NFL Combine: QB's drawing all the questions

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NFL Combine: QB's drawing all the questions

Saturday, Feb. 26, 2011
Posted: 10:38 a.m. Updated: 2:47 p.m.
By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

INDIANAPOLIS -- Ryan Mallett left in a huff. Cam Newton held court. Colin Kaepernick might have wondered what he did wrong.

Such was the stuff of Saturday at the NFL Scouting Combine here, which is probably about what you should expect from a day of divas (quarterbacks).

Kaepernick, a four-year starter at Nevada, was engaged by a hefty media throng, answering questions from all sides. Then the booming PA voice announced that Mallett, who left Michigan after one year and finished with two strong years at Arkansas, was available at a podium elsewhere in Lucas Oil Stadium.

Gone.

Thats what the Kaepernick media crowd was in roughly 10 seconds as the frenzy turned to Mallett. And on Mallett, as it turned out.

Mallett, already with an immature tag hung on him in some scouting circles, declared that he was not going to answer questions about allegations of drug use. Im not going to talk about that right now, he said to the first question about the rumors, stating that he would talk with teams about the subject if they needed to know (they will, Ryan, trust me).

A short time later, it was pointed out to Mallett that the questions wouldnt go away until he answered them. Well, the questions might not go away, but Mallett did.

Thanks, he said, and walked off the platform.

Newton was a whole lot more comfortable with his questioners, which was nearly everyone in Lucas Oil Stadium. The sea of seats was full long before Newton ever approached the podium, cameras were jockeying for position and angles, and you have to wonder what it will be like if the Heisman Trophy winner actually ever does something on the pro level.

Which hes planning on doing, clearly. He has recently isolated himself in San Diego working with, not one, not two, but three coaches: quarterback, strength & conditioning and speed. Hes working at dispelling the image that he is a spread quarterback and can work from under center and master 3-5-7 step drops.

I was motivated to be great, Newton said.

And speaking of great

Wisconsin tackle Gabe Carimi declared himself the best lineman in this years draft. Illinois linebacker Martez Wilson has higher ambitions.

Wilson comes out of Illinois, which produced Ray Nitschke and Dick Butkus. And what he wants teams at the Combine to know about his game is simply that I have the potential to be one of the best ever, Wilson said. Im very confident in my game.

No, really? Likeable kid, though. Ya gotta love the attitude.

The coach Ron Zook said if you want to be one of those great guys, you have to do whats needed to be great, Wilson said. You have to do what people arent doing. You got to watch more film, youve got to exercise more, youve got to stretch more when youre at home and things like that. I take everything to note and I do those things.

Definitely love that attitude. And Butkus would love the do what people arent doing. Go for it, kid.

Are internal questions lingering for Cutler?

INDIANAPOLIS -- Questions will continue to swirl around Jay Cutler and his torn knee ligament probably until he and the Bears win an NFC Championship game or Cutler reaches some mythical performance feat that absolves him of doubt surrounding his exit in the third quarter of the Green Bay game. Its unfortunate and unfair, but perception is sometimes reality, or at least a reality.

But what Cutler and the Bears cant afford are any questions about the franchise quarterback lingering within his own locker room, and it is sounding like there may be a few.

Jim Trotter, senior writer for Sports Illustrated, has heard the questions from some players and shared those with CSNChicago.com Saturday.

.From players Ive talked to, there are some who were kind of like, Wow, really? What was it? Jim said. Now, theyre not going to come out publicly and say that, but thats the truth and, Im just being honest here, what theyre saying to me.

Jim is an elite national NFL writer, and very often the out-of-town guys will get things that arent divulged to localites. The thing to realize here, as Jim says very strongly, and he did see Bears games last season, is that he personally doesnt buy any notion that Cutler was really just begging out of a game in which he was playing poorly. And he wrote at the time that the criticism of Cutler was unfair.

I dont think you can ever question a guys heart, said Jim, who did not believe any quarterback endured more of a pounding than Cutler did in 2010.

