<![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 Tue, 29 Jul 2014 06:16:11 -0500 Tue, 29 Jul 2014 06:16:11 -0500 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Derrick Rose Scrimmages in Public for Team U.S.A.]]> Mon, 28 Jul 2014 19:34:47 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Derrick_Rose_USA.jpg

See Derrick run. See Derrick shoot. See Derrick jump.

Basketball fans got to see Derrick Rose do several things on Monday he hasn't done in public for several months since tearing the meniscus in his right knee last year and sitting out the rest of the season.

The injury came after he missed the previous season following surgery to repair the torn ACL in his left knee.

This week, Rose is part of a five-day mini-camp in Las Vegas to try out for Team USA. Rose was one of five players from the 2012 Olympic men's basketball team picked for the summer team roster.

After playing in a five-on-five scrimmage and checking Golden State Warriors star Stephan Curry, Rose told reporters his knee is in good shape.

"It's good, there's no pain ... right now I'm in camp with the U.S.A. team and hopefully I make it," Rose said.

"If you're right there I'm gonna try to dunk. My legs are healthy, I'm not worrying about injuring myself or anything, I'm just trying to do anything to win that game at that time."

Rose said he still has a lot of confidence in his game, despite the long stretch on the sidelines.

"I really think I'm a special player, in my mind. I still have youth -- I'm only 25, so just doing everything I'm supposed to do in rehab, strengthening everything, and taking it one day at a time and getting the most out of every day. That's where I've been preparing for this moment," Rose said.

"The only thing I'm missing is probably my wind. Everything else, making shots, getting people in rhythm, all that comes naturally to me, especially as hard as I've been working over the summer with my jump shot."

Rose says along with working on other aspects of his game, he's learned a lot about body control.

"I'm able to control my body more using my speed. Being smart with my speed, instead of just running wild out there, just being smart, I think I'm a smarter player but I'm mad it took me seven years to learn that," Rose said.

The former MVP addressed rumors that the Bulls are trying to land disgruntled Minnesota Timberwolves power forward Kevin Love via trade.

"I can't think about that right now. It's up to the front office and I'm riding with whatever decision they make, and my job right now is to prepare for this and just try to keep my body healthy," Rose said.

I think we have a contender ... we have a contending team. I know as a team what we're trying to do and we all have one goal and individually all summer everybody worked on their game and everyone's trying to compete for that title next year."

Rose told SLAM Magazine over the weekend that he looks forward to making his doubters eat their words.

<![CDATA[Man Accused of Killing Football Player From Chicago Acquitted]]> Mon, 28 Jul 2014 22:48:02 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/demarius-reed.jpg

A jury on Monday acquitted a man in the robbery-slaying of Eastern Michigan University football player Demarius Reed.

The Washtenaw County Circuit Court jury reached the not guilty verdict in the trial of Ed Thomas, 21, one of two men charged in the slaying of the 20-year-old wide receiver from Chicago.

The other man charged, Kristopher Pratt, 20, accepted a deal and pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, testifying that he shot Reed and Thomas participated in the Oct. 18 robbery.

The jury acquitted Thomas on open murder, armed robber and conspiracy charges.

"I'm surprised and disappointed," Ypsilanti police Lt. Thomas Eberts, one of the lead investigators of the killing, told The Ann Arbor News. "I believe we had the right person."

In closing arguments Monday, Assistant Prosecutor Nimish Ganatra said Thomas was just as guilty as the admitted triggerman, Pratt, who was a key witness against Thomas.

Ganatra said Thomas spotted Reed and pointed him out to Pratt. Thomas handed Pratt the gun that he used to kill Reed, Ganatra said.

"They knew exactly what they were getting into, they knew exactly what they were doing," Ganatra said.

After Pratt shot Reed once in the chest, Thomas stole Reed's wallet and phone, then Pratt shot Reed again in the face, Ganatra said.

But Defense lawyer Lorne Brown argued that the case rested on false testimony by Pratt. Thomas was just hanging out with Pratt the night of the killing and was not part of the crime, Brown said.

"He's got the deal of a lifetime," Brown said. "He was offered the chance to trade in his entire life in prison, and all he had to do was lie on Ed Thomas."

Brown acknowledged that his client witnessed the killing and didn't report it.

"On the other hand, he didn't involve himself with what Kristopher Pratt did," the defense lawyer said. "The prosecution didn't prove that. Most importantly, he didn't do it."A jury has acquitted a man in the robbery-slaying of Eastern Michigan University football player Demarius Reed.

The Washtenaw County Circuit Court jury reached the not guilty verdict Monday evening in the trial of 21-year-old Ed Thomas. He was one of two men charged in the killing of the 20-year-old wide receiver from Chicago.

Twenty-year-old Kristopher Pratt accepted a deal and pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, testifying that he shot Reed and Thomas participated in the Oct. 18 robbery.

The jury acquitted Thomas on open murder, armed robber and conspiracy charges.

In closing arguments Monday, Assistant Prosecutor Nimish Ganatra said Thomas is just as guilty as Pratt.

Defense lawyer Lorne Brown says the case hangs on false testimony by Pratt. Brown says Pratt lied to get a better deal.

Photo Credit: EMUEagles.com]]>
<![CDATA[Derrick Rose Sends Message to All the Doubters]]> Mon, 28 Jul 2014 14:26:40 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/derrick+rose+presser.jpg

Chicago Bulls star Derrick Rose has a message for everyone doubting his return after several setbacks.

