Bears Notes & Quotes

The Sports Xchange discusses the Bears' needs at the wide receiver position, recent rule changes for kickoffs, Jay Cutler, what Chicago will do with the 29th overall pick and more.

WR/KR Devin Hester isn't pleased with the league's decision to move kickoffs to the 35-yard line.

"They might want to put up the arena nets, because they are gonna be a lot of balls going in the end zone," Hester said on ESPN 1000 in Chicago. "I think it could hinder us a little bit because we dwell on good field position. ... They've gone too far, they're changing the whole fun of the game."

Hester had just 12 kickoff returns last season and Danieal Manning had 33. On the use of Hester, coach Lovie Smith said, "He didn't get into the mix as much as he probably would have liked. I liked what he was able to do in the return game. It's hard sometimes balancing both of them. I just know he's a dangerous guy with his hands on the ball, and it's up to us to try to find more ways to get him the football."

--Trying to figure out what the Bears will do with the 29th pick in the draft on April 28 is a crapshoot for a number of reasons.

The Bears have several areas of need. This year it's even more difficult because, unlike other years, there probably won't be a free-agency period preceding the draft due to the work stoppage. Free agency usually begins early in March, and teams can start to shore up areas of weakness then. But, for now, the only help available is through the draft.

T Orlando Franklin
Joel Auerbach/Getty

Pro Football Weekly's Nolan Nawrocki has the Bears taking Miami offensive lineman Orlando Franklin with their first-round pick.

The 6-6, 315-pound Franklin was a three-year starter for the Hurricanes, and he played the all-important left tackle spot as a senior, after previously starting at guard.

Nawrocki explained his pick: "Although G.M. Jerry Angelo might prefer to find a replacement for Tommie Harris with this pick, the board could be more favorably filled with OL talent. Franklin could be the most physical blocker in this year's draft and perfectly fits the nasty disposition that OL coach Mike Tice seeks in the trenches."

--Club president Ted Phillips has joined the chorus of team officials feeling compelled to support quarterback Jay Cutler.

"I'm a big supporter of Jay Cutler. He is our quarterback," Phillips said. "He wants to be great, and we think he made great strides in his second year, and we think he's going to make even more strides, being with Mike Martz again, for 2011."

Calling Cutler "a great talent," who is "only going to get better," her concluded, "The whole organization is behind him, 100 percent."

--Wide receiver is not a position on the Bears that cries out for an upgrade as the offensive line does, but there is still plenty of room for improvement in the pass-catching corps.

There's no doubt that QB Jay Cutler needs better protection than he received last year, when the Bears allowed the most sacks in the NFL. But it's almost as important that the Bears provide Cutler with more weapons in the passing game.

They currently have just three wide receivers with NFL experience under contract, since six-year veteran Rashied Davis is eligible for unrestricted free agency, and four-year pro Devin Aromashodu was not tendered a contract offer, so he will be free to sign with any team when free agency begins.

That leaves the Bears with only Johnny Knox, Earl Bennett and Devin Hester returning in 2011, a group that is small in numbers and in physical size. None of the three are taller than 6-0, and only Bennett weighs more than 190 pounds.

Canadian import Andy Fantuz was signed to a reserve/futures contract last month, and the 6-4, 220-pounder is coming off a huge season (87 catches for 1,380 yards) with the Saskatchewan Roughriders. But there's no guarantee he'll enjoy the same success in the NFL.

So the Bears will be looking for a big, rangy downfield threat at some point in the draft, even though coach Lovie Smith is downplaying the need.

"It's amazing," he said when asked if his team needed more size at wideout. "Bigger body, faster guy ... we're going to try to improve the receiver corps just like all our positions. But our receivers did some good things this past year. Johnny Knox had some games where he really played well."

Knox did play well. His 960 receiving yards were 399 more than the Bears' runner-up, Bennett. But there were also games when Knox wasn't much of a factor. He had five games with less than 35 yards, and Hester seemed to regress a bit as a receiver while recapturing his magic in the return game.

Quote to Note

"I really don't care where we have Chris, personally. I want to make sure that when everything plays itself it out, after we get through this period of allocating players, that we get the five best players on the field." - GM Jerry Angelo on OL Chris Williams.

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