Phil Emery had been moving along pretty well in changing a Chicago Bears teams that missed the playoffs five of the last six years.
Then came last week.
Emery went from the mousy handling of Brian Urlacher to replacing him with a problem that might cost the Bears defense big.
Emery’s first choice to replace Urlacher at middle linebacker can do a lot of things on the field, but there is a big risk that D.J. Williams might not be on the field. He wasn’t out there much for Denver last season.
Williams was suspended for three games after being convicted of driving while impaired. He was suspended for six more games after failing an NFL test for performance-enhancing drugs.
Those nine games are more than twice as many as Urlacher missed in the last three seasons combined. Bad enough that Williams’ idiocy cost him more than half of a season and forced his team into a bad spot, but Williams’ past portends worse for the Bears.
What hasn’t been reported much is that he failed a second drug test. Williams admitted to the failure in court papers as he tried to challenge the NFL’s testing and handling procedures.
Williams contended the NFL uses shoddy and irresponsible procedures. The court didn’t agree. Williams’ suspension was upheld.
Williams, it turned out, continually tried to sneak in "non-human" samples while being tested for steroids. Two tests, two "non-human" samples, too stupid.
But wait. There’s more. The story goes that as he was to be tested again at the Broncos facility, a bottle of something fell from his waist area and Williams kicked it near his locker. NFL testers are not allowed in the locker room, so he asked the Denver trainer to retrieve the bottle. The tester claims the trainer gave him a different bottle, and the NFL hearing officer concluded that Williams was now involved in his third drug-testing incident.
I think we see a pattern. I don't think it’s a good pattern. But that's just me.
Oh, and Williams’ conviction for driving while impaired in 2010? Not his first. In 2005, Williams pleaded guilty to impaired driving.
Williams is out of lifelines. He can’t phone a friend. He can’t ask the studio audience for help. And here’s where that can hurt the Bears in a big way:
Let’s say Williams makes another suspendable mistake in May. The Bears will have gotten through the draft and perhaps spent a high pick on another position because they believed they had the middle covered for now.
But the Bears still could recover from that this season because we’re not even talking training camp.
Where Emery will get torched is if Williams turns stupid during the season. It’s not the money in a tight salary-cap situation, it’s losing a starter in the middle of the season and the residual problems created.
Specifically, Williams will have taken vital practice reps and game snaps from a young player who now must step in and act like he knows what he’s doing. How’d you like to see that in October when the Bears are 3-3 and trail Green Bay and maybe Minnesota?
Unless you’ve heard differently, this is a season the Bears expect to compete for the Super Bowl. Their aggressive free-agent moves and the age of the players in their second tier of signees suggests that the goal hasn’t changed, even if the coaching staff and so much else has.
That’s the goal voiced by Emery, don’t forget. And here he is, rolling dice with his first move after his deceitful handling of the former team captain. If the Bears had been straight with Urlacher from the start, perhaps they would’ve had less risky choices for the spot charged with calling the defense.
Emery called this signing "a great opportunity for D.J. to restart his career after coming off suspension for part of the 2012 season."
The Bears are hoping that Williams can restart his career. Gambling that he can. Gambling a big part of the Bears' season potentially. Emery won his bet with troubled Brandon Marshall last year. Now Emery is doubling down with Marc Trestman’s chips.
But hey, at least we don’t have to listen to the Bears yammer on about how much character matters.