<![CDATA[NBC Chicago - Sports]]> Copyright 2014 http://www.nbcchicago.com/news/sports http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/5-Chicago-Blue.png NBC Chicago http://www.nbcchicago.com en-us Thu, 24 Jul 2014 15:27:09 -0500 Thu, 24 Jul 2014 15:27:09 -0500 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Blackhawks Player Evaluations: Patrick Kane]]> Thu, 24 Jul 2014 11:18:19 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/180*120/485399229.jpg

With the Chicago Blackhawks Convention over and the offseason in full swing, Madhouse Enforcer will be evaluating the performances of the 2013-14 Blackhawks. What did they do right? What did they do wrong? What can they improve upon for next season?

Today we once again take a look at one of the team’s best forwards, with Patrick Kane taking his turn under the magnifying glass.

The Good:

Despite playing with a myriad of teammates who weren’t exactly an ideal fit (Michal Handzus immediately comes to mind), Kane still managed to have an excellent regular season for Chicago, scoring 29 goals and dishing out 40 assists despite missing the final 13 games of the season after suffering a lower body injury against the St. Louis Blues.

Once the playoffs got started, Kane jumped back into the lineup against those Blues, and he ended up picking up right where he left off. He racked up 20 points in 19 playoff games, including a two-goal performance against the Los Angeles Kings in Game 6 of the Western Conference Final and scoring the series-clinching goal against the Minnesota Wild in the second round.

Those types of performances, as well as his ability to play well regardless of which teammates are lining up with him, speak to the kind of player that Kane is, and they contributed greatly to the sizable eight-year contract extension he inked earlier this month.

The Bad:

There really isn’t a lot to criticize about Kane’s game during the season, so we’ll have to stick to minor gripes and quibbles. The only one that comes to mind is that he occasionally will get into a perfectionist mindset, trying to find the best possible passing lane instead of taking what’s available to him. That attention to detail is great when he’s trying to pick out a spot in the net to shoot at, but his occasional bouts with that spirit of trying to do too much could be worked on.

Best Game of 2013-14:

Linked up with Brandon Saad and Andrew Shaw, Kane had an incredible game when the Blackhawks won a 5-4 decision in double overtime over the Kings in Game 5 of the conference final. When all was said and done, he picked up four assists, including one on Handzus’ game-winning goal in overtime that extended the series and sent it back to the west coast.

With linemates that provided grit (Shaw), defensive cover (Saad), and speed (Saad again), Kane was really in his element in this game, and if there’s one bit of game film that Joel Quenneville needs to watch when evaluating where to put his players next season, it’s this one.

Outlook for Next Season:

In that same vein, Quenneville is going to have an interesting decision to make when making up his lineup next year. Kane clearly can play with just about anyone, but there’s something so tantalizing about linking him up with Saad that the coach will have a tough time passing it up.

The question then would be which center to put between the speedy duo. The most obvious choice is Brad Richards, who was signed by the Blackhawks presumably to serve as the team’s second line center. Shaw could get another chance to prove that he deserves the spot, but his game is more suited to the third line, and he can jump up when necessary.

Whichever teammate Kane ends up with, he’s going to continue to make them better at the game, and he will be a nuisance for teams to deal with for many years to come after signing his new deal.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Most Important Bears: #3 Charles Tillman]]> Thu, 24 Jul 2014 11:19:46 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/bears+beng+1.JPG

While a lot of attention was paid to the safety and defensive line positions in the offseason, the Chicago Bears made sure to address the cornerback spot as well.

In addition to re-signing Tim Jennings to a lucrative new deal, the team spent their first round draft pick on Kyle Fuller, who will be expected to compete for the nickel corner position with Kelvin Hayden and also can pitch in at safety should the need arise during the campaign. Perhaps just as important as those moves was the decision by the team to retain the services of Charles Tillman, who has played his entire career for the Bears.

Last season was a rough one for Tillman, as he was only able to play in eight games before a torn triceps muscle ended his season. Before the injury, Tillman was able to make his usual impact in terms of causing turnovers on defense, snaring three interceptions (including two in the team’s Week 1 win over the Cincinnati Bengals at Soldier Field) and forcing three fumbles. Once Tillman went down however, the team’s play in the secondary noticeably diminished, with Zack Bowman struggling to fill the void and safeties Chris Conte and Major Wright failing to contribute much over the top.

This season though, Tillman enters camp completely healthy and with some unfinished business to attend to. He will be looked to not only to force turnovers and be arguably the team’s top coverage guy, but he will also need to help mentor Fuller in the finer points of playing the position in the NFL. Fuller is looked at as Tillman’s ultimate replacement at the spot, and even though he was a guy that the Bears feel incredibly confident in after drafting him in the first round, he will still benefit from the veteran’s influence.

When considered together, these expectations are a lot to heap on any player, but if there’s a guy on the Bears’ defense that can handle that kind of pressure, it’s Tillman. With players like Brian Urlacher gone, Tillman has become the face of the defense, and even though his playing style more accurately depicts what former head coach Lovie Smith expected the team to do, he definitely fits into what Mel Tucker is trying to do with the squad as well.

Whether Tillman can succeed in staying on the field and helping to solidify things in a secondary that was savaged last season remains to be seen, but if his past performances are any indication, he should be up to the task.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Bears Positional Breakdown: Defensive Line]]> Thu, 24 Jul 2014 11:20:05 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/lamarr+houston.jpg

The Chicago Bears will begin training camp this week in Bourbonnais, and as we prepare for the team to hit the practice fields at Olivet Nazarene University, Grizzly Detail is here to bring you a breakdown of the various position battles that will be taking place.

Today we will focusing our attention on the team’s defensive line.

The Starters:

New faces are all over the Bears’ lineup this year, and nowhere is the roster turnover more apparent than on the defensive line. Both defensive ends will be new players for the Bears, as Jared Allen and Lamarr Houston look to both boost an anemic pass rush and to help prevent a similar collapse in the run defense that characterized the Bears’ 2013 season.

At the tackle positions, there will be battles for both roles, with Jeremiah Ratliff and Stephen Paea likely having to fend off rookies Ego Ferguson and Will Sutton for the starting roles when the season gets started in September.

The Back-Ups:

A couple of familiar faces to Bears fans will be competing for snaps when camp begins in Bourbonnais, with Nate Collins vying for playing time at defensive tackle and Cornelius Washington and David Bass pushing for snaps at the defensive end positions. One new player looking to make an impact at defensive end will be Willie Young, who joined the Bears as a free agent after playing for the Detroit Lions last season.

What to Watch For:

Unquestionably, the battle for starting jobs at the defensive tackle positions will be one to watch for. Both Sutton and Ferguson bring different skills to the table, with Sutton being more of a pass rusher and a quick guy off the snap, while Ferguson is more of a run-stopper with his large frame and great strength. Both still have a lot of work to do in terms of honing their games however, and that could be an advantage for Ratliff and Paea as they look to fend off the competition.

Perhaps just as importantly to the Bears will be how quickly Allen and Houston get into the flow of things at the ends of the line. Last season, the Bears couldn’t get to the quarterback, and perhaps more frustratingly, couldn’t keep running backs from blasting through the line and around the plodding defensive ends. Moving Shea McClellin back to linebacker should help alleviate at least a bit of that ineffectiveness (at least in the latter category), but both new players are going to have to be a lot better than their 2013 counterparts were.

When all is said and done, the big question for the Bears on the defensive line won’t be which players win the starting jobs, but how the pieces will fit together in Week 1. Houston is a dynamite run stopper that has shown flashes of being a good pass rusher, but he will really improve in that area if Allen is able to command double teams in a way that Julius Peppers simply wasn’t last season. Adding strength and speed to the middle of the line is going to help out as well, but both Ferguson and Sutton have to be quick studies in order to make the most out of the additions.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Trestman Says LB, Safety Spots Up for Grabs]]> Wed, 23 Jul 2014 21:25:37 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/ryan+mundy.jpg

While the Chicago Bears’ offense is pretty much set to go, their defense is far less set in stone, and that was arguably the biggest focus when GM Phil Emery and head coach Marc Trestman addressed the media on Wednesday afternoon.

The safety position is one of the most hotly contested spots, with the free and strong side positions up for grabs. One player has already hit a roadblock in his quest to win one of the jobs, with Chris Conte ruled out of practice through at least the first preseason game in two weeks against the Philadelphia Eagles. He will be placed on the active physically unable to perform list by the team, and he will be re-evaluated after that game takes place on August 8.

When addressing the situation at safety, Trestman said that he sees the free and strong safety positions as “interchangeable,” and added that the two “best guys” will be the ones to win jobs, regardless of which spot they normally play. That means that Conte, who is one of only two free safeties in the running for a roster spot (free agent acquisition M.D. Jennings is the other) isn’t necessarily in the driver’s seat for the starting role when he returns from injury.

That statement also means that the myriad of strong safeties that the Bears have in camp could have a chance to grab the reins as a starter on the other side of the formation. Ryan Mundy, signed over the offseason, will surely be the main candidate for a starting job, with rookie Brock Vereen likely joining him in that category. Veteran safety Adrian Wilson could also take down a job with a good enough training camp and preseason.

