Chicago Bears reportedly giving JaMarcus Russell a tryout

JaMarcus RussellThe Chicago Bears reportedly are bringing in JaMarcus Russell for a workout, marking the first time the former No. 1 overall pick will get a shot to perform for an NFL team (that we know of) since he began his comeback in January.

Russell weighed 320 pounds when he first began his comeback attempt. With the assistance of TEST Football Academy, Russell slowly shed weight and reportedly is down to 265 pounds, which is what he weighed when he entered the NFL. The Bears considered that a strong enough sign to believe he is serious about resuming his career. They decided to give him a workout so they can get a current evaluation of his abilities.

According to ESPN Chicago, the Bears are bringing in Russell along with three other quarterbacks for the workout. The Chicago Tribune says Trent Edwards and Jordan Palmer are two of the other QBs. There is no guarantee any of those quarterbacks will be signed to a contract. The team currently has Jay Cutler, Josh McCown, and Matt Blanchard under contract and is contemplating bringing a fourth to training camp. If Russell impresses, that might convince the team to take a shot at him.

Russell has been working with former Pro Bowlers Jeff Garcia and Marshall Faulk and genuinely seems interested in resuming his career. A previous report from NFL Network said Russell wanted to learn behind a veteran if he gets a shot at redemption. He has not played professional football since being cut by the Oakland Raiders in 2010.

USA Today’s Mike Garafolo also reports that the Baltimore Ravens have shown a “significant amount of interest” in Russell and could try to work him out.

While I’m supportive of Russell’s comeback attempt and desire to change his legacy and image, I would have serious concerns about signing him if I were an NFL team. He has so much baggage that he would become a distraction at training camp, not quite to Tim Tebow levels, but to a similar extent. He would have to be awfully good to convince me that he’s worth having the coaches and players answer daily questions about him. I can’t imagine that he will be that good.

Brian Urlacher announces retirement

brian-urlacherBrian Urlacher may have become frustrated with the Chicago Bears over his contract situation towards the end of his career, but the eight-time Pro Bowler has decided he does not want to play for any other NFL team. On Wednesday morning, Urlacher announced his retirement with a message on Twitter.

“It was an honor to play my entire career with the Chicago Bears,” he wrote. “After spending a lot of time this spring thinking about my NFL future, I have made a decision to retire. Although I could continue playing, I’m not sure I would bring a level of performance or passion that’s up to my standards. When considering this, along with the fact that I could retire after a 13-year career wearing only one jersey for such a storied franchise, my decision became pretty clear.

“I want to thank all of the people in my life who have helped me along the way. I will miss my teammates, my coaches, and the great Bears fans. I’m proud to say that I gave all of you everything I had every time I took the field. I will miss this great game, but I leave it with no regrets.”

Urlacher will turn 35 later this week, so he is hardly a young man by NFL standards. That being said, he seems like a perfect candidate to pull a Brett Favre at some point during the offseason. He obviously feels that he could continue playing, as evidenced by how insulted he was at the Bears’ offer earlier this offseason.

Back in March, Urlacher said the Bears had made it “not possible” for him to finish his career in Chicago by giving him a “take it or leave it” contract offer. He has obviously had a change of heart, but don’t be surprised if the football itch returns before the 2013 season begins. There will certainly be no shortage of teams vying for the veteran’s services.

Brian Urlacher blasts Chicago Bears for giving him contract ‘ultimatum’

Brian UrlacherBrian Urlacher has been one of the most identifiable Chicago Bears players over the past decade, but he and the team are parting ways and it doesn’t seem to be on good terms.

Urlacher, who will be 35 in May, missed the final four games of the regular season with a hamstring injury. He entered the season with medical problems after having knee surgery. With his body appearing to break down, the Bears didn’t want to give their franchise linebacker more than a one-year deal. Urlacher’s agent was seeking $11.5 million for two years, according to the Chicago Tribune. The team supposedly countered with a one year, $2 million take-it-or-leave-it offer.

“It wasn’t even an offer, it was an ultimatum,” Urlacher told the Tribune. “I feel like I’m a decent football player still. It was insulting, somewhat of a slap in the face.

“They came back with the offer and said, ‘This is what it is, take it or leave it. It was, ‘If you want to play for the Bears, you’ll play for this. If not, then you’re not playing for the Bears.’ ”

Urlacher told the Tribune he would have played for $3 million if the team had kept the negotiation ongoing. He feels like the team didn’t want him back, and he wishes they would have made that clear.

“I want to be here,” Urlacher told the Tribune. “I wanted to be in Chicago. I wanted to finish here. Now that’s not possible.”

Urlacher told the Tribune he won’t hold hard feelings toward the organization despite the failed negotiation. Teammate Roberto Garza says Urlacher is a great player and great leader in the locker room, and that he will be missed.

Urlacher, who is an eight-time Pro Bowl linebacker and the 2005 Defensive Player of the Year, has said he does not plan to retire. He reportedly has received interest from the Dallas Cowboys, and we know he has been in contact with the Minnesota Vikings. If he and his agent leaked the Vikings news to try to scare the Bears into giving their best offer, the strategy did not work.

As an aging player Urlacher is unlikely to get a two-year deal, but he still could help a team for one season. His locker room presence and smarts on the field still makes him a valuable player to have, but he’s just not worth paying a ton of money at this point.

Chicago Bears reportedly hire Marc Trestman as head coach

marc trestmanThe Chicago Bears will hire Marc Trestman as their next head coach, Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune reports.

Biggs reported the news over his Twitter account shortly after 1:00 am CT Wednesday. He says Trestman beat out Colts offensive coordinator Bruce Arians and Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell for the job. Alouettes reporter Didier Ormejuste confirmed the report.

