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NFL Indsider - Mark Maske

Bears Playing Russian Roulette at QB Again

By Mark Maske
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 24, 2005; 5:15 PM

The Chicago Bears are at it again. Lovie Smith's first season as an NFL head coach was undermined last year because the Bears unwisely left themselves without a reliable backup quarterback behind new starter Rex Grossman. Chicago went through Jonathan Quinn, rookie Craig Krenzel and Chad Hutchinson as its starters after Grossman suffered a season-ending knee injury, and even added Jeff George to its roster late in the season. The Bears finished 5-11 and ranked last in the NFL in total offense.

So, naturally, one would have assumed that General Manager Jerry Angelo and Smith would have made it a priority this offseason to have a dependable quarterback to go with Grossman, particularly with the young starter coming off a serious injury.

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But it's late March, the maneuvering on the NFL's picked-over free-agent market has all but come to a halt, and the Bears still have Hutchinson as their No. 2 quarterback. Angelo has said that the club won't add a veteran quarterback before next month's draft, then it will reassess the situation after that.

The Bears tried to sign Kurt Warner in free agency, and failed. The tried to get Jay Fiedler or Brad Johnson, and failed. Apparently they didn't try hard enough. Now they're left looking at a list of free-agent quarterbacks that includes Vinny Testaverde, Jeff Blake, Quincy Carter, Charlie Batch, Chris Chandler, Shaun King and Doug Flutie.

Bucs Unlikely to Sign Carter

Tampa Bay had Carter, the former Dallas starter who spent last season with the New York Jets, in for a visit last week, but the Buccaneers have not signed him and team officials say they are continuing their search for a quarterback to go with Brian Griese and Chris Simms.

The Buccaneers perhaps are not comfortable taking a chance on Carter, who reportedly failed a drug test before he was released by the Cowboys in training camp last summer. He won two of his three starts for the Jets last season after helping Dallas to the playoffs in the 2003 season. But he was absent from the Jets at the end of their season, and there were reports later that he was in drug treatment and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

The Buccaneers' candidates apparently include Blake, the former starter for several clubs who spent last season as a reserve in Philadelphia, and Flutie, the 42-year-old veteran who is drawing interest from a handful of Canadian Football League teams but might retire if no NFL club wants him. . . .

Seattle Seahawks Coach Mike Holmgren revealed this week that he allowed Koren Robinson to play in the club's playoff loss to St. Louis last season only after the troubled wide receiver agreed to seek professional help in the offseason.

Holmgren declined to specify the nature of the professional help. Robinson was disciplined three times last season, being benched twice for games by Holmgren and serving a four-game suspension imposed by the league for violating its substance-abuse policy.

Holmgren indicated that Robinson completed his treatment as promised and will participate in the Seahawks' offseason conditioning program. . . .

Miami Dolphins Coach Nick Saban this week left open the possibility of tailback Ricky Williams, who abruptly retired from the club just before training camp last summer, returning to the team. But it seems unlikely that the league would allow Williams to return before July.

Williams reportedly is facing a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy. He has admitted to testing positive several times for marijuana use.

Under the league's substance-abuse policy, if a player who's already in the program (by virtue of having had at least one positive test) retires and then returns in less than a year, he is charged with an additional violation of the policy. In Williams's case, that would result in a one-year suspension.

Late last season, attorney David Cornwell worked out an agreement with the league on Williams's behalf that would have enabled Williams to serve his pending four-game suspension in the final four games of last season. That would have left him eligible, barring any further positive drug tests, to participate in offseason workouts, and eligible to play at the outset of next season. But Williams rejected the deal, telling his representatives that he wasn't ready at that point to return to football.

Unless that agreement is reinstated, Williams would have to wait until July to un-retire, if that is what he wishes to do, and he still would be facing a four-game suspension to open next season. . . .

Denver signed tight end Stephen Alexander, who spent last season with Detroit, to a three-year, $4.2 million contract that includes $1 million in bonuses. . . . Indianapolis signed free-agent offensive tackle Joaquin Gonzalez, formerly of Cleveland. . . . The Bears signed wide receiver Eddie Berlin, a free agent from Tennessee. . . . Kansas City re-signed free-agent long snapper Kendall Gammon. . . . Defensive lineman Ross Kolodziej, a restricted free agent, re-signed with Arizona. . . . The New York Giants released veteran offensive lineman Barry Stokes.

