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NFL Team Report - Chicago Bears - INSIDE SLANT
Learning a new offense is old hat for quarterback Jay Cutler, who's in the process of assimilating his fourth different scheme in his five years with the Bears.
Cutler knows it takes time, a lot of work on the field and studying of the playbook to master any system. The big difference this time is he's been given more talented personnel than in the past.
Specifically, the addition of free agent tight end Martellus Bennett could be enormous. His ability to be an impact player in the passing game, protect the quarterback and pave the way for the run game has shown that Bennett will speed the learning curve of mastering another offense.
"There are only so many different things you can do on a football field," said Cutler, who has operated offenses coordinated by Ron Turner, Mike Martz, Mike Tice and now Aaron Kromer. "Kromer and everyone else involved, and (coach) Marc (Trestman) have a great understanding of how to get guys open, how to protect the football, how to open up gaps in the run game.
"Right now we're just kind of trying to learn the basics of the offense. It's a three-year process to learn an offense. It just is what it is. It takes time. It's hard to go out there in Year One and blow the doors off."
But it might be easier because of his supporting cast.
In addition to Bennett, free agency also brought Pro Bowl left tackle Jermon Bushrod and left guard Matt Slauson to an offense buoyed by Cutler, record-setting wide receiver Brandon Marshall and do-it-all running back Matt Forte.
"This is the most competitive locker room I've ever been in, talent-wise (and) speed-wise," Cutler said. "We've got some guys in there who can really play football, and we've got a lot of them, which is a good thing. It's going to be tough when it comes down to cuts to see exactly how it shakes out."
The Bears finish their final minicamp with practices Wednesday and Thursday at Halas Hall and then enjoy a six-week break before training camp opens at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais. In late July, Cutler and the offense will continue incorporating the tight end into the passing game, something the Bears lacked the past two seasons.
The 6-6, 265-pound Bennett is coming off a career year in 2012, when he caught 55 passes for 626 yards and five touchdowns with the Giants.
"The thing about him is, he wants to be great," Cutler said. "He doesn't want to be (just) good. So every day he comes out here working. He's always asking us questions of what he can do better, how he can improve. He's a rare breed. He's able to block, he's able to run. He's got a really good feel in the passing game of zone (and) man. He's fun to work with. You don't find many guys like that around."
Bennett is indeed different, maybe even unusual, bordering on weird, which might be expected from someone who has nicknamed himself "The Black Unicorn." He described himself Tuesday as "creative."
"He says he's abstract," an amused Cutler said. "So take that for what it's worth. We've talked about it and I said, 'Some of your creativity, you've got to leave that in the locker room.' "
Bennett's eccentricities will be tolerated and even embraced if he produces as he did last season.
"He brings a different humor, a different swagger to that offensive group," Cutler said. "He keeps things light, but he knows when it's time to work. It's good having him in meetings. He kind of breaks some of the monotony up, and out here, when things get a little bit stagnant, he's a tall guy and he's not afraid to use his voice, so it's good having him around."
NFL Team Report - Chicago Bears - NOTES, QUOTES
--Bears backup tight end Gabe Miller was suspended without pay for four regular-season games by the NFL for violating the league's policy on performance enhancing substances.
Miller will be allowed to participate in the team's offseason and preseason practices and games, but no team activities during the first four weeks of the regular season. He was with the Bears for their organized team workout on Tuesday.
"I would like to apologize to the entire Bears organization as well as our fans for taking a substance during the offseason that is prohibited by the NFL without a medical exemption," Miller said in a statement. "While it was an isolated incident, I regret the poor judgment I showed and accept full responsibility for this mistake along with the punishment that comes with it.
"In the meantime, I will continue to work hard and contribute in any way I can. I look forward to having the opportunity to make this up to the people that I have disappointed."
Miller, a fifth-round pick of the Chiefs in 2011, who spent most of last season on the Bears' practice squad, is far from a lock to make the final 53-man roster. The position includes starter Martellus Bennett and backups Steve Maneri, Kyle Adams, Brody Eldridge and Fendi Onobun. Fullback Evan Rodriguez has played some tight end in the past as well.
--Second-year fullback/tight end Evan Rodriguez was waived Monday following a recent DUI arrest. Rodriguez was also arrested in March for misdemeanor resisting an officer without violence and disorderly intoxication, but those charges were dropped.
In an apology after the DUI arrest, he said, "I just have to face the music. Anything that's going to happen, I just have to handle it and be a man about my whole approach about everything. I have to hold myself more to a higher standard and be more accountable for my actions."
--Offensive lineman Gabe Carimi had opted to work out on his own in Arizona while missing all of the voluntary offseason workouts and practices. General manager Phil Emery claimed Carimi would still be in competition for a job, saying, "Gabe is doing what he feels is best for Gabe. We'll welcome him with open arms when he comes. I look forward to seeing how he's doing."
Those turned out top mere words as Carimi was traded to the Buccaneers Monday for a sixth-round pick in the 2014 draft.
--Some big-name quarterbacks visited Halas Hall last week for workouts, led by former No. 1 overall draft pick JaMarcus Russell, who was a bust with the Raiders.
Jordan Palmer, the brother of current Raiders quarterback Carson Palmer, also visited, as will former Bills starter Trent Edwards. All three were drafted in 2007, Edwards in the third round and Palmer in the sixth. Edwards has started 33 NFL games, while Palmer has never started.