In addition to the safety spots being completely up for grabs, Trestman also said that two of the three linebacker positions are currently open. Lance Briggs has a handle on the weak side linebacker position, but the middle and strong side linebacking jobs are up for grabs. DJ Williams, brought back on a one-year contract by the Bears over the offseason, will likely have the advantage in battling for the middle spot, but Jon Bostic played some snaps last season and could use his athleticism and youth to his advantage.

Meanwhile, the strong side spot is a bit more muddled. Khaseem Greene could well find himself in that competition with Shea McClellin, who is moving back in the formation after a failed run at defensive end. Bostic could also jump into that competition as well if Trestman and defensive coordinator Mel Tucker opt for Williams in the middle.

The Bears’ first practice will take place on Friday morning at 9am, with their first preseason game taking place on August 8 against the Philadelphia Eagles at Soldier Field.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Marathon Training Tips: Dealing With Injuries]]> Wed, 23 Jul 2014 19:27:42 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Training_tip_injuries.jpg Michael Morrow, a physical therapist for Athletico, discusses injury prevention and knowing the difference between a serious injury and one due to fatigue.]]> <![CDATA[Cutler Shows Up to Camp in Old School Conversion Van]]> Wed, 23 Jul 2014 19:05:25 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/cutler_van.jpg

Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler is rolling in dough after signing a rich seven-year extension over the offseason, but despite having more money in his wallet, he didn’t show up to training camp in Bourbonnais in a Rolls Royce, a Ferrari, or even an Escalade (the vehicle he came to town in last year).

He showed up in this:

Granted, we're not talking about your run-of-the-mill minivan:

But Cutler isn't concerned about vans, he's focused on one goal -- getting the team into the playoffs and to the Super Bowl. And frankly, he doesn’t care how they do it:

Cutler has a lot to live up to when it comes to his new contract. Under head coach Marc Trestman, Cutler threw for 2621 yards and 19 touchdowns, but he still turned the ball over too often (he threw 12 interceptions, which represented a slight decline from the 2012 season but he also had 79 fewer attempted passes), and his decision-making has still been a question mark.

Even still, Cutler doesn't have to worry about his job coming into camp. The back-up quarterback spot, which will likely be contested between Jordan Palmer (whom Marc Trestman tagged as the guy who will get the first shot at it) and Jimmy Clausen during the preseason, will be the real storyline to watch in camp. 

<![CDATA[Emery: Conte Will Miss First Preseason Game ]]> Wed, 23 Jul 2014 16:14:06 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/AP691227111216_6.jpg

The Chicago Bears knew that they would likely be without at least one of their potential starters when training camp gets underway at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, but when the team hits the field Friday, they will be without another key element to their squad.

That’s because right guard Kyle Long, who parlayed a starting role with the team last season into a dominant Pro Bowl campaign, will be sidelined for at least the first few days of camp, according to GM Phil Emery. Long is suffering from a viral infection, which has cost him some strength, and he will be re-evaluated next week, according to Emery.

Long will begin training camp on the active physically unable to perform list, and he will be joined on that list by safety Chris Conte.

Conte, who will be battling with players like Brock Vereen for a starting spot in the Bears’ defensive formation, had offseason shoulder surgery, and he isn’t far enough in his recovery to begin practicing yet. Emery ruled Conte out of the team’s first preseason game against the Philadelphia Eagles on August 8 at Soldier Field, but said he could begin practicing with the team after that date.

The Bears did have some good news on the injury front, with Jordan Mills (broken right foot) and Matt Slauson (shoulder surgery) both likely being on the field when camp begins on Friday. The team’s first practice will take place at 9am at the school, with everyone on the roster required to report to camp by midnight on Wednesday night.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Most Important Bears: #4 Lance Briggs ]]> Wed, 23 Jul 2014 11:56:16 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Giants-Bears-TNF.jpg

The Chicago Bears’ defense has historically been the backbone of the franchise, but during the 2013 season, their quality of play plummeted nearly as fast as the team’s chances of making the playoffs.

Whether it was a matter of poor play-calling, lackluster performances by veterans like Julius Peppers, or injuries, the team’s defense gave up more rushing yards than it ever has, and as a result the team found itself with an 8-8 record and yet another season of missing the playoffs after consecutive losses to the Philadelphia Eagles and Green Bay Packers to end the season.

One of the biggest losses for the defense came in Week 7 of the season, when linebacker Lance Briggs suffered a fractured shoulder against the Washington Redskins. That injury ended up being one of many for the team that week, as they lost the game and quarterback Jay Cutler went down with an injury as well. Briggs would go on to miss seven games with the ailment, and looked fairly ineffective in both of the season’s final two games.

Coming into training camp, Briggs is healthy and ready to go, but he’s facing a huge challenge this season. While positions like the defensive line and the safety spot were overhauled with new talent and draft picks, the linebacker corps remains virtually the same. Youngsters Jon Bostic and Khaseem Greene are both still in the fold, and veteran linebacker DJ Williams was brought back on a one-year contract.

In fact, the only real significant change is that the team has moved Shea McClellin back to linebacker after an unsuccessful sojourn at defensive end, and while he’s apparently in great shape going into training camp, there’s no telling how things will go once he lines up for snaps in Bourbonnais.

The uncertainty about who will be lining up alongside Briggs at the linebacker spot is an interesting development, and it’s what makes the 33-year old such a vital cog in the success of the team. It’s far from an ideal situation to have two of the three spots in that group up for grabs, but Briggs has the potential to be the guy that provides some continuity and guidance as those positions are fought for during camp.

Once the season begins, Briggs will have plenty of responsibilities of his own to tend to, but he will also have to be vigilant that his teammates are lining up correctly and are going to their assigned spots on plays. It’s a headache to try to balance all of that, especially against NFL offenses that are growing increasingly sophisticated and fast moving, but if anyone can handle it, it’s Briggs. He’s been around the block more than once, and after years of wanting to be the focal point of the defense, he’s finally getting his wish.

Whether or not he is ready to handle the scrutiny remains to be seen, but one thing is for certain: Briggs has never been more important to the success of the defense, and if he’s able to not only stay on the field, but also to be a leader among his teammates, then the changes that Mel Tucker is instituting will have a much better chance of succeeding.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Kane Nets Five Goals in Buffalo Hockey Game ]]> Wed, 23 Jul 2014 10:55:33 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/180*120/494772487.jpg

Presumably, most of the players on the Chicago Blackhawks’ roster headed home after last weekend’s Blackhawks Convention at the Chicago Hilton, and got a good start on resting up for the upcoming season.

Patrick Kane wasn’t one of those players.

Instead, the veteran winger, fresh off signing an eight-year contract extension with the Hawks, joined in a men’s league hockey game in his hometown of Buffalo on Monday, and proceeded to fill the scoresheet and lead the Piranhas Hockey Club to a 13-5 victory over the Essex St. Pub.

Here’s a picture of Kane at work:

For those interested in checking out the box score, the league's website has all the details, and you’ll notice something rather interesting on it. Kane had five goals and five assists in the game, scoring two goals in the first and third periods, but he wasn’t his team’s leading scorer. That honor goes to Vinny Scarsella, a 24-year old player who spent last season with the Utah Grizzlies of the ECHL.

This isn’t the first time Scarsella has shined on the same ice as Kane. He played in a ball hockey tournament at the winger’s Buffalo home earlier this month along with New York Islanders forward Cory Conacher:

For those interested to see if Kane will play again, the Piranhas’ next game is on July 30, when they will take on the Peace Frogs in a matchup of the second and third place teams in the league.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Former Niles West, U of I Player Dies During Practice]]> Tue, 22 Jul 2014 21:37:26 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Shawn-afryl.jpg

Campus officials say a football player at Winona State University who recently transferred from Illinois has died while working out with teammates.

Winona State said in a news release that 22-year-old Shawn Afryl died Tuesday during a workout at Maxwell Field on the campus in Winona, Minnesota. Information about his cause of death was not immediately available.

School officials said the 6-foot-3, 310-pound offensive lineman had recently enrolled after his transfer.

Illini coach Tim Beckman said in a statement that his players were saddened to hear of the death of a "great teammate." Winona State coach Tom Sawyer said Afryl had shown maturity and leadership in his short time at the Division II school.

Afryl is a graduate of Niles West High School in Skokie, Illinois, in the Chicago suburbs.

Photo Credit: www.fightingillini.com]]>
<![CDATA[New Bears on the Block: Brock Vereen ]]> Tue, 22 Jul 2014 16:41:30 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/164*120/491987437.jpg

With the Chicago Bears’ training camp in Bourbonnais just around the corner, Grizzly Detail is taking a look at some of the new players donning jerseys this season, and in this final edition we take a look at rookie safety Brock Vereen.

The Details:

The Bears put a premium in May’s NFL Draft on players with experience at both safety and cornerback, and Vereen certainly fits that profile, playing both positions at the University of Minnesota. In the 2012 season, he racked up 33 solo tackles for the Gophers, and also picked up an interception. He followed that up with an even better 2013 season, with 41 solo tackles and 2.5 tackles for loss.

