INDIANAPOLIS - The hardest part about covering an NFL team is getting coaches or front office folks to talk. While Bears general manager Phil Emery and head coach Marc Trestman are pleasant enough guys, they share real information like the CIA shares Rolodexes.
That’s why NFL media line up at their editors’ desks to cover the combine. The trick here in Indianapolis is getting the world’s greatest collection of mimes and mutes to stop talking.
But what are they actually saying?
For example, after refusing to recognize the significance of the Bears-Packers rivalry during his first season in Chicago, here’s what Marc Trestman says now:
“We go into every season and every week, we don’t demonize opponents, we respect every opponent. But, on the other hand, we understand what that rivalry means to our community and the communities of Green Bay and Chicago. And we believe it’s a healthy rivalry. But we need to be at our best every week and certainly be at our best against a divisional opponent like the Packers.”
In other words, it’s still just another game to him.
Told that cornerback Charles Tillman has expressed a strong desire to remain a Chicago Bear, Emery said:
“Certainly Charles knows we want him back and we’ll just work through it. It’s a step-by-step process.”
Based on what we learned from the Brian Urlacher divorce, that means the Bears love Charles too, and he’ll be back on their terms and in their time frame or not at all.
Asked whether Julius Peppers will be a salary cap casualty or a Bear, Emery said:
“That would be a contract question and I think I have a very demonstrated history of not answering those questions. I will say that Julius is part of our football team. He is under contract. We’re all coming off an 8-8 season. We have a lot to improve upon and that is where our heads are at.”
But the Bears can’t pay him $18 million to show up every third or fourth week.
Emery said of Shea McClellin’s move from defensive end to linebacker:
“I think it would be to our advantage to use players who have skills to rush the passer. I’ll go back: obviously disappointed on the sack production, in terms of that impact, but he was our most productive rusher on our team. His athleticism allows him to pressure the quarterback. We want to put him in position where he can make more plays overall.”
Imagine being disappointed in the sack production of the most productive rusher on your team. Still, I expect this means Emery stands behind the first round choice of McClellin.
Trestman said of Corey Wootton’s future or lack thereof with the Bears:
“I think that Corey is a free agent, just like a bunch of guys are free agents. He’s been very good in our locker room. He shows up every day and I think the endorsement is he shows up every day, he’s got a smile on his face and he works.”
Some endorsement. I think they like Wootton but know he won’t move the needle one way or the other on their defense.
Trestman also offered the best quote of the weekend when he said on several occasions:
“Last year, there were 10 players on the offensive side of the ball that were not on the roster this time of year and who significantly impacted our football team. I just note that because this is a process that we’re going through, filtering through our team, filtering through the free agents and building our team through the draft.”
I believe that means he thinks they’re about 10 players away on defense?
Finally, there was this from Emery about contract extensions:
“Good question. You’d have to give me specific players, and I wouldn’t tell you anyways.”
I think he meant exactly what he said.
• Hub Arkush covers the Bears and the NFL for Shaw Media and HubArkush.com. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.