Chicago Bears: Adam Podlesh
Week 13 Report Card: Minnesota Vikings 23, Chicago Bears 20
Despite hyperextending his right knee in last week's loss to the St. Louis Rams, Matt Forte rushed for 120 yards on 23 attempts and became the Bears' second career all-time leader in yards from scrimmage. Michael Bush even made the most of his lone rushing attempt by gaining 15 yards. However, the Bears are still having a difficult time in short-yardage situations and were just 2-of-11 on third downs versus the Vikings.
Josh McCown didn't play his best game of the season, but he finished with 355 passing yards, two touchdowns and a quarterback rating of 114.9. He was lucky not to have a couple of throws picked up. Alshon Jeffery broke his own franchise record with 249 receiving yards on 12 catches, two for touchdowns. There wasn't a ton of production after Jeffery, with Brandon Marshall finishing second on the team with four receptions for 45 yards.
The Bears sold out to stop Adrian Peterson, especially safety Craig Stetlz -- who recorded a team-high 12 tackles in place of injured starter Major Wright -- but Peterson still crushed the Bears with 211 rushing yards. Bears defenders appeared to be in the correct spot for most of the game, but their tackling was subpar. Wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson gashed the defense for a 33-yard touchdown run, on which both Steltz and linebacker Khaseem Greene had legitimate shots to bring him down but came up empty.
Under no circumstances should Matt Cassel be allowed to enter the game and pass for 243 yards and one touchdown. The Bears had success rushing the quarterback with five sacks, but veterans Greg Jennings, John Carlson and Jerome Simpson had too much room to operate on numerous occasions. Maybe the worst thing to happen to the Bears was Christian Ponder leaving the game with a concussion.
Robbie Gould is basically automatic from almost any range, but he missed a potential game-winning, 47-yard field goal in overtime, although Marc Trestman made a curious decision to kick it on second down instead of trying to run more plays to give Gould a shorter kick. Devin Hester had an impressive 57-yard kickoff return at the end of regulation, but his decision-making was suspect for most of the afternoon. Punter Adam Podlesh had a 33.7-yard net average. The Bears kicked the ball away from Patterson the entire afternoon, a sound strategy.
Again, it's tough to understand Trestman's decision to attempt the overtime field goal on second down. Forte was averaging 5.2 yards per carry, and the Bears have the luxury of the best long snapper in the NFL, Patrick Mannelly, on the roster. The odds of the Bears screwing up on second or third downs seem remote. Defensive coordinator Mel Tucker definitely set a more aggressive tone with his unit, but the results were largely the same.
Week 11 Report Card: Chicago Bears vs. Baltimore Ravens
The Bears did an OK job on the ground versus a physical Ravens defensive front that played without starting nose tackle Haloti Ngata (inactive). Matt Forte carried the ball 18 times for 83 yards, and the Alshon Jeffery end around, a staple in the Bears' offense, gained 17 yards on three attempts. Considering the opposition, the Bears shouldn't be ashamed by their hard-earned 104 rushing yards.
Taking into account the conditions on Sunday, Josh McCown's 216 passing yards, one touchdown and zero interceptions -- 92.9 quarterback rating -- look impressive on paper. McCown stepped up in overtime and delivered a 43-yard strike to Martellus Bennett that set up the eventual game-winning field goal. The veteran backup continues to display a knack for protecting the football. McCown hasn't tossed a single interception in 101 pass attempts on the season, and his poise in the pocket on Sunday was a major reason the Bears were victorious.
Baltimore entered the game averaging 73 rushing yards per contest but found success on the ground versus the Bears to the tune of 174 yards. Ray Rice, written off by many for his below-average play in 2013, carried the ball 25 times for 131 yards and one touchdown. One of the few saving graces for the Bears' defense was their goal-line stand at the end of regulation that forced the Ravens to kick a field goal and extend the game to overtime. But the rushing defense continues to be a serious problem for the Bears.
The Bears limited Joe Flacco to just 17-of-31 for 162 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. The middle of the field was open for much of the game but rookie middle linebacker Jon Bostic did pick off Flacco down the middle of the field, while David Bass snared a Flacco pass at the line of scrimmage and returned it for a touchdown. The Bears also sacked Flacco three times -- Julius Peppers with two and Cheta Ozougwu with one. The Ravens' longest pass play went for 17 yards.
