Bears Notebook: Devin Hester’s alleged involvement in University of Miami scandal changes nothing

August 17th, 2011 - 6:56 pm
Devin Hester is the greatest kick returner of all time and one of the most dynamic players in the NFL. Nothing he did in college off the field will change that perception.

Devin Hester is the greatest kick returner of all time and one of the most dynamic players in the NFL. Nothing he did in college off the field will change that perception.

News broke Wednesday morning about a scandal at the University of Miami in which more than 70 players from 2002-2010 had received benefits from a booster.

According to the article by Charles Robinson, the benefits given to athletes “included but were not limited to cash, prostitutes, entertainment in [Hurricanes booster Nevin Shapiro's] multimillion-dollar homes and yacht, paid trips to high-end restaurants and nightclubs, jewelry, bounties for on-field play (including bounties for injuring opposing players), travel and, on one occasion, an abortion.”

Wow. Three things immediately came to mind when I heard this story. First, it’s no wonder why Miami is a great place to party and why so many football players were attracted to the college affectionately called “The U.”

Secondly, it confirmed what I, and probably many skeptics across the country, suspected for many years: that in the modern era, a university that routinely draws some of the best players in the country and is consistently competing for the national championship probably has some level of illegal activity going on.

Finally, the third thing to hit my mind is that Bears wide receiver/kick returner Devin Hester probably had something to do with the scandal, but that it wouldn’t change my opinion of him one iota.

A lot of people will make a big deal out of this scandal, but the only ones that should are college football fans. As it is, college football purists are fighting an uphill battle for the cleanliness and attractiveness of their sport with no plateau in sight. Between recruiting violations, booster scandals, coaching transgressions, and even something as simple as the BCS mess and the lack of a playoff system, college football is in disarray.

But as far as what this means for Hester, the answer is nothing. The idea that a poor, broke college student accepted some type of enticing benefit isn’t hard to comprehend. Was it unethical? Sure. But I don’t think any less of him. As a Bears fan, and a fan of a professional sports league, I don’t care what players did in college. I just want the players for whom I cheer to be good football players and good citizens who don’t get arrested — so that they aren’t suspended from playing on Sundays.

Will Bears run more? They’re certainly equipped to do so

Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune wrote an article Wednesday making the case that the Bears’ offense is poised to run the ball more this season.

While I have to see it first before I believe it, Biggs is certainly correct about the makeup of the offense being geared toward a run game.

The Bears wanted to get bigger and tougher along the offensive line and they did so by parting ways with veteran center Olin Kreutz and replacing him with Chris Spencer. They also selected Gabe Carimi, a powerful mauler at right tackle, in the first round of the draft. To help secure the blocking, the Bears traded pass-catching tight end Greg Olsen and signed Matt Spaeth, a blocking tight end, from the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The skill position players are also more qualified to help the offense succeed in the run game. Matt Forte, in the hopes of getting a contract extension in the final year of his original deal, showed up to camp in excellent shape. The team added bruising running back Marion Barber, who will complement Forte and give the Bears a solid 1-2 punch. The Bears added a pair of big wide receivers in Roy Williams and Sam Hurd, and Hester and Johnny Knox showed up to camp with more upper body bulk. The improved size at wide receiver ought to help with toughness when run blocking.

Seeking a contract extension of his own, offensive coordinator Mike Martz might want to install his original offense at the beginning of the season. Due to protection problems last year, he had to scale down the number of passes after the bye week and start running the ball more. The Bears went 7-2 after the bye and won the division, but Martz might see a new year as a new opportunity to start fresh.

Hopefully, he learns from last year’s success that the run game can be a powerful weapon.

Mario Addison making a name for himself

Despite his solid performance Saturday against the Bills and the injury to Corey Wootton, defensive end Vernon Gholston still has plenty of pressure on him to make the team. The emergence of rookie free agent Mario Addison could make the veteran Gholston expendable.

Addison was active in the first preseason game and he was given second-team repetitions in practice Monday. Addison played football at Troy, where DeMarcus Ware and Osi Umenyiora — two of the game’s top pass rushers — attended school.

Behind starters Julius Peppers and Israel Idonije, there’s competition for perhaps two roster spots between Wootton, Gholston and Addison. The Bears kept four defensive ends last year and with so much depth at defensive tackle, it might make it difficult to keep any more than that this year.

Keep an eye on the Gholston-Addison battle the rest of the preseason.

Bears lose out on Maybin

ESPN’s Adam Schefter tweeted Wednesday morning that the Bears were one of two teams interested in signing former Bills linebacker Aaron Maybin, a first-round bust with the team. Later that morning, Maybin agreed to terms with the other team interested in him, the New York Jets.

Considering the Bears have a plethora of other borderline first-round busts that they’re trying to reinvigorate, it made sense that the Bears might be interested in Maybin when he was released by Buffalo. But it doesn’t come as much of a shock that Maybin stayed in the northeast.

The Bears could still use a veteran linebacker to add to the mix.

Caleb Hanie still the No. 2 quarterback

Despite losing second-team reps to rookie quarterback Nathan Enderle this week following a poor performance against the Bills Saturday night, Caleb Hanie will remain the team’s No. 2 quarterback, according to Martz.

“He struggled a little bit on Saturday and whenever a quarterback does that you try to give them a day to just kind of [take a deep breath],” Martz said. “Sit back and kind of regroup a little bit. You need to do that. Most quarterbacks go through this, I’ve been through this a number of times. He didn’t have a real good outing but he’s fine. He’ll recover. He’ll do fine.”

The Bears also wanted to reward Enderle for his performance Saturday and give him the opportunity to get a few snaps with the second team.

Offensive line not set in stone just yet

Martz said Wednesday that of the 9 sacks the Bears allowed in the first preseason game, only 3 were attributed to the offensive line. The rest were caused by a variety of issues including the tight ends, running backs and the quarterback holding the ball too long.

Despite Martz reaffirming his confidence in the starting five and claiming that Saturday’s effort was just one game, hope remains that the Bears could shake up the line and insert the right players at the right spots.

What exactly is the right combination of five? That’s the million-dollar question. But as of now, the right combination seems to be J’Marcus Webb at left tackle, Edwin Williams or Chris Spencer at left guard with the other player sliding over to center, Roberto Garza at right guard and Gabe Carimi at right tackle.