Print and Go Back ESPN.com: BlogsColumns [Print without images]

Thursday, September 23, 2010
'There's always hope'

By Melissa Isaacson
ESPNChicago.com

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Anyone hanging around the locker of Chicago Bears wide receiver Devin Aromashodu expecting him to pull a Randy Moss or Chad Ochocinco, walked away sorely disappointed Thursday.

Devin Aromashodu
Devin Aromashodu had a career-high eight catches for 76 yards and his first career touchdown last season against the Packers.

A burgeoning prima donna, the 26-year-old Aromashodu is not. But something caused Bears coaches to take the rather extreme action of keeping him off the field for all but one offensive snap and some special teams play against Dallas on Sunday.

Asked why he thought Aromashodu was benched, quarterback Jay Cutler echoed coach Lovie Smith's earlier comments by saying, "He's banged up a little. It's going to happen."

While Aromashodu's knee is a little gimpy, he answered "Yes" Thursday when asked if he was healthy.

Word is that receivers coach Darryl Drake, the Bears' outstanding and demanding veteran position coach, was especially unhappy with Aromashodu's play in the Bears' victory over Detroit in the season opener.

While we may have seen Aromashodu finish with five catches for 71 yards, first among receivers and behind only Matt Forte's seven catches for 151 yards and two touchdowns, Drake and presumably everyone else who watched the tape saw dropped passes and missed blocks.

Aromashodu said all the right things about the situation, but wasn't going to throw himself under the bus.

"I had some drops, a couple I got hit on, but overall I think I probably played a decent game," he said of his Week 1 performance. "Of course I could have played better. But it was the first game of the season. That's just how I feel."

Offensive coordinator Mike Martz said it was a little more complicated than that and wasn't all that sympathetic.

"I don't know if we need to justify any of those things to anybody," Martz said. "I would just say this and we'll let this thing go: Devin is a bit of a specialist in that he doesn't play the slot, which we asked him to do in the opener. He's not comfortable in there. He's not familiar with it. All four of our other receivers do play the slot and the outside.

"Devin just plays the outside so his opportunities to play are reduced dramatically because of his limited knowledge of what we do at that position. He's not a slot or a nickel guy. He's outside. It has nothing to do with Devin's performance."

With Cutler spreading the wealth in Week 2 among six Bears, and receivers Devin Hester and Johnny Knox combining for eight catches, 163 yards and a touchdown (by Hester) in their rather unexpected victory against Dallas, the Aromashodu matter was easy to downplay. Even as Hester dropped two passes in Cowboys territory, one that could have gone for a touchdown.

Asked about Hester, Cutler backhanded, "He's getting there. He's definitely an NFL receiver. He's definitely a weapon."

One would hope so of the team's No. 1 receiver. Clearly, after Hester had just one pass thrown to him in the Lions game, Bears coaches wanted to make sure that didn't happen again. But removing Cutler's favorite receiver does seem a bit harsh, and the way they went about it was more tough than love.

"No, I didn't get an explanation," Aromashodu said when asked. "No, I didn't ask for one. Was I surprised? I mean, I didn't think I was going to play much going through the week without practicing and stuff, so I can't say I was surprised.

"I guess I just have to play better. That's how I took it from my perspective."

It's hard at this point to second-guess much, if anything, the 2-0 Bears have done thus far, particularly in Martz's offense. And Aromashodu, who is on his fifth NFL team and made six stops in his first four seasons in the league, is not about to question anything, given that he didn't have a catch last season until the ninth game of the season and was either inactive or failed to catch a pass in 10 games.

It was pointed out to him more than once that it's a positive statement of how far he has come that so much attention was paid to last week's non-action, and he did not disagree.

"It's a good thing," he said, "but it's also a good thing we won, and I'd rather be 2-0 than playing, honestly. It helps the whole team. That's the big picture."

The last time he played against the Green Bay Packers, Aromashodu had a career-high eight catches for 76 yards and his first career touchdown.

Two weeks later and the last time he played in a "Monday Night Football" game, Aromashodu had seven catches for 150 yards, including the 39-yard game winner from Cutler in the Bears' 36-30 overtime victory over the Minnesota Vikings on Dec. 28.

Bears coach Lovie Smith acted Thursday as though it was a foregone conclusion that Aromashodu would be back in the rotation on Monday against the Packers.

It will be fun to see how Cutler, with five touchdown passes and just one interception this season, combats the Packers' defense and Clay Matthews, who already has six sacks.

"The Packers like to play a lot of bump-and-run and man-on-man coverage," Aromashodu said. "They did that last year. So it's the same Packers' defense that we're going against. We're just in a new offense. So I think we'll be able to take advantage of it."

Specifically, he is hoping he can take advantage of it. But it's refreshing to hear that he doesn't feel entitled.

"I've been in situations where I didn't get the ball or didn't even play, so I'm just thankful to put the uniform on and get the chance," Aromashodu said. "If you have the uniform on, you have a chance. There have been times where I knew I wasn't putting the uniform on Sunday and now I'm able to wear it on Sunday, so I know I always have a chance. There's always hope."

Melissa Isaacson is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com.