NFC North: Israel Idonije

Chicago Bears draft wrap-up

May, 10, 2014
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LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- A wrap-up of the Chicago Bears’ draft. Click here for a full list of Bears' draftees.

Bears general manager Phil Emery likes to say a team can never expect to fill all of its needs via the draft. Well, eight draft choices later, the Bears actually came close.

Best move: Taking defensive tackles Ego Ferguson and Will Sutton with consecutive picks on Day 2. We don’t know if Ferguson or Sutton will pan out, but the Bears had to keep strengthening the defensive line after last season. Ferguson and Sutton join new faces Jared Allen, Lamarr Houston, Willie Young, Austen Lane, Trevor Scott and Israel Idonije, who is back for his second tour of duty. The Bears also re-signed tackles Jeremiah Ratliff and Nate Collins to help fortify the trenches on defense.

[+] EnlargeKa'Deem Casey
Casey Sapio/USA TODAY SportsArizona running back Ka'Deem Carey, a fourth-round pick by the Bears, has some question marks in terms of off-the-field incidents.
This reminds me of how Emery & Co. rebuilt the offensive line last offseason.

Riskiest move: Arizona running back Ka’Deem Carey’s (fourth round) on-field production speaks for itself: 4,239 yards, 48 rushing touchdowns and 77 receptions for 679 yards in three years for the Wildcats.

However, there are questions about Carey that extended beyond the football field. The 5-9, 207-pound tailback reportedly had multiple run-ins with the authorities, including a charge of assaulting his pregnant ex-girlfriend that was later dismissed.

Carey depicted himself as a high-character individual when he spoke to Chicago media members following his selection by the Bears at No. 117.

“As you guys are going to get to know me over the years; I’m an outgoing [person] who loves kids and is light-hearted,” Carey said. “I would never do anything to harm people. I’m a loveful cat.”

Emery is not afraid to draft or acquire players with questionable character. Wide receiver Brandon Marshall has rewarded Emery’s faith in him by posting consecutive Pro Bowl seasons. On the flip side, 2012 fourth-round pick Evan Rodriguez lasted only one season before being cut after multiple run-ins with the law last offseason.

Most surprising move: Emery told reporters before the draft that he rejected the notion of drafting a developmental quarterback in the later rounds with the intent of grooming him to be a future starter.

The Bears selected San Jose State quarterback David Fales in the sixth round (183).

Go figure.

File it away: Time will tell if the Bears regret passing on a safety in the first round.

The organization continued its longstanding tradition of waiting until the later rounds to address the position when they moved back into the fourth round and traded away a pair of fifth-round selections to grab Minnesota’s Brock Vereen at 131. Vereen does have an excellent NFL pedigree. His brother, Shane, a standout running back, was selected in the second round of the 2011 NFL draft by the New England Patriots. Their father, Henry, was drafted by the Bucs in 1979.

Vereen is a versatile player who lined up at all four defensive back spots over the course of his career with the Golden Gophers. He started 36 games and registered 200 tackles, four interceptions, 7.5 tackles-for-loss and one blocked kick.

“Brock is one of the smartest and most versatile players I have ever had the privilege of coaching and is an outstanding young man,” Minnesota head coach Jerry Kill said. “He is the ultimate team player and will do whatever is needed to help the Bears win. I know he is going to make Chicago a better team and will also be a great teammate in the locker room.”

But you can argue the Bears are in this mess at safety because the organization doesn't put a high enough value on the position.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Statistics can be deceiving.

The Chicago Bears clearly looked beyond LSU defensive tackle Ego Ferguson's modest career collegiate numbers (12 career starts, 85 tackles, five tackles-for-loss and one sack) when drafting him at No. 51 overall.

They obviously believe the 6-foot-3, 315-pound Ferguson will add fresh legs to an already decent rotation at defensive tackle that includes veterans Jeremiah Ratliff, Nate Collins and Stephen Paea. Because the Bears are so high on Ratliff at three-technique, general manager Phil Emery didn't have to necessarily find a Week 1 starting interior defensive lineman in the draft.