"I still have goals," Rose told SLAM Magazine over the weekend while unveiling his latest adidas sneakers. "Seeing those doubters out there, it's gonna be funny seeing them eat their words."

Rose tore the meniscus in his right knee last year and sat out the rest of the season. The unfortunate injury came after he missed the previous season following surgery to repair the torn ACL in his left knee.

This week Rose is part of a five-day mini-camp in Las Vegas to try out for Team USA. Rose was one of five players from the 2012 Olympic men's basketball team picked for the summer team roster.

Rose has his sights on more than the Olympics, though.

He wants to get back to the Bulls and win the coveted championship.

"We're just trying to win a championship," he told SLAM. "Hopefully next year can be that year."

We've heard it from Rose before. Ahead of last season and his latest injury, he sounded ready, telling reporters he was getting stronger every day and ready to play with aggression.

Months later, Rose admitted that perhaps he wanted it too badly.

"When I came back last time I wanted it too bad," he said. "This time I'm gonna let the game come to me."

<![CDATA[Jeffery Misses Monday Practice with Sore Foot]]> Mon, 28 Jul 2014 13:48:41 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/AP574659579320.jpg

Jeffery Latest Bear to Miss Practice

The Chicago Bears are heading into an off-day at training camp on Tuesday, and it couldn’t have come at a better time for several members of the team. Tim Jennings is still sidelined with a quad injury, and Jeremiah Ratliff was given the day off by the coaching staff to rest. The big news in Bourbonnais Monday however was the absence of Alshon Jeffery from the drills.

Jeffery has a sore foot according to Marc Trestman, and is considered day-to-day at this time. He was still on the field in his uniform pants and jersey, but didn’t have a helmet on and didn’t participate in any drills. He was replaced by a rotating cast of receivers during the session, with Marquess Wilson, Josh Morgan and Chris Williams all taking routes with Jay Cutler throwing to the first teamers.

Chris Conte and Craig Steltz also remain sidelined at practice, with Kyle Long also missing Monday’s session as he was evaluated by team doctors. If he’s declared healthy after battling a viral infection over the weekend, he could potentially return to the field Wednesday when the Bears resume practice.

On-Field Skirmishes Continue as Camp Rolls Along

After a relatively peaceful practice Sunday following Jordan Mills and Lamarr Houston’s Saturday confrontation, tempers flared again in Bourbonnais Monday. Taylor Boggs got into a bit of a shouting match with Trevor Scott early in the session, and then late in the practice it was Joe Long’s turn as he got into a shoving match with Cornelius Washington. That scuffle ended with both players on the ground before being pulled apart by teammates.

Training camp conflict is definitely a part of the drill in the NFL, but it’s been interesting to see how quickly things have gotten ratcheted up in the early days of camp. The defense especially is eager to prove that they won’t be pushed around by anyone this season, and they seem to be sending that message early on at this camp.

Ford, Carey Surprised at Big Fan Turnout for Camp

When the Bears roll into training camp, they tend to draw some massive crowds, and this camp has been no exception, with nearly 10,000 fans in attendance at Sunday’s practice at Olivet Nazarene University.

“I honestly didn’t know what to expect with this crowd,” running back Ka’Deem Carey said of the legions of fans that had descended upon Bourbonnais. “This is like a massive high school football game. It brings excitement to practice and makes you want to do better.”

“A lot of people wonder why we’re able to practice for so long, and it’s honestly because of the fans,” running back Michael Ford added. “We also use the little kids that come out here as motivation, because we were in their shoes when we were younger too. It really inspires us to keep playing and fighting out there.”

Odds and Ends

-Making great catches in camp is something that happens on a regular basis, but Martellus Bennett looked especially good on Monday after dropping a couple of passes on Sunday. He made a very athletic touchdown grab in 11-on-11 drills early in practice after Ryan Mundy couldn’t haul in an interception, and Bennett also split the defense on a route late in the session to snare another touchdown, with Mundy once again bearing the brunt of his physicality.

Matt Forte also got into the act in one-on-one drills, beating Shea McClellin off the line and blazing a trail to the end zone for a catch from Jimmy Clausen. Clausen wasn’t done tossing touchdowns either, as he led the Bears down the field on a late drive and found Micheal Spurlock over the top for a score.

-Early on in the non-padded drills, Jordan Mills looked like he was a step slow off the line on some of the snaps, and that trend has continued in the last few practices. Willie Young took him to school several times during drills today, batting down several passes and getting to Cutler in the pocket on more than one occasion.

Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Ford, Carey Look to Make a Mark in Back-Up Battle]]> Mon, 28 Jul 2014 13:20:30 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/188*120/459054065.jpg

After a season that saw Michael Bush struggle to gain any traction as a back-up to Matt Forte, the Chicago Bears are giving extended looks to two backs this training camp, with rookie Ka’Deem Carey and returning veteran Michael Ford both vying for the job.

“It’s very exciting, because you never know what exactly you’re going to get,” Ford said after Monday’s practice. You can have a run play or a throw on every down, and even as a running back I can go line up at receiver. He (head coach Marc Trestman) throws everything at you, and it’s tough for defenses to adjust to it.”

Ford has been getting the lion’s share of the work at the number two slot early in camp, with Carey taking a bit of a backseat as the Bears try to ease him into their system. Even though he’s taking carries with the third team for the most part, Carey is still insistent that he is on board with the plan the team has for him.

“They just want me to play my role,” he said. “I’ll find out what exactly that role is as we get deeper into camp, but I feel good. As long as I’m learning and making progress around here I feel good about what I’m doing.”

