Chicago Bears: Pisa Tinoisamoa
That gives the Bears five linebackers -- Iwuh, Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs, Nick Roach, J.T. Thomas -- who are expected to make the final 53-man roster. However, the club usually carries six linebackers in the regular season, meaning one additional spot could be up for grabs.
While it's entirely possible the Bears could decide to sign another linebacker in free agency -- or perhaps one of the undrafted rookies in camp makes a strong push to make the team -- the organization continues to keep close tabs on veteran Pisa Tinoisamoa, according to an NFL source.
Tinoisamoa started 10 games at strongside linebacker last season, and finished seventh on the team with 51 regular-season tackles. But Tinoisamoa was forced to miss four games due to a lingering knee problem that required an offseason procedure. Tinoisamoa's first year in Chicago in 2009 was also cut short due to a knee injury sustained in the season opener against the Green Bay Packers. He played in only two games the entire year.
The linebacker, however, is known as a quick healer, and is believed to be in the final stages of rehabbing the knee after months of offseason work and conditioning. It's likely Tinoisamoa is waiting until the knee is completely healed to determine where he'll play football in 2011. If the veteran rushes back too quickly, there's a belief it could cause him to re-injure the knee for a third consecutive year.
It's unclear whether Tinoisamoa will be 100 percent before the start of the regular season in September, but he remains a player the Bears are actively monitoring on the free agent market.
Somewhere in there he’s put together enough context clues from the team’s brass to string together the words: We want you back.
Perhaps he’ll finally hear that from the club in the coming days, with teams likely getting back to the business of free agency now that the lockout is close to coming to a conclusion.
“At both of the award ceremonies, they spoke very highly of me, and I kind of got a sense that they do want me back from the Ed Block courage award banquet and the Brian Piccolo award ceremony,” Adams said. “From both coach [Lovie] Smith and [defensive line] coach [Rod] Marinelli’s speeches, they want to have me back. I’ve just got to hurry up and wait.”
With new rules soon to be in place, it shouldn’t take long. The league is expected to assign a designated period of three days to sign undrafted rookies and their own free agents before full-blown free agency kicks off around the NFL.
An eight-year veteran, Adams falls into a vital group of Bears free agents -- which includes center Olin Kreutz -- the team will try to re-sign for the upcoming season during what’s sure to be a chaotic time for general manager Jerry Angelo, director of player personnel Tim Ruskell, and contract negotiator Cliff Stein.
Adams hopes (and likely will be) one of the top priorities among that group.
“I love it here, man. I love the crowd, the team, the coaches,” Adams said. “There are really no big egos on this team. We’ve got some pretty heavy hitters on this team, who believe in that team-first concept. That’s really great for someone like me.”
Here’s a look at the players from the 2010 roster that the Bears will be considering during the exclusive three-day window to bring back their own free agents:
DT Anthony AdamsPriority level: High
Unheralded because he doesn’t post gaudy numbers (36 tackles, two sacks) from his nose tackle spot, Adams is one of the key elements to the team’s stingy run defense. His preference is to remain a Bear, but the club won’t be able to bring him back if it extends the run-of-the-mill three-year, $6 million deal it offered several players before the end of last season.
Aromashodu flashed early last season, but quickly fell out of favor with offensive coordinator Mike Martz. Aromashodu doesn’t want to return to Chicago. The team likely feels the same.
Bullocks was solid on special teams last season, but needs to make a more meaningful contribution on defense to stick. If he re-signs, Bullocks will have a tough time making the team.
Clark shined at training camp last year, and is arguably the club’s most athletic player at tight end. But for some reason Clark never received a legitimate shot to contribute on offense. With time dwindling on his 12-year career, Clark will explore opportunities elsewhere.
QB Todd CollinsPriority level: Low
His struggles when called upon, Caleb Hanie’s emergence in the NFC Championship game and the team’s decision to draft Nathan Enderle likely have signaled Collins’ exit from Chicago. There’s still a slight chance for a return, however.
Davis continues to be a standout performer on special teams, but might warrant a more extensive look at receiver after a strong outing in the regular-season finale. Davis likely won’t be highly coveted in free agency, thus increasing the prospects for a return to the Bears.
CB Corey GrahamPriority level: High
Graham cranked out what probably should have been a Pro Bowl season on special teams (he led the league in special-teams stops) in 2010. The team’s problem, however, is Graham probably feels typecast as a special teams only player with no shot at receiving a real opportunity to contribute on defense. That might lead to Graham looking elsewhere.
LB Brian IwuhPriority level: High
Iwuh tied for second on the team in special-teams tackles (18) last season, and showed in his only start (team-high 12 tackles with 10 solo against the Seahawks on Oct. 17) that he’s capable of potentially cracking the starting lineup full time. The team offered a multi-year extension at the end of last season, and if the deal is still on the table during the three-day negotiating period, he’ll sign it.
C Olin KreutzPriority level: High
Not as dominant a player as he used to be, Kreutz still ranks favorably among other players around the league at his position. Fortunately for the team, the NFL instituted the three-day negotiating window. Otherwise, there’s a good chance the Bears would have competition for his services.
The priority level should be high here, but team sources indicate the club has no plan to offer more than the three-year, $6 million deal it extended prior to the end of last season. Manning missed just three tackles all last year, finally coming into his own at the safety position. If the Bears won’t budge on the financial package, he’ll go elsewhere. Several teams are interested.
Maynard seems to have fallen out of favor with some in the organization after producing somewhat of a down year in 2010. Kicker Robbie Gould has shown strong support for the punter, but it might not be enough.