Cutler and the Bears dont have an internal issue here. Indeed, the firestorm after the knee injury, particularly the bashings Cutler took from fellow players via Twitter and other venues, may have been an ultimate positive because the players closed ranks around Cutler.

Brian Urlacher was livid at the critics. Israel Idonije was still angry at the player criticism of Cutler when we talked the night I presented Idonije as Bear of the Year at the March of Dimes even two weeks ago.

And Lovie Smith was visibly upset when reporter asked about the whole Cutler-toughness thing. I talked to players Saturday as well to gauge any suspicions, even anonymously.

But at some point this may need to be addressed, and only internally; what outsiders think of Cutler really doesnt matter. Best guess is that it already has been, if only Smith standing up at a team meeting and demanding that anyone with even a shadow of a question speak up now or forever shut up about it. Which another best guess is that they will.

Cam Newton the Extra-Terrestrial?

About that glowing light on the chests of Cam Newton and two dozen other NFL Combine contestants.

No, it isnt a green version of E.T.s heartlight. Its a new workout apparatus incorporated by Under Armour into a fitted exercise shirt and its being used by Newton and others during the Combine. Heart rate, g-forces (scary to realize think of Newton and friends as generating rocket-sled power but there it is) and other particulars are picked up and can be projected onto a big screen.

Its not available to the general public yet, probably next year. But if it makes me look like Sam Hollenbach (check the video youll understand), Im in line already.

Huh?

Bears tight end Des Clark is dealing with a mess down home in Florida and its a little head-scratching on one level.

Police in Polk County, Fla., seized a rental property that Clark owns in Lakeland because of conduct by bad tenants ranging from suspected drug dealing to prostitution. Whats head-scratching is the rush to judgment by some that this is somehow a reflection on Clark personally.

As hes said, How can anyone think Id condone something like that going on in one of my places? This is someone who grew up in Lakeland, lives there with wife Denise and three kids, and has set up 88 Wayzcq Youth Organization to aid needy children under the dictum, Bridging Gaps, One Youth at a Time. Hes done football camps since 2002 for needy kids and gotten together 600 pairs of football shoes for kids who cant afford them. Heck, he even put together a bass fishing tournament last May to raise money for charity.

Anythings possible, I guess, but Ive known Des for quite a few years now, and if there are many individuals of better character around this business, I havent met them.

Well have full video on these but check out our conversation with National Football Post NFL analyst Matt Bowen regarding the various schemes the Bears employ and what that translates into as far as impact from draft picks and rookies.

Matt, who does superb insider breakdowns of plays, strategies and personnel for NFP, talked with me about the Bears one-gap defensive scheme and how a rookie can have immediate impact in that system. The Bears are looking hard at defensive tackle with that first pick (No. 29) and Matt folds in ideas relating to the 3-4 scheme that indirectly affect the Bears.

Because of the proliferation of 3-4s (nothing like both Super Bowl finalists using it to spur a copycat league that direction), undersized pass-rush linebackers have become premium items in drafts. So have wide-bodies for the nose tackle spot and bigger defensive ends for the edges.

The position that has been targeted less is the three-technique, the defensive tackle shading slightly to a guards outside eye, the Tommie HarrisJohn Randle type. The nose tackle (Anthony Adams) in the Bears scheme is the power point, tying up double teams.

Matt makes the great point that the decreased use of 4-3s and three-techniques can make more of those quality defensive tackles available for the Bears, who have nozipnada intention of veering from a 4-3 to 3-4.

Matt and I also looked at wide receiver and why that position so often has difficulty making an impact early. GM Jerry Angelo eschews investing high picks in wideouts because of the bust factor and Matt adds to that the problem that young receivers have, coming out of college play where coverage is more zone than press man, and they are required to instantly learn and perfect myriad routes instead of the handful that were sufficient against most college defensive backs.
Head case

Ohio State defensive end Cameron Heyward, son of former Bear and New Orleans Saint fullback Craig Heyward, on similarities between his father and himself: Using my head. Ive got to stop that. He was taking on linebackersIll be taking on tackles.

Good thought.