Both players have not only been working closely with Trestman and running backs coach Skip Peete, but they’ve also been working with Forte in some of the finer points of the position.

“He’s taken me under his wing for sure,” Carey said. “He’s correcting me on my reads and on my footwork, and teaching me how to treat my body. He’s definitely a role model for me, and he’s helping me become a better back.”

Ford also has worked with Forte, and one of the biggest lessons he’s learned from the veteran back is that every day provides new opportunities to improve his game.

“There have been ups and downs, but the great thing about these practices is that every one of them is a chance to get better,” he said. “Whether you’re going with the coaches or Matt Forte, you get to learn each and every day.”

The team will have a mandatory day off from practice on Tuesday before heading back to the practice field on Wednesday. The first preseason game, which will likely see Carey and Ford get plenty of touches, will take place on August 8 against the Philadelphia Eagles at Soldier Field.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Hossa, Keith Headline Potential Hawks Hall of Famers ]]> Mon, 28 Jul 2014 08:46:24 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/467727957.jpg

On Sunday afternoon in Cooperstown, NY, two baseball players who spent good chunks of their careers playing the game in the Windy City were inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, as former Chicago White Sox slugger Frank Thomas and former Chicago Cubs pitcher Greg Maddux were enshrined.

With their speeches delivered and their plaques unveiled, a question undoubtedly popped into the minds of sports fans throughout the city: which players have the best possible chance of getting into their respective Hall of Fame next?

In the case of the Chicago Blackhawks, it feels as though they have one player who is for certain in the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto, one that is just about there, and two that are in all likelihood going to find themselves immortalized alongside great players like Wayne Gretzky and Bobby Orr.

The one player who possesses the credentials at this moment to gain entrance into the hallowed club is winger Marian Hossa, who has accomplished a great deal in his distinguished NHL career. In 1090 career games, Hossa has 464 goals and 531 assists, and is just five points shy of 1000 for his career. If he gets to 1000 points and 500 goals, he would be a shoe-in for a spot in the Hall, and even now would likely get in if he retired today.

The next player who is just about there, but may need another good season or two to make sure, is defenseman Duncan Keith. In 686 career games (all played with the Blackhawks), Keith has 65 goals and 305 assists, and is a two-time Norris Trophy winner as the league’s best defenseman. He has also been a part of two Stanley Cup champions, won two Olympic gold medals, and was named an alternate captain of the team before the 2008-09 season.

Finally, there are the two players who haven’t played long enough just yet to warrant inclusion, but are well on their way to that achievement. The first is Patrick Kane, who in 515 games has averaged nearly a point per contest (178 goals, 315 assists), and has a Conn Smythe Trophy and a Calder Trophy to his name. The other is team captain Jonathan Toews, who has two Stanley Cups, a Conn Smythe, two Olympic gold medals, and the distinction of being one of the foremost leaders of any team in the league.

With that many Hall of Fame candidates, it’s no surprise that the Blackhawks have been a perennial Stanley Cup contender in recent seasons, but they surely aren’t the only players who are worthy of that consideration. In your eyes, which other Hawks could potentially be Hall of Famers when all is said and done?

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Hawks Headlines: What Will IceHogs' Lineup Look Like? ]]> Mon, 28 Jul 2014 08:46:45 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/180917777.jpg

In this edition of Hawks Headlines, we take a look at one writer’s take on which players will end up with the Rockford IceHogs this season, a player review of a former member of the Chicago Blackhawks, and a couple of new contracts that players have signed throughout the league.

-We start out with Scott Powers, who is about as plugged in with the Hawks’ prospects as anyone else in the city. He wrote about his projected lineup for the IceHogs to start the season, with Teuvo Teravainen beginning the season as the top line center with the Hawks’ AHL affiliate. [ESPN Chicago]

-In their latest staff report card, the SCH crew examines Brandon Bollig’s season. Needless to say, the comments on this one are rather interesting. [Second City Hockey]

-As part of their coverage over the summer, Blackhawk Up is counting down their Top 100 Blackhawks of all time, and in this edition, Keith Schultz discusses the career of Moose Vasko. [Blackhawk Up]

-The Montreal Canadiens are still trying to get defenseman PK Subban re-signed this offseason, and even though the two sides haven’t agreed yet, he insists that he wants to be a “lifer” with the Habs. [NHL.com]

-Goaltender James Reimer has indicated that he isn’t happy with his current situation with the Toronto Maple Leafs, but he still avoided arbitration with the team by agreeing to a two-year contract. [ESPN]

-Finally, Derick Brassard of the New York Rangers was heading to arbitration as well, but the two sides came to an agreement on a five-year contract. [ESPN]

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Bears Bites: Cutler Works with Second Team Receivers]]> Mon, 28 Jul 2014 08:47:02 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/180*120/462559291.jpg

In this edition of Bears Bites, we examine an interesting strategy that the Chicago Bears are using with Jay Cutler as training camp gets going in earnest, a new star on the Bears’ special teams unit, and a wide receiver that is turning some heads on the practice fields of Bourbonnais.

