Friday, December 14, 2001

NFL notebook

Bears sign DE Robinson long-term

The Associated Press

        LAKE FOREST, Ill. — The Chicago Bears signed defensive end Bryan Robinson to a five-year deal Thursday.

        Terms of the deal were not immediately available.

        “He's been a very steady performer for us,” Bears general manager Jerry Angelo said. “I think, when you look at our football team, he might sometimes look like an unsung hero.”

        Robinson would have been an unrestricted free agent after this season if the Bears had not signed him.

        Robinson has 3 1/2 sacks this season and 14 1/2 for his five-year career, sack numbers that seem small compared to those of many higher-paid free agent ends.

        But the Bears derive other benefits from having the 6-foot-4, 305-pound Robinson in their lineup.

        “Bryan is an unconventional defensive end,” said Robinson's agent, Chicago-based Mark Bartelstein. “He's a run-stopper first. That's really how the Bears built this team, is stopping the run.”

        Bartelstein and the Bears began talking contract last year at this time. To prevent Robinson from becoming an unrestricted free agent, former Bears vice president of player personnel Mark Hatley designated Robinson the team's transition player on Feb. 22.

        As a transition player, Robinson received a $4.1 million salary for this season, or the average of the top 10 defensive ends in the league. The Bears also retained compensation rights if another team signed the defensive end.

        “Bryan wanted to be here and I have to credit Jerry and (Bears contract negotiator) Jim Miller for being persistent and coming up with a deal we all could agree on,” Bartelstein said.

        Angelo sees Robinson as more than just a defensive end.

        “He's an end. He can play inside as a tackle in our nickel scheme,” Angelo said. “Part of his strength is his versatility because he can go inside and outside. He's a big body. He's tough as nails. We like his toughness and you have to be a tough guy to play inside.”

        Angelo said the signing allows the Bears to pursue deals with other players currently under contract who become free agents after this season.

        Center Olin Kreutz, safety Tony Parrish, quarterback Jim Miller and cornerbacks R.W. McQuarters and Walt Harris will be unrestricted free agents. Wideout Marty Booker will be a restricted free agent.

        “I'm confident that we'll probably get one or two done in a timely fashion,” Angelo said.


        Quarterback Daunte Culpepper's sprained left knee still was giving him problems and it wasn't clear whether he'll start against Detroit.

        “He's still got a little pain, a little swelling in there,” coach Dennis Green said. “I think it's making some progress but we're not as optimistic on it as we would hope to be at this time.”

        Green said Culpepper's knee was sore during Wednesday's practice, in which backup Todd Bouman took most of the snaps. Bouman, who threw for 348 yards and four touchdowns in last weekend's victory over Tennessee, was expected to do much of the work again during practice Thursday.

        Green said he's concerned about Culpepper's mobility playing on artificial turf against the Lions on Sunday.

        “When you play on artificial surface you've got be fairly healthy,” Green said. “The game is such a fast pace and this will be a fast game, too, and so you've got to be pretty close to healthy to play as a quarterback.”

        A decision on Sunday's starter might be made Friday, Green said.


        Gus Frerotte will be the starting quarterback for the Denver Broncos on Sunday at Kansas City while Brian Griese recovers from a concussion.

        Frerotte, who relieved Griese and led the Broncos to two third-quarter scores in last week's 20-7 win over Seattle, will be making his first start since the AFC wild-card playoff game last Dec. 31.

        Though Griese was given medical clearance to play, coach Mike Shanahan noted that doctors warned that another concussion so soon after the previous one could lead to chronic concussion problems.

        Griese, injured early in the second half of the Seattle game as he was tackled at the end of a 9-yard scramble, will be groomed for a backup role against the Chiefs.

        “Brian is feeling better,” Shanahan said Thursday. “He took the scout-team snaps today and looked good. The doctors feel he's improved.

        “My thought right now is to evaluate him and see if he would play in a backup role come Sunday in case something happened to Gus.”

        Following Thursday's practice, Shanahan spent several minutes on the field with Griese, explaining his decision.

        “He wants to go,” Shanahan said. “He's disappointed because he does feel better. But I think it's in his best interest to wait until the end of the week, not overdo it, and not take snaps away from Gus. If we have to use him, we'll use him.”

        An added benefit in resting Griese is the fact that the Broncos have a bye week after Sunday's game.

        “Any time you have a concussion, doctors say the more time that you have without getting your head hit again, the better chance you have of it not recurring,” Shanahan said.

        Shanahan said Frerotte, who completed 10 of 20 passes for 77 yards and a touchdown against the Seahawks, “has had a great week of practice. His preparation has been good, and I'm sure he's looking forward to the opportunity.”


        Defensive end Robaire Smith will have season-ending surgery on a dislocated thumb, Tennessee Titans coach Jeff Fisher said.

        Smith first dislocated the thumb during training camp. He hurt it again last week in a loss to Minnesota, and doctors finally decided surgery was needed. The operation is scheduled Friday.

        Smith had 16 tackles and two sacks this season. His absence leaves the Titans thin at defensive end. Fisher said Henry Ford will be moved from the tackle rotation and help relieve Kevin Carter and Jevon Kearse.

        HAYES ILL:

        Olympian and former NFL star Bob Hayes, who fought back from a life-threatening illness earlier this year, has been hospitalized with flulike symptoms.

        The 58-year-old Hayes, who entered Shands Jacksonville hospital Tuesday, was in critical condition Thursday.

        The only man to win both an Olympic gold medal and a Super Bowl, Hayes was treated earlier this year for heart, liver and kidney ailments as well as prostate cancer. He underwent surgery to remove his prostate on Feb. 27 and spent a month in rehab at the Eartha White Center before returning home on April 20.

        In September, he was inducted into the Dallas Cowboys' Ring of Honor at Texas Stadium.


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