HAS Julius Peppers PLAYED HIS LAST SNAP WITH THE BEARS?
Julius Peppers is under contract and he's been very important to our football team and I don't think anything more needs to be said in that regard at this point in time.
HOW MUCH HAS THE DOLPHINS SCANDAL CAUSED YOU TO REFLECT ON YOUR LOCKER ROOM?
It's a great question. I can't speak for any other locker room. We started from the first day, the cornerstone from everything we do is respect in the locker room. We understand there is diversity in the locker room and we do everything we can to respect that in a selfless and compassionate way. So I can't speak for other locker rooms but we continue to reiterate that and it's a daily message. It's a daily message to our coaches and from our coaches and our players have done a great job of taking on that demeanor within the framework of our locker room at Halas Hall.
McCOWN COMING BACK?
We all said we want Josh. We want him to be a part of our football team. We recognize how important he is not just as the backup quarterback but as an influence in our locker room. He's a great leader and he's great for our quarterback room as well, which is the most important room in the building. Josh has got the opportunity to look around. We want him to be able to do that. He deserves that right, I think Phil has said that. And we'll see where this thing goes. But Josh is well aware how we feel about him and that we want him back.
TILLMAN AND HIS VETERAN LEADERSHIP…
It's certainly important. Charles is an extremely unique guy. He should be really, from the standpoint that he is man of the year in the National Football League number one, it just goes to his character and his personality and his leadership skills and he's a terrific football player. He played very well certainly when he was healthy. So he's extremely important.
HOW EXCITED ARE YOU FOR BEARS-PACKERS?
I certainly understand it. We go into every season and every week, we don't demonize opponents, we respect every opponent. But on the other hand we understand what that rivalry means to our community and the communities of Green Bay and Chicago. And we believe it's a healthy rivalry. But we need to be at our best every week and certainly be at our best against a divisional opponent like the Packers.
SCHEME CHANGE ON DEFENSE?
What we're doing is we're looking at the existing scheme and going through the process of putting a system of football together to accommodate the players that we have when we get going, and we're not going to know who those players are for quite some time, so to lock ourselves in and be so narrow-minded that this is what we're going to be when we don't have the players to get it done would be to me not very good time on task, but [putting a system together with the experience we have defensively with out staff, and we do this offensively. We said it last year, what kind of offense ... we don't know, we didn't know what kind of offense we were going to be, we're going to put a system in place to accommodate the players that Phil gives us and that we decide are going to be on our football team and that's certainly the case defensively as well, to lock in and saying this is what we're going to be wouldn't be fait at this point in time. It's a process just like the evaluation of bringing players in and letting players move on is all going to be part of this off-season process, and again I'll circle back to the point I made, last year there were 10 guys on offense we didn't know we were going to have. but we were putting in a system of offensive football together to accommodate who we gad at that time and that's exactly the same process we have to go through defensively.
AGING DEFENSE, HOW MANY WILL BE LET GO?
You know it's a good question that can't be answered at this time. We know we're going to get younger. We're going to be involved in a drafting process here that there's going to be a lot of young players, they're all going to be young players and they're all for the most part, not all, but for the most part it's going to be a defensive-oriented draft in terms of where we're going. That doesn't mean we won't draft an offensive player. We're going to draft the players we think are best at the time, where our football team is at the time of the draft. At this point in time it's just the process of going through this whole thing of working through the guys on the team, the guys who are free agents on the team, the guys who are free agents out there and then working through within the confines of the draft, and that's unknown at this time just like they were last year. That's the fun part of this process. We know we can do it, we left the Hals Hall believing that this would be something we're going to go through defensively, just like we did offensively last year and it's exciting/
WHERE DO YOU STAND IN THE DIVISION?
That's something we're not really concerned. We know where we are, because we know where we left off. Feel we're competitive, but we want t get better just like everybody wants to get better. So our focus now, it's not on the three other teams, which we highly respect but focusing in just improving our football team and that will be the focus right up until the start of the season. It is every day in our offices.
WHAT DOES JOE KIM BRING TO THE TABLE?
