We’re heading into the dog days of the offseason, counting the days until the Chicago Bears 2014 season kicks off. Thanks to Bear Goggles On contributor and the fine editor of Blackhawk Up Keith Schultz’s suggestion, we’re going to do a Top 100 list of the all time Chicago Bears. It’s a fun way to pass the time and take a stroll down memory lane.
Alonzo Spellman was a team captain and 3-year starter at Ohio St before the Bears drafted him with the 22nd overall pick in 1992 draft. At only 20 years old, he was one of the youngest 1st round picks ever, but the 6’4, 287 pound Spellman had unlimited potential and was drafted to eventually replace aging Bears legend Richard Dent at defensive end. It took Spellman a couple of years before he moved into the starting lineup, but he was a solid reserve as rookie (30 tackles, 4 sacks) and in his 2nd year (28 tackles, 2.5 sacks) backing up the solid DE combo of Richard Dent and Trace Armstrong.
When Dent left for the 49ers in 1994, Spellman moved into the starting lineup at right defensive end and had a productive year with 39 tackles, 7 sacks, a forced fumble and interception. Spellman showed flashes of becoming a dominant pass rusher and had a breakout season in 1995. He led the Bears with 4 forced fumbles and was 2nd on the team with 8.5 sacks. Spellman followed that up with another strong season in ’96 with 46 tackles, 8 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles. He had become a force on the right side of the defense and at only 25 years old, his best football was presumably ahead of him.
Spellman was a restricted free agent after the ’96 season and received a 4-year, $12M offer from the Jaguars which the Bears ended up matching. Spellman had asked for a $100k / year addition for the Americans All charity that he had become a big part of. The Bears balked at adding that to his contract and it was the beginning of a fallout between Spellman and Bears management. Spellman injured his shoulder early in the ’97 season and when he recovered slowly, the Bears suspended him for 3 games claiming that he didn’t follow the treatment program recommended by Bears doctors and also questioned the validity of Spellman’s injury. He was then suspended by the NFL for missing a mandatory steroids test during his suspension. There were reports of incidents at Halas Hall including arguments with HC Dave Wannstedt and D-line coach Clarence Brooks. There were also strange reports about Spellman’s off-field activities including some Rodman-esque partying and cross-dressing. Following a series of bizarre off-field incidents including Spellman wandering the streets of Detroit shirtless & shoeless, a couple of gun charges, missed court dates, and a stand-off with SWAT team members that had to be diffused by Mike Singletary… the Bears finally released Spellman before the ’98 season.
With his off-field behavior becoming more erratic, no team took a flyer on Spellman and he spent the ’98 season out of football. The Cowboys signed Spellman in ’99 and he appeared rejuvenated starting 31 games over two seasons and tallying 10 sacks. Spellman played briefly for the Lions in 2001 (5 games) before retiring. Eventually Spellman was diagnosed with bipolar disorder which may have had much to do with the unusual off-field behavior that ultimately cut his promising Bears career short.
What do you think of the ranking? Too high? Too low? I guess you’ll have to check back to see who finished ahead of him to judge for yourself. We’ll be counting down a different person each day as we inch our way to the September 7th season opener.