Clarett to Work Out at High School

Agent Steve Feldman told the Associated Press that former Ohio State tailback Maurice Clarett will work out for NFL scouts next Thursday at his former high school in Warren, Ohio.

Ohio State did not permit Clarett to participate in its pro-day workouts for scouts. Clarett's draft stock plummeted with an unimpressive workout at the NFL scouting combine last month in Indianapolis. He is eligible for this year's draft after unsuccessfully suing the league to attempt to get into last year's draft, and he hasn't played in two seasons since helping Ohio State to a national championship as a freshman.

It seems unlikely at this point that Clarett will be selected until the late rounds of the draft, if at all, unless he has an impressive showing next week at Warren G. Harding High. . . .

New Orleans Saints Coach Jim Haslett told reporters Wednesday at the league meetings in Hawaii that he used steroids as an NFL player.

Haslett, a linebacker, was a second-round draft pick by Buffalo in 1979 and played eight seasons for the Bills and one season for the Jets. He was named all-pro in 1981. He said he tried steroids briefly in one offseason after being drafted by the Bills, and estimated that half the league's players, including virtually all linemen, used steroids in the 1980s before they were banned by the league.

"Everybody wanted an advantage, so you tried it," Haslett said, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "I tried it. I mean, I tried it, everybody tried it."

Haslett's comments also appeared in the Los Angeles Times.

"If you didn't [take steroids] you weren't as strong as everybody else [and] you weren't as fast as everybody else," he said. "That's the only reason to do it. Everybody's looking for a competitive edge."

Haslett said he quit because of the side effects of taking steroids. Haslett said the use of steroids was popularized by Pittsburgh Steelers players in the late 1970s and early '80s. Steelers owner Dan Rooney denied that to the Post-Gazette, saying that former coach Chuck Noll advised his players against using steroids. . . .

The 20 votes in favor of a proposal to make plays involving fumbles and "down by contact" rulings reviewable by instant replay weren't enough to implement the measure, since 24 teams must approve a rules change for it to be enacted. But they were enough to leave supporters of the proposal hopeful that it will be ratified sometime in the next few years. . . .

The clubs did approve a dozen rules changes Wednesday at the league meetings in Hawaii, including a redefining of the unnecessary-roughness penalty to include certain types of dangerous blocks performed far from the ballcarrier that don't affect the outcome of the play. The league made certain blocks on screen passes illegal and added rules to protect kickers and punters on returns.

Coaches no longer will use a buzzer system to alert referees that they want to issue instant-replay challenges, instead relying exclusively on red signal flags.

No decision was made on a proposal to ban the "horse-collaring" tackling technique in which a defender grabs the offensive player around the neck or shoulders from behind, but a rule regarding that issue likely will be passed at the May owners' meetings in D.C.

Two rules proposals by the Chiefs were defeated. One would have made defensive pass interference a 15-yard penalty, at most, and one would have taken away the automatic first down that comes with a defensive illegal-contact infraction. . . .

Consideration of another proposal by the Chiefs -- to have Kansas City awarded a Super Bowl between 2012 and 2022, contingent upon the city having a stadium with a roof -- was postponed until May. . . . The league also postponed consideration -- in this case, indefinitely -- of a proposal by the Dolphins to make Miami a semi-permanent Super Bowl host. Under the proposal, the city would host the game once every three years and would build additional facilities for events that would create a two-week celebration of the sport. . . .

Carolina reportedly extended the contract of General Manager Marty Hurney through the 2009 season. . . . Indianapolis reportedly plans to extend the contract of Coach Tony Dungy before training camp. Dungy's current deal has two seasons remaining. . . . The Colts have asked a league for an explanation of why they received only fourth- and fifth-round compensatory draft picks next month for last year's free-agent losses. They thought they deserved more under the NFL's formula for awarding compensatory draft choices. . . . The Saints seemingly remain interested in trading defensive end Darren Howard, their franchise player. Oakland may have joined Dallas in pursuit of Howard.


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