Restricted free agent Hanie has value to Bear
Restricted free agent Hanie has value to Bears and himself
QB knows he can play after proving it under pressure in playoff loss
ARLINGTON, Texas — More than a week after throwing an interception on the Bears' last offensive play in their 21-14 loss to the Packers in the NFC championship game, Caleb Hanie can't count how many times he has second-guessed himself.
But Hanie can tell you exactly how far away the Bears were from a game-tying touchdown.
With a wince.
"Can you imagine if we got 29 more yards?'' Hanie said Wednesday during a stop at the Super Bowl Media Center
But the Bears didn't after Sam Shields picked off a fourth-down pass. More than a week later, Hanie still was dissecting that throw with every other play from a wild fourth quarter that potentially changed the arc of the backup quarterback's career.
"You think about fourth-and-4, if I had just pumped that ball into Earl (Bennett),'' Hanie said. "Or on (B.J.) Raji's (interception return for a touchdown) if I would have taken just three steps instead of five steps, would he have just missed it. Or if I had gotten reps on that play, I would have maybe progressed over to Devin (Hester). But that's how it goes sometimes.''
It didn't go the Bears way, in part, because Todd Collins replaced the injured Jay Cutler in the third quarter as he had passed Hanie on the depth chart. Hanie showed nifty footwork tiptoeing around controversy when asked how in the name of Jonathan Quinn that happened.
"It's a touchy subject to answer,'' Hanie said. "I was told (the demotion to No. 3) happened in practice during the (off) week. Not that I did bad but that Todd maybe ran things more efficiently. I think the experience factor had a lot to do with it.''
Given how the season ended, it will go down as one of the Bears' biggest miscalculations of 2010.
"I was obviously mad but you don't let that alter the way you go about your business,'' Hanie said.
Now Hanie's business includes being a restricted free-agent. Hanie hopes to stay with the Bears but the Packers game reinforced his belief that he can compete for an NFL starting job. He mentioned the Titans and 49ers as teams with quarterback uncertainty, but the list is longer, possibly including the Raiders, Cardinals, Dolphins, Redskins and Vikings.
The Bears retain the right to match any offer. They always could place a high tender on Hanie that would bring them a second-round pick if any team signed him. That was worth a $1.759 million salary in 2010. No wonder Hanie was sporting a Texas-sized grin.
"I want to progress my career and become a starter and I just have to figure out where the best opportunity is for me to do that,'' Hanie said. "But I love Chicago and I'd love to be quarterback of the Bears someday. Will it be next year? No. Jay's the planted guy there. If it means I have to stay around another year because the Bears put a high tender on me, hey, that'd be great too.''