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Saturday, July 30, 2011
A wild start to camp for the Bears

By Kevin Seifert

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- So I walked out to Green Bay Packers practice Saturday at about 8 p.m. ET.

Over the next two hours or so, e-mails with these subject lines showed up on in my inbox:
Whew.

I'll post some Packers practice thoughts in a few minutes. (Promise.) But first, I think we have to address the growing spectacle emanating from a couple hundred miles southwest of here. The Chicago Bears have continued their flurry of free agent moves but have yet to address their biggest personnel weakness and apparently stand on the precipice of a crisis on their offensive line.

Our friends at ESPNChicago.com are reporting that Kreutz began informing Bears players this evening that he won't re-sign with the team. His agent, Mark Bartelstein, said: "It doesn't look like it's going to happen."

Let's make clear that stalled negotiations sometimes go public with claims more exaggerated than reality. And it's only fair to note that Kreutz obviously hasn't jumped to sign somewhere else yet. I am in no way ruling out the possibility of the Bears reaching a deal with Kreutz, especially if they have a few more practices marred by botched center-quarterback exchanges.

The truth is the sides have a few more days to work this out. Kreutz wouldn't be able to practice before Aug. 4 no matter where or when he signs. So there is nothing wrong with continuing this game of chicken, as long as the Bears are relatively sure they will eventually get their man. They know Kreutz better than anyone else. If they think he can still play, they will re-sign him. If they don't, they'll offer him a deal they don't think he'll accept. We'll know soon enough.

What's not clear is if the Bears have a true backup plan if in fact Kreutz moves on. Saturday, Roberto Garza and Chris Williams manned the position in practice. Edwin Williams, who can't practice until Aug. 4, would also have seen time there. None of those possibilities sound great to me. Do the Bears have a backup free agent plan in mind? That's a question we might not want to have answered.

Meanwhile, ESPN's Adam Schefter reports the Bears will pay Barber $5 million over two years. Barber has played six physical seasons and there is no telling how much he has left. Did the Bears sign him as a spot player behind starter Matt Forte and Chester Taylor? Do they plan to release Taylor, who is due a relatively modest $1.275 million this season? Those are questions the Bears will answer for us in the coming days.

I view the Okoye signing much as the decision to bring in defensive end Vernon Gholston. Once highly touted, Okoye now has the opportunity to play under one of the game's best defensive line gurus in Rod Marinelli - at no financial risk to the Bears.

It sounds like the Bears have had an interesting start to training camp. I can't wait to see what happens next.