Joe's really come in as a consultant to the team. I first experienced this in the mid-90s when I was with the 49ers. We had a consultant with the team that was worked in the area of martial arts, working with the players and their hand usage, and it doesn't have to be just with the guys on the defensive line, it can be working with all of our players in many aspects just to evaluate how they use their hands and how they work and seeing where he can help. It's really a fluid process with Joe coming in, we know he's got experience in the league. He's had success with players. Phil has a great familiarity with him and his personality skill set and his character that he feels and we feel in talking to Joe, which I did last year, I spent time with him last year talking to him and interviewing him, that we felt it was a good time coming in and working with our coaches to try to help our guys in any way we can to develop and help them master their craft.
Well, obviously it all starts with, schematically in the off-season with we're putting in a system of football where we have to be able to stop the run first obviously and that's where we're focused on and that goes into the fundamentals and techniques and getting the right players as we evaluate them to get that done and stopping the run isn't just a first line of defense area, it's all three levels but certainly that's a big part of it and obviously we want to be able to rush the passer and create a pass rush with four guys but everybody does. Everybody wants four guys rushing to be able to inhibit the quarterback from completing a throwing motion and disrupting in the pocket, all the things that we all know, but it starts up front. With all of football the line of scrimmage is key on both sides of the ball and certainly it's a priority with us.
DO YOU WANT TO HAVE MORE SAY IN THE DEFENSE?
Yeah, I'm not sure what that means. I hold myself completely accountable for what happened to our football team defensively. It starts with me. As we work through this again, spent a lot of time obviously offensively last year getting things in place and making sure we had firm grounding and a firm foundation. That's not to say that I wasn't involved with the defense, as I said I hold myself accountable as the head football coach and as Mel works through this with his staff, we certainly will talk about in this next year how much I'll be involved in the process defensively through the course of the week. We've talked about it, we've got some things in mind to get that done to do that and some things are in place offensively to do that, but at the end of the day that's a loaded question because I'm ultimately responsible and accountable for the product that's on the field from a coaching aspect each and every day.
D-LINE SIZE AND SPEED?
That's breaking things down to a point where the most important thing is to find the best players and we can quantify that and that would take a lot more than two minutes Peggy to do that at each and every way, but to be as simple as I can, we want to find the best players, and not only the best players but the guys that have the character where we can create an environment in our locker room which is No. 1 of respect and brotherly love and compassion, working together to be part of something bigger, but then going to the specifics of that is scout related, is personnel related and that really comes down to is this guy a guy that is god for our locker room, does he have the ability, can we develop him because that's our No.1 job as coaches, we want to develop players and put them into position to give our football team success at that position.
They're all connected. There's no one player on our team more important than any other and there's no one position more important than the other. I think that when you break it down you could say that there's certain areas and each and every coach and each and every personnel person will say that. I don't think that's to discuss at this podium, but at the end of the day there's no one position more important, but as we move forward there will be priorities as we evaluate our team and evaluate the market place and certainly here at the combine.
BOSTIC… WHERE IS HE GOING TO PLAY?
It's a good question. We know one thing in our second level, that Lance Briggs is going to be our WILL linebacker going in. Who is going to be our MIKE and our SAM? We are going to move those guys around and we'll see where we go in that regard. D.J. Williams is a free agent. We know that, we don't know where that's going. That will be part of the process when we come back. But we expect Jon to be both a MIKE and have the ability to compete at the SAM linebacker as well and learn both positions.
SHEA IS A LINEBACKER NOW, RIGHT?
Yeah, Shea has been communicating with Reggie. He knows he's going to be a linebacker. He knows we're going to work with him at the SAM to start, but he should expect to work at both the SAM and the MIKE position as he comes back.
WHAT ABOUT HIS SKILL SET MAKES YOU THINK HE CAN BE A LINEBACKER?
Coming out, Reggie evaluated him and thought he had the ability and the skill set to be a very good linebacker in the National Football League. And that was great to hear and great to know. So he's excited about working with him and certainly he is as big of an expert as we have on this staff in terms of the ability of developing a linebacker. So we are excited about it.
