Muhammad’s remarks resurface
By Mike Cranston
CHARLOTTE ó When he signed with Chicago, Muhsin Muhammad heard the whispers: It’s no fun to be a Bears receiver.
After being released following a disappointing 40-catch season in 2007, Muhammad concluded those folks were right.
The franchise in Chicago, Muhammad told Sports Illustrated last month, “is where receivers go to die.”
On Sunday, Muhammad will be a significant subplot as his Carolina Panthers prepare to face the Bears, with Muhammad 10 yards shy of 10,000 yards receiving.
“I wasn’t the originator of that comment,” Muhammad said this week. “It actually was made when I signed with Chicago. Someone questioned why I went to Chicago because of that comment. I tried to discredit it as much as I could when I was in Chicago. I gave it all I could.”
Chicago’s rap as a receiver’s graveyard stems from the quarterback carousel there. Muhammad played with Kyle Orton, Rex Grossman, Brian Griese and Jeff Blake.
All had limited success and might be why Muhammad’s numbers didn’t come close to matching his output in his first stint with Carolina.
Orton, who was seen arguing with Muhammad on the sideline on more than one occasion when they were teammates, was asked this week what his reaction was when he heard Muhammad’s remark.
“I didn’t have one,” Orton said, and walked off.
After the Panthers upset San Diego on a last-second touchdown and the Bears routed Indianapolis in their openers, this matchup was already intriguing. The Muhammad angle should guarantee the Bears won’t suffer a letdown.
“We don’t need extra motivation to play a football game. You are self-motivated,” Bears coach Lovie Smith said. “We are tying to win a game, period. Muhsin did a great job for us. He’s a lifetime friend of mine. I have nothing but good things to say about him. I’m excited that he was able to come back home and finish up his career with the Panthers.”
The Bears expected big things from the two-time Pro Bowl selection when they signed the tall possession receiver to a six-year, $30 million deal a day after he was released by Carolina in a salary-cap move.
But after catching 93 passes for 1,405 yards and 16 touchdowns for the Panthers in 2004, Muhammad’s numbers dipped to 64 catches for 750 yards and four TDs for the Bears a year later.
He caught only 60 balls in 2006 when the Bears reached the Super Bowl, and 40 for 570 yards and three scores in last year’s disappointing 7-9 campaign when the Bears went through three QBs.
“Obviously my career wasn’t as good as it was the nine years I was here,” said Muhammad, 35. “Some other players who were there had better careers when they left.”
Asked about his relationship with Muhammad during a conference call with Panthers reporters, Orton offered another terse reply.
“Moose was a good player when he was here,” he said. “I had a wide receiver-quarterback relationship with him.”
While the Bears had concerns about Muhammad’s age, he’s become one of Carolina’s top offseason moves. He’ll be the No. 1 receiver on Sunday with Steve Smith serving a two-game suspension for punching teammate Ken Lucas in a training-camp fight.
Muhammad had six catches for 56 yards in the win over San Diego. Currently sixth on the active list with 748 catches, he’s likely to reach the milestone of 10,000 yards receiving against his former team.