What the Bears Hope He Will Bring:

Not known as a great hitter or a ball hawk, Vereen has to make due with being a disciplined and smart player. He diagnoses plays very well and is a sure-handed tackler, and the Bears are confident enough in that part of his game that they’ve been having him take first-team reps during mini-camps. With Chris Conte likely missing the start of camp due to a shoulder injury, Vereen could continue to see snaps at the position next to Ryan Mundy, but the Bears are being cautious not to put too much pressure on him to start with.

Ultimately, even if Vereen doesn’t crack the Week 1 starting lineup, he is still going to be a big part of the team’s plans. His versatility at corner and safety could come into play if Charles Tillman gets injured or if Kyle Fuller struggles out of the gate, and the team will be quick to use him in situations where they’re facing crucial downs late in games.

Our Take:

Vereen is a player that we were intrigued by in the draft, and it’s going to be interesting to see how quickly the Bears press the issue with giving him regular playing time. He seems to be adjusting well to the NFL game when it comes to being able to keep up with the speed of practices (and Marc Trestman makes sure to keep his foot on the gas in practice to simulate the game experience), and if Conte ends up missing early practices, Vereen is going to get a lot of looks in Bourbonnais.

His ball-skills do need work, and he’s never going to be the most dynamic guy on the field, but his disciplined approach and ability to read plays is going to come in handy if he earns the starting job out of camp. Whether he does that or not remains to be seen, but he’s off to a good start with the organization.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Blackhawks Player Evaluations: Marian Hossa ]]> Tue, 22 Jul 2014 16:40:33 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/hawks_wild-4-30.jpg

With the Chicago Blackhawks Convention over and the offseason in full swing, Madhouse Enforcer will be evaluating the performances of the 2013-14 Blackhawks. What did they do right? What did they do wrong? What can they improve upon for next season?

Today we examine the season of one of the team’s foremost players, as Marian Hossa’s campaign is put under the microscope.

The Good:

Hossa entered the season with question marks surrounding his health after a back injury slowed him during the team’s 2013 Stanley Cup run, and for the most part he passed the test with flying colors. In the 72 regular season games that he played, Hossa had 30 goals and 30 assists, putting him just five points shy of 1000 for his career and helping the Hawks through some tough times as Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane missed time at the end of the season.

Once again though, Hossa’s biggest contribution to the team wasn’t necessarily his offense, but rather his two-way play. Playing for a good chunk of the season with Toews and Patrick Sharp, Hossa’s back-checking and smart positioning on defense prevented opponents from creating opportunities in transition, and as a result he finished in fifth place in Selke Trophy voting, the highest finish for any winger in the league.

The Bad:

There were a couple of quibbles about Hossa’s game this season, but none were bigger than in criticizing his performance during parts of the playoffs. Against the Minnesota Wild in the second round, he was positively excellent with a goal and eight assists, but in the other two series, Hossa only managed one goal and four assists in 13 games against the St. Louis Blues and Los Angeles Kings.

Part of that had to do with the quality of defenses the Hawks were going up against, but there were also times in the Kings series especially that Hossa simply looked gassed. Whether that’s a sign of things to come in the future or a one-off thing remains to be seen, but it wasn’t good to see the Hawks’ top line grind to a halt as Hossa struggled to find his game.

Best Game of 2013-14:

There are several games to choose from when it comes to picking a classic Hossa game from last season, but the one we went with was the team’s mid-March matchup against the Detroit Red Wings. In that game, Hossa played over three minutes of short-handed time, 2:30 of power play time, and for good measure scored a goal and dished out two assists in a 4-2 victory.

It was the quintessential Hossa game for the Blackhawks. He played solid defense, got on the scoresheet with a couple of brilliant plays, and imposed his will at both ends of the ice.

Outlook for Next Season:

It’s unclear at this point which players will join Hossa’s line next season, but it seems as though he will once again be paired up with Toews, with Brad Richards likely serving as Kane’s center. Whatever the case may be, the Hawks will need Hossa to stay as healthy as possible, and they’ll need him to provide his trademark mix of offense and defense in order to find success with his line.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Review: Polar Loop Wearable Device]]> Tue, 22 Jul 2014 16:14:48 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Polar_Loop.jpg

Wearable activity trackers have turned into the latest must-have gadget over the past few years. While specific abilities vary from device to device, all trackers ultimately serve the same purpose: to give you an idea of your daily activity level and motivate you to move more for a healthier life.

Polar, long known for its heart rate monitors, entered the activity tracker market last year with Polar Loop. Like other activity trackers, Polar Loop will log your basic fitness statistics-steps taken, calories burned and hours slept, but also utilizes Polar's heart rate monitor background to enhance its data collection.

Because activity trackers often rely on arm swing to give you credit for movement, some may not recognize exercises where your arms tend to remain still, such as cycling. But when paired with an optional heart rate monitor, Polar Loop notices your elevated heart rate and counts that toward your daily activity goal.

Polar Loop is also waterproof, allowing you to wear it at all times, even if you choose to swim.

I enjoy health and fitness statistics, and in my experience wearing a Polar Loop for the past two months, it's given me a good idea of just how much I do or don't move.

While my regular exercise combined with normal day-to-day movement generally hits my daily activity goal, I spend a fair amount of my day sitting, particularly during the week.

I knew this before wearing a Polar Loop -- after all, I do have a desk job -- but seeing my statistics (available online through Polar Flow and the Polar Flow app for iPhones and Android devices), showed me how infrequently I actually move.

Both the Polar Flow app and Polar Loop notify me when I haven't moved for more than an hour, although I've personally found the app notification more useful as I often don't see my Polar Loop lighting up to remind me to stop sitting.

The device isn't always perfect -- I've gotten credit for over 300 steps while showering, for example -- but nevertheless, it is a useful way to gauge your personal activity trends over time.

While a Polar Loop can't actually force you to move, it has helped motivate me to make more of an effort to get up throughout my day, even if only for a moment. As more and more evidence shows the risks of sedentary lifestyles, I like having a device that reminds me that marathon training alone doesn't counteract eight hours at a desk. I need to move throughout my day, and Polar Loop encourages me to do just that.

The Polar Loop retails for $109.95. You can purchase it online or at any number of local retailers.

Photo Credit: Polarloop.com]]>
<![CDATA[Most Important Bears: #5 Kyle Long ]]> Tue, 22 Jul 2014 11:04:04 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/164*120/176639311.jpg

The Chicago Bears have had trouble assembling a quality offensive line since Olin Kreutz and John Tait helped anchor a line that made it all the way to the Super Bowl in 2007, but in the 2013 season, they finally were able to get some good things going as they kept Jay Cutler upright and kept the team’s playoff hopes alive until the final seconds of the regular season.

There is plenty of credit that should go around for that reversal in fortunes, with veterans like Jermon Bushrod and Matt Slauson helping to anchor the left side of the line and Jordan Mills surprising everyone as a sixth round pick that ended up starting all 16 games at right tackle. Perhaps the most important addition to the line though was a draft pick that many people criticized when it occurred, and that was bringing Kyle Long into the fold with a first round pick in 2013.

Long has the requisite size and speed to be a good offensive lineman, but the big concern with his selection out of the University of Oregon was his limited time there as a starter. He started 10 games for the Ducks during the 2012 season, and at the age of 24 he was brought in by the Bears as the 20th overall pick in the draft.

The former standout baseball player (he was drafted by the Chicago White Sox in the 2008 draft, but never signed with the team) may not have had much experience as a starter in college, but he certainly showed off some serious skills in his rookie season with the Bears. Starting all 16 games for the team, Long helped the Bears to a much improved season both in terms of protecting quarterback Jay Cutler and in giving running back Matt Forte some big holes to run through.

In the 2012 season, Cutler was sacked 38 times, and Jason Campbell was sacked six times for a total of 44 sacks of Bears quarterbacks. In 2013, the line only allowed 30 sacks, with Cutler only going down 19 times. Forte also had a big jump in his statistics, rushing for 1339 yards and improving by nearly 250 yards over his previous season’s total.

As good as those numbers are, the Bears’ line needs to continue that progress if the team is going to be successful, and Long is arguably the most important component of that. Guys like Slauson are going to have a lot of pressure on them thanks to new contracts, but Long’s development is the key to long-term success for the offensive line, and he needs to take the next step forward in the coming season in order to justify the faith in him that Emery and company have shown.

Whether that’s tightening up his fundamentals, becoming more of a leader in the locker room, or perhaps even shifting around to other positions to expand his versatility, Long has some work to do in the 2014 season, and he is going to be one of the most important players on the roster from the moment the opening kick-off is struck against the Buffalo Bills.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Blackhawks to Appear 20 Times on National TV in 2014-15]]> Tue, 22 Jul 2014 10:37:23 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/AP951214797254.jpg

The Chicago Blackhawks are arguably the top television draw in the NHL, and with the release of their national television schedule on Tuesday morning, that argument was bolstered significantly.

