The Chicago Bears must have thought they hit the jackpot a few years ago when a disgruntled Jay Cutler demanded a trade out of Denver after his infamous falling out with former head coach Josh McDaniels and landed in Chicago, where he replaced Kyle Orton as the starting quarterback. But after four seasons in Chicago, Cutler has yet to emerge as the elite quarterback they thought they were getting, and he is yet to take the Bears anywhere close to the Super Bowl, like they were hoping he would do. Just as they have in previous years, the Bears are wondering if this is the year that Cutler will finally break out.
The Bears thought they were getting a quarterback that was about to take off, but Cutler has never come close to matching the more than 4,500 yards passing he had in his final season in Denver, nor has he been able to match the 62% completion rate he had that season. If anything, Cutler has regressed over the past four seasons, becoming a less accurate thrower who still struggles with his decision-making and throws far too many interceptions that hurt both himself and his team. After so many seasons of it being the same old story with Cutler, it’s becoming harder and harder to believe that he’ll ever have a breakout season.
If there’s a reason to believe that this year will be different for Cutler, it could be new head coach Marc Trestman. Tresman has more than a dozen years of experience as a quarterback coach in the NFL, and has a great track record of success working with quarterbacks who are not nearly as talented as Cuter. But along with Trustman comes a complicated offense that Cutler will have to master, and the tall task of meeting all the expectations that Trestman has for his starting quarterback. Cutler worked with the keen offensive mind of Mike Martz earlier in his tenure in Chicago, but with little improvement, so if Cutler doesn’t show signs of improvement under the tutelage of Trestman, there may not be a coach out there that can turn Cutler into an elite quarterback.
Although a poor offensive line has been partly to blame for Cutler’s struggles in Chicago, the Bears have tried their best to put him in a position to succeed in 2013. They used two of their draft picks this year on offensive linemen, both of who are projected as starters, including first round pick Kyle Long, who has had a strong performance this preseason. The Bears also brought in a top wide receiver in Brandon Marshall prior to the 2012 season, after he and Cutler worked well together in Denver early in Cutler’s career. Chicago also used their second round pick in 2012 to draft Alshon Jeffery, giving Cutler two big targets for Cutler to throw to. The Bears also have Earl Bennett as a reliable third receiver and promising rookie Marquess Wilson, which should be enough weapons for a quarterback as talented as Cutler.
This season may be Cutler’s best opportunity to have a breakout year for the Bears, but it also might be his last opportunity. Cutler’s contract is up after this season, and the Bears don’t seem too eager to re-sign him if he’s going to be the same player in 2013 that he’s been the past few seasons. Without some noticeable signs of improvement this season, Cutler could have difficulty finding a team that’s willing to guarantee him a starting job for 2014 and beyond. Not only could this be the year for Cutler to break out, but it also must be the year that he finally emerges from mediocrity and starts living up to his potential, or else his status as a starter in the NFL could be in jeopardy.
One week of preseason action in the NFL is in the books, and now it’s time to get week 2 underway. There was only so much we could take away from last week’s games, but the starters should start to play a little more this week, and tell us a little more about each team. Here are the games to keep an eye on in week 2 of the preseason:
Carolina at Philadelphia, Thursday – The Eagles’ quarterback competition should start to heat up this week. Chip Kelly gave snaps to five different quarterbacks last week, but he should start to look exclusively at the three players that have a chance to win the starting job. Based on last week’s performance, there shouldn’t be much separation between Michael Vick and Nick Foles, while Matt Barkley showed enough to keep him in the mix for another week. For the Panthers, we should see more than just six pass attempts out of Cam Newton, as he moves into an important season in his career. Also, rookie running back Kenjon Barner had an impressive preseason debut, despite being involved in two turnovers, and it’ll be interesting to see if he clean some things up and make a push for significant carries during the regular season.
San Diego at Chicago, Thursday – It may be just week 2 of the preseason, but these are two teams that need to get it going offensively, and do so quickly. Jay Cutler is still trying to adjust to new head coach Marc Trestman, and needs to start showing better command of the offense. Meanwhile, Chicago’s offensive line allowed seven sacks last week, which is something they can’t repeat, even in the preseason. For the Chargers, they didn’t have much of a running game last week, and they’re also trying to figure out who their wide receivers are going to be this year following the season-ending injury to Danario Alexander and the likely loss of Malcolm Floyd for the remainder of the preseason.
