LAKE FOREST – Phil Emery never felt dizzy.
Maybe everyone else felt dizzy, what with 32 NFL teams vying for many hundreds of free agents all at once. But the Bears general manager felt right at home in the frenzy, like a veteran quarterback in the pocket as chaos erupted all around him.
“I was having the time of my life,” Emery said with a smile Wednesday at Halas Hall.
No, I’ve never felt this way before… Yes, I swear… It’s the tru-uuuth…
Ahem, sorry. Back to football.
The Bears organized a news conference to introduce two of their free-agent acquisitions, defensive end Lamarr Houston and safety Ryan Mundy. Shiny new jerseys awaited the players – No. 99 for Houston, No. 21 for Mundy – and both men flashed millionaires’ smiles as they held up their jerseys for the cameras.
It was a nice moment.
And then I checked my Twitter feed and saw that Josh McCown had signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, DeMarcus Ware had signed with the Denver Broncos, Darren Sproles had requested his release from the New Orleans Saints, Darrelle Revis had been cut by Tampa, and Owen Daniels was visiting Green Bay.
Plus a bunch of other stuff.
So, you know, kind of a ho-hum afternoon.
Here, right smack in the middle of two wild days of NFL transactions, seemed like a good time to check in on Emery. Because if he showed any signs of grumpiness or weariness or hesitation, that probably would bode poorly for the Bears.
Instead, Emery looked as giddy as an English teacher in a bookstore.
“How’s everybody doing?” Emery asked as he stepped to the lectern. “Did you slog through the snow this morning? They do a great job around here cleaning the streets. We knew if we got you at 1:30, it’d be all cleared and ready to go.”
This was vintage Emery, friendly and upbeat.
That’s good because significant work remains for Emery and his coaching staff as they look to repair the Bears’ woeful defense from a year ago. Houston and Mundy are a nice start, but the Bears still need a starting cornerback, a No. 3 cornerback, a couple of safeties, a couple of defensive tackles, a couple of defensive ends, another quarterback with NFL experience, and an effective No. 2 running back.
Did we mention depth at tight end and on the offensive line?
Emery’s happy mood was not a product of denial or blissful ignorance. The longtime scout acknowledged the work that lied ahead both in free agency and the draft.
“We’ve got some holes to fill,” Emery said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do on our roster. That’s why I made sure that – I want our fans to know that the work is not going to stop, and we just consider these signings as a step in the right direction.”
Sure, Emery dodged a few personnel questions, such as what the Bears might do with Charles Tillman or Henry Melton – “We’re working through that,” he said – but he also offered some valuable insight. Yes, he said, the Bears’ free-agent moves would help to shape which positions the team would target in the draft. He also said the crop of cornerbacks was much deeper in the draft than it was in free agency.
Emery could have spoken all day. But he had agents to call, players to scout.
“I would describe it as a wild process this weekend,” Emery said. “It’s a lot of fun. You can’t be timid during the ‘UFA’ process. There’s a lot of moving parts. You have to stay in it, you have to swing hard and be willing to reload and swing again. …
“You adjust as you go, you remain flexible, you have to. It’s just, it happens too fast, there’s too many people involved, you have to stay light on your feet and be willing to think differently and look at the equation differently and how it’s all going to work for you.”
Better clarity won’t arrive for weeks and months.
That’s not a problem. Emery is having the time of his life.
Yes, I swear… It’s the tru-uuuth… And I owe it all to you…
• Northwest Herald sports columnist Tom Musick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @tcmusick.