Sometimes circumstance can be as important to a player’s career as any other factor that comes into play.
As part of a surprising purge of defensive players this week – some media types (like us) are claiming that the Chicago Bears are holding a fire sale – the Bears made wholesale changes. In the span of a single afternoon, the Bears jettisoned Jared Allen and Jon Bostic in trades and waived linebacker Khaseem Greene and offensive tackle Jordan Mills. This is the same Bears team that got rid of Brandon Marshall for a fifth-round pick from the New York Jets in March.
Safety Brock Vereen made a little piece of history Thursday. He followed Adrian Peterson to the makeshift podium that Jared Allen used to routinely break or compromise. It may be the first stand-alone interview done for a player signed to the practice squad.
What is the root cause of the shocking and immediate turnover of a roster three losses into a 16-game season?
There was a regime change from the time all of the players were acquired and when they were cast adrift on Lake Michigan.
General Manager Phil Emery? Gone. Head coach Marc Trestman? Gone. Defensive coordinator Mel Tucker? Gone.
What made the Bears situation even more convoluted was that many of the veteran players that were home-grown products were drafted or acquired during the Lovie Smith era of building a roster. Fourth-year players were drafted for a team two coaches removed.
Tucker and the draft war room saw something in Vereen, a Big Ten standout at Minnesota, as a player who fit their scheme. Like most mid-round picks, Vereen was doing his best to catch up to transition to the NFL.
“As a rookie, your head’s kind of spinning from start to finish,” Vereen said. “Obviously, it wasn’t a year that you necessarily want to hang your hat on. But I hope to learn some things that help me going forward.”
However, nobody in the new regime vouched for Vereen (or Allen or Bostic or Marshall or Greene or Mills).
General Manager Ryan Pace. New hire. Head coach John Fox? New hire. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio? New hire.
The new world order in Chicago saw players like Allen and Vereen as square pegs in round holes. Was the new direction of the coaching staff vastly different under Fox than it was when Emery and Trestman were running the show?
“It was, it was,” Vereen said. “That’s not an excuse of any kind, but it was.”
Had the Bears not been 0-3, the purge may not have happened. They are. It did. The team decided to make sweeping changes. Allen and Bostic were subtraction with addition – the Bears received mid-Saturday afternoon draft picks in 2016. Vereen, Greene and Mills were just cut loose.
Vereen found out that, at this point of the season, the Bears are looking to go with “Pace/Fox/Fangio” guys, not “Emery/Trestman/Tucker” guys. The NFL can be a business that has a cutthroat component. At 0-3, the new-look Bears decision-makers are looking to start forming the roster in their image, not the image they inherited.
It wasn’t subtle how the word came down.
“The information I was relayed was we’re making changes and you guys are part of those changes,” Vereen said.
Suddenly unemployed, Vereen was looking for a landing spot somewhere. With the guidance of his older brother, former Patriots and current Giants running back Shane Vereen, he decided his best career move would be to come to the Vikings and compete for a roster spot.
In 19 career games, this will be the third time Vereen can make a first impression on a coaching staff. Hopefully, the third time will be the charm.