Everyone Accounted for in Bourbonnais

Ever since tailback Thomas Jones and linebacker Lance Briggs decided to skip 'voluntary' workouts this past offseason, Bears fans were worried that two of the team's brightest stars might be training camp holdouts. Neither player has the new contract he supposedly wants, but their arrival in Bourbonnais is certainly a good sign.

Thomas Jones and Adewale Ogunleye arrived at Olivet Nazarene University shortly after 11p.m. Wednesday evening, the last two members of the Bears training camp roster to make their way to Bourbonnais. With everyone accounted for, hopefully the focus of the media's questions will move from contract negotiations and trade rumors to year two of Ron Turner's offensive system and the continued dominance of the defensive unit.

As far as the running back situation is concerned, head coach Lovie Smith was a little evasive answering questions about his supposed "starting rotation." Although he did say that the depth chart, at least initially, will be exactly the same as it was the last time the team was together, which would suggest that Cedric Benson will be running with the first-teamers as practice commences this afternoon.

The Bears will have a light two-hour practice today at noon. Practice will be at 3p.m. tomorrow, and the first of only four scheduled two-a-days will be Saturday.

That would also put Briggs second on the depth chart behind Leon Joe. Briggs was a breakout star last season and made his first Pro Bowl, but he turned down a contract extension from GM Jerry Angelo that would have paid him an average of $5.5 million per year. Jones refused to comment upon his arrival at Parrott Hall, but Briggs seemed to be in good spirits about the situation.

"It's not about where you start, it's where you end up,'' Briggs said. "I guess I've got to earn it again.''

Some of the trade rumors flying around ONU include the Bears and their possible interest in two disgruntled wide receivers, Denver's Ashley Lelie and Oakland's Jerry Porter. It's been suggested that Jones could be the player on the move, thereby answering two training camp questions at once. Moving Jones would allow Benson to be he unquestioned #1 running back, and bringing in Lelie or Porter would give Rex Grossman a proven threat on the outside opposite Muhsin Muhammad.

Although there is some logic to this thinking, don't expect either deal to happen.

Lelie has been a colossal disappointment in Denver, and it's no secret that head coach Mike Shanahan has been trying to move him for some time. With the arrival of Javon Walker from Green Bay and Rod Smith still getting it done despite his advanced age, Lelie, a former first-rounder, could be had rather cheap. Jones, who could flourish in Shanahan's system, seems like a lot to give up for a player in the dog house who still has a chance of being cut before the season.

Porter has already demanded a trade out of Oakland because he doesn't like the direction of the team. Just a year ago, he was expected to have a huge season opposite new arrival Randy Moss and strong-armed Kerry Collins under center. But despite his enormous physical skills, Porter is still yet to crack the 1,000-yard plateau in his six-year career. Not to mention that tailback Lamont Jordan performed very well in his debut campaign with the Raiders, so adding Jones to the mix makes even less sense.

If Mark Bradley, Bernard Berrian, and Justin Gage have anything to say about it (or maybe even Airese Currie or Rashied Davis), those wideout trade rumors will come to an end real quick. Each of them will have a chance to emerge as the much-needed secondary target that Grossman & Company so desperately need.

JC


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