Bears defensive coordinator says he's not focused on future
LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Mel Tucker insisted he is only focused on one thing.
That would be the next game, not his future.
''That may be hard to believe, but it's not hard as a coach or as a player to get ready for this matchup,'' Tucker said.
Chicago hosts New Orleans on Monday in a game between disappointing teams that are 5-8.
While the Saints are tied with Atlanta for the NFC South lead, the Bears will miss the playoffs for the seventh time in eight years.
Their defense has ranked among the league's worst in two seasons under Tucker, who shrugged off questions about his job security and reiterated several times his focus is on preparing for the Saints.
Tucker said he hasn't discussed his future with his bosses. If he is gone, few would be surprised.
A franchise built on the strength of its defense, with names such as Butkus and Singletary, has been coming up short in a big way.
Whether it's the coaching or talent, injuries or execution, the Bears have taken a big step back in that area after consistently ranking among the league's best under former coach Lovie Smith.
They're allowing a league-high average of 29.1 points, which is about as bad as last season when they allowed 29.9 per game and tied for second worst in the NFL.
Chicago is also tied for 28th in yards allowed (377.8 yards per game) and ranks 30th against the pass despite a major offseason overhaul.
Injuries can't be overlooked.
They were hit hard in that area a year ago, and it's been more of the same this time around.
They've lost four starters to season-ending injuries, with middle linebacker D.J. Williams (neck), joining defensive end Lamarr Houston, cornerback Charles Tillman and linebacker Lance Briggs on injured reserve on Thursday.
''First of all, we're not in the business of making excuses for injuries; we can't,'' coach Marc Trestman said.
Linebacker Jonathan Bostic pinned the Bears' struggles on the players - not the coaches. He insisted the issue is execution and that's on the guys wearing helmets and pads.
''It's not on the coaches,'' Bostic said. ''We go back and watch the film and everybody will see it. Everything coaches are coaching us (to do), it needs to show up in the game. It can't show up in two out of three plays because that one play where it didn't show up - where one player jumped out of the gap or didn't do exactly what we're being coached to do - is when we give up a big play.''
Asked if he has been given enough talent to succeed, Tucker said: ''You have to deal in the moment and in the immediate situation, which is New Orleans. We feel good about the guys we have going into the game and our preparation, and that's really all that matters. We feel good about this group, whether they're rookies or not, just collectively to go in there and get the job done in the game. That's what we're talking about.''
The Bears have allowed more passing plays of 20 or more yards - 51 - than all but one team, the Philadelphia Eagles.
There was similar speculation about his future a year ago, and on Thursday, Tucker dismissed it as something that comes with the territory. He has coached 10 seasons in the NFL and eight in college, so it's nothing new to him.
Tucker was also asked about the opening at Wisconsin, where he played as a defensive back.
He talked to athletic director Barry Alvarez, his former coach, about the job in 2012, but remained in Jacksonville as the Jaguars' defensive coordinator. That position is open again after Gary Andersen left for Oregon State.
Would Tucker be interested this time if his old coach contacted him?
''That's a hypothetical,'' Tucker said. ''I try to stay out of those. Ultimately, the sole focus is New Orleans and preparing for those guys. That's the only thing I'm thinking about right now.
NOTES: K Robbie Gould hopes to be ready after missing a game because of a pulled right quadriceps. He sat out practice along with S Chris Conte (back), OL Michael Ola (back) and LB Darryl Sharpton (hamstring). DT Jeremiah Ratliff (knee) was limited. ... Tucker said there is a ''good chance'' Bostic will move to middle linebacker with Williams out.
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