9:29 AM CDT, July 12, 2011
Me, I’m rooting for the lawyers in this one. If you are a Bears fan, a Bears player or a Bears wonk, I suggest you do the same, and here’s why:
If the NFL and the players can’t strike a deal to end the lockout by July 21, then it would be almost impossible for Jay Cutler to be forced to run for his life in the Hall of Fame Game.
Or in his case, hobble for his life. Actually, we don’t know what shape the Bears’ starting quarterback is in, and that’s exactly the point.
When last we saw Cutler play football, he was unable to play football. He suffered a tear in his left knee in the second quarter of the NFC Championship Game at Soldier Field and sat out the rest of what would become the penultimate stop on the Packers’ coronation parade.
Cutler also was Twitssassinated, or at least his toughness was questioned in 140 characters or less by football players who seemingly couldn’t count to 140 if you spotted them 139. But that’s not the issue here. Everybody with a brain knows that Cutler is tough enough. Nobody, however, is sure how much Cutler can take and how soon he can take it.
Remember the exhibition opener last year? Cutler nearly died as he was chased around the field by the Chargers before getting yanked sooner than the Bears had in mind. That game would foretell the disaster that would be the Bears’ inept offensive line under Mike Martz’s insane insistence that his offense could work. It couldn’t. See Cutler’s 50-something sacks, plus a bonus concussion, for details.
Once Martz stopped being Martz, or as soon as aliens landed and snatched his lunatic brain, the Bears came out of the bye week with a balanced offense and a pile of yards and a lot of points.
Point is, I still don’t trust Martz, and I’d feel that way even if Cutler was in good health. But we don’t know what kind of health he’s in, and the fear is, he’s in worse shape than the Bears’ line. Or he will end up that way because of the Bears’ line, which is full of holes, questions and disasters (looking at you, Chris Williams).
The combination of a hurried opening to training camp, an offensive line in flux if not chaos, and Martz thinking his video-game offense is viable here all seem like good reasons for Cutler to hope the Hall of Fame Game scheduled for Aug. 7 is canceled. Good reasons for everybody to root for the lawyers.
Understand, the Hall of Fame Game is a bonus. The Bears still would have the usual four exhibition games to deny how bad their offensive line and receiving corps are, but now that I think of it, there is another advantage to an extended lockout beyond saving Cutler’s life. If there is so much to the vaunted Martz offense that the Bears had no clue how to make it work after 10 or 11 games last year, then they certainly can’t fool themselves into believing they can execute it after going 0-for-the-offseason.
As it stands, the lockout benefits teams with veteran players at key positions and veteran coaching staffs. The Bears are one of those teams. They also will benefit by a shortened period of teaching time that seems like it will take away the offensive coordinator’s lunatic impulses.
The key, then, is to make sure the new collective bargaining agreement does not get finalized until, I don’t know, July 28. Yeah, a week after the owners’ next scheduled meeting July 21 would be a good target date because it would ensure fewer than the NFL-mandated 15 days from the opening of camp until the first game, and that would kill Bears-Rams at the Hall of Fame Game in Canton.
I know, Richard Dent finally and deservedly enters the Hall this year, and good for him, but that doesn’t mean Cutler’s career has to be over, too. If the Bears had any clout in the professional football league that their own guy started, they might be able to filibuster away the Hall of Fame Game threat. But they don’t, and so, it’s on the lawyers.
And if there’s any group capable of making a bigger mess than Jerry Angelo’s bunch on draft day, it’s lawyers. They’ve screwed up smaller things for a lot longer, so asking lawyers to be their turgid, obstreperous, pedantic selves for a couple more days seems like a bigger gimme than a slant pass for a first down against Lovie Smith’s Tampa-2.
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