Robbie Gould is the master of the Soldier Field kicking conditions, going 3-for-3 on field goal attempts despite the swirling winds. Adam Podlesh pinned Baltimore inside the 20 on two of his six kicks. The Ravens did little in their return game. A couple special teams penalties did hurt the Bears.
In hindsight, Marc Trestman probably needed to use his timeouts on the Ravens' final drive of regulation. That decision would have cost the Bears if the defense hadn't kept the Ravens out of the end zone and forced them to kick a game-tying field goal. But Trestman dealt with the long weather delay to the best of his abilities, and he had his team ready to play when it returned to the field. The Bears could have easily gone in the tank after the loss to the Detroit Lions in Week 10, but Trestman's group responded with a win that likely saved its season.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Here are five things we learned in the Chicago Bears’ 27-20 victory over the Green Bay Packers:
1. Josh McCown a solid investment at No. 2: The job McCown has done the past two games is nothing short of remarkable. Reserve quarterbacks pressed into action rarely have this level of success. Let’s put McCown’s performance Monday in perspective: He completed 22 of 41 passes for 272 yards, threw two touchdowns and zero interceptions and did it on the road -- in a place where the Bears seldom win, against a quality opponent. Seneca Wallace had no shot to lead the Packers to a victory after Aaron Rodgers suffered a left shoulder/collarbone injury in the first quarter. McCown, on the other hand, inspired confidence all night. Another stellar game by the offensive line and Matt Forte rushing for 125 yards certainly helped, but the star of the game from the Bears’ perspective has to be McCown. As I wrote last week, it couldn’t happen to a nicer guy. McCown treats every single person at Halas Hall with respect, and for that reason he has the entire organization on his side. This is a win Bears fans will remember for a long time, and it could be the turning point of the season.
2. Momentum is now on the Bears’ side: Chicago's once-promising season looked as if it was about to go off the tracks after the Bears dropped three of four games. But Monday's victory at Lambeau Field changes everything. Now sitting at 5-3 and 2-1 in the NFC North, the Bears return home Sunday to face a Detroit Lions squad that is much more vulnerable when playing on the road, away from the controlled environment of Ford Field. Following the Lions game -- a crucial matchup, considering that Detroit knocked off the Bears on Sept. 29 -- Chicago has winnable games against the Baltimore Ravens and St. Louis Rams. If the Bears play their cards right, they could finish November somewhere in the 7-4 range, or perhaps even better. That would put the Bears in prime playoff contention entering the final month of the season. Monday night was a swing game for the Bears -- and the season has now swung back in a positive direction after some scary moments of late.
3. Defensive ends produce: A consistent pass rush had eluded the Bears virtually the entire season, until defensive ends Julius Peppers (one) and Shea McClellin (three) combined for four sacks versus the Packers. Peppers also had an important interception, while McClellin delivered the hit that knocked Rodgers out of the game. Corey Wootton even contributed a sack late in the game from his defensive-tackle position. While there are many things the Bears can still improve upon on this side of the ball (the run defense and tackling among them), Peppers and McClellin finally delivered the kind of effort Chicago fans were desperate to see. Perhaps this game can serve as a springboard for McClellin, who said in the locker room that his effort definitely helped his confidence. This is the kind of production Bears general manager Phil Emery envisioned when he drafted McClellin No. 19 overall in 2012. Better late than never. And if it turns out to be an isolated occurrence, at least McClellin had the monster game against the Packers.
4. The offensive line is for real: The Packers game should only serve to reinforce the turnaround on the Bears’ offensive line from 2012 to 2013. McCown was sacked just one time in 41 pass attempts. Forte averaged 5.2 yards per carry, while the team overall rushed for 171 yards. This group has the perfect balance of youth and experience. Roberto Garza receives some credit for his effort his season. The Bears investigated drafting a center in last year's draft. But now it looks like the team should offer Garza a one-year deal in the offseason to keep him on the roster in 2014. Left guard Matt Slauson also seems worth a new deal. Marc Trestman, Aaron Kromer, Pat Meyer and Emery all deserve praise for turning one of the Bears’ greatest weaknesses into a strength in just one offseason.
