Call Giants wide receiver Plaxico Burress a big mouth with a tiny heart, a poor man's Terrell Owens able to match TO in front of the microphone but not on the field or a troublemaker who sometimes speaks as if his football IQ matches his jersey number (17).
But it's hard to call Burress a liar this week.
dominated discussion in the Bears locker room Thursday, a day after he reviewed his videotape of the NFL's No. 1 defense for 15 minutes and declared the Bears secondary did not scare him. Those guys make plays on balls that are thrown straight at them but it's not like they're covering guys straight up and down [the field],'' Burress said. "I haven't seen that.''
They have not had to, but Burress hasn't seen it because it hasn't happened. The Bears do not play as much straight man coverage as many teams Burress has played but - and this is the kernel of truth buried in his bravado - they also do not have cornerbacks whose strength lies in their ability to cover receivers one-on-one.
Charles Tillman is probably the best pure cover corner because of his overall physicality but does not rate in the top third in that category among his NFL peers.
Nathan Vasher knows how to find the football but his eight interceptions during his Pro Bowl season of 2005 often obscures the fact that Vasher lacks the foot speed to be the traditional lock-down corner.
Ricky Manning Jr. excels in the nickel-back role and has indeed benefited from some bad throws in making an NFC-best four interceptions but the Bears did not pay him $21 million for his knack of playing man coverage.
None of the cornerbacks, if isolated on the 6-foot-5-inch Burress, would give the Bears an edge in that matchup.
Technically, that makes Burress right. It's not a scary group but the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The Bears secondary also gains a half-step to its average overall speed due to a front seven that applies extraordinary pressure on the quarterback.
So it might have been as dumb as it was dangerous for Burress to anger the Bears defense - and he did - before a game in which the Giants will be missing his complement, Amani Toomer.
Yet that might not have been the dumbest comment to come out of Giants camp this week. Asked Thursday about second-year running back Brandon Jacobs saying he looked forward to running at him, Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher feigned ignorance.
"Who's he? One of the running backs?'' Urlacher said, tongue in cheek. That might be the most memorable question of the week - except for these, of course.
I would see nothing wrong with pulling Rex Grossman if he were struggling like he did in Sunday's game. The window to possibly get to the Super Bowl is very small, and you cannot have your QB be a turnover machine like Grossman has been two out of the last three games. What would it hurt to put Brian Griese in, like a relief pitcher in baseball, to see if he could provide a spark? I think the Bears' coaching staff coddles Grossman too much. --Michael R. Arnold, Bay City, Mich.
Don't agree. Not to sound like Dr. Phil (or Tommie Harris) but the relationship between an NFL team and its franchise quarterback is a lot like a marriage. You don't partially fall in love with someone. You either are in it totally until it's obvious it wasn't the right choice or you aren't. It's not obvious yet that Grossman was the wrong choice for the Bears, so what you call coddling, I call showing commitment. Look at the Giants and Eli Manning. The patience Tom Coughlin showed Manning over the past season-and-a-half has began to pay off now. The middle ground Manning found is the neighborhood Grossman seeks. That said, if Grossman struggles against the Giants, and the Bears are trailing partly because of his poor play, then turning to Griese in that road environment would be appropriate given Grossman's play in two of the past three games.
Against the Cardinals, Rex Grossman had mechanical failures such as throwing off his back foot. The next game, he was better against the Niners and then against the Dolphins he showed the poor form that led to picks and opposition points. Is Rex suffering from ADHD? - Brian Levin, Camano Island, Wash.
The mechanical issues that become such a point of contention after Grossman plays poorly exist during his good games too. They just receive a different level of attention, and concern, because he completes many throws with unorthodox footwork. It's not a clinic. But Grossman never really has had flawless footwork in the pocket. He continues to fine-tune his throwing motion and quarterback drops every day during the Bears' 15-minute special-teams session. Grossman will never star in a quarterback training video. Nobody will care, if he supplies a Super Bowl highlight.
I thought Cedric Benson looked really good on Sunday. I like his north-south running style much better than Thomas Jones' "night at the prom" approach. What did you think of Benson's carries? Will he ever see real playing time this season? -- Braxton Peterson, Salt Lake City
To suggest Thomas Jones is soft sounds ridiculous. There is not a tougher player in the Bears locker room and, yes, he dances and uses his elusiveness but also gets the tough yard by running ruggedly. Benson indeed ran north-south but so far seems to lack the field vision that Jones and other running backs use to their advantage. For Benson to earn more playing time, he needs to avoid being such a straight-line runner and add some wiggle. Occasionally running backs who come out of big-time college programs with overpowering offensive linemen like Texas' create gaping holes that merely require runners to run through and over people. Benson became very good at that, so good that the Bears made him the No. 4 pick in the draft. But how often did he have to make something out of nothing, which is part of the job description of an NFL running back? He looks like he is learning how to do that at the pro level, which can be a hazardous training ground for high-profile draft picks.
