"I'm going to cover three points and a little bonus after that areas we need to improve on.
"First thing is I want to congratulate the new members of the Bears. There's 24 out of the 61 total members of the Bears that includes the eight on the practice squad that are brand new to our organization. Composition of that is six draft choices, three college free agents, one claim yesterday, four UFAs, five street free agents and five new practice squad players. Just want to congratulate them on starting off their year with the Chicago Bears for our opening day tilt against the Bengals.
"Also want to congratulate our older players. They deserve our congratulations and respect. I'll start with Patrick Mannelly, 16 years here as a Chicago Bears going into his 16th season. When I came to the Bears in 1998 to interview, I sat down with Bill Rees, and he asked me to watch the draft picks from that year, which Patrick was one of them, and he told me before we even got started, he went through them a little bit and he said, really we think the best pick of the draft was Patrick Mannelly, we picked up a long snapper who might be here 10 years in the sixth round. Well, I think Patrick's proven that and he's going on twice over, in his 16th year, so he deserves our congratulations.
"Roberto Garza, 13th year going into his 13th year in the league. I was with Roberto in 2005 in Atlanta and I sat in the room and we made a decision to move on, and part of our thinking was that a man without an ACL didn't have many years left, and we probably weren't going to be able to value him properly moving forward as an unrestricted free agent. I think Roberto has proved us all wrong in that area and he keeps plugging away, and I see an improvement as a player this year over last year.
"Julius Peppers, 12th year in the league. In Atlanta he terrorized us. He was the Vick equalizer. Man has 11 sacks in his career, he's one of the tops in the league in terms of career sacks. He speaks of leadership and production. He's a very quiet leader, unassuming, but he does great things. He leads by example. I don't know how many times I saw in OTAs and during camp, him chase Matt Forte or a receiver or back downfield. Anybody at his stature in the league that's willing to put in what he does each and every day to give his all deserves our respect.
"Charles Tillman, going into his 11th year, was very fortunate to be in the draft room to hear the exchange that went on between coach Jauron and his coaches and our staff on whether we were drafting a safety or a corner, and it was Dick that said, ‘Hey, he's absolutely a corner, that's how we're going to coach him, he's going to be a corner in this league, and I would say Dick was very correct. He's a forced-fumble machine, I think he's second-leading interceptor in Bears history, certainly deserves our respect.
"Lance Briggs, 11th year, what a move as a leader to step up and say, ‘Hey, I'll take it over, I'll take the signal-called job. Still a sudden and dynamic athlete. He is the prototypical of what we want for our defense. I'm watching the Oakland preseason game live and then later on tape and I can't believe I'm looking at an 11th-year player in terms of his suddenness and his dynamic ability to get to the ball and his want-to to get to the ball, so certainly he deserves our respect. There's a couple other up in the nines, but today I'm going to talk about the 10-year plus and that's our group.
"Want to talk a little about our roster composition and how it got to where it's at today, restate our goals for our roster when I came in, how we're working toward attaining those goals that were outlined for our team.
"No. 1 is we want to develop or have more offensive weapons for the quarterback.
"No. 2 is, in developing those weapons for a quarterback, we were going to become a quarterback-centered team and we were going to need to develop the protection of the quarterback and those weapons that he had in terms of helping him with the protection, always having an outlet in the center of the field that he could see while he was undergoing pressure.
"We also wanted to address our defensive needs in terms of moving forward as we start to replenish our defense moving forward through our years is that we do it with again sudden, dynamic players. High-level athletes that can make plays, just like the offensive weapons, guys that can hit home runs, guys on defense that can run down great athletes, and that's what we set out to accomplish.
"To give some credence as to where we're trying to go and why we're trying to go there. Part of, when you look at a roster is knowing what needs to improve or be fixed and also know what isn't broke and doesn't need to be tampered with. On our roster this year from 2012, the last two years moving forward, there's 31 of the 53 on the roster are new people so there's been a 55 percent turnover. On offense that's 18 our of 24, so that's a 75 percent turnover on the offensive roster since January of 2012. Only 42 percent of those, 10 of the 24 are original Bears. On defense, little bit different story. Thirteen out of 25 or 52 percent turnover vs. the 75 percent; 68 percent, 17 out of 25 are original Bears. So we're moving in the direction to improve the offense and slowly moving in the direction to add youth to the defense. I think our roster numbers speak to that. It speaks of the consistency of trying to work toward our goals to improve the weapons on our team, to improve the protection for our quarterback, to be quarterback centered and to slowly add youth and dynamic athleticism to our defense as our needs arise.