After Minnesota's Ra'Shede Hageman and Florida State's Timmy Jernigan were taken off the board, Ferguson was the next best option in the Bears' mind.

He can stop the run. Ferguson had 58 tackles in 2013 when he was named honorable mention All-SEC. Not to be redundant, but the Bears are determined to find players that thrive in run support.

Word is Ferguson still needs to develop better interior pass-rushing skills.

"You always need to work," Ferguson said Friday night. "I need to improve on pass-rush and my spin move. But one thing I always bring is my heart and my competitive nature. [I'll do] whatever it takes and for however long it takes to win."

Second-round picks are expected to contribute in Year 1, but Ferguson has the luxury of working on his technique with veteran Bears defensive line coach Paul Pasqualoni until he's ready to be thrust into a starting role.

Ferguson told reporters at Halas Hall he had a positive meeting with Pasqualoni when he visited the Bears before his pro day.

"[Pasqualoni] has a great personality and he brought me to the office and we were talking ball for a long time," Ferguson said. "He asked me if I can play that two-technique, can I do it? He said that's what the Bears want me for. He showed a lot of interest."

Pasqualoni was an important hire for the Bears in the offseason. With more than 40 years of coaching experience, he is the perfect person to coach up younger defensive linemen that may possess above-average traits, but have yet to garner above-average success.

The Bears are counting on Pasqualoni to refine Ferguson's pass-rushing technique; just as Rod Marinelli did with Israel Idonije, Henry Melton and Corey Wootton before the veteran coach departed for Dallas after the Chicago Bears fired Lovie Smith.
DES PLAINES, Ill. -- If Bears free-agent long snapper Patrick Mannelly does not return to Chicago for a franchise record 17th season, the team’s all-time leader in games played (245) would probably lean toward retirement.

That’s the scenario Mannelly laid out to reporters before being honored as the Bears’ 2013 Ed Block Courage Award winner at a luncheon held at Maryville Academy in suburban Des Plaines, Ill., an event attended by team matriarch Virginia McCaskey.

Mannelly
“It would be tough to put on another helmet for another team,” the Mannelly, 38, said.

The only member of the 1998 draft class that is still playing with their original team, Mannelly is almost three months into a four-to-six month rehabilitation process following offseason hip surgery.

Mannelly is scheduled to fly to California Tuesday night to continue his rehab work at EXOS in San Diego -- he is no longer under contract with the Bears and cannot use the facilities at Halas Hall -- but the veteran long snapper is undecided about his future.

"As athletes you always think you can play forever and I’ve been lucky to play for a long time," Mannelly said. "But I really want to listen to my body and see what happens. You always want to play forever. Your heart wants to play forever. Your mind wants to play forever. But we'll see.

"I would feel bad if I didn’t give it everything I had and [slacked] in the offseason. I’m not going to do that. I truly want to find out. I want to put myself in a position where I get sore again and feel hurt every day and see how much I enjoy it and how I bounce back the next morning.”

The Bears are expected to offer Mannelly a one-year contract if he decides to continue for another season, although a drop-dead date has not been set for Mannelly to make a final decision.

“We haven’t really set anything in stone for that,” Mannelly said. “I have some dates in my mind that I want to set to reach certain plateaus and goals to get ready for the season. I’ll leave those dates to me but we will see.”

If Mannelly’s recovery goes according to plan, he could theoretically return to the field when the Bears hold their organized team activities in late May and early June. But the Bears had to protect themselves at the position and agreed to terms on a three-year deal with former CFL long snapper Chad Rempel on Monday.

“It’s a smart move,” Mannelly said. “Phil Emery should do that. I’ll be 39 this year and I don’t know if I’m going to be back. They need to take care of their roster and that’s the most important thing.”

The Ed Block Courage Award is given out annually to one player on all 32 NFL teams who best exemplifies a commitment to sportsmanship and courage and serves as an inspiration in the locker room. Teammates vote for the award. Ed Block Courage Award winners symbolize professionalism, great strength and dedication, and are considered role models in the community.

