Camp Chat: Ricky Manning Jr.

The Bears defense was the strength of the team in 2005, but acquisitions like cornerback Ricky Manning Jr. have experts believing the unit can be even better this season. The former Carolina Panther took some time to talk to Bear Report about the art of playing nickelback, the development of the receivers, and Cedric Benson's shoulder injury.

You played on some very good defenses in Carolina. Compare and contrast this system under Ron Rivera with what you were doing with the Panthers.
"It's two totally different systems from here to Carolina. In Carolina, it was a lot more checks and things like that. Out here, it's a lot more simplified, and they just let you go out and play. Coach Lovie's scheme of things is just basically to put guys in the right position and just let them go out and play. Both schemes, what they did works in Carolina, and what we're doing in Chicago, what we're doing here works for us."

Is the nickelback position essentially just a third cornerback on the field? Or is there much more to playing the position that a casual football fan might not know?
"It' a lot more to the position. We joke around, but it's kind of true. We call it like a baby ‘backer position because you gotta be linebackers and you gotta be a DB at the same time. So I gotta hit the run in some gaps and blitz, and then cover the third wideout."

One of the biggest question marks on this team is the development of a second receiver. You go against them every day, so how do you think they look so far?
"I think they look good. I think they're doing a real good job, and I think if these guys stay healthy, our offense is going to do some things this year. They're going to surprise some people. Especially from the receiver position. I like the way Rashied Davis is playing. Bernard Berrian is doing a great job. He's gonna be big-time, and he's gonna do some big things this year. I really believe in that. Of course, Moose (Muhsin Muhammad) is a seasoned vet, and he's doing his thing. He's looking real good out here. And then Mark Bradley's coming along. Once his leg gets 100%, he's going to be tough to cover."

Everyone knows the defense is going to be the strength of this team. What can you bring to the defensive unit that wasn't here a year ago?
"I don't say I can bring anything that wasn't here last year. I just think I can add to it. Competition puts pressure on other people. They're bringing me in to put pressure on Peanut (Charles Tillman) and Nate Vasher to get better. Because they know if they don't, I'm going to be there. That's what it basically does. It makes us better all around. I'm pushing a starting position, so I'm going to try my hardest, and it just makes us compete more and makes us better defensively. I add another intensity to the secondary."

Cedric Benson got hurt Friday night on what appeared to be a freak accident. It is difficult for you to go three-quarter speed and not practice tackling that much?
"It's just the luck of the draw. It can happen to anybody, or it can't happen. It's not that it's so hard going three-quarter speed because we're going full speed. We just have to slow down and take care of each other here and there. That's what we have that gear on for, to protect ourselves. Injuries are going to happen. It's football."


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