The Bears fired longtime head coach Lovie Smith after the season despite the team’s 10-6 record. Chicago GM Phil Emery says he fired Smith because, while the defenses were always strong under Smith, his offenses were too unproductive.

Trestman, along with the other finalists, is an offensive-oriented coach. He comes to Chicago after five seasons as head coach of the CFL’s Montreal Alouettes where he won his division four times and the Grey Cup twice.

A former college quarterback at the University of Minnesota and Minnesota State-Moorhead, Trestman has extensive NFL experience. He coached Bernie Kosar in both college and the pros, and quarterbacks like Steve Young, Scott Mitchell, Jake Plummer, and Rich Gannon all had excellent seasons with Trestman’s help.

The Bears have the personnel to maintain a strong defense for the next few years, and Trestman should provide an offensive boost. I think this was an excellent hire by Chicago.

The reports also confirm what Jimmy Johnson tweeted on Friday. The former Dallas Cowboys Super Bowl-winning coach said it looked like Trestman was going to be getting the Bears job. Trestman was an assistant under Johnson at Miami in 1984.

Mike Ditka rips Bears for firing Lovie Smith

The Chicago Bears made a surprising move on Monday when they fired head coach Lovie Smith. According to Mike Ditka, the move was idiotic. On Monday, the former Bears coach ripped the team for what he thinks is a big mistake.

“If Minnesota would have lost (Sunday) night and the Bears were in the playoffs this wouldn’t have happened,” Ditka told The Waddle & Silvy Show on ESPN 1000. “That’s a fact. So how stupid is it then? It really is stupid. If they would have made the playoffs this would not have happened. They did what they did. They took care of their business and Minnesota played a great game against Green Bay.”

Ditka certainly has a point. Chicago has only made the playoffs three times in nine years with Smith as its head coach, but oftentimes teams overreact to missing the playoffs. The Bears were not a bad team this year and were a Vikings loss away from making the playoffs. Is a coaching change really what they needed to take the next step?

“I think Lovie is a very good coach,” Ditka said. “Everybody is a little bit different in their manner. I think that’s a 10-win season. They started 7-1. This team, there’s a reason they lost some games in between. A lot of the wins they got in the 7-1 run were because of turnovers by the defense were turned into points. The offense didn’t score enough points in those other games. That’s the bottom line.”

The Bears struggled mightily down the stretch, and it’s not uncommon for a head coach to take the fall when something like that happens. In this case, I’m not sure he should have. Do I think it’s tragic enough where Devin Hester needs to be overreacting and contemplating retirement because of it? No, but I tend to agree with Ditka. Smith should have no trouble filling one of the vacant head coaching positions.

H/T Pro Football Talk

Brandon Marshall won’t cheer for Packers even though Bears need them to win

Brandon-Marshall-BearsThe Chicago Bears may not control their own destiny to secure a playoff spot this weekend, but their formula is fairly simple. If the Bears defeat the Detroit Lions and the Green Bay Packers beat the Minnesota Vikings, Chicago slides into one of two wild card spots.

With the Bears scheduled to play an early game and the Packers playing in the afternoon, one would think all of the Chicago players have the following planned for Sunday: take care of business in Detroit and then root for Green Bay. However, Brandon Marshall said he is not going to cheer for the Packers despite the situation.

“I’m not cheering for anybody but the Bears,” Marshall said Thursday according to Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune. “Yeah, that’s how it is. We put ourselves in this position and right now it could be a good position. You never know how things will work out. But all we can do is beat Detroit and sit back and have a cup of coffee and see what happens at that afternoon game.”

If the Bears beat the Lions, almost all Chicago fans and all of Marshall’s teammates will be rooting for Green Bay. Based on his recent remarks about his division rival, we know Marshall despises the Packers. While most of the things the star wideout says baffle me, I actually understand where he’s coming from. The Bears put themselves in this position and his cheering isn’t going to affect the outcome of the game. Obviously Marshall wants the Packers to win, but it’s not something he can control. The only thing he needs to worry about is making an impact against Detroit.

Photo credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-US PRESSWIRE

Lance Briggs: Nobody gets booed more at home than the Chicago Bears

Chicago Bears fans may be fed up with their team, but it sounds like the feeling is mutual. The Bears have tumbled this season since they started out looking like one of the best teams in the NFC. While they could still sneak into the postseason with a wild card berth, it’s looking less likely by the week.

Earlier this week, Brian Urlacher ripped Chicago fans for booing the team during their loss to the Green Bay Packers on Sunday. Fellow linebacker Lance Briggs said he understands the passion of Bears fans, but essentially agreed with what Urlacher had to say.

“I understand where he’s coming from,” Briggs said during his show on CSN Chicago. “I’ve been here a long time, too and I’ve (heard) a lot of boos. For a lot of the wrong reasons. Nobody, on any team I’ve seen, gets booed more at home than here in Chicago.

“That’s also a point to the passion of the Chicago fans. Everyone is passionate, but everyone in Chicago doesn’t know how to run a football team. Everyone doesn’t know how to play professional football. It’s our job to do that.”

While the Bears aren’t exactly the Jacksonville Jaguars, it has to be frustrating for fans to listen to their star players hype up games against division rivals only to fall flat on their faces. When you sign a contract to play in a place like Chicago, Boston or New York, you have to understand that the fans are going to love you when you’re winning and despise you when you’re losing. The fact that people like Urlacher and Briggs are acting surprised by that amid a stretch where they’ve lost five out of six games is getting pretty old.

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