5. Special teams slipped: What is going on with special teams? First, Adam Podlesh has a punted blocked for the first time in his NFL career, then Green Bay is able to recover a surprise onside kick in the second half. Special teams have been a staple in Chicago for years, but this season the group has not been as effective. With the defense still struggling in many aspects (Green Bay rushed for 199 yards), the Bears can not afford to make gaffes on special teams as they push for a postseason berth. Time to clean it up in the game’s third phase.
Chicago killed itself on the first play from scrimmage when Matt Forte doomed a drive with a fumble for a 10-yard loss, and New Orleans responded with a field goal to put the Bears at a disadvantage early. On Chicago’s next drive, ineptitude in blitz pickup resulted in another fumble that the Saints turned into another field goal. By the time the Bears started playing productive football, they were trailing 13-0 with 5:57 left in the first half. That’s too late.
Injuries to front four: With Henry Melton out for the season and Stephen Paea missing Sunday’s game because of a turf toe injury, the front four suffered another blow when Nate Collins left with a knee injury. That’s two starters and a backup ailing from injuries. Unheralded players such as undrafted rookie Zach Minter and Landon Cohen need to step up, along with players such as defensive end Corey Wootton, who is now being forced to play out of position. The personnel department needs to help in this area, too, by beating the streets for suitable talent to acquire, and that will be a difficult proposition.
Podlesh rebounds: The Bears brought in six punters for workouts Tuesday after Adam Podlesh produced a rancid performance against the Lions in Week 4, finishing with a net average of 28.8 yards. But Podlesh bounced back with a decent outing against the Saints. He finished with a net average of 44.8 yards, including a 54-yard effort in the first half, his best outing since Nov. 19 of last season.
Rush improved, but not enough: With the injuries mounting, it’s likely the pass rush will continue to be an issue for this team. The Bears sacked Drew Brees twice and have registered six sacks over the past three games. But the club needs to apply even more pressure. There’s no way Brees should be allowed enough time to complete nearly 83 percent of his passes.
Chicago’s pass rush: It’s imperative that the Bears pressure Saints quarterback Drew Brees, who has thrown for 300 yards or more in nine consecutive games, which ties an NFL record he established from 2011-12. The Bears don’t necessarily have to sack him, but they need to disrupt the timing between Brees and his targets by getting to him, and forcing him to throw a little earlier than he wants. If the Bears can do that, they will take some pressure off the secondary. The Saints own a winning percentage of .703 when Brees throws for 300 yards or more, but the team is 16-11 when opponents hold the quarterback to fewer than 250 yards through the air. The Bears think they might have an inside track to getting to Brees, who has been sacked 12 times this season. Remember, Chicago’s offense is very similar to New Orleans’, and with new head coach Marc Trestman, the team now spends portions of practice pitting the starting offense against the starting defense.
Matt Forte’s production: Chicago needs to keep New Orleans’ offense off the field, and the best way to do it is to establish the run early with Matt Forte and chew up the clock. When the teams last played in 2011, Forte accounted for 166 yards from scrimmage (49 rushing and 117 receiving). So look for the Bears to make Forte an integral part of not just the rushing game, but the passing attack as well, because of his ability to create matchup problems for defenses. If Forte produces a big game, it significantly increases Chicago’s prospects for victory. The Bears should also try to get Michael Bush heavily involved to keep Forte fresh.
“You’ve got to play continuity football. We don’t want to put Drew Brees on a short field. We don’t want to do that. So that brings in the special teams and our ability to cover. Offensively, our ability to use the clock and to keep the ball out of his hands, that’s all a part of it,” Trestman said. “You’re not going to take away their offense trying to get their job done, which is to try to score. But ultimately within the framework of the game, you certainly want Drew Brees to have to go the length of the field where our defense can create more opportunities for ourselves.”
The Bears offensive line: New Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan mixes up fronts, which can confuse defenses. The Saints play a mixture of 4-3 and 3-4, but they also throw in quite a bit of nickel and dime looks, and exotic packages that feature all 11 defenders standing up, designed to throw off the count up front for offensive linemen. So the offensive line and quarterback Jay Cutler need to quickly recognize the looks given by New Orleans, and make the necessary adjustments. New Orleans has been able to generate a decent pass rush with just the front four, but a couple of players the Bears need to focus on are defensive end Cameron Jordan and outside linebacker Junior Galette.