Russell was cut by the Raiders in May of 2010 and has not played in the NFL since. As recently as last year his weight was over 300 pounds, but he has dropped 40 pounds since announcing a comeback. His career passer rating is 65.2.
Originally, the Bears weren't interested in taking a look at Russell. Then, in April, former NFL quarterback Jeff Garcia, who is working with Russell, called Chicago and Arizona ideal fits for Russell, who told Yahoo! Sports he didn't want to be remembered as a "bust."
Russell is working at the TEST Football Academy with Garcia. Russell hasn't played a down of football in the NFL since 2009, and he won just seven of 25 starts during his career in Oakland. Russell received approximately $39 million in three seasons in Oakland, and has completed 52.1 percent of his passes for 18 touchdowns and 23 interceptions.
In 2010, authorities charged Russell with felony possession of a controlled substance, a drink containing codeine cough syrup, when officers raided his home that July. A grand jury declined to indict the quarterback later that year on those charges.
There has been no indication that coaches are dissatisfied with current backup quarterbacks Josh McCown and Matt Blanchard, but neither is entrenched.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I'm ecstatic. I've never been around better coaches. Lovie (Smith): amazing coach, amazing man. Coach (Mike) Shanahan: amazing coach, one of the gurus of the game. Josh McDaniels: One of the gurus on offense. But what we have here in coach (Aaron) Kromer and coach (Marc) Trestman, their leadership on offense is amazing. I've never been around it." -- WR Brandon Marshall on the new coaching staff.
NFL Team Report - Chicago Bears - STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
FRANCHISE PLAYER: DT Henry Melton (tendered at $8.45 million; signed tender March 12).
TRANSITION PLAYER: None.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (not tendered offers)
--RB Kahlil Bell (not tendered as UFA).
--DE Israel Idonije (not tendered as UFA).
--PK Olindo Mare (not tendered as UFA).
--S Troy Nolan (not tendered as UFA).
--DT Amobi Okoye (not tendered as UFA).
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: None.
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: None.
DRAFT CHOICES SIGNED
--G Kyle Long (1/20): $8,300,952/4 yrs, $4,417,506 SB/$7,541,162 guaranteed/$759,790 RB third day 2016 league year.
--LB Jonathan Bostic (2/50): $3,940,798/4 yrs, $1,246,036 SB/$1,830,163 guaranteed.
--LB Khaseem Greene (4/117); $2,592,092/4 yrs, $432,092 SB.
--T Jordan Mills (5/163): $2,324,800/4 yrs, $164,800 SB.
--DE Cornelius Washington (6/188): $2,263,788/4 yrs, $103,788 SB.
--WR Marquess Wilson (7/236): $2,207,148/4 yrs, $47,148 SB.
--RB Armando Allen: ERFA; terms unknown.
--CB Zack Bowman: UFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--DT Nate Collins: Not tendered as RFA; $630,000/1 yr.
--CB Kelvin Hayden: UFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--QB Josh McCown: UFA; $865,000/1 yr, $25,000 SB/$125,000 guaranteed.
--DT Henry Melton: FFA; $8.45M/1 yr.
--T Jonathan Scott: UFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--LB James Anderson: FA Panthers; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--WR Devin Aromashodu: Not tendered as UFA by Vikings; terms unknown.
--TE Martellus Bennett: UFA Giants; $20M/4 yrs, $4.5M SB/$9M guaranteed.
--G Eben Britton: UFA Jaguars; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--T Jermon Bushrod: UFA Saints; $36M/5 yrs, $11M SB/$17.715M guaranteed.
--TE Brody Eldridge: FA; terms unknown.
--DT Sedrick Ellis: Not tendered as UFA by Saints; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--FB Tony Fiammetta: FA Patriots; terms unknown.
--DT Corvey Irvin: FA Buccaneers; terms unknown.
--TE Steve Maneri: Not tendered as ERFA by Chiefs; 2 yrs, terms unknown.
--DE Turk McBride: UFA Saints; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--DE Kyle Moore: UFA Bills; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--G Matt Slauson: UFA Jets; $815,000/1 yr, $100,000 SB/$200,000 guaranteed.
--LB D.J. Williams: FA Broncos; $1.75M/1 yr.
--S Tom Zbikowski: FA Colts; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--QB Jason Campbell: UFA Browns; $4.25M/2 yrs, $500,000 guaranteed.
--T/G Gabe Carimi (traded Buccaneers).
--TE Kellen Davis (released).
--LB Dom DeCicco (released).
--LB Geno Hayes: UFA Jaguars; $2M/2 yrs.
--WR Johnny Knox (released/failed physical; subsequently retired).
--G Lance Louis: UFA Dolphins; $1.603M/1 yr, $100,000 guaranteed.
--CB D.J. Moore: UFA Panthers; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--G Chilo Rachal: UFA Cardinals; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--LB Nick Roach: UFA Raiders; $13M/4 yrs, $5M guaranteed.
--FB/TE Evan Rodriguez (released).
--TE Matt Spaeth (released).
--C/G Chris Spencer: UFA Titans; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--DT Matt Toeaina (released).
--LB Brian Urlacher: UFA; retired.