Conflicting Reports on Muhammad

The addition of Muhsin Muhammad caught most off guard. There's no doubt that the two-time Pro Bowl wideout will help the worst passing offense in the NFL, but what kind of person are the Bears getting for their investment?

In talking with reporters that covered Muhammad during his nine years with the Carolina Panthers it was evident that the Bears were getting a talented player. However, there seems to be a perception that he's selfish.

One reporter even went so far as to compare Muhammad to "Leon" from beer commercial fame. The ads Leon is a "me first" athlete that is willing to do anything to get money and attention.

Muhammad played the part of smooth in his initial press conference with the Chicago media. He answered questions in a designer suit and even took the time to through in a few jokes.

When you cover an athlete you get a glimpse of their personality when you talk about football on a daily basis. Things can become strained in a losing season, tough questions have to be asked and it's up to the player to decide whether or not to be around to answer.

Muhammad has never been accused of hiding after a loss, but following a losing season in which he led the NFC in receptions he was quoted as saying "from the rubble a flower bloomed."

Two of his best seasons have come in contract years.

Like many receivers, in his own mind he's never dropped a pass.

Then there are the off the field issues. During a routine traffic stop, Muhammad was arrested for carrying a concealed guy and simple possession of marijuana in January 2002. He received one year of unsupervised probation and was ordered to pay a $150 fine after pleading guilty.

While he was a student at Michigan State, he was pulled over for having a broken mirror in September 1993. Police reported finding a loaded .38-caliber gun in the glove compartment.

That arrest came only months after Muhammad was placed on probation for possession of marijuana. He spent 90 days in jail for violating his probation.

When talking about character being an issue in making a decision on a potential draft pick, GM Jerry Angelo said it plays a factor.

"I'm not saying we're going to get choir boys. No we're understanding of what it takes to win and it takes talent to win. But we have to know what a player is and certain times we compromise," Angelo said. "I like to say some players we bend but we won't prostitute. But you have to know players' character. So you hear things about players' character and you address them. And then if you're comfortable with the answers and comfortable -- and everybody makes mistakes -- we're understanding of it. That's our business. The beauty of our business is you're going to be determined by if the team comes together and you're going to win on Sunday."

Angelo must have been comfortable with what he heard from former teammates, coaches and personnel.

Baltimore Ravens head coach Brian Billick had considered Muhammad an option in the free agent market and had nothing but praise for him personally.

"Are you kidding me? To me, that's one of his strengths," Billick said when asked about character concerns with Muhammad. "He's a class act; I think that's one of the things that drew me to him. He's a class character; particularly for us what we were interested in was the potential of him coming in and kind of mentoring the young group that we have. I think he's a class guy and that's nothing but a positive in my mind."

Colts President Bill Polian, who drafted Muhammad when he was with Carolina, had similar praise.

"He's the ultimate team player, at least when I was there, and I'm sure a leader, a heck of a guy.

"If we needed one, he'd be the first place we'd turn. That's a great pickup for Chicago."

The Panthers contend the only reason they cut ties with Muhammad is to avoid paying him a $10 million roster bonus.

"We'd been trying to negotiate a contract extension with him and we weren't able to get it done," said Marty Hurney General Manger of the Panthers. "It became apparent that he wanted to go into free agency and that's what he did."

Muhammad has also had to testify in two murder trials. One where teammate, Fred Lane, had been murdered and the other occasion came during the Raey Carruth trial.

All in all, Muhammad appears to have grown from previous mistakes and what he's been through shaped him into the person he's become.

"I want to write a book," Muhammad said. "I bet there are a lot of people who want to read what I've had to go through in my career. It has been a lot of ups, a lot of downs, a lot of growing pains and I have grown up a lot myself throughout those years. And they have been great years and great learning experiences and I think those are the reasons why I am the person I am today."

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