I was pretty young and do not remember him really declining. What I remember is the newspaper article of him and Richard Dent being cut with the photo in the article having them walk of the field together. I was pretty shocked to see this happen as I was also later shocked when the Bears got rid of Jim Harbaugh with no real replacement in sight.
As far as strictly running the football, he was nagged by injuries in '91 & was never the same breakaway threat from that year onwards.
Still made the Probowl that year, although that was clearly a reputation selection. The '91 team won 11 games on Harbaugh's arm (& guts) and one last stellar effort from the old D.
The running game was bad in '91 & '92 and in those years it could be argued that he was the most overpaid back in the league as far as big salary and low production.
Even in those down years, the one thing he still had was a nose for the endzone. Nine tds in '91 & eleven in '92 was still pretty good for a guy who, on most plays seemed to run without urgency. Maybe there was simply nothing left in the tank.
I should add that, from '88 through '90 he was a fun runner to watch. I haven't seen a better Bears runningback in the years since then, certainly no one with his explosion.
Youtube his name, someone has put together a cool hi-lights package of his best plays. Some truly incredible runs in there.
Last edited by hoth; 01-18-2013 at 10:42 AM.
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I remember Neal very well, because I grew up with Walter as my idol. That was Neal's biggest problem, he followed a legend. With that said, I loved Payton so much that I never really embraced Neal as a real "Pro-Bowl" player and that is admittedly unfair of me. The thing that drove me crazy about him was that he seemingly fumbled all the time. The only one that could hold the ball like Walter without fumbling was Walter, and Neal tried to do that too much. Plus, while he did go to the Pro-Bowl, he only had a couple of good seasons. In my opinion, there was not anything "Special" about him. He wasn't a bad runner, he just wasn't special. JMO
Just for the record, I also remember Brian Baschnagel. He had a pretty good career at Ohio State kicking my Illini's ass all the time, so I was excited to see him come to the Bears. He did alright, but, well...he did alright. Actually, he was one of my favorites for a season or two, then he kinda disappeared as well.
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His best three seasons... production wise... came right after Payton's retirement when he was finally utilized as a traditional running back and not a lead-blocking fullback. During that stretch he was possibly the best all around back in the league... yes he could run the ball, but I think his skills as a receiver have been underestimated and he could pick up the blitzes like the best of them.
I think the slip in his play (after 1990) was due to in large part because of off the field reasons and his head/heart wasn't in the game after some 'family issues.' (Remember reading about that in a magazine article) He had a feud with Ditka and got in his dog house during Da Coach's last season and from that point on in my opinion he was just going through the motions perhaps and that was when injuries hit... like the continuous hamstring issue. During his last season (also his last year of his contract)... Wannstedt gets hired and he trades for 'his guy' in Worley for some reason and Worley got the load of the carries over Anderson. In the end Worley only lead the team in arrest
Granted he isn't remembered liked Grange, Sayers or Payton... but he gave it his all for the Bears. Worked his way from special teams to fullback to 4-time pro bowl running back. I think he gets lost simply b/c he was the guy that replaced Payton.
Off topic... my one and only Anderson jersey was lost in an fire (Still have a TON of his cards, starting lineup figures, pendants, etc luckily). But if anyone knows of a Neal Anderson #35 jersey that is around...let me know!
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When he coughed up the ball in playoffs - two years in a row.
Hoth and others nailed it pretty well but I'd just say he's one of the most underrated Bears RBs of all time because his career began when Payton's ended and that a tough act for anyone to follow but he did it well.
He's was a completely different style runner than Payton and actually gained weight to play FB to Payton's HB in his rookie year. Then he had four great Pro Bowl years before injuries hit. The hammy was one but he also took a huge hit on a goal line play and I'm sure it concussed him but in those days you just kept on playing.
After that he never seemed to run as hard anymore and his production slipped but the guy was fast and versatile as all hell. Pretty much a smaller version of Forte but with more speed.
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