Chicago Bears: Brandon Meriweather

Brandon Marshall: Praying for Meriweather

October, 28, 2013
10/28/13
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CHICAGO -- Chicago Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall responded to Washington Redskins safety Brandon Meriweather referencing Marshall’s past allegations of domestic abuse on Monday, telling ESPN 1000’s “Waddle and Silvy Show” that he is praying for Meriweather and that the two are simply on “different pages” when it comes to player safety.

“I’m praying for that guy," Marshall said. "He actually reached out to me last week and I told him that I was more concerned about him and his health, because I think a few weeks before our game I saw him lying on the field just out cold. It was a scary situation. I never want to see him or any player lay out like that. As far as what he said today; you can only pray for someone with those feelings. So that’s all I have to say about that.”

[+] EnlargeChicago's Brandon Marshall
AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh"As far as what he said today; you can only pray for someone with those feelings," Brandon Marshall said. "So that's all I have to say about that."
Marshall publicly criticized Meriweather when the Bears played the Redskins on October 20 after the safety delivered a pair of illegal hits that eventually earned him a one-game suspension, going as far as to say the Washington defender, who has a history of being fined by the NFL for illegal contact, should be removed from the game entirely.

In response, Meriweather told reporters: "He feels like I need to be kicked out of the league, I feel like people who beat their girlfriends should be kicked out of the league, too.”

Marshall revealed that he had a phone conversation with Meriweather just last week, but the two players failed to connect, even though they both played high school football in the Orlando, Fla., area around the same time.

“From my end, I think it was more about, 'Hey man ... life after football ... your safety ... other guy’s safety ... that was kind of scary seeing you laid out against Green Bay ... I played in the same area you played in during high school in Orlando ... we always knew of each other,” Marshall said. For him, it was more about the money, being suspended and missing a game. We were on two different pages.

“I’m just praying for that guy. I just want to see the health of the league get better and for guys to stay healthy. For guys like that, I’m just going to pray for them.”

The Bears Pro Bowl wideout also reacted to Meriweather’s declaration that he will begin to aim low when making a tackle which will likely result in the safety causing an opponent to tear an ACL or suffer another serious knee injury.

“I just feel bad for the guys remaining on their schedule,” Marshall said. “It is tough (the rules) on defensive backs, especially, there are even some things that I don’t understand. When it’s a moving target it’s tough to aim for the shoulder or the body, so it is tough, but you don’t want to start seeing guys get hit in the knees. I don’t know what to say about it. It’s a tough situation. I don’t want to go any further.”

Considering Brandon Marshall is one of the NFL’s elite receivers, his peripheral vision probably works better than most. So when Marshall ran out of the brisk cold air at the practice fields on his way to the doors leading into Halas Hall, surely he saw more than a dozen cameramen and reporters scrambling his direction.

Typically when Marshall wants to talk, he stops. Not this time. He knew what was about to be asked, and made the right decision in declining to address irrelevant commentary from a peer.

Not long before Chicago’s practice came to a close on Monday, Washington Redskins safety Brandon Meriweather -- fresh off serving a one-game suspension for vicious hits, including two against the Bears on Oct. 20 -- fired off an attack on Marshall’s personal life when asked to respond to comments made by the receiver in the aftermath of that game.

Marshall
Meriweather
“Guys like that, maybe he needs to get suspended or taken out of the game completely,” Marshall said of Meriweather, after the safety smashed him in the end zone during Washington’s 45-41 win against the Bears, which drew a 15-yard penalty and played a part in the suspension. Then, on Monday, Meriweather took the back-and-forth to another level.

“He feels like I need to be kicked out of the league. I feel like people who beat their girlfriends should be kicked out of the league, too," Meriweather said. "You tell me who you'd rather have? Someone who plays aggressive on the field or someone who beat up their girlfriend?"

In addition to taking aim at Marshall’s personal life, Meriweather openly discussed ending careers to avoid discipline from the league for helmet-to-helmet hits, which have gotten him fined on multiple occasions.

“I guess I just got to take people’s knees out,” Meriweather said. “That’s the only way. I would hate to end a guy’s career over a rule, but I guess it’s better other people than me getting suspended for longer. You just have to go low now, man. You've got to end people's careers. You got to tear people's ACLS and mess up people's knees. You can't hit them high anymore."