Tough assignment

FOXSports.com senior NFL writer and good friend Alex Marvez dropped by for a chat. A.M. and I visited during training camp and he confesses to the 6-10 prediction for the Bears (he wasnt alone on that one). He does an excellent retrospective run-through on the Bears from a national perspective, including some thoughts on how their 11-5 season really played out the way they did.

A.M. also sees the Bears facing a very difficult situation in 011 visavis the Green Bay Packers. Because of the Packers youth (not many teams have hit as consistently as the Packers have on recent high-round draft choices) and the veteran nature of the Bears core, this may be the last good chance for the Bears to overtake their rivals.

Check out the video for our full visit.

Friday was All-Bears All-The-Time for me, with Lovie Smiths contract extension, his podium appearance at the Combine and then an afternoon sit-down with GM Jerry Angelo. So check out Evan Silvas excellent run-through of goings-on at ProFootballTalk.com for a quick look at some of the bricabrac around the Combine.

Ill be doing a Video Mailbag a little later on Saturday so get any questions in and Ill try to get to things.

And Saturday is also going to be right out of that well-known Samuel Beckett play, Waiting for Cam. The Auburn quarterback, an on-going story all year anyway for various reasons, was the story of Friday for not holding a media session. But Newton is scheduled sometime Saturday now so well check back later on that.

Im actually looking forward more to visiting with Illinois Corey Liuget, a junior who some draft experts project as a possible Bears pick at No.29. Corey is viewed as a three-technique fit, something the Bears are looking for as Tommie Harris appears to be pretty well done in Chicago.

Pony up

Itll cost you a little more to see the 2011 Bears in person than it did the 2010 (and dont blame Lovie Smiths new contract; his deal for this season was already in place back in 2007).

The Bears announced price increases for all Soldier Field tickets, the first time for an across-the-board hike in three years. And in the event any games this season are cancelled, refunds will be paid to season ticket holders no later than 30 days after final determination of how many games will be played during the 2011 NFL season.

Non-club seat increases range from 5 to 15. Club seats will be raised from 10 to 30 per ticket. The Bears non-club ticket prices now range from 74 to 140 and account for approximately 85 percent of the seating at Soldier Field. Club seats range from 265 to 530.

Season ticket holders have the option to make their payment online with a MasterCard, Visa or Discover credit card. Payments made by check will continue to be accepted as well. Season ticket holders can log-in to their account and utilize the online payment option by visiting ChicagoBears.com.

The Bears 2011 home schedule includes match-ups against Atlanta, Carolina, Seattle, Kansas City, San Diego and the three NFC North rivals.

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 OL Nate Chandler has retired

Bears OL Nate Chandler has retired

Less than two months after Nate Chandler signed with the Bears, the team announced on Saturday that the offensive lineman has retired.

Chandler, 27, signed with the Bears on June 2. He is the second offensive linemen the Bears have signed this offseason that has retired. Manny Ramirez retired in June after signing in March.

Chandler was expected to push Charles Leno for playing time at left tackle. 

Amini Silatolu was signed by the Bears earlier this week to add more depth to the offensive line, but was thought to be more of a replacement for Ramirez at guard.

Chandler played collegiately at UCLA. He went undrafted, but signed with the Carolina Panthers and played in 37 games, with 19 starts, from 2012-2014. Due to a knee injury he was placed on injured reserve in 2015 and did not play.

Bears release Omar Bolden, sign Charles Tillman to one-day contract

Bears release Omar Bolden, sign Charles Tillman to one-day contract

The Bears released a player who was expected to be a special teams contributor next season and signed a player who officially retired from the NFL on Friday.

After signing Charles Tillman to a one-day contract to retire as a member of the Bears, the team terminated the contract of defensive back Omar Bolden.

Bolden originally signed a one-year deal with the Bears last March after spending the first four seasons of his career with the Denver Broncos, including the first three years under current Bears head coach John Fox and special teams coordinator Jeff Rodgers.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

The 27-year-old Bolden, who won a Super Bowl with the Broncos in 2015, has amassed 27 special teams tackles and 24 defensive tackles in 56 career games. Bolden has also added 1,085 yards on 44 kickoff returns and 123 yards and a touchdown on five punt returns.

