Highlights from Hillenmeyer's Q & A
What would you say was the hardest part of adapting to life after your football career was over? If given the chance, would you go back to the NFL or are you just over that phase of your life? Could you beat me in FIFA?
Bear Down! For me, the two things I miss the most are the guys and the games. I was never a guy who defined himself as a football player, so in many respects, that makes leaving the game behind a lot easier. I spend a lot of time trying to help get former players better access to the support they need to improve their quality of life after football. Its a strange beast to "retire" at 30. Many guys have a hard time reinventing themselves, trying to find a new passion when they feel washed up at such a young age. Combine that with having a salary going from 7 figures to 5, and the adjustments are a lot for some guys to handle all at once.
You'd probably get me in FIFA, but its one of my favorite games right now. Go sign up on Kickstarter and we can find out!
What do you think about some of the proposed rule changes for the 2013 season such as penalizing peel back blocks/leading with the helmet outside of the tackle box, eliminating the “Tuck Rule” and labeling the long snapper as a defenseless player?
That's about 5 questions in one. The running back rule is the most controversial, but do note that its pretty much only running backs who are speaking out. As a defensive guy, I am biased to think that rules increasingly favor the offense, for revenue reasons more than safety reasons. That makes me prone to supporting the crack back rules. I attended the Competition Committee meeting four of five years in a row at the Combine. It was kind of a joke. Nothing got decided there, but it gave the committee the power to say they had "player input." Even having seen the plumbing, I still have no idea how they decide what becomes rule and what doesn't.
Hey Hunter, as a big Bears fan I'd like to know during your time with the team who your favorite teammate was and what your favorite game was. Thanks!
Your closest buddies usually fall into two groups, your rookie class and your position group. From my rookie class, the only two left are Briggs and Tillman. Both are good friends. We all kind of grew up together, from wild young rookies to suburban guys with kids who have "nice little Saturdays" with the fam. Other good buddies include the rest of the linebacker, Roach, Urlacher, and a bunch of guys who aren't there anymore like Todd Johnson, Cam Worrell, etc.
I'm a Huge fan and a long time Chicago Bears Fan.Here are my questions: 1) Yeah, that was a fun one, but kind of a meaningless game in the grand scheme. I had a few big plays against New Orleans in the NFC Championship that I'd say would top that on my memory list. 2) I get asked that a lot on the context of concussions. I won't go too deep on this, but it would be tough, knowing what I know now, as a senior in college (or even a senior in high school) to still choose to play ball. I usually propose the same question back to people: if somebody offered you millions of dollars, but the cost was your quality of life after age 50, is it worth it? There's no right answer, but that is kind of becoming the trade off facing NFL athletes. Everybody seems to hate Jay Cutler, except his teammates and coaches. What was your experience like being around him?
I've known Jay since he was a freshman at Vandy. I've kinda watched him grow up. He's always had this brash resistance to authority. I think its funny how polarizing his indifference towards his public perception has been. Maybe not haha funny, but an interesting social experiment or something. I've never really called him out about it, despite us being friends. I do have to think at some point, with so much criticism, he has to wonder what the point in trying to please everyone is if he's gonna take heat regardless. I also think he could own Chicago if he'd just give the city an inch. I think he has made a lot of steps in the right direction. Anybody who listened to his show on ESPN1000 knows he's a funny guy, maybe a little sarcastic, but generally pretty easy going off the field. I tend to think his competitiveness gets mistaken for a-holeishness because he hasn't won the big one yet. Does he crossover that threshold if he gets a ring?
Hey Hunter, huge fan! What are your thoughts on the Bears' offseason moves thus far? Also, do you think they should re-sign Brian Urlacher?
I had a feeling the 54 question would come up. I hope they resign him, but I have no idea where all that stands. I know Brian would love to stay, but at some point he (and the Bears) have to do what's best for them. I feel like he's got plenty of football left in the tank if he decides to return, but finding the right scheme, coach, culture, etc can all be tricky. I just hope he doesn't end up somewhere else in the NFC North. That would not end well for anyone.
Do you feel that the Bears are on the right path to becoming an annual superbowl contender?
