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Change of plans
Bears waive QB Kramer to pave way for McNown
Posted: Tuesday July 20, 1999 07:03 PM
The Bears' career passing leader was cut Tuesday, two days before the opening of training camp. Although he missed the second half of last season after shoulder and knee surgery, he had just worked out for the Bears on Sunday and felt he was ready to play.
"It was a shock. I had no idea. This came out of nowhere," Kramer said. "I'm not going to say I was lied to, but I don't know. Obviously, I wasn't being treated honestly."
New Bears coach Dick Jauron had said repeatedly that, despite taking UCLA quarterback Cade McNown 12th overall in the 1999 draft, Kramer was Chicago's No. 1 quarterback and it was his job to lose. The Bears supposedly wanted to bring McNown along slowly, allowing him to learn from Kramer.
So much for that plan.
The way it was explained by Jauron and Mark Hatley, the Bears' vice president of player personnel, Kramer became expendable after impressive performances by McNown and journeyman quarterbacks Shane Matthews, Jim Miller and Moses Moreno during spring mini-camps.
"We like the way these guys are progressing," Jauron said. "We made the decision to go this way because of what we think we have at this position, the potential. We're not talking about potential two years from now. We're not, in any way, lessening our dreams and ambitions this year. We're not saying that at all."
McNown is still unsigned, although agent Tom Condon -- Kramer's agent, too, coincidentally -- was at Halas Hall for more negotiations Tuesday. The Bears expect him to be signed before camp starts, Hatley said.
Even if McNown does sign, he won't automatically become the No. 1 quarterback.
"This guy is a rare find, he is our future. We want to make sure we handle him the right way," Jauron said. "I can tell you it's going to be Cade's [job] at some time. I don't know when that will be.
"I don't think you'll be able to hold him off for long," he added.
Kramer was asked if McNown is ready to be No. 1.
"I don't know. But they've made a decision to go in his direction now," he said. "Hey, if you're a parent and your 14-year-old comes home with a straight-A report card, that doesn't mean you give him the keys to the car."
Kramer, 34, led the Bears in passing last season despite missing the last eight games. He completed 60 percent of his passes for 1,823 yards and nine touchdowns. He threw for 10,582 yards and 63 touchdowns in five years with Chicago.
His Chicago stay has been marked by injuries. He started the first four games of the 1996 season but a neck injury kept him out the rest of the year. Then there were shoulder and knee injuries last year.
"When I was hobbling around, I told [them], `Whatever happens, just let me know. If you have a change of heart, all I ask is that you be up front with me and let me know what's going on,'" Kramer said.
That didn't happen, Kramer said.
"I asked them today, `At least be honest with me and tell me why it's changed,'" he said. "They couldn't."
It was simply a decision based on football, Hatley said. It had nothing to do with injuries or money. Kramer had two years left on a three-year, $9 million deal that included a $2 million signing bonus.
"There's nothing easy about this decision," Hatley said. "We came up with a feeling this was best for the Chicago Bears."
Kramer laughed at that.
"How do you go from No. 1 to No. 5?" he asked. "If they think I'm the fifth-best quarterback on this roster, they're crazy."
Although he did miss half of last season, there won't be an injury settlement for Kramer. He passed a physical last weekend. And when he worked out for the Bears on Sunday, a video camera was rolling.
"That should have been my first clue. I thought they were videotaping it because they wanted to put together a training tape," he said. "I couldn't understand why no one was jumping over backward or doing cartwheels on what a good workout I'd had.
"I thought it was an oversight on their part. Apparently, it wasn't."
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