NFC North: Rashied David
For the final word on Chicago’s lack of interest in receiver Chris Chambers -- and, for that matter, any veteran wideout -- we defer to Bears general manager Jerry Angelo. As we noted earlier Wednesday, the Bears did not put in a claim on Chambers, who ended up with Kansas City.
In an interview with the Bears’ Web site, here’s what Angelo said:
“We like our receivers. When you bring a veteran like Chambers in, you have to have an immediate plan for him. We only dress four receivers as a rule on game day, and Rashied Davis is our fourth who does a great job for us as a special-teamer. Now, who are we going to sit: Earl [Bennett], Devin [Hester] or Johnny [Knox]? It doesn’t make sense to sit them because of their play and continued development also. In most cases, a player you bring in at this point is not going to have the familiarity they need with your system to help your football team right now.”
I agree with most of those points, although it’s not unusual to dress five receivers for a game. I think what Angelo meant is the Bears rarely use a formation that requires more than three receivers on the field.
Otherwise, it wouldn’t have been a surprise if the Bears had tried to claim Chambers. They weren’t interested in a veteran receiver before Bennett and Knox emerged as reliable options. So why would they be now?
We have a lot of significant injury information flowing Wednesday afternoon here in the Black and Blue. Let's take a team-by-team look:
Chicago: The Bears have listed receiver Marty Booker (cracked rib) as doubtful for Thursday night's game against New Orleans. Brad Biggs of the Chicago Sun-Times reports Booker almost certainly won't play. For a while now, the Bears have been relying on Devin Hester, Rashied Davis and Brandon Lloyd as their top three wide receivers.
Detroit: Quarterback Daunte Culpepper (shoulder) was on the Lions practice field for warm-ups, but that's about it. Coach Rod Marinelli told reporters that Culpepper is "more doubtful than probable" for Sunday's game at Indianapolis. Former starter Dan Orlovsky practiced Wednesday but is still recovering from a hand injury, making it increasingly likely that Drew Stanton will get his first NFL start. The Lions' other option, barring a quick turnaround from Culpepper, would be Drew Henson.
Green Bay: The Packers have ruled out safety Atari Bigby (ankle) for Sunday's game at Jacksonville. That means cornerback Charles Woodson will make his third consecutive start at the position. Linebacker Brandon Chillar (groin) was limited and could give way to Desmond Bishop for the second consecutive game.
Minnesota: Quarterback Gus Frerotte said late Wednesday afternoon that he heard something "pop" when he injured his lower back Sunday at Detroit. Asked if he has a fractured bone, as has been reported, Frerotte said: "No." Frerotte said he hopes to return to practice at some point this week but that he is uncertain when or if it will happen. ... Frerotte and defensive end Jared Allen (knee) were two of five players who sat out practice. Coach Brad Childress said Allen is expected to play Sunday at Arizona.
|AP Photo/M. Spencer Green|
|Devin Hester has 11 returns for TDs in two seasons.|
BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears insisted Wednesday they were blindsided by kick returner/wide receiver Devin Hester's decision to hold out from training camp. The Bears assume Hester is not happy with the pace of negotiations on a potential contract extension, but general manager Jerry Angelo said: "I really don't know why he isn't here today."
According to Angelo, one of Hester's agents "floated" the idea of a holdout earlier this week. Angelo, however, said he "didn't take it serious because we were still talking." Numbers were still being exchanged, Angelo said, when the decision was made.
"There was no closure," Angelo said. "Usually when you say, 'Hey, it's over, take it or leave it, we're out of money,' you might get a reaction like that. But continuing on into negotiations as we have been, it's surprising. ... We did tell Devin we were going to address his situation and we have. That's where it is. The timing of it maybe wasn't satisfactory to him, but those things kind of run their course."
That lack of urgency apparently set Hester off. He told the Chicago Tribune that the team wasn't "taking it seriously that I wanted to get a new deal." Hester went on to make this outlandish statement:
"You should pay me like I'm one of a kind. It's like dating a girl. When you find somebody that is real special, you're going to do whatever it takes to keep her. You might cut back on what you're giving your mom to give her. And that's how I feel they should treat me."
This broadside clearly caught the Bears off-guard and represents a huge setback on the first day of training camp. Coach Lovie Smith and his staff are planning to make Hester a full-time receiver while maintaining his role as the NFL's top returner. After the departures of Bernard Berrian and Muhsin Muhammad, Hester was going to get every opportunity to be the Bears' No. 1 receiver in 2008.
Hester, who has two years remaining on his contract, participated fully in the team's offseason program but still will need maximum training camp time to secure a smooth transition to receiver.
"I know he would like to be out here," Smith said. "He realizes how important his work is, especially for him becoming a full-time receiver."
Hester's absence left the Bears with an underwhelming group of receivers for the first practice of training camp. Veterans Marty Booker and Mark Bradley took the initial repetitions with the first team, while Brandon Lloyd and Rashied Davis also rotated in. The Bears ran plenty of plays for tight ends Desmond Clark and Greg Olsen, a pattern they figure to follow at least until Hester's situation gets resolved.
That could take some time, however. Angelo noted it is the team's right to fine Hester for every day he misses at a maximum of about $15,000 per day. Angelo also said the team has a policy that expects players to participate in camp while negotiating extensions. In other words, the Bears could stop negotiating altogether until Hester reports.
Angelo didn't sound like a general manager who wants to play hardball with one of his favorite players. What's also clear is the Bears never believed Hester would hold out until the minute they realized he wasn't here.