-We start out with Jay Cutler, who is the team’s starting quarterback for certain. The interesting thing about his approach to the start of training camp hasn’t been the fact that he’s won that role, but rather that he’s working as much with the second team receivers as he has been. [CSN Chicago]

-The Bears’ defensive line is newly reconfigured for the coming season, and they are playing with a swagger and intensity that has Dan Durkin paying attention. [CBS Chicago]

-Matt Forte knows that running backs historically see a huge drop in production as they get older, but he wants to reverse that trend. [NFL.com]

-Chris Williams came to the Bears looking for a job as a kick returner to replace Devin Hester, but after a slew of great catches, he may just catch on as a more versatile weapon than previously thought. [Daily Herald]

-We alluded to this yesterday in our Reporter’s Notebook, but fans were indeed chanting for punter Pat O’Donnell during Sunday’s practice at Olivet Nazarene University. [Chicago Sun-Times]

-How does Matt Bowen see the Bears’ training camp playing out so far? He weighs in with three observations from the first three days of camp. [Chicago Tribune]

-Finally, it seems like it happens every year that a cornerback from another team decides that he wants to come out and say that he’s the best at his position. This year, it’s New York Jets corner Dee Milliner’s turn. [Shutdown Corner]

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Over 25,000 Compete in SF Marathon]]> Sun, 27 Jul 2014 18:05:27 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/181*120/marathon_preps_sf2.jpg

Thousands of people from all over the country winded their way through the streets of San Francisco bright and early Sunday to compete in the city's annual marathon.

The first race started at 5:30 a.m., and the route kicked off and finished along the Embarcadero, with stops through the Marina, Golden Gate Bridge, the Park and the Presidio--tracing the northern part of the city.

There were temporary closures and transit changes, as more than 25,000 people laced up for the race.

"It does frustrate me a little bit because it does get very crowded--it's already crowded sometimes for the ballgames," runner Rachel Amaya said. "But it does get crowded."

"I did not know there was a lot of stuff going on, but I’m used it being from LA," runner Chad Eichten said. "And there is always stuff going on, so you just figure out ways around it."

The marathon's conclusion was around 1 p.m.

A Berkeley woman won the San Francisco Marathon for the second year in a row, and a man from Reno, Nevada earned his first win.

Anna Bretan finished the 26.2-mile course in two hours, 47 minutes and 50 seconds, according to race officials.

That is just slightly longer than the two hours, 42 minutes and 25 seconds it took the mother of three to win the race in 2013.

Bretan also, notably, was the women's winner of the 2012 Oakland Marathon.

On the men's side, race officials report August Brautigam beat his competitors by crossing the finish line in two hours, 32 minutes and 16 seconds.

But just a few hours later, more sports fans will head to the city, as the San Francisco Giants try and avoid the sweep against their division rivals, the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Cal-train is adding extra capacity for riders coming to the city for the game--or for people attending a late afternoon soccer match with the San Jose Earthquakes at Candlestick Park.

<![CDATA[Bostic Hopes Versatility Becomes Calling Card with Bears]]> Sun, 27 Jul 2014 14:53:32 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/176705447.jpg

On the list of qualities that Marc Trestman and Phil Emery look for in players on the Chicago Bears’ roster, versatility is near the top, and Jon Bostic is making every effort during training camp in Bourbonnais to have that adjective applied to his name.

“I’ve mainly been playing Mike (middle linebacker) and Will (weak side linebacker), and they’ve given me a couple of snaps at strong side too,” Bostic said of his constant shifting around the field. “Regardless of where they’re asking me to play, I feel like I can fit in there.”

Bostic is viewed by some observers as a potential successor to Lance Briggs at the weak side position, but he also is in competition with DJ Williams for playing time in the middle. He could also conceivably be in the mix at strong side too, with Shea McCellin also battling for a starting role.

While working at those positions on the practice field is crucial, Bostic makes sure that he puts in work off the field as well.

“I’m working on my whole game and making sure there’s no weaknesses,” he said. “It starts in the meeting room and making sure that what we talk about in there carries over to the practice field.”

After two days of practicing without pads to ease into camp, the Bears finally put on shoulder pads and pants for their first padded practice of the preseason on Sunday, and Bostic views that step in the progress toward the regular season as a crucial one for a team looking to bounce back from a subpar year.

“It feels good. Obviously it’s just the start for us,” he said. “We want to get better up front, and we know we need to stop the run better than we did last year. The stuff we put on film last year wasn’t us, and we want to get back to playing Chicago Bear defense.”

The definition of “Chicago Bear defense” may vary from player to player, but in the case of a guy like Bostic, it means getting pressure on the quarterback with the front seven, as well as being able to help out in coverage on passing plays like his predecessors at the linebacker position did. With that in mind, Bostic is not only paying attention to what he’s doing on the field, but also what the position coaches are telling other players during practice as well.

“It’s just a matter of continuing to learn the defense and keep getting more comfortable doing everything,” he said. “Even when someone else is getting corrected at a position, I’m paying attention to that too so I don’t make the same mistake.”

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Most Important Bears for 2014: #2 Jay Cutler]]> Sun, 27 Jul 2014 11:53:53 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/bears+packers+12-29+5.jpg

For Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler, the 2014 season isn’t just about winning a championship or beginning to earn the seven-year contract that he signed in January, but instead, it’s about establishing what his legacy is going to be as an NFL player.

That’s because all of the pieces are finally in place for him to become a success in the league. He has the long-term guaranteed money-laden contract that gives him the security that all football players crave. He has weapons like Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, and Martellus Bennett that are there for him to use to gut opposing defenses. Most importantly of all however, he has a coach that has a reputation as a “quarterback whisperer,” and has turned quarterbacks far less talented than Cutler into All-Pro caliber players.

Even with all of these advantages, there is still some question as to whether or not Cutler will be able to make the most of the situation he finds himself in. He still has a reputation, deserved or not, as a hard nut to crack, going through offensive coordinators with such speed that some believe he is impossible to work with. That unwillingness to curtail his style of play has hindered his standing in the eyes of NFL observers and fans, but while Cutler may not care about these types of things, it may also prove to be a stumbling block as he tries to become the franchise quarterback that the Bears’ brass has always envisioned him to be.

