By all accounts, the Bears enjoyed a tremendous offseason and have put themselves right back into contention in the NFC North.
The headliner, of course, was the blockbuster trade with Denver for Jay Cutler, as the former Bronco could finally solidify the game's most important position for a franchise that hasn't put a passer in the Pro Bowl since Ronald Reagan's second term in office. Reinforcements were also added along the offensive line, including a future Hall of Famer in Orlando Pace who looks healthy and promises he still has some gas left in the tank. And once Pisa Tinoisamoa is inserted into the lineup with Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs, the Monsters of the Midway will feature maybe the best linebacking corps – the Windy City has always loved its linebackers – in football.
Nine selections in the NFL Draft were given an overwhelming thumbs-up throughout the league, there are no contract disputes to speak of whatsoever, injuries for the most part are minor and on the mend – some fans believe this to be the best offseason in Bears history.
Burress has the size Chicago lacks at receiver.
Al Bello/Getty Images
However, there is still a hole to be filled at the wide receiver position, which is why it's been reported that the front office has expressed at least a shred of interest in Plaxico Burress.
On paper, Burress is exactly what Cutler and Co. need. At 6-5 and 232 pounds, the one-time Michigan State Spartan would bring a physical presence to the passing attack that simply isn't there right now. For a team desperately looking for a primary target capable of moving the chains on a regular basis, Burress has four 1,000-yard seasons to his credit and is always a threat in the red zone because of his size, leaping ability, and sticky hands. He scored 33 touchdowns in 57 career games during his stint in the Big Apple, and he was integral to the Giants' upset victory over the then-undefeated Patriots in Super Bowl XLII. It's easy to see why general manager Jerry Angelo may have picked up the phone.
But even if he looks like the perfect fit opposite Devin Hester on the field, it's his off-the-field transgressions that make Burress a bad idea for the Midway Monsters.
We've all heard the story by now. This past November, Burress was clubbing it up at LQ only to have a loaded Glock that was tucked into the waistband of his sweatpants accidentally discharge. The former first-round draft pick shot himself in the right thigh, although the injury was no big deal and he was released from the hospital the next day. But New Yorkers don't take too kindly to concealed weapons, and Burress has been in and out of the courtroom ever since. Nevertheless, it looks like he could play in 2009 since the case was recently adjourned until September.
|"Even if he looks like the perfect fit opposite Devin Hester on the field, it's his off-the-field transgressions that make Burress a bad idea for the Midway Monsters."|
Now it's just a matter of whether or not another team will give Burress a shot – pun intended – to suit up again, and the Bears make as much sense as anyone given their need at the position and aggressive nature after a disappointing 2008.
During OTAs at Halas Hall, Hester was joined in the starting lineup by second-year pro Earl Bennett, who is familiar with Cutler having played with him for one season at Vanderbilt but didn't catch a single pass as a rookie. Angelo did select three potential options in the draft, although asking third-rounder Juaquin Iglesias, fifth-rounder Johnny Knox, or seventh-rounder Derek Kinder to contribute right away may be irresponsible – receiver is arguably the hardest position to make the leap from college to the pros. While both Rashied Davis and Brandon Rideau should get get first-team reps in training camp, neither is a lock to even make the team.
Again, it's easy to see how Burress would be an upgrade. Hester isn't a classic No. 1 no matter what head coach Lovie Smith says. Bennett may be a better fit in the slot than out wide. The rookies need time to develop – and a veteran to learn from in Year 1. Davis contracted a terrible case of the dropsies last season. Rideau is yet to make his first career catch despite being in the league since 2005. Burress can immediately be Cutler's go-to guy, no questions asked.
Still, Angelo would be wise to pass the dice to another shooter – pun intended again.
Burress should expect to be suspended soon.
Chris McGrath/Getty Images
First of all, considering the fact that fellow wideout Donte' Stallworth just received an indefinite suspension from the Commish after pleading guilty to DUI manslaughter charges, expect Burress to be suspended for at least four games this coming season and maybe as many as eight. It doesn't make any sense to gamble on Burress if he's going to be spend half the year away from the facility on the suspended list. The Bears would still have to lean on the likes of Bennett and Davis for production.
Secondly, and much more importantly for an image-conscious organization like the Bears, adding Burress could end up being a public-relations disaster.
The accidental gunshot was not his first run afoul of the law. Burress has been the subject of a few domestic-violence calls. Temporary restraining orders have been issued against him on more than one occasion. He had a civil lawsuit brought against him by a car dealer in Pennsylvania for damaging an Avalanche loaned to him and failing to show up for publicity events that were a part of the deal. Another lawsuit is pending in Florida for colliding his Mercedes into the back of a woman's car and not having insurance.
According to the Associated Press, Burress has been sued nine times since entering the league in 2000.
Guns, courthouses, traffic violations – sound familiar, Bears fans? This team had to deal with the Tank Johnson disaster before and after their storied run to Super Bowl XLI, and they don't want to go through that again. Even if Cutler-to-Burress has a nice ring to it, Angelo needs to appreciate how well he's sleeping these days.
Those 3:30 a.m. phone calls from the police station can put big bags under your eyes.
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.