Recently we had the opportunity to chat with retired Bears RB Gale Sayers about a number of Chicago Bears/NFL topics. As always, Sayers was candid in his responses, and provided plenty of insights that should generate some interesting discussions.
WCG: The Matt Forte contract situation has been a hot topic for months now, and Bears fans seem to be divided with their opinions. The team offered what they thought was fair (4 years/ $30M/ $13M guaranteed), but he feels he is worth more. Where do you see Forte ranking among NFL running backs, and how do you see this situation playing out?
Sayers: I feel Matt Forte is a top ten running back and should be paid like one. By the same token that's a lot of money the Bears have offered and if they cant reach an agreement, the Bears should move on. I hope it won't come to that though because it would be very difficult to replace a guy with his talents.
WCG: Another story made plenty of headlines in Chicago this offseason - The trade for WR Brandon Marshall. Marshall has a checkered not-so-distant past, and eventually went public about battling Borderline Personality Disorder. However, he is an undeniable talent on the football field, and has an established chemistry with QB Jay Cutler. What are your thoughts on the Bears adding Marshall to the lineup?
Sayers: I'm not aware of all his off the field problems, but I think it was a good deal to get a player of his caliber. Jay Cutler needed a big time threat at that position since he was traded here and I'm glad they finally addressed that. They should consider getting another big time threat perhaps in the upcoming Draft. The Packers have a very deep receiving corps and I'd like to see us have that kind of depth also.
WCG: The New Orleans Saints got nailed by Commissioner Roger Goodell for their bounty program, but supposedly, bounties go back way before 2011. Back in the mid-1980's, the Green Bay Packers were noted as writing opposing jersey numbers on their towels, and targeting players of opposing teams. We all remember Charles Martin slamming QB Jim McMahon to the ground after an INT in 1986, ending the rest of McMahon's season. Going back to when you played in the league, were there any similar non-contract reward systems for offensive or defensive players that you had ever heard about?
Sayers: I dont believe there were these types of bounties back when I played. Besides, there just wasn't the money to throw around like they can today. I'm not sure if this is a league-wide problem or not. I sure hope not, because someone can have their career ruined over this kind of stuff. Personally I feel the penalty should have been even stronger for Sean Payton, like a three year suspension.
WCG: You were a bit critical of QB Jay Cutler after his second season with the Bears (2010), saying that he hadn't gotten the job done since coming to Chicago... After seeing the 2011 season, do you think it's safe to say he's our franchise guy, or is it still a bit too early to tell?
Sayers: I think Jay Cutler is a fine quarterback. Not all of his problems were his fault. The team failed to get him good offensive lineman his first two years here and he paid a price for it. Yes, I feel he threw too many interceptions, but like I said, he didnt have the strongest supporting cast when he first arrived in Chicago. I'm just glad to see the team finally addressing that. I think Jay can be the answer at quarterback and this year will go a long way towards answering that question. The Bears should have a good season this year if everyone stays healthy. I'm hoping so anyhow.
WCG: It's always fun when fans can learn something about their team that they never knew before; things that might not be everyday common knowledge. You spent your first 3 years in the league under George Halas (1965-68)... Tell us a story about Halas that people may not know about him. Something you experienced or witnessed that you could share with the fanbase.
Sayers: George Halas was obviously very important in my life and he also helped many other people. People only hear about how frugal he was but he also was very generous. He set up a college fund for Brian Piccalo's daughter so they could attend college and he didn't have to do that.
Gale Sayers has been an active member of the Chicago community for many years, and is getting ready to kick off his annual Celebrity Golf and Charity Event next May that promotes and benefits after-school programs for Chicago's inner-city youth. If you or your organization is interested in registering for the event, click here.
The Gale Sayers Center, located at 7901 S. Sangamon in Chicago, IL, works to build a brighter and more reliable future for Chicago's inner city youth by offering free after-school educational programs and experiences. The programs include computer classrooms where students can be tutored in English and Math; mentoring and motivation sessions with some of the most outstanding business, civic and sports leaders sharing their experiences; educational displays and forums; and a public speaking course. The Gale Sayers Center was founded in 2006 and is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.