Tampa Bay at New England, Friday – The Bucs got routed by the Ravens at home last week and will be looking for a more respectable outcome this week. Some thought that rookie quarterback Mike Glennon could push Josh Freeman for the starting job, but he didn’t look like much of a challenger last week, and this could be his last chance to turn this into a competition. For the Patriots, with the injuries to both Tom Brady and backup quarterback Ryan Mallett, there could a whole lot more of Tebow time this week, which as usual, will be must-see television. The Patriots are also trying to figure out who their wide receivers and offensive playmakers are going to be, which won’t be as interesting to watch as Tebow, but it will be far more important for New England’s season.
Jacksonville at New York Jets, Saturday – Here’s another quarterback competition that should start to heat up. Mark Sanchez will look to shake off his interception from last week and play more like he did on his 12 other pass attempts, 10 of which were completed. If Geno Smith is recovered enough from the ankle injury he suffered last week, he should be back on the field and pushing Sanchez, who appears to be the leader for the starting job. Meanwhile, the Jaguars are in the midst of their own quarterback competition, as Blaine Gabbert really struggled last week. Chad Henne is real tight with Gabbert for the starting job, while both Matt Scott and Mike Kafka got snaps in last week’s game, so it’ll be interesting how the playing time gets divided up in week 2, and whether or not someone is able to separate from the pack.
Denver at Seattle, Saturday – For the second straight week, the Broncos will play a Super Bow contender from the NFC, setting up a possible Super Bowl preview. This week they play the Seahawks, a former AFC West rival. Denver’s defense was awfully impressive last week, although the same can’t be said for its offense. Meanwhile, the Seahawks had no trouble scoring last week, especially with back up Tarvaris Jackson in the game. The starters for each team should play more than they did last week, so we should get a better impression of what these two Super Bowl favorites are all about.
It may seem like a little early for power rankings, but it may be best to put one together before the barrage of news coming out of training camp and the misleading preseason games start to skew our opinions. So based off of what they did last year and how their offseason went, here are the pre preseason top 10 teams in the NFC:
10. New Orleans – Sean Payton returning to the sidelines should give the Saints a boost, but New Orleans had the most passing yards in the NFL last year, so that part of the offense can’t get much better; rather, it’s the defense that needs to be better this year. Drew Brees is going to give them a chance to win just about every week, but unless the defense shows serious improvement, the Saints shouldn’t plan on being much better than a .500 team, which isn’t going to be enough to get to the playoffs in the NFC.
9. Chicago – On the one hand, the Bears won 10 games last year, but on the other hand, they changed coaches and didn’t really upgrade the talent on their roster. There are also questions about their quarterback. If Marc Trestman can make something out of Jay Cutler, the Bears should be in the same position they were last season: on the edge of the playoff race.
8. New York Giants – The Giants should be a lot higher, but there are still questions about how much they improved their linebackers and their secondary during the offseason. As long as they have Eli Manning, and as long as he has Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks, New York is in decent shape, but what they need is their pass rushers to rebound after a poor season last year. Without assurance that their pass rush will be better in 2013, the Giants remain on the outside looking in as far as the playoffs are concerned.
7. Washington – If Robert Griffin III was healthy, the Redskins are easily a top-5 team, and they may even crack the top-3 in the NFC, but if he’s not on the field, or if his legs aren’t healthy, Washington is a different team. Outside of Griffin, the roster is largely the same with the addition of some secondary help and a few ancillary offensive skill players. If Griffin is healthy, this could be a dangerous team in the NFC, but until he proves that he’s healthy, it’s tough to rank them too high.
6. St. Louis – The Rams had one of the best drafts in the NFL, adding a ton of speed to their offense to help out Sam Bradford, who will also have the luxury of Jake Long watching his back this season. The St. Louis defense is in decent shape, so if they can figure out their running game and Bradford can click with all the speedy weapons he’s been given, the Rams should be able to secure a winning record and fight for a playoff spot, despite playing in a tough division.
