Bears: Adam Podlesh
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. ...
AP Photo/Charles Rex ArbogastAdam Podlesh is 30th in the NFL, averaging 41.7 yards per punt.
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.
Quigley and Lanning had each served as the Bears' backup to starter Adam Podlesh in training camp the last two summers. Lanning also spent time this past offseason with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Cleveland Browns and the New York Jets.
"We kept a couple guys out of practice today, a few guys," Bears coach Lovie Smith said. "Devin Hester has a quad injury. He should be OK, but we held him out today."
The Bears released their first injury report of the week Thursday, listing Hester as having missed practice with a quadriceps injury along with receiver Alshon Jeffery (hand), who has been declared out for Monday night, and linebacker Blake Costanzo (thumb). The Bears club also excused punter Adam Podlesh, whose wife is expecting the couple's first child.
Cornerback Sherrick McManis (hip) participated Thursday in a limited capacity.
"(We're) in decent shape," Smith said. "It has been a long time since we've played. So we're anxious to get back into the routine."
For the Lions, cornerback Bill Bentley (shoulder), safety Louis Delmas (knee), cornerback Jacob Lacey (concussion) and defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch (not injury related) didn't practice. Defensive end Cliff Avril (back) was limited along with defensive end Ronnell Lewis (eye), tight end Brandon Pettigrew (knee), linebacker Stephen Tulloch (knee), defensive tackle Corey Williams (knee) and receiver Titus Young (knee).
AP Photo/John RaouxAdam Podlesh spent four seasons with the Jaguars and is looking forward to Sunday's game in Jacksonville.
The Jaguars made it known they wanted to re-sign Podlesh in free agency, but lost out to the Bears, who offered him a five-year, $10 million contract. Although Podlesh has gone on to flourish with the Bears, where he set a franchise single-season record last year with a 40.4-yard net punting average, he still has fond memories of his time in Jacksonville.
"It'll be exciting to go back," Podlesh said. "I have a lot of friends and family there. Unfortunately, my wife is unable to come because we're expecting our first child pretty soon, so I don't think she's going to be able to travel. Between her family and my family, who are also coming down because they're not too far away in Virginia, and my friends in town and on that team, it'll be fun going down there.
"It would have been cool for my wife to have been down there to see her family who lives right outside Jacksonville and to watch me get back on the field I used to play on for four years, but safety for her and the kid are No. 1."
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears punter Adam Podlesh, who also serves as the team’s union representative, called the reported agreement between the NFL and the NFL Referees Association “a relief for everybody,” but added the situation isn’t getting much traction from teammates in the club’s locker room.
“I think everybody wanted to get it done on both sides of the negotiations,” Podlesh said. “I have to assume they wanted to find some sort of agreement. Obviously, I’m not in the middle of all that. But I think them getting some sort of common ground, getting it finished, getting to work -- just like what happened with the players and owners a couple of years ago -- is the best thing for football.”
No surprise players made the list, but the club did designate receiver Dane Sanzenbacher among the inactives along with punter Ryan Quigley, safety Jeremy Jones, guard Edwin Williams, defensive tackle Amobi Okoye and defensive end Cheta Ozougwu. The team's decision to make Quigley a scratch means that Adam Podlesh has recovered sufficiently enough from a hip flexor injury to punt against the Colts.
The club also announced that second-year defensive tackle Stephen Paea will start over veteran Matt Toeaina.
Indianapolis Colts inactives include: former Northern Illinois quarterback Chandler Harnish, receiver Austin Collie, running back Delone Carter, linebacker Pat Angerer, offensive tackle Mike Person, and guard Joe Reitz.
Collie’s inactivity could be a blow to the Colts’ offense. He’s still recovering from his third diagnosed concussion since 2010.
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesThe Bears say Adam Podlesh has been making steady progress in his return from a hip flexor injury.
"The training staff has me on a progression right now. It was a good day today. It felt good. Being limited today that's what they wanted me to be at. We'll progress from there, but things are going well."
Podlesh was observed punting the ball while dressed in full pads during the open portion of practice. This marked the first time the media had seen Podlesh punt a football since he suffered a left hip flexor injury in the Bears' second preseason game against the Washington Redskins on Aug. 18.
