Bears-Packers battle goes beyond football fie
Bears-Packers battle goes beyond football field
Competition between rivals during draft is intense
Dan Pompei On the NFL 8:38 p.m. CDT, May 1, 2011
When the Bears try to look at themselves in the mirror, the Packers keep blocking their view.
Being the best the Bears can be is one thing. Keeping pace with the Packers is another.
And the Packers aren't forgetting about the Bears either.
Neither team can be king of the NFC North if it doesn't have jurisdiction over the Illinois-Wisconsin state line. This was evident during the 2010 regular season. It was evident in the postseason. And it was evident in the draft, both this year and last.
These teams just can't stop wrestling with one another.
The Bears drafted an offensive tackle with their first-round pick Thursday. Gabe Carimi probably will play right tackle, which not coincidentally will see him frequently matching up with the Packers' best defensive player, outside linebacker Clay Matthews
By choosing Carimi, the Bears also might have chosen the left tackle they will compete against twice a year (at least) for the foreseeable future. Three picks after the Bears, the Packers chose the next-best tackle on the board, Derek Sherrod. Once Sherrod beats out Chad Clifton, he is likely to line up against Julius Peppers, arguably the Bears' best defensive player.
Many believe the Packers would have chosen Carimi if the Bears had not. In fact, it's possible the Bears were trying to move up a few spots in the first to take Carimi because they feared being leapfrogged by the Packers.
There is precedent for being leapfrogged by the Packers. Last year, the Packers packaged their third-round (86th overall) and fourth-round picks in a trade to move four selections ahead of the Bears and take safety Morgan Burnett. It's likely the Bears would have chosen Burnett instead of Major Wright with the 75th pick. The Packers didn't even need a safety at the time, but they knew the Bears needed one.
Last year, the Packers stole a Bears fan from their backyard, drafting offensive tackle Bryan Bulaga from Crystal Lake in the first round.
Thursday, the Bears stole a Packers fan from their backyard, as Carimi grew up in Wisconsin.
In the second round, the Bears chose an interior rusher who could help offset the Packers' quick passing game. If defensive tackle Stephen Paea can help collapse the pocket against Aaron Rodgers, it will force Rodgers to pull down the football and drift to the outside, where he might get a face full of Peppers.
When the Bears were on the clock in the sixth round of the 2010 draft, they told running back James Starks they were drafting him. They ended up drafting quarterback Dan LeFevour. The Packers pounced on Starks 12 picks later. He went on to become one of their playoff heroes.
One of the first people the Bears wanted to interview when they were looking for an offensive coordinator a little more than a year ago was Packers quarterbacks coach Tom Clements. They requested permission to speak with Clements, who was under contract. They were denied.
Players and coaches from both sides have said this rivalry is more about the fans than the teams. But the actions of the teams tell us something else.
The Bears hated to see the Packers, who already had the best offense in the league, get even better on that side during the draft. General manager Ted Thompson gave Rodgers two new weapons who can help quickly in second-round wide receiver Randall Cobb and third-round running back Alex Green.
Then again, the Bears might have preferred the Packers helping themselves offensively to giving Matthews a complementary pass rusher. Outside linebacker has been widely perceived as the Packers' biggest need.
Thompson waited until the sixth round to draft linebackers, then took two, D.J. Smith from Appalachian State and Ricky Elmore from Arizona. Both were good values who slid because of poor workouts.
The Packers added 10 players in the draft, five more than the Bears. But whereas it's possible all of the Bears' picks could make the roster, the loaded Packers might end up cutting up to half of their draftees.
That depends in part on how many free agents the Packers lose. Among their potential free agents are defensive lineman Cullen Jenkins and wide receiver James Jones.
And just guess who might be interested in those players.