The Bears took to the field Tuesday – on a day more like May than March – for the first minicamp workout of 2009. And although the composition of the team has changed during the offseason, the underlying sentiment was exactly the same.
"We want to win," said wide receiver Rashied Davis. "We want to do whatever is necessary to accomplish our goals."
Davis spent most of his offseason alternating workouts and handling his infant daughter's diaper changes.
"In a way, this break couldn't have come at a better time" he said. "I had the chance to see my wife, to bond with my newborn and to get my mind off of football for a little bit."
But now it's back to business as usual for Davis and the rest of the team. And although 2008 was somewhat of a disappointment, the players are ready to dedicate themselves to accomplishing the elusive goal that was missed last year.
"The Super Bowl," Davis said. "That's what we always have in mind whenever we put on the Bears uniform. Anything else we accomplish just isn't good enough. It means we need to be better, that something still has to be done."
Davis was surprised and somewhat unsettled to hear that Rex Grossman would no longer be standing alongside him in a Bears uniform.
"I don't have too much that I can say about that, but it certainly wasn't something I'd been expecting," he said. "Rex was a very good guy. He had a great work ethic and always was all-out for the team. For me personally, he took the time to help me when I needed help. That is something I'll never forget."
But for fellow wide receiver Brandon Rideau, Grossman's departure was anything but unexpected.
"I saw it coming," Rideau said. "I was pretty sure that everybody did. It wasn't that he did anything wrong or wasn't a good enough player. I guess the fit wasn't right. The entire situation had to have been incredibly frustrating. We all wish him the best. I hope he can catch on somewhere else and do really well."
Rideau was delighted to be back at Halas Hall and felt more than ready to start the season.
"Even thought this was an earlier than usual minicamp, it seemed that the timing was right," he said. "I don't think you can ever get enough work in to feel you are fully prepared, so any edge we get from being here in mid-March is fine with me."
Rideau spent much of his offseason working out, relaxing and traveling. But now, he's ready to get back to work.
"It's as much mental as physical," Rideau said. "Having that little break gave me the opportunity to recharge my body and energize my enthusiasm. Now, I can hardly wait to get started. I feel I have a lot to prove in 2009. I didn't do as well as I felt I could have last season, so this is my time to show the coaches and the fans what I can do."
That being said, Rideau had no easy solution for the lackluster performance of the receiving corps in 2008.
"Kyle [Orton]'s ankle injury slowed things down a little bit, but that doesn't explain why we didn't do better," he said. "It got pretty frustrating at times, but he's healthy now. The receivers could have played better. If your quarterback throws the ball and none of us catch it, that is a problem. I'm looking forward to some full-speed drills to see just where we are, but I do feel good about the way things have started this year."
Rideau, like Davis, still feels the team has a realistic chance to reach Super Bowl XLIV down in Miami.
"We don't want another year to go by without even making the playoffs," he said, "and we want to go even further than that. A lot will depend on how this team comes together. Some guys are gone. Some have retired. New coaches have come in. There are changes all around, and of course we have no idea what the draft will bring. I am optimistic. There's no reason we can't go all the way."
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Beth Gorr has been covering the Chicago Bears for eight years and is the author of Bear Memories: The Chicago-Green Bay Rivalry. She is currently working on a second book about early Bears history.
Receivers Ready to Get '09 Started
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