WILL THIS AFFECT HIS CONFIDENCE?
I think Shea is really excited about it. Just the opportunity to get off the ball, to be able to run and do some things. And that doesn't mean Shea won't be a pass rusher. But his skill set is speed. I'm really excited to see how this evolves with him. And most importantly, he's excited about it.
WHAT ABOUT Corey Wootton?
I think that Corey is a free agent, just like a bunch of guys are free agents. He's been very good in our locker room. He shows up every day and I think the endorsement is he shows up every day, he's got a smile on his face and he works. And again, it's important, but this is a process and we know going in and we said it coming out of the season, not everyone is going to be back. That's not relative to Corey here. It's just a comment on this free agency process. We know the locker room is going to be different. There's going to be some guys that are going to be there. There's others that won't. And this is what this process is about. Just as I pointed out in the press conference, we didn't know that we were going to have 10 guys on offense that we have now. And they significantly impacted us. And we have some guys who came back on offense as well. So we just got to see how it goes.
It's a tough business. We want Roberto back. He knows we want him back. We believe he should finish his career with the Bears. He does so much in our community. He's such a leader in our locker room. He knows how we feel about him. We just need to let this thing evolve and hopefully it's going to work out best, number one for Roberto, because that's number one. And from his standpoint, and it should be, he deserves that respect. And hopefully it will work out for the Bears as well. We certainly want to see him back.
I think that, number one, Reggie has tremendous experience. His specialty is linebacker play. He was a linebacker. He's coached at all levels. He's extremely passionate and dynamic in his presentation. I think that will help. He's very good at developing players, young players, and I think he will have the respect of our veterans because of his experience. He relates well to our other coaches. I think that Mel having not only Reggie, but Paul in his pocket in terms of guys he can work with and communication with is only going to benefit not only our defense but our entire football team.
ON DEALING WITH EMOTIONALLY UNSTABLE PLAYERS
"That's a very good question. It's loaded. It's about three questions in one. The messaging is the same every day. It's about respect. That's No. 1. Our older players and our veterans have really assimilated that in our locker room. It starts with the leadership, our quarterbacks and those guys that have been around, so we do it daily. We also send these messages because we're on different floors with all the people that work on that floor, from the equipment people to Mike Clark, who's our strength and conditioning coach, to our trainers. They're all aware of this philosophy of mutual respect and understanding why we love this game is because of its diversity. It brings people together from all different ways of life and lifestyles and upbringings. Character is critically important. Skill set is critically important because the locker room has to be filled with guys that not only have those characteristics but also have the ability to be developed as players and help us win, which is obviously ultimate in what we're trying to do as an organization."
HOW MUCH DO YOU DO THAT PERSONALLY?
"Daily in different ways. The challenges are messaging in different ways so that everybody hears the message because we know that everybody hears the message differently. Their level and perception of reality is each and every player is different, and that's the exciting part of about being in this position is trying to reach each and every one of them. It's challenging, but it's exciting and the best part of it is a lot of it is already in place a year into it, so our guys are well aware and they're texting me about it as well that we've got to be observant of how things are changing in the National Football League."
WHAT STICKS OUT AFTER WATCHING TAPE OF 2013 SEASON?
"It's early in the tape and I've done mostly on the offensive side of the ball at this point and I said in the press conference, it's how much we left on the field. It's how much better we can be. And most coaches would say that it wasn't about what teams were doing defensively with all due respect, it's things that we need to do better and can do better that can allow us to be a lot more productive in those areas. I think defensively the focus has been on bringing our staff together, evaluating our players and getting a system in place now that will be flexible to the players that are coming in."
PLAYERS TEXTING COACH?
"The reality is our guys feel very good about where we've been with our locker room and the fact that they want to accept accountability as we move forward that we do things the right way, not only respecting people in the locker room but respecting the game itself."
STARTING SECONDARY STANDS?
"As I said it's all part of this process. Charles Tillman's a big part of this. How is this going to evolve, where we are with Major, continuing to develop Chris and having Tim back. Kelvin Hayden back in the picture and so forth. I hate to overly use the term, but we're really excited about because of what happened last year and how we built it offensively, it's just working through this on a daily basis with Phil and our staffs to get it done and make it work."
