Lost amid the excitement of draft weekend and the days leading up to it was a changing of the guard among the Bears' hierarchy.
Michael McCaskey, who has been the Bears' chairman of the board since 1999, will retire from that post at the conclusion of the 2010 season. He will be replaced by his younger brother, George McCaskey.
Michael McCaskey's association with the Bears, the team that his grandfather George Halas founded, goes back a long way.
He attended his first game as a baby at Wrigley Field, went to training camps at St. Joseph's College in Rensselaer, Ind., as a boy to watch Halas coach the team and, as a college football player, he ran pass patterns in training camp for quarterbacks Billy Wade and Rudy Bukich.
The oldest of Ed and Virginia McCaskey's 11 children, the 66-year-old McCaskey served as Bears president and CEO for 16 years, assuming those positions on Nov. 11, 1983, two weeks after Halas (Virginia McCaskey's father) died. Michael McCaskey became the Bears' chairman of the board in 1999, a position which he will relinquish to his 54-year-old brother George at the conclusion of the 2010 season.
"The primary goal here is to ensure an orderly transition," Michael McCaskey said. "My mom and I are both in good health, but you never know what's coming next. That can turn in a minute. We lost Walter Payton (to liver disease in 1999), and that certainly affected me. Walter said it very well. He said, 'Tomorrow's not promised to anyone.'
"This is a part of our planning to make sure that things are in order. I hope it doesn't happen anytime soon, but my mom's going to pass away at some point. I will pass away. It's going to happen to all of us. So let's have a good succession plan in place."
George McCaskey has worked as the Bears' senior director of ticket operations since 1991 and has served on the team's board of directors since 2004. He'll spend the next year learning more about other aspects of the organization, such as finance, marketing and information technology.
"In another life I was a business professor," Michel said, "and that's one of the challenges for an organization, to find a way to have an orderly succession and to hand the baton off to someone else in a way that leaves the organization strong and able to continue pursuing championships. (George) is a terrific choice. He's smart and hard-working."
From time to time over the years, the topic of selling the franchise has been posed to Michael and the other McCaskeys, who would realize a financial windfall as a result of such a transaction. But Michael McCaskey said the possibility of selling the Bears was never mentioned while the succession plan was being discussed by the family.
"We intend for our family to own the Bears as long as you care to think about it," Michael McCaskey said. "The Halas/McCaskey family intends to be running the Bears well into the future, so you need to have a good succession plan and a good way to carry it out. This will give George a transition year and leave the Bears in position to do what we've always tried to do, which is to pursue championships."
George McCaskey added: "We could sell and make piles of money. But that's not as important as winning championships."
His critics will remember Michael for his role in the botched hiring of Dave McGinnis to succeed Dave Wannstedt as the Bears' head coach in 1999. The signing was announced before McGinnis agreed to terms, and he eventually declined the job, forcing the Bears to construct a Plan B, which resulted in the hiring of Dick Jauron. But on Michael McCaskey's watch the Bears also won Super Bowl XX, and played in Super Bowl XLI, which they lost to the Colts 29-17, and qualified for the playoffs 11 times.
The chairman of the board has almost nothing to do with the day-to-day management of the football team; president and CEO Ted Phillips will continue to oversee that area of the operation.
But the chairman of the board is responsible for the board, which has the ultimate legal responsibility for the franchise.
"The way we've structured it," George McCaskey said, "is that the chairman is also responsible for being the singular person who represents the Bears at the league level. I think the No. 1 job duty is to serve as the owner's representative in league matters."
The chairman attends league meetings and votes for the organization on matters from rules changes to labor policy.
He's trying to learn everything he can from defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli, who will continue to work extensively with the defensive linemen, as he did last year as the defensive line coach.
"I've already learned a lot," the 6-foot-6, 270-pound Wootton said. "Coach Marinelli is a great coach. He's teaching a lot of pass-rush technique, a lot about get-off, and I'm just trying to be a sponge and absorb everything."
--Third-round pick Major Wright is coming into a wide open position battle at safety, which means he should have plenty of opportunities over the next four months to prove he belongs in the starting lineup opening day.
"Everybody competes for jobs in training camp," said Bears defensive backs coach Jon Hoke when asked about Wright and fifth-round cornerback Joshua Moore. "There are no givens, so they're in the mix just like everybody else. We play the best football players. So, if they're up to speed and they're playing good, they'll play."
Just stepping on the practice field at Halas Hall for this weekend's three-day rookie minicamp has been a thrill for Wright, but he's got a long way to go before he can compete for the starting job at free safety, where he will get his first chance.
"I was like, 'Wow, my dream's come true,'" he said. "I dreamed about this when I was younger and it's here. Now I just have to go out and hustle and just stay focused."
At Florida, Wright exhibited the skills to play strong safety, which has traditionally been more of a run-support role, and free safety, which often requires good ball skills and coverage ability.
"We're going to play him at free to begin with," Hoke said. "In this system they have to be able to do both jobs, so he'll learn both but he has characteristics (for both). He's a ball guy, he's obviously got excellent speed from the times he ran, and he plays fast, but he is a physical guy also."
--At Benet Academy High School in west suburban Chicago, Dan LeFevour directed a double wing offense.