Obviously, Marshall’s past is significant here. But in this situation, Meriweather shouldn’t be attacking Marshall personally, because one thing (the illegal hits) has absolutely nothing to do with the other (the receiver’s past).

Marshall has been arrested multiple times for alleged domestic violence, and I certainly don’t condone a man putting his hands on a woman in that fashion. But in every instance, either no charges were filed, or they were subsequently dropped.

Back in 2012, a judge dismissed a civil suit filed by a former girlfriend accusing Marshall of abuse. Three years prior, a jury found Marshall not guilty of misdemeanor battery charges stemming from incidents involving that same woman.

On Monday, Marshall -- apparently informed of Meriweather’s remarks -- posted on Twitter:



But by saying nothing in response to someone openly discussing ending careers on one hand, while making personal attacks on the other, was the right thing to do. Besides, Marshall has more important things to worry about at this point like how to help the Bears find a way to beat the Green Bay Packers on Monday night without Jay Cutler under center.

Civil tone hovers over contentious rivalry

October, 20, 2012
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The on-field incidents belie the weeklong muzzle job performed by the players in the buildup to a showdown on ESPN's "Monday Night Football" between the Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions at Soldier Field.

While the teams claimed mutual respect, it's clear they're not fond of one another, a sentiment expected to manifest itself on the field like it has so many other times in recent meetings.

[+] EnlargeJay Cutler
AP Photo/Charles Rex ArbogastNdamukong Suh snapped off Jay Cutler's helmet last November in a game that featured $62,500 in fines.
"Just because games are chippy doesn't mean the teams don't respect each other and don't want the emphasis to be the play on the field," Lions coach Jim Schwartz said. "There are a lot of great players that are going to play in this game on both sides of the ball, and I think these guys know each other very well. The schemes are well known. We have a good idea what they're going to do. They have a good idea what we're going to do. The more you know somebody, probably the better opportunity there is for guys to push and shove a little bit."

There has been opportunity aplenty in this series for sure.

Detroit defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh snapped off Jay Cutler's helmet during a 37-13 Bears win at Soldier Field in November. That was a game in which six players received fines totaling $62,500, including quarterback Matthew Stafford ($7,500) and cornerback D.J. Moore ($15,000) who were involved in an incident that led to an on-field brawl between the teams. Officials also flagged Lance Briggs for a crushing hit on Lions receiver Calvin Johnson, but the linebacker didn't receive a fine.

During the first meeting between the teams last season -- a 24-13 Lions win at Ford Field on Oct. 10 -- former Bears safety Brandon Meriweather received a $25,000 fine for a vicious hit on receiver Nate Burleson, while cornerback Charles Tillman was docked $7,500 for a horse-collar tackle on Jahvid Best.

Rewind to two years ago, and there's the incident in which Suh shoved Cutler hard in the back during a 24-20 Bears win, drawing a $15,000 fine from the league.


"They're a tough defense, they play hard," Cutler said. "They tackle hard, they rush the passer hard. They do everything full speed, so it's a challenge. With anybody in our division, we're not going to like them and they're not going to like us."

But Bears coach Lovie Smith made it clear that respect is there.

"With today's technology, you don't have to remind guys [about] an awful lot," Smith said. "It's not like I have to bring out the George Halas pep talk to get them ready to play Detroit. We realize what's at stake. We know about the rivalry we have with them, but it's still going to be decided on the football field."

(Read full post)

Source: Redskins add ex-Bear Meriweather

March, 15, 2012
3/15/12
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The Washington Redskins have agreed to a contract with safety Brandon Meriweather, a league source told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.

Read the entire story.

NFC North free-agency primer

March, 8, 2012
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AFC Free-Agency Primer: East | West | North | South NFC: East | West | North | South

Free agency begins Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET

Chicago Bears

Key free agents: Tight end Kellen Davis, running back Matt Forte (franchise), cornerback Corey Graham, quarterback Caleb Hanie, defensive end Israel Idonije, cornerback Tim Jennings, quarterback Josh McCown, safety Brandon Meriweather and receiver Roy Williams.

Where they stand: The Bears will have the most salary-cap space among NFC North teams, upwards of $30 million, and have plenty of potential uses for it. Quarterback Jay Cutler needs more targets in the downfield passing game, whether it's at the receiver or tight end position. And new general manager Phil Emery must start restocking a defense led by four players more than 30 years old: Linebackers Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs, defensive end Julius Peppers and cornerback Charles Tillman.

