Chicago Bears

Mullin: Offseason moves, the Plaxico issue

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Mullin: Offseason moves, the Plaxico issue

Thursday, Jan. 27, 2011
11:14 p.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

Football season never really ends in Chicago, which means its always good to visit with Dan and Spiegs on The Danny Mac Show on The Score AM 670, as we did this morning. Not a lot yet as far as Super Bowl chat (Im a longtime Pittsburgh guy my Dad took me to Games 6 and 7 of the 60 World Series, as you know) but thats next week.

Listen to John Mullin's "The Danny Mac Show" appearance

What is still worth looking at is where the Bears go this offseason, because even though they spent massively last year with Julius Peppers, Brandon Manumaleuna and Chester Taylor, I dont see the Bears standing pat and say, Well play these.

The draft subject is percolating already, as I wrote Wednesday, and best guess is that the Bears stay on the lines with the No. 29 pick and possibly even their second as well, whether offense or defense. Spiegs is intent on doing something at wide receiver and I see the Bears upgrading there, just not with a high pick. The bust factor with high wideouts spooks Jerry Angelo, as it should for a lot of people.

Danny and Spiegs both felt, and I agree, that the Bears are in the spot of having enough legitimate need areas that they can take the best player available at one of several spots. To get a top offensive lineman at No. 29 may be a stretch but New England got guard Logan Mankins at No. 32 and the New York Jets got center Nick Mangold at No. 29, and Marc Colombo was not a bust, just unlucky with knee injuries at No. 29.

The Plaxico issue

The most intriguing solution at wide receiver is Plaxico Burress, who is scheduled to be released from prison this June after serving his sentence from the bizarre self-inflicted-gunshot incident. Burress will be 34 and at one time was considered a character question. He wont be in NFL condition when he comes out and possibly not even through this season.

READ: Jumping into the draft

But as I mentioned with the guys, what I saw of Burress on Inside the NFL Wednesday night was not the same Burress I spent time with during his Halas Hall visit prior to the 2000 draft. That guy had a bad vibe all over him and the Bears werent sorry that Bill Cowher and the Steelers took him at No. 8 and left Brian Urlacher for Chicago.

It was only TV but this individual sounded far, far more mature and reflective than he once was. Michael Vick opened the door for second chances and were a nation of second chances for the right people. Burress wont be what he was when he was catching the winning touchdown in a Super Bowl, but hes still 6-5 and has forgotten more about the position than a lot of the young Bears know at this point.

And with Devin Aromashodu not going to be on the roster next season, the Bears would have no wideout taller than 6 feet. Thats a need.

Coming or going?

But we talked about more than wideout and one question over the coming weeks will be which Bears are coming and which are going. Thoughts on some of these:
Anthony Adams: I dont see how the Bears can let him go. Their best, most consistent defensive tackle over the past two seasons.

Olin Kreutz: The succession plan broke down when Josh Beekman was a bust. A short-term deal is a win-win for Kreutz and the Bears, and agent Mark Bartlestein is a savvy Chicago guy who gets deals done.

Todd Collins: Trick question?

Corey Graham: Special teamers are a unique market unto themselves. This is 50-50 for me; hes a quality coverage guy and the Bears will make an offer. What could get him out of town is a promised legitimate chance to play cornerback, which he wont have in Chicago.

What we didnt talk about

The organization got little real production out of running back Chester Taylor beyond a couple of short touchdown runs and few downs off for Matt Forte. Expect the Bears to cut their losses and Taylors 1.3 million for 2011.

Forte could not have picked a better year to have a career year, both in terms of health and production. Ive written previously about the Bears expected to do a new deal with Forte rather than let him play out his fourth year and hit the market, whatever that proves to be.

Whether the Bears move on without Manumaleuna, a one-trick pony who was regularly fined for failing to make weight this season and did little to earn the money tied up in him, well see.

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.

Bears linebacker Jerrell Freeman 'making tackles and saving lives'

Bears linebacker Jerrell Freeman 'making tackles and saving lives'

When linebacker Jerrell Freeman and defensive end Akiem Hicks jointly met the media as the Bears reported to training camp Wednesday, there were moments when the two interacted as if they were a budding comedy team. But the deadly serious topic of Freeman using the Heimlich Maneuver to possibly save the life of a man choking on food Sunday at the Austin, Texas airport came up, and how he feels about the incident days later.

"It's kind of settling in," Freeman said. "At the time it was just something that needed to be done. It was pretty simple, ya know? Like one plus one. Somebody was in need, and I was there. If I wasn't there, I'm sure somebody else would've done it. Or I would hope.

"I guess it's settled in. I did help a guy out. We've been able to talk back and forth. He's still thanking me. I just let him know, hey, anybody would've done it, hopefully. It's humanity, man, is what it is."

Added Hicks:

"He's making tackles and saving lives."

Freeman was en route back to Chicago when Texas attorney Marcus Ryan, a father of three, began choking at an airport restaurant. Freeman came to the rescue after an older woman unsuccessfully tried performing the Heimlich herself.

Are Ryan Pace and John Fox feeling pressure to win in Year 3?

Are Ryan Pace and John Fox feeling pressure to win in Year 3?

Nine wins. Twenty-three losses.

That's how most bottom-line Bears fans evaluate what general manager Ryan Pace and head coach John Fox have done in two seasons. And the rebuild (whether it was characterized that way or not upon their hiring in January 2015) is continuing at a pace that's too slow for some, what with a 2017 playoff berth at this point still a long shot.

So what happens in January 2018 for the tandem if all they can muster is a 5-11 or 6-10 season? How would they expect to be evaluated by Virginia and George McCaskey? And would they feel vulnerable about keeping their jobs? Neither directly answered that question as they met the media while players reported to Bourbonnais Wednesday. They shifted the focus to the here-and-now, which is all they probably can do. 

But they certainly understand it comes with the territory.

"There's a pressure on all of us," Pace said. "There's a ton of pressure on me and we all know what we signed up for. I think the focus now is on winning games. But if there's one thing I can share with John, and things I appreciate every day is, it's very difficult to change a culture. And John is doing that while we're also getting younger. There's pressure on all of us. It's about winning games.

"I think we've all seen good teams ascend, and it starts with the quality of the character in the locker room."

That's all Pace and Fox can clearly state since putting a number on a win total is difficult for any team at this time of year. But that character throughout the locker room, coaching staff, and all of Halas Hall will certainly be tested with another slow start. Pace and Fox haven't won a September game yet after two seasons.

"I'm beyond feeling the pressure part of it," said Fox. "As a coach, you put pressure on yourself. I think there's a lot of people in that building, in those stands on Sundays, they want to see a winner bad. Every year, whether it's this year or the last two years, that's been the main focus and main objective."

When Fox was hired, he talked about how that one Lombardi Trophy in the lobby of Halas Hall looked lonely. No one expects an addition this year.

But one can expect ownership wants to see a team that's turning the corner.

"That conversation is always on-going," Pace said. "I just think they want to see continued improvement. I think they know there's no quick fix. We've talked about that. It's about building this team the right way, with the right kind of guys. And we've just got to show progress.

"I think we will. I think as we go forward our fans are gonna see a tough, blue-collar, grind-it-out team that's on an ascension."