It's just that Alex Brown himself is not one of them.
He doesn't mind commenting about the mini camp practices or what he did with the family in the offseason, but he's not his usual gregarious self.
"The mini camp has gone well," Brown said after Saturday's session at Halas Hall. "I feel very good physically and mentally."
However, if you want to chat with him about the revelation that he has been removed from the starting lineup at right defensive end in favor of Mark Anderson, you're not exactly going to fill up your notebook.
"Yes, there is competition for position," he acknowledged, "But I don't want to talk about that. I'll answer questions about today or about yesterday [or] even about tomorrow, but that's it. If you want quotes on anything other than that, you're not going to get them."
The Bears gathered for their mandatory veteran mini camp this past weekend, and one of the biggest stories to surface was Brown's demotion in favor of the younger, quicker, and – if you're only counting sacks – more productive Anderson. Brown totaled a career high 7 sacks this past season starting all 16 games, but Anderson led the team with 12 even though he only started once and was largely a situational player. By the time the playoffs arrived, Anderson was getting just as much action on defense as Brown while also spelling Adewale Ogunleye on the left side.
Based on what we saw in Lake Forest this past weekend, now it will be Brown as the No. 3 man in the DE rotation.
GM Jerry Angelo has been praised for finding second-day gems on the defensive side of the ball in the NFL Draft, and Brown – along with Anderson and cornerback Nathan Vasher – is a shining example. Originally a fourth-round pick out of Florida, Brown has been incredibly consistent and durable enough to suit up for 79 of 80 regular season games during his five-year career. Although he has never had a double-digit sack season like Ogunleye, he plays the run well and is one of the more charismatic characters on the Bears roster.
Head coach Lovie Smith tried to downplay the flip-flop on the depth chart, but he wasn't fooling anyone.
"We have a starting rotation," Smith said on Friday. "We had three guys who rotated in with the No. 1 defense, and I think that's the way it will be this year."
Brown has apparently asked for a trade and is also on the lookout for a new contract, but he hasn't let his personal situation interfere with his team-first philosophy.
According to Dan Bazuin, yet another defense end Angelo drafted in the second round last month, Brown has taken him under his wing.
"The player who has been helping me the most is Alex Brown," said Bazuin. "He's taking the time to answer my questions and show me some of the moves."
At its essence, Smith's version of the Cover 2 defense is heavily dependent on consistent pressure from the front four. Not only did Pro-Bowl linebackers Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs do very little blitzing last season, but neither one of them was very successful based on the fact that the twosome combined for a grand total of 1 sack. Nickelback Ricky Manning Jr. was by far the team's most-effective blitzer, yet he only registered 2 QB takedowns all year long.
The Bears struggled mightily against the pass toward the end of last season and in Super Bowl XLI, and although safety Mike Brown was sorely missed and defensive tackle Tommie Harris is irreplaceable, too many quarterbacks had too much time to throw. Much of the blame was attributed to an inconsistent rush up front. Brown contributed just 2 sacks in the final seven games of the regular season and had only 1 in three postseason contests.
But is benching him really the answer?
While Anderson was indeed runner-up for Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2006, he is far from a finished project. He may be superior to Brown right now in terms of getting after the passer, but he has a ways to go defending the ground game and was only credited with 28 total tackles last season. And while he did enjoy a stretch of 6 sacks in four games at one point, he immediately followed that frenzy with just half a sack his next five.
The starting gig is a point of personal pride for a two-time Pro-Bowl alternate like Brown. On top of that, since Anderson thrived in a reserve role, why not keep him there? Bumping the kid from 30 snaps a game up to 50 might do more harm than good.
We all know that Brown is too much of a class act to turn into a clubhouse distraction, which is yet another reason why perhaps he never should have lost his job in the first place.
|John Crist is the Publisher of Bear Report and Editor in Chief of BearReport.com. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.|