Yikes, keep in mind I am a big Lovie fan, so I'm acknowledging my bias. My happiest day with Emery was day 1 of free agency. We all knew he was super diligent and analytical. I feared we could see some paralysis by analysis. Him going out and jumping on two huge free agents that were areas of need for the Bears was great to see. He acted swiftly and decisively. I wasn't sure he had that in him. I have no opinion on Trestman. Lots of smart people tend to think very highly of him. It will be funny if the offense finally finds consistent success and we start to realize just how much the excellence of the defense was taken for granted. Its is almost impossible to be elite on both sides of the ball in a salary cap league.
The draft is coming up, so here's a draft question or two. There are still some positions that seem to need addressing. Do you draft a MLB or an OL with the 20th pick of the draft? Also, I have heard a ton of different things surrounding the linebackers in the draft. Which LB would you choose and why? I'd still go O-line. While Brian has always been a dominant MLB, the 4-3 scheme doesn't require a huge difference maker at that spot (which is why I was able to get the job done when Brian was out). Great o-linemen are still the most scarce thing in the NFL. If we have a chance to get one, we should do it.
What do you think of the new Kickoff rule proposed by Roger Goodell of teams that score TDs getting the ball at their own 30 and its 4th and 15? Do you think it would have the intended impact of reducing concussions?
I don't think that is the right solution, but I applaud looking for creative ways like this to make the game safer. The Illinois legislature has a law coming up for vote next week about eliminating offseason practices and hitting during youth and high school preseasons. I'm a proponent of anything like that can makes people safer without having to change football so much that the game becomes unrecognizable.
What was it like playing along side future HOFers like Brian Urlacher and (maybe) Lance Briggs?
Any great mimi-camp stories from your playing days?
I have a couple great "this is your life in the NFL" kind of moments. Its funny how other than some of those highlights, most pro athletes lead pretty mundane lives. LOTS of NFL guys are total homebodies. OK, my favorite story was in 2005, we clinched the NFC North in like Week 11 by beating the Vikings. In the locker room after the game, we were trying to plan our dinner that night for our annual "linebacker night." Urlacher decided that because we were rolling along so well, we needed to celebrate in style. He chartered a plane, the whole LB room flew to Vegas that night, and stayed in this ridiculous villa at the Bellagio. Urlacher stands out everywhere, even Vegas, so that was a really over the top couple of days, not in any illicit kind of way, but just in a "I can't believe I'm sharing bottle service with Kid Rock and Rihanna" kind of way. I'm a pretty normal dude, so those moments were always a little hilarious to me.
What was the hardest hit you ever took in a game? Do some hits feel worse/better than they look on TV?
I had a head to head hit with Panthers fullback Brad Hoover in the playoff game in 2005 that knocked us both out of the game. What a miserable end to the season, concussed and out of the playoffs after such a great year.
What team were you most excited to play against whenever they were on your schedule?
Who was your least favorite opposing player that got you all riled up over your 8 years in the league?
I always liked big home games the best (Packers, playoff games). The routine of a home game was very Pavlovian. Starting at 8:03 (my alarm time for a noon game) I could usually tell you where I'd be til kickoff within a minute or two. I'm pretty sure I still could.
Two questions, Hunter, one on the past and one on the present.Was Cedric Benson as disliked in the Bears locker room as it was rumored to be? It felt like, after a real pro in Thomas Jones left the team, there was some genuine animosity against him. Regarding concussions, do you think it's possible to revamp the way middle/high school coaches teach fundamentals in order to help change the prevailing use of helmets as missiles in making tackles? Thanks for doing this, and thank you for that wonderful 2006 season. It was a joy to watch.
Not to throw anyone under the bus, but Cedric didn't do himself any favors. I won't go as far as to say he was a bad guy, but he really seemed to think the world was out to get him. You can behave like he did if you are a baller. Cedric was a big waste of money for the Bears. A 4th pick in the draft, and a RUNNING BACK (which rarely happens) is supposed to be a future Hall of Fame kind of guy. That Cedric was just a run of the mill running back with a chip on his shoulder was a recipe for disaster.
Last edited by Henry Burris; 03-19-2013 at 12:29 AM.
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Ya gotta love Hilly both for his play over the years and for his honest commentary here. He doesn't run the team but guys like him and others who have been former NFL players, like one of our own members here and a former CFL'er as well, can provide a tremendous insight into the thinking and the inner workings of pro teams.