DID SEAHAWKS SECONDARY MAKE IMPRESSION ON YOU?
"I think everybody wants to do the same thing in the National Football League in terms of building a perimeter where guys can play man to man coverage, they're physical tackling, they have great ball skills and so forth. This is universal throughout the league and credit to Seattle, to Pete and his staff and their players that they were able to get it done defensively in that manner. But I think that everybody in same fashion is looking to get things done defensively that way because at the end of the day when it counts teams are going to be playing man to man coverage and somebody's got to win on either side of the ball."
DO YOU WANT A DEVELOPMENTAL QB?
You're so good at the hypotheticals. It's a process. We'll see where we are with the draft. We're going to evaluate all the quarterbacks that we think can play and we'll make decisions accordingly. Every quarterback room is different. At this point in time we're excited about the fact that we've got Jay in place, because Jay in place allows us to work and fill the work in a lot of different other areas to complete our football team, and we'll see how it goes. I've been in quarterback rooms where we've had a young player, I've been in quarterback rooms where we haven't, again, it's whatever is best for the football team. If that player can be developed and help our football team now and in the future, I'm sure he'll be in the consideration.
I talk to Josh pretty much weekly, or bi-weekly, I've talked to him two or three times anyways and I've texted with him. He's in the loop into what's going on. I've just called him on a personal level just to catch up with him and see how he sees the league and what's going on. We just like to talk football. He knows exactly where he stands with us. I think that he's going to take his time, see where things are at, when he's ready to say ‘I want to come back,' I know Phil's going to do everything he can and we're going to do everything can to make sure he is.
I think, number one, it was very difficult to take Matt off the field, and it was very impressive that he had the endurance to do what he did this year. There were times that we just felt we had a plan to play Michael more, the defense may have been on the field, and Matt had a good enough rest so we kept Matt out there and didn't get Michael on as much as we would've liked to. We had a plan but we didn't execute it. A lot of that, going in, was Matt's productivity. I've experienced this in Oakland when we had Tyrone Wheatley and Charlie Garner, there's a place, certainly, for that type of back. If you have a system of football that's flexible enough, you can seamlessly make that transition and still be just as effective.
WHERE DID CUTLER GROW AND CAN HE GROW MORE?
The No. 1 thing that went into all this is Jay's football IQ, his selflessness; his leadership skills are very, very high. A lot of it you don't see because he does it quietly in the locker room. He's not that outgoing, but he's very, very fluid within our locker room in leading our football team. We are only partially through our scheme evaluation. There are always fundamentals and techniques, which can be improved. The ball security issues in the pocket, we can do a better job as we move forward. This was an entirely new offense. There were a lot of things that we did where we're not going to do it next year because we felt we could do the stuff we did better more and be more productive. It's a combination of fundamentals and techniques, continuing to customize our offensive scheme for him and the guys around and we're excited about that, and that's where we feel we can get better. On a daily basis, it's doing things he can do to keep himself healthy and then working offseason on fundamentals and techniques, ball security and things like that, like all quarterbacks do. It's universal, every quarterback does it to get better in the pocket.
MELTON'S COMMITMENT TO REHAB?
That's a great question. He's in every day early. He's got to drive in from downtown. If you see him, you'll see that he has been training and he has been working. He's very focused. You'll see he dropped some weight. He looks very good physically right now. Obviously he's in there working the knee, but he's been on time, he's working hard with Chris. As I said, I spoke with him yesterday for 30-45 minutes and he's committed to getting himself back and he's got work to do to get there, but he's in a very good place right now and we all understand the situation and we'll see where it goes.
WHAT DOES Chris Conte HAVE TO DO THIS OFFSEASON?
We've texted significantly over the last month. He's challenged by moving forward. He knows he's got to get better. He's working in any way he can at this point in time, working out and training, to get himself started. Jon Hoke's communicated with him even more than I am. I think that he knows he didn't play as well as he could play, he's moving forward, which is a good thing.
