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Chicago Bears Danieal Manning Interview: An Impromptu Run-In WIth a Bear


Now, usually when a man meets a bear he's scared for his life. But in this case, it was a gentle bear. In fact, you might say he was downright bear-able.

Yep, this Bears fan and writer stumbled into an exclusive interview opportunity with the Bears Danieal Manning on Monday.

He was at the Jewel-Osco in Orland Park, IL for Cookin' With the Bears, a series of events with a different Chicago Bears player each time.

In this program, a Bears player features his favorite tailgating recipe and signs autographs with the fans at a Jewel-Osco store.

Meanwhile, I just happened to waltz in to find the Bears return man and safety-corner Manning, smiling brightly and actually looking like he didn't mind being there.

You think of athletes doing these things out of contractual obligations and looking like they wished they were anywhere other than being with the fans.

But I'm telling you that Manning was genuinely gracious and engaging as he came out from behind his makeshift "tent" to take pictures with the fans when asked. Heck, he even put his arms around the fans and smiled.

In short, he appeared to be having fun. Imagine that!

I started out by asking him whether the media was too negative and he agreed that you seldom hear about the good things a professional athlete does and only hear about the bad stuff. He told me that an athlete owes it to his fanbase to get out among the paying customers.

This guy truly "gets it," folks. I asked him if he ever allows himself to say, "Damn, I'm really a pro football player," and he looked me in the eye and with sincerity replied: "Every day."

Then, he signed another autograph and turned to me and repeated, "Every day, man."

This is a man who knows he is blessed. When I asked him the one thing he wanted out of football, Manning said it was to win a Super Bowl for the Bears fans and to come away with his health intact.

He said he understands that injuries are part of the game and that he knows the risks.

He is concerned about the rule changes because he worries it might actually make it more dangerous for players who have to stop and think before hitting an offensive opponent.

Football players aren't dumb, they know the risk and want to take reasonable precautions, but he agreed when I suggested that football is fine just the way it is.

I also asked Manning about why Dez Clark isn't playing. He told me he agreed that Clark should play, and wondered aloud why he is not playing.

While telling me that "you'd have to ask Coach Smith," he was quick to say "But I like Greg, he's a good player too, so I don't think he should replace Greg. I wish they both could play."

After posing for pictures and signing more autographs, I asked him about his recipe, chili. He said his favorite vegetable is celery. I can tell from sampling it that his chili was good, with a nice kick and it certainly had plenty of celery in it.

I steered the conversation back to football by asking him what he liked better: returning kicks or playing defense. He replied that, "That's exactly what Coach Smith wanted to know."

But he said he told Lovie the same thing he would tell me "both." He talked Lovie into letting him continue to do both, but he implied that Lovie would rather he focus on defense only for fear of getting hurt.

Perhaps Lovie saw what doing both did to Devin Hester?

When pressed on the matter he did admit that he would take defense over returning kicks if he had to choose. When I asked if that was because that's where the money is, he admitted that yes, that's what pays the bills.

It's sort of refreshing for a pro athlete to admit that money matters.

I asked if he ever read Bleacher Report and he said he had heard of it, but hadn't checked it out but promised he would. And you know what, he sounded sincere.

My final question was what he preferred playing on defense and he said safety because he wants to play more and he only plays the nickle as a corner.

I finished by telling him that his interception in Sunday's game was one of the more athletic plays I had ever seen a defensive player make.

When asked if he could play wideout, he admitted he "probably could, but we have the right guys in there and I'm not anywhere near as good as those guys."

He told my son that, like him, he was a little guy in high school, but encouraged him to keep playing football, telling him that "You can do it, don't give up."

This Bear may have claws on the football field, but off the field, this bear is an endangered species. He truly cares.





Read more at http://bleacherreport.com




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