The Bears will be major participants in the coming NFL veteran wide receiver lottery behind the scenes.
This much was apparent after they completed organized team activities Wednesday at Halas Hall, despite comments by coach Lovie Smith and quarterback Jay Cutler that the receiving corps is fine in its current state.
“We’re good to go,” Cutler said. “We’ve got everything we need out there.” Devin Hester and Earl Bennett lined up in Wednesday’s practice as first team wide receivers, and were joined in three, and four-receiver sets by Brandon Rideau and Rashied Davis. It’s been that way throughout all the OTAs that have been conducted.
“With Devin and Earl and Brandon and Rashied and then the tight ends coming in, our running backs are doing a good job of getting out of the backfield, we’re going to be more than fine from the outset,” Cutler said.
While they were praising the current receivers, Smith also acknowledged the team’s interest in free agent wide receiver Plaxico Burress. “Plaxico Burress is a good football player,” Smith said. “Of course we all know that. We keep all of our options open. We’re constantly evaluating all the players who are out there. But I feel good about our team that we have right now and I feel good about the receivers we have right now.”
Burress faces a trial for gun charges. It has currently been delayed until September and agent Drew Rosenhaus predicted the 6' 5", 10-year veteran would play somewhere this year, and that the trial wouldn’t occur until 2010 if there is one. Smith said the team has to take into account off-the-field problems when considering players who might be available.
“The door is never closed on anyone who’s available,” he said. “We’ve said that every time any player that’s available has been out there. We’re saying the same thing right now.
“It’s not like we’re aggressively going after him, but we evaluate everyone that we think will make our team better.”
Denver’s Brandon Marshall has asked to be traded, as has Arizona’s Anquan Boldin. Braylon Edwards is unhappy in Cleveland. So the possibility exists the Bears could acquire a veteran receiver, although they don’t have much to offer in a trade.
That’s why a free agent like Burress is probably the best choice for them at this time.
Cutler was quarterback for Denver when Marshall caught 206 passes over the past two seasons, but insisted he isn’t pushing the Bears to sign the veteran. He said he hasn’t spoken to anyone within the organization about his former teammate.
“He’s a great player, Brandon is, and I played with him for three years, put up a lot of big numbers with him, and wherever he ends up, obviously he’s going to be successful,” Cutler said. “Whether or not it’s here, that’s up to the guys upstairs (Bears general manager Jerry Angelo), but as of right now, I’m 100 percent happy with what we’ve got.”
Bears coaches and the organization cannot comment publicly about Marshall, Edwards, or Boldin because all are under contract. The Bears could be investigated for tampering charges if they started talking about those three, much the way San Francisco was investigated for talking with Lance Briggs before last season. It cost the 49ers a third-round draft pick.
Linebacker Brian Urlacher missed practice again, but was running on the side and appeared to have no serious medical issues. Running back Matt Forte also missed, as did defensive back Danieal Manning and linebacker Nick Roach. Forte has a hamstring pull. The Bears didn’t comment on the others, but Smith said their status for training camp isn’t in jeopardy.
Corey Graham got a lot of work as nickel back with the first team pass situation defense with Manning sidelined.
Trumaine McBride came up with an interception of a Cutler pass that deflected off Hester’s hands over the middle of the field.
Caleb Hanie found third-round pick Juaquin Iglesias for a deep touchdown pass at the end of practice.
Frank Omiyale returned to starting at right guard after Josh Beekman had been with the starters last week.
The Bears will go into training camp with Craig Steltz at starting free safety. Smith said there will be heated competition at the position and several others in camp, but was satisfied with what he saw from Steltz and strong safety Kevin Payne during OTAs and mini-camp.
Smith specifically mentioned linebacker Jamar Williams and cornerback Zack Bowman as players who have stepped up and impressed coaches most during the OTAs.