With the NFL lockout still very much real, NFL Network is doing everything in their power to keep hope for the 2011 season alive.
The series “The Top 100 Players of 2011,” which is voted on by NFL players, is in full swing on NFL Network and four Chicago Bears have made the list.
Lance Briggs has been the only Bear announced–at No. 92–since the program kicked off and has counted down the Top 51 players already. This means that three more Bears are on the list and I think it’s safe to say that we know who those players are.
Brian Urlacher, Devin Hester, Julius Peppers all surely have made the Top 50.
More to note, we know who got snubbed from the list: one Jay Cutler.
One has to assume that Cutler’s controversial benching in the NFC Championship Game against the Green Bay Packers had something to do with this.
This is a list voted on by the players–those same players that questioned Cutler’s toughness for not returning to the game.
Cutler has seen his share of controversy since coming to Chicago two years ago but he has given a Bears franchise hope for an offense with a reputation that is downright ugly.
Behind a shoddy offensive line–in which he endured 56 sacks–and playing so-so receivers, Cutler had a great year for the Bears in guiding them to their first postseason berth since their 2006 Super Bowl appearance.
He missed just one game–after sustaining a concussion the previous game in which he was sacked nine times by the New York Giants–and led the Bears to an 11-5 record and the NFC North Championship. He passed for 3,274 passing yards, 23 touchdowns, 16 interceptions and added 232 rushing yards.
And yet the criticism will keep on coming.
Everyone loves to hate Jay Cutler, as evidenced by his snubbing by his fellow players.
There was a sense of relief that washed through the Chicago Bears fandom when the Bears selected offensive tackle Gabe Carimi with the 29th overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft on Thursday night.
There may have also been a sigh of relief from one Jay Cutler.
“He was one of the first people to text me and congratulate me,” Carimi told reporters, “and I sent him a text back, ‘I am so happy to block for you. I am going to give you all the time you ask for. I am going to work my buns off for you.”
It’s no secret that for about two years the Bears have been in dire need of solidity on the offensive line. After a 2010 campaign where Cutler was sacked a league-high 56 times, offensive tackle had been Chicago’s main focus heading into the draft.
But the question is where will Carimi line up?
The Lake Forest-born Carimi played at left tackle at Wisconsin but there has been some doubt by NFL scouts if he has the physical skills to play at left tackle in the NFL.
Sean Jensen of the Sun-Times suggested that Carimi would line up at right tackle with J’Marcus Webb in the role of left tackle, noting Webb’s physicality advantage over Carimi.
“It obviously doesn’t matter to me,” Carimi said about where he will line up. “Wherever Mike Tice is going to want me, I am going to play. I am just going to be excited to play for the Bears. Really, I am so pumped about the entire situation. I am hoping to bring a physical presence to the offensive line which they already have.”
With that physical presence comes an attitude characteristic of Olin Kretuz. It’s an attitude that Bears offensive line could really use to bolster their morale.
Even though he was born in Lake Forest, Carimi moved to Wisconsin when he was three years old. Wisconsin and Bears are two words that just do not mesh well. Should we be concerned?
“I thought this would be the best situation for me to have a great career with a great organization,” he said. “This is where I wanted to be. I wanted to be a Bear.
“I grew up a Packer fan. How wrong I was. I see the errors of my way.”
All is forgiven.