LB Nick RoachPriority level: High
Injuries slowed Roach last season, but he should be in contention for the starting strong-side linebacker position in 2011. Roach wants to re-sign with the Bears, but the club could lose him if it can’t offer a strong deal during the exclusive period. Multiple teams are interested.
Because of his injury history, Tinoisamoa said the Bears will “try to find a way to devalue” him. When healthy, Tinoisamoa is a strong contributor. But the Bears probably won’t offer much more than a veteran minimum contract.
LB Rod WilsonPriority level: Low
Considered more of a special-teams player and reserve linebacker, Wilson could be brought back for depth reasons. But at this point, a return to Chicago seems unlikely.
Wolfe will only fall further down the depth chart with Harvey Unga returning from spending last season on the injured reserve. With the team already stacked at running back, Wolfe’s special-teams prowess still might not be enough to warrant a roster spot.
Note: QB Caleb Hanie is a restricted free agent, and in March received a low tender from the Bears. Running back Kahlil Bell is an exclusive-rights free agent.
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The Bears did officially announce, however, that Pisa Tinoisamoa is back in the starting lineup at strong side linebacker for the first time since Nov. 28.
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GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Here are five things we learned following the Chicago Bears' 10-3 loss to the Green Bay Packers to close out the regular season.
1. Cutler is the ultimate wildcard: There is not a more polarizing figure in Chicago sports than the Bears quarterback. If Jay Cutler is on target, the Bears could easily beat anybody in the NFC playoff field. But if the quarterback plays in two weeks like he played against Green Bay -- 168 passing yards, two interceptions, no touchdowns and a 43.5 quarterback rating -- the Bears probably will be one and done. Cutler is the perfect symbol for the 2010 NFL: You never know what you're going to get on any given week. At times, he looks brilliant. At other times, you wonder how he can be so reckless to throw into double coverage. At least Cutler played better in Week 17 than he did in Week 1 of 2009 at Lambeau Field (when he threw four interceptions), but that's not saying much. Hopefully, Cutler gets in a good rhythm in two weeks at Soldier Field, because if he does, the Bears will have a great shot to advance. If he doesn't, it will be time to start making offseason vacation plans.
3. The defense was able to bounce back: The Jets found a variety of holes in the Bears' defense last Sunday, but the Packers didn't have much success on offense. With the exception of Greg Jennings' 46-yard catch, the Bears kept Aaron Rodgers and company pretty much in check. Plus, the unit forced a pair of turnovers, which included perhaps the most impressive interception of Charles Tillman's NFL career. Nick Roach, Major Wright and Chris Harris all got slightly banged up, but the core members of the defense got through the game in good shape, which bodes very well for the Bears in the postseason. Despite the outcome, Bears fans should feel better about the defense heading into the postseason. The offense, well, that may be another story.
4. Tinoisamoa benefitted from the playtime time: The early injury to Nick Roach forced Pisa Tinoisamoa, ready or not, to play the entire game at strong-side linebacker. Although the veteran didn't have his best game, the right knee held up well, and Tinoisamoa is convinced he's ready for the playoffs. That's good news for the Bears, because Tinoisamoa, like Roach, has been one of the most underrated defenders this season. It's too early to tell how the reps at strong-side linebacker will be split in the playoffs -- if at all -- but having Tinoisamoa back at relatively full strength is an added bonus heading into the bye week.
5. Nobody can figure out this NFL: Weren't the Packers supposed to be the new hot team in the NFC? Green Bay didn't exactly look like that team fighting for a playoff berth. In fact, they look scared and timid most of the game. Are you really scared to face the Packers at Soldier Field for the NFC Championship game if that situation presents itself? Come on. This league is totally unpredictable, and unless you follow the Patriots, there is no guarantee your team will either play well or poorly on any given week. Honestly, the Bears are much happier the New York Giants were knocked out of the playoffs, because Lovie Smith's team matches up OK with Green Bay. That's not to say the Packers aren't capable of coming to Chicago and winning later this month. They are, but world beaters they are not. Just like the Bears.
But the plan went out the window when Roach exited the game with a shoulder injury after the first play of the game from scrimmage.
"I was jacked up this game, and prepared the play some serious ball this game," Tinoisamoa said. "I was prepped to play the game. I mean me personally, we were told otherwise, but I was ready to play. So when it happened [the Roach injury], I was ready. I felt OK running around out there in this cold weather."
But the veteran linebacker was responsible for allowing Packers tight end Donald Lee to score the game-winning 1-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. Tinoisamoa attempted to hold up Lee at the line of scrimmage, but was quickly tossed aside, which allowed Aaron Rodgers to find Lee open in the back corner of the end zone.
"I was playing so aggressive, so I let myself get thrown," Tinoisamoa said. "My intent was good, but my technique wasn't good. That's what allowed him to shed me quick. He used my aggressiveness to kind of put a move on me. But I learned from that."
"Absolutely, I'm ready for the playoffs. The fact my knee held up so well, I'm pretty excited about that."
The shoulder injury to Roach isn't believed to be serious, but expect Tinoisamoa to see plenty of action at strong-side linebacker when the Bears open up the playoffs in two weeks at Soldier Field.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The Chicago Bears have suffered two injuries in what has become a meaningless game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. Linebacker Nick Roach left the game after the first play from scrimmage because of a shoulder injury, and rookie safety Major Wright departed with a leg injury suffered in the second quarter.
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But receiver Earl Bennett remained sidelined with an ankle injury. Bennett joined the team for the portion of practice open to the media, but he didn't wear a helmet during individual drills.
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