"We threw the ball maybe five, 10 times a game," the sixth-round draft pick out of Central Michigan said. "So I didn't have a lot of offers coming out of high school. But obviously I landed in the right spot. I was in a great situation being able to play for four years, and it's led me to at least have a chance to play at the next level."
With Jay Cutler under contract through 2014, LeFevour's prospects for early playing time with the Bears are bleak, but he's OK with that.
"I haven't waited to play since my true freshman year back in 2005," he said. "But that's part of the territory. My first goal is to make the team. I have some other goals in mind before I start thinking about being a No. 2 or No. 1 quarterback on this franchise."
--One of the things that Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz learned last year when he was an analyst for NFL Network is that he missed coaching.
"I just missed teaching," Martz said. "That's how I was raised, as a teacher basically. I just missed teaching and coaching the details. That part of the game is so much fun. But it was a good break for me."
Martz is considered an excellent, though strict teacher of quarterbacks, but he says the process also helps him learn more about the game.
"I think as a teacher in this game you learn something from everybody that you coach," he said. "You take something away from it. When you feel like, 'OK, this is the holy grail for this position or whatever that might be, then you probably should retire. I always learn something from these guys. We're always trying to make them better. That's the challenge of coaching at this level."
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Whatever you did in the past has no bearing on today. That's the biggest difference. They've got to learn a whole new way of offense, a different way of looking at things. Everything is different, no matter what your background or how successful. He's come here obviously with a completely open mind, which is terrific. So he's very, very easy to coach. He's like a sponge. He's trying his best if he doesn't do it right. He's a long ways away." -- Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz on rookie quarterback Dan LeFevour, a sixth-round pick.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
There has been much speculation on what role tight end Greg Olsen will have in the new offense of Mike Martz, who values blocking above all else from that position.
Olsen is not known as a good blocker. His forte is using his athleticism as a pass catcher, which is why the Bears signed unrestricted free agent Brandon Manumaleuna, a 6-foot-2, 295-pound tight end who excels at blocking.
Martz says there is room for both players.
"Good players at any position, you find a way to get them the ball," he said. "You take advantage of their strength. This is a system that allows you to bend to what you have. If what you had in the past were guys who are physical, then you moved in that direction. When you get a guy like Greg, he has to get grounded in the running game, obviously. But there's some things we'll do with him that we haven't been able to do before."
But only after Olsen proves he is proficient as a blocker.
"You have to get down to the basics of putting your hand on the ground, coming off the ball and sustaining a block," Martz said. "And if a tight end can't do that, you've got to wonder. And he can certainly do that. He's proven he can do that. We've just got to get him involved in that. It's easy for him to get into the passing game. He's certainly capable of putting his hand on the ground and throwing a good block."
FRANCHISE PLAYER: None.
TRANSITION PLAYER: None.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS:
--LB Darrell McClover is a good special-teams player who isn't a factor on defense and probably won't be back.
--DE Adewale Ogunleye is a solid two-way player who no longer has double-digit sack potential and will be 33 before the start of the 2010 season. He's expected to be back only if he tests the market and finds no buyers.
--RB Adrian Peterson has been a reliable role player for several years as a backup and third-down option who also excels as a coverage guy on special teams. He doesn't expect to return.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENT (not tendered offer)
--NT Dusty Dvoracek (not tendered as RFA) wound up on injured reserve before the season started in two of his first four seasons (2006 and '09) in the league and played just one game in '07 before a torn knee ligament landed him on injured reserve. He started the first 12 games in '08 but wound up on injured reserve with a torn biceps.
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (*indicates restricted because of uncapped year)
--*S Danieal Manning (tendered at $1.176M with third-round pick as compensation) has played safety, cornerback and nickel back but has not played well enough at any of those positions to keep a starting job, although he is an excellent kickoff-return option.
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: None.
--*DE Mark Anderson: RFA; (tendered at $1.759M with second-round pick as compensation); $1.759M/1 yr.
--RB Kahlil Bell: ERFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--*S Josh Bullocks: RFA; (tendered at $1.226M with third-round pick as compensation); $1.226M/1 yr.
--LB Nick Roach: RFA; (tendered at $1.684M with second-round pick as compensation); $1.684M/1 yr.
--LB Tim Shaw: ERFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--OLB Pisa Tinoisamoa: UFA; $875,000/1 yr.
--DT Matt Toeaina: ERFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--*LB Jamar Williams: RFA; (tendered at $1.176M with fourth-round pick as compensation); $1.176M/1 yr.
--TE Richard Angulo: FA; terms unknown.
--S Chris Harris (trade Panthers).
--*CB Tim Jennings: Not tendered as RFA by Colts; $2.6M/2 yrs, $250,000 RB.
--TE Brandon Manumaleuna: UFA Chargers; $15M/5 yrs, $$2M SB/$3M RB.
--DE Julius Peppers: UFA Panthers; $79.8M/6 yrs, $42M guaranteed.
--RB Chester Taylor: UFA Vikings; $12.5M/4 yrs, $2M SB/$4M RB.
--FB Eddie Williams: FA Redskins; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--DE Alex Brown (released).
--RB Kevin Jones (released).
--FB Jason McKie (released).
--TE Fontel Mines (released).
--OT Orlando Pace (released).
--OG Tyler Reed (released).
--CB Nathan Vasher (released).
--LB Jamar Williams (traded Bears).