What to expect: It's widely believed the Bears will be in the running for free-agent receiver Vincent Jackson. But Jackson's price tag could be steep and no one knows if Emery will prove to be a big spender. It seems likely he will re-sign Davis, and Emery should also save some of his cap space to extend Forte's contract. Secondary receiver targets could include Marques Colston. Bears fans are hoping the team will pursue defensive end Mario Williams, but it's hard to imagine the Bears budgeting for Williams two years after breaking their bank on Peppers.

Detroit Lions

Key free agents: Defensive end Cliff Avril (franchise), left tackle Jeff Backus, safety Chris Harris, quarterback Shaun Hill, linebacker DeAndre Levy (restricted), running back Maurice Morris, running back Kevin Smith, quarterback Drew Stanton, linebacker Stephen Tulloch and cornerback Eric Wright.

Where they stand: The Lions are tight against the salary cap after franchising Avril and aren't likely to be big spenders on the free-agent market. They could relieve the situation by reaching long-term agreements with Avril and/or receiver Calvin Johnson, who has a $22 million cap figure for 2012. Tulloch made a big impact last season after signing a one-year deal, but so far the Lions' attention has turned elsewhere.

What to expect: The Lions' best-case scenario is to keep their 2011 core together without mortgaging their future relative to the salary cap. That would mean getting Tulloch re-signed to preserve the linebacker group they upgraded last season by signing him and veteran Justin Durant, moves that allowed Levy to play on the outside. Hill seems likely to re-sign as Matthew Stafford's backup, while Stanton might test the free-agent waters to see if he has a chance to do better than third on a team's depth chart.

Green Bay Packers

Key free agents: Cornerback Jarrett Bush, quarterback Matt Flynn, running back Ryan Grant and center Scott Wells.

Where they stand: The Packers took care of a big challenge by signing tight end Jermichael Finley to a two-year contract last month. They will let Flynn depart for a possible starting job elsewhere and it appears Grant will test the free-agent market. Discussions with Wells haven't led to an agreement, but the Packers often go to the final moments before reaching a deal. There are no obvious internal replacements for Wells, making his return a priority.

What to expect: The Packers will have some flexibility with the salary cap, but general manager Ted Thompson's aversion to veteran free agency is well known. It's been three years since he signed a veteran unrestricted free agent in the offseason. The Packers have needs at defensive line, outside linebacker and possibly at center if Wells leaves. But let's put it this way: Thompson's strong preference is to find depth and future replacements in the draft, not on other teams' rosters.

Minnesota Vikings

Key free agents: Safety Husain Abdullah, receiver Devin Aromashodu, receiver Greg Camarillo, defensive lineman Fred Evans, defensive lineman Letroy Guion, linebacker E.J. Henderson, linebacker Erin Henderson, safety Tyrell Johnson, quarterback Sage Rosenfels, cornerback Benny Sapp and tight end Visanthe Shiancoe.

Where they stand: The Vikings seem poised for a major roster overhaul in their first offseason since Rick Spielman was promoted to general manager. Players like Shiancoe, E.J. Henderson, Camarillo and Johnson all seem poised to move on. There aren't many positions on the team that appear secure.

What to expect: If the Vikings don't plan to draft USC left tackle Matt Kalil at No. 3 overall next month, the first clue will be if they pursue a free-agent left tackle. That seems unlikely. But they'll need to combine their draft with at least a few veteran free agents if they intend to compete for a playoff spot in 2012. Cornerback could be a point of focus, where Brandon Carr and Cortland Finnegan are among those available. Another could be receiver. The Vikings had major interest in Jackson two years ago.

Offseason position outlook: Safeties

February, 17, 2012
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Major WrightChuck Cook/US PresswireSafety Major Wright has been injury-prone in two years with the Bears.
This is final installment of a 10-part series that reviews every Bears position group on offense and defense, while also taking a quick look at potential free-agent targets and the top prospects in the upcoming NFL draft.

Adding at safety seems an annual rite of passage in Chicago, considering the Bears have used draft picks on the position in seven of that last eight years.

Apparently, the fickleness in talent acquisition manifested itself on the field as well.

Although injuries played somewhat of a role at times, the Bears lined up with eight combinations of starters at safety over 16 games with a five-game stretch with Major Wright and Chris Conte as the starters serving as the most stability the team would see in 2011 at the position.

