From 2005-07, Muhsin Muhammad starred as the Bears' No. 1 receiver on teams that won two division titles and played in one Super Bowl. He spoke with RedEye about his time on the Bears, locker room games and his infamous quote about receivers in Chicago.
After you left the Bears, you said: "Chicago is where receivers go to die." [Muhammad laughs.] I read that you were talking about yourself, Justin Gage and Bobby Engram. Was there anyone else you had in mind when you said it?
[Smiles.] Well, I'll say this. A lot of times, quotes are taken out of context. And there have been some pretty good receivers in the Bears' history. Guys like Willie Gault. Tom Waddle had a really productive career here. Bobby Engram actually had a pretty productive career here.
But I think if you compare [the Bears] to places that have had very stable quarterbacks and productivity at the quarterback position, you usually find receivers that have a reciprocal type of relationship. In my time, there was a lot of turmoil. Rex Grossman played great at times, and sometimes he didn't play great. We had a young guy in Kyle Orton who wound up being a pretty good pro. But it was a challenge for me. I think the statement was taken out of context, but in general, wide receivers have had some challenges playing in the cold and playing with the quarterbacks here.
So what accounts for that dip in your production here?
Obviously you take advantage of your opportunities. In the offense that we ran, the ball was probably spread out a lot more to different players, and I wasn't really that focal part. I think that probably led to the decreased production.
Give me your favorite moments as a Bear.
Beating the Packers. I think we lost to the Packers only one time when I was a Bear. In '06. So all those games. Lovie Smith would put on a video the night before we played the Packers. I enjoyed watching every single one of those rivalry videos, and getting my blood stirred up.
Was it the NFL Films videos, all that (does John Facenda NFL Films narrator voice) "The Chicago Bears. The Green Bay Packers. The frozen tundra of Lambeau Field." All that stuff?
Absolutely. Yes sir. Memorable moments – I would say the NFC championship game at home. We beat the Saints. That was huge for us. My first game playing against my old team, and we won that game against the Panthers. That was huge. My first touchdown against my hometown team, the Lions. I got my head knocked off on the catch, but making that catch was another big moment for me.
Another highlight for you in Chicago was the game-winner against Philly. That 97-yard drive.
I can't forget that. That was definitely one of my favorites. Brian Griese put a magical drive together for us. We were backed up on the 3-yard line. So here we go: we're marching down the field. We're making plays. And we get into [an end-of-game] situation, almost 20 yards to win the game. We called a play, just a go-route up the seam. We're in the huddle, and [quarterback] Brian [Griese] had this look in his eye like, I knew he was coming to me.
It was so loud in the stadium – I mean, it was deafening – and as the ball went up, it kind of went over somebody's hands, and I just kept running, kept running, and I think I caught it with very little space in the back of the end zone. When I caught the ball, I fell down. I looked up and the ref was there. He was giving the touchdown signal. And all I heard was complete silence, except for two people: my wife and my cousin were in the end zone right when I scored the touchdown. They're sitting there going "Ahhhhhh!" They were the only ones screaming in the whole crowd. [Laughs.] So that was unbelievable.
I gotta ask you about the locker room Box Game, where teammates try to trap each other with cardboard boxes.
[Laughs.] We had a bunch of locker room games. I would say though that my favorite locker room game was baseball. Here we are, a bunch of grown men. We've got an outfield set, we've got bases in the locker room, and we've got a wiffle ball bat with a wiffle ball. And we are playing serious baseball. Keeping score. Arguing. "You were out!" "I wasn't out!" "You got tagged!" The whole deal.
So one day we're playing in the locker room, and almost half the team was late for practice because we didn't want to finish the game. We walk out of the locker room, and we're just in a complete sweat before practice even starts because everybody is just so hyped up. We had that much fun in the locker room.
How serious did Brian Urlacher take those games?
So serious. Brian doesn't like to lose in anything. I don't care if you're playing ping-pong, cards –
CHRISTA MUHAMMAD: What about at Chuck E. Cheese's at his kid's birthday?
MUHSIN MUHAMMAD: So we were at Urlacher's daughter's birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese's, and you know, the kids are having fun. They're cutting the cake, unwrapping gifts and we're just kind of standing back. The guys are kind of bored. So we grab a couple tokens and we throw it in the skee ball.
Who all is there?
Me, Urlacher, Thomas Jones, Izzy [Idonije], just a handful of guys. And all of a sudden, it turns into some serious gambling on skee ball. [Laughs.] The guys are getting pretty competitive at Chuck E. Cheese's playing skee ball.
How much can you bet on skee ball?
You'd be surprised. [Laughs.] You'd be surprised.
So you played the bulk of your career in Carolina, had your peak years in Carolina. But what's special about playing for the Bears?
In 1985, I was in the seventh grade. It was my first year playing organized football on a team. The Chicago Bears were playing against my dad's favorite team, the Detroit Lions. They just destroyed them. And I fell in love with the Bears. I fell in love with Mike Singletary, Walter Payton, Richard Dent, Gary Fencik. The whole defense.
CHRISTA: The Fridge.
MUHSIN, smiling: Of course the Fridge. So being able to play here was a dream come true. It was the place where I always wanted to play as a kid. I grew up doing the Super Bowl Shuffle, the whole deal. It was a special, special time being able to play for Chicago.
Jack M Silverstein is a RedEye special contributor. Say hey @readjack.
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