"When you practice on a Wednesday there is a chance you can go (in the game)," Bears coach Lovie Smith said. "We'll monitor him still and see how he performs (Thursday), but he's been making steady progress to say the least."
The Bears carried a second punter -- rookie Ryan Quigley -- on the 53-man roster for insurance purposes until Podlesh's injury is no longer a concern.
Free safety Chris Conte (shoulder) was also limited, according to the official injury report.
Middle linebacker Brian Urlacher (knee) had full participation and defensive tackle Stephen Paea didn't even appear on the report after he missed the last few weeks of the preseason with a sprained ankle. Paea said he practiced earlier in the week without any restrictions.
The only player to sit out Wednesday's workout was running back Lorenzo Booker, who continues to be sidelined due to a head injury he sustained last week in the Bears' preseason finale. The Bears likely planned to have Booker active to participate on special teams on game days, so it will be interesting to see what the club decides to do in the event Booker is out.
One option would be to bring back Kahlil Bell, who is still looking for a job after the Bears waived him in the preseason for reportedly refusing to accept a pay cut. Another possibility might be to activate Armando Allen from the practice squad, although special teams is not considered to be Allen's strength.
CLEVELAND -- Ryan Quigley can punt in the NFL. That much is clear.
The issue now is whether the undrafted rookie free agent did enough in the last two preseason games to convince the Bears he should be allowed to punt for the team in the regular season until Adam Podlesh returns from a left hip flexor injury.
"You talk about taking advantage of your opportunities; last week on a national stage in New York he stepped up and did a great job," Bears head coach Lovie Smith said. "He's been doing it in practice and he did it again tonight."
Quigley's better of the two games was probably against the Giants, but he still placed three of his four punts inside the 20-yard line and had a long kick of 45 yards in the preseason finale.
"I can't thank the Bears enough for this opportunity and for sticking with me," Quigley said. "I think I hit the ball a little better last week but just overall, I think I did okay. I know I can play in this league. I proved to myself and hopefully to other coaches I can play in this league. Coming in as a tryout guy, if you told me I'd have this opportunity during OTAs I would have been ecstatic."
The Bears could go in a couple different directions. They have done their homework on several free-agent punters with actual regular-season experience. That said, there is something to be said about sticking with a player who has been with your program throughout the entire offseason and preseason, such as Quigley.
Because of that comfort level, the Bears might keep Quigley on the 53-man roster or they could save a little money by waiving him Friday with the hope of re-signing him to the practice squad over the weekend. That way Quigley would still be on the team and the Bears could activate him off the practice squad closer to the actual regular-season opener against the Indianapolis Colts on Sep. 9. Regardless, Quigley will get another opportunity to punt in the NFL, whether in Chicago or someplace else.
"It's a process getting back into it," Podlesh said Tuesday. "(Bears athletic trainers) Chris Hanks and Bobby Slater are doing a really good job helping me get back on my feet, and it's been a positive experience so far.
'We don't have a real timetable right now but the rehab is going really well and the training staff is doing a great job maintaining my work ethic and with the treatments. That's been going pretty well."
However, since Podlesh's injury isn't believed to be too serious, the punter refused to completely rule out the possibility of being healed in time to play in the Bears' regular-season opener on Sept. 9.
"Nobody has ruled that out yet, it's still a possibility," Podlesh said. "We're going to be smart about how we are going to get myself back on the field."
While the Bears wait for Podlesh to recover, the team is in the process of putting together a contingency plan in the event Podlesh is forced to miss any games in the regular season. Undrafted rookie free agent punter Ryan Quigley had a strong performance last Friday versus the New York Giants and is expected to handle punting duties when the Bears travel to Cleveland for their preseason finale on Thursday.
"He's our guy," Toub said. "He's our punter. He's the only one we have left. We're counting on him."
Toub said Quigley exceeded his expectations last week when he punted seven times for an average of 43.6 yards. The undrafted rookie also dropped the ball inside the 20-yard line on three separate occasions and had a long punt of 50 yards.
"He had a great game," Toub said. "He did a really good job. We just allowed him to punt it away. He relaxed and carried over what we've seen in practice on to the field. The first two games, not so good, the third game he was really good."
The Bears are also expected to bring in several experienced punters for tryouts this week at Halas Hall, per a league source. ESPNChicago.com reported last week the Bears worked out former New York Giants punter Matt Dodge.