The Bears appeared to find an emerging playmaker last season in Conte, a third-round pick, who finished 2011 on the injured reserve. But the team undoubtedly will try once again to solidify the safety spot through the draft or free agency. Of the six safeties currently on the roster, two -- Brandon Meriweather and Craig Steltz -- are free agents, leaving Wright and Conte as the only other players with experience.

A third-round pick in 2010, Wright experienced an up-and-down campaign in his second season. But despite an overall negative perception of Wright, his chemistry with Conte seemed undeniable. In the six games the Bears paired Wright and Conte as the starters, the club came away with eight interceptions while allowing just four touchdown passes and holding opponents to a passer rating if 68.9.

In the 10 games that didn’t feature Wright and Conte as the starters, the Bears picked off 12 balls, but gave up 18 touchdown passes while allowing an opponent passer rating of 85.8.

So while the success Wright and Conte experienced together in 2011 gives Chicago optimism about the position moving forward, the team must still be leery of their youth -- which makes them prone to mistakes -- and the quality of the depth behind them. Those concerns push safety high on the priority list of positions the team must address through the draft or free agency.

THE CURRENT ROSTER


[+] EnlargeMichael Bush
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty ImagesChris Conte improved throughout his rookie season.
Major Wright: Durability continues to be an issue for Wright, who missed two games in the first half of the season and two more over the final four. The safety also has a penchant for making mental busts, which improved somewhat in 2011, but should be even better in his third year. Wright registered a career-high 12 tackles in the season finale, and the staff remains optimistic about his future with the club. If Wright and Conte can stay healthy in 2012, the young duo might solve this team’s problems at the position.

Chris Conte: Injuries and inconsistent play led to Conte making his first career start on Oct. 16 against the Minnesota Vikings, and the rookie went on to make nine starts. One of the most athletically gifted players in the secondary, Conte posted 47 tackles and intercepted a pass in 2011. But an ankle injury sustained on Dec. 18 led to Conte finishing his rookie season on the injured reserve. Conte provides a playmaking element at safety the team hasn’t experienced consistently in quite some time. The key for Conte now is to use this full offseason to add strength, and to gain a better grasp of the team’s system. Once Conte gains enough of an understanding of the system to start anticipating things, he can pair that with his elite athleticism to start making game-changing plays.

Brandon Meriweather: A two-time Pro Bowler, Meriweather didn’t play up to that level with the Bears in 2011. Signed to a one-year deal that paid him more ($3.25 million) than any other safety on the roster, Meriweather played 11 games, starting in four, and finished with 39 tackles and $45,000 in fines for questionable hits. Of Meriweather’s 16 games with the Bears, the safety didn’t play in five of them, including the final two at Green Bay and Minnesota. Meriweather isn’t likely to be back with the team.

Craig Steltz: In starting four of the last five games, Steltz posted 37 tackles and a sack, in addition to forcing two fumbles and finished the season with 48 tackles. A four-year veteran, Steltz also ranked fourth in special-teams tackles (12), which registers as the second-highest total of his career. A free agent, Steltz might be able to generate some interest on the market. But there’s a good chance the Bears try hard to bring him back.

Winston Venable: Made the team as an undrafted free agent out of Boise State and played 12 games last season, finishing with 10 tackles on special teams. Likely won’t be given much of an opportunity to contribute on defense because of inexperience and lack of range in coverage.

Anthony Walters: Made the team as an undrafted free agent and was activated from the practice squad just before Week 6. Walters made his debut on Oct. 16, but a month later was placed on the injured reserve. Walters doesn’t appear to factor into the team’s plans as a potential contributor on defense.

Bears' free agents: Meriweather, Steltz

POTENTIAL FREE AGENT TARGETS



Tyvon Branch, Oakland Raiders, unrestricted
Dashon Goldson, San Francisco 49ers, unrestricted
Dwight Lowery, Jacksonville Jaguars, unrestricted

WHY STELTZ SHOULD BE A PRIORITY


HawthorneIf the Bears are intent to go into 2012 with Conte and Wright as the starters, that’s fine. But the team needs insurance at the position and at least one candidate to push the incumbents. Through his play over the last four games, Steltz earned at least an opportunity to compete for one of the starting jobs in 2012 if he’s brought back. The problem is that Steltz likely won’t want to return unless he’s assured of a legitimate opportunity.

By starting the final four games, Steltz gained valuable game tape that could generate interest in the free agent while potentially giving the Bears competition for his services.