During the 2014-15 regular season, the Blackhawks will appear on NBC and NBCSN a grand total of 20 times, with 11 of those being exclusive games that can only be seen on the two networks (the other nine will still be available on either Comcast SportsNet or WGN).

The most significant of those games of course is the 2015 Winter Classic, which the Hawks will play against the Washington Capitals in the nation’s capital. “Wednesday Night Rivalry” games against the St. Louis Blues, Detroit Red Wings, and New York Rangers will also be on the docket as the Hawks play before a national TV audience for a quarter of their schedule.

Here is the full list of games that will air on national television (games that will only be available on NBC or NBCSN are marked with an asterisk).

Tuesday, Oct 21: vs. Philadelphia 7:30pm NBCSN

Wednesday, Dec 3: vs. St. Louis 7pm NBCSN*

Thursday, Jan 1: at Washington 12pm NBC*

Sunday, Jan 4: vs. Dallas 7pm NBCSN

Sunday, Jan 11: vs. Minnesota 7pm NBCSN

Wednesday, Jan 21: at Pittsburgh 7pm NBCSN*

Wednesday, Jan 28: at Los Angeles 9:30pm NBCSN

Tuesday, Feb 3: at Minnesota 7pm NBCSN

Sunday, Feb 8: at St. Louis 11:30am NBC*

Monday, Feb 9: vs. Arizona 7:30pm NBCSN

Sunday, Feb 15: vs. Pittsburgh 11:30am NBC*

Wednesday, Feb 18: vs. Detroit 6:30pm NBCSN*

Sunday, Feb 22: vs. Boston 11:30am/2pm NBC*

Sunday, Mar 8: vs. New York Rangers 11:30am/2pm NBC/NBCSN*

Wednesday, Mar 18: at New York Rangers 7pm NBCSN*

Wednesday, Mar 25: at Philadelphia 7pm NBCSN*

Monday, Mar 30: vs. Los Angeles 7:30pm NBCSN

Sunday, Apr 5: vs. St. Louis 11:30am/6:30pm NBC/NBCSN*

Tuesday, Apr 7: vs. Minnesota 7:30pm NBCSN

Thursday, Apr 9: at St. Louis 7pm NBCSN

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[WNBA Coach Michael Cooper has Tongue Cancer]]> Mon, 21 Jul 2014 20:24:09 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/AP13030709140.jpg

Atlanta Dream coach Michael Cooper has early stage tongue cancer and has taken a leave from the WNBA team.

He will have surgery this week at Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University in Atlanta and a full recovery is expected, the Dream said Monday.

The 58-year-old coach is expected to miss about two weeks, with assistant coach Karleen Thompson filling in. Atlanta plays at Minnesota on Tuesday.

"I'm fortunate that my condition was diagnosed early, and this episode illustrates the importance of screening and early detection," Cooper said. "I know the team will be in good hands with coach Thompson at the helm during my absence, and I look forward to returning to the court soon."

Cooper is in his first season with Atlanta. His team leads the Eastern Conference with a 15-6 record. He coached the East to a 125-124 overtime victory at the WNBA All-Star game Saturday.

Cooper won five NBA titles as a shooting guard with the Los Angeles Lakers during the "Showtime" era from 1978-90. As a coach, he won two WNBA titles with the Los Angeles Sparks and one NBA Development League championships with Albuquerque.

After his second run with the Sparks, Cooper was hired as the women's coach at Southern California. He resigned in March following an 11-20 season, his first losing mark in four seasons.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Bulls Sign Hinrich to 2-Year Deal]]> Mon, 21 Jul 2014 19:25:35 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Hinrich_3-11.jpg

The Chicago Bulls have made some big changes this summer as they try to beef up their roster and make a run at the Eastern Conference crown.

While adding players like Pau Gasol and Nikola Mirotic, there was one thing they definitely didn't want to change: Kirk Hinrich.

After coming to agreement with Hinrich earlier this summer, the Bulls officially announced the signing on Monday. It's a two-year deal that starts at $2.7 million next season and includes a player option for the second season, according to a person with knowledge of the contract. The person requested anonymity because the Bulls do not publicly comment on contract details.

"Kirk has always been a big part of creating the professional culture we want day in, day out surrounding our club," Bulls GM Gar Forman said. "He helps our team in so many ways and Kirk had other opportunities elsewhere, but we are very happy he chose to remain in a Bulls uniform."

Hinrich has spent nine of his 11 seasons with the Bulls, a dependable veteran who can play solid defense in Tom Thibodeau's demanding system and fill in capably when starters go down. For a team that has seen star Derrick Rose miss most of the last two years with knee injuries, that's a valuable role to fill.

Hinrich averaged 9.1 points and 3.9 assists in 73 games last season.

The Bulls also signed second-round draft pick Cameron Bairstow, who was taken with the 49th overall pick. The 6-foot-9 Australian forward averaged 9.2 points and 4.8 rebounds in just under 20 minutes per game for New Mexico in college.

Photo Credit: getty images]]>
<![CDATA[5 Storylines That Emerged from Blackhawks Convention]]> Mon, 21 Jul 2014 17:19:04 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/180*120/495444875.jpg

The Chicago Blackhawks’ annual convention wrapped up Sunday afternoon after a weekend full of ceremonies, interviews, panels and some serious fun along the way. Amid all of the fanfare, there were some storylines that emerged that could be intriguing to follow as the Hawks head their separate ways to enjoy the remainder of their summer.

Johnny Oduya’s Injury Could Hamper Season Preparations

A lot of the focus on the Swedish-born defenseman has been about whether or not he will be traded before training camp as a salary cap casualty, but when Oduya walked into the Chicago Hilton on Friday, something else was immediately on the minds of reporters and fans: the walking boot on his foot.

During the Hawks’ Game 7 loss to the Los Angeles Kings in the Western Conference Final, Oduya broke his right foot, but he was able to finish the game. He said that he would have tried to play in the Stanley Cup Final if the Blackhawks had made it that far, and while his effectiveness in that scenario could be debated, it just goes to show once again how dedicated hockey players are to staying on the ice at all costs.

His status as a potential trading chip aside, Oduya’s preparations for the coming season could be affected by the injury. He says that he will be ready for the beginning of the regular season, but with that date coming in early October, he is going to have to hustle to make sure he doesn’t fall behind in his workouts.

Brad Richards Ready for the Challenge at Second Line Center

The Blackhawks aren’t a team that rolls out the same four lines on every night, but with Michal Handzus on his way out and Andrew Shaw likely remaining on the third line, it wouldn’t surprise anyone if Richards slots into the second line center role when the season gets underway.

After signing a 1-year contract with the team earlier this month, Richards is feeling a bit of pressure, but meeting his new teammates at the convention seemed to take the edge off of it.

“You can tell the Blackhawks are a big part of this town and the organization has been great trying to help me to fit in,” he told Brian Hedger of NHL.com on Friday. “It’s good to meet everybody. When I come to training camp, it won’t be as daunting now. It’s a lot [to take in], but if you’re coming to a team, you might as well do it all at once and get accustomed to what it’s like to be a Blackhawks [player].”

Joel Quenneville hasn’t said where he’ll slot Richards into the lineup when the season starts, but putting him with speedsters like Brandon Saad and Patrick Kane could be a good place to start.

Crawford, Raanta Ready to Work with Jimmy Waite

Goaltending isn’t a weak point for the Blackhawks, but if a fan or reporter were to ask Corey Crawford and Antti Raanta if the netminders were satisfied with their performances during the 2013-14 season, odds are that neither one of them would answer the question affirmatively.

With that in mind, the team hired Jimmy Waite to be the new goaltending coach after one season of having Steve Weeks at the helm. Crawford and Waite are familiar with one another, as Jimmy’s brother Stephane was the coach that really saw Crawford blossom into a champion goaltender during the 2012-13 Stanley Cup-winning season in Chicago.

Both Crawford and Raanta are eager to begin working with Waite as the summer wears on, and it will be interesting to see what kind of an impact he has on the duo as the season draws closer.

No Rush on Saad Contract for Blackhawks

After watching Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane sign new contracts earlier this month, one wouldn’t fault Brandon Saad for hoping for his own new deal when he becomes a restricted free agent at the end of the season. To his credit though, he is focused on playing his own game and not worrying about what will come next when it’s time to talk money with the team.

“If it happens, great,” Saad told Chris Kuc of the Chicago Tribune. “It’s always nice to have that security and feel comfortable, but I’m more focused on having a good year and contributing to the team.”

Saad is going to get a nice pay bump from the team after the season ends, but anyone expecting him to get a long-term deal is likely going to be disappointed. With Bryan Bickell still having three years left on his deal and several other players like Brent Seabrook and Patrick Sharp already locked up to deals, the Hawks likely are going to opt for a two-year deal for Saad, similar to the ones they gave Marcus Kruger and Nick Leddy after the 2012-13 season.

If they do that, then they can apply some of the money from Bickell’s expiring contract after the 2016-17 season to sign Saad to a long-term deal, and that would be in the best interests of everyone involved. It wouldn’t be a massive payday for Saad, but it would illustrate that the team is building toward keeping him in the fold for his entire career, and it would give Chicago some flexibility in the process.

