Tinoisamoa Happy to Earn His Job

Pisa Tinoisamoa has accomplished enough in this league to be a starter just about anywhere. But the Chicago Bears didn't guarantee him anything when he signed as a free agent, and the Hawaii alumnus wouldn't have it any other way. Get the Inside Slant from the NFL experts at Scout.com.

Linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa, the newest Bear, has been around long enough to know football has a business side. But he admits it was still a jolt when the Rams cut him after six seasons, even though he was their leading tackler in four of those years.

"It is a shock because, even though you see it happening around the league, you say, 'It's not going to happen to me,'" the seventh-year veteran said after Wednesday's OTA practice at Halas Hall. "It's like when you say, 'If I eat all these vegetables and Acai berries and fruit and stuff, then I'm going to live forever.' But the reality is you're not going to live forever. That's how it was in St. Louis.

"I saw last year with Brett Favre, all the drama that was going on with him, and I thought, 'That could be me one day.' And then it happened to [former teammates] Torry [Holt], it happened to Orlando [Pace], and there was talk about me."

And then it happened to Tinoisamoa. The Rams cut him May 8, even though he had a team-best and career-high 104 tackles last season. But he also had a $4.25 million base salary, and new head coach Steve Spagnuolo decided to go in a different direction.

A different direction is exactly what Tinoisamoa had in mind after suffering through the last two years on Rams teams that went 5-27. That's why he gladly accepted the Bears' offer, even though he could have made more money elsewhere. The Bears' offer did not include any guarantee of a starting spot, although Tinoisamoa is expected to win the spot on the strong side.

"Just the chance to be on a winning team is worth it to me," he said. "I've been fortunate to get paid in this league, and that was good, but I still had to go home a loser. I'd give all the money back if I could win again."

For now, Nick Roach, who won the job from Hunter Hillenmeyer halfway through last season, is still the Bears' starter. That's fine with Tinoisamoa. He wouldn't have felt right being handed someone else's job.

"There were opportunities to go to other teams," he said, "It was like, 'We're going to give you the job.' For me, that was awkward. I know there were guys who had been working since the end of last season, and they felt like they were the starter. Now all of a sudden somebody comes in and, just because he led another team in tackles, he takes their job? I wouldn't appreciate that. So I didn't want to go into a situation like that. The fact that I have to earn a job definitely makes me more hungry because now I know it's not just given to me."

Tinoisamoa was released by the Rams despite being their leading tackler this past year.
Nam Y. Huh/AP Images

Israel Idonije, the Bears' Mr. Versatility, signed a two-year contract extension for $7 million in new money May 29.

The 6-6, 270-pound Idonije has been a key backup on the defensive line at end and tackle, in addition to being a valuable contributor on special teams, where he has blocked four kicks. The sixth-year veteran was due to become an unrestricted free agent after the 2009 season. His base salary for this season is $1.75 million, but he receives a $2 million guaranteed bonus as part of his new deal, which calls for a $2.5 million base salary in 2010, $1 million of which is guaranteed. He also has a base salary of $2.5 million for 2011, although it is not guaranteed.

"It's a pleasant surprise to get something done early," the 28-year-old Idonije said. "When you dream about how the picture would unfold going into the last year of your contract, this is the ideal situation. It's perfect to get the deal done. I love Chicago, and I wanted to stay and continue to grow and develop here. It's just warming to know that the team wants me here and wants me to be part of the picture moving to the next three seasons. It's just a great feeling."

Idonije had a career-best 28.5 tackles last season and was fourth on the Bears with 3.5 sacks, as he bulked up to 297 pounds because the team wanted him to play tackle. But he has dropped about 30 pounds this offseason because the Bears want him to focus on end this year.

"I have a role here that's been defined and cut out for me," he said. "When you go to a new team, you never know what's going to happen. When you start over, there's always a level of unknown. Here, I know the system and my teammates. It's great to be able to stay here at home. This is home for me."

Idonije was born in Lagos, Nigeria, but learned to play football after moving to Canada. He was signed in 2003 by the Browns as an undrafted free agent out of Manitoba University but picked up by the Bears later that season.

In a post to his Twitter account, Idonije's agent, Drew Rosenhaus said: "It was a smooth negotiation with the Bears, and hopefully we can have the same type of success with Israel's teammate Adewale Ogunleye."

Ogunleye, the Bears' starting defensive left end, may cost the Bears a lot more, but only if he can recapture the form that produced 10 sacks in 2005 and 15 in 2003. His $33.4 million, six-year deal expires after the 2009 season. But Ogunleye, who will turn 32 during training camp, had only 5.0 sacks last season and just 25 1/2 sacks in the previous four years combined. …

The end of Wednesday's practice featured a tense moment, when RB Matt Forte limped off the field with what appeared to be a left leg injury. He was scheduled to have an MRI Thursday, but the Bears downplayed the situation.

"He had some leg tightness," said team spokesman Scott Hagel, the Bears' senior director of corporate communications. "We try to be overly cautious with even the smallest thing at this point in the offseason."

It's depressing to consider the Bears' offense without Forte, who accounted for 34.99 percent of the team's yards from scrimmage last season, the highest percentage of any player in the NFL. …

Based on early returns in OTAs, this year's most impressive rookie so far has been wide receiver Johnny Knox, the fifth-round pick from Abilene Christian.

Knox, who is arguably the fastest player on the field, has shown sticky fingers in almost every practice, catching anything within his grasp and rarely having a bobble, let alone a drop. He's still got a long way to go before he gets on the field once the regular season begins, but Knox will challenge for playing time in three- and four-wide receiver sets if he continues to show the same sure hands and run-after-the-catch ability.

"It's coming along each day," Knox said. "I have to take my time and just have to get the feel of the quarterback, but I am feeling really comfortable each day." …

The Bears signed seven draft picks May 30, all to four-year contracts, including defensive end Henry Melton and cornerback D.J. Moore, their fourth-round picks. Also agreeing to terms were both fifth-round picks, Knox and linebacker Marcus Freeman; sixth-round safety Al Afalava; and both seventh-rounders, offensive lineman Lance Louis and wide receiver Derek Kinder.

The Bears' top two draft picks remain unsigned, a pair of third-rounders, defensive tackle Jarron Gilbert and wide receiver Juaquin Iglesias.

The base salaries for each of the seven contracts includes league-minimum salaries of $310,000 in 2009, $395,000 in 2010, $480,000 in 2011 and $565,000 in 2012, but do not include signing bonuses. Figures for bonuses have not been released.

"We're not going to be as good Sept. 13 as we will be later on in the year, but we'll be good enough to go out and execute and move the ball and score some points hopefully. It's a work in progress. We'll continue to grow, and we'll continue to get better as an offense as the season goes along." – Offensive coordinator Ron Turner on how quickly QB Jay Cutler is picking up the offense.

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