Ditka Talks Rookies, RBs, Michael Sam

With the NFL Draft and the majority of free agency in the rearview mirror, former Bears tight end and coach Mike Ditka explores the weeks from now until in his weekly writing, “Four downs with Ditka,” for the Chicago Sun-Times. Among the topics touched on by the Hall of Famer were the Bears’ new punter, the disappearance of the elite running back and Michael Sam.

On what the coaches will be looking for from rookies in minicamp: 

“The coaches have done their homework and watched all the film on these guys. Now they are looking for how they adapt to what the Bears are doing. They have to fit them in to the way the Bears play their system on offense and defense. What happens now, it’s more or less an educational system for these players to understand they have to play in a certain system that’ll likely be different than the one they played in college.”

On the days of the featured running back being over:

“The game has evolved now to where it’s more of a passing game, and teams look at the running back as not being that instrumental. But I know this: If you don’t have a good one, you have a problem. I know we had a good one in Walter Payton, who was the greatest one I have ever seen. All the great teams over the years, except for the Patriots, usually had a pretty good running back — the Steelers, Cowboys, Rams. The good teams have always had a bell cow running back. I don’t know why teams are suddenly going away from this. It’s probably because they feel it’s a position they can get lower in the draft.”

On the Bears taking punter Pat O’Donnell in the sixth round:

“I don’t see any problem with that. Here’s why they did it, I think: They didn’t have anyone else on their board that really jumped out at them. And they wanted a punter because they needed one for competition and they don’t have one. I think you have to be realistic at that point of the draft and say, ‘How many of those guys will really make your team?’ A few do, but it’s not a high percentage. I don’t see any problem with taking a punter at that point.”

On if Michael Sam was drafted lower because of his sexuality:

“Look, if a guy is a good football player — and I assume he is; he had a pretty good track record at Missouri — you would think that people would have taken him earlier. So now, when you get to that point in the draft and [Rams coach] Jeff [Fisher] sees him sitting there, and he knows he has talent, and he knows he has the ability to rush the passer and everything else, he jumps up and takes him. You have to look at it this way: Either Jeff got a steal, or the rest of the teams dropped him for other reasons.”

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