Here's a few I picked out.
Everybody seems to hate Jay Cutler, except his teammates and coaches. What was your experience like being around him?
I do have to think at some point, with so much criticism, he has to wonder what the point in trying to please everyone is if he's gonna take heat regardless. I also think he could own Chicago if he'd just give the city an inch. I think he has made a lot of steps in the right direction. Anybody who listened to his show on ESPN1000 knows he's a funny guy, maybe a little sarcastic, but generally pretty easy going off the field. I tend to think his competitiveness gets mistaken for a-holeishness because he hasn't won the big one yet. Does he crossover that threshold if he gets a ring?
Some very good observation here from a guy whose known Cutler for years.
Hey Hunter, huge fan! What are your thoughts on the Bears' offseason moves thus far? Also, do you think they should re-sign Brian Urlacher?
I know Brian would love to stay, but at some point he (and the Bears) have to do what's best for them. I feel like he's got plenty of football left in the tank if he decides to return, but finding the right scheme, coach, culture, etc can all be tricky. I just hope he doesn't end up somewhere else in the NFC North. That would not end well for anyone.
I have to agree on both parts. Like I've been saying 80% of a future HOF'er like him is still better than 100% from anyone else on the roster and any UFA who might play for what the Bears can offer. Brian is willing to play for less bit others may not be. And his second comment is spot on. If he ends up with another team it's bad but an NFCN team, any NFCN team, is a total disaster ala the Brett Favre thing and that's no way for Urlacher's career to end. Bears fans should kick in $10 each and give it to the Bears to pay him just to prevent a fiasco like that.
The draft is coming up, so here's a draft question or two. There are still some positions that seem to need addressing. Do you draft a MLB or an OL with the 20th pick of the draft? Also, I have heard a ton of different things surrounding the linebackers in the draft. Which LB would you choose and why?
I'd still go O-line. While Brian has always been a dominant MLB, the 4-3 scheme doesn't require a huge difference maker at that spot (which is why I was able to get the job done when Brian was out). Great o-linemen are still the most scarce thing in the NFL. If we have a chance to get one, we should do it.
And of course here's the other side of that MLB coin. Without a doubt Brian Urlacher is a valued and respected football player but does the MLB position in the Bears defense absolutely require a player with his skills? Hilly and Roach have both played in his place and the defense survived although I'd still say they don't play as well without him as with him and to me that's a tribute to his leadership and the things he could do that others couldn't. This is the kind of dilemma facing Emery in a cap strapped year.
I still believe we have to bring Urlacher back for many reasons that have all been discussed but Hilly's insight is valuable because he seems to say that finding another player like Urlacher to play MLB in that defense isn't imperative and that a smart guy with some range, good tackling ability and coverage skills can do which is why we survived with him and Roach playing MLB. DeCicco strikes me as a player who's a lot like Hilly as far as size goes and he has a similar college background to Urlacher as a "monster back" kind of Safety. He's a long way from being ready to play the part today but he filled in well in camp last summer and was a leading STeams tackler in 2011 so it's not like he's without some degree of talent and he also has decent speed. So maybe just maybe Urlacher's understudy is already here and deserves this year under Urlacher's tutelage to see if he could step up and fill his shoes??? It's not out of the question.
I would surely feel more comfortable if we re-signed Urlacher and at least for this year planned on having DeCicco back him up. That leaves us free to fill that LG spot with a can't miss guy like Cooper who may also be able to move to OC and then maybe I look for a smaller LB like Arthur Brown in two as a guy who could play SLB now but also has the skills to play MLB or WLB at some point in time. If there was a Kuechley on the board at #20 this year I'd grab him in a heartbeat but is there. Is Ogletree that good?
Last edited by soulman; 03-19-2013 at 02:44 AM.
I'm getting to that age where a lifetime warranty just doesn't mean as much to me anymore as an afternoon nap. Honey Badger Don't Care. Honey Badger Don't Give a Shit.
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IDK if anyone from here tried to do the Q & A with him yesterday, I gave the wrong time..I'll keep a better count on any other Chicago Bears in the future
Good read. Thanks for sharing.