“It’s one of those teams where you’re not looking at one simple front and going off of that. They give us a lot of looks, a lot of pressure from different spots on the field,” rookie right guard Kyle Long sad. “They’ve got a lot of guys that can move around from the top of the field down to the bottom. Their linebackers come up on the line of scrimmage. It poses a lot of threats for us. Our preparation and the things we’ve done this week, we’ve been able to simplify it and come up with a plan.”
How Bears defend Jimmy Graham: Tucker rightfully called Graham a “mismatch nightmare” because “he runs like a fast wide receiver, he’s got excellent catch radius, he’s a fierce competitor, his quarterback looks for him, and he feels like every ball that’s thrown to him he should catch it.” How the Bears defend Graham will likely determine the outcome of this game. So far, no team has been able to neutralize Graham , who leads the Saints with 27 catches for 458 yards and six touchdowns. His 413 receiving yards in the past three games ties Shannon Sharpe (1996) and Dave Kocourek (1961) for the highest total for a tight end in a three-game span. The Bears won’t be able to successfully guard Graham with a linebacker because of the speed mismatch, and nickel corner Isaiah Frey might be too small to handle the tight end, who at 6-7, is a former college basketball player. The Bears might try to use a couple of packages that feature Zack Bowman (6-1) at the nickel covering Graham.
How Adam Podlesh performs: Field position is crucial in every game, but it’s even more important in this contest because of New Orleans’ ability to score quickly. The Bears want to force Brees to direct long drives, which in turn, allow the defense more opportunities to force mistakes. Podlesh finished with a net-punting average of 28.8 yards in last week’s loss to the Detroit Lions, and his short 40-yard punt in the second quarter was returned by Micheal Spurlock for a 57-yard gain.
The Bears worked out several punters on Tuesday, and a source said the club has strongly considered going another direction at the position. So Podlesh, who specializes in directional punting, needs to perform well in this game, or his replacement could quickly be on the way.
“I kind of understood after what I put out there on the field in Detroit that I basically said to myself, I wouldn’t be surprised if they were going to look at was out on the market,” Podlesh said.
1. Jeff, are you worried the Bears' 2012 draft class is a bust? I don't like what I'm seeing. I know it's early, but is there a reason to be concerned? -- Dwight, Blue Island, Ill.
Dickerson: Let's start with the positives: 2012 second-round pick Alshon Jeffery is a quality No. 2 wide receiver who caught five balls for 107 yards and a touchdown last week against the Lions. Sixth-round selection Isaiah Frey not only earned a spot on the 53-man roster, but is currently the starting nickel back with 20 overall tackles. Unfortunately, the rest of the draft class has been underwhelming, Third-rounder Brandon Hardin is on injured reserve for the second straight year, which is a fortunate break for Hardin considering he struggled throughout the preseason. They likely would have cut him if he had been healthy. Fourth-round pick Evan Rodriguez got released because he couldn't stay out of trouble and seventh-rounder Greg McCoy never made the team. The key for this group will be the development of first-round choice Shea McClellin. If McClellin eventually turns into a really good player, the class will be viewed in a positive light. Give it a little more time. But right now, I think it's fair to say that this year's current rookie class is superior to the 2012 crop.
2. I heard you on the radio say the Saints are a different team outside the dome. Are you serious? -- Matthew, New Orleans
Dickerson: That's exactly what I said. Players are able to make different cuts inside on artificial surfaces than outside at Soldier Field. Darren Sproles is shifty with the ball in his hands, but he's even more dangerous on turf. Most teams are a product of their environment. The Saints play eight home games indoors, practice indoors and travel to the Georgia Dome every season to face the Atlanta Falcons. Common sense dictates that New Orleans is tougher when playing in a dome. Vikings running back Adrian Peterson is also known as a better player inside the Metrodome, although he did smoke the Bears at Soldier Field in 2007 for over 200 yards rushing. That's just reality. I feel the Saints will win on Sunday, but it won't be easy, and some of that is due to the fact the game is scheduled to be played in Chicago, and not the Superdome in New Orleans.
