Bears Success Abroad

The Bears have used NFL Europe as a training ground for young talent to get experience. The best example of this is Marcus Robinson. The wide receiver blossomed into a big-play specialist in 1999 after gaining valuable confidence and playing time in NFL Europe with the Rhein Fire.

A year after he was named NFLEL Offensive Player of the Year, Robinson led the Bears with 84 catches for a team-record 1,400 yards and 9 TDs.

The Bears sent 14 prospects to NFL Europe, which along with the San Francisco 49ers is the most in the NFL. Thirteen of the 14 have never appeared in a regular season game with the Bears. Most are either former practice squad players or recently signed free agents.

The only exception is safety Than Merrill, who appeared in 15 games with the Bears in 2001 primarily on special teams. Merrill has been allocated to the Barcelona Dragons along with tackle Daimon Cook and wide receiver Kenny Christian.

Every other NFL Europe team has at least one Bear on its roster: G Adam Davis and QB Ken Mastrole (Amsterdam Admirals); S Eric Johnson, WR Ramondo North and OT Josh Warner (Berlin Thunder); G Stan Bennett, RB Robert Sanford and S Leon Barnes (Frankfort Galaxy); LB Tim Johnson and WR Willie Spencer (Rhein Fire); and LB Mawuko Tugbenyoh (Scottish Claymores).

The NFLEL's 10th season kicks off April 13 with six teams -- the Amsterdam Admirals, F.C. Barcelona Dragons, Berlin Thunder, Frankfurt Galaxy, Rhein Fire, and Scottish Claymores. NFL Europe League clubs play a 10-game regular-season schedule beginning this weekend and concluding on Saturday, June 15. The top two teams in the standings will play for the league championship in World Bowl X, Saturday, June 22, in Düsseldorf, Germany. Teams began practicing March 6 and spent four weeks working out and scrimmaging in Florida before heading to Europe to open the season.

None of the nine players the Bears sent to NFL Europe last spring made Chicago's opening day roster, but cornerback Todd McMillon and wide receiver Ahmad Merritt contributed late in the season. McMillon registered seven special teams tackles and Merritt scored the Bears' only offensive touchdown in their playoff loss to Philadelphia.

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