Toews, Kane Still Have Moves

Kane and Toews won’t be on Dancing with the Stars any time soon, but at the very least, the duo don’t mind busting a move and getting the fans riled up, as they showed during their Conn Smythe winners panel with Richards on Saturday at the convention:

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Bourbonnais Restaurants Roll Out Red Carpet for Bears]]> Mon, 21 Jul 2014 10:57:57 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/1547449381.jpg

When sports teams come to town for training camp, local businesses and restaurants often roll out the red carpet for athletes and fans, and Bourbonnais is no exception as the town prepares for the Chicago Bears to arrive this week for training camp.

Whether it’s “The Three Little Pigs” meat platter at The Warehouse Grill, or the deep-dish pizzas at Beggar’s Pizza, there are a slew of businesses that see an uptick in sales when the Bears are in town, and they are ready for the influx.

“Bears camp makes a nice spike in business for us,” TJ Donlin’s owner Tom Richmond told The Kankakee Daily Journal. “It doesn’t make our year or anything, but it comes at a good time. It’s usually a slow part of the year. But not for the last 13 years."

The team has traveled to Bourbonnais for camp ever since 2002, the year after they left Platteville, Wisconsin, after a 17-year run. Olivet Nazarene University hosts the team for three weeks every summer, and with massive crowds and a completely renovated complex, the team has agreed to a long-term deal to come down to the school for the foreseeable future.

With places like The Warehouse and Beggar’s Pizza, there’s no shortage of good food options in the Bourbonnais area for fans who make the trek down I-57 for camp. There are several other places that you need to make sure to check out if you’re making the journey over the next few weeks.

If you’re in the mood for breakfast dishes, try these two places. Yolks and Berries, a breakfast eatery that’s just two miles from the school, has a huge variety of dishes, and their stuffed biscuits and gravy, complete with cheese and sausage stuffed right into the bread, is heart-stoppingly good.

For those fans looking for homemade doughnuts, cookies and other types of bakery treats, El Guero Panaderia on Broadway in Bradley is a must-visit. They’re open all day long, so you can either check out their selection of breakfast goodies in the morning before camp (it’s just over a mile away from Olivet’s campus) or you can swing by after practice is over and check out their cookies and muffins.

For the after-practice lunch crowd, there are several delicious barbeque places in town that hit the spot. Jimmy Jo’s BBQ, located about a mile north of the school, offers delicious beef brisket, rib tips and a fantastic platter of pulled pork tacos that is enough to feed even the hungriest Bears fan.

For those fans who are comfortable driving a few miles, Bulls Barbecue in Kankakee is another can’t miss spot. They routinely clean up at the annual BBQ Fest in the Kankakee-area (their beef brisket took home the title earlier this month), and their delicious menu is accentuated by side dishes like barbecue spaghetti and fried pickles.

If fans are looking for a place to get a drink after practice ends, with a good lunch menu to match, then they should check out the Ale House Pub & Eatery in Bradley. The bar has over 40 different beers on tap, and the massive dining area comes in handy when the lunch crowd comes in to feast on their gourmet burgers. Brickstone Brewery is another good spot to go, with a wide selection of freshly brewed beer and an extensive food menu.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Hawks Headlines: Oduya Broke Foot in Game 7]]> Mon, 21 Jul 2014 07:07:15 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/johnny+oduya+game+face.jpg

The Chicago Blackhawks held their annual fan convention over the weekend at the Chicago Hilton, and we have a recap of some of the biggest stories to come out of that event (as well as some thoughts on the team’s prospect camp last week) in this batch of Hawks Headlines.

-We start out with a surprising revelation from Friday, when it was reported that defenseman Johnny Oduya broke his foot in Game 7 of the Western Conference Final against the Los Angeles Kings. If the Hawks had won that game (which they lost in overtime on an Alec Martinez goal), Oduya would have tried to place in the Stanley Cup Final against the New York Rangers, but it’s hard to imagine he would have been all that effective. [Chicago Sun-Times]

-The Blackhawks will be playing against the Washington Capitals in the Winter Classic on January 1st in the nation’s capital, and the team is expecting a “surreal” experience in their third ever outdoor game. [CSN Chicago]

-The Hawks have always been good about making deals with their prospects, but Kevin Hayes has been a tough nut to crack. If he doesn’t sign by August 15, he becomes a free agent, but according to Stan Bowman, the ball is in the youngster’s court. [Daily Herald]

-Who stood out at the team’s prospect camp last week? Scott Powers, who for our money is the most prospect-savvy person in the Chicago media scene, has his breakdown here. [ESPN Chicago]

-Speaking of brilliant hockey minds, our pal Jen checks in with the report card for Michal Rozsival’s 2013-14 season. [Second City Hockey]

-It isn’t often that we feature something that we would unequivocally call brilliant, but this take on the Blackhawks’ choices with regard to shoot the puck and the “ice crew” is absolutely excellent. [Hockey Brunch]

-Finally, the Detroit Red Wings have unveiled plans for their new arena that will replace Joe Louis Arena in the future. It looks, in a word, awesome. [Chicago Tribune]

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Bears Bites: Who Will Make the Team's Roster?]]> Mon, 21 Jul 2014 07:06:19 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/cutler+11-10.jpg

The Chicago Bears report to training camp this week, and as part of our rundown of coverage surrounding their convergence on Bourbonnais, we have a fresh batch of Bears Bites for you.

-Matt Eurich has his finger on the pulse of the Bears, and in this post he discusses which players will be on the final 53 man roster when the team breaks camp. [Bleacher Report]

-Bears head coach Marc Trestman has coached at various levels of the game, and he has been a coach of a championship team in Canada, but he’s never faced anything like the challenge he faces in Chicago this year. [CSN Chicago]

-With the team looking to bounce back from a horrendous season defensively in 2013, there are some big questions facing the group. Bob LeGere breaks them down here. [Daily Herald]

-Michael C. Wright knocks out one more mailbag before the team reports to Olivet Nazarene University for training camp. [ESPN Chicago]

-Jay Cutler has been a quarterback in the NFL for eight seasons, but he has never been in the position to succeed that he is in this year with the Bears. [Chicago Sun-Times]

-Tom Thayer is the radio color commentator for the Bears, and as such you can imagine that he has a lot of opinions on what makes the team tick. [Chicago Tribune]

-Finally, we wrap up with an interesting series of team previews that Yahoo is doing, and this edition focuses on the Arizona Cardinals. [Shutdown Corner]

<![CDATA[Bears Training Camp To-Do List: Alshon Jeffery]]> Sat, 19 Jul 2014 13:32:21 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/AP574659579320.jpg

As the Chicago Bears’ training camp in Bourbonnais approaches, there are plenty of people in the organization with plenty to do in order to get ready for the season. The team obviously won’t be as transparent with their “To-Do Lists” as we’d like them to be, so instead of trying our hand at safe-cracking, we came up with our own lists.

Today we discuss what wide receiver Alshon Jeffery has to do in order to build on his breakout 2013 season with the team.

Guard Against a Letdown Season

Jeffery is going to be going into his third season in the league, but after a huge 2013 season that saw him lead the team in receiving yards and challenge Brandon Marshall in terms of how many passes he caught, there’s going to be a ton of pressure placed upon him to perform at a high level again as the Bears chase after a Super Bowl championship.

Naturally, there’s nothing that the receiver can do about those expectations, but he can guard against some of the biggest enemies a player can face when coming off a superb campaign. The first and most obvious is pressure, because guys feel that they have to live up to the standard that they set when they burst onto the scene. Fortunately for Jeffery, he is surrounded by players who have been around the block a few times in the NFL, and they should help him both on the field and off to avoid that pitfall.

The other potential obstacle is complacency, but that’s another thing that veteran teammates can help Jeffery avoid. He has been working hard this offseason, and Marshall especially has been adamant about including Jeffery in workouts and keeping him challenged. That should pay dividends when the new season begins, and it’s an attitude that the receiver will likely carry with him into the season.

Continue to Follow Marshall’s Example

One of the biggest improvements in Jeffery’s game last season wasn’t his pass catching, but rather his willingness to be a downfield blocker when one of the other offensive weapons on the roster had the ball in his hands. Whether it was Matt Forte, Martellus Bennett, or even Marshall, Jeffery often would be running down the field trying to clear space and maximize gains as the offense chewed up yardage.

With that skill in his tool belt, and with Jeffery clearly taking after Marshall in terms of work ethic and attitude toward the game, the receiver simply needs to continue down that path. It’s a harder slog than simply coasting through games, but if he can continue to put in that kind of effort, there’s really no stopping him.

Work with Cutler

We went over some numbers when discussing Jay Cutler’s tendency to look toward Marshall over all other options when the duo is on the field together (it isn’t a big discrepancy, but one that played out more often than not), but that doesn’t mean that Jeffery should just assume that he’s going to be the second option at all times.