"The last thing that I want to share with you is areas that I feel that we want to improve in. As I worked through this roster and looked at these numbers and did my own analytics on it, I was curious to in terms of retention of original players on the rosters -- not only for our team but for teams in our division. I went through it and what I saw was we're 29 out of the 53 players that we have or roughly 55 percent are original Bears. They were on this team originally. That was their original team. The Green Bay Packers are 43 of 53. The Minnesota Vikings are 39 of 53 and the Detroit Lions are 27 of 53.
"Now, I firmly believe the best way to build a team is your own original talent: your draft picks, your college free agents. It helps you in several ways. It helps you manage the cap so that it gives you flexibility so that when you do need a dynamic player to help you fill in you are able to go and get them. You have the cap flexibility to go get that player which can add to the consistency of your team winning year in, year out. It also gives your team a home-grown flavor for your fans and it also allows those players to be together longer and to improve together and to play together as a team for a longer period of time and with more consistency. Now, that's not the only way to build a team.
"When I came in here, I've already stated what our philosophy toward building is, what I'm saying is what we need to do in terms of continuing to improve our roster and our chances to gain and be in a position to win championships consistently is we need to retain more of our own players. We need to have more years like we had this year in terms of having a high number of picks and college free agents on the roster relative to what we brought in. We need to have that consistently. I need to do a better job of finding ways to gain more picks on draft day and we need to do a better job as a college staff in our recruitment and retention of high quality college free agents. That's how you produce rosters at these types of numbers: where the Packers are at, where the Vikings are at. How have they gone about it? They've had consistency in the front office. They've had consistency of coaching. They've had consistency of a philosophy moving forward. OK, we've undergone a change. Change brings a different dynamic, obviously. But whether it's players that were on the roster when I was here or the roster moving forward, what we want to do is consistently hit on our college picks.
"Now, the last two years we have a total of 14, five from last year and nine from this year. We need to have more years like this year to continue to build this roster to be consistent and be consistently in a spot where we can win championships.
Dante Rosario trade?
"What about it? Did it happen? Do you know something about it I don't?"
Clear a roster spot?
"I don't know that that has happened. Generally trades in this league are all subject to physicals being passed. So I don't have any knowledge of that happening yet. Are you assuming that has happened? Like I said there's no confirmation of a trade because they're all based on physicals. If somebody passes a physical maybe I can confirm. But right now I can't."
You talked about retaining players being important. How does that fit with not negotiating new contracts?
"Those are two independent factors. Not negotiating contracts, and again I will use this word again, I said we were inclined not to. That doesn't mean we absolutely won't. But the fairest thing and the right thing for us on our club right now is to concentrate on this season. So our inclination is not to. I don't see one having anything to do with the other. 2-14 will take care of itself, 2-13 we need to focus in on now."
Any rookies you kept because you couldn't keep them on the practice squad?
"No. All the rookies that were kept were kept because we felt they were the best players at those positions or the best composition of 53 players that made it. "
Any positions, like the injury with Earl, where you kept somebody extra due to injury concerns?
"No. There really wasn't to be honest with that. We wanted the best players on the roster. Obviously we know the medical status of all of our players. The best players are on the roster."
Any rookies surprise you more than others?
"You know, all of our rookies at one time or other during the preseason made plays. And that's what we want to see. We want to see that athleticism carry over into production and they all made plays at some point or another. So I wouldn't single anybody out. I would still say that they're still rookies and they've still got to earn their way every day. But we anticipate based on what their tools are and their intangibles that they will continue to make progress."
Was the undrafted pool better?
"I haven't looked at that in terms of the whole league, in terms of the make-it guys, in terms of what the make-it number is. I think it's very team-to-team. We had two that are still on our roster from last year, three this year. I would say normally one or two is a normal number. Um, so I don't know that that's any higher without looking at the whole league. Right now the last couple days I've been very focused in our roster."
"I think Kyle is progressing at a normal rookie rate. I think his talent level is very high. So that if he's showing up in a dynamic way it's because of his talent level."
Address the Earl Bennett being shopped rumor
"Sure, I'll say up front that it didn't come from us. I don't know the source of that tweet. We weren't asked for confirmation, which I find odd. I do know that everybody in this room has been very diligent and very professional in terms of following up with us and asking for confirmation or at least allowing us the opportunity to deny or not speak about it at all. That opportunity is always given to us. It wasn't in this instance which surprises me a little bit. A lot of people would say, 'well then it probably came from another team,' but that would surprise me too because that would constitute tampering, which is a very serious offense. So I'm really not sure what that was all about."
Can you confirm whether it was true?
"I think I said no in the beginning."
What would constitute a successful season?
"Continue to improve and continue to make progress towards our goals, which is to win championships. Be in the mix at the end, be in position to get in the playoffs and win championships. Progress towards our goals."