A four-year veteran, Steltz knows Lovie Smith’s system, has 48 games of experience at his disposal, and possesses the type of team-first attitude the Bears covet. So while the team could stand to bring in one or two more players at the position through the draft or free agency, signing Steltz should be a no-brainer.

Bears learned tough lesson on Meriweather

February, 2, 2012
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[+] EnlargeBrandon Meriweather
Scott Boehm/Getty ImagesBrandon Meriweather proved to be a bust in his one -- and likely only -- season with the Bears.
INDIANAPOLIS -- Bill Belichick taught the Chicago Bears a valuable lesson.

When the New England Patriots cut a player still believed to be in his prime, watch out, because there was probably a good reason behind his release.

The Bears got burned last year when they picked up New England castoff Brandon Meriweather to the tune of a one-year deal worth $3.25 million. The safety turned out to be a disappointment in Chicago, starting just four games in what is expected to be his one and only season with the Bears. Even with all their problems on defense in 2011, the Patriots still felt they were better off without Meriweather, a former first-round pick with two consecutive Pro Bowl selections on his resume.

How did New England see what the Bears could not?

Patriots defensive backs coach Josh Boyer politely declined to comment directly on Meriweather during media availability for Super Bowl XLVI, but was willing to reveal exactly what New England requires at the safety position.

In other words, read between the lines.

"The first thing we look at is if a guy is physical, if he can tackle, can he makes tackles in-line in the box and can he make tackles in the open field," Boyer said. "Then we look for guys who have good ball skills, who can track and locate guys in the air. They need some sort of range where they can cover from the middle of the field to the sideline.

"I would say, much like baseball, the strength of your defense is probably up the middle. With our interior linemen making calls up front, to our linebackers making calls up to our linemen and also back to the secondary, and our safeties making calls to the corners and linebackers."

And here's the key: a safety cannot be responsible for busted coverages. That happened way too often for the Bears in 2011, and not just due to Meriweather. Major Wright had his share of memorable lapses in coverage, which in turn, cost the Bears dearly in several big games.

"The safeties have to make sure we are in the correct coverages," Boyer said. "Football intelligence is very important for that position. They must have a lot of flexibility to recognize offensive formations, to recognize route concepts on the snap, then be able to get themselves in a good position to play."

Forte tops list of 14 Bears free agents

January, 11, 2012
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Matt ForteDennis Wierzbicki/US PresswireImpending free agent Matt Forte will either sign an extension or be franchised by the Bears.
The Chicago Bears got a jump on their own 2012 free agent class when they signed center Roberto Garza, receiver Earl Bennett and offensive lineman Edwin Williams to contract extensions prior to the conclusion of the regular season.

That leaves 14 players (unrestricted and restricted) set to come out of contract when the new league year and free agency begins at 3 p.m. CT on March 13.

Kahlil Bell, RB, restricted: Bell made a strong push over the final three weeks of the season, rushing for a career-high 121 yards on 23 carries versus the Green Bay Packers on Christmas night. He also fumbled the ball three times in the final two games (he lost one), but overall did a respectable job filling in for the injured Matt Forte and Marion Barber. It's unknown if another team will sign Bell to an offer sheet (which the Bears would have the opportunity to match), so right now it appears as if the running back will be back in Chicago for 2012, probably as the No. 2 tailback behind Forte.

Zack Bowman, CB, unrestricted: Bowman intercepted a team-high six passes in 2009 but never recovered after he lost his starting job early in 2010 to Tim Jennings. The 6-foot-1 defender seems better suited to play more man coverage, rather than in Lovie Smith's Cover 2, and would benefit from a fresh start somewhere else. His struggles versus Green Bay near the end of the regular season were grossly exaggerated. Bowman lined up in the required outside leverage technique the Bears were required to play in the red zone on two of those Packers touchdown receptions. Earlier that evening strong side linebacker Nick Roach was handcuffed the same way when Jermichael Finley ran a quick slant into the end zone. The Bears actually changed their red zone defense the following week at Minnesota to take away those quick slants. But by that point, the damage to Bowman's reputation had already been done.

