During the lockout, NFL teams cannot have any contact with players, meaning no oversight as to their workout schedules, film study and the progression of their fundamentals. Yet coach Lovie Smith isn't worried about his Chicago Bears during the work stoppage.
"We do have a veteran group; a lot of great leadership," he said on Tuesday. "I'm sure this lockout is hurting some of the teams … but we have a veteran staff, a veteran team."
With a core group of veteran players, Smith is sure his players are doing what it takes to prepare for the upcoming season.
"It's not like we need to be out telling the guys exactly what they need to be doing," he said. "They're professionals. They know that we will eventually have a season and we need to be ready to go once we're told it's time to go back to work. We feel pretty good about that with guys like Anthony Adams leading."
DT Anthony Adams
Smith spoke to reporters at Maryville Academy in Des Plaines, where Adams was honored with the Ed Block Courage Award, given to one player from each NFL team voted by their teammates as role models of inspiration, sportsmanship and courage. While Adams was being honored for his off-the-field contributions, it's his on-the-field work that will surely be a focus for Bears brass once the lockout is lifted.
"He's a guy that shows leadership on and off the field," Smith said. "You know what to expect from him each day and you know what you're going to get each time he goes out on the football field."
Since 2007, Adams has been the rock around which the defensive line revolves – both figuratively and literally. As the nose tackle, he occupies the middle of the defensive, eating up space so his teammates can make plays around him. It's not the most glamorous role but it's arguably the most important.
He is extremely stout at the point of attack and cannot be moved from the hole by just one blocker. It often takes a double team to move his 6-0, 310-pound frame out of the running lane. This leaves fewer linemen to block linebackers, giving Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs free room to track down ball carriers.
Adams' play on first and second down is what makes him so valuable to the Bears and the reason the team needs to re-sign the free agent. The Bears offered him a three-year, $6 million contract before the lockout, but he could command more money in free agency. Run stopping nose tackles are in always in high demand. For his part, Adams said he wants to stay in Chicago.
"I love it here," he said. "I love the fans. My kids were born here. It's just been great. It's been fun for me. I've got great teammates, great coaches. No egos. It just seems like we all get along."
It seems the Bears and Adams were close to a deal before the lockout but couldn't get anything finalized before it became official.
"I got a lot of calls the day before the lockout," Adams said. "We tried to get everything out that we possibly could until the lockout."
Adams is also just as valuable in the locker room. He is the team's most vocal leader and is very well respected by his teammates and coaches alike.
Failure to re-sign Adams, coupled with the recent release of defensive tackle Tommie Harris, would leave a massive hold in the interior of the defensive line. The Bears' front office will immediately transition into signing mode once free agency begins and Adams should be No. 1 on the list of priorities. Center Olin Kreutz should also be high on that list but his game has regressed a bit the past few years. He's no longer the Pro Bowl player he once was. In contrast, the 30-year-old Adams is still performing at a high level. If only one of the two can be kept, it has to be Adams.
All indications are he'll stay a Bear. But if not, Chicago's run defense, which was second best in the NFL last year, will surely plummet.
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.