- Jeff Dickerson, ESPN Staff Writer
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Here are your questions from this week's mailbag:
1. Why are the Bears playing us for suckers? It was clear watching the game on Sunday that Jay Cutler re-injured the groin. But the team refuses to say it. My suspicion is that Cutler never hurt his ankle. I smell a cover-up. The Bears must do you a lot of favors. Why else would you advance their agenda on the Cutler (laugh) ankle sprain? – Dexter, Cleveland
Jeff Dickerson: Dexter, Cutler’s left leg is currently in a cast from the knee down. The use of a cast is a common treatment to “calm down” high-ankle sprains that do not require a doctor to insert screws to stabilize the ankle joint. This conspiracy theory swirling around that Cutler never injured the ankle against the Detroit Lions is pure nonsense. The Bears, like every other NFL team, will on occasion hide injuries or downplay them, but the organization is not going to create a high-ankle sprain out of thin air. Cutler is technically listed as “week-to-week,” but given the serious nature of high-ankle sprains it could be several weeks until the quarterback returns. As for Cutler’s groin, I’m told he did not re-injure it last week; rather, he was experiencing normal discomfort in the region that any player would feel if he returned from a torn groin muscle in just three weeks. The only misinformation the Bears spread about Cutler’s groin was announcing that he was 100 percent prior to the Detroit game. He clearly was not at full strength. But what are the Bears supposed to do? Tell the Lions exactly where to attack Cutler? Spell out exactly what his limitations would be?
2. Jeff, do you foresee any changes on the offensive line after the year? – Mark Rudolph, Florida
Dickerson: Three of the five offensive-line spots are likely solidified for 2014 -- left tackle Jermon Bushrod, right guard Kyle Long and right tackle Jordan Mills. Maybe at some point the Bears contemplate moving Long to tackle and Mills inside to guard, but I believe it’s probably safe to pencil in both players for next season. Veteran center Roberto Garza and left guard Matt Slauson are scheduled to be unrestricted free agents in the offseason, so the Bears will have to make a decision on those two spots. But I think Garza and Slauson have played well enough to merit new deals. Garza, 34, deserves a ton of credit for the season he’s having. The Bears seriously considered drafting a center to replace Garza, perhaps as early as this season, but that never materialized. Garza, a team captain, has been a tremendous leader in the locker room and a monster in the weight room. The 13-year veteran takes great pride in his craft, keeps himself in excellent shape and is moving well on the field. Taking all of that into consideration, I think the Bears would be wise to lock him up for another year or two.
Dickerson: The Bears never gave serious consideration to signing Reed, now a member of the New York Jets, after his release from the Houston Texans for two reasons: Reed’s age (35) and his rapid decline in performance. Those cannot be overlooked. Also, Reed probably didn’t fit the Bears’ current defensive scheme. Reed is a veteran of the 3-4 defense, not the Cover 2. This was never going to happen.
4. Hello Jeff, with all the problems on defense why did the Bears let Corey Graham go? From what I remember, he made a lot of plays whenever the Bears gave him a shot on defense. – Jennifer, Rolling Meadows, Ill.
Dickerson: Good memory, Jennifer. Graham always seemed to step up whenever the Bears called on him to contribute on defense, which wasn’t all that often under former coach Lovie Smith. Graham recorded 91 tackles in 2008 when he started much of the season at cornerback, and in 2011 he intercepted three passes when he stepped in at nickelback. But the Bears always seemed to value Graham more valuable on special teams. Graham’s special-teams prowess earned him a trip to the Pro Bowl in his final season with the Bears, but he wanted a shot to contribute on defense. So he left Chicago after the 2011 season and signed a free-agent deal with the Baltimore Ravens, where he’s gone on to become a terrific nickelback. Graham won a Super Bowl last season, and is currently fourth on the Ravens with 48 tackles. Graham made the correct call to leave the Bears. In fact, he'd planned to sign with another team after the 2010 season, but the NFL lockout dramatically altered and abbreviated free agency that offseason, and so without the time to shop around his services, Graham reckoned his best option was to return to Chicago on a one-year deal.
5. I'm 77 years old and I can remember when we had Johnny Lujack, George Blanda, Ed Brown and Bobby Layne in camp. At least I think I remember. Guess who we released? This looks like the usual Bears team that is just good enough to lose. Hire cheap, pay cheap and this is what you get. Will I be alive to experience another 1985 Bears team? – Joe Petrucci, Floral Park, NY
Dickerson: Joe, keep the faith, my friend. The NFL’s collective bargaining agreement requires teams to spend money. The key is for teams to spend their money wisely and to draft well. While the Bears have quite a bit of work to do on defense in the offseason, the offense seems headed in the right direction. Marc Trestman certainly appears to be a capable head coach, and if the Bears can just hit on a couple of draft picks for the defense, the organization should be in decent shape. I wouldn’t rule out the Bears being contenders in the next couple of years, so long as they draft well on defense. I think they have the offense figured out. But their evaluation of defensive talent needs to improve.