Kellen Davis, TE, unrestricted: A good run blocker, a below average pass blocker and an average pass catcher who managed to haul in five touchdowns. The Bears got rid of Greg Olsen and Desmond Clark, in part, to allow Davis to flourish in the starting role. It never really happened. The best overall blocking tight end on the roster is Matt Spaeth, so if the Bears want to bring in a better receiving tight end, where does that leave Davis? But Davis is an excellent athlete and former draft choice, which helps his chances of sticking around.

Matt Forte, RB, unrestricted: Forte sounds as if he expects the Bears to stick him with the franchise tag. But the hope is both parties once again attempt to hammer out a long-term deal in the offseason. Forte bet on himself this season and made his first Pro Bowl. He's one of the top all-purpose rushers in the league, and with the Bears committed to running the ball more in 2012, Forte will continue to be a vital part of the offense. Surely given the importance of Forte to the franchise, the two sides can somehow find a way to reach some common ground. If not, it could be an ugly summer.

Corey Graham, CB, unrestricted: Graham tested the market last year and returned to the Bears. He will no doubt do the same this offseason, as the Pro Bowl special teams standout looks for a spot where he can contribute on defense. But money talks. The Bears better plan to make Graham a sweet offer if they expect him to come back. He displayed an ability to make impact plays during his stint at nickel back, and was supposed to play some safety Christmas night and defend Finley, but the Bears pulled the plug on the idea the Friday before the game. That probably doesn't help the situation from the Bears' standpoint.

Caleb Hanie, QB, unrestricted: Hanie is another player who could probably use a change of scenery after going 0-4 in place of the injured Jay Cutler. Perhaps the quarterback can find the right system that highlights his skills as a runner and on-the-move playmaker. But the first step is making sure to find a spot on somebody's training camp roster and then let the chips fall as they may.

Israel Idonije, DE, unrestricted: Although the Bears need to upgrade at defensive end, Idonije is a relatively productive player whom the Bears should make an attempt to re-sign and keep in the mix. There is nothing wrong with having a 5-8 sack a year guy in the rotation. Idonije is well-liked, plays hard and does a lot of good work in the community. Unless the Bears plan to completely overhaul the position (minus Julius Peppers, of course) then Idonije has a fairly good shot of signing yet another contract with the Bears.

Tim Jennings, CB, unrestricted: Jennings is looking for a significant raise from the $1.9 million base he earned in 2011. Keep that in mind. The Bears probably are looking to pay much more, but Jennings is a good player, especially in this scheme. Sure, he lacks height and drops way too many interceptions. But Jennings solidified one of the cornerback spots the last two years and is an aggressive tackler. For those reasons, the Bears might be inclined to make Jennings an offer. Whether the cornerback deems the offer acceptable is another story.

Amobi Okoye, DT, unrestricted: Okoye showed enough flashes to warrant another one- or two-year deal at moderate pay. He's still young and might be even better next year after a full offseason of working with defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli. But the Bears will need more than four sacks from Okoye next season.

Chris Massey, LS, unrestricted: Massey walked into a tough spot after Patrick Mannelly was lost for the year due to a torn ACL. He did OK. He didn't botch any snaps. But There won't be a need for Massey if Mannelly is 100 percent by the start of training camp, but it would be wise for the Bears to hang on to the veteran's phone number just in case.

Josh McCown, QB, unrestricted: McCown did enough in the final two games of the year to receive another one-year deal. He should enter training camp as the team's No. 3 quarterback, at the very least. He made the most of the opportunities given to him and should be commended. A good guy who fits in well inside the Bears locker room.

Brandon Meriweather, S, unrestricted: The former Patriot was an expensive mistake to the tune of $3.25 million total this season. The coaches don't seem to trust him. Unless something drastically changes between now and March, Meriweather's odds of returning for a second season in Chicago appear to be remote.

Craig Steltz, S, unrestricted: One of the pleasant surprises of the second half of the season. Despite being buried on the bench for much of the season, Steltz finished with 48 tackles, three tackles for a loss, two forced fumbles, one sacks and was fourth on the team with 12 special teams stops. Steltz would like to remain in Chicago. The Bears should honor that request and give him a new deal. He earned it.

Roy Williams, WR, unrestricted: The mere notion Williams feels he "did enough" or "made enough plays" when the team failed to make the playoffs is insulting. The only real chemistry Williams showed was with McCown late in the year. News flash: Jay Cutler is going to be the Bears starting quarterback in 2012, not McCown. Williams isn't horrible, but he's not good enough to be guaranteed a roster spot or playing time. The Bears tried that last year and it backfired.