Past Bears recipients of the Ed Block Courage Award include: Nick Roach (2012), Brian Urlacher (2011), Anthony Adams (2010), Israel Idonije (2009) and Charles Tillman (2008).

The Ed Block Courage Award Foundation promotes the prevention of child abuse by raising awareness and assisting agencies that provide for the care and treatment of abused children.
The Chicago Bears wanted to re-sign defensive end Israel Idonije last offseason, but lost him in June to NFC North foe Detroit.

Idonije
Now the Bears find themselves in position to acquire Idonije again, with the free-agent defensive end scheduled to visit the team and take a physical on Tuesday, according to an NFL sources.

NFL Network's Albert Breer first reported the news.

After spending the first nine years of his career with Chicago, where he began as a core special teams contributor, before blossoming into a full-time starter, Idonije joined the Lions after failing to come to an agreement in free agency with the Bears. In his only season with the Lions, Idonije participated in 15 games, contributing 11 tackles and half a sack.

When Idonije initially joined the Lions, he was coming off a 2012 season in which he finished second on the team with 7.5 sacks.

Despite the club signing defensive ends Lamarr Houston and Willie Young in free agency, it could still stand to add some depth along the defensive line. Idonije possesses the versatility to play inside or outside, and could be a positive locker room presence for the Bears as they continue to add youth on defense.

Over the past four years in Chicago, Idonije posted 23 sacks and was traditionally one of the top tacklers on the defensive line.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Calvin Johnson missed practice for the third straight day for the Detroit Lions, lending credence to the theory he won't play in Sunday's season finale against Minnesota.

He was one of seven Lions to miss the final practice of the season, joining linebacker DeAndre Levy, cornerbacks Jonte Green and Bill Bentley, safety Louis Delmas, defensive lineman Israel Idonije and offensive lineman LaAdrian Waddle.

Offensive lineman Dylan Gandy returned to practice, as did cornerback Chris Houston and safety John Wendling.

Seven miss practice for the Lions

December, 26, 2013
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ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- The Detroit Lions were without four starters at practice Thursday, including star wide receiver Calvin Johnson, who continues to battle knee problems.

Also missing were cornerbacks Bill Bentley (concussion) and Chris Houston (toe/illness), offensive linemen Dylan Gandy (illness) and LaAdrian Waddle (ankle), safety John Wendling (ankle) and linebacker DeAndre Levy (foot).

Five players were limited in practice: running back Joique Bell (knee), cornerbacks Jonte Green (shoulder) and Darius Slay (knee), safety Louis Delmas (knee) and defensive end Israel Idonije (knee).

Green is the only new name on the injury report; he was spotted with a giant bag of ice on his shoulder following practice.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- They know what they lost over the past two weeks of the season, what they could have been playing for this Sunday and what they instead have to look forward to.

This Christmas could have been about fighting for a playoff spot for the Detroit Lions. Could have been about playing for their first divisional title since the NFC North came into existence.

Instead, on Tuesday afternoon in a sparsely populated Lions locker room, there was just sadness. Frustration. The understanding of what could have been, and what actually is.

Ross
Burleson
Burleson
“It’s been a little down,” receiver Nate Burleson said. “Guys are trying to keep smiles on their faces, but it’s one of those situations where you try to laugh to keep from crying.

“It’s tough, you know. It was in our fingertips and it slowly slipped away from us. So it’s hard to deal with, but we’ve got to move on. We’ve got a game to play.”

A game with little meaning in the overarching future of the Lions. For some, Sunday could be critical as a last chance to impress scouts, coaches, or general manager Martin Mayhew, and secure a future with Detroit or perhaps in the NFL.

For others, it will just be about playing for pride and being able to play one more game. Because this is what Detroit’s season has whittled itself down to. Win or lose and then go home.

“Definitely not where we want to be,” returner Jeremy Ross said. “It would have been nice to make the playoffs and go on a playoff run and do those different types of things.

“Unfortunately, that didn’t happen and that’s always the goal. When you don’t meet that goal, obviously you don’t meet your goals. I think we had some ups and we had some downs. It was a pretty up-and-down season for us.”