What were the final factors in cutting J'Marcus Webb?
"Final factors? Really, for J'Marcus, he had played, I will say that 14 out of the 16 games last year he was sufficient or better. He had a lot of good games in that we grade sufficient, good, very good. Fourteen out of those 16, they were at least at the sufficient level, which you can win with that player and his performance on that particular day. Two of them were below that line. The obvious games were the first Green Bay game and the San Francisco game. Coming into this fall, we were very optimistic that he was going to be our starting right tackle and would continue to improve as a player. He never gained the consistency, that sufficient level of consistency that we want out of our players, so at the end his performance wasn't to our expectation level that we felt we needed to move forward with it."
Any problems with him spilling the beans to the Vikings?
"There's only so many secrets in this league. There's a lot of tape. So I don't know about secrets. Secrets in this league are things that haven't been on tape yet that people are working on [that] are going to show up in that particular game as far as an adjustment. I don't know if we've gotten that far in our game planning for J'Marcus to be able to share those. I'm sure he'll share some basics, just like what is natural. We'll always ask the basics. But really, it's being able to be well coached and make adjustments within a game that helps produce wins from a coaching aspect."
Expectations higher for Cutler this year given his new toys?
"My expectation level for Jay hasn't changed. It's always been to be a quarterback that leads us to a championship. So what we've been trying to do is put more weapons around him and protect him better so that he has a better opportunity to do that."
Any aspects of Marc Trestman that you haven't learned until now?
"To answer part of that question, things that I've seen, I will say that this last preseason game I know a lot of people don't put a lot into what you get from the last game in terms of evaluation or a feeling for your team. I got a lot out of it from the coaching aspect. I was tremendously impressed with the way Marc and his staff were able to put together a practice plan, design practice, to get our first and second team ready for the Bengals – actually enough high-quality reps to improve those group of players moving forward into this week – and to get our third group ready with two new quarterbacks ready to play an exhibition game. And for it to look professional and productive and to be at a high enough level that the players that were in the game would get a full chance to be evaluated. And it wasn't so sloppy that you really didn't see the talent. That was a very efficient game. It was brought out by efficiency of practice and their unrelenting attention to detail as a staff to get it to that level. I think you saw some things in the game both offensively and defensively in terms of efficiency, the way they were able to play that game. They looked like they had been practicing together for a while. Well, that was all accomplished in a couple of days while getting the rest of the team ready for the Bengals.
"The other thing that I saw that tells me a lot about Marc in terms of his relationship with our quarterback and quarterbacks in general and the team is I looked out there – I was sitting in our Bears control booth before the game watching warmups – and I saw something I haven't seen before. I turned and looked, and I really wasn't sure what I was looking at, so I identified each face out there. It was our entire first unit minus Brandon, who was excused, and Earl, who was out there at the time, going through full-speed reps on their own without pads, and the offensive linemen sprinting 15 yards downfield after every rep. And I thought in the back of my mind, the question I had: Was that Marc or was that Jay? So I asked Marc and he said, ‘No, that's Jay. Jay came to me and told me that he thought we needed to do that.' So that tells me a lot about Marc and his staff.
Any merit to argument that your roster is top heavy?
"I think we have good depth throughout our roster. The only way I can really answer that is to say I think the best 53 players made the team and provided us with the best depth possible for today. That doesn't mean that's going to be the team composition tomorrow or next week. We're going to continue to address the roster. But I see the roster we have is the best depth we have available. So I don't see it as top heavy. I see it as our best roster possible."
On Jerrod Johnson
"Jerrod came in, we had a workout last week. I knew him from A&M. He struggled as a senior at A&M. There were a lot of rumors that he was injured. Talking to him, he was. He's undergone surgery. He basically relearned to throw the ball. He was impressive out there in terms of his accuracy and the ball velocity that he had. He has foot movement, and he's 6-foot-5, and he's trimmed down, he's 240 pounds. He's a very engaging young man with a lot of intelligence. I told him when he left here, basically, unless we added a third quarterback in the game, unless we decided to make a roster move that we were going to have three, that the job was his, that he had earned it between seeing what we saw in the workout and talking to him. And then going back and watching him against Pittsburgh, he was there through the final cuts. He did a lot of good things, and he's throwing ball better now than he was then. So, to answer your question, yes. He's a developmental quarterback.
Is it unusual for a 10-win team to have so many rookies?
"I think it's just where we're at roster-wise, again, trying to improve the roster. Obviously, two of those are offensive linemen. We added a receiver. We added a couple young linebackers because we had a transition with the linebackers. We're trying to continue to add our depth and development upside to our D-ends, to add youth to the defense. So, no, I would just say that those players earned their way. They were the best players available, and we're happy that they're here, and we will continue to work on the roster."
