This Die Hard Chicago Bears fan and Chicitysports.com reporter was honored with a rare treat on Friday. A one-on-on interview with Hall of Fame, Super Bowl Champion, Bears Defensive Lineman Dan Hampton. He was at North Beach on Lake Michigan with his Sponsor, the team from Prilosec OTC, covering the Chicago Air and Water show featuring the Blue Angles flight demonstration team. The Air And Water show is special to Dan as he grew up outside Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas. He fondly remembers the roaring engines and speed of the B-58 Hustler airplane, a personal favorite of his, growing up just 7 miles from the Air Force base as a kid.
The first question out the gate was asking Dan about this year’s team and what he thinks about the roster moves. He stated he is first and foremost is a fan and predicts a11-5 record and sees great things for this team. Putting together a championship team is a complex puzzle and Dan feels the pieces are here they just need to fall into place for a very special season.
Dan was critical of the play of last years line and how the injuries affected the entire defense. He is however, impressed with the reworking of the defensive line and the resurgence of Jeremiah Ratliff. He highlighted his role not only as an impact player, but as a leader and mentor for the younger defensive lineman. The roster moves of adding Lamarr Houston, Jared Allen are great additions but he has a special affinity for Willie Young. Dan stated that teams get too hung up on sacks and that the intangibles can be even more important. In the case of Young last year, he had only 3 sacks but 48 hurries. Dan Stated that “Hurries are the beginning of something bad happening for the offense”. He truly is excited to see the situations where Houston lines up inside with Ratliff and Allen paired with Young on the edge. He doesn’t think any team in the NFL has a more talented pass rushing front four. Defensive line play is critical to this year’s defensive success as much as it was to the detriment of last year’s team.
Dan’s take on the rookies drafted was positive overall. He really likes the first round pick Kyle Fuller and believes he will be something for the franchise as Tillman and Jennings play out their careers. He got excited talking about 3rd round pick Will Sutton. He compared him to a young John Randle and says he is better than anyone we had last year playing on the interior last year except Ratliff when healthy. He has faith in 4th round pick Brock Verren and is sure one day soon the light will come on and he will be something special for years to come.
I asked Dan about what he thinks of Jay Cutler and the offensive side of the ball and he was effusive about their play so far and potential of this offense under Trestman. He raved about Trestman and his ability to take the quarterbacks to the next level and believes Jay is ready to have a phenomenal year. Dan stated “The Sky’s the limit” with this offense and Jay has a special skill set that very few quarterbacks in this league possess. The complementary pieces are now in place for Jay and he expects big things from this offense. He is impressed with how he coined it the “Third coming and resurgence of Brandon Marshall”. He loves how he has embraced Chicago, the fans, and this team since coming to Chicago.
Analyzing last years play on the defense overall and some players in particular the straight shooting Hampton pulled no punches. Dan felt that “Julius Peppers was stealing money” and that he failed to show leadership as the line play fell apart. At the safety position Dan didn’t mince words either on the play of Chris Conte. He doesn’t believe that Conte is a starting safety in this league and that “teams laugh” at the thought of Conte and McClellan starting on defense for this team.
When asked about the new rules in the NFL and the emphasis on offense in the league Dan was quite candid. “The NFL is a business and points sell”. The NFL knows where their revenue comes from and even Fantasy Football Leagues have some impact on how the league operates.
It was an amazing experience to talk to a Hall of Fame lineman and hears his insights into the league and the current Bears roster. Dan Hampton is one of the iconic faces of this organization and he has high hopes for this team and the future. Dan will be on site at North Beach on Sunday serving BBQ, competing in the” Hole in none” corn hole event, and joins Herb Hunter in the booth as co-host of the Air Show announcing team. As the face of this franchise walked away I was left wondering, What would Dan Do? (WWDD)