Trestman must get creative juices flowing

Bears need workable plan ready if irresponsible Rodriguez proves ultimately unreliable

Chicago Tribune sports reporter Dan Pompei discusses the possibility of the Bears signing QB JaMarcus Russell. (Posted on: June 4, 2013)

Maybe Evan Rodriguez will be with the Bears this season.

Maybe he won't be.

If there is one takeaway from Rodriguez's latest missteps it is this: The Bears better not be counting on him.

The Bears have no intention of cutting Rodriguez because of his DUI arrest on Friday. On Tuesday, general manager Phil Emery said the Bears will continue to work toward fulfilling the role they had mapped out for Rodriguez when they chose him in the fourth round of the 2012 draft.

They really have no choice as the collective bargaining agreement prohibits any club from disciplining or cutting a player for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy.

The NFL Players Association is in a particularly feisty mood these days. Stung that the NFL got the better of it in the CBA, and seething over the way veterans have been squeezed, the NFLPA has been contesting almost everything.

That means filing grievances. So if a team cuts a player like Rodriguez for what clearly is a non-performance issue, it better be ready for a court fight.

For all of Rodriguez's mistakes, he never has been convicted of anything.

Yet.

So it might be difficult, if not impossible, to win a grievance for cutting a player in Rodriguez's situation.

Still, Rodriguez is making it apparent that when the Bears need him most, he could have a hangover or in a jail cell or even suspended. He is likely to enter the NFL substance abuse program soon if he has not already.

And because they can't rely on him to be on the field opening day for whatever reason, the Bears have to start thinking about options.

There is no one else on the Bears roster who can do what Rodriguez can do. And there probably is no one on the street either, though they are bringing in Eddie Williams for a tryout Friday.

Williams is a fullback/tight end similar to Rodriguez who was with the Bears previously. He also spent time with the Redskins, Browns and Seahawks.

Part of the benefit of having coach Marc Trestman at the reigns of the Bears offense is he is very open to adjusting to whatever he has in personnel. He isn't one of those coaches who says, "I must have this, that and the other" for his offense to function.

Last year when Trestman was the coach of the Canadian League Alouettes, he responded to a rash of injuries at wide receiver with outside-the-box thinking rather than finding receivers off the street who could do a poor imitation of what his injured ones could do.

It was a factor in general manager Phil Emery hiring him as he said said in Trestman's introductory press conference.

"It came down to the best players on their roster were tight ends, so what did Marc do?" Emery said. "He adapted to the circumstances, he put three tight ends in the game, he moved the ball and he won games. Not only can he adapt to the personnel, he adapts to situations very easily."

At another point late last season, the Alouettes traveled to Regina to play the Roughriders in a game with postseason implications. On the morning of the game, Trestman learned starting fullback/tight end/h-back Patrick Lavoi would be a late scratch because of a back injury.

So Trestman and his staff put together a new game plan on the fly that featured good dose of four wide receiver formations, and his team prevailed 34-28.

That shows the Bears could attempt to replace Rodriguez not with a clone, but with a combination of players: an extra wide receiver like Joe Anderson, a fleet tight end like Fendi Onubun, a smooth route runner out of the backfield like Matt Forte, a blocking tight end like Steve Maneri and a free agent like Williams.

Maybe it's about a run instead of a pass, play action instead of straight drop back, out rout instead of a shallow cross.

What the latest developments with Rodriguez really tell us is Trestman needs to get his imagination working.

It won't be up to Harvey Unga if Rodriguez needs replacing at some point.

It will be up to Marc Trestman.

dpompei@tribune.com

Twitter @danpompei

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