Angelo Speaks: Interpreting Jerry

Initially it was head coach Lovie Smith answering e-mails, and now it's GM Jerry Angelo granting an interview – at the Chicago Bears official Web site, naturally. JC once again wanted to dig deeper and expand on a few of Angelo's answers. These three in particular needed additional interpretation ...

Question No. 1: Jay Cutler hasn't missed a single day of the offseason program since he was acquired by the Bears on April 2. How pleased are you with the attitude and leadership skills he has displayed?

Angelo Says: I've been very pleased with his day-to-day attitude, and obviously it's reflected with his work ethic and how he's approached things. He's rolled up his sleeves and he's gone to work. He's certainly not resting on any laurels. He's come in here to prove himself and establish himself. I think we're all impressed with that – I'm talking about coaches and players – because that's the right way to do it. He's got to earn his stripes here, and by showing up and doing the things that he's doing every day, he's doing it the right way.

JC's Take: Cutler appears to be working his way into his new surroundings the right way, accepting a leadership role on offense – because he plays a position, quarterback, where leadership is a prerequisite – but not going overboard and declaring that the Bears are his team already.

The Pro Bowler is certainly getting a lot of work during OTAs, taking at least half the reps during full-squad drills while backups Caleb Hanie and Brett Basanez split the other half. Sometimes Cutler looks like he's already got Ron Turner's offense down and then let's his natural ability take over, but there are moments when he seems confused and eventually has to fire the ball out of bounds because he doesn't know what to do with it. He has a tendency to chuck the ball deep downfield when his first and second reads are covered, which could be why he's thrown a fair amount of interceptions and gets criticized for his decision-making from time to time.

But Cutler obviously loves to play the game and isn't afraid of a hard day's work, so he should be quite comfortable with the playbook from cover to cover come Week 1.

Question No. 4: From what I've seen, no one has made more plays on defense in the OTA practices than Jamar Williams. It seemed like everyone was mentioning him as a possible heir apparent to Lance Briggs (before Briggs signed a long-term extension), but then Nick Roach passed Williams on the depth chart last season. Is it just a matter of the light finally going on for Williams?


LB Jamar Williams
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Angelo Says: It's not so much that the light has gone on. I feel like it's more about the opportunity. The coaches made a decision between Jamar and Nick and they obviously opted to go with Nick, but to me it was a photo finish. We've always liked Jamar. I think he's a three-down player. He's bright, he's athletic, he's fast and he's tough. There's nothing not to like about him. What we're seeing now is what we saw when he was in college and what we drafted.

JC's Take: Angelo can talk all he wants about Williams being a three-down player, but the fact is he's been a zero-down player for the most part during his tenure in Chicago.

The former Arizona State Sun Devil has been somewhat of a mystery for three seasons now, getting hurt early on as a rookie before being shelved on injured reserve, going from starter to benchwarmer the next year after Briggs re-signed with the team, and then being curiously leapfrogged on the depth chart by Roach in 2008. If Williams is good enough to be a three-down player, as Angelo intimated, by definition he would be overqualified as a two-down player – the strong-side linebacker comes off the field when the nickel package is called. Williams is always flying around and making plays with the second unit, yet the Bears never go out of their way to find a spot for him on defense.

But since he's capable of backing up at all three linebacker positions and is also a sound contributor on special teams, he'll have no trouble making the 53-man roster even though Pisa Tinoisamoa was signed recently.

Question No. 7: Tommie Harris has missed the first few OTAs while resting his knee. How concerned are you that his knee will be a long-term issue that affects his play this season and for the rest of his career?

Angelo Says: There's no major concern with him. He's going to be up and going at some point here in the OTAs. We feel good about where he's at medically. There's nothing to be alarmed about. This is the offseason. We want to make sure that we take care of our players to the best of our ability and we're always going to err on the side of caution in the offseason. He's got an issue with his knee; we know that. He has to be smart about it, which he is. We've got to be smart about it, which we are. Is his knee pristine? No. it's not. But it's not something that he can't perform well with. We've been real smart about how to bring Tommie along in terms of his training program. He's not the only player. There are customized programs for most of our players because we don't want the wear and tear to happen during the offseason. We just want to be smart about how we bring our players along. We don't want to waste any mileage that players have in the offseason. The wear and tear comes during the season, not the offseason. The offseason is dedicated to conditioning, strengthening and training our players within our offensive and defensive schemes.

JC's Take: Angelo was obviously very careful when choosing his words with regard to Harris, but Bears backers have a right to be concerned when the GM talks about a Pro Bowler's knee still being "an issue" and not in "pristine" condition.

While it appears Harris has enjoyed lots of time this offseason to get himself somewhat back to the dominating force he was a few years ago, he's still observing most of the full-squad action from the sideline during OTAs. When Angelo says Harris' bruised and battered knee is "not something that he can't perform well with," he's hinting that there could be some permanent damage and he might never resemble the Defensive-Player-of-the-Year candidate he was for three quarters of 2006. Israel Idonije is supposedly making the move from tackle back to end this season, yet there he was Wednesday at three technique alongside nose tackle Anthony Adams.

Angelo said on NFL Draft weekend that he took Jarron Gilbert at the top of Round 3 because he was the best player left on the board, but maybe he also fills a position of need: an eventual replacement for Harris in the trenches.


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John Crist is the Publisher of Bear Report and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.


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