5. Minnesota – There are still serious questions about Christian Ponder, but Adrian Peterson is a great safety valve to have. They rode Peterson to a 10-win season last year, and they may be able to do that again. On top of that, the Vikings added three first round draft picks, and lured both Desmond Bishop and Greg Jennings away from the Packers, so they added quite a bit of talent to their roster. If Ponder can limit his mistakes, between Peterson and the talent Minnesota added in the offseason, they should be a top-5 team in the NFC this year.
4. Atlanta – The Falcons were close to the Super Bowl last year, but fell a game short. The window to get to the Super Bowl is still open, but it appears far more likely that Atlanta will take a step back in 2013. They have a good quarterback and arguably the best wide receiver tandem in the league, but they’re defense wasn’t reliable last year, and their roster is starting to get old. They should win their division again, but they may not be one of the NFC’s elite anymore.
3. Green Bay – The mere presence of Aaron Rodgers is enough to place the Packers among the top-3 teams in the NFC. He doesn’t have the supporting cast that he used to have, but the team drafted Eddie Lacy at running back, and Randall Cobb is a heck of a weapon to have, so Rodgers should have enough around him to give Green Bay one of the best offenses in the NFL. If the defense can hold up its end of things, the Packers will be in good shape to reach the top of the NFC.
2. Seattle – Now that they have a quarterback that can complement their defense, the Seahawks should be near the top of the NFC; as good as he was last year, Russell Wilson should be even better in year two. Also, despite not having a first round pick, Seattle managed to add some talented pieces in the draft. Wilson and the Seahawks got their feat wet in the postseason last year, and now they’re ready to assert themselves as one of the leading Super Bowl contenders in the NFC.
1. San Francisco – On paper, San Francisco has the most talented roster in the NFC. They have one of the most talented young quarterbacks in the league, they have a stout defense, and they had a great draft. Until proven otherwise, we have to enter training camp assuming that the 49ers are the class of the NFC.
We all know that Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers own the NFC North Division, and there will be high expectations in 2013 on Rodgers to lead the Packers back to the Super Bowl. But it’s important to remember the other three quarterbacks in the NFC North, all of who are at an important stage in their career, and who all have a lot to prove this season.
Jay Cutler of the Chicago Bears may be the most enigmatic of the three quarterbacks. His arm talent can measure up with just about any quarterback in the NFL, but he’s been inconsistent throughout his career, often struggling with turnovers. During his four seasons with the Bears, he has been unable to eclipse the more than 4,500 passing yards and 63% completion rate that he had in 2008, his final year with the Denver Broncos.
The blame is not all on Cutler, as he’s the most sacked quarterback in the NFL over the last four years, but after six full seasons as a starting quarterback, a player with his talent should have already established himself as one of the top-10 passers in the league, but Cutler is nowhere close to accomplishing that.
This season may be the most important of Cutler’s career; he is entering the final year of his contract and will be playing under a new head coach. Marc Trestman has a successful history of working with quarterbacks, but he will also be demanding of Cutler and have high expectations for what he expects out of Cutler, who better be able to meet those expectations, and do so on a consistent basis. There is also a lot of pressure on Cutler to lead Chicago to the playoffs, regardless of the uncertainty of his contract status with the Bears following this season.
Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford has already done the easy part, signing his name to a big contract extension, but now comes the hard part, leading Detroit to some wins and possibly even a playoff berth. Stafford has proven what he’s capable of doing statistically the past two seasons, throwing for over 5,000 yards in 2011 and nearly reaching that mark again last season. However, team success has not mirrored Stafford’s individual success, and he needs to do his best to make sure that’s not the case again in 2013. Despite’s Stafford brilliant statistical line, the Lions lost their final eight games in 2012, which wasn’t entirely his fault, but if Detroit is going to continue to throw the ball at such a high rate, at some point it’s on Stafford to ensure that the team wins. Signing a big contract after a four-win season means that Stafford needs to deliver more than just great stats, he needs to deliver wins in 2013.
Minnesota Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder may be the most in danger of losing his job out of the starting quarterbacks in the NFC North. Minnesota reached the playoffs last year despite Ponder, not because of him. Even in an offense that is dependent on the run and conservative with the pass, Ponder has been unimpressive in his first two NFL seasons, putting him on thin ice as far as being a starter beyond this season. Winning games in 2013 won’t be enough to secure his future as a starter in this league; he’s going to have to win games and look impressive while doing so. The Vikings have given him a good collection of skill players to throw to, in addition to one of the top rushing attacks in the NFL, so if Ponder can’t improve his performance in 2013, his time as a starter in Minnesota or anywhere else could be over.
