Ex-Illini assistant glad to be a Bear

Ex-Illini assistant glad to be a Bear

It might be his first year as a Chicago Bears coach but Pete Hoener has thrown the pleasantries out the window.

The Peoria native who played football at Bradley when they still had a team in the early 1970s doesn''t hold back when coaching the offensive linemen.

"You better get in frickin'' place," he barked at one player during 11-on-11 drills earlier this week at training camp in Bourbonnais.

Hoener has been around the block as a coach, including a stop in the late 1980s at Illinois as offensive line coach under Mike White.

Hoener, who spent the last three years coaching offensive line and tight ends with the Arizona Cardinals, is excited to be back in the state.

"The neatest thing is that with family and friends they can come to the games," Hoener said. "I can see them more. It doesn''t have to be a special trip anymore. It will be fun."

The last time Hoener coached in the state was 1986-87 under White at Illinois. It was toward the end of White''s tenure as Illini coach, and times weren''t all that great.

"He was a guy that I thought was way ahead of his time as far as planning, organization and how to run a team," Hoener said. "It was unfortunate that things went bad there because he was bringing in some great players."

Hoener still talks with White, who is director of football administration with the Kansas City Chiefs, and they see each other when they can.

In Chicago, Hoener''s unit boasts the most competition on the team. Center Olin Kreutz, guard Rex Tucker and tackle John Tait are the only ones who have secured starting spots. Left tackle and right guard are still issues.

"Competition is the best thing for a coach, and it''s even better for a player because he''s got somebody else to challenge," Hoener said. "It''s going to take a while to sort out."

The time is going to come

The team and Olivet Nazarene University are expected to extend the contract that would keep training camp in Bourbonnais. The original contract was a two-year agreement with an option for a third, which the sides are currently in. Exactly how long the new contract will be is not known.

There were rumors the Bears were looking elsewhere for a training camp home. The UI was mentioned, but Illinois associate athletic director Dana Brenner said the Bears have not contacted the university about the matter.

Bears officials also said it''s unlikely that any Chicago preseason games would be held at Illinois'' Memorial Stadium the next couple of years. With the revamped Soldier Field still an attraction, the preseason allows more of the public to access tickets easier.

Really big Schu

Former Illini Jerry Schumacher saw some solid action last Saturday in the Bears'' scrimmage against the St. Louis Rams in Macomb.

Schumacher worked at middle linebacker with the second and third units. He also saw time Thursday in the teams'' preseason opener in St. Louis.

Schumacher is a long shot to make the club because the Bears are deep with young talent at linebacker.

Jeff Mezydlo covers the Chicago Bears for The News-Gazette. You can reach him at (217) 351-5604 or via e-mail at jmezydlo@news-gazette.com.

Categories (3):Illini Sports, Football, Sports
Location (2):Chicago, State