Much like their head coach, though, they stayed away from the dreaded word of failure to describe their season. Rob Sims looked at the way the offensive line played -- and how they showed improvement throughout the season.

Ross discussed how one defines failure. Burleson clutched on to how close the Lions were to so many things.

But in the end, at 7-8 with not much to play for and the playoffs washed away, they know they can’t look at much as a success.

“Look at the record,” defensive end Israel Idonije said. “We don’t see it as a success. Going into the season, with the talent that we have, we wouldn’t have looked at where we are now as equal to where our talent is.”

In a season that included missed opportunity after missed opportunity, the fact that Green Bay and Chicago lost Sunday, meaning the Lions could have controlled their own fate after all of the miscues in the second half of the season, is probably what stings the most.

Just one more opportunity lost for these Detroit Lions.

“Yeah, it is frustrating,” Ross said. “It feels like everything has kind of been in our favor for a while.

“It’s disappointing that we weren’t able to make that happen.”
Both rookie defensive end Ziggy Ansah and running back Reggie Bush returned to practice for the Detroit Lions on Friday, but both ended up just going on a limited basis.

Still, that's a good sign for Detroit heading into its game Monday night against Baltimore.

Only two Lions, cornerbacks Chris Houston and Darius Slay, missed practice. Safety John Wendling, a special-teamer, practiced fully following his illness.

Ansah, Bush, Louis Delmas (knee), Calvin Johnson (knee), LaAdrian Waddle (elbow) and Israel Idonije (knee) were all limited on Friday.

Practice Report: No Houston or Slay

December, 13, 2013
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ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- The Detroit Lions were down two cornerbacks during Friday's practice.

Starter Chris Houston (toe) and reserve Darius Slay (knee) were both missing from practice, but showed up to watch on the sidelines.

Reggie Bush, Ziggy Ansah and Israel Idonije were all back practicing for Detroit on Friday.

If Houston and Slay cannot play Monday, the Lions could rely on Jonte Green or Bill Bentley at cornerback opposite Rashean Mathis.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Detroit Lions running back Reggie Bush said he did not practice for precautionary reasons Thursday, but plans on working out with the team this week before Monday night's game against Baltimore.

Like Bush, safety Louis Delmas (knee) was likely out Thursday as a precaution with his typical practice plan during the season.

The only real new injury on the list was Chris Houston, who now has a toe injury after dealing with a foot injury the past few weeks. Also not at practice were Ziggy Ansah (shoulder), Israel Idonije (knee), Darius Slay (knee) and safety John Wendling, who was ill.

Calvin Johnson and LaAdrian Waddle were both limited at practice Thursday, but should be fine for Monday.
PHILADELPHIA -- In the mass of snow where players couldn’t cut and the surface was more ice rink than football field, it did not seem to matter much to Detroit Lions returner Jeremy Ross.

If anything, the slip-and-slide surface almost helped him as he had one of the best days of his career.

[+] EnlargeJeremy Ross
AP Photo/Michael PerezJeremy Ross scored and a 58-yard punt return and a 98-yard kickoff return in Detroit's loss on Sunday.
"Players start to slip just because they get too wide, cut too wide," Ross said. "I try to keep everything in tight and narrow and not overextend. Just keep my feet underneath me."

That wasn’t easy considering the playing field at Lincoln Financial Field, but Ross was able to keep his balance enough to return both a punt and a kick for touchdowns Sunday in the Lions’ 34-20 loss and in the process matched a little bit of history.

Ross became the second Detroit Lions player to return a punt and kick for touchdowns in the same game, matching Eddie Payton -- the brother of Walter Payton -- who accomplished the same feat for the Lions in 1977.

Even more impressive was Ross did it on an increasingly difficult place to run on.

"After a while the snow started hardening up," Ross said. "The snow kept clogging up at the bottom of my cleats so it felt like I had heels on at some point. It would pile up, stack real tight on the bottom of my heels so my foot would be like lifted up.

"Sometimes you have to keep patting your feet because it just packs in there and it’s hard to run, change directions, so it really gets underneath your feet."

Ross also had some help. On both returns he was assisted by some major blocking.

