Closer Look at Bannister

The Bears signed special teams ace Alex Bannister to a one-year deal on Wednesday. We examine what other teams were interested in his services, his ability as a receiver and what obstacles he'll have to overcome to stick around.

Bannister was a roster lock in past seasons with Seattle, but chronic injury concerns put him in the firing line. He had been on the market since June 2nd when the Seahawks released him after five seasons with the franchise.

After a 2003 selection to the Pro Bowl for his special teams work, Bannister's 2004 was a disappointment. He was on his way to another excellent season when he broke his right clavicle for the first time against the Carolina Panthers on October 31, 2004. The injury ended his season. During a voluntary passing camp in June of 2005, Bannister broke the same collarbone again, putting him out of action until after the team's training camp. He then cracked the collarbone during Seattle's 21-18 victory over Atlanta in September

Seattle never really thought of him as a receiver, in the best-case terms, he's nothing more than fourth on the depth chart. He's best suited as a special teams guy. He started his NFL career as a fearless gunner/tackler who would work very hard. In 2003, he developed a knack for downing punts inside the 20, which helped his earn his Pro Bowl special teams berth. Seattle led the league in opponents punt return average (4.8 yards) and he played a big part in that.

The Bears weren't the only team in pursuit of Bannister. His documented history of special teams excellence also caught the eye of the New England Patriots, who were also reportedly interested in signing Bannister. Considering he has no real documented history as a receiver, it drove down his price.

However, three collarbone injuries in one year is obviously a problem. Especially because he's going to see more contact as a special-teams player.

Despite the injury history, Bannister always worked tirelessly to get back on the field. His fearlessness and work ethic are easily his biggest assets. To a point, his fearlessness might also be a drawback because he's always willing to lay his body on the line.

Bannister is extremely raw as a route-runner and pass-catcher. At 6-foot-5, 207 pounds, he should have more explosion off the snap than has been apparent. The lack of quickness means he doesn't get good separation, which would make him more of a "possession receiver"/inside guy...except that his hands aren't reliable, either. You'd generally want your 6-foot-5 slot receiver - the guy who takes the hits over the middle - to weigh more than 210 pounds, as well.

So what the Bears got in Bannister is a guy who is ultra-willing to do whatever it takes, but as he enters his sixth year in the league is unlikely to develop as a receiver.

The seemingly glass clavicle makes Bannister's future uncertain. If he sticks around, he's the kind of player that could become a fan favorite. Still, this could the last chance for Bannister to stay healthy. One more serious injury could doom him.


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