CHICAGO — Danieal Manning might have resented the Bears' decision not to offer him a lucrative deal after the 2010 season, but the Texans safety never had any animosity toward coach Lovie Smith.
“Lovie meant a lot to me,” Manning said Tuesday. “He was the only coach at that time who gave me a chance. Chicago didn't have to draft me. But Lovie believed in me. And he talked the whole staff into believing in this guy from Abilene Christian. And I'll never forget him for that.”
Manning, who faces his former team Sunday night in Soldier Field, was the Bears' first pick in the 2006 NFL draft as a second-rounder. He started 56 regular-season games in five seasons and started Super Bowl XLI. But the safety never found his niche as the coaches bounced him around the secondary.
The Bears saw current starting strong safety Major Wright as the future and then drafted starting free safety Chris Conte after Manning left.
“I always liked Major from the time he got to Chicago. I have no beef with Major,” Manning said. “Major and I played with each other and shared a lot of good times. He's a great player. He has proved that this year.”
Manning eventually tested the free-agent market after the Bears wouldn't commit to him. It worked to his advantage as the Texas native signed a four-year, $20 million deal with the Texans, with $9 million guaranteed. The Bears' highest offer was three years, $6 million.
“I wanted to be treated fairly and with some type of a respect,” Manning said. “That was the respect Chicago wanted to give me. I saw myself differently, and I found a team that agreed with me.”
The move to Houston has worked out well for Manning, who has started all eight games this season and has a 55-yard interception return for a touchdown. He will be part of a Texans secondary that will try to shut down Bears receiver Brandon Marshall, the NFL's fourth-leading receiver.
“He's way taller than the DBs we have on this team, and that right there might pose a threat,” Manning said of Marshall. “I really believe we have the personnel to play him one-on-one.”
Manning is unsure what type of reception he will receive Sunday from the Soldier Field fans. He still keeps in contact with some of his former teammates and coaches and even asked Tim Jennings for tickets. He spoke with Smith before the season.
“The way both teams are playing now, (a Super Bowl matchup) wouldn't be surprising,” Manning said. “Both teams are playing good ball. We both have strong defenses, strong offenses and good special teams. Sunday could tell what the near future might bring.”
MCT Information Services