Manning Officially a Bear

While Ricky Manning Jr. admitted he was excited about the opportunity to compete for a starting job in Chicago, he wouldn't comment on his weekend arrest.

The early questions during teleconference call with Manning all related to his arrest for assault with a deadly weapon following an incident at a Los Angeles restaurant at 3 a.m. Sunday morning.

"When things are squared out I'll be more than happy to talk about it and tell my side of the story so you can find out what really happened," Manning said.

Manning was allegedly part of a group that attacked a man at a Denny's near the UCLA campus, where he played in college. The group then fled the scene and Manning was pulled over in his car shortly thereafter.

Manning officially became a Bear Monday afternoon when Carolina declined to match a five-year $21 million offer sheet. The Panthers will receive the Bears third round draft pick (88th overall) as compensation for the restricted free agent.

Although the legal troubles had little do with Carolina's decision, it sped up their thought process.

General manger Jerry Angelo released a statement on Manning's situation.

"We spoke with Ricky regarding his arrest last weekend," Angelo said. "He assured us he will fully cooperate with California authorities during their investigation. We will follow the NFL's Personal Conduct Policy, which has jurisdiction over these issues."

As far as the football side of things, Manning immediately upgrades the depth in the secondary. He's expected to be the nickel back behind starters Nathan Vasher and Charles Tillman.

However, with 26 career regular season starts Manning isn't willing to limit himself to that role.

"It's a whole different world on the inside and I'm glad I had the opportunity to learn there and really take heed to what a nickel does and I think it's only going to help my career," Manning said about playing the slot. "But I don't plan on just being only a nickel the rest of my career."

Despite his five-foot-8, 185-pound frame, Manning is known for his physical play with opposing receivers. He has nine interceptions in 48 career regular season games. The 25-year-old also picked off four passes during the 2003 post-season, highlighted by a three interception performance in the NFC Championship game.

"He's a tough guy," said Coach Lovie Smith. "He has good speed and quickness. His size isn't ideal, if you try to look for something to knock him with. But Ricky's been the same size all of his (career), played at that position. He's a good football player."

Manning fell out of favor as a full-time player in Carolina during the 2004 season. He was demoted to nickel back when the team signed Ken Lucas as a free agent. The Panthers re-signed Reggie Howard to replace Manning as the third corner.

"I guess I didn't fit in with what they were doing in a starting role spot, but I think I did a great job at nickel," Manning said.

The Bears are hoping they can share Manning's evaluation.


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