Re: franchise tags. Do you like having key guys playing for their future?
"I think every player is playing for their future each and every day. To have the guys that I announced before, to have a 16-year player as a long snapper, I guess that's not that unusual because it's a specialized skill, but it is still unusual. But to have players in this league that are playing 11 years and they're playing every down, that's unusual. So I guess what I'm going to say is I think every player plays as if it's his last year, last game or last practice."
Are they playing for the money?
"Well, you know I don't know that money is a motivator for all players. If it adds to their motivation level, all the better."
"He's going to get mad at me for saying this because I have been telling him this all summer: I see a guy that is better than he was last year. I see a guy that is more dynamic. I see a guy better in and out of his breaks. I see a stronger player. I think he made the comments that he was at 4.5 [percent] body fat percentage. He looks it. When you stand up behind Brandon Marshall, you realize how big that man is at the position that he plays. He's at an elite level for his position in terms of size, dynamic ability, production. I don't see any back off. Actually, I see a better player. Obviously, he was a little frustrated about where he is at and he's definitely shared that with myself. Those are conversations that we've had and that's just an athlete wanting to be elite, wanting to be the best at his game. His goal is to be the best wide receiver in the NFL on the best team. I've got no problems with those goals. I've got not problems talking to him about those goals."
Result of his checkup and vacation?
"You know, you would have to ask Brandon that. He was not here for personal reasons and that equals private to me so that would have to come from Brandon."
Getting weapons for Cutler. Has it been hard to evaluate him up to this point with so few weapons, no line, coordinators, etc?
"Yeah, it's difficult with all those players, all those offensive linemen, those receivers, they've all undergone a lot of change. I think everybody has their own rate of development with change. I have not been disappointed in Jay's.
D.J. Williams vs. Jon Bostic at linebacker. Who wins?
"The player that is making the plays. The player that is doing the best. For us, it's always better or worse. Who is better for those given circumstances than the other player? So whoever is playing better whatever the given opportunity is, they'll have earned their way to be the starter. If that's Bostic, great. If that's Williams, great. We have no preferences in this building. It's about putting the best players on the field and the most productive."
Do you view Shea McClellin as a starter?
"I gotta be honest with you, I don't know what the opening day starting situation is. I think that is going to be earned through the week. I think they both have shown good upside in terms of what they are capable of doing. They've both made plays. I've certainly seen development in both Corey and Shea. Best man wins. The other one is going to be on the field a lot. In terms of whoever goes out there and puts their hand on the ground first, that is a good thing, he earned that spot in front of the other one. They are competing as hard as I have seen two players go at it. Each and every rep counts to them, each and every one-on-one counts to them, each and every rep on game tape has counted to them. It's a great thing. That is a heck of a thing to have on a team is that competition at that high level. I am excited about it. Whoever puts their hand down, they've earned it. The other one is going to play a bunch. They'll both contribute to what our team becomes this fall."
Since Shea is your first rounder, would you be disappointed if Corey wins out?
"No, why would I be disappointed and … I don't understand that rationale. So should I be mad at Corey? I don't go there mentally. Best players are going to play. I know that both Shea and Corey are going to contribute to whatever we become as a team. Our goal is to win and win championships. They will contribute to that goal if we meet it, if we earn it."
Are you confident in Marshall's hip?
"Yeah, I don't have the magic bottle and the wand. I can't predict. But the athlete that I see, the player that I see, and the competitor that I know he is, I expect him to be ready to go against the Bengals and then each and every game plays out after that. We all know that during the NFL season, this is a tough physical game. People get bruised up a little bit. Sometimes they get stiff. So I can't predict that going forward but I will say for this game I expect Brandon Marshall to be ready to go and I believe he is excited and ready to go."
What have you seen from Alshon Jeffery?
"He's continued to make progress. He is very focused. I gotta be honest to you. To me, he was a very talented guy that was making plays last year. Health got in the way. I see a player that has continued to improve and certainly he has put his full effort into it. But I also saw a talented player last year."
"David has got a little more size than Cheta. He's a better point-of-attack player in our eyes. We feel like he has a better opportunity to be a more all-around player, run and pass and that again goes along with our roster philosophy. If you can find a player that is better at doing what you want done overall as a player and has a higher potential, a higher ceiling to do so, we're going to go in that direction."
Concerns about starting two rookies on the right side?
"No more concern than I have for any of the other 22 players. You know what I want to see is performance. That is what I expect to see and I think that is their expectation level. They want to see themselves perform at a high level and our team win games. So if those two are officially up, they're up and I expect good things out of them. I know from an intangible and a talent aspect they're certainly capable of doing the job."
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