LAKE FOREST – Santonio Holmes will spend the next two weeks trying to revive his NFL career with the Bears.
He’s a former Super Bowl MVP and 1,000-yard receiver. The 30-year old Holmes also arrives with a reputation as a malcontent, one who threw teammates and coaches under the bus regularly.
He reunites in Chicago with former Steelers and Jets teammates, all of whom said Monday that despite his reputation, Holmes has no relationship repairing to do with them.
“They didn’t consult me at all, but I would’ve vouched for him,” said left guard Matt Slauson, who was in the huddle Holmes was reportedly jettisoned from by his teammates as the Jets were trying to clinch a postseason berth in Week 17 of the 2011 season. “I like the guy. I think he’s a great teammate. Things out in New York got overblown just because of the way things went on there.”
Slauson, whose locker is directly next to Holmes’, called him a “passionate guy,” but said Holmes wasn’t the only player frustrated in the Jets locker room. Holmes was released in March, however, with two years left on a five-year, $50 million pact.
Tight end Matt Mulligan, teammates with Holmes in New York from 2010-11, said he knows Holmes better than any media outlet, and has the utmost respect for him as a teammate and player.
“We all got along up there,” Mulligan said. “I respect Santonio; he’s a great player, and I think he’ll really be able to help this team.”
Coming off consecutive injury-shortened seasons, Holmes can help the Bears without being the explosive playmaker he was in Pittsburgh. The Bears have a gaping hole at No. 3 receiver, and Holmes’ punt return experience might also be of value.
But no current Bear had a closer glimpse of Holmes’ dynamic skills in Pittsburgh than safety Ryan Mundy, a rookie the same season Holmes was crowned Super Bowl XLII MVP after his last-second catch beat the Cardinals.
Like Slauson and Mulligan, Mundy said he has fond memories of Holmes, a playmaker he recalls regularly “taking quick slants 60 yards to the house,” but none of the player who would go on to burn bridges in Pittsburgh and New York.
Mundy did acknowledge that the Steelers’ veteran locker room wasn’t conducive for that type of behavior, and he sees a lot of similarities in the environment coach Marc Trestman has created with the Bears.
“That’s the first thing that I felt when I came here in April – wow, this kind of reminds me of Pittsburgh,” Mundy said. “… And that’s a good thing. You come here, you’re a Chicago Bear, and we’re going to embrace you with open arms.”
For his part, Holmes on Monday said whatever reputation has preceded him in prior stops remains in the past.
“It’s neither here nor there right now,” Holmes said. “… Being in this new organization is a new move for me and a great opportunity for me to take advantage of and be part of a great organization.”