Muhammad Leading by Example

When the Bears beat several other interested parties to the punch by signing free-agent wide receiver Muhsin Muhammad, they intended for him to do more than shore up what was arguably the league's worst receiving corps last season.

The Bears want Muhammad to serve as an on-the-field example of how a professional goes about the business of playing wide receiver in the NFL. With a host of young receivers high on potential but, so far, low on production, the Bears need a bellwether.

So far, Muhammad has been exactly what the coaching staff wanted.

"He's better than I expected," said wide receivers coach Darryl Drake.

"When I saw him on film, I thought there was no one close as far as the guys that we may have had a shot at (in free agency).

"But I didn't anticipate him even being as good as he is. He just does the little things so subtly. You can tell that he really has been a student of the game. He's picked up so many different things over the years and his work ethic is tremendous. You don't get to where he is unless you have that and I see it each and every day."

More important, young receivers like Justin Gage, Bernard Berrian, Bobby Wade, Ron Johnson, Carl Ford and rookies Mark Bradley and Airese Currie see it.

It may be that the youngsters who do the best job of emulating Muhammad wind up with most of the playing time. For now, Gage is running with the first team, but Berrian has shown vast improvement since his rookie season of 2004, and he adds a speed dimension that is otherwise absent. Wade was a starter last season and finished tied for second on the team in receptions.

"It's very competitive right now," Drake said. "You've got Gage and Berrian and it's kind of been going back and forth. Neither one has backed down. Justin had the first shot, (but) Bernard hasn't backed down. In fact, he's raised his level of play. Justin has done the same, and that's what you want. You want those guys to have that competition, but you also want those guys to raise their game to a different level."

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