Manning Trying to Avoid Distraction

Despite the fact that Ricky Manning Jr. could face prison time, he's trying to keep his focus on football. However, it can be difficult with unsettled legal issues still weighing on the cornerback's mind.

"There's a little side of me that's worried about it because you never know, and I prepare for the worst but it'll be fine," Manning said.

Last month, Manning pleaded not guilty to an assault charge stemming from an April 23rd incident in which he was allegedly part of a group that attacked a man at a restaurant.

A June 16th hearing has been set to determine whether or not there is enough evidence for Manning to stand trial. He remains on probation until Dec. 15 of this year from a 2002 assault charge. He faces up to four years in prison if convicted. The four-year veteran is also subject to a possible suspension or fines from the league for violating the personal-conduct policy.

The Bears signed Manning to a five-year $21 million free agent deal to be the nickel back behind starters Nathan Vasher and Charles Tillman. Although he has his sights set on starting down the road, at this point he's trying to get acclimated to the defense. Even for a veteran with 26 career starts, the process won't come over night.

"It's going to take a bit of time," Manning said. "You can't rush perfection but I think I fit in real well."

Getting acclimated has also gone smoothly because two former Carolina Panther teammates are reunited with Manning. CB Dante Wesley signed with the Bears earlier this off-season, while Muhsin Muhammad landed in Chicago after getting cut by Carolina last off-season.

"Me and Moose was cool, we was real cool when we was at Carolina. We're still cool now. I called him to congratulate as soon as he signed his contract here and told him he deserved it and I wish he would have stayed on our team. But now I'm glad he came here because I came here."

Settling In
For the first time since he was a sophomore at Florida, Bears quarterback Rex Grossman is in the same offense for a second straight season, and the familiarity feels good to the oft-injured fourth-year veteran.

"The big thing about this right now is that at this point the last three years I was learning an offense," Grossman said. "And now I'm trying to perfect an offense and start to practice it instead of constantly thinking, 'What should I do here and where is this guy going?' I know where they're going, and now I can get better. I think everyone out here is doing that. There's a lot more rhythm to it. Everyone understands basically what coach (Ron) Turner wants, and now it's just perfecting that, and I'm no different in that."

The acquisition of veteran starter Brian Griese gives the Bears a more qualified backup at quarterback than they've had in many years, but Grossman said that doesn't necessarily push him harder.

"I'd like to think of myself as a self-starter," Grossman said, "but anytime you have added pressure you have to turn your game up, no matter how much effort you put into it to begin with."

On Schedule
Tank Johnson has started jogging and doing mobility drills as he rehabs from a torn quad. At this point, the six-foot-3, 300-pounder is optimistic about being ready for the start of training camp.

"That's what I am shooting for and my leg feels great right now," Johnson said. "I'm enjoying coaching right now for the time being, but I do feel fine."

Following surgery to correct the injury in March, the timetable for Johnson to return had been expected four to six months.

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