Cutler has worked with Jeffery, Marshall, and most of the other offensive players during the offseason, and Jeffery will have to make sure that cohesive work environment continues into training camp and the regular season. It seems like a blatantly obvious thing to do, but when it comes to ensuring a good relationship between quarterback and receiver, it’s always good to make sure everything is in tip top shape.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Bears Positional Breakdown: Wide Receiver]]> Sat, 19 Jul 2014 13:31:27 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/1586863201.jpg

The Chicago Bears report to training camp next week in Bourbonnais, and as we prepare for the team to arrive at Olivet Nazarene University, Grizzly Detail is here to bring you a breakdown of the various position battles that will be taking place when the teams hit the practice fields.

Today we will be focusing our attention on the wide receiver position.

The Starters:

Like several other positions on the Bears’ offense, the wide receiver spot is pretty much locked down in terms of the starters. Alshon Jeffery had a bigger season last year than anyone could have possibly imagined, leading the team in receiving yards with 1421 and catching 89 total passes. Brandon Marshall was no slouch himself, racking up an even 100 receptions for 1295 yards and 12 touchdowns to help pace the Bears’ potent passing attack.

With Jeffery’s emergence last season, it will be really difficult for teams to game plan against the Bears’ receivers. They can still load up double teams against Marshall, but Jeffery’s ability in the vertical game will make that a dangerous proposition, especially against undersized corners and safeties. Help over the top often came too late thanks to Jeffery’s speed, and his vertical ability makes it very tough to defend him.

The Back-Ups:

The battle for the third wide receiver slot vacated by Earl Bennett is going to be one of the most interesting in camp. Domenik Hixon tore his ACL during offseason workouts, but there are still plenty of other options. Marquess Wilson is largely believed to have the inside track, but with only two receptions last season, he isn’t as clear cut a favorite as some would believe.

Josh Morgan is another player to potentially watch, as are Eric Weems and Chris Williams. Morgan had 20 catches for 214 yards for the Washington Redskins last season, and has had three seasons in his career in which he eclipsed the 40-reception plateau. Weems has largely been a special teams ace during his NFL career, but he did have 11 receptions in 2011 for the Atlanta Falcons, so he is capable of catching the ball. The 26-year old Williams doesn’t have any NFL catches, but he will still get a look at the spot.

What to Watch For:

Obviously the back-up battle is what to watch for, but it will also be interesting to see if there’s any hangover on the part of Jeffery after such a breakout season. With Marshall on the other side and a myriad of other weapons for defenses to have to game plan against, it’s unlikely we’ll see a big drop-off, but it’s still worth keeping an eye on.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Sox Bullpen Holds in 3-2 Win Over Astros]]> Fri, 18 Jul 2014 22:55:24 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Cubs_2014_35.jpg

Slump-ridden Tyler Flowers drove in the go-ahead run with a seventh-inning double, and four Chicago pitchers retired the final 22 batters to lift the White Sox to a 3-2 victory over the Houston Astros on Friday night.

Alejandro De Aza singled off Scott Feldman and stole second before Flowers delivered the game-winning hit. He entered the game with only 12 hits in his last 116 at-bats, and a .218 batting average overall.

Daniel Webb (5-2) retired the six batters he faced in relief of Jose Quintana to earn the victory. Zach Putnam pitched a scoreless inning for his second save of the season.

After Quintana allowed a pair of unearned runs, he set down the final 10 batters he faced. The left-hander allowed three hits and two walks in five innings.

Feldman (4-7) took a four-hit shutout into the sixth inning, when Dayan Viciedo hit a two-run homer into the left-center field bleachers to tie it. Just three batters earlier, Feldman was struck on the backside by a smash off the bat of Alexei Ramirez.

In seven innings, Feldman allowed three runs, seven hits and three walks.

Aided by a two-base error, Houston took a 2-0 lead in the second inning. After Jon Singleton's single eluded Viciedo in right field, Matt Dominguez scored from first base while Singleton continued to third. Robbie Grossman followed with an RBI groundout.

Adam Eaton tripled, and Jose Abreu doubled in the first inning, but Chicago failed to take an early lead. Grossman threw out Eaton at the plate on a shallow fly ball to right field, a call upheld by video replay after a White Sox challenge.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA["Captain Serious" Tranforms Into "Captain Selfie"]]> Fri, 18 Jul 2014 21:29:44 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Toews_selfie.jpg

Jonathon Toews is an no-nonsense kind of guy, which is why he's the perfect player to lead the Chicago Blackhawks.

His all-business approach to hockey also extends to social media -- which he doesn't participate in.

That's why the fans went crazy at the Blackhawks convention Friday when "Captain Serious" took a massive selfie on stage.

"I don't do this all the time, I'm not really a selfie guy, but I want you guys to go crazy, we're going to take a selfie together right now," Toews said to the screaming masses.

"I don't have Twitter either, so I think the Blackhawks will tweet that out later," Toews said after snapping the pic.

Captain Selfie indeed.

<![CDATA[Eating on the Ultra Run]]> Fri, 18 Jul 2014 23:10:46 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Ultrarunner_food_station.jpg "Ultra races are more like eating and drinking contests. If you eat and drink enough, hopefully you will survive."

The above advice, given to me by a wise ultrarunning veteran, has been one of the most important keys to finishing my races. One simply has to eat and drink. And often!

Hitting "the wall" or "bonking," a phenomenon already well known to the marathoning community as being the point where ones body runs out of fuel and begins to shut down, could be catastrophic in an ultramarathon, where the distances covered are typically double and quadruple the standard 26.2 miles. Therefore, it is essential to eat and drink from the very beginning of the race.

Most people will require between 250-400 calories per hour, and it would be wise to include protein in any ultramarathon nutrition plan. The body is constantly being broken down. Protein will help it recover, slowly, as the race goes on.

Unlike the standard marathon aid station fare of strictly water and sports drink, an aid station at an ultramarathon will often look like a smorgasbord of high calorie junk food. The better races will also have a wide variety of "real" food. Peanut butter and jelly, eggs, grilled cheese and hot soups are commonly offered. If you're going to be out there running for 10 hours or more, you are probably going to want something more substantial than just gels.

Of course, we are all an experiment of one. I was on the support crew for a runner who ran 162 miles across the state of Illinois, and for 50-plus hours, all he really ate were gels and orange slices and he seemed to do just fine, successfully completing a run that many would consider slightly insane.

During my first 50-mile race, I too ate only gels and orange slices, which led to a bout of extreme nausea. Since then, I have practiced, with great success, the "see food" diet at ultras: I get to an aid station, take a look around, and whatever appeals to me at that particular time is what I eat. Sometimes it's potato chips, sometimes it's peanut butter and jelly, sometimes it's a burrito. I never know until I get there.

As much as possible, I do try to avoid foods with high sugar content, because excess sugar makes me feel queasy. But I know plenty of ultrarunners who do just fine on M&Ms and Mountain Dew.

The key is to practice. Find out what works for you. Experiment in training.

And always drink plenty of water.

The good news for runners is that now many ultra races use their aid station fare as key selling points to participate. The Potowatomi Trail Races are famous for their meatball sandwiches. The Evergreen Lake Ultra Series features skilled chefs whipping up batches of bacon and eggs. The Kettle Moraine 100 is known for its early morning treat of fluffy pancakes, a major pick-me-up for a tired, delirious runner.

So if you are going be running all day and possibly all night, you should not do it on an empty stomach. Get an early lead in the eating and drinking contest and your legs will do the rest.

Photo Credit: Hersh Ajgaonkar, New Leaf Ultra Runs]]>
<![CDATA[Hawks Upbeat But Face Tough Questions at Fan Convention]]> Fri, 18 Jul 2014 20:26:45 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/sharp_convention.jpg

The Blackhawks began their fan annual convention Friday at the Hilton Chicago with plenty to be upbeat about, but also a lot of uncertainty.

The team is six weeks removed from losing in the Western Conference Finals to the L.A. Kings, but the future is set with new contracts for Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews this week. Each player signed identical eight-year, $84 million contract extensions that kick in for the 2015-16 season.

"I'm happy for them," said forward Bryan Bickell, who signed his own extension last summer. "Since these guys came in the league, they're A-class, and for those two guys to do what they do day in and day out and to wear that jersey on their chest, it's first class and they deserve it."

New Blackhawks center Brad Richards says the team's recent success, and Toews and Kane locked in longterm will only help recruit better players.

"Detroit, Colorado, teams like that were getting all the free agents because they were winning and they were relevant every year, and you see what they are doing here -- and whatever they're doing, it's working," Richards said.

But it's not all fun and games in Blackhawks land. The team is over the salary cap, meaning someone probably has to go. Defenseman Johnny Oduya and forward Patrick Sharp have been the names bandied about most in trade rumors.

"I've been here long enough to realize what could happen and not happen, but as for now, I'm a Chicago Blackhawk," Oduya said.

"If you start worrying about it and start paying attention to all the speculation and rumors, you're going to drive yourself crazy," Sharp said.

The fan convention runs through Sunday.