WILL HE BE AT TRAINING CAMP?
Chris Conte's under contract. At this point, he'll be with us.
TRESTMAN AT THE PODIUM
"Having been through this cycle for 12 months at Halas Hall with Phil, I thought I'd just give you a little update on where we are.
"We're doing everything together and we started after the season, as most teams did, evaluating our team from the inside out, looking through and evaluating all the free agents that are out there, and beginning getting started here at the Combine with this process with our scouts who are certainly ahead of us as far as evaluating the players at the college level.
"We've begun the process of rebuilding our football team and I think we did a very good job coming off our last game, with Phil signing Tim, Jay, Tony Fiammetta, Matt Slauson and Robbie. That certainly got us off to a very good start with this process. We know we've got a lot of work to get done as we move forward.
"We did have the opportunity to do some scheme evaluation offensively and we feel we made progress, but we feel we've got a long way to go. Obviously the most important part of this offseason is rebuilding our defense to a stature that's expected of us at Halas Hall, in our community and our fan base.
"And then just leaving the other day from a staff meeting, we put up our roster as it looked last year at this time. This time last year there were 10 players on the offensive side of the ball that were not on the roster this time of the year and who significantly impacted our football team in the season. I just note that because this is a process that we're going through, filtering through our team, filtering through the free agents and building our team through the draft."
"I talked about Mel throughout the season. At our place we really try to grow the man because we think growing the man helps our football team. From a philosophical standpoint, from the first time I met Mel, that's one of his priorities, a locker room of character, guys that respect each other, send the right messages of selflessness.
"Mel feels that way as well. As we transition into the process, his ability to communicate, his understanding of defenses on all three levels, the details, and assimilating a system of football where he knew it but he had to move forward on an intellectual level of knowing the terminology and nuances that came with adapting and assimilating the defense, and being able to teach it and lead men. I had confidence in him from the beginning that he could do that. At the end of the season that did not change."
"The update is that Henry's a free agent. I see him every day. I speak with him when he's in the building. I spent some time with him [Wednesday] coincidentally and we spent 30-45 minutes together. He's in the process, and hopefully on schedule, of his rehabilitation process."
"They're in the process. We hired Paul Pasqualoni and Reggie Herring. These guys have 3-4 backgrounds. We think we've put together a staff of guys who can really incorporate and be flexible with the players we're going to have going through this process. We're going start from the 4-3 but we've got to be flexible in our scheme to move people around and have the ability to get it done and not just do it because we see other teams doing it. But doing it because we have the skill set and experience to be able to do it."
EVALUATION OF PEPPERS?
"Phil said it right. Like a lot of us, we had 8-8 seasons. Julius has been an important part of our locker room. His work ethic was exceptional during the whole season. His focus was good. I'm sure he'll tell you as we all did, that he had very, very good moments and moments when he didn't play as well as he would have liked."
WHY KEEP TUCKER?
"Phil and I did a lot of work at the end of the season. We studied game tape at both the beginning of the season and the end of the season to try to make some football decisions and take the emotion out of it, try to judge why things happened the way they did. We felt we had to do some things but the starting point was we felt Mel could lead and coach the defense.
"Then we went through an evaluation process, which is never easy, of moving forward with our staff and bringing in a couple guys we felt not only had the experience to develop young players – because we know we're going to have new players and we're going to be young – but also work daily with the veteran element on our football team as well. We felt Mel was the guy to lead the way in that regard."
DOES TUCKER HAVE AUTONOMY/FREEDOM TO CHANGE SCHEME?
"I think he's always had the autonomy to do things within parameters. It's wide open this year and everything's on the table this year in terms of where we're going defensively. Right now these coaches are getting in position to learn more about each other. They're meeting to learn more about their styles and the pre-existing defense and where we can go with our existing players, knowing that there's going to be a lot of change. The most important thing right now is our system of football. The language is wide open. It's much easier for coaches to learn a new language than it is for coaches, particularly pre-existing players."
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. He is entering his fourth season covering the Chicago Bears full time. Follow Bear Report on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Bear Report Web site or magazine, click here.