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.

Injuries figure into Bears most recent roster cuts

Injuries figure into Bears most recent roster cuts

Health issues ran through the Bears’ most recent roster cuts that brought the player total to its required 75 by Tuesday.

Center Hroniss Grasu (knee) and quarterback Connor Shaw (leg) were played on injured reserve. Linebacker Roy Robertson-Harris, ill for much of training camp and forced to leave practice early Monday with sickness, was placed on the reserve/non-football injury list; and linebacker Lamin Barrow was waived/injured.

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Notre Dame linebacker Jarrett Grace also was waived.

The Bears must cut down to 53 players by Sunday night.

Injury clouds may be disappearing over (some) Bears

Injury clouds may be disappearing over (some) Bears

The daily litany of injuries and practice limitations through training camp and to this point of preseason have been stories. But they typically do not take on real significance until about this time of the football year, when teams swing onto final approach for their first regular-season game.

Against that backdrop, the Bears’ injury forecast was trending the right direction on Monday when No. 1 tight end Zach Miller and No. 1 nickel receiver Eddie Royal, both out for extended periods going through the team’s concussion protocol, were practicing without the don’t-hit-me red practice jerseys they were in as recently as last week.

Right guard Kyle Long, down with a shoulder injury since the New England game, was not in practice pads Monday but trotted over to a nearby goalpost at one point during practice, got into his stance and delivered a couple of linemen “punches” to the padding.

All three are vital components of a struggling offense in desperate need of impact players at any position.

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Rookie linebacker Leonard Floyd, held out of the Kansas City game on Saturday with hamstring soreness, was in uniform as well. Cornerback Kyle Fuller, who had knee surgery two weeks ago, was out running laps around the practice field, although he remains a longshot to be active for the Sept. 11 opener in Houston.

The situation was less encouraging for linebacker Pernell McPhee, who continues to do only controlled running and cutting along the sidelines as he works back from knee surgery in January. Chances of his return for the start of the regular season appear next to nil.

“We’ve got some avenues that we’re going to have to decide here as we cut down [the roster] to the 53 and some time from now, so I don’t like making those decisions now,” said coach John Fox. “But we’ll continue to evaluate him. There are options. He did start [training camp] on PUP [physically unable to perform]. We have a lot of options and we’ll do what’s best for us and him.”

The team has kept details of McPhee’s procedure and injury in-house. But teammate Willie Young, whose 2014 season ended with an Achilles injury of his own, offered a perspective that hinted at how serious McPhee’s injury may have been.

“It’s a credit to him, because to bounce back from any what used to be career-ending injuries is a challenge,” Young said, adding, “but he’s on course, I would say.”

Amid 0-3 preseason carnage, Bears believe one positive can be building block

Amid 0-3 preseason carnage, Bears believe one positive can be building block

With the No. 1 units in all three phases generally done for the 2016 preseason, one of the few stats that coaches and teams focus on can be analyzed for a Bears team that doesn’t have a lot of numerical results worth noting.

Through three preseason losses the Bears curiously have a plus-1 turnover ratio, taking the ball away from opponents. Through three games last year the Bears stood at plus-6 after a 2-1 point of a preseason in which coach John Fox sought to change a losing culture with an aggressive preseason approach.

Why this matters in a preseason of failures is this: Of the 15 teams with negative turnover totals, only one had a winning record. Not that a positive preseason means regular-season success, as the Bears demonstrated last year.

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But while the Bears offense has done precious little with the football when it’s had it, at least it is not giving it to opponents. Brian Hoyer has thrown the only two interceptions in 96 throws by Bears quarterbacks, a rate of 2.1 percent.

The defense has been without starting cornerback Kyle Fuller and No. 1 nickel corner Bryce Callahan for the past two games, and top corner Tracy Porter for game one and part of game three, the latter because of a concussion.

Still, members of the defense, which has produced two interceptions and two fumble recoveries through three games, have noticed a difference this year from last year’s first in a 3-4 base defense.

“Faster, that’s the main thing,” said defensive tackle Will Sutton. “A year under my belt in the system, you’re not thinking as much because you should know the plays. I can play a lot faster because I know how the blocks are being made against this type of defense, for instance.”

[RELATED: Wrapping up Bears-Chiefs: Not all bad, so why not find some good?]

The results have not yet been reflected in points, yardage or wins. But within the defense, players believe that team speed has been increased along with reaction speed, breaks on the ball and other elements that go into producing takeaways.

“Absolutely,” said linebacker Willie Young. “We’ve got a couple more guys who are more familiar with the scheme this year, including myself and [linebacker Lamarr] Houston, who obviously got off to a slow start last year.

“But we do have a lot more guys in position who are more familiar with the defensive scheme. So it allows you to fill a bit faster, a little more confidence.”