3. Why didn't the Bears cut Adam Podlesh on Monday? He was terrible against the Lions. You are the ultimate special teams' apologist, and I look forward to you defending this lousy punter. -- Mike, Park Ridge, Ill.
Dickerson: There's nothing to defend, really. Podlesh had a rough afternoon in Detroit. If he punts like that again on Sunday against the Saints, the Bears could have a new punter on the roster in Week 6. But keep in mind that Podlesh is a vested veteran entitled to termination pay if the Bears release him, and we all know the team does not have an abundance of salary cap space. Perhaps the Bears believe it would be too costly to cut Podlesh, but the bottom line is he needs to punt better. Now, as to your second point, if trying to be balanced when discussing a player makes me an apologist, then so be it. Podlesh has been effective for the majority of his two-plus seasons in Chicago. He set the franchise single-season record in net punting average (40.4) in 2011. Who holds the second-best net average mark in Bears' history? Podlesh, with a 39.4 net average in 2012. Podlesh also dropped 34 punts inside the 20-yard line last season. He had a solid four-year career in Jacksonville and signed a lucrative deal for a punter in free agency. It hasn't been all bad. Podlesh owned up to the fact he kicked poorly in Week 4 when he met with the media on Wednesday. If this continues, the Bears might be inclined to make a move. But I can understand why the organization wants to make it work with Podlesh. He deserves another shot, and he's getting it. Where the story goes from here is entirely up to Podlesh.
4. Brandon Marshall spoke in the offseason that he felt the Bears needed more weapons on offense, and that he attributed his hip injury last year to overuse. How is Marshall feeling and is he happy in the offense? -- Christina, Indianapolis
5. Do you think Jay Cutler will be able to stay healthy all season? -- Cain, Green Lake, Wis.
Dickerson: Cutler hasn't played a full 16-game schedule since 2009. He's missed eight games, and half of the 2010 NFC Championship Game, in the last three seasons due to a variety of ailments. But much of that was due to all the hits Cutler took behind a subpar offensive line. He was sacked a combined 118 times from 2010-12. The Bears made several upgrades on the offensive line in the offseason, and the results speak for themselves. Cutler has been knocked down far less in the first four weeks, and that definitely improves his prospects of starting all 16 games. I think there is a good chance he stays healthy all year, or as healthy as any quarterback can stay in the NFL during a grueling 16-game regular season schedule.
"It was bad mechanics and a bad swing throughout the game," Podlesh said. "There are a few things that I've kind of looked into that I've kind of helped rectify the situation a little bit. This week has been good, today was good. I hit the ball well and kind of figured out a few of those problem areas."
Podlesh's performance against the Lions led the Bears to bring in six punters Tuesday for a tryout: Drew Butler, T.J. Conley, Chris Kluwe, Mat McBriar, Brian Moorman and Tress Way. Although none of the six left Halas Hall with a contract, Podlesh said he understood why the Bears felt it necessary to explore other potential options at the position.
"They notified me," Podlesh said. "I was appreciative of that, just to let me know. Not that it would have changed my thought process on anything. I kind of understood after what I put out there on the field in Detroit that I basically said to myself I wouldn't be surprised if they were going to look at what was out on the market."
Podlesh had to deal with a similar situation last year when the Bears worked out several punters after the seven-year NFL veteran hit a rough patch in the middle of the year. However, Podlesh finished 2012 on a high-note, pinning opponents inside their own 20-yard line 17 times in the team's final five games.
"Obviously I started putting out a better product, started punting better [after the tryouts last year]," Podlesh said. "I don't know if that was just coincidental."
Podlesh set a franchise season record in net punting average (40.4) in 2011 after he signed a five-year, $10 million free-agent deal with the Bears that included $3.5 million in total guarantees. That lucrative deal came as a result of Podlesh's success from 2007-10 with the Jacksonville Jaguars, where Joe DeCamillis served as the special teams coach for two seasons. DeCamillis is currently in his first year as the Bears assistant head coach/special teams coordinator.
"It's more timing than anything else," DeCamillis explained. "I think he just got off on timing, so we'll keep working at it. He worked today. We'll keep going from there. There's nobody who wants it more for him than me. And there's nobody that wants it more for all of us than Adam, so we're going to keep working and keep getting better."