In his first year under Trestman’s tutelage, Cutler did make some significant progress in those areas, but also had occasional relapses. He threw for 2621 yards and 19 touchdowns, but he still threw 12 interceptions on the season, and the team missed the playoffs for the fourth time in his five seasons in the Windy City.

Complicating matters again for Cutler was the fact that he couldn’t get through the season without succumbing to injury, something that has happened in four consecutive seasons. In total, he missed five games with injuries, and even though Josh McCown proved to be a capable back-up, it’s still entirely possible that the missed time ended up hindering Cutler’s performance at the end of the season.

This year, Cutler’s health will be even more crucial, as the team will potentially have an inexperienced man at the controls in his absence. Jordan Palmer has been given the first shot at backing Cutler up this season, and he has attempted a grand total of 15 passes in his six year NFL career. He hasn’t thrown a single touchdown, but has completed 10 of those passes.

Jimmy Clausen could end up winning the role too, but regardless of who ends up holding the clipboard on the Bears’ sideline, the fact remains that Cutler is the key to everything. If he goes down, the season pretty much goes up in smoke, and no amount of Trestman magic would likely be enough to save it.

With an arsenal of weapons at his disposal and a coach ready to tailor a system to his skillset, Cutler has everything he needs to succeed, and he’s out of excuses for not doing so. It’s make or break time for the Bears’ quarterback, and his fortunes will mirror those of the team he is trying to lead back to the promised land.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Houston, Mills Involved in Scuffle at Camp ]]> Sun, 27 Jul 2014 11:56:37 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/lamarr+houston.jpg

With several new starters and a load of new faces, the Chicago Bears’ defensive line is going to have a different look in 2014 than it did a season ago, and already in camp the team is experimenting with a whole host of combinations.

Lamarr Houston, brought in as a run-stopping defensive end in the offseason, has been playing that position well, but he has also been shifted inside occasionally on downs that the Bears are using the nickel package. In those instances, Willie Young has come in and played at defensive end, with Jared Allen on the other side of the line.

Overall over the first few days, observers have been struck by Houston's speed off the line, and he's been a tough assignment for various offensive linemen during the practices. He's known mostly as a guy who is able to get around the edge and get to ball carriers, but he's shown some real propensity at getting to the quarterback as well. 

Will Sutton and Ego Ferguson are also getting plenty of reps at the defensive tackle spots, but at this point in camp they are still behind Jeremiah Ratliff and Stephen Paea on the depth chart. With the immense talent that both players possess, it wouldn’t be a surprise for one of them to either overtake Paea on talent alone, or to fill in for Ratliff if he has any health setbacks.

Speaking of health setbacks, the team did experience one on Saturday when Young was forced to leave practice early with a quadriceps injury. Head coach Marc Trestman did say that Young was day-to-day with the injury, so it would seem likely he’ll be held out of practice for at least a day or two with an off-day approaching on Tuesday.

In addition to the injury, things got a bit heated during practice Saturday when Jordan Mills and Houston were involved in a post-play scuffle. The incident was the second of camp, with Sherrick McManis and Eric Weems exchanging shoves during Friday’s practice. In this instance, it got so heated that Trestman said both would have likely been ejected had it occurred during a game, but like most incidents of this nature, it’s a “heat of the moment” thing and not an ongoing problem.

Even without pads on, it’s clear that the defensive line is looking to establish a tone with their play through the first few days of camp, and things will only get ratcheted up on Sunday when the team practices in pads for the first time.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Quinn Proclaims Frank Thomas Day in Illinois]]> Sun, 27 Jul 2014 09:48:02 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/160*120/frank-thomas-jersey.jpg

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn has signed a proclamation making Sunday Frank Thomas Day as the former Chicago White Sox slugger is inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Thomas played 19 seasons in the major leagues and 16 of them with the White Sox. He hit 521 home runs and drove 1,704 runs before retiring in 2008.

In his proclamation Quinn also noted that Thomas won MVP awards in 1993 and '94. The White Sox have honored Thomas by retiring his number, 35, and placing a statue of him in U.S. Cellular Field.

Thomas will be inducted to the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, Sunday along with former pitchers Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux.

Thomas now works as a commentator for Comcast SportsNet Chicago and Fox Sports.

Photo Credit: NBCChicago.com]]>
<![CDATA[Jennings Misses Saturday Practice With Quad Injury]]> Sat, 26 Jul 2014 19:25:31 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/174*120/465990621.jpg

Roster battles are the name of the game when it comes to training camp, but in the case of the Chicago Bears, injuries are beginning to have a bit of an effect on things in the early going.

That’s because Tim Jennings, who is splitting time at cornerback and the nickel corner position, missed Saturday’s practice in Bourbonnais thanks to a quadriceps injury. Defensive end Willie Young also had to come out of the practice early with the same injury, but both players are day-to-day, according to head coach Marc Trestman.

Jennings and Young join safeties Chris Conte and Craig Steltz on the shelf, as well as right guard Kyle Long, who is sidelined with a viral infection. He will be re-evaluated after the weekend, and could practice either Monday or Wednesday.

