Joniak: New CBA Top Of Mind At NFL Combine

The NFLPA's full membership will vote on a proposed collective bargaining agreement.

Jeff Joniak
February 26, 2020 - 4:44 pm
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INDIANAPOLIS (WBBM Newsradio) -- Here are the news and notes from the NFL Combine on Wednesday.

--- The NFL franchise tag window officially opens Thursday. Teams working under the final year of the collective bargaining agreement also can use the transition tag. Short of an agreement on a new deal before the new league year on March 18, the two tags go into effect. A new deal would change that scenario.

--- The NFLPA Board of Representatives voted to send the new proposed CBA to its membership for a vote Wednesday. It was a tight 17-14 vote in favor, with one abstained vote. The expectation is the full membership will likely approve the deal, but it could take a projected seven to 10 days for passage.

--- The bulk of the membership could see a minimum salary increase of around $100,000, which is an attractive raise. Some of the big-money players in the league aren't entirely in favor of the new proposal and are suggesting the membership tap the brakes on a quick approval. Still, it would be a stunner if the new deal gets voted down, according to most NFL analysts.

--- There aren't many Chicago area products at the combine this year. Illinois State running back James Robinson, a Rockford Lutheran product, is one of the top FCS products. He admired the play of former Bears running back Matt Forte and Orland Park native Steve Wirtel, an Iowa State long snapper who's one of the best in the nation at his position.

--- Wirtel played his high school ball at Mt. Carmel under legendary coach Frank Lenti. Wirtel’s brother John spent last summer in Bears training camp. John is also a long snapper.

--- Wirtel was a finalist for the Patrick Mannelly Award honoring the nation’s best long snapper and was prepped for the combine by Mannelly, the longtime Bears long snapper, just last week. "We spent 30 minutes on a whiteboard drawing up NFL looks and identifying NFL rushes," Wirtel said. "I literally was a sponge and just took it all in and my brother was there too. It just makes it so much easier for me, and I think it kind of gives me a jump start that I have learned this stuff already from an NFL legend like that."

--- Wirtel calls Mannelly "the Michael Jordan of long snapping."

--- The Mt. Carmel experience for Wirtel was impactful. "Like they say, you come to Carmel as a boy and if you care to struggle and work at it, you’ll leave as a man," he said. "Coach Lenti preached that. They did just such a good job in forming you into a good football player both on and off the field. I am just so thankful I chose Mt. Carmel."

--- Andy Heck was a 6-foot-6, 295-pound left tackle for the Bears from 1994-'98, during which time he had a son named Charlie. The Chicago-born Charlie has grown into a 6-foot-7, 311-pound tackle from North Carolina. "As I grew up, I got to appreciate it a little bit more what it meant," Charlie said. "He played for 12 years in the league. That’s something to be proud of. I am in awe of that now. That’s something that I want to do and follow in his footsteps."

--- Charlie Heck had quite the growth spurt. He grew from a 145-pound prep freshman to 260-pound freshman at North Carolina. He was previously was a tight end and defensive lineman who had never played on the offensive line. He added 40-pounds and grew into the position. Andy Heck is now the offensive line coach for the Chiefs, for whom he has worked since 2013. Charlie is projected to be a middle-round pick.

--- There's another son of a former NFL offensive lineman who's to get drafted out of Michigan. Jon Runyan Jr. is a potential guard or tackle prospect who has a deep background with new Bears offensive line coach Juan Castillo, who coached Runyan’s father, Jon Sr., on the Eagles. 

--- Castillo spent what amounted to a gap year at Michigan as an analyst for coach Jim Harbaugh and helped tutor Runyan and arguably the top center in the draft in Cesar Ruiz. "I remember growing up with Juan," Jon Jr. said. "I have known him since I was a little kid. Having it come full circle with him coaching my dad and coaching me for a year and possibly coaching me with the Chicago Bears is something that is really awesome."

--- Redskins coach Ron Rivera opened some eyes at his news conference Wednesday morning. The Redskins are bringing in LSU quarterback Joe Burrow and Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa for formal interviews despite second-year quarterback Dwayne Haskins being on the team's roster. Rivera is keeping his options open with the No. 2 overall pick.

--- There were two main topics involving the Bears over the last few days. Who are they interested in acquiring at quarterback? And when will an extension get done with star receiver Allen Robinson? 

Jeff Joniak is the play-by-play announcer for the Bears broadcasts on WBBM Newsradio 780 & 105.9 FM. Follow him on Twitter @JeffJoniak.