As Grossman is a little on the small side, why don't the Bears go to using the shotgun more frequently? He would get a quicker read on his receivers. -- H. Reed, Idaho
He might, but Bears center Olin Kreutz prefers snapping the ball to a quarterback directly behind him rather than in the shotgun. The shotgun also takes away any surprise element because it announces a pass play by the formation more than the conventional alignment.
While most of the media attention regarding the injuries suffered against Miami understandably focused on Brian Urlacher and, to a lesser extent, Bernard Berrian, Brandon McGowan and Dante Wesley also were injured in the game. Losing them for any length of time obviously would leave the secondary even thinner and would impact special teams as well. What is their status? And is Chris Harris ready to return from his injury to pick up the slack in the secondary and on special teams? -- Mark Snyder, Los Angeles
McGowan was placed on injured reserve, Wesley looks like he could play Sunday with a bruised knee and thigh and Chris Harris plans on returning from a quadriceps injury that has kept him out of action for the past month. As much as that has tested the depth of the secondary, none of the injuries potentially impact Sunday's outcome as significantly as the loss of Berrian, whose credibility as a deep threat the Bears cannot replace.
What is the Bears love affair with Charles Tillman? I consistently see Tillman getting burned, missing tackles, or giving up important catches to the opposition. - Jeff Engstrom, Broadview Heights, Ohio
Then we are not watching the same games. Tillman receives as much unfair abuse as any Bears player because every time an opponent catches a pass, fans recall the image of Steve Smith burning Tillman in last January's playoff game. He ranks third on the team in tackles with 47, showing how well he supports the run, has one interception and four pass break-ups. He has tightened up his technique and, since Mike Brown left the lineup, might be the Bears' most consistent starter in the secondary. The Bears value Tillman enough that when Brown went down they never considered switching Tillman over to safety, a position he played in college, because good corners are harder to find. Tillman may not be Donnell Woolford but he's no Thomas Smith either.
If you could do the 2005 NFL draft over again, who would you choose with the 4th pick? - Joe Cashtan, Chicago
Good question. It's an easy choice if you look at which of the first 12 choices would have been better for the Bears: Shawne Merriman. Merriman, one of the most disruptive defensive players in the NFL currently serving a suspension for steroid use, went to the Chargers at No. 12. Can you imagine Merriman in the Bears defense playing strong-side linebacker alongside Brian Urlacher or end depending on the situation? But you bring up a good, broader point. Of the top 10 picks in the '05 draft, Benson, Adam "Pacman" Jones and Mike Williams represent three players who look like character risks. The jury also remains out on Alex Smith, the No. 1 overall pick, and No. 3 choice Braylon Edwards has been slowed by injuries. It's no consolation, but Benson hasn't exactly paid off in a big way yet for the Bears but not many players taken as high in '05 really have.
Do you know which model Nike shoe Robbie Gould wears when he kicks? --Chris Controy, Wheaton, Ill.
Gould chuckled when asked what specific shoe he wore but revealed it is nothing more than "a soccer shoe." He was aware of other specific models of kicking shoes but said they were too ugly to wear and didn't make a big enough difference.
While there is no need for urgency in re-signing Lovie Smith during the season (as his contract continues beyond this season), why have the bears not made an effort to resign special teams coordinator Dave Toub or defensive coordinator Ron Rivera, both of whom are leading the No. 1 units in the NFL and both of whom have contracts that expire at the end of the season? - Daniel, Berkeley, Calif.
The Bears not locking up Toub or Rivera before the season could turn into a bigger miscalculation than not extending Lovie Smith's contract with a sizable raise. Smith's situation will take care of itself and nobody really believes the slight, albeit embarrassing, will cause Smith to leave town. But Toub and Rivera? As you point out, both have been instrumental in the success of the Smith regime and both coached together on the staff in Philadelphia. If Rivera gets a head-coaching opportunity as many expect in the off-season, would Toub follow him if the offer included more money? With the Bears having the league's lowest-paid coaching staff and Toub a free-agent, it's a fair question that the Bears really don't want to consider in the midst of a championship season.
Please tell which is the true Bears: Jekyll or Hyde? --Fish, Brooklyn, NY
I think they're more Jekyll than Hyde but Sunday night will go a long way toward revealing their real identity.
Today's Headlines Newsletter
A digest of essential news, insight and analysis from L.A. Times editors.