With the variety of injuries the Bears are facing, they’re trying to shuffle in new faces and get them as many first team reps as possible. Kyle Fuller, who is likely ahead in the race to grab either a corner spot or the nickel back job, jumped to the outside full-time with Jennings on the shelf, and Kelvin Hayden took over in nickel formations during Saturday’s workout. Adrian Wilson is also getting plenty of work at the safety spot with Conte and Steltz out, as is Brock Vereen.

As for Young, he was playing defensive end in nickel formations before going down with an injury, with Lamarr Houston shifting inside. Trevor Scott got a bit of a look in those situations when Young left the lineup.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Jerry Reinsdorf Released From Hospital]]> Sat, 26 Jul 2014 09:20:52 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/160*120/Jerry-Reinsdorf.jpg

Chicago Bulls and White Sox Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf has been released from the hospital, officials said.

Bassett Healthcare Network confirmed that Reinsdorf was treated and discharged Saturday morning.

Reinsdorf was taken to Bassett Medical Center after he experienced an "episode of lightheadedness" during his stay in Cooperstown, New York.

Officials said he was kept overnight as a "precautionary measure."

"All tests tonight indicate that he is fine," the White Sox said in a statement. "He is coherent, is resting comfortably and is communicating with his doctors and medical staff."

Reinsdorf is in New York to attend this weekend's Hall of Fame induction of former White Sox star Frank Thomas.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Jerry Reinsdorf Hospitalized in New York]]> Sat, 26 Jul 2014 03:49:52 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Reinsdorf+Smart.jpg

Chicago Bulls and White Sox Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf was hospitalized Friday night after an "episode of light-headedness," the Chicago White Sox said in a statement.

Reinsdorf's "episode" required medical attention during his stay in Cooperstown, New York. He was taken to Bassett Medical Center where he will stay overnight "as a precautionary measure."

"All tests tonight indicate that he is fine," the team said in a statement. "He is coherent, is resting comfortably and is communicating with his doctors and medical staff."

He is expected to be released Saturday morning.

Reinsdorf is in New York to attend this weekend's Hall of Fame induction of former White Sox star Frank Thomas.

Photo Credit: Getty Images ]]>
<![CDATA[Mills Looks to Regain Form As Bears Wrap Up First Practice]]> Fri, 25 Jul 2014 16:13:47 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/160*124/451069809.jpg

In First Practice Back, Mills Looks to Regain 2013 Form

After breaking his foot and undergoing offseason surgery, right tackle Jordan Mills hit the practice field on Friday not only looking to prove that he was healthy, but also to continue the progress that he and his teammates made last year under head coach Marc Trestman’s new offensive scheme.

“Last year when we were coming in with a new coach, we really had to learn each other and get that continuity with each other,” he said. “Now it feels like second nature to us, and we just have to build off of last year and keep going.”

One of the biggest reasons behind Mills’ rookie season success in 2013 was the chemistry that he developed with fellow first-year lineman Kyle Long, who ended up being selected to the Pro Bowl after adapting quickly to the rigors of playing right guard. On the defensive side of the ball, Will Sutton and Ego Ferguson are looking to benefit from the same situation, and Mills recognizes the importance of sharing the ups and downs of being a rookie with someone who plays a similar position on the field.

“It’s great to have that. Having Ego and Will together like Kyle and I were is very important,” he said. “We were together for each other, and having a fellow rookie to go along through the process with you is essential to being successful.”

That kind of chemistry always comes in handy against some of the talented pass rushers that the Bears have to face in a given season, and despite having his hands full with Lamarr Houston and Jared Allen in the first practice, Mills is confident that he will get back up to speed.

“We don’t have pads on, so you really can’t be as aggressive as you want to be,” he said. “You do get that mental work in, as well as your technique and footwork the first two days, so that when you get the pads on you’re ready for that physicality.”

Fuller, Jennings Swap Positions Frequently in First Practice

When he was drafted, the assumption was that Kyle Fuller would be playing a lot of nickel cornerback in his first season with the Bears, and while that may still be case, Tim Jennings spent some time in the spot as well as the Bears worked through their formations.

In fact, the Bears went with the nickel a lot on Friday, with the offense frequently running three receiver sets with everyone from Marquess Wilson to Brandon Marshall lining up in the slot. Mel Tucker’s new defense is going to have plenty of wrinkles to it, and with the three and four receiver sets that the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions (and frankly, the rest of the NFL) run, it’s crucial to have several guys comfortable playing the nickel position.

The More Things Change….

Change is the name of the game for the Bears this season, and even though there are a slew of new faces to get acclimated to, the old guard was still on full display Friday morning.

On the offensive side of things, Alshon Jeffery picked up right where he left off last season, making several acrobatic catches along the sidelines and showing some strong hands despite being under constant duress from the Bears’ corners and safeties.

On special teams, Robbie Gould was already in fine form, drilling several field goals from 40 to 50 yards out during the practice. Despite the breezy conditions, the kicker’s rhythm was pitch perfect, and his kicks sailed through the air with little trouble.

Ferguson's Focus on Field, but Family Winning Off It Too 

Despite the uncertainty over whether or not he will win a starting job with the team (he largely played with Sutton on the second team in the first practice of camp), there is one thing that the Ferguson family has won recently. The rookie’s daughter Farrah recently won several awards at the Baby Miss Louisiana pageant, and even though it isn’t necessarily his cup of tea, Ferguson appreciates the opportunity to spend time with his daughter. 

“I’m not too big into the pageant stuff, but I just use it as a chance to be with my daughter. At the end of the day though, we’re a family of winners though, so I really like that,” he added with a laugh.

Odds and Ends 

-Long wasn't a participant in practice on Friday afternoon, but he was on the field and did a bit of light work as he recovers from a viral infection that will keep him out of practice through the weekend. 