Whether it’s trying to find consistency, living up to a new contract, or just proving that you belong in the NFL, the three NFC North quarterbacks that don’t have a league MVP and Super Bowl championship under their belt all have something to prove in 2013. The pressure may be on Rodgers to get the Packers back to the Super Bowl, but Cutler, Stafford, and Ponder all also facing high pressure situations of their own as the season gets underway.
While Sunday nights aren’t generally renowned for their transaction activity in the NFL, that didn’t stop the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Chicago Bears from wheeling and dealing. The Bucs were on the receiving end of a deal that has former 29th overall pick Gabe Carimi being added to an offensive line with suspect, at best, depth. In exchange for Carimi the Bears received the Bucs 6th round pick in the 2014 draft.
It’s no blockbuster deal, but it’s something.
Carimi’s time with the Bears was hanging over the cliff that descends into bust status following two abysmal seasons with Chicago. In his rookie season Carimi was limited to only two games before a season-ending knee injury, and several ensuing surgeries, derailed his season. He played both those games at right tackle. The following season Carimi played in 13 games, starting 10 of them at right tackle and alternating between tackle and guard for the other three. The switch was made once Carimi lost his job at right tackle to Jonathan Scott.
The writing was on the wall following Marc Trestman and the Bears rebuild on the fly approach to their offensive line. In free agency the Bears had already added Eben Britton and Matt Slauson - signings that were followed up with the Bears drafting guard Kyle Long with the 20th overall pick in this year’s draft. These moves didn’t bode well for the former Wisconsin star that Trestman envisioned as a guard this season.
For the Buccaneers they get a fledgling tackle prospect, best suited to playing guard, in the hopes that he will compete with Demar Dotson for the starting right tackle spot. Losing a sixth-round pick is hardly cause for concern, and if they can get some quality starts from Carimi at right tackle it will prove to be a transaction that was well worth making. If not, well, you win some you lose some. At the very least they will get much needed depth, following the departure of Jeremy Trueblood to the Washington Redskins.
You can follow J.D. Burke: @JDBurkeOV
It’s always sad to see a great athlete hang up his cleats for good, but in the case of Brian Urlacher, who announced his retirement from professional football earlier this week, he’s going out at the right time and in the right way. Urlacher is retiring before his play takes a significant downward turn and before he becomes a shadow of the player he once was. He’s ending his career with class and dignity, a career that he devoted entirely to one team and that will undoubtedly carry him to Canton one day.
Urlacher said it best himself in his retirement statement, “I’m not sure I would bring a level of performance or passion that’s up to my standards.” It’s difficult for a professional athlete, especially one the caliber of Urlacher, to admit this personally, much less admit it publically, but Urlacher being able to come out and say this shows great character. After an outstanding 13-year career, it’s tough to admit that you’re not the player you were, that you can’t play at the same high level that you once did, and that your passion for the game isn’t what it needs to be to compete against a new generation of players, and Urlacher should be admired for being able to come to grips with that and walk away from the game when he knows his time has come.
The cynics will say that Urlacher is too proud and arrogant to take a meager contract offer and accept a diminished role on a team, but there’s nothing wrong with Urlacher being proud of the player he was. The simple act of retiring is acknowledging that is no longer capable of being an elite player. He doesn’t need to fall deep into mediocrity with the entire league watching to know that, and so retiring when he was still one of the best at his position instead of becoming a second-tier player is an admirable act.
Perhaps the most refreshing part of Urlacher’s retirement is the timing of it. Retiring at this time of the year means that it was a well thought out decision, and not an over reaction to any one thing. The timing also means that news of his retirement is not interfering with anything else on the NFL calendar. Urlacher isn’t drawing attention away from the end of the regular season, the postseason, the draft, or even the start of the regular season, which is still more than 100 days away. He’s not trying to make a big deal out of his retirement, he’s not leaving the door open for a comeback, nor is he trying to create some kind of narcissistic farewell tour for himself; he’s merely making a well thought out decision with regards to his future.
