Obviously, the timing of the NFL's decision is a little suspect. A lot of people in the organization thought Manning had been punished enough and the league wouldn't act any further. However, the standard player contract has a conduct clause that encompasses behavior both on and off the field. There is no question that Manning subjected himself to discipline by his actions and pleading no contest to the charge. In terms of the NFL taking so long to make up their minds, they'll simply hide behind the "we were waiting for the legal system to run its course" excuse.
Mark Bradley has looked great the last two games, so is Bernard Berrian in any danger of losing his starting job? - Nathan (Lake Forest, IL)
It's amazing to think that this team might have too many quality receiving targets. It seems like just yesterday that Bears fans were wanting GM Jerry Angelo to draft a wide receiver or make a play for Ashley Lelie. Instead, Angelo stacked the defense with quality depth in the draft, and Lelie has done next to nothing since being traded to Atlanta. Bradley might be the most talented member of the receiving corps because of his incredible combination of size and speed. That being said, Berrian was having a sensational season before he got hurt and should hold on to his starting gig for foreseeable future.
Is Mark Anderson really this good, or is he just in the right place at the right time all the time? - Julian (Topeka, KS)
We here at Bear Report are big fans of Anderson, and not just because he writes his Rookie Diary for BearReport.com every Wednesday. Considering the Bears took him in the fifth round of this past April's draft and weren't even sure if he'd make the club coming out of training camp, he's been incredibly productive. His eight sacks tie him with Brian Urlacher for the most in Bears history for a rookie, a record he's sure to break very soon. All that aside, Anderson got off to a thunderous start partially because Tommie Harris was a one-man wrecking crew and attracting so much attention. Anderson is very instinctual as a pass-rusher and has a serious motor, but he's got a long way to go to be as complete a defensive end as Alex Brown or Adewale Ogunleye.
Is Brian Griese ever going to get any action before the end of the season just in case Rex Grossman gets hurt? Wouldn't it make sense to play him some down the stretch? - LuckyDog54
One of the luxuries of having a backup quarterback like Griese is that he doesn't need a whole bunch of reps in order to get ready. Ron Turner's version of the west coast offense is pretty similar to what Griese was running for Jon Gruden down in Tampa Bay for two years. Grossman is the quarterback come hell or high water, and he needs to get as many quality snaps as possible to further his development. If Lovie Smith starts hedging his bets and playing Griese just in case Grossman gets hurt, it would be counterproductive to the big picture. Grossman is the QB, people, so get used to the idea.
Is there anyone on the Bears who is enjoying a quiet season but might make the Pro Bowl? - Patrick (Lake Wales, FL)
Bears fans love to beat up on the guy after what happened in the playoff loss to Carolina last season, but I think Charles Tillman has had a great year. Not many cornerbacks are third on their team in tackles, but his 51 trail only Brian Urlacher (87) and Lance Briggs (80). He's also intercepted two passes and is tied for the team lead with seven passes defensed. Plaxico Burress of the Giants called him out before their matchup in Week 10, but 'Peanut' held him to just four catches and 48 yards. Nathan Vasher made his first Pro Bowl last year largely because of those eight INTs, but I feel Tillman has been the better player in 2006.
Rex Grossman didn't do much throwing the ball last week against the Jets, but he didn't make many mistakes either. Was this a step forward for him? - Dexter (Hyde Park, IL)
I've actually been saying that all week long on various radio shows. When Grossman has struggled finding open receivers this season, he's usually compounded those problems by getting sacked and throwing interceptions. He may have only been 11-of-22 for 119 yards, but he managed the game fairly well despite his mediocre numbers. A few costly mistakes might have lost that game against the Jets, but the Bears won the field position battle most of the day because they ran the ball well and were content to punt the ball away when drives stalled. You saw how catastrophic those two INTs were for Chad Pennington, especially that one in the red zone that took points off the board.
How soon do the Bears start thinking about resting players since the No. 1 seed in the playoffs is pretty much theirs already? - WillieTheWimp (Kansas City, MO)
Most people think the Bears got burned last year because they relaxed down the stretch and didn't prepare as hard as they should have for the Panthers. I'd be surprised if Lovie Smith made that mistake again. It's highly possible that the last two or three games will be absolutely meaningless in the grand scheme of things since they already have a three-game lead on the rest of the conference. It would take a monumental collapse for the Bears not to be the top seed in the NFC, even if they lose on Sunday in Foxboro. I expect the starters to play much more than they did a year ago, and it certainly helps that the hated Packers are the last game on the schedule.
What is Thanksgiving like for the players? Is it just another day at the office? - Dusty (Homewood, IL)
Unfortunately, for the most part, Thanksgiving Day is just another day at the office for the players. Lovie Smith is a stickler for his routine, so they will maintain their regular practice schedule. The Patriots, on the other hand, actually changed things up and practiced on Tuesday in order to give their players the day off on Thursday. The Bears got started a little earlier than usual on Thanksgiving Day so the players could get back home and enjoy the holiday as much as possible. But in terms of getting a few days off and being able to lie around the house fat and happy like most American families, that's simply a luxury a professional football player doesn't have.
It's been four straight games that the Bears have been gashed on the ground. Mike Brown has missed those four games. Is that the reason, or is there something else there? - Roman (Savannah, GA)
I don't think it's quite that simple, however, losing Brown in the secondary was debilitating. His replacement, Todd Johnson, played well in his first start against San Francisco but has struggled since. Chris Harris has seen some time at Brown's strong safety position the last two games, and he's probably a better fit there with his size and strength. But I feel that all the missed tackles is the biggest reason why the rush defense has been so poor the last month or so. This team was No. 1 against the run when Brown was in there, but they have fallen all the way to 11th and now appear to have an exploitable weakness.
What's the update with the guys on injured reserve? Any good or bad news? - AnimalBear34
Dusty Dvoracek in particular has been around the facility a lot lately and seems to be moving around pretty well after his foot injury. Jamar Williams is also at Halas Hall quite a bit but is still wearing some support around his shoulder most of the time. I haven't seen Mike Brown once since he was put on IR, and the Bears historically are pretty tight-lipped about their injured players. Airese Currie was in the locker room last week, but he is still walking around pretty gingerly on that bad foot. Dvoracek could probably play right now, but since roster spots are so valuable in the NFL, the team was practically forced to put him on injured reserve and hope he comes back strong in 2007.
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