-Given the first opportunity to grab the back-up quarterback job in camp, Jordan Palmer made several really nice throws on the first day of practice. One of his highlights came on a play where he rolled out to the right side of the formation, and he fired a perfect strike down the field to Chris Williams for a long gain. 

-Sherrick McManis and Eric Weems got into a bit of a shoving match during the final session of practice, but were quickly separated by teammates. 

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Taylor Townsend Plays Doubles Match Solo ]]> Fri, 25 Jul 2014 17:00:12 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/Taylor_Townsend.jpg

Taylor Townsend continued to make headlines in the tennis world when she was forced to play a doubles match by herself at the World Team Tennis event Thursday night after her partner was injured.

Liezel Huber, Townsend’s partner, left the court after she was hit in the back of the head with a forehand from Townsend, Yahoo Sports reported.

The 18-year-old from Englewood continued the match on her own, but the difficulty of playing one-on-two became even more challenging when Townsend wasn’t allowed to return a serve on her partner’s side of the court.

The teen attempted to distract her opponents, Martina Hingis and Anastasia Rodionova, with movement and gestures, but didn’t have much luck.

She did manage to win a few points during her solo run, but ultimately lost the match.

Townsend’s efforts reportedly earned her a standing ovation from the crowd and the rare situation was dubbed a highlight of the event.

Townsend learned her game at the South Side's XS Tennis program, but now trains with former tennis star Zina Garrison.

She won the girls singles and doubles titles at the 2012 juniors Australian Open and became the first American since 1982 to hold the year-end No. 1 junior ranking. 

Townsend burst on the national scene at the French Open earlier this year, winning two matches against seeded opponents and being the youngest player since 2003 to reach that level.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Fuller, Ferguson Take Different Approaches to Rookie Seasons]]> Fri, 25 Jul 2014 15:06:53 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/180*120/492704205.jpg

The Chicago Bears made plenty of moves this offseason to revamp and rebuild their defense after a disastrous 2013 campaign. 

The team used its first three draft picks --- and ultimately four of their first five picks -- to grab defensive players. Their No. 1 target, Cornerback Kyle Fuller, however, isn't concerned about 2013. 

“We don’t even think about what happened last year,” he said after practice. “I don’t pay attention to that. I’m focused on this year, and the vibe on this defense has been one of moving forward. There’s nothing about the past that we’re thinking about.”

What the youngster from Virginia Tech is thinking about is getting Mel Tucker’s system down pat, which is never easy for a rookie to do, especially a rookie who is expected to wear so many hats. In Friday’s practice, Fuller lined up both at the nickel cornerback spot and at the corner spot, with Tim Jennings sliding inside. Both Jennings and Charles Tillman have been very helpful to the rookie during his transition into the Bears’ system, and he’s grateful for their guidance.

“They’ve been really helpful,” he said. “Those guys are great to go to if I have any questions, and they help me in terms of being a pro in all aspects. They’re also making sure I’m out there in the right spot, and helping me with little things because of how long they’ve been doing it.”

As for  EgoFerguson, the team's second pick in the 2014 draft, he also has veteran help on the defensive line, with guys like Jeremiah Ratliff and Stephen Paea in the fold, but more often than not Ferguson is working with third-round pick Will Sutton on the best ways to approach certain plays in Tucker’s scheme.

“We drafted a close-knit group of guys, and we’ve been really good about being there for each other and trying to help each other out,” Ferguson said. “Will and I are rooming right next to each other, and we’ve been going through the playbook and helping each other to understand the defense and giving each other advice.”

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Bulls' Joakim Noah Stars in New Chicago Anti-Violence PSA]]> Fri, 25 Jul 2014 19:32:24 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/joakim+noah+PSA.jpg

Chicago Bulls star Joakim Noah stars in a new public service announcement, unveiled Friday, to help stop gun violence. 

"Chicago, what do you stand for," Noah asks in the 60-second commercial titled "Stand Up Chicago."

Chicagoans are shown in the PSA declaring what they stand for, from positivity to basketball to opportunities to resolving conflict without violence.

Then a familiar face shows up.

"I stand for my city," Bulls star Derrick Rose says.

Noah teamed up with Rose to provide a positive message in a city constantly dealing with violence and to urge Chicagoans to put down the guns and stand up for their city. 

"Stand up for peace," Rose says.

The PSA will air on TV stations across the Chicago area.

<![CDATA[Hawks Headlines: Saad's Season Scrutinized ]]> Fri, 25 Jul 2014 10:48:31 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/494771679.jpg

In this edition of Hawks Headlines, we put a bow on the week by examining the seasons of Corey Crawford and Brandon Saad, laud Patrick Kane for his embrace of one of the Chicago Blackhawks’ most bitter rivalries, and take a look at the four Hawks players one columnist feels will make the Hockey Hall of Fame.