Now that Urlacher is officially retired, it’s only a matter of time until he is inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. While stats aren’t quite as important for defensive players as they are for offensive players, Urlacher is one of just four players with more than 40 sacks and more than 20 interceptions in his career, putting him in elite company. He was a transformative player at the middle linebacker position, leading a new generation of middle linebackers that are as fast as they are physical and impactful against both the run and the pass.
Urlacher was a key player and a leader on one of the NFL’s best defensive teams during his time in the league. There should be no debate as to Urlacher’s credentials, and it’ll be simply a matter of when, not if, he gets into the Hall of Fame. The wait for the Hall of Fame begins now, after Urlacher chose the right time and the right way to hang up his cleats and retire from football.
With the draft finished and all of free agency’s biggest and best names off the market, each team’s roster is, more or less, set. Until, of course, training camp. When training camp and the pre season rolls around there are always a series of cuts to every roster; most expected, others not so much. Predicting the obvious cuts won’t be much fun, what with them being obvious and all, and often requires absurd amounts of research as they aren’t generally what I’d consider “household” names. For a look at some of the less likely - yet, still all too possible - names that could be hitting free agency in August, division by division, take a gander down yonder.
Chicago Bears, WR/KR Devin Hester: Hester’s never having developed into the receiver they had hoped he would is only part of the reason he is likely to be cut. Yes, his 242 yard season is a little disappointing, but not nearly as much as the fact that he didn’t return a single punt or kick for a touchdown. His average yardage on returns is also in steep decline. At this point the Bears aren’t getting a lot out of Hester, who counts for nearly $3M against this season’s cap.
Detroit Lions, WR Mike Thomas: Not sure how he landed his 4 year $10.2M, but it’s long overdue to be terminated. Even after joining the Lions following a mid-season trade, he failed to take advantage of his multiple opportunities to shine with all the injuries to their other receivers.
Green Bay Packers, LB Desmond Bishop: Bishop may envision himself as a defensive MVP, but he might have to prove his worth on another squad. Brad Jones could more than likely start in Bishop’s spot, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they cut Bishop to expedite that process.
Minnesota Vikings, WR Jerome Simpson: Simpson hasn’t exactly worked out as the Vikings had hoped for. Given every opportunity to assert himself as a starting receiver last season, especially with the injury to Percy Harvin, he did anything but. Now the Vikings have more depth at receiver with the additions of Greg Jennings and Cordarrelle Patterson, which makes him even more expendable.
you can follow J.D. Burke: @JDBurkeOV
The NFC North is up next on our division-by-division wrap up of the NFL Draft. Last year, this division had three teams with 10 wins or more, and during the draft it had three teams that came away very pleased, which should make this season quite interesting. Here’s how the NFC North teams graded out in the draft compared to one another:
1. Minnesota – The Vikings are the clear winner of this division, and had arguably the best draft in the league. Not only did Minnesota have three first-round picks, but they also drafted three players in the 20’s that easily could have been top 10-15 picks. The addition of defensive tackle Shariff Floyd, cornerback Xavier Rhodes, and wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson gives the Vikings a whole lot of talent that few teams in this draft can match.
The Vikings didn’t have a lot of mid-round picks, but they took linebacker Gerald Hodges in the fourth round, which should give them another player that can start. In the later rounds, Minnesota added depth at the line of scrimmage and a punter in Jeff Locke that should help them on special teams. When all was said and done, the Vikings made out very well with most of their nine picks, but the talent and value they added in the first round was overwhelming and gives them one of the best draft classes around.
2. Detroit – The Lions didn’t have nearly as good of a draft as the Vikings, but they did well, getting help at the line of scrimmage early and under-rated skill players late. They took a bit of a risk on Ziggy Ansah with the fifth overall pick because he’s a hit-or-miss prospect, but they’ve got good defensive tackles in place and they drafted Devin Taylor in the fourth round, so Ansah walks into a good situation and should have the people around him in Detroit to help him succeed. The offensive line got help from third round pick Larry Warford, who is more akin to second-round talent and should have no trouble starting right away.