Bears head coach Marc Trestman believes Podlesh's problems are correctable, although it's likely the organization would opt to make a move if the punter has another shaky outing Sunday against the New Orleans Saints at Soldier Field.
"I think [Podlesh] will bounce back," Trestman said. "I think that talking to Joe and talking to Adam, I think that the mechanics of his kicking -- and I don't know kicking, I'm not going to tell you I know the difference -- but talking to Joe, they think they can make some corrections in a way that can help him get back to where we think he should be. We're optimistic that will happen.
"Teams all over the league bring players in at certain times of the season to make sure they've got a list of guys that they've looked at and worked at, and everybody knows we brought some punters in this week. I think every professional knows that he's got to step up each and every week and be at his best. We've brought people in almost every week since we've been here. But I don't think Adam needs anybody to come in to know that the next week he's got to punt better. We've all got to play better. We've got to coach better and play better if we're going to be in a position to win on Sunday."
According to two league sources, the club worked out six punters at Halas Hall on Tuesday, just two days after Podlesh finished with a 28.8-yard net average on five punts in a loss to the Detroit Lions, including one 40-yard punt returned by Micheal Spurlock for a 57-yard gain to the Chicago 22.
An NFL source pointed out that Podlesh has "struggled all year," "has lost strength" and "can't hang the ball at all." The team was still discussing the situation as of Tuesday afternoon, and the source indicated the Bears have considered moving in another direction with the team desperately needing more production at the position. But no definitive decision had been made.
Chicago worked out punters Drew Butler, T.J. Conley, Chris Kluwe, Mat McBriar, Brian Moorman and Tress Way along with long-snappers Charley Hughlett and Kyle Nelson, in addition to defensive tackle Ra'Shon Harris.
Kluwe played for the Minnesota Vikings from 2005-12 before moving on to Oakland, where he lost out in a punting competition during training camp. Moorman has spent time with Buffalo and Dallas, and like Kluwe came out on the losing end of a training camp battle in Pittsburgh.
McBriar played for the Cowboys from 2003-11 before joining the Eagles in 2012, only to be cut in March.
A former fourth-round pick of the Jacksonville Jaguars, Podlesh signed a five-year contract with the Bears in 2011 worth $10 million.
Going into Sunday's game at Detroit, Podlesh had a 42-yard average on 14 punts, with six attempts being downed inside the opponent's 20.
Wilson wowed observers in the preseason opener at Carolina by catching four passes for 82 yards, including a 58-yarder. But to stand out in the competition for one of the final roster spots at receiver, Wilson needs to display versatility as a special teamer. Wilson also needs to show the staff he's not afraid to strike an opponent.
"We're going to put him out there and see what he can do," DeCamillis said. "We'd like to see what kind of a contact player he is."
Proving that he's indeed a contact player could prove difficult for Wilson, listed seemingly generously at 6-foot-4, 184 pounds.
"For the first time playing (special teams), it's fun. You never know what to expect," Wilson said. "(Playing special teams) gives everybody an extra opportunity. If you're a young guy, that's what you look to do. You look forward to that coming in because you have to play special teams."
Mike Ditka's final season as a player for the Chicago Bears was in 1966. His last season as their coach was 1992. So why did it take 47 years after his departure as a player, and 21 years after his final season as the coach, to retire the number of one of the most recognizable figures in team history?
A small part of the explanation could be the sheer size and breadth of the Bears' history. Before retiring Ditka's No. 89, a move the team announced Friday, the Bears already had the most retired numbers in the NFL (Ditka's is the team's 14th). I chuckled Friday morning when punter Adam Podlesh tweeted: "BREAKING: The NFL finally gives Bears the nod to use fractions and decimal points on jerseys after the last whole number is retired #iwantpi"
If you retired every deserving number in Bears history, there wouldn't be many left over for the current team.
But I think we all know that more than numbers were in play here. Ditka alluded to it during a morning appearance on ESPN Radio, noting the efforts of Bears chairman George McCaskey to reach out after succeeding his brother, Michael, in 2011. Michael McCaskey, of course, was running the Bears when Ditka was fired as coach.
