Sean Jensen at the Chicago Sun-Times recently interviewed Bears quarterback Jay Cutler and asked him about the workouts they were planning. To the surprise of many, only the offensive players were planning to workout together:
“Cutler said the workouts would be for offensive players only.
“’I mean, those defenders have been in the system for eight years, nine years,’ Cutler said. ‘What are they gonna do?
“’What am I going to tell Lach?’ Cutler said, referring to linebacker Brian Urlacher. ‘‘Your drop is a little short. Sorry, buddy.’ Offensively, we have a lot of room to improve.’”
The offense actually started last Wednesday without the defense and Cutler’s reasons for not pushing them to be there above are true enough. But what the veteran defensive players either don’t understand or, worse, don’t seem to care about, is that even though they personally don’t need the workouts, the team needs them to be there.
I love Brian Urlacher but like many if not most great athletes he’s a little emotionally stunted. Sometimes you can tell that there’s a lack of maturity there that makes him self-centered, not on the field, but in other little ways off it. This is one example of it and I’m sure many of his teammates are no better.
Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune sits down with the paper’s NFL expert, former safety Matt Bowen where Bowen elaborates on this issue:
“It’s easy to go out there and run routes with your teammates when you’re not held accountable by working against a defensive back and having a coach look over your shoulder. It’s just not the same.”
“Working against a defense [is what's missing from the workouts]. Running routes is just like doing warmups before a game when you come out of the locker room. There are some benefits to that. You can work on your timing. Let’s say the depth of the route is 10 yards, you can really fine-tune that. Work on getting your head back. Jay (Cutler) can work on getting to that fifth step, planting the foot and throwing the ball. But without the competition aspect, without having the DB drive underneath that route and make a play on it, without having that DB working against receivers so they can create separation and get down the field, it’s not football.”
Bottom line your offense can’t get better without a defense there to play against.
Admittedly you might question just how much of a “competition aspect” there would be without coaches present and without the risk of even accidental contact. And I understand that the offseason is a precious time for these guys and I’m sure the defensive players are enjoying the time off.
But the Packers, the Lions and the Vikings are getting better and the Bears aren’t going to keep up by sitting stagnant and saying, “We’re veterans. We don’t need to work.” Urlacher needs to get the defense out on the field to workout with the offense.