In the later rounds, Detroit added a tall wide receiver in Corey Fuller, a versatile running back in Theo Riddick, and a solid tight end in Michael Williams; none will stand out, but they will help out quarterback Matthew Stafford. The one questionable pick that the Lions made, which keeps their draft class from standing out more, is taking cornerback Darius Slay in the second round. Slay has some injury concerns and was quite a reach in the second round, and after taking a risk in the first round, this pick becomes all the more questionable; although the Lions saved their draft by making wise and safe choices the rest of the way.
3. Green Bay – The Packers loaded up on picks with 11, and although they addressed most of their needs, they didn’t add enough impact players, which keeps them behind Detroit on this list. First round pick Datone Jones should help their defensive line, as will fifth round pick Josh Boyd, but there’s no guarantee those two players will lead to a significant increase in production.
There’s no doubt that Green Bay needed a running back, and Eddie Lacy was an absolute steal in the second round, but the Packers didn’t need to draft another running back in the fourth round, as their offense revolves around Aaron Rodgers and the passing game, so the role of running backs is never going to be that big. Other than running back and the defensive line, the Packers added two offensive linemen in the middle rounds, two linebackers in the late rounds, and two wide receivers in the late rounds; however, the roles of all of those players are unclear, as none of them stand out as potential playmakers. Considering how many picks Green Bay had in the draft, they didn’t make the kind of impact on their roster that would be expected.
4. Chicago – The Bears finish last in this division in part because they only had six picks, but also because they used half of those picks on linebackers. In Chicago’s defense, linebacker was their biggest need entering the draft, but the combination of Jon Bostic, Khaseem Greene, and Cornelius Washington may not be able to make the kind of impact at that position they need, especially with the loss of Brian Urlacher.
The Bears may have been better off taking a chance on either Alec Ogletree or Manti Te’o with their first round pick, or getting more of a sure thing in Arthur Brown with their second-round pick. First-round pick Kyle Long should be able to help the offensive line immediately, but the Bears could have picked up a comparable player later in the draft, so drafting him in the first round instead of a linebacker was a questionable decision. With so few picks and such mismanagement of the picks they did have, the Bears are the clear losers in the draft among teams in the NFC North.
Benjamim Cloutier, 24, was killed in November while cleaning the pens of two 500-pound Syrian brown bears—named Griz and Yosemite—at Animals of Montana near Bozeman Montana, where he worked as an animal trainer. The company provides captive-bred predators and other animals for photography, commercials, public appearances and motion pictures.
Cloutier was originally from York Haven, Pa. He had worked as a trainer at the company since 2008 and had been in the bear enclosure hundreds of times, according to Demetrius Price, head animal trainer.
This was the first death in Montana linked directly to some 20 captive-animal facilities, including zoos, licensed by the state, according to Reuters.
Griz, one of the bears, was shot at the scene of the mauling by Price. Montana wildlife officials requested that the second bear, Yosemite, also be killed to protect public safety, but the company refused. There was no blood on Yosemite and Price described the bear at the time as possibly just a "bystander" during the mauling.
The state's investigation into the mauling turned up allegations of numerous animal escapes from the company that were not reported as required under the company's roadside menagerie permit, said Andrea Jones with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks..
Federal authorities are proposing $9,000 in fines--$7,000 for that safety violation and a $2,000 penalty for failing to report the work-related death to federal authorities--and claim in a statement issued Tuesday that Cloutier’s death could have been prevented if standard safety practices had been followed.
Although the amount seems small considering the loss of a life, it is maximum penalty in such a case for a business that employs 25 or fewer people, authorities said.
Park County officials concluded the death was accidental, and no criminal charges were pursued.
In proposing the fines, the U.S. Department of Labor said the circumstances of Cloutier's death violated federal workplace safety rules, which prohibit employees to have direct contact with bears and other dangerous animals, and also claim that the company did not promptly report Cloutier's death, according to the citation and penalty notice released by Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) on Tuesday.
Jeff Funke, area director for OSHA, contends that the death could have been prevented if the bears had been kept in a separate enclosure while their pen was cleaned. "Those types of apex predators-- it's common knowledge that they're dangerous," Funke said. "If this were a (captive) bird or a raven or something else it would have been a different story."
Troy Hyde, owner of Animals of Montana, responds that putting trainers inside the cages of predatory animals" is absolutely something we must do. "Those people don't understand…We're not a zoo."