<![CDATA[Cutler Talks About Bears Time Away From His Kids]]> Fri, 18 Jul 2014 16:31:22 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/WMAQ_000000008055439_1200x675_308022851634.jpg Jay Cutler talked to the media ahead of his charity beach volleyball tournament at North Avenue Beach. Cutler said he's looking forward to camp and the upcoming season, but not about being away from his kids.]]> <![CDATA[Gasol, Mirotic Ready for Challenge with Bulls]]> Fri, 18 Jul 2014 14:57:54 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Pau_Gasol_joakim.jpg

The scene may have been set at the United Center on Friday, but between the myriad of reporters and interpreters, it may as well have been the United Nations.

Despite the variety of languages being spoken, there was one message that was clear as the Chicago Bulls introduced Nikola Mirotic and Pau Gasol to the media: Both men expect to make an impact immediately, and they are coming to the Windy City to win.

Mirotic came to the microphone first, and although his press conference was brief, he expressed confidence that he was making the right choice in joining the Bulls instead of staying with Real Madrid in Spain:

With 11.6 points and 5.1 rebounds per game in 43 games with Real Madrid last year, Mirotic will likely be a stretch-four in the Bulls’ system, and he’ll likely come off of the bench to begin his NBA career. With Taj Gibson and Pau Gasol both demanding time at the power forward position, Mirotic will be expected to provide scoring punch as a reserve, and he seems comfortable with whatever role the Bulls have in mind for him:

As for Gasol, the forward comes over from the Los Angeles Lakers eager to prove that he still has plenty left in the tank. He ended up missing 22 games last season, but he still averaged 17.4 points and 9.7 rebounds per game with the Lakers. He will likely be the Bulls’ starting power forward, and he will be expected to contribute some low post presence and fill in for Joakim Noah when the starting center is resting on the bench.

Despite being offered more money by other teams (including the Lakers, who reportedly offered him a two-year, $22 million deal), Gasol felt confident enough in the health of Derrick Rose and the vision of Gar Forman and John Paxson to agree to come to Chicago:

Besides the change in system under Tom Thibodeau and the pressure that comes with playing in a basketball-crazed city like Chicago, there was something else on Gasol’s mind when he was asked what it would be like to adjust to playing for an Eastern Conference team for the first time:

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Blackhawks Player Evaluations: Niklas Hjalmarsson]]> Fri, 18 Jul 2014 13:02:29 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/blackhawks-red-wings-G4-2.jpg

Throughout the month of July, Madhouse Enforcer will be evaluating the performances of the 2013-14 Chicago Blackhawks. What did they do right? What did they do wrong? What can they improve upon for next season?

Today we turn our attention to the blue line, as Niklas Hjalmarsson’s season is dissected.

The Good:

Plenty of attention is paid to the top line pairing of Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook, but the work that Hjalmarsson and defensive partner Johnny Oduya did this season was simply exquisite. Not only did Hjalmarsson have a career year offensively, scoring four goals and dishing out 22 assists (both career highs), but he also drew some of the toughest defensive assignments all season long, and he largely passed those tests with flying colors.

In the two seasons that followed the Hawks’ 2010 championship, Hjalmarsson looked lost at times on the ice, and his offensive numbers slipped a bit in the process. He had no such hangover this time, moving the puck quickly in transition and staying in good position throughout the season. His ability to maintain positioning helped when Oduya would stray (notably during the playoffs), and he kept those slip-ups from becoming huge blow-ups most of the time.

The Bad:

It’s difficult to find lowlights for Hjalmarsson on the season (aside from individual games, like his poor Game 1 performance against the St. Louis Blues when he was on the ice for three even strength goals against), so we’re going to have to be a bit nit-picky on this one.

Hjalmarsson had a great season on offense, but he had a bit of an uneven finish to the season. In the final 11 games of the regular season, Hjalmarsson didn’t register a single point, and it wasn’t until Game 5 against the Blues that he was finally able to get on the board with an assist in the 3-2 overtime victory.

Best Game of 2013-14:

There were several games that could have qualified as Hjalmarsson’s best of the season (he had two assists in the season opener against the Washington Capitals, and also had two helpers against the Calgary Flames during the team’s circus trip), but his play in Game 2 of the team’s series against the Minnesota Wild narrowly wins the day.

In that contest, Hjalmarsson had the requisite amount of offense to his credit with two assists, but he also picked up four blocked shots in the game, and most importantly of all, Chicago won to get a 2-0 lead in the series. It was a perfect representation of what Hjalmarsson brought to the table during the postseason for the Hawks, mixing offensive prowess and defensive responsibility and grit.

Outlook for Next Season:

With Oduya potentially on the trading block, Hjalmarsson could conceivably be looking at having a new defensive partner next season. Whether it’s a youngster like Stephen Johns or Klas Dahlbeck, or if he slots in with a longer-tenured guy like Michal Rozisval or Nick Leddy, it will be imperative for him to find chemistry with his new linemate if things come to that, but with the way he’s been able to adjust on the fly throughout his career, Hjalmarsson should pass any test with flying colors.

Photo Credit: Gregory Shamus, Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Blackhawks Convention: 5 Must-See Events]]> Fri, 18 Jul 2014 11:06:46 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/toews-10-29.jpg

The Chicago Blackhawks may still be a couple of months away from lacing up their skates and getting ready for the 2014-15 season, but a number of the team’s most important players will be gathering in the Windy City this weekend for the annual Chicago Blackhawks Convention at the Hilton Chicago.

As always, there will be plenty of fun and hockey talk to be had by everyone, but if you’re heading to the convention and want to know what the hottest events of the weekend will be, then we have you covered as we run down the top 5 things to do at the annual festival.

Pat Foley Session: 9 a.m. Saturday

The International Ballroom will host one of the newest members of the Hockey Hall of Fame Saturday morning as Foley chats with CSN Chicago’s Pat Boyle about his broadcasting career. Murray Bannerman, Denis Savard, and Eddie Olczyk will also join in on the fun as Foley reminisces about his three plus decades in the broadcast booth.

Joel Quenneville’s Chalk Talk: 10:15 a.m. Saturday

For those interested in some of the X’s and O’s of the sport, the entire Blackhawks coaching staff will be on hand for this session. Olczyk will interview Quenneville, new assistant coach Kevin Dineen, Mike Kitchen, and new goaltending coach Jimmy Waite about what fans can expect from the team this season, and what it’s like to stand behind an NHL bench.

Conn Smythe Panel: 11:30 a.m. Saturday

This event, in the International Ballroom, will feature two Blackhawks players who have won the playoff MVP honors with the team (Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane), as well as one of the newest Blackhawks who also won the award as a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning, as center Brad Richards joins in the fun. For those who are all about the star power of the weekend, this is the panel to attend.

Blackhawks Game Show: 6:30 p.m. Saturday

For those looking for a way to relax and unwind after a long day of autograph chasing and learning about the game from some of the best players on the team, this game show is for you. Featuring Jim Corneilson, The Second City comedy troupe, and Hawks players Bryan Bickell, Ben Smith, and Jeremy Morin, this event in the International Ballroom has all the makings of a rollicking good time.

Hall of Fame Ensemble: 9:30 a.m. Sunday

Fans looking for a great glimpse into the past of the franchise need look no further than this star-studded Sunday panel, which will take place in the International Ballroom. Tony Esposito, Bobby Hull, Stan Mikita, Pierre Pilote and Denis Savard will all be on hand to discuss their successes with the Blackhawks, as well as what makes the current crop of Blackhawks successful.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Cutler, Cavallari to Host Volleyball Tournament for Charity]]> Fri, 18 Jul 2014 09:50:16 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/bears+packers+12-29+5.jpg

Jay Cutler may be doing a little less "ready, set, hike" and a little more "bump, set, spike" this weekend.

Cutler and his wife Kristin Cavallari will join other Chicago athletes and celebrity personnel for a charity beach volleyball tournament at North Avenue Beach.

The event will benefit the Jay Cutler Foundation, which supports children with Type 1 diabetes, and will take place from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday.

Competitors can sign up to participate in the event, with a fee of $100 per player for a six- to10-person teams. For those looking to avoid digging in the sandy sporting event, spectators can watch for $50.

Among the players will be NBC Chicago's own Siafa Lewis.

The winning team will be taken out to dinner by Jay Cutler immediately after the tournament.

“There’s no better place in the country over the summer than North Avenue Beach, Chicago,” the Chicago Bears quarterback said in a statement. “Our foundation is excited to bring this great charity beach volleyball event to the city before the Bears head to training camp."

To purchase tickets or register a team click here.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Kyle Long Booted From High School Football Field]]> Thu, 17 Jul 2014 23:33:22 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/long162441404.jpg It seems that being a star Chicago Bears player doesn't necessarily make you the big man on campus -- even when it comes to a high school.

Bears offensive tackle learned that lesson Wednesday when he was booted off of Deerfield High School's practice field while doing wind sprints.

Long tweeted that he was kicked off the field by the school's athletic director.

"Remind me never to go train at Deerfield High School football field again," Long said on his Twitter feed.

Long did say he didn't tell the athletic director who he was, because he's "not much for that kinda thing."

