1985 Bears Coverage: Bears waiting for an offer

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Every day of the 2015 Chicago Bears season, Chicago Sun-Times Sports will revisit its coverage 30 years ago during the 1985 Bears’ run to a Super Bowl title.

Kevin Lamb

Bears waiting for an offer

Originally published Sept. 2, 1985

Coach Mike Ditka was hoping the phones would ring today before the waiver wires begin humming and the players begin moaning.

He expected the Bears would try once more with every other NFL team to make a trade that would ease his cutdown decisions at place kicker and running back.

“Anybody that sees our film that needs a running back would be foolish not to think we don’t have something that could help,” Ditka said yesterday. His three reserve halfbacks each averaged at least five

yards per carry when the Bears finished their pre-season with a 45-14 victory over Buffalo Saturday night.

But when people call from other teams, he said, “It’s kind of interesting how they operate. You know they’ve got some kicking problems because of injuries, and they say they don’t.”

Teams are reluctant to trade for either Bear kicker, Bob Thomas or Kevin Butler, because they know one will go on waivers.

Buffalo apparently wants a kicker and has first crack among AFC teams at waived players. That could encourage other teams to trade, as it encouraged the Bears to give a 12th-round draft choice for punter

Maury Buford. But the Bears would want a higher pick after drafting Butler in the fourth round.

TOENAILS APART: Between Thomas and Butler, Ditka said, “Nothing they’ve done in a game would be a criterion.”

Both were 4-for-4 on extra points.

Butler was 4-for-4 on field goals but didn’t try one longer than 35 yards. Thomas was 2-for-3, missing his first attempt from 46 yards. “Understandable,” Ditka said.

Six of Butler’s eight kickoffs were touchbacks. Thomas was only 1-for-6, not counting his squib, but he reached at least the 5-yard line each time.

Besides, Buford’s only kickoff went into the end zone, which could make kickoff distance a less important factor.

Age is a consideration in favor of Butler, a rookie. But experience is at least as important for a team with Super Bowl aspirations.

“The one thing that won’t enter into it is economics,” Ditka said. “I heard that last night. It’s the silliest thing I’ve ever heard.

“We don’t get rid of people because it’s economically not sound to keep them. If it ever comes to that, I know I won’t be the coach here.”

Even if it were a consideration, Thomas’ salary is higher but the Bears invested a signing bonus in Butler.

RUNNING PROUD: Earlier in training camp, Ditka hoped he could save a roster spot by keeping only four running backs. Now he has six he likes. Dennis Gentry, Anthony Hutchison or Thomas Sanders will have to go.

Sanders, a ninth-round rookie, had been the sixth man before Saturday. But Ditka said, “He’s big. He’s strong. He’s fast. And he can cut when he’s moving. Those are things you don’t teach.”

OTHER CUTS: Besides a halfback and a placekicker, the Bears will have to trim two more players to reach the 45-man limit. Their most likely choices:

Cut their seventh linebacker, rookie Jim Morrissey.

Cut their seventh defensive lineman, either Tyrone Keys or Henry Waechter.

Cut their fifth wide receiver, rookie James Maness or perhaps Brad Anderson.

Put their third tight end, Pat Dunsmore, on injured reserve. He’ll miss his third straight game this week with a quadriceps injury.

If the Bears make three of those moves, they could keep both kickers in hopes of trading one soon.

MR. LUCKY: Tackle Jimbo Covert escaped with only soreness in the back of his upper leg after Bills defensive end Ben Williams clipped him on a fumble return Saturday.

“If he’d hit him lower, he might not have gotten up,” Ditka said. “He could have broken his leg.

“He’s very fortunate. We’re lucky. He’s a premier tackle in the NFL. He’s a young leader.”

Defensive end Richard Dent aggravated a strained hamstring but Ditka said he would play Sunday against Tampa Bay. He was less sure about left linebacker Otis Wilson, who had fluid drained from his knee. “We’ll see if he can practice Thursday,” Ditka said.

Wide receiver Dennis McKinnon’s knee had “no fluid” and “normal soreness” after his first start since arthroscopic surgery July 5, Ditka said.

STAND-UP GUY: Ditka apparently still daydreams of the Bears in a 3-4 defense, although he’s happy with what they have.

“We can stand up Dent at linebacker if we want to,” Ditka said. “He could play weakside linebacker as well as anyone in the league. We could move him around. He could be awesome. When he comes blitzing,

somebody’s got a problem.”

RISKY BUSINESS: McKinnon can return punts again if he wants to, Ditka said. It would be risky so soon after knee surgery, but he said, “I don’t think you’re really risking people. You’ve just got to do what’s good for the team.”

The punt returner probably will be rookie Ken Taylor. He had a fumble and a judgment error against Buffalo, but Ditka called him “very, very capable.”

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