"We work inside a business that's a highly dangerous business, and everybody that works within this business is very aware of the dangers," he told The Associated Press.
Hyde repeated his earlier claim that Cloutier must have been unconscious before the mauling, possibly from a fall, because there were no defensive wounds such as bite marks on his hands. Funke said investigators considered that possibility but found no evidence of a fall. "From our perspective it was clearly an attack from a bear," he said.
According to the company, its captive bears are used in "attack re-enactments," for films and trainers are used as stuntmen. However, since Cloutier's death, state wildlife officials have declared they will not allow Yosemite to be used offsite, said Andrea Jones with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.
State officials disclosed that escapes experienced at Animals of Montana prior to the death of Benjamin Cloutier include a black panther, a pair of breeding lions and a wolf pup, Jones said, adding that the escapes only came to authorities' attention when neighbors reported them after the death of the young animal trainer, according to NPR.com.
Also, a 2004 injury to an Animals of Montana worker by a mountain lion—originally reported to the state as a "scratch"—turned out to be a scalp laceration that cut down to the worker's skull, Jones said. A doctor told investigators the man could have been killed if another employee had not sprayed the lion with bear spray.
Jones said because some of the unreported events occurred almost a decade ago, no official action could be taken now. However, she said if there are any future incidents of this type, the company could risk losing its permit.
Adam Roberts, vice president of Born Free USA, an animal-advocacy group that tracks such incidents across the country, told the Associated Press it's not unusual for captive animals to turn on their handlers and emphasizes that Coultier’s death underscores a serious lack of sufficient government regulations for facilities that keep exotic animals.
"So often we're derided as naysayers, but every time an incident like this happens it just shows how inappropriate wild animals are in captivity," Roberts said.
Inspectors found that the business does not provide a workplace “free from recognized hazards that were causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm to employees” because it allowed direct contact with dangerous animals during cleaning of their cages, according to the notice. Federal regulators ordered the company to end that “hazardous practice” by May 23.
Animals of Montana has 15 days to comply with the OSHA fine, contest the violations or request an informal conference on the matter. Hyde said he had not yet had a chance to review the nine-page violation letter and said no decision had been made on whether to challenge the citations.
Yesterday we did the good, and now it’s time for the bad, as we continue to examine last weekend’s NFL Draft. Here are 10 teams, in no particular order that could have done a better job in making their picks:
Chicago – With just six picks, the Bears chose to focus on just a couple of positions instead of trying to spread out their picks to cover a multitude of positions. The additions of Jon Bostic, Khaseem Greene, and Cornelius Washington should make the Bears feel better about the linebacker position without Brian Urlacher around. Also, Kyle Long and Jordan Mills will definitely bolster their offensive line, but their secondary and defensive line needs weren’t addressed at all. They didn’t have a lot of flexibility or a lot of picks to work with, but they had enough to do better than what they ended up doing.
Arizona – The Cardinals wanted an offensive tackle, but when the top three tackles available were all taken off the board prior to their first round selection, they settled for an offensive guard in Jonathan Cooper, and failed to take a tackle later in the draft. But that was just their first problem. Arizona also needed secondary help, but the only defensive back they added was Tyrann Mathieu, a major character risk and at best a slot corner, not a safety like they needed. Kevin Minter and Alex Okaford were nice additions to their defense, and they did address a need with running backs Stepfan Taylor and Andre Ellington, but the offensive line and secondary remain big areas of concern following the draft.
Carolina – The Panthers had just five picks in the draft, and they did not use them wisely with regards to their needs. Carolina did well to address their defensive front, taking Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short in the first two rounds, but their needs in the secondary and at wide receiver went completely ignored. In the late rounds, Carolina ended up with a situational linebacker in A.J. Klein and a change-of-pace running back in Kenjon Barner. Those are two solid players, but not exactly what they needed.
Buffalo – The first round selection of quarterback E.J. Manuel does carry some risk, but that’s not the biggest problem the Bills had during the draft. The quarterback position aside, their defense had a lot more holes to plug coming into the draft than their offense. It would have been nice to see Buffalo focus more on defense early in the draft rather than take a wide receiver in both the second and third rounds, although both receivers taken should improve their offense considerably, especially Robert Woods. Buffalo added a couple players that can help their secondary later in the draft, but nobody that is expected to make a big impact. The Bills also used a sixth round draft pick on a kicker, which is a pick they could have used elsewhere considering all the holes they have to fill.
