personal hardship for a while, and it is never easy to lose your mother at any age. Hopefully this is a sign that hes among good friends and is in a place where he can go about his life even bearing the grief of the moment.

Talkin' Bears

Did the Bears overspend for Chris Spencer (at 3 million per for two years) if he isnt good enough to start over Edwin Williams at right guard with Lance Louis hobbled on a right-ankle injury? Why is it that Drew Brees has done worse against the Bears all three times hes faced them than against the rest of the NFL?

These are the kinds of things that Danny Mac and Spiegs and I chat about Thursdays at 10 a.m. on WSCR-AM 670 on The McNeil and Spiegel Show.

The reality with Spencer is that I never look too hard at the money because it isnt strictly a measure of the player; its perhaps more a measure of the market. The Bears thought they needed a center and other teams were flirting with Spencer, who also happens to have been a first-round pick of Bears personnel guy Tim Ruskells back when he was running the Seattle Seahawks.

Either way, and the bigger picture here, is that the Bears have quality depth in a league where thats extremely difficult (and expensive) to get. Williams started last year when Louis went down, was nicked up a bit and the Bears went other directions by moving Chris Williams to guard. All things being equal between Spencer and Williams, a thought here is that Spencer gives the Bears backup at both guard and center. Thatll all work its way out this week.

A more intriguing thought is whether the Bears defense can continue to throttle Brees, and why it has done that in the past. A huge plus from the Atlanta win was the debut of Henry Melton as the starting under-tackle. If the Bears get pressure in the middle the way they did from Tommie Harris, heres what happens:

The Cover-2 of Lovie SmithRod Marinelli has pressure in the quarterbacks face. The Smith scheme thrives on quarterbacks becoming impatient and forcing things downfield against a defense set up to prevent deep damage. Brees wont have No. 1 target Marques Colston (broken collarbone); if he becomes impatient against this defense, hell have a fourth loss to Lovie Smiths Bears.

Which is what I gave Mac and Spiegs, a prediction of a three-point Bears win. Well see.

Do the right thing

Kudos to quarterback Jay Cutler for the London trip package for the Tampa Bay game that his foundation is giving away, plus tix to the Carolina Panthers game. Go to jaycutlersix.com and register.

Working through grief

Expect Brian Urlacher to play Sunday in New Orleans against the Saints. Nothing is official by any means until the middle linebacker says hes in (hopefully some of the reports are more accurate and restrained than the Chester-Taylor-is-released business), but various indications are that hell be in New Orleans.

Teammates privately said Wednesday that theyd be surprised if Lach (as they call him) isnt there, as much for personal therapy as football, and Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune tweeted to that effect as well on @BradBiggs.

Personally, seeing him play really would be a positive, and that has absolutely nothing to do with football. His presence is clearly pivotal but dont look for a lot of breathless coverage of this whole thing; when Urlacher is ready to talk about it or his playing, he or Lovie Smith will talk about it.

Bear guy, sort of

Was Sean Payton involved in doing damage to the 85 Bears? Indirectly, probably yes.

Payton played his college football at Eastern Illinois, the program that gave the NFL and the Dallas Cowboys Tony Romo. And he also was one of the Spare Bears in 1987 during the labor impasse that caused the NFL to establish alternate squads which played three games.

When Mike Ditka, sticking up for the alternatesscabsfill-ins(your term here) declared that the real Bears will be the ones wearing uniforms Sunday, he lost the Mike Singletarys, Dan Hamptons and others. The Bears played well after that, even to the 1988 NFC Championship game, but more than a few players said it was never the same between Ditka, who preached loyalty, and the players who felt they didnt get any.

Amen to that

Kicker Robbie Gould ought to be making laws. RG tweeted on @RobbieGould09 this morning that Putting makeup on in a car should have the same consequences as cell phones."

Yup.
Amen to that II Chris Harris on @ChrisHarrisNFL Dear Summer, I really miss you!!!! Its 40 degrees this morning.

Talking football

Ill be getting in the weekly visit with The McNeil and Spiegel Show on WSCR-AM 670 at 10 a.m. Thursday, then hook up with Mike Florio on ProFootballTalk Live at around 11.

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.