Wide receiver Kevin Ogletree, who like Ross was a midseason signing for the Lions after being cut by another team, blocked Brandon Boykin enough on the outside that it gave Ross the initial crease he needed.

From there, almost in slow motion, Ross weaved his way to the end zone for a 58-yard punt return touchdown, not cutting so much as just bobbing his body side-to-side as he ran.

"When you’re running, you’re real cautious of how you cut and stuff," Ross said. "You feel like you’re just trying to turn, you can’t really cut. You’re just kind of slowly working your way around."

His kick return was a little bit easier in some ways. Ross caught the ball at the 2-yard line and had almost a perfect hole form for him -- again, due to blocking. Theo Riddick was his lead blocker and sealed off a guy on the right side, as did new signee Julian Stanford. On the left side, Israel Idonije appeared to seal off his man, giving Ross the hole.

From there, all Ross needed to do was make a diving Alex Henery miss -- he did -- and keep his balance heading into the end zone.

In all, Ross had 243 return yards, more yards than the entirety of the Lions offense, and now has three touchdowns -- two on special teams and one receiving -- in the past two weeks.

"It’s definitely, it’s special," Ross said. "It’s special to do something like that."
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- A new name popped on the Detroit Lions injury report Thursday -- one that might be a little bit concerning depending on its severity.

Rookie cornerback Darius Slay apparently has a knee injury and it limited him for the Lions. This is the first time Slay has been on the injury report. It is even more concerning because while starter Chris Houston (foot) has been practicing this week, he also has been limited at a position without much depth.

Reggie Bush missed his second straight practice today with a calf injury and Israel Idonije missed with a knee injury. Receiver Calvin Johnson (knee) and safety Louis Delmas (knee) were also limited Thursday.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Reggie Bush missed his second straight day of practice for the Detroit Lions on Thursday with an injured calf.

Bush
Bush
Bush was at practice, however, working on the side holding a ball high in his right arm while one of the Lions' staffers poked it with a giant jousting stick.

Defensive end Israel Idonije and practice squad wide receiver Patrick Edwards were the only two other players not practicing Thursday, although both were in attendance off on the side.

Both wide receiver Calvin Johnson and safety Louis Delmas returned to practice.
While the Detroit Lions have had nearly full or full participation in practice the past two days, not everyone is guaranteed to play Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Running back Joique Bell (Achilles), defensive end Israel Idonije (knee) and safety Glover Quin (ankle) were listed as questionable on the Lions' official injury report Friday, although Bell practiced in full and Idonije and Quin on a limited basis.

Every other injured Lion is listed as probable, including receiver Nate Burleson (forearm), defensive end Ziggy Ansah (ankle), tight end Brandon Pettigrew (knee), receiver Calvin Johnson (knee) and cornerback Bill Bentley (knee).

Listed for the first time on the injury report is right guard Larry Warford, who is probable with a shoulder injury. It is the first time Warford has been listed on the report all season.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- On a day where the Detroit Lions got at least a little bit in practice from all of its players, the biggest news of all was who practiced in full: Nate Burleson.

Burleson
Burleson
The wide receiver was not limited in practice for the first time since breaking his forearm in a September car crash, but he was part of the team drills the past two days, a good sign for his potential return.

"Things are looking up for Nate Burleson," Burleson said. "Catching some balls. Getting some high-fives. My friends are talking to me again. Finally feel like things are looking up, man.

'That pizza set me back, man."

It was a good day overall as the Lions had every player on the roster available to practice on at least a limited basis.

Besides Burleson, cornerback Bill Bentley practiced fully for the first time in a couple of weeks. Cornerback Jonte Green also returned fully after being sick Wednesday. Right tackle Corey Hilliard also practiced in full.

There were, though, many Lions limited on Thursday: defensive end Ziggy Ansah (ankle); running back Joique Bell (Achilles); safety Louis Delmas (knee); defensive tackle Andre Fluellen (thigh); defensive end Israel Idonije (knee); wide receiver Calvin Johnson (knee); tight end Brandon Pettigrew (knee) and safety Glover Quin (ankle).

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