The Bears 90-man roster currently sits at 89.

Bears: The one thing Charles Tillman will miss the most in retirement

Bears: The one thing Charles Tillman will miss the most in retirement

When Charles Tillman arrived at Halas Hall Friday morning, after a season in Carolina as a Panther but now retiring from the game, Bears President Ted Phillips was there to bring Tillman back where he and the Bears knew he belonged.

“Welcome back home,” Phillips said to Tillman.

For Tillman, it was a 13-year love affair with a passion of his – football – that officially ended on Friday, with the 2003 second-round draft choice of the Bears signing a one-day contract that allowed him to retire as a Chicago Bear.

“I think I’ve done OK,” Tillman reflected as his family and members of the Bears organization looked on.

But Tillman, named the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year in 2013, was also clear beyond the “I” part of his observation: “I didn’t do this all by myself,” he said, repeatedly remembering Lance Briggs, Brian Urlacher, Tommie Harris, Chris Harris and a litany of teammates he credited with much of what he was able to do.

[RELATED - Athletes react to Tillman's retirement]

Bears Chairman George McCaskey spoke of Tillman in terms beyond football.

“Every once in a while a player comes along with uncommon ability and tenacity on the field and unsurpassed compassion and charitable spirit off the field, the kind that makes us grateful as fans and proud as an organization,” McCaskey said. “Charles Tillman was such a player and is such a person.

“For 12 seasons, he made life miserable for Bears opponents, revolutionizing his position and adding ‘Peanut Punch’ to the football vernacular. In the community, in countless hospital rooms, he counseled the worried parents with a 'been there' perspective and a sympathetic ear and offered them hope. He also supported the brave men and women who defend our great country.”

The decision to leave the game after starting 12 games last season with the Carolina Panthers was not difficult in the end for Tillman.

“I woke up one day and said, ‘I’m done,’” said Tillman, who’d been talked out of several retirement impulses by his wife over recent years, the last three of which ended with him on injured reserve.

A career marked by myriad highlights contained a couple that were the most notable. The first one that Tillman mentioned was the game in 2003 when he got the better of legendary wideout Randy Moss of the Minnesota Vikings, including out-fighting Moss in the end zone for a game-saving interception.

“It showed the world I could play with anybody,” said Tillman, acknowledging that he carried a chip on his shoulder, coming out of a small unknown college (Louisiana-Lafayette) and working to overcome doubters.

Tillman also cited the 2006 season, which ended in the Super Bowl in no small part because of efforts like Tillman’s in the comeback win at Arizona, in which he returned a fumble for one of the Bears’ second-half touchdowns in the 24-23 win over the Cardinals.

But it was less the highlights than one specific off-the-field part of his football life that will miss. Asked what he in fact would miss the most, Tillman’s answer was immediate:

“The locker room. The locker room, more than anything. Not the games, not the… just the locker room in general. The games that we played in there: the ‘box ‘em up,’ the ‘4-square’…

“You know, we’d have a 10-minute break out a meeting and we would literally, I called it ‘Team Got Boredom.’ You get bored so you just make up a game. And we would make up some of the craziest games. We had a soccer game that we used to play. I think the most volleys we had off this little soccer ball was like 90 and the entire team was playing. So more than anything that’s what I’ll miss the most.”

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

Tillman has been hired by FOX to be part of their NFL coverage. But as for staying involved in the game as, say, a coach?

“Absolutely not,” Tillman declared.

He will be coaching his kids in their various activities, but overall, “I’m going to try to enjoy retirement, being the dad, I drive all my kids around, so I call myself the ‘d’uber guy. I’m a duber. Really, just be a family guy. I’ve got the Fox gig, so I’m one of [the media] now. So I guess I’m a journalist. I’m a black anchorman. That’s what I’m going to do. The black anchorman. We’re going to get into fights. We can meet up at like Jackson Park. I’ll have my crew. You’ll have your crew. We can get down. Get a little anchorman fight going on. Something like that. But we’ll keep it casual, respectful.”