  • We start out with the Committed Indian crew, who has a nice breakdown of Saad’s season. He did a lot of things right, but his defensive positioning does need work. It will be interesting to see if he continues to take cues from Marian Hossa next season. [Real Fans Program]
  • Speaking of report cards, our pals at SCH have some analysis on Corey Crawford’s season. [Second City Hockey]
  • With his penchant for getting drilled with big hits along the boards, there are probably better players than Marcus Kruger to model one’s game after, but that isn’t stopping Phillip Danault from doing so. [CSN Chicago]
  • After excelling at the team’s prospect camp and impressing fans at the Blackhawks Convention over the weekend, Nick Schmaltz leaves the Windy City with some big impressions made on both fans and Hawks executives. [ESPN Chicago]
  • Here’s a pro-tip for you young hockey fans out there: if you get a picture taken with Patrick Kane, make sure that you aren’t wearing a St. Louis Blues shirt. No one will see the logo. [CBS Chicago]
  • Have $7,500 laying around? Then you could be the proud owner of the stick that Mush March used to score the overtime game-winning goal for the Blackhawks in the 1934 Stanley Cup Final. [Heritage Auctions]
  • Dave Lozo checks in with his thoughts on the 30 current NHL players most likely to make the Hockey Hall of Fame, and he includes four Blackhawks on that list. None of them are particularly surprising, but it’s fun to see the other players he has on the list. [Bleacher Report]
  • Finally, the Montreal Canadiens inked defenseman Lars Eller to a four-year contract extension on Thursday. [NHL.com]

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Bears Bites: Fales, Clausen Ready to Succeed in QB Battle]]> Fri, 25 Jul 2014 10:39:47 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/178*120/151090320.jpg

In this edition of Bears Bites, we take a look at some of the stories surrounding the Chicago Bears as they prepare for the beginning of training camp on Friday morning.

  • We start out with our friend DJ Durkin, who has been breaking down all of the Bears’ rookies, as well as their chances of making an immediate impact on the team. In this edition, he profiles quarterback David Fales, who doesn’t seem to be in the early running to grab the back-up spot with the team as Jordan Palmer and Jimmy Clausen do battle. [CBS Chicago]
  • Adrian Wilson signed with the Bears, and some fans may not have thought much of it, but the safety clearly wants to prove his doubters wrong and to win a starting job with the team. [CSN Chicago]
  • The Bears may have gotten bit hard by the injury bug on the defensive side of things last season, but their offense remained largely unscathed (excluding Jay Cutler). It’s highly unlikely they’ll get that lucky again. [Daily Herald]
  • Clausen may not be getting the first shot to be Jay Cutler’s back-up, but that didn’t stop the former Carolina Panthers quarterback from using Cutler’s knowledge of Marc Trestman’s system to get him an inside edge on the competition. [ESPN Chicago]
  • Speaking of Cutler, he has a message for any of his teammates that think they are going to be Super Bowl contenders: don’t get ahead of yourselves. [Chicago Sun-Times]
  • Who will make an impact on the Bears’ roster outside of the top-tier guys? Here are five under-the-radar guys who could be in for big seasons with the team. [Chicago Tribune]
  • Finally, there’s some news from outside of Bears camp, as Marshawn Lynch will not report to training camp for the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks as he seeks a new contract. [Shutdown Corner]
<![CDATA[White Sox Top Twins 5-2]]> Thu, 24 Jul 2014 22:43:21 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/White_Sox_37.jpg

Hector Noesi allowed three hits over 7 2-3 innings and Adam Eaton had three hits and two RBIs to lead the Chicago White Sox to a 5-2 victory over the Minnesota Twins on Thursday night.

Noesi (5-7) gave up two runs, struck out three and walked one in an impressive performance. Alexei Ramirez added two hits and an RBI for Chicago and Jake Petricka went one inning to pick up his fifth save in six chances.

Phil Hughes (10-7) gave up two runs and four hits and struck out four for the Twins. But he left the game with a right shin contusion in the fourth inning when he was hit by a chopper off the bat of Adam Dunn. Hughes is listed as day-to-day.

Danny Santana hit a two-run homer in the eighth inning for the Twins, who couldn't touch Noesi for most of the game.

The White Sox claimed Noesi off waivers from Texas at the end of April and he's been up and down for most of the season. The Dominican right-hander had everything working against the Twins, who traded veteran Kendrys Morales to Seattle earlier Thursday in the first of what could be several salary dumps as the trade deadline approaches.

Noesi didn't allow a hit until the fourth inning, when Trevor Plouffe reached on a bloop single that plopped down between three White Sox. He only allowed two runners in the first seven innings, and by the time the Twins got to him in the eighth, it was too late.

Hughes, in an ominous sign for a team that has struggled mightily to find quality starting pitching, limped off the field.

The White Sox jumped on emergency reliever Samuel Deduno, who walked in a run and gave up a two-run single to Eaton to fall behind 4-0.

The Twins can't afford to lose Hughes, who has been by far their best starter this season. He entered the game with a 10-6 record and 4.06 ERA, and his reliable performance through the first half of the season made his three-year, $24 million contract one of the few bright spots during another miserable season in Minnesota.

Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Auction House Offers Jordan's $33 Million Bulls Contract]]> Thu, 24 Jul 2014 16:15:19 -0500 http://media.nbcchicago.com/images/213*120/air-jordan-1.JPG

A Dallas-based auction house is offering for sale one of the most significant contracts in NBA history.

Heritage Auctions is selling Michael Jordan's $33 million contract with the Chicago Bulls for the 1997-1998 season.

At the time, the contract made Jordan the highest-paid player in basketball history, and it still stands as the highest single-season NBA salary ever.

Jordan earned that money, leading the Bulls to their sixth and final NBA championship during his tenure that season.

As of this writing, the contract itself was fetching a pretty penny, listed at $37,500, but it will probably go much higher. Internet bidding ends on July 30, with an actual live auction scheduled for the next day.

The 26-page contract includes signatures from Jordan and then-Bulls general manager Jerry Krause.

H/t to ESPNChicago.com.


Credit: Heritage Auctions


<![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]]>