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Monday Musings: Voluntary Schmoluntary

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As I'm sure many of you noticed, the Bears are reporting to voluntary workouts today. Y'know, those sweet get-togethers in the offseason where players get together, work together a bit, that sort of thing. But what really happens at these types of things, and what's on the horizon for the Bears at theirs this year?

There was a great story about them, albeit nine years old, in the SI vault. A highlight:

Most players aren't thrilled about having to punch the clock on their own time, but they're not stupid either: If a star whose work habits and toughness are beyond reproach can get ripped for skipping voluntary workouts, ... , anyone with lesser credentials could be risking his career.

So I don't think there's too many people who really buy the validity of the voluntary workout--those who don't attend can often end up in the doghouse. As Corey Graham has noticed, Coach Smith has a big doghouse.

So we know that the voluntary workout is about as voluntary as Lumbergh's Saturday overtime. That said, the voluntary workout can also help show you quite a bit about a player's work ethic, and gives a chance to build the team camaraderie that you like to see with a team.

So what's going on at the Bears voluntary workouts? Well, for starters, Vaughn McClure tells us that the Bears are starting today without three defensive ends.

Mark Anderson, Alex Brown and Israel Idonije all were absent -- for different reasons, of course.

Anderson is working on an off-season training agreement, similiar to the one that Nick Roach has. So that makes sense.

Alex Brown, as has been discussed here quite a bit over the weekend, is potentially getting traded or released--there's no reason for him to be there. The absolute last thing he'd want to do is go to the Bears facility and accidently drop a weight on his foot or something, jeopardizing the rest of his career.

And Israel Idonije is on his way back from Nigeria--totally legit.

You may recall that last week, Danieal Manning said he would not be attending the first day, as he looks for a new contract.

Although Manning is not overly enthused about the way he was tendered, he still wants to rejoin his teammates in Chicago at some point. There is a chance he will show at the voluntary workouts in the next few weeks without signing a contract if he signs the off-season training agreement -- an injury waiver -- that has been sent to him by the Bears.

Is Manning really hold-out level material? I don't think so, no. While he often shows flashes of great talent, he doesn't produce consistently or effectively enough to warrant being able to force the teams hand, especially not when there are a lot of guys on-roster playing the same positions.

Having most of the team in the facility, with coaches and players running around, will really help out with people getting comfortable with each other, as there's a lot of new faces in charge (along with that of the statue, Coach Lovie Smith.)

It's nice to be getting the sniffs of football news again, and I can't wait to start hearing rumblings as we get closer to the draft.