New England – It may be surprising to see the Patriots on this list, but they did not have a good weekend. New England traded out of the first round and loaded up on middle round draft picks, but they failed to find any impact players in the five picks they had between the second and fourth rounds. Second round pick Jamie Collins is the closest to an impact player the Patriots drafted, but he may not be an every down player in the NFL. Both of the defensive backs out of Rutgers that New England took in the third round were reaches and neither may be able to give them the kind of help at cornerback that they need. Wide receiver Josh Boyce was a nice pick up in the fourth round, but second round wide receiver Aaron Dobson is awfully raw and may not be ready to play in an offense that’s orchestrated by Tom Brady. The Patriots also ignored their offensive line, which is a position they should have addressed with all those middle round picks.
New York Jets – No one should be surprised to see the Jets on this list. They may have gotten their quarterback for the future, but the Jets failed to get any skill players that can help that quarterback make plays. New York did add a few offensive linemen, which should help, especially Brian Winters, who should start right away. However, both of their first round picks were spent on defensive players, which may have been a mistake considering that their offense was a far bigger problem for them last year. They ended up with some good players, but they didn’t address their weaknesses the way they should have, and so there’s no guarantee this draft has made them a significantly better team.
Cleveland – With just five picks, the Browns fell well short of what they needed to do. Barkevious Mingo was too risky of a player to take sixth overall, despite their need for a pass rusher. Cleveland could have bolstered their defense in the secondary or along the defensive line with that pick, instead of taking Mingo, a player with some questions regarding his work ethic and attitude. Cornerback Leon McFadden was a good pick up for them in the third round because they needed a cornerback, but after Mingo and McFadden they didn’t pick again until the 6th round, where there was little chance of finding impact players. In the end, the Browns finished the draft without making significant improvements to their roster.
Tampa Bay – The Bucs sacrificed their first round pick in order to get Darrelle Revis, and then for some reason they decided that they needed to improve their secondary even more in the second round by taking cornerback Johnthan Banks. Tampa’s third round pick was even more questionable, as they took quarterback Mike Glennon. Not only does taking Glennon show a lack of confidence in Josh Freeman, but also it was surprising to see Glennon picked with both Matt Barkley and Ryan Nassib still on the board. Instead of getting another quarterback, Tampa may have been wise to get a wide receiver or tight end that could be a receiving threat for their current quarterback, and the third round would have been the right time to take someone at that position. Defensive tackle Akeem Spence was a good pick up for them, but defensive end William Gholston has a reputation for being inconsistent, so despite a lot of talent he may pan out for them. Without a first round pick, the Buccaneers needed to be more efficient than they were with the picks that they did have.
Dallas – The Cowboys really failed in this draft, starting with first round pick Travis Frederick. Dallas needed help on the offensive line, but they reached too far to get it in the first round when they could have drafted a safety. Instead, they waited until the third round to get a safety, which would have been the place to get an offensive lineman. Tight end Gavin Escobar and wide receiver Terrance Williams will be useful targets for Tony Romo in the passing game, but Dallas could have used those picks in the second and third rounds to address their needs at the line of scrimmage, which is a more pressing need for them than offensive skill players. Not only did the Cowboys fail to address some needs, but they also took the wrong approach when they did attempt to address their needs.
Oakland – There’s a chance the Raiders end up with several quality players from this draft, but they took far too many risks for a team that’s rebuilding and that’s expected to be at the bottom of a bad division this season. D.J. Hayden is a huge medical risk, especially 12th overall; the Raiders needed to make a safer choice in the first round, no matter how much they liked Hayden. Second round pick Menelik Watson has plenty of potential, but he has so little experience playing football that he could have a huge learning curve in the NFL, and there’s a chance he’s never able to catch up. It was also questionable why they drafted quarterback Tyler Wilson, because he’ll need at least a year or two development, the Raiders have Matt Flynn for the time being, and there should be better options in next year’s draft. The safest pick they made was third round linebacker Sio Moore. The Raiders had six picks in the final two rounds, but those players can’t be relied on to be impact players and neither can their early round picks.