"I never left" the Bears organization, Ditka said, but added: "I think what happened is they made a decision based on what they wanted to do. They had a right to make that decision. It hurts. It always hurts when there is a separation or divorce.
"But when George took over running the Bears and he called me, him and [team president] Ted Phillips and I met with him. I think [the meeting] was so cordial. George is a special guy. He probably had a little bit more vision than somebody else. But that didn't matter. That's not important to me. Whatever it is, it is. … I am very, very honored. That's the bottom line."
The ceremony will take place Dec. 9 at Soldier Field, when the Bears will host a "Monday Night Football" game (on ESPN!) against the Dallas Cowboys. It should be a great night.
Note: The video of Ditka's radio appearance is at the top of this post. Here is the link to the audio version if you prefer that.
The addition of Signor, who participated in the Bears’ voluntary three-day minicamp on a tryout basis, marks the first time another placekicker is expected to challenge Gould in training camp in several years. The Bears have brought in training camp punters to compete with incumbent starter Adam Podlesh and former punter Brad Maynard, but Gould has gone unopposed, until now.
2013 figures to be no different.
Former All-Pro Robbie Gould is recovering from a season-ending hamstring injury but expects to be 100 percent long before the Bears report to training camp on July 25. Before he got hurt, Gould connected on 21-of-25 field goals last year and led the Bears with 96 points. The eight-year veteran shows no signs of slowing down and figures to be a candidate for a new contract before his contract expires at the end of next season.
Punter Adam Podlesh got off to slow start in 2012 after he suffered a preseason hip flexor injury, but he eventually rebounded and finished the year with an average of 42.0 yards per punt and a net average of 39.4 yards. Don’t be surprised if Podlesh has his best year in a Bears’ uniform this season under the direction of new special teams coach Joe DeCamillis. Podlesh and DeCamillis worked together while the two were members of the Jacksonville Jaguars organization, and DeCamillis was so fond of the punter, he helped convince the Jags to spend a fourth-round pick on Podlesh coming out of the University of Maryland in the 2007 NFL Draft.
Rounding out the trio of Bears’ specialist is long snapper Patrick Mannelly, arguably the best and most consistent at his position for over a decade.
Analysis: The Bears are in the market for camp legs. Last year’s second-team punter, Ryan Quigley, is off the market after he signed a free agent deal with the New York Jets. Another former training camp punter, Spencer Lanning, is expected to compete for the Cleveland Browns starting job. The Bears signed kicker Austin Signor on Friday after he participated in the three-day minicamp, but the team usually carries at least two camp legs in training camp. Expect another kicker or punter to be signed following the draft.
Gould has been the Bears' place-kicker for 122 consecutive games, dating back to Week 5 of the 2005 season. But he strained his left calf during pregame warmups last Sunday at the Metrodome and apparently won't recover in time to kick freely again for at least three weeks. Sunday, he managed two extra points but ceded kickoffs to punter Adam Podlesh and didn't attempt a field goal.
Mare hasn't played in the NFL this season but was the Carolina Panthers' regular place-kicker in 2011. He could have some winter weather to adjust to Sunday at Soldier Field, but the Bears' final two regular-season games -- at the Arizona Cardinals and at the Detroit Lions -- shouldn't be impacted by the elements.
Meanwhile, McManis ranked third on the Bears with 10 special-teams tackles entering last Sunday's game. Steltz had five and was also getting turns in the Bears' rotation at safety. As the world turns. ...
The Bears worked out four free agent punters (Spencer Lanning, Ryan Quigley, Chas Henry and Ryan Tydlacka) on Wednesday but did not sign any of them to a contract.
"When you are bringing guys in there is a reason you are bringing guys in," Toub said. "You want to know for the emergency list, No. 1, but like I said this is a performance-based business and everybody knows you need to perform at a high level. And if you don't, you have to as a coach and as a team explore other options that are out there. You have to know who is available if we do make a change."
Podlesh signed a five-year, $10 million contract with the Bears before the 2011 season after spending his first four years in the league in Jacksonville. Podlesh got off to a good start his first season in Chicago when he set a Bears' franchise record with a net punting average of 40.4 yards, but he suffered a hip flexor injury early in the 2012 preseason that caused him to miss several weeks leading up the regular season opener against the Indianapolis Colts.