Emery: Bears not in rebuilding mode

According to the man in charge, the Bears are not in a transitional phase. Chicago GM Phil Emery wants to win now and believes the roster is close to championship caliber.

For general manager Phil Emery, the Chicago Bears recent free-agent signings are a further step on the path to strengthen the team, not rebuild it.

"I don't think I've ever heard an NFL GM say he's getting players in order to rebuild," Emery said today. "In our eyes, the team is already in place. We're only strengthening it, tweaking things here and there. To say you are rebuilding means that your eyes are not on the championship for this year. They might say that in other pro sports, but never in professional football. I can tell you right now that our eyes are focused firmly on this year's championship."

Emery capitalized on the opportunity to upgrade at left tackle with the signing of Jermon Bushrod, a Super Bowl winner and two-time Pro Bowl veteran from the New Orleans Saints. The Bears also plan on improved production from the tight end position through the services of Martellus Bennett, who comes to Chicago after a career season with the New York Giants. As a result, veteran tight ends Kellen Davis and Matt Spaeth have been cut from the team.

The speed of Emery's moves surprised some but Emery said he felt no hesitation in locking up his free agents while they were still available. From now on though, he added, the Bears will build the team at a slightly slower pace.

"We researched these two players very carefully and the more we found out about them, the clearer it became that they were both perfect fits for our system," said Emery. "Beyond that, they are team leaders with an incredibly strong work ethic. We want someone who will lead by example both in the locker room and on the field. Jermon and Martellus are stellar examples of high character, intelligence and the will to win. We couldn't be happier to welcome them to our team and to the city of Chicago."

"Every dollar will count and the pace of our signings might slow considerably. We are right up against the cap and therefore have to be slow and methodical from now on. We must be certain that every decision we make is in the best interest of our team. We are doing everything possible to put the best players on the field to win."

When asked if more roster cuts were imminent, Emery spoke much as he had earlier in the year citing the need for players to be evaluated further before any decisions were made.

"Coaches and players and everybody else in the building will be working constantly to develop a championship team. Whether that means some players will be leaving at some point has yet to be determined."

Chicago's offensive line has been the bane of the team for three years running and it appears the team has had enough. Emery took the opportunity to publicly put veteran tackle J'Marcus Webb on notice after Webb's brush with the law a few weeks back.

"We definitely sat down and talked to J'Marcus," Emery said. "We let him know where we stand and what our expectations for him are. We expect him to work diligently in meeting those expectations and standards and continue to compete for his job. It's up to him what happens from here. But I can tell you that he definitely will be moving over to right tackle."

Emery went on to say that Gabe Carimi will have opportunities both at tackle and guard.

"We'll see what's the best fit for Gabe," Emery said. "I'm excited to see how he comes back and competes in both those spots so we can find the right place for him going forward."

When asked about the defense in general and the linebacker position in particular, Emery skirted the question of Brian Urlacher's contract status, saying it was an ongoing process and that it was team policy never to discuss active negotiations until they have concluded.

"There are either players we need to sign for our defense or bring back to our team," Emery said. "Again, that will be a slow, methodical process. We looked back at how our signing went last year. We had signings then all the way up to April. I would anticipate that we're going to have more signings but they'll come in small bits rather than batches." vWhat's the bottom line for Emery as the signing process progresses?

"That's simple to answer," he said. "I want to win now. The Chicago Bears want to win now. This is not a rebuilding year. The object is to win championships. It's the same every year. It's the urgency of the process of putting a team together that gives you the opportunity to win week in and week out. We want to be there at the end, being the best team in the NFL. Our job right now is to find the best players to accomplish that goal."

Beth Gorr has been covering the Bears for the last 12 years and is the author of Bear Memories: The Chicago-Green Bay Rivalry. She is currently working on a second book about early Bears history.

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