Moore misses practice, Meriweather limited

November, 23, 2011
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LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- A sprained ankle kept starting nickel back D.J. Moore on the sidelines Wednesday as the Bears hit the practice field in advance of traveling to Oakland to face the Raiders.

Moore initially suffered the ankle injury a week ago on the practice field, which forced him to sit out the last game against San Diego. Corey Graham filled in for Moore at nickel, and recorded his second interception in the last two games. Graham also replaced Moore in the fourth quarter of the team's victory over Detroit in Week 10.

"[Corey] has done a great job," Bears head coach Lovie Smith said. " I think out of 19 plays or so in the last two weeks, he has two interceptions, so he's been pretty productive. He had a big tackle last week also. We really haven't missed an awful lot."

Graham would once again man the nickel spot if Moore isn't ready to return Sunday versus the Raiders.

Meanwhile, safety Brandon Meriweather was limited on Wednesday because of a concussion. Quarterback Jay Cutler is officially out for Sunday after undergoing what the organization called successful surgery to repair a broken right thumb.

For the Raiders, ten players skipped practice, including receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey (neck), running back Darren McFadden (foot) and defensive tackle Richard Seymour (knee).

Bears secondary shows its stuff on Sunday

November, 20, 2011
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CHICAGO -- Even without starting nickel back D.J. Moore, the Chicago Bears secondary showcased its depth Sunday as no fewer than seven defensive backs saw action in a 31-20 win over the San Diego Chargers.

Besides the four usual starters, reserves Corey Graham, who started in place of Moore at nickel, Brandon Meriweather and Zack Bowman were all used in various situations to help combat the Chargers’ passing attack, which entered the game ranked No. 4 in the NFL.

[+] EnlargeCorey Graham
AP Photo/Nam Y. HuhThe Bears' Corey Graham runs with the ball after making an interception on Sunday.
"The secondary is real deep," Tim Jennings said. "We got guys that can start anywhere in this league. We got confidence in each and every guy. The coaching staff is going to put us in great positions. Doesn't matter what personnel, who is in there, we believe in each guy that goes in there and know he is going to play his behind off. We feel really comfortable about it."

Moore was in good spirits outside the locker room following the game and appeared to be moving around OK on his injured ankle, raising the hope he can make a speedy recovery, but the defense didn't skip a beat with Graham at the nickel position. The special teams standout intercepted Phillip Rivers late in the game, his second pick in the last two weeks while subbing for Moore.

"We have as just as much confidence in Corey as we do in D.J," Jennings said. "We knew in training camp he was a good cornerback/nickel back. We knew he can do it all. He's got two turnovers in two games, that says a lot about him. He did great."

The same could be said for second-year safety Major Wright, who has now intercepted a pass in three consecutive games, with two of the thefts occurring in the red zone. Wright is the first Bears player to pull off that feat since Bowman nabbed three passes in three straight games back in 2009.

"It was time for somebody to make a play, and I was the one that did it," Wright said. "We're out there having fun, that's really it. We basically had to come in after the first half and get back to playing defense. That's what we do, create turnovers and get after the quarterback. Really, at any point, anybody can make a play on this defense."

Bears safeties have now recorded a turnover in each of the last four contests.

Bowman entered the game Sunday whenever the Chargers placed wideout Vincent Jackson and tight end Antonio Gates on the field at the same time. The Bears used this 'TANK' personnel to try and combat a potential height mismatch if Jennings were forced to guard either of the two San Diego offensive threats.

"We prepped during the week for that," Jennings said. "It worked OK, they really didn't get many big plays off it. It was just a matchup thing."

Meriweather should get shot vs. Lions

November, 11, 2011
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[+] EnlargeMeriweather
AP Photo/Duane BurlesonBrandon Meriweather's last game against the Lions didn't go that well.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Lovie Smith provided another reminder Friday that his safety situation is far from settled.

After six different safety combinations were used in the first seven games, veteran Chris Harris was released during the bye week, a move that paved the way for rookie Chris Conte (FS) and second-year player Major Wright (SS) to solidify the position.

Conte and Wright started Monday night in Philadelphia, but Wright was removed in favor of Brandon Meriweather for a few series. Meriweather played his way out of the starting lineup in early October.

But according to Smith, Meriweather is now back in the mix and is expected to once again see time at safety Sunday when Bears play the Lions at Soldier Field. However, Smith and Bears defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli defended the play of Wright, and claim the decision to give snaps to Meriweather is not a reflection on the Bears' 2010 third-round draft choice.

