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Baffoe: Stop Undermining Trestman, His Veterans

By Tim Baffoe-

(CBS) Most of my childhood ranged from chubby to portly, which allowed me to be fairly functional as a speed bump in the path of oncoming defensive linemen and linebackers in grade school football. High school football would require more agility and a great tolerance for pain, and thus my football career ended.

So maybe I just don't "get it." The buzzwords and catch phrases and narratives slathered on football players young and old to help better grease the gut feeling that running into people repeatedly isn't normal.

"The importance of practice." "Defense trying to jell." "Full commitment to the game."

"Me-first, excessive demonstrations … extra off-field attention." "This has to be an issue within the organization."

All those and more have been tossed around lately. Some are in criticism of Bears linebacker Lance Briggs being excused from practice in order to attend the opening of his new California restaurant Monday. Others are because wide receiver Brandon Marshall will be taping a TV show each week this season.

A seven-time Pro Bowler in his 12th year of service to the same team missing a day of preparing for E.J. Manuel's reign of terror this coming Sunday? One of the league's most dominant receivers will be plane-hopping during the season to tape a TV show? Surely the machine will break down from a weak link in the chain of the domino effect or something something.

I thought we'd evolved beyond this stuff. Tell me what is lost from Briggs not being at being at a Monday practice. What was he going to do that would make Jon Bostic and Shea McClellin better? Marshall maybe getting jet lag on the team's off day of Tuesday each week instead of rushing to a local studio Sunday evening while his bruises have yet to coagulate (which is totally fine for other players) -- that's going to affect his jump balls and manhandling of defensive backs on Sundays how exactly?

What do you the hand-wringer know that coach Marc Trestman does not? Because it's probably safe to say the coach has earned the benefit of the doubt regarding unorthodox methods and some abandoning of square-jawed football tradition. This despite David Haugh insulting him with, "The uncommon courtesy that makes Trestman an exceptional man, if taken advantage of by savvy players, potentially makes him a vulnerable head coach."

It's as though proven NFL vets are shady, bored high school kids asking the clueless, good-natured substitute teacher to use the bathroom.

With Trestman stepping into a locker room that was severely smarting from the departures of a beloved former coach in Lovie Smith and team captain in Brian Urlacher, there was severe skepticism as to how the new guy would fare last year. Especially since the 2013 team had so many veterans who, like any of us, aren't inclined to easily welcome change.

''Not everybody's bought in," Jay Cutler said in July of 2013. "But that's OK. We still have a lot of time."

Over time, players did eventually warm to their new coach. To demand that Trestman needs to earn the right to let players he trusts do some non-football things is undermining an adult presumed by his superiors to be capable and responsible.

"'The overriding philosophy is to get to know each other, to develop levels of trust between each other — coaches and players, players and coaches — and define our behavior through respect and humility,'' Trestman was quoted in a Rick Morrissey column about a month ago. ''That we're going to respect everybody around us. We're going to treat them in high regard, and we're going to understand what humility means, which is that we're a part of something bigger than ourselves."

That "bigger" extends beyond the field, and Trestman knows it. Those questioning him now have also praised him for his relationships and trust with others, even some of the most troubled NFL names. With Briggs and Marshall, we see two players being criticized for preparing for life after football — something that so many sad stories have proved invaluable. It's also something that garners a beloved 1985 Bear a major magazine feature piece.

Trestman is wisely not about to participate in such hypocrisy. Instead, he respects his players.

In that same column about trust, the Sun-Times' Morrissey wrote, "The bigger point here is that there is no debating this is Trestman's team," along with insinuating that Martellus Bennett fighting and not hustling at practice was nothing to go overboard about. But now Trestman's handling of his team for equally, if not less,benign stuff is "bizarre" and a "head-scratcher."

From what we've observed so far, Trestman would need to prove he isn't an otherwise competent personnel handler for this criticism to hold weight. Trestman doesn't need to earn anything in that regard, because I'm pretty sure he "gets it."

Tim Baffoe is a columnist for Follow him on Twitter @TimBaffoe.

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