McCown, Mills win Piccolo Award

LAKE FOREST, Ill. – The Bears honored quarterback Josh McCown and right tackle Jordan Mills as the 2013 Brian Piccolo Award winners at a news conference at Halas Hall on Tuesday.

The Piccolo Award is voted on by Bears players, who select a teammate they feel best exemplifies the courage, loyalty, dedication and sense of humor of late Bears running back Brian Piccolo, who died in 1970 at the age of 26 from embryonal cell carcinoma.

A Bears rookie has won the award every season since its inception in 1970. In 1992, the award was expanded to include a veteran player, as well.

McCown, who signed a two-year contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in free agency, was not present at the awards ceremony. Bears quarterback Jay Cutler accepted the honor on McCown’s behalf.

“It’s impossible to replace a person like Josh McCown,” Cutler said. “I couldn’t be happier for him in his next journey down in Tampa. There isn’t a more deserving player in the league this past year than Josh McCown. [He played] 13 seasons on seven or eight different teams with just as many offensive coordinators and new playbooks each and every year, so to get this opportunity near the end of his career is very deserving for him.

“My only regret is that I would have met him earlier in life.”

McCown had a breakout year for the Bears in 2013 when he completed 149 of 224 pass attempts for 1,829 yards, 13 touchdowns and one interception. His 109.0 passer rating was the third-highest in the NFL.

Beyond the numbers, Cutler lauded McCown for the veteran’s ability to connect with teammates from all backgrounds and age groups.

“It’s rare to find a teammate that makes you not only a better player, but also a better person,” Cutler said.

Mills started all 16 games for the Bears at right tackle after the club selected him in the fifth round out of Louisiana Tech. Mills actually broke his foot during pregame warm-ups before the Bears' critical Week 17 matchup versus the Green Bay Packers at Soldier Field, but tried to play through the pain before leaving the game following the opening series.

“That’s the kind of courage Jordan exemplifies,” Bears offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer said. “That’s why the team chose him. He’s a great teammate. He plays next to another rookie, Kyle Long, and those two rookies working together, with his calmness and Kyle’s craziness, had a lot of success. It just shows the humor that can keep that thing together when you are a rookie.

“Jordan showed a lot of dedication to come from small-town Louisiana, to go through Louisiana Tech, to become a fifth-round pick, and then be a starter as a rookie.”