The Chicago Tribune reports that the school doesn't allow outsiders to use the facilities during school hours for insurance reasons.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Lakers Claim Carlos Boozer: Report]]> Thu, 17 Jul 2014 20:26:56 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Grading+Booz+1.jpg

The Bulls' NBA free agency period appears to have resulted in a basic swap of Carlos Boozer for Pau Gasol.

ESPN reports the Los Angeles Lakers have claimed Boozer on waivers after the Bulls used the amnesty provision on the power forward earlier this week.

The Lakers will pay $3.25 million for Boozer, which means Chicago will still be on the hook for $13.55 million, the remainder of his $16.8 million salary, although the money will not count toward the Bulls' salary cap.

The Bulls amnestied Boozer in order to make room for Gasol, who played for the Lakers last season.

Boozer averaged 13.7 points and 8.3 rebounds for the Bulls last season.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Bears Positional Breakdown: Running Back ]]> Thu, 17 Jul 2014 15:32:01 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/173*120/459735897.jpg

The Chicago Bears report to training camp next week in Bourbonnais, and as we prepare for the team to arrive at Olivet Nazarene University, Grizzly Detail is here to bring you a breakdown of the various position battles that will be taking place when the teams hit the practice fields.

Today we will be examining the situation in the Bears’ backfield as we break down their running back situation.

The Starter:

Just like every other offensive position it seems like, there is a surefire starter at the running back position, and it’s Matt Forte. The back has started all but five games for the Bears in his six year career with the team, and he’s quickly establishing himself as one of the great backs in team history.

Last season was a career one for Forte, as he rushed for a career high 1339 yards, a career high nine rushing touchdowns, and caught a career high 74 passes. He racked up 1933 yards from scrimmage, also a career high, and had a total of 12 touchdowns for Marc Trestman’s new look offense.

The Back-Ups:

When the team let go of Michael Bush after the 2013 season, it appeared that Michael Ford was going to get a chance to be the back-up running back. That certainty gave way to doubt at May’s NFL Draft, as the team selected Ka’Deem Carey out of the University of Arizona in the fourth round.
Carey was a two-time All-American at the school, and was arguably in the top tier of running backs available in the draft. He had 1885 yards rushing in 2013 after racking up 1929 yards in 2012, and combined in his final two seasons with the Wildcats he had 42 rushing touchdowns.

Ford appeared in 12 games for the Bears, but was relegated to a special teams role. He has shown flashes of skill during preseason games, but with Carey in the fold now, he’d have to really blow away the coaching staff in training camp to get any reps with the first team, much less to get carries during the regular season.

What to Watch For:

There won’t be a position battle for either the starting job or the back-up job this training camp season (unless Trestman knows something that we don’t about Ford competing with Carey), but it will still be fascinating to watch just how much work Carey gets with the first teamers. There are thoughts that he could be a good change of pace back for Forte, and with the sheer number of touchdowns he had at Arizona, he could get some red zone carries too.

With that in mind, we’ll be watching to see if Carey lines up with Forte in the back field or if he stays in more of a back-up role. As for Ford, he’ll continue to toil away on special teams (along with undrafted free agent Jordan Lynch), and he’ll bide his time until he gets a crack at a bigger role on offense.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[New Bears on the Block: Will Sutton]]> Thu, 17 Jul 2014 15:30:39 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/452705733.jpg

With the Chicago Bears’ training camp in Bourbonnais just around the corner, Grizzly Detail is taking a look at some of the new players donning jerseys this season, and in this edition we change our focus back to the defensive line, where we examine rookie defensive tackle Will Sutton.

The Details:

Sutton’s draft stock took a bit of a hit with an underwhelming senior season for the Arizona State Sun Devils, but his junior season is what the Bears were banking on when they drafted him in the third round of May’s NFL Draft. In 2012, Sutton racked up 13 sacks for the Sun Devils, forced three fumbles, and picked up a remarkable 23.5 tackles for loss. His 2013 season may not have been as spectacular, with just four sacks and 29 solo tackles (48 combined), but he still showed quite a bit of skill as a pass rusher in his final collegiate season.

What the Bears Hope He Will Bring:

The Bears couldn’t keep defensive linemen healthy last year, with Stephen Paea, Shea McClellin, Henry Melton, and Nate Collins all suffering from a variety of ailments. They did bring in Jeremiah Ratliff to be part of the mix up the middle this year, but as an insurance policy, they added both Sutton and LSU product Ego Ferguson in the draft.

As for what the team will be expecting out of Sutton, it’s pretty simple: getting pressure on the quarterback. Lamarr Houston is more of a run stopper off the edge, and even though Jared Allen has made a habit of sacking the quarterback in his career, he will need help. That area is where Sutton excels, and the team will be expecting him to re-find the form that he had on display during 2012.

Our Take:

We were really high on Sutton coming into the draft, going so far as to suggest that the Bears could target him in the second round. The Bears ended up getting him in the third round of the draft, with his lackluster senior season and questions about his work ethic knocking him down the draft boards of several teams.

Needless to say, Sutton is going to need to take his craft seriously if he’s going to be successful in the NFL. All of the skills are certainly there, and he’s a more polished product than Ferguson is, but he has plenty of work remaining to do, and the Bears will need him to adjust quickly to the NFL game.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Soccer Star Spoofs "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" in Viral Video]]> Thu, 17 Jul 2014 10:13:01 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/160*122/466746401.jpg

Mike Magee takes his days off from playing for the Chicago Fire seriously… or not so seriously.

In a soccer spoof of “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” Magee stars in a viral MLS video called “Mike Magee’s Day Off.”

The short three-minute film, described as “one player’s struggle to take it easy,” has the soccer star pretending to be too sick to practice, then continues with the sporty spin-off of the “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” trailer.

The classic 80’s film “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” was directed by John Hughes and starred Matthew Broderick as a high schooler who skips school to experience adventures in the city of Chicago.

The copycat trailer features the MLS MVP in the role of Ferris Bueller, along with U.S. Women’s star Sydney Leroux as Magee’s girlfriend, U.S. Men’s defender Omar Gonzalez as his best friend and U.S. Women’s goalkeeper Hope Solo as Magee’s sister. Several other athletes and non-athletes make cameos in the film.

Posted Wednesday, the YouTube video has already garnered more than 150,000 views.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[McEnroe's Son Arrested for Drugs]]> Thu, 17 Jul 2014 12:11:55 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/kevin+mcenroe.jpg

Kevin McEnroe, the 27-year-old son of tennis champion John McEnroe and actress Tatum O'Neal, was arrested in New York City after he was allegedly caught with dozens of oxycodone and morphine pills, authorities say.

McEnroe was arrested late Tuesday after an alleged drug exchange with another suspect on East Fourth Street between First Avenue and Avenue A in the East Village, the district attorney's office said.

Police found 20 oxycodone pills and 10 morphine pills in an inner pocket in his jacket, according to the criminal complaint. 

McEnroe was arraigned on two counts of criminal possession of a controlled substance Tuesday and released on $5,000 bail. He's next scheduled to appear in court on Oct. 16. 

His attorney declined to comment.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[New Bears on the Block: Ryan Mundy]]> Wed, 16 Jul 2014 16:48:24 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/164*120/187586602.jpg

With the Chicago Bears’ training camp in Bourbonnais just around the corner, Grizzly Detail is taking a look at some of the new players donning jerseys this season, and in this edition we keep our attention focused on the secondary, with Ryan Mundy the subject today.

The Details:

After four largely uninspiring years with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Mundy really came into his own in 2013 with the New York Giants. He started 10 games and appeared in all 16 for the team, racking up 50 tackles, 27 assisted tackles, forced a fumble, and had an interception. He also picked up his first career sack for the G-Men.

In his best game of the season on October 6th against the Philadelphia Eagles, Mundy racked up 10 tackles and two stuffs, and despite the 36-21 loss his team suffered, he was the best player on the field for the team.

What the Bears Hope He Will Bring:

Last season, Major Wright and Chris Conte were burdened with a ton of challenges in the defensive backfield, and while they had moments of excellent play, they were largely unimpressive. As a result, the Bears dumped Wright in the offseason, and Conte is currently on the shelf with a shoulder injury. The front office also signed Mundy and M.D. Jennings to fill in at the safety position, and also drafted Brock Vereen to give its secondary a completely different look.

With that in mind, Mundy is arguably the guy in the best position to start. He has impressed so far in mini-camps for the Bears, and his play with the Giants last season will do more to build optimism in his chances of stepping in and making an impact immediately.

Our Take:

Mundy is a guy that’s hard to get a read on, but from what we’ve seen, he should do nicely assuming everything goes according to plan. With an improved defensive line that should be able to contain the run better and get pressure on the quarterback, and with a linebacking core that will likely be healthier than it was last season, there will be less burden placed on the safeties.

When you add Mundy’s athleticism to the equation, you could potentially have a vastly improved defense, and he will definitely be a key part of that. If he ends up starting alongside Vereen, he will have quite a bit of work to do in terms of making sure that his compatriot is in the proper positioning, but he seems eager for the challenge, and it will be interesting to see how he adjusts to being the main guy.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>