And Here We…Go!

“Football is back” – the three greatest words we’ve heard NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA leader DeMaurice Smith say since this appalling lockout began months ago.

The NFL lockout officially ended on Monday and now it’s back to business for NFL coaches and General Managers. This year though, affairs are going to have to move fast….lightning fast.

Bears’ GM Jerry Angelo, like all GM’s around the league, are going to have their hands full in the next couple days trying to sign their draft picks and acquire free agents. Expect to see rookies Gabe Carimi and Stephen Paea all signed in the next couple days as well as the later round picks the Bears made last April.

With rookie contracts out of the way, Angelo must put his focus on re-signing center Olin Kreutz as soon as possible. The free agent market for centers is thin and even with Kreutz’s diminishing skills; he’s clearly the best option for the Bears.

Just like the offensive line, it’s no secret that the Bears need help at the wide receiver position. Former Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Mike Sims-Walker, who’s currently a free agent, told the Chicago Tribune on Monday that he’s interested in joining the Bears…

“Chicago would be one of the ideal spots for me,” Sims-Walker said. “With [offensive coordinator Mike Martz] and Jay Cutler, the speedy receivers, the monster defense, and Matt Forte in the backfield, I think I can be the missing piece.”

“They are close, one or two pieces away. Hopefully I can put them over the top.”

Sims-Walker is just one of many wide receiver options Angelo could take a hard look at.  With Angelo frantically trying to create the foundation of this roster in time for the first day of training camp this Friday, Bears’ Head Coach Lovie Smith is also going to be a busy man. Because of the lockout, all offseason minicamps and football related programs were cancelled which could possibly hurt the team but as always, Smith remains optimistic…

“We have a plan in place. Everybody’s starting at the same time.” Smith said. We realize when our first preseason game is and we have time to get ready. We’ll be ready opening day for Atlanta.”

The Bears find themselves in a fortunate situation where they have a coaching staff that’s been completely intact prior to this upcoming season. There are eight NFL teams that have new head coaches and will be implementing new offensive and defensive systems. Coaches were not allowed to have contact with the players during the lockout so none of the players on those eight teams received playbooks from their new coaching staffs. The NFL pre-season, as of right now, begins on August 11th…giving players from those teams only 17 days to learn the new system.

The Bears will have to move swiftly but matters could have been much worse if the team was transitioning to a new coaching staff…

“We know the players. They know us.” Smith said. “All three of our systems are in place. We have a veteran staff. All those things should help.”

Will it give the Bears an edge with four of those eight teams with new coaches being in the NFC? It’s hard to say. The biggest hurdle for the Bears will be right in their own division with the Green Bay Packers. The Packers are also a team coming back with a long time coaching staff in place, fully healthy and fresh off of a Super Bowl championship. Once this free agent frenzy comes to an end, we should have a pretty good idea on how the Bears stack up against the Packers as well as the rest of the NFC North division.

The NFL will be experiencing tunnel vision here in the early going but fans can be relieved that football is finally back.

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