Coincidentally, it was following the first Detroit game that Meriweather was sent to the bench.

"The plan going in was to rotate [Meriweather] in," Smith said. "You look last year, we played three safeties most of the time. You like to do that. We plan on playing Brandon this week also."

Streaking and Slumping: Week 6

October, 18, 2011
10/18/11
10:37
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Devin Hester and Chris Harris AP Photo/US PresswireDevin Hester continues to make it look easy while Chris Harris has gone from starter to bystander.

STREAKING


Streaking
Cutler
1. Jay Cutler, QB: Cutler put together his second consecutive strong outing in the win over the Minnesota Vikings, completing 21 of 31 passes for 267 yards, two touchdowns and a passer rating of 115.9. With a game plan more catered to the team’s capabilities, Cutler was able to play aggressively. Even under pressure Cutler kept his eyes downfield toward the receivers. So when your quarterback has a gun like Cutler’s, that’s a dangerous proposition because speedsters like Devin Hester can take the top off a coverage easily.

Streaking
Devin Hester
2. Devin Hester, WR: Let’s get this one thing straight: what Hester is doing isn’t normal. Players don’t take kickoffs and punts to the house this routinely. So what we’re watching is definitely special, and yes if Hester keeps this up, he’ll definitely warrant consideration as a Hall of Famer. Yeah, I said that. Adding to that was the 48-yard bomb he caught in the first quarter from Cutler.

Streaking
Julius Peppers
3. Julius Peppers, DE: Peppers limped around in the locker room during the week leading up to the game. The team listed him as doubtful. Then miraculously, Peppers became healthy enough to play. Hobbling and at times writhing in pain in Sunday’s game, Peppers still managed to notch a couple of sacks and play a major role in the team shutting down Adrian Peterson. Just think of how he would have performed if he were fully healthy.

SLUMPING


Slumping
Henry Melton
1. Henry Melton, DT: The penetrating three-technique defensive tackle has contributed just one tackle in his past three outings, and is averaging one tackle per game. Melton wasn’t credited with any tackles against the Vikings, but did register one quarterback hit. Surely that’s not the level of production the team expect of Melton when it raved about him all offseason. It’s not that Melton is playing badly. He’s been just -- well -- average.

Slumping
Chris Harris
2. Chris Harris, S: Slumping for all the wrong reasons, Harris formally requested permission to seek a trade on Monday. But it’s unlikely the team will be able to move him by Tuesday’s 3 p.m. trade deadline. Harris would never admit this, but according to a source he asked the team to give him an additional week to recover (he couldn’t get in and out of cuts) going into the Detroit game. Well, he returned too early, was beaten for a touchdown, later benched, and eventually deactivated.

Slumping
Meriweather
3. Brandon Meriweather, S: The Bears decided to pay Meriweather more than what they even offered to one of their own free agents (Danieal Manning). So surely the club expected more from the investment than what they’ve received: a two-time Pro Bowler who is now a backup. Meriweather didn’t play in Sunday’s win over the Vikings. Two days prior to that game, the league announced Meriweather would be fined $20,000 or more for the second consecutive week for a questionable hit.

Meriweather fined $25K for late hit

October, 14, 2011
10/14/11
3:25
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Chicago Bears safety Brandon Meriweather received more bad news Friday when an NFL spokesman announced the league has fined him $25,000 for striking an opponent late.

Read the entire story.

Last line of defense failing

October, 13, 2011
10/13/11
9:08
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There is no denying the Chicago Bears are a rattled team.

Their right-handed quarterback resorted to throwing lefty last game. Their offensive linemen are lucky if they recognize who's lined up next to them from week to week.

But the most resounding evidence that they have been shaken to their very foundation is that their very foundation is shaken. The same defense that has kept the team afloat in recent years, a defense that could always stop the run and prided itself on largely avoiding the big play, has been more vulnerable than a spurned lover.

Read the entire column.

Source: Harris, Meriweather benched

October, 13, 2011
10/13/11
3:24
PM ET
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears plan to trot out their fifth combination of starting safeties Sunday night against the Minnesota Vikings, with the team benching veterans Chris Harris and Brandon Meriweather in favor of Chris Conte and Major Wright, according to a source familiar with the situation.

Read the entire story.

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