The Pro Football Hall of Fame hired David Baker as its new president and executive director.
Baker, an attorney and former commissioner of the Arena Football League, is the sixth director in the Hall’s 50-year history. Baker has spent 35 years working in business management, pro sports and in public service. He spent the past four years in the health-care industry.
Baker was the AFL’s commissioner from 1996-2008. He succeeds Stephen A. Perry, who has served since April, 2006, and announced in September that he planned to retire once the hall’s board of trustees concluded a national search for his replacement.
Baker played college basketball at California-Irvine from 1971-75. He also played two seasons professionally in Europe before returning to obtain a doctorate degree from Pepperdine. He once served as Irvine’s mayor.
Bears lock up Cutler
If the Bears make changes this offseason, it will not be at quarterback.
Chicago signed Jay Cutler to a seven-year contract Thursday, ending speculation they might make a change after five seasons of good and bad from their talented signal-caller. Cutler clearly thrived under first-year coach Marc Trestman and now has some of the best complements on offense he’s had since arriving in Chicago in 2009.
“It’s not always been easy,” Cutler said. “There’s been some ups and downs. There’s been some bad years there’s been some good years. I think it makes me appreciate the moment I’m in even more, with the offensive weapons we have, with the type of leadership we have from the front office, with the type of coaching staff we have with the play calling and our [offensive] install. It makes me happy I’m here.”
The Bears also signed cornerback Tim Jennings, who has led the team in interceptions in each of the past two seasons, and guard Matt Slauson to four-year deals. Like Cutler, both players were scheduled to become free agents.
General Manager Phil Emery said the team and Cutler’s agent, Bus Cook, completed contract discussions three days after the season ended Sunday with a 33-28 loss to the Green Bay Packers in a game that decided the NFC North title. Terms were not disclosed, but the deal for the 30-year-old Cutler is reportedly worth nearly $18 million per year over the first three years and includes at least $50 million guaranteed.
Bucs love Lovie
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers say Lovie Smith is the ideal man to coach Tampa Bay.
The team made it official Thursday, announcing the one-time Tony Dungy protege who led the Chicago Bears to the Super Bowl seven years ago finalized a five-year contract that he had reportedly agreed to on Wednesday. He will be formally introduced at a news conference next Monday.
The 55-year-old Smith replaces Greg Schiano, who was fired Monday following a 4-12 finish. The Bucs also dismissed General Manager Mark Dominik, and the search for his successor continues.
Bucs co-chairman Bryan Glazer called it an “exciting day” for the organization.
Around the league
Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Tamba Hali remains out of practice with swelling in his left knee, leaving his status for Saturday’s playoff game in Indianapolis in question. … The Indianapolis Colts appear to be getting healthy in time for Saturday’s playoff game as defensive tackle Fili Moala was the only player who did not practice. He has a knee injury. … Kevin Gilbride retired as offensive coordinator for the New York Giants. Gilbride, 62, a veteran of 39 years in coaching, said he wants to devote more time to his family. … Minnesota Vikings linebacker Erin Henderson was arrested again for drunken driving, putting his status with the team in question after a perilous one-car crash that heavily damaged his sports utility vehicle. He was booked into jail Wednesday and released Thursday on $12,000 bail.